Fishkeeping Tips 10: Books and References

    By far the most important part of any fish setup are the books you keep that provide the basic information you need.
    Unfortunately, the texts available from local fish stores can vary widely in quality- there are books widely sold that tell
    you very little, and some that will even give incorrect information. And then there are those that everyone turns to, for
    they are known for their accurate and concise information. Characteristics you must look for, and a list of the favorite
    books in my library, with a short overview for each is included below.

    What you are looking for are those books that properly identify the fish contained inside, which is not always the case.
    You also want a reference that covers more than the "bread and butter fish" sold at most pet shops. For example,
    with livebearers you want a text that covers what is available to you beyond your "basic" pet store fare (Guppies,
    Mollies, Swordtails and Platies- most of which are actually hybrids, and not true species, crossed to develop certain
    colors or appearances). Many books will devote a lot of pages to colorful strains that have appeared in the trade at
    some point, glossy pictures of strains that often can no longer be found. They then neglect to tell you that the original
    swordtail these fish are derived came from streams with water movement and plants, and should be kept in at least
    a 20 gallon tank. You need that last bit of information if you hope to properly keep and breed those fish.

    There are many texts available that can be found at fish conventions, which can be a great place to buy
    used books. The American Livebearer Association holds conventions every year, as does the American Killifish
    Association, International Betta Congress and the American Cichlid Association. They are affordable and you can
    usually purchase fish, fish you may never see anywhere else, often very cheaply.   

    The internet has become a basic source of information for many, and generally collect information from at least 3
    sources before coming to any conclusions. Often, sites may differ dramatically in the information they present. Most
    books offer far more evolved information that has been proven over time. Whenever possible, turn to a book
    first to get the initial proper guidelines, then turn to the internet for perspectives from others that may currently keep
    the fish.
    This literature is heavy with livebearer texts, but many of the standard books that help with most types of fish available
    are mentioned. Occasionally there will be conflicting opinions even between established texts, and you determine the
    best care given your setup. After each selection listed below is my opinion, and all of the reviews are strictly mine,
    unless mentioned otherwise.

    Unfortunately, though many are still widely available and still in print, you may only find a few of the books mentioned
    below at most local fish stores. You may need to order them from an aquarium literature vendor off of the internet, or, who may have many of these titles. The prices stated are the most current I am aware of, and be
    cautious of stores that charge far more than what the book actually costs. There are a number of people that sell
    used aquarium texts.

    This page will not recommend a single all around book that covers husbandry as well all species, in part because of
    the impossibility of that task. There are books that claim to meet that need whose basic husbandry, plant and
    disease information is adequate for the beginning to moderately experienced aquarist. The Handbook of Tropical
    Aquarium Fishes (Axelrod/ Schultz, TFH 1955-1990, 718 pages) and Aquarium Fishes of the World (Axelrod/
    Burgess TFH, No Date, 1019 pages) both have fairly complete sections on husbandry, but the depth of information
    is less than preferred, given their size and cost. But to their credit, they are probably for today's young fishkeepers
    what the Encyclopedia of Tropical Fishes was for today's fishkeepers in their 50's. These books below those
    consulted regularly for their completeness of information, accuracy, and format so that you can quickly find what
    you are looking for.

    What I use most today:

    Atlas of Livebearers of the World- Lothar Wischnath, TFH Publications. 1993, 336 pages
    This is a large, colorful and informative book whose information is always dependable. It does a great job of
    covering most of the livebearer species that even the most esoteric specialist will run across. Unfortunately, it has
    been out of print for awhile and though originally offered for $26, it has been offered for as much as $300.
    It can be found on the internet from individuals that sell aquarium literature, for as little as $50. You may have to wait
    for it, but it is recognized as such a fundamental text that it should always continue to cycle around. It's only flaw
    today is that it can be outdated in some areas- claiming certain fish have never been kept in captivity, or bred, that
    are now routinely kept and bred. But that doesn't happen often.

    Aquarium Atlas- Baensch, Photo Index 1-5, Mergus publishing, 1997, 1196 pages.
    This is a great book for basic identification and water parameters. You can own the full set, but much of what you will
    need is in the photo index. Unfortunately, as incredibly complete as the Baensch atlases are (each volume is nearly as
    big as the photo atlas) the specific species information is occasionally questionable, in my opinion, though basic
    identification, water parameters etc. seem dependable. Though this should not be your sole text- be sure to
    complement this with other solid books on basic maintenance, diseases and plants (as well as other books in the
    Baensch series if you want more information).

