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We just purchased a house that had a pond, it hasn’t been taken care of, where do we start? | Pond & Lakes Q&A

We just purchased a house that had a pond, it hasn't been taken care of, where do we start?

We just purchased a house that had a pond, it hasn’t been taken care of, where do we start?
Tony – Romeo, MI

If you’ve ever adopted a stray pet, you already have a general sense of what it’s like to become the keeper of a long-neglected pond. Like the stray, the pond probably looks like it’s been reclaimed by nature: rough around the edges, none too attractive, and probably a bit more of a commitment than you’d ordinarily take on without a lot of advance planning.

But like a scrawny stray, a neglected pond is often a diamond in the rough – waiting for the loving attention of a caring keeper to really show its true colors. And with the right products from The Pond Guy, the transformation from primeval bog to backyard showplace is much easier than you’ve imagined.

The first step in reclaiming your pond is to evaluate the status quo. With a quick inventory, you’ll determine if it’s full of weeds, if there’s any aeration, and if there are any fish who call it home.

For maximum initial impact, proper aeration is critical. If it’s missing, weeds thrive, algae blooms, and both fish and healthy plants struggle for survival. At The Pond Guy, you’ll find exactly what your pond needs with one of our Airmax Aeration Systems. Designed to suit the size and depth characteristics of your pond, the right system will begin the process of making your pond a safe, healthy habitat for the fish and plants that make ponds a pleasure.

Once the aeration is up and running, you’ll need to tackle the weeds and algae with our safe, powerful herbicides and algaecides. Our most powerful weapon in the fight to restore a pond’s health is our ClearPAC and ClearPAC Plus products, which combine the benefits of beautiful, Nature’s Blue dye and Algae Defense algaecide, the muck reducing power of our PondClear natural bacteria and our beneficial EcoBoost phosphate binder, which reduces phosphate levels to make water clear and healthy for fish, wildlife and anyone else wanting to use the pond.

ClearPac Plus also includes MuckAway to eliminate the muck that accumulates at the bottom after long periods without proper pond care. By following the simple steps included with ClearPac, you’ll see marked improvement in no time, with steady improvement over the course of several weeks of treatment.

For ponds that haven’t suffered long-term neglect, our Algae Defense and PondWeed Defense tackle specific problem areas quickly and effectively.

Pond Talk: Have you taken on the task of reviving an old pond?

Pond Logic ClearPAC

Why do fish swim in schools? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Why do fish swim in schools?

Why do fish swim in schools?
Chris – Akron, OH

Most people are well aware that fish – most of them, anyhow – swim in tightly-knit groups known as schools. But when pressed for a rationale, few people know exactly why fish are so intent on sticking together. As it turns out, school is just as smart for fish as it is for people – but for some very different reasons. So, in no particular order, here they are.

There’s safety in numbers. When pond and lake predators look for a meal, they look for easy targets. And while a school of fish might seem like a logical choice, it’s actually easier to identify a single target – and track it down. Schools of fish, on the other hand, present multiple targets. And when a predator goes in for a snack, the school scatters, making it difficult to keep track of a single individual long enough to catch it.

But when survival’s at stake, group behavior can always use a helping hand. That’s why we recommend Porcupine Fish Attractor Spheres. When placed in your pond, fish will enjoy improved spawning habitat, and young fish will have a great place to hide when predators are on the hunt. Using our Fish Attractor Spheres, you’ll see improved fish survival rates, healthier stocks, and, if you’re so inclined, better fishing.

The buddy system makes life easier. When a fish goes solo, he faces currents and resistance all alone. And when you have to fight resistance on your own, you have to work hard just to get where you’re going. In schools, however, a lazy fish can draft off the fish around him, significantly reducing resistance. By reducing the energy they need to expend, they can expend even less energy looking for food.

For a good paradigm, think of the Tour de France. During each stage of the race, a few aggressive riders typically break from the tightly-packed peloton. Those lead riders are often overtaken late in the race by riders who stuck with the peloton for the majority of the race to enjoy the benefit of riding behind and among other riders whose bodies reduced wind resistance and made the ride less fatiguing. The breakaway riders, on the other hand, are forced to work harder, making it tougher to maintain the lead. Migratory birds often employ the same tactic, flying in v-formations to reduce drag and conserve energy.

