Books Reviewed - Recommended General Titles 5



45. JEAN CLAUDE NOURISSAT & PATRICK DE RHAM "LES CICHLIDES ENDEMIQUES DE MADAGASCAR" by Association France Cichlid (2002, 196 pages, HC).  Very long awaited this book is a must for everybody who keeps Madagascan cichlids or thinks about acquiring them. This book is written by the two people who know those cichlids best than anyone else. They have seen them in their natural habitat, collected them, bred them, raised them and made them known to the public. There is no other book in the world which will tell you more about beauties like Paratilapia polleni, Paretroplus menarambo or Lamena nourissati "blue lips". The authors manage to give the reader a clear picture of the natural biotope of these cichlids and their needs. It is also meant as a far cry against human activity in the area which has made most of the species described in the book extinct in the wild. This book is currently available in French only but an English edition will be published later this year. Highly recommended / Must have. Now available in English. Click here to find out how to order and here to read the back cover page of the English edition.


46. HANS J. MAYLAND & DIETER BORK "SOUTH AMERICAN DWARF CICHLIDS" by A.C.S. GLASER (1997, 194 pages, HC). After reading many books on dwarf American cichlids it becomes very difficult to be impressed by yet another title. However, this book is the exception. There is no reason to say too much about it. It's got it all. Description of every species, excellent quality photos, recommendations for the aquarist and many, many species. In short, if you have other books on dwarf cichlids, this one will nicely surprise you. If you haven't got any, just buy this one, it's all you will ever need. Highly recommended.

47. DIANA WALSTAD "ECOLOGY OF THE PLANTED AQUARIUM" Echinodorus Publishing (1999, 200 pages, HC). Diana Walstad is known to aquatic gardeners for a long time as a knowledgeable hobbyist. Her book goes one step further and reveals the scientist inside her. An enormous amount of work has been put in this book. No book can claim to cover all aspects of aquatic gardening but this one gets quite close to this task. The information is accurate, well presented and goes in depth without ever becoming boring. The FAQ section in every chapter is a very clever approach which allows the reader to see what other hobbyists have gone through. The book is not for the high end plant aquarist only, even beginners will become better gardeners after reading / studying it. Although some chapters could - perhaps - benefit by a more in depth analysis, still this book is a must. Combined with book # 48 below it offers all the information most hobbyists will ever need to know. Highly recommended / Must have.

48. CHRISTEL KASSELMANN "AQUARIUM PLANTS" by Krieger Publishing Company (2003, 522 pages, HC) This book could be considered as the "other half" of book #47. Focused more on the plants themselves it gives the reader a wealth of information about them. Not just a description and a nice photo but many useful (and overlooked - in other books) information which, when combined will make you a better hobbyist. Knowing the biotope of the plant, the specific lighting conditions in the wild (in tables nicely compiled), the water parameters in which it thrives in nature are all elements that one needs to know if he wants to be successful as an aquatic gardener. Identification of the plants becomes a child's play since the author provides information about the anatomy of the plant instead of merely nice pictures (which are also there to help). The needs of the plant in the aquarium are also discussed and it it evident that the author has kept most of them herself. The introduction is a first class text. Everything is covered in depth from lighting to substrate. A true gem which doesn't come cheap but is worthy every cent you spend on it. Highly recommended / Must have.

49. WARREN E. BURGESS "THE ATLAS OF FRESHWATER AND MARINE CATFISHES", 1989 by TFH (H-1097), 790 pages, Softcover. A large format atlas which contains almost everything you would like to know about catfishes. Not only photos but also an extensive information section where all the genera are described in detail. There are 1700 photos and almost every catfish you can think of is included. However, some of the species that are listed as "exotic" are far more common now. After all, 14 years have already passed since this book was written and we all know how quickly things change in our hobby. Unfortunately, the information per species - concerning keeping it in captivity - is not very much, although the basic information on the introductory part will partially cover the needs of most hobbyists. Since this is the only book of its kind, it can be only rated as Highly recommended.

50. PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING is an excellent British publication. Lots of first class articles, great photos and a wide range of subjects per issue - which is a great advantage for a magazine. Highly recommended.

51. RICHARD F. STRATTON « A COMPLETE AUTHORATIVE GUIDE – AQUARIUM FILTRATION », by TFH Publications Ltd., p. 68, Hardcover. I must confess that I was expecting more when I bought this book. What did I expect? A book describing different (and if possible exotic) filtration systems, their pros and cons, perhaps a couple of DIY ideas, some original thoughts and systems. Well, nothing like that is found in this book. What this book does is to describe the filtration systems and alternatives we all know. Thus, you will read about the undergravel filter, the canister filter etc. Not recommended.

52. P.R. ESCOBAR « AQUATIC SYSTEMS ENGINEERING : DEVICES AND HOW THEY FUNCTION », by Dimension Engineering Press, 2000, p. 274, Paperback. Sometimes when you read the title of a book and you place an order you have a hunch that this particular book may be exactly the book you want to read. Of course, ninety nine times out of a hundred, it is not. Well, this book is the hundredth time. An excellent book packed with first class information, with all the formulas and graphs I wanted to see, examining a wide range of topics, with explanatory notes which make the information easier to understand. I am sure that every hobbyist will benefit by reading it. Perhaps marine hobbyists will find it an absolutely essential book but my opinion is that it is equally important for freshwater hobbyists to read it. Not an easy book to read, no fancy photos – just packed (but well explained) information. I can only say that after reading each chapter I feel much more comfortable with it and ready to counteract if something goes wrong. In short, I know many more thing about water turnover, heat transfer, UV sterilization and many more. Highly recommended / Absolutely essential / Must have for the advanced hobbyist.

53. T. FAIRFIELD « A COMMONSENSE GUIDE TO FISH HEALTH », by BARRON’s, 2000, p. 140, Paperback. This is a book aiming to cover a huge issue – fish health. By default, such a big issue can’t be satisfactory covered in a somewhat small book as this, but the least you can expect is to cover the basics. In my opinion, this book has “sporadic” information in the sense that it fully covers some issues (even to a great details) while other issues (far more important) are not covered at all, or are covered very shallowly. There are very few photos while there are many fish diseases which are mentioned and described but there is no treatment suggested. Of all the books that we have reviewed on the “fish health” issue, I would regard this one as the least appropriate to be the sole reference book for any hobbyist. Not recommended.

54. P. HISCOCK « A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO CREATING AND MAINTAINING WATER QUALITY », by Interpet publishers, 2000, p. 80, Hardcover. This is a cheap and honest book since it is just what it claims to be. A short, Practical guide to fish keeping. The book is well written and it will do an excellent job in introducing the principles of water chemistry to novices. Apart from that, its usefulness to the more advanced hobbyists is quite limited (if any). There are plenty of high quality diagrams and good photos, everything is neatly organized, and the text is very clear. Recommended for beginners only.

55. GINA SANDFORD « AQUARIUM OWNER’S GUIDE – THE COMPLETE ILLUSTRATED GUIDE TO THE HOME AQUARIUM », DK Publishing Inc., 1999, p. 260, Paperback. One of those books with a title which promises to cover everything in just one volume. In most cases, the books fall short of what they promise and the expectations of the reader. However, this one doesn’t. It will cover all basic principles, give information on most “groups” of fishes (tropical freshwater, cold freshwater, brackish water, marine), show some good proposals for aquascaping your tank and even tell you a thing or two about health, feeding and water chemistry. If you need to buy one book for general use, then this is a very good one. I think that it is one of the best books for the beginner who will enjoy it for some time – before he specializes in some particular habitat. Highly recommended for beginners.

56. P.W.SCOTT « THE COMPLETE AQUARIUM – A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO BUILDING, STOCKING, AND MAINTAINING FRESHWATER AND MARINE AQUARIUMS » DK Publishing Inc., 1995, p. 194, (large format), Paperback. Another book which promises to be an all around player, a book of general interest. Indeed, the layout of the book is a very good one and the intentions of the author were most probably the best. The book has many pictures, a lot of suggestions, even 16 detailed proposals for aquascaping but it also has too many errors. I got the feeling that, following a general re-editing this book could become a real hit. Not recommended.

