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I am bringing my fish inside for the winter. What do I need? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I am bringing my fish inside for the winter. What do I need?

Q: I am bringing my fish inside for the winter. What do I need?

Carol – Afton, MN

A: In last week’s blog, we talked about how deep your pond needs to be to overwinter your fish outdoors. As promised, this week we’ll talk about what to do if your pond is less than 18 inches deep or you think your temperatures are too cold outside for your finned friends.

Bring ‘m Inside!
Do you have a pole barn? A garage? A basement? An unused outbuilding? These places make perfect indoor places to overwinter your fish. Koi and goldfish begin their wintertime dormancy at about 45 degrees Fahrenheit, so it’s best to choose a space that hovers at about this temperature or below.

The Gear
To prepare your fishes’ winter home, you’ll need some special supplies, including:

  • Stock Tank or Holding Tank: This will be your indoor pond area. Because your fish will be dormant they won’t need a huge pond to live in, so you can get away with smaller quarters. Choose a tank that’s sized appropriately for the number and size of your fish. To make the transition easier, use a siphon to fill the holding tank with water from your pond.
  • Pond Netting: The close quarters might surprise your fish and they could try to make a jump for it, so make sure you cover the tank with The Pond Guy® Premium Pond Netting and secure it with bungee cords or other tie-downs. That will keep them safe and secure.
  • Aeration System: Just as you aerate your water garden, you’ll need to aerate your holding tank to keep the water oxygenated. An energy-efficient PondAir™ Aeration Kit will work in setups up to 2,000 gallons; a KoiAir™ Aeration System will work in larger setups with more fish.
  • Filter: If your region is warmer, you might consider adding a ClearSolution™ Filtration System (for setups less than 1,200 gallons) or AllClear™ Pressurized Filter (for larger setups) to keep your water clear and your fish healthy.

Wintertime Chores
Caring for your fish in their indoor digs is similar to what you do when they’re outside. Because the living quarters are cramped, check your water parameters with a test kit once a week or so to ensure the water quality is safe. Also, check you water levels and add water as needed, and keep an eye on the equipment to make sure it’s working properly.

Other than that, your fish should be just fine through the winter. Once spring rolls around and water temperatures warm up, they’ll be ready to stretch their fins!

Pond Talk: If you overwinter your fish indoors, what kind of setup do you have?

Keep Your Pond Oxygenated All Winter - Airmax® PondAir™ Aeration Kit

My pond is 18 inches deep. Can I overwinter my fish in my water garden? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: My pond is 18 inches deep. Can I overwinter my fish in my water garden?

Q: My pond is 18 inches deep. Can I overwinter my fish in my water garden?

Jessica – Hope Valley, RI

A: Great news! Unless you live in an extremely frigid climate, your pond is at the minimum depth required for overwintering fish in a pond. Though 24 inches or deeper is better, 18 inches should give your finned friends enough room to ride out the cold temperatures—as long as you keep a hole open in the ice.

Freezing winter temperatures will create a solid layer of ice on your pond’s surface. Below the ice sheet, decaying vegetation and organic matter release harmful gases, like ammonia, which can build up and kill your fish. A hole in the ice will allow for gas exchange. The oxygen will enter the pond, the gases will escape, and your fish will stay happy and healthy while they’re hibernating.

To keep that hole open, here’s what you’ll need based on your zone:

  • Occasional Below-Freezing Temps: For temperature zones that get the occasional below-freezing day or low nighttime temperatures, use an adjustable air stone aerator, like the Airmax® PondAir™ (up to 2,000 gallons) or Airmax® KoiAir™ (up to 16,000 gallons). One of these units will infuse your pond with oxygen while remaining quiet and cost-effective.
  • Long Stretches of Freezing Temps: For temperature zones that see long stretches of freezing temperatures, we recommend these options, below, based on how many gallons your pond holds. The aerator-deicer combo will give your smaller water garden the one-two punch it needs to vent harmful gases and keep your fish safe, while the more powerful KoiAir will sufficiently aerate larger ponds:

Is your pond not quite 18 inches deep? Be sure to check back next week for an article on bringing your pond fish inside for the winter!

