Dear PoPville – Koi in Meridian Hill Park

“Dear PoPville,

I was at Meridian Hill Park today enjoying the beautiful weather today, and had an interesting conversation with a gentleman about the recent addition of the koi fish to the pond there. I apparently had the fortune to bump into the man responsible for adding the koi. He said he purchased 80 small koi from a pet store and dumped them in the Meridian Hill pond back in June. 60 of them died, but the 20 that survived have spawned quite a lot of new ones. There were easily a few hundred medium sized koi swimming around, and countless little guys.

Normally they drain the pond during the winter. Are these koi doomed to die? I was also wondering if dumping fish into a park pond could end in some sort of fine/infraction from the city?”

Wild. You’re right – the pond and fountains get turned off for winter. Is anyone a Marine Biologist!?!? Sorry I’m actually a huge tropical fish enthusiast so this would be horrible if they were killed. Anyone have a good contact in the Federal Parks Department?

59 Comment

  • For some reason I’m thinking of a recent GEICO commercial…

  • andy

    This is not the Park Service’s problem. Non-parks people put them in, they need to save them now too.

    Public spaces are not there for people to make their own additions and then push the costs on to the public.

    Koi are great. Just find your own pond.

    • Bingo. This moron already killed 60 fish, and the rest are going to die when the pool is drained (and it will be drained) unless somebody steps up and removes them. They may even be suffering now due to the quality of the water.

      I’m a bit surprised of the lack of outrage from all the pet lovers on this blog…

  • Meridian Hill Park, like most parks in DC, is actually a federal park. So he wouldn’t have to worry about the city. What the National Parks Service could or would do to someone in this case is anyone’s guess, but I can’t imagine they would approve of this. They’re not too good at sharing and DC has virtually no say in how the parks are maintained.

  • They won’t freeze in the winter. But they will die during the seasons when they’re active if they don’t have a steady food source.

    • we have a sizeable pond back of our house on Irving and the koi, large goldfish and shunikins survive winter by going into “torpor.” Starting around Nov 1st you have to feed them a high fat pellet food (available at places like Petco or Petsmart) or online. After the water goes below 40 degrees you dont feed them at all. So food isn’t the problem.

      The issue here is whether the water will stay oxygenated. if the fountain’s off them someone would have to run a bubblemaker on the surface. Also you’d need to poke holes in any ice or snow that forms so gases can evaporate.

  • The gentleman who put them in there is not too bright, eh?

  • Actually, the National Arbortum has a huge koi pond. They might be able to assist with advice at least. Here’s an interesting link:

    • My guess is that those fish are so well-maintained that the Arboretum would have no interest in jeopardizing those fish — some of which are beautiful, giant specimens — for the sake of housing these, which may bring with them problems of overcrowding, disease, etc.. (I haven’t seen them, but I doubt the ones in Meridian Hill actually are koi. My guess is that they are cheaper/smaller fish if this joker just dumped in 80 on his own dime.)

  • I’m under the impression koi can freeze over the winter and be fine, but a) I could be wrong and b) they’d have to be brought to a pond that isn’t drained

  • If they drain the pond, the fish will obviously die. But, koi can survive DC winters even if the surface water freezes. They hibernate. My neighbor has koi and they do fine.

    • Depends on how deep the water is. My parents had a pond in the back yard with koi, but it had to be, like 3 feet deep, or something so they could make it through the winter. I just hope someone doesn’t go throw them in Rock Creek, since I believe they are also invasive.

    • Yep we have a sizeable pond back of our house on Irving and the koi, large goldfish and shubunikins survive winter by going into “torpor.” Starting around Nov 1st you have to feed them a high fat pellet food (available at places like Petco or Petsmart) or online. After the water goes below 40 degrees you dont feed them at all. So food isn’t the problem.

      The issue here is whether the water will stay oxygenated. if the fountain’s off them someone would have to run a bubblemaker on the surface. Also you’d need to poke holes in any ice or snow that forms so gases can evaporate.

  • Um am i the only one who finds it horrible that this guy did this?? 60 fish died?? He doesnt know what will happen when they drain the pond? What an ass.

