Can Fancy Goldfish Live in an Outdoor Pond?

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Bubble eye goldfish
Many fancy goldfish have abnormal features that put them at risk of injury; it may therefore be safer to keep them in a tank than in an outdoor pond. Lerdsuwa, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Known for their elegant and graceful fins, their enlarged abdomens, and their bizarre facial structures (e.g. bubble-shaped eyes, colorful headgrowths, nostril outgrowths, etc.), fancy goldfish are some of the most highly-prized aquarium fishes. Their anatomical abnormalities are precisely what make them so popular as eye-catching ornamentals, yet these may significantly impede their survival and longevity.

Even seasoned aquarists prefer to keep fancy goldfish in dedicated tanks, where their abnormal features are less likely to be damaged by other fishes. As some of these features can compromise their feeding efficiency, preventing them from swimming quickly toward food or from scanning their surroundings for danger, they require more care and dedication than their hardier counterparts.

While hardy goldfish can thrive alongside other ornamentals in a pond setting, which allows them to grow to their maximum size, fancy goldfish may struggle to compete and stay protected. That being said, there are some types of fancy goldfish that are more suited to pond life than others. Despite their tolerance for outdoor conditions and seasonal changes, ample care must be provided to ensure that they remain healthy and stress-free.

Main Challenges to Raising Fancy Goldfish in Ponds

Exposed conditions in ponds are easily tolerated by hardy goldfish breeds, which are morphologically equipped to swim quickly, feed efficiently, and tolerate winter temperatures. Fancy goldfish, in contrast, have the tendency to move through the water in a slow and awkward manner. Their unique anatomical structures impede just about every physical activity they must do to survive. This is why they require close observation and, if possible, should not be stocked with other types of fish.

Outlined below are some of the major challenges to keeping fancy goldfish comfortable and happy in a pond setup. As they are highly sensitive to sudden changes in ambient parameters, they can’t simply be introduced into any type of pond after being purchased in a pet store. They will need to be acclimated properly prior to being released into prepared, species-only ponds.

1) Harsh winter temperatures

Frozen fish pond
In temperate regions, it’s usually safer to house fancy fish in a tank setup during the winter. liz west / CC BY 2.0

Fancy goldfish are more sensitive to drastic water changes and cool temperatures than common, hardy breeds of ornamental fish. Rapidly cooling temperatures can shock their system as their metabolic rate is consequently slowed. In temperate regions, it may be necessary to overwinter fancy goldfish in indoor, temperature-regulated tanks.

Some breeds may survive in deep ponds, but keep in mind that they should ideally be kept in temperatures ranging from 20 – 23˚C (68 – 73˚F). Healthy specimens may manage to survive through winter if they are placed in a deep pond with ample filtration and high dissolved oxygen levels. In northern regions with extended winters, however, even depths greater than 3 feet (1 meter) may not provide sufficiently warm bottom temperatures.

2) Exposure to predators

Veiltail goldfish
Some fancy goldfish varieties, such as this veiltail goldfish, are highly susceptible to predation due to their features. Bkrhodesva, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Known for being weak swimmers because of their heavily structured bodies, elongated fins, or non-streamlined shape, fancy goldfish are highly susceptible to predation. Moreover, some breeds have eyes that prevent them from spotting threats within their periphery, so they are unlikely to quickly retreat to shelter. Predatory fish and visiting wildlife can easily make a meal of unsuspecting fancy goldfish.

3) Entanglement in vegetation

Bubble eye goldfish
Bubble eye goldfish are more likely to get trapped in vegetation. Jordan Hartig, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

While streamlined and hardy goldfish breeds can easily maneuver through vertical vegetation, fancy goldfish may have to wriggle about and exert more effort to move through curtains of lengthy stems and fronds. Furthermore, leaves with needle-like forms and serrated margins may damage the soft tissues of their protruding organs. Bubble-eyed varieties are especially vulnerable to being trapped and wounded in structurally diverse waters.

