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Hooked on fish, Parkton boy, 11, writes how-to book

Gianni Costantino pens paperback on aquariums

By Pat van den Beemt, pvdb@comcast.net

3:08 PM EDT, May 16, 2012

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A North County author did plenty of research for a book that is now available on  Amazon.com  in paperback book form or as a download to a Kindle.

The book might have come out sooner, but the author had to stop working on it because he had to do his homework.

Gianni Costantino, 11, just published "American Cichlid Afishionado: A Startup and Selection Guide for American Cichlid Fish and Aquariums."

The fifth-grader at Our Lady of Grace School in Parkton got his first aquarium less than two years ago and fell in love hook, line and sinker with a fish species called cichlids.

He has gone from caring for fish in a 6.5-gallon fish tank to maintaining five tanks that range from 20 to 75 gallons.

"When I started, I did what all beginners do. I overstocked my tank. I did things like put one rainbow fish in a tank. I didn't know they're supposed to live in schools," he said. "I killed fish by over-feeding them and not changing the water enough."

Gianni learned by his mistakes. He joined online fish forums, reading everything he could about aquariums and visited fish stores.

This past winter, he decided to share his fish facts. His 44-page book introduces 13 types of Cichlid, including the popular angelfish, as well as fish with names like Oscar, Jack Dempsey and firemouth.

"American Cichlids have tons of personality. They are great pets," Gianni wrote in his introduction. "You can even train some American Cichlids to eat our of your hand." But, he warned, "Fish need space. They are living things. Please listen to the advice in this book."

Gianni devoted a chapter to each Cichlid and took photos of his own fish for the book. He then collected details on diet, compatibility, characteristics, ultimate fish size and minimum tank size.

Readers learn an Oscar can get to be 11-14 inches long and can be aggressive, but that a red devil or Midas cichlid can "easily beat up" an Oscar.

Employees at PetSmart in Timonium were not surprised to hear one of their favorite customers is an author.

"He is really into fish," said Jenny Edwards, a manager at PetSmart. "He'll hear other customers talking about buying a certain fish and he'll tell them the fish will get too big for their tank. He's done so much research that it's obvious it's a passion for him. He seems like a really cool kid."

Kate Hartig, library teacher at Our Lady of Grace School, has already added Gianni's book to the library's collection.

"One of my sons was interested in fish and I know he would have loved a book like this," she said. "I was very impressed with it."

Ann Costantino said her son deserves all the credit for the book. "He totally came up with this idea on his own," she said. "He wrote it and printed it out and asked me to edit it."

Now that the book is done, he wants to start a business maintaining and caring for customers' aquariums. He also wants to expand his expertise by starting a salt-water aquarium.

"Some people might be surprised I wrote a book because I'm not super good at school," he said. "But I am good at fish."