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How can I tell if I have male or female koi? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: How can I tell if I have male or female koi?

Q: How can I tell if I have male or female koi?

Ann Marie – Casselberry, FL

A: If only koi were as easy to sex as a pair of peacocks! Like those fanciful birds, koi are sexually dimorphic – meaning the males and females look and behave differently – but it’s not an easy distinction to discern. They grow to roughly the same size and they both have colorful scales, yet there are subtle differences if you know where to look. With these clues, you’ll know whether to name your finned friends Fred or Frieda.

Clue #1: Age

Koi are easier to tell apart when they’re mature, and so your first clue will be age – which is related to their length. They’re considered mature (3 years old) when they’re about 10 inches long. If they’re between 3 and 10 inches, they’re still juveniles and may be difficult to sex.

Clue #2: Body Shape

Immobilize your koi by capturing it in your Collapsible Fish Net and take a look at it from above. A mature male koi will have a slender looking body, while a female koi will have a rounded body, particularly when it’s spawning season and she’s carrying a nest full of eggs!

Clue #3: Fin Shape

Next, examine your koi’s fins. A male koi’s pectoral fins, the ones near his head, will appear pointed and solid in color. In addition, the first ray of his pectoral fin may be more substantial when compared to his female counterpart, which will display rounder fins.

Clue #4: Tubercles

During breeding season, you may see little white growths, called tubercles, on male koi’s heads and pectoral fins. They’re perfectly natural and will disappear once the fish have finished getting frisky. Females don’t develop these protrusions.

Clue #5: Behavior

One final – and obvious! – clue: amorous behavior. When they’re not mating, they behave very similarly, but during mating season, the male koi will chase the female, encouraging her (sometimes enthusiastically) to release her eggs so he can fertilize them. After all that frolicking, the happy pair will benefit from some The Pond Guy® Stress Reducer Plus, which will help heal any damaged tissue.

It’s not easy to distinguish the male and female koi, but with these tips and clues, you’ll know your Freds from your Friedas in no time!

Pond Talk: Have you ever tried to determine the sex of your koi?

Safely Catch Your Fish - The Pond Guy® Collapsible Fish Net

How are algae able to grow in the winter when everything else is dormant? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q:How are algae able to grow in the winter when everything else is dormant?

Q: How are algae able to grow in the winter when everything else is dormant?

Patrick – Vandalia, IL

A: Algae can be tough little buggers. An estimated 72,500 algal species exist worldwide, and some of them can thrive in inhospitable conditions, including areas with ice and snow. With a handful of nutrients and a little bit of light, they’re able to grow – even in the 39 degree water under the ice in your lake.

But if your lake’s water is clean and clear during the spring and summer, how can it explode with algae in the winter?

Food Aplenty

Algae feed on byproducts of decomposing organic debris, like phosphorous and nitrogen, in the water. During the warmer months, natural bacteria would typically break down these nutrients, leaving little food for the organisms. But in the cooler months, those bacteria go dormant. That means the algae enjoy a feast – and a population explosion.

If you keep a hole in your lake’s ice, you can help control the nutrient density with a product like Pond Logic® EcoBoost™. This bacteria enhancer, which has no temperature restrictions, binds suspended organics while providing trace minerals to fish. Simply mix it with water and pour it into the lake.

Let There Be Light

Algae also require sunlight to thrive – but not much. Even through a clear, solid sheet of ice, algae can get enough light to use for photosynthesis. When that light is impeded, however, the algae won’t grow as quickly.

A layer of thick snow cover is Mother Nature’s way of preventing light from penetrating the water, but you can also use pond dye, to block those rays. The blue or black dye comes water soluble packets that are simple to use: Just toss two packets per acre into the lake, and the shade will inhibit algae growth.

Algae’s Benefits

Believe it or not, algae growth in the winter does have its benefits. It helps to filter the water, and on warmer days it’s a great snack for your fish. Plus, when the algae photosynthesize, they give off oxygen as a byproduct – which is then available for your fish (and other aquatic critters) to breathe.

Don’t worry: The algae won’t take over your pond like it does in the summer. It can grow, but the cold temperatures aren’t ideal for explosive outbreaks. If you’re concerned, however, try some EcoBoost and Pond Dye. They’re safe for your fish, and they’ll keep that algae under control until spring.

Pond Talk: Have you seen algae growing beneath the ice in your pond or lake?

Shade & Protect Your Pond - Pond Logic® Pond Dye Packets

Why is my pond cloudy in the summer and clear in the winter? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: Why is my pond cloudy in the summer and clear in the winter?

Q: Why is my pond cloudy in the summer and clear in the winter?

Mike – Baldwin, WI

A: Frustrating, isn’t it? During the summer when it’s warm and inviting outside by the pond, the water looks cloudy; when it’s too cold to enjoy the outdoor scenery, the water appears crystal clear. What’s the deal? Let’s look below the water’s surface to see what happens during the two seasons.