57. S. REEBS « FISH BEHAVIOR IN THE AQUARIUM AND IN THE WILD » Comstock Publishing Associates, 2001, p. 260, Paperback. This is a somewhat different book in the sense that it will not tell you how to keep your fish in the aquarium but it will tell you many important and interesting things concerning their behavior. Things that may well explain a lot of what you see taking place in your tank from fish aggression to breeding. It will also tell you how the parent recognize their own fry, how smell may affect the behavior of your fish and many more. There are many experiments and observations in the wild which support the principles presented in the book. It should be noted that most of the comments presented in this book can be of immediate use to the hobbyist. I guess you didn’t know (as I didn’t) that a cave with two holes will cause the female to lay far fewer eggs than in caves with just one entrance. Indeed an interesting book which will be useful to every fish keeper. Highly recommended.

58. M. NEGRINI « LES CICHLIDES » by BOCAL Edition, 2001, p.132, Hardcover (in French). A very nice book by a hobbyist who has made a good research on this issue and has probably kept a good deal of the species he describes. This is reflected in the quality of the information for most species although some mistakes can still be found (final size of P. managuensis for instance in p. 85 is reported as 30 cm instead of 50 which is the correct figure). The layout is simple and functional. Each species has its own page with a good amount of information and very nice photos. At the end of the book the reader will also find some general information concerning the husbandry of cichlids. If the species you want to keep is included in the book then it is Highly recommended.

59. A fishkeeper’s guide to FISH BREEDING (Comprehensive advice on breeding and rearing a wide selection of popular species), by Dr. Chris Andrews, published on 1986, by Salamander books Ltd: This small book is exactly what it claims. Hard covered and colour illustrated with 113 pages. It is a very good book for new aquarists that start with the hobby.


60. Invitation to Nishikigoi by KAMIHATAFISH IND. LTD: A booklet with basic information on keeping Koi. It includes a very nice series of coloured photos of several valuable Koi strains. An average guide to Koi variations, as the info is limited to the very basics.


61. CICHLIDAE. International Cichlid’s magazine (Cichlidae n. zero. December 1999). The first issue of the magazine published by ICA and it was in English. It is dedicated to Jean-Claude Nourissat. It is an extended report on the achievements of a Great Man. Includes many photos of his concrete tanks and ponds, his green house and his fishes. Although I cannot suggest everybody to run and find it, it was a collectors’ item for me and established as one after the loss of this pioneer. I wish to thank George, in public, who brought it back from Italy for me.

62. Aqualog: all Corydoras, by Verlag. The bilingual foreword is a known policy for this kind of “atlas”. It was published on 1996 with soft covers and 142 pages. Along with the covers – which also have valuable stuff printed on them – and 4 pages for stickers it is considered as a fine source for identification and maintenance of these “catfishes”. Highly recommended to any aquarist or hobbyist.


63. The CICHLIDS year book Volume 3, by Cichlid Press and Ad Konings. It was published on 1993. A book of large format with hard cover and 96 coloured pages. The usual sectors (Tanganyikan, Malawian, Victorian, west African, central American, south American) are presented with new and hot information. Recommended to the ones they want badly the last and fresh news in cichlid keeping and researching. The article “Livebearing cichlids?” is very interesting one and quite surprising as well.


64. The CICHLIDS year book Volume 4, by Cichlid Press and Ad Konings. It was published on 1994. A book of large format with hard cover and 96 coloured pages. The usual sectors (Tanganyikan, Malawian, Victorian, west African, central American, south American) are presented with new and hot information. Recommended to the ones they want badly the last and fresh news in cichlid keeping and researching, along with a sad obituary for Dr. Ethelwynnn Trewavas and a brief review of her achievements. Nice book to decorate your “fishy” library and to give you plenty of useful information on cichlid maintenance.

