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What Kind of Fish Food Should I Be Feeding My Koi? – Water Garden & Feature Q & A

A Family of Koi Posing for a Picture.

Water Gardens & Features Q & A

Q: What kind of food should I be feeding my pond fish? – Jamie of Florida

A: One of the greatest joys of keeping koi or goldfish in a decorative pond is mealtime. When it’s time for the fish’s daily dose of food, they’ll swim right to shore and seem to beg for those tasty morsels!

Of course you want to provide your finned friends with a diet that’s healthful, but choosing one can be a challenge. Food makers have formulated all sorts of blends for difference purposes. They’ve designed special fish foods for summer and spring/fall. Some are enriched with vitamins to enhance color. Some even come up with organic meals for fish owners who want to go eco-friendly with their ponds.

As omnivores, most pond fish, whether they’re koi, goldfish, comets or even mosquito-eating minnow, will eat both plant and protein matter. However, depending on the time of year, certain types of food are more easily digested than others. To help you decide which type of fish food to feed when, here’s a quick rundown of the different types available on the market today:

Wheat Germ-Based Foods: These wheat germ-based diets, such as Pond Logic Spring & Fall Fish Food, are packed with easy-to-digest plant matter and should be fed to fish during the fall and spring months when their metabolisms have slowed. As water temperatures cool, pond fish enter into a hibernation state and gradually stop eating for the
winter. Helping them ease them into and out of winter, these diets are gentle on their digestive systems while keeping their constitutions strong to fight off disease. Feed these spring and fall fish foods when the water temperature is between 40 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

Well-Balanced and Maintenance Foods: When water temperatures warm to 55 degrees or higher, you’ll want to change your fish’s diet to one that’s formulated for growth and maintenance. Some great well-balanced fish foods are Pond Logic Floating Ponstix if your feeling green you can choose Pond Logic Nature’s Blend Organic. These fish foods contain protein, minerals and vitamins to help the fish develop muscle as it becomes more active during the summer months. These foods are especially important if you have young or growing fish.

Color-Enhancing & Growth Foods: Color-enhancing foods bring out the color in your fish, making the reds more vibrant, the blacks deeper and the oranges richer. These unique protein and nutrient-filled diets can be fed throughout the summer months. Vitamins like Beta Glucan, Vitamin E and Ascorbic Acid, along with chelated minerals and natural color intensifiers, make your fish’s color pop in the pond. These foods also include extra protein. This extra protein will help allow koi to grow at a faster rate. For Color-enhancing and Growth fish foods use Pond Logic Growth & Color or for the best of the best use Pond Logic Professional Growth, Health, & Color.

Besides feeding your fish a healthful, balanced diet, you may wish to supplement it with some treats, like fresh watermelon or lettuce. Not only will your fish gobble them down, but you’ll also be developing a closer relationship with them, and ensure they’ll follow you around the pond at mealtime!

POND TALK: What do you feed your fish?

Ensuring Sufficient Pond Aeration – Pond & Lake Q & A

Picture of a Pond with an Airmax Aeration System.

Pond & Lake Q & A

Q: How do I ensure my lake or pond gets sufficient aeration? – Jack of Maine

A: Take a deep breath. Living things, whether they’re above water or below, require oxygen to thrive. If your pond or lake houses fish, then the aquatic environment needs to be rich with oxygen, and the best way to do that is by aerating the water. Pond aeration is simply diffusing life-giving oxygen into water evenly throughout the water column using surface aerators or bottom-mounted diffusers.

To determine whether your pond or lake requires aeration, take your pond’s temperature. Measure the temperature of the water 1 foot below the pond’s surface, and do the same at the bottom of the pond. If the results differ more than 3 degrees Fahrenheit, then your pond is not sufficiently aerated and it may need a little help. For a simpler test, JUMP IN! If you’re warm above the waste and freezing at your toes, it’s a good sign your pond is not being circulated or aerated enough. Here are the most common ways to churn up the water:

Bottom Bubblers: Bottom-mounted air diffusers, like the Airmax Aeration System, are ideal for ponds and lakes deeper than 6 feet. They aerate ponds from bottom up, pushing air into the water via air stones or diffusers. These systems generally feature a shore-side cabinet that houses an air compressor, which is connected to diffusers at the bottom of the pond. The air is forced through the diffusers, which create medium-size bubbles that expand as they surface, releasing oxygen into the water and circulating the water column. These bottom bubblers are by far the most efficient at circulation and aeration.

Surface Aerators: Surface aerators, like fountains, provide pond aeration from the surface down. They agitate the surface of the pond, pulling water up from below and releasing into the air, where the droplets explode into a decorative spray pattern. The surface area on each droplet of water is saturated with oxygen, which it delivers back into the pond. Fountains pull water from about 6 feet down. For ponds and lakes 6 feet deep or less, a fountain can act as both a pond aerator and a decorative feature. Depending on your pond’s size, you may need more than one fountain to properly aerate. When ponds are deeper than 6 feet, fountains become more for decoration and you need to think about a bottom bubbler.

