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References for the Saltwater Aquarium Hobbyist

Many books are written about the care and techniques used in saltwater aquarium systems. Some, of course, are more advanced than others, since an entire branch of aquaculture science involves only the care of saltwater species in captivity.

The people who practice this science are called aquarists and usually work in exhibit aquariums such as Sea World, the Oceanarium in Lisbon, Portugal, or the Baltimore Aquarium. Their skills are usually a combination of engineering and biology. They learn not only how to create and run the equipment needed for aquaria that are hundreds of thousands-sometimes millions-of gallons in size but also to care for the individuals; they must be aware of specific needs and incompatibilities.

In larger exhibit aquariums, some aquarists have the task of nursing species back to health, or getting them to breed or spawn. Some species, such as open ocean fish like billfish, have never been kept alive in captivity for more than a couple of days (and being able to do so was significant enough to produce a masters thesis). Such studies are important to the overall health of our oceans, and they provide us with information to preserve these creatures in a clean, healthy protected environment. Many feel that in the coming years, an aquarium may be the only place where we will be able to keep alive species that are becoming extinct in their natural environments today from pollution and over-exploitation.

Having a saltwater aquarium is, therefore, much more than just keeping some maritime pets. For those of you who have a serious advanced tank set-up and who care for unusual or rare species, it is highly suggested that you get in touch with an aquarist to discuss proper care and potential problems. They understand the difficulty in having a small system (larger volumes of water are easier to control) and they can relate to the dedication you may feel to create a healthy environment for your pets.

To get in touch with an aquarist, check out some aquarium web sites. Sometimes aquarists are listed, sometimes you may have to go through their PR department to reach one; but most often, these people are happy to assist you. Take most of what you find on the web with a grain of salt, however. Many web sites are more like talk-forums where people share their experiences and may not be the most reliable sources.

The following is a list of books that were not only helpful in putting together the information on saltwater systems and species that you will find on the database, but also could be a valuable resource for the hobby aquarist. Books you may easily find in stores or on the Internet today are not listed here; instead, the following books were selected as a supplement to what you may already have or are particularly reliable and comprehensive.

Simon & Schuster’s Guide to Freshwater and Marine Aquarium Fishes, Simon & Schuster, New York, NY, 1976. This is a particularly good guide first written in Italian and translated in 1977. The book lists species of both fresh and marine fishes as well as plants, amphibia, reptiles and invertebrates and gives no more than raw description of the creatures’ needs along with a photo for ID.

The Saltwater Aquarium Handbook, by George Blasiola, Barron’s Educational Series, Inc., Hauppauge, NY, 2000. This is a very good book for a general overview of marine systems and species, as well as some plants. Especially good for the beginner or someone who may be considering becoming one, but for those needing more specifics, it won’t be enough.

A Fishkeepers Guide to Marine Fishes, by Dick Mills. Tetra Press, Blacksburg, VA, 1996. This book is a handy reference for the novice to experienced hobbyist regarding the practical aspects of saltwater tanks; however its species list is weak in that very few are described.

Dynamic Aquaria: Building Living Ecosystems, by Walter Adey and Karen Loveland, Academic Press: San Diego, 1998. An excellent source for both the professional aquarist and for the advanced do-it-yourself salt-water hobbyist, this book is particularly good for the increasingly popular aquarium hobby of designing a tank and creatures around an ecosystem.

Reef Fish Behavior: Florida/Caribbean/Bahamas by Ned Deloach, New World Publications, Inc.: Jacksonville, FL, 1999. This is a great book on typical reef fish behavior, although more geared for observations in a natural environment.

The Reef Set (Reef Coral Identification, Reef Fish Identification, Reef Creature Identification: Florida/Caribbean/Bahamas) by Paul Humann. New World Publications, Inc., Jacksonville, FL, 1996. This three-volume set is helpful to those who want to learn about marine life although these books are not at all related to how to keep them. It is great for those hobbyists who need to ID fish in the wild or who want to know more about fish in general such as how they are catagorized. The set is also useful when investigating which fish to buy or to make sure you’re buying what the store maintains its selling.

Captive Seawater Fishes: Science and Technology, by Stephen Spotte, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.: New York, 1992. This is a text book geared toward professional aquarists or very advanced hobbyists that describes methods and technologies used in aquarist science. It describes methods on how to create specially designed systems to keep saltwater fish, or such things how to raise mass quantities of brine shrimp that will result in a specific nutritional quality, and more.

Encyclopedia of Fishes by John R. Paxton and William N. Eschmeyer, Academic Press: San Diego, 1998. This is a great reference on the natural history of fishes.

SeaLife: A Complete Guide to the Marine Environment by Geoffrey Waller (editor), Smithsonian Institution Press: Washington, D.C., 1996. This is an excellent source on the biology and biodiversity of marine life. Not geared toward the aquarium hobby, but a must-have reference for people who are interested in the ocean environment and its biodiversity.