Protein nanofibers are emerging as useful biological nanomaterials for a number of applications, but to realize these applications requires a cheap and readily available source of fibril-forming protein material. We have identified fish lens crystallins as a feedstock for the production of protein nanofibers and report optimized methods for their production. Altering the conditions of formation leads to individual protein nanofibers assembling into much larger structures. The ability to control the morphology and form higher order structures is a crucial step in bottom up assembly of bionanomaterials. Cell toxicity assays suggest no adverse impact of these structures on mammalian cell proliferation. There are many possible applications for protein nanofibers; here we illustrate their potential as templates for nanowire formation, with a simple gold plating process. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Biopolymers 97: 595–606, 2012.