4) Competition with other fish

Chocolate oranda goldfish
Fancy goldfish with nostril protuberances, headgrowths, or eye structures may have blocked vision or an affected sense of smell, which means they can’t compete with other fish. Lawrencekhoo, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Due to their physical abnormalities, fancy goldfish can seldom compete with their hardier conspecifics and congeners. Slow swimmers, they may fail to reach their food before other types of fish and pond creatures snag them from their line of sight. Consider the types with pronounced headgrowths, eye structures, and nostril protuberances that may block out their vision or affect their sense of smell. These may take a prolonged period of time to simply detect the presence of their food.

5) Special diet requirements

Goldfish eating pellet
It’s recommended to use sinking pellets when feeding fancy goldfish so that they don’t feed on the surface and take in excess air. Benson Kua / CC BY-SA 2.0

The digestive organs of fancy goldfish may be affected by their compacted or compressed form. As a result, they may have deformations that impede their metabolic capacity and rate of digestion. If their intestines are squashed up due to their abnormal shape, the surrounding organs may also be affected by any blockages. As a result, their slowed digestion may put pressure on their swimbladder, compromising their buoyancy.

Pre-soaked sinking pellets are usually recommended for fancy goldfish as this type of food prevents them from feeding on the surface and taking in excess air. Their diets need to be supplemented with fiber and high-protein treats. Always consult the supplier for diet recommendations as each breed will have different feeding requirements.

6) Damage to their external anatomy

Oranda goldfish
Oranda goldfish can get injured from the jagged edges of rough sediments. Lawrencekhoo, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Outdoor ponds, especially those that are naturalized, are rife with all sorts of rough and smooth textures. Rough textures, such as those on jagged rocks, plants with needle-like foliage, and gravel, may harm fancy goldfish. Orandas, for example, which tend to dig through bottom substrates, can get wounded by jagged edges of rough sediments. Bubble-eyes can easily get damaged by the pointed ends of sharp foliage. Keep this in mind when you’re selecting fancy goldfish breeds or when designing a pond for them.

Fancy goldfish breeds with elaborate fin structures are often victimized by smaller fish or potential predators that are known for nipping fins. Nipped fins may lead to fin rot and introduce parasites into your goldfish’s system. This can lower their immunity, leading to rapid decline once they are exposed to other pathogens or suboptimal pond conditions.

The Best Fancy Goldfish Breeds for Ponds

Ryukin goldfish
Fancy goldfish breeds that do well in outdoor ponds include the ryukin (pictured), wakin, and fantail, among others. Lawrencekhoo, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Not all fancy goldfish breeds are made equal. Some kinds, such as those that are frequently found in fish stores and pet shops, tend to be more well-suited to pond conditions. High-cost breeds that are only found in specialty stores are usually too valuable to raise in outdoor ponds, where some uncontrollable conditions may affect their survival. Below is a list of fancy goldfish breeds that, though not as hardy as some common or single-tailed varieties, may survive in a pond. As a rule of thumb, check their temperature tolerances before deciding on a breed that may suit your location.

The breeds listed below have body types that are not altered enough to impede their maneuverability in outdoor ponds. Their unique mutations are not known for significantly impeding their physical health or for reducing their capacity to feed in an efficient manner. If pond conditions are optimized, some of these may survive through winter conditions outdoors. Avoid mixing single-tailed varieties with multi-tailed varieties.

  • Wakin
  • Jikin
  • Fantail
  • Ryukin
  • Veiltail
  • Watonai
  • Tamasaba
  • Tosakin

Breeds That Are Ill-Suited to Pond Conditions

Black moor goldfish
The black moor (pictured) is one example of a fancy goldfish breed that is not well-suited to pond conditions. Orandic, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Even the most experienced pond keepers will avoid adding some types of fancy goldfish to their ponds. These varieties, which are bred for their bizarre and often physically debilitating mutations, are likely to decline in outdoor conditions. You may attempt to raise these breeds in ponds at your own risk, but be aware that they’ll have special needs and may need to be overwintered indoors. Do not mix them with hardier goldfish breeds as they will struggle to compete with them for food.

  • Celestial eye goldfish
  • Lionhead
  • Pompom goldfish
  • Ranchu
  • Black moor
  • Butterfly tail
  • Telescope goldfish
  • Oranda
  • Pearlscale

Is It Okay to Mix Goldfish Breeds in Ponds?

