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Can Goldfish Live in a Pond? (Plus Tips for the Perfect Environment)

Can Goldfish Live in a Pond? (Plus Tips for the Perfect Environment)

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Do you have a pond and are you trying to decide on the right fish to fill it with? The good news is that goldfish make excellent additions to any pond for a variety of reasons.

So, learn how and when to add them, what fish you can mix them with, and how best to care for them so that you have a long life together of pond-viewing pleasure.

Why Goldfish?

Goldfish are favorites of many people who love to keep fish because of their beautiful color. They certainly are easy to spot, even when your pond water is a little muddy.

For this reason, kids love to see them and point to them as they swim by. They will love to feed the fish and see the fish eat the food. What a great experience for your kids as well!

A History

The history of pond fish goes way back — over 1,000 years ago in China. Only within the past few centuries did their popularity spread across Europe and to the USA. But that means goldfish are now celebrated and loved across the world in many cultures.

Ornamental ponds and fish were common in China, and the fish were bred to produce the most beautiful domesticated fish to the eye to fill these ornamental ponds. So you could say that goldfish were indeed made to live in ponds like the one you are thinking about filling!

With this in mind, goldfish as a treat for lovers of ponds have been hundreds and hundreds of years in the making.

Introducing Fish to Your Pond

The first step is to make sure your pond is set up the way you want it. This may include running water, the addition of pond plants, and so on — the best pond setups will have all of the above. The plants will introduce bacteria or you may need to add a cycling bacteria as well.

Read on to find more details below about the plants. Now, more about your goldfish.

Most experts advise not putting fish into the pond right away. Let your pond create a biological cycle with your additions.

In colder climates, you may need to wait a couple months before adding fish. The water, plants, and bacteria all need to work together to sustain life, and you will be working on the water too.

Rather than guessing if the water will sustain life for the fish you buy, testing the water is also advised. You will regularly test for nitrate, nitrite, and ammonia to know when the water is ready. A pH kit will be best for you to purchase as an investment for your pond and fish.

The goal is to introduce your fish slowly to make sure the water is ready for them, and that they adjust well to the water living conditions. This will involve adding no more than two fish at a time to your pond.

In fact, the best way to test the fish is to add the pond water to their bags that you purchased them in. That way, they slowly acclimate to the water before you dump them in your pond.

Many advise getting their bags to the point of 90% pond water compared to the water they came in.

Experts suggest even though they have been living in this bag of water, not to just dump that entire bag — fish, water, and all — into your pond. Reason being, it may contain something harmful that you don’t want to introduce into your pond environment.

Wait a week or maybe two weeks before adding any more fish. You can continue monitoring the water for waste to gauge how your fish are doing.

Keep following the acclimation process described above for each new fish you want to introduce to your pond.

You know your pond is full enough of fish when nitrates reach 20 to 30 ppm. You are threatening your fish if you have over 40 ppm.

Maintaining Your Goldfish Pond

Goldfish really are great to add to a pond because even though you may think of them all as similar, they come in a variety of shapes, colors, and varieties.

Shubunkin goldfish are unique with calico marks and do very well in ponds. They grow up to a foot large and are easy to see well.

Many goldfish don’t do well if the pond reaches the 80°F or 90°F mark in the summertime. You will need to introduce shade for them to really thrive.

They also don’t do well in less than 50°F in the wintertime. You will actually need to introduce a heater if the water gets colder than this.

The fish are livelier when the water is warmer. In fact, they can enter a state of near dormancy in winter and stay quite still on the bottom of the pond.

You will be especially happy when the warm temperature returns and they start to move around more again.

Space Requirements

A great way to gauge water is that each adult fish needs approximately 15 gallons of water. This ensures the oxygen is good and nitrates are not too high. Plants will help with this process of making your fish thrive as well.

Keep a careful eye out on how your fish are doing. There are some varieties that you will find need more space and fresher water to thrive.

Feeding Time

Think of your fish as you would your other pets and use a pellet or flake that is high quality. You can also feed them live food treats. Your goal is to feed them two to three times per day.

Some people find that their fish enjoy frozen foods as well. Here are some great fresh food ideas to feed your fish:

  • leafy greens
  • meat
  • insects
  • pumpkin
  • oatmeal
  • peas
  • watermelon
  • broccoli
  • beans
  • spinach
  • oranges
  • carrots

Survival Rates

After you introduce them into the water successfully, if you take good care of them, goldfish can live as long as 20 years.

What Other Fish Can Be Mixed with Goldfish?

Koi are often mixed together with goldfish and they do very well together. The koi will sometimes be three times larger than the goldfish, which means they will need more space as well. So it is better to plan for koi from the start of your pond plans.

They are similar to goldfish as well. They are social and also tend to become dormant during the wintertime as goldfish do.

Not only do the koi take up more space, but they eat more too and tend to destroy plants. But they get along really well with goldfish and tend to live longer.

Plants That Goldfish Love (And Koi Too)

You are somewhat restricted to what your local nursery has as options for you to buy, but this is a wide variety of options that are available in general.

Typically, these are the kinds of options that people choose between or purchase in combinations to accentuate their ponds and provide for their fish:

  • submerged plants
  • partially submerged with leaves above water
  • floating
  • plants that thrive at the shallows
  • plants that work well just outside a pond but add to the ecosystem

The list of specifics would include the following plants and a multitude of varieties of these types of plants. You can’t go wrong with any of these that you find the most beautiful:

  • reeds and rushes
  • water irises
  • water lettuce
  • water lilies
  • lotuses

You might need to experiment with what plants work best with your fish. If you have koi and goldfish, they both nibble, but koi can be more destructive — literally uprooting and knocking over plants.

Continuing to Maintain Your Pond

This is difficult to describe in specific ways because maintenance is largely determined by several of your pond’s factors:

  • size
  • stock
  • filter system

Plan on making at least a monthly inspection and upkeep time for your pond. You will want to do the following things on a regular basis:

  • Remove overgrown and rotten plants
  • Cut back leaves and stems
  • Remove leaves
  • Clean out filters
  • Inspect and clean skimmers
  • Give attention to debris in your pond
  • Change or refill water
  • Monitor the water levels (pH) — 7.2 to 7.5 is the best range for goldfish but 6.5 to 8 is usually livable for goldfish (and koi)
  • Add aquarium salts to keep water hardness in check

Annual Maintenance


  • Trim plants
  • Monitor pond heaters
  • Cut back feedings as fish are dormant


  • Increase feeding for growth
  • Fertilize plants
  • Monitor insect activity


  • Increase feeding for breeding
  • Prune back plants
  • Check aeration


  • Clear fallen leaves
  • Lower food supply

Algae Problems

Part of you checking the water pH and nitrate levels will help control algae growth. You will need to monitor phosphate levels as well if you see algae start to thrive.

If you do see algae, you will need to adjust the following:

  • Reduce stocking of fish
  • Reduce feeding
  • Add shade
  • Check your filters for proper use
  • Maintenance of filters

Algae is no fun to see growing in what used to be an otherwise clear pond, but it can also be fatal to your fish.

  • Large blooms can cause water to become supersaturated with oxygen.
  • When the algae respires at night, CO2 build-ups can happen if aeration is inadequate.
  • Algae blooms can also die off rapidly and quickly add decaying organic matter that can then cause ammonia spikes, nitrite, and nitrate spikes.

Enjoy Your Goldfish

Your goldfish will bring beauty and excitement to your property for many years. Enjoy them every day!


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