Tag Archives: aquatic plants

Fall and Winter Pond Care

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Pond water quality is usually at its best in the fall because of fewer water battles with algae.  Fall is also the one time of year where your pond may need daily maintenance.

Falling Leaves

Prepare the pond for the autumnal leaf fall by purchasing a fine-meshed pond net.  Remove leaves before they have a chance to break down and pollute the water. If large quantities are left in your pond, they will decompose and rob your pond of oxygen.  Don’t sweat if a few leaves get left behind in the pond.  They can help provide overwintering places for frogs and insects.   If you have a skimmer, you may need to empty the debris net daily.  If you don’t have time for daily skimmer maintenance, consider purchasing a pond net to cover your pond entirely.

Plant Care

Plants will start to shed leaves quite dramatically as the temperature drops.  Be attentive about removing any decaying leaf matter before it becomes detached and sinks to the pond bottom.  Stop fertilizing your plants as well.  Their nutritional requirements will be less as cooler weather begins.  Hardy bog and marginal plants should be cut within 2 inches of the base of the water level.  Water lilies should be trimmed back within 2-3 inches of the base of the plant.  Tropical plants should be removed and brought indoors to over-winter, otherwise, they can be treated as annuals and replaced next year.

Fish Care

As the weather gets cooler, you will notice your fish spending more time at the bottom of the pond.  Because pond fish are cold-blooded, their metabolism and appetite are dependent on the pond’s temperature.

As the water temperature drops to 65°F, start offering a lower-protein food.  Marketed as cold water fish food or spring and autumn food, they offer low-protein and high wheat germ combinations.  Wheat germ is a highly digestible protein.  Higher-protein food should not be offered this time of year as they can only digest a limited amount of protein.  The remaining protein is excreted as toxic ammonia, leading to water quality problems.

Stop feeding your fish when the temperature has reached 50°F.  If you don’t have a pond thermometer, it’s a wise investment.

Winter Fish Care

In northern climates with extreme cold conditions, your pond can freeze over so it is important to maintain an opening in the pond so that fresh air and gas exchanges can occur.  Decomposing organic matter can be exchanged with fresh oxygen.   There are several ways that you can eliminate pond freeze-over.

A popular option is a floating pond de-icer.  De-icers are designed to maintain a small hole in the pond ice.  Most are thermostatically controlled to insure a worry-free solution for your pond fish.

Another option is to move your existing pond pump close to the water surface to create water movement.  There are pumps that are marketed towards this very option.  Aquascape markets their AquaForce® for this solution.  Depending on the extremity of the weather, this option might be successful.

An overstocked pond can benefit from pond aeration.  You may already have one located at the bottom of your pond.  However, winter applications for pond aerators are not recommended to be placed on the bottom of the pond as this can disrupt the natural thermocline of the deeper portions of the pond.  Most successful winter applications involve placing the aeration discs 1 to 1-1/2 feet below the water level.  Always consult your owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommendation of winter applications.

You can also choose to run your pump throughout the winter.  If you do choose this option, proper care should be taken to monitor your pond during the winter months to monitor water levels.  Drops in water level could be due to evaporation or ice build-up.  Ice build-up over the waterfall can lead to water being diverted out of the pond, leading to significant water loss.  If this happens, consider removing the pump and follow manufacturer’s procedures on over-wintering the pump.

Winter Filter Media

If you choose not to run your pump, consider removing your filter media and, if possible, keep it moist or wet over the winter to retain the essential beneficial bacteria for next year.

Calcium Montmorillonite Clay

Calcium Montmorillonite Clay
Calcium Montmorillonite Clay

What is Calcium Montmorillonite Clay or Calcium Bentonite Clay?

Calcium Montmorillonite Clay or Calcium Bentonite Clay is rich in minerals and trace elements (contains over 60 trace minerals) that are needed to help the overall vitality of our fish.  It is believed by many to be the secret to the healthy, vibrant-colored koi found in Japan.  The Japanese are said to replenish their mud ponds in the spring before filling with Koi.  You can simulate this same activity by gradually adding this clay to your pond on a regular basis all year round.  If your local water supply is treated to remove a lot of these minerals and trace elements that our fish thrive on, it can be especially beneficial to add this clay.

“Montmorillonite” is a term used to describe a wide family of clays which are mined all over the world, and is a component of volcanic ash weathering.  Most people use clay to improve water clarity, but the main reason to apply clay to your pond is for its unseen actions during ion exchange.   The added clay is in an alkaline state retaining its electrically active, negatively charged ion.  Once introduced to the pond, the toxins, bacteria and pathogens in the water, which carry a positive electrically charged ion, bind to the negatively charged ions in the clay.  These particles are held in a suspended state inside the clay particle until it is filtered out of your pond.  This ion exchange aides in toxin removal, while replenishing minerals and trace elements.  Some of the trace elements include:  calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium and iron.

