Fathead minnows (Phimephales promelas) and goldfish (Carassius auratus) were compared for their suitability as standard bioassay fish. Both species showed the same variability of bioassay results when tested with four toxicants. Fathead minnows are recommended on the basis of their small size and on their capability for use in complete life cycle tests. On the basis of minimum variability of bioassay results, sodium chloride was superior for use as as a reference toxicant. Both sodium chloride and pentachlorophenol seemed capable of detecting abnormal fish. On the basis of seven listed criteria either sodium chloride or pentachlorophenol would be acceptable as a reference toxicant.