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Patio Fish Tubs

Updated on August 22, 2011

Tropical Fish On Your Patio

If you are not able to have a large fish pond in your yard for whatever reason you might want to try a patio tub. I love to experiment with different aquatic plants and have tried many shape and sizes of containers to grow pond plants. The good thing is you can use many types of plastic or wooden containers to set up your own little patio pond. I was raising some different varieties of Water Lettuce and Water Lilies in some plastic tubs on my patio and mosquitoes became a problem. I like to deal with these type problems with natural solutions whenever possible so thought about adding some mosquitoe fish to the containers. I live in a rural area and most pet shops are at least an hour away. I looked many places and found no mosquitoe fish. I had been breeding and raising Pineapple Swordtails ( Xiphophorus helleri) at the time and even though I have always believed temperature fluctuations to be a stresser to most aquarium fish I decided I would add a few young Swordtails to each container. Since I live in Southern Tennessee the weather is always changing. Summer temps can range from 80 to 100 degree Farenheit daytime to 60 to 70 degree nights. Spring and Fall temperatures can really get crazy. The results were phenomenal! The mosquitoes vanished and the Pineapple Swordtails multiplied quickly. The females grew so large I didn't know what to think. I fed very little to the fish until the insects were under control. The temperature changes didn't seem to stress them at all. They all looked healthy with nice fins and bright color.

This Years First Tub

This year I just set up a plastic tub with some Dwarf Water Lettuce and six baby Swordtails. We had a cool snap and the nighttime temps got down to 38 degrees fahrenheit. A small heater was added but didn't do much to help. The baby swordtails are doing fine though.

There is a little work involved. Regular water changes are a must at 10% a week or 20% every other week. Use the old water to pour around flowers or shrubs and they will get some of natures best fertilizer. Too much sun can be bad in several ways such as algae growth and water temperature. About six hours of direct sun is best for your patio tub. Add a couple of snails for a little natural cleaning crew. They will eat dead leaves and algae. Be sure to dechlorinate the fresh water you put back in. Read my Hub on Aquarium Maintenance for more information. It works the same way with patio tubs or patio ponds which ever you prefer.

15 Gallon Plastic Tub

Tips For A Healthy Patio Tub

Live plants are a must for this type of setup. They provide shade for the fish and also use the nitrates (broken down wastes) for food. Water Lilies do very good and are pretty when they bloom. You will also want a few handfuls of aquarium gravel. You can add enough gravel to cover the bottom if you wish but don't overdo it. If you have an aquarium inside borrow some of the gravel from it. It is already covered with beneficial bacteria needed to break down fish waste. Be sure to dechlorinate the water also. I keep the lid of the plastic tub to cover it while yard work is being done. If you get a lot of rain where the tub sits make sure it has small drain holes near the top of the sides to keep any floating plants from washing away and covering the holes with mesh wouldn't be a bad idea if you want to keep the baby fish from washing away. Unless you just get a lot of rain I wouldn't worry about this too much. Evaporation and water changes usually keep water levels in check. Experiment with different setups and see what you can come up with. Try different containers and plants and let your imagination run wild! Half of a whiskey barrel makes for a very pretty Mini Patio Pond.

Basic Steps

1-Find the container you want to use and set it in many locations of your porch or patio to see where it will look and function best. When it is set up it will be heavy to move.

2- Fill it with dechlorinated water and let it sit at least 24 hours. Check for leaks.

3- Add the gravel then add some water plants of your choice. Let it sit for about a week. This allows the setup to become established with the beginning bacteria growth.

4- Add a few snails. I use Ramshorn snails from the petshop. Put in two fish at this point. Wait another week.

5- Now you can add a few more fish. Usually four maybe six is all you will need for any size setup.

6-After another week do your first 10% water change and now you can add more plants and fish if you desire. One last thing I need to mention is that the larger your setup is the more stable it will be. Temperatures will be more stable and water chemistry will fluctuate less. Do not forget to feed your fish. They may eat a little more in warmer weather. Enjoy!


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    • Aquatic Guru profile image

      Aquatic Guru 6 years ago from Goodspring, Tennessee

      Hey Farmer Brown! Sounds like you had a few brawlers in the tub. Swordtails do amazingly well in patio tubs and common guppies do too. I just put some 3 day old Siamese Fighting Fish in a patio tub to grow out. Thanks for following!

    • Farmer Brown profile image

      Farmer Brown 6 years ago

      I tried this out in Miami apartment with several "female" Siamese Fighting fish. As labyrinth type breathers, I thought it might be fun to try out as a patio tub. Well, needless to say, they beat the snot out of each other! Thank you for a fun hub!

    • Aquatic Guru profile image

      Aquatic Guru 6 years ago from Goodspring, Tennessee

      Thanks Jeannieinabottle,

      A little trial and error but once you get the hang of it you can come up with some interesting setups.

    • Jeannieinabottle profile image

      Jeannie InABottle 6 years ago from Baltimore, MD

      This is really interesting. I would have never thought of putting a tub on a patio with fish. It sounds like the system is working well for you. Thank you for sharing.