“Woosh… Tunk!” Goes the Japanese Shishi-Odoshi

So, you’ve set up a gorgeous backyard pond aquascape only to discover that deer and other animals view the plant life like some sort of all-you-can-eat buffet. Putting up a fence will distract from the beauty of your aquascape, and you can’t exactly patrol your property with a shotgun all day.

The Japanese have solved this problem with the brilliantly simple shishi-odoshi. I’m sure you’ve seen one before – they are those bamboo water fountain things that spill over and make that “tunk” noise every so often. They operate on a very simple principle: by default, the bamboo tube has an unbalanced center of gravity so that the open end is always facing upward. Once it’s filled with water, the center of gravity changes and the shishi-odoshi spills over, kind of like one of those toy drinking birds.

Shishi-Odenshi Bamboo Fountain

Image source: Rakeshravindran.com

Many people just assume that the shishi-odoshi (also called “sozu” and “those Japanese bamboo water thingies”) is some sort of artistic statement, but it’s actually much more practical. It acts like a scarecrow – or a scaredeer, scareboar, or scare-anything. In fact, the name “shishi-odoshi” roughly translates into “scare the deer” in Japanese. That abrupt, periodic “tunk” noise scares off deer and other unwanted garden nibblers.

But the shishi-odoshi has transcended its utilitarian role and has taken on a new identity. Nowadays, you can find shishi-odoshi in gardens even when there’s no real threat of unwanted animals. The device adds soothing background noise. Some might find it annoying, but I could listen to a shishi-odoshi all day.

What I love so much about shishi-odoshi is that they provide an alternative sound to running water. It goes from a steady trickle to a sudden rush of water, followed by the characteristic hollow impact. The periodic sounds create musical rhythm and consistency, all while breaking up the empty silence of a peaceful backyard pond. You can even control how frequently the shishi-odoshi moves — a faster water flow will be more frequent and a slower water flow will be less frequent. Imagine retreating to your backyard zen pond, closing your eyes, and letting the stress of the day melt out of you as you count five shishi-odoshi impacts — one for each minute.

You may want to include a shishi-odoshi as part of your backyard aquascape merely for the sound or for the Asian aesthetic. After all, we all know how delicious Asian fusion cuisine can be, and simplistic Asian-inspired art is all the rage these days. A shishi-odoshi could provide some compelling authenticity to a Japanese-themed aquascape, all while incorporating an interesting audio element.

Keep in mind that you don’t need a garden or a pond in order to benefit from the beauty of a shishi-odoshi. You could place a self-contained shishi-odoshi just about anywhere – even inside of your home.

You could also feature a shishi-odoshi as part of your aquarium. Aquascapers often have fountain water spill over into live aquariums, so why not do the same thing with a calming shishi-odoshi? It will help make your Japanese koi feel right at home.

Blue Is the New Green: Creating Beautiful Ponds on Eco-Friendly Rooftops

In the last decade, “green rooftops” have become an important instrument of urban environmentalism. Green rooftops are typically a bunch of plants literally planted on a roof- a layer of dirt (or another “planting medium”) and a drainage layer are installed over an insulation layer on top of the roof. The benefits of this are more than just a garden in the sky. A rooftop garden dramatically lowers energy costs by providing extra insulation, with the added benefit of prolonging the life of heating and other HVAC systems. Additionally, a collection of them can even help lower the temperature of a city by absorbing heat that is otherwise dispersed around the sweltering downtown canyons.

Green rooftops help to collect rainwater as well. This helps to lower the amount of storm run-off that floods sewer systems during rainfalls. In fact, it is estimated that green roofs can absorb (and obviously use) 70-90% of rainwater during the summer. People are beginning to recognize that the collection of rainwater, and what can be done with it, is an important factor of green roofs. Collecting rainwater isn’t new, of course. But people are beginning to recognize that this collection doesn’t have to be merely utilitarian- it can also be beautiful. A roof can become a garden with fully functioning, and functional, ponds. A roof becomes a green roof, and a green roof become blue.

Blue roof

A pond on top of this would enhance the benefits of a green roof.
Image from wikipedia.com

Here are a couple of huge benefits of a blue roof.

Flood Prevention

This is especially important in developing cities or places with extensive flooding. Rainwater has to go somewhere, and it generally goes into a river or sewage system (which eventually goes to a natural body of water).  A blue roof on every building captures a substantial portion of rainfall, and can store it, dispersing it incrementally or even not at all. A green roof can do this as well, but not as efficiently or comprehensively as a blue roof.

