Top 10 bestselling reef aquarium books

Top 10 Bestselling Reef Aquarium Books for 2021

Whenever you start working with a reef tank or saltwater aquarium, it’s handy to have references available. And if you’re looking for some of the top books to keep on your shelves – ready at a moment’s notice, you’ve come to the right place. I’ve compiled the Saltwater Aquarium Blog’s top 10 bestselling reef aquarium books .

Table of Contents: Bestselling Reef Aquarium Books

Clearly, it’s tempting to jump straight to the top of the list of bestselling reef aquarium books. And who would blame you? But maybe as you skim the links in the list below, you see a title that stands out to you. Are you looking for a topic in particular? That’s what this Table of Contents can help you with. Or, you know, you could read the entire article and stock an entire shelf of your reference library. The choice is yours!

Top 10 Bestselling Reef Aquarium Books

Affiliate Links

I’m fortunate to have you as a reader and to have this site as a creative outlet. I love the reef aquarium hobby, as well as talking and writing about it. One of the ways I offset the costs of the Saltwater Aquarium Blog operations is by participating in something known as Amazon Associates program.

If you haven’t heard of it, Amazon pays a small commission to Saltwater Aquarium Blog whenever a reader like you (no pressure) clicks a link on this site for a product sold on Amazon and makes a purchase there. (In the blog world, such links are known as “affiliate links”)

If you’ve done so, thank you very much! I sincerely appreciate your readership and support! I don’t make a living from such actions, but I DO use the funds to pay the expenses here.

Analyzing the Bestselling Reef Aquarium Books

Data is cold and impersonal. They reflect reality. (At least, the reality I had to work with based on the information I received from Amazon)

The good news is that this is a good list based on the books I’ve read to date. There isn’t a dogface puffer in the bunch. That confirms my readers are the smartest aquarium owners on the web. (Go you)

As a disclosure, I own, have read, and/or wrote nine out of the ten books on this list. So I can personally advocate that they’re helpful. (And if you’re worried about a personal bias? I’ve addressed that, too, below.

I do find it interesting (curious?) that volume 2 of The Reef Aquarium showed up on the bestselling reef aquarium books list, but volumes 1 and 3 never made an appearance. Guess it’s The Empire Strikes Back of that book series. My hypothesis is the price point for the used version of this particular volume played a part.  Although I’m curious if you think the quality of the information in that volume is superior to the others. If so, please leave a comment below.

The Top 10 Bestselling Reef Aquarium Books

Okay, so if you’re looking for a quick solution to an aquarium problem, you’re probably going to jump on the internet and look to Google or your favorite message boards. But bestselling reef aquarium books? They’re handy for prep work. And when you’re wondering if something’s a major concern or not, they have indices you can scan within moments. That’s a faster solution than waiting for someone to respond online.

Or maybe you’re simply an aquarium nerd who loves reading the excited words of other reef geeks. Either way, adding these volumes to your shelves? You’re not going to regret the decision. (And, as you might have already guessed, these contain those affiliate links we talked about. You know, in case I want to update the list in the future)

#10: Algae: A Problem Solver Guide

Algae: A Problem Solver Guide

Algae: A Problem Solver Guide, written by Julian Sprung, starts out the bestselling reef aquarium book list on the right foot. The paperback’s a helpful reference for one of the most common challenges everyone faces – dealing with problematic algae. It’s a quick and simple read. And with 180 clear images, you can identify and determine whether you have cyanobacteria or dinoflagellates. Once you understand the problem in your tank, the guide covers treatments/remedies. Anyone with a saltwater tank should have this on their shelf.

#9: The Reef Aquarium: Vol. 2

The Reef Aquarium: Volume 2

One of the “original” authoritative texts on the hobby, published in 1997, The Reef Aquarium: Volume 2, is the second part of a trilogy of good resources written by Charles Delbeek and Julian Sprung. From my perspective, the key takeaway from this description is that it’s a textbook – a 546-page one! It looks like a textbook, feels like one, smells like one, and reads like one, too. This gives it an air of authority but makes it a bit less approachable for some people (like me) than other bestselling reef aquarium books.

However, unlike the other volumes in the series, this second installment goes into detail about soft corals, anemones, and even a few aquarium pests. This is why I’m glad it made the list. It was a book I devoured when I first started out. And I think it’s appropriately rated at # 9.

And while it means investing reading time (and funds), I recommend starting with Volume 1. You’ll get a better grounding for your journey into keeping a reef tank.

