Goldie, the Suicidal Koi

I was at work on January 11, 2019 when I received a phone call from my wife. Reyna had found the one of the koi in my pond had jumped out. As far as she could tell the fish was dead.

Reyna wanted me to come home immediately. I had 20 minutes left to work and a dead fish did not seem worth the effort it would take to leave work 15 minutes early. I waited until my work day ended and embarked on the 40-minute drive home.

When I got home Reyna immediately led me to the dead fish. I recognized the fish as Goldie. I bought Goldie as a young 2 or 3 incher from a Petco about 2 years ago. I named him (I don’t know if Goldie is a he or she, I call him he for convenience) for his coloration.

As I looked down at Goldie he did appear dead. When I squatted down to pick him up I noticed that his gills were still moving. This surprised me. I thought it might be the last nerve impulses from his tiny brain, struggling to cling to life. I picked Goldie up and the gill motions increased.

It occurred to me that it had been at least an hour that the fish had been outside the water. There was no way this fish should be alive. Yet, I held the fish in my hand and watched it struggle to breath. I was amazed. I decided to let it die in the water hoping this might ease its suffering as it died.

The fish struggled to swim when I placed it in the water. It could not right itself in the water, barely able to propel itself as it floundered on its side. As I watched the fish I resigned myself to the fact that I would be scooping the dead fish out of the pond in the morning.

Saturday morning, I woke up and went out to the pond to scoop out a dead fish. Except, there was no dead fish. I saw all 5 of my koi swimming around the pond. I counted several times. 1, 2, 3, 4 … 5. I saw this fish that I had put in the water the previous evening, mostly dead, swimming contentedly with its fellows.

From what I could tell, the fish was suffering no adverse effects from its hour, at least, suffocating on the side of the pond. As I watched the fish swimming around the pond I considered whether a fish could suffer brain damage. This led to the question of how much brain power does a fish require to live a good fish life?

A human will live about 6 to 8 minutes before suffocating. They will suffer irreparable brain damage long before they die. After 3 or 4 minutes the brain damage suffered will guarantee that a human will be unable to take care of themselves for the rest of their lives, requiring around the clock care to survive.

This fish survived for more than an hour without breathing. I cannot see any ill effects the fish has suffered for this. I do wonder, though, if the other fish can tell that something is off with this particular fish. Can the other fish tell if this fish is brain damaged? Will this fish continue to live a happy and healthy life despite its ordeal?

Then it happened again. I found one morning when I was feeding the fish that Goldie had jumped out of the pond again. I figured Goldie was done for, but he moved again when I picked him up. I threw him back in the pond and he lurched away again. When I got home from work 11 hours later Goldie was doing fine.

I wondered if I had a zombie koi on my hands. Then I wondered if Koi can be suicidal. Again, Goldie seems not to have suffered any long term effects, at least there was nothing I could discern that was different from outside the pond. Do his pond mates notice anything amiss?

Goldie is humming along, seemingly, fine. He hasn’t jumped out since the second incident. Perhaps he is no longer suicidal. Maybe he is waiting for the perfect time to try again. I don’t know. I will update if anything interesting happens.

P.S.: The picture at the top of the post is not Goldie. It is a random internet picture of a koi that resembles Goldie. I am trying to respect Goldie’s privacy,

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