The Best Goldfish Plants For Ponds 2023 (Edible & Inedible)

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The Best Plants For Goldfish Ponds (Edible & Inedible Species)

water lily plants provide shelter and oxygenation for koi in a pond
Pond plants are great for shelter, filtration, and oxygenation, and can also be tasty food for fish depending on the species. Public domain.

One of the most common and popular pond fish species, goldfish comprise approximately 300 different breeds with a heap of size and shape variations and some color and pattern options. Their essential habitat requirements are fairly straightforward – water that is half a meter (in temperate climates) to a meter (in cooler environments) deep, with the temperature between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit (though they can overwinter in cool water so long as it doesn’t completely freeze over) and a pH of 7.2 to 7.6. Integrating various plants into your pond can help meet goldfish habitat requirements by aiding in nutrient cycling, moderating water temperature, impeding algae overgrowth, oxygenating the water, and potentially providing food sources, among other things.

Below we have listed the best edible and unpalatable plant choices in relation to goldfish ponds specifically, including hardy plant species that goldfish don’t like to eat, as well as super tasty (and nutritional) options they love to eat!

Best Edible Plant Species for Goldfish (Tasty & Healthy Choices)

banana plant has banana-shaped roots that goldfish enjoy eating1) Banana Plant (Nymphoides aquatic)

This unique plant obtained its name from its banana-shaped roots. These same roots are the reason why goldfish find the plant so tasty – they’re literally plump with nutrients! It’s a robust plant, able to live both in shallow water with plenty of light or deep water with low light, though it’s particular about needing pH to be within the range of 6 to 7.2. Banana plants only grow to be approximately six inches tall, and their colorful roots lend an exotic look to your pond or aquarium while also being quite adept at both oxygenating and filtering the water.

duck weed helps deter algae and mosquitoes while oxygenating water2) Duck Weed (Lemnoideae)

Water purifier, biofuel source, environmentally sustainable high-protein food source for animals, mosquito deterrent, algae fighter…duck weed truly seems to have it all! A fairly small, floating plant, duck weed is quite easy to grow – perhaps too easy. Due to its ability to grow in a variety of conditions, duck weed is capable of doubling its population in less than 24 hours, and as such tends to overtake aquatic environments if not kept at bay. However, this may also make it a perfect addition to your goldfish pond – duck weed is rich in nutrients and very palatable to goldfish, so they’ll help keep the population in check but probably won’t be able to destroy it completely. This means that your goldfish will have a renewable snack source! However, this plant can become extremely invasive. Please check whether or not this plant is native and legal in your area before purchasing.

fanwort plant oxygenates water in a pond3) Fanwort (Cabomba)

A large, submersed aquatic macrophyte, fanwort is another great oxygenator species that also provides plentiful food and shelter for fish. It’s a highly adaptable plant, meaning that it can withstand most temperature and pH changes, though it does require a muddy substrate for its roots, and water that is at least three feet deep to accommodate its tall stems. Its leaves and stems are small, soft, and fairly delicate, and so it is a good choice in ponds with small or young goldfish for both shelter and food.

water sprite soaks up ammonia

4) Water Sprite (Ceratopteris thalictroides)

Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of water sprite is its love of ammonia and ability to soak up excess amounts of it. Water sprite can exist either floating or planted in 2-3 inches of substrate or gravel, prefers a pH between 7.0 and 7.5 (though it can readily handle more acidic water), and water temperatures between 68 and 80°F (20-27°C). With fern-like leaves, water sprite provides abundant feast and shelter possibilities for your goldfish. Though water sprite reproduces quickly, goldfish find it tremendously palatable and may consume the entire plant.

water wistera filters and oxygenates water but is invasive in the united states5) Water Wisteria (Hygrophila difformis)

