Loving Your Pet: Owning Your First Pond Fish
We are pleased to provide our second free guide to owning a first pond fish. This document outlines how to set up your new pond, choose new pond fish, introducing these fish, pond maintenance, pond fish diet, healthcare and more besides. Please enjoy.........
Your First Pet Fish
Congratulations on buying your very first pond fish, you have made a wise decision. As a pet, fish can be extremely relaxing and enjoyable to watch and can even reduce your blood pressure.
Compared to other pets, fish are unique in the sense that more time is spent observing them in their habitat, rather than physically interacting with them on a daily basis.
Nonetheless, fish really are fantastic to own, so we hope that they provide you with plenty of value and joy as they settle into their new environment.
Caring For Your Fish
As with any pet, it’s important to give your fish the care and attention they deserve from the start. Bringing home your new pond fish can be an exciting time, although some owners fail to maintain a routine when looking after them or provide them with insufficient living conditions.
Avoid falling into this category by making the right decisions now, so that your fish are able to live a healthy and happy life.
A level of responsibility comes down to you as an owner, so take time to look over this guide and learn how to provide your fish with the best living conditions, what to feed them, some of the potential and common diseases, plus much more.
With the correct understanding, your fish will live the life they deserve and you will get full enjoyment out of your new underwater friends.
Types Of Fish
Fish come in an array of colors, sizes, and shapes and each type is distinctive as a result of these factors. Whilst there is a wide range of fish available to purchase, some are more suited to the pond environment than others.
Remember that you should never overcrowd your pond with too many fish as this will restrict the amount of space they have available. It’s best to give them adequate space, rather than cram them in and make their conditions and surroundings uncomfortable.
If you are thinking about buying more fish in the future to keep your new fish company, check out the following table to see which types are best for your home setup.
Fish more suitable for a tank or aquarium
Fish more suitable for a pond
Barbs – Gold, Rosy, Ruby, and Purple. Avoid Tinfoil and Spanner due to size and also Tiger barbs as they can nip
Goldfish – can reach 30cm, although in British conditions they are more likely to grow to 20cm
Rasboras – Harlequins and Scissortails
Koi – 60-90cm when fully grown, so more suited to larger ponds with at least 3ft depth
Rainbowfish –Neon, Celebes, and Boesmans
Tench – great for bottom feeders
Minnows – White Cloud Mountain
Sarasa Comets – similar to Goldfish with red patches
Danios – Leopard, Pearl, and Zebra. Avoid Giant Danios, as their name suggests they will become too large
Shubunkins – similar to Goldfish with a mix of colors
Catfish – Spotted Cory, Bandit, Bronze, Gold. Avoid Plecos as they can grow quite large
Golden Orfe – can grow up to 40cm, should not be kept in small ponds without a pump
Other variations of fish that are suitable for your pond include:
- Mosquito fish
- Chinese Black Moors
- Sarasa Fan
- Rainbow Dace
- Calico Fantail
If you’ve just bought your fish, then it’s likely that your pond is already set up and ready to use. Before you add fish to the pond, take a moment to look at this quick checklist to ensure that the conditions are suitable.
- Is your pond installed on level ground? – it should not be built on a sloping incline
- Does it include plants? - small ponds are ideal for potted plants like iris and larger ponds should include floating plants, such as water lilies to help with the ecosystem
- Have you installed a filter? - your pond requires water filtration so that the water stays at a sufficient level for your fish. Mechanical filters will remove harmful particles and debris, while carbon filters remove ammonia and nitrite to balance levels.
- Have you installed a pump for effective water circulation and to keep your pond clean? – without a pump, your pond will suffer from poor water quality and a lack of oxygen too
- Cut back any overhanging branches to prevent the filter from becoming clogged with sap, pine needles, and dead leaves
- Is your pond big enough to house the fish you have purchased? (more can be found in the section)
- Are you using surface skimmers to collect unwanted debris? – you may wish to use a pre-filter system to keep filters and surface skimmers from becoming clogged
- Have you installed bottom filters to keep all areas of the pond oxygenated and prevent the development of anaerobic bacteria?
- Ensure that your pump and filter system can cycle the water volume of your pond at regular intervals
- Do you have a thermometer in your pond to monitor the correct temperature? – This is ideal for working out when to start feeding your fish again during the year
Bringing Your Fish Home
If you still need to bring your fish home to their new environment, it’s important to remember how to transport them from their existing location back to your house. The same guidelines can be used for any future fish that you purchase.
Your pet store or seller will be able to advise you on the necessary instructions for transporting your fish and help you with any questions you may have.
When bringing your fish back to your home, you should carry out the following:
- Store them in a plastic bag filled with water and ensure that there is no leakage before you begin your journey
- Place a brown bag over the plastic bag to keep the fish in darkness and to help them remain calm
- Avoid keeping them in the plastic bag for any longer than 2 hours
- Ensure that the bag stays at a sufficient temperature and doesn’t get too cold or hot. A quick shift in temperature can cause the fish stress
- Once your fish arrive home, you can then transfer them to their new pond
Transferring Fish To Your Pond
Once your fish are home, you will need to carefully transfer them to your pond. Never open the bag and throw the fish into the water. This process needs to be done smoothly in order to allow the fish time to adjust and to cause them minimal distress.
First of all, carefully place the bag with your fish in on top of the surface of the pond. As the bag floats on the surface, the temperature levels from the bag and the pond will mix, making the transition for the fish easier to handle.
Where possible, place the bag in a shaded area of the pond. If the rays of the sun are strong, this will quickly heat up the bag and unsettle your underwater friends.
Next, slowly open the bag and allow a small amount of the existing pond water into the bag to help them adapt to any differences there may be in the quality of water.
After roughly 20 minutes, you should then release the fish into your pond. If you are using a net to help you with this process, make sure it’s a soft net and avoid handling the fish where possible too.
While having a pond in your garden is perfect for watching and enjoying your fish, at the same time you need to make sure that people, other animals, and of course your fish remain safe from potential dangers.
Netting across the top of the pond can be used to stop cats and other animals trying to reach in and grab the fish and even reduce the risk of birds, squirrels and rodents drowning. In addition, this can also prevent young children from putting their hands in the water.
Pond Safety - Young Children
Children are prone to exploring and if you have a pond in your garden, it’s not only the fish that you need to protect. According to The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, 68 children under the age of six drowned in UK garden ponds between 1995-2005
Therefore, keep an eye on your pond and be extra vigilant if there are young children playing in your garden. Teach them not to get too close to the edges of the pond and to refrain from trying to put their hands in the water.
Fencing or mesh can be used to erect near your pond and this can prevent any accidents, as well as keeping cats and other animals at bay too.
To keep your fish safe from harm, you could also consider using cat, dog and animal repellent around the perimeter of your pond.
Although it’s not certain that other pets will attack the fish, repellent will act as another deterrent and help to keep your new pets safe from any potential dangers.
Adding More Fish To Your Pond
As mentioned, always give your fish adequate room and allow them to get used to their new surroundings before adding more fish to your pond. As a guide, leaving them in their new home for three weeks before adding extra fish should be viewed as a minimum amount of time.
During this time, you can monitor their health and look for any signs of infection before any new arrivals. If you add too many fish to your pond, this can reduce the water quality with high levels of ammonia and nitrite, which can lead to fish disease.
If you have a small garden pond (500 gallons or less) you should place no more than six small fish in it and ensure that they will be around three to four inches in size when fully grown. If you have a much larger pond, then you can add five or six larger fish (five to six inches in size).
Having a number of fish in your pond creates a suitable balance, allows the filter to adapt to the waste produced by the fish, and also helps to prevent any water quality issues.
To add new fish, follow the steps covered above in the section.
- Remember – If you buy any new fish, always account for the fact that they are likely to increase in size.
