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Seven Hardy Fish For Your Backyard Pond

Posted on November 24, 2021 
by Thomas VanAmerongen

A pond is an eye-catching landscape feature that instantly adds interest to your backyard — especially when it’s surrounded by beautiful plants and teeming with colourful fish. And while there are plenty of fish to choose from, you do need to choose carefully. Not all fish are capable of surviving the cold and snowy winters of southern Ontario.

You can add all sorts of cool features to your pond (such as waterfalls, spillways, and bubbling rocks) and surround it with gorgeous rocks and stunning water plants…but the star of the show will always be the fish.

And while some fish prefer more temperate climates, there are plenty that are hardy enough to survive beneath a thick layer of ice.

Koi fish coming up for food.

1. Koi — Koi is a member of the carp family and a perennial favourite amongst pond owners. They are colourful, hardy and non-aggressive, so you don’t need to worry about them fighting or eating smaller fish. And with enough patience, they can be trained to eat from your hand!

2. Goldfish — Goldfish are also members of the carp family, and are an ideal size for backyard ponds. They have all the benefits of their fancy cousins, the Koi, but are inexpensive and easier to care for.

Koi and Goldfish are the two we recommend to our clients with excellent results. They are “tried and true” and delightful additions to any backyard pond.

But if you’re the adventurous type, there are other cold-hardy fish that could survive in your backyard pond — but so far 100% of our clients opt to add Koi or Goldfish to their ponds, so we don’t have direct experience with these other varieties.

3. Archerfish — Archerfish are quite cold tolerant, making them a great addition to your outdoor pond. They’re silver with black stripes or spots and have a unique method of capturing their prey — The “spit” a stream of water at flies and other insects to disable them before they gobble them up.

4. Bluegills — A member of the sunfish family, Bluegills are greenish-brown on their backs and sides with silver to yellow bellies and a distinctive blue-lined gill. They love to hang around shallow waters amongst the marginal plants along the water’s edge.

5. Fathead Minnows — Adding minnows to your pond will help keep it clean and natural — they help keep the insect population down and dine on excess algae. And because they are active and peaceful fish, they help other fish become more comfortable and active too.

6. Pumpkinseeds — Often referred to as pond perch or common sunfish, Pumpkinseeds are attractive little fish that are easy to care for in a backyard pond. They are most active during the afternoon when they’re hunting for insects, mosquito larvae, and worms.

7. Redear Sunfish — Like other sunfish, redear (they actually do have what appears to be red “ears”) are winter-hardy and chomp on snails and other insects and help balance your pond’s ecosystem.

Koi fish feeding in a pond during winter

Other factors that will help your fish will survive the winter…

There are some other things you can do so your cold-hardy fish successfully survive a Canadian winter:

– Make sure at least one section of your pond is at least 24 inches deep so it’s less likely your pond will freeze all the way to the bottom. This also gives your fish room to hibernate during the winter.

– Winterize your pond correctly in the fall so the fish stay healthy and safe until spring. This includes proper cleaning and making sure the pond has adequate ventilation and aeration — you don’t want your fish to suffocate!

– Don’t overfeed your fish in the fall as they’re about to go into their dormant phase. Transition to low-waste autumn food and slow the feeding schedule down until you stop feeding them altogether. Excess food will rot and produce harmful gasses that are toxic to fish.

Pond during winter.

Want to know more about winterizing your pond?

Raymar Landscapes have been creating and caring for ponds for 30 years — so we know how to keep your pond —and its inhabitants — happy and healthy throughout the harshest of winters.

If you’d like help shutting down your pond for the winter, or have any questions, give us a call or fill out our online form. Our crews have been trained by Aquascape — North America’s leading manufacturer of water gardens, water features and ecosystem ponds — and are always eager to help!