The Best Fish ID Books

Essential Fish ID Books for Underwater Photographers

Finding and identifying marine life is one of the most fun aspects of diving. As underwater photographers, we’re often faced with providing names for these critters, making a good collection of Fish ID books essential.

Social media has opened up immense opportunities to have help in identifying species, but odds are that you can’t use the caption ‘name this subject’ for every one of your shots. This is where we need to start browsing the pages of the marine life books.

Furthermore, serious shooters likely organize their photos in Adobe Lightroom using searchable metadata, which provides two benefits. The first is that you can search for specific marine life within Lightroom to find the photos later on. The second is that stock photo contributors can upload photos containing this metadata, minimizing the need to add keywords (spend more time) during their stock site upload.

RELATED: Watch my Lightroom Editing Tutorial Videos!

Collecting Fish ID Books

In addition to the practicality of fish identification books, there’s also a big cool factor. I have them on the bookshelf next to my collection of travel guides. Each one has a story, which is like a scrapbook every time you look at the shelf. Some have bent spines and water damage, while some of the big heavy ones sit pristine.

A collection of Fish ID books also supports our dive industry and makes you look oh so smart!

Choosing the Best Fish ID Books

There are many different marine life field guides and books out there, and choosing the right ones is challenging. Not only do you want a book with great value, you want to consider whether you will travel with the book.

So what are the best Fish ID books? Here’s my list. Keep in mind that these are personal preferences and books I’ve picked up along the way. If you have a suggestion, please email me and I’ll add it to the list.


Oceans:

Indo-Pacific & South Pacific

Caribbean

Eastern Pacific

Atlantic Ocean

Indo-Pacific & South Pacific Ocean

Reef Fish Identification Tropical Pacific
Reef Fish Identification, Tropical Pacific, 2nd Edition

By: Gerald Allen, Roger Steene, Paul Humann, Ned Deloach

This is from a series of essential Fish ID books, each specializing in a different category of marine life. Top dive guides at top resorts in the Indo-Pacific have these books memorized.


Reef Creature Identification, Tropical Pacific
Reef Creature Identification, Tropical Pacific

By: Paul Humann & Ned Deloach

The second in this amazing series, this book focuses on the critters, including shrimp, crabs, pipehorses, octopus, nudibranchs and more. A must-have.


Nudibranch and Sea Slug Identification, Indo-Pacific Book
Nudibranch & Sea Slug Identification, Indo-Pacific, 2nd Edition

By: Terrene M. Gosslinger, Angel Valdes, David W. Behrens

This is an excellent book, but I put it behind the Reef Creature book above. This book contains beautiful photography of tons of nudibranchs, but this proves most useful once you’ve outgrown the nudibranch section Reef Creature ID.


Caribbean Ocean

Reef Creature Identification, Florida Caribbean, Bahamas Book
Reef Creature Identification, Florida, Caribbean, Bahamas, 3rd Edition

By: Paul Humann, Ned Deloach, Les Wilk

This book is one of the staples for divers and underwater photographers interested in the critters found in the Caribbean. Similar to it’s Tropical Pacific counterpart, this ID book covers shrimp, crabs, nudibranchs, cephalopods, and much more.


Coral Reef Identification, Florida, Caribbean, Bahamas Book
Reef Coral Identification, Florida, Caribbean, Bahamas, 3rd Edition

By: Paul Humann & Ned Deloach

Same expert Marine life ID book, this one focusing on the Corals of the Caribbean. Another essential if you dive the Caribbean often.


Reef Fish Identification, Florida, Caribbean, Bahamas
Reef Fish Identification, Florida, Caribbean, Bahamas, 4th Edition

By: Paul Humann & Ned Deloach

Same expert Marine life ID book, this one focusing on the Fish of the Caribbean. Another essential if you dive the Caribbean often.


Eastern Pacific

Certainly More Than You Want to Know About the Fishes of the Pacific Coast Book
Certainly More Than You Want to Know About the Fishes of the Pacific Coast

By: Milton Love

This Fish ID book will remind you of college textbooks, except that it’s packed with over 490 species from the Eastern Pacific Ocean through an interesting 650 pages. The great thing about this book is that it includes great details and insights, going much more in depth than a traditional ID book. It even offers insets and sidebars with stories and other info.

If you’re an avid California diver, then this is one of those ID books you use to ID fish, but also pick up now and then to read about species you saw on your dive for fun. Yes, even you will want to be a science nerd now! ;- )


Eastern Pacific Nudibranchs: A Guide to the Opisthobranchs from Alaska to Central America, 2nd Edition

By: David W. Behrens, Alicia Hermosillo

This is my go-to book for Nudibranchs in California. A fairly thin paperback, it’s easy to carry on dive trips while still packing 107 species onto color pages.


Sea of Cortez Marine Animals Book
Sea of Cortez Marine Animals: A Guide to the Common Fishes and Invertebrates Baja California to Panama

By: Daniel W. Gotshall

This book always brings up good memories. The book packs 189 species of fish and 65 species of invertebrates into colorful paperback pages. This book was in my bag during a period of time when I was diving the Sea of Cortez several times per year. Most of the time, we found the subjects seen on the dives in this book. Another must-have for your collection.


Pacific Coast Subtidal Marine Invertebrates Identification Book
Pacific Coast Subtidal Marine Invertebrates

By: Daniel W. Gotshall, Laurence L. Laurent

This book is another great identification guide to have in the personal library if you’re diving California, Washington, BC or Mexico. Many of these species can be found while tidepooling too, making it a useful investment for the days when the surf is too big to dive.


Atlantic Ocean

Marine Life of the North Atlantic: Canada to Cape May

By: Andrew J. Martinez

This book is recommended as a “Must!” for divers in the Northeastern U.S. To quote our recommender, “The book not only has fish, but all forms of life you’d see such as seaweed/algae, tunicates, bivalves, mollusks, crustaceans, etc.” I’d say enough said – pick this one up!


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Brent Durand

Professional writer and underwater photo instructor. Brent is an avid diver and surfer, and has led many intensive photo workshops around the world. BrentDurand.com.