Natural Setups and Goldfish in the Wild

We are believers that keeping fish, or any animal as natural as possible, is the best way to ensure their health and longevity. 

However, this has its limits, as we will discuss, what may be considered a natural pond or what your definition is, it may still not be suitable for goldfish to survive within.

In this page, we will discuss why a goldfish may not be able to survive in certain environments, where goldfish come from, and why they do well in certain setups and not others.

Natural fish ponds

A natural pond is one that relies on nature to maintain an ecosystem. 

In each of these ponds, different levels of human intervention are allowed. For some, this is as simple as adding a filter and leaving the pond alone.

For others, this still means regular maintenance and cleaning, feeding of the pond and applying animal husbandry practices on the fish or other inhabitants.

Depending on the situation, these factors will interchange.

However, a natural pond will always allow nature to play a large part in maintaining the pond, this means all the plants, algae and creepy crawlies that find their way in, are usually welcomed guests.

Best fish for a natural pond

Usually, the best fish for a natural pond are the small sized native fish in your area. Depending on your local, this will change, but the most common for temperate places is the stickleback, it is widespread across the northern hemisphere and is a very hardy fish, with a small bioload.

If you live in Asia, then ricefish are great for small natural ponds, however, they do not like harsh winters, so they may need to be moved if you get long periods of icy weather.

Natural food of fish in a pond

Depending on the fish species this will vary, but this typically involves things like small insects and spiders, algae and infusoria.

If you own a natural pond, then you can feed it things like boiled veg or small parts of fruit pulp, fish flakes, pellets, etc.

When feeding a natural pond, remember that you aren’t feeding just the fish, but a whole ecosystem full of other creatures and plants, so be sure to mix things up.

But also be aware that when you feed a pond, the animals will breed to the amount available, but will then suffer if the feeding is reduced.

For example, if you feed a natural pond every day for a year, then there will be more fish, snails and tiny invertebrates living on the abundance of food. If you then stop feeding, the animals that relied on this supply of food will now die off, as the ecosystem cannot support that many of them.

A good method is to feed in low amounts at irregular intervals, unless your inhabitants need more. Maybe feed a little bit once or twice a week.

Natural fish pond design

Natural ponds can take any form, but the best if you want to invite wildlife is a dug out pond or scrape.

This can be achieved by excavating a hole in the soil, and adding pond liner to the base, you can also create a cement base or even use a pre moulded container for the base.

Scrapes and digs work great as they allow aquatic animals to climb in and out of the pond easily.

They also allow reeds and trees to grow around the perimeter, which provide cover and help keep the water clean.

How to clean a natural pond with fish

Natural ponds usually require less cleaning than a more artificial setup, the microorganisms and plants do most of the work in the upkeep.

But a natural pond will still need work, especially if you want it to look nice and ensure the health of your goldfish.

The main jobs come around summer and spring time, when algae blooms are more frequent, and an explosion in plant growth is seen. Pond owners usually make it part of their pond maintenance schedule to remove excess algae and prune plants.

In winter, some people remove plant leaves with a net too, as a way to avoid an ammonia outbreak as the leaves decompose.

In a natural pond with snails and cleanup crew however, this is normally dealt with as the leaves are broken down.

Remember, if you take anything out of a natural pond, you should rest it on the side of the pond for a while, so any aquatic creatures living in and on it can escape back into the water.

Goldfish in the wild

Where do goldfish come from in the wild?

Goldfish are not a naturally occurring animal – they are a man made fish, created in southern China around 1,000 – 2,000 years ago, through selective breeding of a very similar looking carp ancestor. 

The ancestor of goldfish is likely very similar to the prussian carp; this fish lives in rivers and lakes in south china, and in a few other areas in south east asia.

They live in oxygen rich, nutrient-low cold waters that can freeze over in winter and heat up in spring and summer.

Do goldfish naturally live in the wild?

Yes, goldfish can be found in the wild, but this is not a natural occurrence and is a man made problem. Goldfish are invasive in waterways all over the world, because people cast away their unwanted pets into rivers, ponds, lakes and fountains.

These abandoned goldfish can survive as they are very hardy and are opportunistic feeders. 

Throwing out pets like this is highly irresponsible, as not only is it cruel, it is harming the local environment, causing a health hazard for people and animals and is illegal in some areas.

When you own a pet, you should consider if you can house it comfortably for its entire life – goldfish can live for 20+ years! 

If you cannot provide them a suitable home for that long, or do not have a long term responsible plan for them, then you should not get one, and perhaps try a different pet.

Can Koi and goldfish live in a natural pond?

Whether or not a goldfish can live in a natural pond can vary, it really depends on the pond, the size, amount of plants, access to food ect.

A small pond with no filter and no flow will likely not be able to house goldfish.

Goldfish and Koi are fish of the river, meaning they need large spaces and high dissolved oxygen levels in the water to survive, they cannot live in stagnant water.

However, a very large pond, with plenty of plant life may be able to house them, but we would still always recommend adding a filter, as a safety measure.

What do goldfish eat in the wild?

Wild carp have a diet mostly consisting of plant material, duckweed, algae, weeds and vegetable or fruit matter that fall into the water.

Goldfish will also eat many protein rich foods too like small insects, infusoria, tiny fish, eggs and small amphibians.

How big can goldfish grow in the wild?

Goldfish can reach colossal sizes in the right environment – some released into lakes and ponds can reach sizes of 15” or larger.

This is around a similar size to the prussian carp, which is the most likely fish that goldies descended from.

Why do goldfish grow so big in the wild?

The reason goldfish seem to grow so much larger in the wild is because they are in an ideal environment.

A goldfish which is granted massive swimming space to build its muscles, in a cool, flowing, oxygen rich river with an abundance of food and very clean water will just grow and grow.

That said, this does not mean that keeping a goldfish in a small tank will stunt its growth. This is a myth – a fish that will grow to 1ft long, is still going to grow 1ft, it’s just that they can expand to even larger sizes in a huge lake.

If you kept a fish in captivity, fed it lots of nutritional foods and kept the water extremely clean, you would also grow a massive fish.

The only reason a fish would become stunted is if the water quality is very poor or if it is nutrient deficient, in which case, the fish would eventually die anyway.

How long do goldfish live in the wild?

Goldfish can live very long in the wild, some living over 30 years. This again is because of the ideal environment a massive lake or river can provide.

It is also because in the wild, the fish will go through many winters and freezing cold spells.

During these cold times, the fish will slow down their metabolism and go dormant in a state called torpor.

Doing this every year expands the fish’s life as it leads a less energy intensive life. Many cold blooded animals do this and as a result can live for extremely long periods of time.

The greenland shark lives in freezing temperatures and moves extremely slowly, burning very little energy. As a result it has become one of the longest living animals, living well over 300 – 400 years!

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