I am fairly new to aquariums and am wanting to learn more about different species of freshwater fish. I am especially interested in books that talk about community fish right now, because I am starting with a community tank. Does anyone know of any good books that will help me learn more about freshwater community fish?
For two decades now the best general reference book on freshwater tropical fish has been the Aquarium Atlas written by Hans Baensch and Dr. Rudiger Riehl. It is commonly referred to as the "Baensch Atlas" by most aquarists. Volume 1 contains most of the fish you are likely to encounter in stores, but there are now five (or maybe six) volumes, numbers 1-4 are available in English but the rest are still only in German as far as I know. The general info in these books is still valuable, though significant scientific studies have occurred in the intervening 20 years and not all of this is reflected in even the latest revision which was several years ago.
With the amount of "free" information available on the Internet, it must be a daunting task for any would-be fish book author to contemplate a book, as it will likely be partially out of date before it is even published. The better fish books now being written are specific works on groups of fishes rather than general info.
We have a section here called "Tropical Fish Profiles" [second tab from the left in the blue bar across the top of the page] that is regularly being updated, and you will find many species of fish (and plants) with information on water requirements, compatibility, feeding, etc. There is also a "sticky" at the head of the Freshwater Fish section on fish compatibility (authored by iamntbatman) which is a big part of building a community aquarium, and another on cycling. And I have written a series on low-tech planted aquaria that is stickied at the head of the Aquarium Plant section.
If you were raised in the "book" generation as Byron and I were, its disappointing the quality of books out there for the tropical fish hobbyist. Then add to this scenario (reduced quality books) stores that don't want to carry books, like Aquarium West - a local retailer in Vancouver - and the situation is down right depressing.
My philosophy on book purchases is this - reference books only; for the rest I leave to the internet and the library. Our local library has some decent introductory books on setting up tanks, a good fish intro, and a few books on the planted tank. So the obvious is to hit up your library first and read what they have a couple of times, use the fish books to dream... etc.
I have bought only one book, its another version of what Byron has recommended but is the grand daddy of them all; its "Dr. Axelrod's Mini-Atlas of Freshwater Aquarium Fishes (Revised Third Edition)." This book is authored by Glen Axelrod (son of Herbert Axelrod), Warren Burgess, Brian Scott, Cliff Emmens, Neal Pronek and Herbert Axelrod. This was "the" reference book for many decades in the hobby. On a humourous note, this is the fourth time I have purchased the same book (under different revisions however). I'm into my fourth time back into the hobby and each time I bought this book, giving it away when I left the hobby.
An interesting note on Herbert Axelrod, he was the "Man" who really got the ball rolling in North America concerning our hobby. He developed and grew the magazine "Tropical Fish Hobbyist" (TFH) and started the THF publishing empire; he was the "Tiger Williams" of the North American tropical fish scene. And just like "Tiger" he got into trouble, his was legal, I provide a Wiki link for you, it's interesting reading.
Now would I buy this book again, knowing what I know now - the ecology of information in an electronic age. The answer is "no." I do use it a fair bit as folks like Byron like to use the scientific names of fish and I have to grab the book to see what Byron is talking about... lol... and in scenarios like this it is helpful. What I did instead was this: I like to read from pages, not the computer screen when I settle down to a "long read." And I examined my book budget, which is always generous, so I decided on a different course of action. I had a very good HP printer but the printer cartridges for it were to pricey, so I was like Scrooge printing items out. So I went out and bought a Kodak printer as the printer cartridges are almost free compared to other companies. Now I print out all kinds of goodies, and I organize these printouts into a binder - will be moving on to my second soon.
So for example, Byron has written - in the plant forum here- articles on the planted tank. I printed these out and have them at hand when I want them. I also usually re-read articles like his two or three times over a six month period.
Here is a link that will keep you busy and wear out your printer cartridge, but I really do recommend you print out the articles and read them, not just read them from the net. You will need to re-read some of this author's material a number of times, trust me on this, as its a heavy dive into the aquarium world. Also, though the information is excellent in his articles, his writing style leaves something to be desired and he obviously doesn't really proof read his stuff so some sentences are plain gobly gook. I'll link you to one article, you can surf his site and print to your heart's content, you will have lots of reading to do. I found his material so challenging (some of it) I have started myself on a Chemistry course (Chemistry for Dummies series) that I do at home (more fun when it isn't a school requirement); note: the book is from the library.
Have fun, if your area is like ours here, the selection of books available to you will be pitifully thin, so print from the net and start your own binder.
Axelrod even has a fish named after him, so that's saying something.
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