dianne salerni author
dianne salerni author

Can anyone identify this species of fish?


About three years ago, approximately 2 dozen of these fish appeared suddenly in our pond. They were about ½ inch long when we first spotted them, and in the past 3 years, they’ve grown to 7-9 inches. Before anyone asks, our pond is a closed system with an upper pond …


… and a lower pond joined by a pump.

These fish look nothing like any other fish we have, so they weren’t babies of our existing fish. It’s as if they just dropped from the sky (or outer space). Now, my friend Kelley Crist did admit to sneaking into our yard when we weren’t home one year and depositing a bucket of frogs in our pond (No, I don’t know why, either. Ask her.), but she adamantly denies delivering these fish.

They are all dark-green to black in color. Some of them have a silver streak along their backs at the base of the top fin. (Military rank?) We wanted to catch one of those to photograph, but they were too quick. Our regular goldfish are dumb enough to be caught by a net again and again, but not these mystery fish and especially the striped ones. (It’s as if their mother ship warned them about this.)

Now, brace yourself for the weirdest part of this story. In the fall of the year they first appeared, we decided to drain the upper pond and clear out the algae. As the water level dropped, we discovered another of these fish – living all by himself, upstream, in the upper pond. He was twice as big as the others (because he was their leader).

One more interesting point: When our pond was robbed of all the largest fish this spring (by a heron, a juvenile delinquent, or the Fish Rapture – don’t know which), these fish all escaped harm. They are all still here.

If anyone can tell me what kind of fish this is – or make up a plausible interesting story about how they got in my pond – I’d love to hear from you!

Yesterday was the first day of Spring. In Pennsylvania, at least, we had a fairly decent day: sunny, and warm enough for a sweatshirt without a coat, but not short sleeves. This is the state of my back yard.

It brings to mind several thoughts, which I can categorize thusly:

NOT YET:

The pool and hot tub are closed, and the waterfall over the gold fish pond is shut down. I really missed the hot tub this weekend, with that gorgeous, over-full moon. However, March is tricky in Pennsylvania. A late snowstorm is not out of the question, along with dipping temperatures that can freeze the pipes. So, I’ll have to look forward to hot-tubbing in April.

TO DO:

Ugh! Clearly I didn’t clean out the dead plants in the fall. Bad Dianne-of-the-Past, leaving all that grotty work for Dianne-of-the-Future! There will be lots of gardening in the upcoming weeks for me – unless I can convince Gina to do it. Hmmm … maybe I should consult Tom Sawyer?

LOOKING FORWARD:

The solar panels on the roof are already in full swing. This is an optimal time of year for them – sunny but not too hot. I look forward to the appearance of all my flowering plants, and being surprised by the things I forgot I planted last year. Soon it will be warm enough to sit under the deck and read or write next to the gold fish pond. And in a few months, I’ll enjoy the pool for exercise and floating – which is my favorite brainstorming activity!

I realized today that I can apply these categories to my writing projects as well:

NOT YET: I have two ideas percolating that are not ready to hit (electronic) paper. I need to let them simmer and not try to rush them (lest the pipes freeze?? I’m not sure that metaphor works!).

TO DO: Make some significant progress on my WIP. Is this thing going to fly or sink? I reached 21,000 words before deciding I needed to make some major changes. So I’m heading back to the beginning – rearranging, reconceiving, rewriting. I’m setting a goal to double this word count in the next couple months or just let the idea go.

LOOKING FORWARD: Bright sunny days are coming; I can feel it. I have several completed projects that I hope will blossom this spring or summer. When school lets out, I’ll have more time for writing, more time to visit other people’s blogs. I’m hoping the soothing sound of the waterfall, the intrigue of mysterious fish that appear in my pond, the colorful backdrop of flowers, and the relaxation of the pool will inspire me for many creative weeks.


This spring, on an impulse visit to a nearby nursery, I bought a rather pretty plant for my upper pond. It was a water hyacinth, which floats on the water, has interesting succulent leaves, and a beautiful blue flower.

If I had bothered to check my book Wicked Plants by Amy Stewart, I might not have been so surprised three weeks later when my pond looked like this:

Yikes! I wondered if it would be able to get out of the pond, come into the house, and eat one of my children in the night!

Apparently this lovely little plant is a pernicious weed that doubles in area every 2 weeks. According to Amy Stewart: “The crimes that this aquatic plant has committed are so great that it should be locked away forever – if only that worked.” She also says: “The plant is so horrible that it has earned its own Guinness World Record as the world’s worst aquatic weed.”

I probably would not have bought the plant if I had known this. And yet, as it turns out – no harm done. The hyacinths have produced pretty blue flowers all summer; the frogs love the pond, and our lower pond has never been so clear! Apparently the water strained through the hyacinth blockage comes out stripped of nitrogen – which feeds the algae that has been a constant problem in previous summers.

When I clipped some of the hyacinths out and threw them in the lower pond to see what would happen, they didn’t make out so well. Apparently even this hardened criminal of a plant could not withstand the mighty force of my voracious pond fish.

Have you ever invited a pernicious pest into your home by mistake? How did it turn out for you?

Where do you go to de-stress? Find inspiration? Reflect and brainstorm and relax? For me, it’s my own backyard.

The pond was not functional when we bought the house. There was a place for a waterfall, but there was no circulation. The pond was ankle deep in sludge that the previous owners’ boys thought would be fun to throw in: bricks, broken flower pots, legos, batteries, a penknife, etc. Unbelievably, there were still three living fish, and a couple of frogs who (no lie) used to swim in the pool every night as if detoxifying themselves with the chlorine.

It took a few years to clean it all up, mostly because my husband had a grandiose scheme that turned out to be a brilliant idea. We dug a stream up the hill, laid in a second, smaller pond, and fitted the whole outfit with a pump to circulate the water.

We learned the hard way that we couldn’t keep fish in the upper pond. They invariably go over the falls. (Whee!) But the frogs love it. In the lower pond, we now have over a dozen goldfish, one beautiful golden koi, and a squadron of mysterious black fish who arrived from outer space. (I’ll talk about that in a moment.)

Fish disappear sometimes, but that’s easy to explain. We used to have a cat, but it wasn’t him. In fact, Maui protected the pond from the most likely culprit: a blue heron. I saw this bird once fly out of the pond, his wing span about six feet across. Maui chased him across the pool deck, then came skidding to a stop when the heron lit upon our fence and looked back at the cat. The heron was fully four feet tall; the black cat weighed about 10 lbs, even when his fur stood on end. There was a stand-off. The cat was thinking: Oh, sh**! The heron was thinking: I wonder if I can carry him off? I had to go out and shoo off the bird myself, although I swear it laughed haughtily at me before departing.


Fish also mysteriously appear. Sometimes, they breed. That’s no mystery. But we do have the Black Squadron, a dozen black fish with silver heads who appeared quite suddenly one year. They can’t possibly have come from our other fish. They are not similar to the other fish in shape or color. One day, they just were there – as if they had dropped from the sky. Even spookier was when we discovered another one in the upper pond. He was larger than the others, and when we moved him to the lower pond, he promptly became their leader.

The most logical explanation is that we bought a pond plant that had eggs in it. (And one of the eggs got sucked up the filter and landed in the upper pond.) But we don’t know for sure. The pond is a mysterious place, and I love it.

Where is your safe haven?
(Do you see the frog in this picture?)