When Jim and Barbara Shouse visited Hawaii over 30 years ago, they were in awe of the vibrant koi pond that ran under the floor of their hotel. When the couple returned to Owensboro, they made it their mission to create a similar oasis. What started out as a hobby, soon became Ponds, Etc. a business raising and selling koi fish, live plants and creating handmade outdoor furniture.
The 25,000-gallon fish pond tucked away at 8145 Highway 81 is home to over 300 koi, with the oldest being 29 years old. While most domestic koi live to be between 25 to 35, the oldest koi on record was reportedly 226 years old. Koi fish, a subspecies of carp, gained popularity as colorful ornamental fish in Japanese culture over 200 years ago.
Jim proudly pointed out a butterfly koi, making note that only one in 500 koi fish proudly display those distinguishable long flowing fins.
Although Jim does sell the koi fish he raises, he only sells to those who wish to use the fish for enjoyment. When approached about using the fish for bait, Jim has refused,` saying that these fish were not meant for that purpose.
While he does make money selling them, Jim said of the fish he pours his time and heart into, “the fish are more important than the job.”
This former contractor has made it a full-time job out of raising and caring for these fish. He said that koi eggs typically take about two to three weeks to hatch and are born all black before changing to orange and black.
Behind the pond, Jim maintains two separate retaining ponds for the small koi and comets. Over the years, Jim said people have asked him for advice on everything from what to feed the fish to where to get pond liners.
While he has done his fair share of reading and research on koi, Jim said it has been more trial and error than anything.
“I’ve done it so long, I’ve figured out what things work and what don’t,” Jim said. “The things that don’t work, you just forget it, the things that do — you just do.”
Not only does Jim raise koi, he has also learned how to grow the lotus and lily plants that are associated with koi ponds. He can share how large the lotus blossoms are in full bloom and that lilies are night bloomers.
The extent of Jim’s knowledge extends beyond the koi pond though, back to his carpentry and contractor roots. Mixed in throughout the property are handmade Adirondack chairs, gliders, swings, bird feeders and a children’s picnic table and playground equipment.
While Jim finds enjoyment in each and every piece he creates, one of the strangest requests for playground equipment he ever received came for a kid of a different variety.
“I take orders for swings,” Jim said. “But, one day, a man came out here and saw my teeter-totter and asked if I could make one for his goat.”
Jim and Barbara are members of the Owensboro Water Garden Society and can answer questions about koi ponds, purchasing koi fish or plants. Jim can be reached at Ponds, Etc.