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Q&A with Tony Vargas, author of The Coral Reef Aquarium

By Johnathan Carvallo - Posted Aug 25, 2011 12:00 PM
Advanced Aquarist recently had the opportunity to speak with Tony Vargas about his new book, now able to be purchased, pre-publication, as special signed editions that will be shipped just before the books are widely distributed in October. In this Q&A, you'll learn about what makes this book unique from all others and why it can majorly benefit every aquarist.
Q&A with Tony Vargas, author of The Coral Reef Aquarium

The Coral Reef Aquarium by Tony Vargas is a very detailed guide on how to keep a successful reef aquarium, as well as displaying some of the most amazing aquariums from around the world.

vargas2.jpgWe recently had the opportunity to catch up with long-time hobbyist Tony Vargas about his new book entitled The Coral Reef Aquarium. There's been countless publications released about different aspects of the hobby, so we wanted to find out what made this new book special. We knew that it was focused around reef aquariums, but what else? To find out, we asked Tony himself.


AA: Tony, we know that a lot of folks are excited about this book and it's been a long time in the making. What first inspired you to write a book?

TV: I've been a hobbyist for many years, and though there were various books written about different aspects of the hobby, none of them focused directly on the fundamentals of setting up a reef aquarium from start to finish. I also realized that there were a lot of aquarists who could use some solid advice about everything involved in the process.


AA: What exactly is the main focus of your book, The Coral Reef Aquarium, and what details does it provide?

TV: The main idea of the book is to be a complete guide on how to plan, setup, execute and maintain a successful reef aquarium. To do this, I've documented a start-to-finish guide with five particular aquariums, the smallest being a 25 gallon nano and the largest being the 20,000 gallon public aquarium of Atlantis Marine World. I want our readers to know the fundamentals in keeping these tanks, and what to do in order to help the chances of success.

AA: Your book discusses aquariums from various parts of the world; what can we expect to read about them?

TV: Part of the book is entirely dedicated to some of the most successful aquariums from around the world. What I wanted to do was document them, explain them in great detail, and display pictures showing how amazing they all are.


AA: In viewing/documenting so many aquariums from around the world, are there any that specifically stand out in your mind?

TV: That's the beauty of this chapter. These aquariums have similarities, of course, but what's amazing is that they are all unique in one form or another. We originally intended on including 12 tanks, but the more we saw these aquariums, the more we had to include. It was actually very hard because we had so many submissions and had to eventually cap the list. They are all amazing and I'm very excited to share the details of each and every system with my readers.


AA: How many chapters are included with the book, and what do they entail:

TV: There are twelve chapters in total, and they include the following:

  1. Introduction
  2. Chapter 1: Factors & Considerations (Essential pre-planning and consideration prior to the setup)
  3. Chapter 2: The Decision Process (What kind and types of equipment to use, and why)
  4. Chapter 3: The Fundamentals (basic and easy-to-understand fundamentals about what makes a reef aquarium work)
  5. Chapter 4: Maintenance (regular maintenance; be it daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, and beyond)
  6. Chapter 5: Acclimation and Quarantine (practices and preventative measures used when obtaining new livestock)
  7. Chapter 6: 25 Gallon Nano (Documenting Tony's 25 gallon nano from start to finish)
  8. Chapter 7: 90 Gallon Reef (Documenting Tony's 90 gallon reef aquarium from start to finish)
  9. Chapter 8: 180 Gallon Reef (Documenting Mark Poletti's 180 gallon reef aquarium from start to finish)
  10. Chapter 9: 500 Gallon Reef (Documenting Sanjay Joshi's 500 gallon reef aquarium from start to finish)
  11. Chapter 10: 20,000 Gallon Reef (Documenting the public aquarium at Atlantis Marine World, managed by Joseph Yaiullo)
  12. Chapter 11: Reef Tanks from Around the World (documenting 45 of the most successful reef aquariums from around the world)


AA: Wow, it sounds very detailed. What else can you say about these aquariums?

TV: I can tell you that they all require a lot of time, energy, dedication and passion. These aquarists have gone through a lot of trials and tribulations, all of which I wanted to share with our readers, so that it will give them a chance to learn from the experience of others, especially those with aquariums as wonderful as these.


AA: Being that you've been an aquarist for several decades, what similaries and differences to you see now that may have been different in the past twenty five years?

TV: One major change that I've witnessed throughout the years is the type of equipment, especially lighting, being used over our aquariums. Additionally, the appearence of the livestock coloration has changed, making corals appear more vibrant. On the other hand, many of the major factors in keeping a coral reef aquarium have remained the same. Some of the most successful aquarists of 2011 have been practicing the same techniques that others were performing ten, even twenty years ago.


AA: What do you hope to see for the future of our hobby? What aspects of it do you think are important in terms of the future?

TV: I see the hobby becoming more and more popular in the years to come. I think it's also very important for us as Americans to be careful what we do in terms of limitations on the importation of live corals from other countries. It's essential for the economy of these places, and especially in some less-fourtunate areas, they depend on it. I also think that sustainablity is important; harvesting coral isn't necessarily a bad thing, but we need to be sure that we're doing such in moderation and at the same time making efforts to aquaculture the live corals.


AA: Is there anything specific that you'd like to share with our readers about your book?

TV: I wrote this book so that aquarium store associates and owners could literally hand it to a new hobbyist and tell them to read it entirely before making any decisions or purchases. I designed this book so that hobbyists could have an idea on what it takes to create a successful aquarium, and how to go about doing so.


AA: Thank you, Tony!


The Coral Reef Aquarium can now be purchased to reserve your copy in either of two versions:

  1. Special Edition: Includes a cover jacket, hand-signed by Tony Vargas in Gold Ink ($54.95)
  2. Limited Pre-Publication Edition: Hand-signed by Tony in a Silver Ink ($44.95)

These copies are very limited and will no longer be avaliable once sold out. The book will become widely available in the next few months.

Tony Vargas will be presenting at MACNA 2011 in Des Moines, Iowa in a few weeks about the world's most successful reef aquariums. We at Advanced Aquarist look forward to hearing his discussion, as well as reading the book.

To find out more information and to purchase a limited edition copy of the book, please visit

Author: Johnathan Carvallo
Location: Northeast

Johnathan is a proud marine hobbyist who spent many years working in a local fish store while managing an online coral site. He enjoys all facets of the marine aquarium industry, but especially loves the technological side and is constantly working on improving and advancing it. He currently maintains a 34 gallon nano aquarium as as well as a coral propagation system. Jon is currently an employee at EcoTech Marine, owner of the up and coming and a staff blogger here at Advanced Aquarist.


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