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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?

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