Fish spawning and bearing fish fry is one way to tell if your water garden sanctuary is healthy. My pond must be healthy because it happened again, this year. I’m a guppy granny ma for the 7th year in a row!
Conducive habitat for spawning
Female goldfish will mate when they are 3-4″ in size. Goldfish do an enthralling mating dance in which the male fish chases the female fish, and will push her up against a rock or the side of the pond, to penetrate her, fertilizing her eggs. These eggs hatch inside of her, once fertilized, and the female goldfish will carry these fish fry for about a month, and then give birth to them, live.
Last year, when I moved my pond from the center of my yard to the perimeter, (the third remodel) I had five fish. One did not survive the move, and the other four were skittish for awhile. I had three orange goldfish and one black Koi fish. I wasn’t sure of the sex of any of them; but I thought they were all females. I guess I was wrong. At least one of them is Mr. Stud.
About a month ago, I noticed I was missing one of my orange goldfish and I thought she had been food for a blue heron or a raccoon. I should have known better because this has happened to me before. In retrospect, I believe the momma fish hide if they can, when they are pregnant and carrying live fish. So if you are thinking you might have lost a fish, be patient and wait for a month and watch the water for little black fry.
The evolution of life, my experience with a gold fish pond
In 2002, I started with 6 all orange goldfish. I moved them from the basement to the outdoor pond I had built. The following year, I had 14 fish. These fish grew bigger as I was generous with food, but something happened to the water, and some of the fish turned white. One day I found a few of them floating on the top of the pond. I pulled them all out, stuck them in a temporary tank in the yard, emptied the pond, changed the liner, and while I was doing all that, a few more died in the tanks because they were not being aerated. After a week, I had rebuilt the pond, put them back in, and ended up with 8 fish, some white and orange, others totally white.
During the 1st pond re-build, I took out the pre-formed plastic liner and used a pool liner instead. I added some stones to the bottom of the shelves I had built that were about 6 inches from the surface. The third year the fish spawned again. I had about 30 that made it to the golden stage, but lost several, I think the big fish were eating the little ones. I got a few black ones out of that season.
During the fourth year, I had thousands of little black fish fry that eventually either got eaten or died. At the beginning of the summer, I had 60 little goldfish in the pond, and 4 of the original crew.
Over time the number of fish diminished; mother-nature took her course. At the end of the summer, the pond was about 10 fish lighter; with about 30 gold and 10 black, 10 mixed orange and black. During a second pond remodel, I dug the hole bigger and added more rocks over the sides of the surface but I somehow lost the big momma that I had had from the beginning to a heron. Then I lost three more of the original crew to what I don’t know. By the 6th season, all I had left was the second generation and 5 fish. A few weeks ago, I had four.
Providing a safe haven
Because I completely moved the entire pond last year, I decided to change my tactics. Rather than building the “earth look” above the pond, I built it into it. My fish now have a condo complex with a beautiful aquatic garden in their midst.
This third backyard pond remodel has three elevations to it. I deliberately built a bog that could house the shallow water plants that could provide additional cover for the fish to hide. This shelf is at 6 inches deep. The stones that make up the back wall are now built directly into the pond from the base up, rather than just covering the top of the ground like I had originally done. Now the fish have 6- 10″ of space they can hide behind in the rock shelf. I dug down and created a few shelves at 8-12″ with the base of the pond around 30 deep”.
I love my backyard garden pond and visit it every day even if it is just for a few minutes. It provides me with a natural sanctuary in which to enjoy the evolution of life. I have frogs, raccoons, possum, snake, mice, chipmunks, squirrels, birds, and my cat that enjoys this piece of nature, as much as the fish and I do. At night, I have raccoons, and in the morning, sometimes even a greedy, hungry blue heron or two.
This week I have at least 30 new fish fry that hopefully will survive for a bit, and enjoy their new home too. I’m a granny again, and it feels just fine. I don’t worry anymore about losing fish. I know that with a healthy pond, that provides a safe haven and is conducive to spawning, I will have more fish year after year. I also have learned that as a part of natural evolution, fish will get eaten by predators or they will die. What a valuable lesson about life; all about 10 feet from my back door!