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I went to clean my filters and found worms! What are they doing there? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I went to clean my filters and found worms! What are they doing there?

Q: I went to clean my filters and found worms! What are they doing there?

Gene – Tehachapi, CA

A: They’re weird looking, they’re tiny, and they’re blood-red – or at least a creamy pink color. What are they? They’re non-biting midge fly larvae, also known as bloodworms. Though they’re an unsettling infestation to see in your filter, they’re actually a sign that your pond is happy and healthy.

What’s In a Name

Midge flies hail from the family Chironomidae, which includes more than 10,000 different species worldwide. Some varieties appear bright red in color thanks to a hemoglobin-type substance that helps them live with oxygen-depleted water, giving them their “bloodworm” nickname.

As adults, midge flies resemble mosquitoes, but they have fluffy antennae and no blood-sucking proboscis. Large numbers of them can be a nuisance as their droppings can cause damage to paint, brick and other surfaces. And when their tiny corpses pile up, they can cause a stink.

Feasting in Your Filter

These insects thrive in freshwater aquatic and semi-aquatic environments. In their larval stages, they live in tree holes, plants, rotting vegetation, soil and artificial containers – including filtration systems, infesting media pads where there’s an abundance of organics from debris and fish waste. They spend their time attached to the container’s solid surface and eat as food floats by.

Midge flies lay their eggs in water, preferring it to be still, clear, dark and safe from critters like fish and frogs that nosh on the larvae when they emerge. To protect themselves, the bloodworms actually create and live in tiny half-inch tubes they build from mud, algae and other naturally occurring resources. Look closely in your filter, and you’ll probably see some of these worm-sized mud huts.

A Tasty Fish Treat

Don’t worry: These little guys won’t harm your pond or your fish. In fact, if one wriggles its way into your pond, it will be a welcome treat for your fish. Goldfish and other smaller fish will gobble them and their little mud homes; koi and other larger fish will treat them as tasty hors d’oeuvres.

Bloodworms are quite nutritious for fish. In fact, the insects are about 55 percent protein – which is a key nutrient fish need to grow, reproduce and maintain their health. So rather than balk at the tiny worms, scoop them out of your filter and give them to your pond dwellers. They’ll thank you for them!

Pond Talk: What kinds of treats do you feed your pond fish?

Four Densities for Every Filtration Need - Matala(r) Filter Media Pads

My fish has something red on its side. What could it be? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: My fish has something red on its side. What could it be?

Q: My fish has something red on its side. What could it be?

Ted – White Marsh, MD

A: It sounds like your finned pal has a parasite called anchor worm. And they’re no fun.

These copepod crustaceans from the genus Lernaea bury themselves into the muscles of fish where they live and grow for several months, transforming into an unsegmented worm-like protrusion. Once developed, they make their way out of the fish, leaving behind bad wounds – which is the red area you’re seeing on your fish. Right before anchor worms die, they release their eggs and the cycle repeats over and over again.

A fish suffering from an anchor worm infestation will show the following signs:

  • Frequent rubbing or ‘flashing,’ which is when it rubs its body up against objects attempting to dislodge the parasite
  • Localized redness
  • Inflammation on its body
  • Tiny white-green or red worms in wounds
  • Breathing difficulties
  • General lethargy

Parasites like anchor worms can be introduced into the pond when new aquatic critters or plants are added to the existing mix. Unbeknownst to water garden hobbyists, the anchor worms hitch rides on the other fish or in the soil and roots of plants and establish themselves in their new home.

The cure for anchor worms is a pond-wide treatment with an anti-parasitic medication like KnockOut™ PLUS. As soon as you see signs of anchor worm, pour the recommended amount in your pond daily for seven consecutive days. When the infection clears up, continue treatment for an additional three days to ensure the parasites are gone for good.

If you plan to add fish or plants to your pond this summer, you can also use KnockOut™ PLUS as a preventive. It treats a variety of other fish ailments, including ich, fungus and flukes. Simply add it to the water when you introduce the new pond inhabitants.