Energy Savings

It is estimated that a shallow roof pond with an extensive garden can reduce heating costs by as much as 20%, and that is for buildings that haven’t been designed to incorporate new energy models, and thus are naturally inefficient. With newer buildings, specifically designed with green roofs in mind, the benefits can be even greater.

Recreation

It’s one thing to have a bunch of plants and a shallow pond on a roof; it is another thing to make it beautiful. It would be great if green and blue roofs could be sold entirely on environmental benefits, but we both know that’s not always the case. But a blue roof can also provide a gorgeous escape from the urban stew, from the sweat and the grime on street level. The only place to escape from that now is in your office or a store, and really: how relaxing is that?

But imagine this. You come off the streets and into the elevator bank, and take it to the top. There you are, 30, 40, 50 stories above it all. But you aren’t on tar-paper and gravel. You’ve stepped into a garden, a jungle, with footpaths carrying you over the soft trickle of water and beguiling you into a thicket of plants. There are some chairs and tables, and you sit next to the pond and eat your lunch or just relax, the sounds of the street faded at this height, muffled by distance and the trees, as remote as someone else’s dream.

Pond

Imagine this on a rooftop- just imagine!
Image from archixpo.com

And it is all natural. The plants are in dirt and are watered by the rain. The water isn’t trucked up here by pipes; it fell from the sky. And there is a lot you can do with a natural pond- you can have waterfalls, running water, anything.  It is a new field, and people aren’t yet taking advantage of the aesthetics the way they are with green roofs, but it is a sure bet: soon enough, most buildings will have a blue roof, and the city, that wonderful thicket, will become a more peaceful and relaxing place, with escape a few stories away.

Can Luxury Aquariums Double as Natural Swimming Pools?

How would you like to swim with the fishes? No, I don’t mean in the “killed by the mafia” sense of the phrase — I mean literally swim alongside fish. Some squeamish folk may not be keen on the idea, but others adore the idea of a natural, beautiful aquascape that is both an art piece and a swimming pool. But is such a thing even possible?

Pond swimming pool hybrid

Image from pondlady.blogspot.com

The short answer: Yes.

The long answer is a bit more complicated. Yes, you can have a swimming pool-aquarium hybrid, but only if you specifically build your aquascape with that in mind.

1. Is This Guy Serious?

Pond pool hybrid

Image from art-scape.co.ok

Yes, I’m totally serious. In fact, pool-aquarium hybrids have become more popular in the last several years. Often called “natural swimming pools,” these aquascapes combine the serene beauty of ponds with the functionality of swimming pools. While some might cringe at the idea of fish brushing against their swimming trunks, other nature-loving enthusiasts would jump (or cannonball) at the chance to get back to Mother Nature.

2. Chlorine and Water Quality

People dump chlorine into swimming pools because it keeps the water nice and clean. The chlorine kills aquatic organisms while leaving humans unharmed. As you might imagine, a pool-aquarium hybrid can’t have any chlorine in it whatsoever. As a result, you’ll have to pay attention to the water quality to make sure that your aquascape can support the creatures in your pool.

Yes, you might run into algae from time to time. That might not necessarily be a bad thing — some nature-loving individuals adore swimming in bodies of water that aren’t so sterile.

3. Fish Stress

Imagine that you’re sitting in your home, and suddenly a gigantic brown bear bursts in through your front door and starts roaming around your house. That’s kind of what fish experience every time you dive into their home. If you plan on building a pool-aquarium hybrid, it’s important that you select inhabitants that can handle the stress of frequent human company.

Natural Swimming Pool

Image source: Blogspot.com

Selecting compatible fish is just as important for you as it is for your fish. You don’t want to add any aggressive or poisonous breeds that could harm you while you’re swimming laps.

4. Showcasing Your Aquascape

Aquariums and swimming pools usually have different viewing angles. Aquariums are usually viewed from the side, while swimming pools are viewed from the top. That makes it a little bit more difficult to appreciate the aquatic beauty of your aquascape. If you dig out an enormous hole in your backyard and fill it with water, it would be nearly impossible to view the aquascape from the side.

There are a few workarounds, though. Building the pool close to your house means that you could set up a viewing panel in your basement. You could also build the pool into a hill and install a viewing panel along one of the sides of the hill.

Natural Pool

Image source: Bestofremodeling.com

Both of those options are a bit complicated, though. Personally, I would recommend that you create an aquascape that emphasizes crystal clear water. Some ponds and lakes can be rather murky, but with the right planning you can have a backyard aquascape with beautifully transparent water. That way, you can look down into your water and see all of your fish, frogs, and aquatic plants as they go about their daily lives.

