Are Golden Orfe Good Pond Fish?

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September/October 2007

Dick Schuck

Are you a little bored with goldfish and fed up with the sometimes-destructive behavior of koi? If you are looking for a change, then you need to try the Golden Orfe. But even if you aren’t any of the above, Golden Orfe are worth a try in your pond. They are so good that I’ve considered getting rid of my goldfish and koi and just having Orfe.

Orfe are attractive torpedo shaped fish, yellow orange in color, often with black spots on the head and silvery flanks that are fairly deep. When mature, they grow a noticeable hump just behind the head. They’re very fast and feed primarily on the surface. They eat insects, small worms and possibly fish fry. They like to swim in groups or shoals. As far as I know, they don’t eat algae or other vegetable matter. They grow to about 1.5’ maybe 2’ depending on the pond. I’ve never seen them harass other fish or each other.

What I like most about the Orfe is their unusual behavior. My wife and I call them the dolphins of the pond. Besides being great jumpers, they exhibit group behavior that I’ve never witnessed in other fish. In mid summer, when the water is warm, they will gather in a group usually under the shade of an overhanging bush. They will shimmy and shake as if using a secret sign language to communicate with each other. Then, taking turns, they’ll dart a few feet out into the open and then dart back into the group. What causes this behavior? Is it the hot sun and the warm water? I don’t know the answer, but it is great fun to watch.

They prefer cool water to warm and need lots of oxygen. An air stone or tumbling water- fall is not a bad idea. Afternoon shade during really hot weather may be a necessity. It’s rumored that they’re more sensitive to chemicals than other fish. I’ve never seen this, but it is probably something to be cautious about. I use a variety of fish treatments and none have ever affected the Orfe unfavorably. Several of my customers have witnessed the Orfe swimming down a waterfall to a lower pond. I’ve never seen koi and goldfish do anything like this.

These unusual fish are native to Europe and are considered game fish. In their wild state they have a silver color and some even exhibit blue and marbled coloring. Over there they are known as Ide.

They are my favorite pond fish, and they don’t seem to get goldfish and koi diseases. This is a great characteristic for sure. Try them; I know that you will like them.


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How do Golden Orfe live with koi and goldfish?

We have a fish pond with several koi and goldfish that I refuse to give up (we've had most of them since we got the pond 5 yrs ago) but I wouldn't mind mixing it up by adding some orfe to it.

1. Posted on July 15th, 2010 at 4:27 pm.

By nate.

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Orfe are insect eating surface feeders and pose no threat to Koi. In fact, Orfe are less damaging to the pond ecology. They do not disturb the plants or roil the bottom. They are my favorite pond fish.

Dick

2. Posted on July 27th, 2010 at 9:19 am.

By Dick Schuck of Maryland Aquatic Nurseries.

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Golden orfe (Leucius idus ) is in the same family of fishes (cyprinidae ) found throughout Europe and asia where they inhabit rivers ponds and lakes.

There preferred water temperatures are not as wide as koi although they can and do inhabit koi ponds in the northern parts of the USA where temperatures stay below 70 degrees F. Short durations of higher temps can be tolerated but not preferred.

These fish are fairly quick darting to the surface to grab some pellets and back down.  They are not aggressive and do well with koi and goldfish .

The Orfe ... or Ide as the regular blueish grey color variant can grow to a maximum of 18-30 inches and have a fairly long lifespan

In the past, Orfes were available for wholesale purchase from Hunting Creek Fisheries in Thurmont Maryland. where they have been grown for generations.

Prior to ordering or stocking these fish , check your local state regulations as they are illegal in some states.

Hope this helps !

3. Posted on July 27th, 2010 at 9:21 am.

By Joe Pawlak of Blackwater Creek Koi Farms Inc.

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will a golden orfe eat leftover goldfish food?

4. Posted on February 11th, 2011 at 12:18 pm.

By Jimmy.

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Orfe are surface feeders and eat goldfish food, but I have never seen them eat leftover food off the bottom.

5. Posted on February 12th, 2011 at 8:58 am.

By Dick Schuck of Maryland Aquatic.

