Best Pond Fish for an Ideal Outdoor Fish Keeping Experience

Do you love spending time in your friend’s backyard, watching the ripples expanding in concentric circles and fading away when the beady-eyed pond fish glides in the crystal-clear water? Perhaps you are thinking of keeping your own backyard fish pond? The fish that thrives in your aquarium might not do so well in a small outdoor pond. Which brings us to the question, ‘what kind of fish can live in an outdoor pond?’ For a successful fish keeping experience, you need to consider several factors, and it begins with finding the best pond fish. Factors including the pond’s location, weather conditions, depth, and size of the pond are crucial in determining which types of pond fish will have the best chance of survival.

Once you begin your own little research, you will quickly realize that the best pond fish are seasonal. Spring and summer seasons are the best time for visiting a fish specialty store. During both seasons, there is a significantly greater variety of pond fish. Before we introduce the best pond fish for a great outdoor fish keeping experience, let’s get some concepts cleared up. Follow along!

Choosing the Best Pond Fish

Typically, it is easier to find excellent fish for aquariums at any local fish store. However, to purchase the best types of pond fish, it is better to seek out a fish breed specialist or a dealer. The price point of the pond fish varies by size, with the biggest pond fish adjuring the highest prices. We recommend that you go for a young pond fish rather than one that is fully grown, as it is not only easy to find young pond fish for sale, which will help you save a few bucks, but it also gives you an opportunity to turn them into hardy fish for a small pond by taming them accordingly.

Make sure to consider the volume of your outdoor fish pond before you the stock pond fish because, under favorable conditions, cold water pond fish tend to grow quite rapidly. It is better to keep the pond fish in a temporary aquarium or a small pond in backyard before you transfer them to the central pond unit. If you have filled the pond quite recently, it is better to treat the pond water with dechlorinates.

Introducing the Best Pond Fish Into Your Pond

Generally, it is easy to transport small pond fish from the supplier to your address; however, in the case of large pond fish such as koi, you might need to store them in vats for convenient and safe transport. You can add oxygen using different aeration devices, which will help reduce stress. It is best to keep track of the time and minimize the time you confine the pond fish. Choose hours that are relatively traffic-free for transferring your pond fish. An excellent way to ensure that there is harmony in your outdoor fish pond is to balance the numbers between prey and predator fish. As a beginner, it is best to stock pond fish during summer and spring seasons when the temperature is mild, and there is an adequate amount of oxygen in your backyard fish pond. In this section, we will shed light on the best pond fish that not only look pleasing gliding in the water but are also easier to maintain.

Also read – Everything That You Should Know About Koi Fish Breeding

Here’s a short video guide for a better insight into the best ways of introducing your pond fish in a backyard fish pond

Best Pond Fish for Both Small and Large Outdoor Fishponds


Best Pond Fish Gold
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The humble goldfish is undoubtedly the most common pond fish and for a good reason. They exist in a variety of colors, suitable for both indoor and outdoor fish keeping. Both goldfish and koi fish are the same in the sense that their true beauty is best displayed in a large outdoor pond. However, not all goldfish are ideal for large garden ponds due to the cold weather conditions.  It is vital to conduct proper pond maintenance and conserve optimal temperature conditions as goldfish have particular needs in an aquatic ecosystem when compared to goldfish in stock tanks. In this section, we will introduce you to the best goldfish for outdoor ponds along with some robust tips on goldfish pond care.

#1 – Wakin

Wakin is the best among other types of goldfish as they adapt quickly to a foreign environment, such as a large garden pond. The wakin is an orange pond fish with white markings, which might vary in the hues of yellow, orange, and red. Fish breeders prefer white breeds of the wakin goldfish, but the variety is unfortunately quite rare to come around. The double caudal fin is the most striking feature that distinguishes a wakin from the common goldfish colors. The wakin is a hardy pond fish that can quickly recover from a few missed feeding cycles. However, despite its strength, the fish still succumbs when left in cold water conditions for a prolonged period. You will need a fish stock tank during the winter seasons to keep the wakin fish indoors temporarily. If you have wondered- how big goldfish get in a pond, the wakin grows up to 8 inches, and their lifespan maxes out to 10 years.

