What Kind of Fish Can Live in an Outdoor Pond

A water feature is a great addition to a backyard landscape, and a pond is a good choice. When planning this kind of addition, one of the first questions that comes to mind is what kind of fish can live in an outdoor pond. This is a great question, since fish can add a dynamic element of beauty to a pond or water feature.

While all fish are going to need some caretaking, there are several kinds that are easy to keep and care for that are also hardy enough to live in the outdoors. Due to their hardiness, Koi and Goldfish are a great choice for outdoor fish ponds. However, they may not be right for everyone. Keep reading to find out more!

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Where you live will play a role in what fish will do well in your yard. The climate and conditions will make some of your choice for you.

You will also want to think of factors like space and design. There are lots of choices when it comes to color size, so you can find fish that match the look of your space.

Choosing Good Fish for an Outdoor Pond

Koi are probably the first thing people think of when thinking what kind of fish can live in an outdoor pond.They come in a variety of colors and are a beautiful addition to an outdoor pond. They are also pretty resilient and, like some goldfish, can survive under the ice if it gets cold in the winter as long as the water is kept aerated. However, they grow quite big and can live a long time, so it’s important to consider the commitment you’re making if you go for koi carp.

Goldfish are another popular pond fish choice. The most common breed is the Comet, but there is a huge variety of different breeds. You can choose based on size, color, and temperament. Fantail, Bubble-eye, and Pearlscale are some of the more distinctive breeds. You will want to be careful in choosing different breeds, though, since not all of them get along well together and some of them need more specialized environments.

A medium size fish that can help balance the big and the small is a sunfish. Sunfish come in a variety of colors, so you can enhance the color scheme of your pond. They can be aggressive, though, so keep an eye on them with other fish.

A smaller choice is the paradise fish. Paradise fish are a good choice since they are a hardy species that can survive temperature fluctuations pretty well. They are an aggressive species, however, and don’t do well with other fish their same size. They are fine with larger, non-aggressive breeds like koi. A plus to these fish is that they will eat mosquito larvae, keeping the population down in your backyard.

White Cloud Mountain minnows are another good choice for mosquito control. They love to eat bugs. They are social and so do better in a larger school. They are a prey fish though, so it’s not a good idea to keep them with larger or more aggressive fish since they will get eaten. These minnows are pretty hardy, but they don’t deal well with heat, so if you make sure to provide them with some shady spots, they are a great choice for small ponds.

What Are The Best Conditions for Your Backyard Pond Fish

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Now that you’ve seen some of the fish possibilities, it’s good to also think about what they will need to be happy. It’s important to take the climate and conditions into account when considering living creatures in your care.

The first thing to consider is space. General guidelines for pond fish are a gallon of water per inch of fish. But with larger goldfish and koi they need more space, so you should figure about 100 gallons per fish.

One of the key things that will affect your fish’s contentment is temperature. Setting the pond in the ground or choosing thick walls for above-ground containers can help keep the water temperature stable. This is important since sudden temperature changes can be really dangerous for your aquatic buddies.

Plants add to the aesthetic of your pond, but they also provide important environmental conditions for your pond fish. Shade, cover from predators, and clean water are some of the benefits a good plant situation provides for your pond. Talk to the experts and find out which plants are best for the fish you chose for your pond.

The pond’s water level needs to be maintained – this is particularly important in hotter, drier climates. You should not use tap water which is often chlorinated and can kill fish. Rain water and aged (so the chlorine can evaporate) are the way to go, but be careful if it rains too much since that can alter the pH enough to harm your fish as well.

Filtration in an aspect you will want to consider, as well. It keeps the water healthy and aerated for the fish, and it also keeps things clear and pretty for you. Larger fish like Koi and goldfish also produce a lot of waste, so keeping the water clean is important to keep them healthy.

And speaking of keeping things clean – grass clippings, yard waste, and use of fertilizers that occur keep the rest of your backyard looking nice are all things that can upset the water conditions and harm your fish. It’s best to keep them away from your pond as much as you can.

Protecting Your Outdoor Pond Fish

Predators might not be something you think about initially, but they are an important consideration for your outdoor pond. Little fish are often champion breeders, and so will likely reproduce enough to stay ahead of their predators. Larger slower fish should have places to hide like plant cover and bottom caves – perhaps even netting – to protect them from marauding racoons, cats, and other predators.

While many of the fish you choose for an outdoor pond are quite hardy, temperature is still something you have to be aware of. Know what your fish like and try to keep things in that range. This can mean making sure there’s shade in the summer and maybe even getting a pond heater for the winter months.

I mentioned above that rainfall can alter the pH levels in the water, making it inhospitable to your fish. It can also wash in other undesirable things like fertilizer, pesticides, and debris. To protect against this, it’s good to have a filtration system in place. Plants around the edges of the pond can also act as natural filters, in addition to looking nice.

Quarantining new fish is also a must to keep a healthy pond. Even if your fish come from a reputable provider, that’s no guarantee that they don’t have something that will make you other fish sick, so keeping them separate for four to six weeks is a reasonable precaution.

Fish to Avoid in Placing in Outdoor Pond

While many sellers and bloggers recommend plecos, aquatic vets advise against having them in outdoor ponds. One of the biggest reasons is temperature, so if you’ve got a heater to keep things tropical even in the winter, they’ll be fine. If you’re going for a more natural set up, it may be better to avoid them.

Wild-caught fish may seem like an easy addition, but they are actually a terrible idea. They are unlikely to survive in a closed system, and will contain parasites and diseases that will probably kill off your other fish, as well.


There are a lot of factors when considering what kind of fish can live in an outdoor pond. With those suggested here, hopefully you have a good place to start enhancing that water feature with a little live entertainment.

No matter the type of pond you are going for, there is a fish that is perfect for it!

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