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i have kept golden orfe with koi and also one sturgeon for at least ten years, they do like to eat chrsyalis from magots all the year round,and yes they will feed on these from surface to bottom of pond and also pick them up from the bottom

6. Posted on June 30th, 2011 at 8:50 am.

By john brown of j.a brown.

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Every year we have orfe babies, usually a dozen and the
population seemed to be under control as some didn't survive the winter but this year they had at least a hundred babies!

Should I do something?

7. Posted on July 25th, 2011 at 8:03 am.

By Sara.

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Revel in your good fortune. The population will take care of itself.

8. Posted on July 27th, 2011 at 12:20 pm.

By Richard Schuck of Maryland Aquatic Nurseries.

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I have a single 10" Orfe in a pond with a mix of a ghost and mirror carp. The Orfe, up until a week ago, was quite an aggressive eater, pushing through the throng to get to the food. Now, I haven't seen it eat a pellet in at least 6 days.

Have read that they can be choosy when it comes to their processed pellet food. As I cannot see any fungal or physical injuries (just netted and checked), is there anything else I should be looking for?

9. Posted on July 28th, 2011 at 10:07 am.

By AGCG.

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Just for clarification, I'm in the UK and the temps over the last two weeks have been bouncing from the low teens to the upper 20' Celsius. Doesn't seem to have effected the other stock though (the Orfe being the largest in the water).

10. Posted on July 28th, 2011 at 11:30 am.

By AGCG.

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have just bought some goldfish for my pond as one i put in the pond a day ago has gone , so bought some more 3 put them in 15 mins later sitting watching then a large orf cam and ate them 1 after another, THOUGHT THEY WERE INSECT FEEDERS.????????????????

11. Posted on July 30th, 2011 at 8:50 am.

By brian.

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Hi Brian,

Sorry to hear this happened to you.

In the second paragraph of the article it says "They eat insects, small worms and possibly fish fry." So yes they eat more then just insects.

Thanks for sharing.

Cindy
POND Trade Magazine

12. Posted on July 31st, 2011 at 10:22 am.

By Cindy Graham of POND Trade Magazine.

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To AGCG

When fish stop eating, it usually indicates a health problem. I don't think it would suddenly stop liking the pellet food. It may be getting enough natural food (insects) off the surface. My best guess is that its sick.

Dick

13. Posted on August 15th, 2011 at 3:44 pm.

By Richard Schuck of Maryland Aquatic Nurseries,Inc.

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A few weeks ago I bought a 10cm golden orfe to join my goldfish, shubunkin and koi. At first it swam around with the other fish and seemed perfectly normal. Then it started just being on its own and not joining the other fish when I fed them (it swam a lot at the surface but I think this is normal for the species).

I read that orfe like to be in groups - does the group have to be made up of other orfe fish or can it join the goldfish, shubunkin and koi (which all hang out together anyway)?

Then today I went to inspect the pond and the orfe has completely DISAPPEARED!!! I looked everywhere under all the rocks as well as all around the edge to see if it jumped out. I haven't seen any birds near the area ever (heron is too scared to go so near the house). What do you think happened? I am sad :(

14. Posted on September 3rd, 2011 at 12:41 pm.

By Elsa.

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The Golden Orfe is a pond fish that is native to many small European rivers, but does very well in our Fish Ponds. Golden Orfe are school fish that need to be kept in a group of at least 3, or they will hide. Each Golden Orfe has a unique pattern of brown spots in the back, by one each fish can easily be identified (sort of like a human finger print). Golden Orfes are very fast swimmers and need a Fish Pond of at least 500 gallons or they will jump out. They have a very high need for oxygen and can usually be found near the surface of the water. The high need for Oxygen also means that they are only sold as fingerlings (very small, usually in the 2" - 4" range.

15. Posted on September 14th, 2011 at 9:08 am.

By Cindy.

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I actually have an orfe in my aquarium ( all be it a very big one) I bought him from a pet shop and they failed to tell me he was a pond fish! But he seems more than happy, can be qite pushy with my minnows sometimes but has settled a lot more now times gone on, he does get food from the top of water but also picks among the gravel, he's never tried to jump out, he's about 2" .