Murky Summer

A lot happens in your pond during the warmer months. Fish are actively feeding and creating waste. Pond critters, like turtles and frogs, are digging around in the mud and stirring up muck at the bottom of the pond. Rainstorms wash sediment into the pond along with fertilizer residue – which provides fuel to algae and pond weeds growing prolifically in the summer sun. With all that activity, it’s no wonder the water looks cloudy!

Clear Winter

During the winter, however, activity slows. As your fishes’ metabolism decreases, they fast and hibernate through the cold season. Turtles, frogs and other pond residents reduce their movement, too, which allows the muck and sediment to settle at the bottom. Ice and snow cover the pond, limiting water movement and blocking sunlight. Algae still grows, but at a much slower rate. As everything settles and slows down, the water clears.

Extending Winter

If you want that crystal clear water all year long, follow this three-step formula, particularly as the days get longer and spring warmth thaws the ice:

  1. Feed Your Bacteria: First, be sure to add some bacteria enhancer, like EcoBoost™, to the water. It binds suspended organics, provides trace minerals to fish and other pond dwellers, and helps break down fertilizers from rain runoff. It has no temperature restrictions, so you can use it throughout the seasons.
  2. Shield the Sun’s Rays: Next, pour some Pond Dye in the water. The color reduces the amount of rays that into the pond. Like EcoBoost, Pond Dye has no temperature restrictions, so you can use it throughout the season.
  3. Add Oxygen: Aeration is the final – and most important – step in maintaining clean, clear water. By aerating your pond from the bottom up, you will circulate the water, improve the dissolved oxygen levels in your water column, and allow for increased levels of beneficial bacteria to accumulate in your pond.

Pond Talk: How do you keep your pond clean and clear all year long?

Create Clearer Water in any Pond - Pond Logic® EcoBoost™ Bacteria Enhancer

My UV bulb was still working when I pulled it out for the winter. Do I still need to replace it? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: My UV bulb was still working when I pulled it out for the winter. Do I still need to replace it?

Q: My UV bulb was still working when I pulled it out for the winter. Do I still need to replace it?

Richard – Avon, IN

A:  A UV bulb is one of your best weapons in the battle against discolored water. When those ultra-fine particles are exposed to the bulb’s ultraviolet rays the tiny particles clump together, and those clumps are then removed by your mechanical filtration system.

What’s left behind is clean, clear water – as long as the bulb is working efficiently.

For your UV clarifier to work its best, it will need a new ultraviolet bulb every year. Even though the bulb still illuminates and appears to be working, its effectiveness decreases over time. Your best bet is to replace it when you do your annual spring cleanout, and plan to do so again year after year.

Spring Cleaning

In addition to switching out the bulb, take some time to check the quartz sleeve or glass tube that’s housing the bulb. Does it need a good cleaning? Debris can build up on the glass, preventing those powerful UV rays from penetrating the water as it passes through the filter. Use as soft cloth and a descaler (if needed) to scrub off the buildup.

Filter Check

While you’re at it, check your biological filter media and mechanical filter components, like the skimmer, pump sock and prefilters. Do they need to be cleaned or replaced? Even though your ultraviolet clarifier is tackling most of the discolored water, your filtration system is still responsible for removing the debris. Make sure they’re in good working order before the algae blooms in the spring.

Maintain a Balanced Pond

UV clarifiers do a great job at clearing water, but an even better solution is to maintain a balanced pond the first place. Reduce excessive nutrients by reducing the number of fish in your pond, minimizing the amount of food you feed them and cleaning up the waste they produce, as well as regularly removing the built-up detritus.

Pond Talk: How often do you replace your UV bulb?

Eliminate Discolored Water - The Pond Guy® PowerUV™

My son wanted to know if crayfish can live in our pond. I think they can, right? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: My son wanted to know if crayfish can live in our pond. I think they can, right?

Q: My son wanted to know if crayfish can live in our pond. I think they can, right?

Mike – Little Rock, AR

A: Yes, those little freshwater crustaceans can indeed live in your pond – as long as you provide the living conditions they need to thrive. Here’s what you need to know about growing a healthy crayfish population.

Home Sweet Home

Also known as crawdads and crawfish, North American crayfish belong to the family Cambaridae. More than 300 species live in rivers, brooks, ponds and even special “crayfish farms” across the country. Most types prefer fresh flowing water that doesn’t freeze in the winter, but some thrive in swamps and ditches.

During the day, crayfish hunker down underneath rocks to hide from predators like fish, birds and alligators. But at night, they slowly cruise the river bottom in search of food. Their preferred meals are anything decaying, including dead insects, worms, algae and fish, but they’ll also snap up small, live fish that are swimming by if they’re feeling too lazy to forage. They’ll also get their greens by gobbling through algae and aquatic plants.

These decapod crustaceans can grow up to 6 inches in length. They’re related to lobsters, crabs and shrimps, and they’re prized cuisine among foodies (etouffees anyone?) and larger fish, like bass and bluegill. Crayfish and dwarf crayfish are also kept as colorful pets in aquariums.

