Keep It Simple: Best Hardy Fish for a Small Pond

New to the world of backyard ponds? An outdoor pond is an awesome way to add beauty, nature, and visual interest to your landscaping.

But before you stock that pond with gorgeous fish, which ones will be resilient and easy to take care of?

Check out this guide that goes over some of the toughest, hardy fish you can use in your pond so you can enjoy them for a long time to come.

My Favorite Small Pond Equipment To Make Your Life Easier

First Things First: Beware of Predators

No matter what type of hardy fish you choose, they can all be susceptible to the prying eyes of predators. A pond stocked with fish offers easy prey for a variety of wildlife, and your pond will be like the buffet at Golden Corral to all kinds of animals.

Marine birds like the egret and a variety of birds of prey can easily swoop down and grab your fish. The worst part is, it can happen when you’re not looking and don’t even know it!

In order to protect your fish and other creatures in the pond (like frogs), add a layer of netting over the pond. This simple trick will keep the birds and other prey from being able to access your fish.

When you cook outside, make sure you clean up well so as not to attract predators. Certain species of fish are more of an easy target than others, such as colorful koi and goldfish. But a hungry predator will grab whatever it can, which is why you should always take preventative measures to protect your pond.

Top 5 Hardy Fish For Your Small Pond

Resilient and easy to care for, hardy fish make a great addition to your pond here are the top 5;

1. Koi

The koi carp are probably one of the most popular hardy types of fish for your pond. Not only will they thrive but you can keep Koi in a pond during the winter.

Featured in brilliant colors, these gorgeous fish are a beautiful addition to any pond.

One interesting fact about these fish is that they can actually be trained to eat out of your hand. Before you add these fish, make sure your pond is at least two-feet deep or more (preferably).

Koi carp like deeper water and they also like their space. Try to only have one of these fish per 1,000 liters of water for best results.

If your pond is stocked with live plants, bear in mind that these beauties will munch on the plants. It’s a nice way to supplement their diets unless your pond plants are something you plan to keep and maintain.

Related: See our review on the top 5 best koi food options.

As long as you take good care of them, these stunning fish can live a long time. Their life expectancy can reach up to 40 years, making them a very hardy fish indeed.

One good rule of thumb with koi carp: make sure you introduce them slowly, as they don’t do well with sudden temperature changes. As long as you give these fish a chance to adjust, they should live for a long time.

You can learn more about keeping goldfish in a pond with this book about Koi

2. Golden Tenches

Add a flash of metallic beauty to your pond with the golden tench, which feature beautiful gold-colored scales. These fish have a unique protective layer of skin that actually contains an antibiotic.

This quality has earned them the nickname “doctor fish” because they can actually prevent some illnesses in certain fish. They also eat the, ahem, excrement of koi carp, so they’re a great natural cleaner if you have those fish in your pond.

The golden tench can grow to over two feet long, although it happens slowly. Just make sure your pond is roomy enough to accommodate these helpful fish as they grow in size.

If you choose to add these fish to your pond, they tend to do better with small groups of about five to six fish. They enjoy eating off the bottom of your pond, but they also need a good mixture of vitamins and minerals to survive.

Don’t rely on golden tenches as a showpiece or display fish. Their propensity to live on the bottom of the pond means you may not see them very often.

On the other hand, these very hardy fish are a great addition to your pond since they help to keep it clean and protect your other fish from certain diseases. Think of them as a tool as well as a beautiful fish you can enjoy. Golden tenches have a life expectancy of around 15 to 20 years, which is pretty darn impressive.

3. The Classic Goldfish

You may have had a goldfish or two when you were a kid, but you can enjoy them all over again by adding them to your outdoor pond. These gorgeous fish are inexpensive and they come in brilliant colors.

In larger ponds, a goldfish can grow to as large as 14 inches. You’ll also find them in a variety of different breeds with assorted features like wispy tails or large eyes.

Goldfish are very slow swimmers and eat vegetable-derived foods. They also tend to reproduce rather quickly so you could end up with a lot more goldfish than you bargained for.

