The Garden Community for Garden Lovers

Flogging a Dead Fish (or The Pond Diary of a Delusional Idiot)


Three years ago in the spring, we dug a big whole in our new front garden (well, we didn’t…but a man with a mini-digger did) to make a garden pond. I love ponds.

I put in some plants, a handful of goldfish, a couple of comets, three tiny koi carp and a little brown minnow called a carpe d’amour (lovely name that, isn’t it? and a pond-cleaner, too, as I was told). Hmm…four big mistakes there…can you spot them??

At first it all went quite well and I looked forward to everything getting established…

The frogs moved in almost immediately…and the water-lily bloomed for the whole of its first summer…

So, I was pleased!

The second summer was okay. The water wasn’t exactly crystal, but it was clearish. The water-lily didn’t bloom, but it still looked healthy enough. I put it down to the weather…“Unseasonably cold and wet”, I thought…

The source had its first make-over…and I was still happy.

During the third summer, even though the goldfish had babies, it was beginning to become clear (or murky, to be more accurate) that something was awry…

…and there was a noticeable lack of vegetation, despite my having put in two more water-lilies…

“Okay”, I thought, “Everything suffered in that late, great freeze”…and didn’t unduly worry.

There were, of course, some fairly obvious signs of what was causing the malaise…

…but, I didn’t see them through my green tinted sunglasses…

“These koi are are lovely to watch”, I mused, “And, my! Just look how big they are getting!”

Blissfully unaware, I carried on re-vamping and developing the garden and the pond…and I was still quite happy. Sure, I had lost a few plants…but, that happens, doesn’t it?

However, when spring sprung this year, I found, to my shock and horror, that I no longer had a pond! I had a stagnant, green mosquito farm. It was a swamp!

And I was not happy…

Three water-lilies and…very nearly…as many leaves!

It was touch and go whether the few remaining oxygenators were going to make it…

Gallons of pond-clear products couldn’t cut the mustard…or should that be wasabi? The frogs hung on in there, though, despite having to adapt to swimming in lentil soup…

The grim realisation, that my (not so little any more) fishy friends were eating themselves out of house and home, was beginning to dawn on me…

But, still I carried on in denial…
I ordered and installed loads of plants – twelve oxygenators, two floaters and four emergents – thinking that I might be able to out-plant them…

…and I did!
But, only for around a week…

They had the oxygenators for starters and the floaters for main course. By the time I took that photo, they were already nibbling on desserts…any new shoots within reach!

“Right that’s it! Enough’s enough”, I finally acknowledged, as my sunglasses fell off into the slime. There would be no more gourmet dining for certain members of this fish population…at least, not in my pond!

And, so, it was empied…a slow and smelly business..

…and the koi, along with a couple of dozen goldfish, swam over the dam and into a lovely (plantless) pond in town. They’re still living in the style to which they have become accustomed, though…their new owners tell me that they are particularly fond of sweet-corn, these days…

As for the carpe d’amour? I put him back in…he’s a pond cleaner, after all, isn’t he?
No. Pond-clearer is what he is! A few days later, we had to empty it again…just to catch him…after he grazed to the ground Thalia Dealbata, in a matter of hours.

So, with the pond re-filled, de-greened (again) and re-stocked with a dozen more oxygenators, two more floaters, and another emergent, I decided to take no chances. Plus, there were still a few goldfish in there, and the two comets, muddying the waters.

After much wheedling, OH was finally persuaded that we did, indeed, need that filter system, which I had my eye on. Pricey, I know…but, when you add up the cost of plants, pond-clear products and water at 3,000 litres a time, well worth it, I reasoned.

The pump is placed in the deep end and the filter is hidden in the garden…

…I made the hole, in the bottom of a pot, bigger to bring the filtered water back in at the shallow end…

Instant results? Certainly not…but, the water was looking an awful lot better!

It took a few weeks to really kick in but, once it got going, there was no stopping it!

This week, the pond is totally transformed…

The water-lilies are rejoicing, the oxygenators are respiring, thalia dealbata is recovering…

…and I’m very happy!

Oh! And the carpe d’amour? Nothing to do with love, as I found out…it’s the French spelling of carp amur, aka grass carp. And very aptly named, too. He moved on to pastures green along the road. His new owners are very pleased with the sterling work he’s doing in their over-grown and choked lake. He’s eating his own weight in weeds…several times a day! :)

More blog posts by karenfrance

Previous post: Lifting the lid on the septic tank...The New Generation!

Next post: Paradise found!



Thanks J! :)x
That filter was so worth it! It'll be lovely to see what those other two lilies look like next summer.
Next step...leave all the planting behind the pond, but replace the "lawn" with beach pebbles and grasses...what do you think?

21 Sep, 2013


Happy fish happy pond owner....Result!!
Very pleased it has all worked out well from every point of view xxx

You should hear our koi suck the weed from the pond sides,.....vacuum cleaners come to mind!

21 Sep, 2013


That is a fab blog Karen. it just about covers every possible pond challenge, and provides the solutions! Excellent job. I'm amazed to see how clear it is now! When I dig out my pond in the new garden I'm going to have a filter like that! I learned my lesson with fish in my last fish in my little pond here...just Freddie and the boatmen (great name for a band eh?). Well done!

21 Sep, 2013


we started with 7 3" koi and they were eating their way through £10 of food a week by the time they got to 12" . A neighbour always admired them and when she made us an offer we 'reluctantly' agreed to let her have them. Pond is also happier. When we do our pond the sludge gets but on the borders. the birds have a field day eating the various beasties in the sludge.

