Fishponds add fascination for aquatic fans

May 27, 2011
Article By Brian J. Lowney
Fur, fins and feathers

Fascinated by the life aquatic? If so, late spring is the perfect time to install a fishpond.

An outdoor home for fish can be as modest as a plastic container the size of a litter box or as grand as a professionally designed structure with waterfalls and other enhancements.

“Ponds are pretty to look at and people enjoy watching fish,” says Richard Rego of Swansea, a marine animal expert and tropical fish hobbyist.

“It’s another form of gardening, too.”

Goldfish, carp and koi are among the most popular pond fish. Other varieties include golden orfe and tench.

“All of these are cold- tolerant that can survive in a pond in the winter,” Rego says.

During the summer, outdoor fish build up enough fat to survive through their winter dormancy, when they get little or no food. When water temperatures dip below 50 degrees, fish cannot digest their food.

“Once the warmer weather arrives, the first inclination that fish have is to breed and then they eat to put on weight for the next winter,” Rego says. “If the fish are healthy going into the winter months, they should survive.”

All fishponds require regular maintenance, which varies according to the size of the pool. While rain does help replenish water that’s evaporated, owners must check water levels, remove algae and feed fish, Rego says.

Owners should be prepared to pay additional electrical costs incurred by fountains, waterfalls and lights, Rego advises. He also points out that while fishponds are often installed to enhance property, they can also be a detriment because many prospective buyers don’t want to deal with the responsibilities and costs of maintaining a pond.

Rego warns against introducing native wildlife — frogs, turtles and fish found in local waters — into backyard habitats.

“You run the risk of introducing disease and parasites,” he warns, adding, “Frogs won’t stay where they are replanted.” Sometimes, he notes, inquisitive amphibians will discover and relocate in the new habitat.

To enhance the beauty of a pond, owners can install cultivated lilies and other water plants available at a garden center.

He warns pond owners never to release excess koi and other fish into the wild because they become easy prey for waterfowl, storks and osprey.

“The biggest pests are great blue herons,” Rego says. “They are notorious for finding koi ponds and wiping them out in a few days. For them, it’s like an all-you-can-eat buffet.”

To protect fish, he recommends placing a protective net over the pond to ward off predators.

Once temperatures rise, fishponds run the risk of becoming mosquito breeding grounds.

To avoid this problem, Rego suggests biological insecticides to control pests and a test kit to keep track of water quality.

Property owners should also put a fence around the pond to prevent accidents.

“Read books and magazines, visit garden centers, get some design ideas, learn about fish and have a lot of fun,” Rego says.