Freshwater Tropical Barbs
Mike Dewar has been keeping and breeding barbs for thirty years. This self-published book may have taken Mike “just” three years to write but it contains the wit and wisdom of every one of those thirty years. This is a book written by an enthusiast, for enthusiasts.
If you ask a child to draw a picture of a fish the chances are the result will look something like a barb. Sleek, shiny, lively and colourful they are the archetypal aquarium fish. Every shop has a selection of barbs and they are popular to the point of familiarity. They have never, however, enjoyed the cult following of either cichlids or catfish and compared with those two groups the available literature is scant. This is a shame as there is much more to this fascinating family than is often supposed. All this of course makes the appearance of this book all the more welcome.
With about 150 pages in A5 format, many with colour photographs this book will take a while to get through and is best treated as a reference book to dip in and out of. It’s split into two main sections; the first deals with thirteen of the barb species found in Africa, the second with about fifty of the Asian species. A couple of pages is given to each species and the distribution, habitat, aquarium husbandry and breeding requirements (where known) are well covered along with Mike’s experience of keeping the fish. Most have at least one colour photograph and many have more. Genera covered are:
It should be noted that the Cyprinids (the family to which all barbs belong) is a large and complex family and the exact taxonomic situation is very much a work in progress. It’s likely that many of the names used in this book will be changed and indeed Mike mentions this when he writes about Puntius tambraparniei and Puntius gelius. Having said that this book is not a scientific treatise and shouldn’t be regarded as such. As Mike points out throughout the book it was written as, and is intended to be, a book about keeping and breeding barbs as a hobby. There are a few other chapters covering basic tank maintenance, breeding equipment and set-ups, live food and a pen-portrait of the author.
All the familiar species are covered in detail as well as many of the rare fish that are hardly seen. Some old favourites such as the tiger barb, black ruby barb and cherry barb can be found alongside exotic names such as swamp barb – Puntius chola, Maharaja barb – Puntius sahyadriensis and the grandly titled white lady carp – Cirrhinus molitorella (Also known as the less than grand mud carp!). I was also pleased to see space given over to the etymology of the scientific names, something I believe many hobbyists could benefit from learning more about.
As is to be expected in a book of this size that has not been through a professional editing process there are a few niggles. There are one or two spelling mistakes and some of the pictures are a little on the small side. Also one of the maps lacks a legend. As has been mentioned this is not meant to be a scientific book so use of the term “sub-species” should not be taken to mean, as it is in taxonomic circles as the taxonomic rank below species. Perhaps a better term would have been relatives or even allies. These are however minor points.
Mike Dewar and his wife Jill have been leading members of the fish-keeping hobby in Scotland for many years. The passion they have for fish and for fish-keeping shines through in this lovely new book and I heartily recommend it.
Available from Mike Dewar at email@example.com price £19.50 which includes post and packing to UK addresses. Contact Mike for price of postage to other territories.
Mike also has a web site devoted to barbs here.