Fish identification guides, the best books to learn more about marine life!

Want to learn more about the species you observed or photographed underwater? The identification guides are true treasures for those curious to know about the undersea world! These books display, with pictures or drawings, the species of certain environments (such as coral reefs) or certain regions of the world (such as the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, or the Red Sea). If some guides are limited to fish, others describe all the local underwater fauna and flora. True scientific works, the identification guides are also a beautiful way to prepare for our future snorkeling explorations!

How to choose a fish ID guide?

There is a wide variety of identification guides, and several parameters must be taken into account when making a choice:

  • The geographic area – To date, there is no book that lists all the fish in the world. You will therefore have to choose a guide who presents the species of the region in which you will be snorkeling. The broadest guides cover the entire tropical IndoPacific or coral reefs around the world (which already includes many destinations), but for more specific areas (such as the Mediterranean, the temperate coasts of Australia, the Galápagos Islands or California), you will need to purchase local guides.
  • The covered creatures – Some authors choose to present only fish, and others a greater variety of species, such as invertebrates, corals or marine mammals. Here, your choice will depend mainly on your areas of interest, knowing that general guides often only present one part of the species of each family.
  • The illustrations types – There are two different types of illustrations in the guides: species illustrated by photos, and species illustrated by drawings. The photos facilitate identification by their realistic side, but the drawings allow us to have a more “generic” (and therefore more universal) representation of the species.
Fish ID guides

Snorkeling Report’s library

We have several identification guides at home to help us identify the species we see. The book we use the most is Lieske & Myers Coral Reef Fishes, which has the advantage of presenting more than 2000 species of reef fish from the Indo-Pacific, Red Sea, and Caribbean (with drawings only). With this book sold for around 30$, you’ll get 80% of the snorkeling destinations in the world covered. It is our bible, which we take with us on each of our trips. If you prefer photo guides, we would recommend the excellent Reef Fish ID Florida Caribbean Bahamas (for the Western Atlantic) and Reef Fish ID Tropical Pacific (for the Pacific Ocean, ranging from Thailand to French Polynesia).

In addition to these guides, we also have in our library some books covering more specific destinations. For the Mediterranean, Patrick Louisy’s Marine Fish Identification Guide – Europe & Mediterranean is our reference. We also have the Reef Fish ID Baja to Panama for the East Pacific fish, the Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia (as most Pacific Ocean books only display coral fish reefs, not the fish of temperate regions of Australia such as New South Wales), and the must-have Wildlife of the Galápagos to identify the unique species of the archipelago.

Our selection of Marine Life field guides

Here is a small selection of guides for identifying fish and underwater life for snorkelers.

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