Starting with a Water Garden

Gardening is one of our primordial fascinations. For thousands of years humans have gardened and for most of that time a major part of our diet came out of our gardens. As we became better at feeding ourselves, we also gained the time to indulge in activities that weren’t directly linked to our very survival. Flowers, ornamental shrubs, decorative trees all became a part of gardening for beauty and pleasure.

Water Garden

Water is a source of life. We are actually composed of 50 to 70 percent water and without water we can die in hours or a few days – far faster than from lack of food. Throughout history, water has been a necessity, even a source of warfare. We find comfort in sights and sounds associated with water, whether the source is the sea, a lake, river, stream or pond. I believe that the sense of comfort and relaxation most of us feel around water is deeply embedded in our being.

Water gardens of various kinds have a long history. From elaborate fountains with statuary to the simplest aquarium (yes, I include aquariums as a form of water garden despite the usual focus on the critters rather than the overall concept), water gardening is an ancient activity.

Currently, water gardening is considered a new trend for some reason. I’d guess this has to do partly with advances in technology, the widening availability of pre-constructed ponds and pumping systems, a growing awareness of the alternative forms gardens can take, and the fact that presenting something as new and trendy often improves sales.

Water gardening can be done using waterfalls and streams, ponds, fountains, and containers of various kinds some of which are as simple as a small indoor fountain with a recycling pump. The variety goes on and on and most can be further enhanced through using rock work combinations, various types of lighting both above and below the water surface (or behind a waterfall), plants, and, of course, fish or other water dwellers.

Water gardening doesn’t require a pond or natural water source either. It can consist of just a plastic tub, basically anything that can hold water. Many garden supply outlets can provide anything from the most basic setup to incredibly sophisticated water gardens consisting of waterfalls, pools and streams (with or without bridges).

The very first thing to consider is your budget since that will place some limits on how ambitious a project you can undertake. Water gardening can get expensive if you decide on a big garden full of plants, rocks, fish, and lights. Next you need to consider how much space you have available for a water garden. You probably won’t want a 15 foot waterfall with a 200 foot stream and a half acre pond in a suburban backyard. Be reasonable in what you choose as a first project, but also keep in mind the possibility of extending your water garden later. Size also affects the amount of maintenance your water garden will require.

If you plan to include fish and plants, you’ll want to choose a location with sufficient direct sunlight. Remember that if the garden is located close to trees and bushes, leaves and debris will end up in the water and need to be cleaned out regularly.

When you choose aquatic plants, don’t forget that the plants should, at most, cover about half of the water. Plants can be free floating, submerged, or marginal (near or at the edges). The types you choose are up to you. Some may be good for their scent, some are simply beautiful, and some plants provide more oxygen than others which helps keep the pool healthy. As well as being pleasant to watch, fish will assist in keeping debris to a minimum and in insect control.

Algae can be a major difficulty in water gardening. Most frequently, the problem results from having too many nutrients in the water either from fish food or plant fertilizer. Proper construction, feeding and fertilizing will keep algae to a minimum. Chemicals can be used to reduce algae but they can also kill fish and plants.

Like everything else, garden pools need to be maintained throughout the year. And it really doesn’t matter what size they are, even small ones will need care. However, with proper planning you can balance the living and decorative features of a water garden both to simplify and minimize your maintenance tasks.

You can eliminate algae through reducing the nutrients that cause algal growth by cutting back on feeding and fertilizing, adding more plants, putting in a filter system, or replacing existing water with fresh water. Chemicals are generally not recommended since overuse can kill.

An intriguing new method of algae control is through the use of ultrasonic waves. The use of ultrasound to destroy algae can be traced back to the early experiments with sonar for detecting submarines when it was discovered that some micro organisms were destroyed by ultrasonic waves. Transducers developed to control algae will not harm humans, animals, fish or aquatic plants. (They can also be used for swimming pools).

If your garden lacks a natural continuous water supply, you have a situation much like an aquarium. You will need to monitor both water quality and water level. Keep in mind that in many locations, tap water contains chlorine and a large amount should not be directly added to water containing fish (and some plants). Allowing tap water to stand in an open container for at least 24 hours will normally eliminate the problem. Closed systems will require added water as the surface water evaporates. A large water garden that relies on tap water and which contains fish and plants, should probably have small quantities of water added daily. For water gardens without circulating, aerated, or filtered water, maintaining water quality may be more difficult.

Still, water gardening really doesn’t take any more time than regular gardening and could well take less time once you have it set up and have your maintenance tasks well organized. It is different, however, so while you may not be able to grow anything but weeds in dirt, you might be superb at water gardening. As a hobby and a way to beautify your landscape, water gardening is excellent. And there’s nothing quite like the sound and sight of water to calm and relax you after the stresses of modern life. Можно защитить свой автомобиль на, торопитесь

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Koi Nutrition

Koi and all other fish are just like us in that they have particular dietary requirements. Naturally, koi will scavenge and root around a pond bottom as an aquatic pig eating worms, algae and debris, but where they are stocked in an artificial garden pond their diet and overall health is reliant on what they are fed artificially.

As a close relative of the carp (they even share the same name Cyprinus carpio) the nutritional requirements are almost identical to that of carp and similar to ourselves in that they are omnivores, eating both plant and animal material. In fact, there is very little difference between the dietary requirements of koi and other pond fish such as goldfish, comets and shubunkins. Manufactured koi diets tend to be a little more refined than pond fish diets with a greater emphasis on protein content and color enhancement. Artificial koi diets can contain a wide range of raw materials in their formulation as long as they provide an overall balanced diet. Just think of the vast range of foods we can eat and still remain healthy. However, the blend of raw materials in a koi diet must satisfy specific criteria to provide sufficient of the following:

Protein. Levels of approximately 30% are typical but will be higher if a growth food and lower than this if a low temperature food. Protein is present for growth and repair and is the diet’s most costly ingredient. Sources of protein include both animal and plant derivatives and meals such as fishmeal, soya, wheat and egg.

