Month: March 2017

Management and Care of the Aquarium and Its Inhabitants
by Frank Lee Tappan

I read this book online. Happened across it when I was searching out treatment for a disease symptom in my fish. The entire text is a google document. I read the section that applied to my situation, then curious about the source of the text since it sounded a bit antiquated, scrolled back to the beginning. It\’s a short but very thorough treatise on how to care for fish- mainly paradise fish and goldfish. I was immediately interested because I have recently become curious about the paradise fish- reputedly the first tropical fish kept in captivity in the early 1900\’s. This book details exactly how it was done.

With water drawn from rivers and lakes, using plain glass globes (even back then experienced aquarists deplored these small containers) or aquariums that had frames made of iron or tin. The book describes how to situate an aquarium, how to catch live food for the fishes, how to handle breeding of goldfish and paradise fish, how to manage the temperature (heating water over a fire when needed!) and limited means by which to treat disease. Most of the book details the care of paradise fish. I was impressed that all the basics are the same- take care of the water and the health of the fish will follow. Don\’t overfeed or overcrowd them. Emphasis on having enough surface area so the fish are not deprived of oxygen. Of course some things were deplorable- water changes once every six months! but other techniques remarkably have changed very little in the past hundred years, as I just found out.

The book also describes how to raise fry, and it sounds just as painstaking back then. With attention to first foods, separating the young when they differ in size, and so forth. It has plans for a greenhouse and tells how to raise fish in outside ponds. The author recommended using frog tadpoles as scavengers to help keep the tank floors clean, and various snails as well (some of which I am familiar with). Also mentions use of live plants, and several other species of fish which were kept in aquariums back then- including bullhead catfish, american perch, a common killifish, shiners, and the famous nine-spined stickleback. Five distinct types of fancy goldfish are shown.

I was really surprised at how much of the information in this book was pertinent. Particularly about keeping fishes in good health, avoiding disturbances to brooding parents or young fry, and the benefits of live foods. The illustrations are few, but marvelous. If I ever found a physical copy of the book to add to my library, I\’d consider it a treasure.

Rating: 4/5        97 pages, 1911

by Donna Jo Napoli

Mira, called the Fish Girl, is a mermaid, living in a seaside boardwalk attraction. The aquarium is actually pretty cool- it spans three stories of the building, with the windows looking directly into the water column, and the fishes can pass between floors through various openings and tunnels. I really enjoyed the artwork of marine life and showing the internal structure of the building with its hidden passages and machinery. Mira feels like she has always lived here, she doesn\’t question the story the showman Neptune tells, that he\’s king of the ocean, controlling the waves and life therein. Mira\’s part is to flit through the corals and plants, letting visitors catch glimpses of her- enough to pique their interest and bring more business in, but not enough that anyone will see her and reveal that Neptune actually has a real-live mermaid in his exhibit. Until she meets a human girl, who through secret visits on the other side of the glass, becomes her friend. Then Mira begins to question the stories Neptune tells. How did she really get here? Is she a captive? Is there more to life- outside the aquarium, out in the ocean- for her?

I really liked this book. The story uses some familiar ideas about mermaids, but also feels fresh and unique. I like that it was told from the mermaid\’s point of view, trying to understand the world through the confines of this series of interconnected tanks. Appreciated that the author didn\’t make it too easy- she couldn\’t immediately talk to her new human friend, for example (and although she communicates with the fishes, they don\’t talk back in words). But the ending still had a flourish of magic. I admit I was expecting it to go in one direction which I really would have loved- and instead it went somewhere else at the last moment. That\’s okay. It\’s been a while since I read a graphic novel, so having a lot of lovely artwork to immerse myself into was really enjoyable as well.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 3/5        188 pages, 2017

by Mary Bailey and Gina Sandford

I have been slowly reading my way through this aquarium encyclopedia. It is all about fishkeeping (focus on freshwater), so starts off by outlining how to choose fish that suit your aquarium and are good companions. The sections about setup and maintenance tasks have good descriptions and nice, clear pictures showing what to do. Unlike most books the species profiles are all about type. Instead of showing pictures of as many fish as possible with very brief specs, there are descriptions of fish by families which describe their needs, habits, breeding strategies and interesting facts in more depth. The pictures are modest in number but very good quality. What makes it such a great book is that it\’s quite well-written, you can tell the authors enjoy their aquariums and they make this a nice read (the voice reminded me of Thalassa Cruso). Mine\’s a later edition, updated 1999.

Rating: 4/5      256 pages, 1995

by Isobelle Carmody

— spoiler alert —

This is the second Little Fur book. I\’m not sure why I read it through, except that I was curious about the character of the fox. So- Little Fur the half elf/half troll sets off on another quest to save Nature. She meets with the wise owl and learns that the troll king is planning something terrible, and the owl wants to send spies into the troll kingdom to find out what. There\’s a hopelessly miserable fox who wants to die but hasn\’t been able to quench his instinct to live. He comes asking the owl for advice and is told to go on this quest- he can protect the spies (a pair of ferrets) and the mission is so dangerous he will probably give his life doing so, and meet his desire with purpose. Initially Little Fur is not supposed to be part of this expedition, but she feels so much compassion for the fox she volunteers to go along. There\’s also a rude rat and one of Little Fur\’s cat friends on the journey. And the crow, for part of it. Once again they cross the human city and then go into the underground maze that is the troll\’s domain (part of it is train tunnels). It\’s just as dangerous as they had been warned. It looks like they won\’t obtain their goal or make it out alive- but all comes right in the end. They\’d been warned someone would betray them, but it didn\’t turn out the way anyone guessed.

