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Water sports for llamas

Goldfish”, I said. "The pond is pretty, but it needs fish”. I remembered back to my childhood where a tricking fountain splashed into a pond of white, pink and yellow water lilies, and how I would catch the goldfish, in my bare hands, and let them go again.

After inspecting every pet shop in Canberra, we found a specialist aquarium shop in Queanbeyan. They had all sorts of tropical and exotic fish, and lots of goldfish. Suddenly something caught my eye that I didn’t know existed! “Giant goldfish” I exclaimed! “They’re huge, look, this one is nearly 2’ long”

“They’re koi” snapped the proprietor.

“Oh, they don’t look shy to me, they even seem friendly”.

KOI, K - O - I” he said louder and in a somewhat irritated fashion, “they’re not goldfish, they’re called KOI”, probably for the nth time today he resentfully explained the difference.

“I haven’t seen them in the Canberra pet shops”, I said.

“Illegal, can’t sell them in the ACT”, he replied, “but we can in NSW”, he added with a touch of superiority. Further questioning revealed that Koi (and for that matter goldfish) are related to European Carp - the scourge of our river systems, destroying the habitat of our native fish, and that it was illegal to keep them in farm dams etc, for fear that they may escape into waterways during floods. That ended my idea, our pond was merely a 10’ diameter, 4’ deep hole dug in the clay.

Sensing my disappointment, my partner said “I could build an above ground pond out of sleepers and line it with a heavy gauge plastic”. A week later we had an above ground pond, 2 sleepers long, 1 sleeper wide and 2 sleepers deep, water lilies and 20, baby koi each 2” long. We were concerned that the dog, might see this as her personal swimming pool and puncture the liner with her claws. An intensive training program for Holly the dog ensured that she learned that the pond was not for her enjoyment. Now we were content that all was well.

Our excitement with our new acquisition was only exceeded by that of the local heron population, who invited their neighbours and friends to this new “Sea Food Take Away”. Much to their disgust, we added a bird net. Opening specials obviously being finished at this restaurant and the new bird net decor, being totally unacceptable, the herons, in a huff took their clientele elsewhere.

When the llamas arrived, we decided to keep them around the house for a few days. This proved to be a great idea - they did little damage to the garden, selected very acceptable sites for their communal poo piles, and learned that they could push the bird netting down to drink from the above ground pond. Weeks went by, and still no problems around the house, I was now quite delighted with the idea that I no longer had to mow or wippersnip and I loved watching the “llama train” casually cruise past the kitchen window.

What is so interesting over by the pond? I wondered one very hot day. All the llamas were gathered around the pond watching most intently. “Herons!” I shrieked, racing to the back door. As I opened the back door I heard a splash. And then another. Two llamas looked up at me from their paddling pond, smiling blissfully. The bird net was in tatters, and the other llamas, pawing at the water with their feet, were obviously considering a dip. The 190 kg Ned Kelly subsided like the Titanic, with a huge wake sloshing over the edge of the pond. “Eureka” I grumbled, the Archimedes Displacement of Water Theory, loomed in my mind. I estimated that Ned’s displacement factor was about 60 (precious) gallons. Realising that his padded feet sported toenails that potentially could puncture the plastic liner, I quietly walked to the pond to encourage the “Titanic” to capsize elsewhere. No way! They sloshed to the other end of the pond, obviously enjoying our game, their smiles becoming wider. Food, I thought, that will work - and it did. (It ALWAYS worked) Immediately there was a desperate rush for the feed shed. Two desperate waterlogged llamas ripped their way through the remaining bird net, floundering through the pond. Ned was frantic - What if he missed out on this unexpected edition of food? I giggled at his frantic struggle to become land borne (or feed shed bound, to be more accurate). For once I was grateful for Ned’s excessive greed. He struggled, heaving his waterlogged-many-extra-kilo-heavier body out of the pond, running desperately to the shed, trailing water like a running hose.

Inspecting the damage, my worst fears were unsubstantiated. Sure the bird net was a write off, a few of the water-lily pots were on their sides - the koi were in hiding, but it appeared that the liner was intact. I was relieved.

The next morning I was not so pleased. The level of the pond had gone down, with water oozing out making a boggy patch. I was resigned to the damaged liner would need to be replaced, but a week later the pond stabilised to a water loss of about 1” every 3rd day. Not as bad as I had first thought, in fact it was sort of like an automatic water changer. Barricades were erected around the pond, just in case the llamas thought they had begun their training for water sports for the next Olympics. Now the only splashing is from an occasional koi feeding frenzy, and thanks to the llamas, the automatic drainage system reduces the amount of cleaning time for the pond. It drains itself by about 3” every week, and once a week we top it up. It’s actually very convenient.

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