So, your new garden pond has been built, filled with water and planted. It has stood for a while to let everything settle down and the plants are becoming a little more established looking. So what’s missing? Well the fish of course. The bit that you have been waiting for all this time. The bit that makes all of your hard work worthwhile.
The best time of year to buy new fish for your pond is either late spring or early summer, ideally when the water temperature is ten degrees or a little over.
So, how do you choose the right fish to stock? You start by asking yourself a few questions. How many fish can I have? What size should they be? What types of fish do I choose? How do I choose healthy fish?
Well to start off with, there is a maximum stocking level that should not be exceeded. This is usually considered to be about 2ins in length of fish, excluding tail fins, for every square foot of surface area. This allows for healthy growth and development of fish. You can stock a little more heavily than this if you have an established pond and have some form of aeration such as a fountain or waterfall, but don’t overdo it, especially at first. Remember that waterfalls and fountains could break down. Also, remember that your fish will grow and may even breed.
Types of fish need to be taken into account. The common goldfish is fairly hardy as are some other varieties such as golden orfe, rudd, tench and shorter finned shubunkins. If you live in an area where cold weather, frost and snow are likely, avoid some of the more delicate long finned varieties such as fantails, veil tails and similar. While these fish do look spectacular, they are not hardy and need to be kept in an aquarium where their beauty can be appreciated. Also avoid koi carp unless you have a large pond, with excellent quality water and know what you are doing. These fish will grow very large and need a bit of specialist knowledge. They may also damage your pond plants.
Remember you want to view your fish from above. Surface feeding fish will be seen more often. For this purpose, goldfish, rudd and orfe are ideal. Tench however, are bottom feeding fish and are olive green in colour and so may not be seen as often. They do however add variety, are relatively hardy and help to clean up any sunken food. Aim for a mix of species which is pleasing to the eye and will also complement your water garden.
One word of warning, do avoid collecting fish from the wild. These may well carry diseases and infect your pond. This also applies to pond plants. Buy from a reputable dealer.
Before you even go to look at fish, think about how you are going to transport your new fish home and introduce them into your pond. Try not to travel too far with new fish in a small bag and always ensure that your pond at home is in a fit state to accept new charges. Check the pH and buy a pH adjuster kit if needed.
So, what else should you consider when buying new fish?
Always look carefully at the fish you are about to buy. Spend a little time looking at all of the fish. Look for specimens which look healthy. Look for any fish that are hiding away in a corner. Look for any signs of fungus or white spots on the fins and nice clear eyes. Look at their fins. They should have upright dorsal (top) fins and their other fins should be well spread out with no obvious splits. They should look lively with clear eyes and have no white fungus or spotted looking marks on their scales. Also don’t be afraid to ask to see a chosen fish in a bag and then reject it if need be. Remember that any infections on the fish you buy could infect your fish at home.
There should be no damaged or missing scales although with larger specimens this is not quite as critical as they are susceptible to some damage with age.
If a healthy fish has some scales missing, then treat it with a proprietary fungus cure when you get it home just in case. It is best to do this anyway before introducing them to other fish in your pond and you should certainly keep some in store just in case.
Of course all of these things can be difficult to check when you are choosing fish from a tank full of specimens and so ask the seller to put your selections into a plastic bag so that you an examine them more closely and from different angles. Don’t be afraid to point out any defects and ask for a replacement. Introducing an infection to your other fish is just not worth it.
I would also put transparent plastic bags inside another non-transparent dark coloured bag during transit so as not to frighten your new fish too much during the journey. Also be very careful not to bash the bags in transit as the shock could kill the fish.
When you get your fish home, float the bag on the pond surface for a while to let the two water temperatures equalise. Then undo the bag and let your fish swim out of their own accord. They will soon settle into their new home, and hopefully be happy there for a long time.
I hope this article has offered some good advice and hope you enjoy your fish for many years to come.