#2 – Comet

If you are looking for an elegant pond fish, the comet goldfish in a pond is a real eye-catcher. The comet was first bred in in the 1800s in the United States and are well-loved for their perfectly streamlined body and the deep curved caudal fin, which appear even longer when the comet’s body is completely extended. The Sarasa fish is the most widely recognized variety in pond comets. They are hardy pond fish that thrive well in large or small outdoor ponds. Comets are active by nature; while they have sturdy biology, their fins are still prone to congestion in cold weather. Hence, comets are definitely not suitable as cold-water pond fish, but they blossom and grow with proper goldfish pond care. A full-grown comet is around 6 to 10 inches and can survive up to 10 to 15 years, making it one of the best pond fish ever.

#3 – Black Moor

The black moor goldfish is widely loved for its solid midnight black color and curvy body shape. Despite the dark coloration, this black pond fish species is anything but dull. Black moor has velvet-like scales that sparkle when moonlight touches your small outdoor pond. Their telescope-like eyes that extend out from either side of the head does not really offer the best visual ability to this pond fish. For a more balanced fish keeping, it is best to keep other visually impaired species, such as the bubble eye fish with the black moor goldfish. Because of a delicate eye structure and intricate biology, the black moor might not be the best pond fish, especially if you are a beginner. However, if you are confident about maintaining the best large garden pond, the black moor makes for a good addition as it truly stands out from other types of goldfish.  If you are wondering how long do black moor fish live? Typically, a black moor lives up to 10 to 15 years, growing around 4 inches in size. In the most ideal goldfish pond care conditions, this black pond fish species can even live up to a whopping 20 years.

#4 – Shubunkin

The shubunkin is one of the best pond fish, among other common goldfish names. The shubunkin’s body is covered with speckles that vary between blue and violet hues. This fish breed has paler orange markings when compared to the typical types of pond goldfish. The dark fish markings of the shubunkin pond goldfish are highly attractive to a fish breeder, but they are sadly less visible without proper goldfish pond care when the water gets a bit murky. Several factors make the shubunkin one of the best pond fish varieties as they have a hearty appetite and consume almost any type of fish food source. This Japanese pond goldfish, which is also very popular in the US, is a good match for other slow swimming pond fish, including the black moor.

#5 – Fantail

Most fish keepers love the idea of maintaining a fantail goldfish pond due to its stunning double caudal fins, which extends even when the currents are strong in your small or large outdoor fish pond. This pond goldfish does not sport a hump and has a relatively smooth upper profile compared to the other types of goldfish. If you are looking forward to housing a colorful pond fish, the fantail is an excellent choice as it comes in a variety of hues and is highly adaptable. This outdoor pond fish grows a good 8 inches and lives up to 10 years under optimal goldfish pond care conditions.

Koi Fish

Best Pond Fish Koi Fish
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Not many other pond fish inspire commitment like the elegant koi fish. This ornamental pond fish has a long legacy in the Japanese homeland, which soon spread out to the western regions. Koi are primarily infamous for their vivid fish markings and koi scales. The unique patterns make the koi one of the best pond fish to have ever existed. It is for the same aesthetic values that koi fish keepers prefer to house koi fish in a pond with well-filtered water and little to no decorations for better visibility. In this section, we will discuss the elements of keeping koi fish in ponds, what other fish to keep with koi, and along with a brief koi pond care beginners guide.  The Kohaku koi is the most coveted fish breed in the realm of fish keeping. The red markings (called the Hi markings) are profound standards of determining the quality of a koi fish. If you are planning to keep a Kohaku or any of the koi types varieties in a small garden pond, that perhaps would not be the best idea. A pond for koi fish needs to be large as these ornamental pond fish grow quite rapidly under optimal conditions. As an amateur fish keeper, you might easily associate the koi as a small pond fish; however, a fully grown koi can extend to more than 3 feet. The catfish, goldfish, golden orfe, pleco, sturgeon are the best pond fish that coexist well with the koi fish in a pond and can exist in harmony without causing trouble.

