For many pond owners, the chance to have a few fish swimming their way through the water-lily stems is a big part of the reason they built their water feature in the first place. Anyone who keeps fish in their pond will soon find themselves knowing a good deal about how to look after these quietly fascinating creatures, even if they didn’t before, but there’s a lot more to our fishy friends than just feeding them and keeping an eye out for disease.
With that in mind, here’s a few fast – and generally little-known – facts about the remarkable group of animals that lurk at the bottom of our ponds.
Sense and Sensibility
- The average fish’s brain is fifteen times smaller than that of a similar sized bird or mammal.
- Fish that are active during the day see colour at least as well as humans do.
- The lateral line is sensitive to currents and vibrations in the water.
- Laboratory tests using underwater mazes have shown that fish have good spatial awareness and are good at making decisions using visual clues.
- A fish can control its own buoyancy by adjusting the amount of gas in its swim bladder.
- The number of vertebrae in a fish’s backbone depends on the species, but generally it’s between 40 to 80, although any eels visiting your pond may have 200 or more!
- Most common pond fish have between 40 and 50 scales in their lateral line.
- The scales of a fish have growth rings, just like a tree, and can be used to work out its age.
- Coldwater fish can live for a surprisingly long time; rudd may live to be 12, while carp often make the ripe old age of 50.
- The record for the longest lived goldfish is held by Tish, who died in 1999 – having lived for 43 years after first being won as a prize at a funfair in Yorkshire.
- The longest goldfish in actual length measured 47.4cm (18.7 inches), snout to tail-end and is owned by Joris Gijsbers of The Netherlands.
- The Koi is a domestic version of the Common Carp (Cyprinus carpio)
- Although they are often associated with Japan, Koi originated in China over 1,600 years ago.
- The Japanese word Koi means ‘carp’, but it also sounds like the word for affection, which explains why the fish became popular symbols of love and friendship in Japan.
- A single heron can eat over 300g of fish a day – and double that if it’s raising young!
- It has been estimated that poor husbandry accounts for over 90 per cent of fish health problems.
- In the US, racoons are said to kill more pond fish than cats; in some areas of Britain, foxes are starting to give our moggies a run for their money!
There are around 30,000 species of bony fish in the world – about as many as every other kind of vertebrate combined – and they’ve been around for over 200 million years. Even though only a minute fraction of their number are commonly kept in garden ponds, those that are can lay claim to an impressive pedigree, and give us an insight into some of the incredible biological adaptations that have made them so very successful. However colourful and relaxing they may appear as they gently make their way through their underwater world on a sunny summer’s day, there’s a lot more to our pond fish than meets the eye!