にしきごい … Nishikigoi and The Garden Pond

I said nothing.
And hung up the telephone.

Having purchased the house in September of 2009,
my wife and I ventured out during a sub-zero ‘cold snap’
one December morning,
to plan where to begin the work that would be needed
to rejuvenate its somewhat neglected garden.

Arriving at the far end of a raised portion of ground,
I paused and bent down to tug at the protruding end
of an old, partially buried … kitchen sink.

What I saw made me miss a breath.

There, in a corner, in the equivalent of about
two cups of water … were two goldfish
almost encased – solid – in ice.

I was deeply distressed by the sight;
disgusted that two fish had been
overlooked and forgotten;
and tried not to think of them dying like that.

Giving the ice a sharp tap in attempt to, at least,
remove and bury the fish properly,
I was shocked – when the block came loose,
to see ice water flow from beneath,
… and one of the fish move.

Trying not to actually drop the ice in my
what-can-only- be-described-as ‘controlled panic’,
I rushed inside the house and immediately
began filling a bucket with cold (ignoring the
overwhelming desire to want to quickly
warm the fish) water.

Adding a generous amount of chlorine neutralizing
drops, I returned to that disgusting, discarded sink
beneath the tree.

Placing ice and fish in the bucket,
I brought them indoors and held my hands
(taking needed pauses to re-warm them)
around the ice to speed its melt

Quickly able to actually cradle one fish in each hand,
I could not believe it when both began to move
and swim feebly on their own.

Genuinely upset, I found the house sale papers,
turned to one section in particular,
picked up the telephone
and called the woman whose house we had bought,
to tell her of my ‘find’, and that
her overlooked fish were alright.

“Oh,” she replied … “they’re still there?”
“We just let the fish freeze every winter,
and buy new ones in the spring.”

I was livid.

Said nothing.

Felt the silence.

Ignored her ‘Hello? Hello?”

And hung up the telephone.

A Graceful Turn … One of the two little goldfish that was saved from the ice.

They feel the cold,
they feel frightened,
they feel pain,
and they play when they are happy.

They are fish.
And, like any animal, they deserve the care
of any human being
who has them in their garden.

Nothing is as loathsome to me as Apathy.

The type of vicious, obscenity-spewing savages
that are lauded as “ real men” today
are brute beasts
who openly reveal themselves as such
to anyone of maturity.

But self-centred ingrates who “use”,
and “enjoy”, or in any way ‘benefit from’

the work, efforts, or good will of any person;
or the loyalty or affection of an animal,

and yet refuse to go ‘out of their way’
to lift a finger in gratitude,

are the most repulsive of creatures:
characterless hypocrites who know to do good,
but CHOOSE to do nothing.

No one who has visited this site
and read its contents, will imagine
that I have any admiration for the Internet.

It is the greatest method (the television alone
excepted) ever invented by man to promote
Confusion, Conflict, and Cruelty
amongst human society.

It is the theatre for every form of narcissism;
the soap-box for every quick-buck con man;
and the podium for propagating infantilism,
arrogance and inexperience.

With rare exception, the Internet is
a labyrinth of nonsense, arrogance, and ignorance
promulgated by those who are out to
to ‘impress’, amass ‘followers’, or sell
a personal agenda or business product.

Any occasional truth … comes only after wading
through a cesspool of fantasy, vanity,
malignity, and outright malice.

Common Sense, Empathy, and a Compassionate heart,
will do far more for that rare person
endued with discretion,
than the massed hordes of Internet ‘experts’
combined.

By proposing a few thoughts from experience,
I hope to encourage one person
who would like to give and receive
the mutual enjoyment that comes from
caring for ornamental fish in a garden pond.

BUILDING a Home … on the 11th of January

In the part of the world where we currently find ourselves,
Racoons are nightly visitors to the garden;
and whilst their splash patterns on the stones
evidence that they enjoy a refreshing bath
in the water garden on a summer’s night …
we want them to keep away from the fish.

The answer – from our brief experience here –
was to build a free-standing fish pool.

The first stop was to visit a specialist lumber yard
for the purchase of fifteen, 4x6x10’
heavy ‘landscape’ ties.

After digging down to ensure that there
was no plant life that might one day
reach the surface only to find the horror
of an impenetrable barrier of pond liner,

a base of boulders was laid,
its crevices in-filled with crushed rock,
and then ‘padded’ with a layer of sand.

Upon this solid base, we began the process
of building the shell …

A piece of old pond liner was placed
on the ground to ‘pad’ the liner
that would actually be containing the water …

Special attention – and excessive time –
is always spent ensuring the liner
fits snuggly into the corners;

and that folds are made with meticulous care
to make them as minimal, and smooth, as possible.

