This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

May 21st, 2001


Our Pond We have a very small pond in our backyard with goldfish and koi. The largest fish are about 12 inches, there are two that size, we call them "Fat Boys." The pond and its inhabitants are an on-going education. With a little care I've been able to observe all sorts of behavior, including sleep. I guess I never really thought about fish sleeping, but they do.

We had a sick goldfish, an orange thing about 6 inches long. I've learned only lately what I should have been looking for, but in this case it was pretty obvious. The fish had its eyes wide open, was alert, but was laying flat on its side. No red spots, no white 'ick', no blood streaks in the fins. After a day of watching that, I took some water out of the pond, and put water and fish into a large plastic dishpan. In the house it came and resided first in my kitchen sink, then on the cupboard along side.

I knew the fish needed oxygen, so the first day or two I added cold water to oxygenate the water. By the end of day two, we had a 'bubbler' to produce proper oxygen. The few days later, a small aquarium with a filter was installed. We decided since we would have the pond and fish for the foreseeable future it would be good to have a 'hospital' - and most fish people do recommend isolating any new fish prior to adding them to an established pond.

The fish was named. Dangerous to do. Fred was not able to stay upright, so I wet my hands carefully and placed two glasses side-by-side in the tank with enough space to prop Fred up between them. Our friend Tom at Pet S' Mart recommended a natural medicine, an anti-bacterial which I added daily as directed. Tom suspected Fred's problem was overeating, which had allowed a bacterial infection.

Fred was not strong enough to resist being propped back up from time to time, which in truth I had no basis except instinct to do. It just seemed the right thing. I was concerned about removing his natural 'overcoat' of slime and was very careful handling him.

The recommended length of treatment was ten days. Fred was getting stronger, and now bumped my hand with his nose when I propped him up and tried to keep him from slipping out from between the glasses. On day eleven, Fred was swimming around the tank, doing laps.

After several laps Fred swam between the glasses, and went to sleep! One time might be coincidence, but he repeated the behavior many times. We kept him in the house a couple more days before putting him back in the pond.


This is hardly a scientific study, but I'm convinced Fred recognized a safe place. That of course could be part of his instinct too, but 2 glasses aren't natural habitat. I may be off the edge here, but I think Fred also recognizes me. If I am out by the pond, he swims up and toward me. He could be looking for a hand-out, but if that was the case the rest of his pond buddies would be there too. (Well, actually the Koi do expect food when I show up.)

Over the years we've learned a lot about fish behavior, their habitat, what they eat and when. It is essential if one is to catch fish! But it seems every time I spend observing the pond and the fish I learn something new. One in particular - the differences between a sipping of food from the surface and the slash and run. The sipping is more prevalent on overcast days, the slash in bright sun - the same food presented in the same way.

Isn't learning really grand? ~ LadyFisher

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