65. TANGANYIKA SECRETS, by Ad Konings and Horst Walter Dieckhoff, published by Cichlid Press on 1992, with hard cover and 207 coloured pages. There are not a lot of things to say for this treasure. Observations on the field and grouping of the fishes by their biology (spawning, feeding, aquascapes). An extended reference to the evolution of the species and the lake itself. It includes a clever and informative “editorial” and the information is found in the whole book is more valuable than expected to the advanced hobbyist. Highly recommended is not enough to characterize this book which is actually a "must have" book.


66. Back to Nature: Cichlids of the Lake Tanganyika, by Ad Konings, Copyright © 1996 Fohrman Aquaristik AB, printed in Sweden by Ölunds Tryckeri AB and translated by Vasilis Vrodisis (Master Aquaculture). This edition is distributed by AQUATICA, for Greece. Except a small number of minor value mistakes, this book is a very good addition for the average Greek aquarist, interested in Cichlids from the lake Tanganyika. Nice photos and nice layout. The book is coming with a hard cover, medium format and 128 pages.


67. AQUALEX catalog: Cichlids from Lake Tanganyika, by Dähne Verlag, selected and introduced by Hans-Joachim Herrmann. The preface of the edition is bilingual (in English and German languages). The edition is on large format and comes with soft covers and tens of coloured pages. The photos are quite good for identification of the species. The edition includes a map of the lake, a Conversion table (space, volume) and an annotating note with the explanations of symbols are used to describe the size of a fish, the size of the tank is needed to keep it, the way of ideal keeping, its breeding technique and its particular diet. The known quality of these “catalogs” is also reflected in this book. Recommended to the ones interested in these species and want answers (in brief) about them.

68. AQUALOG Breathtaking Rainbows by Harro Hieronimus. Having met (in Rome, April 2004) Patrick DeRham on his way to meet Heiko Bleher and with him proceed to Irian Jaya to explore some of the rivers in which the “Rainbow Fishes” live gave a serious rise (once more) to my interest for those fishes. Shortly after, I discovered the following book discussing - in detail - the Melanotenids (scientific name of Rainbow Fishes on the bookshelves of a Roman Club (C.I.R = Club ittiologico Romano). Reading it very carefully was the least to do. This book belongs to the famous “Aqualog” series (my favorite volumes in this series are  those dedicated to loriicarids and freshwater stingrays). This volume is an extremely detailed review of those fishes (mainly originating from Australia and New Guinea) and the information is divided into many chapters:

History and Geography: In this chapter you will see the Rainbow fishes and the way they have become highly regarded nowadays. For the sake of information the first “rainbow fish” was described by the Austrian Ichthyologist Rudolf Kneir (in 1865) and was named  Pseudomugil signifer. Following chapters discuss in detail the systematic position of the rainbowfish, the aquaristic history of the rainbow fish  and end with the evolution of rainbowfish and atherinid fish.

The following section focuses on the original biotopes of these fishes and are divided into the home of rainbowfish and the home of bleu-eyed and atherinid fish. This means that the two groups have to be considered – even though closely related – as different and examined on their own.

Further - extremely interesting for all aquarists – chapters include :

General Maintenace divided into:

1.      Aquarium and decoration.

2.      The proper water chemistry.

3.      The proper diet (with interesting statements on the actual use of live food when dealing with these fish).


1.      Breeding preparations

2.      The breeding

3.      Raising fry (a really hard task to deal with)

4.      Special breeding features (few tricks won’t hurt at all!!!)

Then come Diseases:

1.      The quarantine aquarium

2.      Diagnosis and treatment

3.      Bacterial infections

4.      Intestinal desease and poisoning

And finally in all their majestic beauty; The fishes:

1.      Rainbowfishes

2.      Other atheriniform fishes

3.      Local varieties

4.      Breeding forms and threatened species

5.      Local varieties and Breeding forms

6.      Threatened species (a delicate matter to be handled with care)

This section – literally crammed with top quality images – is the most interesting. Each and every known genus/species is reviewed in detail, the “hybrid issue” is – also – discussed in depth and the whole thing ends up with the “extinction related” (by pollution and/or introduced species) topics.