So, which category do you fall in? Are you the type of person who looks at natural swimming pool and thinks, “Wow, that’s awesome!” Or are you uncomfortable with the idea of having fish and aquatic weeds touching you while you swim?

Koi in the Living Room: A Luxury Indoor Pond Brings Serenity to Your House

Indoor koi

An indoor koi pond brings you the peace of a pond without distractions.
Image from aquaeden.com

It’s hard to hear the phrase “koi pond” without feeling a sense of peace. They are famous for being a corner of your backward toward which you can retreat, and lets the stressful veil of the modern world slip away, revealing your true and serene self.  But suppose you live on a busy street, or near a runway? Suppose your neighbors have just put a trampoline in their yard and have a pack of screaming kids? The honking and the roar of engines and the cacophony of yodeling bouncers make it near impossible to find peace, no matter how wise-seeming your fish. So what to do?

This is unusual, but did you know that many people are turning indoors for their ponds?  What was once thought to be the exclusive purview of either the impossibly wealthy or of fancy medical buildings is now, more and more, accessible to anyone. You can have your pond, your slice of nirvana, away from noises and from swarming mosquitoes. There are just a few things to keep in mind while you do so.

Indoor koi

A pond turns any room into an elegant and nature-infused gathering area. A sure conversation piece!
Image from picassaweb.google.com

Where should it go?

This is a crucial question, and it isn’t just a matter of aesthetic or of taste. All things being equal, where it goes is up to you. Personally, I’d like to have it in a room dedicated to the pond, or maybe one that doubles as a library. If you want it just in the background, you can have it in a communal room, but if it is to be a peaceful spot, you want a room without a TV or a computer.

However, not everything is equal. It seems obvious to say, but is easy to forget: water is really heavy. A good amount of water for a koi pond is 300 gallons. This is give-or-take, of course, but let’s say on average. Water is approximately 8.4 pounds per gallon, so even if you don’t take into account all the stuff required to build the pond, you are putting in 2550 pounds on a fairly small area. You have to make sure that your floors are reinforced and can handle all the weight. If you have a finished basement, that can be ideal. Depending on the changes you want to make to your house, you can decide if you want it in-ground or above. Of course, there are many designs to spread out the weight, but we’re thinking of a basic pond that a normal-sized house can accommodate comfortably.

What should it look like? 

Well, this is up to you. There are a few different ways to go with this. The important thing is that you match it with your idea of what looks good, and not what I tell you. In any case, the basic process is the same. You take whatever material you want and build it up around the area in which the plastic sheath of the pond will be placed. There are a lot of options for pond liners, and the best part is they come in different shapes, or none at all.  You can get one that is premade for your convenience, or design your own. There are also more permanent options, which we’ll talk about in a bit.  The two most popular options for outer looks are wood and stone. Stone looks more natural, whereas wood has a polished and refined and even Eastern look to it, like at a Kyoto spa, that might appeal to your sense of connection.  There really is no wrong answer.  This becomes less important if it is in-ground, though you’ll still want a look for the top. Don’t forget to decide how you want the plants to look- all level, or staggered? Sparse, or jungle-like. Play around. You’ll have fun.

Indoor koi

This one went with stone and lots of plants.
Image from ccaqua.com

Seem straightforward. What about miscellania?

Great question. There are some miscellaneous and practical things you have to keep in mind:

Water Quality. Even though you are indoors, you don’t want stagnant water. Make sure to have a submersible pump and a filter system in place.

Humidity. Experts are mixed about how much humidity is produced, but let’s say it is non-zero. Think about having a small humidifier nearby to avoid it going into your walls and ceiling and ruining them.

Water Source. Where are you going to keep getting all this water? Will it hook into your plumbing like a hot tub or will you be running a hose from the sink? Which is more practical for your set-up?Make sure to consider this before starting the project.

Indoor koi

The koi are living just as large as the people.
Image from picassaweb.google.com

What about getting some help?

That’s not a bad idea. If you are looking for a more complicated or more luxury indoor pond, consider getting help from the experts at Okeanos. With years of designing indoor ponds, they can make your house into a slice of heaven. In a later article we’ll talk about the range of ponds you can get- and perhaps, sitting by the koi pond, your mind at ease, away from the screeching of tires and the incessant stapling noises of co-workers, you can design in your mind an aquatic paradise in your home.