Brief Reviews of Goldfish-Related Books

There are an awful lot of fish books on the market. Some are wonderful, some are pretty marginal uses of paper. I thought I would offer some observations on books I either own or have borrowed. Most, if not all, of these books have some tie to goldfish. Incidentally, if you have a differing opinion or a similarly-formatted review of a book I don't have here, please send it along to me.

People have written me asking how to get books and which books they need. Owning attractive, useful books has always been a source of satisfaction to me. It turns out that lists many of the books I have reviewed and liked. I have linked up to their web site to allow you to obtain some of the books below direct from them. Hope this is helpful! Click here for more information and a message from the president of

Be warned; one problem with pet books (even good ones) is that they are continually going out of print. Since they sometimes get reissued, or show up as closeouts, I continue to list out of print books.

Categories of books considered here:

Books Specifically on Goldfish

Title:      Goldfish Breeding and Genetics
Author:     Smartt, Joseph and James Bundell
Publisher:  T.F.H. Publications
ISBN:       0-7938-0090-0
Price and Source: est. $35, pet shops, TFH, or

I got an early printing of this 256 page book from the GFSA. I read it cover to cover, to try to help with the proofing process. I was initially put off by the British English; the sentences seemed long and a bit complex by US business-English standards. But I quickly got past that, and then enjoyed the book. If offers general care information that is a bit more sophisticated than most books, plus discussions on goldfish genetics, rearing, judging, and other advanced topics. It is filled with very attractive photos, though it is a bit disconcerting that these photos generally have no relationship to the text. I would not recommend it as a beginner book, but I also think it will be a requirement for the complete goldfish library.

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Title:      Goldfish & Koi in Your Home
Author:     Axelrod, Herbert and William Vorderwinkler
Publisher:  T.F.H. Publications
ISBN:       0-86622-636-2
Price and Source: $17, pet shops or TFH

Two-hundred twenty-three uneven and sometimes disinformational pages. If you follow the basic fish-per-gallon care instructions in the beginning of this book, you will never need the elaborate varietal spawning and rearing instructions later in the book. For the price you can get several better books from the GFSA.

Title:     Goldfish: A Complete Introduction
Author:    Mertlich, Robert
Publisher: T.F.H. Publications
ISBN:      0-86622-350-9
Price and Source: $7, from the GFSA, pet shops, TFH, or

This 124 page paper back is a very well balanced beginner book. It also has no anomalous advice: the person who wrote this knows goldfish and understands how to keep them. Topics include goldfish care, diseases, spawning, and varieties. High points include an actual discussion of the nitrogen cycle and explanations of the types of tails and colors using correct terminology. I didn't understand the difference between broad-, ribbon-, butterfly-, and tosa-tailed fish until I read this book. Highly recommended as a before-you-buy-your-fish book, as well as a long-term reference.

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Title:     Goldfish Guide: Third Edition
Author:    Matsui, Yoshiichi and Herbert Axelrod
Publisher: T.F.H. Publications
ISBN:      0-86622-605-2
Price and Source: $24, GFSA, pet shops, TFH, and

This was my first book on goldfish, so I have a sentimental attachment to it. It was originally written by Dr. Matsui and then updated by Axelrod (which means adding his stock koi pictures and a bunch of product photos). The book is 352 pages long and covers a lot of stuff. However, it has fatal flaws as a beginner book; no mention of biofiltration, for example. But it also has a great many varietal photos. Some people really like this book and consider it a key reference. I don't recommend it as the primary book for beginners and once you are past the beginner stage, you might prefer to pay money for a more technical book than this. So I can't really strongly recommend this book; however, it has gone out of print several times and is getting harder to find, so you might want it to complete your library.

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Title:     The New Goldfish Hobbyist
Author:    Mertlich, Bob
Publisher: Goldfish Society of America
ISBN:      none
Price and Source: $4, from the GFSA

Everyone who keeps goldfish should have this 22 page booklet. It is a very concise compendium of a lot of information. It is also well illustrated by Fred Rosenzweig's excellent photos. For a beginner, it does not have enough information to keep you out of trouble, but it certainly lets you know what you are in for. Combined with Bob Mertlich's other book reviewed above, this pair gives a very complete introduction for a small amount of money.

Title:     The Official Guide to Goldfish
Author:    Goldfish Society of America
Publisher: T.F.H. Publications
ISBN:      0-86622-607-9
Price and Source: $12, GFSA, pet shops, TFH, and

This is a good beginner/intermediate book. Covers all the basics well. Robert Mertlich and Fred Rosenzweig both had a significant hand in it, which means it is well written and has great pictures. If you decide you want to breed your goldfish, this book offers the most bang-for-the-buck in my opinion. Also covers things like making gelatin food for fry and the progressive salt treatment. It took me a long time to get this book (out of print for a while) but I was very happy when I finally saw it.

