The Best Pond Fish for Beginners

Pond fish are a great way to add colour, beauty, and movement to your backyard pond. But with so many different types of pond fish available, it can be overwhelming to choose the right ones. As a beginner, you need to be mindful of certain factors when selecting pond fish. In this article, we’ll provide you with a comprehensive guide to help you choose the best pond fish for your garden pond.

Best pond fish for beginners

Table of Contents:

Factors to Consider when Choosing Pond Fish:

    1. Size of Your Pond
    2. Water Temperature and Quality
    3. Feeding and Maintenance

Best Pond Fish for Beginners:

Types of Pond Fish to Avoid:

    1. Grass Carp
    2. Sterlet Sturgeon
    3. Fancy Gold Fish
    4. Catfish
    5. Wild /river Fish

Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Pond Environment



Factors to Consider when Choosing Pond Fish

Before you start selecting pond fish, there are some essential factors to consider. These include:


Size of Your Pond

The size of your pond is a critical factor to consider when choosing pond fish. Larger ponds can accommodate more significant and more active fish, while smaller ponds require smaller and less active fish. Overcrowding your pond can lead to poor water quality, which can harm your fish.  Water in smaller ponds is more likely to be affected by external factors such as weather, water plants or higher level of nutrients. 


Water Temperature and Quality

Different types of pond fish have different temperature and water quality requirements. Ensure that the fish you choose can thrive in your pond’s temperature and water quality. Poor water quality can lead to disease and stress in your fish.


  1. Water temperature:  It’s essential to research the specific needs of your fish and ensure that the water temperature stays within their preferred range. Most pond fish thrive in water temperatures between 68 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit (20-25C).

    It’s important to remember that when the water gets warmer, it can’t hold as much oxygen. This is because as the temperature rises, oxygen becomes less soluble in the water. To give you an idea, at 32°F (0°C), fresh water can hold about 15 parts per million (ppm) of dissolved oxygen. However, at 85°F (30°C), this drops to only approx. 7.7 ppm. Studies have found that most fish need at least 7 ppm of dissolved oxygen to stay active, and minimize stress.

    So, when the water temperature is higher, it has less dissolved oxygen. This lack of oxygen makes the fish move slower, and their metabolism slows down as they try to conserve oxygen. It’s like they’re going into a resting state. On the other hand, if the water is too cold, below 50°F (10C) (depending on the fish species), it can slow down their digestion and might even trigger early hibernation.

  2. Water quality: The quality of the water in your pond is important for the health of your fish. You can maintain water quality by testing the water regularly for ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates. High levels of these compounds can be toxic to fish and may cause health problems.

  3. Filtration: Ensure you have a good filtration system to maintaining water quality in your pond. It always helps to remove debris, excess nutrients, and harmful compounds from the water to keep  a healthy environment for your fish.

  4. Oxygen levels: Pond fish require adequate oxygen levels to breathe. You can maintain oxygen levels by installing a fountain, waterfall, or air pump in your pond. These features help to circulate the water and provide oxygen to your fish.

  5. pH levels: The pH level of your pond water is also crucial for the health of your fish. Most pond fish prefer a pH level between 7.0 and 8.0. If the pH level is too high or too low, it can cause stress and health problems for your fish.


When choosing the best fish for a garden pond, it’s important to consider the cost associated with them. Here are some cost considerations to keep in mind:


  1. Purchase Price: Different fish species have varying price ranges. Some fish, like common goldfish or minnows, are generally more affordable, while exotic or rare species can be quite expensive. Consider your budget and choose fish that fit within your price range.

  2. Maintenance Costs: Fish require regular care and maintenance, which can come with associated costs. Factors such as food, water treatments, and filtration systems should be taken into account when considering the long-term expenses of keeping fish in your pond.

  3. Size and Space: Larger fish, such as koi, may require a larger pond with sufficient space for their growth and swimming. Building or modifying a pond to accommodate larger fish can be more expensive compared to smaller, more compact species.

  4. Feeding Requirements: Different fish species have varying dietary needs. Some fish may require specialized or higher-quality food, which can be more costly compared to standard fish food. Consider the ongoing expenses of feeding your chosen fish species.

  5. Health and Disease: Fish may occasionally require veterinary care or treatment for diseases. These treatments can incur additional costs, so it’s important to factor in the potential expenses for maintaining the health of your fish.

  6. Compatibility: Certain fish species may not get along well with others, leading to aggression or the need for separate enclosures. Creating separate spaces or purchasing additional equipment to accommodate incompatible fish can increase the overall cost of fishkeeping.

