We have several gold fish outdoor in a big tub and a water fountain. They live healthy and happy in a natural setting without modern filtering system or chemicals added into the water.
Keeping water garden in form of an aquarium or man made pond today rely on technology supports such as chemicals to remove traces of unwanted chlorine from tap water, filtering systems that use electricity and regular water testing. Isn’t it possible to make a living water garden by mimicking the ecological balance of nature? They don’t use all of those complicated gadgets and treatments.
I always question myself how rivers and natural lakes or ponds work for all the fish and the water plants to flourish without manmade technology? Many say that rain water is too soft for the gold fish as it is lacking of minerals so the experts say that it is better to use tap water with chemicals added to remove traces of harmful chlorine.
However, I learned from many articles that the natural balance of aquatic livings can be achieved naturally. Rain water, plants and fish can support each other to create a healthy environment for them to survive.
To live a healthy ecological balance, both water plants and fish can support each other to form a healthy environment. Fish will need oxygen in the water which is provided by submerge plants that act as oxygenators. On the other hands, water plants will need nutrients by feeding the waste that is excreted by the fish. These plants will provide oxygen during the day and absorb carbon dioxide at night. The submerge water plants also act as purifier as it feeds on the waste in the water both from the fish or traces of uneaten food. The most popular submerge oxygenator plants are: Anacharis, Vallisneria, Hornwort, Red Ludwigia, Cabomba. I use anacharis for my water garden.
To add beauty for the water setting and to reduce algae growing rampant in the water, semi floating plant such as water lilies, lotus, nardoo, water poppy or water hawthorn can be added. These plants have the roots submerged in water but the foliage will be on the water surface. The foliage will provide shades for the fish and for reducing algae. These plants will also get the nutrients from the waste in the water so they will help to clear the water. I use water lily for our mini water garden.
Completely floating water plants are also good for reducing algae, providing shelter for fish and the floating roots are also beneficial for cleaning water. Common floating water plants that are used for water garden are water lettuces, duckweeds, water hyacinths or fairy moss.
I use water from our rain water catchment and the only additive that I add to the water is pure sea salt. This is an old practice to help goldfish healthy by preventing fungal diseases and also acts as a tonic for the fish. I use one tea spoon of pure sea salt (or aquarium salt) for every 10 gallon of water (about 37 litres).
To keep the ecological balance, it is important not to keep too many fish. One mature fish for at least every 40 litres of water is desirable. It is also not to over feed, I feed our goldfish once a day with just use enough food for the fish to eat in 3 minutes. After 3 minutes and if there is still some food uneaten, it is better to remove it. It is also needed to trim the water plants to prevent them from overcrowding and to remove dead foliage and roots.
To know if the habitat for both fish and plants is in good balance, the water should stay clear all the time and both the fish and the plants are happy and healthy. If you are planning to have a water garden, it is important to set the plants life going for a week or so before adding fish to establish the growing of beneficial organisms.
If the ecological balance is working there is no need to change water except to add more rain water if the water is low. If the water is loss by evaporation, there is no need to add more sea salt as salt does not evaporate.
A good read on water garden:
My other blogs on Goldfish:
Latest update today February 10,2010:
After having goldfish for over a year, I’ve found out that keeping goldfish without any chemicals added into the water is possible especially for tubs or ponds outside the house. I keep my goldfish in large tubs and I also have water lily, elodea/anacharis, and marginal water plants. I don’t use tap water at all because I don’t want to use chemical to remove chlorine. Instead I use 100 % rain water as we have many tanks to catch rain water from the gutters.
At first, I did not use filtering system at all , but it was very hard to keep the water clear. I don’t want to use chemical to keep the water clear. So for almost 6 months I have started to use filters that I made them myself to keep the costs minimal.
I use a small submersible water pump for each tub (cost only about $15 – 20 AUD). The pump is connected to a filtering system which consist of plastic scourers (used for washing dishes), abbrasive pads (also for washing dishes), small pebbles or scorias. I pack these filtering mediums into a plastic drinking bottle with wide neck.
The water from the pump goes to the top of the bottle and runs through filtering mediums and runs out through an opening at the bottom of the bottle. I just hang this filter over the fish tub so the filtered water runs freely back (like tap water).
Once a week, I take the filtering mediums out of the bottle and wash them. Don’t use soap at all as it will kill the good bacterias that feeding on the fish waste. The scourers are reusable until many months later when they have started to fall apart. It is very cheap, very simple to make and most importantly it is working for my fish tubs. You can use the dirty water (from washing the filter) to water plants in the garden. You will imagine that the dirty water from the filter smells bad, but if the whole system works, it will not smell bad at all. There is no fishy smell, just fresh earthy smell.
This is the picture of a filter that I made for the small plastic tub where I keep goldfish babies. So far our gold fishes have more than 10 babies. Some are still together with the parents in the other tank. It is very hard to see and to catch them as they like to hide:o)
The picture below is our new ceramic tub to replace the plastic one near the back door.