So that your fish can grow, develop, and maintain strong health, you need to make sure that you are providing them with the best living conditions. By carrying out the correct maintenance, not only will your fish remain
active and happy, your pond will also look great all year round.
As a result, there are a number of areas that you should address on a regular basis:
- Keep water levels sufficient – during the hotter months of the year, you need to make sure that the water stays at the same level. If it decreases then add more to your pond and check for any cracks that may have appeared as a result of the colder winter months.
- Water circulation – make sure you check that water circulation is sufficient, as this will help to maintain oxygen levels
- Remove unwanted weeds and dead plants - to avoid any problems with algae or clogging up your pond, remove dead plants and weeds
- Clean your pond equipment – the best time to do this is during the spring, as the weather starts to get hotter. Once you’re done, your pond and fish will both look great during the summer - the time when you are most likely to enjoy your pond life.
- Increase shaded areas to reduce algae – during the summer it’s easier for algae to grow in the heat. To prevent this, you should add more plants to the surface area of your pond to provide shade, or alternatively add potted plants around your pond for the same reason.
- Ward off predators – in addition to animal repellent (discussed in the section above) you can also stop birds of prey from swooping down on your pond by adding a fake heron. Fencing and netting are also ideal to help ward off predators.
- Preventing mosquito growth – during the summer, mosquitos can leave larvae in your pond. As they like to breed in settled and calm waters, adding a fountain is one way to make the conditions harder for them breed.
To help with the chemical balance of the water and to prevent the growth of duckweed, blanket weed, and green water, special liquids can be purchased to keep your pond water in excellent condition.
Make sure you speak to your pet supplier to find the best product to keep your pond in a suitable condition. In doing so, you will be providing your fish with sufficient living conditions.
Diet and Feeding
Fish consume a wide range of foods, such as algae, plants, and insects. Combined with supplements, these foods allow the fish to have a stable diet, which helps them to remain healthy, improve disease resistance and maintain a strong immune system.
Certain foods can minimize wastage and keep your pond water in good condition, making it easier to look after.
When it comes to choosing the food you buy, this will depend on two factors:
- Firstly, the type of fish that you have – certain fish have different nutritional requirements
- Secondly, the time of year – a fishes metabolism is affected by temperature, meaning that certain foods are required during specific times of the year
At water temperature (ten degrees Celsius or over) fish will feed up to four times each day. When feeding them, it’s best to do so in small portions so that the food is eaten and there are less wastage and pollution.
Only feed them as much as they can consume within the space of two minutes and never overfeed them as this will pollute the water. As fish such as Koi and goldfish can have trouble digesting food in colder temperatures, start feeding them when the temperature of your pond is around eight degrees Celsius. When temperatures drop to four degrees Celsius or below, pond fish do not require any food.
- Make sure that no moisture enters any feeding containers and that the lid on these stays closed when you are not using them
- Store food in a cool and dry place, away from the direct rays of the sun
- If fish are not eating the food you give them and the water is the correct temperature, start to look for any signs of disease
Types Of Supplement Foods
There are many products on the market when it comes to food supplements for your pond fish, so here are some of the main ones that you can use:
- Pond sticks – ideal for koi carp and larger fish and is easy for them to digest
- Mixed pond food – to provide a balance and blend of nutritional requirements
- Pond flakes – food that will float on the surface of your pond (ideal for surface feeders) and provide protein to encourage growth
- Pond pellets – good for all types of koi carp and goldfish
- Winter food – wheatgerm sticks and pellets are used when the temperatures fall in the winter as it’s easier for the fish to digest
- Koi food - As koi have different nutritional needs, they require colour enhancers to maintain their amazing color - look for food products that contain Spirulina
Feeding During Winter
The dietary requirements of fish change during the winter. When the temperature of your pond falls to four degrees Celsius or below, you do not need to feed them. The reason for this is because the water temperature controls their metabolism.
Your fish may come to the surface of the water during the winter months, although this is not related to food. Instead, they are coming to the surface because this is where the most oxygen can be found.
