This section is from the book "The Goldfish And Its Systematic Culture With A View To Profit", by Hugo Mulertt. Also available from Amazon: The goldfish and its systematic culture.
"Every man is a valuable member of society, who, by his observations, researches, and experiments, procures knowledge for men."
Long before the principles upon which the success of an aquarium are based were understood, goldfish were kept and tenderly cared for, merely because they are beautiful, and besides being in a sense pets, upon which to lavish much solicitude and attention, served the purpose of an animated ornament, than which it is difficult to find a more beautiful and desirable substitute. The very fact of their being denizens of a different element than that in which the most familiar domestic animals and pets live, served to surround them with a halo of fascination that prompted their admirers to expend upon them any amount of time and pains to keep them in a flourishing condition, and ever ready to be displayed before the chosen guest in the household.
Their wonderful tenacity of life, the gorgeous colors in which they are clothed, both contributed to make them adapted to life in the aquarium and grace the elaborate structures that were framed for the express purpose of displaying them to the best advantage.
The goldfish, we are told, like many other things, originated in China, though, so far as this is concerned, its history is involved in much obscurity. The first mention we find of it is in the "Arabian Nights' Entertainments," in the story of the Fisherman and the Genii, a story, which like those accompanying it, is of Persian origin. It is, however, frequently represented in the old Chinese paintings, and appears to have been held in great esteem, insomuch as several of the ancient and distinguished families among the Chinese carried it as a component part of the family coat of arms, or as an ornament upon their armor. In.short, the goldfish has always been looked upon as a kind of superior being among the finny tribe, the ancients even dedicating it to their well-beloved goddess, Venus.
In China, even at the present day, the goldfish enjoys the admiration of all, and may be seen in almost every house, inhabiting a richly-decorated China bowl, or disporting itself in lakelets in the gardens, made for its especial care and enjoyment. They are alike admired and beloved from the august Emperor on his throne of State down to the most humble and impoverished peasant in the realm, all seeing in it an object worthy of care, and, it might be said, of love. So intense is the fondness for the goldfish in the land of Chinamen that it has begotten a study of them and their habits, that amounts to a science. All the resources of the knowledge of them, thus gained, have been exhausted in the production of new varieties by the crossing of different species, and with marked success.
In the larger cities the fish are regularly brought to market and offered for sale, very much as our florists offer their flowers and plants. For that purpose they are separated into pairs, and placed in little vessels made of bamboo, and, together with some bit of water plant, are sold to ready and ever eager purchasers; the prices ranging according to the variety and perfection of the specimens.
The mandarin, in person, may sometimes be seen in the markets buying fish for his aquaria, which, indeed, are often made of carved ivory, and inlaid with gold. These purchases he makes with the same relish and delight that one takes in making a new and valuable addition to his conservatory.
The most choice and beautiful varieties are obtained from a lake in the province of Che-Kyang.
The first introduction of the goldfish into Europe is variously dated, the years 1611, 1691 and 1728, A. D., each having claims for that honor; it may be said also that the variety introduced was the poorest and cheapest the Chinese had.
The first seen in France, however, were those imported for the famous Madame de Pompadour. Soon afterwards they became quite common, as it was found that they throve well in the waters of Southern Europe, especially in Portugal, where they sprang from a few small fish, said to have escaped from a vessel newly arrived from China. In that country they are now considered a delicacy for the table. It was not long until several streams in the neighborhood of Lisbon absolutely swarmed with them, and it is from this source that all Europe became stocked with them. From Europe the fish were brought to America, and quickly won their way into favor. For the last forty years, perhaps, these fish have become wild in the United States. Some having accidentally escaped into open waters, they soon made themselves at home, became thoroughly acclimated, and in consequence the goldfish has been quoted by several authors as a native American fish. It is true that, having been born here, they are in one sense native, but are not native in the sense, origin, as having originated here. Living thus in a wild state, the fish has greatly degenerated from the original standard. Through the efforts of Admiral ______, U. S. N., the cultivation of the goldfish in the United States has received a new impulse.
This gentleman, but a few years ago, brought from Japan a number of specimens of the choicest varieties which have since been reproduced with marked success.
The annual sale of goldfish in this country at the present day-may be estimated at two millions, and of a value of $300,000.
Although this number is greatly exceeded by Europe, ours are their superior in quality, and the wholesale prices received for them are from one hundred to five hundred per centum higher than those paid to European culturists, who are at present endeavoring to compete in the American market.