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Why are my koi gasping for air? – Water Garden & Features Q & A

Gasping Koi

Water Garden & Features Q & A

Q: My koi seem to be gasping for breath at the surface of my pond. Why are they doing this? – Bill in Louisiana

A: If your koi are coming to the surface of the pond to gulp for air, they’re doing more than just saying hi. They’re employing a survival strategy! Due to a lack of aeration or poor water quality, your pond’s water probably does not have enough dissolved oxygen in it for the fish to “breathe,” so they’re gasping for oxygen from the air.

This lack of sufficient oxygen can then cause the fish to stress, which then inhibits their immune systems and opens the door for parasites and disease. But you can prevent that from happening by aerating the water and keeping the water quality as crystal clear as possible.

Koi breathe by pumping water over their gills to extract dissolved oxygen from the pond water. Depending on their activity level, koi require varying amounts of oxygen. For instance, a koi’s active summer metabolism will require more oxygen; a hibernating winter metabolism will require less oxygen.

This can be a challenge during the warm summer months, when the pond’s water temperature rises. Warm water holds less dissolved oxygen, so just when the fish need it the most, it’s at a lower concentration!

To pump more oxygen into the water, you can also add plants to your pond, which naturally release oxygen into the water during the day. Your waterfall or fountain will also add oxygen to your pond. But depending on your fish load and pond size, plants and a fountain often aren’t enough – especially during the summer. That’s where an air diffuser, like the KoiAir™ Water Garden Aeration Kit, can help. Powered by a silent, reliable compressor, a diffuser system will add oxygen to your pond, aerate, circulate and eliminate dead spots, keeping your pond and fish active and healthy all year long.

Because poor water quality can also cause fish to gasp for air at the pond’s surface, you should also check your filtration system, and test your ammonia and nitrite levels with a standard test kit, like the Pond Care® Master Test Kit. If your levels are high, consider adding beneficial bacteria, like Pond Logic® LiquidClear™, to kick-start your pond’s nitrogen cycle.

Once you aerate your pond and make sure your water quality is in check, your koi should stop gulping oxygen at the surface. When they do greet you at the water’s edge, it’ll be for a juicy slice of watermelon or some Pond Logic® Floating Ponstix fish food instead!

POND TALK: When you see your fish gasping for breath, what do you do?

Why is it important to aerate my lake during the summer? – Pond & Lake Q & A

Airmax® Aeration

Pond & Lake Q & A

Q: Why is it important to aerate my lake during the summer? – Eric in Texas

A: Though the hottest days of summer are nearly behind us, your pond or lake still needs proper aeration – especially as we approach fall, when temperatures shift and your pond water will turn over. An aerated pond is a healthy pond, and a healthy pond is one you’ll enjoy all year long.

Why Aerate?

Ponds and lakes go through two stages of life: Stage 1, when the pond has just been excavated and Stage 2, when the pond has had a chance to become established. During Stage 1, which may only last a year, the pond is virtually nutrient-free. It has little or no leaf and plant debris, the fish have produced little waste and the environment has leached almost nothing into the water. It’s like the honeymoon stage of your pond – all the beauty with little maintenance.

After a season or two, the pond enters into Stage 2. Nutrients, like leaves, plants, fish waste and plant fertilizers, build up in the pond. You’ll start to see large amounts of algae and weed growth. Under the surface, the water column becomes murky with debris; at the bottom of the pond, muck will start to develop. This decomposing organic waste adds even more nutrients to the water – which can cause even more algae and weed growth. Talk about a vicious cycle!

At the same time, all those decomposing nutrients create a rise in toxic gas levels. Ammonia and nitrites build up in the water while the oxygen level plummets, especially in the deeper depths of the pond. Because ponds without aeration can become thermally stratified, the toxic gases created on the bottom build up in the cool water underneath. A change in temperature, a heavy rain or sometimes even high winds can turn the water over allowing the toxic, oxygen-deprived water at the bottom to mix into the top layer leaving your fish without oxygen and causing a fish kill.

The Solution

Many pond owners will turn to fountain aeration or surface aerators to churn the water. While fountains are aesthetically pleasing, they will only draw surface water, leaving the bottom of the pond uncirculated and doing nothing to eliminate toxic gases underneath.

A bottom bubbler, however, will circulate the entire water column from the bottom up and eliminate the thermal layers that form in the pond or lake. In a permanent state of motion, the action caused by the bubbler will continuously vent gasses and provide oxygen to the bottom sediments, allowing the beneficial bacteria to break down the toxic gasses and muck and give off a little oxygen in return.

The best option for a bottom bubbler is the Airmax® Aeration system. In combination with aerobic muck-eating bacteria, like MuckAway™ Pellets or PondClear™ Packets, the system can eliminate up to 5 inches of muck per year – and keep your pond or lake healthy no matter the season.

POND TALK: Why do you aerate your pond or lake?

What’s the difference between PondClear and MuckAwa? – Pond & Lake Q & A

Pond clarity results with MuckAway and PondClear

Pond & Lake Q & A

Q: What’s the difference between PondClear and MuckAway? – Barry in Oklahoma

A: We can summarize the difference between the two in one sentence: PondClear™ works to remove excess nutrients from the surface down; MuckAway™ works to remove excess nutrients from the bottom up. Seems simple – or is it?

In general, water clarity problems occur when excess amounts of rotting vegetation, leaves, twigs and fish waste accumulate in the pond or lake. These tiny particles are either suspended in the water column, or they settle to the bottom of the pond.

PondClear™ packets, which are made of beneficial bacteria, are designed to break down waste and suspended organics in the water column. Imagine thousands of hungry bacteria, which multiply every 20 to 40 minutes, swimming through your pond or lake and gobbling through the excess nutrients. After just a few weeks of use, chemical-free PondClear™ will begin to clear up your water and dissipate any lingering odors.

PondClear™ comes in easy-to-use, pre-measured water-soluble packets that you simply toss into your pond or lake every two weeks. One pail of PondClear™ will treat a quarter-acre pond for up to six months. It’s safe for use around horses, livestock, birds, fish, pets and wildlife.

MuckAway™ pellets, which are also made of beneficial bacteria, are designed to sink to the bottom of a pond or lake to digest the detritus, which are their natural food source. As the bacteria start to work, the muck will begin to break down, noxious odors will dissipate and the water clarity will improve. It’s great for spot-treating troublesome areas, like beaches and shorelines.

When used as directed, MuckAway™ will break down up to 5 inches of muck per year. One pail of MuckAway™ will treat up to 16,000 square feet of pond. It’s safe for use around horses, livestock, birds, fish, pets and wildlife, too.

Whether you use PondClear™ or MuckAway™, be sure to use when water temperatures are above 50° Fahrenheit. If you use an algaecide or herbicide treatment, wait at least three days before adding the beneficial bacteria.

POND TALK: What successes have you had with beneficial bacteria in your pond or lake?

Why do people put dye in their decorative ponds? – Water Garden & Features Q & A

Pond Dye

Water Garden & Features Q & A

A: If you’re new to the hobby, the thought of adding dye to your pond may seem like a foreign concept! Why would you want to add color to the water that you’re working so hard to keep clear? Well, there are aesthetic reasons – and some practical reasons, too.

Understanding Dye

First, let’s discuss the dyes themselves. Pond dye typically comes in two colors: black and blue. Black pond dye, like Pond Logic® Black Pearl™ Pond Shade, gives shaded ponds a rich look and turns a brown or gray water feature into a stunning pool that reflects the trees and landscape. Blue pond dye, like Pond Logic® Blue Sapphire™ Pond Shade, gives ponds a natural-looking blue color and looks best in features surrounded by manicured or open landscapes. You’ll find these pond dyes in concentrated form. When you add the recommended amount, the coloring will diffuse throughout the pond within several hours. They’re safe for people, pets, fish and water fowl.

Why Dye?

Adding dye to your decorative pond does more than give your water feature a unique and appealing look. The dye actually serves several purposes, from controlling algae and simulating depth to protecting fish and masking a murky pond.

Simulate depth: Some people use dye in their ponds to make a shallow pond seem deeper. If you have a 14-inch-deep pond, adding black dye can make it seem 5 feet deep. The optical illusion creates a mirroring effect that appeals to many pond owners.

Fish safety: When predators fly overhead or lurk alongside the pond, a little pond dye – along with some predator control – will go a long way in protecting your fish. Koi and goldfish will dart to your pond’s dark depths when a heron or raccoon threatens them. The pond dye serves a similar purpose.

Aesthetics: Of course, aesthetics remain an important reason why folks use dye in their ponds. A crystal blue pond or a rich reflective pond mimics what you’d find in nature. Couple that with a tranquil landscape, and you have an attractive water feature that draws oohs and ahhs!

