Tag Archives: pond

Fall and Winter Pond Care

Fotolia_03_S_web

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.

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.”

 

Preparing Your Pond for Spring

 

Spring is officially here!  With an unusually warmer than normal winter this year, most ponders have already started getting their pond ready.  Are you one them?  Need some ideas to assure your pond will be ready?  Read on….

Clean Up

This is the time to remove any debris that has accumulated during the winter.  Leaves, twigs and fine sediment should be removed with a net.   A skimmer net is a good choice for removing sediment, as it has a finer mesh than a fish net.  Be sure to the remove pond heater and bubbler that you may have added over the winter to keep a hole in the ice for proper gas exchange.

Assess Your Water

Now is a great time to test your water.  Getting a baseline for your water quality will allow you to understand the current condition of the water.  There are several water testing kits available.  If you need help understanding the importance of what each water testing parameter represents, read this article titled, “Water Quality Parameters for Your Pond”.

In the spring, your water is rich in Dissolved Organic Carbons (DOC’s) because the fish are coming back to life.  While their metabolism increases, the beneficial bacteria that naturally help to remove these organics aren’t fully up to speed because of the water temperature.   This time is also referred to Aeromonas Alley due to the prevalence and rapid growth of the Aeromonas bacteria.  This is potentially a vulnerable time for your fish. 

Partial water changes are a great way to help dilute any excessive toxins in the water, while simultaneously adding fresh oxygen back into your pond.  When refilling your pond, be sure to apply a water detoxifier to remove chlorine and other heavy metals.   The addition of beneficial bacteria can help your pond adjust to the addition of the ammonia and nitrite levels after a long winter.  These products are temperature sensitive but are available in cold water varieties as well.  You can also consider a Spring Starter Kit, which will have all essential products to help your pond off to a great start.

Happy Spring to You All!

Koi/ Goldfish Spawning

I remember in my early years of ponding my first encounter with spawning.  One early summer morning, I noticed something different happening in my pond.  My first visual clue was a pond full of white foam as well as, a strong fishy smell.  My first thought and concern was that there had been predators in the water stirring up the water.  After doing some research, I realized that my koi were spawning.  How exciting!  So, you want to understand more?  Keep reading!

Under normal conditions, distinguishing between male and female fish can be quite difficult.  Females normally have a larger girth to them and during the spawning months, they will have a swollen underside.  This swollenness is a result of hundreds of eggs waiting to be released.

When the fish spawn, you may notice several thinner males chasing the female(s) around the pond.   They will bump against her sides and stomach area in an attempt to release her eggs.  Once her eggs are released, the males will release their milt, fertilizing the eggs as they adhere to underwater plant life or some other shelter.  Without some form of proper shelter for the newly created fry, adult koi will eat their young.   Mother Nature does provide her own way of keeping fish populations in check this way.

I have my own experience with actually transplanting water hyacinth from a larger pond to a smaller pond.  It was later that I realized the water hyacinth roots had koi eggs housed in them.  These fry successfully lived in the smaller pond.   I initially fed them koi food crumbs until they grew big enough to eat “big fish” food.

More important spawning information to consider:

  • Spawning occurs between March- July, or when water temperatures are between 68°F – 72°F.
  • Spawning normally occurs in the early morning hours or late evening.
  • Healthy eggs will be translucent while unfertilized eggs will be white and will start to grow fuzz.
  • Keep water quality in check to assure a healthy environment for spawning to occur.
  • To ensure survival of some of your fry, provide shelter using plants or manufactured spawning ropes and brushes or isolation.

 

Maintaining Your Pond During the Winter

If you live in a colder winter climate and have chosen to allow your pond to run throughout the winter, then you are probably already aware that this will require maintenance in bitter temperatures.  Whether or not you decide to allow your pond to run all winter long, below are some items to consider.

Water

Just as your water levels need replenished due to evaporation in the warmer weather, the same is true for colder temperatures as well.   Adding water may become more challenging in the winter with normal water sources shut down.  Some options for adding water include:  making multiple trips with a bucket or running a hose from an internal faucet.  There are many pond owners that perform partial water changes on their ponds during the winter to relieve the pond of harmful buildup of ammonia and nitrites.   While adding water is not convenient in the winter, it is an important part of maintaining your pond during these cold temperatures.

Water Circulation

Be aware, that pump size is a critical factor in determining a waterfall’s ability to operate during the winter.  In most situations, a pump size of 2,000 gph or bigger can be operated during the winter safely.  If you are presented with many sub-zero temperature days, your system may not function normally due to ice build-up.  Carefully monitoring your pond during these extreme temperatures is important.  It may become necessary to shut your system down until the ice has melted and normal water flow can be restored.

If you decide to shut your pond down due to these extreme temperatures, be sure to consider a few maintenance steps.  Always be sure to follow your manufacturer’s recommendation for properly storing your pump.  Also remove and rinse the filtration media and place in a frost-free location for ease of replacement in the spring.

Fish

If your pump has been shut down, it is important that some form of aeration be provided to allow for an opening in the ice.  This allows for the escape of harmful gases to be released.

There are several great options when considering alternate forms of aeration.  The Aquascape AquaForce® is a great winterizing pump.  This recirculating bubbler pump is designed to sit in the pond and oxygenate the water.  Simply place the pump in the water, positioning the discharge pipe below the surface of the water.  The bubbling from the pump will maintain a hole in the ice, which will help increase oxygen levels and allow for dangerous gases to escape.

The addition of a floating de-icer in combination with the bubbler pump is recommended for extreme prolonged cold winters to insure there will be a hole open in the ice all winter long.

In Conclusion

Whether you run your pond all winter or shut it down is a decision to have to make based on how much maintenance you want to perform during these extreme temperatures.   The beauty of beautiful ice that is created from the water may be rewarding enough to consider maintaining it all winter long.

What are Hybrid Pumps?

What are Hybrid Pumps?

The term hybrid is becoming commonplace in many industries and there is no exception in the ponding world either.  A hybrid pump utilizes the power associated with a direct-drive pump combined with the electrical efficiency of a magnetic induction pump (mag drive pump).  Understanding these 2 separate pumps that combine to make the hybrid should help you to see why these hybrid pumps might just be great addition to your pond.

Direct Drive Pumps

The rugged direct drive submersible pump has long been used in the wastewater industry where they are known for their ability to pump solids while providing high head heights.  They are named direct drive because their impeller is attached directly to the motor, along with several seals on the drive shaft to ensure the motor is kept dry.  All this power has a downfall: high wattage expenditures-especially the older models that have flat-bladed synchronous impellers.  Synchronous impellers rotate in either direction, requiring that the impeller be flat-bladed to allow for it to spin in either direction.  Flat blades are not efficient but luckily, there have been many improvements on this design.

A huge energy efficient improvement that was made lately on the direct drive pumps was the design of asynchronous impellers.   Asynchronous impellers rotate in one direction only allowing for an efficient curved impeller blade.

Mag Drive Pumps

The magnetic induction pumps are a more energy efficient pump but also have lower head heights as a result of their inefficient synchronous impeller design.  As a general rule, most mag drives are effective up to 2000 gph with a maximum head height of 15’. The replaceable magnetic impeller assembly, when charged with electricity, will spin the impeller by magnetic attraction.  Clean, or pre-filtered water is needed with these pumps as they can’t handle solids.

Hybrid Pumps

A hybrid pump utilizes the best of both of both worlds:  it uses the direct-drive style asynchronous impeller with a magnetic induction motor used by the mag drive pumps.  The result is a high efficient pump suitable for low to medium head heights.

Check out our selection of Hybrid Pumps here.

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!