Last Updated: 7/31/19
Description and Varieties
Setup and Water Preferences
Where to Buy Some
Information on my pond with orfe can be found at my 1800 gallon pond page. I currently have two large orfe and about three smaller ones. Exact head counts are difficult with so many fish and a large pond.
New! See a video of my 1800 gallon pond which shows the fish moving around, including the orfe.
Common names: Orfe, Golden Orfe, Blue Orfe, Ide
Scientific/Latin name: Leuciscus idus
Maximum length: 1.5 to 2.5 feet
Colors: Orange with black on head (golden), blue (blue), natural (wild ide)
Temperature preference: 50 to 70 degrees F but can survive 33 to 90 degrees F
pH preference: 7 to 8
Hardness preference: Moderate
Salinity preference: Low to 1 Tablespoon per 10 gallons
Compatibility: May eat small fish; good with each other, koi, and goldfish
Life span: 10-30 years
Ease of keeping: Moderate, needs large pond
Ease of breeding: Hard
Leuciscus idus, the golden orfe, is suitable for ponds. It can grow to 2.5 feet but usually stays near 1.5 feet. It is a long, slender, bullet-shaped, schooling, orange fish with black dots on its head and back (not always present). They are great to put goldfish and koi at ease and encourage them to spend time near the surface. Orfes are native to Europe and were derived from the ide which is a silver predator. Some say that they are better pond fish than goldfish. This is probably due to their fast, active behavior near the surface where you can see them seemingly having fun. Larger orfe or overwintering orfe may prefer the bottom of the pond. Others find their behavior too active. They need lots of room, and I do not know how long they live. I would guess at least 20 years.
John told me on 8/18/07 that 25 years ago, his neighbor gave him two orfes (who were probably at least 5 years old) because they were too big for his pond. One was still alive on 8/18/07 but, unfortunately, one had just jumped out when a new filter was put in. So, there is at least one orfe at or near 30 years of age.
Today in addition to the golden orfe and wild ide, there are also blue and marbled varieties of orfe but I have yet to find any to buy in the USA. A pond keeper in the UK has blue orfe and says they are actually silver with dark blue down their backs. He says blue orfe are wild ide. In the wild, in Europe, blue orfe can grow to over three feet! I want one!
Baby orfe look a lot like rosy red minnows and can be confused. In time (less than a year), orfe will grow over a few inches but minnows will not.
Orfes only grow large and thus breed in large ponds. They need well-oxygenated water of medium hardness. In the wild, they may migrate into brackish waters as well as freshwater. They live in water from just above freezing to the 70's degrees F. They are similar to koi in their needs. Orfe are said to be more sensitive to medications so avoid using them. Apparently, they have "trout lungs" which I assume means that their gills are incapable of processing "medications" like malachite green. A pond keeper in the UK says he used medications in his pond with orfe with no problem. It most likely depends on many factors.
Orfe eat most anything but are especially fond of insects on the surface and small fish as adults (fry and minnows in my pond). Insects, snails, and other invertebrates will all be eaten as well as human-made fish foods. Apparently some sources (I was told the Water Gardens book by Sunset Gardens) say that orfe eat algae. As far as I know, they stick to animals and avoid eating plants (algae are plants too). Orfe prefer to be in a shoal (although they "surf" independently) so if you get any, try to get at least three which is not many but they do get large. My orfe spend time at all swimming levels of the pond but spend more time on the bottom in cold weather and more time on the top in warm weather. The same could be said for goldfish and koi. This might explain why some books and web sites say the orfe are surface swimmers and others say that they are bottom dwellers. Mine zip around at both the top and bottom with little time spent in the middle.
Males can develop breeding tubercles (white spots on their gills or head) and females are heavier, but only during breeding. My mature orfe have humped heads. I do not know if the hump size has anything to do with sex.
I did not know much about this. I recall reading that they spawned in caves in the bottom. If your orfe spawn, you will probably not know until you identify fry as such. A large pond (at least 1000-3000 gallons) is needed. Others say that orfe only spawn in huge ponds (>5000 gallons) but recently (1999) someone posted on the rec.ponds newsgroup that they discovered young orfe in a pond of adults, only about 1000 gallons large.
In early 2000, someone e-mailed that their orfe spawned after enlarging the pond. They say the eggs were on the sides and in the plants in the shallows. The orfe they believe to be the father was displaying protective behavior towards the eggs. Later, the ponder reported back that the father and his cohorts ate all the eggs/larvae after getting through a barrier meant to keep them away from the eggs. So, I guess the "protective" behavior was really hunger!
