How to keep fish in water troughs

Written by izzy mcphee
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When aquarium space is limited and there's no room for a pond in the yard, homeowners can create a raised pond using an animal watering trough. Sturdy and weather-resistant, water troughs offer a different look than that of the average above ground pond containers. Setting up a water trough to house fish is about the same as assembling an aquarium or in-ground pond.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Aquatic plants
  • Sand
  • Clay
  • Compost
  • Pebbles
  • Rocks
  • Pots
  • Light
  • Aquarium sealant
  • Bleach
  • Pillowcase

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  1. 1

    Clean the trough with a 50/50 bleach and water solution allowing it to soak for at least 20 minutes. Rinse thoroughly to remove all traces of the bleach.

  2. 2

    Fill a pillowcase halfway with sand and run water through it for several minutes. Swish the sand around so that most of the tiny particles are washed away. This helps to prevent minuscule pieces of sand from clouding the pond water.

  3. 3

    Add a 2-inch layer of clay to the bottom of the trough. Top the clay off with 2 to 3 inches of the washed sand. Cover the clay completely with sand.

  4. 4

    Fill the pots halfway with a handful of compost mixed with equal parts of sand and clay. Place each species of rooted plants in their own pots and arrange them throughout the trough. Leave plenty of room for the fish to swim.

  5. 5

    Use aquarium sealant to create caves from flat pieces of rocks. Allow them to dry and cure fully before adding them to the water. Place them firmly in the substrate (sand/clay) so they do not topple over when bumped by active fish.

  6. 6

    Fill the trough with water. Add enough floating vegetation (duckweed/azolla) to cover 1/3 of the water's surface. The plants will help prevent algae blooms, shade the water and provide protective cover so fish feel safer.

  7. 7

    Add fish slowly to the trough. It can take several weeks to fully stock the water trough with fish. Adding too many animals at one time will cause a deadly ammonia spike that can kill fish and invertebrates.

Tips and warnings

  • Try planting bushes and compact trees around the water trough to shade the sides. This will help to keep the water temperature at an acceptable level.
  • When the floating plants begin to shade too much of the pond remove them by hand for use as a natural fertiliser on house and garden plants.
  • Do not place the tough in full sun. Exposed ponds are in real danger of getting too warm and killing fish.
  • In very cold areas, fish may need to be housed in a protected area so the water does not freeze solid. A stock heater can be used if moving fish is not a possibility.
  • Do not spray chemicals around the pond as they may kill fish and other organisms. When using fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides try to apply them on calm days. If the wind is blowing it may carry dangerous particles to the pond.

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