Dealing With More Than We Bargained For…

When I last posted, Ed and I were facing the mega-task of replacing our pond liner.  It was cold, cloudy, and there was a 70% chance of rain in the forecast!  Sounds like the perfect day to tackle such a job, doesn’t it?  Feeling like we had no choice, we forged ahead with our plans, beginning on Monday afternoon.

The first task at hand was removing over a dozen (5 gallon) buckets of garden rocks from around the base of the pond.  Next we had to take down the retaining wall.  After doing all of this, the edges of the pond liner were finally exposed.  Once we began to expose the edges of it, I realized just how brittle the old liner was…

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many such holes awaited us….

I went to bed quite stressed on Monday night.  I hadn’t slept well in several nights prior, and Monday night was no exception.  On Tuesday, I woke up sick.  My stomach was upset, my head was booming, and I felt nauseous.  I attribute all of these symptoms to   stress.  We had exactly eleven hours to drain the pond, get the fish out, get the liner out, put the new liner in, refill the pond, and replace the fish.  No wonder I was stressed!


draining the pond

By 7:30 we began draining the water from our 1390 gallon pond.  We used two different pumps at the same time.  It took almost three hours to completely drain the pond.  We sent the water away from the pond, by using water hoses on the pumps.  By the way, the water we were working with was about 64 degrees!

Originally, I set up four large (30 qt) plastic containers, and two smaller ones,  off to the side of the pond.  We filled the containers halfway with water drained from the pond. I’d purchased a large aquarium pump, some tubing, valves, and air stones so I’d have a way to furnish an air supply to each of the containers.  Some of our fish are quite large, and I wasn’t sure how long they would be able to live without additional air.  As an afterthought, I filled up three extra containers with water, just for insurance.  I’m glad I did!

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a pesky cat trying to catch a fish

Within an hour or so of beginning the draining of the pond, we began to see some of the leak problems.  There were several large holes on one side of the pond.  It’s a wonder we were able to keep any water at all in the pond!  We both realized we hadn’t acted a day too soon.


Catching the fish and a pile of discarded water lilies

Within a couple of hours, Ed had the water low enough that he could wade in, wearing his rubber boots.  He began removing  the water lilies that had taken over the pond.  What a chore that was!  Once the lilies were removed, we were able to begin catching the fish.  It took a while to catch all of them.  Some were quite elusive of the black cloth net that I’d purchased!  The pond water was so muddy, I don’t know how the poor things could see how to get away.  Within an hour, Ed and I had captured every last one of them though!  It was now lunchtime.

About halfway through the netting process, I realized I was going to need those extra containers that I’d filled with water!  I rounded up three more old pumps, and ended up with fish in all of the containers.  We knew there were a lot of fish in our pond, but we never dreamed there were so many!

Once the fish were removed, Ed had to shovel out the pea pebbles and sludge left in the bottom of the pond.  Let me tell you, that was some nasty stuff!  There were at least ten (5 gallon) buckets of it.  Ed shoveled, and I pulled the filled buckets away and dumped them.  Thank goodness for my new garden wagon!

Next we quickly discovered that removing the old liner in one piece wasn’t possible.  Ed tore off what he could, and cut the rest into pieces with his knife.  At one point, the sharp, brittle liner cut his finger and blood was pouring off his hand!  After a brief moment for some “first aid”, he went right back to work.

Once the old liner was removed, a couple of new problems presented themselves.  The first was the sight of tree roots!  Probably from the nearby Crepe Myrtle and Japanese Magnolia trees.  Some could even be from the pine trees across the yard!  The pond leaks had clearly invited the roots to partake of the easy source of water.

The next problem, and the most pressing one at the time, was the water beginning to fill up the bottom of the hole!  After the old liner was removed, water began springing up from the bottom of the hole!  Our pond is evidently below the current water level!  At this point, I felt sick at heart, and began to tear up.  I suggested to Ed that we throw the new liner in the hole, still in its box, cover up the entire mess, and just forget it.  He said since we’d already bought the liner, so we might as well proceed and do the best we could.


putting the new liner in

So that’s what we did.  We fought water in the bottom of the hole as we laid down the padding, which sort of floated.  Next came the 112 pound liner on top of that, which sort of squished the water up the sides a bit.  Ed had no trouble getting the liner in the hole, with a little help from me.  We got the liner as straight as we could, and began to refill the pond.  By then, it was already three o’clock.  We had just over three hours until dark–and it was beginning to look an awful lot like rain!  In fact, it had already sprinkled on us twice.

By five o’clock, we had filled the pond about one-half full, so I added some “Pond Start” to the water.  Pond Start treats the new water and helps the fish deal with the stress of being netted.  After that, we drained off one-half of the water from each container of fish, and floated the containers one by one into the pond.  After fifteen minutes of floating, to get the fish adjusted to the water temperature, we released them back into the half-filled pond.  We counted them as we released them.  We discovered there are 169 goldfish living in our pond–and we’d started out with just over a dozen!


some of the happy fish at home again

The fish all survived their ordeal, and so did we.  We called it a day around 6:00.  We were both muddy and tired, but our mission was accomplished.  I was actually so tired, I couldn’t hold my head up to eat supper.  I propped it while I ate!

The pond is not finished yet.  Ed had to return to work the next day.  We still have to finish filling the pond, work as many wrinkles out of the liner as we can, then put the retaining wall and rocks back around it.  It will be at least another full day’s work, beginning tomorrow.

It will be a while before the water lilies take hold again and begin to provide cover for the fish.  We planted some lilies in a shallow pan, others we left in the holes of some concrete blocks they’d previously called home.  (Water lilies will grow anywhere!)  For now, our poor fish are at the mercy of the world!  We’ve covered the entire top of the pond with a net.  Hopefully, this will protect them from birds of prey and our hungry cats, who love to catch fish!

As for the extra water in the bottom of the hole, the tree roots, and the  wrinkles in the liner–I’ll think about all of it another day.  For now, the fish are happy, they’re alive, and all is calm in our little neck of the woods…until the next catastrophe!

Published in: on March 8, 2013 at 10:46 am  Comments (5)  
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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. wow! You have a lot of fish! What a BIG project! But it looks like the fish are happy and all is well.

  2. I can’t believe you and Ed did th at all by yourselves. What a team!

  3. You meann you two did that all by yourselves? What a team!

  4. We have a pond in our back yard but not nearly as big as yours. Replacing a line is a pain in the neck! Your entire process sounds very familiar!! It will look beautiful when it’s done!

  5. Wow, what a project! But worth it, I’m sure!

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