Bestselling reef aquarium books – Saltwater Aquarium Blog

Looking for a good book to read? Here is the Saltwater Aquarium Guide Top 10 Bestselling Reef Aquarium Books in 2018.

Top 10 Bestselling Reef Aquarium Books

#10. Algae: A Problem Solver’s Guide

This booklet, written by Julian Sprung, is a helpful reference for one of the most common challenges we all face…dealing with problem algae. It’s a quick read. The images will help you troubleshoot to determine things like whether you have cyanobacteria or dinoflagellates. It also covers some treatments/remedies as well.

#9. The Reef Aquarium: Vol. 2

One of the ‘original’ authoritative texts on the hobby, published in 1997. The Reef Aquarium Volume 2 is part 2 of a trilogy of good resources and was written by Charles Delbeek and Julian Sprung. From my perspective, the key thing in this description is that it is a text, it looks like a textbook, it feels like one, smells and reads like one, too. Which gives it an air of authority, but makes it a bit less approachable, to some people (like me), than some other options you’ll find here.

Compared with other books in this series, this volume goes into detail about the soft corals, anemones and even some aquarium pests.

Hard to believe this 546-page tome is just volume 2 of 3. Which correspondingly tells you how much good stuff is in here.

Glad it made the list. It was a book that I devoured when I first started out. I think it’s appropriately rated here, at # 9. Although quite honestly, I would certainly recommend you start at Volume 1 before jumping to Volume 2.

#8. PocketExpert Guide to Marine Invertebrates and # 7. PocketExpert Guide: Marine Fishes


Since these books are both (each?) written by Scott W. Michael, published by Microcosm and provide a short overview of 500+ essential to know aquarium species, I figured I’d cover them together, here.

Marine Invertebrates and Marine Fishes are very popular books. Despite their name, they don’t quite fit in any pockets I have…but they are small enough for you to bring with you into the fish store, if you want to bone-up on the care requirements of a particular species of fish or invertebrate before you leave the store (and if you don’t have your phone with you or if you 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 that I put a post-it note on the pages for the fish on my bucket list.

On Amazon, these are really popular books, with nearly perfect review ratings. Which is hard to do. They are classic, useful, well written and edited. The only downside is that each species just gets a short, snackable summary. For more information, you’ll have to find…more information…

#6. Bestselling Reef Aquarium Books: The New Marine Aquarium

This book, The New Marine Aquarium, is another one of my favorites. It’s a paperback book, and in three dimensions it takes up the exact opposite space as the PocketExpert guides reviewed above. While those books are short and stocky, this book is large, wide and thin. The advantage that confers is that you get to see that startlingly beautiful image of my number one favorite fish, the Banggai cardinalfish on that arresting red background.

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

#5. How to Frag Corals

How did this garbage make it onto the list? Oh, right, the same way all the other books did, you, the very smart and good looking SaltwaterAquariumBlog reader-voted by actually purchasing this book. How to Frag Corals, written by Albert B. Ulrich III (that’s me), is a niche book about a very specific aspect of a very addicting part of this hobby–fragging corals.

Once your corals start to grow well in your tank, they need to be cut-back, to stay healthy, keep from over-growing, to fill in other areas of your tank, and make a little side money, to offset some of your other expenses.

Fragging corals is the coolest thing, you can 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…it probably does belong right here, somewhere in the soft middle, once you get the hang of your aquarium and you’re ready to start your next hobby addiction.

#4. Clownfishes

The 4th most popular of the reef aquarium books, Clownfishes, by Joyce D. Wilkerson, proves again (despite that last selection), that you, the avid readers of SaltwaterAquariumBlog do, in fact, have great taste in your fishy literature.

I consider this book to be on the MUST HAVE list, for anyone serious about keeping clownfish–and who doesn’t have clownfish in their tank?

It’s just about everyone. This book covers pairings with anemones, the care needs for each of the major species, how to breed, how to raise the fry and everything in between.

It’s a great book and is perhaps under-rated (or maybe under-represented) here at # 4.
# 3. Reef Journal

I’m not sure if you noticed this yet, but I tend to name my books in straightforward, plain English. Reef Journal, by Albert B. Ulrich III, is what it sounds like…it’s a journal, for your reef tank. Well, it does try to be a bit more than just a journal.

It’s a place to record your testing results, to help you keep a nice visual, over time and to compare back to.

It also gives some tips not found in the other books from The Reef Aquarium Book Series about acclimation, quarantine, aquascape and cycling your tanks. It also has a section, in the back, for you to create a visual record of your tank, too, which is something I wished I had done a better job of, over the years.

Just like our kids, our tanks grow up, and I found that the Journal is one way to ‘force’ my hand at creating that history I can look back on, reminsce and learn from.
# 2. Aquarium Corals

Another one of my all-time favorite books is Aquarium Corals, by Eric Borneman. I’ve written about that before. It’s one 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. It’s also one of the first places I learned the basics of caring for and keeping corals.

Can’t say enough good things about this book. Even though it isn’t #1 on this list, it certainly should be on your wish list, if it isn’t already on your bookshelf.