A non-native plant to the U.S., water wisteria is one that you’ll have to be sure remains only in your pond or aquarium as it will severely disturb natural ecosystems by outcompeting native plants and killing them. Nonetheless, water wisteria makes for a wonderful addition to any [artificial] fish pond, as it’s hardy, easy to grow, and an effective water oxygenator. It prefers moderate light (at least partial sun throughout the day), a pH range between 6.5 and 7.5, and temperatures somewhere within 74 to 84°F (23-28°C). Goldfish may or may not decimate the wisteria (it seems to depend on the pond and the goldfish), so make sure that you are providing your fish with a well-rounded diet so as to minimize the amount of damage done to these plants. It’s a fairly nutrient-rich plant, so don’t be surprised if your goldfish do indeed choose to munch on it!

Best Non-Edible Plant Species for Goldfish (Hardy & Durable Choices)

anacharis cleans ammonia and provides shelter and food for goldfish1) Anacharis (Elodea densa)

Containing six species of submerged aquatic plants, anacharis are excellent oxygenators that also help clean pollutants (particularly ammonia) and excess nutrients from the water. They typically grow in clusters of several plants (and can be bought this way, as well!), and as such provide ample habitat for fish to hide in to escape predators and heat, as well as a safe location to lay their eggs. Goldfish will likely nibble anacharis a bit, particularly over the winter, but these plants are very hardy and will be able to withstand it unless you have a great deal of goldfish or your fish aren’t obtaining enough food otherwise.

Though they prefer temperatures at or above 70°F (20°C), these resilient plants are able to overwinter so long as the entire pond doesn’t freeze. They’ll grow well in just about any size tank or pond with either low or bright lighting and are easy to take care of – in fact, your main concern will be cutting the anacharis to ensure that it doesn’t overtake your pond.

fish don't like eating anubias2) Anubias (Anubias)

Named after the Egyptian god of the afterlife, Anubis, and one of the easiest plants to take care of, anubias is a favorite of many fish pond owners. They grow well even in low light conditions, and don’t require any sort of substrate to grow in – they’ll either attach themselves to rocks or other items of the like, or you can weigh them down with small weights. Their ideal temperature range is between 65 and 80°F (18-27°C) and their preferred pH range is 5.5 to 8, though they are able to handle fluctuations in both of these well. Goldfish may snack on anubias at first, but will quickly find it to be unpalatable.

hornwort filters pond water3) Hornwort (Ceratophyllaceae)

An extremely durable plant, hornwort tolerates temperature, light, and pH fluctuations well and is capable of growing up to two feet tall either anchored down or free-floating. With countless horn-like leaves providing plenty of surface area, hornwort is an exceptional oxygenator and pollutant cleanser. It’s been found to be particularly skilled at removing ammonia, nitrates, phosphates, and even metals such as aluminum. In addition, fish will find ample opportunity amongst the leaves for both shelter and egg laying.

4) Onion Plant/Water Onion (Crinum calamistratum)

onion plant has tough leaves that fish don't like to eat

Contrary to its name, the onion plant is actually in the lily family and produces a gorgeous, aromatic flower atop the water’s surface. Its name is coined from its anatomy – the onion plant consists of a bulb around which leaves grow, much like a traditional terrestrial onion. This plant isn’t quite as easy to grow as most of the others on this list, as it requires plenty of light and neutral pH, grows slowly, and sometimes may need supplemental carbon dioxide. However, the onion plant’s tough, crinkly leaves prevent goldfish (or any other fish, for that matter) from truly attempting to eat it. They’ll die if totally submerged, so be sure to plant the bulbs only partially buried in substrate, and in shallow water (less than two feet deep) so that the rest of the plant can emerge from the water as it matures to its tall adult size.

waterweed oxygenates water5) Waterweed (Elodea canadensis)

With throngs of beautiful, curved green leaflets that grown in dense whorls, waterweed is well known for its oxygenating capabilities. In addition, it produces petite, attractive white or purple flowers that float atop the water, attached to long stems that extend from the waterweed’s main body. Elodea is capable of surviving by floating in the water, but really prefers to put its roots down into fine sediment, such as mud. It’s one of the only aquatic plants that remains green year-round, which denotes an ability to handle all sorts of water temperature variations. Waterweed thrives on superfluous nutrients, making them superb water purifiers…but with waterweed, this is a bit of a double-edged sword. Extra phosphorus and nitrogen means that waterweed will boom, and unless you control the population their overgrowth can ultimately lead to reduced oxygen levels and summer fish kills.