A few pond keepers in the UK have found juvenile orfe in their ponds but they are not sure about why the orfe bred for them and not others or how they spawned.
One successful orfe breeder said, "My orfe eggs seem to be laid in a cluster around the plant roots. I agree with you, in my experience no fish seems to protect the eggs, they all seem in too much of a hurry to eat them!!"
It may be that orfe take many years, perhaps even a decade to sexually mature because another breeder named Kate had this to report. "...I live in the UK and have a well established garden pond (dimensions 14ft x 8ft x 3ft deep). When we built the pond (13 years ago) we put in about 20 goldfish from indoor aquariums and 10 silver orfe which we bought at a garden centre. The orfe were 2 inches long when we got them - they now measure about 20 inches! The goldfish began breeding in the second year but the orfe never did - until last month! At about 11pm I was in the garden and heard an enormous commotion going on in the pond, I went to investigate and saw two pairs of orfe thrashing madly in the reeds. I figured that they were spawning so left them to it. The following morning the pond was white with eggs - I'm talking millions! We left most of them in the pond but took a few clumps and put them in an aerated aquarium. A large number of these hatched, so many in fact that I had to sell them to an aquatics centre. So there you go - the fish must have been 1 or 2 years old when we got them so that means they're at least 15 now and I have only bred for the first time this year! Obviously a great deal of patience is required to breed them successfully. Hope you found this useful."
Ta da! My orfe spawned! I glanced out my window to see how the goldfish spawning was going on 4/4/03 at 8 am, when what to my wandering eyes did appear, but three spazy orfe spawning away! They are six years old and over a foot long (you try catching one and getting him to sit still for a measurement!!), perhaps 1.5 feet at most. They were spawning exactly like the goldfish, no dens, no protection of eggs, just a spaz party. Three of my four orfe were slamming into each other in the shallows, wiggling viguorously, and even propelling their bodies half way out of the pond! Now, as the summer progresses, I will have to look at the resulting fry carefully to see if any are orfe! I had to get to work so I did not go out to see if I could see eggs. Since I never see the goldfish eggs, I doubted I would find anything anyway. The eggs are just so transparent, and most are eaten right away. Lucky thing or my pond would have a billion goldfish by now.
Another ponder named Julian sent me the following story of their orfe spawning. I think he
roots and not "fish roots.":
"...I have 21 orfe in a pond...It is about 20 cubic metres, some 7 by 3 metres at the surface. I have naturally bred 12 new orfe that have survived to maturity from 2 years ago with no effort...Last weekend, 02.05.03 they spawned. A massive commotion on the pond with fish half out of the water and all the males pushing the females into a weedy corner. Eggs came by the thousand and I have separated some in a separate aquarium...The eggs are all on the fish roots or near them with another patch on the pond floor. Pond is a metre deep in one place at its maximum with fish some 9-10 inches long - the eggs are in the shallows however....I have no idea on my fishes ages."
Wayne said in March of 2006 that a stream is the key to orfe reproduction. He has many (15+!) adults who breed for him in Canada.
Others report that orfe will spawn in pond skimmers. Go to this forum posting to see photos of orfe eggs in a skimmer and learn more about that.
Local aquarium and pond dealers should have golden orfes available. I have never seen any other color variants available here in Maryland, USA. Someone told me on 7/21/02 that none of these five places sells orfe anymore. I find that hard to believe that they all would stop selling them. Let me know if you find a source for orfe, especially the color variants which I have never seen live or for sale anywhere.
Paradise Water Gardens in Massachusetts sells golden orfe. Their number for a free catalog is 1-800-955-0161. They do not have orfes in 2006.
Hunting Creek Fisheries in Thurmont, Maryland sells golden orfe but perhaps only wholesale. They may be the only commercial breeders of golden orfe in the US. Their site also has a blog where you can read about them pulling out and sexing the orfe. I wish they said how they do it.
Kencofish sells orfe.
Willow Pond Aqua Farms sells golden orfe. You can call 1-888-854-8945 for a free catalog.
Springdale Water Gardens sells golden orfe. Their number is 1-800-420-5459. Sharon got orfe here in May of 2006 and says their low shipping cost cannot be beat.
Eaton's Fish Hatchery in Maryland sells golden orfe. Their number is 301-898-7578.
I had four large orfe in my 1800 gallon pond that were added as babies in 1997 and 1998. They were very active but scared of me. When I was not looking, they dashed all over the surface snatching insects (get those aphids!). They cruised all over but tended to not associate with the goldfish and koi. I had five in 2000 but by March of 2001, I only counted four. One vanished! The remaining four orfe grew large, and I saw three of them spawning on 4/4/03.