#8: PocketExpert Guide: Marine Invertebrates

PocketExpert Guide: Marine Invertebrates

Okay, you’re not going to actually fit this paperback into your pocket – it’s just the name of the series. And Ronald L. Shimek wrote the Marine Invertebrate version of this popular series. If you look, Microcosm publishes an entire set of these guides, and if you can think of it? You’ll probably find one (including one more popular addition to our bestselling reef aquarium books). The PocketExperts provide over FIVE HUNDRED species of aquarium invertebrates you may or may not be familiar with. You get everything you need, including care and feeding. It’s the perfect reference guide if you plan to add any of these unique creatures to your tank.

#7: PocketExpert Guide: Marine Fishes

PocketExpertGuide: Marine Fishes

You got it, the other handy reference guide you’d expect on any bestselling reef aquarium book listing. In this case, Scott W. Michael wrote the reference for Marine Fishes. Again, it won’t quite fit in any pockets I have, but it’s plenty small enough for you to bring with you into the fish store. Then you can bone up on the care requirements of a particular species of fish before you leave the store. It’s the perfect alternative if you don’t have your phone with you or can’t get a cell signal with all that water around.

I love thumbing through the pages to read and re-read the entries for my favorite animals. My own system is to put a Post-It note on the pages for the fish on my bucket list.

On Amazon, both PocketExpertGuides are top-rated books, with nearly perfect review ratings. And that’s difficult to do. They’re classic, useful, well-written, and well-edited. The only downside is each species only gets a short, snackable summary. For more information, you’ll have to find, well,  more information. Good thing you have plenty of bestselling reef aquarium books to choose from!

#6: The New Marine Aquarium

Bestselling reef aquarium books: The New Marine Aquarium

The New Marine Aquarium is another of my favorites. It’s a paperback book taking up the exact opposite space as the PocketExpertGuides above. Where those books are short and stocky, this book is large, wide, and thin. The advantage it confers is you get to see a startlingly beautiful image of my favorite fish, the Banggai cardinalfish, on the cover.

Ok, so I’m judging the book by its cover. But that doesn’t matter because the content within is also well-written and easy-to-read. It’s a great introductory book for beginners starting their first saltwater aquariums and one of the books I recommend for newcomers.

#5: How to Frag Corals

Bestselling reef aquarium books: How to Frag Corals

Wait – how did this make the list? Oh, right, the same way all of the bestselling reef aquarium books did: You, the astute and good-looking Saltwater Aquarium Blog reader, voted by purchasing this book. How to Frag Corals, written by Albert B. Ulrich III (that’s me, by the way), is a niche book about a specific aspect of the more addicting part of this hobby – fragging corals.

Once your corals start to grow well in your tank, they need to get cut back to remain healthy, prevent overgrowth, fill other areas of your tank, and provide additional income to offset some of your expenses. Fragging corals is the method to handle all of those things and one of the coolest things. You literally make corals – from corals. And this book shows you how to do it step-by-step.

This is NOT the first or second book you should get when you start your reef tank. It probably belongs right here in the soft middle. Once you get the hang of your aquarium and you’re ready to start your next hobby addiction, then you can start to attempt something a bit more challenging, like working with frags.

#4: Clownfishes

Bestselling reef aquarium books: Clownfishes

Fourth on the list of bestselling reef aquarium books? Clownfishes, by Joyce D. Wilkerson. This book proves again (despite my questioning of the last selection) that you, the avid readers of Saltwater Aquarium Blog, have great taste in fishy literature. I consider this book a MUST HAVE for anyone serious about keeping clownfish. And who doesn’t want to have clownfish in their tank?

This book covers pairings with anemones, the care needs for the major species, how to breed clownfish, raise the fry, and everything in between. It’s a great book and perhaps underrated (or maybe under-represented) in this #4 position.

#3: Reef Journal

Bestselling reef aquarium books: Reef Journal

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but I tend to name my books in straightforward, plain English. Reef Journal, by Albert B. Ulrich III, is precisely what it sounds like – a journal for your reef tank. Well, it does try to be a bit more than just a journal. It’s also a place to record test results to help you keep a nice visual over time and refer back to.

It also provides tips not found in the other books from The Reef Aquarium Book Series about acclimation, quarantine, aquascaping, and cycling your tank. In the back, you’ll find a section for you to create a visual record of your tank – something I wish I’d done a better job of over the years. Like our kids, tanks grow up, and I found the Journal provides one way to “force” my hand to create a history I can look back on, reminisce about, and learn from.