Suggestions on Usage

There are several ways to introduce clay into your pond besides just the regular maintenance dosage available with your product.  Additionally, you can roll your fish food in the clay.  After the clay is absorbed into the food, you can feed your fish a more nutritionally complete version of fish food.  Once ingested by the fish, the clay binds to the toxins while passing through the digestion system.   It’s also stated to strengthen the immune system, enhance the production of enzymes and detoxify the body in general.

When re-potting your plants in the spring, add a few tablespoons of clay to the potting soil along with fertilizer tabs.  Many have noticed beautiful results.

There is even plenty of information available on the benefits for humans and animals.

Are All Calcium Montmorillonite/Bentonite Clays Equal?

There are a variety of grades available.  Some contain more silica, while some have more impurities than others.  The best way to determine the suitability for your pond is to do a simple test.  One test is to simply mix it up.  If it clumps up, it is an inferior grade.  Another quick test is to mix some in a glass of water.  After a few minutes, you should not notice a lot of particles floating on the surface of the glass.  The more floating particles you notice, the more impurities that are present.

Nymphaea ‘Scarlet Flame’ Named 2012 Collector’s Aquatic Plant of the Year

The International Waterlily and Water Gardening Society (IWGS) recently announced the 2012 Collector’s Aquatic Plant of the Year: Nymphaea ‘Scarlet Flame’.   Shown above, this beautiful day-blooming tropical water lily was introduced by Florida Aquatic Nurseries and won 1st place in the IWGS 2011 New Waterlily Competition.

“‘Scarlet Flame’ is truly unique in its appearance and stands in a league of its own,” says Brandon McLane of Florida Aquatic Nurseries. “This free-flowering tropical waterlily produces up to 3 blooms at a time and is accented by bright green pads with red undersides. We’re quite pleased with the results.”

 

The Components of Our Fish Pond

 

When we look at our ponds, most of us might simply see a body of water with fish swimming in it.  But what’s comprised in that water is much more than just that.  Many entities factor into what makes our water a dynamic medium for our beloved fish to live their lives.   Each one of these entities is dependent on one the other more than most know.  Let’s take a look at each entity individually to better understand its needs.

Nitrifying Bacteria

While there are many forms of bacteria present in our ponds, the nitrifying bacteria are the bacteria (Nitrosomona & Nitrobacter, to be exact) that we encourage to grow in our biological filter, or bio filter.  These “beneficial” bacteria are responsible for converting the ammonia into nitrite and then later into nitrate, which can be consumed by plants and algae. 

The population of these bacteria will increase as the ammonia levels increase, given there is sufficient surface area and oxygen present for their survival.  Likewise, as pond water temperatures decrease to 50⁰F or food supplies decrease, these bacteria will become dormant. 

pH

If you were to test the pH of your water throughout the day, you would most likely note differences.  For example, morning pH levels are most generally lower compared to late afternoon pH levels.  The pH swings will depend on the buffering capacity, or the ability to resist changes in pH, of the water.   There are buffering products available to help with these large pH swings, if you have a problem.  

All living things in the pond are affected by pH.  Large fluctuations in pH or highly acidic conditions can stress or kill your fish.  In addition, nitrifying bacteria prefer alkaline environment in order to complete the nitrification process.  The higher the pH level, the more toxic ammonia becomes.  As you can see, a healthy and stable pH plays a key role in the overall health of your pond.

Temperature

It should stand to reason that the pond temperature will usually be the lowest in the morning and highest at sunset.  Pond temperature is affected by the amount and intensity of sunlight, prevailing winds, heat loss due to lack of plants covering the surface, etc.  

A good rule of thumb is that the temperature shouldn’t fluctuate over 9⁰F in a 24 hour period.  Keep that in mind if moving koi between different temperature environments.  An upward temperature movement is tolerated more than a downward movement in temperature.

Oxygen

Oxygen, in the form of dissolved oxygen, is probably the single most important aspect of our pond and yet is so easily looked over.  All living creatures in the pond rely on it, including: the fish, the nitrifying bacteria, the plants and even organic decomposition.  Oxygen is introduced into the pond when the water comes into contact with the atmosphere, as well as, through pumps, aerators, waterfalls, etc.

Oxygen levels can fluctuate drastically during the day and night, as well as, in hot and cool temperatures.   For example, your pond’s oxygen levels can be much lower at night due to the plants actually consuming oxygen instead of producing it, like it does during the day.  Another fluctuation example is that warmer water doesn’t hold dissolved oxygen as readily as cooler temperature water.  A shortage of oxygen can be noticed by observing the Koi in the early morning when levels would be lowest.  Koi are hovering at the surface of the water, gasping for air or if they appear to be lethargic are both signs Koi are suffering from oxygen deficiency.  For more on oxygen deficiency and helping control it, read this informative article.

