Looking to stock your backyard pond with fish but don’t know how to get started? For new and experienced pond owners alike, deciding which fish you want can be difficult. That’s why we created a list of the top 10 pond fish species our experts recommend. Keep reading to find out what the best pond fish is for you.
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Non-aggressive, colorful, and easy to care for, there’s a reason why goldfish are one of the most popular pond fish. They also adapt well to a variety of outdoor ponds!
Goldfish come in single and multicolored varieties; popular colors include orange, red, and black. In ponds, they grow up to 14 inches. What makes these hardy fish so great is their versatility. While they prefer water temperatures between 65-75°F, certain varieties such as the Wakin fancy goldfish can survive well outside this range. The best pond for your goldfish will have plenty of plant cover (water lilies and bog plants) and a strong filtration system. For 5 goldfish alone, 700 gallons is the minimum required pond size.
In ponds, you need 10 gallons of water for every 1 inch of fish. So a full-grown, 14 inch goldfish will need 140 gallons of water.
The most common goldfish varieties kept in outdoor ponds are:
- Comet / Sarasa Comet
- Goldfish live longer in ponds than in aquariums, sometimes for over 20 years!
- Thrive in a variety of ponds such as concrete, brick, etc.
- Several varieties are well-equipped for harsh summers/winters.
- Pair well with other peaceful pond fish species (ex. pond loach, koi)
- May nibble on pond plants, especially if not well-fed
- Invasive, never release unwanted fish into local waterways
- Require large ponds
- Certain varieties- like the fancy goldfish- can only survive in outdoor ponds for the summer
These beautiful pond fish are certain to delight pond keepers with their gorgeous colors. Their peaceful temperament also makes them easy to pair with other pond fish!
Koi fish are an ornamental variety of carp with long, flowy fins. These easy going fish come in a wide range of eye-catching colors and may be single or multicolored. Popular core colors include red, white, and black while markings may be yellow, blue, black, white, or orange. Koi fish grow between 2-3 feet and live between 20-50 years in captivity. Koi are social fish and do best in schools of 5-15 fish.
Koi require a large pond- at least 1,000 gallons per 5 adult koi- with a muddy substrate. For comparison, a 7×7 koi pond that is 3 feet deep will hold 1,100 gallons. While this can make keeping koi a challenge, the reward is sure to be well worth it!
- Over 100 colorful varieties to choose from
- Algae eaters
- Koi ponds must hold 1,000 gallons or more
- Require pond heater in winter
- Known to nibble on aquatic plants and their roots
- Invasive, never release unwanted koi carp into the wild
These small pond fish are famous for their hardiness. Capable of surviving some of the toughest conditions, Mosquito fish are an excellent option for beginners.
Originally from North America, mosquito fish have gained worldwide popularity due to their hardy nature. Adults are 1-3 inches long and have a life expectancy of 6 months- 3 years. They’re known to survive both extreme cold and heat making them well-suited to outdoor ponds in almost any region.
They’re also known to eat insect larvae and small bugs making them excellent at pest management. Assuming your pond has water garden plants plants such as water lilies, they don’t need to be fed and will thrive in both large and small ponds. A close eye should be kept on their population size to prevent overcrowding.
A single mosquito fish can eat 100-500 mosquito larvae a day.
- Can coexist with well-fed goldfish and koi
- Heat and cold tolerant
- Can survive in poor water quality and low oxygen levels
- Reduce mosquito populations
- Reproduce quickly
- Invasive, never release unwanted fish into your local waterways
- Known to eat both their own fry and the fry of other fish
These large fish thrive in colder climates. If you’re looking for a non-aggressive and interesting fish to add to your large, outdoor pond, the Chinese High Fin Banded Shark might be for you!
Despite being called freshwater aquarium sharks, they are technically not related to sharks. Chinese high-fin banded sharks freshwater fish excel in coldwater environments and tend towards the bottom of the pond. 55-75°F is their preferred water temperature making them excellent, year-round pond fish.
Their average life expectancy is 10-25 years. Because they can grow up to 4.5 feet and should be kept in groups of 3 or more, they require a pond that holds several thousand gallons. It’s worth noting that juveniles will appear vastly different from adults with prominent black and white bands and a tall dorsal fin. As this fish matures, it grows into its long fins and loses its banded pattern. Males turn pale red while females turn dark purple.
- Pair well with loaches, koi and goldfish
- Can be fed koi pellets as well
- Require very big, outdoor ponds
- Produce a lot of waste
- Bottom-dwellers, may not be visible often
Self-sufficient and suited to coldwater, fathead minnows can be a great food source for larger, predatory fish, and they’re sure to add movement to your entire pond!
Fathead minnows are either silver or dull gray with dark markings. They grow up to 3 inches. The fathead minnow is an active pond fish that needs places to hide. They do well in both larger and smaller ponds that contain aquatic plants.
They rarely need to be fed. Once established, the biggest issue will be overpopulation. Without proper measures, these small fish can quickly cause overcrowding. For this reason, it’s recommended they be kept in the same pond as predatory fish like bass and bluegill.
- Pond cleaners
- Pest control
- Food source for bass, bluegill, and other predatory pond fish
- Self-sufficient, no required feedings
- Reproduce rapidly
- Do not pair well with koi carps, goldfish, and other non-predatory fish
- Will eat the eggs of other fish species
- Don’t adapt well to sudden temperature changes
These small pond fish are sure to add a splash of color to your slow-moving, coldwater pond. Both peaceful and hardy, they’re a delight to keep!
Native to Florida, the American flagfish gets its name from its colors and pattern which vaguely resemble the American flag. They have red and white-ish stripes on their body as well as iridescent scales that sparkle like “stars”. Females may appear more yellow than red.
