I released the koi back into the pond today. I scooped them out of their temporary home in one of our sheep troughs, toted them carefully out to the yard, and gently held each fish in the water until it recovered itself and swam off. Then I sat back with a glass of wine and watched them explore their new world.
The koi and their pond are one component of our porch-side aquaponics system. Their function is to look pretty while producing waste which provides nutrients for the plants in grow boxes connected to their watery home.
Last spring, my husband came up with an excellent idea: put in a koi pond. It sits at the end of our porch; a place where we spend a lot of time. He dug out an old garden plot, put in a liner, and filled it with water. I bought fish and added them; a total of seven koi and several goldfish. Oh, and two goggle eyed goldfish, courtesy of my son and his girlfriend.
I came up with the idea to incorporate the pond in growing vegetables. My husband and I were both intrigued by aquaponics – using fish water to irrigate and fertilize plants. I encouraged him to have two grow beds built and we ran pipe from the pond into the beds.
We put in the grow beds, lined them, filled them with lava rock, a barrier cloth, and soil, and planted vegetables. It worked great; the plants grew quickly and soon we were eating radishes, cilantro, banana and jalapeno peppers, and were looking forward to juicy tomatoes.
The beginning of beautiful tomatoes; in half the time!
Nasty green water! Where have the fish gone?!
Then our inexperience caught up with us. The water that was supposed to be cleaned by the rocks in the grow boxes wasn’t coming out so clean. In fact, it began to turn green. Algae had bloomed big time. We fought it the rest of the summer, never quite getting ahead of it. Too much sun; too warm temperature of water; not enough agitation; we struggled with it all. Finally, we decided to drain the pond, dig it out deeper, and start over. Our thoughts were that the water might stay cooler and so less conducive to growing the nasty green stuff.
It’s been a long two weeks of draining, digging through almost solid rock, and cleaning out grow boxes and filters. But the pond is finally back together again. The koi are back where they belong and the grow boxes are ready to be planted. This time, we are going to load them down with plants; our theory being that more plants will mean more cleaning of the water, more consumption of nutrients, and less algae. I hope we are on the right track this time.
Ready to try it again!
I intend to enjoy the pond and my fish for the rest of the summer and into the fall. By the time winter blows in I hope the beds will be full of healthy plants and the fish will be fat and happy. If there’s another setback, we’ll just start again. Half the fun with a project like this is the tinkering. For now, I’ll sit back and enjoy the flash of gold and white scales and the music of splashing water.