Good luck getting those anchor worms under control. We hope your fish feels better soon!

Pond Talk: Have your fish suffered from some sort of parasite? How did you get rid of it?

7 Day Fish Treatment for Anchor Worm - CrystalClear® KnockOut™ PLUS

One of my fish isn’t swimming upright. What’s wrong?| Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: One of my fish isn’t swimming upright. What’s wrong?

Q: One of my fish isn’t swimming upright. What’s wrong?

Cherie – Englewood, CO

A: Unless you’ve taught your pond fish some pretty cool party tricks, it’s possible that they’re not getting enough oxygen due to a lack of aeration.

Fish will display some odd behaviors when they’re not getting enough oxygen, including gasping for air at the surface, hanging vertically in the water, and spending a lot of time around the waterfall or stream where oxygen levels are at their highest – at least for the few hours each day when the pump is running.

Some other telltale signs of insufficient aeration are:

  • The water in your pond appears to be stagnant in certain areas
  • You’ve noticed a growing mosquito problem
  • Algae growth always seems to be a battle you can’t win
  • Muck has accumulated at the bottom of the pond

Medical issues, like swim bladder problems, could be causing your fish to swim sideways, too. But, before you take your finned pal to the veterinarian, try adding or adjusting the aeration in your water feature. You can also check your ammonia and nitrite levels using a water test kit.

If your pond has a lot of fish for its size, or is a medium or large water garden or koi pond up to 16,000 gallons in size, consider adding an Airmax® KoiAir™ Aeration Kit. Its energy-efficient design includes a dual diaphragm pump that infuses oxygen into the pond while being virtually maintenance free.

If you have a handful of fish in a smaller pond that’s up to 2,000 gallons in size, check out the Airmax® PondAir™ Aeration Kits. It’s designed for decorative ponds and water gardens, and features an airflow control valve that allows you to adjust the aeration output with the turn of a dial.

Aeration should help your fish swim upright again. But if it’s still acting strange after you’ve pumped up the oxygen, you may want to check in with your veterinarian for medical advice. Good luck!

Pond Talk: What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen your pond fish do?

Water Testing System For Ponds - PondCare(r) Master Test Kit

Why are water changes important? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Why are water changes important?

Q: Why are water changes important?

Shirley – Warr Acres, OK

A: It’s nice to open a window on a warm spring day and let the fresh air flow through your house, right? Well, a partial or complete water change in your koi pond or water garden is the same thing: It freshens your finned pals’ environment, making them happy and healthy.

Here are five reasons why water changes are so important to your fish, plants and other aquatic life:

  1. Nutrient Removal: Muck and debris buildup happens in just about every water feature. A water change manually removes any excess nutrients and chemicals like nitrates, phosphates and ammonia that can be harmful to fish and other underwater critters.
  2. Healthy Fish: Fresh, clean water means improved water quality, which ultimately promotes your fishes’ health. Just as you need oxygen to thrive, your fish need clean water to thrive. Their well being is directly related to the liquid environment in which they live.
  3. Algae Control: Pea soup and string algae feed on all that decomposing waste, which they use as fertilizer. By removing those excess nutrients in the water column with a water change, you can discourage the growth of algae.
  4. Fights Foam: Foam forms when excess organic material has accumulated in your water garden. When this nutrient-laden water pours down your waterfall, the air and water collide, causing the proteins and other organics to be trapped inside bubbles rather than turning into ammonia and nitrites. A water change will quickly reduce that foamy buildup.
  5. Clears Water, Stabilizes pH: A water change will also improve the appearance of cloudy water and maintain pH levels, resulting in a pristine pond filled with healthy fish, lush greenery and clean water.

To keep stress levels down among your fish, we recommend doing partial water changes as soon as water temperatures reach 50° F. In addition, be sure to add some Stress Reducer PLUS and LiquidClear™ to your water. The Stress Reducer PLUS forms a beneficial slime coat on your fish and makes tap water safe for them. The LiquidClear’s™ beneficial bacteria helps to digest dead organics in the water, making it crystal clear.

