Picking out the best pond fish is not as easy as it seems. There are a lot of types and species that can technically work in an outdoor pond, but they won’t truly thrive.
To make the process simple, we’ve put together this list of the best pond fish. Simply take a look, pick your favorites, and go from there!
Believe it or not, one of the most iconic pet fish species in the world also thrives in ponds. Goldfish are fantastic pond fish that don’t require super warm water like tropical species. They do well in slightly cooler conditions, making them the ideal choice for outdoor ponds.
Goldfish have a very long history of crossbreeding. As a result, there are many unique varieties available. Most of them are split into two categories: single-tail goldfish and fancy goldfish.
The single-tail variants are the most common. This category includes common, comet, shubunkin, and more. They’re sporting the standard body shape that closely resembles that of a carp. But of course, the signature golden coloration is out in full force!
Fancy goldfish have a lot more to flaunt. Many fish in this category are sporting a double fin and a bulbous body. While not the most powerful swimmers in the world, fancy goldfish are a sight to behold. In a pond, their unique features stand out even more.
Mosquitofish are small, unassuming fish that you don’t see very often in the aquarium trade. But in the pond fishkeeping community, they are quite common.
These fish only reach lengths of about two inches. A standard torpedo-shaped body and semi-transparent fins make them quite agile in the water. Meanwhile, the dull gray or brown color coloration lets them fade into the background.
Most pond owners don’t add these fish into the community for their looks. Instead, most choose them for their utility. Mosquitofish can consume massive amounts of mosquito larvae around the clock.
Those flying pests lay eggs in water. As a result, backyard ponds tend to become a massive magnet for aquatic larvae. Mosquitofish do their part to keep insect problems under control.
This pond fish is also very adaptable. They flourish in most standard pond environments. In extreme parameter fluctuations, mosquitofish are resilient enough to tough it out until things stabilize.
3. Pond Loach
Also known as the dojo loach, pond loaches are quirky bottom-dwellers that keep the substrate nice and clean. In aquariums, pond loaches only reach lengths of around six inches. However, they’re capable of getting even bigger in spacious ponds.
Like many loaches, this species is often mistaken for an eel. It has a slender body with small fins that can be difficult to see in murky waters. The fish also has a pointed snout with an underturned mouth, which helps it forage and burrow with ease.
Pair those features with the sensory barbels surrounding the mouth, and pond loaches are adept scavengers. That makes them one of the best pond fish you can find in terms of their ability to thrive.
When it comes to color, there’s a lot of variety with this species. Most take on a neutral shade of olive green, grey, or light brown. Subtle details like dark spots and a paler belly add some dimension to the fish’s body without sacrificing their ability to stay hidden.
4. Guppy Fish
Arguably the most famous live bearing species, guppy fish are an outstanding choice for smaller ponds. This fish has no problem breeding in captivity. With a little careful planning, you can have a flourishing guppy population to add some life to your pond.
Guppies are on the smaller side, measuring only around two inches long. Females tend to be a bit bigger than males. However, males are the most sought-after.
That’s because males have an eye-catching tailfin filled with color and intricate patterns. It’s fan-shaped and considerably larger than the rest of the fins, making it a standout feature. Females can have a beautiful caudal fin, too. However, their larger size makes it a little less striking than what you see on the males.
A favorite among breeders, guppy fish are available in a wide range of colors and patterns. Some popular kinds include the cobra, tuxedo, dumbo ear, and snakeskin.
Koi are the quintessential pond fish. A variety of carp, koi fish are a product of selective breeding in Japan. These fish play a big part in Japanese culture, and hundreds of years of breeding have resulted in some magnificent specimens.
While many compare koi to goldfish, these pond-dwellers are capable of getting far bigger. In well-maintained environments, koi can reach lengths of over two feet! They have long lifespans of more than 20 years, too.
Caring for koi is a big commitment, but the natural beauty they provide is well worth the effort. Available in many colors, these fish stand out in nearly any type of pond decor.
Not only that, but they are relatively hardy once they become accustomed to the pond. As long as the conditions are stable and they have a high-quality diet that caters to their omnivore needs, koi have no problem staying happy and healthy.
6. Fathead Minnow
Bright and full of color, the fathead minnow offers a nice contrast against the natural decor of a pond. These fish are usually covered in a solid shade of pinkish-orange. The pink tones gave the species its other common name: rosy red minnow.
Fathead minnows are small, measuring only two or three inches in length. They have a thin, torpedo-shaped body that helps them zip through the pond water at rapid speeds. The fins are translucent and streamlined, making these fish look like tiny pops of color as they play.
As far as hardiness goes, fathead minnows are tough! They can withstand an extensive range of parameters. This species is quite adaptable, which is why they’re such a great fish for ponds.
Of course, it’s important to keep conditions as stable as possible. Consistency is key to avoiding undue stress. While they can withstand most temperatures, hard swings in either direction should be avoided.
7. Siamese Algae Eater
Hailing from Southeast Asia, the Siamese algae eater can become part of your pond’s cleaning crew. As their name would imply, these fish feed on the algae. While some algae in your pond is beneficial, algae eaters prevent overgrowth and poor water conditions.
Siamese algae eaters can swim throughout the entire pond. However, they like to stick close to the substrate where algae is most prevalent.
Interestingly enough, these fish don’t have the signature flattened body that other algae-eating species have. Instead, they have a long and slender profile that’s perfect for swimming in any part of the water column. The only defining feature to dictate their preference for bottom-dwelling is the underturned mouth!
When it comes to color, Siamese algae eaters are pretty muted. They’re predominantly brown or beige. However, a prominent lateral stripe runs from the tip of the snout through to the caudal fork and tail. It provides a beautiful contrast that helps them stand out.
8. Molly Fish
Molly fish are an ever-popular aquarium species. But like its other famous livebearing cousin, mollies actually do quick well as fish for outdoor ponds.
Many kinds of molly fish exist. There are roughly 39 different species. Each one has its own unique quirks and physical characteristics.
Some of the more popular varieties include the black molly, dalmation molly, balloon molly, and lyretail molly. Despite the differences, these variants all have a similar profile and body shape.
Mollies have a flattened body with a triangular head. They’re widest and tallest at the midsection. On the front end, the body tapers to a nice point at the snout. For the back, it tapers to a wide caudal fork and fan-shaped tail.
You don’t have to be a seasoned fish-keeper to keep mollies healthy. Resilient and easy to please, they do well in most environments. Not only that, but they’re a peaceful community fish that can get along with other gentle pond fish.
9. Chinese High Fin Banded Shark
Despite their eye-catching name, Chinese high fin banded sharks are not true sharks at all. They belong to a special family of fish that just so happen to resemble the feared sea creature. Docile and easy-going, these fish are great for community ponds.
That said, the Chinese high fin banded shark needs a lot of space to stay healthy. This species is most often sold in stores as juveniles. They’re only a few inches long and have a striking appearance that makes them very coveted among fish-keepers.
While manageable as juveniles, these fish grow to look very different. The signature vertical stripes they have as juveniles fade to reveal a solid shade of red or purple. The body elongates as well, making them look less and less like a shark as they get older.
The most challenging aspect, however, is their size. Adults regularly reach lengths of 24 inches. But in larger ponds, they can get to be over four feet!
10. Golden Orfe
The golden orfe is a beautiful pond fish that can grow up to three feet long in the right conditions. While not as widespread as koi, golden orfes can be just as stunning.
These fish are most known for their bright coloration, which is usually shimmering orange or gold. Some fish have black spots on the head and neck. Others have some shades of blushing pink on the fins and tail.
Golden orfes are active and very social. They must stay in groups of at least three. Otherwise, they tend to become unhappy and sick. In a good environment with plenty of shoaling mates, golden orfes can live well over 20 years!
Tolerant of temperature fluctuations, this fish does well in outdoor ponds in colder climates. As long as there is adequate depth to the pond, golden orfes can overwinter without many issues.
They’re also pretty resilient to disease. The golden orfe seem to resist the diseases and parasites that plague other pond fish. However, you do have to worry about jumping. It’s not uncommon for the golden orfe to jump right out of the pond and die!
The sturgeon is a unique fish that many call a living fossil. It has a prehistoric look that mimics that of a shark. Defined bony armor lines the entire body for a unique look.
Sturgeons are bottom feeders and have an underturned mouth to accommodate their feeding habits. While not immediately noticeable, they also have some small sensory barbels that they use to find food!
These fish prefer to have cold, oxygen-rich water. They’re a little more challenging to care for than other pond fish. But if you get things just right, sturgeons can outlive you! They have a lifespan of 50 to 100 years!
You can keep sturgeon with other popular pond fish like koi. However, these fish can have a hard time finding food before koi get to it. For this reason, many die due to starvation.
They’re also known for getting stuck in algae and plants. Sturgeons cannot swim backward, so getting stuck can lead to drowning if they’re unable to escape.
The best pond fish are hardy species that can thrive in just about any conditions. And the fish we’ve included in our list above definitely fit the bill!
We tried to include a wide variety of different types to make sure there’s something for everyone. Whether you want a small and low-maintenance pond species, or a large fish that requires more attention (and space), you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a good fit for you.
If you have any suggestions for pond fish that you think we should include on this list you’re welcome to send them our way!