Carbohydrate. These are the complex sugars such as starch and cellulose. They are all plant in origin and are included in high quantities in koi diets as a cheap source of energy. They are also included as a source of fibre to aid digestion.

Oils. Oils are included as fish or vegetable oils. Usually less than 10% in the diet they are used by koi in the production of new tissues etc. If too much oil is included then pellets appear greasy and oily as in a trout pellet. These tend to be too rich for koi and can cause water quality problems.

Vitamins and Minerals. Manufactured diets often rely on the natural vitamin and mineral content included in the raw ingredients. More recently better quality brands have been including stable supplements of the notoriously unstable Vitamin C.

All reputable koi foods will satisfy the above, providing adequate balanced nutrition for your koi and pondfish however there is no industry standard that koi food must meet before it can be sold. Carry out some detective work yourself before buying. Look at shop displays to spot which are the popular foods and ask friends and aquatic retailers which food they use or would recommend. When choosing a food it is also wise to keep an eye out for the following. These may often set brands apart and may be reflected in the price

1. Value for money. Check and compare weights. This may sound obvious but rival brands may produce pellets that are more ‘blown’ with air than others. This may give the impression of getting a larger pack for your money when in fact you may be paying for air!

2. Look on the ingredient list for a wide range of ingredients and for beneficial additives such as:

Color enhancers. Raw ingredients such as spirulina, krill, chrysanthemum meal and other synthetic compounds such a astaxanthin and canthaxanthin are included to enhance the skin coloration in fish. A food containing these will improve your fish’s color but will also increase the price of the food.

Stabilized Vitamin C. Most of the natural Vitamin C is lost in the milling process. Stabilized Vitamin C is added to provide a boost of such an essential Vitamin ensuring your koi are kept in tip-top condition.

3. Packaging. Is the packaging robust and re-sealable enabling you to keep the food fresh for a reasonable period? If food is left open to the air then it’s quality will rapidly deteriorate.

4. Best before date. Make sure that you are buying this year’s stock and that the ‘Best Before’ date will last until the end of the season. Vitamin content should be present up to 12 months after manufacture. The less time there is on the best before date the less fresh the food is.

You may find it useful to ask your koi dealer what they feed their fish. They will be very well informed as to what they want from a food and will only offer their own koi what they consider to be the best for them. Be careful not to be too influenced by price as there are unbalanced ‘budget’ diets on the market. In the same way there are over-priced diets which are not significantly better than mid-priced well balanced diets. Now that you know what to look for when choosing a suitable koi diet, best of luck!

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Spring Pond Tips

It is hard to believe that spring is almost here. Soon our pond’s water temperature will be staying above 60 and our fish will become more active. Let’s all hope that the mild winter will help our fishy friends have a happy and healthy 2000. Here are some suggestions that will hopefully help you get your pond off to a trouble free start this spring:

1. Start with a clean pond: Remove leaves and any sludge that might have accumulated this winter. Never stir up the muck in your pond with fish still in the same water. Use a holding tank. It is especially import to remove any acorns that might have fallen into your pond as they can be toxic in large quantities. After cleaning if possible cover your pond with netting to prevent our native live oak trees spring leaf drop from adding more junk back into your pond.

2. Continue to do regular water testing and water changes: Remember your ponds biological filtration will lag behind your feeding schedule. Also ammonia fixing bacteria develop faster than the nitrite fixing bacteria. Test your water for both ammonia and nitrites. Make water changes as often as necessary to keep tests within normal levels. It is better to feed smaller amounts of food several times a day than one large feeding.

3. Watch your pond water temperature. You can increase the number and amount of fish feedings as the water temperature rises. A suggestion would be to increase the amount of food very slowly watching your water testing and feed small amounts several times a day until the temperature stays above 75 degrees. Try to feed between 9:00am & 5:00pm so the fish have a better chance to digest the food before the pond temperature drops at night. If there is a significant cold front that greatly lowers the water temperature reduce or stop your feeding temporarily.

4. You should be feeding a lower protein food such as wheat germ: It is also a very good idea to add extra Vitamin C to your fish food. Buy Vitamin C powder at a health food store and dissolve a teaspoon in a small amount of warm water for every one to two pounds of food. Stir into food until absorbed spread out on something until dry then keep in a cool dry air tight container.

5. Watch your fish carefully: for any that do not swim or eat with the other fish or start flashing (Rub themselves against the sides of the pond). On very cold days they will be very slow or inactive but they should act similar. Watch for cuts or sores that might develop. These will not heal well in water below 75 degrees and when we get a few days of warmer temperatures the bad bugs can wake up and cause big problems. You should disinfect any significant scratches with iodine or mercurochrome. If your fish start flashing excessively find out what is happening and treat it. If high ammonia or nitrites do a water change and reduce or stop feeding. If parasites are the problem use appropriate treatment. Use a microscope to identify exactly what you are dealing with and also to confirm after treatment that the nasty’s have been eradicated.

6. Move sick or injured fish to heated/salted hospital tank: Remember a fishes immune system is temperature dependent. After they recover you can put them back in the pond.