Pond Talk: What do you do to ensure your finned pals stay happy through the winter?

Keep Your Fish Safe This Winter - Airmax® PondAir™ and Thermo-Pond Combos

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.
  • Microbe-Lift® Parazoryne 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™ PLUS 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

My pond was clean but now it’s starting to turn green. What should I do? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: My pond was clean but now it’s starting to turn green. What should I do?

Q: My pond was clean but now it’s starting to turn green. What should I do?

Cynthia – Richmond Hill, GA

A: First of all, don’t panic! Let’s begin by taking a look at the three main causes of green water: too many fish, inadequate filtration and not enough plant coverage.

Control Your Fish Population

A booming population of goldfish, koi or other pond fish means an overload of fish waste, and all those excess nutrients actually feed the algae that’s turning your water green. To keep that waste in check, we recommend one 6- to 8-inch fish per 10 square feet of surface area. If you have too many finned friends, consider giving some away.

Provide Adequate Filtration

If your fish are family members and you’re not quite ready to bid them adieu, you’ll need to pump up your filtration with an AllClear™ PLUS filter. Adequate mechanical, biological and ultraviolet filtration will remove the excess waste from the water and help control the prolific green stuff.

Shade the Water

Algae are plants, and plants need sunlight to grow. A third way to control algae is to shade the water with plants like water lilies and water hyacinth. We recommend that you shade 40 to 60 percent of your pond for best results. The plants also provide all-natural biological filtration and make your water garden look great. Not sure what kinds of plants to get? Start with our Aquatic Plant Package, which includes a great selection of cultivars for your pond size.

Give It Time …

Most importantly, try to practice some patience. If you’ve just done a major cleanout, your biological filtration may need some more time to get established and working. Give it a kick-start with some beneficial bacteria like Nature’s Defense®. The microorganisms will get to work digesting those dead organics.

If you control your fish population, adequately filter and shade your water, and boost your biological filtration by adding bacteria, your pond will be clear again before long—and you can stop singing those green-water blues.

Pond Talk: If you’ve had to give away some of your fish, how do you find new homes for them?

Three Types Of Filtration, One Powerful Unit - The Pond Guy® AllClear™ PLUS Pressurized Filter

How do I know it is OK to put my fish back into the outdoor pond? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

How do I know it is OK to put my fish back into the outdoor pond?

Q: How do I know it is OK to put my fish back into the outdoor pond?

Ronnie – Salt Lake City, UT

A: This time of year, most of us are suffering with some cabin fever—including your pond fish. After being cooped up all winter long in a temporary indoor aquarium or tub, they’re ready to swim back to their spacious outdoor home.

But before you relocate your fish, you have some work to do first. The best time to return them to the pond is several weeks after you’ve done all the necessary chores to prepare for their homecoming. To make things easy, check out our four-step checklist:

    1. Spring Cleaning: First, clean out your dormant pond. Remove any debris that has settled over the past few months, and perform a thorough spring cleanout to remove winter buildup. This will give your finned friends a nice place to come home to—and minimize algae growth in the spring.
    2. Jump Start Filtration: About a month before you plan to return your fish to the pond, start your filtration system and let it run without fish. Turn on your mechanical filter and seed your filter pads with beneficial bacteria, such as Microbe-Lift® PL Gel, to speed the colony’s growth (but first make sure the water temperature is above 55° Fahrenheit with your pond thermometer). Keep in mind that in the spring, a filter can take four to six weeks to become established, so adding fish without adequate filtration established can result in quick algae formation.
    3. Test Your Water: While your pond is cycling, periodically check your water chemistry with a PondCare® Master Test Kit to ensure the pond water is balanced and pH, ammonia and nitrate levels are safe for fish.
    4. Acclimate Fish: The final step before re-homing your fish is to help them get used to the pond’s water temperature, which will likely be colder than their winter housing. Carry your fish out in a bucket and slowly add water from the pond to the bucket at 10- to 15-minute intervals, using your pond thermometer to check the water temperature as you go. This shock-prevention technique will allow them to adjust slowly—and safely—to their outdoor digs.

