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Goldfish: In a Pond
Our history of Goldfish and ponds
Admit it, at one time or another you've owned a goldfish. Everyone has. You either won it at a bazaar or County Fair. Maybe, if you're as old as I am (which is about the age of dirt) you bought one in a five and dime. Even the ones who only lived 24 hours count towards ownership. We've had our fair share. Our first goldfish, won at a bazaar, was exciting for my children. We brought home the tiny fish in the very recognizable clear bag half full of water. We kept him in a bowl but got tired of changing the water every day so we bought a small fish tank and filter. We took very good care of Jaws. He lived for 13 years. He left our house to live with my son when my son got married. Still having kids, who missed the goldfish, we got another. Herbie lived in the tank with us until my daughter got married and he then went to live with her. He lived about 10 years. We must have a good goldfish karma. Fortunately my other two children weren't interested in goldfish so our tanks disappeared and no more goldfish were brought home.
We changed tank sizes twice. The kids found out the bigger the tank the bigger the fish will get. It's true! Jaws was probably 7" long when he passed and Herbie was 6". They suffered various hardships (which is a story for another time) but always survived.
Now, in the course of human events I decided I wanted a pond in my backyard. Our first pond was a small preformed plastic one. It was 18" deep and about 4 feet. It wasn't round thus the "about" in its circumference. There are many types of ponds you can get or build.
Missing the goldfish, I decided we should get goldfish for the pond making our pond a goldfish pond. Obviously I know how to care for goldfish indoors, but outdoors is another ballgame. So, I did my research. If I wanted to keep goldfish alive here in the Northeast, the pond had to be at least 3 feet deep. Eighteen inches is obviously short of three feet. So, we put in a second pond. We bought a heavy gauge rubber lining and dug a 3' hole. Our second pond is 3' deep and about 6' in circumference. I say about, again, because we didn't nearly get it round. Interesting isn't it? I wanted a pond and now I have two.
On to buying fish. Everyone knows what goldfish look like. They're gold and fairly plain. So, I decided I was going to buy shubunkin goldfish (just fancy goldfish.) Shubunkin are hardy and come in beautiful colors, often calico in nature. They are also known as the poor man's Koi. Blue is the most prized color in a shubunkin according to Wikipedia. In addition to its interesting coloring it has a long flowing tail fin that is often as long as the fish itself. Shubunkin will also eat just about anything making them easy to feed. So, off I went to buy shubunkin. I bought two shubunkin, one blue fish and one gold fish and one black fish, and in addition two regular goldfish. We name all our animals, even our fish as you may have noticed. The blue shubunkin was Bonnie and the gold and black was Clyde. The one goldfish was Goldie and the other Pluto.
Now, a pond is natural right? Well, sort of. If you put fish in your pond you have to start thinking about the balance in the pond. Too many fish can be toxic to the fish - is that true of people too? Not enough proper plants and you won't have proper aeration. Of course you have to have a filter to filter out the fish waste. So, of course we bought a pond filter. Next was plants. The number one plant is anacharis. This plant acts as a cover for the fish when they want to hide, aerates the water, and they like to nibble on it. Okay, two bunches of anacharis purchased. I had to have water lilies because they're so pretty. I thought I was buying them solely for my enjoyment but then found out they provide shade and shelter for the fish as well. So, two water lilies were added to the pond. Now I'm on a roll. I bought a water plant called candy stripe because it was supposed to grow tall and it looked cool. Of the three plants, only anacharis didn't require potting. We'll revisit this issue in my next capsule.
We're all set; four fish and three plants in our filtered pond!
And the Pond Does Well
This was an exciting year. We fed our fish every night at the same time. Not sure if it's the fish or us that are creatures of habit. In a few short weeks we were both trained. When the fish saw us coming near the pond they would swim to where we fed them and wait patiently. In no time at all we had them eating out of our hands. My grandchildren thought that was the bomb. They loved to come and feed the fish. Being the gluttons that they are you could now feed the fish anytime of day or night. As soon as they saw your shadow coming near the pond they would swim to their eating spot and wait. Put the food in your hand and viola, fish eating out of your hand. Remember earlier I told you we'd revisit the potted plant thing? Well, come to find out shubunkin and goldfish alike love to dig in plants. You have to cover the tops of the pot with rocks to keep the little darlings from digging the dirt out and mucking up the water. Another lesson learned the hard way.
One day I noticed a jelly like substance forming on the plants. I picked some off and squeezed it between my fingers but it didn't seem to have a lot of substance and it wasn't hurting anything so I just let it go. I was in for quite the surprise, the jelly like substance contained the eggs the fish had laid. We had no idea if any of the fish were male or female so multiplication was not on our list. It's extremely difficult to sex fish. Obviously we had males and females because in early August I noticed these tiny little silver like things darting around in the pond. Again, I didn't know what they were and they weren't hurting anything so I let them go. Each day the little silver things began to grow and before long we had 120 baby fish swimming with the others. It didn't take me long to figure out what the jelly like substance and silver things were. Some of them were truly beautiful shubunkins and some were plainer looking goldfish so we had our suspicions.
There was no way we could keep 124 fish in our pond. I called the pet store and asked if they would like some baby fish to which they replied yes. They were very surprised when I brought in a bucket filled with 118 baby shubunkins! We decided to keep 4 babies just for posterity sake.
As the weather began to get colder we knew we had to stop feeding the fish. If you feed them when the water is below 50 degrees it can kill them. We also found that leaving the plants in the pond with the fish over the winter can kill them too. The plants suck the oxygen out of the pond and don't leave any for the fish. So, in late September, early October we stopped feeding the fish. In mid to late October we took the plants out and put them in the small pond. We also cleaned out as many dead leaves as we could to keep the water clean and fresh. We unplugged the filter after the first frost. Winter came, as it does every year, and the pond froze. Now it was a waiting game. Would the fish survive? Would they be smart enough to go deep into the pond? We wouldn't know until spring.
When spring came and the pond began to thaw, I went out everyday to check the pond for signs of life. Finally, when the pond had thawed completely and the water began to warm, I saw signs of life in the bottom of the pond. They had made it!
Each year since then we have had new experiences. We found out Clyde was suicidal. He jumped out of the pond and we found him laying on a rock. We put him in the small pond for 2 weeks and he was fine, so we returned him to the fish pond. The following year was a winter of freeze and thaw and several of the fish got confused. When I went out in the spring four of them were frozen in the ice.
We have had four or five frogs appear in the pond. Don't know how they get there, but they find it and spend the summer. Some are not smart enough to hibernate and we find them frozen in the pond in the springtime.
Having fish and a backyard pond is fun, entertaining, and a little bit of work.
"Pond Fish" Swimming together
2011 Pond News
Our goldfish didn't make it through the winter this year so we decided to try Koi. After a month of living with two Koi (who tripled in size during that time) we decided we wanted our Shubunkins back. Why you ask? Koi like to live along the bottom of the pond and tend to stir up any and all muck found there. The result is a pond with dirty water. We tried everything to clean up the water and further research taught us that's the way Koi are. To keep a Koi pond clean you need to take at least 2/3s of the water out every three to four weeks. That's too much work for me and it took me almost a month to train the Koi to eat out of my hand.
We gave our Koi to a friend with a Koi pond (you can't see his fish either) and bought two Shubunkin. Our pond is crystal clear and within a week the Shubunkins were eating out of my hand. Obviously these are subjective opinions and decisions, but I love my Shubunkins. I also have a baby bullfrog hanging out. He's not as big as the one in my picture, yet, but its fun to hear his little 'croak'.
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