In 1967 the Navy moved us from the East Coast to San Diego. We immediately fell in love with keeping salt water fish for their diversity, color and amazing survival adaptations. Of course being so near Scripps (Research) was hardly a downside as they ran long intake and drain lines out into the ocean to maintain their own collection of salt water fish for their aquarium. And then, obligingly, attached those drain lines to a convenient outside faucet so we could simply fill containers with filtered, clean saltwater for our own aquarium.
Then came an article in the San Diego Union newspaper about a local doctor who operated on tumors in his own fish. Dr. Galen Hansen. And Koi.
Which, of, course, led us to the Del Mar Fairgrounds and a Koi show and on to the Koi Club of San Diego. Who, we soon realized hand addressed all the Club newsletters. So, of course, we had to use the word computer and address labels, and abracadabra, we were not only members but were “involved.”
Which led to the saga of the Koi pond. Our koi pond.
Many years ago a friend had suggested we put an aviary over a dead spot on the south end of the patio. With a little bit of inspiration that aviary became part of the pond and waterfall and peaceful place to sit with the morning coffee or evening wine glass to commune with the fish and first cockatiels and now white doves.
When we attended an early Koi Club meeting we were inspired by the system the host had installed, including a fiberglass septic tank for the main part of the biological filtration.
Wow! We knew enough of how to work with fiberglass to be able to move the inlet and outlets—- make the changes, add, subtract. Adapt.
The 750 gallon tank was small enough to fit in the bed of our truck. Large enough to have 2 chambers- one for the settling area (mechanical) and plenty of space in the second to nourish the biological bugs to clean the water for the fish.
However, it was too large to fit between the house and the neighbor’s fence, so to get to the backyard it had to go over the roof. With the help of a couple of gullible friends and the truck as a counterweight, over it went. In your picture of that event, do recall how light fiberglass can be.
And yes, we do have pictures.
The pond itself was dug by hand for pretty much the same reason. Too narrow for a skip loader. So we dug. And it rained. The sides collapsed a little from the rain as we went down through a layer of sand to another layer of hardpan. So we dug deeper and wider.
Keeping in mind the Japanese Koi pond history and how those ponds began the hobby without the benefit of electricity to run pumps we laid the plumbing with the minimal needs for electrical lift and the maximum use of gravity for flow in mind.
We had avidly read all the articles on pond design and maintenance and efficiency — raised side to prevent fish jumping out and lawn chemical run off, straight sides, relatively deep.
Al, at that point was working at “Job Corps” a sort of work training school for high school and older students wanting to learn a trade. Such as cement work. After we had laid in the plumbing and the reinforcing rods and wire up the sides, we had an instructor bring his crew in to finish the concrete. We gained a pond at a minimal cost, and the students gained valuable experience. Such as the more you work concrete the softer it gets so smoothing up those steep sides had to be done — delicately.
The pleasure of sitting by the side of the pond to read and having the fish nibble at bare toes has been well worth every shovel full of dirt lifted.
And the fish stories-
What do I tell the doctor (it has not happened) if those fish nibbles dislocate a toe or two?
We put in a shelf for water lilies. They grew full of buds and ready to break into bloom the following weekend when we were to have a Koi Club meeting. My enthusiasm must have been contagious, for one of the females in the pond decided to spawn and the lilies were the right place. The males enthusiastically followed her through the lily plants to fertilize the eggs and everyone else came after and feasted on caviar for lunch. Yes, I took the lily plants out. Yes, all those beautiful buds were broken off.
We’ve had visits from the great blue heron, neighborhood cats, the skunks and raccoon, but the steep sides of the pond and the aviary overhanging about 2/3 of the pond have protected the fish. A lath cover filters the sun and reduces the pond algae.
We clean the pond through a system of standpipes in a sump and then the dirty water is pumped out into the gardens and plantings. A system of isolating valves were installed with the plumbing (the ability to block off the filter without turning off the waterfall, for instance, when it is time to thoroughly clean the filter). Our pond pump is rated at 1/6 hp which, along with the closed system, keeps expenses down.
We also have several water gardens. Which are simply holes in the ground with some sort of liner, maybe a small waterfall, and only small fish with huge appetites for mosquito larvae.
Over the years we have added a “bubble bead” filter as a backup, enabling us to carry a heavier fish load than it appears the system should handle.
Let’s take a filter tour when you come, and ask your questions. Every pond location has different requirements. Maybe some of our innovations can work for you.