7. Salt Treatment: I highly recommend a salt treatment for your fish/pond each spring. Especially, if you had any problems with ulcers or fin rot the previous year. You will have to remove any plants to a separate container for 3-4 weeks. Add 5 lbs. of non idodized salt per 100 gallons of water. Split the treatment into three parts and add over three days. For example if you had a 1,000 gallon pond you would need to add 50# of salt. You would add it at a rate of approximately 16-17# per day for three days. You would maintain this salt concentration for two weeks which means you would need to add salt with every water change. For example if you did a 100 gallon water change you would need to add back 5# of salt. Do not put this salty water on your garden or yard if it has been very dry unless you dilute it with additional tap water. After the two weeks you can increase your water changes to 20-30% per day. After one to two more weeks the level of salt will be almost nothing and you can reintroduce your plants. Total time from start to finish is 3-4 weeks. It is best to do this right now as salt slows down the maturing of your biological filter and if you start feeding a lot you will need to do bigger water changes and replace more salt.

Read and learn more about how to care for the special needs of your pond during the spring season. The club library is a great place to start. The more effective you are in minimizing the problems that can occur with the spring warm up the fewer problems you will have the rest of the year. Good Luck and Happy Pondering!!

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Summer Koi Pond Care

With our hot south Texas summer just around the corner I thought I would write a few tips about keeping you fish healthy and sassy during the next few months.

The challenges for ourselves and our koi ponds are to stay cool and enjoy the summer weather. The optimal temperature for koi is 78-84 degrees. In the summer shallow unshaded ponds can soar to 95 degree or more. On the positive side higher water temperatures mean a fully developed immune system in our fish. You should not be having problems with ulcers or fin rot during the hotter summer months. On the other hand, warmer water holds much less oxygen and it is especially important to keep your water as high in oxygen concentration as possible. This means you may need to add supplemental air stones or increase the flow of water over your waterfall. If you see your fish gasping for air they are in trouble buy another pump and get them some more oxygen fast. A quiet pond is a deadly pond.

It is also important to keep your fish food dry and cool. Keep your food in a tightly covered container and if possible refrigerate it to keep it fresh and free of decay. Spoiled fish food will cause big problems (systemic infections) if feed to your fish and can also ruin your water quality very quickly. If in doubt throw it out. Feed your fish as many times a day as possible but keep the feedings to a small quality. The perfect feeding schedule if you are home all day and the water temperature is about 82-84 degrees would be to feed every two hours about 4-6 small pellets per fish under 12 inches and 8-12 pellets for larger fish. Another advantage of this is the ammonia produced by your fish would be a more or less small but continuous amount that would quickly be eliminated by a mature biofilter. When you feed larger amounts but only a few times per day there is of course a big surge in ammonia after each feeding that take several hours for your biofilter to eliminate. As your water temperature approaches 90 degrees reduce your feedings to three then two per day mostly in the cooler morning or late evening hours. Once your water temperature exceeds 90 degrees cut back to once each day in the cooler morning. If your water temperature exceeds 95 degrees stop feeding until cooler temperatures(<95degrees) arrive.

Yes, koi can get sunburned in shallow unshaded ponds. Try to provide some shade for your fish with plants like water lily’s or a shaded cover or large umbrella for part of your pond. This will keep your ponds water temperature cooler and give your fish a shady place to rest. It is also important to keep up with your water testing and also routine water changes of 10-20% each week. Depending on your surface area several inches of water a day can evaporate from your pond. This should be replaced on a daily basis and is not a substitute for weekly water changes. (pumping old water out and replacing with fresh declorinated water)

Summer is a wonderful time to enjoy your ponds, plants, and fish. Stay cool and watch out for low oxygen levels, over feeding, and spoiled food.

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Hot Weather Pond Tips

I have had several phone calls recently about pond problems that were directly related to our summer heat. It is the “Dog Days of Summer” already and the heat can be a real problem for you, your pond, and your fish. So what are some of the things you need to know and can do to help your pond and it’s inhabitants thrive during the summer?

The biggest hazard to your fish in the warmer months is low oxygen levels. Air breathing creatures like us live in an oxygen rich environment that is about 21% oxygen. However the amount of oxygen dissolved in water is so small it is measured in parts per million. At 90 degrees Fahrenheit only about 7.0 parts per million of dissolved oxygen can be maintained in fresh water. It would take a lot of aeration to get your ponds oxygen to near saturation levels. 7.0 ppm is about 50,000 times less oxygen than found in the air we breathe. At elevations above sea level the amount of oxygen would be even less. There is really very little cushion when you consider that koi and goldfish become stressed at oxygen levels of 4.0 ppm and start dying at 3.0 ppm. Hopefully, this gives you some appreciation of how important aeration is to your fish.

Also, remember that the beneficial bacteria that live in your filter are dependent on the amount of oxygen in the water to thrive and do their job of converting ammonia to nitrites and nitrates. Therefore low oxygen levels would suppress the “good” bacteria and let ammonia levels increase to potentially dangerous levels.

Finally, the aquatic submerged plants in your pond are both beneficial and detrimental to oxygen levels. During the day green plants produce oxygen. However, at night, these same plants consume oxygen and compete with your fish for the limited supply of oxygen in the water. This is why fish kills usually happen in the early morning hours. For this reason you should measure your oxygen levels in the early morning.

Sadly, I have had several calls already this year where pond owners have had fish die because of low oxygen levels. As you can guess these fish kills are a cascade of events that can finally result in a disaster. A combination of warmer water, faster plant growth, and a growing biomass of fish finally cause the oxygen level to drop to the point where fish are stressed enough to get sick or start dying.

