The Second Fish Rescue.


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Mayfield Park

As I mentioned in the previous blog, I worked two fish rescues this past week. The one in Georgetown is the subject of that blog. This one was in a place called Kempner which I have never heard of. When I first received the email from Sonja asking for help with her fish, I had no idea that eventually it would lead to a 75 mile one way trip.

She explained in her email that caring for the pond was getting too much for her so she was going to close it down completely and would like someone to come and rescue the fish and find them good homes. We conversed and I made arrangements that I would visit her on Saturday. She sent me a Google Map of where she lived and the shortest route to get there as I had never driven up to that part of the State  which is another reason I agreed to make the rescue.

Basically, the drive was up Hwy 183 North for most of the way towards Killeen and Copperas Cove with a couple of tricky turn offs onto Hwy 190 before taking FM 1630. My GPS was only good so far and in the end, I had to rely on the printed Google Map for the final directions. It was an interesting drive and it is only when you drive on the less travelled roads do you realize just how big and beautiful this Country really is especially with Spring just breaking out.

I pulled up to the house which was on a country road way out in nowhere although with houses all the way up and down the street to be met by the Man of the house who opened the gate for me. He directed me to the pond and I was able to drive right up next to it which is always a plus. Then Sonja came out and greeted me with a thick German accent pleased to see that I had arrived early. We chatted for a bit and exchanged histories of the why’s and when’s of out arrivals to the States. All of this while the pond was pumping out.

Sonja told me that she had built the pond 15 years ago by herself except for a couple of the big rocks that required help and had maintained it herself in the interim. It  was her hobby but for the last year, it had started to get more work than she could handle and she admitted that she had sadly neglected it. She had very recently changed out the pump, a 3600 gph unit and was looking to sell it as she had no more use for it with the pond closing down.

It was obvious that the pond had been neglected. The water was very cloudy and it was almost impossible to see the fish. There was a huge of cluster of water lily plants growing in the middle that upon inspection, turned out to be just one lily. It had long overgrown the pot and was firmly rooted into the sludge on the bottom of the pond.

I put on my wellie boots, rubber boots to you Americans, and carefully climbed into the pond. Sonja was fussing over me the whole time so worried that I would slip and fall and indeed, the bottom was really slick but I managed to stay on my feet the whole time. With the water going down, I could spot the fish and went about the business of netting some them and handing them up to Sonja who transferred them to the containers.

I started to cut back the lily plant so that we could get it out of the pond it was so big. It took quite a while but eventually, I had it into smaller and more manageable pieces all of which could be repotted and would probably regrow. While I was working on the lily, Sonja and her Husband were trying to catch the remaining fish which were proving to be very elusive.

Finally, with the water level down and the lily out of the way, we were able to be very positive that we had netted all of the fish. Altogether, there was one very large Koi and 15 what I thought were black goldfish, all in beautiful condition regardless of the water condition. Fish are so adaptable.

We collectively reloaded my trailer including all of the water lily pieces and I carefully strapped everything in place. I told Sonja that the fish would probably end up in Mayfield Park which seemed to please her that many others would get the same pleasure out of them that she had.

I said my farewells and drove off trying hard to remember which roads I took coming up. Needless to say, the GPS was not showing the way back that I used to come up and redirected me at least 20 miles out of my way so instead of going to Cedar Park, I ended up on IH 35 in Killeen. Mumbling under my breath, I headed for Mayfield Park in Austin.

Being a weekend, the Park was very busy but luckily, there is an unloading zone right next to the entrance with no one in it. I parked and uncovered the trailer and loaded one of the containers onto my dolly. As I wheeled it into the area where the ponds are located which is very rough stone, the container managed to slip off the dolly and it and fish were everywhere. A couple of people stopped and helped to pick them up so that I could get them to the pond we had worked on the previous Saturday. It was over a week and I figured that the chlorine in the water had already dissipated. The second trip was uneventful and just like the time before when I was unloading the goldfish, I had a lot of help and questions from the younger members watching the whole process. Altogether, I placed 13  fish into that pond.