This small fish species can grow up to 3 inches and does best in small garden ponds with slow-moving water. Their ideal temperature is 66-85°F, and their diet primarily consists of algae. Live food such as brine shrimp or tubifex worms should be given 1-2 times per week to meet their protein needs. Although moderately difficult to care for, this unique fish is sure to be a great addition to your small pond.
- Will eat hair algaes
- Thrive in small, backyard ponds with lots of vegetation
- Best in groups of 6 or more
- Not suited to larger ponds or fast moving water
- Doesn’t pair well with big fish
- Males become territorial during spawning
These tropical fish are so good at eating algae that it’s in their name! If you’re looking for a low-maintenance cleaner fish, this might be the fish for you!
The Siamese Algae Eater is silver with one dark stripe extending from its nose to its tail. It has a long, skinny body with transparent fins and tail. In ponds, they’re known to grow up to 6.3 inches. These omnivores will feed upon algae and dead insects, but if not enough vegetation is readily available, you may need to supplement their diet with sinking algae wafers
They do best in schools of 5-6. They prefer warmer waters (70-79°F) and should be moved indoors for winter. The best pond for this fish will have fast flowing water, a rocky bottom, and lots of dissolved oxygen. To achieve this, consider adding an aerator to your outdoor pond.
- Will eat many algaes other pond fish avoid
- Pair well with non-aggressive fish who favor the upper water column (Ex. goldfish)
- Easy to care for
- Not suited to cold water
- Need a pond heater or must be moved indoors for winter
- Doesn’t pair well with other bottom feeders like catfish
Hailing from Asia, this fun and social pond fish will adapt to most environments and requires minimal care.
Also commonly known as pond loach, weather loach, and oriental weatherfish, the dojo loach typically reaches 4-8 inches in length but can grow up to 12 inches. They typically live for 7-10 years. They have slender, eel-like bodies with small fins. Their mouths are downturned and surrounded by barbels. Color varieties include:
- Olive green
This species is social and does best in groups of 3 or more. They prefer cooler waters (68-76°F) but can survive in temperatures ranging from 50-82°F. However, consistent exposure to temperatures outside their preferred range may shorten their lifespan. They are bottom-feeders and excellent scavengers.
- Can predict the weather! Before storms, dojo loach are known to swim erratically and even jump out of the water.
- Can be hand-fed
- Not shy around people
- Pair well with non-aggressive fish who favor the upper water column (ex. goldfish)
- Particularly prone to catching diseases like Ich
- May eat smaller fish
- Don’t pair well with other bottom feeders
Otocinclus Catfish are easy to care for, non-aggressive, and excellent pond cleaners. They’re a wonderful addition to almost any shallow garden pond.
Otocinclus catfish is a small species that rarely grow larger than 2 inches but are some of the best pond fish. They are narrow-bodied with a suckermouth. They come in a variety of colors and patterns including:
- Speckled brown
- Black and white stripes
- Mottled gray, black, or brown
They are bottom-feeders who prefer water between 72-82°F. They get along well with other small, non-aggressive fish. They will thrive in a small pond with plenty of sunlight,
- Pair well with other bottom-feeders
- Suited to small, garden ponds
- Known to dig
- Not suited to course substrates like gravel
- Not suited to bigger ponds
- Must be kept in groups no smaller than 6
- Bring inside for winter
Non-aggressive and very hardy, European bitterlings can adapt to a variety of coldwater pond conditions making them a great fish for beginners.
The European bitterling has a wide, flat body with iridescent scales, light pink fins, and a white tail. They are 1-4 inches long. They do best in groups of 8 or more and prefer temperatures between 50-64°F making them one of the best pond fish in coldwater. They are omnivorous and will eat plant matter.
However, bloodworms or tubifex worms may be needed to supplement their diet with protein. They do best in small outdoor ponds with plenty of vegetation and a sand or mud substrate.
- Pair with goldfish and otocinclus catfish
- Hardy and adaptive
- Highly invasive
- Prohibited in certain areas such as Michigan and British Columbia
- Intolerant of warm water
- Mussel spawners, freshwater clams required to breed
What pond fish can survive winter?
This answer will vary depending on your local climate. In general, European Bitterling, Wakin Fancy Goldfish, Chinese High-Fin Banded Sharks, and Mosquito Fish are better suited to colder temperatures and are hardy enough to survive winter.
Can aquarium fish survive in a pond?
Yes, certain species can. European bitterling, American flagfish, and goldfish are all known to thrive in both aquariums and ponds.
What is the easiest fish to raise in a pond?
Many fish are easy to raise in ponds. European bitterling, mosquito fish, minnows, and goldfish are all excellent options for beginners.
What fish can live with a goldfish in a pond?
The best pond fish to pair with goldfish are European Bitterling, Siamese Algae Eaters, and Chinese high fin banded sharks. Koi and goldfish can also be kept together.
How can I keep my pond clean?
How can I keep my pond fish healthy?
Research your fish’s needs before purchasing. A good, general rule is to mimic their natural habitat as closely as possible. New additions to your pond should be quarantined for at least 14 days to prevent the spread of disease.
Will golden tench keep my pond fish healthy?
It is a widely held belief that the mucus of the Golden Tench- aka the doctor fish- possesses healing or antibiotic properties. However, this is a myth. While golden tench are excellent outdoor pond fish that will thrive in both koi and goldfish ponds, their mucus will not help your fish remain healthy.
There are many fish that thrive in ponds, sometimes even better than in aquariums. With so many options, what’s important is to take into account what type of pond you can provide and the level of care you want to devote to it.
With the help of this guide, hopefully, you have found the best fish for your outdoor pond!