Remember to research and plan accordingly to ensure you can afford the initial and ongoing costs associated with the fish you choose for your garden pond.

Best Pond Fish for Beginners: 


     1.1 Shubunkin

     1.2 Sarasa Comet

2. Koi

3. Orfe (Ide)

4. Fathead Minnows

Goldfish in a garden pond

1. Goldfish

Goldfish are great choice for beginners because they’re easy to take care of and can adapt to various water conditions.

There are many kinds of goldfish, like Comet, Shubunkin, Wakin, Sarasa Comet, Fancy or Fantail Goldfish. Goldfish are tough, colourful, and can live up to 20 years if you look after them properly.

All types of goldfish grow fairly slow, but with sufficient space and proper food, they can reach a size of around 12 inches. Goldfish are friendly, calm, and sociable creatures that get along well with other fish.

However, it’s important to be mindful of the size and maturity of other fish in your pond when introducing young goldfish. Large Koi fish have been known to harm young goldfish, especially if the pond is small and crowded.


Pond size:

Goldfish are a beautiful and affordable choice for any pond, regardless of its size. They are a type of fish that likes to swim together, so even in a large pond, they will add brightness and liveliness.

To ensure the well-being of your goldfish, it is recommended to provide around 20 gallons of water per fish in your pond. Since goldfish are smaller than Koi, they can thrive in medium-sized ponds. However, it’s important to make sure there is enough open water for them to swim freely.

Typically, a pond depth of 18 inches is enough for keeping goldfish. But they can also do well in ponds that are 3 feet deep. In this aspect, they are not as demanding as Koi.


Water temperature & quality:

Goldfish like to live in balanced, well-aerated outdoor ponds. They can tolerate different temperatures, but since they prefer colder water, it’s important to provide some shade for the pond in the summer to keep the water temperature stable. Usually, during winter, you don’t have to worry about adding cover to your pond, unless there is an especially cold period with harsh temperatures.

Goldfish can handle very cold temperatures, but they cannot survive if they are completely frozen.  If the pond is approx. 3 feet or deeper, goldfish can save themselves from freezing by swimming down to the bottom of the pond.

To keep your goldfish happy and healthy in an outdoor pond, the water temperature should be between 65 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit (18 – 23 C). Goldfish are usually tough, but they don’t do well in higher temperatures and may not survive for long.

Goldfish need plenty of oxygen, especially in ponds. They can even handle lower temperatures as long as there is enough oxygen in the water. If there’s a thin layer of ice on the pond, it won’t harm the goldfish as long as they have sufficient oxygen.

Having a good filtration system is crucial for goldfish ponds, especially if there is waste or leftover food. It helps prevent harmful substances from building up and causing stress to the fish.

Goldfish prefer the water to have a pH level between 6.0 and 8.0. 


There are lots of different types of goldfish to pick from. But if you’re a beginner, we highly recommend the Shubunkin Goldfish as one of the best options. Another good choice is the Sarasa Comet goldfish.

Shibunkin, goldfish

2. Shubunkin

A Shubunkin is a special kind of goldfish that looks really pretty. They’re a good choice for people who are new to keeping fish. Shubunkins are tough and can handle different types of water. They have colorful spots in red, yellow, orange, blue, white, and black, and their scales are shiny.


They can live in a pond with other fish, so they’re a great addition to your garden. Shubunkins can grow to be about 4 to 8 inches long (10-20 cm) and they usually live for 15-20 years. They’re strong fish and don’t get sick easily.

To make sure your Shubunkin can hibernate, your pond should be at least 28 inches deep (70 cm). It’s also good to have some shallow areas, about 6 inches deep (15 cm), for propagation purposes. The bottom of the pond should have coarse material because Shubunkins like to dig around in it.


Shubunkins like having water plants in the pond, but they also need open space to swim. It’s best to have at least 5 Shubunkins together because they like being in a group.

They can live happily with other fish like Orfes, Koi, and different types of goldfish.

Sarasa Comet Goldfish

3. Sarasa Comet

Sarasa Comet is a popular type of ornamental goldfish that many people love. They are strong, can handle different water conditions with ease and grow to approx. 14inch (35cm) long. Their beautiful red and white colours make them a stunning addition to any pond.

These fish get along well with koi and other goldfish varieties. They look great together, with their striking colours complementing each other.


It’s important to keep Sarasa Comet in groups, but make sure there are enough females compared to the males, as the males can sometimes chase the females too much during breeding.

