If you are looking for a flash of color and movement, the Shubunkin might be the best choice for your pond. This fish is a relatively new development in the world of pond keeping, first being raised in the early 1900’s. Over the years, there has been the development of three “strains” of Shubunkins: 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. One distinction of the Shubunkin is the transparent scales with an underlying opalescent sheen. This is what 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 is a hardy fish that can withstand the same water conditions as Koi, and are much less destructive of 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.
If you prefer to have a pond with several plants and still want colorful fish swimming among the plants, the Golden Orfe might be the choice for you. Koi are generally too destructive and like to eat and dig up the roots of the 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 possibly silvery sides. The fish is very social and likes to be kept in groups and is 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. Fast swimmers, they may out compete slower Goldfish varieties. The Golden Orfe will accept most types of prepared foods and especially likes dried shrimp and insect larva treats.
If you are looking for something unusual to keep in smaller ponds, the Stickleback might be an answer. This fish originally was from the oceans and is closely related to the pipefish and seahorses! 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 will become very colorful and stick together bits of vegetation with a secretion from his kidneys to make a nest and then “invite” the female to enter and lay her eggs. The male then enters to fertilize the eggs, and may invite more female to his home. Once the male is done spawning, he vigorously defends the nests and uses 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.