TITLE: Reef Fishes, Volume I
AUTHOR: Scott W. Michael
PUBLISHER: Microcosm Ltd. (1999)
PRICE: $69.95 (Hardcover)
When I met Scott at dinner a couple of years ago we discussed this book and the two or three volumes to follow. By the time the evening was over, I was already eagerly waiting its publication. Finally, the day has arrived and it was well worth the wait! Not only are the over 1000 photographs (that's a guess because it may a lifetime to finish just looking through this book) well worth its price, it was written in a language the aquarist will understand. This is such a huge undertaking that it had to be accomplished in more than one book. As things go, it will take four volumes. Even though Volume 1 includes 23 families of fish, only seahorses/pipefishes, moray eels, squirrelfishes/soldierfishes, lionfish and the seabass family are of general interest to the hobbyist. Other Volumes will have an equal number of families, again with some families of general interest in each. Volume 4 will include a full photographic index of all mentioned species. What families will be in each of those volumes still awaiting publication is noted in this Volume's Preface.
Following a brief "Foreword," written by Dr. John Randle, there is a Preface followed by "Acknowledgments." It pays tribute to those who have helped Scott write and publish this immense work, including the Microcosm staff that brought his manuscript to life and those who provided additional color photographs and sketches.
Just prior to the first Chapter, there is a lengthy "Introduction" titled "Coral Reef Fishes." It introduces Scott to the readers and provides some insight to the behavior and relationships found on the reef. The book is divided into four chapters and closes with various "References" such as a Glossary, Bibliography, Photography Credits, Index, and, About the Author.
In Chapter 1, "The History & Anatomy of Reef Fishes," Scott introduces the history and evolution of fish in general.
In Chapter 2, "Taxonomy" provides the reader with an understanding of the concept of species and lays the foundation for further discussions on the classification of fishes.
Chapter 3, "Coral Reef Habitats" describes and identifies various major reef habitats and the fishes that occupy them. It's a chapter that really helps the average hobbyist understand the reef environment.
After 233 pages of informative text, Chapter 4 "The Fishes" gets to the heart of the matter. In doing so, scientific name, common name, maximum length, range, temperature, aquarium care and suitability, biology, and applicable remarks are used to denote each species. All in understandable grammar and all of which will be quite helpful to the average hobbyist. Even though only five of the 23 families reviewed in chapter are of general aquarium interest, the reader may find some fishes in the other families of special interest.
All in all a well-written and informative book. Microcosm Ltd. has again supplied the reader a beautifully illustrated, high quality publication. Even though its price is what I consider to be somewhat high, the amount of work that has gone into producing this work of art is astronomical. You know what they say - you get what you pay for! The only criticism I have is basically a selfish one - I would have liked to have seen all the families having a more general interest in one volume. However I can understand the need to proportion the vast amount of data into four "interesting" volumes. I look forward to Volume Two!