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Markham Vineyards fish ponds

If you’ve ever visited Markham, you’ve probably noticed our koi fish - who are so happy you have stopped by because they are hoping you will feed them! Our koi ponds originally started out as reflection pools when the winery was renovated in 1992. However, we couldn’t resist planting a few lillies and I think an employee added several goldfish one day, which eventually required the ponds to become more fish-friendly. We asked a pond specialist to install our UV filtration system and he brought the koi here to the winery when he needed a place to hold the beautiful fish until he found them a new home. We now have ten Malaysian koi, two Japanese koi, mosquito fish and goldfish living in our two ponds. 

Taking care of the Koi at Markham Vineyards 

Being koi owners has not been without its challenges. Last year, a local osprey discovered we had fish and perched twice daily in the eucalyptus trees out front to find meals. We quickly constructed netting to thwart his efforts and while we could hear him screaming at us, it did keep our fish safe. Eventually we were able to take the nets off and enjoy watching the fish again.  Our ponds are fairly shallow the water can get quite warm, so we fight algae growth most of the year. Warmer temperatures means that the water holds less oxygen, but the koi require plenty of oxygen which is generated by our fountains at the top of each pond. It takes several of us in the winery to share in the duty of feeding and maintaining the ponds every day of the week. We have to ask visitors NOT to make a wish and toss coins into the ponds, which is obviously not good for the health of the fish.

Cleaning Koi ponds at Markham Vineyards 

Once a year, it’s all hands on deck to tackle the two-day process of cleaning the fish ponds, a process known fondly as ‘fish wrangling’ here at the winery. It starts easily enough, water plants moved into picking boxes to be staged for dividing, replanting and fertilizing. Then one side at time, the water is slowly drained as the fish are herded down to a corral. Saving the mosquito fish and ubiquitous goldfish is relatively easy. We constructed a pseudo-whale harness to carefully lift our 15lb+ koi carefully into T-bins bubbling in air. Keeping our koi from becoming too stressed during their 24-hour relocation is the most important part in the process. It takes a full day to pressure wash both ponds, replace lights and other necessary yearly maintenance.

Draining Koi ponds at Markham Vineyards 

The following day, we use our well water to refill the sparkling clean ponds. We replace the rock hideaways and plants before carefully moving our babies back into their newly cleaned home. Our tasting room staff secretly delights in letting our guests know when I am outside feeding the fish. I enjoy sharing the feeding responsibility with the kids who come with their parents and telling them some of the names of our koi. Next time you visit the winery, take a look at the fish but don’t touch, as tempting as it may be to let them tug at your finger! - Winemaker Kimberlee Nicholls