Please visit our Sponsors

Related FAQs: Pond Livestocking, Pond Acclimation

Related Articles: Acclimation, Koi Selection, Koi Varieties, Goldfish, Goldfish Varieties, Dojo/Weatherfish Use In Ponds, Turtles and Other Pond Animals, Pond Snails 1, Pond Snails 2, Plants: Landscape Plants, Water lilies, Plant Care, Koi/Pond Fish DiseasePond MaintenanceExample Ponds/Water Features

/Aquatic Gardens, Design, Construction & Maintenance

Summer Tropics: A Pond Vacation for Your Aquarium Fish

by Bob Fenner  
Aquatic Gardens

Ponds, Streams, Waterfalls & Fountains:
Volume 1. Design & Construction
Volume 2. Maintenance, Stocking, Examples

V. 1 Print and eBook on Amazon
V. 2 Print and eBook on Amazon

by Robert (Bob) Fenner

            Hard 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:

            Some 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.



Most plants for aquarium use are actually cultured outdoors'¦ Here is Egeria densa, 'Anacharis', flowering in a culture pond in Florida.




Vallisneria and Sagittaria species can be grown asexually (by runners) as well as through flowering/seed outdoors. At right, V. Americana in one of many drainage canals in Southern Florida. I know of a few aquarists that supplement their income, support their 'pet-fish' habits by growing these genera outdoors in 'kiddie wading pools', soil with fine gravel over it, for much of the year in Southern California'¦


            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.  


            If 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 quality.  

 Preventing Disasters: 

            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:  

            A 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.  

Aquatic Gardens

Ponds, Streams, Waterfalls & Fountains:
Volume 1. Design & Construction
Volume 2. Maintenance, Stocking, Examples

V. 1 Print and eBook on Amazon
V. 2 Print and eBook on Amazon

by Robert (Bob) Fenner
Become a Sponsor Features:
Daily FAQs FW Daily FAQs SW Pix of the Day FW Pix of the Day New On WWM
Helpful Links Hobbyist Forum Calendars Admin Index Cover Images
Featured Sponsors: