Fish for Your Pond

Let’s talk about fish for your pond. After all, what’s a pond without fish? You can do without turtles and even frogs if you choose, but fish is a necessity for implementing a successful ecosystem. They’re also fascinating creatures while relieving stress from our daily lives.

Fish also keep your pond free of mosquito larvae. A win/win situation. Here are some fish which work best in the setting of a natural pond. I’ll also talk about some fish that you might not want to add to your pond. Are you ready to go?

Mosquito fish

Let’s start by talking about one of the most important and useful fish you’ll ever add to your pond. I introduce to you the mosquito fish, aka guppy. Some people refer to them as minnows when full-grown. They’re hardy live-bearers and the first fish I add to any pond I build. Why? Because they voraciously eat adult mosquitoes and their larvae at staggering amounts. They also eat other tiny pests such as gnats and biting midges.

Fish for your pond | Natural Pond Lover
Guppies are also known as mosquito fish. They're great for controlling mosquitoes and other biting pests.

Many people think a pond attracts mosquitoes. With mosquito fish at work, I actually have fewer mosquitoes on my property. Mosquitoes and their larvae have no chance of surviving or outnumbering the mosquito fish. If you watch them at dusk, they actually jump up from the water to catch any bug that happens to fly overhead. I’ve also seen this in the morning and afternoon to a lesser degree. At night, they hide just under the water’s surface and are ready to go to work. Natural pest control at its finest with no chemicals needed.

Since I installed a large pond off the patio, I have noticed much fewer bugs and spiders around the inside of my home. Mosquito fish and frogs work hard all night long. This is just one of the reasons why having a pond is beneficial for the environment. You just have to make sure it’s properly balanced.

You got this, I know you do!

A school of bluegill | Natural Pond Lover
A school of bluegill

Largemouth Bass & Bluegill

My favorite of the game-fish is largemouth bass and their sidekicks, the bluegill. What guy doesn’t like largemouth bass? They’re awesome! Always impressive, these are voracious and pugnacious predators. If you’re going to keep this game-fish, there are a few things to keep in mind. 

They need a large, spacious pond. Keep water depth at least three feet deep in areas where the pond doesn’t freeze over. If the pond has the potential to freeze over during winter, you need a depth of at least four to five feet.

Certain limitations apply when keeping bass because they eat anything that fits in their oversized mouth. Adult bluegill will be fine along with catfish but the fry is often consumed. Mosquito fish might still be able to exist to some degree but in fewer numbers. Living among such predators is challenging for them. Frogs have a difficult time as well. I do have a few species of turtles in my bass pond. My bluegill spawn with only a few young making it to adulthood. I suggest not adding largemouth bass to a new pond the first season.

Largemouth bass are extreme fish and the more time the pond has to establish, the better. I’m very happy to keep largemouth bass and bluegill on my property. It has been a dream of mine since I was a child. I did, however, end up making a few other ponds without bass so I could have more of a variety of wildlife in them. After all, variety is the spice of life!

Fish you should consider NOT adding to your pond

One of the biggest mistakes I ever made was allowing my first pond contractor to add tilapia to my pond. I quickly learned that the only time you want tilapia in a pond is when you’re farming them to eat. They were erroneously sold to me as Nile perch which is another invasive fish you don’t want. These tilapia grew to enormous sizes even when their environment wasn’t conducive for it. They’re an attractive fish but they’re dirty. They release large bio-loads and eat your plants before they can grow.

In a case where a pond has an overabundance of vegetation, a single tilapia is okay for plant control. I would instead recommend a single grass carp. Luckily, most of my tilapia didn’t make it through a ‘colder than average’ winter we experienced last year. Even in central and north Florida, tilapia need a pond enclosed in a greenhouse to make sure they survive winter.

Koi & Goldfish

I must say up front that I’m not fond of keeping koi or goldfish. They simply seem out-of-place in a natural pond setting here in the states. Similar to tilapia, they grow larger than their environment can handle. We’re talking copious bio-loads here. Most garden ponds I come across are ultimately overstocked with koi or goldfish. Even with an electric pump and filter, the water is still milky.

Ponds with foggy, poor water quality are usually the result of overcrowding and overfeeding. Chemicals and natural products alone won’t solve this problem. Still, many people find koi an attractive fish to keep. My suggestion for koi keepers is to keep them in limited numbers and don’t overstock your pond. The ecosystem might only be able to handle one to three koi. It depends on the size of the pond and the quality of the oxygenating plants. Remember, koi graze on certain plants. They could wipe your pond plants out completely.

Have your plants well established before adding koi or goldfish. I almost want to say that if you want to keep koi or tilapia, a natural pond is not the better choice. You may want to go electric with added filtration and a pump. If you’re constructing your pond specifically for koi, think big and spacious. Add lots of quality oxygenating plants with or without a filtration system. 

Overstocking a pond

Overstocking can occur with just about any species of fish and doesn’t only apply to koi, goldfish, or tilapia. The only exception might be mosquito fish. I have yet to see a pond with too many of them.  If you find that you have too many mosquito fish, easily remove them with a net. You could bring them to your local pet store. Don’t release any invasive species of mosquito fish into the wild.

Fish for your pond | Natural Pond Lover
What's a pond without fish?

Fish for Your Pond