♍ichael Ƒierce's Reviews > The Most Complete Colored Lexicon of Cichlids: Every Known Cichlid Illustrated in Color

The Most Complete Colored Lexicon of Cichlids by Herbert R. Axelrod
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Feb 05, 14

bookshelves: mbuna-african-cichlid, aquarium-fish, ichthyology, spectacular-photography, a-favorite-book, a-study-of, true-expedition, travel-story
Recommended for: lovers of mbuna, cichlid and aquarium fish enthusiasts
Read from August 25, 1993 to April 08, 2012 — I own a copy, read count: hundreds


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This is the best book on cichlids ever! Mainly, for me, because it has a huge section on Mbuna, Afrian cichlids from Lake Malawi, Africa's third largest lake.

Written, put together, and largely photographed by Dr. Herbert R. Axelrod. Axelrod is the leading researcher of Mbuna, having journeyed there years before Lake Malawi cichlids became popular in today's aquarium market.

I first read a little aquarium book by him called 'Mbuna' when I was probably 11 years old that I still have, though worn and dog-eared from having read it dozens of times. It was fascinating, telling of Axelrod's real-life adventures through Africa to reach the spectacular Lake Malawi - a lake of living jewels. This was later expanded into African Cichlids of Lakes, Malawi, and Tanganyika, containing a more thorough account of his travels, scientific research, and photos, some of which are compiled into this more complete Lexicon here.

The pictures are to die for.

Personally, I feel that most saltwater fish don't hold a candle to the flaming jewels that are Lake Malawi's freshwater mbuna. They are complex, enigmatic things of beauty, each with their own very unique personalities and behaviors, qualities lacking from many of the saltwater or freshwater aquarium fish you find today at the pet store.

When I was a tween in the late 70's, early 80's, my dad used to take me to this really cool fish store in Oakland, CA, called, Joe's. Joe had more fish tanks than most of today's stores and I remember it as one of the most fun places I got to go to as a kid.

I got to pick from an amazing array of fish! The one that caught my eye was the vibrantly colored pseudotropheus elongatus aka an Elongate Mbuna pictured above, and whose scientific genus name would later be determined as pseudotropheus elongatus mpanga. The next fish I selected was a melanachromis auratus - incorrectly classified back in those days as a pseudotropheus auratus and, though I don't remember it's more common name, I called him Prince Auratus. I also rounded up two pseudotropheus zebras, one a Cobalt Blue I called Sky Captain, the other was orange gold but monikered a Red Zebra in the 90's and I believe is now scientifically classified metriaclima estherae. I named her Goldie (I think after Goldie Hawn). The surprising thing is that they all came straight from Lake Malawi and were not fish-farmed. Nowadays, it's probably better to purchase them fish-farmed if for one reason only: to ensure that the lake isn't overfished, which has been a problem come of late.

The Melanochromis Auratus started out with female colorizations as all young do, as seen in the 1st photo here, and later transformed into the darker reversed colorizations of a male, as seen in the 2nd.

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Pictured below are the Pseudotropheus Zebra Cobalt Blue and the Pseudotropheus Zebra Red Zebra - though orange(..?) ~ the genus extension of which evolved into Metriaclima Estherae.

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Although the elongatus was a little smaller than the others, it quickly became the king of the tank, which I know now is mostly becase it's species has sharper teeth and quicker movements. It was a striking pearlescent blue with deep black zebratic lines and a black face. Cichlids, like us, have two nostrils, not two on each side like most fish, and with their observant personalities and behaviors can occasionally remind us of ourselves in very special moments. I named my pseudotropheus elongatus, B.B. King - being that he was black and blue and the king of the tank for all the years I had him. And named, of course, after the legendary blues singer-songwriter, of the same name.

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Pseudotropheus Elongatus Mpanga

Although my mom helped me take care of my 20 and 30 gallon aquariums, we weren't fish experts. I was young & dumB and didn't know a lot about how to take care of them then, losing several beautiful Mbuna along the way. But, not B.B. King. He outlasted all the sicknesses, like ich, and the bacteria from the foreign rocks I put in there (before I knew better), fought rivalries with fish twice his size, even having been ganged up on once or twice by two at the same time. He outlasted them all. He would shake and vibrate like mad when he would fight - and also when showing off his stuff to females he was interested in - and his whole face and zebratic lines would become a rich, vibrant, ink black. This book shows many similarly strikingly-colored fish that can be hard to come by. If you know fish, you know a lot of that has to do with their environment. The more compatible it is for them, the more their colors will show for it.

