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The 8 Best (And 5 Worst) Fish for Your Pond

The 8 Best (And 5 Worst) Fish for Your Pond

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Having a backyard pond adds an aesthetic touch to your household. However, in order to enjoy a healthy and thriving system, you have to choose the right type of fish for the pond.

This is because, unlike aquariums, the temperature of water in ponds can fall dramatically in winter.

As a result, you have to pick fish species that are hardy enough to tolerate the weather and play well with other species in the pond (if you’re planning on having multiple species), and that’s where this article comes in handy!

In today’s guide, we’ll walk you through some of the best and worst fish for a pond, so you can choose the ones that suit your pond the best.

8 Best Fish Species to Add to Your Pond

In the following list, we’ll take a quick look at some of the greatest choices for an outdoor fish pond along with the reasons that make them an ideal pick:

1 – Koi

Let’s start with one of the most popular choices when it comes to keeping fish in outdoor ponds. Koi, also known as “Cyprinus rubrofuscus”, is originally native to Japan but has been bred for decades to live comfortably in ponds.

The fish is surprisingly hardy when it comes to temperature, as it can tolerate cold winters at a temperature range of 59 to 77 °F. The fish are also quite social and can even recognize their feeder after some time!

If temperatures dip well below these temperatures in winter in your region, you might want to add a pond heater to keep the climate suitable for growth.

Koi fish are quite colorful and attractive too, but make sure that you have a large pond for them (at least 1,000 gallons), as the smallest koi species can still grow up to 15 or 20 inches long.

2 – Carp

Since Koi fish belong to the extensive family of carp, they share a variety of characteristics together.

Although some species of carp might not be as attractive as koi, they can still tolerate living in an outdoor pond.

Species like Common carp and Mirror carp have shown great promise when grown outdoors in ponds because they’re capable of tolerating cold temperatures.

Grass carp is also a great pond fish that keeps the water clean for a longer time. Some of these fish might also get along well with other species, allowing for a polyculture pond. However, like Koi, they also grow large, so you have to keep that in mind.

3 – Minnows

Minnows are a large group of small fish species that belong to the Cyprinidae Family. A wide range of minnow species are ideal for relatively small ponds because they don’t grow large like carp but they can tolerate cold temperatures pretty well.

One of the popular minnow species that are used for ponds is red shiners. This one grows to around 3 inches long but enjoys living in larger groups, which makes your pond lively with plenty of small fish.

The non-demanding fish is excellent at adapting to outdoor conditions pretty well, but they shouldn’t be kept with predatory species because they’re an easy catch for larger fish.

Similarly, rosy red minnows are colorful alternatives that you can have in your pond. They’re also remarkably sturdy and handle cold temperatures pretty well.

However, only buy them from reputable sellers because they can often carry many diseases that can contaminate your pond.

4 – Single-tail Goldfish

Goldfish are among the best types of fish that you can raise in ponds. However, there are tons of goldfish species out there, and not all of them are suitable for living outdoors in ponds.

A good rule of thumb here is to go with the tails to identify whether a goldfish species would be suitable for ponds.

Ideally, single-tail goldfish species are usually the best for tolerating the low temperatures of outdoor ponds.

This is because these fish are usually relatively agile and quick, so they’re capable of competing with other fish species in a pond environment.

The best goldfish species for outdoor ponds are comet goldfish, common goldfish, fantail goldfish, and Wakin goldfish.

Shubunkin and Sarasa goldfish are also great because they can handle outdoor temperatures, but can multiply very quickly and grow relatively large, so be wary of that.

5 – Golden Tench

The golden tench is a relatively rare subtype of tench fish that is originally native to Europe. The fish is quite tolerant to various conditions and has a remarkable resistance to diseases.

In fact, golden tench is commonly nicknamed the “doctor fish” because their skin contains a natural antibiotic that can help in protecting other fish from diseases as well.

The fish likes to live in small groups of 5 to 7, but keep in mind that they also grow to around 20 inches long.

Golden tenches are natural bottom dwellers, so don’t expect them to swim near the surface of the pond very often.

6 – Flagfish

This one is also known as the “American flagfish” because the males often shine in red, white, and blue.

The Florida-native fish is capable of tolerating mildly cold winters of the south, so expect them to thrive at temperatures as low as 59 °F, but a simple pond heater can keep the fish at ease in much cooler environments.

