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  Book Review

Book of Coral Propagation

v. 1, vers. 1, 2001, 450pp. spiral-bound, $36.00

Reef Gardening for Aquarists

A Concise Guide to the Successful Care and Culture of Coral Reef Invertebrates

By Anthony Calfo


Bob Fenner

The Cover of BOCP

Here at last is a thorough (don't let the term concise in the sub-title throw you) work on practical husbandry of marine invertebrates of use to aquarium hobbyists… Penned by someone who has indeed "been there, done that". I am fortunate to have visited Anthony Calfo's facility when it was in full swing, and had conversations with him re his efforts. His joy in experiencing and sharing his life in the field is evident here. My overall opinion is that no one of earnest reef system keeping should go without a cursory reading of this book.

In General:

This is a not-too technical guidebook, a "how-to" manual on the means to keep and culture mainly of corals (soft and hard)… but including zoanthids, tridacnid clams, mangroves and more as you will see… with sparing image work, and excellent computer generated graphics… It is NOT a pretty picture book (though it does have some colored photos in the middle), but a to-be-used outline for your practical culture of these animals. To its credit, the binding lies flat (plastic comb) and the covers are plastic sealed.

Anthony's stated philosophy (p.11) on the "why" he wrote this book and its intent: "Without education we will fail… from the profits of the retailer down to the lives of the captives and the economies of all those in between." And later (p.13): "This book is meant to be a practical guide: a useful and applied text of reference." This written effort is his means of offering this education.

Contents of the Book of Coral Propagation:

The book begins with descriptions of terms, designs by intent between aquariums and "farms"… including considerations of planning and design, construction and the "nuts and bolts" of making practical and ornamental habitats. Yes, you can have a going concern in just your single home tank or build out an entire greenhouse with the instructions and plans offered here. This going over of basic to more elaborate systems comprises the first four sections, 118 pp.

Section VI entails Husbandry… the theoretical and practical matters of physical, chemical, general water quality and nutritional components of livestock keeping. Even if you already have one good marine aquarium reference book, add Anthony's here for reinforcement of ideas, methods.

Area VII goes into choosing healthy parental stock… with descriptions and photographs of same. Again, solid, practical information here.

VIII. is a review by family of the common families of hard, soft corals, some of the odd-groups called corals that are Hydrozoans et al., zoanthids, corallimorphs, gorgonians, polyps and tridacnid clams; their care, culture.

IX. covers the too-often overlooked/under-discussed critical elements of shipping and receiving marine livestock. If only one part of this work were taken to heart by folks in the trade (the industry of ornamental aquatics) I do wish this were it. Much lost and could be avoided by practicing what is offered here on proper acclimatization, preparation and proper shipping.

X. Quarantine. Should go w/o stating, but here is an argument for doing so, the benefits, methods…

XI and XII present input on Coral placement/compatibility and strategies for propagation. Here Anthony really shines with time and trial-tested materials and methods for being a propagator.

XIII is one of my favorite sections, dealing as it does with the very common (too much so) of concerns of pests, predators and diseases of marine invertebrates. Identification, causative factors and practical methods of remedy are offered.

XIV is titled Troubleshooting; self-explanatory. XV takes a stab at proffering a conciliation on identifying corals to species. XVI Documenting and Reporting encourages us to keep track, share our findings, foibles in substantive ways. XVII is the "end papers" of the book, including passages on aquarium ethics, a Bibliography, Glossary, sources of Supplies and information, an Index and a biographic page.

Potential Shortcomings:

Joking asides… Some folks will take exception to Anthony's "writing style"… He is obviously a person who "knows their stuff" and as importantly "how to relate it" to a wide range of ability and interest levels… and was an English Literature major in College… However, there are many distracting "jokes" in the work at the beginning that may drive some to distraction. If these bother you, ignore them, or make a game of "yellow-highlighting" them for future skipping. If instead, you enjoy arcane written humor, you're in for a treat.

Don't mind paying the big bucks for fabulous color pages in books? This tome isn't one of these. There are sparse instructive color thumbnails on a few pages on livestock selection, culture facilities… and numerous "plain" black on white paper illustrations, drawings of designs, plans here, but not full-page full-color photos of underwater scenes, fish tanks. There are plenty of these "other" works elsewhere.


Looking for earnest, hands-on input on being a successful reef keeper, growing your own (or commercial) marine invertebrates? Do include this work in your working reference library. Having read, reviewed much of the worlds current works in the field, I assure you Anthony Calfo's Book of Coral Propagation is the most complete, useful work of its kind.

Available from: the publisher, www.readingtrees.com for $36.00 including shipping, as well as a number of outlets listed on their site.


Re: Forward to Bob F 3/28/09
Can you have Anthony Send me an autograph copy of his new book on Coral Propagation? I would love to add it to my collection of personalized books. E
<I will ask him to respond to you directly here. BobF, out in Cozumel>

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