Pond Talk: How often do you do water changes in your koi pond or water garden?

Builds Protective Slime Coating - Pond Logic (r) Stress Reducer PLUS

I heard salt is good for my pond. Can I run my water softener discharge into my pond? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I heard salt is good for my pond. Can I run my water softener discharge into my pond?

Q: I heard salt is good for my pond. Can I run my water softener discharge into my pond?

Chris – Eureka, MO

A: No, that’s not a good idea. Resourceful, but it’s not safe for your fish. Water softening products often have additives in addition to the salt. Even at low doses, these additives can be harmful to your pond’s inhabitants.

Believe it or not, there’s a lot to know about salt. Here’s a quick primer about the different types of salt and what’s best for your fish.

Salt 101

Salt comes in several forms, including rock salt (halite), solar salt (sea salt), evaporated salt (refined salt), iodized salt and packaging salt. The first three are the kinds most commonly used in water softeners.

  • Rock Salt: The most popular salt used in softeners, rock salt, or halite, is mined from underground deposits by drilling and blasting. Being raw and unrefined, you can imagine the other kinds of minerals and impurities that hitchhike along with the sodium chloride.
  • Solar Salt: Commercial solar salt is produced by natural evaporation of seawater or brine in large, diked, earthen concentration ponds called condensers. Though the end product can be up to 99 percent pure sodium chloride and has become a favorite among food gourmands, the sea salt also contains minerals and other impurities.
  • Evaporated Salt: The purest grade of salt, evaporated salt is manufactured using a system of pans that boil away the water from salt brine. The brine, which can itself be purified, is crystallized under controlled conditions often in plants that resemble food processing plants. The process has two steps: obtaining the brine, usually from a solution mine, and then thermally reducing it to crystallized salt.

Salt for Your Fish

Pond Logic® Pond Salt, which is a special form of evaporated salt, is the purest form of sodium chloride and is created specifically for use in your pond.

Adding pond salt to the water reduces the stress on the fish by assisting the fish’s osmoregulation, making it easier for the fish to maintain itself physiologically in the water. It reduces fish stress, adds essential electrolytes, improves gill function and protects against common pond toxins. In fact, most diseases suffered by fish can be cured and prevented by simply adding pond salt.

Salt is a great addition to your pond, but careful to only apply as directed, particularly if you have plants in the water. Be sure to monitor your salt levels by using a salt tester, which will instantly measure your water’s salinity.

Pond Talk: How has pond salt helped your fish? Do you have a story to share?

Instantly Measure Salt Levels - Salt Level Tester

How do I treat my pond fish for ich and other diseases? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: How do I treat my pond fish for ich and other diseases?

Q: How do I treat my pond fish for ich and other diseases?

Nadine – Okemos, MI

A: There’s nothing sadder than a sick fish—particularly when it’s your friendliest koi or most gregarious goldfish. If your underwater pal is looking a little under the weather, here’s what you need to do to nurse him back to health.

1. Water Change

Some clean, fresh water can make a big difference. It’s full of oxygen, and it’s devoid of pathogens that could be sapping his immune system and making him sick. So the first thing to do is complete a 25 percent water change to get some new wet stuff into the pond.

If only one or two fish seem to be affected, sequester them in an isolation tank. You can use an aquarium, a large plastic bin, a child-size swimming pool—whatever size is appropriate for your fish. Be sure to add pond salt to the water, which reduces fish stress, as well as an aerator and a net to cover the tank.

