• Best guide to saltwater aquariums?

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  • Need a good source -- book and website -- for beginning a marine aquarium.

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    Question by kevin kelly

I found this book to be a good starting point: The New Marine Aquarium by Michael Paletta

Here's a list of recommended reading: http://www.thereeftank.com/books/index.htm

Forums are a great resource: ReefCentral Reef2Reef TheReefTank 3Reef

Answer by markus

As Markus has already pointed out, Internet sites, especially forums, are a great place to start. More than that, they're also a really great place to stop, if you want. It's not that there aren't some amazing books out there. But to give you some idea of the flux, species that were imagined to be forever unraisable in captivity in, say, the 80's, are now the aquarium equivalent to gardening dandelions, so that the hardest part of keeping them is pruning them often enough (here I'm thinking of some types of corals). This is in part due to some technical advances most especially in lighting, but also largely because of the Internet's ability to turn a horde of previously poorly connected amateur scientists with anecdotal data into curators of a very successful distributed experiment in what works best for marine aquarium keeping. As a result, hobbyists are now in many cases at the leading edge of marine aquarium husbandry, and significantly contributing to the practices of commercial aquarists and aquaculturists. Because of this, any book you buy should be heavily cross-referenced with the sites mentioned by Markus above and a few I'll add below. Even factoring in the fact that any goofus can post to an Internet forum so that you have to sort of divide out the blowhards to see the consensus of great advice, the Internet still comes out ahead of even the best books, and there are some great ones.

If you're set on hardcopy, a quick Amazon search for "marine aquarium > search by avg customer review" gets Bob Fenner's Conscientious Marine Aquarist and Michael Paletta's "The New Marine Aquarium". These are both really excellent classics. They are also 13 and 14 years in print respectively, predating effective LED lighting, commercial availability of captively bred Mandarin Gobies, etc., etc. To make things worse, in both older and newer titles there are some execrably bad books out there. A newer one that looks like a good bet, that I have not read to be fair, is Vargas and Sprung's The Coral Reef Aquarium (2011).

For the web, in addition to sites Markus has mentioned, I'd add http://www.wetwebmedia.com/, which will get back to your individual questions about very specific things, with unbelievably careful encyclopedic answers, in the unlikely event that your answer isn't in the enormous searchable backlog of questions. Also through reefcentral is the reefkeeping magazine blog at www.reefkeeping.com; reading the husbandry details listed by each month's winner of the "tank of the month" will let you see some common tips that pop up over and over in these tanks. If at all possible going to a meeting of a local club (see the local club forums way at the bottom of reefcentral forums) will save you hours of internet or library reading.

Finally, I first took the plunge and avoided dithering over some of the either/or setup choices that can be hotly debated online by going with a simple unequivocal set of suggestions that comprises one way to do it that will work: the GARF bulletproof reef calculator, at http://www.garf.org/bulletproofreef/bulletproof.asp . I do a lot of things differently now (see above about tips via tank of the month threads), but some of my best "low $, low time, just works" variations that I'm able to share with people who ask about my tank are quirky vestiges of my GARF-style initiation.

Answer by chunk

Chunk, that is excellent. Thanks!

Answer by kevin kelly
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