dimanche 21 octobre 2012

Container fish pond

Hospital rooms

Container gardens are normal. Container fish ponds are not.

The first fish I saw, lying on its side in the fish-pond-in-the-fountain, was last week. I don't remember the day. It had been pouring, raining cats and dogs for hours, days on end since I was able to get the lawn mowed before the truck came to collect the bin of garden cuttings and grass clippings Monday evening. I felt a stab. I care about the fish. I told myself that it was the violence of the rain; it had made the water level rise above the edge of the brick ledge and the fish had gotten trapped out of the water, then fallen back in after it died.

Then I saw another.

It's not possible to believe that this could happen to two fish, at the same time. I removed their bodies and kept a look-out. The next day, there were more dead fish. And another, one of the fish from the original population before the big freeze in January 2009 killed nearly all the fish, leaving only 4 of more than 40, was looking very iffy. Reading that post today, I can't even believe that I could write a seemingly tongue-in-cheek poem about their loss. I was sick about it at the time, but it had to have been the joy at finding 4 still alive that left me nearly giddy with some kind of relief that returned some of my humor. By yesterday, I had no good humor left. None whatsoever.

I yelled at everyone. I had removed more than 15 dead fish, and every day there were more dead fish. 7 alone yesterday morning before we made the decision to remove all of them to individual bowls, large liquid measuring cups, vases, plastic food containers and Tupperware. I cursed myself for not having more clear mixing bowls or at least Tupperware.

The day before, having spotted one of the original pinkish fish clinging to the wall of the pond, another at its side, I knew others were fragile; I was going to lose more. You can just tell. They become lethargic. I went to the garden store and bought enough salt to treat the pond water and the last remaining bottle of fungicide, and I had picked up a box of "powerful" all-purpose tablets to dissolved in their water. The only problem was that they each treat 30 liters and are intended for aquariums, not individual containers of many volumes for fish in isolation. I had to get a somewhat large, handled flexible plastic basket I use for cuttings and fill it, a half liter at a time, with 15 liters of tap water from the kitchen sink, pour the dissolved capsule into it, and then mix that medicated water with an equal part of regular tap water, bowl by vase by container until the 34 fish I had retrieved were rehoused. It took more than 2 hours.

We began to drain the 6,000 something liter fish pond with a hose into the bottom garden, leaving a bit in case there were more fish in there somewhere.

That night, we moved all the containers to the guest room in the petite maison to protect them from predators, and this morning, there were 3 more dead fish, one small one from this year, one large red-orange fish, and one of the triplets. I know most of my fish. They have characteristics that identify them and stories.

The maman fish, my personal favorite, the one who always got fed first, racing across the water to me, her mouth out of the water and working to take the koi stick proferred from between my thumb and forefinger, never appeared. I couldn't remember the very last day I had seen her. It couldn't have been long before the heavy rains began. She must be gone, like my most gruesome discovery last week of one of the large shubunkin, half decomposed with only the head remaining, caught between the wall of the fountain and the stalks of pond grass and reeds. I don't see any evidence of her body, but it could be hidden from my sight. Still, I found all of the dead fish near the surface. Another had disappeared some time before. He was a red-headed, compact shubunkin I had treated for some illness or another several years ago and saved, and who had been particularly sexually assertive this year, hence the number of baby shubunkin in the pond this season.

While I curse our house and dream every day of moving away, the one thing that has kept me from doing enough work on it to sell and go away has been the fish-pond-in-the-fountain. The life in it fascinates me. I photograph the fish and the frogs who have chose to make it home and to breed there more than nearly anything else in the garden. To lose the fish is like losing small, scaled, colorful friends.

I removed the dead ones, added them to the plastic bag with yesterday's bodies, carried them to the trask bin and set to work repeating yesterday's task, making 30 liters of medicated water to add to another 30 liters of plain tap water, changing the water for 31 fish. Some appear to have red sores. Others gill or fin rot. Some of those also have fungal infections along the fin edges. Some seem to have nothing at all wrong.

Usually, I would bury a dead fish. There are too many. They are gone, so what does it matter what becomes of their bodies.

Later, I spied another small gray baby fish in the pond and removed it to a Pottery Barn cereal bowl of its own.

The frogs are still there. I see bubbles coming up from the mud at the bottom and occasionally a bronze-colored snout and two round eyes peer up at me, or a tinier green and brown frog will perch on the edge of the bird bath that once sat in the middle tier, between the cupid and the large one that is still there. The cupid supports one side of it, down at the bottom of the pond.

The Shubunkin that looked terrible yesterday seems better this afternoon. Several never looked like they were suffering in the least and are quite upset with me for this disturbance of their life and imposed isolation.

See the shubunkin at the upper edge of the lily pad

In happier days, October 7

I don't know what went wrong, but I suspect the pH dropped too low, causing a lack of oxygen and weakening the fish. I don't know. I didn't test the water right after all the rain, but heavy rainfall lowers pH. Still, a gradual change in pH won't negatively impact the fish, while a crash in the pH level is often fatal, but then you see peeling skin, not necessarily red sores and fin and gill rot. Perhaps there were just too many this season, many of the younger fish born since 2009 coming to sexual maturity this year and having produced a wonderful bumper crop. We were so proud and happy. I had estimated the population had climbed over 50, and having removed more than 25 dead fish and still having 31 alive today, I know there were at least 56. You need about 75 liters for one fish, and half that much for each additional fish. If our calculation of 6,000-something liters for our fish-pond-in-a-fountain is true, we have tons of extra water for many more fish.

All I can do is try to take more preventative action and better care once these survivors are able to return to their habitat. If no more die, we will have lost about half the fish, and of those we lost, approximately half were born this year and half were older. Right now, there are 14 from this year and 18 from years past, and if Darwin is right, they are the fittest.

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