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In my time here on FF, I've been asked several times to suggest books for a certain aquarium subjects, like planted tanks. So I decided to comb my aquarium library for books appropriate for people just learning to experienced old hands. Most are available at, others from other places on the 'net. Some are quite expensive, but I wouldn't suggest them if they weren't important to have.
There are, of course, hundreds more aquarium books out there, most of them good to fair, some of them with erroneous information. The books in this list are in my personal library and I know they are excellent.



General Freshwater Aquarium

Exotic Aquarium Fishes, by William T. Innes, Innes and Sons Publishing - First published in 1935, this seminal work was the first 'modern' aquarium book. Though much equipment information is dated, his descriptions under photos of fish are usually right on, though some total lengths are off quite a bit, for instance a Pacu reaches a lot more than five inches. His books were published with meticulous care.
Do yourself a favor and get an edition (or two, as they updated editions as new fish were discovered) from the 40's or 50's, because they'll have his beautiful color plates in them, unlike the editions published since the mid-60's by TFH.

Doctor Axelrod's Atlas of Freshwater Aquarium Fishes, TFH Publishing - A tome of literally thousands of species. If you want to see what all is out there, this the granddaddy of aquarium atlases. A photo, with male and female fishes if possible, tops each of the thousands of fishes listed. Underneath is a set of symbols delineating habits, temperament, pH, hardness, method of breeding and temperature.
Information on aquarium keeping and plants, breeding and diseases, bracket the front and back pages of the book.
The book is essential as it gives one a chance to pick fishes they are interested in and do further research on them. Get the latest edition, as they reflect new scientific names and new fishes in it.

You and Your Aquarium by Dick Mills, Knopf Publishing - A good first book for beginners who are setting up their first aquarium. Nice set-up and maintenance sections, a decent overview of plants, and information on several common diseases. The Nitrogen cycle is a bit dated, but the salient information is there.
About 75 pages of fish profiles, about 2/3rds of them freshwater fishes. Each fish is fully described. Technical terms are kept to a bare minimum, making the book easy to read.

The Complete Aquarium, by Peter Dale Scott, DK Publishing - Worth the price of admission for the tank designs. Lovely photography. Good information on tank setup and building tanks for various biotopes. Lists of fish and plants (if applicable)suitable for those biotopes, Decent information on water quality and foods; breeding and diseases are brief, so look to the other books in this section for more on both.

Baensch Aquarium Atlases, Volumes I through IV, by Hans A. Baensch and Rudiger Riehl, with Gero W. Fischer, and Shelie E. Borrer, Hans A. Baensch Publishing - Perhaps not the end all, be all of aquarium books, and not in any sense cheap, this four volume set belongs in everyone's freshwater library - I do not say this lightly. Tons and tons of information on everything from setting up nearly any kind of tank to growing plants to curing disease to breeding fishes, etc. etc. Useful to beginners and old hands, a rare combination.
These books are translated from the German, and some of the translations are awkward, but if you going to buy any freshwater aquarium books this year, buy these.

Freshwater Planted Tanks

Ecology of the Planted Aquarium: A Practical Manual and Scientific Treatise for the Home Aquarium, by Diana L. Walstad, Echinodorus Publishing - If you buy plant books for pretty pictures of planted tanks, this one isn't for you. If you want to learn the hows, whys and what's of planted tanks, there is none better. Anyone who's ever asked me for a reference on how to keep a planted tank, I point them to this book.
Though its written in a textbook style, its easy to read and understand. I recommend keeping a notepad and pen with as you read this book, as there is so much wisdom in it, you'll want to write down certain passages of what you want to remember. I very highly recommend this book.

Encyclopedia of Aquarium Plants, by Peter Hiscock, Barron's Publishing - A book on nearly every aspect of Aquarium plants, from Biology to substrates to water to light to Co2. Good work on balancing levels of light, Co2 and temperature for optimum plant growth. Especially valuable for the more than 150 plant species listed, each with photo and information on keeping them. An excellent reference to have in your library.

Nature Aquarium World, Volumes I through III, by by Takashi Amano, TFH Publishing - If you want inspiration for your planted tanks, get these three books. Amano, the acknowledged godfather of the modern planted aquarium, shows off his work with glorious photos of his layouts. Serious eye candy for the planted tank enthusiast. Some information under each tank with water parameters, Co2, temp, etc, but that's not what you buy these books for. You buy them for the drop dead gorgeous planted tank photos, from tiny 1 liter tanks to 18 foot monsters.

