to think about seriously during the winter to spring time, but most
everywhere in the United States it's warm enough for periods of the
summer to give your tropicals a pond 'vacation'. Folks who have
tried this, and/or visited the Florida regions where outdoor systems
are utilized for captive aquatic life grow-out can testify as to the
obvious benefits of such temporary transplanting.
Among other advantages of relocating your stock from your aquariums to
outdoor ponds is the increased space for markedly enhanced growth, the
presence of natural foods, which bolster color and reproduction, and
the usefulness of sunlight. For the aquarist there is consolidation of
their collections in much larger containers, far less maintenance of
the system and for sure areas inside the house! And lastly and
importantly if you're interested in such, increased opportunities
for breeding, reproducing your livestock.
On the decidedly possible downsides are risks from predation and the ill effects of catastrophic weather'¦ but these can be guarded against by and large through preventative measures.
Some Species Specifics:
groups of fishes like African and the larger Central and South American
cichlids, minnow groups (e.g. Danios, Rasboras, Barbs,
'Sharks'), labyrinth fishes (e.g. Gouramis) and all but the
very fancy livebearers (Mollies, Platies, Swords) as well as most all
'tropical' (many are not) aquatic plants, do extremely well
outdoors during warmer months.
Folks who know will tell you that big cichlids are much easier to keep in very large quarters, with losses from territoriality and fighting almost nonexistent. If your water is clear enough you'll be able to see them interacting, breeding and rearing their young. Imagine this. You'll realize it's far more interesting than keeping mere pairs in small aquarium systems.
Egg-scatterers (e.g. minnows) as well as egg-placing species like Angelfish produce far larger spawns in outdoor settings, with more young surviving, growing more rapidly, with far less care then indoors.
Ponds can be fashioned of many materials'¦ old bathtubs, pre-formed polyethylene, liners set in the ground'¦ My friend John Pitcairn used to even have an old wood and fiberglass sailboat as a pond for his plants! Any chemically inert container that holds water can actually be put to use.
Filtration/circulation/aeration can be as simple as non-existent to
advanced, but I do encourage you to plan ahead and have mechanical
bubblers, sponge and/or box filters at least available, as well as the
means to execute water changes to maintain decent water quality. Look
for gear that can stand the weather, like Tetra's excellent Luft
Air pumps, and keep all under some protection from sun and water.
you've had aquariums of different size volumes you know how much
more stable, easier to maintain larger ones are than smaller. Think of
hundreds to thousands of gallons instead of tens! If such systems are
of adequate depth, size, placed out of direct influences of sun,
wind'¦ they can be tremendously homeostatic, only changing
temperature a few degrees Fahrenheit during the night.
Fishes should be fed at about the same intervals as when kept indoors,
but you will likely see them using far less food amounts, as a good
deal of food grows and 'falls in' to ponds. Some friends of
mine, Hawkeye and Melissa, have a half oak barrel that they grow
gouramis and platies, lilies and Sagittaria in all-year round in
coastal San Diego, using an Eheim canister filter for circulation and
filtration, and only feeding during the summer.
Water changes will likely be a breeze, with the turning of valves. A
good ten percent a week or so will ensure consistent and high water
Predators are best avoided by using simple fencing or protective pets
of your own. Snakes, turtles can be kept out of outdoor systems with
raised walls about them or fine-mesh netting. Predaceous birds and
mammals (herons, egrets, kingfishers'¦ possums, raccoons,
skunks'¦) may call for more extreme measures, like netting
over the entire pond. Often, if they're deterred initially, they
will go off to 'greener pastures' seasonally.
Major shifts in water chemistry and temperature are to be avoided, and are best done so through planning and maintenance'¦ larger volumes that are more cubical than shallow/exposed, placed near each other and structure (e.g. buildings, trees), and out of the wind and sun'¦ are more homeostatic. Monitoring water quality and doing regularly water changes assures consistent, live-able conditions.
Bringing Them All Back In-Doors:
very good practice is the keeping of a logbook for all your water
tests, and no other measure is more important in these in/outdoor
endeavors than temperature. Once you detect the downward trend slipping
below tropical/tolerable limits (for most fishes, the mid-sixties F.),
you should make provision to return your livestock to indoor settings.
If caught unawares, setting up an intermediate system of kiddie wading
pools (covered, recirculated, filtered, with water from the outside)
can often be of utility as a stopgap save.
Carefully and slowly draining the outdoor system/s with a small pump
(watch out where the water goes!) set near, but not at the bottom (lest
you forget and it drain all the water away!) while you set up and get
running their 'old' tanks indoors with a good deal of the
outdoor water (to help acclimate them) will help adjust the fishes et.
al. to their new/old homes.
Why Not Make It An All-Year Affair?
Year's back, when energy wasn't so costly, we used to have
people in Southern California (Los Angeles to San Diego) who actually
ran home-based outdoor breeding and rearing facilities, mainly for some
more-expensive cichlids (Cobalt Blues, Severums'¦). The most
enterprising I ever witnessed firsthand utilized a sort of heat
exchanger that ran plumbing through an insulated tank that was in turn
gas-heated through a household water heater. Alas, unless you have a
semi-well insulated 'greenhouse' or live in more southerly
Florida, I suspect the economics of these arrangements will not pencil.
However, summer plus months may well be
advantageous enough for you to engage in outdoor tropicals keeping.
Live plants in particular are spectacular when grown for a good part of
the years outside. Look about your lot'¦ is there room for
even just a lowly half oak barrel? Your aquatic charges can open up
another season of enjoyment for both of you. Do consider the benefits
of relocating them during the warm months outside.