Just like other hardy goldfish, Sarasa Comet is a fantastic choice for a garden pond. They happily coexist with pond plants and don’t put too much strain on the filtration system, even when they grow bigger. They also freely interbreed with other goldfish varieties, creating unique offspring.


Sarasa Comet thrives in water with a pH level of 7.0-8.0, which is neutral to slightly alkaline. They can tolerate a wide range of water temperatures, from approximately 4-30°C.

To ensure their well-being during cold winters and hot summer days, it’s recommended to have a fishpond that is at least 23 inches deep (60cm) in certain areas. This deeper area serves as a safe haven during extreme cold weather when water circulation may be less vigorous.


Keeping Sarasa Comet in your pond will bring beauty and enjoyment, as they add a splash of vibrant colour and are resilient in various pond conditions.

koi fish in garden pond

4. Koi

Koi are famous for their beautiful and vibrant colours and thanks to their size and ability to live a long life, they have become a symbol of good luck and health.

They can be social and interact with humans. Generally, in healthy ponds, Koi can live between 25 to 35 years if they are given nutritious food and good quality water (but can live for up to 40 years, which makes them worth the investment). Originally bred in Japan, Koi Carp are now farmed all around the world.


If you have optimal water conditions, Koi fish are a great choice because they tend to grow very large. They are also strong and resilient, able to withstand extreme winter and summer conditions. However, it’s important to remember that keeping Koi requires regular maintenance and upkeep of your ponds to ensure the fish stay happy and healthy.


Pond size:

To keep Koi fish, you’ll need a bigger pond with a depth of at least three feet and a filtration system to keep the water clean and healthy.

The best size for Koi ponds is typically over 1000 gallons and three feet deep. This size provides enough space and resources for the fish. Many Koi Pond Kits are available that are specifically designed to create ponds of these dimensions.

If you plan to have a group of Koi fish, you’ll probably need an even larger pond with over 3000 gallons of water to accommodate them comfortably.


Water temperature and quality:

Koi fish are tough and can handle outdoor ponds even during harsh winter conditions. However, for them to survive a freezing winter outside, you need to take proper care of their pond.

If your koi pond is between three to five feet deep, you don’t have to worry about the whole pond freezing over in winter. This depth allows your fish to swim at the bottom of the pond, even if the surface freezes. It doesn’t mean they will enjoy it, but they can definitely tolerate it. If the water temperature drops significantly, your koi may feel stressed and prefer to stay in one spot at the bottom of the pond (or even enter an early hibernation state during extremely cold periods).


Koi are comfortable in a temperature range of 59-77°F (15-25°C). However, they don’t tolerate sudden temperature changes.

 It’s important to have a good filtration system and keep an aerator running throughout the year, not just in winter. Having an aerator is crucial during winter and costs less than using a heater.



Koi, just like other pond fish, can be easily targeted by predators. To keep them safe, we suggest covering your garden pond with a net. It provides a protective barrier against potential threats.

Alternatively, you can opt for a cost – friendly and more visually attractive solution by adding aquatic plants to your pond. Plants not only enhance the visual appeal but also offer natural shelter from the direct sunlight and deterring predators from reaching your Koi. 

Having a pond depth of at least three feet also helps keep predators away from your valuable fish.


carp, koi fish, pond-217229.jpg

5. Orfe (Ide)

Orfe fish, also known as Ide, are popular fish for ponds and are great for beginners. The most common types of Orfe found in garden ponds are Gold, Silver and Blue Orfe. However, the Golden Orfe is the most popular type and stands out with its bright orange colour.


Orfe fish like to swim together in groups, so it’s best to keep at least five of them in the pond. Unlike goldfish, the gold orfe is a surface fish that catches people’s attention. They can live up to 15 to 20 years.

Orfe fish need a lot of oxygen in the water compared to other pond fish. They don’t do well in conditions where there is not enough dissolved oxygen. Orfe fish can be a single colour or have blotches on their back and sides. Sometimes they may jump out of the water if they get spooked.


Orfe fish are omnivorous, which means they eat a variety of foods. They enjoy insects, crustaceans, and plants. They also like to snack on algae, which helps keep the pond healthy.


Pond size:

Orfe fish are active swimmers and require a minimum of 100 gallons of water per fish. It’s important to provide adequate space and hiding places for them. Orfe need plants, rocks, or other hiding places to feel secure and reduce stress. If a pond is deep enough, at least 40 inch (100cm), they will easily hibernate in winter.


Orfe typically grow to approx. 1- 1.5 feet (30 – 45cm) long if pond conditions accommodate growth. Orfe fish are active and social, making them a great addition to any garden pond.


