Media Review: The Complete Illustrated Breeder’s Guide to Marine Aquarium Fishes by Matthew L. Wittenrich

by | May 15, 2010 | 0 comments

After starting in this hobby almost 10 years ago, I became interested in learning about marine aquarium fish breeding one day after reading a post on the forums about success breeding species of clownfish. I wanted to do that! By nature I am a prolific reader, so I started searching for information both online and from book sources about breeding marine fish. I ended up purchasing a lot of great books on different marine organisms that I could breed or propagate: clownfish (Joyce Wilkerson) and (Frank Hoff), dottybacks, seahorses, peppermint shrimp, and coral. I was hooked.

A new book has recently become available for those interested in breeding marine fish: The Complete Illustrated Breeder’s Guide to Marine Aquarium Fishes by Matthew L. Wittenrich. Below are the details of that book:

The Complete Illustrated Breeder’s Guide to Marine Aquarium Fishes: Mating, Spawning & Rearing Methods for Over 90 Species by Matthew L. Wittenrich

Publication InformationProduced and distributed byCo-published by
ISBN 1-890087-71-8
Copyright 2007 by T.F.H. Publications, Inc.
T.F.H. Publications
One T.F.H. Plaza
Third and Union Avenues
neptune City, NJ 07753
Microcosm Ltd.
P.O. Box 550
Charlotte, VT 05445

Hardcover, 304 pages. List price $49.95.  Extensive charts, diagrams and photographs of various marine species being bred by marine hobbyists and professionals.

Table of Contents

Like the rest of you, I’m always interested in knowing beforehand what is covered in a potential book I’m interested in buying. The below Table of Contents will explain what all is covered in this volume:

Foreward: By Martin A. Moe, Jr.
Chapter 1: A Breeder’s Journey
Chapter 2: Modes of Reproduction
Chapter 3: Broodstock Basics
Chapter 4: The Breeding Room
Chapter 5: Conditioning Broodstock
Chapter 6: Spawning
Chapter 7: Eggs & Incubation
Chapter 8: Larval Rearing
Chapter 9: Larval Nutrition
Chapter 10: Juvenile Grow Out
Chapter 11: Choosing the Right Species
Species Guides
Chapter 12: Pelagic Spawners
Chapter 13: Math & Motivation
Sources and Contacts
Photography & Illustration Credits
Selected Biography
About the Author

If you want to use Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature, click here to go to their page to review a couple pages inside the book..

Species Guides

For anyone interested in breeding, I’m sure you’re interested in knowing what species are covered. Below is the list that’s covered in this book:

Clownfishes – Subfamily Amphiprioninae

  • Amphiprion ocellaris – Ocellaris Clownfish
  • Amphiprion percula – Percula Clownfish
  • Amphiprion melanopus – Red and Black Clownfish
  • Amphiprion frenatus – Tomato Clownfish
  • Amphiprion nigripes – Maldive Clownfish
  • Premnas biaculeatus – Maroon Clownfish

Damselfishes – Family Pomacentridae

  • Chrysiptera taupou – South Sea Devil Damsel
  • Chrysiptera hemicyanea – Azure Damsel
  • Chrysiptera paresema – Yellowtail Damsel

Dottybacks – Family Pseudochromidae

  • Labracinus lineatus – Lined Dottyback
  • Labracinus cyclophthalmus – Red Dottyback
  • Pseudochromis steenei – Flamehead Dottyback
  • Pseudochromis fridmani – Orchid Dottyback
  • Pseudochromis aldabraensis – Neon Dottyback
  • Pseudochromis olivaceus – Olive Dottyback
  • Pseudochromis sankeyi – Sankey’s or Striped Dottyback
  • Manonichthys polynemus – Longfin Dottyback
  • Pseudochromis wilsoni – Blue or Yellowfin Dottyback
  • Pseudochromis springeri – Springer’s Dottyback
  • Manonichthys splendens – Splendid Dottyback
  • Pseudochromis cyanotaenia – Yellowhead Dottyback
  • Pseudochromis fuscus – Dusky or Yellow Dottyback
  • Pictichromis paccagnellae – Royal Dottyback
  • Pictichromis diadema – Diadem Dottyback
  • Pictichromis porphyrea – Magenta Dottyback
  • Ogilbyina veliftra – Sailfin Dottyback
  • Cypho purpurascens – Flame Dottyback

