Reliable Marine Aquarium Reference Sources

Crack open any of these great saltwater and reef aquarium resource books and be prepared to learn!

Crack open any of these great saltwater and reef aquarium resource books and be prepared to learn!

“Research the characteristics and care requirements of any fish or invertebrate you plan to keep.”

“Studying the fundamentals of saltwater aquarium keeping before setting up your first system is a hallmark of success.”

We’ve dispensed advice like this time and time again here at Saltwater Smarts. But knowing that you should do research before buying livestock or attempting new techniques is only half the equation. The other half is knowing which sources you can turn to for reliable, authoritative information. After all, there’s a lot of literature floating around out there and not all of it is equally accurate or trustworthy.

So, in today’s post, Caribbean Chris and I would like to begin a list of marine aquarium reference sources that we consider valuable, if not indispensable, to hobbyists who are hungry for reliable, time-tested guidance. Under each listing, we’ll explain why we consider the work so valuable to the hobby.

Note that I said “begin a list.” That’s because this page will be a work in progress and we’d like to include input from you, our fellow salties. If you have in mind an authoritative reference source that aided in your hobby success, please share it in the comment section below along with a brief description of its virtues. We’ll then add it to the main list along with your explanation.

So, without further ado, here is our partial list:

The Conscientious Marine Aquarist, by Robert Fenner

The Conscientious Marine AquaristNo list of essential marine aquarium reference materials would be complete without The Conscientious Marine Aquarist, or CMA as it’s known in hobby parlance. Originally published in 1998 and penned by Robert Fenner, this book covers all the fundamentals and time-tested techniques of marine aquarium keeping in straightforward, easy-to-understand language. The author also devotes a major portion of the book to informative profiles of many popular fish families and invertebrates.

The New Marine Aquarium, by Michael Paletta

The New Marine AquariumThis step-by-step guide to setting up and stocking a marine aquarium is, in my opinion, one of the very best books available to beginners. This modest-sized tome covers everything from planning to equipment selection, aquascaping, cycling, maintenance, livestock selection, and fish diseases and is loaded with helpful tips.

The Marine Aquarium Handbook: Beginner to Breeder, by Martin Moe

The Marine Aquarium Handbook: Beginner to BreederThere’s a reason The Marine Aquarium Handbook is the best selling aquarium book of all time. Author Martin Moe has a unique gift for distilling complex information down to its easily comprehended essence. As the title implies, this book leads hobbyists from the fundamentals of their first aquarium setup all the way through the basics of fish breeding.

Marine Fishes: 500+ Essential-To-Know Aquarium Species, by Scott Michael

Marine Fishes: 500+ Essential-To-Know Aquarium SpeciesMy copy of this book is literally falling apart because I’ve referenced it so many times. It features concise profiles of hundreds of popular marine fish, providing the scientific and common names, maximum length, range, care and feeding requirements, and reef aquarium compatibility for each species. The book is pocket- or purse-sized so you can easily take it with you to your local fish store to aid in choosing species that are suitable for your tank.

Marine Invertebrates: 500+ Essential-To-Know Aquarium Species, by Ronald Shimek

Marine Invertebrates: 500+ Essential-To-Know Aquarium SpeciesThis guide essentially does for marine invertebrates what Michael’s guide does for fish – and is equally portable, so you can easily bring both along on your next trip to your local fish store. The concise profiles cover all the essentials and provide helpful advice (such as captive care and feeding) for hundreds of popular species.

Aquarium Corals: Selection, Husbandry, and Natural History, by Eric Borneman

Aquarium Corals: Selection, Husbandry, and Natural HistoryIf you’re looking for a much more comprehensive treatment of aquarium corals, complete with a visual feast of eye-popping photographs, this book is a must. In-depth natural history and captive care requirements are provided for myriad species. This book also delves into the wonders of the natural coral reef habitat, coral anatomy, nutrition and feeding, coral taxonomy, conservation, and much more.

Book of Coral Propagation: Reef Gardening for Aquarists, by Anthony Calfo

Book of Coral Propagation: Reef Gardening for AquaristsAt one time or another, every reefkeeper gets the coral-propagation bug. Whether you just want to trade the occasional coral frag with fellow hobbyists, sell frags for cash or credit at your local fish store, or go all out and launch a full-blown coral farm, this book is a great place to start. Not to mention, the author’s writing style just makes for a fun read!


If you enjoyed this post, subscribe to get our new posts in your email.
About Jeff Kurtz

Jeff Kurtz is the Co-founder/Editor of Saltwater Smarts, former Senior Consulting Editor for Tropical Fish Hobbyist Magazine, and the aquarist formerly known as “The Salt Creep.” He has been an aquarium hobbyist for over 30 years and is an avid scuba diver.


  1. hello, I’m not sure where to start, I have a 100gl. reef tank that is about 6 years old, I have a gentleman that comes once a week to service my tank, my problem is he must be overlooking something, i live in a small town in al. and he is the only person available, i have had several brain corals die, zenia die, hammers die, 8 or 10 bt anemones die, my fish, mushrooms, and 1 carpet anemone are doing fine, i bought a hanna phosphate checker this week and i’m getting a very high reading (1.95) that i know is very high, i use ro water, new skimmer, i have 2 250wt. metal h. bulbs. i LOVE my tank, but getting very discouraged, i know this is not much info. but is there anything you can send me that might help me find an answer to why i’m losing all of my corals and ect, i don’t mind spending the money on anything i might need, i just need HELP. thanks

    • Hi Dave! That phosphate level is definitely through the roof. It’s generally recommended to keep phosphate below .03. ppm in a reef system. So that, plus whatever else is building up in your water alongside the phosphate, must be diluted down to a safe level through major water changes. Does the service person perform routine water changes?

  2. Great list. Many of these are certainly classics. How would an interested reader get the last two on the list?

    • Thanks Al! Clicking on either title should take you right to a page on our site where you can make a purchase if you’re so inclined.

Speak Your Mind