21 Sep, 2013


Definitely beach pebbles and grasses Karen, it will finish off the look. Your pond looks wonderful now, what lengths to have to go to though, but you have got it right......hopefully! Great blog.

21 Sep, 2013


Oh remember my dilemma. It's down to your advice that it all worked out fine on the fish-front and I can't thank you enough for that :)xxx's strange how critters with no teeth can have that much pulling power...but, they surely do!!

If only it could be harnessed...the Dyson Koi would be "formidable!" :)))

At this point, I have to thank Meadowland, also. Thank you, so much J! You had to listen to all my griping and green-watering...and you were there with first-aid when the water-lily (among others) was in the paddling-pool hospital...
...and, you know how much I appreciate your advice..., the pebbles will work! lol!
(Going with them at soonest opportunity!)

Lol! This is beginning to feel like an Oscar speech!
...but, I'm grateful to you both :)))

You caught me there, Karen...before I got over-dramatic, lol! :)x
If you don't have fish, you probably don't need it...
...but, if you have it - you CAN have fish!
You have to get one which is around twice the volume of your pond - ie. my pond is 3000 litres, so my kit (it all comes in a box, apart from the outlet hose) was a 5000L. could have a small lake at your new house...n'est pas? )x

21 Sep, 2013


What ever happened to the frog? Or has he turned into a handsome prince ;)
Having always admired your pond, I'm so pleased you've finally got it sourted. It must be such a pleasure now.

21 Sep, 2013


Ooh, sorry ladies...things crossed!

Seaburngirl - I'm with drop them in at that size (although, mine were only about an inch and a half - €2 each) and you don't really believe that they'll get to be big, magnificent fish...
...after all, koi are "fickle" and "difficult"...and need pampering...
...I don't think so...mine would have died of starvation - not suffication in the slime - had I not fed them!
I'm sure that like you, I'm glad they've gone to a better place.

The sludge, this year (and there was bucket-loads) was just left in the bed around the allow any crawlies to get back into the, it's good fertiliser...
And, I'm kind of hoping that once there is a good balance, there won't be too much more sludge...well, I can live in hope! :)

21 Sep, 2013


Thanks Gill! It's a committee decision, now...hammer down and passed!

I know just where to get them, too...

...combined visit to the duck and goose fair...and the landscapers yard! :)

21 Sep, 2013


Thanks Angie! :)
But what do you mean, lol! I live in the land of the frogs!
They're in the pond, in the grass, behind the shutters, on the windows, on the car and in the car!lol!

And, I'm no kissing any of them!!!

...well, maybe a cute wee!!!!

21 Sep, 2013


That will be a nice day out then Karen......enjoy & take credit card too. Lol

21 Sep, 2013


Don't encourage me, Gill....! :)))

22 Sep, 2013


Pleased to be of help Karen x

When he first suggested a pond for koi and no plants I felt it was cruel but they seem very happy.....

Will watch all your progress with interest xxx

22 Sep, 2013


Thanks Pam :)

I was reading that some koi don't eat the plants...but if one starts, they all join in!
So, if they're quite social, maybe koi company is more important?
Yours play, don't they? I'd love to see photos of that! :)xx

23 Sep, 2013


When they jump Karen they splash the slabs around the pond. balancing on their tail like mini dolphin.s..One was showing off the other day doing a triple jump!
Much to random and quick to snap though......

23 Sep, 2013


My goodness . . what courage and energy you have Karen. A real labour of love, but so worth it in the end :)

23 Sep, 2013


Oh, Sheila...It was all my own fault. I loved those fish...
'Specially, that wee minnow, which came to be a foot long. He used to, slowly, come up from the depths with a wide-open mouth. I called him him the basking shark...

We're all happier now, tho'...they really have gone to better places :)))

23 Sep, 2013


Very positive, Karen - good for you :)

24 Sep, 2013


A truly inspiring story Karen:-)) I don't have fish anymore, since the last goldfish died. I also have no fountain now as ivy has grown on and in my junction box (sounds like a euphemism) so can't switch outside power on at all. However the still water suits the frogs etc and the waterlilies and my pond had cleared all by itself making the packs of Pondclear I bought totally redundant. My water plants must have attained a balance:-)

28 Sep, 2013


Thanks's the only way to be, lol! ;)))

My pond, at the old house, did the same thing Ba...after I left!! :)
Three years of no aeriation and total neglect...the fish are still there (no koi or grass carp, though)...the water-lily is magnificent (along with all the other things I put in)...and the water is crystal clear!
...and the moral of the story is.......? :)))

(ps, I'm desperately trying to think of something funny to say about having ivy in your junction box...but all it makes me think of is that old song, "Barbed wire in his underpants"...say nothing...)

3 Oct, 2013


It sounds like all will be well now , Karen .
Bonne chance !

3 Oct, 2013


Merci, Driad! J'espere! :)

3 Oct, 2013


I'm saying nowt:-)

3 Oct, 2013

Add a comment

Featured on

Recent posts by karenfrance

Members who like this blog

  • Gardening with friends since
    24 Sep, 2012

  • Gardening with friends since
    17 Jan, 2012

  • Gardening with friends since
    16 Jul, 2009

  • Gardening with friends since
    15 Jan, 2010

  • Gardening with friends since
    8 Apr, 2010

  • Gardening with friends since
    9 May, 2011

  • Gardening with friends since
    9 Aug, 2009

  • Gardening with friends since
    16 Mar, 2010

  • Gardening with friends since
    13 May, 2010

  • Gardening with friends since
    1 Mar, 2008

  • Gardening with friends since
    1 Oct, 2010

  • Gardening with friends since
    4 Oct, 2008

  • Gardening with friends since
    1 Feb, 2011

Garden centre