Hoa G. Nguyen's very low-tech

Freshwater Planted Aquarium



The following are a few books which I strongly recommend. (I'm very picky about my recommendations. I have many more aquarium books on my shelf than listed here.* But these are the best. They are the ones that I feel every aquarist should have as the starting point.) Some of these books can be found at your local fish store. You can also buy them on-line, usually for 20% to 30% less. I have provided direct links to each book on Amazon.com, where you can find more information and order them on-line if you wish.

* Note: for my reviews on some books that I do not recommend, go here.

Aquarium Atlas Vol. 1 Baensch Aquarium Atlas, Vol. 1

The Baensch Aquarium Atlases are the bibles of the aquarium hobby. Very complete and informative. I refer to them almost daily as I read the aquarium newsgroups or the Aquatic Plant Digest, for references on the plants and fishes mentioned. A color photo is included for each plant or fish, together with extensive information regarding its preferred environment, temperature, maximum size, degrees of difficulty, sexual differences, propagation or breeding technique, maintenance procedure, food requirement, and social behavior (for fish). Unlike other aquarium atlases that only give icons indicating approximate values for various properties, the Baensch Atlases give detailed but well-organized textual description of each species, which I find to be much more useful.

Volume 1 includes 100 popular aquatic plants and 600 popular freshwater fish, and also includes a very thorough introductory section that discusses aquarium concepts, science, technology, accessories, and techniques that would be very useful for a beginning aquarist, plus an appendix with information on algae and fish diseases, with color pictures. All 3 volumes are invaluable, but volume 1 is a must have, if your budget limits you to just one.

[Hardcover] [Paperback]

Aquarium Atlas Vol. 2 Baensch Aquarium Atlas, Vol. 2

Continues where Vol. 1 left off with an additional 150 aquatic plants and 850 freshwater fish species, with emphasis on catfishes, killifishes, and cichlids. This volume is supposed to cover "rare" plant and fish species. However what is rare in Europe (where the authors are) may not be rare in America, and I found myself resorting to this volume almost as often as Vol. 1.

[Hardcover] [Paperback]

Aquarium Atlas Vol. 3 Baensch Aquarium Atlas, Vol. 3

More of the same, with 80 new plants and 900 new fish species, including catfishes, killifishes, cichlids and coldwater fishes from Russia. Surprisingly, some of the more popular fishes from my local fish store can be found in this volume (for example, the Bolivian Ram).

[Hardcover] [Paperback]

Nature Aquarium World, Book 1Nature Aquarium World, Book 1

What the Baensch Aquarium Atlas series does for information, the Nature Aquarium World series does for inspiration. The author, Takashi Amano, is not only an expert aquarist, but also an exceptional photographer and artist. His stunning aquarium images have often been referred to as "visual poetry." These books are guaranteed to give you different ideas about how an aquarium should look, or to provide someone who has been thinking about starting an aquarium with that final spark to actually light the fire. Here is a sample of his photographs collected at various times from the net.

Book 1 is printed mostly on black paper with exquisite glossy photographs. Filled with gorgeous images, it also includes a paragraph with each aquarium photographed, discussing the theme of the particular tank, and some data on the setup. The book also has a 30-page section in the back that covers tank layout concepts, materials, techniques and tools.

[Hardcover only]

Nature Aquarium World, Book 2 Nature Aquarium World, Book 2

Books 2 and 3 are printed on heavy-stock white paper, with glossy photographs. Volume 2 covers very small (and I meant tiny) to medium tanks, from only 1 liter up to 150 liters (about 1 quart to 40 gallons). That's right. One quart! And Amano made it look like a miniature world in itself. This volume has inspired me to start a one-gallon tank in my office. Besides the data given in Book 1, this book also gives the names of the fish and plants shown in each photographs.

[Hardcover only]

Nature Aquarium World, Book 3 Nature Aquarium World, Book 3

This volume covers medium to very large tanks, 180 to 4950 liters (50 to 1300 gallons). The same stunning images on a bigger scale. Books 2 and 3 form a complete set--treasures of aquatic plant literature as well as exceptional coffee-table conversational pieces.

