The Winch Fish

by Noelene Pullen - Click images to enlarge

Legendary Australian waterlily hybridizer Charles Winch acquired his first two goldfish in 1928 from a Chinese market gardener. As his interest grew he obtained various kinds of coldwater goldfish including calicos, shubunkins, fantails, moors, orandas, lionheads, and comets.
After demobilisation following the Second World War, Charlie decided not to return to poultry farming but instead make goldfish breeding his main occupation and so became an aquatic nurseryman. When he first bred fish in the early 1930s it took from one to three years for goldfish to change colour from brown to gold. By the 1950s all his young fish turned red from six weeks to twelve months due to twenty years of selective breeding from fish that turned gold more quickly. As years went by, the fish produced were closer to red than gold. Charlie gained a reputation in Australia for breeding the deepest coloured comets.  

Winch goldfish

During spawning season he at first used water hyacinths but later transferred to willow tree roots. In the 1970s, he looked after about sixty thousand fish in his nursery each spring. In his early days the baby fish were fed strained boiled egg yolk, but later he used Daphnea (water fleas). The diet of older fish also changed as years went by from porridge to ground dog biscuits.

Cleaning ponds was a major exercise. Rubber boots, fish nets, wide hoses and sieves (square wooden boxes with mesh in the bottom to prevent fish from being siphoned out of the pond), white enamel dishes (later painted light blue to reduce the glare) and long deep sieves for sorting were his tools of trade. He made all his own sieves and nets. Charlie also became an expert in avoiding mouthfuls of dirty water when siphoning!

Fish nets

Sorting sieve

Syphon sieves

Before the advent of oxygen and plastic bags, goldfish were transported to customers in kerosene tins with wooden handles. In 1952 he purchased an American Willys Overland Station Wagon to enable safe delivery of his goldfish to pet shops in and around Sydney.

It wasn't fun for his daughters to be splashed with water if the car needed to stop quickly in traffic! Charlie's longest running customer was Nock & Kirbys department store in the city which he supplied for over forty years. He also delivered to Toy Fisheries at Homebush for many years.  

As well as goldfish, Charlie sold aquarium plants and water snails. His wife Beryl worked alongside him, preparing the plants (mainly Vallisneria, Anacharis and Cabomba). During school holidays, their two daughters helped collect water snails and replant young aquarium plants.

In the late 1960s, Charlie was one of the first people in Australia to have koi carp, acquiring them from a friend. He bred them for a few years but became frustrated with their suicidal tendencies especially during storms. 

Red telescope moor 1980

Shubunkin 1980

Koi carp 1972 >


Profile - Charles Winch
Charles Winch Galleries

Hybridizing of Tropical Waterlilies by Charles A. Winch
Paper presented during the Third International Waterlily Symposium held at Denver in August 1987

Charles Winch Honored

The Winch Nurseries - A Photographic History

 The Charles Winch Collection
Displayed at New Orleans Botanical Garden 2006
Introduction by Noelene Pullen & Margaret Edwards

Collection Galleries Main | Visit to the Collection
Creation of the Collection in
WGI ONLINE Journal 1.2

Waterlilies | Lotus | Aquatic Plants | Victoria | Our Adventure With Victoria
Water Gardening | Water Gardening Friends | New This Month
Kit & Ben Knotts | Our Garden | Search The Site | Home 
Email Discussion List | Site Map
Water Gardeners International