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Species Profile – Golden Orfe

Please welcome back Patty Little with an excellent species profile on a popular pond fish.

Golden OrfeTypically, when we consider fish to populate ornamental ponds, it’s koi and goldfish that are the most well-known and sought after types chosen. If you’re in the market for a new and interesting fish, let me introduce you to the Golden Orfe.

Golden Orfes, also known as Ides, are popular and attractive pond fish. They are long and slender with peachy-orange bodies and often small black spots across the back of the fish. Orfes originated in Europe and are dark, silvery blue in their wild form. The golden form was developed by selective breeding for ornamental use. Around 1880 Orfes were first imported to the U.S. and propagated in ponds along with goldfish and carp.

Orfes are sought after for their color and behavior. These docile fish are active swimmers, often staying near the surface where that can easily feed. Though they can grow to about 18 inches or more, they are not aggressive and will not cause harm to other fish in the pond, though tiny fish and fry may be seen as a food item. They are schooling and will be most comfortable in groups of at least three. Small Orfes make great additions to ponds as their social nature may encourage other pond fish to the surface and they will dine on insects and insect larva, especially mosquitos. They are fast swimmers, and some caution should be used in shallow ponds or garden ponds with bare edges as they may become stranded if they jump out of the water.

Golden Orfes are terrifically suited for larger ponds, at least 500 gallons, and should be housed in ponds deep enough for winter survival and with plenty of area to accommodate their mature size. They thrive in cooler temperatures up to about 77 F. They also require lots of oxygen and will appreciate waterfalls, streams and fountains that agitate the surface of the water. High temperatures and still, stagnant waters are detrimental to their health.
Sexing Orfes is not an easy task, particularly when they are young. Mature breeding adult females tend to have a heavier or thicker body than males, but even if you can’t tell male from female if you have a small school of these fish odds are you will have both. Breeding comes naturally and will occur in the Spring if the fish are mature and if they are given ample space and well-maintained conditions. Orfes are similar to carp, so you may notice some chasing and courting behaviors when the fish are preparing to spawn. Huge numbers of eggs are usually expelled on submerged plants and roots in well oxygenated areas of the pond. You may or may not notice the presence of fry once the eggs hatch, and survivability will probably be very low, but these fish grow quickly, and any baby Orfes that make it will look a lot like Rosy-red Minnows.

Under the right conditions, Orfes can be interesting and beneficial additions to ornamental ponds. Look for them to be available where koi and other pond fish are sold in the Spring. They may have sporadic availability due to their popularity and may be hard to come by in areas that have very hot climates, as they do not tend to hold up well in such locations.

Thanks for the great post Patty

Until Next Time,



  1. avatar

    THANK YOU Dave for information on Golden Orfes. I have tried to find information before for Golden Orfes but not much success. THANK YOU.

  2. avatar

    Hi I’ve just lost 9 orfe which were 11 inchs long in the last week,about 9 years old and I do not know why. They have lived in this pond for 3.5 years the pond is clear, the filter system is working, the pond has a larged waterfall and is 850 gallons. They started to have a white film on their bodies, so I put some Anti Fungus, which I usually put in in spring. Have you got any ideas why?

  3. avatar

    It is hard to say what any potential issues are without seeing the fish. I would start with checking all your water parameters to make sure that your filtration is working properly. If you have someone locally that you could take one of the fish to for a diagnosis, that would be the best thing to do, so that you treat any remaining fish properly.

    If you do not have anyone local to contact, you can give us a call and we can try to help you over the phone. 1-888-842-8738


  4. avatar

    Your article on orfes is very interesting and I am wondering if a single orfe would associate happily with koi, or if it requires its own species. I have a 2500 gallon pond that is well stocked with koi, and really don’t have room for more than a single orfe. But I don’t want to stress it by denying it the ability to be with its own kind. I am interested in it as a means of population control for the koi. What are your thoughts?

  5. avatar

    Orfes may or may not interact with koi. Though they would be more comfortable with others of their own species, they can get along fine alone, they can find security with the koi if necessary. They are rather skittish and need well-oxygenated water, so as long as the water has good movement ad the pond is deep enough/ and the fish has a place to feel secure it should be fine.

