Which Fish are Best for a Garden Pond?

With spring in full bloom, your pond should be active and well used. Nothing adds beauty to your pond like fish. They provide color and character and are an essential part of the pond’s ecosystem.  


Koi are a type of hybridized carp. Since the 1800’s, they have been kept and selectively bred for both coloration and shape. Domestic koi on average grow to be 12-15 inches long, but some have been recorded as large as 26 inches long. For this reason, Koi require a lot of room to swim and grow. The ideal pond size for Koi is at least 1,000 gallons of water with plenty of aeration and enhanced filtration (learn more here). These fish are very resilient and can withstand cold temperatures in a frozen pond, provided there is an open hole in the ice with an aerator or deicer to allow the exchange of natural gases and oxygen. Koi are best kept in a pond without aquatic plants. 


Goldfish come in a variety of shapes and colors and do not grow as large as Koi, making them perfect for smaller ponds and water gardens. Goldfish have a long lifespan and are relatively low maintenance.  

The most common goldfish is the Comet, characterized by long, graceful fins and beautiful color patterns that can grow to 12 inches in length. Shubunkin goldfish are a higher end version of Comets, with bright colorations, patterns and Koi-like features that grow up to 14 inches in length. Comets and Shubunkins are the best fish for water gardens because they offer beauty, low maintenance, and longevity. These two goldfish varieties are hardy, colorful and quite active. They also can be kept in the pond all year. They can tolerate waterfalls or fountains since they enjoy water movement and often swim directly through the splashing water. Fancy goldfish like Ryukin, Wakin, and Fantail goldfish also do well in outdoor ponds. However, due to the delicate nature of their fins, fancy goldfish should not be housed in ponds with waterfalls or kept with aggressive fish species. 


You might be surprised to read that catfish are good pond fish. Although not as visually appealing as Koi or goldfish, catfish have a majestic quality about them, with their long whiskers and large size. They are also bottom feeders, some of whom enjoy eating the organisms responsible for pond scum and muck. Other cleaning additives may still be necessary, but Catfish can handle the brunt of the clean-up work. 


Other recommendations are pond sunfish and sturgeon. Pond sunfish are an eye-catching addition to any pond and vary in size between 4-12 inches. They often have beautiful bright colors and do well in a small school. Sturgeons require at least 2,000 gallons of water and do best in highly oxygenated environments. They can handle frosty weather very well but not warmer climates because oxygen levels tend to dip. 


Homing fish is a fulfilling way to add colorful eye-catching movement to your pond. Check out your local pet store or fish dealer to find the right pond fish for your aquatic environment.