On 8/14/05, the power went out on a very hot day. One of my four 1.5 feet long orfe jumped into the waterfall overflow desperate for oxygen. He/she suffocated. I was very sad. I talk more about this in my September 2005 pond newsletter. Photos are below of the dead orfe.
Beginning at least as early as 6/22/06 according to my July 2006 pond newsletter, one of my orfe switched to a life living on its side. I talk about that in the later newsletters. He never seemed to lose weight but could not have been eating well. He made it through the really hard 2006 to 2007 winter. Finally, in March, he settled with his head down into an empty pond pot. I think he suffocated. I realized he was dead on 3/28/07 in the morning and removed him. He was definitely alive when I was in the pond on 3/25/07. His skin was pretty roughed up so I did not take photos out of respect for his former glory. He was 15" long but, because he was bent, it was really a 13" body and then a bend to a 6" tail.
I then had two orfe, both 1.5 feet long. I hoped to get a few more if they ever had healthy ones at the aquarium store.
My mother called me at work on 5/11/07 to say they were going to stop at Lilypons and did I want anything. I said two orfe. I really did not think they would have them since they had not before and do not sell them via catalog or internet so I was surprised to come home to three orfe and a bullfrog tadpole still packed up. All were about 3.5 inches long. They had a cold pack at least since they were left in the car while my family ate (which I told her not to do). Luckily, they survived. So, what to do? As they say, "Do as I say and not as I do." I netted them (dumping the water) and put them into my 1800 gallon pond. "WHAT,?" you gasp in horror! A "so-called expert" did not quarantine her fish? Yep, beat me with a cattail please. Why did I not quarantine? It was not because my mother said the store employee said, "They don't need to be quarantined." Yeah, like I would buy that. I decided not to quarantine because I did not have any place good for them to go. The largest pond I could offer would have been 20 gallons. Orfe are fast. I later saw they were swimming together in a school at about two feet per second! They would not have been happy. Next, orfe do not do well with medications either, and I would normally assume they were diseased and treat them with chemicals as I have done with fish in the past. It has been years since I've put fish in my pond. In fact, except for one shubunkin three years ago, I have not put any fish in since about 1999. I quarantined that shubunkin along with another one is a 20 gallon pond for months to be safe; the other one jumped to its death. So much for safe. I am always afraid of introducing something. The truth is that my fish already have various problems from one with strange viral growths to a few with bacterial problems. But, to get to the true issue, I was simply being lazy. I do not have time to run a quarantine pond/tank. I hope the three baby orfe do okay. They join my two remaining 10-year-old orfe. One of the three baby orfe vanished the next year.
In early 2010, one of my two remaining 13-year-old orfe showed signs of distress and was spending time in the shallows in the winter. I was not able to remove the body until 3/7/10 due to four feet of snow. The big guy was 18.5 inches long. Two of the younger orfe remain so, as of 3/16/10, I had three orfe.
On 7/25/10, when I went to pull up the filter basket around the main pump, my oldest, 13-year-old orfe was jammed between it and the wall. I thought he was dead but when I got in and moved him, he swam off crooked and bent and spazy. He ended up in the shallows to rest. The dying orfe was under the falls of the Cyprio filter on 7/28/10, and that was the last I ever saw him. There was no body so I assume the raccoon took that huge, heavy fish and ate it elsewhere. It would not have been able to put up a fight. I never got to measure him but he was probably in the 16 to 20 inch range like the others. I just have the two young orfe left.
On 4/28/11, I added two very small orfe that I got from Tricker to the 1800 gallon pond. It will be a few years before they join the other two who are large now. I did not see those two orfe after 4/29/11 until 6/19/11 when I saw one of them!
On 6/29/12, a derecho hit us, and we lost power. As a result, the largest orfe was near dead at dawn from suffocation in very hot water with no aeration or water movement and soon died. For more on the derecho, read my June pond blog and July pond blog. The dead orfe measured 18 inches long.
On 6/5/14, I realized that I only had two orfe left, the bigger one and one of the smaller ones. The other one simply vanished. This was confirmed with no further sightings. The great blue heron has been around but they usually do not catch fast orfe. I never found a clue.
On 7/31/19, my oldest remaining orfe died that I got on 5/11/07. He/she had been acting abnormal for a few weeks now, seemingly with a little kinked spine and some hemorrhaging spots. He/she felt like about five pounds in weight. I had to get in the pond and go get him/her in the middle of the pond. He/she was 18" long. He/she had a number of hemorrhages on his/her side. Only one orfe remains who I got on 4/28/11.
