If you are looking for a flash of color and movement, the Shubunkin might be the pond fish for you! Originally raised in the early 1900’s, this fish is a relatively new development in the world of pond keeping.  Currently,  three “strains” of Shubunkins. The Japanese/American with a deep forked tail with narrow sharp lobes, London with a shorter, stubby lobed tail, and Bristol with a larger, rounded lobe tail. All are calico in color, usually a mix of black, red, orange, white and brown on a slivery-blue back ground. The Shubunkin displays transparent scales with an underlying opalescent sheen. This gives them their unique coloration and sleek look. Shubunkin pond fish can reach a length of 12”L, about 60:40 between body and tail length. This hardy fish withstands the same water conditions as Koi, and are much less destructive towards plants! They may be too fast for slower swimming Goldfish cousins and would consume most of the food before the slow fish had a chance to get their share. But, it is this flash of color about the pond that endears the Shubunkin to so many pond keepers.

Golden Orfes

If you to keep several plants and still want colorful pond fish swimming among them, the Golden Orfe might be the choice for you. Koi are generally too destructive; eating and digging up the roots of potted plants. The Golden Orfe prefers to swim near the surface in schools and does not eat vegetable matter. This fish has a golden color with some black spotting near the head and  sometimes silver down the sides. The fish is very social and likes to be kept in groups. It’s not known to bother other fish, unless they are small enough to eat! Native to Europe, the Orfe prefers cooler water and has a high oxygen demand. For this reason, you need to have plenty of aeration/water movement and areas that are provided with shade to keep this fish happy. Capable of growing up to 30”L, they will do best in ponds over 1500 gallons and with at least part of the pond 3 feet deep. Lastly, the Golden Orfe accepts most types of prepared foods. They especially like dried shrimp and insect larva treats.


For something to keep in smaller ponds, the Stickleback might be an answer. This fish is an unusual species and is closely related to the pipefish and seahorses! They are originally from the oceans but after glaciers trapped many in inland ponds, the fish adapted to freshwater conditions. The fish is named so because of 3 to 5 stiff spines before the dorsal fin, and the most common species grows to 3-4”L. Instead of scales, it has bony plates to protect its sides. Also noteworthy is their method of spawning. The male becomes very colorful and sticks together bits of vegetation with a secretion from his kidneys to make a nest. He then “invites” the female to enter and lay her eggs. The male fertilizes the eggs, and may invite more female to his home. Once the male is done spawning, he vigorously defends the nest, using his fins to fan water over the eggs until they hatch. At that point, the male will try to defend the newly hatched fish until several days later when they are big enough to go off on their own. The Stickleback can make a great fish to put in water gardens to control the insects but not damage the plants or distract from the plants.

About The Author Giselle Rodriguez

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