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Native Fish that can survive in Very Small Ponds

 
master gardener
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Anyone know of native fish that can survive in very small ponds just a few feet wide and long and 2 or 3 feet (1 meter) deep?
 
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I think crayfish could,  if you count them
 
Steve Thorn
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Yeah I bet so too.
 
James Landreth
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How aerated is it? I know people raise catfish in water drums so long as they're aerated, as crazy as that is
 
Steve Thorn
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Right now it's not very aerated, but I'm hoping some water plants volunteer and oxygenate the water.
 
Steve Thorn
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I'm thinking the tadpole madtom may could thrive there.

From Wikipedia

An adult tadpole madtom is typically 2–3 inches (50–80 mm), however they have recorded at a length of 5 inches (130 mm).

The tadpole madtom is found in parts of the U.S. and Canada. In Canada it is native to Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and Saskatchewan, and can be found the Assiniboine, Saskatchewan, Souris, Red, English, Winnipeg, and Nelson rivers.[7] The tadpole madtom's range in the United States is extensive, ranging from Texas to Florida and north along the Atlantic coast to New York. It can be found in the Mississippi River valley as well as the Great Lakes basin. In Minnesota it is present in all adjacent drainage systems to the Red River basin. In North Dakota it can be found in the Missouri river drainage. In South Dakota it is present in the eastern tributaries to the Missouri River, including the James River, as well as the Minnesota and Big Sioux river drainages.

The tadpole madtom lives in areas with little to no current. They typically inhabit swamps and marshes, as well as lakes and slow moving streams and rivers 0.1–1.5 meters deep and 12–24 meters wide. They also prefer habitats with turbid water; a soft mud, sand or gravel bottom; and thick vegetation to use for crypsis.

The tadpole madtom is an invertivore, planktivore, but also feeds on particulate. A Common food source for the tadpole madtom are immature insects such as cladocera, ostracods, hyalella, and chironomids. Another popular food source is small crustaceans such as amphipods and isopods. Smaller fish feed more on small crustaceans while large fish tend to consume large prey such as worms and grass shrimp. Researchers in Wisconsin recorded the stomach contents of numerous tadpole madtoms and found an average diet consisting of 44% insects, 28.3% small crustaceans, 18.3% oligochaetes, 5.9% plants, 3% silt and debris, 0.1% snails, and 0.1% algae.





 
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James Landreth wrote:I think crayfish could,  if you count them



We used to spend hours a day for days on end catching crayfish.  Sometimes we'd take a few females with eggs and put them in a 10 gallon aquarium to watch them hatch out.  Then we'd catch some and send them home with other kids to raise.  When they got bigger we'd let them go back in the stream unless we used them for fishing.

I think you'd have no problems raising them in that space.
 
Steve Thorn
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Here is one I found the other day actually.

Crayfish-in-small-pond.jpg
Crayfish in small pond
Crayfish in small pond
 
Steve Thorn
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The swamp darter is possibly another very good candidate.



From Wikipedia

This species can reach a length of 5.9 cm (2.3 in), though most are only about 4 cm (1.6 in).

The swamp darter ranges from Southern Maine along the Atlantic Coast and Gulf Coast to about the Texas-Louisiana border and north in the former Mississippi Embayment to Kentucky.

The swamp darter is found in stagnant swamps, bogs, and man-made ponds or slow-flowing, sluggish streams, especially where detritus or aquatic vegetation occurs over mud. Fish color is related to water color; the darkest individuals are in dark-water coastal streams and ponds.[7] It lives in water in which the lower pH values are not typically tolerated by all but a few freshwater species of fish. It also tends to thrive in alkaline waters of northern Florida. The range of water temperature tolerated between Maine and Florida is also impressive.

Swamp darters feed on fly larvae, amphipods, and other small crustaceans and insects.[8][9][10] Swamp darters tend to be an important element in the diets of young chain pickerel and young largemouth bass, where the species coexist.[11] Human-induced problems for this hardy, widespread, and locally abundant darter do not seem to exist. It thrives under a variety of conditions, including warm water, extreme murkiness or brown coloration, low or high pH, and low oxygen content.

 
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My question would be - for what purpose do you want fish in this pond?  Is it as a crop for your own or some other animal's consumption?  Or is it because you think a pond "needs" fish to make it a functioning ecosystem?  I would argue not.  Lots of small ponds in nature dry up annually so cannot support (most) fish but are ideal for amphibians which contribute to the surrounding ecosystem.
 
