Book Reviews Right Arrow General Books Right Arrow Spotter's Guide to Aquarium Fishes • Article © Julian Dignall, uploaded December 14, 2008


Title Spotter's Guide to Aquarium Fishes
Author & (Publisher) David Ford (Usborne Pocketbooks, 1984)
Price £2.99
Subject Matter Common freshwater aquarium fishes
Edition 1st, English

This may seem a strange choice for a general aquarium fish book review, but I have my reasons for writing it. Uppermost is that I have a personal affection for this book, it was one of my first fish books as a boy and it served me well to learn at the common names of the fishes I saw in local fish stores and which countries they came from and the basic elements of their care.

Upon re-reading some twenty five years later, there is little to argue about. Sure, technology and knowledge has moved on, for example, the mystery of setting up new aquaria has been, at least partially, banished by the now popularised “cycling” concept, we’re not all using undergravel filters and the breadth of fishes available to us has increased massively beyond the scope of this book. So, again, why bother with a review?

Two reasons really, the first is price. You can pick this book up for under £3. More importantly however is that it is written in a very accessible way for the younger reader. To my mind there are not a lot of books out there that take this approach. So, as a starter fish book with a starter aquarium, it’s a wise buy.

The book itself covers commonly encounter aquarium fishes across around 80 pages with quality colour drawings and black and white diagrams adorn pages on setting up aquaria and similar background text — which similarly also basic but useful. Each species has a concise paragraph concerning the particular fish and it’s ordered by taxon which is also good.

Usborne do not continue to publish this specific book, their old “yellow cover” spotter’s guide are thing of the past, however the do have "Fish (Usborne Pocket Nature with Internet Links)" currently in their portfolio. You can however find the spotters guide reasonably easily. I picked up a new copy recent for a penny plus £2.75 postage.

One of the features of the Usborne Spotter’s Guide is that the owner of the book is meant to cross out a little circle next to the picture of this fish when they are “spotted” at the pet store or in a friend’s fish tank. A table at the back of the book rewards you with points for “the spot”, fewer for the common species and more for the more unusual. As a boy I made it a mission to see all the fish in this book and I appear to have accomplished that. In fact, I remember doing so was a lot of fun and, I am pretty sure, significantly influenced the development of the “my cats” feature on this site.

For anyone who has younger accompaniment on the fish shop expeditions we all enjoy, this book is also a fine companion.  

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