#2: Aquarium Corals
Bestselling reef aquarium books: Aquarium Corals

Another one of my all-time favorite bestselling reef aquarium books is Aquarium Corals by Eric Borneman. It’s one of two hardcover aquarium hobby books where I’ve worn out the spine. I have used this book for corals the same way I’ve used Scott Michael’s book for fishes. It’s a fast and easy go-to book to bone up quickly on a particular type of coral you’re interested in researching. It’s also one of the first places I learned the basics of caring for and keeping corals.

I honestly can’t say enough good things about this book. Even though it isn’t #1 on this list, it certainly should show up on your wish list if it isn’t already on your bookshelf.

#1: The New Saltwater Aquarium Guide

May I have the envelope, please? (Insert your personal drumroll here) Ok, the suspense is killing me. Here is the #1 bestselling aquarium reef book:

#1 bestselling reef aquarium book: The New Saltwater Aquarium Guide

I really am honored and humbled that The New Saltwater Aquarium Guide took the top position. THANK YOU to those of you who bought the book this year (or in a past year). And, in case you wondered about the numbers – it wasn’t even close! There were TWO TIMES as many copies of this book purchased as the #2 book. And that goes for a few of the books on this list that I consider my favorites in this hobby!

(Okay, that was a bit braggadocious and probably unnecessary. Consider it my victory lap. Now it’s out of my system)

If you didn’t leave after reading those last few lines, let me regain your trust by providing a fair assessment of The New Saltwater Aquarium Guide. Published in 2014, this book has been a #1 Bestseller in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia (not all simultaneously) in the Fish and Aquariums book category. Unlike some of the other bestselling reef aquarium books on this list that read more like textbooks, The New Saltwater Aquarium Guide is a fast-reading, to-the-point guide designed to help you figure out:

  • Which type of aquarium is right for you?
  • What size tank should you buy?
  • Which equipment do you need?
  • What water quality testing is required?
  • Saltwater fishes: which species should I start with?
  • How do you set everything up?

Along with my (hopefully) helpful and organized advice, you also (hopefully) get a full dose of my dry wit and humor. (I guess it’s only humor if you find it funny) Sincerely, I think the plain language, helpful tips, and semi-serious tone is what have allowed this book to stay on the charts for the last few years.

Some fair balance: Critics of the book have complained they never got their book (it’s an E-book, delivered by Amazon) or that they were too advanced and found the book too basic. But 34 of the 5-star reviews (coming out to a 4.5-star average) suggest this guide for setting up a new aquarium is only “too basic” for those who already have advanced knowledge.

If you’re already on your way with a healthy aquarium, you might be better suited to one of the other bestsellers on the list.

Addressing Bias in the Bestselling Reef Aquarium Book List

I’m honored and humbled by the fact that The New Saltwater Aquarium Guide, Reef Journal, and How to Frag Corals all made it onto the list of the top ten bestselling reef aquarium books. I also didn’t fall out of a FedEx live fish shipment box last night. (Okay, that was a lame attempt at contemporizing the “fall off a turnip truck” expression of speech, anchoring it to our hobby)

Does it seem likely that the data got skewed by the opinions of and promotions by the author, causing a potential over-reporting of books from The Reef Aquarium Book Series by Albert B. Ulrich III?

I get it. Hopefully, you get that I get it. But it’s also not like I’m submitting this to a journal for peer review. Based on the information I had available, I reported the data here and enjoyed a self-indulgent moment which suggests that at least a FEW of you like me. (“You really like me!”) And I’m having some fun.

To be fair, I would have published this list even if my books showed up at the bottom (or not at all). The list would have been lamer, though. (Just kidding)

But, yes, the real data likely ended up skewed by the readership who – by the very nature of being on this site – demonstrated a simple amount of bias in favor of reading a particular author’s ramblings.

I prefer to focus on the fact that it provides irrefutable evidence that you, the reader, have extremely great taste in literature and are extremely good-looking. Then again, I said that in a section labeled “bias.”

For More Information

My goal with Saltwater Aquarium Blog is to provide information and answers for people that love this hobby. But books are perfect resources when you do not see something you need. And I have a library (maybe not a library) that I keep around. You can do the same thing with some of these other books that might not have made the list of bestselling aquarium reef books:

How many of these books have you read? Do you have any favorites from the list? Any favorites NOT on the list? I’m always looking for a good book to add to my wish list. And the more suggestions you make, the more you can help balance out bias in the data.

Thanks for your help, and thanks to all of you for your continued support!

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