Algae control: The top reason why people add dye to their ponds is that it is widely known throughout the industry that it may inhibit algae growth. Algae thrives in sunlight and pond dyes filter those rays, preventing them from reaching below the surface, thereby preventing algae from growing.

POND TALK: Why do you use pond dye in your decorative pond or water garden? If you don’t use pond dye, why not?

Why do I need to test for carbonate hardness in my lake or pond? – Pond & Lake Q & A

Testing for Carbonate Hardness

Pond & Lake Q & A

Q: Why do I need to test for carbonate hardness in my lake or pond? – Jose in Michigan

A: A number of pond treatments, including some algae-control formulas and other herbicides, contain copper. In certain conditions, the copper chelate may break down and release copper ions, which could cause your pond or lake’s alkalinity to rise.

If you use these treatments in a pond or lake stocked with trout, koi or goldfish that are sensitive to high alkalinity levels, you need to test your hardness regularly to ensure the health of your fish population.

What is Carbonate Hardness?

Carbonate hardness, or alkalinity, is the measure of carbonate and bicarbonate concentrations in your pond or lake’s water. Alkalinity is a measure of the ability of a solution to neutralize acid without changing the pH. It both controls and maintains water pH.

Alkalinity is related to the amount of dissolved calcium, magnesium and other compounds in the water, so alkalinity tends to be higher in harder water. It naturally decreases over time through bacterial action that produces acidic compounds that combine with and reduce the alkalinity components.

In a pond or lake, the alkalinity of the water is critical to the health of the fish – especially for trout, koi and goldfish. For these fish, the carbonate hardness of your pond or lake must exceed 50 ppm for the fish to survive, ideally falling between 50 ppm and 200 ppm.

Testing 1, 2, 3

When you’re treating your pond with a product like Pond Logic® Algae Defense®, be sure to use a water hardness test kit, like Laguna Quick Dip Multi-Test Strips.

Carbonate hardness is measured in degrees (KH) or in parts per million (ppm). Because the water hardness test kit will give its results in degrees, you’ll need to convert your findings from KH to ppm to determine whether the levels in your lake are safe for your fish. Use this formula to figure it out: 1 KH = 17.848 ppm. So if your test kit reads 5 KH, you would multiply 5 times 17.848, which equals 89.24 ppm.

POND TALK: How often do you test your pond or lake’s carbonate hardness level?

Why are my goldfish changing colors? – Water Garden & Feature Q & A

Why are my goldfish changing color?

Water Gardens & Features Q & A

Q: Why are my goldfish changing colors? – Emily in New York

A: Whether you have a traditional goldfish in your pond or one of the many fancy varieties, you may notice their colors change over time – don’t worry. It doesn’t necessarily mean your fish have some sort of disease! In most cases, it’s normal for goldfish to change color. So before you start dumping antibiotics in your pond, first consider these possibilities:

Genetics

Goldfish naturally change color as they age. Though most do so during their first year or two of life, others change throughout their lifetime. Fish experts have identified two different types of color changes in fish: physiological and morphological.

Physiological changes occur when the pigments in the cells either spread out, which makes the colors more pronounced, or when the pigment clusters in the center, which makes the colors more muted. Morphological changes occur when the actual number of pigments in the cells increase or decrease. An example of a morphological change is when a black goldfish starts to turn orange or a young goldfish loses its black markings as it ages. In this case, as the fish matures, it’s losing its black pigment cells.

How and when their colors change really depends upon their individual genetic makeup. Inexpensive goldfish whose parents are unknown can change in unpredictable ways, while expensive show-quality fish will be a bit more predictable.

Color-Enhancing Foods

Certain types of food, like Pond Logic® Growth & Color Fish Food, can accentuate subdued colors in goldfish, too. Sometimes, a dull orange goldfish can be made a deeper shade of red with these specially formulated diets, which contain natural color-enhancing supplements like spirulina, beta glucan, vitamin E and vitamin C.

Keep in mind, however, that some of these color-enhancers may affect other colors, too. White areas on calico orandas, for instance, may take on an orange hue – which may not be the look you’re going for.

Illness, Poor Water Quality

If your goldfish’s color becomes very dull or it starts to become inactive, that could be a sign of illness or poor water quality. Use a test kit, like the Master Test Kit, to check your water quality, including your pH, ammonia and nitrite levels. Then, if necessary, add a broad-spectrum medication, like Pond Care’s Melafix or Pimafix, to treat parasites or bacterial infections your fish may have.

POND TALK: Have your fish changed their “spots?”

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