The Demon Fish of South Atlanta

Dr. Paul J. Camp at Spelman College's Department of Physics in Atlanta, wrote about a Fortean-style mystery involving fish that seemingly teleport in his ponds.


By Paul J. Camp

So we bought this 105 year old Victorian in Grant Park, and moved in December 2.5 years ago. It is a pretty awesome house, and the guys that owned it before were inveterate gardeners so the back yard is full of flowers. It also has two ponds, connected by a recirculating pump and a short creek-like thingy.

When we moved in, the pump had been broken for years and the owners had let the upper pond silt up to make a bog garden. To me, bog = mosquitos, and mosquitos can piss off so one of the first things I did was drain the upper pond, scoop out all the gross awful smelly nasty crap, scrub and patch the liner, refill, and repair the pump.

Waterfalls are cool. Even stumpy ones.

The upper pond was a bog. The lower pond is a fish pond. It came with about a half dozen koi, some orange, some white, some half orange and half white. Fish used to be cool, but here's where they start to get spooky.

Last year, about this same time of year, I discovered two NEW fish . . . in the UPPER POND!

OK, let's review. We know that there were no living things at all in the upper pond as of January of that year because I scrubbed it down to bare rubber. WTF? Where did those damn fish come from?

There are a number of possibilities, and being a scientist I have methodically considered them all until I have landed on the most likely explanation. Were they pumped up from the lower pond? Not bloody likely (or to be more precise, not likely without blood). After all, there are still the same half dozen fish in the lower pond, and in any case, leaving aside the fact that the pump impellor would have turned them into fish giblets, they are just too broad of beam to fit through the hose pipe between the ponds. Were they transported in on the feet of birds from a land far, far away? Unlikely, since they were about 3-4 inches long when I discovered them, and I haven't seen any flamingos or similar sized fowl strolling through the yard. It is unlikely they were carried in by house finches.

Perhaps the lower pond fish laid eggs and the eggs were pumped up to the upper pond where they hatched. They WERE smaller, by a couple of inches, therefore younger, than the lower pond fish. But this seems to me to violate the rules of genetics since the LP fish have only orange and white coloration, whereas the upper pond fish are orange and black. Unless there was some funny business with a traveling fisherman, this just doesn't scan. Besides, why didn't I see them before? OK, I am oblivious, but I am not a lobotomy patient. I was working pretty diligently on that pond to cure its many leaks, and I think I would have seen something bright orange. I'm not a Republican. And in any case, the first time they ever got an official feeding was when they were three inches long, last year, and the upper pond, having been denuded of all life, just doesn't have an awful lot of land to live off of, let alone grow from egg to three inch long fish.

I did buy some plants for the upper pond, a couple cattails, some star sedge, some floating clover — maybe eggs came in on that stuff. But then again, what have they been eating while they grew up? And anyway, I went back to Home Depot to observe the scene of the plants, and there were no fish there.

So what about evolution? We did have a fierce drought for a number of years. Maybe some of our local fish evolved the ability to locomote between pools in search of better pickins, like a Chinese lungfish. I've been known to do that when the beer runs out. Anybody seen any goldfish waiting at a crosswalk?

Maybe they really are demon fish, come up from hell to suck our eyeballs. But it seems like demon fish would have red eyes and sulfurous emanations bubbling from their tailpipes. That sometimes is an adequate description of the dogs, but not the fish. I don't think that's very likely.

Applying Sherlock's razor, the only theory I am left with is that they are Space Fish, crossed
over from an alternate universe. I'm having a little trouble working out why they aren't made out of angles and speak pidgin English like Bizarro Superman, but I think this is a soluble problem.

Anyway, given their evident powers, I'm betting they are responsible for the number spam. Did you ever get 30312? If it wasn't them, I'm blaming it on El Nino.

Reader comment: Amit says: "The most likely explanation is that the fish in the upper pond are from eggs that went through the water pump. The colors of the fish are not hereditary, but environmental. Young koi can be darker than their parents, and the biology of the upper pond may be different, leading to different coloration. See also here."

Reader comment: Joe says: "To bring out the colour in koi…. Strong red and yellow pigments
develop well in waters rich in green phytoplankton. … it helps to feed
a diet that will enhance the red pigmentation. Black pigment is enriched
in hard water with a pH level of 7.5-8.5." Link