B.B. King never succumbed to sicknesses or rivals.

These cichlids are called Mbuna for a reason. Mbuna translates as 'rock fish'. They pick up mouthfuls of rock to secure their territories and carve their homes into a fashion that most interests the female they have their eye on. B.B. King was too fanciful one day while I was at school. While moving mouthfuls of rock, a hollowed-out ceramic tree he loved to build under crushed him perfectly sideways into the side of the glass. You would say, "it's just a fish", and you are free to think that. But, I was sad for so long over that little guy. He was perfect and awoke a love for fish and animals that would grow and shape me into who I am today.

I don't know how many interested readers can afford this book. I've seen it go for as high as $550 but a more perfect photographed book of fish I have never seen.

Just perfect.

Like my fish, B.B. King.

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Comments (showing 1-17 of 17) (17 new)

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message 1: by ♍ichael Ƒierce (last edited Dec 01, 2012 01:32PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

♍ichael Ƒierce Alan wrote: "Axelrod IS the authority on the subject.

I ran a medium sized aquarium department for a variety store in Turlock California in 1975 before moving on to find work that paid closer to living wages....I don't know if an early edition of this book was amongst them"


Gosh, Alan. I am SO stoked to have a friend here on GR that can relate to the fish hobbyist side of my interests! That is so cool and just made my day. I hope if you ever make your way over to SF, we can grab a coffee and talk sci-fi fantasy and fish!

I wish I worked at an aquarium hobbyists fish store. That must've been a great experience. I have 2 good friends that work at the local store I frequent at and I know that the wages aren't real good & very understandable why you had to move on.

*This book weighs 10.4 pounds, so if you remember a book THAT heavy and three times larger than a large print Bible, than you probably did have it. I have seen it once, maybe twice in the far past at aquarium / pet stores but it was rare and today, unheard of.


message 2: by Miriam (last edited Dec 01, 2012 03:12PM) (new)

Miriam , I used to go to this really cool fish store in Oakland, CA, called, Joe's.

I don't know if my dad used that store, but he taught science in Oakland during the same years and used to keep cichlids in his classroom. We would have them at home over the summer.

Not a cichlid story, but I did have one of a bag of a dollar-a-dozen feeder fish that I got when I was 7 live for 16 years. Might've made it even longer had I not left it with my parents while I was moving...


♍ichael Ƒierce Alan wrote: "Oddly the aquarium department was part of a True Value hardware store but being in a small valley town we had fuul sporting goods, toys, electronics, tires and such. In addition to the fish I also ..."

I like your store story. $3.75 an hr!? Wow. I hear that's what it's going to back to. j.k. I'm sure there were some pretty cool records that came out during 1969-70. Pink Floyd and Nick Drake would've been my key buys and whatever The Beatles were doing then, too.


♍ichael Ƒierce Miriam wrote: "I don't know if my dad used that store, but he taught science in Oakland during the same years and used to keep cichlids in his classroom. We would have them at home over the summer.

Not a cichlid story, but I did have one of a bag of a dollar-a-dozen feeder fish that I got when I was 7 live for 16 years. Might've made it even longer had I not left it with my parents while I was moving... "


Feeder fish lived for 16 yrs? Holy Smokes! That seems impossible but I believe it coz I know feeder fish are goldfish and goldfish are from carp (koi) which live a long time but that doesn't make it any less surprising! I would have to bet that your dad, having cichlids in his classroom teaching out of Oakland MUST have been to or even got his fish from Joe's. It was THE place to buy fish from...especially cichlids, and more so if you craved somethin exotic. I like these discussions. You guys just brought the Goodreads world closer to home :)


message 5: by Miriam (last edited Dec 03, 2012 10:11AM) (new)

Miriam He definitely did buy some more exotic stuff, including a Jack Dempsey. I remember that one because he had it when the school burned in the Oakland Hills fires; after the fire the school was closed for a month and when my dad got back he found the Jack Dempsey still alive in an inch of black water and brought it home. It lived for several more years. I greatly admired its toughness, although it was not as friendly as my goldfish, Solo.


