Background: Whereas temporal gene expression in mammalian herpesviruses has been studied extensively, little is known about gene expression in fish herpesviruses. Here we report a genome-wide transcription analysis of a fish herpesvirus, anguillid herpesvirus 1, in cell culture, studied during the first 6 hours of infection using reverse transcription quantitative PCR. Results: Four immediate-early genes – open reading frames 1, 6A, 127 and 131 – were identified on the basis of expression in the presence of a protein synthesis inhibitor and unique expression profiles during infection in the absence of inhibitor. All of these genes are located within or near the terminal direct repeats. The remaining 122 open reading frames were clustered into groups on the basis of transcription profiles during infection. Expression of these genes was also studied in the presence of a viral DNA polymerase inhibitor, enabling classification into early, early-late and late genes. In general, clustering by expression profile and classification by inhibitor studies corresponded well. Most early genes encode enzymes and proteins involved in DNA replication, most late genes encode structural proteins, and early-late genes encode non-structural as well as structural proteins. Conclusions: Overall, anguillid herpesvirus 1 gene expression was shown to be regulated in a temporal fashion, comparable to that of mammalian herpesviruses.