I repacked my trailer and made my way home with the Koi and a couple of the black (Gold) fish which I put into the 5000 gallon pond where they happily mingled in with the other fish that already reside there. In the opinion of at least one member of the Pond Society, it might turn out that the black fish may not be goldfish after all but common carp although the previous owner stated that she bought a black goldfish way back and has no recollection of any carp added to her pond.  Regardless, they are still beautiful fish in very good condition and will make a good addition to my pond and Mayfield Park. Koi are very close members of the Carp family anyway.

All in all, another successful fish rescue and I got to meet some more very nice people plus enjoying a trip to a different part of the State. Altogether, I covered around 160 miles because of the redirect to Killeen.

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An Easy Fish Rescue.


goldfish2 (002)This past week, I visited two different locations to rescue the fish and plants that the owners no longer wanted. That sounds a bit harsh and in both cases, they had very legitimate reasons for giving up their water hobbies. In the first case on Monday, the owner, Renee, was selling the property and she did not have the room to re-locate the fish. In the second instance, Sonja, the lady who contacted me stated that the pond was getting to be too much work for her.

I made arrangements with Renee to visit them in Georgetown on Monday. It was a bit of a problem finding her house as the GPS would not show her address. I even stopped to talk to the mailman but his directions were not that clear. I finally pulled into another guy’s driveway and he was able to point me in the right direction.

As it happens, Renee had been on the lookout for me and she was waiting at the top of her driveway. We chatted for a bit and she then redirected me around the back of her house to an 8 foot circular barn trough that had a couple of straggly looking plants growing out of it but was full of goldfish. They ranged in size from very small to about 6 inches.

It was a comparatively easy to catch them although not the cleanest of jobs as the tank had a lot of sediment in the bottom. I pumped it down as far as I could which left about 3 inches of water in the bottom and then went about netting the fish. Renee helped with her own net and between us we caught around 50-60 fish.

When that tank was emptied, she directed me to the side of the house where she had yet another small trough that held another 50 or so fish of which she had already caught 35  or so and had them in a 5 gallon bucket ready to transfer them to my tanks. Altogether, there must have been close to a 100 goldfish in my containers.

I packed up my trailer and after bidding goodbye, set off for Mayfield Park where I planned to populate a couple of the ponds. The journey to the Park was uneventful and I pulled in and began to unload the containers that held the fish. The Park was really busy and I got a lot of questions especially from the younger generation as they watched me rehome the fish into their new surroundings in two different ponds accompanied by the raucous racket of the Peacocks.

After emptying the containers, I repacked the trailer and made my way back home. The traffic was light making for all in all, a good rescue day.

Another Call for Help…


dsc_6211I received a call from a lady who had a couple of fish that needed a new home. Turns out, she had a small goldfish and an even smaller shubunkin. Both were well marked and pretty fish to look at. She was keeping them in a 10 gallon indoor aquarium and felt that as they grew, they would need more room.

I made arrangements to meet her at her apartment the following Saturday. As it happens,  her apartment was less than two miles from my house. It took me a while to locate it after I got into the complex and was saved by her hanging out over her balcony, waving madly at my car.

Just as she had stated, the fish were in the 10 gallon aquarium totally unaware that they were about to be moved from their very secure location indoors to a 2000 gallon pond where they could mix and mingle with many of their own kind. They would certainly lose the luxury of being the center of attention as they were going to be with about 60 of their own kind.

I asked Beth, the lady who called me for something to transfer some of the water from the aquarium into my 5 gallon bucket and without further ado, using my very tiny 4 inch square net, quickly caught the fish and transferred them into the bucket where they swam around checking it out.

I said farewell to Beth who along with her daughter, said goodbye to the fish as I walked out of the door. The short drive home took 10 minutes and I quickly placed the fish into the goldfish pond. With that many fish in the pond, it will be a job to pick out the goldfish in the future but the shubunkin will be very visible as it is a pretty little fish.

This has got to be by far and away, the easiest and quickest fish rescue I have ever done. I wish they were all this easy….

Barbara Hale’s Fish Story – Reposted


This story is a re-post of a story written by Barbara Hale.

