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How do I prepare my fish for winter? Do I need to bring them inside? – Water Garden & Features Q & A

Allow harmful gases to escape by adding a diffuser.

Water Garden & Features Q & A

Q: How do I prepare my fish for winter? Do I need to bring them inside? – Liz in Michigan

A: As the temperatures fall, we may be pulling out our winter coats and goulashes, but your fish don’t need them at all! In fact, pond fish, like koi and goldfish, do quite well in a pond over the winter – even if it freezes over – as long as your pond is at least 18 inches deep (though we recommend 24 inches to be certain the fish don’t turn into popsicles). The fish will go into their annual torpor, or dormancy, and will require little more than clean, oxygen-rich water to survive.

To ensure they get that life-sustaining oxygen, you will need to do four things:

1. Remove debris from the pond. In the fall, before ice forms, give your pond or water feature a good cleaning. Rake out debris, trim dead leaves off plants, net floating leaves and remove as much detritus as possible so very little will be decomposing – and releasing harmful gasses – through the cold months.

2. Add some beneficial bacteria. Also in the fall, you may want to add some beneficial bacteria, like Pond Logic®’s Seasonal Defense®. It accelerates the decomposition of leaves, scum and sediment that builds up during the fall and winter months. In the spring, it replenishes winter bacteria loss, jump starts the filter and breaks down unwanted waste, making your pond water ready for a clean spring and summer.

3. Install an aerator or air stone. Colder water holds more oxygen than warmer water, but you’ll still want to inject air into the pond during the winter months, especially if your pond freezes over. One or two air stones or a diffuser placed in a shallow part of your pond will be enough to aerate the water and keep a small hole in the ice, which will allow harmful gasses to escape and oxygen to enter.

4. Hook up a heater. If you live in a frigid area where the ice on your pond builds to an inch or more, you can use a floating heater or de-icer, like the Thermo Pond, that melts through the ice. Again, it’s critical to keep an open hole in the ice to allow for gas exchange.

In most cases, your fish will be just fine through the winter months. When the water warms, you can begin feeding them again and enjoying them for yet another year!

POND TALK: How do you prepare your fish for winter?

How do I prevent my pond from clouding up when it rains? – Pond & Lake Q & A

If your pond looks cloudy like this, then this article is for you!

Pond & Lake Q & A

Q: How do I prevent my pond from clouding up when it rains? – Dave in Missouri

A; When the skies cloud up and the rain starts to fall, it’s almost a guarantee that your farm pond or lake will cloud up, too. Muddy runoff, along with nutrients like grass clippings, twigs, trees, livestock waste, yard and farm fertilizers drain into the water, feeding the dreaded algae and triggering a bloom. Before you know it, your pristine pond turns into a cloudy green mess.

With some preventative steps, however, this can be avoided. Try these tips to keep your pond clean and clear when the rain starts falling:

Install a pond-wide aeration system: By churning and roiling the water in your lake with a Pond Aeration System, the sediment and debris disperses throughout the water column, allowing the beneficial bacteria, like those found in PondClear®, to consume it and get rid of it. The aeration system also breathes life-giving oxygen into the water, which your fish and pond inhabitants will appreciate!

Create a fertilizer-free ring around the pond: Sure, some fertilizer may make its way into your pond, especially if it’s on a farm or near livestock, but if you establish a perimeter around the pond that you leave fertilizer-free, it will cut down on the nutrient load going into the water and feeding the algae. You can also try using organic or low-phosphorus fertilizers.

Boost your beneficial bacteria: When you know rainfall is in the forecast, add some natural beneficial bacteria, in anticipation of the storm. The bacteria will become established and ready to gobble through nitrates, breaking down fish waste, leaves and other organics that accumulate in the pond and naturally improving the water clarity.

Don’t despair when the skies turn stormy. With some planning, you can have a pristine pond all year long despite what the weather forecaster predicts!

POND TALK: What do you do to prevent cloudy water in your pond or lake when it rains?

