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NFC: Latest pond Article

A  Killie For your Garden pond !
Robert Rice
Robertrice at juno_com

Perhaps the most exciting recent development in the water gardening world
has been the trend towards local species. That is fish from the pond,
ditch or stream down the road. They are virtually unknown, yet perfectly
suited for the home pond.  In many ways it mirrors the explosion in
native plant enthusiasts in the previous decade. People are suddenly
realizing that local fish are colorful , durable and well suited for the
garden pond. It also presents similar challenges as very little is known
about the local fishes, their life histories or even their names. If
you've been a Gardner for a few years you can remember when the native
species like Indian paint Brush, Cardinal Flower and Mexican Hat became
available for the first time it took some learning of new terms and
culture habits to add these jewels to our garden. However in no time  we
were able to get up to speed and now Local Flowers dot gardens all across
the world. 

Now the cycle repeats itself ,  peoples interest has drifted below the
water line. People are realizing that instead of  Koi there are other
options. Options new and exciting., small and large. The only catch is
they are generally not available commercially yet. They will be soon be ,
but not yet. In the interim a fishing license , awareness of your state
regulations, and a dipnet will get you started. You see in most states
the non game most interesting fishes are covered under bait laws and can
be collected and kept with just a simple fishing license. Just check with
your local fisheries department and get a copy of your states laws before
you get started .The Native fish Conservancy Website at
http://nativefish.interspeed.net has links to all the state agencies so
that's a good place to start.

Water Gardner magazine has asked me to do a series of articles on local
species. For me , the simplest way to breakdown the nearly 300 Native
American Species is by either generic type or by phenotype. You know a
basics about Sunfish or Fishes of XYZ size , shape or water type. Since
we are really talking about the needs of the Water Gardner more than
anything else. I will do a bit of both. This article will deal with the
temperate Killies. Future articles will include the wee fishes which are
fishes under 2 inches for the small pond, the Sunfishes, the Shiners, the
darters and whatever else strikes my fancy. I'll probably even do a bit
on fishes for the far north, central and southern pond .  

So back on topic. What is a killie ? A killie is typically a member of
the genus Fundulus who is cigar shaped and spends the bulk of it's life
in the top few inches of water.. Thus they are often given the local name
top minnow. Their diet consists mainly of aquatic insects , primarily
Mosquito Larvae  and algae. Thus they make good additions to most ponds.
They also are incredibly durable often being the preferred bait by many
fisherman as they are long on the hook. Which for us Ponders means we
will not need high tech equipment or a sterile environment to keep most
killie species. Put that salt back in the pantry your pond wont need it
anymore. Instead put a few Aquatic Plants in ceramic pots and you are
ready for action. Keep in mind there are exceptions to every genus and ,
well the killies are no exception to the exception. They're several other
genus out there but for the most part Fundulus is what you will be
dealing with most of the time. So if you take a little bit of time and
learn about the Fundulus you will be on your way. To learn more about all
the Killies and for that matter all the North American Fishes I strongly
recommend Peterson's Field Guide to North American Natives. You can
purchase this great book online at http://nativefish.interspeed.net or at
your local bookstore. 

Killies in the wild live in pretty harsh environments.  You will collect
them in heavily vegetated ditches, ponds and sinkholes and that's about
it. You will seldom find any killies in springs or spring fed creeks.
They like it hot, weedy  and funky. You know the kind of place a mosquito
would like hang out. Collecting them is easily done with a seine , a
dipnet or even a fishtrap. If you are not interested in collecting
killies they are available for sale at a few garden stores around the
country or if you have email you can negotiate a trade/sale at either of
the following newsgroups. The NFCponds at listbot_com a list for folks who
keep local species in their ponds this list can be joined by sending an
email with no message or subject to NFCponds-subscribe at listbot_com or by
Joining the Fish Wish List a list to negotiate sales and trades of local
species at FWL at actwin_com. To join that list send a note to
Majordomo at actwin_com with the message subscribe FWL. 

