Goldfish are the most popular pond fish around the world due to their domestication, ease of care and survivability during all different types of weather conditions.
However, there are other, less popular fish that can survive winter conditions that you may be able to keep in your pond.
What are cold water fish?
Cold water fish is another loose basket term for any fish that can live at temperatures below 14C / 57F – these fish usually sit most comfortably at around 20C / 68F but they can withstand extreme drops in temperature.
They are not to be confused with temperate fish, which often cannot stay under 14C for very long periods of time. These are fish which are often sold as “coldwater” in pet stores, but they do not do well in very cold tanks or ponds.
You may often be mis-sold variatus platies, dojo loach, black cory cats, mountain minnows, danios, black skirt tetra and many others as “coldwater fish”, but they are not. They are temperate fish and could not survive out in your pond during autumn, early spring and winter, unless you live in a climate similar to their natural habitat.
Goldfish are true coldwater fish, as they can withstand freezing cold temperatures and are able to hibernate during winter.
They have specifically evolved against a cold climate and so are perfectly capable of living in a cold tank or in your outdoor pond year round.
How do I keep my pond fish safe in winter?
As long as your pond and its inhabitants are adequately suited for winter, then your fish should remain relatively safe.
There are many ways you can prepare your pond, and there are many things you should first check.
Here are some essential checks that are an absolute must, if you want to keep fish outdoors through snow and ice:
- Your pond must be at least 3ft deep;
- Your pond should be well insulated and not be exposed on all sides;
- The material you use for the pond should be suitable year round and be able to withstand contact with ice;
- The pond should be accessible during winter;
- Your pond should have a filter that can work in freezing temperatures.
If your pond checks all these, and is suitable to support life in winter, then there are a few additional measures you can take to better ensure the health and safety of your fish.
Some of these points below are required for certain living conditions, i.e. living in temperatures where running water often freezes, meaning you may have to leave your filter off during winter, which can create other issues that need rectifying.
Here are some ideas for things you can do to assist your fish in cold months:
- If your pond pump is off over winter, then add a de-icer heater to prevent the surface from completely freezing.
- You can add a net or tarp cover over your pond to block icy winds.
- You should remove dead leaves from the bottom of the pond in autumn so they do not rot and cause ammonia in winter.
- You should check the temperature of your pond daily and act accordingly.
- Take your fish inside if necessary.
- You can build a fence around your pond to stop predators and block out debris and harsh weather.
By taking these extra measures, you can better ensure the longevity of your fish, especially if you live in a more hostile climate.
Best pond fish that can survive winter
There are many species of freshwater fish found all over the temperate and icy northern climates of the world, and some of them are well suited to pond life over winter.
We have another list similar to this one on our guide to goldfish pond mates. Many of the fish in this list will cross over, however, we may mention some other fish here.
All of these can survive in winter, but not all of them will be ideal with goldfish.
Some of these fish listed here are also protected species, and you may need a licence to keep them on your property, depending on your location and the wildlife laws for your country/state.
|Pond Fish Type||Ideal with Goldfish||Ideal for Winter|
|Koi carp (grows large)||✅||✅|
|Rudd (grows large)||✅||✅|
|Orfe (grows large)||✅||✅|
|Grass carp (grows large)||✅||✅|
|Tench (grows large)||✅||✅|
|Common carp (grows large)||✅||✅|
|Pike (grows large) (predatory)||❌||✅|