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We had a heron last year. How do I stop it from coming back? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: We had a heron last year. How do I stop it from coming back?

Q: We had a heron last year. How do I stop it from coming back?

Vicki- Maryville, TN

A: The bad news is, once a heron knows food is served in your pond, it’ll be back for more. Chances are pretty good that it’ll stop by for a bite to eat when it flies through this year, so be prepared with these surefire heron-proofing devices to keep the sushi lover at bay.

  1. Use a Decoy – Your first plan of defense should be setting up a realistic Blue Heron Decoy. Heron are territorial by nature, and when one cruises overhead and sees that one of its feathered cousins (fake or real) has already claimed the area, it’ll keep going until it finds its own pond to fish. Move the decoy regularly to make it appear even more realistic. Another expert tip: Remove the decoy during mating season, which runs from March through late May or June.
  2. Shore Up the Perimeter – Heron refuse to land in water and hate stepping over wires, so we recommend Heron Stop as a second line of defense around the perimeter of your pond. The impassable barrier – made up of simply nylon line and stakes – prevents the bird from approaching and protects up to 40 feet of shoreline without blocking your view.
  3. Set Up a Motion Detector – For a final layer of protection, set up a ScareCrow® Motion-Activated Animal Deterrent. Thanks to a built-in infrared sensor that detects movement up to 35 feet in front of it and up to 45 feet wide, this heron-scaring tool chases off unwanted visitors with a surprise spray of water. It works both day and night to set boundaries around your water garden or koi pond. But be warned: It doesn’t know the difference between an animal and a human, so you might get wet!

Pond Talk: What tips do you have for keeping herons away from your pond?

Protect Your Prized Fish From Predators - Pond Logic(r) Blue Heron Decoy

My Fish Are Nibbling At My Toes When I Swim. Why Is This Happening And How Can I Stop It? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

My Fish Are Nibbling At My Toes When I Swim. Why Is This Happening And How Can I Stop It?

My Fish Are Nibbling At My Toes When I Swim. Why Is This Happening And How Can I Stop It?

Holly – Wiggins, CO

While we love hand feeding our fish from time to time, nothing ruins your day faster than taking a dip in your cool refreshing pond water only to be reduced to an overgrown chew toy. No one wants to swim in a pond where they feel they may be next one the menu, so how do you stop your touchy feely finned friends from taste testing you and your friends?

It is common to have the smaller prey fish in your pond try to make a quick meal out of your fingers and toes than their larger predator counterparts. It is a sign that your pond may be imbalanced, creating a shortage of food for your smaller fish. They are simply trying to find a snack wherever possible and that includes your precious phalanges. Keep tabs on your fish population to make sure you have a balanced ratio of 3 prey fish to every predator.

If you have an abundance of smaller fish in the pond you may want to introduce some minnows into the water to give them a quick and easy meal that can be replenished over time. If your pond does have an unbalanced population, investigate why this may be. Make sure you have adequate habitat in the pond for your small fish to hide and mature and if you feel your fish are having trouble finding enough food consider manually feeding them using a quality fish food like Game Fish Grower Fish Food.

If you are not quite sure what or how to feed your fish read our Fish Food Blog. Also for some great tips on adding habitat to your pond click over to our Creating Habitat Blog.

Pond Talk: Do your fish nibble at you when you swim in your pond?

The Pond Guy® Game Fish Grower Fish Food

What is the difference between regular Bluegill and Hybrid Bluegill? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

What is the difference between regular Bluegill and Hybrid Bluegill?

What is the difference between regular Bluegill and Hybrid Bluegill?

Dan – Toldeo, OH

Ask any thoroughbred Bluegill, and they’ll tell you there’s a huge difference. But the truth is, a Hybrid Bluegill is simply a cross between a Male Bluegill and a Female Sunfish. As it turns out, that combination produces a population that’s between 80% and 90% male.

There are effects of a predominantly male population. First – and most important – it slows down reproduction, which in turn prevents overpopulation. If left to their own devices, regular, non-hybrid Bluegills reproduce very quickly. Left unchecked, this means overcrowding – and all the negative ramifications that come with it. Also, with a predominantly male population, there’s also a natural tendency for fish not to ask directions. Fortunately, in a small, backyard pond, there’s really nowhere to get lost.

There are, however, some drawbacks to stocking your pond with hybrid Bluegills alone. Because reproduction is slower, natural cycles and predator fish may result in dwindling fish populations over time. In those situations, restocking with additional Bluegills and/or other feeder fish like minnows may be required every few years.

But for many ponds, hybrid Bluegills are an exceptional choice. Once they arrive, however, it’s important to make them feel welcome. We strongly recommend the use of Game Fish Food to satisfy hearty appetites. And for both predator protection and shade from the summer sun, our Fish Attractor Spheres are the perfect complement to your pond’s natural habitat.

Pond Talk: What type of bluegill do you stock in your pond?

Fish Attractor Spheres

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 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

My fish always seem hungry. How much should I really be feeding them? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q&A

My fish always seem hungry. How much should I really be feeding them?

My fish always seem hungry. How much should I really be feeding them?
Tony – Richmond, VA

Proper fish feeding is one of the great balancing acts of pond ownership – and there’s precious little in the way of definitive, measurable guidelines. With a little observation, though, you’ll have it down to a science in no time.

As a rule, it’s best to feed your fish once a day, and preferably at the same time. An established routine trains them to be on the alert when mealtime rolls around, which in turn makes each feeding more efficient and effective. Try not to feed them any more than they can consume comfortably in five minutes – and be sure to remove any food left over after five minutes is up.

The five-minute rule serves a couple of important purposes. Unlike land borne creatures, fish have to share their environment with their leftovers. With some fish (and lots of humans), this can lead to overeating, bulging midsections, and compromised health. If excess food goes uneaten, it adversely affects water quality, leads to increased algae growth, and requires significantly more maintenance. Finding the five-minute sweet spot keeps both you and your fish happy.

But quantity is only the first half of the equation. The quality of the food you choose is every bit as important. Like the food we eat, fish food is comprised of protein, fat and carbohydrates. Protein is of particular importance when choosing the proper fish food, because it leads to rapid growth. Too much protein, however, can cause too much growth too quickly, leading to unhealthy fish. It also leads to increased waste, accelerated algae growth, and – you guessed it – more maintenance.

Our Pond Logic® feed line takes the guesswork out of proper nutritional proportions. With added citrus and natural color intensifiers, the protein-balanced Pond Logic® Growth & Color Fish Food is a fish favorite that consistently wins rave reviews from satisfied pond owners. Pond Logic® Ponstix provides a convenient, well-balanced and low-waste alternative to traditional foods. And Pond Logic® Professional delivers an extra protein punch, with the added benefits of immune system-boosting Beta Glucan to enhance the health of both your fish – and their habitat.

Pond appetit.

Pond Talk: How often are you feeding your fish?

Pond Logic® Growth & Color

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® Pond 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

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?

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