During this time, your fish won’t be as active as they are during other seasons. Feeding them just before the temperate falls to the above level will allow them to start the new season in good condition. During this time, you may wish to use wheat germ products as it’s easier for your fish to digest.
Feeding While On holiday
If you are due to go away on holiday, ask a neighbor, friend or family member to regularly check up on your fish and ask them to feed them too. It’s important to maintain a routine when feeding your fish so that they can develop into full size and remain healthy.
Alternatively, there are food products available which will provide nutrition for up to 14 days – ideal if you are traveling for two weeks. These block feeds can be placed in the pond and will feed your koi and goldfish without the need to rely on other people.
Disease and Infections
Just like humans and other animals, fish can suffer from infections and disease. For this reason, it’s important to carry out regular checks on them to ensure that their health remains positive.
Check the condition of your pond water on a regular basis and monitor their behavior. If you notice anything unusual then you should continue to observe the fish and aim to prevent the spread of infections and disease.
Poor water conditions can cause your fish to become stressed and will lower their immune system, which means that they are more likely to suffer from the disease.
The best time to observe your fish a little closer is during feeding time. As some of the fish will come to the surface of the water it will be easier to spot any signs of disease.
Take a look at the following list and view some of the symptoms of the most common illnesses and their relative treatments.
White or grey fluffy patches on the body
Small round-shaped spots on the fish, common on the fins. The spots are the parasites egg sacks
Anti-white spot treatment
A series of tiny white spots over the fish – these are smaller than the above ‘white spot’ condition
Anti-velvet disease treatment
Fin, tail, mouth rot
Pink and white patches which give the impression that the infected area is wearing away. Fish will appear lethargic and have a loss of appetite
Anti-fin rot treatment – the infected area can normally be cured and returned to its normal state
Red sores which appear on the fish
Anti-ulcer treatment – to ensure that the fish doesn’t catch a fungal infection on the ulcer
Raised scales, loss of appetite and lethargic
Fish will display signs of not being able to swim properly or float near the surface
Anti-bacterial or swim bladder treatments. As this disease could be based on a number of factors, speak to your pet supplier for the correct diagnosis and treatment.
In any case where treatments are to be used, always ensure that you have purchased the right product for the specific fish that you own. Also, be sure to read the instructions carefully so that you give the fish the required amount needed to nurse it back to full health.
Unlike other pets, such as cats, dogs, and horses, it can be quite tricky to actually obtain insurance for your fish. In most cases it’s uncommon, however in some instances it is possible to ensure koi fish, as they are more expensive than other breeds and have been known to live up to 75 years of age
It’s best to see if you can find a specific insurer who will cover you for koi insurance if you really want to get this in place.
Potentially, your home insurance policy may cover your pond and/or your pond fish. It’s advised to check with your insurance provider first before making any assumptions or to see if there is the possibility of including any form of home insurance add-on cover.
With the correct amount of care, attention, and focus, your pet pond fish will be happy for many years to come and you can enjoy observing them in your pristine and clean garden pond.
Looking after fish is a responsibility and it’s only fair that they are provided with the exact conditions they deserve and require in order to live a healthy and stable life.
If you follow the steps, tips, and advice that have been highlighted in this guide, you will get full value out of your brand new pet fish. Here are too many exciting times ahead!
Visit our website for all things pond related
References and Resources:
- About.com, Good First Fish:
- A Beginners Guide To Building the Perfect Pond:
- A Beginners Guide to Stocking and Caring for Pond Fish:
- RoSPA, Pond & Garden Water Safety:
- Hydrosphere, Water Gardens & Fisheries:
- eHow, What Is Needed To Start a Backyard Pond? -
- Fish Keeper, Tetra Pond:
- Fish Keeper JBL, Pond Fish Diseases:
- Pond Life, Fish Diseases and Parasites:
- 10. Van Ness Water Gardens, Fish and Snails:
- 11. Hozelock, Perfect Ponds Made Simple:
- 12. Aquaplancton, Keeping Your Fish Pond Healthy: