It was back in December of 1999 that I reviewed Scott Michael’s Marine Fishes: 500+ Essential-To-Know Aquarium Species for Aquarium Frontiers. At that time I praised the care and intelligence that in general go into the publications of James Lawrence’s Microcosm Ltd., and especially the convenient small pocketsize of the current volume, which is a pleasure to carry, thumb-through and read. I said, “Do yourself and your organisms a favor. Take this book with you before you make a decision to acquire a new specimen.” I actually follow my own advice and keep the book in my car’s side-pocket for use whenever I’m tempted to bring in a new tank resident. At the time I also was happy to report that the book was intended to be the first in a series and looked forward to the next in the set. It’s been more than five years but a second volume has finally arrived.
|By Ron Shimek, Ph.D.||TFH Publications, Inc
Neptune City, NJ 07753
TEL. (800) 631-2188
WEB SITE: www.tfhpublications.com
5″ by 7″ Softcover, $24.95
448 pages, Illustrated with 450 full page color photographs. Includes a glossary, a list of online resources, a bibliography, and an index as well as photograph credits.
Charlotte, VT 05482
TEL. (802) 425-5700
FAX (802) 425-3700
WEB SITE: www.microcosm-books.com
Ron Shimek is a zoologist well known to marine aquarists. He has participated as an authority on invertebrates both in his writings and as a speaker at virtually all important recent marine aquarium conferences. He has authored a very valuable companion piece to Scott’s earlier work on marine aquarium fishes. This volume also follows the pattern of the previous work by offering practical husbandry requirements for each species discussed and a consistent set of criteria, both of which make it very useful for those considering acquiring a specimen.
Each page contains a clear color photograph of the organism discussed. Many of these photos were provided by Scott Michael, Alf Jacob Nilsen, Paul Humann and others recognized for the quality of their knowledge and their photographic work. For each species Shimek provides data on their maximum size, their natural range, the minimum aquarium size to maintain the organism, the lighting they require, advice on foods and feeding, their suitability as an aquarium subject, their compatibility with tank mates and tips on captive care.
The book is very ambitious in its breadth of coverage, including organism from the foraminifera through the sponges, hydrocorals, jellyfishes, gorgonians, the soft corals, the sea anemones, the zooanthids, the stony corals, the worms, shrimps, crabs, the tridacnid clams, the sea stars and other echinoderms, finally ending with the tunicates.
The volume opens with a short introductory chapter on the complexities of current taxonomy of marine invertebrates, followed by a description of the “conditions of maintenance” he uses, listed above, with elaborations of his views on reef aquarium suitability and compatibility, followed by maps of the world’s coral reefs. While the Table of Contents itself does not include any subdivisions, there is a handy “Quick Finder” on the inside back cover that serves as an alphabetized grouping for efficient searches.
The main 499 page section on Species Accounts starts with short sections on the Red tree foram and the various calcareous sponges found in reef tanks. He then goes on the demisponges, a group including species such as Orange ball sponges (Cinachyra) and Blue finger sponges (Halicona). In general he considers them toxic and therefore poor subjects for reef tanks. I maintained a ball sponge for a year or so and found its ability to move by extending tiny “pseudopodia” fascinating and saw no toxic effects.
There are a few pages on hydroids followed by a section on the more interesting hydrocorals, those often beautiful but azooxanthellate species and therefore almost impossible to maintain as well as the hardy fire corals, Millepora. The gorgonians are the next group of particular interests to aquarists. It is in sections such as this that excellent guides are most helpful. Many gorgonian species are available, not all of them zooxanthellate. Having this guide with you when you are considering additions can make the critical difference between choosing a specimen that can flourish in your system and one doomed to starvation.
A rather short section on soft corals and a longer one on sea anemones follows, I think a reversal of usual reef keeper interest. The major pest, Aiptasia spp., are included and although Ron believes that in well-fed tanks the Peppermint shrimp Lysmata wurdemanni “will live on excess food and refuse to eat the anemones,” I found them completely effective, and in short order, in two different tank set-ups. My observed problem was the opposite. I’m pretty sure they starved soon after the Aiptasia were gone.
Next is a nice 30-page section on the zooanthids and corallimorphs, followed by 60 pages on the small- and large-polyped stony corals, covering the great bulk of coral species offered in the trade.
Shimek’s next section is on the worms, including the polychaetes such as fire worms and the feather duster worms, with many species of the latter covered in informative depth. I found his description of insufficient food as the cause for crown shedding in the Sabellid worms very interesting and helpful for the husbandry of these beautiful animals. One of Ron’s contributions to our hobby has been to change aquarist’s perceptions about the small fire worms found in our substrates from dangerous to beneficial.
The next section of high interest for aquarists is a comprehensive one on the so-called ornamental shrimps, followed by shorter sections on lobsters and crabs. The author seems generally distrustful of hermit crabs and recommends stocking fewer than 1 per 10 gallons, significantly lower than that usually recommended. I stock many more than that and find them an effective first guard against any algae growing on introduced rock or specimens. 10 pages on the tridacnid clams and more than 40 pages on snails follow this. The author’s choice of priorities here may represent his own interests or what he considers to be a paucity of information on snails but it seems a bit unbalanced given the relative interest of most aquarists. Nudibranchs, cuttlefishes, octopuses – even Chambered nautiluses -are next, with the echinoderms and tunicates as the concluding groups.
As I said in introduction to this guide, it is certainly comprehensive. As usual the interests of the author are evident in the species chosen and the emphasis placed on groups. All in all, Ron Shimek’s guide to marine invertebrates is undoubtedly a “must-have” for serious aquarists. Keep it with you next to Scott Michael’s guide to fishes when you are tempted to acquire another tank resident and save yourself some grief while you help to discourage the trade in inappropriate organisms.
Video Review: Marine Bioluminescence: Secret Lights in the Sea
For those of us interested in the fascinating subject of bioluminescence – I think an increasing group and one that includes me – this video provides beautiful and exciting examples. The principal scientist behind the work is Edith Widder, Ph.D. of the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute.
The videographers have captured images from organisms at all oceanic strata, from warm surface waters to the cold depths of the marine world. They make the astonishing statement – to me at least – that more than half of marine creatures have the capacity to use bioluminescence as part of their repertoire for survival. They go on to state that since 99% of our biosphere is oceanic, “bioluminescence may be the most common form of communication on the planet.”
I acquired my copy through the Sea Grant office here in Hawaii and had some trouble finding the purchase price on the net, but it would certainly be worthwhile to go to the web sites above to search for information on getting this fascinating video. The sites are full of other important information on marine issues and deserve a visit in their own right.