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Book Review: Amphibians in Captivity (Staniszewski)

Otterwoman

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Amphibians in Captivity: Mark Staniszewski (TFH Publications, 1995).


In the beginning, I had a few Notos and got all of my care info from my boyfriend. During a trip to a petstore where I saw a P. labiatus, I remember thinking to myself, "What the heck is this thing? That's not a newt!" I didn't even know other newts existed! This thought overwhelmed me. "Well, it's time to get a book," thought my inner Hermione. "Maybe many." I got a few small books on newts and sals (in the 50-75 page range), but then I found this book online. It was my lucky day.

This book is a comprehensive introduction to a large variety of subjects; I'm going to be bold and claim, to all aspects of the newt and salamander hobby (and frogs too, I suppose).

The book starts with an overview of the three amphibian orders, evolution, and classification.
Next comes the biology of amphibians (i.e. the range of sizes, anatomy, how they breathe and reproduce), followed by their care, housing and feeding. You will learn the basics, and really, more than just the basics, on sexing, breeding, metamorphosis, and diseases. His coverage of vivarium setups of various types is extremely helpful; 40 pages of ideas and pictures that will certainly well prepare you to fulfill your animals' needs.

My favorite was the section on foods and feeding. Here are 32 pages covering how amphibians eat and what to feed them, which gave me a lot of ideas I wouldn't have stumbled upon so easily: tips and techniques on collecting wild foods such as aphids, termites, and slugs; where and how to look for them.

Although I learned a lot about how to acquire and culture foods as well, just learning what all I might attempt to feed my newts was helpful; in the beginning all I knew of were Newt Bites and ReptoMin Floating Food Sticks.

While there is always more to know about the subjects and techniques presented, this is not a cursory, but an in-depth introduction and often you are presented with enough on a given subject to give it a go. Most importantly, there is enough to evaluate whether you might want to pursue a certain avenue--or not. Here is a conversation I had in my head:

"Oh, I can feed my salamanders cockroaches? I could collect plenty at work. Oh, but it says, if you do, you should not use wild ones but rather culture them yourself?... uh, yeah, that makes sense...uh, ok, thanks but no thanks."
There is also a charming drawing of a homemade device you could use on your own patio to catch house flies using nothing but a plate of rotten meat. Another idea I did not attempt.

Finally comes the really fun part: the part where you learn what all is out there to drool over. The back 2/3 of the book is species descriptions and pictures, more than in any other introductory amphibian book. You can read about most all the commonly kept species for the US and Europe, and then some, including a brief description on care and breeding of each. Oh, and there are a whole bunch of frogs in there too.

It has been pointed out elsewhere in the forum that the animal labeled as Aneides ferreus (p.227) is probably an A. aeneus. I have read that there are other errors in the book, but I suppose nothing is perfect. I still treasure my copy. It doesn't get lent to anybody. Even if people are over my house, I don't want them touching it with their grubby little mitts. Why? Because it is full of outstanding, wonderful pictures.These pictures are one of the things that make the book such a treasure. There, that's three times I've mentioned the pictures. I think I've made my point about them.

But it's not just the pictures. This book is page after 544 pages of exciting, fact-filled discovery. After I finished with this book, I was ready. Ready for what, I'm still not sure, but I was ready, and you will be too.

I bought this copy used on Amazon for under $20 including the s/h. Imagine my shock when it arrived with the original price tag of $99.95 still stuck on the back. As I write this, Amazon has used copies starting at $24.
 

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coendeurloo

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Nice review Dawn. I got the book about 2 months ago, and I love it. www.alibris.com is the way to get 2nd hand copies for people in Europe, as Amazon doesn't always send to Europe. I got mine relatively cheap too, together with the James W. Petranka book I paid about 110 dollar including shipping costs. It is worth every cent, and it's a very good read for everyone.
 

freves

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I agree with you on this one as well Dawn. I know that the author got himself into some legal trouble a few years back and as a result there have been some negative comments made about this book on this website in the past. While I in no way condone smuggling I can't deny the fact that this is one of the better TFH published books from that time. I found my brand new copy at a Half Priced Books book store in Pittsburgh for 4.99.

Chip
 

John

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I sold the book after owning it for a couple of years. I found too many inaccuracies and plain made-up-because-author-had-never-kept-it stuff for me to get too comfy with it. Don't get me wrong, among the TFH books it's definitely one of the better ones and there is a lot of quality info in there, and Marc is one of the most experienced guys in Europe. However I think at the time he wrote this book he hadn't had much experience with a heck of a lot of the species about which he wrote and it shows (in my opinion).
 

freves

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However I think at the time he wrote this book he hadn't had much experience with a heck of a lot of the species about which he wrote and it shows (in my opinion).

John as I'm sure that you are well aware that kind of problem plagued most of the TFH herp books from that time. I remember once having a telephone conversation with Jerry Walls when he was editor of the TFH Reptile Hobbyist magazine. I expressed that among most experienced hobbyists it was generally agreed that TFH was notorious for reusing the same photos, usually as filler material, over and over again with little, if any, useful and accurate information. I also mentioned that in many of their works it was painfully obvious that the author had little to no experience with what they were writing about. His reply was that for many species there simply was not that much known, and the photos helped fill in the spaces. I found this to be a very weak argument. In any case, the new TFH line of herp books seem to be much better (at a glance anyway).
Chip
 

John

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n any case, the new TFH line of herp books seem to be much better (at a glance anyway).
I agree - I have the one on kingsnakes and milksnakes and it's rather good.
 

freves

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I have the one on naturalistic vivariums and it's not bad either. Actually my biggest complaint with it is that I feel that it is somewhat lacking in photos (a different complaint for a TFH book!), with many of the vivarium styles and examples only being described in text. Sorry if we have hijacked your thread Dawn.
Chip
 
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