Top 5 Fish to Keep in Your Backyard Pond

“I don’t want to keep fish in my backyard pond; they are too much work!”

Have you ever heard this, or maybe thought it yourself?  While this can be true with certain types of fish, there are many low-maintenance species that will actually make it easier to keep your pond healthy.

Koi pond in a Japanese garden
Koi pond in a Japanese garden

Koi Fish Ponds

When it comes to DIY fish ponds, koi are often the first thing that comes to mind. They have a reputation of being difficult to care for, but this really isn’t true. The key is to understand their needs and not overstock the pond.

Koi start off small, but grow quickly, and can reach 2 to 3 feet in length. Because of their size and weight, koi should only be kept in larger ponds. A good guideline is to have 2-300 square feet of surface area per fish. If this guideline is followed, koi will not over-work the filtration system, and they will all have plenty of food.

Koi can eat algae, insects, and other nutrients in the pond water, so they should not need extra feeding. Note that if you try to feed them, it may look like they are starving, because they will almost certainly swarm the food. But don’t worry, this is only because koi are opportunists—they will never turn down food, even if they are already full.

Goldfish Species

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that all goldfish are created equal. There are many species of goldfish, and some are well-suited than others for DIY fish ponds. The easiest, and most common, species are:

  • Comet
  • Shubunkin
  • Fantail

These are all good species for an outdoor pond, because they are fairly hardy and, like koi, they can get most of their food from insects and algae in the pond. The biggest difference between these three species is their appearance. Comets are long and lean. They are either all orange, or white with orange spots. Shubunkin have a similar shape to comets, but are a pale blue color with darker spots of red, orange, brown, and black. Fantail goldfish are smaller and thicker, and their tail splits, making it look like a fan.

Mosquito Fish

For sheer practicality, nothing beats the aptly named mosquito fish. These are small, guppy-like creatures who feast on mosquito larvae. Just one fish can eat up to 100 larvae per day! The only note of caution on these fish is that they can be aggressive, so are best suited for backyard ponds that have no other species of fish.

Whether you choose the playful and self-sufficient koi, the colorful goldfish, or the practical mosquito fish, these five species are all excellent choices for your backyard pond. They do more than just add to the beauty and fun of a pond; they are an important asset to the pond’s ecology.

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