In April of 2006, I made two videos of the goldfish chasing during spawning. You can see the orfe also dash through the videos. Go to my video page.
The photos are from most recent to oldest with the orfe being larger in more recent photos.
Here are my orfe on 4/12/15:
Two orfe at the bottom and the top
Orfe - on the right, close-up.
Orfe - at the top, cut off.
I took a lot of photos of the big pond fish on 4/10/14. My two orfe are in
most of the photos but may be hard to find.
Pond fish on 2/23/14. There are two orfe at the top but they are hard to see.
On 6/29/12, a derecho hit. The power went out. The oxygen went down. I took these photos the
next day, 6/30/12. One of my two large orfe was dying and then did.
Dying orfe under the Cyprio filter (power was out)
Dead orfe with ruler, right side, 18 inches long
Dead orfe with ruler, left side.
Pond fish including two orfe at the top on 5/20/12.
1800 gallon pond fish - koi, orfe, and goldfish, on 3/18/12. The two large koi are at the top center and left center. I do not see the two smaller orfe in this photo.
1800 gallon pond fish on 3/6/12 - I marked one of the orfe. I think the others are near it in the photo but it is hard to see.
These photos were taken by my brother, sometime in July 2011 perhaps. There are also koi and
goldfish in the photos.
Pond fish - orfe (bottom left)
Pond fish - orfe (top)
Pond fish - orfe (top)
Pond fish - two orfe
Pond fish - two orfe
Two new orfe - two new baby orfe (along with
six goldfish) on the day that I got them, 4/28/11.
Two new orfe - two new baby orfe (along with six goldfish) on the day that I got them, 4/28/11.
These photos are from 9/26/10 when I put the full nets on the ponds. I took photos of the big
pond after the half net was off but before I put on the full net:
1800 gallon pond fish - the two orfe are at the top
1800 gallon pond fish - one orfe is at the top middle; one orfe is at the right middle.
1800 gallon pond fish - the two orfe are on the right.
1800 gallon pond fish - one orfe is at the upper right; one orfe is at the very top in the middle (cut off).
I took these photos on 4/11/10. You can see my three orfe in most of the photos. Each photo
is closer in than the next.
1800 gallon pond fish - one orfe at the top, two at the left
1800 gallon pond fish - two orfe at the top
1800 gallon pond fish - one orfe at the top (the old one), one in the middle
On 3/7/10, I removed my poor dead 18.5", 13-year-old orfe. I have one more old one left.
Warning - the orfe is partially decomposed as it was unreachable for about a month after dying
due to the net being frozen in four feet of snow. You can see how deep bodied orfe are.
Dead orfe with ruler, side view.
Dead orfe top view.
These photos from 4/12/09 show the pond fish at the best time of the year (clear water, no
plants). These photos show koi, goldfish, and orfe. After the first few photos, I assume you
which are the orfe.
Pond fish from a distance, facing southwest.
Pond fish - the two largest orfe at the bottom right
Pond fish- the two largest orfe are at the bottom right.
Pond fish - close-up of the two big orfe at the bottom right.
These photos were taken 10/5/08 when the net was off the 1800 gallon pond.
Pond fish - Colin (koi) and an orfe are at the top; the rest are goldfish.
Pond fish - Colin (white koi) in the middle, Maggie's (orange koi) head to the right, an orfe in the middle, and goldfish.
Pond fish - Colin (white koi) on the right, Maggie at the top, an orfe on the left, and goldfish.
I was in the pond on 6/24/07 and took this photo of the fish.
Pond fish - my big koi, Maggie, is in the middle. The two big orfe are at the top of the photo. One of the baby orfe is below the big orfe on the right. The rest are goldfish.
Close-up of Maggie from the previous photo which also shows a close-up of the baby orfe and goldfish.
Pond fish under the pond net on 6/23/07. An orfe is in the upper left of the photo, and another is on the bottom right but harder to see.
Three new orfe still in the bag on 5/11/07. One
is in mid gasp!
Three new orfe and bullfrog tadpole (view above the bag) on 5/11/07 before release.
Three new orfe and bullfrog tadpole (view above the bag) on 5/11/07 before release.
Pond fish being fed on 4/29/07. One of the orfe can be seen on the far left. There is a net over this part of the pond.
