By Bob Goemans
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Reef Secrets - Starting Right, Selecting Fishes & Invertebrates, Advanced Biotope Techniques

Authored by: Alf Jacob Nilsen & Svein Fosså

A book review by Bob Goemans

TITLE: Reef Secrets, - Starting Right, Selecting Fishes & Invertebrates, Advanced Biotope Techniques

AUTHOR: Alf Jacob Nilsen & Svein Fosså

PUBLISHER: T.F.H. Publications/Microcosm (2002)

ISBN: 1-890087-67-X

PAGES: 240

PRICE: $39.95 (Hardcover)

There are many books to choose from, with some written more for the novice or those wanting more scientific data. Some are short on facts and heavy on pretty pictures. Others are simply boring and lack the combination of easy to understand facts and the needed associated photography. This is not the case with Reef Secrets, as it combines the knowledge of two of the world's foremost aquarists and the photographic excellence associated with TFH/Microcosm publications, resulting in a well-structured, well-written and profusely illustrated work of art!

The work begins with the authors thanking those that helped to bring their philosophy to the following pages. Directly after 'Acknowledgements,' the 'Introduction' section discusses the visual impact of living reefs in the wild on that of closed systems in our homes and office places. It's a brief, yet down-to-earth look at our responsibilities as hobbyists when it comes to the delicate environment that we 'all' live in. I'm sure you'll agree, as I did, with their view of where the hobby needs to go so that future generations can enjoy the wonders of living reef systems.

There are nine chapters, with Chapter 1 'Light, Darkness & Shadows' discussing this extremely important aspect of reef keeping. Its subsections are titled: Natural Reef Lighting; Symbiotic Algae; Reactions To Light Variations; Night & Day; and, Light Variations In The Aquarium. It presents an insight rarely seen other books.

Chapter 2 'Water Qualities & Movement' is another aspect of reef keeping that is often misunderstood and because of that, the Authors have gone about placing an emphasis on this subject matter. Its subsections are titled: What Is Seawater; Patience Repaid; Water Quality Of Coral Reefs; Nutrients In The Aquarium; Indications Of An Increasing Nutrient Level; Filter Techniques; Salinity; Trace Elements; Calcium; pH; Alkalinity; Water Motion On The Reef; Biological Importance; Adaptations To Water Motion; and, Creating Water Motion. If I may say, extremely good advice and probably alone worth the price of the book as I believe the importance of water quality is 'the' most important aspect of reef keeping!

Of course no book on this subject matter would be complete without a chapter dedicated to 'Aquascaping,' which just happens to be the title of Chapter 3. Again, the Authors present a logical and sensible approach to a subject many aquarists do not adequately entertain before setting up a reef system. Subsections comprise: Demanding Animals; Building A Reefscape; Live Rock; Live Rock Sources: Why Use Live Rock; How To Use Live Rock; The Live-Rock-Only Aquarium; Handling & Taming Live Rock; Dry Rock & Artificial Materials; Coral Skeletons & Coral Casts; Bottom Substrate; Biochemical Pros & Cons; Animals That Need A Bottom Substrate; Sand-Stirring Species; and, Living Aquascapes. It should be evident from the titles of these subsections just how well this subject matter is accounted for.

Chapter 4, 'Biotopes' is only nine pages, yet touches upon a subject matter that is rarely seen in other publications. It delves into specific environments and what constitutes a viable approach for something different from the 'ordinary' reef system. Its subsections consist of: The Beach Zone; A Seagrass Aquarium; Fantasy System: A Reef Gorge Aquarium; A Rubble Zone Aquarium; and, A Small Cave Aquarium. Quite fascinating!

Chapter 5 'Aquarium Stocking' dwells upon goals, thinking about animals needs before purchasing them, compatibility, population density, aquarium size and possible human hazards associated with some animals. Its subsections are: Predation; Aggressive Behavior; Toxins; Hardiness; Stocking Density; A Dream Reef; A Red Sea Cave; Aquarium Size; Adult Size; Pollution Potential; Freedom Of Movement; Hazards To Humans; Animals That Sting; Animals That Bite Or Cut; Bacterial Infections; and, Allergies.

Chapter 6 'Stocking Guide' is lengthy, taking up 113 pages because it is dedicated to an array of colorful photos encompassing the fishes and invertebrate commonly available to aquarists. Four hundred and forty gorgeous color photographs to be exact! And each provides an array of useable information such as common name, size, lighting requirements, and water quality needs. Another darn good reason why this work belongs in your library!

Chapter 7 'Reef Algae' is quite short, seven pages, yet recognizes the fact that algae is a vital part of all reef systems. And if it's going to be a part of your reef system, why not make it a useful aspect of the system. Subsections consist of: Inconspicuous But Vital; Types Of Algae; Algae In The Aquarium; Algae Control; and, Patience-Patience-Patience. Without a doubt, worthwhile reading!

Chapter 8 'Foods & Feeding' another short chapter consisting of only 5 pages, discusses the nutritional aspects facing the aquarist when it comes to providing a balanced diet. Even though quite short, the subject matter is well covered in its subsections: Nutrition Basics; What Do Organisms Eat?; and, Feeding The Aquarium.

Chapter 9 'Friends Of The Reef' delves into reef conservation, a subject that is close to the hearts and minds of aquarists and environmentalists. As both, I have personally seen the battle lines between opposing parties, and hopefully we can all come to a resolution that will benefit all that derive pleasure and business opportunities from Mother Nature's exquisite reefs. And, I'm quite sure after reading this Chapter's subsections: A Hobby & Livelihood; Doing It Better; Marine Aquaculture; Saying No; and Aquarium Keeping & Conservation, we all be a lot closer to resolving our differences.

The work closes with Further Reading; Photograph Credits; Index; and, About the Authors.

In conclusion, 'Reef Secrets' is a well-written, informative, and beautifully illustrated publication on cutting-edge marine husbandry techniques. And without question an elegant and informative addition to your library shelf. Furthering our knowledge in the interconnecting aspects of reef keeping will not only benefit your present aquarium, it will broaden your horizon as to natures intricacies. Without which we humans might still be a single cell organism struggling in an ammonium filled atmosphere.

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