Planted Aquariums: Creation and Maintenance, and Aquarium Plants, both by Christal Kasselmann, Krieger Publishing - I've listed two books by Ms. Kasselmann because they are both so useful to planted tank keepers. The first book, Planted Aquariums, is concerned with the set-up and maintenance of a planted tank. The information is well presented and accurate, and the photographs are lovely. Also included is the light requirements of many aquarium plants. Since both books are translated from the German, a good deal of the equipment she talks about aren't easily found in the US.
The second book, Aquarium Plants, is rift with gorgeous photos of plants. The first 85 pages are about aquarium plant habitat, care, propagation and choosing the correct plants for your layout. The rest of the 400-odd pages are photos of plant species, each with in-depth information on keeping them. This and the Hiscock book are the two I refer to the most.

Aquarium Plants: The Practical Guide, By Pablo Tepoot, New Life Publications - A simple and authoritative book on how to exactly set up your planted tank and have lush plant growth. The book is detailed, exact and to the point. What makes this book worth buying is, without doubt, the best up-close and accurate plant photos I've ever seen. More than 200 species are listed, along with their care. A must-have book for your library. A beautiful book, and perhaps the second one to buy after the Walstad.

Miscellaneous Fresh Water Books

This section will be books on particular families of fishes.


Aquarium Care of Cichlids, by Claudia Dickenson, TFH Publications - I just recently purchased this book, as I know Ms. Dickenson's work from her award-winning articles in popular aquarium magazines. I wasn't disappointed. The information is right on accurate, and Ms. Dickenson writes in such a clear and engaging style, I have no trouble recommending this book even if you are not new to Cichlids. Pretty much all you need to keep them. A very inspiring book if you are into these fish. Top Marks.

Baensch Cichlid Atlas, 2 Volumes, by Uwe Romer, Mergus Verlag Publishing - A pair of books that belong in any Apisto lovers' library. Volume 1 is over 1100 pages with the most complete and in-depth information I've seen on the dwarf Cichlid Genus Apistogramma. Over 1400 high quality photographs accent the work. If you EVER want to keep Apistogrammas, buy this book first. Volume 2 is more on Apistos, plus many other dwarf Cichlid genii, including the Ram genus Mikrogeophagus. It also has over 1200 top shelf photographs.
The research and effort in providing these books must have been a gargantuan undertaking for the author and his research team. An awesome set. I highly recommend them.
At this writing Volume 1 is being updated with new information, and will be re-published later this year to reflect new research and changes in scientific names. Volume 2, though currently available and is a slightly later work, is also due to be updated in the future.

Back to Nature Guides for Malawi and Tanganyikan Cichlids, both by Ad Konings, Cichlid Press Publisher - Both books are perfect if you want to know about the Cichlids from those two African Rift Lakes. As more and more research and changes in nomenclature occur, Konings takes the book off the market and updates it. The second edition (1996) of the Back to Nature Guide: Tanganyikan Cichlids has doubled its photos of fish from that lake to more than 600 from the previous edition, each with husbandry information. Malawi, published in '97, is just as comprehensive.
If you plan on keeping Cichlids from those two lakes, these are the two books you should buy first.

Enjoying Cichlids, by Ad Konings, Editor et. al, Cichlid Press Publisher - A good, general work on Cichlids, with sections on those fish from the African Rift Lakes, Madagascar, Central and South America, and Asia. Many hands wrote this book, as a dozen authors wrote about their specialty in each section. Two-hundred profusely illustrated pages. A good overview of several different families of Cichlids, and thus a good first book for someone planning a Cichlid tank.

South American Eartheaters, by Thomas Weidner, Cichlid Press Publisher - Authoritative books on specific families of South American Cichlids are few and far between. If you are interested in keeping and breeding the Geophagans - the Eartheaters, this is the book for you. Covered are fish from the Biotodoma, Geophagus, Satanoperca, Gymnogeophagus, Retrocalus, Acarichthys and Guianacara sub-families. Details such as breeding habits in the wild and in the aquarium, keeping and feeding them correctly are provided for each fish. The book is rift with excellent color photos of each species. Expensive, yes, but if you are interested in this group of fishes, grab a copy of this book, you won't be disappointed. At this writing the book is out of print, and quite popular, so if you find one, buy it, because its unlikely you'll find another one.


