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Fish for your Pond

Fish Selection

Choosing fish to stock in your pond varies on the size of water garden you have and the price you are willing to spend. Fish such as goldfish are easily maintained and generally won’t grow to be bigger than six inches thus making them ideal for smaller ponds. The common goldfish, comet goldfish and Shubunkin are known to be hardy. However, fancier goldfish including fantails and lionheads are more easily preyed upon.

More desirable fish such as Koi take a little more consideration, time and maintenance. Koi require at least three feet in depth, better water quality and a bigger pond as a general rule of thumb. At one year of age, Koi will generally get to about 6-8 inches, 12-16 inches in two years, with the possibility of getting up to 24-36 inches in a decade. However, the size of Koi greatly depends on how big their habitat is as well as the quality of their environment, water and maintenance. Although much goes into the care and keeping of Koi, they make great pets and can become very friendly, even eating out of your hands at dinner time. They also help in keeping your pond beautiful as they graze on algae.

Fish such as The White Cloud fish and Catfish variety aren’t typically kept as pets like Goldfish and Koi. The White Cloud Fish are often kept for the purpose of mosquito control, mostly in warmer climates while Catfish will get rather large, tear up plants and stir up sediment and most likely prey on smaller fish.

Whatever your selection, with a little care and attention, fish can add color and fun to your water garden.

General pond info

General or Mixed Pond

When you are first building a pond in your backyard you need to decide what kind of pond it will be. Will it be a general pond that just has some plants or a mixed pond that contains both plants and fish? Both types can spice up the yard.

The advantages to having a mix garden may out weigh the disadvantages. An advantage would be that you are able to have a wide range of fish and plants. A mixed garden is usually smaller and takes up less time to build. It does not take a lot of care or money when you are dealing with a mixed pond. A disadvantage is the extensive researching that you would have to do so that your fish and plant are compatible for each other. The freedom and amount of choices that you have are endless. This can lead to overstocking or cluttering the pond with plants.

General ponds are an excellent choice to take up space. Usually They do not need to be that big, but they take up more room than a mixed pond. When it comes to a general pond, the water is usually not that deep, around two feet. Sunlight is incredibly important for the plant life.

To sum general and mixed ponds; both are just as good as the other is. It depends on the personal preference of the owner. If you research and you may find that mixed ponds are what you want. Fish add a flare to a backyard pond. The area in which the pond is placed accounts for most of your decision. If it has too much sunlight than a general pond is best. Either one can be small or big. It all depends on your setting and your preferences.

History of Koi

Koi are a very popular choice for backyard ponds but many don’t know where they originate from. Today there are many varieties of koi but in fact they all are descendants of the black fish known as Magoi. Even though early records of koi, or carp, date back to some 2,500 years ago, their cultivation started not too long ago. Color changes started showing some two hundred years ago. By the 19th century, many of today’s koi varieties had been established. Even so, it wasn’t until the 20th century that koi became a known fish and a popular choice for backyard ponds. Thanks to the development of railroads and air travel, the importing of koi became much more accommodating. Soon, the buying, selling, showing and owning of koi became a popular thing and caused a huge following, mostly in the

US and UK

. Since the popularity increase became apparent, farmers have spend much time and energy investing in koi – developing new varieties and showing their best picks.


is still the lead producer of koi but lately other countries have caught on and are now growing koi for their own markets. Because the Nishikigoi is such a beautiful breed to begin with, it is likely that the best varieties of koi have yet to be seen.

Humane options for terminally ill fish

As with any pet, it’s unfortunate for pond owners when the decision has to be made whether to keep treating the ill or put them out of misery, hopefully in a most humane way such as euthanasia. There are several methods of euthanasia but the most common among fish owners is overdosing and chilling. Chilling involves putting two dissolved tablespoons of salt in a bag containing pond water. The fish is then placed in the bag and left in a freezer overnight. Salt has an apparent calming effect on the fish, while their metabolism gradually slows as the water freezes until it eventually dies. Overdosing is another way to put down a sick fish. Any anesthetics used for the sedation of fish for treatment can be added to a bag at several times the recommended dose. After adding the sick fish, it will slowly slip into unconsciousness until it eventually dies. Although fish anesthetics can be obtained without a vet’s prescription, it is advisable to speak with an expert before putting down a fish by overdose.

