People often ask us about keeping bass in their pond, either in addition to koi or in place of koi. There are typically two groups we hear from: people interested in introducing bass to a pond with established ornamentals like koi and goldfish; and people starting from scratch who are interested in having a pond designed and built specifically for keeping bass. Most people reading this are probably in the first group, so we’ll start there.
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Adding 1-3 bass to a pond already supporting koi/goldfish/channel cats has been done successfully, but it can be risky and there are some major considerations involved.
Wild fish often live with parasites, and dropping them into a contained pond can allow these parasites to spread and quickly wipe out your cherished pet koi. Keeping wild fish in a quarantine for ~40 days is the best way to minimize the risk of transferring any parasites and disease to your pond. To learn more about that quarantine process, click here.
As predators, bass will eat whatever moves and fits in their mouth; on occasion they will attempt to eat things much bigger than their mouth. If your koi are twice the size of the bass, that should keep them safe from being eaten, but they are still vulnerable to aggressive bass defending their territory. Giving the bass plenty of options for hiding spots will maximize their comfort and decrease the likelihood of territorial aggression. Water lilies, rock caves, coves, driftwood, or other structures within the water will create shade and cover for the bass, and allow them refuge from disruptive koi.
There are many cases of people who had introduced bass to their koi pond to control the overwhelming numbers of koi fry and eventually discover the bass have bullied or eaten everyone else in the pond. If you are intent on keeping both bass and koi in the same pond, be sure to give the bass a good variety of options for cover and shelter.
A habitat that meets the needs of bass is a great start, but there are some other concerns to keeping this game fish in a small pond, such as oxygenating the water and providing sufficient food.
Bass need very well-oxygenated water, unlike koi, which can do fine in poor conditions. Consider the level of aeration needed for koi and do at least 50% more aeration for bass. (An additional waterfall or a wetlands area with it’s own dedicated pump will usually suffice to provide adequate aeration for bass.)
Bass have big mouths and bigger appetites. Ideally, you already have a population of spawning fish when you introduce the bass, if not you will need to provide live food for the bass immediately. Newly hatched fish are a major part of the bass’s diet, but after those fry are eaten, the bass will need supplemental food throughout the summer and autumn; feeder fish from the pet store make excellent supplemental bass food. Minnows from the bait shop may be a more natural food for bass, but due to unhealthy conditions in a typical bait-shop minnow well, those fish are often infected with parasites and disease. If you’re up for the challenge, you can go thru the 40-day quarantine process with the minnows and attempt to keep a stable breeding population of them in the pond as food for the bass. Another option for providing your bass enough fish to eat is to keep some sunfish or bluegills in your pond. The ideal ratio is 3:1; so three sunfish for every bass. This balanced ratio gives the sunfish the best chance to survive and reproduce without overtaking the pond.
Bass have different needs than koi. A pond built for koi can probably support a few bass for the summer, but to keep them over winter the pond will have greater requirements for size, structure, and depth. A pond that is not well-suited for bass to comfortably over-winter in its depths may still offer seasonal enjoyment by keeping bass as warm-weather guests in your pond and releasing them in the autumn. Bass are intelligent fish and are interesting to observe; if you’re an angler, you can learn a lot about their feeding habits from keeping them in your pond. That knowledge may one day make the difference between having a successful day on the water and going home skunked.
With these considerations in mind, it is easy to see why keeping ‘pet’ bass is uncommon, but with planning, determination, and realistic expectations it can be a rewarding and educational experience.
Landvista Aquascapes is the premiere Certified Aquascape Contractor in the South Jersey region, building and servicing ponds and water features for all of Burlington County, Camden County, Gloucester County, and parts of Atlantic County, Cumberland County, Ocean County, and Cape May County. We are prominent in Medford, Medford Lakes, Marlton, Moorestown, Cherry Hill, Shamong, Tabernacle, Hammonton, Lumberton, Hainesport, Collingswood, Haddonfield, Waterford, Mantua, Berlin, Voorhees, Pemberton, Pine Hill, Clementon, and surrounding towns.
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