When I first heard about using goldfish in horse troughs for mosquito control I assumed it was just a novelty.
After all, how could a few tiny fish make a difference?
Well I’m here to tell you THEY DO! And they don’t require any extra care. It almost sounds too easy, doesn’t it?
How Does it Work?
Horse troughs are usually a magnet for mosquitoes and here’s why:
“Female mosquitoes like to lay their eggs (about 100 to 300 at a time) in a dark spot in still water. The eggs then float on the surface of the water for about 48 hours before hatching into larva. The larva will live in the water for about 10 days eating tiny plants and animals. It then changes into a pupa that floats on the surface of the water for about two days before the adult mosquito emerges.” Source
The goldfish can feed on the larva before they get a chance to mature, which can greatly diminish the mosquito population near your horses without any chemicals or pesticides.
This also keeps the fish full and happy all summer long; no feeding required! Just remember to top up your horse’s water trough regularly (which you probably already do), and remove any debris.
Some of mine have lived over 4 years and do well over the winter. I use a tank heater to keep the water from freezing, but they’ve even survived a few “heater malfunctions” and are surprisingly hardy.
- Choose smaller fish that can easily reach all corners to the trough. Goldfish are most common but you can also try guppies or killfish.
- If your fish are being eaten by predators try placing some rocks beneath the water to create hiding places. Dark colored goldfish will be better at camouflaging than bright colored ones.
- Don’t forget to check for other standing water on your property. I like to keep buckets and wheelbarrows overturned when I’m not using them.
- You can also add goldfish to ponds, fountains and rain barrels.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will my horse swallow a goldfish?
I was worried about this too, until I discovered how skittish goldfish are in a “natural” environment (outdoors vs. aquarium). At any sign of movement they scoot under the rocks.
As long as the water level doesn’t get too low, I think it would be nearly impossible for my horses to swallow a fish.
Will the goldfish make the water dirty?
I had the same concerns, remembering what it was like to keep a tank of goldfish as a kid. Yuck! The big difference is the quantity of water (100 gallon vs. 10 gallon) and having fresh water added frequently (daily vs. weekly).
My advice is to start with just two goldfish and keep an eye on the water. I like to empty my horse troughs regularly and give them a good scrubbing, which I’m sure helps.
Note: I remove the fish first and keep a few buckets of water to put back in with them.
Is this safe for the goldfish?
While fish may live longer in a small, temperature controlled tank with a processed diet, I don’t necessarily feel they NEED to. There’s plenty for them to eat outdoors (at least in my area) and by the end of summer they’re always fat, healthy looking, and at least twice the size of any goldfish I’ve kept in a tank.
I like to think of them as livestock. I meet their basic needs, and they do the job they’re born to do; eat bugs!
Just use common sense, and of course, if you feel the fish may be suffering then remove them or make some changes (ie. move the trough into the shade, supplement with some fish food etc.).
Are outdoor goldfish allowed in my area?
It’s always wise to check first! A knowledgeable pet store should be able to provide some help choosing fish that are appropriate (and legal) for your area.
If fish aren’t your thing try these Mosquito Dunks. They’re organic, pet safe and last for about a month.
Have you tired using goldfish in horse troughs?
P.S. There’s lots of great tips, opinions, and new ideas in the comments section below 🙂