by Mark Smith
It is with great enthusiasm that the publication of Heiko Bleher’s book Indian Ornamental Fishes Volume 1 is finally out for all to behold. This is the first comprehensive book published to date on the subject, and due to the large number of species known to inhabit the fresh and brackish waters of the Indian sub-continent, it will require two volumes.
Before the chapters begin, there is a very thoughtful and detailed introduction by the famous Dr. Sven O. Kullander. The first three chapters of this comprehensive book covers the obligatory topics one would expect, such as the history of ornamental fishes in India, taxonomy, distribution and habitats, collecting & transport, maintenance and disease prevention.
Chapter four lists out all formally described and undescribed species that are covered in this volume, while chapter five covers each species, beginning with their order, families, genera, and then species. As can be expected, such a book is replete with thousands of color photographs, and where a color photo is not available, a copy of the original line drawing is included, which is not that often. This comprehensive coverage is significant in that it covers each species, and undescribed species, with a color photo(s) and each entry for each species contains information such as common name, type locality, distribution, description and length, color in life, habitat description, water chemistry parameters, nutrition, similar species, breeding, and finally remarks. I particularly enjoyed the map present for each species, as well as at least one photo of each species’ natural biotope. This is a very detailed amount of information that has been compiled for each species, and it is hoped that Mr. Bleher will follow up with an equally impressive second volume down the road in the not so distant future.
Not only will the book be invaluable from an Indian fisheries perspective, but also for the hobby at large. There are more and more species finding their way into the international aquarium trade, and this book, presuming that all species are accurately identified, will be critical in properly identifying many species that are quite striking in their own right, as well as those closely related species that require their subtle differences to be pointed out, which this book does an admirable job at accomplishing.
One item that I would correct/add is that each photographers name be included next to each photo, or at least at the end of each caption.