The tiny fish that call Storke Plaza Pond home are not in danger of dying out despite being a meal of choice for the many birds that visit the area.
The pond, created in June 2003 by Santa Barbara Ponds Unlimited to replace the reflecting pool, is home to a variety of fish, plants and other organisms. Those in charge of the pond say that the fish, which have been in the pond since the $23,000 restoration project was completed, are not only still alive, but have become a thriving part of the pond’s ecosystem.
The two main species of fish in the pond are mosquitofish and carp, said Mike Cavalletto of Santa Barbara Ponds Unlimited. At a maximum length of about two and a half inches, the mosquitofish, which Cavalletto says are orange, are more important to the pond than their size would indicate, as they feed on the larvae mosquitoes lay, preventing the insects from overwhelming the area.
“There are probably several thousand mosquito-eating fish [in the pond]. It is one area of campus that will never have a mosquito problem,” Cavalletto said.
Birds can often be seen at the pond helping themselves to a meal of mosquitofish, but David Inouye, the physical facilities irrigation engineer in charge of the pond, says the small fish are in no danger of dying off.
“It is not necessary to replace the fish, per se, as the population is self-regulating. The fish go through their natural life cycle, birth through death, so that in observing the pond there may be evidence of all stages,” Inouye said.
Though their numbers are significantly lower than the mosquitofish, the two or three carp that call Storke Plaza Pond home are more easily noticed because of their size. They are dark blue bottom feeders that measure about a foot in length, and are similar to the brightly-colored Japanese koi in size and shape – but much lower in price. The carp also have a role in keeping the pond clean and hospitable, Cavalletto said.
“[Carp are] bottom feeder fish. They scavenge around the floor, theoretically keeping the pond somewhat clean. They eat algae, aquatic plants, bird and fish droppings; like vacuum cleaners they’ll suck up everything. They’re basically a bunch of water cows,” Cavalletto said.
The list of species that call Storke Pond home will almost certainly grow in the future, Cavalletto said. The pond at Cheadle Hall has received several tropical fish, most likely donations from students’ aquariums, and Cavalletto said he would not be surprised if something similar happened at Storke Pond.
The quarter inch-long [[quarter-inch-long]] freshwater shrimp now found in the pond may have been brought in by the variety of birds that visit it, including seagulls, kingfishers, blue heron and egrets, Cavalletto said. The Storke Plaza pond’s plant life includes cattails, horsetails, canas and water lilies, which adorn the surface and provide the fish with food.
Storke Plaza Pond was designed to be a self-sustaining ecosystem that required no outside assistance, but it is currently not achieving that goal. Cavalletto said the plants need to be fertilized regularly to remain healthy, and the fertilizer causes algae bloom, which would quickly choke out life in the pond if it is not cleaned regularly. Workers from Santa Barbara Ponds Unlimited vacuum the floor of the pond and clear the trash out of it at least once a week.
Cavalletto said the fish can survive without any care whatsoever, but that too much pollution or human tampering could damage other life in the pond.
“The pond has produced its own little ecosystem. If people throw sandwiches in there, fish would eat a little bit, but they would also pollute the environment and throw off the ecosystem,” Cavalletto said.
Inouye said he considered the pond a success, but is concerned about the possibility of someone disturbing the pond’s ecosystem.
“There might be temptation for persons to try and go fishing in the pond. The fish, in any case, are not edible. The purpose of the fish is part of the biology of the pond,” he said. “The signs that were placed around the pond were placed in the hopes that the pond would be respected and not disturbed.”
Misquitofish are not edible; however, carp are considered a delicacy in Asia and Europe. In North America some shun the fish as a bottom feeder but other fishermen find it a feisty combatant.