15 Best Pond Fish For Your Outdoor Pond (Garden)

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Written By Matt Stevens

Hi, I'm Matt! I've been obsessed with fishkeeping for over 15 years now and created this site to share my knowledge with others.

Can’t seem to find the best fish for your backyard pond? We understand your struggle.

In all honesty, choosing the best pet fish for a home aquarium is never easy. And it’s even more challenging if you want an ideal fish species that thrive inside an outdoor pond.

Where do I begin? Would my favorite pet fish ultimately outgrow my small pond? And who would be its best companions inside the pond? If such and more questions have crossed your mind at some point, this guide is meant for you.

And in the next section, we walk you through 15 of the best-known pond fish for the aquarium hobby. We will focus on each species in more detail, covering their typical appearance, behavior, diet, and why they would be an excellent option for your backyard pond.

1. Koi Carp Fish

Koi Carp fish tops our list of the most beautiful freshwater aquarium fish, and their hardy nature also makes them a wonderful addition to backyard ponds.

Koi Carp swimming in the tank

Typically, these are resilient, cold-water fish that can withstand different conditions in captivity.

They exist in several color forms, from yellow to orange, white, and black, giving you multiple options when it comes to beautifying your pond.

While they are natural inhabitants of Japan and other Asian countries, Koi Carp fish has a widespread population across multiple European countries, enjoying a dominant presence in the aquarium community.

With a standard 20 year lifespan in captivity, investing in Koi Carp fish demands a long-term commitment. And be ready to provide the best possible conditions if you intend to introduce them to your backyard pond.

2. Goldfish

Would you believe it? That the iconic Goldfish can be a fantastic addition to fish ponds? Famed for their incomparable beauty and ease of care, many aquarists aren’t aware that most Goldfish varieties would thrive in a pond until they choose to keep one at home.

Telescope Goldfish swimming in aquarium

There are many reasons you could be looking to introduce the ever-popular Goldfish to your home aquarium, but as one of the best fish for fish ponds, everything revolves around their hardy nature.

Unlike most freshwater fish, Goldfish can tolerate different conditions at home and are less demanding when it comes to overall care.

As for their dietary requirements, Goldfish will demonstrate omnivorous characteristics, ready to munch on any plant-based matter and other greens available inside the tank. Of course, they will also want plenty of hiding places for their long-term health and well-being.

3. Gobi Fish

Gobi fish is the next best option you can consider for your outdoor pond. While they are natural omnivores and happy to spend much of their time eating algae, these fish also enjoy insects, snails, and other meaty products like worms.

gobi fish swimming in the tank

They have a solid 5-year lifespan in captivity, and a typical species may grow as long as 6 inches with quality care.

Like most species of the Gobiidae family, the Gobies are a schooling fish and more secure in groups. You should keep at least a half dozen of them inside the pond at any given time.

But if the pond is large enough, you could be tempted to increase the number to about eight species at all times. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

4. Golden Orfe Fish

Golden Orfe fish may not be a popular name in the aquarium hobby, but they are still one of the best options for a backyard pond. They don’t enjoy a widespread population like the typical Koi Carp fish but can be just as fascinating under the right conditions.

Golden Orfe fish swimming in tank.

They belong to the Cyprinidae family, with a dominant presence in Asia and Northern Europe. One of the most outstanding features of the Golden Orfe fish is their glittery body coloring, and their name confirms just as much.

Generally speaking, Orfe fish is a resilient, adaptable fish, readily thriving in larger ponds of 500 gallons and above.

The baby Orfe fish typically shows silvery scales with black spots on the head and neck. But with maturity, the body coloration quickly changes to an orange sheen which can sometimes mimic the bright coloring commonly seen in Goldfish.

5. Rosy Red Minnows

As their name suggests, the Rosy Red Minnows are colorful freshwater fish with a huge following in the aquarium hobby. They are among the first species that come to mind when we think about hardy and low-maintenance pond fish.

Rosy Red Minnows swimming in tank.