Alternative Aeration – Wind Power: If power isn’t available near your lake or pond, you can go with a wind aeration system to keep the air flowing. Windmills are primarily designed for decoration and they  come with one air stones to aerate up to 1 acre. You’ll need constant  wind blowing at least 3 to 5 miles per hour for continuous aeration, but they are a great backup system to an electric air compressor or in a remote location. Windmills are available in 12-foot, 16-foot and 20-foot towers. Remember: Windmills do not provide continuous aeration and should not be used as a direct substitute for electrical powered continuous aeration systems.

Alternative Aeration – Solar Power: Solar powered aeration systems are another great alternative to aerating your pond without having to pay for electricity. Solar aeration systems are great for both remote
installation and environmental conscience applications. They are for aquatic environments ranging in size from small decorative water gardens up to ponds or lake up to 5 acres. These fully automatic systems are designed to run up to 20 hours per day under standard operating conditions. The battery backup system allows them to run like normal under less than optimal conditions. One of the biggest downfalls of solar powered aeration systems are their high price tag.

POND TALK: What do you do to aerate your pond?

The Science Behind Barley Straw – Water Garden & Feature Q & A

Picture of Barley Straw.

Water Gardens & Features Q & A

Q: How does barley straw work to control algae? – Emma of Michigan

A: Barley straw is no magic bullet to rid your decorative pond of algae. But when used as a preventive measure, barley straw offers pond owners an attractive option to chemical products to manage those dreaded green blooms.

The Science Behind Barley: Barley straw has been widely used for decades to control algae blooms in many bodies of water, including large reservoirs and canals. Researchers have yet to precisely pinpoint how it works, but generally, it’s believed that the straw may alter the nutrient balance in the water, starving the algae to death, or the straw’s decomposition may be produce compounds toxic to algae.

Experts usually consider barley straw to be algistatic, or an algae preventive, rather than an algaecide, or an algae killer. It has not been found to harm fish, water fowl or pond inhabitants in any way and, in fact, some studies suggest the straw benefits fish health.

Using It In Your Pond: Science aside, what’s important to pond keepers is how to use it in their ponds. Currently, hobbyists can choose from three different types of barley products: barley straw in bale form, barley pellets and barley extract. When used correctly, each will work to suppress algae blooms in the pond.

Barley Straw Bales: Typically available loose in a mesh bag, bales of barley straw should be placed in the pond several months before bloom conditions are expected to occur (around March or April, depending on your climate) as the straw must start to decompose before it releases it’s algae-suppressing substances. One pound of barley straw will treat a 1,000-gallon pond for approximately three months. Be sure to keep the straw well-aerated, floating it near your water fall or stream or in shallow water, if possible. Besides the length of time it takes for bales to decompose another downside is that they can be counter productive if left in the pond for too long. They can eventually become a nutrient source for algae as well.

Barley Pellets: Compressed into a compact form, the barley pellets also contain all the beneficial algae-suppressing substances found in barley straw without the unsightly look of bales, pillows or pads. They’re designed to break down quickly, and produce phosphate-combating humic substances that suppress algae growth. The pellets may also buffer pH and control alkalinity in your pond. A 4.4-pound bag will treat a 150-gallon pond for up to one year or a 500-gallon pond for up to seven months; a 10.5-pound bag will treat a 1,000-gallon pond for up to nine months or a 2,500-gallon pond for up to four months.

Barley Extract PLUS: Offering the benefits of barley straw without the mess or unsightly bale floating in your pond, barley extract contains the algae-suppressing substances in liquid form. Because you don’t have to wait for the barley straw to decompose, it starts to work on contact. Another great benefit of Barley Extract PLUS is that it is enchanced with sludge-eating natural bacteria to also help reduce muck building on rocks, gravel and/or liner. An 8-ounce container treats up to 800 gallons for three months; a 16-ounce bottle treats up to 1,500 gallons for three months.

POND TALK: Have you found barley straw to effectively control algae in your decorative pond?

Building Fish Habitat for Ponds – Pond & Lake Q & A

Picture of a Porcupine Fish Attractor Fish Habitat.

Pond & Lake Q & A

Q: What types of things can you put in your pond to create more fish habitats for a better population of fish? – Jacob of Texas

A: Fish habitats offer more than just a cozy home for schools of bass in your pond or lake. They also create an ideal spawning habitat, a spot of refuge and shade for young fry, a safe haven from swooping predators, and a breeding ground for algae and plankton to attract bait fish and lure larger fish to favorite fishing spots.