Try to stick to around five goldfish per 1,000 liters of pond water to keep the population down if possible. Your pond should be at least 40-inches deep so the goldfish have a place to hibernate and go dormant during the winter.

Feed the goldfish a quality, premium fish food made just for their particular species. And just like other pond fish, they’re very vulnerable to predators, particular snakes who enjoy smaller-sized fish. As long as you feed them and keep them protected, your goldfish can live up to 30 years old.

You can learn more about keeping goldfish in a pond with this great book about goldfish.

4. Pumpkinseed Fish

With their colorful “spots” that resemble pumpkin seeds, these fish are also called Sunfish and can be found in ponds all over North America. The pumpkinseed fish can be up to 10 inches long and six inches tall. They can also weigh up to a pound each.

Ideally, you should only have one pumpkinseed fish in your pond since they are known to multiply pretty rapidly. They’re a great addition to kill off insects and other pests to help keep your precious pond clean and free of intruders.

If you live in an area with a lot of insects or other parasites, the pumpkinseed fish is a wise choice. They can help to maintain the good health of your other fish and keep your pond pest-free.

Bear in mind that these fish do like to eat fish eggs, so they may interfere if you’re trying to produce more breeds for your pond. Alternatively, you may prefer this to help keep your current fish population down.

The pumpkinseed fish needs both deep and shallow areas to inhabit, so make sure your pond is at least 28 inches on the deep end and eight inches on the shallow end. Most pumpkinseed fish can live up to a decade to 12 years.

5. Sturgeon is a Hardy Fish Choice

The sturgeon is for the serious fish aficionado. These long and lean fish are huge and can weigh up to 1,100 pounds and live up to 100 years old in the wild.

If you decide you want to add sturgeon to your pond, it needs to be big enough to accommodate these shark-like creatures. The sturgeon is quite strong and needs to live in a pond of at least 50-inches deep throughout.

Only add one sturgeon per 1,000 liters of pond water and make sure you have a good, strong filter system. The pond also needs a muddy bottom layer where they can hang out (no gravel).

The sturgeon needs high levels of oxygen to survive, so make sure you have a strong and effective pond air pump. The water near the bottom should have plenty of oxygen since this is where these fish love to dwell.

If you’re not sure if your pond has enough oxygen check out our article where we explain how you can tell if your pond has enough oxygen.

Sturgeon tend to get stuck in plants and can die this way, so avoid adding plants to your pond if possible when adding this species. Koi carp love to eat the sturgeon’s food, so make sure you feed them at the same time so your sturgeon don’t get gipped.

For pond sturgeon, prepare for them to grow to around 50 inches or a bit longer. Again, a pretty big pond is needed if you want to enjoy these hardy fish. As long as they’re taken care of, sturgeon can live a whopping 50 to 60 years old.

It’s always a good idea to learn more about all of the fish you want to add to your pond to make sure they can coexist well. Sturgeon are an interesting fish, but they don’t always “play well” with certain other species, so do your homework before you choose to add them to your pond.

Give Your Pond Fish Their Best Life

Before you decide to add an outdoor pond, make sure you’ve chosen the best hardy fish you can for your unique setup and your environment. From colorful koi carp to the unique sturgeon, these fish should live for many years with the proper care and conditions.

Make sure your pond is deep enough and large enough so your fish have plenty of room to grow and swim. With good feeding habits and protection from predators, you’ll have a pond stocked with fish that should last for many years into the future.

For more great information about enjoying your backyard to its fullest, be sure to check out our website today!

How deep should a pond be for fish to survive?

Three feet is deep enough for fish to survive if you plan on keeping ornamental fish like Koi and other fish typically used in an aquarium.

However, if you plan on keeping wild species of fish like trout and bass, it’s best to have a pond that would be 10-12 feet deep.

Can fish live in small ponds?

Many fish can live in small outdoor ponds and do extremely well. For example, Koi, goldfish, and other ornamental fish used in aquariums will do quite well in smaller ponds.

That said, a fish like a trout, the bass would require something much larger.

What fish do well in ponds?

Fish that do well are typically hardier than other species of fish. Try these 5 hardy fish for your pond.

Further Reading

Jack Dempsey