Also read – Complete Guide to Different Types of Koi Fish – (22 Major Koi Varieties)


Best Pond Fish orfes
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The orfes, also known as “idus,” are a native freshwater pond species. Orfes are widely found in the northern European regions, with Norway being the exception, where this pond fish rarely exists. The name idus is a specific attribute of the bright sheen of the orfe fish. If you are looking forward to a colorful fish pond, this orange pond fish with metallic scales will add a touch of bling to the unit. Golden orfe is considered as the best pond fish due to its vivid coloration.

Moreover, when compared to the other types of pond fish, the golden orfe is quite rare, which might be a big reason behind the hype. If you are wondering what kind of fish are compatible with goldfish or the koi fish? Perhaps the orfe is your answer.

Golden orfes often die quite early when kept alone as they are highly social and thrive better in groups. It is for the same reasons that golden orfes are best friends with the koi fish and goldfish in a pond. When paired well and with optimal conditions, the golden orfe can live up to a whopping 20 years in outdoor fish ponds. The orfe is undoubtedly a hardy pond fish, and they do just fine in freezing water temperature as high as 90-degrees Fahrenheit. Natural food sources for this pond fish comprise of snails, mosquito larvae, and other insects. However, because the golden orfes are active pond fish, you need to quench their insatiable appetite with other food supplements, including fish food pellets, bloodworms, and earthworms.


Best Pond Fish Minnow
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The Minnow is a personification of peace in the vast list of pond fish. If you have always wondered what kind of fish can live in an outdoor pond in ultimate harmony—Minnow is your best bet. Goldfish, tetras, mollies, and even koi fish in a pond, the Minnow readily befriends other inhabitants. This pond fish is a native of the North American, Canadian, and Mexican waters. An average minnow grows up to 4 inches in size, which is perfect for small outdoor ponds. The maintenance is low, requiring an ideal temperature range between 64 to 72-degree Fahrenheit. It is essential to maintain soft water chemistry with a neutral pH. You can easily build a decorative fish pond as the Minnow loves exploring new fish hiding places.  Fish food flakes and frozen items are delectable treats for this cold-water pond fish. Most fish keepers love the idea of keeping Minnow in their small backyard fish pond because of the two-fold benefit. Since Minnow is relatively smaller in size when compared to other types of pond fish, you can easily stock a significant number. Moreover, the Minnow is infamous for its mosquito controlling abilities as they love to feed on the insect’s larvae.

Learn more about aquarium salt and its uses – Here


Best Pond Fish Sturgeon
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The sturgeon fish is native to the waters of Russia, Hungary, and Romania. The fish species is perfect for large garden ponds as it grows up to 216 inches weighing a whopping 800 pounds or more. The sturgeon is perhaps the biggest pond fish among the other types of pond fish we have mentioned in this list and perhaps ranks first as a hardy pond fish as it can live up to 50 to 100 years. The ancient appearance is the most striking element that makes the sturgeon an appealing addition to a pond. If you want to house a sturgeon, you need to make sure that the pond has a minimum capacity of 1000 to 1500 gallons of water. You also need a strong filtration unit and a sturdy pond pump, as this ancient pond fish prefers strong currents. The sturgeon is a peculiar pond fish, as it mingles well with its pond mates – when its visual appeal might suggest otherwise. The sturgeon is known to prey on tiny pond fish measuring around 3 cm or less but presents no harm to other larger types of pond fish, including the koi. Unlike other freshwater pond fish, the sturgeon is quite sensitive to hot water weather conditions and needs constant monitoring during the summer season. As the sturgeon is a bottom dweller pond fish, its oxygen demand is relatively higher than other counterparts. For the best fish keeping experience, it is advisable to keep a backup aeration system ready for the warmer months.

It is impractical to keep a sturgeon in an indoor aquarium or ponds as the fish grows rapidly. This pond fish loves a hearty protein-rich meal, but the sturgeon absolutely despises greens. In case your sturgeon is feeling under the weather, it is best to medicate with them using salt. It is not advisable to use common salt but Pure Vacuum Dried (PVD) salt. Sturgeon is a cold-water pond fish and adapts quickly to any outdoor pond conditions without much hassle.