Algae can certainly be an annoying problem to deal with while maintaining a water garden. Fortunately, there are many ways to keep an algae-free pond. From plants and fish to proper filtration and chemical remedies, you’ll find it’s easier than you think to keep your algae problems down to a minimum.


Under water plants such as Elodea, Hornwort, Sagittaria and Cabomba are some primary plants to consider in this equation. Ideally, one bunch for each square foot of the pond’s surface is enough. If you have a high population of fish in your pond, consider more plants to counter-balance fish waste and their grazing habits. Elodea is a great plant to help control algae because it breaks dormancy earlier than other submerged plants. Usually in bloom a month earlier than others, you’ll get a head start on controlling algae. Keep in mind that Elodea grows and spreads rapidly and will need thinning by summer.

If your pond water is already green with algae, it will take longer (usually up to six weeks) to get the problem under control. Under these circumstances, submerged plants should be moved closer to the water’s surface where they can receive more sunlight for faster growth. As the problem lessens, the plants can be moved back to their original settings. Ponds that have up to four inches of pea gravel at the bottom are ideal for the “tame” Dwarf Sagittaria that roots directly into the gravel. Ponds with Dwarf Sagittaria are unlikely to experience any green water algae problems at all.

Sunlight not only helps submerged plants grow but also greatly aids in feeding algae so covering your pond with floating plants is ideal. A general rule of thumb is to cover one-third to two-thirds of the water’s surface with plants such as lily pads and floating plants such as Water Hyacinth, Water Lettuce, Fairy Moss and Duckweed to name a few.

Surface shading isn’t necessary in keeping a pond clear of green water algae, however it is much more difficult to maintain a pond without it and will require many more submerged plants. As stated earlier, Dwarf Sagittaria carpeted along the bottom will help compete with algae for the available nutrients.

Water and other natural remedies

Changing out the water to rid of green water will prove only to be a temporary solution because you’ll just be feeding the algae nutrient-rich water and the frequent changes will actually stress out your fish and plants.

Be sure to follow directions carefully when using plant fertilizers because too much can aid to the growth of algae and also be a risk to fish. On the same topic of plants, use heavy garden soil rather than humus-enriched soils because they are unnecessary for aquatics and only feed algae more.

As contradictory as it sounds, fish waste adds nutrients to the water as well so keep fish population within the recommendations of your pond size. Only feed your fish what they’ll eat in five minutes and scoop out what’s left over with a net as uneaten food will also contribute to algae’s dinner. A skimmer can also come in handy to filter out floating food, debris, leaves etc…

Nitrifying bacteria (often found in bio-filters) can be added directly to water. This bacterium requires circulating water, proper pH levels and the right temperatures. If set in the proper conditions, it can aid to temporary clearing of green water algae. The right amount of submerged plants is important because the plants will utilize the bacteria’s nitrate end-product to help keep the algae from coming back.

Water fleas, tadpoles and snails are a great team with janitorial qualities. Water fleas will eat the floating algae. Tadpoles will eat the filamentous forms of algae. While toad tadpoles will spend a short amount of time in the pond, frog tadpoles can spend up to two years in a pond before morphing into frogs. Snails (Ramshorn, Trapdoor and Apple) will feed upon the tufted algae that grow on pots or liner. Some snails have been known to eat the plants so keeping an eye out for such damage is recommended. One snail per square foot of water surface is the recommended stocking rate for snails and the Great Pond Snail should be avoided and or removed as it multiplies rapidly and feeds on aquatic plants.

Salt in the proper doses will kill algae.

After bashing algae and educating you on many ways of killing it in the past 800 words, keep in mind that in moderation, the smooth algae on the sides of the pond and coating on your submerged pots is a sign of a healthy pond.

If natural remedies for your algae problem didn’t work to your satisfaction, there are chemical remedies that can be exercised with caution.

Remove as much algae as possible before starting chemical treatment. Maximum effectiveness of ridding algae occurs at 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Just as sunlight will feed plants as well as algae, algicides will slow the growth of algae as well as other plants and high doses may kill them. A way of avoiding too high dosages is to perform a fifty percent water change and then treat the water with a half dose.

The algicide Potassium Permanganate is only to be used on cool, cloudy days when the water isn’t too warm. If used on sunny days, the treatment will turn the water a murky yellow. A maximum of three applications on three successive days is usually recommended. At the end of the treatment remember to remove the dead algae.

