I know when i set up my first pond i wanted to understand what types of fish i could keep in it. I was worried that i would just be stuck with common goldfish.
However I’ve since discovered that there are many different species of fish that are suitable for ponds here in Australia.
This is a list of the best fish that can be kept within a pond in Australia.
Keep in mind that due to our wide range in different climate zones across the continent not all fish on this list will be suitable to all areas.
Those lucky enough to live in the tropics have a much wider choice as they can basically have any of the commonly sold tropical fish available in the aquarium trade.
I’m all the way down in Victoria and while my options are not as exotic, there are still many choices available to me.
The list is separated into non-native and native fish. At the end of the article I’ve included some non fish species that can bed successfully kept in ponds.
Non- native pond fish for Australia
Barbs are a small schooling fish. Avoid keeping them with long finned fish as they are renowned fin nippers!
Some popular breeds available are: Tiger barbs, Ruby Barbs, Cherry Barbs and Checker barb. All a readily available here in Australia either online or in local pet shops.
All of these will survive in a pond in a tropical- Sub tropical pond.
For those of us in temperate climates I’m told by my local fish expert that rosy barbs will survive in temperate climates even down south here in Gippsland, Victoria.
If you live in an alpine zone or even Tasmania i would not put any barbs into a pond.
Some barb species are identified as pests in Queensland.
Guppies & Mollies.
These are great pond fish if you live in a tropical or even subtropical climate. There are so many colours available. All that colourful movement in the pond is like living art.
It is possible to keep these in a patio pond in temperate climates during the warmer months. But they will need to return to a heated tank during the winter.
The kids will love guppies and mollies as they breed so readily. They actually don’t lay eggs. The young are born ready to swim.
These are available at any pet shop that sells fish or online.
White clouds are an attractive small fish. They look very tropical even though they can live in a temperate climate. Sometimes referred to as the poor mans neon.
These little guys and girls like to school and are excellent at eating mosquito larvae. Don’t keep them with long fined slow fish as they are fin nippers!
I keep white clouds in one of my outdoor ponds here in Victoria no worries. They are breeding incredibly well and seem to tolerate the sometimes freezing temperatures.
These could be kept in all of the climate zones possibly even alpine regions, as they are native to mountain streams in their native China.
White clouds are readily available and very cheap! They are also incredibly hardy and commonly sold as a starter fish to help “cycle” aquariums and ponds.
There is some concern as to white clouds escaping from ponds into native waterways. Certainly something to be mindful of.
Koi & Goldfish
Koi and goldfish are the most popular fish kept in ponds not only in Australia but also the world. In Australia the only states that allow pond hobbyists to keep koi are NSW, ACT and WA.
For the rest of us we can keep goldfish. There are heaps of different species, colours and fin shapes available.
Koi and gold fish are in the carp family and can survive in water of poor quality and low oxygen.
Both grow quite large and the different colours look great in any pond. they tend to move quite slowly and can be an easy target for predatory birds.
Koi and Goldfish will live in all the climate zones of Australia including alpine.
Algae eaters are another exotic fish commonly found in the aquarium trade. As the name suggests they eat algae. There are a number of fish that are known algae eaters but the most common are plecos and the Siamese algae eater.
The Siamese algae eater will grow to around 30cm. Plecos sizes vary as there are a huge amount of species available. The small bristle nose pleco won’t grow more than 15cm.
Most algae eaters are peaceful when small but will get territorial as they age.
Trout can be kept in ponds provided there is plenty of aeration. They love fast running water so a pond stream with multiple pools would be ideal.
Trout are a cold climate fish much more suited to alpine and southern climates. Even so make sure the pond is deep enough so the water doesn’t get to warm during summer.
The warm water contains less oxygen and this will lead to unhappy trout!
Native fish suitable for ponds
There are a large number of rainbow fish available in the aquarium trade. The options are extensive the warmer your climate. So you tropical pond enthusiasts have a great deal to choose from.
Rainbow fish as the name suggests have great colours and make and attractive native option for your pond. Rainbows are said to be frog friendly.
There is the Murray rainbow that will tolerate colder temperatures. Ive heard of them being kept successfully in ponds as far south as Melbourne.
Some people don’t want frogs in their pond, especially if the pond is close to the house.
If thats you consider the empire gudgeon. It’s a smallish fish that will grow to about 12cm and will eat insects, smaller fish and tadpoles.
Empire gudgeons have been documented as far south as the genoa river in eastern Victoria. I have not tried them in any of my ponds as i like the frogs and tadpoles.
With that information it’s safe to say it should be suitable for pond in the tropical, sub-tropical and temperate zones.
