Let’s face it, some ponds simply are not going to be great channel catfish producers or trophy bass ponds. These ponds generally are less than one-eighth of an acre in size and may freeze solid in the winter or go dry in the summer. One possibility for these ponds is the production of ornamental fish and plants. This can be a very enjoyable project and may even provide some profits.
The first fish discussed are those able to survive Oklahoma’s winters – goldfish and Japanese koi (carp). Many people, during their youth, went to the five and dime store and paid ten cents for a common goldfish. But there are fancy varieties that sell for up to $60 each, and some varieties of koi may be worth thousands of dollars. High profits can be made by purchasing small specimens of these fancy varieties and growing them to a larger size. A pet shop owner can provide advice about which types to purchase.
Both goldfish and koi are stocked in the spring when temperatures exceed 60°F. Most ponds have adequate food for a small number of these fish, but if maximum production is desired, you should consider either feeding a commercial feed or fertilization (see Pond Fertilization, page 36). In addition to feeding, these fish need either natural or artificial plants for spawning. After fish spawn in early spring, you may wish to check the progress of the fingerlings with a small seine. If growth is unsatisfactory, more feeding or fertilizing may be required. In early fall the pond owner may harvest the production for that year. Young goldfish and koi are graded as to quality and size. Good potential brooders may be kept for future use and other fishes may be marketed or given to friends.
Tropical fish may be cultured in these ponds during the warmer months. In Oklahoma, this corresponds to about the middle of May through mid-September. Although this is a short period, substantial production can be obtained with small tropical aquarium fish.
The first tropical fish mentioned are live bearers – aquarium fish that bear their offspring alive. Males copulate with females and the eggs produced hatch internally. These fish include guppies, mollys, platys and swordtails. The females give birth to approximately twenty young once a month. These offspring will grow very quickly and will also spawn during this season. The pond owner should obtain the best stock possible from the pet store. Stocking should be done in trios of one male to two females. Very few adult fish are required for stocking because of their high reproductive potential. Adequate escape cover should be provided for the young as the adults are cannibalistic. The pond should be fertilized to increase the food available for these fish (see Pond Fertilization, page 36). Harvest before water temperatures fall below 70°F in the fall.
Many different types of aquatic plants are in demand in the aquarium business. Some marketable ones produced in ponds are water lilies, coontail and milfoil. Simply obtain some of these plants from a dealer, stock them into the pond, fertilize the plants with animal manure and then harvest them.
Be cautious when working with any non-native fish or plant. The ODWC has a list of fish species prohibited from importation into Oklahoma. Check with the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture before importing exotic plants into the. The pond owner should make sure the pond is adequately screened to prevent escape of any fish into Oklahoma waterways. If you decide to try these ornamental fishes and plants in your small ponds, you will likely find the aquarium shops you obtain your stock from willing to buy your production at year’s end. This can be a very rewarding hobby, both for profit and just for fun.