Popular Pond Fish FAQs

Fish are wonderful critters that add color, movement, and plenty of enjoyment to the water garden. The subject of pond fish occurs frequently during conversations about water features. In fact, the same questions seem to rise to the surface on a regular basis, which is why we call them FAQs … or frequently asked questions. Here are just a few:

Q. Don’t fish increase the workload for a water gardener?
A. In simplest terms, the answer is no!  In fact it’s just the opposite.  Fish constitute 20% of the naturally balanced, holistic, organic ecosystem that makes up your water garden.  Fish actually play a critical role in reducing your workload.  Fish do the following…

  • Help control insects by eating them and their larvae
  • Keep the plant growth in balance by eating them
  • Help fertilize the plants with their waste
  • Make great pets that you will learn to name and to love
  • Add lots of color and movement to your pond

In other words, take the fish out of your pond and you have an unbalanced ecosystem that requires constant work!

Q. What happens if I forget to feed the fish?  Won’t they die or become unhealthy?
A. Your fish will do just fine if you forget to feed them once in awhile since they consume the bacteria that coats the rocks and gravel at the bottom of the pond. However, feeding the fish provides a great opportunity for you and your family to interact with them. Actually the one mistake you can make is to overfeed them or feed them too often.  When temperatures fall below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, you definitely should avoid feeding them at all. 

  1. What about the fish in the winter?  Won’t they freeze to death in the pond?  Will I need to bring them in the house?
    A. No. If you simply make sure that your pond is at least two feet deep, the proximity of the earth to the pond’s surface will not allow the latter to freeze any deeper than 8”.  That leaves 16” for the fish to lounge around and basically hibernate over the winter.  You do need to keep a hole in the ice using a floating heater or aerator to allow for the exchange of gasses (CO2 for oxygen).   But other than that your fish will do just fine in the pond, all year round.  Supplemental oxygen can also be supplied by running your waterfalls, adding a bubbler, or using the pump to churn the water near the surface.
  2. How do I know how many fish are “too many fish” in my pond?  How about too few?  And just right?
    A. Good question.  Too many fish means too little food, problems with your fish, and potential for an overgrowth of algae.  Too few fish means that the pond’s nutrition will not be satisfactorily absorbed and recycled.  The general rule of thumb that we always suggest is 1 inch of fish per square foot of pond surface area.  In other words, a 10’ x 10’ pond, which is 100 square feet, could support 100 inches of fish.  This 100 inches could consist of 10 ten-inch fish, 20 five-inch fish, or….well you get the picture.
  3. Won’t raccoons or other predators eat my fish?
    A.  Actually, raccoons don’t swim, so if ideally your pond is built at least 2 feet deep and 8 feet wide, with some places for your fish to run and hide- they should be safe from those little nocturnal critters.  The only critter that is a valid concern is the heron.  Again, providing a place for your fish to hide (in and under water lilies, and other plants, or man-made fish caves) will help prevent any disastrous occurrence of fish-napping by a heron.