Reef Secrets

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Starting Right, Selecting Fishes & Invertebrates, Advanced Biotope Techniques
Reef Secrets cover.jpg

Reef Secrets cover.jpg


Pages: 240

List price: $39.95

Publisher: Microcosm/TFH

Series: Microcosm/TFH Professional Series

Year published: 2003

ISBN: 189008767X

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A FRESH, easy-to-follow approach to setting up and stocking a reef aquarium, filled with simple but authoritative advice from two of the most respected pioneers of the modern marine hobby.

Reef Aquariums Made Simpler: Expert Advice from Two World-Class Marine Aquarists

Reef Secrets includes:

  • A profusely illustrated guide to selecting fishes, corals, and other invertebrates.
  • Lessons from the wild to create simpler, more stable reef aquariums.
  • Secrets of good water quality, water motion, lighting, aquascaping, live rock, and substrates.
  • Understanding algae, feeding, reef ecology.
  • Suggestions for unique biotope reef systems.

SVEIN FOSSA and ALF JACOB NILSEN are authors of the landmark Modern Coral Reef Aquarium series and are internationally known for bringing cutting-edge marine husbandry techniques to tens of thousands of marine aquarium keepers.


From the Introduction

Until about the mid-1980s, it was common to keep a few colorful marine fishes and more or less colorful dead coral skeletons in an aquarium. Various chemicals were used to kill off parasites and cure fish diseases whenever needed—unfortunately all too often in many aquariums.

Today the situation is very different. New technology and a better understanding of reef conditions and biology have made it possible even for relatively novice amateurs to construct and maintain closed aquarium systems that are capable of holding, growing, and propagating many of the animals found on the tropical coral reefs, including the reef-building stony corals.

While we are now able to keep a “living reef” in captivity, this does not mean that we have been able to copy nature perfectly. In fact, a captive reef has a number of obvious limitations—starting with volume of water and circulation that can never match that of a true reef—that are important for us to recognize and remember. There are many organisms that have such specialized requirements that they, with our present state of knowledge, cannot be kept successfully. These should clearly not be purchased by amateur aquarists, and some should simply not be collected and offered to the public.

A World of Species Choices

As we will explain throughout this book, the reef aquarist has a world of choices to make in stocking his or her aquarium. With better information, it is possible to avoid the mistakes of the past in which so many animals unsuited to aquarium conditions were purchased and died.

Having spent decades learning these things the hard way, we cannot stress too strongly the importance of two traits for anyone who wants to keep a healthy, beautiful coral reef aquarium: curiosity and patience.

One of the things that keeps people involved with marine aquariums is the fact that you can never “know it all.” Be ready to immerse yourself in books and articles that expand your knowledge of marine biology and husbandry practices. Listen to what other successful aquarists have to say.

Secondly, try to conquer the general impatience that seems to infect so many aquarists. It is, unfortunately, far too common to see people buying marine animals first and asking necessary questions afterwards. All too often, the unresearched specimen turns out to be impossible to feed, grows far too large, or is so aggressive that it destroys the peaceful balance of the hobbyist’s tank. A responsible aquarist consults a guidebook or asks more experienced aquarists before bringing home a new animal.

Basics to Biotopes

Always ask the question: Can I keep this animal alive and well in my particular system? Will it live harmoniously with my other animals? (Most good aquarium shops have a set of reference books and will be happy to let you look or even join you in the search for more information.) The general purpose of this book is to present—in a simplified and understandable way—the key elements in a modern coral reef aquarium, relating them to the conditions in nature that we are trying to replicate or replace: water conditions, circulation, lighting, substrates, aquascaping, and feeding. We are increasingly interested in the notion of creating marine biotope aquariums and have offered some ideas that we hope will spark your interest and creativity.

We will also attempt to help you as a marine hobbyist to choose desirable and appropriate invertebrates and fishes for your aquarium. We have included almost all of the organisms most commonly offered for sale to marine hobbyists, and have dealt with them in a manner that will help you in selecting the correct animals for your personal aquarium—and avoiding the ones that are hard to keep alive or that will not fit into your particular system. The matter of keeping our animals alive and healthy relates to the last chapter, which is a discussion of the role of marine aquarists in the health of coral reef ecosystems—a subject that no intelligent and involved hobbyist can afford to ignore.


"I wish I had found this book before planning my current aquarium, but it has certainly gotten me thinking about the next one. I recommend this as an additional starter book (perhaps to accompany Paletta's New Marine Aquarium) or for anyone who knows the simple basics and wants interesting new ideas to rehash the passion. Without question, worth it." —Erik Cornelissen, Amazon