Ammonia

Ammonia levels are an ever-changing entity in the pond world.  A few hours after feeding, ammonia levels will be higher due to the fish excrement versus the opposite reading you would get prior to feeding.   Interesting enough, it can also be noted that oxygen levels after feeding are lower due the fish metabolizing their food.

Ammonia is found in two forms in the pond: (NH3) and (NH4).   It’s fair to say that both of these form of ammonia are present in the pond at all times, one is just more prevalent than the other based on the current pH of the water.   Ammonia (NH3) changes to ammonium (NH4) as the pH level drops, and becomes less toxic.  As the pH rises naturally during the day, the ammonium converts back to toxic ammonia.  So, the toxicity of the ammonia is pH dependent.

Conclusion

It’s good to remember that while Koi have evolved into fairly resilient creatures, helping them to prevent stresses that could weaken their immune system and leave them vulnerable for diseases are what we all strive for.  Understanding these individual entities and how they interact with one another can help us to keep our fish and pond a healthy one!

 

 

Aquatic Weeds & Their Treatments

Being a pond owner will most likely mean that you will experience some sort of aquatic plants along the way; whether they are wanted or not is a different story!  And how you treat your unwanted aquatic plants is dependent on a proper identification of the plant.

Aquatic plants can be classified into two groups: algae and flowering plants.

Algae

Algae are simple structured plants that have no root systems, leaves or any of the other characteristics seen in higher flowering plant species.  There are three general types of algae:  planktonic or microscopic algae, filamentous algae and chara or stonewort.

Planktonic or microscopic algae (shown, right) can be identified by green, blue-green, yellow-green or red colored water known as a bloom.  Blooms can encompass the entire surface of a pond and can resemble a pea soup consistency if left untreated.

Filamentous algae (shown, left) initially form around the perimeter and the bottom of the pond in the spring in a mat-like fashion.  They take on the characteristic of being stringy.  This type of algae is very commonly observed on waterfalls, making surfaces slippery.

Chara or stonewort (shown, right) is easily confused with a flowering plant due to its similar appearance.  However, it is considered algae.   Chara grows best in very hard water and is often calcified and brittle.

Flowering Plants

Flowering plants have several differences from algae.  For one, they are more structurally complex than algae.  In addition to being able to produce flowers, they also have an internal conducting system which algae lack.  Flowering plants are categorized according to where they are found in a body of water: submersed, free-floating, rooted-floating and emergent.  While the category names might differ slightly from one publication to another, there location in the water is still the same.

Submersed plants are rooted in the bottom sediments and grow up through the water with their flowers or flowering spikes and sometimes emerge from the water.  Some varieties of submersed plants have both underwater leaves and floating leaves.   While these plants tend to be quite invasive, they do offer good shelter for game fish.  Some of the most common submersed plants are shown below.

Free-floating plants can completely encompass the entire surface of the pond resulting in oxygen depletion in deeper water.  The plants are found in nutrient rich waters; therefore, restricting nutrient inputs can help to alleviate this situation.

Rooted-floating plants are generally found in shallow water less than 4 to 5 feet deep.  Common varieties are shown below.

Emergent or marginal plants are found along the shoreline line or the margin of a pond.  Many of these plants spread rapidly by underground systems, as well as, by seed.

Pond Weed Identification

Images compliments of Purdue University Botany & Plant Pathology
Images Compliments of Purdue University Botany & Plant Pathology
Images Compliments of Purdue University Botany & Plant Pathology
Images Compliments of Purdue University Botany & Plant Pathology
Images Compliments of Purdue University Botany & Plant Pathology

 

Images Compliments of Purdue University Botany & Plant Pathology

 

Hydrilla Weed. Image compliments of University of
 
 

Pickerelweed, Compliments of University of Florida
 
 
 

Aquatic Pond Plants

A well balanced pond would not be complete without aquatic pond plants.  They are a vital component to the entire ecosystem of a pond.  Not only do they offer huge aesthetic value, but their importance is much greater than that.

Pond plants release oxygen, which can be used by the fish.  They also utilize the fish waste by using it as a fertilizer for their own needs which also helps to compete with algae.  Many plants offer shade to help regulate water temperature, as well as, protection from the natural predators of fish.  Many other plants offer filtration by removing excess nutrients from the water.  It’s easy to see how pond plants are a necessity to achieving a complete and healthy ecosystem for your pond.