Overall, I found it hard to keep my attention on the story- it\’s just a bit simplistic, written for younger readers, in spite of the serious tone and there\’s a lot of negative feeling. In this story, it\’s all nature = good, humans = bad. The cats are suspicious but I like their humor, the rat is snarky, the dogs they meet have been badly mistreated by people, and the fox was just as I expected- deeply scarred and tormented from having been experimented on in a lab. (They also met a monkey near the end. This seemed a more likely animal for such a situation than a fox. Hm). You really think the fox is going to die, but at the very end (literally, nearly the last sentence) he lives. So he must feature in the next book of the series, and I would read that one just for the fox (I liked his character) but I think I won\’t.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 2/5        245 pages, 2006

A Complete Guide to Keeping Freshwater and Marine Fish
by Brian Ward

It\’s another older aquarium book that I picked up at a library sale. Goes through all the basics. There\’s some illustrations showing how fish bodies function, including one of the best descriptions of how oxygen and blood pass through the gills that I\’ve ever seen. Of course a lot of the info about technology is way out of date. And this one goes into enough detail about saltwater vs. fresh that I believe in my initial assessment: the salt side of the hobby is too darn complicated for me. It has a decent outline of how to incorporate live plants into the aquarium, although the photo gallery of plants was kind of amusing- I could guess they were all taken in a dealer\’s shop- most of the plants looked very recently stuck into the gravel and the same blurry pictus catfish was repeatedly swimming through the scene! While information about them is brief, the species profiles of freshwater fish were quite extensive, and the majority of photos here good quality. Saltwater section showcased fewer fish, but still very good pictures a real pleasure to look at. The kind of book that keeps me near the computer, to search more information or pictures of different fish varieties (not all species mentioned are shown in the book).

Rating: 3/5        175 pages, 1985

by J. K. Rowling

This little book disappointed me. I was surprised at first how short it is. It\’s presented as a textbook on magical beasts, a copy owned by Harry Potter with his handwritten comments and jokes in the margins. Which were kind of lame. The text itself is too brief to be interesting. It\’s got more historical background and explanation that actual descriptions of the beasts. Which give less detail than the typical species profiles in my aquarium books! I\’m guessing all these creatures are ones mentioned in the Harry Potter books, although I only recognized two-thirds of them. For me, it didn\’t really do much to add to the wizarding world Rowling created. Not impressed. I guess I\’m too old to enjoy this kind of fan publication.

Anybody else read this one? Looking for more opinions online I was unable to find any decent reviews about the book since the film (of the same name but not the same material) is getting so much attention online right now.

Rating: 2/5             42 pages, 2001

by Barbara Kingsolver

I had forgotten how much I love reading this author. Her language is so rich, and precise. She\’s really got the details of what it\’s like being stuck at home all day with small children. I almost don\’t want to tell you what the book is about, because I didn\’t really know myself going in. So when I read the initial descriptions of the wonder of nature the main character Dellarobia finds in the woods above her family\’s farm, it was a beautiful puzzle to figure out what she was seeing before she figured it out herself. It\’s a finely crafted story. Dellarobia lives in rural Appalachia, kind of drifting through life, settling for less. She tends her two small children, chafes under her mother-in-law\’s criticism, and tolerates her endlessly patient, dull husband. She thinks of herself as stuck in a situation caused by an error made when she was younger- and is deliberately aiming to make another mistake that could ruin it all when she happens upon this wondrous thing up in the mountain. A discovery that might thwart her father-in-law\’s plans to log the hillside for some desperately-needed income. A discovery that draws strangers to their door- news reporters, sightseers, environmental activists and a scientist who opens her mind to the wider world. It\’s a story of family and community, of facing facts and changing perceptions. Very much about current issues, particularly climate change. Some might think it really heavy-handed with the environmental message, but I found it a perfect weight. Even though there are several long scenes where Dellarobia hashes out ideas and has long arguments- one with her husband, the other with her best friend- in public while shopping- so there are pages and pages of them going up and down the aisles, weaving their inspection of items on the shelf through their argument. Kind of odd.

And the ending made me sad. I was hoping that the main character would make a different decision, and not reveal it quite so abruptly to her young son… Regardless, I liked the book and it is one that will stick with me. If you want to go into it blind as I did- the first chapter is quite slow in building but worth it I think- then don\’t read most of the reviews I linked to below. Only the first avoids revealing the actual subject matter.

Rating: 4/5        436 pages, 2012

more opinions:
Book Chatter
Bookfoolery
Fyrefly\’s Book Blog
Fifty Books Project

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All books reviewed on this site are owned by me, or borrowed from the public library. Exceptions are a very occasional review copy sent to me by a publisher or author, as noted. Receiving a book does not influence my opinion or evaluation of it

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