OK! Now you know the problems of low oxygen levels. So how do you measure your pond’s oxygen level and correct it if needed. The easiest method is to buy an oxygen test kit. Be sure to get one for fresh water. You fill a test tube with pond water to a predetermined level and then add a reagent and match the color to a chart. You also, need to know your pond’s water temperature to determine how “saturated” your pond is with oxygen. The goal is to approach the saturation point at a given water temperature. Also, you should place additional air stones in your pond during the hottest summer months. If your current air pump does not allow you to add more air stones consider buying another small two outlet air pump to allow you to add more air stones for the hottest summer months. Remember, if your electricity goes off for some reason during the hottest summer months you will have much less time before the oxygen is depleted from your water if the oxygen level was not at maximum saturation already.

You need to do what you can to keep your pond water temperature from getting above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. You can assume your fish are stressed if your water temperature goes over 90 degrees or your pond temperature changes by more than +/- 5 degrees during the day. Find a way to shade your pond from the hottest part of the afternoon sun. Plant a tall hedge on the west side of your pond or place some tall pot plants to help provide some relief. Consider building an arbor over your pond or a trellis to help provide some shade. If you have water lilies try to get about 50% – 60% of the water surface covered. Increase your water circulation. Also, if you have an outside filter system for your pond try to create some shade for it as well. Perhaps you could build a trellis or plant a hedge that could act not only as a sunscreen but also hide the filter from view for the rest of the year. If you have a waterfall or fountain increase the water flow if you can. If your fountain can be adjusted try for a fine mist type effect. Maybe this is the time to consider getting a larger water pump. This will promote evaporation which will have a additional cooling effect. Another method to cool the area around your pond is to use one of the “mist-er” products you might have noticed at some restaurants and amusement parks. We have one that we bought at Home Depot for about $13. You hook the mist-er to a garden hose and it has several tiny outlets that create a very fine almost fog like mist that can cool the immediate area by up to twenty degrees. This mist-er could be placed on a timer to come on for an hour or so every afternoon in the hottest part of the day. A side benefit to this is you can be more comfortable and able to enjoy your pond on even the hottest afternoons. Several years ago we went on a summer pond tour in Florida and every backyard used these misters to cool the area. The amount of water they use is very minimal. Perhaps a few gallons an hour at most.

Reduce the amount of food you feed and also reduce feedings to only once or twice a day. Try to feed in the morning or late evening when the water temperature is lower. Remember optimum water temperature for koi and goldfish is between 74 and 78 degrees. Once your water temperature goes above that level over feeding your fish can cause additional problems with ammonia levels and oxygen depletion.

Warmer water temperatures can also mean increased parasites. Just like fleas prosper in warmer weather fish also can be infested with parasites such as anchor worms, fish lice or flukes. Anchor worms and fish lice can be seen without a microscope but flukes cannot. There is a article in this newsletter that deals with parasite detection and control. Just be aware that this is the prime time of the year for those pests to appear and torment your fish.

In spite of the heat with the proper attention to details the summer months can be the most enjoyable for the year for your pond. The lilies are in full bloom, dragonflies and other critters abound. (Remember to fertilize your lilies every 2-3 weeks to get maximum blooms)

I hope that this article will help you have a problem free summer. I guess the heat is the price we pay for our wonderful snow free winters. As far as I know no one has ever had to shovel sunshine.

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Surviving the Storm

Unlike ponders on the West Coast (who have to deal with earthquakes) or in the Midwest (who have to deal with tornados), those of us who live in the Gulf and East Coast states are usually lucky enough to have ample notice that a storm is coming. The preparations that we make depend on whether it’s a “storm” or a STORM. Many of our casual afternoon thunderstorms can cause as much damage as a tropical depression. That being said, let’s suppose that we’ve been advised that a storm is on its way.

How do I prepare? Stop feeding the fish: they won’t starve but continued ammonia production could kill them if your water quality takes a hit due to filtration problems. Do a water change, as large as you can handle. Even if it’s only a moderate storm, you may be without water for a few days. With a fresh water change, the fish will have the best chance. Drop the pond’s water level several inches (or more) to allow for the extra rain. If your pond was built with an overflow drain, make sure that the drain field remains unobstructed. Net the pond to keep the fish in and as much flying debris as possible out. If possible, when a big storm/high winds are expected, disconnect and remove any items that may blow over into the pond, such as trickle towers. If you and three of your best friends can lean on it and push it over, the wind can, too! If you can’t remove it, at least disconnect the water source so that if/when it does blow over, it won’t drain your pond. Remove anything around the pond that can take off “flying”, such as nets, buckets, chairs, tables, etc. If your pond is ground level and prone to flooding, try to protect if from ground water by sand bagging it or digging a trench around it to divert water flow. When it starts to rain and the blow begins, fish will usually “go to bottom”. Even after heavy flooding, most people report that their fish are still right there, hunkered down in the pond waiting for things to calm down and return to normal. Fish are only reported missing when the pond is in an overflow condition for several days, the fish relax a bit, and go “exploring”.

The power went out – what do I do now?
Well, it depends: how’s your stocking rate? If it’s low, you probably don’t have too much to worry about. But if you’re like most of us, you’re overstocked – and that’s a problem when the power goes out. If your pond has a large surface area, it’s better than a smaller area. If your dissolved oxygen level was high prior to the outage, you’re in better shape than if it was low. If the storm is a small one and you expect power to be restored in short order (a few hours or so), then just relax. However, longer outages require action! Alternate power sources include various back-up systems, such as:

Generators: the cost between a small one just big enough to handle the pond and a larger one that can handle the pond and a few of life’s necessities (like the fridge, the TV, a fan or two, some lights . . .) is frequently just a matter of $200 or so. Another consideration is the size of the fuel tank: the smaller generators require frequent refueling. Slightly larger ones can run for 10 hours or so between refueling (think “full night’s sleep”!). Make sure you have 5 gallon fuel cans, a siphon to refill the cans from your car’s tank, and whatever filters the manufacturer suggests keeping on hand. And remember to TEST the generator at least once a month (once a week is better) to ensure that it will start when you need it. Plug an electrical appliance into the generator to ensure that it’s actually “generating”; the engine can start and run without making power. When you need it is not the time to find out that it’s malfunctioning.