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Depending on how far inland you are in eastern NC there's quite a few great options-

sailfin molly
blackbanded sunfish
bluespotted sunfish
banded pygmy sunfish
golden topminnow
lined topminnow
eastern mosquitofish
least killifish
pirate perch
eastern mudminnow

All of these are small (<2-3 inches),and they're all shallow/wetland species.  They're invertivores, and they shouldn't interfere with amphibians or other critters using the pool. They're all native to NC, though I don't know their distribution within the state.  I don't think any of them have special protections, but it's best to consult a biologist with the state fish and game department before doing any collecting, just in case.

Good luck!
 
Steve Thorn
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Awesome list Tom! Thank you!

These appear to be found in the wild in my area. (Note to future self, so I can post more info about them below.)

blackbanded sunfish
bluespotted sunfish
banded pygmy sunfish
lined topminnow
pirate perch
eastern mudminnow

Such a great list of really neat fish, thanks again Tom!
 
Steve Thorn
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Hester Winterbourne wrote:My question would be - for what purpose do you want fish in this pond?  Is it as a crop for your own or some other animal's consumption?  Or is it because you think a pond "needs" fish to make it a functioning ecosystem?  I would argue not.  Lots of small ponds in nature dry up annually so cannot support (most) fish but are ideal for amphibians which contribute to the surrounding ecosystem.



In these small ponds, I would just like to have a super diverse ecosystem with as many varieties of fish as possible.

I have more temporary pools for amphibians and other species who may thrive there. I also plan to have more permanent pools with no fish in them. However I would also like some of the permanent smaller pools to have fish in them.

I think there is a lot of value in having all different types of pools with all kinds of different organisms living in them.
 
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I want to do something similar... but need to dig the ponds first.  They are on the projects list. :)

I have a bit of wetland (designated as such by the Feds) and the water table is not far down, but a couple of weeks of drought and there's no surface water at all, so having year-round water will be challenging.

I would love to see some pics of your small ponds, Steve.
 
Steve Thorn
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Dan Scheltema wrote:I would love to see some pics of your small ponds, Steve.



I'll try to take some pictures soon and post them.
 
Steve Thorn
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Here's a few pictures of some of my mini ponds. I've really enjoyed having them, they've added so much biodiversity to my food forest.
20200607_151435.jpg
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20200607_151038.jpg
[Thumbnail for 20200607_151038.jpg]
20200607_151103.jpg
[Thumbnail for 20200607_151103.jpg]
 
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Actually, I have been thinking about edible really small fish. In my travels in Asia I had dishes with tiny fried fish, more like a small side dish. They were serve whole, and tasted nice. Also less hassle with processing the fish.  The Japanese and Thais uses really tiny fish (whole) as side dish or a condiment (when fried or/and dried) sprinkled on top of a dish. And its more wholesome : you get also get calcium from the tiny bones, etc.
We can learn a lot from the Japanese and the Asians when it comes to fish. And Japan for instance has a very long coast, a lot of mountains and areas were you can't grow food, and people have learnt to live in very efficient way.
 
Dan Scheltema
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Thanks for posting the pics, Steve.  Those should help inspire me.

I was working in my chicken run (about 5000 sq feet) and looking at the low spot that holds a bit of water after a gullywasher and thinking... I should start digging in there.  But I was already drenched with sweat from raking all the chicken spread compost into a line to be scattered again, and prepping the slightly higher spot for the next couple cubic yards of post-heat compost and decided manana!

I have it surrounded with 1" chicken wire buried about 6" down and 6" ,more outward to discourage digging predators but thought that would do nothing against snakes... I was wrong.  This guy did get in, but on the way out got stuck, tried to double back and got stuck again so ended up stuck in two places.  By the time I noticed him (flies tipped me off), its head was pretty maggot-eaten so hard to identify.



(not sure why this pic is so small compared to the next)

Here's a shot of the yard... the spot I aim to dig down is back along the pines in the center of this pic.  It gets morning shade, but probabl 5-6 hours of afternoon sun.


 
Steve Thorn
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Sounds like a great plan Dan.

Would love to see pictures of how it turns out if you do it!
 
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