Are you thinking about stocking trout in a pond? Or are you just curious if they could survive in your local waters? Then this article is for you!
There is no simple answer to this question, but it is entirely possible for trout to live in a pond. As long as your pond has stable low temperatures, the correct terrain, a food source, and highly oxygenated water – you can keep trout year long in a pond.
Lets dive into each of those a bit more to know everything a trout needs to live in a pond
Water Temperature for Trout in a Pond
The key to keeping trout in a pond is maintaining the correct water temperatures. Trout like cooler water than most species – which is why they thrive cooler climates like you find in the North and West United States.
So in almost all cases – you will never find a pond too cold for trout. Ponds by nature heat up very quickly in the summer months. This is because they are generally not very deep, so the sun and heat outside more quickly penetrates the water. A few weeks of warm weather will heat a pond up from top to bottom.
But how warm is too warm for trout? Like most fish species, they are adaptable to warmer temperatures than you may find in a stream in the Rockies. But there are limits to what you can expect.
All species of trout begin to suffer from stress when water temperatures rise above 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Rainbow trout are the most adaptive and can survive slightly above these temperatures, but you never want to exceed 70 degrees. Brook trout are the least adaptable, never wanting to go above 65 degrees.
How to Find your Pond's Water Temperature
Knowing the acceptable range is only half the battle – you still have to determine what the water temperature of your pond is. And that itself can be extremely difficult.
You can just use a thermometer like this to determine the temperature on the top foot or so of the water. But it won’t tell you the temperature throughout the pond. And there are always warm and cool spots.
Generally the deeper you go, the cooler the water temperature is. In a pond, you usually have a depth limit of around 10 feet at the most. So while it will be cooler at the lake bottom, it won’t be drastically different.
So a good rule of thumb is that the coolest part of a pond will only be a couple degrees cooler than the warmest parts. So if you take a temperature reading and find it’s well above 70 degrees – your pond is too warm to hold trout effectively.
But if you don’t have a thermometer to gauge water temperature – you can guesstimate by using outside temperatures. If you get sustained temperatures above 80 degrees outside, chances are you pond will get way too hot to hold trout. There are MANY factors that can influence it – but it’s a good guide.
If your pond temperature would be too warm for trout, don’t fear. Scroll down to oxygenated water and read how you can put more oxygen in a pond to make up for the water temperature and cool off your pond.
Terrain - What Trout Like Under a Pond
Having the right terrain and structure under the water is an overlooked aspect of keeping trout in a pond but still very important. They are not like largemouth bass, perch, bluegill, and other species that can thrive in various conditions. Trout need specific things in the water.
Trout are used to natural habitats that include rocky terrain and clear water. Generally, this isn’t what ponds are like. Ponds are usually full of algae, mud bottoms, and dirty water. Especially after a rain.
So developing a pond that has things more natural to a trout’s habitat is important to making sure they can survive long term. Rocks instead of algae will give them places to hide, chase prey into, and feel more natural. Keeping the water clean will also help them hunt, as they naturally are very used to using their sight to feed.
Algae and murky water can also hold heat, while crystal clear, deep water is what trout want to maintain the right water temperatures. This is where everything works together to make the exact right habitat for trout to thrive.
So if your pond is shallow, dirty, lots of vegetation, mud bottoms – like most ponds you may find, then you have to do a lot of updating to the terrain to make it more suitable for trout to live.
Food Sources for Trout in Ponds
Fish really only need two things to survive. Water and food. We’ve talked about how we need the water to be above – let’s talk about the food they need to survive.
Trout are naturally carnivores, eating aquatic insects, terrestrial insects, other fish, crustaceans, leeches, worms, and other foods. This is a nice variety of naturally occurring sources – so if you keep a small amount of trout they probably can naturally feed. Most ponds have smaller fish, bugs, and other crustaceans that will support them.
But in fish farms trout are generally fed pellets such as these, where there are so many trout the natural bugs and crustaceans aren’t enough to support the whole population. So should your pond be devoid of natural critters to feed on – you can always supplement with artificial foods.
If you’re unsure if your trout can survive naturally, it’s always a good idea to support with pellets every so often to make sure your trout are kept well fed. Too much can also be problematic – so don’t feed them any more than once per day.
Oxygenated Water - The Most Important Thing for Trout in Ponds
Finally we get to what is actually the most important feature a pond must have to keep trout – oxygen.
The reason that trout survive so well in cooler water temperatures is because it naturally keeps the most oxygen. Higher water temperatures expel oxygen at much higher rates, and like humans, trout require oxygen to breathe. So when a trout tries to breathe (through their gills) in warm water – there isn’t enough oxygen and they suffocate.
So if you want to keep trout in warmer water, and even make sure they thrive in cooler water, you need to increase the amount of oxygen in the pond.
The best way to naturally get oxygen into a pond is to place the pond where a spring is located. Springs are great for keeping water cool as the water from the ground is always colder than what is above it. And it always has oxygen in it – so there is a constant source of cooler, oxygen holding water feeding the pond.
But of course, you probably don’t have a natural spring in your pond and you can’t force one in. In these cases, you have to look elsewhere. Aerators are the best option. They don’t just produce more oxygen in ponds that don’t naturally have oxygen producing features, but can keep down on algae and keep water clearer.
They are very expensive though. This electric one is affordable but requires you to be able to run electricity to your pond. If you have no electricity, you’re really getting expensive with wind powered aerators like these.
Adding fountains can similarly produce additional oxygen as new water is continually being funneled through at high rates, producing more oxygen. Or you can even just keep a hose hooked up and pour water directly from your house into the pond. While it will generate extremely high water bills, it will introduce fresh, cool, oxygenated water.
So if your pond is not spring-fed, try any of these methods to get higher oxygen levels that trout need to survive. It’s the most important thing they need to survive over long periods of time.
Can Trout Reproduce in a Pond?
So trout can live in certain ponds if it meets the criteria listed above. But just being able to live won’t keep trout in a pond overtime. They also have to be able to reproduce to make new trout!
Trout reproduce by a male and female laying side by side over a nest. The female releases her eggs and the male releases his sperm to germinate them. Then, the female will cover the eggs with gravel to protect them until they hatch.
Seems simple enough, but it seldom actually occurs with trout in ponds. For one, loose gravel is not generally something found outside of streams. So they don’t have the necessary area to hide the eggs to protect them from predators since trout are one of the few species of fish which don’t guard their eggs.
In addition, trout don’t spawn (reproduce) well outside of streams. Running water seems to be a necessary facet to encourage the mating process to begin. So while trout can reproduce outside of streams, it’s extremely rare that they do so naturally.
So it’s not impossible – but in general trout are not able to reproduce or spawn in a pond. They need a stream with running water and loose gravel.
Trout need a few things to survive in a pond – cool water temperatures, high levels of oxygen, correct terrain, and a food source to keep them satisfied. Make sure you have all of these things, and you’re well on your way to keeping trout in a pond year round!
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