While schooling helps to preserve energy, it’s still important that your fish have the proper food to stay healthy, active, and capable of successful reproduction. We strongly recommend a scientifically-balanced food like Pond Logic Game Fish Grower Fish Food. Designed to promote optimal growth of game fish like bass, bluegill, trout and perch, the large pellets are high in protein, which helps to promote a strong, healthy fish population for more satisfying game fishing.

Having walked our way through fish that do school, it’s worthwhile to note that some simply don’t. In most cases, those fish have evolved with a different set of survival techniques – from hiding to aggression – that works just fine for them.

Pond Talk: Do you often see your fish swimming in a school in your pond?

Porcupine Fish Attractor Spheres - 3 Pack

When is the best time to stock fish in my pond? | Pond & Lake Q&A

When is the best time to stock fish in my pond?

When is the best time to stock fish in my pond?
Jan – Raleigh, NC

Pond owners looking to replenish their fish populations this season should grab their buckets and nets; spring is here and it is the perfect time to stock your pond with new game fish.

Spring and fall are the best times to add new fish to your pond as the temperatures are not as harsh making it easier for you to transport your newcomers and acclimate them to their new home. You can still introduce fish into your pond during the summer months but you will want to take extra precautions to make sure you can quickly transport the fish to your pond and take a little extra time during the acclimation process.

Deciding how many fish to add to your pond will predominately depend on the surface area of the water body. You can take a look at a few examples of stocking rates on our website. You will want to stick to a ratio of 3 prey fish (sunfish, bluegill, or perch) to 1 predator fish (bass) when choosing species to promote a healthy and balance fish population. Click over to our Fish Stocking Blog for some more information.

You can purchase fish from your local fish hatchery or catch and transport fish from a friend’s pond. Wherever the source, inspect the fish for signs of illness or disease before adding them to your pond. Our local customers can take advantage of The Pond Guy semi-annual Fish Day which takes place on the 7th of May. Fish day is a great opportunity to meet with other pond owners, speak with the friendly and knowledgeable The Pond Guy staff, and browse our wide selection of pond products from Pond Dye to 10’ Windmills. Customers can place orders online or over the phone until May 7th which will be available for payment and pick-up on the 8th between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. There will be a wide selection of both predator and prey fish available for purchase including Hybrid Bluegill, Perch, Catfish and Bass. Walk-ins are welcome but selection will be limited by availability.

Make sure there is adequate habitat for your smaller fish to hide, grow and reproduce. Weeds, grasses and other debris already in your pond will provide some cover but you can introduce man made habitats to protect your fish without dealing with weeds and plants. Check out our Fish Habitat blog for some more insight into creating comfortable living spaces for your fish.

Pond Talk: What fish have you found in your pond?

Fish Trap

Help! There are a bunch of dead fish in my pond, what happened? | Pond & Lakes Q&A

Why do frogs/toads make so much noise?

Help! There are a bunch of dead fish in my pond, what happened?
Jason – Hastings, NE

The arrival of spring is an exciting time for pond owners. The weather is warming up, the sun is shining and the ice is melting away from the surface of your pond. Some pond owners however, find all of their fish floating dead at the water’s surface. While experiencing a winter fish kill is not the best way to start the season if you understand the cause you can prevent future occurrences.

Your pond is constantly absorbing and releasing air. As wind blows across the surface of the pond water ripples absorb oxygen into the water column. Decomposing organic debris at the bottom of the pond release a gas that floats to the surface of the pond where it is released into the atmosphere.

The layer of ice that forms over your pond blocks air exchange locking fresh oxygen out of the pond and harmful gas from decomposition in. Depending on the size of the pond and the amount of decomposing debris available, your fish can be overwhelmed and killed by the lack of fresh air.

Fish kills can also happen in the summer. Summer fish kills are typically caused by pond turnovers due to lack of proper aeration. The top layer of water in your pond carries more oxygen and reacts faster to temperature changes due to its exposure to the air. The bottom of your pond will tend to contain less oxygen, light and will be slower to warm up throughout the summer. These layers of water are referred to as stratification and are divided by thermoclines. If you have ever swam in your pond you may have noticed that your feet are colder than your chest as they break the thermocline in the water column. Your fish will find a happy medium in the water column where there is adequate oxygen and warmth.

