Mysterious goldfish hide in plain sight on the lower lawn

Orange goldfish swimming together in the Lily Pond
Photo by Kate Milne

Over the past several weeks, some community members have noticed a school of scaly critters making themselves comfortable in one of Lewis & Clark’s many ponds. There are goldfish on the LC campus, though most students and faculty are unaware of their existence. Even David Ernevad, LC’s associate vice president of facilities, had not heard of them. 

“I don’t know anything about goldfish in the lower lawn pond,” Ernevad said via email. 

While watching the amber and carrot-colored swimmers, Pioneer Log staff members Ihsaan Mohammed ’22 and Stuart Myers ’21 said they had never seen the goldfish before. Nonetheless, the small pond on the end of the lower lawn, officially known as the Lily Pond, contains several large, bright orange goldfish. 

There is a reason the goldfish fly — or swim — under students’ radar, according to Lead Groundskeeper Maxwell Williams. 

“Every summer we add water plants to fill up the pond, and it becomes a bit harder to see them,” Williams said via email. 

He speculated that students are only now noticing the goldfish because the cold winter weather has cleared away some of the plants in the Lily Pond. Though Williams could not recall exactly how long the fish have been in the pond, he said it has been at least three to four years, putting to rest any speculation that the goldfish were added over the winter break. Per Williams, they were originally added to the pond to enhance the Estate Garden experience.

According to numerous pet-ownership websites, goldfish become more sluggish and inactive in cold weather, which could contribute to their being easier to spot as of late. Goldfish can nonetheless survive in very cold water, even if the surface of their pond freezes over. They are also influenced by their surroundings to a remarkable degree: the size they grow to depends on the size of their habitat, so a goldfish in an outdoor pond would naturally end up much larger than one in an indoor tank. Light can affect goldfish as well: kept in a dark environment, a goldfish will turn gray in a matter of days. With less vegetation covering their pond, more light reaches the goldfish, brightening their vivid orange color and again making them more conspicuous.

The groundskeeping staff do not feed the goldfish. In the wild, Williams says, they are omnivores, and the typical diet of the Lily Pond’s goldfish probably includes algae, zooplankton, mosquito larvae, and dead insects that fall to the bottom of the pond.

“It’s amazing how long (the goldfish) have survived, and I enjoy them,” Williams said. 

LC’s goldfish are far from elderly: in 1999, the BBC reported that the oldest goldfish on record lived to 43 years old, and captive goldfish typically live up to 15 years. Years from now, future LC students will probably continue to be surprised by the discovery that, yes, all along the lily pond was full of goldfish.

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About Tor Parsons 48 Articles
Tor Parsons '24 is a well-known figure on campus. I interviewed three random LC students to gauge the public opinion on Tor. "Who?" - A student with a really cool backpack "I have no idea who you're talking about." - Some dude on the Pio Express "He's cool, I guess." - Tor's roommate

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