Best fish and aquarium care books to buy in 2020

While the general belief is that fish are easy to maintain pets, setting up a suitable ecosystem for them to thrive is often a challenging task, especially for a beginner. Considering the cost involved in proper setup and upkeep of fish, it is a good idea to have some reference material to consult. An aquarium care guide is, therefore, an essential part of any hobbyist checklist.

So which are the best training guides for hobbyists, aquarists, and fish lovers?

In this article, we look at some of the best fish and aquarium care books available in the market and share our top picks. These books will help you with useful advice, tips, and tricks to successfully build a freshwater or saltwater aquarium. Some of the reference guides are suitable for pre-teens and teenagers as well. Many of the options that we list are also available in multiple formats such as Kindle, so you can pick the format that suits you. We will also share some additional resources – websites and apps that you would find extremely useful.

So, read on for some excellent aquarium and fish care resources!

Best fish and aquarium care books list

Some of the best books that can help you in building an aquarium and taking care of your fish are listed below:
PictureProductFormatFeatures 
Freshwater Aquariums For DummiesKindle
Paperback
- This beginner book, written in the popular "Dummies" format is authored by veteran aquarists and fish care experts - Maddy and Mic Hargrove.
- In 360 odd pages, the book covers all the aspects of setting up a freshwater aquarium - how to choose the right aquarium, selecting the fish breeds, ensuring healthy upkeep of fish and handling major fish and aquarium ecosystem issues. Most suitable as an Aquarium 101 book.
- The book follows the excellent Dummies style and filled with side-bar information and appendixes in 27 chapters spread across five parts.
- The second edition was published in September 2006.
Saltwater Aquariums For DummiesKindle
Paperback
Digital
- This beginner primer is the Saltwater ecosystem setup counterpart of the freshwater aquarium book in the "Dummies" series. It is authored by accomplished marine biologist and experienced aquarist Dr. Gregory Skomal.
- Most suitable for aquarium enthusiasts who have some experience in maintaining aquariums and are looking to expand into building a Saltwater aquarium.
- In 360 odd pages, the book covers all the nuances of setting up a saltwater aquarium - how to choose the right fish and aquarium, maintaining the right brackish ecosystem and keeping the fish happy and healthy.
- The current, second edition was published in January 2007.
The Simple Guide to Freshwater AquariumsKindle
Paperback
- This basic primer on building and maintaining a freshwater aquarium is authored by David E. Boruchowitz and published by TFH Publications. David is a six-decade veteran with a number of fish hobbyist books to his credit.
- In 250 pages, the book helps you in building a complete plan to set up a thriving freshwater aquarium right from picking the suitable equipment and fish to instructions on everyday upkeep of fish and plants.
-Extremely easy to read and understand and deliberately light on scientific jargon.
- The current edition was published in September 2001.
The New Marine AquariumKindle
Paperback
- This ready reckoner on saltwater reef aquariums is authored by Michael S. Paletta, illustrated by Edward Kadunc and published by TFH Publications.
- In 140 short pages, the book covers simple methods and practices to follow to build a long-term reef aquarium. The book also has photographic information on the best beginner marine fish species to consider.
- The current edition was published in September 2002.
Ecology of the Planted AquariumKindle
Hardcover
- This biological science-oriented book is authored by Diana Walstad, a renowned microbiologist and long-time aquarium hobbyist.
- This book has a lot of practical scientific information for experienced hobbyists on how to set up and maintain a planted freshwater ecosystem. Has a lot of information presented in Q&A format. The processes suggested are low-tech and easy to implement and do not require a lot of investment.
- The book also covers the science behind an aquarium ecosystem, well supported by technical and experimental data.
- The current edition was published in January 2013.
The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Aquarium Fish & Fish CarePaperback- This encyclopedia of freshwater and marine fish varieties is authored by Mary Bailey and Gina Sandford.
- With over 700 color photographs spread over 250 pages, the book covers useful information about aquarium fishes in each of the eight major fish groups.
- The book also has some information on how to set up a freshwater and saltwater aquarium and maintain it efficiently.
- The current edition was published in April 2015.
Setting Up a Tropical Aquarium: Week By WeekPaperback- This tropical aquarium beginner guide is authored by Stuart Thraves.
- In 200 odd pages, the book provides comprehensive, yet clear instructions to follow week-by-week. The complete program suggested by the book is 10 weeks.
- A perfect beginner guide for people who want to go beyond a cold freshwater aquarium and set up a perfect tropical ecosystem. The book also has illustrated guide and photographs of around 100 fish varieties and 50 aquatic plants to choose from.
- The current edition was published in August 2015.
Bettas – A Complete Pet Owner's ManualPaperback- This popular betta fish primer is authored by Robert J. Goldstein and published by Barron's Educational Series, a popular publication house for beginner pet care guides.
- In 112, this betta care manual contains easy-to-follow beginner information on the almost all betta fish varieties starting from selecting the right type of fish to expert advice on how to take care of them. Also has information on how to breed such fish and handle common health issues.
- More than 50 full-color photographs supplement the information presented quite well. The smart typeface makes it easy to read, even for pre-teens.
- The current second edition was published in March 2012.
Animal Planet Aquarium Care of BettasHardcover- This standard introductory guide specifically focused on the tropical betta fish is the result of collaboration between TFH Publications and Animal Planet. The book is authored by veteran aquarist and expert - David E. Boruchowitz.
- In short 110 pages, the book covers beginner information on how to setup and maintain a betta starting from bowl or aquarium selection to general maintenance.
- The book has a number of helpful tip boxes and is supported by over 60 colored illustrations. Light on details, most suitable for teenagers and beginners.
- The current edition was published in September 2006.
Goldfish Care The Easy Way!Kindle- This digital-only book on goldfish care is attributed to Mark Lewis.
- In around 120 pages, the book covers major goldfish types, how to build the best goldfish tank and how to take care of these beautiful creatures. It also has a lot of information on how to handle the major health issues with gold fish.
- Suitable for adults and teenagers alike. A perfect combination with the Mini Encyclopedia of Goldfish book.
- The current edition was released in Dec 2011.
Encyclopedia of Aquarium & Pond FishPaperback- This illustrated compendium of aquarium fish is authored by popular pet columnist and author David Alderton. It is published by DK Publications.
- Designed specifically for teenagers and young fish lovers, the book has details of over 800 freshwater, saltwater and tropical fish species.
- The book also has some useful information on general principles of fish care right from how to pick the right habitat and how to take care of such pets.
- The current edition was reprinted in June 2008.
The 101 Best Aquarium PlantsKindle
Paperback
- This beginner encyclopedia of Adventurous Aquarist Guide series Aquatic Plants is authored Mary E. Sweeney and published by TFH Publications.
- In close to 200 pages, the book covers some of the easily maintainable aquatic plants for aquascaping and creating a colorful and comfortable environment for all types of fish
- The current edition was published in August 2008.

How to pick the best fish and aquarium care books?

Picking the the best fish and aquarium care books for setting up a thriving aquarium or fish tank is similar to how you would pick a book for any other hobby. The best book on aquarium care is one which is filled with information that is easy to read and follow and fulfills your requirements of setting up a healthy ecosystem for your fish and a beautiful, visually pleasing aquarium for you. Generally, a single book cannot provide all the information and you might need to pick at least a couple of such reference guides.

Without going into too much detail, the major factors you should consider while picking the best fish and aquarium care books are listed below:

  • Primary purpose: The first and probably the most important decision you have to make is to determine what you are looking for in the guide. If you are looking for a standard beginner guide that can get you started on setting up your freshwater or saltwater aquarium, then the books from the Dummies series are a good starting point. However, if you are just looking for a more advanced guide that can help you enhance the ecosystem setup in your aquarium, then you can check out the Ecology of the Planted Aquarium.

    Moreover, depending on preference for a specific fish variety, you can pick up a book specifically for bettas (Bettas – A Complete Pet Owner’s Manual is a perfect starting point) or aquatic plants.

    Finally, if you are just looking for a compendium of the most popular fish varieties for your aquarium, you can pick any of the mini- encyclopedia guides that we listed. These books are filled with colored photographs and useful information on the best fish breeds and are more affordable than the costly full encyclopedias.