With all that said let me tell you why you should keep killies in your
pond. First off there is a killies for every size pond. The come as small
as  inch and as large as 6 plus inches. Second off they truly thrive on
mosquito larvae. While gambusia are often passed off as the mosquito fish
, several studies have shown that gambusia feed on fish eggs and young
way more than they feed on the ponders scourge mosquito larvae. .Killies
on the other hand have been shown to eat nearly their body weight in
mosquito larvae a day. Third the reproduction rate of a killie is much
lower than many livebearers out there. They will create self sustaining
populations without taking over as mosquito fish tend to do. Finally
killies occur well into Canada thus allowing our northern ponder friends
to keep a mosquito fish that is environmentally friendly. Gambusia of
course have been spread all over the globe to the detriment of many local
species because as we already know they love to eat the eggs and young of
other fishes. They will not however overwinter in the northern latitudes.
Local species often will.

Here is my list of favorite killies for the local garden pond. Keep in
mind that they are not available every where and you should strive to
keep only local species if you can. If you purchase or trade for a killie
that is not local NEVER release it to the wild. Destroy it first. It is
wrong to mess around with your local fauna. You could cause horrible

Little killies for little spaces.

Leptolucania ommata- 1 inch max. Sometimes called the Lemon Killie ,
small colorful ,shy, durable and has a nice reproductive rate. If you can
get this fish only a couple of pairs will reward you with many young by
the end of the year to sell or trade with local ponders and aquarists.

Lucania Goodei- AKA Bluefin Kill- 2 inch max. Probably the finest small
kill there is. They are colorful durable , and man can they eat mosquito
larvae and make babies. I have kept a colony for 5 years now that was
started by 5 fish. Every year I sell dozens of their offspring to
interested ponders. My favorite of the tiny guys

Bigger Killies for every where else.

Blackstripe Topminow- Fundulus olivaceus-to 3  inches-a great northern
killie, actually a great killie for anywhere but it occurs in a broad
range from the northern plains down to the deep south.

Banded Killifish-Fundulus diaphanus-to 5 inches-A Northern star of the
killie clan. It occurs well into Canada and can often be purchased in
bait stores. Does great in ponds and is worthy of a long look from

Golden topminnow -Fundulus chrysotus-  to 3 inches- Occurs in the Midwest
down to southern Florida. A very pretty , very durable killie. Perfect
for the pond. I use this killie in most of my ponds. I love it. It is
very pretty. Several ponders have isolated a melanistic strain that is
simply stunning.

Pink Lemonade killie- Fundulus cingulatus- to 4 inches- Named by my
daughter Erin this unique strain of the common southern killie is a
stunning pink and does well in the home aquarium or the pond. If you ever
get the chance to acquire some do it by all means.  

Florida Flagfish-Jordanella floridae- to 21/2 inches- A very unique
killie it is wide bodied , colorful and incredibly durable. This stunning
kill has an added benefit for the ponder . It loves to eat algae but not
plants. They can suck up the two major scourges of a pond the algae and
the mosquitoes. My colony is 3 years old with no problems. It started
with just 6 of these great killies.

This is not a complete list of suitable killies for the pond. It is just
my favorites. Please check into Peterson's Field Guide to North American
Fishes for a more complete list. Conservation minded Ponders should
consider joining my favorite conservation organization the Native Fish
Conservancy. We are busy all around the continent doing conservation
work. To Join send 10$ to NFC at 1663 Iowa Ave East St. Paul MN 55106 or
join online at our website we have many email lists and our ponds pages
at http://nativefish.interspeed.net . Many State DNR's Produce a Fishes
of XYZ with information on each states fishes. Anyhow anyway get involved
locally in conservation issues with any organization that suits you.
Until next time good luck and good ponding.. You can reach me via a SASE
at 2213 Prytania Circle Navarre Fl 32566

Robert Rice
Help Preserve our Aquatic Heritage join the NFC
Check out our Exotic Removal Program and Breeders Program at our website
website  http://nativefish.interspeed.net/