My little garden pond, now in its second summer, is very green. It is green because it does not have any of those gizmos–pump, filter, aerator, fountain–that use electricity. It does have a tiny fountain and an aerator, but they both run on solar power. Since this is Vermont and not Morocco, the fountain and the aerator run very sporadically. This makes the pond green in the second sense, i.e., full of algae.
I am pleased with my green pond, and so are the frogs–some as big as squirrels and some as small as my thumb–and the water lilies that are slowly covering its surface, the water bugs and the dragon flies. For a while, I thought there was going to be a problem getting fish to like it. The first year, against the advice of my pond guru, I bought two shubunkin (beautiful little spotted goldfish that look like koi). The minute I released them into the pond they disappeared into its murky depths. I didn\’t see them again until I found their dead bodies during the spring cleanup.
This summer, thinking that by now the ecology of the pond should be well established, I bought two more shubunkin. I rushed home from the store, floated their bag on the pond to equalize the water temperature, and released them. They instantly vanished into the murk, and a week later one of them floated to the surface, dead. I fed it to the chickens, and started to think that my pond just wasn\’t good enough for fish.
I concluded that the problem was the depth to surface ratio. We had made one end of the pond three feet deep, so that it wouldn\’t freeze completely solid and critters could hibernate on the bottom. But the surface area is relatively small–about four by ten feet. I theorized that the pond was too deep for its surface, and despite the efforts of the little fountain, not enough oxygen was getting into the water. Pretty soon, I thought, even the frogs would start dying. So I bought a solar-powered bubbler.
With the fountain and the bubbler going and the water lilies blooming and the frogs disporting themselves, the pond was looking quite nice I thought…but it badly needed some fish–something to provide a flash of orange in all that green. This time I would be conservative, however, and buy plain feeder fish. On the way to the store, I had an attack of guilt. \”Aren\’t we condemning these poor animals to death?\” I said to my husband. \”But these are feeder fish,\” he said. \”In a way, we\’re giving them a chance to live.\” We bought four, and brought them home.
For the third time I floated the plastic bag to equalize the water temperature; for the third time, I released the fish into the pond; for the third time, they disappeared. I resigned myself to having just a plain old frog pond, to enjoy the splash of the fountain (if the sun was out) and the lilies and the water bugs. I let go of my desire for fish completely.
And then one day when I was sitting watching the frogs I thought I saw a flash of orange in the water. I blinked, and it was gone. I looked again, and there it was, under a lily pad–a fish, and not just a fish, but the disappeared shubunkin that I had assumed was dead. And next to it–oh joy–was a plain orange shape, one of the feeder fish that had also somehow survived.
Since that day two weeks ago, there have been a few more sightings. Once I saw three fish at the same time. Clearly there is fish life in the murk, but the fish are so small and the murk is so thick that you can only see them if they come close to the surface. This of course makes the sight of a fish a far more exciting event than if they were visible all the time.
It\’s a funny thing about water. When I\’m on the patio there\’s a lot to look at: the flower beds, the apple trees, the vegetable garden, the woods, the chickens. But most of the time, I\’m just looking at the pond.
(Please note: I am working on improving this site, but am managing to make things worse in the process. Let us hope that that is only temporary.)