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          A few weeks after my husband put in a backyard pond, I was in the Walmart pet department looking at goldfish and Koi. As enthusiastic new pond-keepers, we were always looking for more fish.

While peering into aquariums at the limited selection of fish, I overheard a loud customer speaking to the store manager. “Why can’t you take it? It’s perfectly healthy. I’m giving it to you for free!” she said.  “I just want it to go to a good home.”

This exchange peaked my interest so I moved closer to listen. The manager told her that Walmart had strict health regulations and could not take in a donated fish. The woman looked devastated. I approached her saying, “Excuse me, but are you trying to find a home for a fish?”

She told me she had an eight-inch goldfish that was too large for her aquarium and no one she knew wanted it. She’d had it for many years, ever since it was tiny. Due to back problems, she could no longer clean such a large aquarium.

I told her about our new pond and that I’d be delighted to take the fish. What luck! We needed a large fish; she needed a home for her large fish. Her face lit up and she asked me to follow her home. Once there, she netted the fish into a bucket, and walked me with the fish to my car. I thanked her profusely insisting she come visit some time to see her fish in its new home. She told me she’d certainly do that so I gave her our address and said, “Drop by any time.”

Several months later, my husband found the fish belly-up in our pond. “This is horrible,” I said. “What if that nice woman shows up to see her fish? We’ve got to find one that looks just like it!” My husband was unable to talk me out of it, so we drove to a store  that sells fish and pond supplies. It was a pond owner’s dream. On the grounds were rows of pond plants and an enclosure for turtles. Under an arbor behind the building was a beautiful pond with lots of large koi and goldfish—a perfect model for those interested in building their own ponds. Inside it, I spotted a goldfish who looked almost identical to our dearly departed one. How perfect!

We told an employee we’d like to buy a goldfish from out back. He followed us out to the pond area which was flanked by several rectangular vats containing various types and sizes of goldfish and koi. When I pointed out the one I wanted in the pond, he said, “Oh, those aren’t for sale. They’re impossible to catch.” He directed me to a vat of goldfish I could choose from, but none were large enough.

So I told him my whole impassioned story about why we needed that particular fish, and how happy the woman at Walmart was that her fish would go to a good home, and how she could drop by any day to see her fish. He was shaking his head back and forth as he listened. Then, after a long sigh, he said, “Okay, I see what you mean. I’ll try.”

With his long-handled net, he scooped this way and that through the pond, stirring up sediment from the bottom as all the terrified fish darted in every direction. I did what I could to assist by continually pointing out the target fish, saying things like, “There he is—no, there. Oops! Oh, here he is. Oh wait—now he’s over there.”  This went on for a good twenty minutes but miracles do happen; he finally caught the fish! By that time the pond was a muddy mess and the exhausted employee was soaked. We were so grateful he didn’t give up.

We took the new fish (which looked almost the same) home and named it Replacement. Twelve years have passed and Replacement still thrives in our tranquil pond. His former owner, the woman I met in Walmart, has never come to visit.


 

The Heron, the problem for all pond owners.


dsc_0620I have had run ins with Herons for the past several years. Anyone that has a backyard pond will get a visit from these very large and beautiful birds usually to the detriment of the fish in their pond, sooner or later. The Heron is only doing what Nature has equipped it to do and that is to catch fish either to feed its young or to feed itself to stay alive. They are huge or at least they have a huge wing span of close to six feet and they also stand around four and half feet tall.

After several visits over the years, it became a contest between me and the Herons. In my case to prevent them from eating my fish and in their case, the ever ongoing challenge of feeding babies and themselves. I devised a method of fences around four of my ponds each powered by an electric doggie shocker. I even had to put crosswires up over the top of the pond as they would land on anything that stood out of the water such as a turtle sunning spot, a fish fountain and even an urn bubbler, in an effort to get close to the fish. The fifth pond is very small, only 350 gallons and I completely covered it with a wire mesh hinged cover.

I also invested in a four camera video system that each are activated by movement. The problem with this system which is still very much in place today is that any movement activates it. The wind blowing the branches or even a fountain splashing the water and it turns on and runs for two minutes meaning that there is a lot of wasted footage. Even if I suspect there has been a visit, I have to run through a lot of images just to check. Luckily it is all digital so it is no big deal to re-format and use the same storage card over and over.