16. Posted on February 8th, 2012 at 3:43 pm.

By sam.

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I have just added 4 small koi (3inches maybe) to my pond who disappeared almost instantly. I have a golden orfe of about 10 inches can he have eaten them? Haven't seen a sign of them since they were released.

17. Posted on May 17th, 2012 at 7:33 am.

By Nicki.

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I have orfe fish in my pond are getting large and are competing for food with the rest of my gold fish, husband wants to know if they can be eaten

18. Posted on May 19th, 2012 at 8:34 am.

By Rosalie.

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Nicki, koi are notorious for hiding. Koi that small also do not have a high survival rate. But there is a good chance they will turn up, it just may be a few months before you see them again. Especially if they have good places to hide.

19. Posted on May 22nd, 2012 at 9:29 am.

By Cindy of POND Trade Magazine.

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Hello,
I have one of those little ponds that you can buy from Lowes and Home Depot. Can I put orfe in them? Like 3 maybe?

20. Posted on May 23rd, 2012 at 11:50 am.

By Becky.

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For Orfe's you really should have a pond with a minimum of 500 gallons. They are sociable fish and do well in groups of three.

21. Posted on June 15th, 2012 at 11:52 am.

By Cindy of POND Trade Magazine.

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Well the consensuses I got was that yes you could eat them, but you probably don't want too.

22. Posted on June 21st, 2012 at 1:59 pm.

By cindy graham of POND Trade Magazine.

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How do I calculate the gallons of water in my pond. it is about 14 feet ling.2 feet deep and about 2.5 feet wide. I have four Golden orfe and 4 small gold fish.Is thisj Ok. It is quite a new pond

23. Posted on July 4th, 2012 at 2:31 pm.

By Muriel Levickk.

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To calculate gallons it is - Length x Width x Depth x 7.5

To calculate the number of gallons in your pond it would be

14 x 2 x 2.5 x 7.5 = 525 gallons

Golden Orfe can get large, so you may eventually need a bigger pond. Also Goldfish can breed like crazy, again you may need to give some away, if the goldfish population grows.

Thanks for posting your question.

24. Posted on July 12th, 2012 at 7:11 am.

By Cindy Graham of POND Trade Magazine.

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I have Golden Orfe which have breed and we had about 50 until an otter killed about 30 of them in one night (Electric fence noe installed). Some are 15 years old now. A friend had some large Shubunkins which were getting too big for their tank so he gave them to me to add to the ponds to help replace the lost ones. They have now breed and are 3 years old but are looking like Orfe/Shubukin crosses. Some are black with copper under side... some were but have changed to orange/red (the origin fish were red/grey) others are a salmon pink colour... not really shubunkin shape but not long like the orfes either... is it commom for fish to inter breed like this? As a side note... my bigger Orfe, 18 inches long, have never eaten any of the fry that I could detect.

25. Posted on July 26th, 2012 at 5:28 am.

By David Body.

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We returned from holiday to find our three Golden Orfe all dead floating on the top of our pond. Other fish Mirror Carp Chinese Koi and Comets were all ok. It was very hot for a few days and fountain was not running so I presume it was the lack of oxygen that killed them. We are very sad as we have had the Orfe for about 15 years and they were a lovely size.

26. Posted on July 31st, 2012 at 1:16 pm.

By Susan Tingle.

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I live in the uk and have 3 golden orf and 4 blue orf all over 20" the largest 26" they do eat small fish I have seen one of my largest eat a 2.5" koi if they can get it in there mouth they will eat other fish

27. Posted on August 15th, 2012 at 3:07 am.

By Eddy haywood.