♍ichael Ƒierce Miriam wrote: "He definitely did buy some more exotic stuff, including a Jack Dempsey. I remember that one because he had it when the school burned in the Oakland Hills fires; after the fire the school was closed..."

It feels good to hear stories of animal survival. I don't want to get too deep but I'm an animal activist. In fact, Friday I signed 33 petitons, 27 of them animal related. I don't like to preach but if everybody were to receive simple updates from The Sierra Club, Greenpeace, and The Huffington Post, i think they'd realize how EXTREMELY it is to take your first steps into saving animals lives and feeling extra good about yourself when doing so. I am still touched by the simplest stories of animal survival. I'm just a BIG SOFTIE I know. It probably doesn't make sense but I got a little tear in my eye reading your comment.

Jack Dempsey's are way more aggressive than goldfish, as everybody knows. But, in comparison to Mbuna, it would probably be able to survive amongst them but it would be on constant alert. Goldfish on the other hand? Would be like a lone sheep amongst a pack of wolves. Doesn't make them any less fascinating but Mbuna have a fault of being annoying aggressive to eachother...and I'm like, "Hey! be nice! and it's not good to tap on the glass but sometimes you've got to give a slight fingernail tap to get them to chill.

I seem to recall the fires in the Oakland Hills, but not well. Glad to hear Jack Dempsey lived for several more yrs. Yay!

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message 7: by Miriam (new)

Miriam I don't want to get too deep but I'm an animal activist.

Good for you! Everyone should be! Or rather, people shouldn't need to be because we should treat the natural world with respect and kindness, but obviously that's not happening anytime soon. The suffering we inflict on animals makes me want to cry.


♍ichael Ƒierce Miriam wrote: "I'm an animal activist.

Everyone should be!...we should treat the natural world with respect and kindness, but obviously that's not happening anytime soon. The suffering we inflict on animals makes me want to cry.
"


I know. I do cry while signing the petitions and reading the reasoning behind why each particular animal is endangered. It's usually greed and pollution. Both things I cannot understand how or why it's so hard for ppl to change.


message 9: by Miriam (new)

Miriam My family members are cut off from going to the animal shelter because we keep coming home with unplanned pets.


♍ichael Ƒierce Miriam wrote: "My family members are cut off from going to the animal shelter because we keep coming home with unplanned pets."

LOL! You and your family are my kind of ppl!


message 11: by Leisa (new)

Leisa You named your beloved fish after a human Virgo...
(BB King)


♍ichael Ƒierce Leisa wrote: "You named your beloved fish after a human Virgo...
(BB King)"


I never realized that!


Eyehavenofilter Sounds lovely...


♍ichael Ƒierce Eyehavenofilter wrote: "Sounds lovely..."

Aww, thank you! I'm on my way to pick up a 55 gallon fish tank my best friend gave me for my birthday! it's going to take a while to get it going but once I do, fish just like these are going to be flooding my world once again!
:)


message 15: by Karina (new)

Karina One of my best friends LOVES cichlids and has a gorgeous tank dedicated to his love for them. I have been looking everywhere for this book as a surprise (in an affordable price range). The pictures look amazing and it must definitely be worth it. Are there any other cichlid books you can recommend as I'm searching?


♍ichael Ƒierce Karina wrote: "One of my best friends LOVES cichlids and has a gorgeous tank dedicated to his love for them. I have been looking everywhere for this book as a surprise (in an affordable price range). The picture..."

Hi Karina. I just noticed this msg rt now (sorry for the delay!). Probably the best place to find this particular book would be on abebooks.com

I know some of the copies listed there are REAL PRICEY, however, i think I saw a couple that were not quite as high as the amount listed in my review.

Mattering on what particular types of cichlids your friend likes, i could recommend a couple. As far as information on Mbuna and/or Tanganyikan cichlids, this one here is good (but doesn't have a whole lot of to-die-for pictures, unfortunately): African Cichlids of Lakes, Malawi, and Tanganyika. I'll go through my collection and see if there are any others that really stand out. I have to say, I think the book I reviewed above is far & above the best cichlid book with full color pics. There are others I want myself that are pretty cool. Although I haven't been on GR much lately, I'll look into the other books I know of and get back to you!


♍ichael Ƒierce And yes, I made up the word zebratic.

:)


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