by Dr. William T. Innes
This decades-old book was considered something of an authoritative text in its time. I found it interesting, informative and quaint altogether. It is an encyclopedia of fishes, the first eighty pages being a general introduction to fish biology plus instructions on their care, feeding and management like usual. A lot of the basics are still the same, but some of the info was astonishing. For example, the book is so old apparently aquarium lighting was not a standard feature, there is a careful explanation of how to find the right site for the fish tank that will get the proper amount of sunlight through a window, with an added note that \”for those who do not mind the use of electricity\” a suspended light can be constructed by mounting bulb sockets on a strip of wood, and that the bulbs can be below the surface as long as water does not reach the socket! What a recipe for disaster. There was no dechlorinator available, instead frequent reminders throughout the book to always use water that has stood for a day or two, some fishes requiring \”very old water\”. I wondered at the quality of care as a lot of the photographs showed fish that had obviously frayed and deteriorating fin edges, yet they were lauded as being excellent specimens. You can bet that most of the species in the book were quite hardy to withstand the relatively primitive care they received back then.
Also the quality of the pictures was something else. I can only imagine the difficulties to be had in photographing fishes in the early days- some of the photos in this book were taken in the 1920\’s. Most were black-and-white, which gives quite a different look at the fish. I found that it made me pay more attention to the overall shape, proportions and fin structures of the fishes. Some were nearly unrecognizable to me because even though the description praised their colors, I could not quite picture it over the monochromatic image supplied. Afterwards went to the computer looking many of them up for a better visual. The names also threw me off- very few had common names, all listed by their scientific names. I did appreciate that a pronunciation guide was provided so I actually know how to say the latin names now, and that the meaning of the names also given.
I met a lot more interesting fishes in this book, not really featured (or didn\’t attract my notice) in more current volumes. This fish the author nicknamed the \”surplus destroyer\” (the book is sprinkled with humor like this, I enjoyed that). Chriopeops goodei is a pretty little fish I never met before, and it\’s native– comes from habitat in Texas. I like killifishes, although I can\’t keep them (yet) because they need soft water- and the aphanius genus has cute fishes. The pike killifish has a delightfully vicious appearance! Then there\’s the snakeheads, channa species, but they\’re very aggressive too. I\’ve discovered that overall, I find visually appealing or interesting fishes that have a long body shape like the cichlids, loaches and killifishes, or those with triangular profile like the scalare (freshwater angelfishes) and archerfish. I am now daydreaming of someday having a paludarium with toxotes jaculator (the second half of this fish name means \”hurler\” as it strikes insects down from leaves above the surface with a jet of water from its mouth!)
My edition is a later reprint that has fewer color photos (a lot of the photos are remarked upon in the text as being in color, but they\’re not) and the second cover image shown here. But I liked the stylish embossed cover found online better, so that\’s the featured image of this post. I acquired this book through a swap site.
Rating: 4/5 463 pages, 1966