The Case of the Missing Fish

In early 2021, I put five fantail goldfish (Larry, Curly, Moesha, Smokey and Bandit) into my little patio water feature. Early last summer, I added some platies (live-bearing tropical fish aka Moon fish). Last fall, four goldfish and a swordtail (Maude) were taken from th pond and moved indoors to an aquarium. Bandit and all the platies were gone. Their fate is a mystery.

The swordtail was supposed to be a platy. Especially when young, the two varieties look a lot alike. Mature platies are shorter in length with rounder profiles. Even without the male’s long tail, swordtails are longer. As swordtails go, Maude is huge.

Maude, a female swordtail

The goldfish were small when I brought them home. After two years in the pond, the smallest (Curly and Larry) had more than doubled in size. The largest (Moesha and Bandit) had more than tripled in size. The goldfish are worth more than ten times what I paid for them.

The view from the pond doesn’t do the goldfish justice. They look chunky from the top–like big eggs with fins. The flowing tails, gorgeous colors, and graceful movements need to be seen in an aquarium.

The pond-raised fish have thrived in their new home. Sadly, the same can’t be said for two small fantails, a male swordtail, a catfish, and an algae eater. Additions thrive for weeks–months in a few cases–before vanishing.

The lack of a heater is a possible cause. Goldfish don’t need it. Some of the deceased were tropical fish. Swordtails are tropical too. Maude’s continued survival leads me to rule out a temperature drop in the tank.

Bullying is another possibility. The pond-raised fish are peaceful and not the least bit pugnacious. They’re huge compared to the deceased fish, however, and quickly snatch up all the food. Survival of the fittest.

Or maybe it’s something else.

Whatever the cause, I still want two more goldfish and a male swordtail. Sentimental value aside, Moesha and pals are far too valuable to put outside for whatever ate Bandit to snack on. Buying smaller fish and raising them myself is the only option for swordtails and the best option for goldfish.

I hadn’t planned to setup the pond this year as I’m still pondering a permanent filter system. Until I solve the filter problem, a smaller pond will be easier to keep clean. The much-simplified 2023 pond has a smaller pump, no waterfalls, and a better but uglier homemade filter. The location was dictated by power cord length, a desire to preserve limited growing space in the yard, and maximum exposure to sun on my mostly shady patio.

The floating plants wintered-over in the aquarium. I’ll add more plants and a few goldfish in the next few weeks but will need to wait until May or June to add swordtails. As always, I’ll keep you posted.