A life-long Morris Park resident’s hobby has developed into an aquarium exhibit.
About six years ago, after a decade of retirement, Richard Geller developed an interest in Koi fish, a Japanese domesticated carp, while reading about them. With an idea, some digging tools, and around $5,000, Geller built a pond in his own backyard so that he could breed his own Koi.
“My wife thinks I’m absolutely crazy. Even my neighbors didn’t understand why I was doing it,” the Lurting Avenue resident said. “It was expensive, and the pond costs a lot to maintain, like any hobby.”
Geller dug-out the site and built his personal pond, which is about 25 feet long, and goes from two to six feet deep. He also constructed a series of waterfalls along one side of the pond.
After the pond was completed, he imported baby Koi fish from Japan. The shipping alone cost around $600, but Geller was now ready to breed his own fish. By July 2011, the 61-year-old retired NYC Sanitation worker had approximately 35 Koi, Orfe, Bumpkin and goldfish in his backyard pond, many imported from Thailand, Japan, Malaysia, and Germany.
“I used to plant tomatoes in the backyard, but I wanted to do something nicer,” Geller said. “It’s something that I enjoy doing. I have a few friends who have similar ponds with fish, but none of them really care about it or have a passion for it. These fish are beautiful and I love having them.”
Recently, Geller built a smaller pond, about five feet long and three feet deep to hold Koi eggs. The smaller pond allows the baby fish to hatch and grow in a protected environment.
According to Geller, the fish are expensive to maintain during the warmer months of the year because that is when they feed. In the winter, their digestive systems practically shut down.
Once the water goes below 48 degrees, Geller said the fish go into a hibernation state and stay in the deepest part of the pond during the winter. Around mid-March, Geller begins to feed the fish with harvested worms, watermelon, and specialized Koi fish food.
The fish have grown close to Geller and respond to his voice. A common characteristic of Koi is that they enjoy to be fed by hand, which Geller said keeps a strong bond with his prized possessions.
“These fish can live up to 35 years, so it’s a good chance most of them will outlive me,” he said.