A pond is a great addition to your landscape, whether it’s the front yard, back yard, or anywhere in between. But a pond with fish is even better! From Koi – those kings (and queens!) of the pond – to the more humble minnow, pond fish come in myriad sizes, shapes, and colors.
They even serve different functions. Some clean, other keep algae in check, and all will delight you with their activities and antics. Here are just a few types of pond fish that can coexist and thrive in your New Jersey pond.
We started with the 800 pound gorilla – er, fish – since it’s the one most people think of when they imagine a lively pond. And they don’t weigh in anywhere near 800 pounds! In fact, a 12-inch koi, which is a decent size for a pond fish, averages a mere three-quarters of a pound. With a big enough pond and the right care, pond koi can grow as big as 24 inches or more.
And, with the right care, they can live as many as 40 years!
Koi are not only gorgeous, in colors like deep red, oranges, yellows, black and pure white, but they’re friendly, too. It’s not that difficult to get a koi to eat right out of your hand, which is great fun if you’ve got kids – and let’s face it, great fun for the grown-ups, too.
Koi have other advantages in addition to their charm and beauty. They’re voracious plant-eaters and will consume algae before it takes over your pond. Their nutrient-rich waste serves as fertilizer for other aquatic plants. And if you’ve got a bit of leftover watermelon or lettuce, they’ll happily take it off your hands – literally!
Plus, they’re docile, easygoing fish and get along easily with many other kinds of pond fish so you can add a few others for diversity without worrying that they’ll become dinner.
Be advised that koi will eat your prized aquatics just as easily as they’ll eat algae, so it’s important to be smart about the plants you add to a koi pond, and keep your koi happily fed so they don’t resort to digging up the roots of your lilies.
2. Common Goldfish
Next to koi, goldfish are perhaps the most recognized type of pond fish. They’re also the perfect pond fish for a new pond owner, since they’re incredibly hardy and resilient. They can be anywhere from a few inches to up to a foot in length, and like koi, they come in a variety of colors, from red to gold, orange, yellow, black, and white.
The common goldfish, however, is just one type of goldfish. We’ll talk more about other varities in a minute, but don’t be fooled by the word “common.” These fish may be well-recognized, but they’re anything but boring. They proliferate easily, are playful, and defy all myths about their short attention spans. In fact, goldfish have been taught tricks like swimming through hoops, and pressing a lever on a food dispenser when they want to eat!
Unlike their friends in indoor aquariums and bowls, pond goldfish have much longer lifespans, as many as 30 years. The biggest threat to a long and healthy goldfish life is predators like herons and cats, but those can be controlled with smart additions like bamboo borders, water-squirting “scarecrows” or even netting.
Goldfish are generally plant-eaters, too, but they’re much easier on your water garden than koi. They’ll enjoy your leftover cucumbers and broccoli, but as with any human food fed to your fish or other animals, be careful that it’s clean and free of potential hazards like garlic, oils or pepper.
Goldfish can even survive very cold temperatures, which is good news for New Jersey pond owners. And while we don’t recommend letting your pond freeze over, they can even survive briefly in what would be dire circumstances for other fish.
The Comet is another variety of goldfish, distinguished primarily by its long, flowing tail that mimics the tail of… you guessed it… a comet.
Comets are more active than most other breeds of goldfish, so if you’re looking for a type of pond fish that’s beautiful, hardy and lots of fun, this is a great choice. You’re likely to find them racing back and forth, playfully darting around your pond.
Comets are one type of goldfish, and there are multiple types of comets. Sarasa Comets are white with brilliant red highlights. Like snowflakes, no two are alike! Each fish has its own unique pattern and coloring. They’re community goldfish, playing well with each other and settling in easily with koi.
There are also Black Comets, which are less common but just as striking, with their long, flowing tails and solid black coloring. Black Comets are actually a hybrid of a koi and a comet. Like their goldfish ancestors, comets are hardy, cold-tolerant, easy to care for, can grow up to 12 inches long and live as many as 30 or 40 years.
Shubunkins are yet another variety of goldfish, with some resembling the common goldfish and some more closely aligned in appearance with comets. The biggest differentiator is in their coloring.
Where other types of goldfish may be solid colors, or even a combination of color patterns, Shubunkins are characterized by calico coloring, which is generally defined as having three or more colors scattered over their bodies. They have nacreous scales, a combination of metallic and translucent scales, which give the Shubunkin its multi-colored beauty. They can be any combination of red, gold, black, white and even purple and blue.