Inverters: these are marvelous little items that plug into the cigarette lighter of your vehicle to convert the car’s DC power into AC. Many stores, including the big DIY stores, sell this handy little piece of equipment. I recently purchased an inverter that will supply 300 watts of constant running (600 watts start-up) for $40.00. It has two 3-pronged (grounded) outlets and will run for 2 ½ to 3 hours before you will need to start the vehicle to recharge its battery. There’s even a warning light on the inverter to let you know when you need to recharge the vehicle’s battery! Larger inverters (750 watts steady/1500 watts start-up) are also available for about $80.00. (Aside from pond use, they’re just plain handy to have available to run equipment that you normally would not be able to!) Run an extension cord from your car to the pond to run critical equipment, but make sure the connection stays high and dry, or wrap it in Saran Wrap and secure it with electrical or duct tape.

How do you figure out watts if your equipment doesn’t list the wattage? Use the formula “Amps x Volts = Watts”. Example: my water pump draws .85 amps x 110 (volts) = 93.5 watts! Remember that most electrical equipment with motors will draw double wattage to start, then settle down to its normal usage. In that event, start one then another; don’t try to start everything at the same time.

A UPS back-up from your computer can work in a pinch (but the beeping can drive you crazy!)

A (charged) deep cycle/marine battery pond-side with an inverter attached works nicely

These items can be used to run your air pump (first) and your water pump (second), or alternating between the two.

OK, the storm has passed; NOW what do I do?

First of all, your babies are probably just fine, but their “home” may need some repairs (as well as your own!). As soon as you can, you should:

Survey the damage and assess what needs to be attended to FIRST

Check all plumbing to ensure that there are no breaks or leaks
If you netted the pond, remove it so you can see the fish and their condition
Take a water sample and test for ammonia, nitrites, pH and/or KH

Treat water as necessary with your ammonia binder of choice;

If there are nitrItes, add salt at the rate of 3/4 to 1 lbs. (technically .833 lbs!) per 100 gallons, 1/3 at a time (or 8 lbs. per 1,000 gallons) over a period of 24 hours to achieve a level of 0.1 ppm. This is sufficient to prevent the uptake of the nitrItes by the gills. If your fish are in good shape (no visible cuts or bruises, not too “shocked” from their experience) and you have plants, this small amount of salt will protect your fish from Brown Blood Disease without hurting the plants. But if the fish are really stressed or have sustained injury, they’ll need a higher concentration – so pull your plants out if they are salt sensitive: we’re helping the fish, not the plants. Plants don’t care about nitrItes. (Note: the common recommendation of 1 lb. of salt per 1,000 gallons for 0.1 ppm is a nice, “round” number. If your pond is 3,000 gallons or so, the difference is not that much. But if you have a large pond, upwards of 5,000 – the difference in “rounding” becomes more pronounced.)

If your KH is below 100 (5-6 drops), add baking soda at the rate of 1 cup per 1,000 gallons. This will help to buffer your pond from a pH crash in the event there is more rain. If you have “bead” type filtration, you need to have your KH above 200 (remember to multiply the number of drops it takes to effect the color change by 17.9 to get the proper reading. Don’t ask: it’s a “German” thing!).

If you were not able to net the pond, get your fish/skim net out and remove as many leaves and other debris as you can: decaying leaf matter will rapidly consume oxygen, and that’s the last thing the pond needs at this time

If you have plants, return them to their proper positions; repot as necessary – remove as much of the dirt dumped in the pond as possible. If you have a bottom drain, make sure it isn’t clogged and is taking up the junk on the bottom of the pond. If you don’t have a bottom drain, vacuum the pond as soon as you can.

Chances are good that your pond water will be murky; at the very least, the nutrient levels will be “off” due to the excessive rain water. Now is a good time to add Koi Clay at the rate of 3 Tbs. per 1,000 gallons, dissolved in pond water and distributed around the pond. That’s triple the recommended “maintenance” dose, but less than the “remedial” level. You can use up to 1 cup per 1,000 gallons if necessary (or more – you can’t overdose). The Koi Clay will do several things for your water: the clay will act as a flocculent, taking particles suspended in the water column to the bottom. It will also replace minerals and trace elements that are required by both your fish and your bioconverter.

Hopefully your pond has not sustained any severe damage that will require extensive work. If it has – and you don’t have a quarantine facility available, consider getting a kiddy pool to be used until the fish can be returned to their home. These are relatively cheap and can remain boxed in your garage until necessary. (Hint: keep these pools in mind at the end of the “season” when they’re on close-out: they become downright economical at that point!) If all else fails, call your local club: show tanks work very well indeed!

Emergency supplies should include:
Ammonia test kit
NitrIte test kit
KH/TA test kit
Baking soda
Enough ammonia binding dechlor to do the pond 3x over!
Activated charcoal
Koi clay (calcium bentonite)
Net to cover the pond
Generator and/or Inverter
Sand bags
PVC pipe, fittings, glue, etc. to make repairs if necessary
Extra air stones and pumps (air and water, if possible), with appropriate hose

And perhaps most importantly – your sense of humor: it will serve you well over the next few days!

