IT’S TUESDAY! You might have noticed my silence yesterday. . . I was in a quandary. About what to blog? I wanted to tell you about my fish. . . but felt compelling to write about knitting. Knitting writers block. My friend Beth suggested I write what I want, without worry about Noni or knitting or some notion the readers of this blog only want to hear about knitting, so please forgive me if you have no interest in goldfish. . .but indulge me anyway. I like them. And I like them in big ceramic pots in my garden. They ground me. I go out every morning and afternoon and check on them. I train them to nibble at my fingers. I even dream about them sometimes.
I spent my Sunday in my garden.
I even got a little sunburned on my shoulders, which, if you know me, is positively scandalous. I am quite fair and burn easily. Ever since I read about the benefits of Vitamin D straight from the sun herself, I have stopped wearing sunscreen (the sciency man who wrote the article about such benefits said, might as well drink it! So much ends up in your blood stream doing who knows what to you). But I’m not nutty about a tan, so I just take my chances, go about my business, wear long sleeved linen shirts I’ve stolen from my husband’s closet and rolled up the sleeves. You get the idea. But Sunday, I was in garden bliss. It was hot. I had a tall glass of iced water. A little sundress. . .
I planted things, pulled dead leaves off the iris, used my kitchen scissors to cut all the spent buds off the Dianthus by the path. I watered the front garden, planted geraniums amongst my happy yellow pansies by the front door, pulled out plants that were diseased so they don’t spread their scourge to others. I found some beautiful exotic petunias that Soma and I both loved, so we found a place for them by the back door.
And Soma wanted to get some fish. Goldfish. I had promised this. We have three little water features. . .
One is a lotus pond and home to a full sized Lotus–a birthday gift from my sister. I can’t wait. She says the blossoms are hot pink! This pot does not have fish inhabitants. . .
The next pot we’ve had since Austin, Texas days. In other words, it is nearly 8 years old! It houses mosquito fish–hearty little fellas! and it also houses the few surviving tadpoles that Soma and I collected from a nearby pond. Nature creates multitudes because so few survive. . . But there are about 4 or 5 that look really great, so I hope to see frogs crawling out of the pot sometime later in the summer.
The final pot (the biggest) is a bit further down the path and has a little fountain in it. We did have one goldfish in it who had survived through such trials last summer. We grew her from tiny to healthy fish. She was about 5 inches long. But I oversalted the water (some pond salt is beneficial for keeping baddy micro-organisms to a minimum) but I overdid it and realized my fault too late. The Ph spiked to around 8 or so. She tried to bear it but must have jumped out. We never found her. . .
So, I promised Soma we would get three 27cent fish. We went to the pet store. We looked at the fish and I was tempted by pretty tails and red and white markings. We came home with 4 fish: 3 that are white and red, and one classic gold fish with a beautiful tail. The longest in the tank. We were super selective!
They say–I know you’ve heard this–that you must acclimate the fish to the temperature of the water. To do this, you are advised to float the bag in the water until they are the same temperature. . . we floated the bag.
I tested the water in my pond. I was shocked (you see, this is how I figured out the cause of death for poor little red & white!): Ph way too high!
I began remedial measures: flooding the pond with new water. Water poured over the side and into the garden. This didn’t bother me as it was a hot day and the garden was suffering anyway, so the water was welcome by the plants all around. Tested the water. Still too high.
I asked my husband to get something called Ph-Down. I thought later this was probably just distilled vinegar, but at the time I was worried. It was almost dusk and the poor fish had been in the bag for a long time now.
Ph-Down recommends you put a dose in and then wait for 20 minutes. Test the water again. We went through this process several times on our quest for the perfect goldfish Ph of 7.0 . . . but bringing down the Ph has side effects, like lowering the Kh [baking soda fixes the problem readily, so don’t go purchasing some $24 dollar container of Kh stuff (as I did) because you will probably just be purchasing the most expensive baking soda you ever have in your life!]. I added some baking soda and started seeing test results I liked better and better.
And then I wondered. . . and I had never ever wondered this before: WHAT is the water like inside that bag??
I tested the water and I was (again!) shocked! The water was way too acidic, high levels (even unsafe levels–why should this be a surprise with all the poor dying fish inside the tanks of 27cent goldfish in the pet store??) of nitrites and nitrates. . . No wonder the poor things don’t make it. The difference between my closer and closer to test-perfect water was SO DIFFERENT from the water in the bag, how could any fish not be physically challenged if not simply over come by the difference?
The remedy: pour a little bit of our pond water into the bag and wait 20 minutes. Then repeat. This would allow the Ph to rise within the bag and the dangerous levels of nitrites and nitrates to go down slowly. The fish would become more acclimated to the water they would enter. We did this, waited, repeated, waited, repeated. . .
But we literally ran out of time. It was dark, the poor fish had been in the bag for HOURS. we had been adding about a quarter cup of good water to bad every 20 minutes for some time.
Finally, we poured the 4 fish and their little frog friend into the pond (a tadpole/new frog still with gills was in the fish tank at the store. The store girl gave it to us when we asked–we were delighted!) Then we went to bed.
I can report, as the image here only partly attests, that all 4 fish and small, every-day-more-frog-like-frog survived! See the little orange sideways exclamation point in the upper left bit of the pond!?
If you liked this entry and would enjoy hearing more about the garden, it would be great to hear that from you. How many of you have fish? or fish in the past and wondered why the poor things seemed so fragile and died without seeming provocation? Tell me your story in the comments.
More garden stories to come if you’ll tolerate them. . . I’d love to tell you about the rusty foxglove I mistook for a weed, for example . . . and the lesson about faith from a Stephanotis vine and about perseverance from the ruby-throated hummingbirds. . .