Adding frogs & fish to our new pond in So Cal

BrianApril 17, 2010


So we just finished building our pond today in our backyard. It is about 10-11 ft long, 5 ft wide, and maybe 2 1/2 to 3 feet deep. I would like to add some plants like lilies and really would like to add some small koi and frogs. Is this size approiate for koi? I know this is Southern California and we don't have frogs really around, but I would like to add frogs to see and hear them, what kind would be good to have? Can I just go to petsmart and pick some out? Will the frogs escape even though my yard is really large and surrounded by a brick wall? I had thought about adding a water turtle since the kids are dying to have one, but it sounds like they dirty the water pretty bad and will escape, what do you think? Also I did add a 330gph pump and am buying the filter tomorrow, is this good you think?

Thanks for all the advice!


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I don't know the answers to most of your questions, but I don't think the 330GPH pump will provide enough aeration and filtration to keep fish healthy in that amount of water. I do not know of any frog other than a toad maybe that couldn't escape any kind of barrier, enen a brick wall. A turtle would eat plants and will eat or nibble on the fish. And some frogs eat fish and even birds or anything the can get into their moths.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2010 at 10:50AM
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I think with frogs that it depends on what kind you get.. tree frogs will only come to the pond to mate and will dissapear pretty much the rest of the time. bull frogs stick around but they will eat smaller fish, birds, little frogs, etc. there is leopard frogs but they are illegal to buy in oregon, I don't know about where you are. You need a frog that likes to stay in and around water.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2010 at 2:59PM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

Hi Brian,
Don't buy frogs- they will move in on their own. The frogs that are native to our area are called Pacific Tree Frogs, and they are the guys you hear in the movies. A male frog will set up house in your pond and croak away to attract the females. (Ours, who we call Bubbles, is out there making a racket as I type.) The frogs will come and go seasonally, but you will have them in the Spring and Summer. Other species of frog are non-native and they will be eaten, die, or leave.

Turtles don't go with ponds well, since they poop so much they muck up the water. Some people have wonderful turtle ponds, but that's a difficult proposition for most of us. I have a student who runs a turtle rescue- so many people want to get rid of them after seeing what a mess they are.

I recommend starting with pond comets and shubunkins rather than koi. Koi require very good water quality and in a pond the size of yours they will eat all of your plants. Goldfish don't eat the plants, and they get big, and they come in spectacular colors.

Have you looked into building a Skippy filter? You won't be sorry if you do- I wish I had.

Here is a link that might be useful: Skippy Filter

    Bookmark   April 18, 2010 at 11:37PM
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Hi Brian, I don't have any advice except that I agree with what has been said. "Peeper" frogs (chorus frogs) just show up naturally here in WA state. And they are quite "noisy" in their large numbers. However, where I used to live in Orange County, I might think the frogs would get confused over what is a pond and what is a swimming pool! ;)

    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 10:58AM
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ccoombs1(7B SC)

Koi are very messy and dirty fish that can grow to 30" pretty easily. They need a pond size of at least 1000 gallons with 250 to 300 gallons minimum per fish. 100% of the water needs to be filtered every hour. So if you have a 1000 gallon pond, you need a pump that will push 1000 gallons of water through your filters every hour. You also need to have a filter large enough to handle that kind of flow. If your pond is a perfect rectangle 5' x 10' x 2.5' deep, you have a maximum of close to 1000 gallons. If the corners are rounded off and the depth varies, your volume is way less than 1000 gallons. I really think you'd be better off with just goldish. If you do get koi, only get a couple. And they will probably not be very nice to many of your plants. They LOVE to root around in the soil and eat lily pad leaves.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 11:29AM
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Hi Everyone,

Wow, thanks for all the advice so far! I'm just beginning to realize that there is a lot more to having a pond when you involve pets and animals. I did upgrade from the 330 to the 550 gph pump yesterday and am much happier now with the change. Do I need to treat the water at all before buying any fish?
Now hearing how koi are, I'm unsure if I should buy any (I also want lilies and don't want the koi to eat them), maybe I will look into some kind of goldfish. With Goldfish, how often, if any, do I need to change the water? How soon after making the pond can I add fish? I really like the comets after googling them.
Randy, I think your right about frogs. I have never seen any frogs before in Orange County except down in the Aliso creek area; so I'm afraid that I will never get frogs without buying some since I live in a normal city/ suburbia area.
Also, after making my pond, I got come dirt in the water, which finally settled to the bottom after making the water cloudy for a day an half, is this fine before I add any water life.
Just a quick little question, I notice a lot of people put sunset down as their zone area in Southern California, what & where is that?

Thanks again for all the help, great answers!


    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 3:53PM
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Brian, I am new here, and don't have an authoritative answer, except limited experience over the years in aquariums and earth ponds. I am working on my first garden pond, which is very exciting for me. I've never had a problem with goldfish surviving under ridiculous conditions. I'm not suggesting testing how extreme you can be, but I think you should be able to throw fish in almost immediately. I've heard, though, that chlorine in the water, etc. will leave the water over time, particularly with agitation. A couple weeks of waiting wouldn't hurt you, and give you time to set up some plants. I don't know how a little dirt at the bottom of the pond can hurt you? I should think the major problem would be if you had too much fish, too much poop...

