15 Best Fish to Keep in Outdoor Ponds
Disclosure: I may earn a commission when you purchase through my affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. – read more
Maybe you are one of those fish keepers who prefer to keep the fish in your backyard pond. If so, then you should keep on reading, because, in this article, we will provide you with the best fish species that you can keep in an outdoor pond.
Whether you are a beginner looking for the right fish for an outdoor pond, or if you are just looking for some inspiration, there is something for everyone on this list.
Keeping fish in an outdoor pond is quite a specific way of keeping fish. Most people tend to keep fish in an aquarium, which has become a bit more mainstream and there are many resources to read about that. But outdoor ponds tend to have some very different conditions.
They are obviously affected by the weather, and this means that they can get cold in winter (depending on the area you live in, of course). For this reason, you need to have the right fish in your pond that will survive in such conditions.
The fish that is best for your pond will obviously depend on various different factors, such as pond size, water depth, the conditions in the winter in your area, water quality and so on. Of course, you can influence some of those factors, but most of them you cannot.
This is why you have to choose wisely and invest only in the fish that you are sure will strive in your conditions. You will have to provide them with clean water and proper maintenance to optimize the conditions, of course.
Best Fish to Keep in Your Backyard Pond
Without further ado, let’s get started with the list of 15 best fish to keep in outdoor ponds:
1. Common Goldfish
Yes, the common goldfish would make a great choice for keeping them in backyard ponds. There are many reasons for this. Primarily, it is because the goldfish are very hardy fish that can survive in a variety of different conditions.
They do not require too much in terms of maintenance, and they can live with other fish species as well.
Not only that, but they will provide your pond with some very interesting colors. Their colors can range from orange to yellow, red, black, and even white.
Obviously, they would be a better choice for smaller ponds, but if they are kept in larger groups, they can easily survive even in larger ponds. The goldfish can grow to up to 12 inches and can live for 10 years or even more.
Goldfish can easily tolerate low or freezing temperatures. They prefer a more herbivorous diet, but they will not be too picky. Pair them with some friendly fish, provide some hiding spots and greenery, and they will happily live in your pond.
2. Koi Carp Fish
The koi carp fish are coldwater fish that are perfect for garden ponds. They are very hardy fish as they can survive freezing waters. The koi carp fish can act as decorative fish in your pond, and their colors can vary significantly.
There are many varieties of koi fish, as is the case with the goldfish. You can find koi in orange, black, yellow, white and some other varieties.
The koi fish come from Japan, but they are nowadays found all over Asia and in Central Europe. In Japanese, the word koi means love or affection, and you can expect plenty of that with these fish.
If you give them love, they will give it back to you. In terms of appearance, they are quite similar to the goldfish – you can separate them by the barbels on the lips which the goldfish don’t have.
Although they are very hardy fish, they do not react well to very long, cold winters where the temperatures are constantly below 10 degrees Celsius. But they can survive normal winters, just not the extreme ones.
3. Sterlet Fish
Sterlets are a subspecies of sturgeons. They are totally adapted to the colder areas and lifestyle, as their natural habitat are the cold waters of Eurasia – Siberia and the rivers that flow into the Black Sea, the Caspian Sea and the Azov Sea.
The sterlets are actually becoming an endangered species because their natural habitat is either getting too polluted or there is a case of overfishing.
Their hardy nature and adaptability to cold waters make sterlets a good choice for your pond. They have a very unique appearance: they have black bodies with white stripes and barbels on their lips. The average age span of the sterlet is 22 years and up to 25 years.
If you want to keep them in a pond, you need to keep in mind that they might require some specific foods, as they might be unable to digest some of the proteins that are found in the commercial foods and pellets.
In general, though, the sterlets make a good choice for pond fish. Another important thing to keep in mind is not to have too much greenery in your pond as the sterlets might get entangled in it.
Often referred to as the plecos, the Plecostomus fish are a catfish species that are another choice for a pond. First of all, they are exciting and attractive to look at; they have rich fins with a tiger-like pattern sprayed all over its body (which is why it is called a catfish).
These fish are mainly native to South America but are often seen in domestic ponds, as well.
The plecos are nocturnal animals. They tend to move a lot at night, while they spend their days hiding under the rocks and in the crevices in your pond.
This is why your pond should have some hiding spots if you intend to have plecos in them. Generally, they will do better in larger ponds, but that is not a must by any means.
