BOOK REVIEW                                                                   By Peter J. Unmack

 

THE SOUTH AUSTRALIAN AQUARIUM SOCIETY 1918-1932, THE FIRST FIFTEEN YEARS.  AN OFFICIAL HISTORY.  Brian A Rutherford.  1991.  151p.  Available from Brian A Rutherford, 4 Palmyra Street, Modbury Heights SA 5092, Australia.  08 264 0790  $15.00 + $2.00 postage. (softcover, A5).

 

In 1918 Edgar Waite, director of the South Australian Museum and a world renowned expert on Australian natural history initiated a meeting of interested people to form the South Australian Aquarium Society.  This excellent publication is a concise summary of the beginnings and history of the society through until 1932.  It contains a brief of each general and committee meeting, excursion reports, and a summary of each years main activities.  These components outline everyday happenings around the club including numerous unsuccessful attempts to establish a public aquarium in South Australia.  Of particular interest are the twenty-five plus previously published and unpublished articles (ranging in size from slightly less than a page to several pages) written by members of the day on a broad range of topics.  Many of the articles have a distinctive Australian flavour focusing on the local aquatic fauna including, freshwater crabs, aquatic plants, crustaceans, breeding habits of back swimmers, predatory water beetles, chitons, and of course several items on local fishes and even one on the Moloch lizard.  There are several practical articles such as keeping marine fish, photographing aquatic life, aquarium heaters, fish nutrition, white spot, one even deals very briefly with the history of the aquarium. 

 

Of particular interest to Australian native fish fanciers are the collecting trip reports from the Murray and Finnis Rivers.  These accounts accurately document the original local flora and fauna.  This includes the discovery of the first male Vallisneria plants and the abundance of fishes such as Mogurnda adspersa, (southern purple spotted gudgeon) Nannoperca australis, (southern pygmy perch) and Gadopsis marmoratus, (river blackfish) which today are all either extinct or endangered in the Murray system in South Australia.  There is an excellent piece by Clarence Blewett outlining the first reported aquarium spawnings of Melanotaenia fluviatilis (Murray rainbow) (which was then referred to as M. nigrans!) and Hypseleotris kluzingeri, (western carp gudgeon) as well as M. adspersa which had previously been spawned by other fish keepers.

 

All in all this book is an outstanding contribution to the history of aquarium societies in Australia and a unique record of the hobby in South Australia.  Congratulations to Brian Rutherford for a job well done.  I wonder if we will ever see similar publications as good as this one relating to the beginnings of not only Australian aquarium societies, but those from overseas as well.  This book's range of material makes it of interest to aquarists, naturalists, and historians.  There is something there for just about everyone.

 

Stop Press: a second edition, packed with even more articles and information, is soon to be released.