Despite being fairly social, they can sometimes act territorial against other flagfish, so avoid keeping too many of them around each other.

7 – Catfish

Catfish is another species that can technically survive in a pond as long as you’re cautious enough, especially if you have other species of fish there.

While catfish are mostly calm and social, they can turn aggressive very quickly and start biting other fish, even ones that are larger than them. Avoid keeping them with goldfish and koi because they naturally feed on these types of fish.

8 – Crawfish

Crawfish are a remarkable addition to your outdoor pond if you’re willing to put in the work to control their population.

As bottom dwellers, crawfish will spend their time munching on algae and weeds growing at the bottom of the bond.

However, they have a tendency to burrow, so make sure that you have enough substrate so that they don’t cause any leaks by digging into the bottom of the pond.

5 Worst Fish Species to Add to Your Pond

Now that you know more about the best fish species to keep in a pond, let’s have a quick look at some of the worst species to add to your outdoor ecosystem:

1 – Multi-tail Goldfish

Unlike single-tail goldfish, which are fairly nimble and tolerant to cold weather, multi-tail species of goldfish should be avoided at all costs if you want them to thrive.

For starters, species like fancy goldfish and other multi-tailed species can be quite expensive, which makes losing one of them a costly misfortune.

Since the fish has plenty of delicate fins, they’re quite fragile and slow in water. For that reason, living in large ponds can be a hard challenge for them, especially around other species of fish that can eat their food.

They’re also prone to diseases when they’re exposed to cold, and not being able to feed properly makes things a lot worse.

2 – Plecos

Plecos are some of the most attractive fish species to add to your indoor fish tank. As algae eaters, having them in an aquarium saves you the hassle of cleaning the water very often.

However, plecos are originally tropical fish species that can’t tolerate cold weather whatsoever. In fact, even when they’re kept indoors, the water is often heated to maintain a comfortable temperature.

Additionally, plecos are quite aggressive against other species as they get older and can spread a lot of toxic waste if they die in a fish pond, which harms other fish, so it’s best to avoid this species when it comes to outdoor ponds.

3 – Sticklebacks

Technically speaking, Sticklebacks have plenty of reasons that make them excellent fish for ponds.

They’re mostly tolerant to cold weather and they’re small in size and don’t grow exponentially like koi.

However, introducing them to a pond comes with a lot of problems. Sticklebacks are quite aggressive and territorial, especially towards exotic types of fish.

They also multiply dramatically fast, which can disrupt the population of all other species of fish as well as amphibians in the pond.

4 – Wild-Caught Fish

If you have caught a fish in the wild, you might be tempted to take it back home and keep it in your pond. However, this rarely works as we might have hoped it should.

The simple reason here is that store-bought fish have been bred in captivity for years, so they’re well suited to survive in closed ecosystems. In fact, some aquarium fish don’t do very well when they’re released in open waters.

The same thing happens when a wild fish species ends up in a pond. Even if the temperature and pH are ideal, the fish might not be able to cope with the sudden change in the surrounding environment.

Moreover, most wild fish are riddled with parasites that will contaminate your pond and endanger any other species that you might have there.

5 – Tropical Fish Species

Although previously mentioned fish species like Sticklebacks and crawfish can actually live in ponds, we highly recommended that you avoid them for special reasons that make them “eventually” unsuitable for living in a pond.

Unlike these fish species, any kind of tropical fish is a no-no when it comes to living in a fish pond.

The simple reason here is that tropical fish can only thrive in warm tropical waters, so they’ll simply die with the slightest chill of winter.

Since tropical fish are quite attractive and most of us want to keep them in bonds, there have been plenty of attempts to keep them alive through winter by using pond heaters. This might work for a limited time and to a certain extent with a few species.

However, it still won’t help the fact that their bright colors make them easy snacks for larger fish, which is why you should bite the bullet and avoid having them in the first place. This includes a variety of fish species, such as Tetras, Barbs, and Guppies.

Final Thoughts

This wraps it up for today’s article that walks you through some of the best and worst fish species for ponds.

Luckily, there’s a huge variety of fish when it comes to outdoor ponds, so you should have plenty of variety while picking fish for your backyard pond.

With that being said, having a cold-tolerant hardy species of fish is not enough to sustain a healthy pond, so make sure that you clean the pond at least once a year and check its conditions regularly, such as temperature and pH.


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