    • Definitely not the only one. Bad enough he bought from a pet store, but then 60 died on top of that, and no plan for their continued care. Sad.

      • He probably had to buy them from a pet store because the goldfish rescue leagues would rather see fish get flushed down the drain than go to a slightly less than perfect “forever home”.

        I was trying to rescue a goldfish and kept on getting rejected. They said I wasn’t affectionate enough. I have a perfect fishbowl, a nice table and no other pets or children. Why didn’t the fish rescue people see that I’d be a perfect fishy mommy?!

    • He is probably crazy. Not everyone is gifted with your rock solid set of animal ethics. And.. “oh my god, he bought them at a pet store!”. Where would one buy 80 koi, if not at a pet store? Steal them one by one from suburban chinese restaurants?

  • The the pond in the park I live next to is a breeding ground for mosquitoes/ west nile virus. Hypothetically, if I put fish in the pond, I wonder if they would eat the mosquito larvae… I am sure there are a million reasons why that would be a bad idea but I wonder.

    • Koi and other goldfish are awesome for eating mosquito larvae. A quick google search will show you what types of fish can and cannot survive in different areas.

  • whats that expression, teach a man to fish and he’ll eat at meridian park?

    • Yeah! I’ve heard koi are quite tasty. I wonder what the rules are for fishing unauthorized fish on Park Service land. Do you need a fishing permit do you suppose?

  • Need to alert the herons and eagles that there is some good eats in Meridan Hill.
    Seriously – this guy was not thinking. With the National Parks continually underfunded zero money should be spent on this and instead this guy should be fined for littering and animal cruelty.

  • Time to release one hungry catfish. Then pull him out a few days later and make some fillets.

    Circle of life.

  • Maybe someone needs to go toss in a piranha or two.
    So glad someone wrote in about this cause I spotted them on my Friday run thru the park and thought “WTF??”

  • What about contacting some local public place that already has koi? Ie the National Arboretum? Perhaps they would be willing to take on the Meridian fish if they understood the alternative? I realize its not their problem, but they (or someone might be willing to help). What about the Humane Society?

  • Dang, I noticed them this weekend, and hope got the better of me thinking the service had put them in themselves to keep the algae/mosquitos down. I was all happy thinking ducks and fish in the poind now…

    Shoulda known better than to think such happy thoughts about NPS land.

  • good god people – these are FISH. I’m an animal rights advocate and vegetarian but am finding myself unable to summon even a tiny bit of concern about 60 carp who are bringing joy to visitors to the park, even if for one brief summer.

    Are you aware of the massive scale of destruction wrought by humans on the world’s fish and fisheries? If this seriously concerns you I’m hoping you are also a strict vegan who doesn’t use any cleaning products or vegetables grown with fertilizer, electric power, or anything else that causes water pollution.

  • I thought Koi were really expensive. Am I thinking of a different kind of fish or is this guy crazy AND loaded?

  • Seems there is some relationship with the park and the Washington Parks and People organization. So, a call or message into them from a concerned citizen might provide an answer as to the future of these fish. Here is their website:

  • The thing to do is alert Washington Parks and People. They are conveniently located in the Josephine Butler Parks Center adjacent to Meridian Hill park. Although my experience with them has shown them to be primarily well-meaning hippies with little organizational skills, this may just be the type of project to get them going. They have no shortage of connections and are tireless advocates. Technically they are a non-profit who liaises with the NPS on behalf of DC Parks.

    • This org started as the Friends of Meridian Hill Park, and were the force behind the cleanup of the park in the late 80′;s/early 90’s. After the got MHMXP revamp projects started, they grew to encompass all DC parks.

  • I was just looking at buying some fish — I know, I’m really exciting — is it possible for me to get a Koi fish or two?

    The park service could turn this into a fundraiser – they could sell them for $5/fish.

    If the park service is just going to throw them out then I may just go down there and save one for my own.

  • Never ever release any living pet type creature into any open natural system – no creeks, rivers, ponds, meadows, swamps, woods, fields. Major destruction has ensued – like giant pythons now breeding in the Everglades.

