The third Monday of the month as some of us know, is the Austin Pond Society Monthly meeting night and as usual, the pond enthusiasts gathered at the Zilker Garden Meeting Room to share good food, good company and this month, a presentation by Vance Shultie, Owner of the Tank Hollow Fisheries in Poteet, Texas. Some members of the group had traveled to visit the farm a couple of weeks before.
This weeks food offering by our very own Chef, Sonja, consisted of either Ham or Chicken sandwiches with the fixings and as usual, topped off by a wonderful desert. The members, as the pictures show, really enjoyed the food offered to them. Many thanks to Sonja and her husband for providing such good food.
The usual order of things was changed a little bit at this meeting as Vance and his family traveled more than 100 miles to make their presentation so the APS business part of the meeting was held over until Vance Shultie of Tank Hill Fisheries had finished his presentation.
The entire process is very well documented and I found it quite fascinating especially when breeding time comes around at my house.
As to the presentation itself, I have watched the Koi in my ponds in their crazy attempts at breeding. It looks more like a rugby scrum or no holds barred wrestling match than the gentle art of lovemaking that humans usually associate with the deed. In my ponds, 2-3 male Koi chase the female around until she drops her eggs and then presumably add their own semen (milt) to seal the deal, so to speak. In the meantime, the rest of the Koi in the pond that are not actually involved in the mating ritual, follow along behind and gobble up all of the fertilized eggs having a field day with all of that protein. If I needed more fish, I might be upset at the banquet provided for the gallery but if the very occasional fish does make it, that’s fine by me. As you can imagine, I was very interested in the way that professional fish breeders perform their work under controlled conditions.
Watching the slides and listening to Dan discuss how he does this was a real eye opener. It is a real science as basically, the fish are drugged with a general anesthetic enough to slow them down so they can be handled (literally) and the eggs are “milked” out of the females into a dish followed by the male semen or milt as it is called, using the same procedure. Each milking produces up to 15,000 eggs many of which will not get fertilized. The eggs then go through a series of very carefully controlled steps until they end up in the large fish tanks where they remain for a couple of weeks after which they are sein netted and very carefully sorted and the culled fish are fed to the Bass that Dan also raises. The “saved” fish are sold depending on their quality either to other breeders or to fish stores, garden centers and the like.
So when this coming Spring rolls around and my Koi are madly dashing all over the ponds, I will have a much better idea of what is going on even though, unlike Vance, I will have absolutely no control over the process.
Following the presentation, the Pond Society members turned back to the more mundane things that make our Society tick. Things like looking for a new Newsletter Editor, the position recently vacated by Mary Word and discussions of the upcoming meetings. One part of the meeting is devoted to members questions or “problems” and for this meeting I had a problem that I wanted to discuss and bring to the members attention.
Basically, I have 4 ponds, 2 of which are joined by a weir and share the same water. The other two are totally separate, the oldest of which is about 5000 and the new one completed about 3 months ago is even bigger at about 6000 gallons. The joined ponds are 2500 gallons and 1300 gallons respectively. I first noticed that the fish in the 2500 gallon pond were all huddled together quite literally one on top of the other, under cover in the deepest part of the pond. I immediately assumed that the Heron had started coming around again as the fish that have had a Heron scare, can take up to a couple of weeks before acting normally. Then I noticed that the goldfish in the lower pond were dying so quickly figured that it was not a heron problem and had to be something else. In the next couple of days, two of the very large Koi were floating on the top and I noticed one more that was upside down on the bottom. These Koi were probably 24 inches long and over 10 pounds each and I hate to lose fish that big. I checked the water and all of the readings were in the normal range but I decided to do a water change in both the upper and lower ponds as that sometimes cures a lot of fish problems. A bit like turning the computer off and then back on to get it to work right. It’s no simple task to do water changes as first you need to pump out a large quantity of water and find a place for it to run and then conversely, to fill the ponds making sure to add dechlorinator as the ponds fill. The whole process takes several hours.
While all of this was going on, the fish in the first pond, the 5000 gallons pond, were all showing the same symptoms but none had died so once more I did a water change of about 3000 gallons, again, no mean feat. Then, the fish in the new pond, started to do the same thing. The water in this pond is only about 3 months old so I decided to hold off on the water change and see what develops. In the meantime, I added sea salt to all of the ponds and it did seem to help as the fish began to perk up. All of this happened over about a months time period. To date, things appear to be back to normal. The fish are acting as they normally do just lazily swimming around unless I walk by with fish food then they all go nuts as they look to feed. I am still not sure what the problem may have been and whether it was a one time thing or whether there is a chance of it reoccurring. Needless to say, I am keeping a very close eye on things.
The rest of the meeting was devoted to the drawing and final announcements one of which by Glen regarding the upcoming APS Calendar and the need to get in pictures, Jeanne talked about a trip to San Antonio and the Ragan’s discussed holding a members only get together at their house on September 21. Details will be posted in “Ripples”. Stay tuned.
The next meeting will be on September 15 at the same time and place.