What Are The Best Fish For Water Gardens


Many people want to add fish to their water gardens.  In this article we will explore the best fish to obtain depending on the size, location, and intent of your water garden.  When you finished with this article, you should have a clear understanding of the many types of fish available for your water garden and the best species to purchase for your specific type and size of water garden.

What are the best fish for water gardens? The best overall fish for water gardens is the Comet goldfish. Comet goldfish are hardy and can thrive in many different types of water gardens.

Of course, there are many more options as to which fish you can use for your water garden. Read on to explore the many wonderful species of fish that are available to water garden enthusiasts.

 Why Comet Goldfish

Comet goldfish are native to the United States and since the late 1800’s and have continued to be one of the most popular breeds. The name “Comet Goldfish” was given as their long flowing tail resembles a comet.  Gaining in size up to 12 inches, Comet goldfish thrive in a wide range of water qualities and temperatures. A hardy breed with a life span of up to 14 years make the Comet goldfish a go-to species of fish for many water gardens.

Comet Goldfish are inexpensive in comparison to Koi and provide bright colors to complement the plants in your water garden.

Another interesting fact about goldfish: The common myth about goldfish only having a 3 second memory is untrue. Research has shown that their memories are effective over 3 months at least and that they can even be trained to swim through hoops and operate levers.

What are the other fish that are commonly chosen for many water gardeners?  Here are just a few based upon water garden type.

 Recommended Fish For Water Garden Type 


Container / Indoor Garden


Backyard Water Garden

(not a large pond)

gold fish
  • Comet Goldfish
gold fish
  • Comet Goldfish
shubunkin goldfish
  • Shubunkin goldfish
shubunkin goldfish
  • Shubunkin goldfish
rosy red minnow
  • Rosy red minnows
American Flag Fish
  • American Flag Fish
  • Gambusia or Mosquitofish
  • Koi
Japanese rice fish
  • Japanese rice fish
Algae eater
  • Algae eater or Gobi
Platy fish
  • Platys
Fathead minnow
  • Fathead minnow
  • Guppies
Golden Tinch Doctor Fish
  • Golden tench or doctor fish
  • Mollies
Golden ruddRosette or Golden rudd





The second most durable fish for your Water Garden

Though durability is not the only reason we select our fish, for many beginners, the hardiness of the fish can overcome many mistakes beginners can inadvertently introduce to a water garden.  That being said, the Shubunkin goldfish comes in as a close second to the Comet goldfish.  Living up to 25 years and growing up to 12 inches, the Shubunkin goldfish are chosen by many water gardeners for their coloration, calico, and their long flowing fins. Shubunkin goldfish are a hardy goldfish of Japanese origin. Many water gardeners enjoy the multiple colors that the Shubunkin bring to their water feature.

There are two types of Shubunkin, the London and the Bristol. The London species of the fish was developed in England between World War I and World War II. The London Shubunkin are a mix between the common goldfish and the Japanese Shubunkin. They grow to approximately 8 inches. A unique attribute of the London Shubunkin goldfish is that their scales are iridescent in bright sunlight.

As Bristol Shubunkin goldfish are quite active, they require a larger water garden.

Considerations Impacting the type of fish you purchase

There are many decisions that go into determining which fish to choose for our water garden.  Climate as well as the depth and size of pond have a lot to do with what types of fish you should purchase.

Another significant consideration is the size that the fish may become. Is your fish a predator? Is it a plant eater? Does your water garden have enough filtration to support your fish?  All of these are considerations that will have an influence on the success of your water garden as it pertains to fish.

It has long been a myth that a fish’s size is determined by the pond or garden size.  That is not true.  What is true, however, is that the size of the water garden may impact the health of your fish. Food availability, plant types, and other fish are also important factors when it comes to which fish you choose.

It is apparent from the introduction to the article that goldfish are a great pick for your backyard garden.  You should allow for approximately 50 gallons of water per goldfish.

Water Garden Size: The single most important factor for fish

Water Requirement Per Fish

FishRequired Gallons Per Fish
Comet Goldfish1 inch of fish per 10 gallons
Shubunkin goldfish1 inch of fish per 10 gallons
Rosy red minnows6 fish per 10 gallons
Gambusia or Mosquitofish1 pair per 5 gallons of water*
Japanese rice fish1 school per 10 gallons of water
American Flag Fish20
Koi1 inch of fish per 10 gallons
Algae eater or Goby10
Fathead minnow12-24 per 100 gallons
Golden tench or doctor fish5
Rosette or Golden rudd1 inch of fish per 10 gallons

 * Mosquito fish multiply rapidly. Ensure to remove a part of the population as they begin to multiply.

Too many fish can cloud the water and provide an unsafe environment for the fish and the plants.  It is important that the water garden is not overstocked.  Some fish multiply much faster than others and therefore  can impact the ecological balance of your water garden within a short period of time.  As you choose which fish to add to your garden, ensure to keep in mind the temperature to which they will be exposed as well as the size of the pond and other fish that occupy the garden as well.  Many beginning enthusiasts add too many fish and cannot determine why the water is cloudy.  Though there is more than one reason that a water garden’s appearance may be murky, often beginners add too many fish.

Other issues such as over feeding, too much fertilizer or improper filtering can also be reasons for cloudy or murky water.

I hope this article has been a helpful resource.

Related Questions

 1. How often do I feed my water garden fish? If you water garden is indoors, feed your fish 1 to 3 times per day.  If your garden is outdoors, feed them up to 3 times a day in warmer weather and only once a day in cooler weather. Too much food can cause cloudy water and will require cleaning more often.

 2. How much do I feed my water garden fish? When feeding your fish, feed only the amount of food that the fish will eat within a 5-minute period. If leftover food exists after 5 minutes, reduce the amount of food you feed next time.

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