Koi 101

If you have a water garden, then undoubtedly you probably treasure your Koi fish as much as I do.  This article will give you a brief overview of your prized possessions.

A Little History

Koi are considered the most popular freshwater ornamental pond fish.  Koi, known as “Nishikigoi”, is the mascot of Japan.  “Nishiki” is Japanese for a very colorful piece of cloth and “Goi”, or Koi, is Japanese for carp.  Contrary to popular belief, Koi did not originate from Japan, rather there are conflicting stories on their origination ranging anywhere from Western to Eastern Asia to China.

Their Growth

Koi average around 31 inches in length but some have been known to grow over 3 feet long.  Their growth is heavily determined by their environmental conditions such as pond size, oxygen concentration, water temperature and quality, amount and type of food and length of growing season.

Their Hearing

While the average fish is said to hear frequencies no higher than 1,000 hertz, the Koi can hear up to 3,000 hertz.  This is due to their unique amplification system found in Cypriniformes, the basal order of the super order Ostariophysi, biologically speaking.

This amplification system called Weberian Apparatus consists of 4 pairs of bones called ossicles, which form a link that connects their inner ear to their swim bladder greatly increasing their ability to hear.

Importance of a Balanced Diet:

Research has shown that if koi are not fed a lacking in essential nutrients, the likelihood of a weakened immune system leading to diseases increases.  Other issues that can result are poor growth and coloration, as well as deformed fins and spines.   An informative article on seasonal fish food can provide more insight to their dietary needs.

 

References:

http://myfundi.co.za/e/Introduction_to_Ostariophysi_and_order_Cypriniformes

http://www.pondcare.com/reference-center/koi/physical-characteristics.aspx

 

Troubleshooting Pond Pump Problems

Image from Aquascape, Inc.

The pond pump is the heart of your pond.  Oftentimes, pumps burn out or die prematurely due to their improper care and installation.  Take the right preventative steps to assure longevity of your pump.

If you’re a do-it-yourselfer when it comes to caring for your pond, then hear it from the professionals at Aquascape, Inc. on answers to the most common pump-related issues.  The informative article summarized below titled, “Troubleshooting Pump Problems”, offers great tips for pond pump success.

Issue: Pump Hums but Pushes Very Little Water

Possible Cause: Impeller may be seized by debris

Troubleshooting: Unplug and remove the pump from the pond and inspect the pump intake to ensure there is no debris restricting the impeller. Remove any debris, like rocks or sticks, which may have become lodged around and above impeller.

While the pump is still out of the pond, lay it on its side and plug in the pump to see if the impeller spins. If the impeller does not spin, use a screwdriver or similar tool to kick start the impeller.

Possible Cause: Pump may be air-locked.

Troubleshooting: Air has gotten into the impeller chamber. Tilt the pump while it’s in the pond to allow air to be released from the chamber or remove the pump from the pond and re-install, ensuring that the impeller chamber is flooded with water.

Issue: Pump Pushes Very Little Water

Possible Cause: Plumbing clogged with debris.

Troubleshooting: Disconnect the pump from the pipe. This will allow the plumbing to drain. Clogged debris may back-flush out of the plumbing and into the pond during this procedure. Inspect the plumbing to make sure no debris is lodged inside.

Issue: Pump Is Not Running

Possible Cause: Poor electrical connection, tripped breaker, blown fuse, or other interruption in power supply.

Troubleshooting: Check to make sure all electrical connections are working and that a qualified electrician installed and tested it. Note – Long extension cords may cause voltage drop at the pump and the amps to rise above maximum level. This can cause the pump to heat up and burn out the motor.

Issue: Pump Operates Intermittently

Possible Cause: Not enough water in the pond.

Troubleshooting: Most pumps must be submersed in water to operate properly. Low water levels may cause the pump’s internal thermal shut-off to activate. The thermal shut-off will deactivate once the pump is cooled down. The proper water level must be established in the pond for the pump to work properly.

Possible Cause: The pond is too small to support the volume of water needed for the stream.

Troubleshooting: The pond must be designed to provide enough water to the stream and waterfalls for proper circulation. When the pump is first started, it may be necessary to add a few inches of water to the pond in order to account for the water used to feed the stream and waterfalls. Upper pools and “check” dams in the streams are also very effective at holding water upstream when the pump(s) are not operating. Ponds that are too small may not be able to supply enough water to start the streams and waterfalls. This will cause the water in the pond to drop below the opening of the skimmer upon initial start-up and starve the pump of water.