What’s the best ratio of predator to prey fish to keep the population growth steady? – Pond & Lake Q & A

3 Prey Fish to every 1 Predator Fish.

Pond & Lake Q & A

Q: I’m thinking of stocking my farm pond with fish. What’s the best ratio of predator to prey fish to keep the population growth steady? – Hoyt in Florida

A: When stocking your farm pond with fish, it’s always a good idea to keep in mind the ratio of predator to prey fish. If you’re an angler, you want those trophy fish to grow healthy and strong, and the only way to do that is to provide prey fish, like perch, hybrid bluegill or sunfish, for food.

The rule of thumb that we recommend is 3 prey fish to every 1 predator fish. So for instance, if you toss in 10 large-mouth bass or walleye, you’ll want to include at least 30 perch or bluegill to keep the predator fish healthy and their bellies full. When you first stock your farm pond, however, we recommend you add some fathead minnows to feed the predator fish while the prey fish get established. You may also want to feed the fish with a pellet food, like Pond Logic® Game Fish Food, and use an automated feeder, like Aqua Pro®’s 40-Gallon Ground Level Directional Feeder, to make feeding easy.

To keep the population of both predator and prey fish healthy, make sure your water is well aerated, too. If you don’t already have an air diffuser or aeration system set up in your pond, now is a good time to add one. When you introduce new fish to a pond or lake, they’ll be adding waste – something that can cause an algae bloom or pH shift and possible a fish kill. An aeration system will decrease toxic gases, increase the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water, and prevent harmful stratification from occurring.

Once your population is established, you can enjoy the many reasons why you wanted to stock your pond in the first place – like fishing! A pond stocked with bass and walleye also keeps the frog and leech populations under control, too.

POND TALK: When you first stocked your farm pond, what ratio of predator to prey fish did you use?

Why should I feed my pond fish Wheat Germ-based food in the fall and spring? – Water Garden & Features Q & A

Fall is here! Time to switch to wheat germ-based foods.

Water Garden & Features Q & A

Q: Why should I feed my pond fish Wheat Germ-based food in the fall and spring? – Jessica in Oregon

A: As the weather changes, pond and water garden centers remind their customers to feed a different diet to their fish – a wheat germ based diet. Why? What’s the difference? Do fish experience changes in taste when the weather changes? Well, believe it or not, there’s a reason for switching your fish from a protein-based to a wheat germ-based diet. It all centers on your finned friends’ metabolism.

Cooler Temps, Slowing Systems

Fish, including the koi or goldfish in your pond, are poikilothermic, which is a fancy term for “cold-blooded.” Their internal temperature varies with the ambient external temperature. So in the wintertime when your pond’s water cools, the body temperatures of your fish cool, too. And with that dip in body temperature comes a reduced need for nutrients.

A wheat germ-based diet is designed to transition your pond fish from eating a high-protein, high-energy diet, like Pond Logic® Growth and Color Fish Food – which they enjoy throughout the summer to fuel their active underwater lifestyles – to their annual wintertime fast, when they enter into a torpor state, or period of metabolic inactivity.

Wheat germ diets, like Pond Logic® Spring and Fall Fish Food, are high in carbohydrate-based nutrients, packed with natural vegetable proteins and designed to provide your pond fish with the immune-system boosting vitamins and minerals to get them through the winter. They require less energy to digest, so they’re perfect to ease the fish into or out of the colder months.

Time to Switch!

So, when do you start transitioning your pond fish to the wheat germ-based diet? In the fall, when the water temperature falls to 70 degrees Fahrenheit or so, feed your fish a mixture of the wheat germ and protein-based food, gradually increasing the wheat germ and decreasing the protein-based food until you’re feeding 100 percent of the wheat germ-based food. As soon as the water temperature reaches 55 degrees F, stop feeding your fish altogether.

In the spring, after the ice thaws and the water reaches 55 degrees F, start feeding the wheat germ-based diet once again. As the temperatures warm, begin adding small amounts of the protein-based food. By the time the water temperature reaches 70 degrees F, switch completely over to the protein diet.

When you help your pond fish through the temperature transitions and provide them with the right types of nutrients to support their health, you’ll be rewarded with active, colorful fish with strong immune systems that can fight parasites and viruses that show up in the spring.

POND TALK: In your geographical area, when do you generally switch from a protein-based food to a wheat germ-based food?

How do I “overwinter” or get my pond plants ready for the winter? – Water Garden & Features Q & A

Plants must not come into contact with ice or freezing temperatures.

Water Garden & Features Q & A

Q: How do I “overwinter” or get my pond plants ready for the winter?
– Maryann in Wisconsin

A: If you live in cooler climates – even those that don’t dip too far below freezing – it’s almost time to prepare your plants for winter. Each type of aquatic plant needs to be cared for in a different way, but the most important factor to remember is that the roots of your plants must not come into contact with ice or freezing temperatures. If they do, they simply won’t survive.

Keeping in mind regional variances, here’s how to keep your aquatic plants healthy, happy and ready to bloom again next spring:

    1. First, remove any dead leaves from the plants growing around your pond. Give bog plants, like irises and taro, a good inspection and clip off any unhealthy growth, spent leaves or blooms. You want your plants to go into winter as healthy as possible so they emerge strong and stout in the spring.
    2. Next, pull on your waders and tend to your hardy water lilies. Pull them out of your pond and trim them to about 3 inches above the root system. When you’re done, move the pots or baskets to 18 inches deep or lower, where they’ll be warm and safe from winter frost.
    3. If you have tropical and floating aquatic plants, like tropical lilies or lotus, it’s easiest to treat them as annuals: Remove them from your pond and mulch the soil and root balls. In most climates, they won’t survive the cold winter conditions. You can try to overwinter them in your shed or garage, but it can be difficult, as many of the tropical varieties require temperatures above 60 degrees Fahrenheit and strong light to survive.
    4. Treat floating aquatic plants, like water hyacinth and lettuce, as annuals, too. Fortunately, they’re relatively inexpensive to replace year after year.
    5. For hardy lotus, trim back the foliage after they have gone dormant and turned brown. Don’t trim them while the plant and leaves are still green, as it can cause it to be susceptible to diseases that creep in through the hollow stems. In cooler climates, move your plants to a cool, but frost-free area in your yard or the bottom of your pond, along with your water lilies.

Depending on the size of your pond and the number of plants you have, this winterizing chore shouldn’t take longer than an afternoon, but you’ll be rewarded in the spring with healthy growth that will once again beautify your outdoor living space!

POND TALK: Have you ever overwintered your tropical water lilies indoors? How did you do it?

What’s the best way to acclimate new fish to my pond? – Pond & Lake Q & A

Float for 30 minutes.

Pond & Lake Q & A

Q: What’s the best way to acclimate new fish to my pond? – Lafayette in Maryland

A: So, you’ve been to the fish farm, picked out your fingerlings, brought them home, and now they’re sitting in plastic bags or tubs waiting to dive into your farm pond. Unfortunately, you can’t just pour them in. In order for these little fish to survive and thrive, you’ll want to slowly acclimate them to your pond’s water and its temperature.

Here are some tips to make it easy:

  • Oxygenate: When you pick up your fish, most farms will pack your fish in plastic bags with water and oxygen; the fish will be fine for several hours. But if you transported your fish in barrels, keep in mind that they will quickly run out of oxygen unless supplemented with an air stone or air diffuser, like the Laguna® Mini Aeration Kit.
  • Float for 30 minutes: The most widely used method of acclimating your fish to the pond is to float the unopened bag in the pond for about a half hour. This allows a gradual change in the water temperature until the water inside is the same as the water outside, at which point you can open the bag and release the fish into the pond.
  • Just add water: If you transported your fish in barrels or containers, use a bucket to add water from the pond to the barrel. This will gradually change the temperature and will provide some additional oxygen for the fish. Check your water temperature with a fish-safe thermometer, and once it has stabilized, pour your fish into the lake.
  • Remember, take it slow: Patience is critical when acclimating your fish to the pond’s new water temperature. Rapid changes in temperature may weaken the immune systems of your fish and make them prone to infection or – worst case – cause the fish to die immediately.

    POND TALK: How have you acclimated fish to your farm pond or lake?

    How do I control floating and bottom-growing algae in my lake? – Pond & Lake Q & A

    No Algae Here!

    Pond & Lake Q & A

    Q: How do I control floating and bottom-growing algae in my lake? – Tom in New York

    A: Whether it’s floating or submerged, algae can turn a lake into a green mess in no time. It’s unsightly, it’s sometimes stinky and in extreme cases, it can cause a fish kill. The good news is that algae can be controlled no matter what time of year. It starts with controlling the population and ends with a long-term management plan.

    Before we dive in, it’s important to understand the difference between algae and weeds. The term “algae” refers to a wide range of single and multi-celled organisms that live in the water and metabolize carbon dioxide into oxygen via photosynthesis, just like plants. They differ from plants or weeds in that they don’t have true leaves, roots or stems.

    In lakes and ponds, the most common varieties of algae include: Green floating algae that creates a “pea soup” appearance; Chara or Stonewort, which are a bottom-growing, seaweed-looking type that can be mistaken for weeds, and string or filamentous algae, which are actually long strings of algae connected together.

    Sometimes, pond and lake owners may mistake duckweed for floating algae, but if you look very closely, you’ll find that it’s actually duckweed or watermeal. Check out this blog entry to learn more about controlling this invasive weed.

    Population Check

    If your pond is coated in pea soup or the bottom is carpeted in Chara or string algae, you can knock back the population with a chemical herbicide like Algae Defense®. It provides quick results and it’s formulated to get a pond under control – especially during the hot summer months. Do not use if your pond or lake is stocked with koi or goldfish. If your pond has trout, check your carbonate hardness with a water hardness test kit, like the Laguna® Quick Dip Multi-Test Strips, and make sure the carbonate hardness is above 50 parts per million (ppm) before using Algae Defense®.

    Long-Term Strategy

    Algae Defense® by Pond Logic® will solve a crisis, but to keep your pond or lake looking clean and clear, you’ll need to be proactive and develop a plan to manage the algae. The most successful approach centers on cutting off the algae’s food supply – nutrients.

    Nutrients can come from a wide variety of sources, like grass clippings, twigs, trees, fish waste, yard and farm fertilizers and runoff. As these nutrients break down, they produce ammonia, which triggers the nitrogen cycle. Nitrifying bacteria surround the ammonia, turning it into nitrites and then into nitrates (nutrients) – which then feed the algae.

    So, how do you reduce the nutrients in your pond?
    Try these tips:

  • Buffer before fertilizing: To prevent inadvertently fertilizing the algae, leave a buffer area around the pond. You can also try using organic or low-phosphorus fertilizers.
  • Aerate, aerate, aerate: Because that muck at the bottom of the pond feeds the algae, you should prevent the buildup with proper aeration.
  • Reduce the muck: Use natural bacteria like MuckAway™ by Pond Logic® to breakdown up to 5-inches of organic muck per year. You can also rake your pond using a Pond & Beach Rake to remove dead vegetation, leaves and other organics that will eventually decompose on the bottom.
  • Reduce sunlight: Like all photosynthetic organisms, algae requires sunlight to thrive. Adding pond dye can help provide shade. If possible, consider adding some non-invasive aquatic plants to your pond. The plants, which also consume nitrates, will also be a source of competition for food.
  • Add beneficial bacteria: You may also consider adding some additional beneficial bacteria, like PondClear™ by Pond Logic®, to your pond or lake. The bacteria gobble through nitrates, breaking down fish waste, leaves and other organics that accumulate in the pond, naturally improving the water clarity.
  • That green gunk can be controlled in your pond or lake. It just takes a little planning and some proactive management. When you see the results, it’ll be worth it!

    POND TALK: When was your worst algae bloom and how did you control it?

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