10 thoughts on “The Best Goldfish Plants For Ponds 2023 (Edible & Inedible)”

  1. Thank you for such helpful information Our Koi outgrew our pond (they’re in a big lake at the koi fish place!) trying to turn it into a goldfish pond and wasn’t sure which plants to get (koi eat everything) Where can I purchase these please?

    • Hi Faye,

      We’re glad you found the article helpful! Thanks for reading and commenting. The more common and popular plants like anacharis, water wisteria, and hornwort can usually be found at aquarium/pond retail stores and sometimes aquatic plant nurseries. Less common plants like the banana plant can be ordered online. However, all of these can be found easiest online with a quick search!

  2. Hoe can you easily identify anacharis from waterweed (elodea)? They look very similar, and i’m not sure if I have both or just one in my pond.

    • Hi Stephen,

      Technically, anacharis and waterweed are both Elodea, as this is the genus that they belong to. There are actually about 6 species within this genus, and all are remarkably similar. To add to the confusion, anacharis is often a name given to all plants in this genus, particularly by aquarium retailers. Oftentimes, something labeled as anacharis in the store is not, in fact, anacharis. I’ve just edited the article to include the specific epithet, as I just reviewed it and found that lacking for anacharis – sorry about that!

      Anyway, anacharis is also known as brazilian waterweed (Elodea densa, also sometimes classified as Egeria densa). It’s usually larger than waterweed (Elodea canadensis), with leaves up to half an inch in diameter, while E. canadensis has leaves only half a centimeter in diameter. Brazilian waterweed/anacharis also has leaves that are arranged in whorls of 4-6 leaves around the stem per whorl, while E. canadensis has whorls of only 3 leaves. If you click this link and scroll down to images D and E, it shows the leaves of E. canadensis:
      If you click this link and scroll to figure 3, it shows the leaves of anacharis:

      As an added note, anacharis is invasive outside of South America, so make sure that it’s legal to have in your area! Also take care that it doesn’t spread to natural waterways.

      Hope this helps!

      • I am finally starting over now on my pond. The blue herons and raccoons destroyed my pond and killed all my expensive koi. Now after the decision to fill in and tear water fall down I spent hundreds getting almost completely fixed. I had to go yesterday and by some tadpoles for the algae o bottom. Anyone have suggestions for a cover and do I need to feed them. Haven’t seen tadpots since I put them in

  3. Thanks, this is so helpful. I love the duckweed, but my goldfish eat it ALL. I’m happy to learn that pennywort, too, can cover the pond’s surface as it purifies the water. I’ll have to start a separate duckweed nursery, since it’s so good for them.

    I also appreciate your article on pond liners.When we built our pond about 25 years ago, we laid wool carpet OVER the liner, with the natural jute side up, which gave mosses and other plants purchase and de-uglified the edges. It looks so natural that sometimes I forget the pond’s not “real.” But starting last year it has a very slow leak. The writing is on the wall. HDPE, here I come.

    Thanks again,
    Greta deJong

  4. Just had my 12″ deep pond re-worked to 2 1/2 feet with vertical sides (raccoon prevention). Thank you for the plant information. I couldn’t have plants before because the raccoons would jump in and destroy everything (and eat the goldfish) until I had a cover made to put on at night, still couldn’t have plants above water level. I’m looking forward to finding some of the hardy, easy to maintain, plants you mentioned when the weather/water warm up in zone 7B.


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