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NFC: Dave Schlesers book reviewed


Book Review

By Robert Rice

North American Native Fishes for the Home Aquarium

169 pages over 130 color photos
by David M. Schleser
Barrons Educational Series, $12.95

With the increased interest in the Temperate Fishes for the home aquarium it was inevitable and needed that some new books would hit the Press. Well the first of the new generation of books is out and it sets the standard for books that will follow it. The works from the 70's and 80's of John Quinn, Tom Baugh and others laid the groundwork for this fast growing movement that is coming to full fruit. Well Dr. Dave Schleser former curator of the Dallas Aquarium and all around fish guy has put together a must have book for the aquarist, teacher, sportsmen, students, naturalist or anyone interested in North American native fish. It is written in a simple no nonsense style with the average reader in mind. No Ph.D. needed to enjoy this gem. However I'll bet you, that before it's all said and done this book will sit on the shelf of many a college Professor.

This book is a throw back in many ways. Much like the old Innes books, Schleser's book starts out with the fundamentals. Topics like why to keep natives, fish taxonomy, conservation issues, collecting information, aquarium keeping tips and such cover the first 8 chapters. I like that. It starts the reader off right with a good foundation. Instead of just dumping you into a glossy book of pretty pictures of fish, this book starts you off with the how's and the why's of native fish keeping. This old fashioned nuts and bolts approach gives the reader a better chance to become a conservation-minded aquarist instead of just a pet store consumer. For conservation efforts to be a success it must reach the grassroots level. The average person must be able to apply in a practical way, learned conservation ethics. I like to apply my housewife from Dubuque, Iowa test to any book about collecting and keeping fish. If a housewife (or hubby) can read this book and apply it to activities with their local youth group, school or their own children then this book is a success. Well following my Dubuque test, this book is winner. I give it a 8.9 out of 10.

After 8 chapters of the basics, chapter 9 is all about fish. It breaks the fish down into basic types and goes into excellent detail about suitable aquarium species within each genus. Almost 100 pages is spent highlighting North America's unique aquatic heritage. Beautiful and obscure fish like the banded pygmy sunfish, dollar sunfish, gulf darter, Flagfin shiner, Fundulus chrysotus, brindled madtom and scores of other unloved North American fishes get the exposure they deserve. Full color photos, range maps and rearing information follow each species. If you are interested in Longear Sunfish for example (page 139) you get 2 pages of great information, 3 photos of the various strains out there and the basic information to keep, rear and enjoy this temperate fish. That's the kind of stuff anyone interested in native fish wants, needs and gots to have. Get this book. It's a winner.