Just Enjoy!

 

 

7 Steps to a Better Lawn

If you are the primary lawn care expert of your yard, you know that having a beautiful lawn takes work.  But, that hard work will pay off in time.  Purdue University’s Department of Agronomy has a great publication discussing this very topic.  This publication is quite beneficial for individuals in zone 5 so always consult your state’s local Department of Agronomy or Cooperative Extension to find out more.

Mow at 3 inches

Cool-season lawn grasses such as Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass and tall fescue found in Indiana and Illinois thrive when mowed at a height of 3 inches or the highest mower setting.

Mow Frequently

Never remove more than 1/3 of the leaf blade in a single mowing.  Keep in mind, this might increase the mowing frequency in the spring.

Return the Clippings

A mulching mower is a great way to return the clippings back to your yard.  As the clippings decompose, they add valuable nutrients back into the soil.

Fertilize in the Fall

Fertilizing primarily in the fall promotes healthy turf while not stimulating excessive leaf growth.  Fertilize a minimum of twice a year, applying 1.0 pound of nitrogen per 1000 ft2 in September and 1.0 to 1.25 pounds nitrogen per 1000 ft2 in early November.  If desired, an additional application of 1.0 pound nitrogen per 1000 ft2 in mid-to-late May will keep the lawn green and healthy throughout the summer.

Irrigate

Water only as needed when the lawn first shows signs of water stress.  These include a bluish-gray color of the grass and/or depressed footprints that remain visible after walking across the lawn.

Control Dandelions

Following the first five steps will help to reduce the likelihood of dandelions.  However, if treatment is needed, a mid-October treatment of a broadleaf herbicide containing 2,4D, MCPP and dicamba are effective.  Spot spraying directly on the occasional weed is also an effective control for minor dandelions problems.

Control Crabgrass

If crabgrass is a problem, a preemergence herbicide applied in early spring is most effective.

 

 

 

 

Fish Health in the Spring

A very informative article concerning fish health in the spring written by Paul Curtis titled, “When the Ice Melts and the Water Warms!” was published in the March/April Pond Trade Magazine.  I wanted to share the highlights with you as many of our ponds are currently experiencing this seasonal transition.

Depending on your location, the transition into spring can be harsh on your water garden fish.  As cold-blooded creatures, fish are dependent on the temperature of their environment and these chaotic and rapid temperature fluctuations can be stressing.

A lack of biofiltration and a lack of food due to cold temperatures add even more stress to our fish.  So a decline in water quality and fish nutritional deficiency is likely.  In addition, organisms that cause disease come to life in the warming water.  So that gives these bad guys a fighting chance against fish that have an already weakened immune system.  Couple that with an inactive biofiltration system and you have a recipe for disaster.

Some ways to help ease the seasonal transition and reduce the likelihood of stress:

  • Pond shading can help to alleviate drastic temperature changes
  • Feed your fish a high quality diet all year long.  “A fish is only as strong as the food it is fed.”, states Paul.  Stress reduces the immune function and makes fish more susceptible to diseases, so a seasonal fish food can help as well.  To understand more about seasonal fish food, read this article.
  • Once filters are started for the season, monitor water quality carefully and regularly by checking the ammonia, nitrite, alkalinity and pH levels.  Alkalinity levels below 100mg/l will not allow the bio-filter to operate at its peak efficiency.  Spring startup needs this peak efficiency.
  • Preventative treatments in the spring may be a good choice if you repeatedly experience problems on spring start up.  Consider a broad spectrum disease treatment.

Fish can tolerate some stress but eliminating the stress factors that we can control will help you to have healthy fish.

 

Reference:

Paul Curtis is the principle of AquaSolver and AquaFinn, the parent company of the MinnFinn line of products.  www.aquafinn.com

 

LED Lighting Has A Bright Future

LED, light emitting diodes, are becoming commonplace in most homes.  In the past few years, this technology has expanded to the water gardening arena as well.  It’s easy to see why this technology is becoming popular since it offers clean, bright light.  Compact in size and more energy efficient make LED lights a great alternative to incandescent lighting.

Many options are available, including: waterfall lights, floating fogger lights, bullet spotlights and accent lighting.

Check our entire selection of LED lights.

 

Seasonal Fish Food, Is There a Difference?

The short answer is yes, there is quite a difference.  And it’s important to understand the reasoning for the specially formulated foods.  Fish food is designed to meet the needs of the fish based on the water temperature.  So protein levels in the foods will vary.