One of my friends who also happens to be the President of the Austin Pond Society, lives about a mile from me as the Heron flies so we usually compare notes or send text messages if either of us gets a visit. We had a meeting just last evening and the subject of Herons came up. We both commented on the fact that neither of us had seen or been visited by the Heron(s) for several months. Just goes to show that you should never talk about anything that you don’t want to happen. It’s just tempting fate.

Heron on the shed roofI recently rebuilt the goldfish pond and took down all of the fencing around and over that pond. I had intended to leave it down in the mistaken belief that the pond was now sufficiently deep enough that the Heron would not attempt to jump into it as it had on previous occasions. I have that on video also from a couple of years back which dispels the theory that the Heron likes to walk into the water. One of the earlier videos shows the Heron jumping into the water after very carefully slipping between the wire fences around that pond and then standing and fishing after getting in. The pond was much shallower then only around two feet deep. After I finished the most recent rebuilding, the pond is now almost four feet deep in some places and well over three feet for the rest.

The only thing I can think of is that this is probably the same Heron returning after several months or so away and remembering that it was able to jump into this pond before I rebuilt it. The water is still a little cloudy and I can’t see the bottom but maybe the Heron can. If it had come last week, it certainly would not have seen the bottom as I had a severe case of algae bloom which totally turned the water green. I’m hoping that it is probably a little too deep for comfort and it will not try it again. Interesting that even though it was stumbling around in the water, it still managed to catch a fish. Natural instinct, I guess.

Two of the ponds which are also the largest, one at 5000 gallons and the other at 6000 gallons have very large Koi in them some more than 24 inches long and weighing in at well over twenty pounds. The Heron would probably not bother with them for two reasons. One they are too heavy for the Heron to lift out of the water and secondly, they are too big for the Heron to swallow. That leaves the two goldfish ponds one of which still has the wire fences around and over it and also a “Scarecrow” which is activated by movement and sends a strong jet of water across an area in front of it, enough to scare the birds and animals. I have a second “Scarecrow” which I will re-install back onto the rebuilt pond and hope that it will keep the Heron from trying to repeat this mornings little adventure. I really don’t want to put the fences back up and will only do so as a last resort.

I hate to lose fish, any fish even the goldfish of which I probably have well over one hundred. I also have around sixty large Koi and with the exception of the very biggest of them all who I have named “Big Bertha” none of the others have names or numbers. They are not like dogs and cats that you can make a fuss over or give them lots of love and get a lot back in return. After all, they are cold blooded and have no feelings to reciprocate. A fish is a fish is a fish…

This is the latest video

This is one of the earlier videos

Renovating the Small Pond – Part 1


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This was the restored pond after it’s first major re-build.

When I first built the “small pond” as I like to call it more than 15 years ago, it was a part of a two pond construction. The ponds were separated by a weir which allowed water to flow from one to the other which then in turn was pumped back to the top of the first and bigger of the two ponds. I kept this system in place for several years but had a lot of trouble in maintaining the water levels between the two ponds. In the end, I installed a 1200 gph pump in order to balance the water which in turn lost all of the effects I was trying to achieve.  After several years of discontent on my part, I made the decision to separate the two ponds and have them independent of each other. About four years ago, I did a major renovation on the lower pond which included doing repair work on the liner. Last year, I renovated the upper pond. Apparently, my work on the lower or small pond did not hold up and it was not long before I detected a leak in this pond.  It was only a small leak and by keeping the automatic water levelers  on, not very noticeable and not very costly. Even so, it was still a pain and bothered me to no end knowing that the pond was leaking somewhere. I guess my pride was also hurt knowing that my workmanship in which I take a lot of care, had failed in this instance.