These fish have suckermouths, which means that the majority of their diet consists of algae. If you must buy them food, consider getting plant-based foods.
5. Weather Loach
The weather loach, also known as the pond loach is one of the oldest domesticated species of fish in the world. They are, in fact, one of the most common fish species for ponds.
They are known as bottom feeders, which means that they tend to float and swim on or around the bottom of the pond.
These fish are well-known for their ability and preference to live in ponds (hence the name pond loach).
Why is it called the weather loach? Because it is known to be a predictor of bad weather.
Before a storm comes in, they start to behave erratically and swim around the pond in a crazy manner. In terms of behavior, they are very friendly fish both towards other fish and towards humans.
They will go well together with other peaceful fish, but also, they are very durable fish. The weather loach can typically live to about 10 years, maybe even more.
6. Red Shiners
The red shiners or the red-horse minnows are one of the smallest fish species on this list. They only grow to about 3 inches in size. But that does not mean it is not a good pond species.
In fact, these fish are very well suited to ponds and similar settings, as they live in creeks and in rivers in nature. They do prefer to be kept together in groups, though, so keep that in mind.
The red shiners are often used as bait by fishermen. But in ponds, they can become food for other fish very quickly. Be careful not to put predatory species next to these fish and pick some more peaceful smaller species instead.
The red shiners are well capable of adapting to various environments. They are well-known for their adaptability and sturdiness. They can also survive lower temperatures and are not too demanding.
7. Fathead Minnow
The fathead minnow if a freshwater fish that is endemic to North America. Over the years, the fathead minnow has been introduced to many other areas. In the US and Canada is sold as a feed fish.
The fish in the wild has a dull olive-grey color with a dark stripe along its side and light belly. This fish grows up to 2.5-4 inches (7-10 cm).
They tolerate a wide range of water parameters and environments; this is the reason why the fathead minnows are so widely spread.
They can be kept is smaller fish ponds or even tubs. Fatheads are very tolerant to low-oxygen water and can survive extreme conditions that might be uninhabitable for other fish.
Fatheads can live and survive without a pond filter.
Fathead minnows are easy to breed. They will usually spawn when water temperature gets under 64 °F (18 °C). A female fathead minnow can lay eggs up to 25 times a year. They will produce between 6,500-10,000 eggs per year.
If you are looking for an easy to breed and very hard fish, this is a great choice for your pond.
8. Golden Tench
The golden tench is a subspecies of the tench fish. The golden tench have been bred artificially, and they actually closely resemble the goldfish.
They are known as very sturdy and healthy fish that very rarely catch diseases and fall ill. This is also the reason that it is also known as the doctor tench.
These fish are known as bottom dwellers. They will spend most of their time on the bottom of the pond, scraping for food leftovers and swimming around. Their preference is to live in groups; keeping at least 5 of them together is a good idea.
Overall, they can grow to about 20 inches in size. They are seen as the perfect pond fish due to their adaptability to weather changes and healthiness.
9. Golden Rudd (Rosette)
The golden rudd is a pond species that is also known by the name of the rosette pond fish.
Like the golden tench, the golden rudd is known as a very sturdy fish that does not fall ill very easily.
Their ability to live in harsh conditions of winter makes them a good fish for ponds throughout the whole year.
Their appearance is also quite pleasing. They have silver bodies with red or orange fins.
The life span to the golden rudd is believed to be at around 15 to 20 years, maybe even more if they are kept in good condition.
You can see that this fish is very sturdy and healthy and will very rarely fall ill. It is not susceptible to diseases that often torment other fish of similar size (8-14 inches). All these attributes make the golden rudd a good species for ponds.
10. Orfe Fish / Ides
Orfe fish, also known as Ide is a great choice for any planted pond, because they don’t really touch the plants. They are very active and swimming mostly at the surface.
The orfe fish originates from Europe and can grow to a site of up to 24 inches. An adult orfe fish, can weight about 8-9 pounds (4 kg).
In the right conditions, this fish can live about 15-20 years.
The good thing about orfe fish that they can easily survive winter if the pond is deep enough. They will hibernate over the winter if the pond is at least 40 inch deep.
They require an abundant supply of oxygen, so you need to consider installing a pump or a water fountain in your pond.
This fish comes in various colors: golden, silver and blue.
