Home & Garden

Fish, plants liven up backyard ponds

Water lilies float in an outdoor pond.
Water lilies float in an outdoor pond. Courtesy photo

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story was unclear about how to handle fish.

Here are some tips for adding fish and plants to your backyard pond.

What about fish?

Fish can add a fun and playful element to your water feature. Whether you’re adding small goldfish or giant koi, follow this advice:

▪  Don’t overfeed your fish. Fish are grazers and only need what they can eat in three to five minutes.

▪  If you have city water, use a dechlorinator, and don’t “top off” your pond with water from the hose. Even a little water with chlorine can burn the gills of fish.

▪  Handle fish correctly. Koi should never leave the water; with their body weight, the change in pressure can kill them. And never leave fish in the sludge at the bottom of the pond while you're cleaning it. Instead, have a holding tank ready that is aerated and covered with a net. Corral the fish into a container of water to transfer them into the tank, where they will stay while you clean the pond. 


Plants can help keep your water clean and clear. Not all water plants are the same, though. LaLana Moore, owner of Scenic Landscapes, suggests a combination of these types of plants for a balanced ecosystem in your water garden.

▪  Floaters – These plants float on the surface, with roots that hang into the water. They provide great filtration and coverage to your pond.

Try water hyacinth, water lettuce, frogbit.

▪  Marginals – Moore describes these as plants that “just like their feet wet.” Since they need just a few inches of water over their pot, you may want to add levels to your pond with rocks or ledges.

Try cattails, water irises, ribbon grass.

▪  Deep water Deep water plants’ roots grow in pots and planters deep underwater. Their leaves and flowers spread on the surface, providing goldfish and koi with great hiding spots.

Try water lilies and lotus.

▪  Sinking These fully submerged pond plants act as important oxygenators to your water feature. They help with water clarity by absorbing nitrates and phosphates – the nutrients that lead to algae growth.

Try anacharis, cabomba.