On Friday, I painted three swimming koi fish on an upcycled plastic patio table top that I’ve had sitting around for a couple years. The table top is for cover for the koi fish. I’ve wanted to paint it for the whole winter, but it was just too dang cold to get out there and clean off the old table top and spray paint it a black base color.

Last fall, I got the idea to upcycle the plastic table top for my koi pond. I have a large koi pond that my husband made for me years ago and we never put in any caves or spots for the fish to hide. I actually just never thought about them needing a place to hide. We had experimented with other stuff in an attempt to create a hiding spot, but they turned out to be pretty ugly.

We tried a culvert type pipe and it floated to the top and looked bad. We also tried placing a piece of wood over a corner and that was not a good idea either. It was then I thought about using the old table top. It was broken anyway. I thought I’d have to somehow attach some Styrofoam to get it to float. But I put it in the pond to see how much room it would take up and discovered it floated just fine by itself.

Two winters ago, a great blue heron helped himself to my koi fish and killed four of my scaly babies. They were too big for him to eat, but that didn’t stop him from spearing them and trying to eat them only to leave them there to die.

I can’t believe I had taken a photo last fall of my options, but I did and I found it. haha. So you see the ugly green floating table top and the culvert. I must’ve been comparing.

The "before" photo of the koi pond with plain upcycled plastic patio table top

Here’s the “Before” pic of the floating table top and the culvert.

Enter the upcycled patio table top! I knew I didn’t want to leave it that faded, dirty green. All winter long I’d thought about what I wanted to paint on it. Flowers perhaps, or a sun and moon with stars? I finally settled on koi fish swimming and that’s what I did.

I started out that morning by painting the originally green table top black with a can of that Rustoleum 2x spray paint for plastic. I thought well that already looked better than the green and would blend in with the black bottom and water. While that was drying in the grass, I went in and sketched a drawing out real quick of the way I wanted the fish to look in my sketch book.

artist Jaime Haney holding paint brush

Wild hair not needed to paint on table!

Me sketching the fish on the table with pastel chalk.

Me sketching the fish on the table with pastel chalk.

Finished sketch of koi fish

Finished sketch

painting in progress of the koi fish

The koi fish got painted in quickly

And finally, the finished upcycled plastic patio table top!

finished painted koi fish on upcycled plastic patio table top

Ta da!

I don’t have a photo of it in the water because I haven’t put it in there yet. I’ve put on about four coats of clear sealant (by Rustoleum again) and it says it needs five days to fully cure on plastic. I really am not sure it will last, but I’ve done all I can in order to make it last as long as possible. In the summer, I probably won’t need the table top because of my water lilies but until they spread out I’ll use it.

Now you may be wondering if this will be toxic to my fish. I’m hoping not, but I honestly don’t know. I didn’t paint the bottom to limit the exposure of paint to water. If you look closely at the before photo, you see water does get on the table via the umbrella hole. I may try to plug that up with a chunk of Styrofoam now that I think about it.

You know what they say, “Necessity is the Mother of invention”.

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