Book review: The Coral Reef Aquarium by Tony Vargas

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Nathan Hill reviews this new book for reefkeepers.

When I went out of my way to get hold of this book by Tony Vargas I expected something totally different — but that’s no bad thing.

Having a history of pouncing on aquarium publications as soon as I can, I picked up on rumours of this being the 'next big thing,' and the new bible for reefers. Yet, when I got my copy, I felt it was all a bit breathless.

If you like your images to be bright, pristine and detailed then you’ll feel deflated the moment you thumb through this publication. The pictures are poorly lit and, if I’m going to be brutal, quite amateur.

However, you’re unlikely to be buying a book on reefing for a visual orgy and the important evaluation of any publication should be based on the information it contains.

There are many nice and up-to-date titbits of information to be found, although I did struggle with the continuity within the individual chapters.

Some elements of the book seem to be aimed at the starter, some at the aspiring and enthusiastic hobbyist, and others at the expert.

This is commendable, but the patchwork manner in which some parts assume prior knowledge on the part of the reader, drop back to entry level then back to expert again, left me unsure about the viability of handing this to someone that’s new to the hobby.

Its strength is its eavesdropping aspect and a significant portion is dedicated to looking at established tanks of well-known hobbyists.

Many systems are laid bare and their inner workings explained in detail. There are lots of little ideas to be stolen and you get a breakdown of exactly what the experts use on their tanks: from substrate to electricals and water supplements. Even water parameters appear, giving a paparazzi feel to fishkeeping.

As for the book being a truly revolutionary publication, I’m not convinced. It’s a good read and will make an excellent gift for a fishkeeper who already has it all — but, as far as I’m concerned, the title of 'revolutionary book' was bestowed a while ago and remains unchallenged several years on.

This book is available in the UK through any retailer supplied by wholesaler ALF, so if you can’t see it on the shelf it’s likely your local store might be able to order it for you.

Price: £POA

ISBN: 978-188369330-5

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