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Species and types of plants for fish ponds

Nymphaea gigantea, resized image Pistia stratiotes, resized image Pond plants, resized image 1 Pond plants, resized image 2 Pond plants, resized image 3 Water lilies, resized image 1 Water lilies, resized image 2


One of the most pleasing aspects of pond keeping is seeing a well balanced variety of plant life. Not only do they look pleasing to the eye, but they play a major part in water quality, oxygenating and removing nitrates from the water.

There is a vast array to choose from, but basically the planting method for them follows the same guidelines.

Always check the planting depths that your selection of plants requires. These do vary with each species, so to get the best from them research each plant. For a good balance of plants go for floating leafed ones, as well as submerged species. Your floating leafed plants should cover approx 50% of your water surface; this will prevent too much light reaching the bottom of your pond, which in turn will reduce the chances of algae growing out of control.

Water lilies

Water lily, picture 1 Water lily, picture 2 Water lily, picture 3 Water lily, picture 4 Water lily, picture 5 Water lily, picture 6 Water lily, picture 7

Never use normal compost in your baskets, always use aquatic compost, and never order them until you are ready to plant. Spring is the ideal planting time, and then good growth should be achieved through the summer as the water heats up in the sun. Always cover the top of your baskets with gravel; this will prevent the fish from rooting in the baskets, disturbing the plants.


These are the mainstay of your pond, they will soak up the carbon dioxide while they are growing; releasing oxygen into the water which will benefit your fish. Some of these are purchased rooted, cuttings, or simply free floating. If they are bought as cuttings, they can simply be bunched together and inserted into plain gravel in the basket.

These will grow rapidly in the summer, so be prepared for some pruning at regular intervals, in order to prevent your pond from being plant logged.

Some examples of these are:-

  • Willow moss (Fontinallis) - As the name suggests, this plant grows in mossy clumps with a really dark green coloring, in nature it will grow on stones and wood.
  • Elodea crispa (Lagarosiphon major) – This is one of the best oxygenators on the market, commonly known as goldfish weed, it grows in long green fingers.
  • Water Carrot (Oenanthe fluviatilis) – This plant grown with long fern like leaves. It can grow to the top of the pond, where it will produce pale mauve flowers that should rise out of the water.

The price range for these plants is usually on the cheaper side, some plants costing as little as 1 pound (2 dollars), but they are vital to the upkeep of your pond.

Free floating plants

These plants are not vital to your pond, but they do assist in shadowing the pond, much to the pleasure of the fish. They will also give your pond a different look every day as they move about in different weather conditions.

A word of warning, in some areas, certain floating plants are illegal, as they can be classed as a pest invading waterways -always check before purchasing. Examples of floating plants are giant duck weed (Spirodela oligorhiza), water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes) and water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes). With floating plants, always rinse them out well before adding to the pond. Be prepared for quick growth with these, thinning them out as the year goes on.

Floating leafed plants

The normal plants under this category are the water lilies, everyone’s favourite.

These are normally planted on the bottom of the pond; do not over plant with them as they do spread over a large area. True water lilies belong to the family Nymphae, of which theses can be broken into two different categories.

Tropical lilies have a crown to their base, do not cover this over when planting, and always leave the growing tip above the gravel. Hardy lilies are a rhizome plant, as such, should not be planted deeply in the basket. Preferably a shallower basket should be used, and as with the tropical, do not cover over the growing tip. If these are going into a deeper pond, the baskets should be raised so that they only have 18 inches at the most, before the leaves reach the surface. A good way of promoting growth rate is to initially lower the basket 6 inches below the surface, then as shoots appear, gradually lower the basket over time, to its final resting place.

There are far too many varieties to list in this article, shop around for the vast array of different colours that can be purchased. A good tip with planting these is to remove all of the old leaves, then cut back the roots slightly to promote growth. Prices do vary with lilies, starting off at 2 pounds (4 dollars), all the way up to 5 pounds (10 dollars), depending on the rarity and quality of the plant.

Marginal plants

As mentioned at the start of this article, marginal plants have to be situated at the correct depth. They should be sold with the recommended planting depths, some need to be at water level, others planted at shallow depths. They are normally situated on ledges around the pond. Again there are too many varieties to list them all so I will try to give you some examples.

  • Water Lotus - this is sometimes confused as being a water lily. It is not, and as such, planting should not be done at depth, 6 inches at the most. It is a rhizome plant, so should be planted in a shallow basket.
  • Dwarf Japanese rush - this is a grass like plant, very popular due to its neat, compact size. It is ideal for the smaller ponds or tubs.
  • Marsh marigold - this is a beautiful plant, producing lovely yellow flowers.
  • Horsetail rush - Long green stems are produced on this plant, sometimes these stems are used for decorative purposes in the dried flower trade.

Euryale ferox, resized image Nelumbo nucifera, resized image

Most marginal plants are quite cheap to purchase, averaging 2 pounds (4 dollars) per plant.

Most pond keepers will plant their ponds without going one stage further and creating a bog area on the perimeters. This is easily done by covering the edges of the excess liner with soil, thus making it a marshy area. With research, many of the marginal plants will be quite at home planted under these conditions. Many of the reeds and bulrushes can be grown this way.

I do hope this article has inspired you to plant your pond, as it is well worth doing.

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