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NFC: tiny pond fish

Wee Fishes for those Tiny Places !
Robert Rice

Just this last month I moved into a new home in Gainesville Florida. My huge flower beds and ponds were left behind and I started yet again with a blank yard. No flowers, no trees just grass , dirt and inspiration. My spouse, my better half , many would say finished up her military tour and joined a residency program here in Gainesville. So for what we hoped was the last time I moved my tanks, computer, and brought with me cuttings, seeds, dreams, shovels and hopes.

As I dug out bed after Bed in the Florida sun I had a vision. Why not tuck small ponds into the nooks and crannies of my Perennial beds ? So I reached into my bag of tricks and found 4 small 40 gallon or so ponds at a local Hardware store getting out of the pond business. The price was cheap and in a flash I was an owner of 1 peanut shaped and 3 Rio shaped (as described on the label) ponds. These small ponds are the typical black preformed variety some with ledges for pots some without. All of them however have the same problem. They are too small to support any fish bigger than a few inches . So if I followed my typical no filters lotsa plants model , I would be presented with some problems. You see if I just planted plants and no fish I would be running an excellent mosquito preschool. Having met adult mosquitoes I thought better of it all and realized I needed fish !

As is usually the case nature provides where thoughtfulness resides. So after digging my ponds , hitting the water table and re digging them I was ready for fish. My main priority , as it should be for any tiny pond owner is mosquito control. If it eats mosquitoes , is durable, and will reproduce on its own it’s a winner. Unfortunately for the past 40 years or so Gambusia species have been spread all over the Earth in an effort to control mosquitoes. As a part of their marketing they have even been called mosquito fish. Well , sir , let me tell you I know Gambusia and he sir is no mosquito fish. A egg snatcher yes, a young stealer for sure but as a mosquito fish he is second rate. So my advice to you the readers is forget Gambusia if you have any other options. Ask the Australians about how much habitat destruction a Gambusia can do. They have destroyed many of their local species. So my advice is stay local. If Gambusia are your local species try them if you like if not forget them. If you are not sure what is a local species purchase a Peterson’s Field Guide to Freshwater Fishes at the NFC website at www.nativefish.org the site also has photos and articles about most of the wee species and a cool kids program , plus a page just for ponders so check them out.

Anyway back to my ponds. I chose a monoclture approach. One of the ways I support my Aquarium/Pond hobby is through sales of common native fish. So each small pond had a particular fish species only. I chose Heterandria formosa a tiny live bearer , Bluefin Killie a colorful local fish, and Ellasoma Okeefenokee one of the pygmy sunfishes. A monoculture leads to greater reproduction rates and simpler setups. Just a half a dozen or so of the wee fish in any pond or aquarium leads to success. It’s a system I recommend for many of you Ponders out there. Find a common local species that works well in ponds establish it and pass it around. You will also want to plant some potted plants in each Pond. I prefer Caboma sp. Or even Amazon swords from the local pet store . All my plants in terra cotta pots seem love the summer pond life.

Its been but a few weeks but All seems to be well. My Heterandria formosa have been multiplying, my bluefin Killies seem to be doing the same and my ellasoma have dissapeared into the vegetation. I can tell the Ellasoma took because their little 40 gallon peanut shaped pond is mosquito free. Which means my yard will be almost mosquito free too. I supplemental feed my little ponds 1-2 X a month. I typically feed them frozen bloodworms or live blackworms. A quick swish with a fine mesh net through the potted plants will typically bring in an adult or two and some fry. If the adults are plump they are happy. So take a look once in a while to see how your wee fish are fareing. If you are using a local species and your pond does not freeze solid you can over winter them outside. If you live a bit to far North you might want to over winter some wee fish brood stock in a small tank. They all make cool aquarium subjects. Well worth the effort to keep indoors.

So next time you set up a small pond look around your local waters for a wee fish and put him to work on the mosquito patrol. Until next issue good luck and good ponding. I can be reached as 3635 NW 68th Lane Gainesville Fl. 32606 via S.A.S.E or email robertrice at juno_com


Here’s my Favorite wee fish for a Pond , they all remain small, breed well in a pond and love to eat mosquito larvae .

Brook Stickleback (Culaea inconstans) : This common Great Lakes/ Atlantic Coast area fish inhabits Small Creeks and Ponds all through the Northeast. He is durable adapts easily to the smallest Ponds and fascinating to watch from above. If you don’t have the Brook stickleback try the ninespined. They are often sold in Bait shops, coming in with the bait fish as stowaways .

Central Mudminnow (Umbra limi) : This Eastern star is durable , common, pretty and loves Mosquito’s. He occurs as Far south as Tennessee and way up into Canada. He is tolerant of poor water conditions and is commonly found in small creeks and ponds.

Bluefin Killies (Lucania goodei) : This common Southern killie is about 1 1/2 inches colorful , adapt well to pond life and will produce scores of fry in a summer.

The Pygmy Livebearer (Heterandria formosa) : One of the smallest livebeareres in the world. Extremely prolific and with their small size they are perfect mosquito patrol for small ponds.

The Pygmy sunfishes (Ellasoma sp.) All of the pygmy sunfishes are colorful shy and live almost exclusively on mosquito larvae. They can be collected in roadside ditches and swamps. They make fascinating aquarium fish also.

This list is by no means a complete one it is just my favorites. You will probably find a local species that works great in tiny spaces. I
’d love to hear about your experiences so drop me a note.