Water temperature and quality: 

Orfe fish like cooler water temperatures, between 64 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit (17-22°C), so they’re a good choice for garden ponds. They’re tough fish and can handle different water conditions. But it’s important to keep the pond healthy by testing the water regularly, cleaning up debris and too much algae, and using a filter. You also need to be careful not to overfeed the orfe fish and give them a balanced diet to keep them healthy.


They aren’t too sensitive to parasites, but they care a lot about the water quality. That’s why water treatment plants sometimes use orfe fish to check if the water is quality is good enough.

Orfe fish need oxygen more than goldfish do, so when you get them, put them in the pond as soon as possible. It’s a good idea to have an aerator or a fountain in the pond too. This is even more important in ponds with lots of plants, as the plants use up oxygen at night, reducing oxygen available for your fish.  



Because of their bright colour and tendency to swim near the surface, orfe are easily seen by predators and a pond net might help to keep your fish safe. It’s important to know that orfe, regardless of their type, are not native to North America and as such are illegal to have in some states. So, it’s a good idea to check the local rules and regulations before getting orfe fish for your pond.

Fathead minnows

6. Fathead Minnows

Fathead minnows are small fish, about 2-3 inches long, and they’re most ornamental types are orange in colour. They’re peaceful and can live in different types of water conditions. They are very social and can be kept in large numbers in any pond. This makes them a great choice for ponds of any size, especially smaller ones where bigger fish like koi wouldn’t be suitable. However, they don’t live very long, usually about 2-3 years.


Fathead minnows can be helpful in keeping algae under control, maintaining healthy water condition in your pond. They like to swim together in a group, and it’s best to have a group of 10-20 of them in the pond (but min. of 5 is recommended).


Pond size:

For your pond, it’s best if it’s at least 30 inches (75cm) deep with some open areas and plants. Minnows also like having a shallow area in the pond, around 4 inches (10cm) deep.


Water Temperature and Quality:

These fish like the water to be between 10-21 °C (50-70 °F) and have a pH level between 7.0-7.5. They can be sensitive to poor water quality, so it’s important to have a good filtration system.



Minnows should not be placed in a pond with established population of predatory fish because they will be eaten quickly. It’s also important to protect them from birds or cats, especially in a smaller ponds.


Types of Pond Fish to Avoid in a Garden Pond

While some pond fish are suitable for beginners, others are best left to experienced fish keepers. Here are some types of pond fish to avoid:


1. Grass Carp

Grass carp are large, herbivorous fish that can grow up to four feet in length. While they are effective at controlling aquatic vegetation, they are voracious eaters, can uproot plants and disturb the pond ecosystem. They also require a specialized care and a large space to thrive.


2. Sterlet Sturgeon

Sterlet sturgeon is a cold-water fish that can grow up to three feet in length. They require specific water quality and temperature conditions, making them very challenging to care for. They are better suited for larger, well-maintained aquatic environments.


3. Fancy Gold Fish

Fancy goldfish have beautiful long fins and stunning colours that can amaze anyone. However, it’s not a good idea to keep fancy goldfish in outdoor ponds.

Fancy goldfish are slow and not very good swimmers, especially when compared to other fish like Koi or regular goldfish with a single tail. These other fish are faster and will eat most of the food, leaving the fancy goldfish hungry. Fancy goldfish are also more likely to get sick and catch diseases.

Their delicate fins can easily get damaged by other fish in the pond. It’s best to avoid fancy goldfish and choose other types of hardy fish instead, (Sarasa Comet and Shubunkin are great choice for a goldfish).


4. Catfish

Catfish are often recommended for ponds due to their hardiness and ability to tolerate different temperatures. However, keeping them in many ponds is unwise. They eat smaller fish, can grow very large, make the water murky, and tend to hide at the bottom. It’s generally not recommended to have catfish in backyard ponds.


5. Wild River Fish

Don’t make the mistake of stocking your garden pond with wild-caught river fish to save money. Introducing wild fish to your pond, especially if they are more aggressive species, can lead to them hurting or even killing your existing fish. Moreover, it’s a easy way to introduce diseases and pests that are difficult to get rid of.

Garden pond conditions are different from natural habitats, with less oxygen, limited food, and warmer, calmer waters. It’s best to leave wild river fish in their natural environment and purchase fish that are suitable for your pond’s conditions.

best garden pond fish

Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Pond Environment

Maintaining a healthy pond environment is essential for the well-being of your pond fish. Here are some tips for maintaining a healthy pond environment:

  • Test your water regularly to ensure that it’s within the recommended parameters for your chosen fish.
  • Keep your pond clean by removing debris, dead leaves, and excess algae.
  • Use a filtration system to maintain water quality.
  • Ensure that your pond has adequate aeration and oxygenation to support your fish.
  • Feed your fish a balanced diet and avoid overfeeding.


Choosing the right pond fish for beginners requires careful consideration of various factors. The size of your pond is crucial, as larger ponds can accommodate more significant and active fish, while smaller ponds require smaller and less active fish to prevent overcrowding and maintain water quality. Water temperature and quality should match the requirements of the chosen fish species to ensure their well-being. Additionally, factors such as cost, including purchase price and ongoing maintenance expenses, pond size and space, feeding requirements, health and disease considerations, and compatibility with other fish should be taken into account.

By considering these factors, you can make an informed decision when selecting pond fish for your garden pond. Koi, goldfish, including Shubunkin and Sarasa Comet, Fathead Minnows and Orfe (Ide) are among the best pond fish options for beginners due to their hardiness, adaptability to different water conditions, and ease of care. Remember to research each fish species thoroughly and plan accordingly to create a healthy and thriving pond environment for your chosen fish.



1. How many pond fish can I keep in my pond?


The number of fish you can keep in your pond depends on the size of your pond and the fish’s size and activity level. A general rule of thumb is to keep no more than one inch of fish per square foot of pond surface area.


2. Can I keep different types of pond fish together?


Yes, you can keep different types of pond fish together as long as they have similar water temperature and quality requirements and are not aggressive towards each other.


3. What should I do if my fish show signs of illness?


If your fish show signs of illness, isolate them from the other fish and seek advice from a veterinarian or fish expert.


4. Can I feed my pond fish regular fish food?


Yes, most pond fish can be fed regular fish food, but some require specialized diets. Ensure that you provide the appropriate diet for your chosen fish species.


5. How does water temperature and quality affect pond fish? 


Water temperature and quality significantly impact pond fish. Fish are ectothermic, meaning their body temperature is regulated by the surrounding water. Unsuitable water temperature can stress fish, impair their immune systems, and affect their metabolism. Water quality, including parameters like pH, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels, directly affects the health and survival of fish. Poor water quality can lead to stress, diseases, and even death.


6. What is the recommended water temperature range for pond fish? 


The recommended water temperature range for pond fish depends on the specific species. However, most pond fish thrive within a range of 50°F to 80°F (10°C to 27°C). Some species, like koi, prefer warmer temperatures, while others, like goldfish, can tolerate cooler temperatures. It is important to research the temperature preferences of the fish species you plan to keep to ensure their optimal health.


7. How does water temperature impact oxygen levels in the pond?


Water temperature directly affects the oxygen levels in the pond. Warmer water holds less dissolved oxygen than cooler water. As the temperature rises, the oxygen-carrying capacity of the water decreases, potentially leading to low oxygen levels in the pond. This can be harmful to fish as they require adequate oxygen for respiration. Monitoring oxygen levels and ensuring proper aeration becomes crucial during warmer periods to maintain a healthy environment for the fish.


8. Why is maintaining water quality important for the health of pond fish?


Maintaining water quality is vital for the health of pond fish because it directly affects their overall well-being. Poor water quality can lead to stress, diseases, and even death in fish. It is essential to monitor and maintain appropriate levels of parameters such as pH, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate. Regular testing, proper filtration, adequate water changes, and minimizing pollution sources are essential for providing a clean and safe habitat for the fish.


9. What factors should be considered in terms of filtration and oxygen levels in the pond?


When considering filtration and oxygen levels in the pond, several factors need to be considered. These include the size of the pond, the number and size of fish, the biological load (waste production), the types of filtration systems available (e.g., mechanical, biological, UV), and the oxygen demand of the fish. The filtration system should be capable of handling the waste load and maintaining water quality, while adequate aeration should be provided to ensure sufficient oxygen levels for the fish.


10. What ongoing maintenance expenses should be considered for pond fish?


Ongoing maintenance expenses for pond fish include the cost of fish food, water treatments (such as dechlorinators or algae control products), routine water testing kits, and potential veterinary care. Fish food can be a significant recurring expense, especially for larger fish or species that require specialized diets. Additionally, regular maintenance of the pond, including water changes, filter media replacements, and energy costs for operating filtration and aeration systems, should be considered. It’s important to budget for these ongoing expenses to ensure the continued health and well-being of your pond fish.

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