This might sound like a truly ridiculous question but bear with us! There’s more to the idea than first meets the eye!
The curious amongst you may have seen that some equestrians are suggesting that goldfish could be the solution to algae growth in horse troughs. Horse and Hound decided to investigate the matter further and found that the idea isn’t quite as ludicrous as it sounds.
Algae growth in horse troughs
We all know that water troughs which are left in fields for any length of time will eventually fill with algae and dirt. Nobody relishes the task of cleaning out a trough which is laden with algae. But is there a way to avoid this unpleasant and time-consuming job?
Internet forums are full of suggestions including the addition of goldfish. The theory being that the fish will eat the algae together with any insects which are attracted to the water, creating a cleaner environment.
Caviar for goldfish
Horse and hound approached Meredith Clawson of puregoldfish.com for some answers. Clawson advised that while goldfish don’t relish many strains of algae, they do enjoy tucking into hair algae. These stringy organisms are like caviar for goldfish and the fish will keep them to a length of 1cm or so. Unfortunately, goldfish won’t be so keen to gobble up the algae that tends to line the sides of a trough such as brown algae and green spot algae.
No simple solution
If your problem is hair algae, you can’t just throw a few fish into your trough. No surprise there, then! The fish themselves will produce waste and this will result in bacterial blooms in the water unless you also feature filtration and live plants. If you feed the fish commercial foods, they will produce nitrates which in combination with sunlight will actually produce more algae.
The bottom line is that if your goldfish are swimming in unfiltered water, you could be making the algae situation worse rather than better while creating an inappropriate environment for the fish to live in. The standing water will eventually become toxic and harm the fish. You could at least partially overcome this issue with frequent water changes but if the water isn’t sufficiently aerated, the fish will struggle to breathe.
It is possible to keep fish in your horse trough, but you will have to establish a viable ecosystem if they are to survive. That means including lots of plants to suck up nutrients from the fish waste together with live snails to eat the excess algae.
You may be able to provide horses with clean water without having to scrub your trough. However, you will have to create a pond with a balanced ecosystem. That could itself require considerable effort and a significant investment with no guarantee of success. There is no simple solution here, which is a little disappointing, but if you like fish, why not create a pond and see what happens?