  • Format of the book: While most of the books that we list are suitable both for beginners and experienced people, some books are written specifically for beginners and are filled with short chapters, sidebar information, and appendixes. If you are a beginner, you may find such guides more suitable for your needs. Similarly, considering that fishkeeping is also a popular pre-teen and teen activity, picking a book that is easy to follow and relatively light on the scientific nuances is a good idea in case you are looking for one for a young reader. Freshwater Aquariums For Dummies and Saltwater Aquariums For Dummies are perfect examples of such books.
  • Reviews and Ratings for the book: The popularity of the author and the book sometimes a good indicator of how the book turns out to be. Check out the reviews on Amazon and platforms such as GoodReads by other readers to determine its suitability.
  • Publication year of the book: Considering that fishkeeping and aquarium care is an established hobby that has withstood the test of time since the 1990’s, you would not find a lot of difference in the principles covered in the books over the years. Still, with the advancements in available equipment and the discovery of some new interesting breeds of fish, the books that are published in the last twelve years would be more preferable. While we have tried to pick only the latest books, you may find some early 2000 editions as well on our list.

Top picks for the best fish and aquarium care books

Frankly speaking, there is no perfect book that can provide all the necessary information on aquarium setup and fish care and the best option for you would depend largely on what you are looking for in a big. Still, we list out some of our favorite picks that broadly cover almost all aspects of fish keeping hobby.

Freshwater Aquariums For Dummies or Saltwater Aquariums For Dummies

The Dummies series of training guides are famous for providing a lot of educational information, presented in an entertaining and easy-to-follow style and the books on Freshwater and Saltwater Aquariums are no exceptions. Both the books are written by renowned experts and hobbyists – the Freshwater Aquarium guide is authored by Maddy and Mic Hargrove, while the Saltwater Aquarium guide is authored by Dr. Gregory Skomal.

In 360 odd pages, both the books aim at providing step by step instructions on how to pick the right aquarium, selecting the correct fish and plant varieties and maintaining it. There is also a lot of expanded guidance on which fish varieties can be combined and how common aquarium problems can be addressed. And the best part is all this information is presented by using as little technical terms as possible.

Moreover, both the editions follow the excellent Dummies style and are filled with side-bar information and appendixes, making it easier to quickly reference specific sections.

The only complain you can have is that the current editions were published in 2006-2007, so they are more than a decade old. Still, you would not find a lot of outdated information. Furthermore, they are both available in Kindle editions!

The Dummies series books are our top pick for fish and aquarium care guide. Depending on the type of aquarium you are looking to maintain, you can pick the Freshwater or Saltwater Edition as an excellent starting point.

The Simple Guide to Freshwater Aquariums

Best fish and aquarium care book
David E. Boruchowitz is a six-decade veteran in the field of fishkeeping and has a number of hobbyist and aquarist books to his credit on every type of aquarium and fish care. This beginner guide on freshwater aquarium is probably one of the best for newbies to follow.

This informative book is extremely well written keeping the average newbie in mind. It covers all the aspects, starting from how to pick the right aquarium, find the right varieties of fish, how to maintain water chemistry and ensure that your fish thrives in the environment. The book is especially light in the scientific jargon and tries to keep the reader focused on the actionable things.

It is a healthy 250 pages long, which is the right balance between being detailed and being too shallow. Though the current second edition was published way back in 2001, you will find that most of the advice in the book is still valid and in line with other conscientious aquarists of today.

The Simple Guide to Freshwater Aquariums by David Boruchowitz is our Top pick number 2 for fish and aquarium care guide.

The New Marine Aquarium


If you are looking to start on setting up a saltwater aquarium and are looking for a ready reckoner, then The New Marine Aquarium by Michael S. Paletta is the best place to start. This book is the same to saltwater aquariums as The Simple Guide to Freshwater Aquariums is to the freshwater aquariums – both books are published by TFH Publications.

The book is relatively short at 140 odd pages, simple and easy to read, even to young readers. It is extremely to the point and covers simple methods and practices to build a flourishing reef aquarium. It does not cover a lot of underlying science in detail, but that is deliberate to keep the content condensed and easy to absorb.

The book has a bunch of checklists, shopping lists and step-by-step instructions, well supported by beautiful photographs illustrated by Edward Kadnuc. And even though it was published in 2002 almost all the information (except maybe some references to aquarium equipment) is still relevant.

Overall The New Marine Aquarium is an excellent starting point for anyone looking to set up a reef aquarium. It is our top pick number 3 for fish and aquarium care guide.