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We're in the UK and have a 1500 gallon pond up to 4 feet deep with a stable ecology of plants, well filtered and with airstones. We put six 3 inch blue orfe in the pond about ten years ago and they have thrived. They are shy, surface feeders and although you can easily spot them when they swim deep (the usual state), they do bask in shoals on the surface when there is no threat i.e. us standing next to the pool. Why do I say shoals? After the first couple of years they began to breed and each year we have hundreds of fry. Naturally most do not survive but the total mature orfe population is well over a hundred. Of the original six, four died when I accidentally chopped through the airstones' line in summertime a couple of years ago and didn't fix it for a day. They are clearly very sensitive to oxygen levels since it was the largest four and a few of the remainder that died. The oldest orfe are well over a foot long now and look superb. Don't buy dozens of orfe for your pond; buy a few and nature will soon provide the rest!

28. Posted on September 5th, 2012 at 8:45 am.

By Alan Lowe.

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I have a 6thousand gallon pond. Three years ago I put 12 orphs in @ 2.5 inches. I think they are doing well, they are about 8 inches now but they are very shy. Will they always be shy?

29. Posted on March 30th, 2013 at 4:24 pm.

By lloyd.

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I bought 8 Orfe last summer. Have quite a large pond with 12 goldfish, one being much bigger than the others. The Orfe disappeared literally overnight..would the large goldfish have eaten them?

30. Posted on April 10th, 2013 at 6:57 am.

By jean little.

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Orfe are not shy normally unless being stalked by heron. They usually respond to food.

Goldfish will not eat orfe. Their overnight disappearance is a puzzlement. The great blue heron is very adept at eating them, but 12 overnight?

31. Posted on May 10th, 2013 at 8:34 am.

By Dick Schuck of Maryland Aquatics.

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Hello I have a pond with some 3 inch koi amd shubunkins but I have read orfes will eat them is this safe? And my pond is problably on the small side but next summer we are extending it quite a bit if i bought small orph would they be okay until next summer in the pond (its two ponds one very small one about maybe ten feet by four and a foot deep(deeper in the middle) and the fish can swim between ponds as tgey are the same level.

32. Posted on May 13th, 2013 at 12:50 am.

By Dan.

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observed my 12" orfe apparently spawning a couple of days ago on the surface of the pond edge. I now notice that one of the fish has a pale patch about one and a half inches by one inch behind the dorsal fin on its upper back. Could this be something to do with spawning or could it be a formally unnoticed disease?

33. Posted on May 17th, 2013 at 3:47 pm.

By ann.

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I don't think its related to spawning. It may a fungus infection but I've never seen this on an Orfe, so I'm as clueless as anyone.

Dick

34. Posted on May 26th, 2013 at 4:31 am.

By Dick Schuck of Maryland Aquatics.

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i have read in other comments that golden orfe eat fry so it has me wondering if they eat there own fry and do they eat tad poles, we clean the 1000 gallon pond out once a year and recently discovered that we have 9 orfes, 3 are about about a foot long and 8 yrs old and the other 6 are about 2 or three yrs old as we lost a load in a thunderstorm a couple of yrs ago and had to buy some more, however we also have 5 frogs and 2 toads, there is a waterfall and an airstone aswell as oxyginated pond weed (grows like wildfire), also are u able to tell if the orfes are male or female? how long do they normally live for?

35. Posted on May 26th, 2013 at 12:46 pm.

By nigel.

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Help,Have nine golden orf,15 yrs old in large pond,never had any problems,but just noticed,quite a large change of colouring on one of the orf,from orange scales to red (tail fin to middle of fish)could this be DROPSY, or maybe a breeding colour.

BARRY

36. Posted on June 6th, 2013 at 12:32 pm.

By Barry of home pond owner golden orf.

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We have lost 3 orf in 3 weeks, they have been found on the ground beside the pond, having somehow got under the netting that is anchored every few inches. They were all large and over 10 years old.We have 2 pumps working and added some mixture to clear green algy,( after the first 1 died) which we have done before.

any ideas please as to the cause?

37. Posted on June 12th, 2013 at 1:38 pm.

By brent of dunningcomputers@yahoo.co.uk.

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I have 2 orfs that are about 7 years old. For the last 3 years one of the orfs has been getting egg bound, she is just miserable. She swims around on top of the water almost rolling over. If you go near the pond she darts around as fast as she can, almost running into other fish. Is there anything I can do to help her discharge the eggs?