Baensch Catfish Atlas, Vol. 1, by Hans-George Evers, Hollywood Import & Export Publisher- One of my passions are sucker-mouthed catfish of the family Loricariidae. This book scratches that itch, as it is the de-facto gold standard of books on this family. This first of two planned volumes features more than 650 described species and many, many more as yet undescribed. The book has around 900 excellent photos over its 865 pages. In addition to the listings is good information on breeding and keeping these fish correctly. For those interested in these fish, studying them, or those wanting an easy reference to ID these fish, this is the book you want. I very highly recommend it.
At this writing Volume 2 is only available in German, and it'll be at least two years before it's translated into English. I'll be cueing up to buy it then.

Identifying Corydoradinae Catfish, by Ian M. Fuller & Hans-George Evers, Verlag A.C.S GmbH Publisher - If you want to know what kinds of Corydoras-type catfish are out there, this is the book for you. Over 350 species are fully described, even to where the fish comes from, and all but 12 have excellent color photographs of the species. Covered are the Genii Aspidoras, Brochis, Corydoras, Scleromystax and the as yet undescribed by science C-numbers up to C 145. Three-hundred 85 pages of every member of the family Corydoradinae known to exist. There are lots and lots of Corydoras catfish ID books out there, but spend your money on this one; you won't be disappointed. Excellent for the person just getting into Corys to know what's available, and also for the deeply experience keeper. THE dwarf armored catfish book to buy.

Corydoras Catfishes: The Complete Authoritative Guide, by Warren E. Burgess, TFH Publications - The author of this book is very well known amongst people who've been in the hobby a while. If you are brand new to Corys, Dr. Burgess' book it the perfect introduction to these fish. Basic care and families of Cory's are covered. Though somewhat a scientific book, it's very readable. Beginners, this is the book for you.



Tetras and Other Characins, by Mark Phillip Smith, Barron's Publishing - A perfect book for the new Tetra keeper. A very good overview of the family, along with husbandry information on all the featured species. The only book I have that is solely about Characins, so if you're interested in keeping members of Tetra clan, this is the one to buy.

I have no books solely on Barbs, nor do I know of any.

The Betta Handbook, by Robert J. Goldstein, Barron's Publishing - Though only about the ubiquitous Betta splendens, there is plenty for both the new and the seasoned Betta keeper, including feeding, water parameters and tankmates. Quite well illustrated with spectacular Betta pictures. Recommended.


The Plankton Culture Manual by Frank L. Hoff, Florida Aqua Farms Publisher
- The first book I found on culturing critters to feed to my fish, and it lit the fire under me to really start culturing full time. In this book is step by step instruction on how to culture Phytoplankton, Rotifers, adult brine shrimp, ciliates like Paramecium, copepods, Daphnia pulex and magna, oysters and clams, amphipods, Mysis shrimp and microworms. Pretty much the bible of all things culture. If you want to grow your own live food, buy this book.
The Encyclopedia of Live Foods by Charles O. Masters, TFH Publications - Unfortunately out of print and hard to find, The Encyclopedia of Live Foods is what the title says. Its 335 pages of culturing information. The info on culturing Daphnia is a little outdated since the book was published in 1985, but otherwise nearly all the live foods for fish are there with how-to, from cockroaches to maggots and everything in between. As I write this there are 8 used and new copies at Between the Plankton Culture Manual and this book you will learn how to culture nearly anything edible by fish.



The Complete Illustrated Breeder's Guide to Marine Aquarium Fishes, by Matthew L. Wittenrich, TFH Publications
- The title of this books is exactly what it says; it instructs the reader on just how to breed and rear marine aquarium fish. Every detail is present, from conditioning breeders and raising the larvae successfully for more than 90 species. I just recently delved into this book as it was a gift, and am very impressed with the scope and detail of the work. The photos are in full color and excellent.
This book would be indispensable in any effort in raising marine fishes. The author gives valuable tips based upon his 10 years in the marine aquaculture business, so he has insights and hints found no where else.

The Marine Fish Health and Feeding Handbook, by Bob Goemans, TFH Publications - This new book is by an author with more marine-aquarium know-how than any 10 experienced marine hobbyists, thus soon as I saw it for sale, I grabbed it. It's the best book I've seen about preventing, recognizing and treating all the common marine fish diseases and water quality problems. It contains the latest research on marine fish health, biology, ecology and proper feeding. Information on quarantine systems is also valuable. Profusely illustrated throughout. I was very surprised to see the concise, in-depth overview of Seahorse biology, feeding, and captive-care methods.
This book is state-of-the-art. If you want to keep your marine aquarium fish healthy, happy, well fed and free of disease, this is the book to buy. Great for both new and seasoned hobbyists.