Ecology of the Planted Aquarium

Best fish and aquarium care book

The Ecology of the Planted Aquarium is probably the most science-oriented book in our list of top beginner guides. Authored by renowned microbiologist and long-time aquarium hobbyist Diana Walstad this book has been a standard guide to low-tech aquariums since its first edition in 1999.

In 190 odd pages, the book covers practical scientific information for experienced hobbyists on how to set up and maintain a planted freshwater ecosystem by exploiting the symbiotic relationship between the plants and fish in the aquarium. This emphasis on low-tech solutions makes this book a favorite of many aquarists around the world.

A lot of information in the book is presented in question and answer format, which makes the suggestions easy to follow and implement. All the scientific information in the book is well supported by technical and experimental data.

The Ecology of the Planted Aquarium has long stood the test of time and the current third edition, published in 2013 would be a worthy addition to your library. And it is also available in Kindle!.

Ecology of the Planted Aquarium by Diana Walstad is our top pick number 4 for the best beginner aquarium and fish care guide. It may be costlier than some other hobby guides, but it is worth every penny and would actually end up saving a lot of money for an experienced aquarist.

The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Aquarium Fish & Fish Care

Best fish and aquarium care book
No list of aquarium guides is complete without including an encyclopedia with a collection of most popular fish breeds and varieties. The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Aquarium Fish & Fish Care is an excellent beginner compendium for young and adult fish lovers.

The current edition is authored by Mary Bailey and Gina Sandford and filled with over 700 photographs with useful information on both freshwater and marine fishes in in each of the eight major fish groups. At 250 pages, the book is quite well organized and also has some additional information on how to setup and maintain a freshwater or saltwater aquarium.

The current edition of the book was published in April 2015.

The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Aquarium Fish & Fish Care is our top pick number 5 for fish and aquarium care guide.

Additional Resources to follow for fish and aquarium care

In addition to the books listed above, there are some aquarium hobby-focused websites that can provide a lot of useful information, advice and tips for setting up an aquarium and ensuring its proper upkeep. Some of our favorites are listed below:

  • TFH Magazine: Tropical Fish Hobbyist is one of the most trusted publishers for fishkeeping books and magazines. This online resource of its magazine has lot of useful information and a very active forum, making it probably the best web portal for aquarists and fish lovers.
  • Aquarium Advice: Another excellent online resource, especially for beginners. Filled with a lot of beginner information and guides. Has an active forum and also runs some interesting monthly and yearly contests.
  • Fishbase: Online encyclopedia of all breeds of fish. Available in multiple languages. Has information on over 30,000 fish species, searchable through their scientific as well as common names, breeds etc.

In addition, you can check out the following phone and tablet applications to help you simplify the management of your aquarium:

  • Aquarimate: A relatively high-end app for managing both freshwater and saltwater aquariums. Provides useful information and has a planner to track all activities associated with the proper upkeep of aquariums. Available for iOS and Android on App and all platforms on Cloud/Web. Hands down the most comprehensive application for aquarium and fish lovers.
  • aquaPlanner for iOS: Another decent aquarium maintenance management app for your aquarium. Allows you to track all the major events and receive notifications. aquaPlanner Lite allows you to track one aquarium, while the aquaPlanner Pro version allows you to manage an unlimited number of aquariums.
  • Aquarium Note for Android: This free, easy to use app allows you to record basic information on your aquarium, maintain a log and track your progress. Since it is free, you can expect some ads and in-app purchase messages.

Final thoughts on the best fish and aquarium care books

In this article, we listed out twelve popular books for proper upkeep of fish, authored by some of the best experts and fish hobbyists in the field. These books provide invaluable information on how to start on building your own aquarium – be it a freshwater or a saltwater aquarium. We also listed out our top five picks, based on the quality of all-round information that these books provide.

Whether you are a beginner or already have experience in keeping fish as a pet, you would find these resources pretty useful. We also listed some additional resources and apps to check out for fish care. Just like any other pet training materials, no single book is sufficient and you may need a combination of resources- apps, websites and training guides to successfully build and manage your aquarium.

We hope that you found this article useful and help you pick the right resources to start on building your own aquarium. Do let us know your feedback by commenting below. Until next time, happy pet time!!

Image credits:Amazon.com