Summer is the season when pond fish grow rapidly and spawn.  Their metabolism is higher due to the warmer water temperature.  During these higher temperatures, the goldfish and koi need a protein-rich food to aide in their body and fin growth.  Pond fish use the amino acids found in the protein for energy and to make new tissue.

In contrast, spring and autumn bring cooler water temperatures.  As a result, the pond fish’s metabolism is slower, causing them to be less active.  Spring and autumn fish food is formulated to contain lower protein levels.  Feeding excessive protein in this season does not benefit fish and is released into the water as poisonous ammonia.  This becomes especially dangerous because at these cooler temperatures, the bacteria that help to consume this ammonia are inhibited.

 

Pond Water Treatment Products

Whether you’re a rookie or an old pro in the water garden hobby, the wide selection of pond water treatment products can be overwhelmingly confusing.  So, this article is meant to be used as a summary of some of the common water problems associated with ponds and the manufacturer’s product descriptions that will help you decide what product best fits your needs.  As always, be sure to follow manufacturer’s recommended dosing.

Pond Clarity

Pond water that is cloudy and discolored has pond clarity issues.  Most pond clarity products eliminate cloudy water by a process that causes cloud-forming particles to clump together into larger clumps called flocculation.  These flocculated particles are captured in skimmers, filters or will settle to the bottom of the pond if other filtering methods aren’t available.

PondCare® Accu-Clear® is a colorless liquid that rapidly eliminates cloudy water in koi ponds and water gardens.

PondCare® Simply-Clear is a stable fast-acting bacteria that feeds on small-size organic materials that often cause cloudy water conditions.

Aquascape Rapid Clear Reformulated EcoFloc™ clears cloudy or discolored pond water within 24 hours. Each pump of the dispenser treats up to 100 gallons.  This product is available in a new environ-friendly refill pouch.

Algae

Most pond owners will experience some algae.  Manageable amounts can be expected but too much can be a sign your pond isn’t balanced properly.  The following products are only a temporary solution to why your pond is out of balance.  It’s advisable to investigate the root cause of your algae problems.

PondCare® AlgaeFix® controls many types of green or green water algae, string or hair algae and blanketweed in ponds that contain live plants.

Aquascape EcoBlast™ works best is if applied directly on the algae.

PondCare® Microbial Algae Clean™ is a bacterial algaecide which also helps to establish and maintain the biological filter.

Clean, Healthy Well-Balanced Pond

Maintaining a healthy ecosystem for your pond fish is the ideal result.  To help achieve this, these products help to break down fish waste and dead algae with an end result of a well-balanced pond.

PondCare® Ecofix contains beneficial bacteria that will help break down dead algae, increase oxygen levels in the pond and help make the pond water clean and clear.

PondCare® Pond-Zyme® with Barley helps to break down fish waste and dead algae

EcoBarley™ Liquid Extract helps to reduce pond maintenance by breaking down pond sludge and keeping filter pads cleaner.

Healthy Water for Fish

Healthy water is essential in maintaining healthy fish.  These toxins are colorless and odorless to us, but if left untreated, can cause fish illness or death.  Understanding your specific levels of toxins can be achieved by using a pond test kit.

Aquascape Pond Detoxifier removes and detoxifies chlorine and heavy metals, as well as, neutralizes ammonia.  It also protects and repairs fish mucus membranes.

PondCare® AmmoLock® is an ammonia detoxifier that also eliminates ammonia stress and promotes healthy gill function.  Ammonia is colorless and odorless but will result in fish loss at high levels.

PondCare® Chlorine & Heavy Metal Neutralizer instantly removes chlorine and heavy metals found in tap water.

PondCare® pH Down® decreases the pH in garden ponds by neutralizing excess alkalinity.

PondCare®pH Up® increases the pH in garden ponds by neutralizing excess acid.

PondCare® Stress Coat® is a water conditioner that contains Aloe Vera, which acts as a liquid bandage to protect and heal damaged fish tissue.  It also instantly removes the chlorine and heavy metals found in tap water.

 

 

Rain Gardens

While forests and agricultural land are replaced with urban areas, it’s easy to see why increased storm runoff from these impermeable surfaces becomes a problem.  Storm water runoff picks up pollutants from streets, sidewalks and lawns.  It’s then rushed off to storm drains and to our local waterways and lakes.  The end result is flooding and added expense due to municipal treatment that is needed on this polluted water.  One solution that many homeowners are opting for is a rain garden.