Apparently, “red” in these fish’s names has nothing to do with their body coloring. Because as far as the general appearance goes, Rosy Red Minnows have a vibrant, metallic orange color all over their bodies, with well-shaped translucent fins to support their bodies.

With just a 2-3 inch body size, Rosy Red Minnows’ biggest enemies are large, predatory fish that will want to eat them inside the pond. So, you must create a friendly environment that addresses all aspects of effective fish care.

6. Plecostomus

Plecostomus, best known as Common Plecos are one of the most popular freshwater fish in the aquarium trade. They are an excellent choice for outdoor ponds, given their suitability to most conditions that other fish species would never tolerate.

Common Pleco swimming in tank.

As a favorite pond fish, Common Plecos will add a unique color tone with their enticing bodies that are just as distinct as you could imagine. They have a distinctive, tiger-like pattern, which is why they belong to the catfish family in the first place.

Also, Common Plecos have multiple rows of protective armor plates and strong suckermouths that support their unique feeding habits at home.

Naturally, they are nocturnal species that spend much of their time in hiding during the day, which is why they need plenty of hiding spots inside the tank.

7. Sticklebacks

Have you ever heard of the Sticklebacks before? We bet you haven’t. But even if you have, you will agree they aren’t one of the most popular freshwater fish out there.

Sticklebacks swimming in the tank

They come in different sizes and colors, with some measuring just about 2 inches in total body length. But the good news is they are highly adaptable fish that can survive inside a well-maintained pond.

The Three-Spined variety, in particular, is a sturdy fish that can be an interesting inclusion to an outdoor pond. The fact they can tolerate freezing conditions means the Sticklebacks can survive inside a pond at any time of the year.

It’s easy to forget that despite their peaceful temperament, the Sticklebacks can get quite aggressive during the breeding season, threatening fellow pond dwellers that had at one time become their favorite companions at home.

8. Sterlet Fish

Sterlet fish are highly tolerant of colder conditions which is the main reason you may want to introduce them to your pond. They typically dwell in large rivers with plenty of oxygen and cooler temperatures.

Sterlet fish swimming in tank.

Like most species of the Acipenseridae family, the Sterlet fish are relatively smaller, growing to only 3 inches in maturity. They originate from large rivers flowing into the iconic Black Sea and will be happy if captivity life matches such conditions.

Ideally, the little Sterlet fish will need sufficient protection from any large-sized, aggressive fish that could shorten their lives. Their hardiness allows them to live for 25 years if the water conditions are right.

As for the typical appearance, the Sterlet fish have white bands on black bodies, with strong barbels for eating the most suitable types of food.

9. Red Shiners

Red Shiner, sometimes called the Red-horse Minnow, is a deep-bodied North American fish with a silvery appearance. Despite only measuring about 3 inches in captivity, the Red Shiners are a great option for ponds.

Red-horse Minnow swimming in tank.

Like most small-sized fish, Red Shiners prefer to stay in groups, just like they are used to in the wild. However, they are easy targets for large-sized fish, and you must be careful when introducing any new fish to the same pond.

If they don’t blow you away with their glittery appearance, the Red-horse Minnows might do so with their ease of care, being a less demanding, hardy fish that can tolerate fluctuating conditions inside the pond.  

10. Redear Fish

Redear Sunfish is so-named because of the red coloring just next to its gills. But the most interesting part of these fish’s care is that they are hardy enough to thrive in ponds as their natural habitat.

Redear Sunfish swimming in tank.

They are endemic to Central American regions, where they’ve been famously kept in medium-sized and large ponds with the right conditions.

Redear Sunfish can grow up to 15 inches, making the pond size such a critical aspect of their daily living.

Their resilience appeals to many aquarium enthusiasts, and if you combine that with their snail eating tendencies, you may have just found the perfect pet fish that has it all. 

Be sure to feed them the right foods like high-quality proteins to maintain their spotless appearance inside the ponds.  