The New Marine Aquarium; Step-by-Step Setup and Stocking Guide, by Michael S. Paletta, TFH Publications - If you are just starting out, or need a refresher course on saltwater, this is the first book you buy. It covers setting up the tank, protein skimmers, pumps, mixing saltwater, putting in substrates and even walks you through choosing live rock and how to place it in your tank. If you follow the checklist in this book in order, its very difficult to do anything wrong in your first marine aquarium. If you want a hand to hold as you start that first tank, get this book.

A Pocket Expert Guide to Marine Fishes: 500 Essential to Know Aquarium Species, by Scott W. Michael, TFH Publications - As it says, there are 500 marine fishes photographed, some with just brief information, in this book. You get a color photo, with the scientific and common names, maximum size, minimum tank size, suitability to aquariums, reef aquarium compatibility and captive care info and other information for each fish. Some of the rarer species have less, but its doubtful you'll see them for sale anyway. Great reference for any marine or marine reef keeper.

A Pocket Expert Guide to Marine Invertebrates: 500 Essential to Know Aquarium Species, by Ronald L. Shimek, TFH Publications - The perfect companion for the above book. A similar format, but adds lighting requirements, foods and feeding and aquarium and reef aquarium compatibility to the listings. Each species is pictured with a high quality, detailed image, helping to make IDs easier. Both books give you a lot for your money. I recommend them.

Aquarium Sharks and Rays: an Essential Guide to Their Selection, Keeping and Natural History, by Scott W. Michael, TFH Publications - A comprehensive overview of these fascinating fishes, with detailed descriptions of those fish found in the aquarium trade. Unfortunately, a number of them get too large and only belong in public aquariums. The book goes into great detail on the species, including feeding and necessary tank sizes, and how they adapt to aquariums. A good chapter on common diseases on these fish and how to cure them. If you're interested in these fish, its the book to buy.


Reef Fishes Vol. 1, with Vol. 2 Basslets, Dottybacks & Hawkfishes, Vol. 3 Angelfish & Butterflies and Vol. 4 Damselfish & Anemonefish, all by Scott W. Michael (et. al). TFH Publications
- This glorious four-volume set is all you'll need to select appropriate fish for your reef tank. Stunning photographs of each fish, lots with multiple photos denoting color changes at different ages. Expert advice on how to keep them; tank size, feeding, aggression levels, tankmates, its all there. Best investment you can make before you start your reef tank. Absolutely gorgeous set that I can't recommend any higher.

The Reef Aquarium: A Comprehensive Guide to the Identification and Care of Tropical Marine Invertebrates Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, with Vol. 3 The Reef Aquarium: Science, Art, and Technology, by J. Charles Delbeek and Julian Sprung, TFH Publications - When I started in marine reef keeping in '87, the only source for up-to-date information was personnel at public aquariums, which I pestered them to no end with my questions. Then, in '94, Volume 1 of the Reef Aquarium was published. One read through, and I didn't bother the public aquarium people again. Then came Volume 2, and in 2005, Vol. 3.
Delbeek and Sprung, two names well known in the reef hobby, have put their combined science expertise and experience into these books. There is hands-on information you'll find no where else. Methodologies and knowledge gained from years of reef keeping at public aquariums by the authors make these books essential to anyone planning a reef aquarium. The books are as accessible to new hobbyists as they are vitally important to any reef keeper. Many reef keepers refer to these books as the 'Bible' of reef keeping. As the owner of all three books, they are not exaggerating.
In Volume 1, Small Polyp Stoney Corals and Clams are featured. The authors very clearly explain how to set up the tank and be successful with these animals. Even though this book was published in 1994, make no mistake, the information is as relevant today as it was when it was published.
Volume 2 is all about soft corals and anemones, as well as zoanthids and mushrooms. An in-depth examination of the anatomy and physiology of these animals, and of course how to keep them properly. As in Volume 1, information found no where else.
Volume 3 is The Reef Aquarium: Science, Art, and Technology, and the perfect companion to the other two books. Within is quite a bit of information on water quality, aquascaping, plumbing, equipment, lighting, water movement, feeding and much more in great detail. As are all the books in this trilogy, accessible to both the new and seasoned reef keepers.
With the four books in the Reef Fishes and the three in The Reef Aquarium, a reef keeper would have all the knowledge he would need to be a success in the hobby.

