Monday, May 02, 2005

Goldfish in the Fountain

Three days ago I bought two fancy goldfish to go with the cheap goldfish I already had in my fountain. The cheap one had lived for a month, so I decided the conditions in the fountain had reached the point of sustaining life. Not only had the single goldfish survived, but some of the pond slime I had introduced had also attached itself to the sides of the giant pot I had rigged into a makeshift fountain/watergarden for my balcony. [Goldfish like to eat pond slime, so it was there for a reason.]

Of course, as soon as an ecosystem appears in balance, something has to test it.

I awoke Sunday morning to find the fountain pot had sprung a leak and half the water was out. The fountain/watergarden was constructed out of the largest terra-cotta pot I could find with a pot saucer glued and calked around the bottom. Ideal. Natural. Functional. And as it turns out Leaky. I'm pretty handy with tools, but apparently calk has limitations when there is constant pressure and temperature variations.

If you have not priced goldfish recently, you may not realize that your standard goldfish is about $.26. Move on up to your "fancy" goldfish and the price jumps to $1.79. I had just spent $3.58 on these goldfish. I was NOT going to let them die as the water slowly dripped onto the pepper plants and lilys below.

Thank goodness for sales at Garden Ridge. They had a 24" diameter recycled material whisky barrel on sale. It's deeper, wider, and best of all, there are no holes in the bottom. In so many ways it's better since it has room for the water lily and water canna to grow and spread along with some underwater hideouts for the goldfish and a light in addition to the fountain pump.

The quick find of the whisky barrel made for a rapid trip and I was home before more than another inch of water had drained from the existing garden. Once home, I immediately set out to make the move from one home to the next. I'm pretty good at many things, but sometimes visual-spatial relationships escape me: the whisky barrel dwarfed the existing pot/fountain and I had to do some rearrangement of the base, plants under the fountain and fountain base.

The adjustments happened more quickly than anticipated and I began to fill the new garden with fresh water and water from the old garden in an attempt to preserve the natural balances for the fish so there would be as little trauma in the move as possible. All worked well until suddenly the leak in the old fountain changed from a drip to a stream. No warning. No obvious cause, just whoosh.

Happily there was enough water in the new fountain/garden for the fish to be moved, so I grabbed the net, scooped the three fish, and dipped them into the new environment. From that point on, the rest of the move went smoothly and withing a few hours, the fish seemed well adjusted to the new home. They had quickly taken up residence in the broken pot placed under the water as a shelter.

It has been a long time since I' ve had goldfish as pets. All my previous ones had been won in a ring toss at the county fair and eventually turned loose in the cattle watering trough (hence the discovery of pond slime as goldfish food) whenever we left for vacation. I did not remember how shy goldfish could be with these fish dashing for the cover of the pot any time I looked over the edge of the fountain. I knew the food I put in for them disappeared quickly, but how they could possibly eat it from under the pot was a fascination.

Tonight, I decided to set up a stake-out. After a few false starts caused by coughing fits due to the Austin allergies, I caught the goldfish darting up to the surface to grab one of the floating bits and then diving as rapidly back under the pot. I'm not sure where I will go with this, but now that I know their secret, I think I'll see more of my fish.
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