THE PUMP and POND FILTER

Now, a little word about all those remedies
and promises that will (I am sure) be found
on the Internet, on the subject of garden ponds,
algae, and ‘green water’ …

Yes, barley straw and ‘oxygenating’ plants are fine
IF you have a large, natural pond. The ‘field pond’
in our previous home filtered itself quite nicely –

there are, after all, country homes in Britain
and Europe, that use reed beds on boggy ground
as a sewage treatment centres
– and they do wonderfully well.

BUT once you move to smaller ponds,
the number of fish, resultant biological wastes,
sunlight, algae spores, and falling vegetation
all affect the confined environment
of smaller ponds.

Please take up my suggestion to INVEST
in a proper, quality filter
that will clean the water, neutralise the algae,
and remove waste from the pond itself.

Do Not frustrate yourself with the ‘advice’
promises, and do-it-yourself gizmos that
might work for one person in one specific location,

but will end up wasting your time, money,
and best intentions –
in a very short space of time indeed.

The Air Pump is thoroughly cleaned,
and all parts checked for signs of wear …

When considering airline hose,
the spiral ribbing is touted as being
much more resistant to crushing.

This it may well be, however, one must ask
quite WHY anyone should be ignorant and careless enough
to be ‘crushing’ the hose in the first place.

( Those ‘valleys’ between the ridges
are a wonderful home for algae
– which cannot be readily removed
by washing alone – here, the ‘clean patches’
are where the sponge has removed algae;
the remainder provides some indication
of the difficulty in getting in between the ridges. )

I have never, in over 50 years of caring for fish,
found any difficulty or disappointment with using
a quality, smooth hose …

The POND FILTER

The filter here is a very ‘standard’ one
that is made for ponds up to 2,000 gallons;
it will provide a clean, happy environment
for both fish and you.

Clean and check the filter unit –

examine the O-ring in the top channel …

clean and set the biological filter bags in place …

clean and insert the actual filter …

secure the lid in place and connect
the ‘input’ line from the pond pump,
and the ‘outflow’ line, which flows into the pond …

( The third outlet is used when cleaning the filter
– a hose is connected, and green algae-rich
fish-fertiliser-soaked water can be pumped
onto the garden beds. )

FILLING the POND

Once both filter and pump are again cleaned out
and rinsed thoroughly,
Water is added to stretch the liner:

With the pond filling ALWAYS ENSURE that crucial
de-chlorinating liquid has been ADDED
to the household water supply.

In the ‘natural’ pond: check for leaks
from water that is flowing backward
and escaping through some area of
liner whose fold lies below the water-line.

Two little birds enjoy a drink from our Water Garden.

In a Formal Pool, it means selecting rocks and plants
amidst which, the fish may play and hide
– and generally not appear to be in a quarantine tank.

Once the pond has been filled,
test the pump and filter unit …

This is the time to scrutinise the back of the
water reservoir for any leaks from the
input hose … as well as the hoses leading into
the water filter unit itself.

I follow the precaution of adding a final
deterrent to particles of muck getting through
the filter and being returned to the pond –

Here, a piece of filter material is simply
slotted into place immediately before
the waterfall return …

Note the colour of the white filter barrier
just Below the waterline … the results,
after three weeks, are self evident …

Plants having been added to give the fish
a ‘feel of their old home,
they are gently caught and placed in a large bag
to float in the new pool for a few hours
until the temperature in bag and pool are the same.

The whole project today has taken 10 hours,
and we are quite exhausted from our labours.

As cedar boards can be added later
to hide the exposed liner and act as a ‘top rail’
without any disturbance to the fish;

and additional stones placed gently, at leisure,
to provide a more ‘natural’ environment
in which the fish can play, and hide,
and generally feel secure …

not wishing to subject them to
an unnecessary stay in a container overnight,
the fish are gently introduced into their new home.

The following day, with completed Cedar Rail …

(In order to accommodate the water heater (here, in January),
the water level is kept slightly lower – being increased
when the water no longer requires heating.

A cover fits is placed on the pool when the fish are
‘put to bed’ for the night.)

All that is left is to add shrubs at leisure in order to
‘break up’ the outline of the pool itself.

Here, fragrant Sarcococca hides the filter unit
and wires leading to and from it
(and the pond heater in winter) …

If you are tender-hearted, patient, and compassionate
enough to want to give an animal a home,
simply remember that they feel the same
fear, pain, misery and contentedness as you …

and treat them with the empathy, care,
and attention to detail
that you would like to have others afford you.

Even a fish will respond to care, and
the joy of seeing them swim towards you
at “tea-time” to feed from your hand,
is truly, a wonderful thing.

P Livingstone
philiplivingstone.org