Save the Koi

It was sunset.  In desperate need to relax after another busy day, I stepped outback to commune with the Koi.  I immediately heard a terrible sound, silence.  Silence is not golden when it comes to our backyard.  Typically, there is the sound of water gushing, pumps humming and Koi splashing as they jump out of the water to catch unsuspecting insects flying by.  But at that moment, I heard nothing; not a trickle or a drip.

Panic ensued.

“What’s going on?  Why is nothing running?” I said out loud.  I ran into the house to get the kids.

“We have a situation.” I yelled.  

I began to check every lever, switch and knob.  They were all “on.”  I tested the circuit breaker, no blown fuse.  I turned the pumps “off” and then back “on” again, nothing, complete silence.  I finally checked the pumps.  My heart sank.  They were completely submerged under water and steam was rising from the surface.  This was not good and I knew it. 

My biggest concern at the moment:  how long can the Koi live without the pumps?  My second concern:  how much is this going to cost us? 

Kevin, usually my “go to guy” for things like this was still at the office.

Erik, the previous owner and creative genius behind the Koi pond was in the Caribbean.

And, me, well, I was at a complete loss.

I called my friend Orit, a fellow Koi pond owner, for advice.  She said she will have her Koi pond guy call me. 

In the meanwhile, I checked the internet to see if I could find any information on how long Koi can live without a pump.  Of course, there was no straightforward answer.  It depends on a combination of factors such as the size of the fish, the amount of fish in the pond, the size of the pond, the depth of the pond, and the total gallons of water the pond holds.  You need to be a mathematician to figure it all out, that, I am not.  All I knew is that we have ten Koi worth anywhere from $50 to $2,000 a piece.  I also knew that a new pump could cost us up to $1,600, and it takes two pumps to keep the system running at full speed.  That math I could do. 

So, how far do we go to save the Koi?  Is it worth spending a shitload of money on a handful of fish?

At this point, my imagination went amuck.  I pictured our family wearing “Save the Koi T-shirts,” hanging out on the street corner begging for money to help buy a new pump system.

Two hours later, after no answers and no change, Kevin is finally home and my phone finally rang.  It was Orit’s Koi guy, Andrew. 

Andrew said it was imperative we keep the water oxygenated.  He asked if the Koi are showing any signs of distress. 

“Actually, yes,” I answered.  “They are all grouped together in the shallow area of the pond hiding under the bridge.  Usually at this time in the evening they are jumping out of the water catching bugs.”  He told me to go to Pet Co tonight and buy some Power Heads, mini pumps used for fish aquariums.  They may buy you a little time until you get everything up and running again.  He also said, he can come by on Friday, to take a look at the pumps. 

“That is two days away,” I said. 

“It’s the best I can do,” he answered.  I asked what else we could do in the meanwhile. 

He said, “Cross your fingers and hope for the best.  Pet Co closes in 10 min, he added.” 

“Shit.  It’s sink or swim guys.” 

We decided to swim.  Maggie and I hopped into the car to get the pumps.  It was a scene from Dukes of Hazard as we raced down Villa Park to get there before closing time.

Back at home, Kevin was looking around the house for any possible spare parts while Riley and Grandma attempted to drain the flooded pump well.  They placed one end of a hose into the well, while Grandma, on the other end of the hose and on all fours I might add, tightly wrapped her lips around the nozzle and began sucking with all her might, in an attempt to siphon the water.  Kevin, catching a glimpse of what was happening rescued my poor mother, pointing out that there is a switch to drain any excess water from the well.  Mom, you will stop at nothing to help us. 

While the well was draining, Casey kept the water oxygenated manually with buckets, a broom and a hose.

Once Maggie and I got home, we spilled the contents of the power heads onto the floor.  There were no directions on how to put these suckers together.  Riley and I painstakingly connected the tubes and stones one by one until we had them set up and working.  We placed them precariously into the pond, scaring the fish as they attempted to flee these strange contraptions.  There were bubbles, lots and lots of bubbles.  Yay! Thank god for all those years of “Instant Challenges” in the Destination Imagination competitions. 

While we were taking care of the power heads, Kevin found an old back up pump in the garage.  Erik left us with all kinds of tools and parts for this house.  That should have been our first clue.  Anyway, Kevin crawled down into the well with a flashlight and all the creepy crawlies that come out late at night.  Standing in cold water up to his knees, he tried to remove the not-working pump. 

“It won’t budge,” he said.  I need a pipe wrench!” 

“It’s 10:30 at night.” Riley replied.  “Where are we going to find a pipe wrench?” 

“Let’s try Dave!”  I suggested.  Our neighbor, Dave, used to own a pool service company. 

Riley and I ran two houses down and knocked on his door, no answer.  We knocked again.  Nothing. 

“Shit.  What now?”  We just stood there, looking at each other in utter defeat, as if we were on the deck of the Titanic watching the last lifeboat go out to see.  Seconds later, headlights broke our stare as a big truck pulled up to the curb.  It was Dave.  We were saved.  Sure enough, he had the tool and some good advice.  Whew!  Someone was watching over us. 

With the pipe wrench, Kevin was able to remove the pump and replace it with the spare until we are able to buy a new pump.  Although a temporary fix, we saved the Koi. 

You know, I was hoping for a bit of an adventure when we chose to buy this house.  Kind of like the movie “We Bought a Zoo,” except we bought a jungle.  Well, I got my wish.  It’s been one drama after another around here. 

So, is it worth it?  Let’s put it this way.  The power heads: $78.  The Koi:  at least $500.  The new pump: $1,600.  Our family coming together in a time of crisis: priceless.

2 Responses to “Save the Koi”

  1. Raundi Says:

    What a memory you will all share, forever <3 Thanks for sharing it with us.

  2. Angela Says:

    I was on the edge of my seat reading this! What a suspenseful story with a happy ending :)

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