There are four main categories of aquatic pond plants.  Each offering several great benefits for your pond so getting a variety of plants from different categories can only increase your chances for that well balanced pond.

4 Main Categories:

  • Marginal or Bog plants typically grow around the perimeter of a pond or lake, thriving in rich, organic wet soil and preferring water depths up to 10 inches.  Common marginal plants include Horsetail, Cattail and Water Iris.
  • Submerged (Oxygenators) plants grow completely submerged.  They are beneficial because they act as natural filters by removing excess nutrients in the water that alga otherwise would consume.  Their foliage offers protection and spawning areas for the fish.  Oxygenators, as their name implies, help to oxygenate the water.  Tiny air bubbles can be observed coming from the leaves of the plant.  Common oxygenators include Elodea, Hornwort and Parrots Feather.
  • Floating plants float on the water’s surface while their roots dangle in the water absorbing nutrients, which help to filter the water.   Common floating plants include Water Hyacinth and Water Lettuce.
  • Deep Water plants including Water Lilies and Lotus are among the most popular aquatics.  While both offer great visual appeal to your pond but water lilies also offer shade which helps to regulate water temperatures and provides protection from natural predators that like to prey on our beloved fish.

 

What’s Consuming Oxygen in Your Pond?

After reading a great article titled “Oxygen in Ponds” by Ben Helm of www.watergardenersbible.co.uk, I wanted to share some of the highlights which will encompass several posts.

The ecosystem that is home to our prized koi and other fish has some requirements to keep it balanced.  One such requirement is the Dissolved Oxygen Concentration (DOC).  DOC refers to the amount of oxygen that is dissolved in the pond water, which measures how much oxygen (by weight – mg) is dissolved in every liter of water.

There are many occupants of a pond that affect and rely on the DOC in a pond.  Let’s look at a few of them.

Koi

At a macro level, koi aren’t the biggest consumers of oxygen in the pond (but this will vary with stocking density).  And compared to other species of fish, koi are quite tolerant of lower levels of DOC requiring 6 mg per liter.  A trout, however, prefers a higher DOC level of around 12mg/l.

Koi absorb roughly 80% of their oxygen through their gills with the remainder consumed in their lungs.

Bacteria/Fungi

The majority of bacteria found in ponds (usually found in the filter) require oxygen; thereby we classify them as aerobic bacteria.  Their DOC consumption varies depending water temperature and food content in the pond water.

With the warmer weather brings active fish.  Ammonia levels will be on the rise once fish begin to eat, thus requiring bacteria to become more active to consume and convert ammonia to nitrites, then to nitrates.  This increased bacterial activity will result in more oxygen consumption as well.

Invertebrates

The more mature of filter becomes will bring a greater diversity of colonized invertebrate life.  Likewise, these critters will require the use of oxygen as they help to consume the organic matter in the pond.

Plants

From microscopic to larger forms, plants consume oxygen just like all the other life forms in the pond.  Plants can also add their excess oxygen, over and above what they need, back into the pond during the day.

In our next post, we’ll look at what factors can cause your DOC to drop.

 

 

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

Water Features Can Fit Anywhere!

Whether you have a big or small yard, a water feature of any size is easily achievable.  There are so many options available that the only limitation is your imagination!  So, it’s alright to think outside the pond!

Aquatic Patio Ponds

Aquascape’s Patio Ponds (right) have the look and durability of real stone with the light weight of fiberglass.  These Patio Ponds make it simple to create your own water garden.  Just add water, plants and fish! Available in 3 sizes and 3 beautiful colors to choose from.

Bubblers, Spitters and Fountains

Aquascape has a complete line of bubblers, spitters and fountains available in ceramic, stone, fiberglass and brass.  New for 2011 is the Giant Mushroom Fountain made from a fiberglass stone composite.  All the beauty with less weight. These water features are versatile, in that they can accent an existing water feature or can be a stand alone focal point.  You won’t be disappointed with the selection or quality.  Check out our selection.

Aquarock Kit

Aquascape’s Aquarock Kits are a complete kit all contained within a five gallon bucket!  How easy is that?  Available in 2 stone colors.  This is a great family project as well.

Container Water Gardening

Do you want to save some money and make your own water feature?  It’s easy and fun project.  Create your own water garden with items you might already have around your house.  Check out this blog article to find out more.

 

Pondless Waterfalls

Pondless waterfalls are an alternative to a pond. In essence, it is a waterfall without a pond. Check out our wide selection, including the Atlantic Water Gardens Colorfalls (right).  The Colorfalls Lighted Falls  are designed to work with most retaining walls and to add that beautiful sheer waterfall for hours of enjoyment.  You have a choice 4 different colorful low energy LED lights to enhance your experience.  Three different sized kits are available.