As far as caring for goldfish living in a pond, it tends to be much easier than keeping them in an aquarium.
In a pond, goldfish are closer to a natural environment. Keeping fish as near natural as possible is a good recipe for success and is much healthier for your fish.
There are however, a few things pond keeping involves which are different to an aquarium and require different approaches to maintenance and care. These may not seem very obvious at first, but are very important to get right.
Care essentials for a goldfish pond
Once a pond is set up, care level changes throughout the year, especially if you live in a temperate zone with a summer and winter season which drops below 10C.
There are things however, that you should still perform no matter what time of year it is, and these are essential to keeping your pond healthy and fish alive.
These essential tasks include:
Testing your water
If you have a pond and don’t already test your water, it is highly recommended that you change that, and get a test kit for yourself.
Not testing water is extremely risky; it might be fine tomorrow, it might be fine for a year, but at some point it won’t be fine, and you will have no idea as to why your fish are dying.
Test strips are simple and easy to use, cheap and widely available. They take around 30 seconds to work and are accurate enough to save your fish if something is wrong.
Testing regularly is responsible fishkeeping and is giving your animals the best possible care. Test your water weekly, or if you find there is something irregular with your fish or pond.
Buffering your water
Buffering is the act of adding minerals to a pond or aquarium to increase the pH and hardness.
Naturally overtime, as things like fish waste, dead leaves and organic debris decompose in your pond, the pH will lower.
At a low pH, (below 6.5) the beneficial bacteria that keeps your pond free of ammonia and nitrites stops working – this puts your fish at risk.
Goldfish also do not like to live at low pH and so you should buffer your water when necessary.
A KH pond buffer is what you need; this usually comes in the form of a white powder.
To use the buffer effectively:
- Test your water before to check the pH and hardness
- Add a small amount of buffer
- Test the pond again to see if there is an increase in hardness and pH
- Do this again until you achieve a pH of around 7.0 – 8.0
Between doses, allow time for the water to mix. Depending on the size of the pond, this can change, along with the amount of KH buffer used.
Once you’ve done this a couple times, you will get a better understanding of how much to use, but start small. Some buffers can be quite strong, only a tablespoon or 2 may be needed sometimes.
The buffer we recommend is below and we have found the best price for you.
Topping up your pond
As ponds are open to the elements, they lose lots of water through evaporation, especially in summer with little rain and high temperature.
Sometimes you may need to add water to your pond, to prevent it from drying out; just be sure that it is dechlorinated.
Changing pond water if necessary
Water changes on large ponds aren’t always required; some ponds can go for years without having a water change, however, as mentioned previously, sometimes things can go wrong with your water, such as a pH drop or ammonia spike.
In cases like these, an emergency or preventative water change can be performed. Similar to how you would change in an aquarium, just make sure again, that this water is dechlorinated.
Removing debris from a pond
Throughout the year, debris will collect in your pond. Dead leaves, seeds and other organic or non organic materials, these can decompose and create ammonia, or clog your filter.
These debris should be removed when spotted to remove this risk.
Cleaning a goldfish pond
Ponds are generally quite messy, and overtime will produce a lot of dirt and muck that will need clearing out. Most of this muck will collect in the filter, which should be rung out every month or so, to remove blockage and keep the water flowing smoothly.
The pond pump should also be regularly cleaned, especially in the summer, as it will become regularly clogged with blanketweed.
The base of the pond will collect what looks like a brown sludge, this is called mulm, it is created as biological materials break down into detritus.
Mulm is actually beneficial as it houses millions of beneficial bacteria and microorganisms which assist in keeping the ammonia and nitrites down. However, when disturbed, it can cloud up the water and make it hard to see, so you may want to remove some of it.
Removing mulm is quite straightforward; you can try to collect it with a net, a syphon or a pond vacuum.
Remove organic debris like dead leaves regularly as they can decompose, producing ammonia and lowering the pH.
Protecting your goldfish pond
As pond fish are left outdoors, they can be vulnerable to not only the weather, but also to predators or even thieves.
This is why it is recommended to have a pond cover or netting to place over the pond during night time, or when you are away, to protect your fish from herons, raccoons, opossums and any other predators.
Netting also protects the fish during the fall by keeping leaves out of the pond and can even insulate the pond during cold months by keeping wind off of it.
Having marginal plants or rocks around the sides also helps to protect your fish, as it provides a barrier around the rim of the pond, stopping wind and blocking animals from easily getting to the fish.
It is also highly recommended to have your filters and electronic outlets protected by a box or chest either built around them or placed near the pond, locked up and safe from the elements.
Tips for keeping goldfish outdoors
- Never overcrowd your pond and always introduce new fish into the pond gradually over time.
- Keep an eye on the water quality in your pond and how your filtration system is managing the demands placed on it by your fish.
- Perform partial water changes within the pond whenever necessary or even on a regular basis
- Remember to condition the water as needed with a dechlorinator and other necessary supplements, like hardness buffers.
- Feed your fish regularly and ensure that they receive enough appropriate food, but do not overfeed!
- Keep an eye out for any problems within the pond, such as diseases that may need treatment. Remove any sick or dead fish from the pond as soon as you spot a problem.
- Keep algae growth under control and ensure that the water is not too nutrient-rich. A sufficient number of appropriate goldfish pond plants can help with this.