Though fish habitats range from inexpensive (or free!) items laying around the yard to high-tech store-bought devices, here are just a few artificial and natural underwater structures you can use:

Artificial Reefs: Artificial habitats have been shown to attract just as much plankton and provide just as much protection from prey as evergreen alternatives. Some come manufactured and ready to install, like the Porcupine Fish Attractor. Others, like bundled pipes, can be put together yourself by bundling lengths of 10- to 12-inch pipe (PVC, clay or concrete) with or without one end plugged, anchoring with cinder block and submerging. You could also drop a barrel and turn it on its side. Regardless of your artificial reef type, simply place them in lines extending out from the shore in depths of 6 to 25 feet; the steeper the slope, the less structure is needed.

Boulder Clusters and Rock Piles: Piles of boulders or concrete blocks placed individually or in clusters can attract a variety of fish, not to mention providing a healthy medium for beneficial bacteria and tasty string algae to flourish. Use large boulders (more than 2 feet in diameter) and place them away from the shoreline. Boulders can be useful if you have small streams or rivers leading to your lake or pond, too, as they can break fast-moving currents and provide a resting place for fish.

Root Wads, Brush Bundles and Submerged Logs: Stumps, lengthwise-sawed logs, root wads, brush bundles — and even last year’s Christmas tree — can provide important habitat. Simply gather the materials, attach a weight (like a cinder block), and sink them in the shallow waters of streams or in the near-shore areas of lakes and ponds. Create three or four groups of these bundles per acre, and place them in 6 to 10 feet of water, no farther than 30 feet from shore. Keep in mind that these “natural” habitats will introduce nutrients to the lake and cause unsightly algae blooms, which can be controlled using Algae Defense.

POND TALK: What do you use to create fish habitats in your pond or lake?

Properly Cleaning Filter Pads – Water Garden & Feature Q & A

Picture of Matala Filter Pads.

Water Gardens & Features Q & A

Q: I have been cleaning my filter pads once a week with a garden hose because they are filled with gunk all the time. This doesn’t seem normal. How often should I be cleaning my filter pads? – Tonie of Massachusetts

A: There are quite a few customers that I talk with that don’t know why their filter pads build up with “gunk” so fast. I didn’t understand it either when I first stepped foot into water gardens, but filter pads provide a very important role in your water garden’s ecosystem and in reality should not be cleaned very often.

The Purpose of Filter Pads
Filter pads (or other filter media) contain a large amount of surface area. This surface area within time will grow increasing amounts of beneficial bacteria. This beneficial bacteria (also called nitrifying bacteria) will break down ammonia from fish waste into nitrates. Also, some customers mistakenly believe this beneficial bacteria is “gunk” and will unfortunately clean it off having to have the beneficial bacteria start over again!

The Proper Way to Clean Filter Pads
If the “gunk” on your filter pads becomes over abundant and restricts water flow from your pump, only then would it be necessary to clean them. Usually when this is the case, it has a buildup of other debris besides beneficial bacteria. To properly clean the filter pads I suggest to take a bucket of water from your water garden and dip the filter pad into the bucket knocking off any debris and leaving the “gunk”. I DO NOT recommend using tap water from your garden hose to do this because the water contains heavy metals or chlorine that will kill off the beneficial bacteria on your filter pads. After cleaning your filter pads or if you accidentally used tap water to clean them, you can use PL Gel. PL Gel is like injecting beneficial bacteria directly into your filter pad. PL Gel will reduce bacteria start-up time by up to 80%. I have found it to be very successful.

Yearly Maintenance & Replacement
You should really only have to clean your filter pads a couple times a year. Once during spring startup and again during fall shutdown. Most filter pads will last up to a year before you should have to replace them. If you are looking for longer lasting filter pads we highly suggest the Matala Filter Pads. They will last several years.

POND TALK: Tell us how often you clean your filter pads?

Koi & Catfish Can Cause Cloudy Water in My Large Pond? – Pond & Lake Q & A

Picture of Cloudy Pond Water.

Pond & Lake Q & A

Q: The water in my pond is very cloudy. I have some bass, bluegill and koi in the pond so I don’t want to use anything that will harm them. Any suggestions on how to clear this up? – Aaron of Illinois

A: The cloudiness of the water in your pond can come from many sources, such as heavy runoff from rain to constant sediments that fall into and around the pond. There is an element that causes cloudy water that many seem to overlook and it relates to a couple species of fish.

I’ve talked with some of you in the past and you’ve said one day the water looked clear and the next day it was cloudy. In quite a few cases the only factor that changed from one day to the next was adding either koi or catfish.

Koi Or Catfish Can Cause Cloudy Water?
Yes, these species of fish are bottom dwellers and love to stir up the bottom of the pond. Before adding these fish into your pond just understand that if you want clear water this may not be the best option. In a large pond or lake with catfish or koi it is almost impossible to clear up the water. The only way to do so would be to remove the catfish and koi altogether.

POND TALK: Do you have any koi or catfish in your large pond or lake?

The
cloudiness of the water in your pond can come from many sources, such
as heavy runoff from rain to constant sediments that fall into and
around  the pond. There is an element that causes cloudy water that
many seem to overlook and it relates to a couple species of fish.
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