    Pet-store goldfish in a fountain isn’t a worry, except I suppose in the “no fish is an island” sort of way. . .

  • Update on the goldfish in Meridian Hill fountain. I was just there while both a USPS maintenance guy and an officer from the DC Humane Society were assessing the situation. (They were made aware because of this blog!)

    There are at least 200 goldfish 4-6 inches in size and probably thousands more babies of 1-2 inches. The fountain is not due to be drained until November, and the Humane Society doesn’t want them to die, and will be doing all it can to “re-home” the fish.

    So – some idiot has now caused what will probably be dozens of man-hours and hundreds of dollars away from other animal rescue efforts to clean up his mess.

    They will be investigating options, and the officer said he would post any information on this blog.

    But in the meantime – I think anyone with a pond would certainly be welcome to come scoop out some fish. They are fairly spooky – not coming eagerly to the sight of humans as the koi at the arboretum do, but maybe a sprinkle of cornflakes will help.

    The park service guy also told me that people have also dropped off (i.e. tired of taking care of) turtles in the fountain.

  • Unfortunately my good deed to inspire and bring beauty and tranquility to what was other wise known as a breeding ground for unsavory behavorial has stirred some nerves. No, i am not crazy and no, i did not expect them to spawn as they have. I, now wish i had just left the pond a breeding ground for an infestation. If you know the history of this park it was not always a very welcoming place to visit. The number of fish purchased was 80 and 20 died. My reason for this was to see the delight in the eyes of visitors and to inspire.

    • So do you now understand how you went wrong? Are you now willing to accept responsibility for your actions before you act again? Will you now try to understand that animals do spawn, and in a confined space, will reproduce beyond the capacity of the space to sustain them?

      Do you understand that people don’t really “delight” in knowing that hundreds of living creatures will probably die because of your foolishness?

  • I see now, in he past park service as part of their winter cleaning of the fountain would give them away. This year a series of events took place with first the pumps not working and second the amount of algae, more than usual have gathered in the bottom of the pond. I am in contact with the humane society and will go from there. No matter how much i am criticized I am still pleased to see the joy the fish have brought to the park and its visitors. Will update soon.

  • We need more urban aquaculture, hopefully next year this can be a trout pond!

  • Lol. I agree, but i plan to leave this to the experts…………..peace

  • Hello,

    According to Officer Triebwasser of the Washington Humane Society (WHS), the pond at Meridian Hill Park is going to be drained on Wednesday beginning at 7 or 8 a.m. WHS is looking for people who want to help rescue the fish to arrive by 10, since it may easier to catch the fish once the pond has been partially drained. (If you can get there earlier, it might be helpful.) Wear waders if you have them, and clothes you don’t mind messing up (a 30% chance of rain showers is predicted). If you have nets or any other helpful gear, please bring that, too. Anyone who can provide a good home to any of the fish should bring appropriate containers for transporting them. Directions to the park are included below.

    contact info:
    [email protected]
    WHS Humane Law Enforcement
    202-723-5730 ext. 135

    (posted last week on another site):

    Last week, the Washington Humane Society Humane Law Enforcement team set out on a mission to rescue hundreds of koi fish who were dropped into the pond at Meridian Hill Park in Northwest Washington by a local resident this summer. The pond is scheduled to be drained for the winter season next week, and WHS is now seeking volunteers to help collect the remaining fish over the next two days. If you are interested in helping with these efforts, or know anyone else who may be, please contact Officer Michael Triebwasser at [email protected]. These fish are at risk, and we do have a home waiting for them.


    From downtown DC (National Mall):Go north on 14th, St., turn left onto M St. go two blocks and turn right onto 16th St. At W St. turn right, go one block and turn left onto 15th St. There is a small of street parking lot on the left of 15th.

    From Maryland:Take 16th St. south to Euclid St. and turn left. Turn right onto 15th St. There is a small off street parking lot on the right of 15th St.

    Thank you!

    Julie Vallante
    Volunteer Coordinator
    Washington Humane Society
    202-723-5730 X149


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