Fish Tales
Spring is the perfect time for retailers to help customers understand the important steps in selecting, stocking and adding fish to their ponds.


This is the perfect time of year for pondkeepers to add fish to their ponds. In order to provide the healthiest fish to these hobbyists, it is important for retailers to understand what a pondkeeper is looking for in a potential dealer. They are looking for a reputable dealer that has probably been referred to them, a dealer that has a quarantine procedure and a dealer that oxygenates the bag for a safe transport. They will also make sure the store has clean and well-filtered water, that there is no fishy smell coming from the water, and that fish do not appear distressed.

Once pondkeepers are satisfied with a store’s procedures, they should choose their pond fish carefully. Remind these customers of the following steps when adding fish to their pond.

Step 1: Selecting Fish

Pondkeepers should understand that bringing home a sick or infected fish endangers the entire pond. When choosing a fish, customers should take time to observe the fish they are considering. Warning signs of an unhealthy fish include hovering in a corner or at the bottom of the tank, abnormal blotching or marking of the fish’s body, gasping or fins that are folded back. A healthy fish is active, bright and sociable, and has outstretched fins.

When choosing fish, the common goldfish, comet goldfish and shubunkin are the hardiest choices for a pond. These are good choices for the new pond owner. Fancy goldfish, such as fantails and lionheads, are not as hardy and are more easily preyed upon. Koi are also a great choice for a pond.

Step 2: Stocking Fish
New pond owners may have many questions as to what type of fish will be best for their pond. They may also become excited and buy too many fish too quickly. In a new pond, the usual recommendation is for no more than one inch of fish per square foot of pond surface area. Established ponds may have a maximum stocking level of two to three inches of fish per square foot of pond surface area. Remind pondkeepers that their fish will grow, and overstocking may result in future problems, including overcrowding, poor water quality and decreased levels of oxygen.

Step 3: Adding Fish
Fish should be added to a pond that is established and has a filter that has been running for at least two weeks. It is important to wait for this time period to allow the beneficial bacteria to colonize. Be sure to recommend the right water treatments to customers.

After the pond is established, the filter has been running and the water has been treated, customers can gradually add fish, one or two at a time.  If there are existing fish in the pond, it is a good idea to quarantine new fish for two weeks. If the new fish are the first inhabitants of the pond, they can be added right away.

Typically, the fish will be transported from the store to the pond in a plastic bag containing a small amount of water and a good amount of air. If the customer is traveling a long distance, a shot of pure oxygen should be added. Tell pondkeepers to acclimate the fish to the pond by placing the bag in the water for at least 30 minutes so that the water in the bag gradually matches the temperature of the pond. Next, they should open the bag to allow pond water to mix with the water in the bag for a few minutes before releasing the fish into the pond. Remind them that the fish will tend to hide at first, but after a few days they will eventually come out to feed.

Curt Nuenighoff is TetraPond director.