Fish need a healthy environment to thrive, and since they rely on you for everything, you need to develop the right ecosystem for fish in your care.
Besides the obvious requirements like water, the right temperature, and appropriate food, you also need to consider oxygen levels, safety, cleaning, and maintenance. These factors change depending on the breed, number, and age of your fish.
This article will guide you through the potential threats to your fish’s ecosystem, how to build a healthy habitat, and other tips for raising happy fish on your homestead!
As most people raise fish in ponds, the first potential threat that can destroy your well-balanced ecosystem for fish is other farming practices.
If you run a large homestead with many plants and crops, you must be cautious with fertilization.
Overzealous fertilization can lead to chemicals flowing into the water, killing your fish. This is a simple mistake that can be common for beginner farmers who don’t have experience raising fish alongside other crops.
In reality, this is a problem for wild fish, too. Farmers apply fertilizers broadly to their crops and this runs off in the rain or irrigation and ends up in our waterways. This fertilizer build-up poisons fish and upsets the delicate balance in the environment.
One way to avoid these excess chemicals reaching your pond water is to ensure the water area is closed off from the rest of the farm. Your pond should also have a thick liner, and you should make sure that any water that runs through your crops doesn’t feed into the pond.
Another possible threat to your ecosystem is if your fish are kept near a road or industrial location. These areas often gather lots of debris and chemicals from the road and car exhaust.
If you can, situate your pond far away from roads. This gives you the best chance of creating a healthy ecosystem for fish.
Controlling all aspects of nature is impossible, and you’ll likely encounter predators occasionally. Birds, raccoons, possums, cats, and other creatures might target your fish. Not only does this cause your fishy friends stress, but you might lose some of your precious stock.
A healthy ecosystem for fish requires a stress-free environment. Here are some ways that you can limit the risk of outside predators attacking your fish:
- Build a fish cave so they have a place to hide from predators.
- Keep a dog on guard to chase off invaders.
- Use motion-activated lights and repellents.
- Place a fish netting over the water.
3. The Right Enclosure
As mentioned earlier, the most popular way of keeping fish is in a pond, but you can convert swimming pools, net off areas in water bodies, or use large tanks.
It’s not enough to create space and fill it with water in your backyard. You need to think about how to create a safe, enclosed system that you can effectively manage to create a healthy ecosystem for fish.
It’s beyond the scope of this article to discuss building an enclosure, but be sure to research and design the best system you can afford. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, but you must be smart about how you design and build your enclosure.
If your fish are plopped into an enclosure that is dirty, poorly designed, or incorrect for your climate, your fish’s environment will never be healthy.
4. Pick the Right Fish
You can’t just head to the store and pick out fish willy-nilly. You must pick fish that are the right size for your enclosure, water type, and are compatible with one another.
Obviously, if you combine tiny insect eaters with larger predator fish, your adventures in fishkeeping will be short.
But fish choice also impacts the health of the environment. Depending on the enclosure, you might want to include bottom feeders to help keep the enclosure clean. You might also want some surface feeders.
You also want to ensure you only add as many fish as your enclosure can handle. If you place too many, the environment will rapidly deteriorate. The fish won’t have enough access to oxygen, and toxic elements might build up, killing your fish.
5. Consider Plants
Many fish do better with lots of plants to snack on and hide in. It’s always wise to include a variety of aquatic plants in the enclosure, if possible. Not only are plants vital to the health of your fish, but they also make your pond look more aesthetically pleasing.
You can find many aquatic plants that add various colors and textures to the homestead. But plants offer more than just a nice exterior. They are also part of the crucial filtration process in your ecosystem.
Plants will absorb metals, nitrates, and ammonia in the water, which prevents the buildup of green algae. Fish will also benefit from plants as they release oxygen, ensuring a healthy flow of nutrients in the ecosystem.
6. Filtration System
You will also need to consider installing a filtration system to support the plants and ecosystem of the water. Ideally, you want to make the most of the natural filtration provided by plants and the added filtration of a machine.
A filtration system will move large pieces of debris and dirt that can lead to health issues in your pond. The best choice for filtration systems is a skimmer, which filters the water and removes debris.
A good filtration system uses pumps that are powerful enough to filter the amount of water in the enclosure. They also have some sort of filter to capture debris and waste.
The average pump will move all the water every two hours, which is ideal for homesteaders with small to average ponds. If you have smaller fish like goldfish, it’s better to find a pump to filter the water more frequently.
For goldfish and koi, you should aim for a pump that moves every hour. You can find different models that can be easily hidden or placed outside the pond. The final decision will depend on your personal choice and the design of your garden pond.
7. Rocks and Gravel
Rocks and gravel assist the filtration system and foster a healthy ecosystem for fish.
Beneficial bacteria thrive on surface areas like rocks and gravel, which is essential for keeping the overall ecosystem working correctly. Bacteria break down solids and release nutrients.
You can also use rocks as a decorative element and to provide hiding places for fish.
8. Sun Exposure
The amount of sun exposure will also determine the health of your ecosystem. Without the right amount of sunlight, the water will be discolored, and you’ll notice more algae on the water’s surface or plants won’t grow, and fish will be sickly.
Sunlight encourages plant growth and is essential for the health of fish, but too much sunlight can cause problems. You should be careful that your pond is not in direct sunlight all day and ensure some protection with trees or other plants around it.
Too little sun will also cause problems, so ensure that the area receives sunlight for at least part of the day. Finding the right balance is key to a healthy ecosystem for fish.
9. Keep the Water Clean
Remove debris from around the enclosure before it can get into the water. Leaves, twigs, and even piles of dirt can enter the enclosure and reduce filtration. If leaves or other debris gets into the water, fish it out with a net.
Fall is the most common time of year when you will have leaves in the water, but check throughout the year just in case.
Another essential tip for raising fish on your homestead is to be careful with feeding. Fish have a quick metabolism, and food in rapidly becomes food out. Don’t overfeed, which is not only bad for your fish, but can also cause uneaten food to rot and clog the filter system