Comet goldfish
Flat-bodied goldfish breeds, such as the comet (pictured), can be stocked alongside one another. Cassandra Tiensivu / Public domain

As much as possible, avoid mixing hardy goldfish breeds with fancy ones. Fancy ones may be kept alongside other varieties of the same kind (different bubble-eyed types, for example), but bear in mind that this may still backfire if one of the breeds is better equipped to compete for food and space. Single-variety arrangements are ultimately best for fancy goldfish, regardless of whether they are to be stocked into a tank or a pond.

One of the major reasons why fancy goldfish are unable to survive alongside common goldfish breeds is associated with their body shape and the speed at which they can swim. Comets, shubunkins, and the common goldfish, varieties that have the flat-bodied shape of traditional Carassius auratus breeds, can be stocked alongside one another. These will quickly outgrow any egg-bodied, fancy varieties, which are unable to swim as quickly as them.

Can Pond Conditions Benefit Fancy Goldfish?

Pearl scale goldfish
Egg-shaped goldfish struggle to swim against strong currents. Lerdsuwa, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Essentially, pond conditions that are kept stable and within the bounds of fancy goldfish preferences should actually promote their growth rates. Given a larger volume of water per fish, your goldfish should manage to reach their maximum sizes. Moreover, stress due to overcrowding and low oxygen levels may be minimized if there is ample filtration and a consistent source of dissolved oxygen. Discounting the inevitable dangers of outdoor setups, a pond could actually benefit these high-priced breeds.

That being said, anything that may hinder your goldfish from feeding properly or from remaining free of injury should be removed from the pond system. A source of a gentle current should take the place of anything that causes the water to be excessively turbulent. Note that egg-shaped goldfish may struggle to swim against strong currents. In case temperatures tend to become exceedingly cool or warm in your area, a water heater or a source of shade may be necessary as well.

Moving Fancy Goldfish Between Tank & Pond Setups

Goldfish tank
Goldfish can be kept comfortable in tanks during the hottest and coolest months of the year. Jelene Morris / CC BY 2.0

Depending on your location, outdoor conditions may not always be compatible with the needs of fancy goldfish. It helps to keep an adequately-sized and well-maintained tank in which your goldfish may be kept comfortable during the hottest or coolest months of the year. Once ambient conditions are favorable once more, they can be re-introduced into an outdoor pond.

Many goldfish enthusiasts in northern temperate zones prefer to move their fish outdoors during late spring or early summer, which is when outdoor water temperatures are closer to the range in aquariums. Once temperatures begin to drop in fall (more pronounced in shallow ponds), do not delay moving your fancy goldfish indoors to protect them from cool temperatures.

Whenever you move your goldfish, give them time to acclimatize to any changes in temperature and water chemistry. Note that a delay in moving fish indoors can be fatal, especially if your goldfish have already begun to slow their metabolism in time for winter. At this point, moving them into a warmer tank can shock their systems.

Final Tips on Caring for Fancy Goldfish in Ponds

Fallen leaves in a pond
Proper pond maintenance, including the removal of fallen leaves, is key to improving the growth rate of fancy goldfish. Acabashi, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The key to improving the growth rates of your fancy goldfish in outdoor ponds is proper pond maintenance. This means consistent filtration, a regular and thorough cleaning routine, and the removal of potential sources of pathogens. To keep predators and fallen leaves out of the pond, you may consider placing a net around its periphery or above the water’s surface.

As a rule, keep the pond conservatively stocked as this should minimize maintenance needs. Provide your fancy goldfish with the right high-quality types of fish feed and avoid overfeeding them. If you notice that their energy levels or typical swimming movements are affected within a few hours to days after introducing them into the pond, test the water parameters and perform the necessary adjustments to optimize conditions without delay.

Angeline L
About the author

Angeline L

I'm a passionate researcher and scuba diver with a keen interest in garden plants, marine life, and freshwater ecology. I think there’s nothing better than a day spent writing in nature. I have an academic and professional background in sustainable aquaculture, so I advocate for the responsible production of commercial fish, macroinvertebrates, and aquatic plants.

Read more about Pond Informer.

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