2. Inspect Your Fish

Next, you’ll need to get up close and personal with your finned friend. Examine him from head to tailfin. Do you see any signs of inflammation? Is there redness in his gills? Do you see cuts or scrapes? Strange parasites or spots? Make note of unusual findings to determine what illness your fish has. Some common diseases include:

  • Ich: Technically known as Ichthyophthirius multifiliis, ich is an ectoparasite that presents as white spots on the body, fins and gills. Symptoms include loss of appetite, rapid breathing, hiding, resting on the bottom of the pond or tank, flashing, rubbing and scratching against objects, and upside down swimming near the surface. If not treated, ich will kill your fish.
  • Anchor Worm: These copepod crustaceans from the genus Lernaea are parasites that latch onto fish and grow into an unsegmented worm-like protrusion. Visible with the naked eye, anchor worms cause localized skin redness and inflammation. A fish with anchor worm may frequently rub on objects or flash, have trouble breathing and appear lethargic.
  • Fungus: Unlike ich and anchor worms, fungal disease—scientific name Saprolegnia—is an actual fungus that grows on fish that are injured or sick. Appearing as a white coating or cotton-like growths on the skin or fins, the fungus will eat away on the fish if left untreated, ultimately killing the fish.

4. Treat the Disease

Once you’ve determined what ails your fish, treat him with an appropriate remedy. You can find a range of treatments on The Pond Guy® Fish Health page, but here are some popular choices:

  • MinnFinn™ is a natural, biodegradable, broad-spectrum treatment for parasites and fungal and bacterial infections. Many issues can be eliminated in as few as one to three treatments.
  • CrystalClear® ParaCid™ specifically attacks parasites, like anchor worms, fish lice and flukes, on goldfish and koi.
  • Aquatic Nutrition Medicated Fish Food is formulated with four antibiotics that combat bacterial infections and disease while providing nutrition to your pond inhabitants. The soft pellets sink to the bottom of the pond where sick fish tend to hide.
  • CrystalClear® KnockOut™ treats just about everything, including ich, parasites, protozoa, bacteria and fungi, that affect koi and goldfish.

4. Reevaluate Your Routine

You know the old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure …” Well, when it comes to fish health, most times it’s true. Prevention is key to keeping your koi and goldfish healthy, and that prevention centers on your maintenance routines.

We recommend routine water changes, use of pond salt in low doses (don’t worry: it’s safe for your plants), filter clean-outs and removal of debris from the bottom of your pond. Doing so will keep your pond clean—and your fish happy and healthy.

Pond Talk: Have you ever nursed a fish back to health? If so, what did you do?

Treat A Broad Spectrum of Illnesses - MinnFinn™ Biodegradable Pond Treatment

What if my pond has aeration and it still freezes over? Will my fish be okay? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q&A

What if my pond has aeration and it still freezes over? Will my fish be okay?

What if my pond has aeration and it still freezes over? Will my fish be okay?
Sue – Boston, MA

The reasons for aeration during the winter months are largely the same as they are during warmer weather. The oxygen provided by aeration is vital to the health of fish – all year ‘round. In the winter, aeration does double duty, both by introducing sufficient oxygen to the water, and by preventing the formation of ice that could contain harmful gases produced by leaves and other decaying material on the pond’s bottom. As long as the aerators keep some of the water from freezing, the fish in the pond will have sufficient oxygen to weather the cold.

If your aerator can’t keep up with the impact of a long cold snap, and the pond freezes entirely for a short time, your fish should be fine. Short term freezes shouldn’t pose a threat to a well maintained pond – and fish will have sufficient oxygen to survive the temporary freeze. During longer cold snaps, however, harmful gases can accumulate, and you may need to take measures to open the ice. To accomplish that task, it’s important to avoid the use of hammers, drills or other percussive tools. The effects of violent vibration can be harmful to fish. Instead, try applying buckets of hot water to melt vent holes.

To prevent freezing, we recommend the use of our Pond Logic® Water Garden Aeration Systems. With the system installed, it’s wise to prepare for winter by situating stones throughout the pond. For an added measure of assurance, you may also want to suspend some stones closer to the surface to generate more surface-level water movement, while leaving the bottom of the pond still for fish.

Pond Talk: Have you had your pond freeze over even with the help of an aerator?

Pond Logic FeatureFix

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