When you dream of a back yard pond, do you envision large, colorful koi darting beneath the surface, their bright reds and golds glittering in the sun? Most people think of koi when it comes to adding wildlife to a pond, but that doesn’t mean they’re the only critters that thrive in ponds. Nor are they the only ones that add color and a bit of fun. Here are five others that will have you pond-side, gazing for hours at their antics. And they all play nicely with koi, so you can add more than one type of critter and enjoy a diverse – and even a healthier – ecosystem.
You probably had one in a tank as a kid, but goldfish are perfectly suited to pond life. They’re resilient and can handle all types of water, which makes them great for new pond owners.
If you’re less-than-excited by the thought of a goldfish, rest assured that there’s more to these critters than the traditional “gold” that you may have won at the county fair. Goldfish, like koi, come in an array of colors, from red to orange, yellow, white, blue, black, and even multi-colored calico.
Shubunkins are a particularly colorful variety of goldfish, in a mottled pattern of red, blue and white with black speckles. They can grow up to 14 inches long and are especially hardy, able to survive both sweltering summers and frigid winters. They’ll also eat just about anything, from commercial food to your leftover salad vegetables.
If you’re up for something more challenging, you can try your hand with exotic goldfish. Black Moors are one variety, and look exactly as you might imagine – a gorgeous, rich black. Lionhead goldfish are white and orange but their special feature is their “bubble head” and round body, making them a real visual delight.
Exotic goldfish are not for the weak-hearted! They aren’t as hardy as regular goldfish and may not survive the winter. But if you’re up for it, you can overwinter these fish in a tank indoors. It requires a bit of extra effort but on the plus side, it means you can enjoy these beauties all year long, inside and out.
Mosquito fish are actually a relative of the guppy, another fish you may be familiar with from your childhood aquarium. They are a slivery olive green and while they may not come in the colors of koi and goldfish, they are unique and beneficial in their own way.
Like goldfish, they’re incredibly hardy and can tolerate a wide variety of temperatures and water conditions.
But perhaps the real power of these critters is in their name – they dine quite happily and voraciously on mosquitos. In fact, they have been used in mosquito control programs for more than 80 years, even being introduced safely and effectively into irrigation and drainage systems, wells, water troughs and more.
They also eat beetles, mayflies, mites and other insects that can damage pond plants. And if you’re worried about algae, they’ll eat that, too! These fish not only make fun additions to your pond but they’re real workhorses when it comes to keeping your pond healthy.
Rosy Red Minnows
Rosy Reds are a popular pond fish for good reason. They’re easy to care for, which makes them great for beginners and busy folks, and will eat everything from goldfish flakes to koi pellets, vegetables and insect larvae. Like the Mosquito Fish, they will help keep the insect population down and dine on excess algae, too.
They are exceptionally tolerant of temperature changes, as happy in 90-degree temperatures as they are in cold ones. They’re even active when the surface of the pond freezes over and can be seen swimming beneath the ice. In addition to keeping your pond healthy, you’ll enjoy watching those flashes of translucent red-orange swimming in your pond all year long.
Because they are so active and peaceful, they are often added to ponds with koi and goldfish to help these other fish feel more comfortable and be more active, too.
A word of caution when adding these fish to your pond: they are often sold in pet stores as “feeder fish”, bred to be fed to other, larger fish, turtles, water snakes and other animals. Because of this, they are often kept in overcrowded tanks, resulting in disease and parasites that can wreak havoc with your pond. Choose them instead from a reputable pond supplier so that you know they’re healthy and meant to become part of your pond’s wildlife.
Few critters evoke such strong opinions amongst pond owners as snails. Some view them as garden pests, munching on the leaves of prized lilies, and others view them as fascinating and welcome additions.
As with any aspect of a pond, there is a way to do it in a balanced way so that you can enjoy the benefits and avoid the down sides. Whether or not snails are friend or foe in your pond will depend in part on the variety you choose, and in part on how many you choose.
If you’ve got a pond full of prized lilies, then don’t choose a variety that specializes in eating lilies! And stick to local, native varieties that won’t introduce unwanted parasites or diseases, or unexpectedly munch their way through other pond plants. As when choosing Rosy Red Minnows, you should obtain your snails from a pond specialist who is familiar with creating a balanced pond ecosystem in your local area.
When introduced properly, snails are fun critters that add a unique visual interest to your pond. They’re also tiny vacuum cleaners, eating algae, decaying organic matter like fallen leaves, and even decomposing leftover fish food. That makes them a good addition for keeping water clean and healthy.
Frogs are another fun pond addition that are so easy to keep that you may not have to add them at all. It’s likely that they’ll find your pond on their own and decide to move in! Their presence adds another dimension entirely to pond wildlife. They live both in and out of water, making them more of a presence in your outdoor space, and will serenade you in the evening with their songs. Their springtime peeping is one of the earliest signs that the weather is warming and your pond is waking up.
Frogs are excellent at keeping the insect population down. In fact, they can eat up to 10,000 insects in one summer season. Their favorite insects are flies and mosquitos, and because they will also explore your garden beyond the pond, they’re also beneficial for managing insect populations in other areas of your yard. If you have a vegetable garden, then pond frogs can be a valuable ally.
Plus, it’s fun to watch the transformation from tadpole to fully grown frog. As we’ve mentioned before, be sure to choose tadpoles from a trusted pond specialist to avoid introducing non-native species that can become pests rather than pleasures, or frogs that may carry disease and harm your pond.
These are just five critters that you can add to your pond, with or without koi in the mix. They each have unique characteristics and something to contribute to a well-balanced ecosystem. In fact, your pond will be happier, healthier and more fun when you include several forms of wildlife rather than a single favorite.
If you want to know more about pond critters, or want to talk about adding a pond to your backyard, contact us and let us know. Our pond specialists are happy to answer your questions. Or stop by our Matawan showroom to choose the koi and other special critters you’d like to add to your pond.