What can I keep in a summer tub?

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A readers asks which fish could survive the British climate, PFK expert Bob Mehen advises.

Q: I would love to have a go at summer tubbing this year, but I am not too sure which fish I could keep in a tub or patio pond that might possibly breed and survive our weather and temperatures. I’m looking at getting a tub in the region of 60–100 l, and at the moment I’m considering Rosy barbs, Sticklebacks or White cloud Mountain minnows. Which fish would you recommend?

JOSHUA, VIA EMAIL

A: Bob says: Keeping ‘indoor’ fish species outside for the summer can be very rewarding if done well and will often allow you to witness more natural behaviours than you might see in a typical aquarium. Of the fish you mention, the White Cloud is the obvious choice due to size, hardiness and breeding potential. I’ve kept White Clouds outside myself and it’s fascinating to watch them turn into tiny predators, hunting down Daphnia and mosquito larvae in a surprisingly shark-like way! I’d recommend trying the golden form as they are easier to observe, although the breeding colours of naturally coloured male White Clouds in sunlight is stunning to behold — there is good reason for their ‘poor man’s Neon tetra’ moniker. 

Rosy barbs are fantastic fish but probably a little large for a tub of that size. Sticklebacks are an excellent native choice, and if you can prevent the tub from freezing solid in winter then there is no reason why they couldn’t stay outside all year round.

To witness their fascinating breeding behaviour, a relatively shallow tub is best as they can be hard to see in taller, deeper containers.

Another possibility is the Paradise fish, Macropodus opercularis. They have a reputation for being a bit belligerent in the aquarium, but a pair of these outside will add real interest and may well breed for you if we get a hot summer. These are bubble nesters, so adding some floating plants to your tub may help encourage this. Just remember that you will need suitable indoor winter quarters for any fish you try outside, as well as for any potential young produced.