Particular rainy or windy days can cause the thermocline in your pond to break. The bottom layer of water in your pond will mix together with the healthier top layer of water. As your fish have nowhere to flee to, they are trapped in the newly mixed pond water which can severely stress and even kill your fish.
Fortunately, there are a couple of ways to prevent winter and summer fish kills. An Bottom Diffused Aeration System like the Airmax® AM Series pumps fresh air to the bottom of your pond and breaks it into fine bubbles that can be absorbed into the water column. As the air bubbles rise through the water column they also circulate the water body making sure that your pond is evenly oxygenated and warmed. An abundance of oxygen promotes the presence of beneficial aerobic bacteria which will help break down organic waste faster and without the egg-like odor produced by the slow anaerobic bacteria in water that lacks oxygen. Running an aeration system in the winter can also eliminate your winter fish kills as the constant bubbling at the surface of your pond prevents ice formation and quickly breaks up layers of ice.

To further aid in your fish kill prevention, you will want to remove as much organic debris from the bottom of the pond as possible. Beneficial Bacteria products like PondClear™and MuckAway™ in tandem with EcoBoost™ will naturally digest gas and algae causing muck without having to chemically treat your pond. Cut down and drag away any dead cattail reeds and leaves with a Weed Cutter and Rake so that they are not left to decompose. The Pond Logic ClearPAC® Plus combines all the beneficial bacteria products you need along with pond dye and an option algaecide to eliminate the guesswork of selecting the proper pond care products.

Pond Talk: Did you find any surprises under the ice in your pond this spring? What are you doing to resolve the issue?

Aeration

There are some weeds in the pond but do I need to add anything else for my fish? | Pond & Lake Q&A

There are some weeds in the pond but do I need to add anything else for my fish?

There are some weeds in the pond but do I need to add anything else for my fish?
Kyle – Portland, ME

The fish in your farm pond or lake will definitely use weeds as a source of food and shelter but providing additional habitat is key for pond owners looking for a balanced fish population with large game fish.

Using pond weeds as a source of habitat for your fish population is an at times be a double edged sword to pond owners. While your fish will have somewhere to eat, hide and spawn you may not exactly enjoy seeing weeds taking over and greening up your pond. Snagged fishing hooks, expensive chemical treatments and a downright ugly pond can ruin any pond owner or fishermen’s day.

Porcupine Fish Attractors are constantly growing in popularity as they provide excellent structure for your fish population without the headaches caused by an abundance of aquatic weeds. Unlike pine trees and pallets these Fish Attractors will not bio-degrade or promote algae and weed growth. The PVC spines are easy to fish within and do not snag lures or tangle fishing line. While they are essentially a simple concept these plastic spheres go a long way in maintaining a healthy stock of fish. Simply use PVC Primer and Glue to secure ½” PVC pipe within the Porcupine Fish Attractor Spheres and you have an instant fish habitat. The Fish Attractor structures sink to the bottom of your pond on their own but can be secured to weights using the pre-drilled hole in each plastic sphere for areas with wake or strong currents. When placed in small groups the fish attractor spheres create hiding places for both large and small game fish. Smaller fish can maneuver closer to the center of each sphere while larger fish can utilize the outer portions. Minnows and fry hide within the hollow interior of the PVC tubes. Providing an adequate amount of fish habitat gives your smaller species an opportunity to grow and reproduce.

If an unbalanced fish population is a concern click over to our Pond Stocking Blog for some tips on what to look for when stocking your pond and how to select the right types of fish for your pond. You can also read more on natural fish habitats versus their man-made counterparts another of our Fish Habitat Blogs.

Pond Talk: Have you tried the Porcupine Fish Attractor Spheres? What do you use to create fish habitat?

Fish Attractor

The geese are already showing up at my pond. How can I stop them from making my pond home? | Pond & Lakes Q&A

The geese are already showing up at my pond. How can I stop them from making my pond home?

The geese are already showing up at my pond. How can I stop them from making my pond home?

Tracey – Akron, OH

As the warmer weather rolls in you will begin to notice a gathering of geese around your pond. While ponds are great for drawing wildlife some pond owners are hesitant to let geese congregate in their yard. How can geese become a nuisance in your pond and what can you do to keep them away?

