The Hong Kong goldfish market is one of Hong Kong’s more offbeat markets – joining the likes of the bird market and the beautifully named but now sadly defunct – wedding card street market.
Traditionally in Hong Kong markets and shops that sell the same or similar products tend to cluster together in one area – which is how the goldfish market got its name. The area is home to several dozen stalls and shops selling fish – most notably goldfish. It’s like Seaworld – only free.
What’s with all the fish? Well, Hong Kongers believe goldfish are auspicious and they are a popular pet believed to bring good luck. Most Hong Kongers don’t have room for a garden and a pond to house a carp, so an aquarium and a goldfish is the next best thing. Buying fish for luck is especially popular during some festivals, such as Chinese New Year, when hundreds flock to the market. Many of the sellers have been here decades and the market is one of the most popular in Hong Kong.
More Than a Goldfish Market
Apart from the dozens of different types of brightly colored fish, you'll also find an Indiana Jones like collection of exotic pets; from snakes and spiders to lizards and turtles, as well as more mundane cats and dogs. Some of the rarer species – especially fish – can earn the sellers thousands of dollars.
It’s not a completely happy story as there are repeated cases of endangered species changing hands at the market and conditions for many of the animals is grim – although by and large it’s no worse than your average mall pet shop.
Unlike across the border in China where markets like this are notorious for selling rare and unusual animals for food (and these are dying out), the goldfish market is only for pet purposes.
Why You Should Visit
The rows upon rows, hundreds and hundreds of ornate, tropical, fish hung outside each shop is a magnificent spectacle – especially when lit up at night – and the equal of any theme park aquarium. The exotic animals are also of interest but as they’re generally inside the shop, stowed away in the back it can be difficult to steal a glimpse.
If you visit during the day, you should able to get a little closer to the aquariums, although the street is more impressive when dark.
When Taking a Picture
Remember that not all of the sellers are delighted to have tourists filling up their store and taking pictures – they know you won’t buy anything. A few very grumpy sellers have even shouted at tourists reaching for their camera. Just be mindful that these are shops and don’t obstruct any customers trying to get at the merchandise and you should be fine.
Don't pay anyone for taking a picture, this is not normal practice. You can offer to delete the picture from your camera, if necessary.
Goldfish Market Location
The goldfish market runs along Tung Choi street, between the intersections at Nullah and Mongkok Streets. The best way to reach the market by public transport is via MTR to nearby Mongkok station. It runs from around 11 am until 8 pm. If you can, try and visit when one of Hong Kong’s festivals is in full swing.
Also in the area is the bird market and Mongkok Ladies Market, famous for its clothes and bargains.