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koi pond & water gardens 1999
what we learned from our first pond:
The original pond was dug by our two sons, then aged
16 & 17, as a Mother's Day gift in 1998. Our very first attempt
at pond building was basically a hole in the ground, covered with
a liner and edged with concrete landscaping blocks.
Because our yard is not fenced, we thought a rim around
the edge would serve to alert kids running across the yard so they
wouldn't just run into the water.
What we didn't realize was that because of this design,
raccoons also were hesitant about entering the water. Since this
design worked so well, both for keeping kids and raccoons out of
the water, we've repeated it with our next 2 ponds - we've never
lost a fish to a raccoon.
Originally, the pond did not have a pump, filter, skimmer, or
a water treatment system of any sort.
We added several potted water plants, floating lettuce and water
hyacinths and lots of fish. One of our most extravagant purchases
was a striped turtle, who ran away from home after two days.
A small box filter with a pump & fountain was added in 1999.
It looked nice, but what a pain! the only way to clean the filter
was to get into the pond almost daily and take the thing apart.
The fountain was constantly clogged with algae and would stop
Learning by trial & error - We didn't know ANYONE with a
pond to give us tips or helpful information. Everything was learned
the hard way. Plants were more or less experimental, some survived,
most did not. The fish, too - we didn't want to invest in expensive
koi, so we tried goldfish, comets, orandas, and lionheads. The
majority of our fish population was donated by neighborhood children:
tiny goldfish they won at carnivals.
Later that summer, we added a tetra filter to move the water
around and clean it a bit by introducing bacteria. Totally by
accident, we had the right mix of fish, plants, sunlight and shade
to keep the water amazingly clear.
The winter dilemma - what to do with the fish?
Again, trial and error. The owner of a local garden center said
that as long as we had 18 inches of water, and kept a hole open
in the ice for gasses to escape, the fish would survive. We didn't
totally believe that! We set up a 75 gallon aquarium in the house
& brought some of the fish inside for the winter. Well ...
all of the outside fish did survive, every single one of them!
And the inside fish? About half of them died!
The large oranda in the picture to the left survived two winters
outside & died in 2000, from overeating, we think.