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By Bob Goemans
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Reef Aquarium Fishes, 500+ Essential-To-Know Species

Authored by: Scott W. Michael

A book review by Bob Goemans

TITLE: Reef Aquarium Fishes, 500+ Essential-To-Know Species

AUTHOR: Scott W. Michael

PUBLISHER: T.F.H. Publications/Microcosm Ltd. (2006)

ISBN 1-890087-89-0

PAGES: 448

PRICE: $29.95

Over the past few years, the author has had several excellent works, e.g., Reef Fishes; Basslets, Dottybacks & Hawkfishes; Angelfishes & Butterflyfishes; (the first three of six in the series of 'Reef Fishes') and, also a condensed work similar to this title, called Marine Fishes, 500+ Essential-To-Know Species.

What sets this book aside from the work titled 'Marine Fishes …' is that this work is dedicated to fish suited for the reef aquarium, whereas its previous companion volume was dedicated to marine fish in general. There are no repeated descriptions in this edition. Described species are either totally new or some of those that have appeared in Marine Fishes, yet have updated descriptions. As an example, Moray Eels has only one new described addition, Gymnothorax melatremus, the Golden Moray, which is only about seven inches long and can make an excellent addition in some reef systems. Nevertheless, there are other moray photos, some new and some that were seen in the past Marine Fishes book. However, they are just that, photos, and not described species. There's also some discussion on Snake and Garden Eels, along with a few photos of them. The same theme is applied to other families throughout the book.

And added to each species description are 'Reef Compatibility' symbols that are in addition to their 'Aquarium Suitability' symbols, which appeared in Marine Fishes. If you're unfamiliar with those, the Aquarium Suitability symbol, the shape of an aquarium, uses 5 different color aspects to denote species that are anything from almost impossible to keep to those that are very hardy, and/or a black box with a white 'V' inside it to denote a venomous creature. This work also has that rating system, however, it added a Reef Compatibility rating, which has four differently shaped symbols, each in three different colors to denote various conditions and/or different types of invertebrates the fish may or may not coexist with. In fact, page one, titled 'Key to Symbols' depicts these and explains their meanings.

After a brief 'Acknowledgments' and table of 'Contents,' an informative 'Introduction' follows. Its subdivided into four sections; Fishes & Invertebrates: A Fine Balance; Fledgling Science; Five Things to Consider When Selecting a Fish for Your Reef Aquarium; and, Expect the Unexpected. As to the subsection titled 'Five Things to Consider When Selecting a Fish for Your Reef Aquarium,' it actually contains six numbered subsets titled, 1. Will it eat or nip the invertebrate you intend to keep?; 2. Will it knock or flip corals over?; 3. Will it constantly perch on or wallow in your corals?; 4. Will it cover corals with sand substrate when it feeds or burrows?; 5. How frequently will this fish have to be fed?; and, 6. Is this fish disease-resistant? Yes, an extra topic slipped in, but is due to be corrected in the next printing and will probably read 'Six Things to Consider When Selecting a Fish for Your Reef Aquarium.' All are quite informative!

As in Scott's past Marine Fishes, he divides each described species into various sections, beginning with the scientific name followed by its common names. He also includes the author and date of the original scientific description of that species. This is followed by the creature's maximum length, which is helpful if one is to successfully keep the fish for any length of time. I've seen too many aquarists in my years that have purchased tiny Batfish, e.g., Platax pinnatus, and placed them in a fifty-five gallon tank or smaller only to have a 15 inch high batfish a year later! Knowing what to expect growth-wise, is an important part in their initial selection! Range is another parameter the author describes accurately, and it helps tell one something about the general areas where it comes from, helping somewhat to understand its temperature requirements and possible tankmates. Another parameter discussed is Minimum Aquarium Size, which is based upon the authors considerable experience, making it a worthwhile aspect to pay special attention to when planning your system's bioload. The Foods & Feeding discussion follows, and is of great importance, as nutrition, as is water quality, are highly important factors when trying to maintain any marine fish. Scott provides invaluable information here, and does so using readily available foodstuffs, along with recommended feeding frequencies that the species needs to remain healthy. Aquarium Suitability and Reef Compatibility follows, and was described above. Last but not least, Aquarium Notes is a section devoted to informative 'odds & ends' that can help in maintaining the described species. These are not as in depth as those in his 'Reef Fishes' series, as noted in the beginning of this review, yet sufficient for understanding various important aspects to keep the species safe and healthy.

The book closes with a Glossary; Photography Credits; Species Index; Common Name Index; About the Author; and, a repeated 'Key to Symbols.' And note, the inside front soft cover contains an index titled 'Best Fishes for the Reef Aquarium,' whereas the inside of the back cover contains an index titled 'Quick Finder.'

There's no doubt some are going to ask if this similar looking book is going to be worthwhile to own if one already owns Marine Fishes, 500+ Essential-To-Know Species Marine Fishes. In my opinion, Reef Aquarium Fishes, 500+ Essential-To-Know Species is a must have companion volume to the first work, as it guides one through a wide variety of fishes that are well suited for reef aquariums. With both in your personal library, you now have access to a wide variety of informative data concerning a very wide spectrum of fishes that show up in the aquarium trade. Whether you're a fish-only or reef aquarium enthusiast, you're now able to quickly get the information on the species of interest, and therefore, make informed decisions as to its husbandry needs. All in all, an informative book for reef keepers with over 500 species photographs and enlightening species discussions. T.F.H. Publications and Microcosm Ltd. has again supplied the reader a beautifully illustrated, high quality publication.

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