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Having fish in your garden pond adds another element of relaxation and decoration, and even makes it more interesting and provides entertainment.  But what kinds of fish can we have in a back yard pond?  What will survive?  What’s allowed by law?  Can they live in it year round?

Most of these questions are subject to change based on where you live.  Other concerns like birds of prey may or may not be a concern as well.  If you live near a bird refuge, you might have significant trouble keeping your fish from being eaten.

In some areas it’s illegal to protect your fish with a net or screen, because of protections of the birds.  One innovative solution is a motion activated sprinkler to scare away the birds if they approach your precious pet fish.

Koi Fish

Of course the most loved pond fish are koi.  They’re beautiful, can grow quite large, and have widely varying colors and patterns.  But koi can be significantly more expensive than other fish, and in some areas there may be laws restricting whether you can have them in your pond.  Some koi cost as much as $100 – up to (as hard as it is to believe) $1,000,000 each!

Koi can grow as large as three feet if you have enough room and food.  They typically can thrive in a very wide range of water temperatures, from about 36 F to 90 F.  If your winters bring the water to near freezing, then you’ll need to take measures to either heat the pond (quite a challenge for a large pond) or bring the fish indoors.


Fancy Goldfish are a popular, easy and less expensive alternative fish to keep in your pond.  They are also available in a variety of colors and patterns, even black and white, or dark purple!  Fancy goldfish require much warmer water than Koi, however, with 65 F being the minimum, and the max is only around 75 F.  Their maximum size is around 10 inches.  Most climates will be either too warm or too cold for part of the year, so you will need a means to bring them indoors during off seasons.


Shubunkin are originally from China, but are now available worldwide.  Larger than fancy goldfish, but smaller than koi, they have a high range of water temperature tolerance, with the same acceptable temperature range as koi fish.

Shubunkin are quite colorful, some might even consider them on par with some varieties of Koi, but they are less expensive than most Koi.

Sarasa Comet

The Sarasa Comet is another great pond fish choice, with a wide temperature range like Koi, 36 to 90 degrees F.  They have a striking appearance, with a bright orange-red over white, thus the name “comet”.  The Sarasa Comet can grow up to 14 inches, and requires a larger space than Goldfish, similar to the Shubunkin.

There are many varieties of fish that can be kept in a pond, specifically whatever fish are native to your region.  Even catfish can be kept in a pond, if you desire.  But it’s very important to check local laws to be sure that whichever kind of fish you want to keep won’t get you in trouble with the authorities.

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