Pond fish on 1/6/07. The upside-down orfe is on the bottom near the middle of the photo. The two healthy orfe are immediately to the left and right of him. Here is a close-up of the orfe from that photo. There is a net over the pond.
Orfe - on 9/24/06. This shows a healthy orfe and my upside-down sick orfe. The photo has words on it to mark which fish are which.
Sick orfe - this is my orfe that has been upside down
for months. He/she is also now becoming anorexic. This was taken on 8/31/06.
Pond fish on 8/31/06. You can see two orfe at the top.
Pond fish on 8/31/06. You can see two orfe at the top just barely.
Pond fish on 4/30/06. I marked (with black letters) two orfe in the photo on the left and top middle.
Pond fish under the net on 4/19/06. They are mostly goldfish. My koi, Colin, is at the bottom with algae growing on him. Two of my orfe are on the far right.
Pond fish on 3/26/06. You can see all three living orfe near the right. This was before one of them started living upside down.
On 8/14/05, one of my 18" golden orfe was found stranded in the shallow area of the waterfall
following a power outage on a hot day with a plant-covered pond. He probably was trying to
jump to get some oxygen. So, here are rare photos of a big orfe out of water. He was a beauty. I
was very upset. I am sure the other three big orfe miss him.
Orfe - left side.
Orfe - right side
Orfe - top view. This is how I was used to seeing him. The orfe was much deeper bodied than I thought. From the top, the orfe look really skinny and have those black dots. But, from the sides, he almost looks like a goldfish.
Here are two photos that include the orfe on 1/9/05:
Fish - the orfe are labeled, sort of close- up.
Fish - farther away, all four orfe.
These next six photos with orfe are all from 12/28/03. You will notice that now that the orfe are
mature, they have these humps on their heads that they did not have when younger.
Pond fish including orfe.
Pond fish including orfe
Close-up of orfe with a medium goldfish to compare size
Pond fish with orfe at the bottom
Here is a photo from Lilypons on 8/31/03 that includes a small orfe at the top.
Pond fish - 3/23/03, on the bottom left is an orfe (not a close up shot).
Pond fish - 3/9/02, one orfe is in the upper part
of the photo with the
Pond fish - 12/26/01, orfe are mixed in with other fish
Pond fish - 12/26/01, two orfe have arrows pointing to them
Orfe - June, 2001, close up of just an orfe
Orfe - 4/30/01, three orfe on the far left
Orfe - 3/25/01, four orfe at the top
Orfe - 3/25/01, three orfe at the top
Two orfe - both marked, one of the big ones on the bottom, "small" one on the top, 6/18/00.
Three orfe - big one at upper left, "small" one at upper center, "small" one right above feeding ring, 6/18/00.
Two orfe - big one at upper left center, small one at far right, 6/18/00.
Three small orfe - one near the bottom center, one near the middle right by the pump, and one near the top middle of the photo, 2/20/99.
Two large orfe - my two large golden orfe near the bottom right, a few of the small orfe can be seen at the top right, 2/20/99.
Wayne's Spawning Orfe:
Wayne sent me photos of his orfe spawning in his pond's stream on 5/7/06 for the first 7 below and 5/14/06 for the last two. This is the third year his orfe have spawned in the 12 foot stream. He gets hundreds of fry. One of his orfe, named Mobby, was nearly white. Mobby turned white over a four month period when about 3 years old and was 8 years old in 2006 when he/she died.
Four orfe in the stream
An orfe in the stream
Five orfe in the stream
Two orfe in the stream, close-up
Four orfe in the stream
Four orfe in the stream
Wayne's stream with four orfe in it
The deceased white orfe - unfortunately, she/he died a week after spawning (but maybe his/her genes will live on!)
Wayne's waterfall and pond
For more photos of Wayne's neat pond including one of a school of young orfe, check out his page on my new Pond Showcase: Wayne's World.
Other People's Orfe:
On 2/29/08, Andy in the UK sent me these photos of his pond and orfe.
Five Orfe in water
Two Orfe in a net
Two Orfe in a net
One Orfe in a net, on its side
I used the search engines and could not find a single link with more than two words on orfes. If you know of a site with pictures and/or information about golden orfes or other orfes, please e- mail me so that I can add it here!
Someone e-mailed to me the following links on orfe:
Orfe Photo - some photos, at least one includes a golden orfe
Leuciscus idus - information on the occurrence of introduced orfe/ide in the United States
This link I found on another pond site:
Dave sent this link to his site which includes information about his orfe and a video of them
feeding. Click on "Pond Life" or "Watch orfe video."
Dave's orfe page
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