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Title:     Goldfish in Hong Kong
Author:    Man, Shek-hay
Publisher: Urban Council, Hong Kong
ISBN:      none
Price and Source: $38 (softcover), Two Birds on a Wire and Dandy Orandas

This 123 page book is packed with the best pictures of goldfish I have seen. I gave a copy to a friend in Singapore and his friends promptly ordered another 10 copies from Hong Kong. The book is also available in hardcover and in Chinese language editions. Actually, about 70 pages are devoted to goldfish varieties. The remaining 50 pages cover basic care, history, breeding, genetics, and disease information. This additional information is well written and reasonably technical; I found it quite interesting, though in 50 pages it is of course not very complete. I have seen people comment that some of the care instructions are wrong. I think the reality is that they are simply different than the US norms and give very interesting insights into traditional Hong Kong goldfish farming. It is also available in a Chinese language edition.

Title:     Jin Yu
Author:    Buo, Yi Yuan and Hui Sheng Wu
Publisher: Tian Jing Science and Technology Publishing
ISBN:      962-14-0309-X
Price and Source: estimate $30, I got it in a Singapore bookstore

This in a Chinese language book, which I can't really review very well. It is part of a general pet series (fish, birds, dogs, ...). It has a lot of varietal pictures that are quite nice, including some relatively rare varieties like the phoenix egg fish. Interestingly all the variety names are also given in English, which makes this kind of useful. It also covers a very wide breadth of care topics from diseases to making your own aquariums. Some of the information, such as the nutritional analysis of daphnia and the discussion of head and tail types, are in more detail than a comparable English language book would normally offer for a beginner. At the end of the book is a table of the names of Chinese goldfish by "family". There are a total of about 250 type and color variations listed, along with their dates of appearance.

Title:     Goldfish & Ranchu
Author:    assorted
Publisher: can't read it ...
ISBN:      4-415-04005-5
Price and Source: $26, Kinokuniya Bookstores

This is basically a 128 page Japanese language magazine, published once every year or two. It contains some advertising, and then pictures of the 1993-94 goldfish show winners. It has assorted varieties in the first 40 pages and then the rest is ranchus. Pretty impressive fish too, I might say. There is also care info; some of the pictures are useful for me, even though I can't read the text. For example, there is a pictorial chart of common ranchu faults to cull. I have to admit amazement at the width of the Japanese ranchu peduncles when viewed from above. The champion fish have peduncles that are twice the width of my fishes'. Several people have written me that they have been able to order this and subsequent editions from the US through the larger Japanese language bookstores.


Unreviewed but popular Goldfish Books:

Title:     Chinese Goldfish
Author:    Mills, D.
Publisher: Tetra Press
ISBN:      7-11900-408-5
Price and Source: $20, GFSA, pet shops, TFH, and

A classic coffee table book of Chinese goldfish pictures and information.

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Title:     Goldfish: A Complete Pet Owner's Manual
Author:    Ostrow, Marshall E.
Publisher: Barrons Educational Series
ISBN:      0-81209-016-0
Price and Source: $7, GFSA, pet shops and

One of the basic care books that the GFSA has offered for years.

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Title:     A Fishkeeper's Guide to Fancy Goldfish
Author:    Andrews, Chris
Publisher: Tetra Press
ISBN:      1-56465-162-2
Price and Source: $11, GFSA, pet shops, and

The GFSA offers this book from their bookstore. Chris Andrews was director of the Baltimore Aquarium and is now head of the new South Carolina Aquarium. He is a frequent contributor to popular aquarium magazines.

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Title:     Fancy Goldfish Culture
Author:    Orme, Frank W.
Publisher: ?
ISBN:      1-85259-007-6
Price and Source: $38, GFSA and

This is a classic text that the GFSA has listed for years. I have never seen it, but probably should get it from the society ... it will be hard to find once they sell out of stock (though lists it as something they are waiting for).

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Books on Fish Health and Aquarium Science

Title:     Aquariology Master Volume: The Science of Fish Health Management
Author:    Gratzek, John B. and Janice H. Matthews, editors
Publisher: Tetra Press
ISBN:      1-56465-105-3
Price and Source: $40, That Fish Place catalog and

This 330 page book is the master volume of a four volume set. The other three books contain chapters from this book (plus additional information? I don't know). The book has four major sections: (1) Establishing a healthy tank, (2) Anatomy, Genetics and Breeding, (3) Aquarium Fish Physiology and Nutrition, and (4) Diseases and Parasites of Aquarium Fish. These subjects are all discussed in layman's terminology, but in substantially more depth than a typical aquarium book. It is primarily geared towards tropical fish, though there is consideration of goldfish here and there. I find this an attractive book and a very good single reference. However, there are other books that are more complete in each of the areas covered. Unique items include a discussion of fish quarantine and calculating medicinal dosages.