If you have ever been to a park that is frequented by geese you will notice that they tend to cover the entire ground with droppings. This abundance of waste is less than ideal for those of you that swim in your pond. The additional influx of organic waste can also cloud your water and promote increased weed and algae growth. Geese can also carry problematic items from neighboring ponds. Duckweed and leeches commonly hitch a ride on the feet of water foul like geese and ducks which are then introduced into your pond as they loiter in your yard.

To prevent your pond from becoming the local hot spot for geese this season try placing a pair of floating swan decoys in the water when the ice melts. As geese are extremely territorial they will spot the swan decoys as they fly overhead and skip over your pond as they search for a less-crowded water body. Coyotes, Alligators and motion activated decoys are also available forms of predator control if you are looking for alternative options.

Whether or not you should let geese use your pond depends on what you want to use your pond for. If you use your pond for recreation or decorative purposes it will be in your best interest to keep them away. If your pond exists for reasons outside of recreation and you enjoy the additional sights and sounds of geese in the summer then rest assured that your feathered friends will be relieved to see your decoy free pond.

Pond Talk: What form of predator control works best to keep geese out of your pond? What kind of issues have geese caused in your pond and how have you resolved them?

Swan Decoy

If I have a spring running into my pond do I still need aeration? – Ponds & Lakes Q & A

If I have a spring running into my pond do I still need aeration?

If I have a spring running into my pond do I still need aeration?
Scott – Ripon, WI

Natural springs are an excellent source of water to fill and maintain a farm pond or lake. The volume of water and the rate at which it flows into your pond varies depending on the magnitude of the spring. While a higher magnitude spring can provide a great deal of water exchange they do not do much to help boost the oxygen level in your pond.

Great deals of pond owners believe their water body is spring-fed because the pond water is cold in the deeper areas of the pond. Pockets of cold water are more often caused by a lack of adequate water circulation which leads to water stratification in the water body. This allows a top layer of water which is heated and oxygenated by the surrounding atmosphere to stay at the top of the pond while the water at the bottom of the pond stays trapped, cold and devoid of oxygen. A couple great indicators that your pond is spring fed are that the water level tends to stay the same regardless of rainfall or lack thereof in your area, or if your pond has an outlet and is constantly flowing. Since spring water tends to be colder you will notice that spring fed ponds are cooler even when properly aerated but the entire water body will be cool, not just random pockets of water.

Properly aerating a water body requires not only circulation but the addition of oxygen that can be absorbed into the water column. For this reason, a spring fed pond is not a direct substitute for a proper aeration system. Aeration systems are designed to not only move water around your pond but to boost the dissolved oxygen content of the water column. Bottom plate systems like the Airmax Aeration Systems utilize air compressors and membranes to pump oxygen to the bottom of your pond and then break it down in to small enough bubbles that are absorbed into the water column. This process also forces the water above the plate towards the surface of the pond causing a mushrooming effect that circulates the water body. These type of systems can be used year round. Fountains can also be used to aerate water bodies. Since they draw from the surface of the pond, fountains are usually better suited for ponds 6’ deep and shallower while bottom plates systems work well in deeper ponds. Fountains pump water from the pond and spray it into the air in fine droplets that absorb oxygen and then crash back into the pond. With this principle in mind you might be able to guess that a fountain that sprays a thicker or solid stream of water adds less oxygen to the pond than one that has a finer spray pattern. While effective in shallow water bodies, these systems are best used only for summer aeration.

Almost every pond can benefit from aeration as it not only provides oxygen for fish but also promotes faster muck digestion and an overall cleaner pond. If you have an aeration system in your pond but are unsure if it is properly aerated you can take temperature readings in multiple depths and areas of your pond and record any extreme variations which indicate a lack of circulation from your aeration system.

Pond Talk: Pond owners implement natural springs to create interesting water features in their ponds in the form of artesian wells and water leveling features which you can find online. Have you found a unique way to take advantage of your spring fed pond?

Keep your pond healthy all winter long!

What benefits are there for aeration during the winter? – Ponds & Lakes Q & A

What benefits are there for aeration during the winter?

