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Burrowers, Hitchhikers & More: The Surprising Ways Fish Populate Ponds

Burrowers, Hitchhikers & More: The Surprising Ways Fish Populate Ponds

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When new ponds naturally form, you may wonder how fish appear. Well, the presence of fish comes down to several factors, whether external or internal.

For example, the fish might be moving thanks to waterfowl transport. As the birds swallow their prey, they’re likely also ingesting their eggs.

As they move to different destinations, they dump eggs in new ponds and create a thriving ecosystem.

Alternatively, evolution has assisted pond fish in their survival against dry spells. Some species can squeeze through muddy terrains and hibernate until the rainy season backfills their home.

Stick around to learn more about how ponds get fish, the growth rate of pond fish, and their spawning practices.

What Kind of Fish Can Live in an Outdoor Pond?

Unlike aquarium fish, outdoor pond fish are hardy and can withstand all seasons. From the blistering heat of summer, to the frost cold of winter, outdoor pond fish are survivors.

That said, check out some options for the robust fish below.

Koi Fish

Known for their delicate and decorative appearance, koi or carp fish are ideal for outdoor ponds. These orange and white variegated fish can survive under cold temperatures.

Plus, you can incorporate a variety of vividly-colored koi fish, such as white, yellow, orange, and black. The swimmers will make for an enticing display for your guests.

Despite their hardy nature, carp fish can’t pull through extreme winters. In terms of diet, the elegant fish enjoy an ample palette of shrimp, fruit, vegetables, and fish pellets.


Even though these fish seem more appropriately placed in an aquarium, they can survive the vast perimeters of an outdoor pond.

The best part is that goldfish are low-maintenance and friendly with other fish varieties. Plus, they can offer your pond a swirling pop of color since they come in red, yellow, black, and white.

Although goldfish are notorious for their short lifespans, they can live up to ten years in an outdoor pond.
Some varieties can survive for as long as 30 years with proper care. Size-wise, goldfish can reach 12 to 14 inches long.

One of the issues you may face with goldfish is population control. For this reason, early breeding management is essential before your outdoor pond overflows with the species.

Pumpkinseed Fish

The fish’s name origin stems from the spotty pumpkin seed appearance on its body. Pumpkinseed fish are also known as redear fish.

The name comes from the reddish hues surrounding the fish’s gill or “ear” region. Aside from that, your pond should be at least 28 inches to accommodate the redear fish.

Always keep one pumpkinseed fish in your pond. Otherwise, they’ll breed, become invasive, and attack other fish.

They consume a meat-based diet of insects and larvae, making them perfect for pest protection. In addition, the redear species tend to feed on fish fry and eggs.

Can Fish Naturally Appear in a Pond?

Fish can naturally appear in outdoor ponds. While flying fish exist, this isn’t likely the case for pond dwellers. Here are a few explanations of how fish can navigate into a pond.

Fish Eggs

You may not be able to see them at first because they’re barely visible, but fish eggs can dot around a dry pond.

The eggs can survive in a dry pond region. Once you fill back the reservoir, they’ll continue to hatch and grow.

They Come Through Overflows

Ponds result from large bodies of water, such as rivers and lakes. When flooding occurs, these bodies overflow and carry natural ecosystems that spill onto newly-formed ponds.

They Hitch a Ride

A bird can land on a pond and hunt in a pond teeming with fish. Its feet may catch some eggs.

The bird moves and flies off to a new pond destination. Next, the eggs may dislodge and create habitable ecosystems.

Alternatively, the fish eggs could travel via a bird’s gut. Waterfowl can carry the eggs to a new pond and excrete them.

They Burrow

Some fish species evolved to survive droughts by burrowing into muddy regions near ponds. They hibernate in these holes until the water backfills, and they can swim freely once more.

When Do Pond Fish Spawn?

Pond fish spawning usually occurs around springtime when temperatures reach between 50 to 70 degrees F. Spawning can last around 20 to 30 minutes when the conditions are right.

Apart from environmental factors, age also plays a role in spawning. For instance, a koi fish will spawn after it matures or around the three-year mark.

Appearance-wise, you’ll know its spawning time when the female fish appear enlarged from the eggs.

Check the male fish behavior for signs of congregating near females and trying to push the eggs out. They’ll likely swim around the edges or surface of the pond to fertilize the eggs as well.

Fish spawning works much differently compared to mammals. The process occurs when female fish release their eggs and males inject them with milt or seminal fluid.

Once hatched, you can see the clear eggs on the pond’s surface or clung onto pond plants. The parents may feed on the eggs or fry.

In most cases, you can leave nature to its course for population management.

How Fast Do Fish Grow in a Pond?

Fish growth usually depends on environment size, diet, and species. For instance, a fish living in a roomy pond will grow faster than one living in a constricting aquarium.

Another critical factor that can alter your fish’s growth is the pond’s water quality. Besides that, fish don’t stop growing.
Large-sized fish grow at slower rates before they reach maturity. Meanwhile, small species grow at faster intervals. Let’s look at the growth rate of prevalent pond swimmers.

Koi Fish Growth Rate

Koi fish can reach their mature 26 to 36-inch size after five to seven years. Nonetheless, some koi species can stretch 12 to 15 inches since they reside in aquariums.

That said, baby koi fish grow about 0.03 inches every day for the first six months. Afterward, the growth rate decelerates to 0.02 inches per day.

During its second year, the species can grow 0.21 inches every day. The carp fish will likely experience a slower growth rate until it reaches maturity.

Some factors can stunt your koi fish’s growth rate, such as overcrowding the pond, inadequate temperatures, and a diet lacking protein.

Tilapia Growth Rate

A study conducted on Tilapia focused on its growth rate in contaminated and treated water. The latter incorporated a filtration system and chemical cleansing.

The treated pond yielded larger Tilapia and an exponentially higher growth rate than the contaminated water.

The weighted average of Tilapia between the two ponds in a 180-day interval favored the treated water.

Aside from size, the mortality rate of Tilapia in the raw water was also higher, yielding a smaller population.

Do Pond Fish Hibernate?

Pond fish don’t necessarily hibernate but enter a state known as torpor.

In true definition, hibernation occurs when an animal’s body shuts down entirely, and its metabolism and heart rate significantly drop.

Fish rely on their surrounding environment to regulate their body temperature. As winter rolls around, your fish will likely cool down.

Consequently, they can’t control their body temperature like hibernators, classifying them as torpors.

During this winter state, they release appetite-suppressing hormones to maintain fat reserves. Plus, they’ll consume less oxygen due to the depleted intake during the cold months.

Final Thoughts

At first glance, a pond may appear to harbor no signs of life. Come back in a few weeks, and you’ll notice a booming habitat.

Whether through waterfowl travel or tiny streams from larger water bodies, pond fish usually find a way to their new homes.

Even an isolated pond can flourish with life after some time. Nature always finds a way.


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