Formaldehyde (37 percent solution) may be used in the rate of one drop per gallon of pond water to kill floating algae. A possible killer of lily cultivators, it is wise to remove plants before treatment. Fish will not need to be moved as the 37 percent solution is safe for killing fish parasites but will not kill the fish. The person handling the solution should avoid skin contact and breathing in the chemicals.

For larger bodies of water, Copper sulfate can be used. Dosages vary and will usually be used on alternate days over a two week period if there are fish in the pond. Use Copper sulfate with great caution because a too high dosage can kill your fish by way of asphyxiation.

Simazine is a more gentle option for smaller ponds. If used properly, it is safe for goldfish and koi. However, it will affect or kill more sensitive fish and plants. Therefore, all plants and applicable fish should be moved to a holding tank during treatment. Extra aeration should be supplied as oxygen levels will be affected for several weeks after completed.

Like Simazine, the herbicide Urea Maleate is deemed safe for koi and goldfish but will also affect or kill other sensitive fish and plants.

Before aquatic plants have reached a size that can compete with algae, a (non-toxic) blue or black dye can be added to the pond to reduce the amount of sunlight entering the pond. Submerged plants and lilies should be moved closer to the surface so as to get a better access to the sunlight that is entering. The dye will gradually be removed through routine water changes and time.

Pond Balance, a product that changes the chemistry of your pond water, makes conditions unsuitable for the growth of filamentous algae. This product is safe for all pond life but will generally need to be used on a regular basis throughout the season, usually three full doses in both autumn and spring.

As a pond owner, expect to have much more company than that of your pet fish. There’s an entire eco-system of amphibians, reptiles and birds, many of which may visit your pond-some welcome and some not so much.

Due to the growth of urbanization and increase of pollution in natural ponds, amphibians in the recent years have needed to leave their natural habitats and search for new homes, your backyard possibly being one. Although some ponds may serve as a bed and breakfast without the necessity to do so, some ponds still require a little help in creating a community for amphibians.

Introducing adult frogs or toads into your pond is not a wise idea. Because frogs/toads become accustomed with their “home” pond, they will generally leave in search of the place in which they came from. However, if you have a large backyard oasis, you have a better luck of the frog/toad to stick around. The best way to introduce frogs/toads into your pond is to obtain tadpoles or baby frogs so that they will associate themselves with your pond as home base.

Like frogs, introducing newts into your pond while they’re still very young is an effective way to keep them around. However, newts don’t have quite the urge to leave as frogs do. Because frogs don’t have the itch to leave, it’s just as effective to introduce a small number of adult newts to the pond in the early spring. Newts have a long breeding season and will stay under water for many weeks. After the breeding season is over, the newts will have been acclimated with your pond and will feel a lesser need to leave.

Salamanders, which are mostly land walkers, are much harder to keep around. The best way to establish a salamander colony is to introduce either spawn or larvae to your pond and allow them to mature in and around your water garden after they leave the water.

Adult frogs, salamanders and newts all eventually spend a little or much of their time outside of the water. It is important to create places of shade and shelter for them out and around your pond.

During the time in which they’re under water, frog/toad tadpoles, newt larvae and young salamanders usually have adequate food available to them in a well-kept pond. However, if you suspect there will be a shortage of nourishment, flaked or pellet fish food and ideally a supply of live critters such as water fleas is a good idea in order to keep your new colony growing.

While birds can be very enjoyable in your backyard, they can also be pests to you and definitely a worry for your fish and other various visitors. Herons will generally wait on dry land or in shallow water very still until they can snatch up their victim. Kingfishers on the other hand, will find a perch where they can watch over your pond until they find a suitable time to dive and, if successful, catch lunch. Ducks are not going to prey on your fish but they will most definitely stir up sediment and use your pond as their personal bathroom, and often.

There are no fool-proof ways of protecting your fish from ever being in danger of birds but there are some things you can do. Standing bird decoys in the shape of a heron or owl for example, can be placed near your pond to discourage other birds from landing in your yard. Sensor-alarms can also be set up, but be aware of your surroundings and make sure to consider your neighbors or consider a timer in which the alarm can be controlled by so as to avoid any other unnecessary problems. Placing a full-sized pond net over your pond at night, each night, will annoy predators and if done daily, will eventually discourage birds from returning to your site.

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