Fairy Basslets – Family Grammatidae

  • Gramma loreto – Royal Gramma
  • Gramma melacara – Blackcap Basslet

Assessors & Comets – Family Plesiopidae

  • Assessor flavissimus – Yellow Assessor
  • Assessor macneilli – Blue Assessor
  • Calloplesiops altivelis – Comet or Marine Betta

Jawfishes – Family Opistognathidae

  • Opistognathus aurifrons – Yellowhead Jawfish

Cardinalfishes – Family Apogonidae

  • Sphaeramia nematoptera – Pajama Cardinal
  • Apogon cyanosoma – Yellowstriped Cardinal
  • Apogon leptacanthus – Bluestreak or Threadfin Cardinal
  • Cheilodipterus quinquelineatus – Fivelined Cardinal
  • Pterapogon kauderni – Banggai Cardinal

Gobies – Family Gobiidae

  • Gobiodon citrin us – Citron Goby
  • Elacatinus oceanops – Neon Goby
  • Elacatinus puncticulatus – Redhead Goby
  • Elacatinus multifasciatus – Greenbanded Goby

Blennies – Family Blenniidae

  • Meiacanthus grammistes – Striped Fang Blenny
  • Meiacanthus nigrolineatus – Blackline Fang Blenny
  • Petroscirtes breviceps – Mimic Blenny
  • Pholidichthys leucotaenia – Convict Blenny

Seahorses – Family Syngnathidae

  • Hippocampus zosterae – Pygmy or Dwarf Seahorse
  • Hippocampus erectus – Lined Seahorse
  • Hippocampus reidi – Brazilian Seahorse

Reef Basslets – Subfamily Liopropominae

  • Liopropoma spp. – Reef Basslets

Angelfishes – Family Pomacanthidae

  • Centropyge spp. – Dwarf Angelfishes
  • Pomacanthus spp. – Large Angelfishes

The Details

A detailed analysis of the book follows. Skip to the end if you’d rather see my recommendation on the book.


Martin Moe, Jr. starts out the book where he discusses the past, present, and future of marine breeding.

Chapter 1: Breeder’s Journey

Chapter 1 begins with Matthew’s history of how he went from breeding freshwater fish as a child to breeding marine aquarium species to obtaining his degree in marine biology. He also talks about why captive breeding is important to our hobby and reviews efforts made by Martin Moe, Jr., Frank Hoff, Tom Frakes and others in this field. He makes it clear that this book is intended as a guide and that you as the breeder will face challenges in your breeding efforts but that you will also gain a lot of satisfaction from pursuing it.

Chapter 2: Reproduction

Matthew discusses the different modes of reproduction that marine fish utilize when spawning, how the larvae differ, and how they settle after metamorphosis. General information is given on how spawning systems will need to be setup to accommodate different spawning behaviors. He also talks about the different sex of fish and how some are a predetermined sex and others exhibit hermaphroditism. Some anatomy basics are also given.

Chapter 3: Broodstock Basics

The topic of this chapter centers on picking healthy starter stock and the conditions necessary for inducing spawning. Pair formation is discussed and how a breeder can induce pair formation by using divided, bi-directional, and pairs vs. trio methods depending on the species of fish.

Chapter 4: The Breeding Room

A lot of information is disseminated in this chapter (it’s one of the top three longest in the book). Tank types and sizes, setup, controlling the nitrogen cycle, filtration utilizing wet/dry filters, skimmers, etc are discussed, in addition to draining methods, quarantine, photoperiod, temperature, and oxygen requirements.

Chapter 5: Conditioning Broodstock

Matthew states that food quality is very important for proper conditioning and that we as breeders need to replicate to the best of our abilities the fish’s normal diets in order to maximize our chances with them breeding in our systems. Protein, carbohydrates, fats, and other nutrients are reviewed. A good recipe for frozen food is given. Live foods are also discussed.