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Title:     Textbook of Fish Health
Author:    Post, George
Publisher: T.F.H. Publications
ISBN:      0-86622-491-2
Price and Source: $25, That Fish Place catalog and

This 288 page book was revised in 1987, but has a dated feel to it, possible because of the use of B/W photos with a color center section, like many books from the 1940's. However, it has a very complete discussion of fish health and diseases, covering everything from viruses to nutritional needs. There are many references to carp (as a commercial food fish that has received research attention), but many fewer to goldfish specifically. There are two main drawbacks to this book; insufficient illustrations or photos (though there are many) and the fact that it really is a textbook. By the latter comment, I mean that it is laid out to aid the person that wishes to learn about fish health; the organization is by category of health issue (i.e. viral, fungal, bacterial, etc.). However, if you don't already have a diagnosis, there is really no way to look up something based on the symptoms. So I would recommend this book as a serious reference for the person who wishes to learn about fish health in depth (for a hobbyist) at his or her leisure, rather than the panicked owner of sick pet.

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Title:     The Manual of Fish Health
Author:    Andrews, Chris, Adrian Exell, and Neville Carrington
Publisher: Tetra Press
ISBN:      1-56465-160-6
Price and Source: $30, That Fish Place catalog and

This 208 page book is well illustrated with color photos and is very accessible. While it lacks the scholarly quality and exhaustive coverage of Post's book, it does cover a very broad array of subjects. It is not a disease book; it covers physiology and water chemistry, as well as diseases as parts of understanding fish health. Compared to Aquariology, it is better illustrated and organized. Overall I like this book a lot; I find the introductory parts interesting to read and I think the efforts to help with disease diagnostics (both the logic and the specifics) are very good. My main complaints are that it doesn't have exhaustive enough coverage of diseases and some topics are treated somewhat superficially. In general, I highly recommend it.

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Books on Ponds and Pond Keeping

I should note that I don't have a pond ...yet... so (1) take my opinions with a grain of salt and note (2) I only spring for cheap books, so none of the really wonderful big pond books that are out there will get reviewed (unless someone else volunteers).

Title:     Garden Ponds for Everyone
Author:    Schimana, Walter
Publisher: T.F.H. Publications
ISBN:      0-7938-0099-4
Price and Source: I would guess around $20

This 192 page book has a recent (1994) copyright date. I think the info on pond construction is good and covers some novel topics like clay bottomed ponds and avoiding capillary action water losses. The section on water plants is very well illustrated with color photos, which is useful. It is slightly disorienting to read however: the author is German, so his "import" plants are often our native plants here in the US, and vice versa. Downsides are that he doesn't like goldfish (close to a fatal flaw on this web site) and the obligatory 1970's Axelrod koi photos. The background advertising level is very low for a TFH book.

Title:     Brooklyn Botanical Garden Record: Water Gardening
Author:    assorted
Publisher: Brooklyn Botanic Garden
ISBN:      0-945352-14-X
Price and Source: about $6, garden stores and the BBG

This 80 page booklet is an edited version of one of the periodicals put out by the BBG. It is kind of quirky: it gives some of the basic info on how to build and maintain ponds, but gives equal weight to topics like the biography of the first water lily hybridizer and the history of the Latin names of the Royal Water Lily. It's interesting but not an important reference for me. Certainly not on a par with the BBG bonsai booklets.

Title:     Garden Pools & Fountains
Author:    editorial staff of Ortho Books
Publisher: Ortho Books
ISBN:      0-89721-149-9
Price and Source: $10, garden centers or Ortho

As is typical of the Ortho books, this 112 page volume has good high level coverage of most of the main topics associated with building, stocking and maintaining a pond. My sense is that the emphasis is on the aesthetics of pond construction and planting. The advice on fish is brief and of questionable value (e.g. koi can be kept small in a small pond). But for the price it gives good coverage of common pond plants and some nice pictures of very professional looking ponds.

My Favorite Books

Of the books reviewed above, the following are my favorites.

Title:       The Manual of Fish Health

This book is both interesting reading and a good high level reference volume.

Title:       Goldfish in Hong Kong

Just a really gorgeous book with what I think is a lot of interesting information in it.

Title:       Goldfish: A Complete Introduction

This is the book I advise other beginners to buy. Inexpensive, complete, and factually accurate.