[Hardcover only]

Ecology of the Planted AquariumEcology of the Planted Aquarium, by Diana Walstad

This new book perfectly complements the Baensch Atlas and the Nature Aquarium World books, and fills a niche often glossed over by all other aquarium books. It covers the science behind a planted aquarium. Don't expect color pictures inside, all illustrations are black and white drawings. The book is filled with carefully researched information, both from the scientific literatures and from original experiments by the author. Topics covered in depth include water chemistry; allelopathy; bacterial processes; the roles and useage of carbon, nitrogen, and other plant nutrients; the substrate; and algae control. The author also introduced her own unique method of building a very cheap, very low-tech and very low-maintenant planted tank, using a soil substrate. Although I have not tried this method (my tank is already doing well), a colleague of mine, whose tank had failed in spite of all his high-tech gadgets (undergravel heating cables, compressed CO2 with electronic pH controller, reverse osmosis water purifier, metal halide lights, automatic water replacements, etc.), turned to this method as a last resort, and now reported a successful, vigorously growing tank!

[Hardcover only]

Aquarium Plants Aquarium Plants, by Christel Kasselmann

This is one book that I do not yet have but would very much like to get. It is reportedly the best reference book on aquarium plants and the best source for plant identification. Many plant gurus raved about the original German edition (see description here). The English translation has just been published. It is probably not in your local book store yet, but Amazon.com is accepting orders.

[Hardcover only]

A Fishkeeper's Guide to Aquarium PlantsA Fishkeeper's Guide to Aquarium Plants, by Barry James

This is a good and inexpensive introductory book for a beginning "aquatic plant gardener." It concentrates on about 70 of the most popular aquatic plants, with color photographs and detailed information such as preferred substrate, lighting, pH, hardness, temperature, and the plant's height, recommended aquarium uses, and other characteristics. It also includes a fairly extensive introduction covering the concepts necessary for starting and keeping a planted aquarium.

[Hardcover only]
[Hardcover only]
[Note: This book should be around $12 new in stores. Some Amazon Marketplace Seller tries to charge a lot more for used copies. I don't know if this is a mistake, but do NOT pay over $12 for it anywhere. I present a couple of links pointing to this book here.]

A Fishkeeper's Guide to The Healthy Aquarium A Fishkeeper's Guide to the Healthy Aquarium, by Dr. Neville Carrington

This book is another affordable and very useful weapon that should be in the arsenal of every aquarist. No matter how good you are as an aquarist, your fish will get sick sometimes. This book covers both the prevention and the treatment of aquatic diseases. On the preventative side, if provides the reader with the necessary information to create and maintain a healthy environment for plants and fish. On the treatment side, it offers an excellent disease diagnostic chart, pictures and description of the symptoms of various illnesses, and appropriate treatments.

[Hardcover only]
[Hardcover only]
[Note: This book should be around $12 new in stores. Some Amazon Marketplace Seller tries to charge a lot more for used copies. I don't know if this is a mistake, but do NOT pay over $12 for it anywhere. I present a couple of links pointing to this book here.]

Search for more:
Search: Enter keywords...



  • The Krib: An important Freshwater Aquarium web site, from which you can jump to just about any worthwhile freshwater planted aquarium site.

  • The Aquatic Plants Digest: A mailing list for aquatic plant enthusiasts to exchange information. Past messages are archived at this link.

  • The aquatic plants USENET newsgroup: A forum for the exchange of information on freshwater aquarium plants. Subjects discussed are usually not as advanced as those in the Aquatic Plants Digest.

  • The freshwater aquaria USENET newsgroup: A similar forum for the exchange of information on general freshwater aquarium topics.

  • The Aquaria Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ): A good starting point for beginners.


I have reviewed some aquatic books that I do not recommend on the Amazon web site. Follow these links for those reviews:
Click here if you don't see navigation buttons at the bottom Home

Hosted by www.Geocities.ws