The #1 Best Selling Reef Aquarium Book is…

May I have the envelope, please?

Drumroll, please…

Ok, the suspense is killing me…here, the # 1 book is:

# 1. The New Saltwater Aquarium Guide

I really am honored and humbled that my book is #1. For those of you who bought the book this year or in a past year, THANK YOU. But it wasn’t even close! There were ~2x’s as many copies of this book purchased than the # 2 book–and a few of the books on this list are my favorite books in this hobby!

Okay, that was a bit braggadocious and unnecessary. I just went for a victory lap and came back. I think I got most of that out of my system.

If you didn’t leave your phone after reading those last few lines, let me attempt to regain your trust here 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 at the same time) in the Fish and Aquariums book category. Unlike some of the other books on this list that read more like textbooks, The New Saltwater Aquarium Guide is a fast-reading, to-the-point guide to help you figure out:

  • Which type of aquarium is right for you?
  • What size should you buy?
  • Which equipment do you need?
  • What testing is required?
  • Saltwater fishes: which ones should I to start with?
  • How do you set it up?

Along with my (hopefully) most 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 has allowed this book to stay (somewhere) in the charts for the last few years. Some fair balance:

Critics of the book have either complained that they never got their book (it’s an E-book, delivered by Amazon…?) or that they were too advanced and therefore the book was too basic. But luckily 34 other 5-star reviews (and a 4.5-star average) suggest that this guide to setting up a new aquarium is only ‘too basic’ for those who already have advanced knowledge.

If that sounds like you, you might be better suited to the #9 style book a bit more.


The data ‘are what they are’. They reflect reality, regardless of what I or anyone else might think.

The good news is that based on the books I’ve read, this is a good list. There isn’t a dogfish puffer in the bunch, which confirms that readers are the smartest aquarium owners on the web.

I own, have read or wrote 9 of the 10 books on this list and can personally advocate that these are all helpful books.

It is interesting (curious?) that volume 2 of The Reef Aquarium is the volume that ‘showed up’ on this page. Interesting that neither book 1 nor book 3 showed up within the top 10. Guess it’s the Empire Strikes Back of that book series. My hypothesis is that the price point for the used version of this book has something to do with it.  Although I’m curious if you do think that quality of the information in that volume is superior to the others. If you think so, please leave a comment below.

top 10 bestselling reef aquarium books

About the Methodology

Before we get into the actual list of books, please allow me to explain how this list was generated.

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

Essentially what that means is that Amazon pays a small commission to SaltwaterAquariumBlog whenever a blog reader like you (no pressure…just someone like you) clicks a link on this site about a product sold on Amazon and then buys something there.

There’s a term for them in the blog world, it is called an affiliate link.

If you’ve done that before, thank you very much. I sincerely appreciate your readership and support! I don’t make anywhere close to a living from it, but I do use the funds to pay the expenses here.

Now…about the methodology…

Amazon doesn’t share any info about you or what YOU bought…but they do provide reports to affiliates (me/the blog) about what products and how many products were bought.

So the methodology for this list is fairly straightforward:

I ran a report from January 1, 2018, until the day I started writing this post. I then analyzed the data and found and extracted the 10 bestselling reef aquarium books from those data and ranked them in order from #10 to #1.

There were a few ties in the list, but rather than make it complicated, I just made the editorial decision of which book to list first

That doesn’t make this the most scientific analysis ever done, but it is based on real data, real purchases, by real people who apparently enjoy reading similar stuff as you (assuming both you and those in the data set enjoy this stuff.

This list is based on what readers like you are reading…or did read…this year. How many have you read?

A Brief Note About Bias

I’m honored and humbled by the fact that The New Saltwater Aquarium Guide, Reef Journal, & How to Frag Corals all made it onto the list of Top 10 Bestselling Reef Aquarium Books. I also didn’t fall out of a FedEx live fish shipment box last night (that was a lame attempt at contemporizing the ‘fall out of a turnip truck’ expression of speech and anchoring that to our hobby…weak…). It seems highly likely that these data are skewed by the opinions of and promotions by the author, causing a potential over-reporting of books from the Reef Aquarium Series by Albert B. Ulrich III.

I get it. Hopefully, you get that I get it. I won’t be submitted this to a journal for peer review. Just reporting the data here, enjoying a self-indulgent moment which suggests that at least a few of you like me, you really like me, and having some fun.

I would have published this list even if ‘my’ books were at the bottom (or not on it). The list just would have been lamer :).

Anyhoo, these are real data that are very likely skewed by the readership who, by the very nature of being on this site have demonstrated at least a simple amount of bias in favor of reading that author’s ramblings.

It does provide irrefutable evidence that you, the reader, have extremely great taste in literature and are extremely good looking. But then again, I did say that in a section labeled ‘bias’.

reef aquarium books

A Few Quick Questions for You

How many of these books have you read? Do you have any favorites from the list? Any favorites NOT on the list? I’m looking for a good book to add to my wish list–AND you can help balance out the bias in the data. Thanks for your help and thanks to all of you for your support!

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