One of the top reasons that people say they want a pond is for the fish. And there’s no getting around it – fish are not only enjoyable but they are a vital part of a healthy pond ecosystem.
But what happens when your enthusiasm leads to a little Googling and lot of bad advice? From how many fish to keep, to how to care for them, myths are pervasive. Unfortunately, they can lead to some bad practices and even diminish your enjoyment.
Today we’re going to clear up a few myths that seem to be floating around about pond fish. If you have questions or concerns that aren’t covered on this list, our pond pros are here to help!
1. Having Fish Means More Work
This is a great first myth to bust because not only is it completely untrue, but the exact opposite is true: having fish means LESS work!
When it comes to a healthy and low-maintenance pond, fish are one of five key pillars. Remove any of of them and your ecosystem might not collapse but it will certainly be off-balance.
Fish – particularly koi – will consume algae, helping to reduce the green growth that so many pond owners dread. Plus, fish waste helps to fertilize plants, keeping the overall ecosystem healthier without added chemicals.
And caring for fish is quite simple. They can feed on their own if you don’t mind them grazing on plants, or you can set up an automatic feeder to give them precisely the right amount of food at the right time. Better yet, you can feed them snacks like greens, fruit and vegetables, or other commercially available treats, and even teach them to eat right out of your hand!
A few simple additions to your seasonal pond care routine is all you need to maintain a pond full of happy, healthy, beautiful fish.
2. Predators Are Going To Eat Them Anyway
There’s no question that if you’ve got fish, you’re going to have predators. But that doesn’t mean you’re destined to lose your fish to them. From house cats to herons, hungry critters will try to snack on your fish, but as a smart pond owner you’re not going to let them!
There are more ways to deter predators than there are predators to deter. Some pond owners are perfectly happy with netting that skims the surface of the pond. It’s low-profile, unobtrusive, and effective at safeguarding fish.
If netting isn’t for you, there are design tricks you can use, like bamboo edging. Bamboo looks great and blends seamlessly into your pond’s design. It also has the advantage of creating even ground that will prevent predators like herons from getting footing near your pond.
Other options include decoys, which can double as décor, noise deterrents, or motion-sensing “scarecrows” that spray a harmless but startling burst of water to shoo predators away.
Whatever you choose, there is a deterrent that is bound to work to keep your fish swimming safely.
3. A Fish Pond Has To Be Deep
On the contrary, fish and koi can survive spectacularly in ponds as shallow as two feet. At this depth, they will have enough space to escape predators, and enough depth to spend the winter comfortably, even in snowy New Jersey.
Keep in mind that the type of fish you choose and their expected growth should help inform decisions about pond depth and size. While small goldfish need very little space, koi can grow to as many as three or four feet long under the right conditions.
Your pond should be designed to maximize your investment in fish that are as happy, healthy, and as beautiful as possible. While a larger, deeper pond can benefit certain types of fish, a smaller, shallow pond is perfectly adequate for others.
4. Koi Have To Be Brought Inside For Winter
Moving a pond full of fish into your garage or home every winter would be a complete nightmare! If this myth is keeping you from enjoying fish and koi, please know that they are perfectly capable of surviving the worst winter that New Jersey can throw at them.
During cold months, fish will migrate to the bottom of the pond where water is warmer. Their metabolism will slow, and they won’t require feeding. If you’ve provided them with hiding spots or your pond has deeper areas, you may not even see them until spring.
The good news is that your job is easy. No carrying fish in and out – just be sure that the water is circulating, and don’t let the surface of the pond freeze completely over. Both are easy to do with a waterfall, bubbler or other mechanical unit like a koi heater or de-icer.
These simple practices will ensure that fish get enough oxygen, and will avoid buildup of harmful gases beneath the surface throughout cold months. During spring, fish will return to play and be ready for another gorgeous season.
5. Fish Will Eat The Pond Plants
This one is actually true, so why is it included with the myths? Because fish won’t always eat your pond plants, which is an important distinction.
You can feed fish yourself, especially if you enjoy the experience, but otherwise fish are pretty self-sufficient. Remember, koi enjoy algae, which is one “pond plant” you can happily let them snack on all day. They will also eat debris, insects, and mosquitos (which also helps debunk the idea that ponds are mosquito-machines!), helping to keep your pond clean, clear and healthy.
Even well-fed fish will nibble plants from time to time, but aquatics are resilient. In a natural ecosystem, they grow and thrive right alongside fish, whether they become an occasional snack or not.
6. Fish Will Eat Other Fish
This one also happens to be true. But as with plants, fish won’t eat other fish if they don’t have to.
Both koi and goldfish are omnivores, which means they will snack on plants as easily as on proteins. If food is scarce, your fish are going to survive, and that can mean eating things you’d rather they not eat. But goldfish, koi and other critters can coexist in peaceful harmony when they are cared for properly. Remember that a naturally balanced pond ecosystem will contain its own food sources – from insects to algae – to keep fish healthy without a bit of effort on your part.
Common mistakes like aggressive algae removal or use of pesticides can upset the natural balance of your pond and lead to all sorts of trouble. Stick to the feeding routines that Mother Nature has established and you’ll have a healthy and beautiful pond.
7. Fish Have To Be Fed Every Day
If your pond is suffering from cloudy water, chances are you’re over-feeding fish. Daily feeding can result in leftover food, which will ultimately sink to the bottom of your pond and decay, where it will release gases that can cloud and harm the environment. And if your fish consume too much then they will produce more waste, which has the same result as decaying food.
If fish are sick, chances are – you guessed it – you’re overfeeding fish. Like humans, fish can become sick when they eat too much, and daily feeding is a top contributor to overfed and sick fish.
In a balanced ecosystem it’s likely you won’t have to feed fish at all. If you do feed them, establish a routine so that your fish will come to expect food at specific times and they will quickly learn when, where, and what to eat.
Stick to feeding no more than twice per week and if you’re not sure how much food your fish need, wait a couple of minutes after feeding, then scoop out any food that remains.
If you enjoy the experience of feeding fish, then by all means share a bit of your watermelon or leafy greens, but be sure to do that as a treat and not a daily habit.
8. Fish Can’t Be Put Into A New Pond
If by “new” you mean “five minutes old”, then you are probably right. But you certainly don’t need to wait months to add koi and other fish to a brand new pond.
Typically, fish can be added within two weeks of a pond being completed – that means fully filled and functional. During that timeframe, the water temperature and chemistry will even out, minimizing stress that can impact fish health. Fish can sometimes be added sooner but two weeks gives you a good safety net to be sure that the pond’s ecosystem is balanced and ready.
However new or old your pond is, never dump new fish in immediately after purchasing them. The change in temperature and environment can be detrimental and even fatal. Acclimating fish to a new home is a whole other topic, but rest assured that you can do it in a brand new pond as easily as you can in one that you’ve had for years.
Pond fish are such a valuable and enjoyable addition to a pond that it would be a shame if any myths kept you from keeping them or experiencing their true joy. If you’d like to know more about adding a koi or fish pond to your yard, contact us for a consultation. Our pond pros will walk you through the process and design a pond you will love and enjoy throughout the seasons.