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Photos: Estevan woman shares the joys of her private fish heaven

Debbie Anderson of Estevan had fish in aquariums for many years, but then the hobby started growing bigger.

ESTEVAN - Debbie Anderson of Estevan always had a soft spot for animals, especially fish.

She had fish in aquariums for many years, but then the hobby started growing bigger.

Over 10 years ago, she started building an outdoor fishpond in her yard so that her pets would have a better environment for the summer. The pond grew bigger and better with time, and at some point, her son came and helped her put a liner in, replacing the tubs and turning it into a real outdoor reservoir.

Today, her gorgeous pond, surrounded by a flourishing garden, is populated with 11 koi and about 50 goldfish, plus a bottom feeder, which all bring her joy every day.

"I like animals, I like nature, I like the flowers and flower gardens and stuff like that, so it just got bigger and bigger," Anderson shared.

Fish also enjoy the facility their caring owner put together for them, and they grow big and happy. Anderson said her biggest koi is close to two feet long and is pretty wide.

Fish go out into the pond before the end of April and stay outdoors until September or October, when Anderson has to take them home and put them into big tubs for the winter.

Sometimes getting all fish out of the pond turns into a bit of a challenge, as, being happy, goldfish especially reproduce well in the pond.

"A lot of the years I drain the pond right down to only two to three inches. And then I can see what's left because there's usually lots of babies," Anderson shared.

She also takes water from the pond and puts it into the tubs for the winter, so that fish would stay in their usual environment.

They stay indoors over Estevan's coldest months, but once spring comes, they know it's their time.

"It's funny how they know when it comes time for them to go out. You think down there in the basement they never know, but they do get anxious, they know," Anderson said.

The water in the pond circulates all the time to get enriched with oxygen, and there are filters in place to keep it clean.

During summer, most goldfish lay eggs on the water plants Anderson buys and grows for them every summer. Even though she feeds them regularly, fish also like to chew on those same plants, and a lot of the time koi end up eating the eggs.

While the garden around the pond is well established and has a variety of flowers blooming throughout the summer, water plants are a project that starts over every year. It starts with a squeak every time, as fish get really excited about something "new" appearing in their environment, and ends in similar fashion from year to year.

"At the beginning when I first put them out, I have a real problem with the plants. So I keep the plants in a tub until they're grown and until the highlight of the breeding season is over. And then they grow too much, and I give them away because I get too many," Anderson said with a laugh.

While sometimes being troublemakers, Anderson's pets are attached to her. Fish know her voice and follow her when she is working in the garden.

In the evening, lights at the pond come on, and reservoir inhabitants gather to have supper all together. While none of them looks skinny by any means, any extra treats they get are greedily swallowed, and the savviest ones get to finish up the last bites stuck in the corners of the pond.

A comfortable environment allows them to confidently grow from year to year.

"I notice every year they grow, and some of them I got all at the same time and some are like this and some are like this," said Anderson, pointing out different-scale fish.

Not only do they grow and look differently, but their personalities also differ from one critter to another.

"This one, he is kind of like a problem but not a real problem. If I put anything new in there, even if I put a ball, he'll come [to play with it]. And if I put new plants in or something, he'll knock them over. He'll do anything and he is just mischievous," shared Anderson, pointing at a bigger golden koi.

The variety of fish tempers, habits and behaviours, along with the beautiful flowers and plants around, make the pond an ever-changing, whole different world, which is a pleasure to watch and interact with.

Every year Anderson arranges the landscape differently, building up waterfalls, populating her fairy gardens with new creatures, spreading around old and new painted rocks she makes and bringing in new decorations. 

"It's a lot of work, but I enjoy it," Anderson said.

Several years ago Anderson had her fish stolen right from the pond and many of them died. Ever since then the area is secured and under 24-hour surveillance.

She also has two little dogs, so to protect fish from them and them from the pond, she built a cute little white wooden fence around featuring red maple leaves on every section, thus completing the look of the pond and garden around it. Yet, Anderson said she has more projects in her mind for the future, such as a water wheel.