Your fish may become stressed during the indoor-to-outdoor transition, but you can keep it to a minimum by preparing their home and making sure they’re as healthy as possible in advance of their relocation. Have fun moving!

Pond Talk: Do you notice a change in your fishes’ behavior when they transition from indoors to outdoors?

Protect Your Prized Fish - PondCare® Master Test Kit

My fish are looking for food. Can I feed them now? If so, what kind of food do I give them? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

My fish are looking for food. Can I feed them now? If so, what kind of food do I give them?

Q: My fish are looking for food. Can I feed them now? If so, what kind of food do I give them?

Rick – Great Falls, MT

A: Fish sure seem know when spring is coming. This time of year, your koi and goldfish that have been hibernating over the winter are waking up—and they’re hungry.

Slow Eaters

When water temperatures dip below 45 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter months, your fishes’ metabolisms slows down. They enter into a hibernation-type state, during which time they require little or no food. They literally live off the fat stores in their body.

As the water temperature rises above 45 degrees in the spring, the fish start moving. Their metabolisms turn back on, and they need food to fuel their increased activity. To transition the fish from no food to daily food, fish experts recommend feeding a wheat germ-based diet when water temperatures are consistently between 45 and 55 degrees. A diet like Pond Logic® Spring & Fall Fish Food is quickly and easily digested by the fish.

Summertime Bounty

In the warmer months when your water temperature tops 55 degrees, you can continue to feed the wheat germ-based diets, or you can choose to gradually re-introduce protein-based diets that help the fish grow quickly and show off their colors. Here’s what we recommend:

Choose the diet that best fits in with your goals for the fish. If you’re not interested in growing your Kohaku into show-quality specimens, for instance, stick to the everyday or color enhancement diet.

Word of Warning

The weather may be warming up, but make sure the water temperatures are at a consistent 45 degrees before you start feeding your fish. Feeding them before they’re able to properly digest the food can lead to health issues.

Pond Talk: What’s your pond’s water temperature where you live?

Specialized Cool Weather Diet - Pond Logic® Spring & Fall Fish Food

Why do I have foam on my pond? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Why do I have foam on my pond?

Q: Why do I have foam on my pond?

Dom – Bellingham, WA

A: Foamy pond? No, the neighborhood kid (hopefully!) hasn’t dumped dish soap into your water garden or fish pond. The bubbly white or gray stuff you’re seeing on your pond’s surface is actually being caused by high levels of organic material in your pond. It’s natural – but it indicates an out-of-balance problem in your pond.

Question Your Water Quality

Foam forms when excess organic material has accumulated in your water garden. This happens when too many fish are living in the pond, you’re overfeeding them, you have inadequate filtration or there’s runoff flowing into the water.

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. That air-water collision is why the foam seems to form at the base of your waterfall.

Tips for Removing Foam

So how do you get rid of the white frothy stuff? You can remove the foam in several different ways:

1. Use a defoaming product: A temporary solution is to dissolve the foam with a fish- and plant-safe defoamer, like Pond Logic® Defoam™. You simply shake the can and pour its contents into the water. The foam will disappear in no time.

2. Do a partial water change: To reduce the overall amount of organic material in your pond, you should drain the pond halfway or so and add fresh water and the defoamer. This will remove some of the organic material, dilute what remains and prevent foam from forming.

3. Reduce your fish population: Too many fish will produce excess waste, which means more foam. Remember that the rule is to allow 1 inch of adult fish per square foot of surface area – so if you have too many koi or goldfish in your pond, you might want to think about finding new homes for some of your finned friends.

4. Feed the right amount: If you’re feeding your fish too much, the excess food adds to the extra organic material in your pond’s water. Only feed your fish an amount they’ll gobble down in a few minutes.

5. Beef up your filtration system: A more powerful filtration system will remove those excess organics, so if you really want to erase foam, think about going bigger with your filter.

If you do suspect the neighborhood kids have dumped soap into your pond, your fish could be in danger. Do a water 90 percent water change before chasing the perpetrators down.

Pond Talk: Do you notice whether foam forms more often during certain times of year?

Pond Logic® Defoam™ - Eliminate Unsightly Pond Foam

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