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Why We Wait Until May 1st to Sell Pond Fish & Plants

Springtime = Pond Fish Time!

At our retail store in southcentral Pennsylvania, there are a few things we can always count on as soon as the temperatures start to rise: that particular fragrance as farmers get their fields ready for planting, new road construction projects, and our pond customers to start looking for new pond fish and plants for their outdoor ponds. However, those first warm days of the year aren’t the best time to start stocking your ponds. In our area in particular, the first warm days don’t mean it will stay warm. It is pretty common during a Pennsylvanian spring to have sunny 70 degree days followed by chilly 30 or 40 degree nights and even snow flurries. Even if it is warm during the day, that is only the air temperature…water temperatures and ground temperatures take far longer to warm up and stay a consistent temperature.


Springtime is one of the more dangerous times of the year for new and old pond fish alike. Moving fish that are kept in a climate-controlled indoor system like our retail store to an outdoor pond with cooler and inconsistent temperatures leaves them extremely vulnerable to stress and secondary infections like the dreaded Aeromonas bacteria. Fish already in a pond that are “awoken” from their winter dormancy by the warm temperatures are also vulnerable as the water temperatures affect their metabolism and immune systems.


Garden Pond

So when should you add new pond fish and plants or “open up” an existing pond for the spring?

Keep an eye on the water temperatures and wait until the temperature is consistently above at least 50-60 degrees. Do not feed any fish already in your pond until water temperatures have stabilized above 40 degrees as your fish will have trouble digesting food in cold temperatures, and use a Spring and Fall Formula fish food that is easily digested until your ponds temperatures have stabilized above 60 degrees. For plants, wait until any danger of overnight frost has left your area. Weather websites like AccuWeather.com often have Lawn & Gardening sections that can help you determine when the best time is for your area. It may be necessary to wait even longer for more tropical, warmer-water plants like the popular Water Hyacinth.


While the weather conditions in your area may vary and the seasons are always a little different every year, we’ve found that for our area, May 1st is a good guideline for the safety and health of the fish and plants. This is also around when many hatcheries and nurseries start having the best stock available as well so we can get you the best variety and healthiest stock possible!

For more information on Spring Pond Maintenance, check out these related That Fish Blog posts:pond lilly

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,


How to Care for Carnival Fish

It is the time of year when carnivals and fairs pop up across the land, with games and rides and fun for all (well the kids anyway). What that brings to mind here at TFP are all the unsuspecting parents who have suddenly become the proud new owners of a pet fish that their kids have won as prizes in these games, and need to know how to take care of them. Every year we sell thousands of fish to carnivals as game prizes, and then find many people who need help with their new “prizes” after they get them home.  We’d like to take some time to review the most common fish found at your local carnival or fair.




The practice of keeping goldfish (Carassius auratus) dates back to as early as 970A.D. when domesticated fish keeping began in ancient China. Farmers would impound carp as food fish, these carp where silver grey fish, like the wild carp found today. A genetic mutation in some of the carp gave them a yellowish gold color. The farmers would then selectively breed these colored carp, over time this selective breeding lead to what we now know as the modern goldfish. As the popularity of these fish grew, and they spread out from China, selective breeding of various mutations in the species has given rise to many different types of goldfish over the centuries. These different types of goldfish include the Oranda, Ryukin, Shubunkin, Comet, Lion head, Bubble eye and more. Goldfish are seen as good luck symbols in many oriental cultures and some breeds even have religious roots; the Celestial Eye goldfish were bred because monks believed their eyes looked towards the heavens.


Goldfish are peaceful fish that do well with other breeds of goldfish or other cold water fish. There are little to no issues with aggression, aside from the odd individual or “nippier” variety. It is not recommended to mix goldfish with tropical fish (tetras, guppies, etc) due to differences in water quality and temperature preferences. Goldfish prefer aquarium water temperatures from 60 – 74 degrees. Goldfish are commonly kept in outdoor ponds that will reach freezing temperatures in winter, provided it can not freeze solid, and a floating heater is used to insure constant gas exchange. Goldfish will tolerate a wide range of pH values, from 6.0 to 8.0, so long as conditions are stable.


Most types of goldfish will reach a maximum length of 6”- 8”, Comet and Shubunkin Goldfish can reach 12” or more. Goldfish can live up to 20 years given a proper diet and water conditions; there have been recorded accounts of goldfish living into their 40’s


Goldfish are easy to feed as the will accept virtually any types of fish food. Flakes or pellet formulas especially for goldfish are best. Avoid meaty foods, goldfish have a high vegetable requirement. Vegetable matter like algae sheets, cucumbers, or peas can be supplemented into the goldfish’s diet to help maintain optimal health.


Goldfish tend to be messy fish, with a big appetite, which leads to large amounts of waste. As a result monitoring goldfish’s water conditions is very important. It is not recommended to keep goldfish in unfiltered bowls, although it is possible if frequent (usually bi-weekly) water changes are consistently done and the water remains aerated. Live plants can be used, although they will usually end up eaten as the fish get bigger. The best environment for goldfish is an under stocked aquarium with ample filtration and regular maintenance.

Crowntail Betta


The Betta fish, Betta splendens, is another commonly found “prize fish” that you may have the pleasure of become the new owners of. Bettas are one of the most beautiful freshwater fishes that are available in the aquarium hobby; their striking color and ornate finnage are quite remarkable.



Bettas are often chosen as prizes because of their ease of care, and ability to do well in very small amounts of water. The Betta is native to areas of Thailand, where they are exposed to times extreme rainfall and drought, which during times of drought can result in little more than a puddle to live in. Unlike most fish, the Betta does not solely rely on oxygen from the water it resides in, it has the ability to breathe air. Bettas are members of a group of fishes called Labyrinth fishes. Labyrinth fishes have a specialized breathing organ, called the labyrinth, which allows them to breathe air at the waters surface, somewhat like a primitive lung. The ability to breathe air allows the Betta to survive in very warm water with little or no dissolved oxygen. This is how Bettas are able to cope with very small fish bowls, and is often how they are displayed and sold.


PLEASE do not use this as an excuse to keep a Betta in extremely small environments for extended periods: although they can survive in only a few ounces of water, they will not be happy and comfortable.

Bettas can be kept in unfiltered bowls, provided adequate water changes are maintained (at least 20% per week), and water quality is monitored. Larger aquariums of at least several gallons are preferred, the bigger the better. There are a number of small desktop aquariums that are ideal for Betta keeping.
There is another side of the Betta fishes heritage that there is much controversy surrounding. Another common name for the Betta, is the fighting fish, or Siamese fighting fish. This name comes from the aggressive nature that these fish have towards one another, especially two males. The Thai name for these fish is”pla-kat”, which means biting and tearing fish. When placed in the same tank, two male Betta fish will literally fight to the death. There is a whole world of fighting and gambling involving the Betta in other cultures. Fighting Bettas is not considered an appropriate practice in the hobby.

Feeding & Care

There are many commercially produced Betta foods, in pellet, flake and freeze dried forms. A good varied diet is best. Feed only as much as the fish will eat in a few minutes, take extra care not to overfeed, especially in unfiltered bowls. Bettas prefer warm water, 72-78 degrees, so avoid cool areas like window sills, and hallways when possible. Direct sunlight should also be avoided; this will lead to unwanted algae growth, and temperature fluctuations during the day. While you can not keep bettas together, they can be kept in peaceful community tanks, with other types of fish.

If you have any futher questions about goldfish, bettas or other carnival fish, post them and I’ll be sure to answer. I hope that this has helped all you new fish owners out there, or even peaked the interest of anyone that is considering a fish.

Until next time,