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Quarantine, Hospital Tank for the pond

It is a good idea to plan ahead to be sure that the new fish you buy stay healthy and do not bring any problems into your pond. Quarantine is by far the best way to insure both your new and old fish stay healthy. With the increasing incidence of Koi Herpes Virus it is becoming essential to use a proper quarantine procedure whenever introducing fish to your pond. I am going to give some suggestions on how to set up a basic quarantine tank. After all not only are those new fish valuable but so is your current collection and well worth protecting.

One reason to use a quarantine tank is to have your new fish where they will be easy to observe for problems and in case a problem occurs easier to detect & treat. Hopefully your new fish were also quarantined by the dealer or breeder where you bought them. However, no matter how good the breeder or dealer where you buy fish you need to quarantine new fish yourself. Problems with new fish can happen and you need to be ready to deal with them. Also, you want to minimize the stress on these new arrivals. That means great water quality, low light and noise, (the first few days) and lots of aeration. Also, this same set up will serve as a hospital tank when you need to treat one of your current pets that are not doing so well.

If you are buying goldfish a 30 gallon aquarium would do just fine for 2-4 fish depending on their size. However, koi require a much larger tank – at least 100 gallons and up to 300 gallons and larger if you are buying fish over 10 inches long would be even better. For koi the optimal shape would be round so that the koi can easily swim without having to make a sharp turn, next desirable shape would be oval and last would be a rectangle/square. You want the tank to be smooth inside and without places for your fish to bump and hurt themselves. For koi you will also need a top for your tank as they tend to jump in small tanks. In warmer weather netting works fine but in cooler weather you will need a plastic cover to hold in the heat. Finally you will need very strong aeration for your quarantine tank. Low oxygen levels will greatly increase the stress on your new fish.

Your quarantine facility whether a goldfish aquarium or koi tank should have a fully conditioned filter and water tests performed routinely to be sure water is maintained in top condition without any ammonia or nitrites present. You will need to have a couple of fish live in this hospital tank all the time to keep the filter active. Fish are schooling creatures and will become highly stressed if kept alone.

Setting up and tearing down a temporary system every so often is not usually very successful. It takes too long to cycle in the filter system. Besides you should have a tank always ready to use to treat sick fish. When it is least convenient is when I find I have to deal with sick or injured fish.

You should maintain this tank as you would any other tank or pond. You will want to perform routine water changes. When adding new fish add about 1 teaspoon of non-iodized salt per gallon or 1 lb. per 100 gallons to maintain a 0.1% salt concentration. (Replace this salt as necessary with every water change the first week or two) Optimal water temperature is 76-78 degrees. You will also need to use dechlorinator for the water changes.

I would not feed new fish for several days to give them a chance to settle down. Be especially watchful for flashing (rubbing on the sides of the tank) or any visible sores or red spots appearing. When you start feeding go very lightly. I would very lightly feed with a good basic fish food in very small amounts once day. Use sinking pellet foods for fancy goldfish and wheat germ based floating food pellets for koi.

With KHV and other fish diseases around today it is critical to catch any potential problems while in quarantine instead of introducing them to your pond. KHV is a very deadly disease that can hide inside fish that appear to be healthy. KV is temperature dependent. It only replicates and causes disease in a fairly narrow temperature range. Approximately 70F to 83F. So it is critical to Quarantine any new koi in the middle of this range about 76-78F. If everything goes well after three to four weeks you need to introduce a koi from your pond to insure the new fish are not carriers of KHV. KHV carriers are KHV survivors that have recovered from KHV but continue to harbor the KHV virus and could infect other koi. After 3-4 additional weeks at 76-78F if both the new koi and your “canary” koi are healthy then they can be added to your pond. It is critical to maintain koi in the quarantine at the proper temperature range for long enough to allow KHV to break. If you buy koi in warmer months where the Quarantine water temperature is warmer than 78 F you would have to wait until cooler weather to start the clock running on your quarantine procedure. In S. Texas if we buy koi in the summer we would have to leave them in quarantine until temperature falls in the fall into the 76-78 degree area that we could maintain with heaters. If you have a chiller as well as a heater for your system you could maintain the right temps no matter what.

Bio-security is a must. You have to avoid at all costs any introduction of water from your q-tank to your main pond while you are in a quarantine situation. This means care to not use nets, bowls, or anything else in contact with your q-tank with your main pond. The rule of last in last touch is a good one. Get into the habit of taking care of your main pond first and you q-tank last. That way any possible contamination goes from you main pond to your q-tank. Think about any possible contamination from fill or drain hoses, water test kits, etc. It is best to have completely different equipment for the q-tank if possible.

The secret to successful introduction of new fish to your pond is to start preparing several weeks before the new fish arrive. Since your quarantine filter system is probably not conditioned for a large increase in biomass you might want to catch a few fish out of your pond and place them in your quarantine tank to get the filter bacteria load built up for the new arrivals. This will supplement the Q-tank residents fish you have living in your quarantine tank at all times. Most of us have a couple ugly pond fish that we keep in our quarantine tanks just for this reason. This keeps the biological filter active and also gives new arrivals or a sick fish some tank mates to help them feel more secure. Remember these are schooling animals by nature and will be less stressed in a group.

Now lets talk about a filter system for a quarantine tank. If you are using an aquarium for goldfish or very small koi install a trickle type wet/dry outside filter. These types of filters work very well and can more quickly adapt to increased fish loads and ammonia levels than submerged in tank filters. You need a clean bare tank without gravel or rocks or anything that makes it harder to keep clean. You will need a cover, a small air pump, air stone, and a aquarium heater to keep the water temperature a constant 76-78F degrees.

With koi you will need a 150-300 gallon or larger tank. Look for a plastic or fiberglass tank. Round or oval are the best shapes. You can find these type tanks at water gardening stores and also feed stores as water tanks. Another plus is a bottom PVC type fitting to be used as a inlet to your pond/filter and also a drain. You want an external water pump and filter to minimize fish bumping into things in your tank. A filter can easily be made by using a large bucket or similar container filled with filter material. It is best to have your filter sit above the tank and pump water up into the filter and then gravity flow filtered water back into your tank. You should consider a trickle tower design or similar type filter system. These types of filters are much faster to respond to increased fish loads and ammonia levels. You can easily make a trickle filter from a 3-4 foot length of 6- 8 in. PVC. Water is sprayed into the top of the trickle tower filter and then it trickles down through the media (bioballs or similar type material) and flows out the bottom) Use a PVC type fittings to step down to 1-1/2 in pvc pipe and then use 1-1/2 in. tubing to return filtered water back to your tank. Remember you need good water circulation. Pump water out of the bottom on one side of the tank and return filtered water back to the surface on the opposite side of the tank.

Because trickle tower filter material is suspended in air vs submerged in water it “works” much better as a biofilter and aerator than submerged type filters. You will need to be able to heat your koi quarantine/hospital tank in the winter so consider insulation and you will need a plastic cover to retain the heat. Be aware that koi like to jump and you will need a very secure top for koi to prevent having them jump out of the tank. I had a tragic situation recently where a new large koi was placed in my quarantine tank and managed to jump out by pushing off a heavy Plexiglas cover. I now put clamps on the cover to hold it down securely.

So what will a quarantine tank setup cost? Actually you should be able to do this project fairly cheaply and it is a great DIY. I would think you could buy the following stuff for a quarantine aquarium for about $100.

30 gallon tank with cover (used if possible)
oversized trickle type wet/dry filter
Submergible Aquarium Heater with thermostat (about 30 watts per 10 gallons)
Air pump and air stone
A quarantine tank for koi would cost a little more depending on size ($150-$400)
100-300+ gallon plastic or fiber glass tank
Cover for the tank
Material to build a DIY filter
Water pump (rated at your tank volume per hour), tubing, and valves
Air pump and air stones
Submergible Heaters (300 watts per 100 gallons)

I would also suggest you place your tank inside the garage or a shed but under a window for sunlight. This give you access to electricity and moderates the changes experienced when placed in the open. This need not be a beauty project. Think utilitarian and where possible use used equipment to save money. Just be sure that used tanks or filter containers did not contain anything toxic. Used plastic can absorb many chemicals and slowly release them into your water over time. Be careful.

If all this seems like just too much trouble please consider the hassles of trying to treat your entire collection if you introduce a problem into your pond. Also some diseases like KHV are untreatable and would be a death sentence to your entire collection if it gets into your pond.

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Build Natural Ponds In Your Garden

Wild ponds are full of high activity. All types of species are drawn to them from dragonflies and pond skaters, to frogs, turtles and sometimes even the occasional fox. Natural ponds are some of the most important aspects of the conservation of our wildlife, both animal and plant. Wild ponds are disappearing at a truly alarming rate and as they disappear forever they are taking the animals and plants that depend on them for their survival with them. Animals are having to turn to other man made watering holes but unfortunately, these watering holes are just not safe for the animals.

Because the animals have to come closer to human kind for their water they are stumbling onto chemical dumps or drainage and sewage runoff ditches. Because these animals are getting foreign poisonous substances in their bodies by drinking from these places, the species are slowly diminishing. This does not even count the thousands of species that are buried alive when it is decided it is cheaper to fill a pond in rather than build a bridge over it for the new freeway.

Pond keepers have discovered that this shortage has increased the amount of wildlife that visit their ponds and many have adapted old ponds or built new ones to mimic a natural pond to encourage the wildlife even more. These mini eco systems have proved a hit not only with the wildlife but with the pond keepers as well. They provide lots of interest and bring tranquility to a garden.

Design And Maintenance

Even a small natural pond will be valuable to wildlife but you should build as large as you can. If possible it should be sited in a spot that receives plenty of sun but also has some shade. It should have a sloping bottom so their are variations in depth and it should be irregular in shape. You should protect the pond liner with a good layer of sand both under it and on the top. You can fill your pond with tap water as it will soon clear naturally. Plants will soon start to grow but remove weeds. The pond should be 70% clear.

You wil have to clean the pond occasionally by removing weeds, unwanted plants and any leaves that have found there way in. Don’t do any weeding in the first few months of the year as this is breeding time for invertebrates and amphibians and there eggs will be on the weeds. Its good practice when removing plants and leaves to leave them by the pond for a while so that any small pond life that you have inadvertently plucked from home can make their way back to sanctuary.

Always choose plants that are local to your area. This will keep the wildlife happy and you happy because they are much more likely to thrive and not die off. When choosing your plants at the garden center don’t be tempted by any pond statues or other ornaments. I’ve seen several ponds where the owner has created a lovely natural presence only to ruin it by sticking a statue of a little boy peeing! It will ruin your hard work and the animals don’t like it either. You have created a natural pond that will attract plenty of wildlife and your pond itself will be full of life once your eco system kicks in. You will get endless enjoyment from a natural pond and you can pat yourself on the back for being eco friendly.

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Backyard Water Gardens – Adding A Bit Of Magic To Your Backyard

Water gardens can be an important part of any well landscaped yard. Many people capably maintain an attractive yard which adds to the beauty of their home, but water gardens are more spectacular than a normal flower garden thus adding that extra touch to make your home stand out in your neighborhood.

There are several types of water gardens, which you can either design on your own or contract out the design to a landscape designer. Either of these methods of design has its benefits, by doing it yourself you save money over hiring a landscape artist. Adversely, a landscaper will be able to complete the design process in a much more timely manner.

If you would like to know how to build a water garden there is a wealth of information available to you on the internet. Most of the concept is all common sense and based primarily on your own design desires. But there are certain things that you can learn online that are key concepts, such as water ph levels and aeration levels that certain plants and animals need to survive in your water garden.

Garden waterfalls make a beautiful addition to any existing garden, botanical or aquatic. The addition of a waterfall provides wonderful audio ambience to your yard and greatly enhances the serenity and beauty of your garden, in both sound and sight. The numerous styles of waterfalls available provides you with many choices and flexibility in your design.

Having a nicely landscaped yard not only proves to be beneficial to its owners but also to others in the neighborhood. By having a beautiful water garden in your yard you are also increasing the property value of not only your homestead but also those around yours.

In addition by you creating a beautifully landscaped yard you are also encouraging your neighbors to do so also. This allows you to enjoy not only your yard but also the yards of those people around you. It makes neighborhood walking more enjoyable and more invigorating.

It is important to make sure that you have a nicely landscaped yard, possibly with a fountain or lake, when you are attempting to sell your house. These features make your house more attractive for potential buyers, and increase the possibility of a high selling price. Regardless of your primary reason for creating a water garden, you will most likely be the largest benefactor by using it to make your house more attractive in this competitive real estate market.

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Winter Pond Tips

It is hard to believe that another winter will be shortly upon us, maybe. Now is the time to make your plans for an uneventful winter and spring pond season. Many fish problems that show up in the spring actually start because of winter stresses and problems. Remember that your fish’s immune system becomes very weak in water much below 60 degrees. Also the beneficial bacteria in your biological filter become inefficient at detoxifying ammonia and other wastes as your pond water drops below 60 degrees.

However there are also some excellent advantages of cooler water. Cooler water holds much more oxygen than warm water. Most fish parasites and disease causing bacteria, etc. are less active in cooler water. However they are ever present and will cause problems if the right situations occur. Also we can and do have crazy swings in temperature during the winter. In past years we have had 100 degree and 20 degree days in February! Who knows what will happen this winter? So you better be prepared. Here are some tips to help get your fish and plants through the winter healthier and off to a stronger start next spring:

Do a thorough pond cleaning if needed now. Remove fallen leaves and any sludge that might have accumulated in your pond or filter. Never stir up the muck in your pond with fish still in the same water. Use a holding tank. (also prune your water plants and remember that tropical lilies, etc cannot survive cold temperatures. If you want to save these plants they have to be kept in warm water above 65 degrees) Hardy Lilies can be left in the pond all winter. It is especially important to remove any acorns that might have fallen into your pond this fall as they can be toxic in large quantities. To save yourself a lot of work cover your pond with netting to prevent leaves and acorns from getting into your pond.

Continue to test your water and do regular water changes. Remember your ponds biological filtration will not work as well in cold water. You can definitely get ammonia build up in the winter. Continue to change 10%-15% of your water each week while you are feeding your fish. Continue to backwash your filters depending on feeding schedule and do not forget to use declorinator.

Check your pond plumbing. Be careful that water circulates through all your pipes at all times. Water pipes can freeze then break and drain your pond if water flow is stopped.

Keep your water pump, air pump, and filters running all winter. If you can reduce the amount of flow and/or redirect your return to bypass your waterfall, in the very coldest weather, that is helpful but keep your pump and filter running all the time!

Know your pond water temperature. You will need to adjust the number and amount of fish feedings as the water temperature drops. A suggestion might be to reduce both the amount of food and feedings to twice a day when water temperature stays below 70 and only once a day when it stays below 60 degrees. Do not feed fish at all when water temperature stays below 50 degrees. (I promise they will not starve) Switch to lower protein food such as wheat germ base. This is the hardest part for Martha. Our fish always swim up to us even on very cold days and expect to be fed. Not because they are hungry but because they are conditioned They will of course eat if fed. But, their body temperature is below that necessary to chemically digest food. So undigested food just passes through and becomes a source of toxic waste and additional ammonia. And no your bio filter cannot detoxify ammonia very rapidly in very cold weather because the bacteria are also dormant at very low temperatures. Please believe me it is far kinder to decrease and then stop feeding your fish and then have them healthier and enjoying high quality water all winter.

Continue to watch your fish carefully for any that do not swim or eat with the other fish. On very cold days they will all be very slow or inactive but they should act similar. Watch carefully any fish that swims funny or sits on the bottom when all the others are starting to swim around on warmer days. Observe any cuts or sores that might develop. These will not heal well in cold water and when we get a few days of warmer temperatures the bad bugs can wake up and cause big problems. If your fish start flashing excessively find out what is happening and treat it. If you test and find high ammonia do a major water change (30%-50%) and stop feeding. If parasites show up use appropriate treatment.

Move sick, injured, or just weird acting fish to a heated hospital tank. Remember a fish’s immune system is temperature dependent. After they recover you can put them back in the pond.

Read and learn more about how to care for the special needs of your pond’s inhabitants in the winter season. The club library is a great place to start. The better your fish and plants go through the winter the fewer problems you will have next spring. Best wishes to everyone for quiet, healthy, and a happy pondering winter!

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