  6. avatar
    Robert clemenson

    i have a 3000 gallon pond an 3 large golden and 1 blu orfe of mixed sex but none have bred yet what should i do

  7. avatar

    Are you positive that you have males and females? If so, and if the conditions in the pond as far as water chemistry and temp are right nature should take it’s course and the fish should spawn. It is possible that they have spawned, but the eggs or fry may have been eaten if no adequate plants or other shelter for them.

  8. avatar

    Mate – Orfe don’t tend to breed until they are mature. Mine spawned this year for the first time. They are roughly 9 years old and about 12 inches 30cm long.

    What should you do ? Just be patient and enjoy the orfes you already have. Continue making sure the water is good, make sure you have plenty of vegetation etc. I always leave blanketweed in the one corner of the pond to help them.

    Make sure the pond is oxygenated and that there is plenty of room.

  9. avatar

    We have retreived approx 140 golden orfe fry from our pond, what size do they need to be to be safe from the 3 adult fish.We have put them in 2 oxygenated tanks and feeding then on baby fish food and have put some of the weed in there too.There is another 50 still swimming in the pond, should I leave them alone or rescue them?They are about 15mm in length, we are not fish keepers so not sure if we are doing the right thing. Any comment would be appreciated.

  10. avatar

    I would say it depends on your pond and your intentions. Orfes and other pond fish fry will hide in plants, rock and other ornamentation. Some will make it to adulthood, some will not. They will likely need to be at least 3-4 inches (depending on how large your adults are) to go back into your pond, but keep in mind that you may not have space for them (how many gallons is your pond?) They will likely need larger tanks or ponds to grow out to a “safe” size. Unless you plan on raising them to share with pond-keeping friends or local petstores, you may want to leave the fry in the pond…some may live to maturity, many will not, but now that your adults are mature you’ll likely have more offspring each year. You may end up with more orfes than you or your pond can deal with :)!

  11. avatar

    as far as i know orfes do not react well to medication or any chemical in the water i have one orfe that has got a damaged gill covering which was caused by having a small bit of chlorine in the water

  12. avatar

    i have two golden orfe about 20 years old never had any problems with till now both have green fins but only at the front is normall

  13. avatar

    I have never seen Orfes in any ponds in California. Are they legal and sold here?

  14. avatar

    From the info I’ve gathered, they are illegal to own, transport, import into california except by permit. They are potentially invasive to native waterways and indigineous fish, California is very stringent when it comes to hundreds of species.

  15. avatar

    My orfe bread three days ago in my 365 gallon pond, yes, that’s right 365 gallons. They are quite large, however they’re only around six years old. I’m very happy, do you have any advice on how to care for the fry, I have tons of eggs on spawning mops!?

  16. avatar

    As long as there is plenty of plant life or the mops to shelter the fry you’re bound to have a few make it to adulthood. The other option is to remove some fry to a smaller pond to grow out.

  17. avatar

    Hi my orfe spawned this week and i have moved some of the egg to a safer place for hatching. Is there any way i can tell if the eggs have been fertilized, do they change colour ??


  18. avatar

    The eggs are typically fertilized very soon after the spawn is laid. You should see development occur which may appear as a color change and the eggs hatch pretty quickly too.

  19. avatar

    Do orfe fry hatch orange/blue. Or are they like goldfish and start black then change color

  20. avatar

    Most fry lack the coloration of the adult fish, and the Orfe fry are not going to have the gold color of the adult. The coloration will develop as they mature, I have seen some pretty small orfes that have color, so it should not take too long.

  21. avatar

    I would like to purchase some Orfe for my pond. I live in Ontario, can you tell me where I could purchase then from?

  22. avatar

    Hello Brenda, Unfortunately, we wouldn’t have any information on retailers in Canada that might sell Orfes. I would recommend checking with local pond retailers in Ontario to see if they may be able to help you find somewhere that carries them. Since this article was posted in 2008, Orfes have also become restricted in some states in the US and aren’t allowed to be kept in those areas. I’m not familiar with similar restrictions in Canada but you may want to check with Ontario’s regulations and make sure you can legally keep them as well.

  23. avatar

    aug 02/08/2018
    I have just had to dispatch one of my golden orf which I’ve had for many years it was quite deformed and has stopped feeding it was a really nice looking fish about 10 inches long and it was with great trepidation I came to this conclusion, but it had started swimming on it’s side and had stopped feeding for a number of weeks and I could not let it suffer like this.

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