Shubunkin goldfish are fast and agile swimmers, incredibly hardy in the hottest and coldest temperatures that New Jersey can dish up, and live happily with other goldfish and koi.
Be sure to give these beauties plenty of room to swim, and make sure they have a few friends. They do best when surrounded by a school of their own – a minimum of five is often ideal.
5. High Fin Banded Shark
A shark in your garden pond? Well, technically… no. This extremely peaceful, primarily herbivorous fish is not really related to a shark, but rather gets its name from the high dorsal fin that resembles one.
These fish start out small, but believe it or not can grow up to three feet in length. You’ll need a decent sized pond to support these lovely fish, as they do well with room to grow and a good flow of constantly moving, well-oxygenated water. Unlike true sharks, they are voracious algae-eaters, which is great for keeping your pond free of the excess green stuff.
They’re also easygoing and compatible with many other kinds of fish, including koi and goldfish. Like other pond fish, they enjoy company. A school of three is a good number for banded sharks, but given their size, you can see why you might want to have a roomier pond.
High fin banded sharks are fun to watch grow. They do it slowly, so you’ll have many years to enjoy getting to know these fish. They start out young with impressive bands of black and white coloring that eventually give way to a solid, shiny black as they mature. As they reach their maximum length they will also begin to outgrow the fin on top. One thing you’ll never be with this pond shark around is bored!
On the other end of the growth scale are Orfes, which can also grow up to three feet in length but can do it quite quickly, reaching their minimum adult size of one foot within a year.
Orfes have one thing in common with other pond fish mentioned here, which is that they are sociable fish and can coexist nicely with many other species.
They’re at least somewhat different, however, in a number of ways. They’re carnivorous fish, and while they may snack on small fish if they’re hungry enough, they much prefer insects, snails and worms. Most notably, they will jump above the water to capture insects, which means that you’ll need a pond large and deep enough to accommodate them or they will end up just jumping out and dying. You can mitigate this with netting as well, but your best bet is to provide them with the appropriate habitat. At least 1,000 gallons and a minimum of three feet deep is recommended.
In addition to the size of the pond, the water needs to be well-oxygenated, as the activity level of these fish requires more oxygen that others. They are also highly sensitive to water quality, so it’s especially important to keep a close eye on your ecosystem. Low oxygen, too many nitrates, excess ammonia or fertilizers, quickly make orfes susceptible to parasites, bacteria, and fungal infections.
Orfes are also highly social and prefer schools of at least three others. With friends, they can live up to 20 years. Alone, they are much more likely to die early.
If orfes sound like a challenge, don’t fret! All it takes to enjoy these fish is the knowledge to care for them properly. They’re lively, energetic and social fish that like to swim just beneath the surface, which means they’re ideal for an afternoon of pond-gazing. During mating season they’re especially active and will dash, splash and play enthusiastically. Combined with their feeding habits and jumping proclivities, they make for an entertaining addition to your pond. And their pretty gold/orange or even silver/pink colors are bound to give koi a run for their money.
A Handful Of Bonus Fish
There are plenty more than six types of pond fish that will bring color and enjoyment to your pond. Since we know you’d rather go out and grab a few than keep reading about them, we’ll briefly note some honorable mentions here in case any inspire you.
Catfish are common pond additions, including the Blue Channel and the Albino. They’re one of the larger pond fish and are bottom feeders that are great at keeping the bottom free of debris. They can also help control over-breeding of other fish because they’ll eat the eggs before the population can get out of control.
Mosquito Fish, a relative of everyone’s aquarium favorite, the guppy, is another hardy fish that will control the insect population by feeding on beetles, mayflies, and other insects that can damage pond plants.
Rosy Red Minnows are one of the more active fish, also easy to care for and great for water gardening beginners. They’re quite peaceful and are great additions to a pond because their social, active natures make other, shier fish feel more comfortable.
And yes, there are still more! Hopefully this list got you started and you’ll be able to appreciate the many types of pond fish available at your local retailer. Do be sure to shop wisely. The care of fish before you purchase them has a tremendous impact on their health – and the health of other fish and your overall pond – afterwards.
If you have questions about fish, what to feed them, how to care for them or which would work in your pond, contact us and let us know. You can also visit our showroom for advice and to browse our selection of fish.