Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

August 9, 2018
Koi Love

Craig Lingard of Stansbury Park has taken his love of fish to all new depths with enchanting pond behind his home 

A slow swish and a flash of color create a soothing rhythm that fills Craig Lingard’s backyard next to Stansbury Lake. Koi are the percussionists that create this cadence.

“The best thing about koi is you sit there and look at them and they are totally not exciting,” Lingard said. “It brings peace to me when I watch them.”

Doves coo around Lingard’s pond and waterfalls, but otherwise quiet mostly reigns.

“Even if it’s just two minutes in the morning before I go to work, I’ll take some food out to the fish and I’ll watch them for a few minutes,” he said. “And that’s enjoyable for me.” 

From an early age, Lingard, 68, claimed to be a fishhead, and went through multiple fish tanks.

“It always felt expensive, and it always ended in some kind of disaster,” he said.

 Lingard said he realized he could never buy a fish tank large enough for the fish he had in mind. He needed a pond.

When Lingard lived in Salt Lake, his wife decided to dig a hole in the middle of their home’s backyard. With his help the hole became a couple of feet wide on both sides and a couple of feet deep. They lined it and Lingard named it a pond. The next task was to buy koi, which are ornamental domesticated carp with origins from Japan. 

“It wasn’t really deep enough or big enough to sustain koi,” Lingard said. “That was my first experience at killing koi.”

As Lingard read trade magazines, he learned koi will only grow as big as the environment allows. To get the big fish Lindgard wanted, he needed more water.

That first pond became the seed for the intricate design that currently fills Lingard’s backyard with terraced pools, steps, waterfalls and even a bridge. The pond’s ecosystem contains frogs and water plants including lilies.

“Those plants are eating the fish waste, and they’re doing a pretty good job of it because my ammonia levels in the pond are really good,” he said.

The plants also discourage algae. An app called Bigpond on Lingard’s phone measures temperature, and ammonia and nutrient levels through a monitor in the pond. 

At a certain spring pond temperature, the koi refuse to eat and begin to chase each other instead. Lingard finds this behavior the most interesting to observe, and it also enables him to somewhat identify the sex of the fish by whether they are a chaser or chasee.

Lingard thinks schooling — when fish swim in a group — would be the most exciting to watch, but for that, he needs an even bigger pond.

“I’m totally crazy,” he said. “If I had it my way, I would have a moat around my house and the fish would swim around my house. I would be able to see them from every room.”

When the water temperature drops below 50 degrees between September and October, the fish sit at the bottom of the pond and become torpid. 

“It’s a new hobby every year because they sit on the bottom of the pond all winter long,” Lingard said. “I don’t feed them. I don’t do anything with them. I just wait till spring and it’s all new again. So it’s kind of a six-month hobby.”

Generally, the koi survive the winter; it’s the spring that challenges them because of temperature changes. 

Lingard dreads finding 20 pounds of dead koi. Dead koi do not disappear down the toilet, so it either requires a burial or double bagging for the trash. 

“You have to have some animal husbandry skills to keep fish alive,” he said. “This year I haven’t had any fish die, so I would say it’s taken me all these years to learn how to create an environment where the fish will thrive.”

However, in 2013, Lingard’s koi died in the same conditions that killed the fish on Stansbury Lake. This inspired a koi pond reboot.

“I decided I was going to redo the pond, and I wanted bigger fish and I needed more area to have bigger fish,” he said. 

Lingard increased the depth of the pond to five feet, and it now holds more than 20 fish.

“I have more and bigger — and I have better taste,” he said.

Lingard’s taste is based on Japanese koi breeding. In Japan, koi are bred to create certain color patterns. Koi can have 200,000 to 300,000 babies. At birth, their color pattern is unknown, but their color pattern emerges over time. The Japanese cull the young koi for their colors as they grow, then classify the koi according to color pattern.

Lingard owns a koi with a single red spot on the nose bred to symbolize Japan. Another of his koi is silver with shades of yellow bred to recall autumn leaves floating on the water.

But Lingard’s favorite koi is a silver kujaku. 

“When I bought the fish, I thought it was kind of bluish and I wanted a blue fish,” he said. “Within a year it changed to where this silver stuff started to come out. The person who sold me the kujaku didn’t realize what they had.”

Currently the kujaku is 24 inches long and dealers could sell it for at least $600.

“I would never sell them,” Lingard said. “I don’t own thousands of dollars; I just own fish.”

Lingard orders his koi online from Hawaii. They’re 10 inches long and are shipped overnight. He buys them that large because, “you can start seeing what they are going to be like.”

Smaller fish are cheaper, but their color pattern is unknown.

“It’s calming to see how they grow, and see how the patterns change in them,” he said. “It seems to me the bigger they are the more I like them.”

Ideally, Lingard would like all females because females tend to be wider, which makes it easier to see motion and color. However, he would prefer a pond of all males over the coed pond he currently has because he doesn’t want baby koi.

“I have no interest in sorting through thousands of baby fish and pulling them out,” he said. “I’m much more interested in just watching them.”

 In spite of Lingard’s efforts to discourage breeding, he has a couple of 6-inch black koi conceived in his pond. He keeps them to see what emerges, and for the Japanese tradition of keeping a black fish in the pond.

Lingard believes he could enjoy the koi in his pond for a long time.

“With good water and good food, I think they can live 20-30 years,” he said.

Lingard has good water, good food — and a good pond, too — to keep his koi happy and content. It sounds like both he and his fish will enjoy peace for many years to come. 

A slow swish and a flash of color create a soothing rhythm that fills Craig Lingard’s backyard next to Stansbury Lake. Koi are the percussionists that create this cadence.

“The best thing about koi is you sit there and look at them and they are totally not exciting,” Lingard said. “It brings peace to me when I watch them.”

Doves coo around Lingard’s pond and waterfalls, but otherwise quiet mostly reigns.

“Even if it’s just two minutes in the morning before I go to work, I’ll take some food out to the fish and I’ll watch them for a few minutes,” he said. “And that’s enjoyable for me.” 

The koi in Lingard’s pond continue to measure time with a slow swish and a flash of color in a cadence. Beyond the limits of a lifespan, the koi may become the percussionists in new ponds beyond the horizon, known or unknown.

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