The very last part of the book is dedicated to New species, Literature, Glossary, Index and Symbols (the last two chapters are strictly related to the Aqualog book). A nice, colorful, poster – included in this book - has to be considered as a really special bonus!!! Even if you are just interested in studying these fishes (at the moment I happen to be very “tight” in tank space) buy this great book and enjoy it. You’ ll never regret the money spent on it ! Just to wet your appetite you can see a photo of two impressing males of Melanotenia trifasciata (from Wanga Creek). Picture comes from the book by G. Maebe.

69. AQUALOG POLYPTERUS Floesselhechte bichir by Frank Schaeferare. Polypterus, also called the “double faced” fishes were already on this planet 60 millions years ago when the dinosaurs were still ruling. They have always attracted biologist for their own peculiarity: younger specimens have external gills (the way some amphibians do) but are also able to breath air through their lungs and more. On the other hand, they have been considered by aquarists (almost worldwide) as an “oddity” which is reported to have a bad reputation: they grow big (some do), will eat everything introduced in the tank (I won’t keep a Bichir with tiny livebearers any way …), and so on …

That’s why I ordered the book I’m going to review with a mix on curiosity and perplexity … but upon receiving it, after having read and enjoyed it, I’ve been more than pleased by this purchase.This book IS great: each and every aspect of these “primitive” African fish is analyzed: beginning with their taxonomic position/classification (a mess that could easily compare/outrun cichlids, believe it or not), exhaustive reports on their size/measures and lot of other parameters, references to a large number of field collected/ tank kept/ museum conserved specimens to finish with their needs when it comes to actual aquarium keeping. In  this regard the parameters taken into account are (among others): tank size and aquascaping (which should also address their need to breath atmospheric air), water requirements (as a matter of fact Bichirs are among the less fussy fishes I’ve ever heard about), feeding habits, tank mates (it’s possible if you stay on the conservative side of the matter and avoid “monster size” specimens) , husbandry and more. Of course there are also lots of high quality, large size pictures (showing live fishes in their natural habitat, in tanks or even conserved specimens).

Text – of this hard cover book - is German/ English while the quick reference sheets also refer to some unusual (for a fish book, of course …) languages such as Russian and Chinese …

Reported data refers to information gathered (by the author himself) over a study period as long as five years that includes “in the field” research too. Whenever his results differ from the ones reported by other, the author always explains (in simple words that even a humble fish keeper like me can understand) his point of view, never assuming his opinion to be the "correct one", which I liked a lot.

I will give these fishes (as soon as possible) a try in one of my tanks, I’m sure I won’t regret this at all!!!

Finally I’d like to thank my Internet Friend Marco Rossetti and the Internet Bookshop NeoGea for having supplied me with, possibly, one of the first copies of the book available in Italy.

70. THE CICHLID FISHES OF WESTERN AFRICA by Anton Lamboj, Birgit Schmettkamp Verlag, 2004, 260 pages, Hardcover. Although keeping this kind of cichlids never crossed my mind before reading this book, I am now open to suggestions and this should tell you a lot. The author has been a fish keeper for the last 40 years and this is nicely reflected in this book which (unlike others) has adequate information about the husbandry of those fish in captivity. As we learn from the back cover he has travelled 13 times in Western Africa which resulted in the description of many new fish. The structure of the book is very easy to follow and the species information is neatly presented. After a short introduction about the biotope and taxonomy of these fishes, there is a short list of recommendations for a West Africa cichlid tank. Then come the species, arranged by genus. For each species there is a high quality photo and the following information: scientific name, distribution, description, feeding, keeping & breeding. In some cases, the author adds some more information like "Synonyms" or "Systematic remarks". While browsing the book you will be caught by the colorful species that live in this area and, although some of them like Steatocranus or Pelvicachromis may sound familiar to you, others will be completely new. The "Highly Recommended" title would be awarded to this book even if it was not an excellent publication, since it is the only one of its kind. However, the book is a real gem in every aspect. A must have for every serious hobbyist.

Books for the African Cichlid enthusiasts reviewed in next page

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