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North Central USA
Jewels of the Pond
by Joe Summers, St. Louis, Missouri
Click images to enlarge
Captivating ornamental fishes, jewels of the pond, attract many
people to the idea of creating their own pond. The fascinating
sound and sight of moving water in a stream, waterfall, and/or
fountain attract countless others. However, being a trained horticulturist,
the attraction of adding a pond to my landscape began with a
compelling interest in aquatic plants.
Goldfish image from PetSociety.org
I am primarily a "plant person", but I must admit
that fishes offer attributes that plants just cannot; fishes
are interactive and friendly creatures. They offer striking movement
far beyond any plant motion. Fishes dart around the pond creating
interest with their random swim patterns.
Catching a glimpse of their reflected colors during the darkness
of night provides a special treat. This may happen in the moonlight
or if you have underwater lights in the pond. When sitting aside
the pond at night as ornamental fishes pass near the underwater
light, ahhh . . . your pond looks like a chest of jewels.
Would you believe that fishes have distinct personalities?
A personable fish may allow you to pet it or perhaps rub its
belly. You may even give it a kiss if you (and the fish) really
want to. However, I would not suggest that you put a leash on
a fish for a walk around the block. That just doesnt work
out too well.
Treats, however, do work out well for stimulating the friendliness
in your fishes. Treats range from fruits, like oranges, to dried
Golden orfe image from
A Mid-Region (USDA Zone 6minimum
temperature -10F [-23C]) pond needs to be at least 18
inches (46 cm) deep for successful wintering of fish. When digging
the pond I recommend 24 inches (61 cm) of depth in one section
so that your fishes have a greater margin of safety during the
winter. In order to keep ornamental fishes outside successfully
all winter in the Mid-Region requires meeting the suggested minimal
depth and keeping a hole in the ice layer. You only need a small
portion of the pond to remain ice free to keep your finned friends
happy. A floating de-icer maintains a small hole in the ice.
Alternately, a pump keeps the water moving to maintain an area
without ice coverage.
Readily available pond fishes include koi (Cyprimus carpio),
goldfish (Carassius auratus), golden orfe (Leuciscus
idus), and mosquito fish (Gambusia affinis). All of
these readily survive in an outside year-round pond
Butterfly koi and straight finned koi constitute two major
types of koi. The long flowing fins of butterfly koi grow to
about half the length their bodies. Mature straight finned koi
have fins measuring only a few inches long. Koi may live for
100 or more years and, given sufficient time, space, and food
can reach 36 inches (91 cm) long or more. Color intensity and
pattern determine koi quality. Koi prices reflect their quality
and their origin. Israel, Japan, Thailand, and the US grow enormous
koi crops for the world market.
Mosquito fish image from
Goldfish offer most pond keepers their introduction to fish keeping.
Goldfish can be very inexpensive, but not always. They offer
a huge array of color and shape. You may pick from the simple
gold to color patterns ranging from red and white
to a combination of blue, white, black, and orange. Fin shape
and size also vary from no dorsal fin (ranchu, lionhead) to a
semi-double tail (fantail, calico). Simply stated, no two fish
are identical. At least their color pattern, shape, size, or
personality differs. Goldfish reach a mature size of 6 to 10
inches (15 to 25 cm) or more and live up to about 10 years
Most pond owners like to feed their fish at least once per
day. But some never feed their fish. Your fish grow in relation
to their nutrition, water conditions, and time. How many fish
are too many? Allow at least ten gallons (38 liters) of water
for each inch (2.5 cm) of fish. The factor that matters most
is your ponds water quality.
The jewels of the pond are the fishes. When selecting your
next fish, remember that fish beauty is only scale deep and personality
is important, too.