Can You Put Fish In A Swimming Pool?


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A family of 2 little girls and their dad swimming under the water with tropical fish.

Enjoying a refreshing swim in a lake where you are immersed in the wildlife all around you is something that connects you with the earth—something you may be craving so much that you have an idea to turn your swimming pool into a large aquarium. You would have a private backyard pond where you can swim with the fishes.

But can you put a fish in a swimming pool? Chemicals used to clean swimming pools, such as chlorine and chloride, are fatal to fish; the smallest amounts of chlorine are dangerous to all marine life, plants, and animals.

Dropping your pet fish into a chemically treated pool is not only dangerous, but it is also cruel. Fish will die slowly in mere hours if not treated right away. It is possible to have a swimming pool that can be a habitat for fish, but it must be chemical-free. If you want the feeling of being able to swim with nature in your own backyard, a natural swimming pool might be in your future.

About Chlorine

Chlorine is a naturally occurring chemical that can be found in rocks and the ocean. It was thought to be a property of oxygen until the yellowish-green gas was adequately named in 1810 by the chemist, Sir Humphrey Davy.

Today, chlorine is used throughout several industries as a disinfectant and cleaning product. The most common place you can find chlorine in your home is in the water from your faucet; chlorine-treated water is used in over half of the states in the US.

Because of its cleaning properties, you might be under the impression that drinking chlorine is harmful—and it is in large quantities. The amount of chlorine that can be found in drinking water is about 0.5 – 2.0 parts per million gallons, allowing it to be safe to drink in households. However, although this amount is safe for humans, it can be quite dangerous to aquatic life.

How Much Chlorine Can Fish Tolerate?

As mentioned before, the trace amounts of chlorine in tap water are not harmful to humans, but are deadly to fish; fish cannot tolerate even the smallest amount of chlorine.

But what about chlorine that is naturally occurring in the ocean? Why aren’t the fish affected by it? This fact is a little misleading. There is certainly chlorine in the sea, but it is in the form of a compound chemical, Sodium Chloride (NaCl). Simply put, it is salt.

Technically, saltwater fish do come in contact with chlorine, but because it is in the form of a compound chemical, the hazardous properties of chlorine are negated by the sodium, allowing fish that have biological adaptations to survive in saltwater.

All of this is to say that chlorine is more so dangerous to freshwater fish or pet fish that are not in their natural habitat.

Effects of Chlorine on Fish

Chlorine poisoning is a common occurrence with new or neglectful fish owners when they use untreated water for their fish tanks. The chlorine essentially is absorbed through the fish’s skin, leading to internal chemical burns, in addition to burns on the fish’s gills.

How to Save a Fish from Chlorine Poisoning

You must act quickly to save a fish suffering from chlorine poisoning. Affected fish appear frantic, pale-colored, or covered in mucus, gasping heavily at the surface of the water. Immediately remove the fish from the untreated water and work on removing the chlorine from the environment.

Aerating or bubbling water is a simple way to clear out chlorine, but that can take up to 24 hours. Several other solutions work to neutralize chlorine in the water; these solutions involve sodium thiosulfate, which causes a chemical reaction that turns chlorine into sodium chloride.

Saltwater Pools

“Saltwater pool” is a misleading name for this specific type of pool. Rather than being filled with salt water, a saltwater pool is equipped with a specialized salt-chlorine generator that converts salt into chlorine within the water, which is then used as the cleaning agent for the pool.

Can fish live in saltwater pools? Because this pool is designed to convert salt into chlorine, rather than the other way around, fish cannot live in this environment.

Natural Swimming Pools

Natural swimming pools are man-made bodies of water that use organic elements to act as a filtration system, much like a river or lake. These pools have been found in ancient civilizations for religious and social purposes dating back to the early Egyptians in 2500 BC, and the Palestrae of Ancient Greece.

How Do Natural Swimming Pools Work?

Commercial swimming pools use a water filtration system and chemicals like chlorine to clean the water, while natural swimming ponds use plant life to filter and clean the water. Plants are so essential to a natural swimming pool that you will need to leave an adequate amount of space for plant life in the swimming area.

This is achieved by creating an organic environment filled with a mixture of flora that surrounds a swimming pool. When you look at it, you will see a beautiful swimming pool surrounded by an aquatic garden, but if you take a closer look, you will see a pool for swimming and another pond for the plants. The water flows freely between both pools, eliminating bacteria and algae.

Can Fish Live in a Natural Swimming Pool?

Yes, fish can live in a natural swimming pool! The most important thing to remember is to keep a balance between the swimming pool and the aqua garden. The introduction of fish in these environments will also create the need for additional maintenance; with fish comes fish excrement, which leads to the growth of harmful bacteria and algae if not appropriately maintained.

Fish feed on the insects and zooplankton that keep the aquatic flora healthy and properly filtering the water. Creating a separation between the fish and the aquatic garden will help maintain a proper balance. The addition of a biological filtration system will help clean the swimming area as well.

What is a Biological Filtration System?

A biological filter is a system of pumps and filters that clean a natural swimming pond. A still body of water like a lake or a pond will have algae that grow and cause water discoloration. A biological filtering system (Amazon) creates a gentle current that causes the water to move through various filtration systems.

The most essential component of the filtration system is a biological filter that is home to thousands of microorganisms that cleans the water, rather than using chemicals like chlorine.

What Kind of Fish Can I Have in My Swimming Pond?

Orange and white koi fish swimming in a koi pond with green natrue surrounding it.

Deciding what type of fish you want to swim with is entirely up to you. You do not want to create a feeding frenzy in your pool, so research fish species and avoid introducing predatory fish to the environment.

Allow your fish to acclimate with their new home before you jump in and start swimming. Stress is harmful to every living creature and can prove to be fatal for fish as well.

Final Thoughts

Imagine stepping out into your backyard oasis of gurgling waterfalls and a large canopy of leaves shading a crystal clear pond, wading into the refreshing water where a pet koi fish swims up to your outstretched hand.

A swimming pool doesn’t have to be filled with chemicals or algae. Creating your ideal swimming pond just as nature designed will allow you to have fish and flora surround you with every stroke.

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