38. Posted on June 21st, 2013 at 1:08 pm.

By Michelle.

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If the condition of egg bound has existed for 3 years, it might be something else wrong. But if truly egg bound, you'll need to catch the fish and gently stroke with your hand the flanks of the fish to help dislodge the eggs.

39. Posted on June 24th, 2013 at 10:19 am.

By Dick Schuck of Maryland Aquatic.

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I cannot tell the sex of Orfe nor do I know how long they live. In question another question on this page, Barry states that he has a few that are 15 years old.

40. Posted on June 24th, 2013 at 10:32 am.

By Dick Schuck of Maryland Aquatic.

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I've never seen this kind of color change and suspect that something may be wrong with the fish.

41. Posted on June 24th, 2013 at 10:36 am.

By Dick Schuck of Maryland Aquatic.

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I cannot imagine how 3 fish all got out of the water but suspect something may have been chasing them.

42. Posted on June 24th, 2013 at 10:39 am.

By Dick Schuck of Maryland Aquatic.

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I have about 30 or more orfes I'm my pond for about 2 year now I have 3 ponds at 3 different levels the orfes love going up and down the streams at what age do they mate at?

43. Posted on June 25th, 2013 at 3:09 pm.

By Paul.

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I had 8 Golden Orfe in my pond. In the current hot weather (at around 25C which is hot for Northern England) the Orfe were showing no signs of distress but 2 days ago two were dead on the grass outside the pond and one dead in the pond. Yesterday another was dead on the grass. They had been pecked by magpies but I doubt that the birds removed them or that another predator did so as they were not eaten. I did see that they were congregating in the shallows recently early in the morning. Not a heron responsible as the pond is netted with only relatively small gaps at ground level.Do they just jump out. They weighed between 750 and 1000 grams and have been in the pond since 2000. Any ideas.
Douglas

44. Posted on July 10th, 2013 at 6:03 am.

By Douglas Buchanan.

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I have 3 small orfe in my pond that live with goldfish,koi 1 shubunkin and a gudgeon. They all seem fine but recently I have noticed that as they are swimming they will kind of flip onto their side and flash their underbelly, don't know if it has anything to do with the weather change recently (I live in west miss UK) the summer weather has arrived. The pond is well oxygenated we have various plants and a waterfall any ideas as to what they are doing ?

45. Posted on July 17th, 2013 at 10:48 am.

By Natalie.

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I have two golden tench about 10 years old and some young small golden or fe in a wild life pond with newts, frogs and toads. Should I remove the Orfe to aid the breeding of wild life. The Tench seem to be no problem.......?

46. Posted on July 21st, 2013 at 6:13 am.

By Jill Halpin of Halpin arts.

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Douglas:
Normally orfe do not jump out of the pond. I suspect the magpies or some other critter is responsible.

47. Posted on August 5th, 2013 at 11:26 am.

By Dick Schuck of Maryland Aquatic.

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Natalie:
This behavior is called flashing. It may indicate parasites on the fish or just playful behavior.
- Dick

48. Posted on August 5th, 2013 at 11:32 am.

By Dick Schuck of Maryland Aquatics.

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Jill:
I think you can leave the orfe in the pond. They should be no harder on wildlife than the Tench.
- Dick

49. Posted on August 5th, 2013 at 11:37 am.

By Dick Schuck of Maryland Aquatics.

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Hundreds of young Orfe in my pond, about three or four generations. How can I stop them breeding and how can I catch around a dozen to give away?

50. Posted on August 26th, 2013 at 5:08 am.

By Elsa Green.

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I have about a 750 gal pond, I got rid of the Koi as I wanted a water garden, replaced with 6 Orfe and large goldfish. 3 Orfe died??, since last year the 3 remaining have more than doubled in size, I love them, they are so fun to watch, they do a fish imitation of a "rumba" line and it is great fun. Thank you Dick for the info, I didn't realize they ate bugs on the surface. Also they have no fear as I regularly get in the pond to do plant maintenance. They "play" well with all my other fish. I also didn't realize they needed high level of oxygen, in the winter when the ice freezes the pond surface I had just used a floating deicer and the Orfe did great. This winter I will be adding a bubbler when I have to turn of the bio falls due to ice. Can I purchase any blue Orfe in Maryland? Thanks again for the info.

