Caring for the Garden Pool in Summer
The pool needs very little attention during the summer months if it is well balanced. The plants should be flourishing and thegliding about happily. Warm weather causes evaporation and this should be corrected regularly. Rain water is ideal for topping up the pool, but tap water is a good second best. The only problem this may create is a temporary green haze as suspended algae take advantage of the abundance of fresh mineral salts that has been added. This is only a minor irritation. Nothing compared with the trouble a plastic pool liner will give if an area between and water level is continually exposed to the sun. In these circumstances the pool liner becomes bleached, brittle and quickly breaks up.
Fish capture our attention more during the summer than at any other time of the year. And what delightful creatures they are! Especially if you have the time and patience to feed them regularly. It is not that they are likely to need anything if the pool is well balanced, for there is always an abundance of insect life available. It is just that, like us, they will not work if they do not have to, and taking food from the human hand is far simpler than hunting elusive worms and mosquito larvae.
It is correct that if one feeds ornamental fish at the same place in the pool each day, after a short period of time they will rush to that spot merely at the sound of a footfall or when a shadow is cast across the water. This can lead to endless fun, for some species become so thrilled with the arrangement that they will take particles of food from your fingers.
The kind of food offered, the quantity, and the frequency with which it is given are perpetual topics of conversation amongst fish fanciers. In the summer feeding can take place every other day, sufficient being given to keep the fish occupied for about twenty minutes. Any that remains uneaten being netted off and the quantity reduced by that amount the next feeding time. Of course, feeding should be directly related to the activity of the fish, which in the summer is heightened by the warmer weather. Therefore during spring, and again in the autumn, it will be discovered that fish will only eat normally on bright sunny days, and, therefore, should be treated accordingly.
There is a wide variety of staple foods to choose from and all have their advocates. These basically take three different forms. The conventional or crumb form in a mixture of colours and looking very much like biscuit meal. Flaked foods, which take the form of thin tissues of flake-like breakfast cereal, and the floating pellet variety, which are brownish or grey in colour and of similar appearance to the concentrated pellets on which farmers feed poultry and rabbits.
The traditional biscuit or crumb form has little to commend it except price, for it is much cheaper than other kinds. Unfortunately, it sinks rather quickly and the fish tend to miss it, so its purchase in preference to other varieties is a dubious economy.
Both flaked and pelleted fish foods float for a considerable time, but on a blustery day the flaked ones are quickly blown away, so that leaves us with pellets. The only black mark that I can place against them is their size. Although at least one enterprising manufacturer has introduced a pelleted food in mixed sizes. However, most distribute pellets of a large uniform size which are frustrating for smaller fish who have to suck continuously at them to gain any nourishment and also run the risk of being choked.
Apart from staple diets there are many other varieties of fish food which can be fed with advantage. Dried flies, shredded shrimp and daphnia are amongst the most popular, although freeze dried foods like mosquito larvae and tubifex worms are making advances. All are nutritious, but must not be fed continuously. Rather should they be used sparingly to add occasional variety to what must be very dull fare.
Live foods are much relished, but like the dry kinds must be fed only occasionally. Daphnia and tubifex worms are the favourites, daphnia being especially useful as they can be set up in a self-perpetuating culture at home. Add a couple of centimetres of soil to a tub of rain water. This will quickly turn green with algae. Then introduce a small net of daphnia. This feeds on the algae and breeds in the murky depths at an amazing rate. Sufficient during warm sunny weather to provide a pool full of fish with two decent meals each week.
The summer is also the time when pond fish breed. And what headaches they seem to cause the new pond owner. Unnecessary, of course, but understandable if one has no idea of what is going on.
To start from the beginning, we will assume that the pool owner would like to breed a few fish. Thus allowing those who have no intention of following this pursuit, and who only get involved accidentally through the will of Nature, to extract any useful information. So we start with selecting breeding pairs of fish on the understanding that with the exception of catfish, which belong to a different group, and bitterling, which have their own way of doing things, all are of the carp family and perform in a very similar manner.
Adult fish all look the same to the untrained eye, but if we take goldfish as an example, we will see that some are slim and pencil-like, while others are rather dumpy and, if viewed from above, more or less oval in outline. The chunky ones are female and the more slender ones male. In spring and summer this can be further verified by looking at the heads, and more particularly the gill plates, of suspected males for these should be covered in white pimples or nuptial turbucles. The occurrence of these varies considerably from fish to fish and species to species.
Breeding is not so much geared to age as size. Thus any young goldfish in excess of 8cm in length is capable of reproducing. But only during the spring and summer, the frequency of spawning being directly related to the temperature of the water. When several fish are seen chasing around the pool and brushing against one another they are almost certainly spawning. I will not go into the technicalities of fish breeding, but what basically happens is that fertilised spawn is wrapped around submerged plant life, the tiny fish quickly emerging and clinging to leaves and stems. After two or three weeks, those that have survived being eaten by their elders, will be seen swimming around the pool. They look like miniature versions of their parents and may be either transparent or bronze, but with the passage of time attaining their proper hues.
No special attention is needed for adults or fry. However, if you seriously wish to keep a few home-bred fish, ensure their safety in early life. Collect some submerged plant with spawn attached as soon as possible after it is deposited. Then put this in a bucket containing water from the pond and most of the fry will develop unhindered. As there will be little food available to them they should be fed on a baby fish food, which is easily obtainable from any pet shop, or tiny pieces of egg yolk.