Chapter 6: Spawning

Matthew goes into more detail on spawning methods, acts, and cycles that fish utilize during breeding. For problematic fish, ideas on how to induce spawning are also given to the reader.

Chapter 7: Eggs and Incubation

Here, hatching methods are reviewed and natural vs. assisted methods are discussed and what the breeder needs to know about each method. Troubleshooting guidelines are given on how to handle certain situations and how lighting, parasites, water quality, etc. affect fertilized eggs.

Chapter 8: Larval Rearing

Housing utilized for newly hatched larvae is important and the tank’s size, shape, and setup are all reviewed. He makes note that dedicated larval rearing systems need to be utilized and gives rearing options for different larvae.

Chapter 9: Larval Nutrition

This is the second longest chapter in the book, which in this author’s opinion shows how important it is for the breeder to learn this subject. Feeding performance of the larvae is discussed and food sources are given. Culturing of microalgae is discussed in addition to using instant algaes from one of our sponsors, Reed Mariculture. Rotifers are also discussed along with rotifer contamination of microalgae cultures. Hatching brine shrimp is also reviewed and harvesting and feeding of live foods is talked about.

Chapter 10: Juvenile Grow Out

Metamorphosis and rearing young fish to adulthood is the focus of this chapter. A number of great illustrations are given of various species of fish from the first day past hatching all the way through adulthood. Grow out aquariums are examined as well as when juvenile fish should be moved from the larval rearing tanks to their grow out tank. A troubleshooting guide is given to aid the breeder in diagnosing inferior eggs, weak larvae, fungal attacks, hatching problems, etc. Culling, while the breeder hates to do it, must be done and what the breeder should be looking for when he or she is culling fish.

Chapter 11: Species Guides

This is the longest chapter in the book. Almost 100 pages are dedicated to the species listed earlier in this article with information given on the fish’s family, genus, and species, as well as aquarium size, establishing broodstock pairs, foods, and spawning. The locale from where each fish species is typically collected from is given along with their adult dimensions, sex allocation, their habitat and range, sexual dimorphism, spawning habits, diet, larval rearing, etc. The chapter contains numerous photos to illustrate species. The reader is encouraged to start out with a simple species first to get their feet wet breeding before advancing along to the more advanced species.

Chapter 12: Pelagic Spawners

These are the ultimate challenge for the home breeder as they need large water volumes and/or tall tanks in order to spawn effectively. Fish like wrasses, reef basslets, anthias, etc are all pelagic spawners and will be a lot harder for the home breeder to accommodate. Pond culture is one way to get around this problem and is currently the way that the red sea yellowbar angelfish (Pomacanthus maculosus) is reared. New techniques will need to be designed as well as new food sources in order for home breeders to make it work.

Chapter 13: Math and Motivation

The question asked in this chapter is: “how will you gauge your success as a breeder?” Matthew takes the reader through a real-world math exercise on how realistically you’ll be doing business. He discusses selling your raised fish to local fish stores vs. wholesalers and how to optimize your business. Breeding for conservation is important as is preserving biodiversity.

Sources and Contact

At the end of the book is a long list of sources and contacts for just about anything the home breeder will need. Sources for food, equipment, and broodstock are given. A detailed bibliography is also cited where the reader can go to obtain more information on a specific topic that they’d like clarification on.

Is the book worth purchasing?

This is a resounding “Yes” if you are either a current breeder or a beginner wanting to learn more about breeding marine fish. In this author’s opinion, The Complete Illustrated Breeder’s Guide to Marine Aquarium Fishes by Matthew L. Wittenrich covers the subject matter well giving the reader a thorough look at how to begin breeding marine fish. Aquarium selection, broodstock, nutrition, larval rearing, grow out, and selling are all covered in good detail to get the breeder started out in the right direction. The detailed bibliography at the end of the book is also something the reader should refer to in order to find more information about the fish(es) that he/she wants to get into breeding. This is a must-buy for anyone intererested in marine aquaculture.


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