A couple of months ago, I turned off the water leveler hoping that the pond would slowly drain down and then I could find a point where it had stopped which would give me the indication of where the hole in the liner might be. I suspected that the rats of which I have several, had chewed a small hole, enough to create a leaky situation without actually draining the pond. I have had to repair such leaks in the other ponds and the “Old Man” disappearing stream has been rebuilt 4 times and still has a leak. I even concreted under the liner to seal the bottom of the stream  and somehow, they have managed to chew a hole either in the waterfall which is slowly creeping nearer the statue making the stream shorter as I keep rebuilding it or it is in the disappearing fountain box. I know that the rats have made a home in the waterfall as one ran down the tunnel which I had exposed as I was searching for the leak. I have sat here at my computer looking out of the window and watched as several of them have come out to feed on the bird seeds that have dropped from the feeders. Can’t poison them because of the dogs and when I tried to trap them, all I caught were Wrens who like to eat the seed also. Darn rats.

Back to the pond. The water had dropped about a foot with no sign of stopping and obviously no hole to repair. I did not want to wait until the hot weather to get here and decided to go ahead and more or less completely rebuild the pond and install a brand new liner on top of the existing one. I needed a plan so the next step was decide the best approach as I did not want to move the 60 or so goldfish until the last minute to keep their time in stock tanks at a minimum. I should mention that I live in Austin, Texas which is located right at the start of the Hill Country. We can dig down about a foot and then hit limestone. Consequently, all of my ponds are built upwards after going down as deep as possible which is usually only about a foot or so. This pond is actually about 2 feet deep and that is because the contractor who built the house had done some back-filling in that particular spot and I got lucky.

I decided that my best approach was going to be to remove all of the stone exposed in the upper part of the surrounding walls and replace them with concrete block which in turn will be covered by the old and then eventually the new liner below the water level. I should mention that I plan on taking advantage of this rebuilding and add another 8 inches or maybe more to the depth of the pond so that it should measure out around 3 feet deep when I am finished. I can achieve this by making the outside walls higher which is possible as I still have to purchase a new piece of liner.

I wanted to try to do a lot of the work without disturbing the goldfish. I was able to remove all of the stone from the outside of the pond by working carefully and taking it down piece by piece leaving the goldfish still in the pond.  At the same time, from the outside, I rebuilt the walls using the concrete blocks all the way to the new raised water level. The blocks would eventually be covered with the new liner which would be hidden below the water level.

As the work progressed and as I had gone as far as I could from the outside, I  had to put on the waders and get into the water to work on the rest of the stone/block-work. While I was in there, I took the opportunity of cleaning out some of the pond plants leaving just a few so the fish still had some cover. Things went well including a couple of trips to my local Lowe’s at Bee Caves where I had to pick up concrete blocks. I didn’t plan very well and instead of getting them all at the same time, I hadn’t thought far enough ahead about using two different sizes 8 inch and 4 inch and had to go back for the 4 inch blocks. The young guy that helped me to load them was full of complaints about his job but did mention that he was a lot stronger and had lost some weight for the hard and strenuous work he had chosen for himself. I didn’t point out that I was also going to have work with the blocks and I wouldn’t have any help and am probably at least 4 times his age and am very happy that I am still able to work with the heavy blocks. Two opposing views and I didn’t want to make him feel bad…

After completing the dismantling and having a new supply of blocks to work with, I continued to rebuild the outside walls with the blocks. The plan was to build the perimeter, including anchoring the old liner between the blocks, to the proposed new height which would make the pond an extra 8 inches deeper. I finished the basic work around the perimeter and all of the blocks were in place and the old liner stretched up and over them to make a good foundation for the new liner.

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Showing the first set of raised blocks  and the old liner. The goldfish are still in the pond at this point.

I moved the 2 – 80 gallon holding tanks closer to the pond to contain the fish. I pumped down the water from the pond and put some into each tank and then topped them up with fresh water. Then I set the 4 stone aerators close enough with 2 stones in each tank. I thought that I would have to ask my buddy George to come over and help me with the fish when it occurred to me that the very low spot is right next to the side of the pond and easily within reach for me to net out the fish after pumping down the water which is what I did. I managed to catch all that were in the pond and transferred them to the stock tanks. With any luck, I was hoping that they would only be there at the most 2 days and nights if things really worked well. It turned out that by the time I caught all of the fish, there were 73 altogether. I removed the plants and blocks and cleaned out the pond ready for the new liner which I still had to buy.

