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Culturing Live Foods

Title Culturing Live Foods
Author & (Publisher) Hellweg, Michael R. (TFH Publications, 2008)
Price £19.99
Subject Matter A Step-by-Step Guide to Culturing One’s Own Food for the Aquarium
Edition 1st, English

Article © Paul Belanger, uploaded January 17, 2009.

This book is a recent entry (2008) into the tropical fish hobby publishing scene and is the first publication in a very long time to deal comprehensively with this subject matter. Previous to this “the” reference live foods book was written by Charles D. Masters first published in 1975. Since then there has not been a book of this ambition introduced to the hobby, aside from a couple of small English translations of German manuals. The inside leaf of the book describes the book as “ If you ever wanted to fed your fish live foods, Culturing Live Foods is the essential resource that will show you how to succeed.” Certainly ambitious in it’s undertaking, and for the most part, achieving it’s stated goal.

The book is composed of 4 parts, with each part comprising of chapters relating to the main theme. Part 1, Foods for Larval and Post-Larval Fish, is basically devoted to micro-foods for newly hatched fry that require infusorian-type foods for initial nutrition. The first chapter, Phytoplankton, describes green water cultures and the different subject material for their successful cultivation. As with all other live cultures, the reader is provided with a “Materials Needed” list of the culture media, suggested housing, lighting, water conditioners, aeration level, harvesting tools, etc. to get one started with production. Chapter 2, Protozoans, deals with euglena, bacterial/fungal slime, and protozoans. Chapter 3, Metazoans, describes cultivation of copepods, rotifers ( fresh and brackish ), nematodes. Chapter 4, Larval Food Cocktails and Drip-feeding Methods, deals with the subject matter described in the title in very practical terms.

Part 2 covers Brine shrimp in every aspect from cyst to adult, and includes everything from debunking myths to troubleshooting. A very comprehensive and informative chapter on one of the most important additions to our hobby in the last century.

Part 3, Foods for Juvenile and Adult Fish, runs the gamut, including chapters on plants, worms, molluscs, crustaceans, insects, fish and amphibians. To the author’s credit, there is even discussion regarding the ethical use of using live feeder fish, an informative topic regardless of the reader’s stance. The chapter on amphibians is devoted to the propagation of African Clawed Frogs, an idea that had never occurred to me before, and, that while reading, I found interesting.

Part 4 is dedicated to “Collecting your Own Live Food”. A comparatively shorter section, that is obvious from the content that the author has had much experience in his efforts to procure the “wild food”. He provides tips on the capture and keeping the “free-range” foods that are available for our fishes dining pleasure.

Next are 2 appendixes, the first dealing with troubleshooting live food cultures and some of the more common problems that can occur. The second appendix is a multi-page chart relating the different foods and the different groups of aquarium inhabitants that they are recommended for.

In between the bibliography and the index is a resource section detailing different internet resources for information, as well as sources of starter cultures and live foods.

Over all I enjoyed the author’s common-sense approach to the subject matter. His layman’s writing style is interspersed with just enough scientific content to assure the reader of the author’s research, but not so much as to bog down the reader’s flow. Portions written with an enviromentally friendly slant reflect a thoughtful, up-to-date approach. I think it will become an important reference for every hobbyist who wants to provide that extra spice in their charges diet. The inside front jacket lists the MSRP at $35.95 US, and I will be so bold as to suggest that this is money well spent. So if you are interested in getting this book for Christmas, perhaps, then I would suggest trying your lfs, bookstore, or on-line supplier, for, what I would think, will be an invaluable hobby reference book for some time to come.

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