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5 Hardy Fish For Your Backyard Pond

How to create a healthy environment and keep them safe from predators.

A pond is an exciting landscape feature that adds visual interest to your backyard — especially when it’s surrounded by beautiful plants and is full of colourful fish. And while there are plenty of fish to choose from, not all are capable of surviving cold and snowy winters. So which ones are suitable for ponds in British Columbia? 

When choosing fish for your backyard pond, consider factors such as pond size, water quality and how compatible they will be with other fish who will be living in your pond. It's important to provide appropriate habitat, food and regular maintenance to ensure the health and well-being of your fish. 

And while some fish prefer more temperate climates, there are plenty that are hardy enough to survive beneath a layer of ice, something that is more of an issue the further north you live.

Five fish for backyard ponds in British Columbia

1. Koi are members of the carp family and a perennial favourite amongst pond owners. They are colourful, hardy and non-aggressive, so you don’t need to worry about them fighting or eating smaller fish. And with enough patience, they can be trained to eat from your hand!

2. Goldfish are also members of the carp family and are an ideal size for backyard ponds. They have all the benefits of their fancy cousins but are inexpensive and easier to care for.

Koi and Goldfish are “tried and true” and delightful additions to any backyard pond, which is why we recommend them to our clients. But if you’re the adventurous type, there are other cold-hardy fish you can include in your backyard pond — but so far 100% of our clients opt to add Koi or Goldfish, so we don’t have direct experience with these other varieties.

3. Rosy red minnows, also known as fathead minnows, are hardy and adaptable fish that can tolerate a wide range of water conditions. They are small, active fish and are often used as feeder fish or for mosquito control in ponds.

4. White cloud mountain minnows are small, colourful fish that can thrive in cooler temperatures. They are peaceful and sociable, making them well-suited for ponds with other fish species.

5. Gold barb is a peaceful and attractive fish that can do well in ponds. They are known for their bright golden coloration and active swimming behaviour and are quite hardy and undemanding of water conditions, although they do prefer to reside in flowing water.

Whichever you choose, it’s important not to release aquarium pets, water garden plants, live food such as fish, crabs or mollusks into rivers, streams, lakes, ponds or storm sewers. These species are not necessarily native and could disrupt the local ecosystem.

Create a healthy environment for your fish

Here are some basic guidelines to follow to create and maintain a healthy environment for fish in your backyard pond and promote their well-being and longevity.

  • At least one section of your pond should be at least 24 inches deep so it’s less likely your pond will freeze all the way to the bottom. This also gives your fish room to hibernate during the winter.
  • Ensure that your pond is large enough to accommodate the number and size of fish you intend to keep. A larger pond provides a more stable ecosystem and helps maintain water quality.
  • Install a suitable filtration system to remove debris, and excess nutrients, which help keep the water clear. 
  • Aerate your pond by adding pumps or fountains. This helps oxygenate the water, which is crucial for fish health.
  • Regularly test the water, checking for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate and PH levels. Maintain appropriate levels for the specific fish that will be living in your pond.
  • Feed your fish a balanced and appropriate diet and only provide the amount of food they can consume in a few minutes. Overfeeding can lead to poor water quality, so remove any excess after feeding.
  • Perform routine maintenance tasks such as removing debris, trimming plants and cleaning filters. Conduct partial water changes periodically to maintain water quality.
  • Avoid using chemicals or pesticides near the pond. They could contaminate the water and harm the fish.
  • Plant plenty of beneficial water plants to help oxygenate the water and provide shelter for your fish. 

Protect your fish from predators

Predators, such as herons, kingfishers, raccoons and even your cat, can be pretty persistent when they’re looking for a tasty meal, so no method can guarantee complete protection. That being said, implementing some or all of these measures can greatly reduce the risk and help ensure the safety of your backyard fish.

  • Design your pond so there are no clear flight lines, strategically planting trees, shrubs, and other structures.
  • Most of your pond’s edges should go straight down to a minimum depth of 24 inches. Eliminating soft slopes makes it more difficult for predators to access your fish.
  • Design your pond with varying depths, including deeper areas. The deeper sections give fish a place to go when threatened by predators.
  • Create hiding places for fish within the pond by adding rocks, aquatic plants and/or submerged structures.
  • Regularly monitor your pond and observe any signs of predator activity. By identifying potential predators early, you can take appropriate action and implement additional protective measures if needed.
  • Install motion-activated or timed outdoor lighting around the pond. Predators are less likely to approach well-lit areas.

Want to know more about ponds?

I was certified by Aquascape in 2021, so I have the qualifications to install water features, including ponds, for our clients. In addition to transforming rocks, plants and boulders into beautiful water features, I also love fish. I, or anyone on our team, would be happy to help answer your questions. You can contact us by scheduling a consultation, emailing or giving us a call.

Written by  Pat Vandenberg