As a matter of interest, I discovered the leak after I pumped the pond down. It was right on the bottom in a seam that had come unglued. I would have had to let the pond completely drain out before I could have discovered it and the only reason that I found it this time is that water flowed back into the pond through the hole. There I was blaming the poor old rats…

Leak in the liner

I called my local Pond Supply, Leaf Gardens to see if they had a piece of liner. Unfortunately, they were out and would not have a new roll until the following week so I opted to drive to Cedar Park to Hill Country Water Gardens as they had liner of the right size. I just love going to that place. It is always so well laid out and they were in the process of changing the front ponds to connect to a stream. They are always doing something to make the place interesting. They cut and loaded the liner for me and at the same time, I purchased de-chlorinator and also a pond treatment for the fish in the big pond  and made my way home.

First thing was to unload the liner which I managed to wrestle off the trailer and onto my dolly. I thought about calling my buddy George to give me a hand but figured that I should try to do it myself. Turns out that I was able to work it off the dolly and into the pond without too much trouble. It must have weighed well over a 100 pounds but by being careful and thinking ahead, I got it into position. Once it was unfolded, it was fairly easy to keep moving it around until I was more or less happy with how it was fitting.  I found out much to my chagrin, that I had over compensated and had a lot of liner hanging over the blocks, enough that I could raise the walls by another 8 inches all the way around which will give the pond more depth to the 4 feet I was aiming for.

Of course, I never had enough blocks… again and as the trailer was still hooked to the car, I drove to Lowe’s in Bee Caves and they loaded another 45 –  8 inch blocks and 10 – 4 inch for me. This time, it was two different guys one of whom just wanted to show off his manliness by  loading the blocks by himself. The other guy, a much younger and obviously smarter kid,  just sat on the forklift and I stood back and watched, very appreciative of the fact that he wanted to do the work. Wish I could get them to come home and place them in position. Actually, the pleasure for me of having ponds is more in the construction than maintaining the finished product. I have worked in the construction industry all my life in many different capacities and there is nothing quite like the feeling of satisfaction that working on and completing another project can give. Working on home projects by myself is always another challenge as I need to think very carefully about how to do things by myself without any help. That plus lifting and moving the heavy blocks and the stone is a great work out.  Who needs a gym when I can get all of the weight training that I need and exercise my mind on the planning at the same time.

 

More to follow in Part 2.

Austin Pond Society September 2015 Meeting.


Willie Birge Memorial PondThe Austin Pond Society held its September meeting at the usual location, Zilker Botanical Gardens Clubhouse. It was attended by about 35 members who first enjoyed a meal of Pizza followed by deserts brought by the members. Note that we still need a volunteer to fill the role of Hospitality. Seems that those people with the necessary skills are hard to find.

BlueGold SystemsFollowing the meal as is our usual custom, the Speaker for the evening was Sasha Earl, from BlueGold Collection Systems. His talk was mainly about rainwater harvesting and the different methods that are employed. As usual, with our knowledgeable and very curious  membership, he was bombarded with questions as he continued along with his presentation. You can watch the video below. He can be reached at this link. BlueGold Systems.

Below is the link to the BlueGold Presentation at the meeting. It is in two parts.

Following the presentation, Barbara Lenhardt who was filling in for President Jeannie, continued the meeting with the normal business discussion. Darren Bayhi spoke about the upcoming Photo contest and outlined the rules and procedures. The details for this can be found on the Pond Society website.

Glen Hubenthal spoke of the upcoming Koi Show at Water Garden Gems in Marion, Texas. He urged everyone that is interested in Koi, to pay them a visit so that they could get an idea of what Champion Koi look like. You can find out more on their website at Water Garden Gems.

David Slimp mentioned that he had some goldfish that he had helped rescue that needed a home. Contact me if you are interested at webmaster@austinpondsociety.org .

With no more business, the final act of the evening was the drawing for the door prizes and then the meeting was adjourned.

Below is the link to the business section of the meeting: