What Fish can Live in a Garden Pond?

What Fish can Live in a Garden Pond?

We, of course, want you to have the best ponding experience possible. When you build an outdoor pond with fish in mind, you are creating a home for your new pets. Use this guide to help you in choosing which pond fish are most suitable for you and your pond. 


Hardy Pond Fish Species: 
These fish are resilient and likely to make it through the winters in Ohio - provided good pond closing techniques are practiced. 


Koi are the most sought-after pond fish based on the availability of colors, sizes, varieties and graceful beauty. These fish are part of the carp family that can triple in size in one season depending on the food source, food quality and water quality in the pond. So, make sure there is lots of growing room. 

You might be asking, what color are koi fish? Well, koi primarily are orange, white and black, but can also be yellow, blue, silver, gray, red and gold. New koi varieties and patterns are still being actively developed. In Japan, koi are symbols of love and friendship. The oldest known koi on record lived to be 226 years old! So be sure someone who loves you is willing to inherit your finned friends. 

*Standard Koi, Butterfly Koi and Japanese Specialty Koi are available for purchase at Hoffman’s Water X Scapes. Baby koi and larger koi are available at times, contact us for availability. 

Comet Goldfish 

The most commonly known ornamental pond fish bred in the United States. (For those of you who like “made in America.”) These are inexpensive and hardy pond fish for populating a water garden. Comets are slimmer and slightly smaller than a common goldfish, but is mainly distinguished by its long, deeply forked tail. Differentiated from a koi fish by its rounded, not flat, forehead and lack of barbs. Comets can get as large as 12 inches and live up to 25 years. 

*Comets are available for purchase at Hoffman’s Water X Scapes. 


A hardy, single tailed, Japanese goldfish with a calico pattern and color. Great substitution for smaller garden ponds that may not have enough growing room for a koi. They add the variation of color without the large sizes. A shubunkin will reach a length of 9-18 inches at adulthood and under perfect circumstances, can live for approximately 25 in your pond. 

*Shubunkins are available for purchase at Hoffman’s Water X Scapes. 

Golden Orfe 

A fast and sleek schooling fish that likes to race around at the surface of the pond. Best to have in multiples to watch them play and entertain. They can grow up to 2.5 feet in length, but usually stay near 1.5 feet. They grow very rapidly, but may take 5- 7 years to reach the right age for reproducing. Spawning and hatching for these fish may take up to four weeks to complete, so ponds with hungry scavengers such as koi may not see new Orfe due to the eggs being eaten before they are hatched. 

*Golden Orfe are (at times) available for purchase at Hoffman’s Water X Scapes,
contact us for availability. 

Not as Hardy Species (but still fun to have): 
These fish may not always tolerate 
winters in Ohio, but on occasion, have made it through - when weather is more mild.. 


This tiny fish is also known as the Mosquito Fish among pond owners. They are great for ponds, fountains, container water gardens, etc. Their most common food source is mosquito larvae. They may reproduce every few weeks with live birth of up to 60 young. Gambusia are native to warmer regions, such as the Mississippi River and its tributaries, and may not survive the harsh winter conditions of Ohio.

*Gambusia are (at times) available for purchase at Hoffman’s Water X Scapes, contact us for availability. 


Notorious for the “double tail’ and egg-shaped body, these fancy gold fish seem to “waddle” through pond water. They may, or may not, develop telescope eyes. Although generally considered a hardy goldfish, can be sensitive to prolonged exposure to low water temperatures. 

*Fantails are available for purchase at Hoffman’s Water X Scapes. 


An Oranda is a breed of goldfish characterized by the prominent bubble-like “hood” on the top of their head. When it was first imported from China to Japan, it was mistakenly thought to be from the Netherlands. It was then named the “Dutch Lionhead” which is where its English name is derived. It is similar in shape to the fantail. Orandas may take one to two years to develop the “crown” on its head. They can reach 8-12 inches in length, but are especially sensitive to cold temperatures, more so than other goldfish. 

Black Moor 

A fancy goldfish breed designed to be all black, although when they are young, they are usually amber. As they mature, their color darkens. Originally from China, were named “Dragon Eyes” for their telescoping, protruding eyes. Their round, chubby body shape makes them slower swimmers, compared to other speedy pond fish. This can make it more difficult to compete for food. Black moors can usually grow to be between 6-8 inches in length and have a life expectancy of 5-10 years or more. They prefer warmer water temperatures, so I would not recommend them for a shallow garden pond(less than 18”), but in a deep enough water garden, they will get along “swimmingly” with your other pond fish. 

*Black Moors are (usually) available for purchase at Hoffman’s Water X Scapes, contact us for availability. 

Channel Catfish 

Fast growing, ominous, nocturnal fish. Often mistaken for their reputation as a scavenger as the “housekeeper” of the pond. While they do eat “smelly” dead fish, they also will eat frogs, insects, larvae, smaller fish, seeds and algae. However, when they notice that you provide much higher quality goods, they will easily adapt to feeding right alongside of your koi and other pond fish. A channel catfish in a backyard pond can easily reach very large sizes, sometimes up to 10 lbs. 

How deep does a pond need to be for fish? 

All pond fish, in our north east Ohio climate, require a minimum of 18 inches of depth in a pond to overwinter. We recommend 24” deep, or deeper. 

Be sure to check your local zoning laws before digging. Fish may survive in shallow ponds during milder winters, but a harsh winter of a week or two in negative degrees can be devastating. 

Please Note: Pond aeration and de-icers are also essential for fish health. 

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