51. Posted on September 3rd, 2013 at 5:20 pm.

By Janet.

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Elsa:
You can catch them when and if you drain the pond to clean it. Otherwise you might try catching a few at a time with a quick sweep of a fish net with large net area.

52. Posted on September 4th, 2013 at 11:05 pm.

By Dick Schuck of Maryland Aquatics.

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Janet:
The bubbler is a great idea but use it year round. The blue Orfe in the native wild variety in Europe. I don't know of a domestic supplier of this particular blue variety. I'm glad you're enjoying the orfe so much.

53. Posted on September 4th, 2013 at 11:06 pm.

By Dick Schuck of Maryland Aquatics.

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I HAVE SIX GOLDEN ORFE FOR ABOUT 3 YEARS. I HAVE NOTICED THEY USE TO EAT KOI STICKS WHEN I FEED MY KOIS, BUT THEY STOP IT DURING THE MIDDLE SUMMER AND STILL DONT EAT THEM. THEY ALL LOOK HEALTHY AND DO WHAT ORFE DO.IM WORIED, I DONT SEE THEM EAT.

54. Posted on October 14th, 2013 at 10:10 am.

By tony.

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Tony:
If your Orfe look healthy without eating the koi food, they obviously have found a better food in your pond. This is a good thing and nothing to worry about. Normally, Orfe are insect eaters. Your pond may have a goodly supply of insects and or their larvae.

55. Posted on October 28th, 2013 at 7:37 pm.

By Dick Schuck of Maryland Aquatics.

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Hi
I have 3 blue or fe and 1 golden or fe the golden or fe has developed a lump under its chin? Do you know what this could be

56. Posted on January 17th, 2014 at 11:43 am.

By Judith.

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Judith:
The color of the fish would not have anything to do with the lump. I don't know what the lump could be as I have never known Orfe to get anything that's visible. Just hope it's benign. I've never seen a blue orfe but know that they are native to Europe.

Dick

57. Posted on January 20th, 2014 at 9:48 am.

By Dick Schuck of Maryland Aquatics.

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You say golden orfe only grow to around two inches (I think you mean inches) mine are a lot bigger, do you think they are orfe's? They were sold to me as orfe's.

58. Posted on May 7th, 2014 at 3:57 am.

By julie.

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Orfe grow to a max size of 15-18".

59. Posted on May 19th, 2014 at 1:35 pm.

By Richard Schuck of Maryland Aquatics.

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Interesting comments on Orfe. We live in the Southwest US at about 7,500 ft elevation. We have a large natural, stream fed pond (about 40'X 25 X up to 5' deep. We have 4 orfe - now 18" or more long. Also about 8 miscellaneous common pond goldfish - all over 10" long now. Our pond sometimes freezes completely over (except where the stream comes in). We've had the orfe for over 7 years and most of the goldfish for that long. A bear went fishing in the pond last summer, but the fish all moved too fast for it. Haven't lost any of the original 4 orfe and only a few goldfish have died over the years. I'm honestly quite surprised they all do so well and get along and interact. Initially I had 3 koi but they didn't last through the winter.

Summer days get over 89 degrees F and winters can go down to minus 10 F. I've never seen fry and assume the goldfish or orfe eat them. I added mosquito fish on a few occasions and they all disappeared rather quickly. The orfe were all light golden when I got them over 7 years ago - now one of the 4 is white with blue-gray on its sides and some black mottling. The other 3 are orangish/yellowish with dark gray mottling. Very beautiful, fast and entertaining fish. The guy I bought them from locally called them "suicide fish" because he said they jumped out of the tubs - I told him I didn't blame them since the black tubs were small and hot. Mine are definitely not suicidal and seem very contented.

60. Posted on June 13th, 2014 at 12:31 am.

By Lyn.

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