Rain gardens are landscaped areas planted with native vegetation and wild flowers that soak up rain water received from impermeable areas, like your roof, sidewalks, and driveways.   Rain water is diverted to the rain garden and is slowly filtered into the ground instead of a storm drain.

In addition to solving the residential flooding and water pollution problem, rain gardens also help enhance our yards and neighborhoods, while providing a valuable habitat for birds, butterflies and many beneficial insects.

Think you might be interested?  Here are a few more items to consider:

  • The rain garden should be at least 10 feet away from the house, on a gentle slope that catches downspout water.
  • Do not place directly over a septic system.
  • Do not put the rain garden in an area that already ponds.  You want an area that infiltrates.
  • It’s better to plant the rain garden in full or partial sun, as opposed to under a big tree.
  • Typical residential rain gardens range from 100 to 300 square feet.  It can be almost any size but time and cost should be factored in to your final decision.

For more information on rain gardens, the reference article listed below is an excellent source.

Reference: “Rain Gardens: A How-To Manual for Homeowners”, University of Wisconsin

GreenScaping Part 5: Practice Natural Lawn Care

Just  a recap in the Series of GreenScaping: The Easy Way to a Greener, Healthier Yard

 

Mow higher, mow regularly and leave the clippings

Mow more frequently and mow higher when your grass is growing actively.  A good rule of thumb is to never cut more than one-third the height of the grass.  This minimizes the amount of grass clippings and helps to reduce thatch buildup.  The grass clippings will be recycled into fertilizer.

Use “natural organic” or “slow release” fertilizers

These fertilizers reduce nutrient run-off and leaching.  Use fertilizers sparingly by keeping it in your yard and off the street and pavement.

Water deeply , but infrequently, to moisten the whole root zone

Let your soil dry between watering to prevent lawn disease and save water.  Lawns only need about one inch of water a week in the summer, including rain, to stay green.

Overseeding can improve the quality of your lawn

A few great steps to consider:

  • Core aerate in the fall to improve root development and water penetration
  • Follow by overseeding thin areas of your lawn with grass seed blends recommended for your area
  • “Top Dress” by raking in a quarter- to half- inch of compost to cover the seed and improve the soil
  • Repeat these steps annually as needed to improve poor lawns

That completes the series “GreenScaping: The Easy Way to a Greener, Healthier Yard”.  Read the entire article here.

How’s Your Pond’s Water Clarity?

Are you experiencing brown, murky water or unwanted pond weeds, such as algae?  Don’t despair; these are common occurrences with most ponds at some point.  Controlling the source of these water problems can help to keep your pond water at its optimum.  Some common sources:

Leaves or other Debris

If leaves and other debris are allowed to enter your pond, decomposition will occur and carbon dioxide will be released into the water.  In large quantities, this decomposition can cause tea-colored pond water, and even worse, rob your pond of oxygen, causing fish illness or death.  In times of heavy leaf drop in the autumn, a pond net could be placed over the pond to help control this. Always be sure to remove any leaves that are on the bottom of your pond.  To control the tea-colored water, activated carbon can be placed in a skimmer, biological filter or anywhere that there is good water movement.

Fish Load

Assuring your fish load is adequate for your pond size is important.  The recommendation for proper fish population is 10” of fish for every 100 gallons.  If you have more than this, you might consider finding a new home for some of your fish.

Fish Feeding

Overfeeding your fish can cause a breeding environment for algae and other water clarity issues.  The recommendation for proper fish feeding is feed only water your fish can eat in 2-3 minutes. Quality fish food is equally important.

Pond Shading

Algae thrive on excessive sunlight, so having at least 50% of your pond’s surface shaded for about 6 hours a day is ideal for controlling algae blooms.   The addition of pond plants can help shade, as well as, beautify your pond.  Pond plants directly compete with algae for nutrients and sunlight.  One such aquatic plant to consider, the water lily, has broad leaves which cover much surface area.  Water hyacinth, known as an oxygenator, is another aquatic plant to consider.  It is a floating plant and helps to replenish oxygen into the pond; which helps to control algae as well.  It reproduces quite plentiful as well but is not hardy for colder winter climates.

Correct Pump Size

Your pump should be sized so that it can turn over the complete volume of water in 1 hour.  So, if you have a 3500 gallon pond, you should have a 3500 GPH pump.  Assure that the pump isn’t clogged or isn’t pumping above its specified head height.  Always follow the pump manufacturer’s guidelines.

Reference:  Aquascape