February 03, 2013

Good news about the goldfish

Back in August, I reported on how the fishman had constructed an above-ground pond and stocked it with plants and goldfish. As winter approached, he trimmed the waterlily, inserted PVC pipes for the fish, and inserted a de-icer to keep the pond from freezing. He also slowly weaned the fish off food to prepare them for "hibernation."

I'm happy to share that the goldfish are still alive--even after three months of below-freezing temperatures, and several nighttime lows below 0 F (-18 C). The de-icer is doing its job.

Here's what the pond looked like after our first big snowfall in December:

pondsnow

Brrrr...

The fishman occasionally checks on the fish, and on one recent occasion I snapped a quick shot when he opened the lid. We didn't want to keep it open very long, so I didn't get a very good capture. But you can see that the water, on this particular day, was completely unfrozen. And the fish appear to be using the PVC pipes for shelter:

goldfish

A few days ago, he reported there was a thin layer of ice on top of the water. But apparently, if there's even a small bit of open water, they'll be fine. The goldfish go into a sort of torpor, and survive for months without food.

Today, the fishman checked again. While the outdoor air temperature was 18 F
(-8 C), the water temperature was 54 F (12 C), and the fish were swimming around. It appears his techniques are working. The de-icer; our bright, sunny days; and the greenhouse effect of the clear, insulating lid are keeping the water plenty warm. Here's what the pond looked like on a recent sunny day:

pondsun

Next, the trick will be deciding when to start feeding again, and when to remove the insulating lid. Obviously, those decisions are many weeks into the future.

32 comments:

  1. That is great news Beth....since we do not have fish we let the pond freeze over but even a small hole in the ice is indeed OK for them...

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    1. That whole "torpor" phenomenon is fascinating to me--how they can last for months without food! I thought maybe it would be hard to keep an above-ground pond from freezing solid. But the sun, the pond lid, and the de-icer are making it work!

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  2. I have never thought about how to keep fish in such a small pond during winter time! Here in London that's not really an issue as a pond would only have surface frost if any, and not freeze to the bottom. I haven't really any experience with fish ponds in Norway, but I know they excist, wonder what they do there...in minus 35C for weeks on end...Hmmm

    Great to hear you have a fishman who can give advice and help, I would be at loss :-)

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    1. Wow, Norway is really cold! I suppose they have similar techniques for keeping their ponds from freezing solid. Yes, actually the pond is the fishman's project. He has three other aquariums going in the house. He's fascinated by fish the way I'm fascinated by plants. ;-)

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  3. Glad to hear your fish are doing well. I thought you had to bring them inside during the winter. Guess I was wrong. Hope you haven't gotten too much snow this past week.

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    1. It seems weird to me that they can survive outside without food, but apparently that's the recommended technique. We've gotten just enough snow to nourish the plants and soil. I'm hoping it will keep the drought at bay this summer. A few more inches tonight.

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  4. It sure does look cold there! Aren't fish amazing? Being in such a warm climate, I don't have to worry about my pond freezing over, but I am impressed with all you have done to help your fish go through the winter. When it warms up, they will be just as active as ever!

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    1. Yes, I don't understand how they survive! I almost feel like we're torturing them by not giving them food. But the fishman says that's what we're supposed to do, and he knows a lot more about fish than I do. He gets all the credit for their health, and all the blame if they don't survive. I hope it's the former, of course!

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  5. Fish are cold blooded so their metabolic rate declines with body temperature; they don't do much, so they don't need much energy to survive, body fat suffices. Further no matter how cold the air, unfrozen water remains no colder than 0 C. If a lot of organic material accumulates in the bottom of your pond, it's slow but continued decomposition can create anaerobic conditions, so aeriation of the water is important to keeping fish alive. My pond bubbler works year around.

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    1. Good to know. Thanks! I still can't believe they survive, even though the water is above freezing. There are vents on the sides of the pond for air exchange, so I guess that helps. We'll find out in a few weeks!

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  6. Your fish should be grateful that you take such good care of them. But do they ever thank you?

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    1. The fishman gets all the credit and all the blame. ;-) I know nothing about fish, but he has several tanks inside, too. If it were up to me, we'd probably only have outdoor fish in an underground pond, but it's his project. That said, I'm enjoying the goldfish more than his other fish.

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  7. Oh cool, I love that they are making it through the winter. My sister just throws her poor guys from the tiny pond into the really big pond. Somehow they make it.

    Jen

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    1. I know, some people just let them be in a big pond. I guess that's how it works in nature. But in an above-ground pond, it's a little different. I'm thinking we might not even need the de-icer on the really sunny days, but that's up to the fishman. ;-)

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  8. Creatures are so much tougher than we think ...

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    1. So true, Sheila. I'm amazed because I'm a wimp in the cold weather.

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  9. The fish do nibble on algae that grows in the pond. At the farm Koi pond, they start feeding when the temps warm up a bit, like in mid March.

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    1. Thanks for that info, Donna. That sounds like a good time to re-start the feeding.

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  10. It seems the fishman is quite handy. I am lucky enough to have my own version of the fishman. I call him 'The Equipment Manager'. Your fish seems quite happy.

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    1. Yes, he's a good resource to have around. ;-) An equipment manager is a great resource, too.

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  11. Congratulations to the fishman, then!

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    1. Yes, he's very pleased that his plans are working. ;-)

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  12. Hooray for a job well done! Are you going to add potted plants around the pond? Maybe a small pier? ;o)

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    1. Tee hee. I thought about using it as a hot tub or a foot bath. Have you seen those videos where the fish nibble at people's feet? Actually, I am planning to add some potted plants this summer!

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  13. Beth, I didn't know fish are so resilient. Maybe there's a lesson there for all of us.

    Thanks for stopping my blog. I've missed my blogging buddies and am glad to reconnect with everyone. :)

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    1. Welcome back! Garden bloggers are a good group, aren't they? Take care.

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  14. All that care and attention will be so worth it. I'm sure once you see more activity then you'll know that it's about time to feed again.

    oh I posted more witch hazel photos - not sure if you saw them or not so hope you don't mind me placing a non hyperlink here:
    http://www.leavesnbloom.com/2013/02/winter-flowering-witch-hazel.html

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    1. That seems reasonable about restarting the feeding, Rosie. And I think that's when the fishman plans to start feeding them cold-weather food. Your Witch Hazel photos are stunning! Thanks for letting me know!

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  15. I had no idea fish could survive months without food! I'm glad yours are doing well. There is something about fish that is mesmerizing. We have a large fish tank, and I love to watch them.

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    1. I know, crazy, right? We have too many fish in the house. ;-) But the fishman takes care of them, so I just tolerate them. I prefer mammals for pets. But the goldfish outside in the pond are more interesting.

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  16. Funny! I have two ponds and have successfully overwintered goldfish for several years. It gets much colder here in MN and my little pond heaters can't always keep up. The ponds have had times where they are completely frozen over for a few weeks (with the poor heaters encased in ice) and my fish have still survived. Whatever you do, never try to chip open a hole. I learned the hard way that this will kill the fish almost instantly. :-( BTW, I never feed my goldfish, they survive off the bugs and worms that fall into the pond. My fish are fat and happy!

    Amy

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  17. No fish, no ice here, but I admire the Fishman's kindness and dedication!

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