11. Fathead Minnows

Fathead Minnows are small, temperate freshwater fish of the Cyprinidae family. They are dominantly found in North America, with most species tolerant of different conditions within their habitat.

Fathead Minnows swimming in tank.

A typical Fathead Minnow will take on a faded olive to grey coloration, with an additional dark band running towards the tailfin. Their resilience makes them a priceless inclusion to home aquariums and can be a fantastic addition to small, outdoor ponds.

If you need a small pond fish that can tolerate low oxygen levels, is easy to breed, and is readily manageable, the Fathead Minnows should top your list.

With a standard water temperature of 64°F and below, the Fathead Minnows will be ready to breed as long as the rest of the conditions remain satisfactory.

12. Weather Loach

Weather Loach is an ancient member of the Cobitidae family with an impressive history in the aquatic scene.

Weather loach swimming in tank.

They are natural bottom-dwelling fish that are perfect for backyard ponds. To put it in perspective, they have been so successful inside outdoor ponds that they are sometimes called the Pond Loaches.

Weather Loach’s name represents an interesting story related to the fish’s ability to predict bad weather. But how? You will ask.

Observations have shown that, unlike most species, Pond Loaches tend to develop strange swimming patterns with a fast-approaching storm. 

You will easily spot an erratic swimming pattern inside the pond during that period, indicating that everything’s not right and could be worse anytime soon.

Now, you will get to decide if such stories are true only by getting one for your backyard pond.

13. Siamese Algae Eater

Perhaps the Siamese Algae Eaters are more popular for their natural ability to clear vast amounts of algae inside the tank. But it turns out they are just as excellent as ideal pond fish.

Siamese Algae Eaters swimming in tank.

These fish can roam freely inside the tank if they want to. However, their strong penchant for eating algae means they will want to spend much of their time at the lower areas of the pond, as close to their favorite meal as possible.

Regarding the general body coloring, the Siamese Algae Eaters can either have a beautiful beige or brown coloration. In addition, a visible band extends from the snout to the tailfin and is one of the easily recognized features in these species.

14. Mosquitofish

There’s always one fish species in every freshwater fish family that don’t seem to attract much attention but can be outstanding in many ways. In the broader Poeciliidae family, that species is the Mosquitofish.

mosquitofish swimming in tank.

You won’t commonly see them in many tanks and might not even be aware that they exist in the first place. But if you need a small, adaptable freshwater fish that’s perfect for any backyard pond, the Mosquitofish is one of the best options.

Perhaps you won’t love the brown or dull-gray coloring on their bodies, but their hardiness inside a pond makes them worth every penny.

Like their name, the Mosquitofish have a strong liking for eating mosquitos. And that should form a vital part of their diet if you keep them at home.

15. Guppy Fish

It’s pretty unfair that the famous live-bearing fish had to appear last on our list. Or let’s just say we may have saved the best for last.

Guppy fish swimming in tank.

Guppy fish is a popular live-bearing fish that has gained deserved attention from fish lovers over the years. They are an excellent choice for backyard ponds, with beautiful fins and intricate details on their bodies that allow them to stand out in any environment.

They exist in multiple color morphs, including snakeskin, tuxedo, dumbo ear, and cobra. It’s worth reminding that the Guppy fish is always on the smaller end of the growth spectrum, and even a modest fish pond would do when it comes to setting up the perfect habitat.

The male fish are generally more attractive than the females, even if the latter always appears larger. What’s more, the Guppy fish is one of the easiest species to breed in captivity, demonstrating the perfect combination of an ideal pet fish that’s just excellent in all aspects.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, most pond fish are naturally hardy, healthy, and active and are one of the best pets you can ever have at home. The 15 fish species covered above are some of the best options you will ever find in the aquarium community; beautiful, hardy, and ready to thrive in virtually all conditions.

Now that you understand what an ideal pond fish looks like, it’s time to get your favorite species. We can’t wait to hear from anyone with a few suggestions regarding our list of the best pond fish.