Aquarium Corals: Selection, Husbandry and Natural History, by Eric H. Borneman and J.E.N. Veron, Microcosm Ltd Publisher - If there's one thing the Reef Aquarium series lacks, is a good illustrative listing of individual coral species and their specific care. This book is illustrated with world-class photos of hundreds of species of corals, from soft corals to large and small polyp stony corals. The text shows how to select, care, feed and propagate the corals. The depth and breadth of the information is exceptional, but very readable. Four-hundred sixty-four pages of perhaps the best coral ID book around. Its the only one I refer to when I need an ID or to check a bit of information. It is impossible for me to recommend it highly enough; if you get a copy, you'll spend hours with your nose in it; its that good.
Although there is a soft-cover edition of this book, get the hard cover version, as you'll refer to it so often the soft cover would get dog-eared and torn in a hurry.

Natural Reef Aquariums, by John H. Tullock, Microcosm Ltd. Publisher - One of my favorite reef books to recommend to the new hobbyist, as Tullock covers plumbing, temperature control, lighting and filtration systems in detail, and follows it by step-by-step instructions on how to set up the aquarium and establish a living reef by using live rock and live sand. What makes this book different is the detailed description of different conditions in reef regions like the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Reefs with his recommendations on how to simulate a specific region in your aquarium. The author stresses using natural processes in aquariums, and limits equipment as much as he can in his descriptions.

Reef Invertebrates: An Essential Guide to Selection, Care and Compatibility, by Anthony Calfo and Robert Fenner, Wet Web Media Publishers - Rather than an ID encyclopedia, this book teaches the reader how to successfully keep motile and other non-coral invertebrates commonly found in the hobby. It also has good information about biology and husbandry, and especially valuable is lists of what can be kept with what safely. Great photography is a highlight of this book.
What makes the book really helpful are very detailed chapters on natural filtration - including deep sand beds- refugiums, water flow, and live rock.
Bob Fenner is well known in the hobby, and this book has his experienced finger prints all over it. Recommended.


There are many more books out there, but these are the ones I have that I've chosen that will give you a good, general education in your chosen aquarium interest. As I said above, many are quite expensive, but there is no substitute for the knowledge they contain, and having the ability to refer to that knowledge whenever you need to benefits you and the life in your aquariums.


13,248 Posts
:shock: Nice collection, Dave!;)

2,510 Posts
Dave and I were online chatting about this board just the other night. He asked if I had seen it. Of course I hadn't. We began talking about some of the plethra of reference material for the hobbyist. He commented about this list just being a taste of what is out there. He and I each have over 300 reference books at our disposal. He has a 1935(I believe) Innes, while mine is a 1939. I had completely forgotten about it in our conversation, and a 1947. My prewar book,1939, is one of the Holy Grails, as of course is Dave's 1935 copy, the first edition, I might add. We both exchanged stories on how we had come to have some of the books we have in our private libraries.

One of the biggest downfalls of the advent of the computer age is the lack of emphasis put upon having a library. Very seldom do I google, unless I am at a premium for time, when it comes to searching out information on the hobby. We talked some more and he told me that he is writing a book on early "fish expeditions" conducted, sponsored primarily by the Germans and the British Museum. Now most of you will not have any idea on how important this period is to the hobby. From the late 1800's to around 1935 most of many of the staples of the hobby were discovered. Most of you aren't as anal about the hobby as Dave and I. I told him of one of my "fish buying" trips to Chicago, where I went with an aquarium society, and stumbled upon 39, I told Dave 37, but it's actually 39, photos of a British expedition to what is now known as Lake Malawi in 1928. The photos are real and are dated with short details of the locale of each picture. So, maybe I'll get to see my name in print other than on the wanted posters at the post office.

Anyway, the point I am trying to make here is that a solid library of reference material is essential to the hobbyist. Dave was gracious enough to give all of you a quick primer to some of the more prominent writings. Some of the authors he left out are Heiko Bleher, yes the same one that frequents our forum, Warren Burgess, Ron Heller and others. The new generation, in order to fully appreciate the hobby, must follow these suggestions and get at least some of these books. Not only will your knowledge grow but also your appreciation and understanding of the hobby will improve also.

In addition to these published works, there are some good periodicals that are must haves. Tropical Fish Hobbyist, Aquarium Fish Magazine, FAMA, SALT are just some that come to mind. Being informed is one thing, keeping informed is another. These magazines will keep one updated on the changes, trends, comings, and going of the hobby. Also found in these magazines are new products, new fish, improvements on old concepts, all great reading and added information for the dedicated hobbyist.

186 Posts
Thanks for the good advice (and list of books)! I love books and never hesitate to buy something that will give me added reference on a subject. Besides....what if the power goes out? I can still use a candle to read my books! (hee, hee) :)

5,394 Posts
Great collection of books Dave, thanks for posting them up :)

There's at least one on there that's gone straight on my to-buy list.
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