Have you ever wondered what kind of fish can live in an outdoor pond? Outdoor ponds have tons of benefits, both aesthetic and scientific. Not only has being in nature been proven to reduce stress, but outdoor ponds can also attract wildlife into your backyard. Honeybees, birds, and even small animals will likely make their way to your pond in the summer to get a drink.
With all that being said, let’s answer the question with a list of some common backyard pond fish.
11 fish that can live in an outdoor pond
Adding a water feature can bring tranquility to your yard, but what fish should you choose to stock it? I’ve chosen 11 fish that are great in ponds of different sizes and temperatures for you to consider.
Scientific name: Cyprinus rubrofuscus
These colorful carp are probably one of the most popular pond fish in the world. With their beautiful colors, patterns, and short and longfin varieties, it’s easy to see why Koi are a stand-out choice.
Before going out and buying them you should definitely evaluate your pond to be sure koi are the right choice for you and your space.
Koi can reach a max size of around 39 inches, so a pond that is over 3 feet deep and 1000 gallons is ideal, however bigger is better for these fish.
Keep in mind that if you live in the northern states where temperatures get below freezing, you may want to build a deeper pond so these fish can stay outside in the winter. Otherwise, you will be hauling your massive fish inside to prevent loss each year.
Scientific name: Carassius auratus
The name goldfish encompasses a wide variety of fish, and most of them will do well in your outside pond. Like koi, these fish can get quite large and will need a deep pond if you plan for them to live outside year-round.
Some more common, cheaper varieties of goldfish that are common in ponds are sarasas, comets (also known as feeder goldfish), and shubunkins. These 3 are all longer-bodied goldfish and thrive in pond settings.
If you prefer a more ornamental look, there are black moors, orandas, ryukins, fantails,lionheads, ranchus, and pearlscales just to name a few.
These ornamental varieties are quite beautiful but are more at risk from predation as they swim slower than other varieties. So be sure to add lots of cover for them to hide in, such as lilies and hardscapes like wood and rocks.
3. Chinese High Fin Banded Shark
Scientific name: Myxocyprinus asiaticus
The Chinese high fin banded shark, also commonly referred to as a hi fin banded loach, is a cold-water species that can grow up to four and a half feet in length.
Don’t let their massive size intimidate you, as these fish are rather peaceful and do well in ponds with koi and goldfish.
They are mainly bottom dwellers but they do have voracious appetites and are known to eat from their owner’s hands once they get used to them.
While these fish will eat just about anything, it’s important to vary their diet. They enjoy earthworms, sinking pellets, algae wafers, and at adult size will even consume shrimp.
They are shoaling fish, so if you have the space it’s recommended you get 2-3 or more.
4. Channel Catfish
Scientific name: Ictalurus punctatus
Also known as channel cats, these North American natives are popular as pond fish and for angling. If you plan on stocking your pond more for fishing than aesthetics, these could be the perfect fish for you.
Reaching an average size of 3-5 pounds in a pond, these fish can max out at over 50 pounds if they are given enough space and food to grow.
5. Sturgeon and Sterlets
Scientific name: Acipenser sp
There are several species of freshwater sturgeon of varying sizes. These giant fish can reach a max size of over 7 feet and are not recommended for anything other than the largest home pond. They thrive in cold water and are a popular species for fishing.
If you love the appearance of sturgeon but just don’t have the space their smaller cousin, the sterlet could be a better choice for you.
Sterlets reach roughly 3 feet in length but are much slower growing than sturgeon. This makes them better suited to pond life.
Both fish have very high metabolisms and can starve in a very short period of time if they are kept about 65 degrees Fahrenheit for any length of time.
If you are in the south, it is important your fish either have a deep pond, a chiller or are fed several times a day to keep them thriving.
6. Golden Orfe
Scientific name: Leuciscus idus
Golden orfe are native to Europe, where they are a popular game and pond fish. Here in the US they are kept for the same reasons but are a bit more uncommon.
Similar in care to goldfish and koi, the orfe thrives in cooler waters, but they seem to be a bit more hardy and resistant to common diseases than their more common cousins.
Reaching an average size of around 4 pounds, they are great game fish, but their orange color also makes them stand out in the aesthetics department.
7. Fathead Minnows
Scientific name: Pimephales promelas
If you aren’t quite sure what you want to stock your pond with yet or plan to stock it with sport fish, fathead minnows are a great choice to get your pond going.
These fish are fast-growing and reproducing fish that will keep down the mosquito population in your pond and will also provide food for young game fish that you may stock your pond with later.
Fathead minnows max out at about 3-4 inches and are great additions to most ponds.
Scientific name: Poecilia sphenops
If you are limited on space, but still want a nice pond in your yard, there are a few smaller species that work well.
Mollies are native to the US and thrive in small ponds with 30 gallons the minimum for a handful of fish.
These fish are livebearers, which means they give birth to live young. If you keep a good amount of plants in your pond, you will likely see lots of small babies swimming around rather quickly.
Mollies come in a wide variety of colors from gold to dalmatian and even have a balloon-bodied variety.
If you do decide to go with these fish, keep in mind they will not survive outside in the winter without a heater, so you will either need to heat your pond or bring your fish inside before temperatures get below 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
9. Guppies and Endlers
Scientific name: Poecilia reticulata and wingei
Similar in care to mollies, guppies and endlers make great small pond fish.
Also live bearers, these fish are brightly colored and will reproduce quickly in a planted pond while keeping mosquito larvae in check.
These fish are very popular with mini pond aquascapers due to their wide variety of colors and their ease of care.
Scientific name: Gambusia affinis
The last livebearer on the list is the mosquitofish. Known for their tendency to hunt down and feed on mosquitos and their larvae, this fish is a great addition to most ponds.
While they tend to pick on the fins of smaller fish like mollies and endlers these fish do well with bigger fish and do a great job at keeping your pond from becoming a mosquito nursery. Consider adding them to your koi or goldfish ponds as well as your game fish ponds.
Keep in mind these fish will not winter well in colder climates, so you will either need to pull some in the fall to restock your pond in the spring or buy new stock after it warms up.
Scientific name: Tricopodus sp.
If you are like me and live in the south with a medium-sized turtle pond, gouramis could be a great choice for you.
These fish are fast-swimming, so they are great at keeping away from turtles, they love eating mosquito larvae, and they thrive in a warm pond environment.
I keep pearl leeri gouramis, but there are tons of varieties out there to choose from.
This species won’t do well in a small pond but will thrive in 100-500 gallons in a warm climate.
A pond is a great addition to your backyard habitat and one that can bring you peace and tranquility. Whatever fish you choose, be sure you have a large enough pond for their needs and that you choose an appropriate food for them.
It’s also important that you are mindful of nearby creeks and streams and do your best to keep your fish in your pond and out of natural waterways where they could become invasive.