    Platies and Swordtails- Derek and Pat Lambert, Blandford Publications, 1995, 124 pages
    This is a smaller concise book that also addresses the species often left out of the stock commercial literature, as
    well as covering the livebearers commonly found in the hobby. It was written by a highly respected aquarist and close
    friend of the aquarium hobby from England that had passed away a few years back. This book is a great
    complement to the larger more expensive literature available. About $12

    Livebearing Fishes- John Dawes, Blandford Publications, 1991, 240 pages
    This is another great but less expensive book occasionally found at local pet stores. A broad reference book that is
    fairly complete and accurate in its coverage of the less often seen livebearers, as well as the common varieties.
    About $15.

    The Proper Care of Guppies- Stan Shubel, TFH Publications, 1995, 256 pages
    This has been said to be the definitive Guppy book. It is still reasonably up to date (no old stock guppy photos that
    seemed to be in every book through the 60's and 70's), and is a solid primer for dealing with the needs and preferences
    of the modern large delta tailed guppies so common in the U.S. hobby.
    This book is around $25.

    Must Haves if You Can Afford Them:

    Freshwater Fishes of Mexico- Robert Rush Miller, University of Chicago Press, 2005, 490 pages
    Granted, this is a book for the more advanced hobbyists, but no book is as complete and thorough as this
    one is for addressing all of the freshwater fish of Mexico. This book is excellent for explaining the Goodeids
    and swordtails, particularly with respect to describing their natural habitat and proper identification. This book
    is more expensive, at about $75.

    Aqualog/ All livebearers and Halfbeaks- Michael Kempkes/ Frank Schafer, Verlag A.C.S. GmbH Publishing
    (Germany), 1998, 352 pages. This is the definitive photo atlas of Livebearers. Besides identification, it provides
    basic water parameter and husbandry information. About $75.

    American Aquarium Fishes- Robert J. Goldstein, Texas A&M University Press, 2000, 428 pages
    This book covers all native U.S. fishes that can be kept in an aquarium in a comprehensive, readable manner with
    many color and B&W photos. A great book with much information that cannot be found in other texts within the
    aquarium trade. About $50.

    Oldies But Goodies:

    Encyclopedia of Tropical Fishes- Axelrod and Vorderwinkler, TFH Publications, 1962, 763 pages
    Many grew up on this book, and it and the Innes book were the staples of fish literature for many years. Outdated
    in many respects, it is still valuable, particularly with respect to where information on particular species has drifted over
    the years. The book approached breeding as something everyone could do, and addressed many species with
    breeding in mind- a stance that defines fishkeeping today. They can be found very cheaply at used booksellers.

    Exotic Aquarium Fishes- Dr. William T. Innes, TFH Publications, 1966, 463 pages
    This is the book most long term fishkeepers cite as their first influence, and it had a broad effect on the hobby from
    its first editions in the 1930s. Lauded for its inclusiveness and accuracy for its time, this is probably the most highly
    respected piece of fish hobbyist literature there has ever been. Old editions are still often traded and sold.
    Generally it can be found used for $10-20. However, for a nurturing and easier to grasp format and layout some have
    preferred the Encyclopedia.

    Good to Have:

    Culturing Live Foods- Michael R. Hellweg, TFH Publications, 2008, 240 pages
    This is a much needed recent publication found to be a good introduction to the production of live foods.
    More solutions to problems that comes from having kept many of these foods (see Red Worms,
    Brine Shrimp or Daphnia at this site), would have been appreciated, but as an overview I refer to this text often to
    better inform myself on live foods that best fit what I am looking to accomplish.

    How to Keep and Breed Tropical Fish- C.W. Emmens, TFH Publications, 1974, 250 pages
    This is a good "plug in the holes" book, that gives you information in greater depth than
    found in the broader overview books mentioned earlier.This is an older publication, but can still be found through
    used aquarium booksellers. About $10.

    Swordtails and Platies- Axelrod and Wischnath, TFH Publications, 1991
    This is a "coffee table" book with lots of pictures of domestically developed strains, many that no longer exist.
    Recently, a fellow fishkeeper, through the publisher was able to locate one of the original photographers in an
    attempt to locate the all blue mirror platies on pg. 178. They, like many of teh fish in this text, are no longer in
    existence. This book is also plagued with the advertising/ stock equipment/ plant section inserted into many
    TFH books (pgs. 81-100). However, for pics of a variety of wild swords, especially the helleri, and pics of a
    wide variety of domestic lines that still or once existed in the hobby, it does a good job. About $30.

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