Fish Habitat

Do I Need Fish Habitat in my pond?

This depends on the desired use of your pond.  If the use of your pond is primarily aesthetic, swimming, or commercial, fish habitat is not necessarily recommended.  If you are planning on enjoying fish either by fishing or just for their presence, then the answer is yes!  The type of habitat that you create depends on your pond. 

Is My Pond Big Enough for Fish Habitat?

Generally speaking, ponds less than ¼ acre are unable to produce a quality sport fishery, though decorative koi are often a popular choice for ponds this small.  This does not mean that you don’t need structure.  Submerged structure is essential for providing hiding spots for small prey fish as well as cool, shaded areas for larger species.  Habitat in ponds also promotes planktonic growth, which feeds your small bait fish that large predatory species feed on. 

What type of structure should I install?

There are many schools on pond structure ranging from the “everything but the kitchen sink” method to high tech, store-bought devices.  The Pond Guy recommends one of these most popular choices:

1: Artificial Structures

Though artificial habitats are more expensive than natural sources, a quality man-made structure is easier and faster to install.  Studies have shown that these habitats are just as productive as evergreen habitats when it comes to planktonic, prey, and predator quality/abundance.  An example of these structures is the Porcupine Fish Attractor.  Because of its ease of installation, the artificial habitat is more popular in larger lakes and reservoirs.  Placement in these lakes can be in smaller “reefs” or in lines extending out from shore in depths from 6 to 25 feet deep, the steeper the slope, the less structure needed.

2: Evergreen Habitats

Evergreens are preferred because of their relative abundance. These structures are usually placed into ponds in groups of three trees at a rate of three to four groups per acre.  Placement of the trees is recommended to be in 6 to 10 feet of water, no further than 30 feet from the shore.  In larger bodies of water, place the trees in lines extending from shore from 6 to 25 feet deep.  To install, simply attach a weight (cinderblocks work well) to the base of the tree and sink them in your pond.  Many people place the “reefs” on the ice and wait for them to sink.  The only drawback to a natural reef is that it does introduce nutrients into the system, which can promote nuisance algal blooms.

3: Secondary Habitat

Spawning habitat is a consideration to make.  If you are working towards a self-sustaining ecosystem, the fish need a place to spawn.  Most fish prefer a coarse sand or a gravel bed in 1 to 5 feet of water.  These beds usually need to cover about 10 percent of the pond bottom.

Don’t forget to provide shade!  A healthy pond does not like heavy doses of sunlight.  Though sun is required, try to plant a few trees (evergreens work best) around your shore to provide some shade during the midday sun.

Can't I just let some weeds grow for fish cover?

While Mother Nature does very well with this method in natural settings, it is very hard to keep weeds under control in private pond environments.  Weeds are not a suggested habitat type, and chemical or mechanical control of them are the leading treatments for ponds.  In ponds one acre and larger weed beds can be an effective, though difficult, means of creating fish structure.  If you are willing to put in the effort, studies suggest that 30 to 40 percent coverage of the bottom is best for fish production.

Is that all I need to create a healthy fish population?

Habitat is one of the most important steps towards a healthy fishery, but it is not the only one.  The Pond Guy recommends following the 4 Steps to a Perfect Ecosystem:

  • Airmax Aeration eliminates thermal stratification of the water column, which stops the buildup of toxic gasses on the bottom of your pond.  This allows fish and other organisms to use the entire pond, creating a healthy environment.
  • Pond Clear Natural Bacteria added to the pond will eat away at the excess nutrients on the bottom, reducing the “muck” that helps to feed unwanted algae.
  • Nutri-Defense is the next step, which binds nutrients in the water column.  This helps to stop algae blooms.
  • Nature's Blue Pond Dye shades the pond, giving it a clear blue look.  A shaded pond shows a reduction in algal blooms.