Watch this brief video for some tips on outdoor fish pond care and maintenance


Colorful fish ponds liven up the most gloomy backyards; while some fish do exceptionally well in indoor aquariums, other fish species are best displayed in an outdoor fish pond. It is essential to understand that the best pond fish are more accustomed to a natural ecosystem, where every element supports the other for better sustenance. Recreating the same environment in a backyard fish pond can easily get overwhelming. We recommend that you start with a small fish pond, just to test out the waters and to figure out if you are ready to take on the responsibilities of outdoor fish keeping. For beginners, starting with some of the hardiest pond fish, including the koi fish, Minnow plus goldfish, is a recipe for good execution. Fish that live in pond are easy to maintain once you have the right amount of experience. Like we always say- mistakes are a part of the process. Maintaining an outdoor fish pond is not only aesthetically satisfying but also opens prospects of beginning your own little best pond fish breeding endeavor, which can be a good source of income. 

Know more about maintaining optimal water chemistry using pH testers – Read Now

Best Pond Fish- FAQ’s

How to remove algae from pond without harming fish?  A healthy amount of algae is good for your pond fish as it helps maintain a well-balanced ecosystem in your backyard fish pond. However, excessive algae can create problems for your pond’s inhabitants. As a rule of thumb among fish keepers, prevention is the best cure. When there is a surplus of algal growth in an outdoor fish pond, the water becomes toxic. To avoid such a scenario, make sure you are not overfeeding your pond fish. If you wish to remove the excess algae from the pond, it is best to use a rake. A garden rake will do the job quite well, however this only works in the case of a small fish pond. For large outdoor ponds, you can use an algaecide instead.

How deep does a pond need to be for fish to survive the winter? The depth of your outdoor fish pond is a critical factor, more so when you are living in colder regions. It is best to maintain a depth of 30 inches for extreme colds. While for average weather conditions and ultra-mild winters, an 18-inch deep backyard fish pond will be enough. Even the best pond fish are affected during the winter season, which is why we advise that you keep a backup pond deicer ready. When a layer of ice forms on the surface of your fish pond, the toxic gases remain entrapped. To make sure you avoid the worst scenario, you should transfer your pond fish to an indoor pond or aquarium. 

What kind of fish can live in an outdoor pond? Maintaining a stunning backyard fish pond is a lifelong dream for many fish keepers. Before you begin housing the fish, it is best to learn more about the best pond fish that can survive the fluctuating conditions of an outdoor ecosystem. It is best to introduce cold water pond fish species in the pond if you live in a region with harsh winters. Koi fish, Goldfish, sturgeon, Minnow are some hardy pond fish types that thrive well in an outdoor setting, making them perfect for new outdoor fish pond keepers.

What to feed pond fish? Typically, almost all of the best pond fish thrive well on food sources such as plankton, sinking and floating fish pellets, insect larvae, worms, or other forms of small dried or frozen fish. Unfortunately for natural fish ponds organic and fresh source of food is not always abundant, so you might have to rely on commercial fish foods to keep your pond fish well fed. Nutrition is, of course, an integral part of feeding these best pond fish.  Ornamental fish ponds are desirable if you want to spend more time and get involved with your pond fish during the feeding cycles.

How does oxygen concentration affect the fish that live in a pond? If the oxygen level in your outdoor fish pond is too high or extremely low, your pond fish might experience stunning growth, and in worst cases, this could prove to be fatal. Oxygen concentration up to 1 to 6 mg/l is best for bottom-dwelling pond fish such as sturgeon. On the other hand, most of the best pond fish thrive closer to the surface of the outdoor fish pond. For such pond fish, oxygen concentration ranging between 4 to 6 mg/l is just right.

How many fish in a pond calculator? For fish keepers, it is often hard to limit the number of pond fish they are adding to their backyard fish pond. While most of the best pond fish mentioned are relatively social and thrive well with other inhabitants, too many fish in a pond can cause an imbalance of the ecosystem and quickly become breeding grounds for algae and other fungi. The more pond fish you add beyond the recommended limit, the higher is the toxicity in your outdoor fish pond water. Begin with measuring the square footage of your backyard fish pond. Assign an inch of fish for every square foot of the pond. In consequence, if your pond measures around 300 square feet, the fish pond limit maxes out at 300 inches of total fish. For more convenience, you can use an online pond fish calculator too.

Also read – Aquaponics Fish Tank – Take Your Hobby to the Next Level

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