What benefits are there for aerating during the winter?
Drew – Galata, MT

One of the best features of an aeration system is its ability to perform all season long. Your aeration system will play a major role in breaking down the leaves and debris that made its way into the pond during the fall which will promote a healthier pond throughout the winter and easier maintenance come spring. You’ve seen the benefits of aeration all summer long but what does your aeration system have to offer in the winter?

Even in cooler temperatures an aeration system will continue to circulate the contents of your pond and infuse oxygen into the water column. The cooler water will be able to hold more oxygen which is great for the overall health of the pond and its inhabitants. As the surface water cools in the pond it will start to sink towards the ponds bottom. This shift in water can potentially break the thermocline in your pond and force harmful water from the bottom of the pond to mix into the water column trapping your fish. This is referred to as a turnover and they can happen both in warm and cold temperatures in ponds that are not being aerated. You’ve also learned from our previous blogs that running your aeration system in the winter will keep holes open in the ice that allow an escape for toxic gasses and a hole for fresh air to enter the pond. You can also move your plates closer to the shoreline of your pond to keep water open and available for wildlife to drink and birds to swim. Encouraging wildlife to visit your yard is always nice in a season where your yard can sometimes seem bland and uneventful.

Although aeration is a simple and effective way to maintain your pond throughout the winter there are a couple scenarios that warrant a winter break. If you use your pond to skate or ice fish you will not want to run your aeration system as the constant friction not only opens holes in the ice above the plates but will also thin the ice in other areas.

If you do not yet have an aeration system installed in your pond, but would like to install one before the winter, it is best to have your aerator introduced before the ice begins to form. If your pond is not already aerated it is important that you run the system in short increments at first to prevent your own man-made turnover. Start by running it for about 30 minutes the day you install it and double the run time each day after. If you follow this method you should be running your aerator 1 hour the 2nd day, 2 hours the next, 4 hours on the 4th day and should be running the aeration system continuously by the end of the week. Browse over to our Airmax Aeration page for help selecting an aeration system that fits your pond. If you need additional help or have questions you can also feel free to contact one of our Pond Guys or Gals or post a comment on our blog page.

Pond Talk: Do you notice a healthier pond in the spring as a result of running your aeration system in the winter?

Keep your pond healthy all winter long!

How can I identify my koi? – Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

How can I identify my koi?

How can I identify my koi?
Timothy, Lancaster, PA

Koi can be found with almost infinite color patterns which can make it hard to identify which type inhabit your pond and when studying the different Koi varieties it almost feels like they are speaking a foreign language. Actually, you are. The Koi phenomenon developed in Asia as Japanese villagers gathered and bred the colorful carp sometimes found amongst the masses of common carp they raised as food. Over time collecting and breeding these ornamental fish grew in popularity spreading around the globe. Competitions are held regularly where Koi are judged on color, shape, pattern and size with particular traits ranking more “desirable” than others. Show quality Koi need to be bilaterally symmetrical in body shape, with no irregular bulges. Their body should be proportional and consist of an inferior mouth with barbels arranged on a head that slopes into the body of the fish. Their pectoral fins should be well rounded and sturdy with spines that show little to now signs of warping or twisting as they maneuver in the water.

Unless you purchased Koi that were bred and selected specifically for their coloration or markings the chances are your fish have random patterns that will fall into a general category but lack the flare to be considered show quality. There are multitudes of color categories and variations within each category. The Kohaku tends to be the most popular amongst breeders and judges alike. The Kohaku is a white Koi on which hi (red patches) appear in varying patterns. The markings on the body should not spread down past the lateral line and there should be no hi (red) in the fins or tail. Another common color variation, Sanke, resembles a Kohaku with sumi (black patches) mixed in as well. It can be difficult to identify which type of Koi you have as some of the patterns appear strikingly similar. The Showa for example is a black Koi with hi (red patches) and white patches along its body. The Showa can look extremely similar to a Sanke as they consist of the same colors but the Showa should have a predominantly black head. A Koi with a singular spot of color centralized on its head is known as a Tancho which is borrowed from the Tancho crane which similarly has a single colored dot on its head. The Ochiba Shigure Koi which translates to “Leaves in the Water” is a grey Koi with brown patches which can sometimes appear as a blue and orange pattern. Beyond colors and patterns there are also Koi that have plain scales (Wagoi), scales that sparkle (Ginrin), or have no scales at all (Doitsu).

Another concern voiced by Koi owners is that they can not differentiate between male and female Koi. This can be rather hard to do and might take some practice. Young Koi can be near impossible to tell apart but differences emerge as they grow and mature sexually. Male Koi tend to have sleek torpedo shaped bodies while females are rounder and develop bulges as eggs form in their ovaries. Female Koi also tend to grow longer and weigh more than male Koi. Males sport breeding tubercles on their head, flanks and tail that will turn their usually smooth texture to one that can be described to feel as rough as sandpaper during spawning season. You can also tell the males apart from the females by their demeanor. Male Koi tend to swim faster and turn sharper than female Koi, they are also less trusting and usually the last to approach the surface of the pond when being fed.

While it is nice to be able to correctly name your Koi, the best part of owning these fish is the fact that they are all truly unique. What may be considered a show Koi to some is not that attractive to others and having the ability to select from such a large variety of options plays an overwhelming role in why these fish are so desirable to pond owners everywhere. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder so make sure you choose colors that intrigue you and fit well in your water garden as you are the only judge that matters in your back yard. If you would like to learn more about your koi check out some informational books like Water in the Garden and other great books about ponds.

POND TALK: What methods do you use to identify your koi?

Get rid of tea colored water fast!

How well can my fish find food? – Ponds & Lakes Q & A

How well can my fish find food?

How well can my fish find food? Jim, Coplay, PA

Just like people, your fish need to eat to live and grow, while they can’t just drive on over to a fast food restaurant or raid the refrigerator to snack they can utilize their highly developed senses to easily catch a quick meal.

The game fish in your pond are not very picky about what they eat. With a diet ranging from tiny insects and plant matter to birds and small mammals there is plenty of meal choices to go around. While their food sources are usually abundant many pond owners like to implement Fish Food so they can watch their fish or speed up growth and increase their overall size.

Fish rely on their abilities to see, hear, smell, taste and feel to both catch prey and avoid becoming a meal for bigger predators. The height of each individual sense depends directly on the type of fish. Bass for example have sharp eyesight that allows them to easily ambush prey while concealed in submerged plant matter. Due to their bottom dwelling nature, catfish are very sensitive to light so they can see clearly in deeper darker water and tend to be active more at night or darker periods of the day. Some fish develop a keen sense of smell to survive. Bluegill, for example, rely on smell to verify valid food options. Salmon can detect the smell of their home stream 5,000 miles out at sea and will follow the scent back to spawn. Fish also utilize internal sets of ears to hear. While the mechanics of how sound travels underwater is a bit different than how we hear sounds on land, fish can sense particle movements and feel vibrations in the water that can reveal both potential food or possible danger. Your fish can even differentiate or isolate specific sounds to help make sense of what they are hearing when dealing with ambient sounds created by moving water. Their ears, much like our own also provide them with a sense of balance helping them control their pitch and direction.

Keeping their senses in mind, it is easier to see how and why some food is easier to detect than others. Food or lure that is alive and moving will be easier for your fish to detect than a pellet of fish food as it has not only a scent but is also giving off sound and vibration which will attract predators. The same principles can be implemented when fishing your pond. If the water is turbid or it is an overcast day using bright colored lures or lures that rattle can attract fish that might otherwise dismiss your hook. Bait manufactures that have also taken into account the fact that your game fish can smell and taste are producing artificial baits that are scented to attract fish and taste appealing so the fish hangs on to the lure longer instead of spitting it out.

There are always exceptions to the rule but in a natural environment your fish typically have no trouble finding their own food. Things like overpopulation or an unbalanced fish population can have an adverse effect on fish size and health. If you are finding that your game fish are growing slower than normal or are dwindling in numbers you may want to trap or catch a sample of your fish population and track what type of predator to prey ratio you are coming up with and inspect your catch for signs of illness or malnourishment. Click over to our Pond Stocking Blog and Fish I.D. Blog for additional information on your game fish and how to maintain their population.

POND TALK: Which foods, baits, and lures do you find most effective on your game fish?

Keep your fish healthy!

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