The males are quite colourful especially during breeding times.
Pacific Blue eyes.
These little fish are frog friendly. Their native habitat extends from cape york in Queensland all the way down to Narooma in southern New south wales.
Likes to school. Only grows to about 3cm long. Perfect for smaller ponds. Will eat mosquitos.
Suited to most areas except victoria, tasmania and the ACT are too cold to keep this fish in an outdoor pond.
Galaxias are a great little native fish there are many different species. This species of fish found all over the continent so there is defiantly a variety suitable for any aussie pond even you alpine folks.
Galaxias are said to be frog and tadpole friendly. The problem is they are not readily available in the aquarium trade which is a real disappointment.
Galaxias do not have scales and cannot be caught in a net. Im told the best way is to capture them in a bucket. Unfortunately i do not have any first hand experience with these little fish.
My understanding is that several varieties are protected and therefore cannot be removed from the wild. If anyone knows where they can be brought i would love to know. Please contact me.
Australian smelt are found throughout South-East Australia. This is another excellent choice for ponds in southern regions yet it is not readily available in aquariums.
Only grows to about 10cm so should be frog and tadpole compatible. Will feed on mosquito larvae.
Again if anyone has a successful population breeding in their ponds or knows where these are available for sale i would be most interested.
There are a number of pygmy perch found throughout Australia.
The Western pygmy perch is native to South-West Australia.
Southern pygmy perch area found throughout South-Eastern Australia.
Golden Pygmy perch are found throughout South- Australia.
Like Galaxias and smelt these are a small fish growing too 10cm.
However unlike galaxias and smelt these are easily sourced from your local aquarium or online.
Silver & Jade Perch
Both are very common in Aquaponic systems here in Australia. Jade perch is best suited to warmer climates while silvers can be kept as far south as Victoria.
They are native to the Murray-Darling river system. Perch will grow very large if conditions are right.
These could be a great addition to any large pond and you could even get a feed out of it.
As they are common to aquaculture and Aquaponics they are very common and easy to source. And cheap too.
Aussie bass are native to fresh water streams and creeks up most of the east coast. They have been introduced to inland reservoirs for recreational fishing.
Australian bass will grow to 50-60cm. They are only really suited to larger ponds although I’ve seen people keeping them in 120cm (4ft) Aquariums.
It seems the best way to source them for your pond is to catch them yourself. Only keep one or two in a pond. They are very aggressive feeders and will eat anything that fits in their mouth.
An Australian cat fish native to the eastern states. It has an eel like tail which lead to it becoming known as the eel tailed catfish.
Catfish are a great addition to any pond as they can stir up the bottom allowing the debris down there to find its way into your filtration system.
Eel tailed catfish are only really suited to large ponds. I’ve notice people are keeping them in Aquaponics. I’m thinking of adding one to my sump tank.
Tandanus Catfish can be easily found online for sale.
Yabbies can make for a great addition to a pond. These little guys are scavengers and will help stir up the bottom and will eat any dead fish.
I have not added any to any of my ponds that are made using pond liner. Im very worried about their burrowing habit and don’t want them to puncture my liner.
Here in Gippsland I’ve seen them burrow straight through heavy duty weed mat.
Yabbies can be grown throughout Australia and are easily caught or bought.
In WA maron can be kept in large natural ponds and here on the east coast there are a few species of freshwater crayfish that could be kept.
Fresh water mussels
Fresh Water mussels are an interesting addition to your pond. They breath in dirty water and eject clean water. A brilliant little natural filtration unit.
Because they help remove algae and other things (fish poo) floating in the water they are not great for eating. They have a dirty taste!
These are available online and in some aquarium shops.
Fresh water shrimp are another great cleaner to add to a pond. They are brilliant little cleaners! Mostly algae they will devour but also other decaying plant or meat matter.
In the tropics your options are extensive and colourful. Those of us that are down south are limited to the glass shrimp. Glass shrimp are completely translucent.
They are available online and are relatively cheap. Make sure your pond has plenty of vegetation and hiding spots! Or these little critters will become fish food.
Australia haas quite a number of fresh water turtles that can be successfully kept in outdoor ponds. The most popular probably being the murray turtle.
In some states its illegal to keep turtles as pets but in most you need a licence to keep them. Your local pets shop should be able to inform you of the rules in your area.
Turtles make great and interesting pets but they will wander. A small fence needs to be placed around the pond at least 30cm high and 30cm into the ground. Turtles like to dig!
Keep in mind that any fence should be a solid barrier. Wire fences like chicken wire should be avoided as they can cut the turtles feet.
Hopefully this article has given you some ideas on the fish that are available or compatible with your pond project.
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