Rhinelander woman has watched fish family grow over the years
How does a landscaping problem turn into a fish hobby? That’s a question Norma Johnson has been asking herself for 10 years. But for this avid animal lover, taking care of more than 30 big goldfish is a labor of love.
“I don’t mind at all taking care of my fish,” she said. “It’s a fun hobby and I enjoy watching them grow.”
Norma had no intention of growing goldfish 10 years ago when this hobby started, but she got sick of filling a hole in her yard that kept washing out and decided maybe a small pond would solve the problem.
“My neighbors, Al and Paula Braun, had a pond and so one day I ask Al if he would help me dig out the washed out area of my yard,” she said. “By the end of the day I had a pond.”
In the beginning this little body of water measured 8×8 feet. Norma lined it with heavy duty plastic and around the rim she placed rocks to make it look landscaped. Then Al gave her two goldfish from his own pond.
“That’s how it started,” Norma said.
That first summer Norma was enchanted with her new additions, and loved going out every day and feeding her fish. They brought her so much pleasure she decided to bring them inside over the winter. That’s when she found out they were doing more than just languidly swimming around all summer long.
“When I went to get them out of the pond I noticed all these little fish sticking to the net,” she said. “So I brought those in too.”
Norma bought a 55 gallon tank and set it up in her office at Employment Options, which she owns and operates. When the following winter was over, she once again took her goldfish family and placed them back in the pond where they proceeded to do the exact same thing as the year before.
That autumn there were once again more fish in the nets than what went in the following spring. Norma bought another 55 gallon tank.
For a number of years this scenario played out again and again. Norma even expanded her pond to its current size which is now 15×15 feet and 3.5 feet deep.
“I figured it would give them more room to grow but they just keep filling it up with their babies,” she said.
She now has four, 55 gallon tanks at her office, all filled with beautiful, shimmering, golden fish, although there are several throwbacks that are completely white. Some have reached a remarkable size and a couple are at least 10 or 11 inches long.
“I’ve still got the original two that Al gave me 10 years ago,” she said. “They are some of my biggest ones.”
When the fish are in the pond during the summer, Norma enjoys watching and feeding them. In all the years she has been raising goldfish, she has never lost any to predators.
“I have a fountain and other statue ‘spitters’ around the pond so maybe that why animals don’t go near it,” she said. “I have watched eagles fly over and one year I had a raccoon come into the yard but so far no fish has been eaten by a predator.”
Taking care of all these fish is a different matter during the winter months. Every two weeks she drains half the water out of each of her tanks and then refills them to keep the clarity perfect and healthy. About once a month she drains the entire tank.
“It definitely is a lot more work during the winter,” said Norma. “But I don’t really mind.”
And that’s evident because Norma has even named some of her specimens.
“I think they have more of an intelligence than people give them credit for,” she said. “When I come in in the morning they all come to the side of the tank looking at me, waiting for me to get the food out. They watch you during the day too.”
Luckily over the years Norma has been able to give some of her fish away to trusting friends. In addition, the pond to fish ratio has leveled out over the last few years and numbers have not been increasing, so no new 55 gallon tanks are needed at least at this time.
“I enjoy my pond and I really enjoy having fish in it,” Norma said. “It’s very relaxing to watch them whether they are in the pond or in the tanks.”