Does your horse’s water trough need fish?


And here we are again, another wonderful question with many possible answers. Fish could be helpful, or they could be a bit of work. It likely will depend on what sort of trough setup you have, and in some cases what your weather is like.


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  • The main reason to use fish in a water trough is to keep the algae down, as well as the mosquito larvae away. Can this save you time? Perhaps.


  • What type of fish? You could go with goldfish, but they tend to require more precise conditions to live. Another variety is the plecostomus, and they come in a lot of variations so you will have to do some specific research into what type to get.


water trough next to pasture fence

I keep this trough sorta full. It’s for one horse, so it’s less to clean…BUT not ideal for fish, as it’s not deep enough.


  • For all fish, a water trough can be a challenging place to have enough oxygen. The temperature is also a concern, so you will need deep water. Heat in the summer might make the water too warm, cold in the winter might freeze your fish. However, some fish, like the goldfish, will hibernate at the bottom of a trough. But – I’ve seen plenty of troughs that freeze solid.


  • It’s a good idea to have blocks or fish toys at the bottom of your trough for hiding places. This also allows the fish to hide when your horse is drinking.


  • In the summer, troughs should be in the shade to keep the water not so hot. Sunlight also encourages algae growth, so once you cut out the sun, you may not need the fish.



Cute, and perhaps worthy of barn life, and maybe more trouble than it’s worth?



  • And I have no idea what to tell you about the fish poop. Except for that ammonia from fish waste is a problem. If you keep up with testing for ammonia and refilling with fresh water, this may not be an issue.


  • You may also have to worry about predators eating your fish, be it birds or raccoons or other critters. It’s unlikely your horse will accidentally drink a fish, they tend to get spooked and hide down below. However, predators stealing your fish or accidentally drowning while trying to steal your fish is not such a good situation. Dead animals in the trough need to be removed, the water drained, followed by a thorough cleaning.


horse drinking from clean water trough

My rule – if I wouldn’t drink it, my horse shouldn’t drink it.

When it’s all said and done – fish in the water trough might be more trouble than it’s worth. Or, they could save you tons of time!


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