I had very high hopes for the new goldfish in our pond, but one morning last week, I went out and discovered two dead fish floating on top of the water. And I couldn't see any trace of the remaining members of the dozen we bought last weekend. Oh, no!
Apparently, topping up the water level and replacing the fountain pump weren't enough. So I researched and read what I could. I learned that over time, a poorly maintained pond, can have nitrites build up in the water, and the PH factor of the water changes, and it becomes a toxic environment for fish. Experts advise testing the water, using an oxygen pump to keep the water aerated, and periodically draining the pond by at least 2/3rds, cleaning out the muck and refilling it.
Now you'd think I would have known this. It only makes sense. Create a closed environment like an artificial pond, and you have to perform preventive maintenance. But I'm lazy and optimistic - and in denial - so I managed to create my own version of the Dead Zone. Victimizing my poor defenseless goldfish. I am a horrible person.
Today I decided to drain the pond and clean out all the muck. Then we'd refill it, let the water sit for a couple of days, and test it with a kit. Then we would replace the fish.
So I found a piece of short garden hose and used it and the fountain pump to drain the pond.
I reached in and started hauling out trailing roots of water plants that had outgrown their original pots and rooted in the mucky bottom.
As the water level went down, it revealed all the old plant pots - I hauled them out and let them drain. Oh, rotten dead iris rhizomes! Gah! Horror show!
Did you know that water-plant potting soil is composed mostly of clay, to keep it from drifting out of the pot? Did you know how heavy that clay can get, soaked with water?
I cleared out the horrible rotting corpses of old irises, and trimmed the rhizome of a iris survivor, replanting it in the pot. I carefully replaced the pot in the pond.
The water level went down and down and down. Soon I was able to reach the bottom, and haul out slimy, stinking mats of decomposed plant material. Some of it had quite alarmingly vigorous white roots growing into it.
It was not fun, reaching into murky water with your bare hands, pulling up slimy stuff. Did you know that a dead fish is exactly the shape and size of a rotted water-lily bud? Now I do!
I also managed to abruptly sit down right in a blob of nasty clay mud, while trying to pull up some tenaciously rooted thing.
I mucked and mucked, and periodically waited for the murky water to subside and clear so I could see what I was doing. And then - guess what?
Look - can you see them? Live fish! There were seven of them! They clustered together, like schoolchildren. They had survived, after all!
OK, now, change of plans. Don't drain the pond completely, just drain 3/4s of the water. Muck it out, and slowly refill it so the fish get clean water. Put the pump back on the fountain, so the water is aerated.
I trimmed and cleaned out the dead bits of the tropical water lily, the papyrus reed, the salvaged iris, and the red-stem thalia, hoping that they will revitalize.
Cross your fingers. Wish my little fishes good luck!