View Full Version : I'll miss my Koi

Phil Heffernan
01-13-2006, 07:16 PM
On Tuesday, I went out to my 2000 gal. fish pond in my small backyard. I have about 8 koi in there who've been with me for 10 years, and they have given me years of sublime pleasure...Not for nothing they are a major icon in Asian religion...I know them by name...

Big boys they were, nearly 1.5 feet in length each...Well, the pond froze over solid last week, and the ice heater I used to keep an air hole open failed...Until the backup came, the surface sealed...and that was that...5 of my boys & girls, including the leader of the pack, ended up colorless under the ice...Not enough air...

My guilt is that I f-ed up, not putting in a bubbler, or having a spare heating unit on hand...I try to keep up with the little eco-system under my care, but I always come up short, somehow, when the chips are down...It's bizarre, being so emotionally tied to fish, but their beauty and serenity were an amazingly important part of my life...

They left babies, thanks be...There are few things more beautiful than a fish...


Joe (SoCal)
01-13-2006, 07:19 PM
:( Awww man that sux :( :( :( I loved your Koi pond it was so beautiful. Dang sorry

Tar Devil
01-13-2006, 07:20 PM
Originally posted by Phil Heffernan:
There are few things more beautiful than a fish...Indeed.

Sorry about your gang, Phil! Would like to see your set up... any photos?



P.I. Stazzer-Newt
01-13-2006, 07:24 PM
It hurts - lost several last year to a Heron.

Joe (SoCal)
01-13-2006, 07:26 PM
Ooooh Tar (Phil) he has some nice set up. His small village back yard would make even Don[n] green with envy ;) A peaceful oasis in the middle of a quaint village. I myself have sat and relaxed with a sandwich in the shade of some nice trees looking out at Phil's beautiful Koi. I'm gonna miss em :(

Phil if you have some spring photos of your loverly back yard you should post them. The koi pond is a perennial favorite among WBF and your is built very nice.

Phil Heffernan
01-13-2006, 07:44 PM
I have to go searching for pix, I'll find 'em, just not now...

Maintaining a small eco-system is very challenging, I'll tell ye, mostly because mistakes are not well tolerated...Just be glad the earth is pretty freekin huge, or we all might be be found belly up in the morning...

It's a lesson...

Edited: ya, I know that all to well Donn, I truly f*ked up, and its all on my shoulders...I don't know how to make penance...It's a bitch when yor failures loom large in your face...

[ 01-13-2006, 07:47 PM: Message edited by: Phil Heffernan ]

Joe (SoCal)
01-13-2006, 07:46 PM
Phil FWIW how long have you kept those Koi safe and well?

Peter Malcolm Jardine
01-13-2006, 07:47 PM
I want to build a pond this year maybe, as part of a restyle of our back deck. One thing about living in a house that was a rental, you don't get much landscaping, or even a good lawn usually.... We've done a lot of work around here, including a new septic field and 19 loads of fill to level the lot. Anyway... How deep was your pond Phil? Dimensions? Sorry about your fish. My grandmother had a pond, but it was small, and we would take the fish in for winter and put them in large aquariums in the basement. Ponds are super cool.

[ 01-13-2006, 07:48 PM: Message edited by: Peter Malcolm Jardine ]

Phil Heffernan
01-13-2006, 07:58 PM
I've been out walking
I don't do too much talking these days
These days
These days I seem to think a lot
About the things that I forgot to do
And all the times I had the chance to....
Please don't confront me with my failures
I had not forgotten themAn excerpt from one of Jackson Brownes best songs...I hum it a lot...

My fishpond keeps me humble...

And, Yes, PMJ, there are few things in life that are as feeding of the soul as the sound of water, and the backyard fishpond...

Bigger is better...mine is 15x15x4(deep), which allows the fish to winter over (the earth heats it from below, at a constant temp of 55 degrees, even with almost solid ice on the surface...

I apologize to everyone for whom my negligence has caused pain, especially my fish...

Peter Malcolm Jardine
01-13-2006, 08:00 PM
Did it use a rubber membrane as a liner?

Phil Heffernan
01-13-2006, 08:57 PM
Alright Phil,slap slap, snap out of it...Tomorrows another day. Now, someone is asking about ponds:

Pmj: The art of pond construction is complex, but eminently do-able. First, make it as large as you feasibly can. Pond liners are state of the art, though mine was a buried, derelict concrete kiddie pool built in the late forties, a rapid failure for that use as there was no filtration, and presumably became an algae farm in 1 season...they filled it with pebbles & dirt, and I discovered it under 2 feet of dirt when I bought the place in 1990...I sealed the concrete (after excavation) with Rhino-Liner (ya, the stuff they put in pick up trucks), and it worked great...

For you, research the whole Google world about pond construction, but the key to it all is biological filtration: providing a medium where the bacteria can grow which feeds on the ammonia from fish waste and turns it into nitrogen (nitrates)...Then put in plenty of plants, which use up the nitrogen so algae can't get it..A zero sum eco-system is the goal...