11. Grass Carp
The grass carp is one of the most common fish that are on this list. It has actually been introduced to Europe for weed control, which is why it is called the grass carp.
These fish are known as good fish for eliminating excess vegetation if you have it in your pond. In nature, they are found in ponds, but especially in fast-moving rivers.
Nowadays, grass carps are often the desire of many fishermen out there; but they make for a good pond fish due to their adaptability to various living conditions.
They can live in static waters too; in Asia, they are often found in ponds in nature. The average size of the grass carp is about 30 inches – keeping a couple of them would do best. They will feed on plants, so be careful about that.
12. Redear Fish / Pumpkinseed Fish
The redear fish or the redear sunfish is a freshwater fish that is often seen as a sport fish. It also known as pumpkinseed fish, because its body its covered with pumpkin seed shape spots.
Some of them are called redear fish because they have red or orange coloring near their gills where the “ear would be”.
These fish are native to ponds and lakes all across United States – North Carolina, Florida, Illinois, Missouri and also in some other states. This fish can grow to about 10 to 15 inches, depending on the size of the pond. These fish are quite unique in their appearance, which is why they often appeal to pond owners.
They tend to eat snails, but they eat other meat-based foods as well. They are great fish to have in ponds.
13. Gobi Fish
Another great fish you can keep in your pond are gobi fish. These fish are known and sold as great algae eaters, but in reality they have an omnivore diet.
Gobies will eat soft algae, but their main diet is insects, snails and worms. They can grow up to 5-6 inches and can live up to 5 years.
These fish feel safe and like to live in schools of at least 6, but if you want to breed them, you should consider 8 or more gobies.
Goby fish will mostly live on the bottom of the pond, so you will not see them very often. Their dark-brown color makes them almost invisible in the pond.
They can hibernate during winter in ponds deeper than 30 inches.
14. Rosy Red Minnows
Primarily, the rosy red minnows are sold as feeder fish for larger fish. But they can also be kept in ponds, provided that there are not too many predatory fish in it.
As long as you keep friendly fish that are of similar size to the minnows or slightly larger, they will be fine.
Be wary where you buy them from – try not to buy it where they are sold in bulk, or where they are kept in large numbers, as they can carry many diseases.
Other than that, they are good pond fish as they are very adaptable and can live in a variety of conditions – from warm, tropical settings to cool waters in the winter.
The sticklebacks are a fish species that vary in sizes; some are smaller, while the largest can only grow to about 8 inches. They can be kept in ponds due to their adaptability and sturdy nature.
The most well-known species of sticklebacks is the three-spined stickleback. These are most commonly found in nature but also in ponds.
They are well-adapted to freezing conditions and are also quite commonly known as being very good in a variety of different conditions.
These are the reasons that tell us these fish can be kept in ponds all over the year.
How to Care for Pond Fish in Winter Time?
The first thing that you can do is keep as deep a pond as possible to ensure enough swimming space in the pond even if it completely freezes over the winter.
But we know that this may not be possible for everyone, you can still take some measures that will ensure your fish to survive the winter easier.
You need to prepare your pond in fall. Make sure that you clean up your pond completely in fall, and get rid of all debris and fallen leaves in the pond. Once the pond freezes, these leaves will lessen the space that the fish will have to swim in.
To minimize waste and feces production, do not overfeed fish in fall. This would ensure better living conditions over the winter.
If you have a pond at home, and you want to fill it up with fish, then there is plenty of choices. Hopefully, you have learned something from this article and that your choice is easier now.
Make sure to care for the fish properly, and they will reward you massively. Having a pond full of fish will be satisfying if you do it right.
Great information, Fabian.
I’m so glad I found your site!
I have just moved house and previous owner has left some orange coloured fish about 6 to 8 inches .in a square above ground pond twelve feet by ten feet.
I know nothing about fish whatsoever. and previous owner left us no instructions . The pond has plantion plants in one looking a bit like a small cucumber .
I need help to look after the poor fish they may be carp they have been fine over winter swimming in bottom of pool .
What should I be feeding them should I be cleaning their pond and how do I clean .
Our neighbour said she often fed them flakes when owner was away .
I live in UK on the of Northern England .and so far fis appear fine and have lived the winter with no food as we were told not to feed them in winter as they lie on bottom of pool and would explode .
Please help a rather ignorant lady who,s knowledge is Zero .
So glad I found your site Linda E Jones UK