Comets are pretty much "feeder fish," but you can of course use them, like any other goldfish. There are some really fancy ones out there. I would use those personally.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 4:11PM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

Hi Brian,

I'm glad you went with the bigger pump. That's what I have on my pond, and it's functional.

The frogs will come, even in the midst of downtown LA. There are about a billion gajillion of them in the LA river. I live in the center of suburban Simi Valley, which has no natural streams, no ponds or lakes, and Pacific tree frogs mysteriously appear out of nowhere. I think this may be part of the origin of the raining frogs myth. It's strange. You can also collect Pacific Tree frog tadpoles within the next three months and add them to your pond once it gets going and you have some algae for them to eat. I once collected some from a truck rut filled with water at a local plant nursery.

I suggest you go to a koi site to see how much of a committment they are. Goldfish are really spectacular, and they do not need great water quality. They will beg for food from you, swim across the pond to greet you, and follow along as you walk along the edge of your pond. They are great pets.

You should not change the water in your pond if your filtration and circulation are adequate, at least not for a long time. When you get your first algae bloom this summer and the pond turns into pea soup RESIST the urge to change the water. The algae will use up all of the nutrients, then it will die, leaving your pond clear. If you change the water you have to start all over again.

To start off, you can treat your water with de-chlorinator, after a few days add your plants, and wait a few more days to add your goldfish. You can buy cheap small fish; they grow fast.

Finally, plant your hardy water lilies in a nice, large container so they can grow. Don't worry about the dirt in the bottom of the pond unless there's a really measurable amount, like 1/8 inch across the whole bottom.

Here's a link explaining the Sunset Zones.
Have fun with your new pond, and post photos when it's done!

Here is a link that might be useful: Sunset Garden Zones

    Bookmark   April 21, 2010 at 3:47PM
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Wow I can't imagine having to buy frogs. Crazy things are everywhere here. How many you want I'll mail you all I can find, lol. The pump you have is too small for fish. You need at least 1200 gph for the size you have. That would be a turn over of once and hour. If you want koi you may want to plan to put in a bottom drain and a diffuser. Helps keep things very clean and the air helps MINIMIZE ALGAE. When you buy your filter make sure it is at least 1200 gph also and a skimmer box is a great investment. When we moved from Indiana to Michigan I brought my koi with me in a cooler with a batter operated air pump and them placed them in tank till we got the new pond built in the spring. We finished the pond in June (because of the rainy weather) Started it up ran it all for 2 weeks for bio to build and put the fish in and then took off for a week vacation. When we got back I had thought my adult child had played a joke on me by putting goldfish in with my koi, BUT she did not. My koi had spawned while we were gone. My 7 koi population has now ended up being 26 after mother nature has run her course. Everyone made it through the winter with a heater only. I turned the air back one 3 weeks ago and the pump goes in Sat. Now I just wait for the algae to cycle and the bio to mature. Till then I can dink around cleaning and lifting plants and the 3 rocks the ice/permafrost pushed to the bottom of the pond, still not sure how to do that without draining half the water and with the sandy soil we have here that is a risk I will wait to take in late July when the dirt is as hard. Happy Ponding

    Bookmark   April 7, 2011 at 7:58AM
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Hey *I* buy frogs, as all we have locally are some toads and they have been scarce since the town switched from catch basins to sewers for rainwater.

I have a tiny 200 gallon pond and am very happy with mostly comet goldfish with 1 little koi for good luck. If and when the koi overgrows the pond I'll find him a good home. I got the goldfish as "feeder fish" 3 tears ago for .27 apiece and today they are 5-6 inches long and some are quite striking. Others are kinda ugly but look great in the pond.

I get my green frogs as tadpoles for 2-3 bucks a piece from the local garden stores. 2 years ago I got 2, both grew into frogs but one left as soon as he was able. The other one is still with me, he's the size of my hand and he eats BIRDS!.

He can catch and kill birds larger then he can eat so I have the occasional cadaver to fish out. Poor things.

Last year I got 3 more tadpoles, one is still changing, I think the other two left when they grew up.

Everyone gets along fine, and I love seeing Mr Big Froggie hanging out pond side. One time I "walked" my fingers to him and he tried to eat my hand.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2011 at 2:22PM
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The only thing you need to add to your water is dechlorinator. Don't worry if you didn't dechlorinate the water that's in there now. Just use it when you add new water once you have fish.

You can add goldfish right away, but I suggest that you start with two or three fish. You will always find more fish that are absolutely irresistible, so save some room for them. Also, the ecosystem of a new pond is unstable, and starting out with a lot of fish can lead to problems and fish loss. After a month, if your fish are doing well, add a few more.

Also get an aquarium to quarantine the later fish for three weeks before you add them to the pond.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2011 at 3:54PM
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I know this is an old thread but in case anyone searches, I just completed remodeling a pond that came with our house in Rancho Santa Margarita, CA. We bought some bullfrog tadpoles at Green Thumb Nursery off El Toro Road near I-5. One of them is just starting to grow legs but is still strictly aquatic. We are not near any other water but sure enough, out of nowhere two other frogs showed up. They set on partially submerged rocks in the pond. They are very shy and take off when we approach but they are still here.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 5:09PM
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