The other trick, is to design the pond trim and planting so that it looks as if it belongs in you're backyard, and is natural, rather than man-made...

PM me when you get down to the nits & grits, and I'll put in another .02 worth

Phil Heffernan
01-13-2006, 09:15 PM
I'm gonna cut myself a little slack here...

The mistake I made was I couldn't let go...Of my fish, that is...

I have never lost a fish in over winter in 15 years...even with a few freeze-overs of the surface...But THIS year, my fish had grown quite larger over the year before, and though I had done the math (10 gallons per square inch of bio-mass), apparently I was too close to the cut-off point...

Most likely, I should have gifted my neighboring large pond friends with a few of my fish.. I sort of had an inkling, sort of, but you know how it is parting with things you love...

Do not overstock your pond...In Mother Nature, prolly only 2 or 3 fish would have occupied 2000 gals....

01-13-2006, 09:21 PM
I'm very sorry.

Captive fish have been a huge part of my life, though I haven't had one in years. They put to the lie all the modern rumors about intelligence. I mean, a koi isn't going to solve differential calculous equations, but they are liable to say hello in a genteel way. That may be more important.

Get some more, and fix the heater.


Phil Heffernan
01-13-2006, 10:14 PM
Thanks for the condolences gents, animals are a huge part of my world, emotionally speaking...even the one s I don't know personally...

To set the record straight, my fish died not from freezing (carp love cold water) but from the momentary sealing of the surface...no fresh air exchange...and the size of the bio load was too close...in the winter, a deep pond lets the water be heated by the constant 55 degrees of the earth below the frostline...Donn is correct in this...but the surface must always have an air hole or 3 to replenish oxygen levels...

As for summer, that is another danger period, as the dissolved oxygen in water diminishes with heat (O2 expands when heated & leaves the water)...PMJ, do not place a pond in direct sunlight unless it is quite deep, unless you provide significant auxiliary aeation, airstones...as I said before, this is a complex, though extremely rewarding, ecosystem...

My fishpond, in the fair months, is the best room in my house, by far...


Peter Malcolm Jardine
01-13-2006, 10:25 PM
dig the pond about a pfoot deeper. All good advice... I have a good spot I think... it's on the west side of the house, with three large birch trees on the property line about 25 feet away, but providing shade. The frost is an issue for sure.

Here's the real deal... The yard is incredibly boring. Julie built some lovely rockwalled gardens last year, but the lot is 120 by 160 so landscaping needs to be fairly big to make an impact. The deck comes off the southwest corner of the house, which is a bungalow, and I was thinking about changing it's boring square shape to a circle or kidney with a set of stairs going towards the north west, and into a pool setting. At least I have a local guy up the road who has a backhoe. ;)

I was really interested in the aquatic garden portion, and the lot slopes up to the house on that side, so I could put in a waterfall that ran down to the pool. Easy access to electrical too.

Leon m
01-13-2006, 10:28 PM
Sorry Phil. :(


Phil Heffernan
01-13-2006, 10:35 PM
A waterfall is an excellent design feature as it provides both aeration for the recirculating water, as well as a watercourse for bacterial (beneficial) growth...It's its' own natural bio filter assist..

Not to mention the sound, oh the sound...

Look around your neck of the woods...photograph natural watercourses, and then imitate them in your design...

Just remember, a pond is like having a dog, (they're not maintenance free, and occasionally a source of heartbreak)...But worth it, in the long run... ;)

Edited: Thanks Leon, that picture brings a tear to my eye..

[ 01-13-2006, 10:36 PM: Message edited by: Phil Heffernan ]

01-13-2006, 10:41 PM
Sorry to hear it Phil. But I'm also surprised. These are still carp, with low O2 requirements. I've had goldfish frozen into makeshift tanks through the winter in Western Washington, and they kept going. I guess it's something about being 1.5 feet long rather than 1.5 inches?


Phil Heffernan
01-13-2006, 10:47 PM
Here's the real deal... The yard is incredibly boring. Julie built some lovely rockwalled gardens last year, but the lot is 120 by 160 so landscaping needs to be fairly big to make an impact. Gardens work best when broken up into 'rooms'...treat your big square as a house, and 'sub-divide it...with paths, and terraces, and waterfalls, pond, 'meadow', etc.

The most important thing is to have a vision for the 'bones' of the landscape, don't go for a fulfilled vision in one year, it takes time...set the parameters out, the filling in can be done year after year...A garden is never 'done'...

Sorry to hear it Phil. But I'm also surprised. These are still carp, with low O2 requirements. I've had goldfish frozen into makeshift tanks through the winter in Western Washington, and they kept going. I guess it's something about being 1.5 feet long rather than 1.5 inches? Aye. that's the rub...

[ 01-13-2006, 11:35 PM: Message edited by: Phil Heffernan ]