Welcome Residents

Crayfish can make a fun addition to your pond. They nibble on aquatic plants, so they help control weed growth. They eat decaying material, so they – along with Pond Logic® MuckAway™ – will help keep pond muck to a minimum. They’ll entertain your son (and his friends) for hours as they turn over rocks and hunt for crayfish. And they make for some delicious eating for you and your resident fish!

These guys will dig to create burrows in the bottom of your pond – but don’t worry. They won’t likely cause any leaks. It’s important, though, to control their population. Crayfish reproduction is tied to fluctuating water levels, so manage their population growth by stabilizing the water level in your pond, and use basket traps or lift nets baited with meat to remove large numbers.

Create a comfortable environment for crayfish by providing clean, aerated water and some rocks for burrowing. They’ll find their own food – or become food if they venture too close to your Fish Attractor Spheres!

Pond Talk: Have you ever hunted for crayfish?

Increase Fish Survival Rates -Porcupine® Fish Attractor Spheres

My pond froze over. How do I get it open again? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: My pond froze over. How do I get it open again?

Q: My pond froze over. How do I get it open again?

Janet – Minneapolis, MN

A:  Brrrr. Jack Frost, Elsa and the rest of the cold-weather crew sure have been busy lately, haven’t they? Despite the use of a de-icer, aeration system and other ice-prevention tactics, long bouts of frigid temperatures and wind-whipped nights can cause ponds to freeze over. And that’s not good news for your fish.

So what can you do? When considering your hibernating finned pals, time is critical. Too long without an open area in the ice for gas exchange could mean dangerous conditions for your koi, goldfish and other pond fish.

Overnight, No Problem

If the pond has been frozen over since last night, your fish should be just fine. Cold, windy nights often cause extra layers of ice to form on the pond’s surface. If your de-icer and aeration are on and functioning properly, some of the ice should melt on its own. Meanwhile, your fish will have plenty of dissolved oxygen in the water to tide them over.

A Week or More, Get Busy

If it’s been a week or longer with no hole in the ice, it’s time to take some action. Without a hole, ammonia and other noxious gases are unable to escape into the atmosphere, and your fish will have no access to fresh oxygen. Here’s what to do when ice overtakes your pond.

  1. Melt It: First, melt a hole back open in the ice by pouring a bucket of hot water onto the frozen stuff near your de-icer or aerator’s airstones. Do not drill through the ice or bang on it with a hammer as this will stress your fish, which are probably already stressed out.
  2. Systems Check: Once a hole is open, check to be sure your de-icer and aeration systems are still running and functioning properly. If not, repair the damage or replace the unit altogether. The PondAir™ & Thermo-Pond Combo, which is an all-in-one aerator and de-icer, works to keep a vent open in ponds up to 2,000 gallons. See the video below for tips on installing the PondAir™ & Thermo-Pond De-Icer Combo.
  3. Reposition Airstones: Finally, if your airstones are positioned at the bottom of your pond, relocate them. Put them in a shallower area that’s closer to the water surface. This will create more movement – and that means a bigger hole.

Should frigid temperatures and a solid ice sheet persist, take a daily trip to your pond to check on the gas exchange hole. Your aerator and de-icer should do the trick, but be ready to melt through the ice if needed.

Pond Talk: How often does your pond freeze over in the winter?

Vent Ponds Up To 2,000 Gallons - PondAir™ &;amp Thermo-Pond 3.0 De-Icer Combo

I occasionally have power outages during the snowfall. Will it cause a problem for my aeration system? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I occasionally have power outages during the snowfall. Will it cause a problem for my aeration system?

Q: I occasionally have power outages during the snowfall. Will it cause a problem for my aeration system?

Pete – Traverse City, MI

A: Power outages during heavy snowfall or ice storms aren’t uncommon – and when they happen, your aeration system will need some attention. Here’s what we recommend to prevent problems from occurring:

  1. Relieve Air Pressure: Built-up air pressure in the air compressor could potentially stop the aerator from turning back on when the power is restored, so it’s important to get rid of that pressure via the release valve.
  2. Check for Moisture, Condensation: If the power is out for an extended period of time, keep an eye on the cabinet for moisture and condensation. It could indicate reduced air flow, and all that wetness could freeze if temperatures are low enough.
  3. Clear Off Snow: To allow for proper air flow and to minimize moisture from melting snow around the unit, shovel or dust accumulating snow from around the cabinet.
  4. Melt Ice Blockages: Long power outages could cause your diffuser’s air lines to freeze. To melt them and open the air flow back up, pour 1 cup of isopropyl alcohol through each line (or the line you believe is blocked or frozen).

As for your fish, they should be just fine if your aerator shuts down for a few hours. Cold water holds more oxygen than warm water, so they’ll have plenty of oxygen during short-term interruptions.

Pond Talk: How do you protect your aeration system from frigid temperatures?

Oxygenate Your Pond All Winter - Airmax(r) Aeration Systems

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