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When do koi go dormant? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: When do koi go dormant?

Q: When do koi go dormant?

Helen – Minneapolis, MN

A: With winter officially starting in just one week, the cold weather is settling in across the country. Since your fish don’t have miniature submerged Koi calendars to check, what is it that tells your fish it is time to hibernate?

Koi are cold-blooded creatures, which means their body temperatures and activity levels are directly correlated with the ambient temperature. Koi are active and alert when their environment is warm and will start to slow down as the water temperature decreases. Once the water temperatures start to dip below 46°F your fish tend to stop eating and will retreat to the bottom of the pond. Your fish use the decrease in temperature along with the shortening day lengths as a trigger to prepare for winter.

As the water begins to cool, your fish will become less active as their bodily functions slow down. Less activity means a slower digestive process, less demand for food. It is this decrease in food digestion that warrants the use of wheat germ based foods like Pond Logic® Spring & Fall Fish Food. These types of food are easier to digest that regular food reducing the risk of leaving undigested food to rot inside a dormant fish, which can potentially be fatal.

As the temperatures continue to decline towards 40°F, the blood flow and respiratory rate of the fish will drop to an extremely low rate where their body is hardly functioning. You may hear people say that your Koi are sleeping in the winter and while fish do sleep this goes way beyond the standard drop in bodily functions associated with some much needed shut-eye. This extreme internal slow down ensure survival with even the most limited resources with cases of dormant fish lasting 150 days without food.

The whole over-wintering scenario sounds a little extreme to us but it is truly a natural and normal process for your fish. They do not require much attention in the winter but there are a few things you can do to ensure their winter break is a success. When a layer of ice begins to form over the pond, maintain an opening for gas exchange using an aeration kit or pond de-icer, like the PondAir™ & Thermo-Pond Combo.

Pond Talk: What do you do to help your fish through the winter season?

Vent Harmful Gases All Winter Long - Airmax® PondAir™ & Thermo-Pond 3.0 De-Icer Combo

If I run my waterfall pump for a few hours a day during winter, will my fish be OK?| Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: If I run my waterfall pump for a few hours a day during winter, will my fish be OK?

Q: If I run my waterfall pump for a few hours a day during winter, will my fish be OK?

Lenny – Waggoner, IL

A: While it may be beautiful to run your waterfall during winter, it is not always recommended. A waterfall pump moves and circulates oxygenated water through the water column, but if you run it for just a few hours each day, your fish – and your pocketbook – may suffer. Here’s why.

  • Oxygen Starved: First of all, your fish need plenty of fresh oxygen, even when they’re semi-dormant in the wintertime. A few hours of circulation from a waterfall pump won’t keep a hole in the ice or infuse enough oxygen into the water, so the lack of fresh air will stress out your finned pals and put them at risk for disease.
  • Ice Dams: If you run your waterfall pump in northern climates during near- or sub-freezing temperatures, ice dams can develop and grow in size, diverting water from the pond. For this reason, you’d need to keep an eye on your water level – particularly if you have a longer stream. When the water level gets too low, your pump could become damaged, which means you’ll need to fork out some cash to replace it.
  • Overstressed Pump: Speaking of replacing a pump, take a look at your pump’s manual. Does it say that your pump is it designed for use in freezing temperatures? Generally speaking, pumps should be at least 2,000 GPH to operate in the winter.
  • Big Energy Bill: The cost of running a waterfall pump can easily top $100 a month. The cost of running a de-icer alone to keep a hole in the ice for gas exchange can cost up to $75 a month. Those aren’t cheap options! An aerator; however, is a cost-effective solution that’ll only cost you around $1.70 a month. In addition, you can use aerators throughout the year.

Because of the risk of damaging the waterfall pump and not providing enough oxygen to your fish – along with the high cost of running it all the time – we recommend removing the pump this winter and replacing it with an aerator.

Stowing the Pump

When you remove your pump, submerge it in a 5-gallon bucket of water to keep all its seals lubricated and store it indoors in a place that won’t freeze. Blow out the water and debris in your tubing with an air compressor and cap it off. Drain the skimmer boxes below the weir door. And spray your filter media off with a hose, pump out any water in the filter box and give it a good scrubbing.

Installing Aeration

Once your pump is removed and stored for the season, install an aeration system that’s sized right for your pond. KoiAir™ Aeration Kits, are designed for ponds up to four feet deep and 16,000 gallons, includes a compressor, airline and a diffuser plate. PondAir™ Aeration Kits are suited for ponds up to two feet deep and 2,000 gallons, includes a compressor, airline, check valves and air stones. Simply connect the diffuser plate or air stones to the compressor, submerge the plate/stones and plug it in, and you’re good to go!

You’ll be delivering oxygen to your fish, keeping a hole in the ice and preserving your waterfall pump – and saving a bunch of your hard-earned money.

Pond Talk: What tricks do you have to save money on pond expenses?

Save On Energy This Winter - Airmax (r) KoiAir(t) Aeration Kits

I heard fish can get swim bladder disease this time of year, but what is it? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I heard fish can get swim bladder disease this time of year, but what is it?

Q: I heard fish can get swim bladder disease this time of year, but what is it?

Becky- Trumbell, CT

A: Many bony fish, like the fancy goldfish found in ornamental ponds, have an organ called a swim bladder. This gas-filled sack has two main purposes: It helps the fish control its buoyancy and remain at a particular depth without having to waste energy on swimming, and it keeps the fish in an upright position. When a fish is unable to control its depth, or starts swimming sideways, upside side down, or head or tail down, it may have “swim bladder disease.”

A fish with swim bladder disease can be a troubling sight to see, but it can be treated. Here’s what you need to know about what causes it and how to get your fish swimming the right way again.

Your Gluttonous Goldfish

Although intestinal parasites and microorganisms can cause swim bladder disease, it mainly stems from overeating, eating too quickly or gulping too much air during feeding time. The fish gobbles mouthfuls of pellets, which expand like sponges as they soak up water in the mouth and digestive tract leading to constipation. Enough pressure on the swim bladder will cause the fish to swim any which way but up.

Time for a Diet Change

Water temperatures dip – sometimes precipitously – in the fall, and that change can slow your fishes’ digestive processes. They have a harder time digesting protein when it’s cold, and it can build up in their gut and result in an enlarged intestine.

To prevent this from happening, switch your fish food during the fall (and spring). Using a pond thermometer, periodically check your water temperature. Once temperatures are consistently between 40°F and 50°F, change over to a lower-protein, higher-carbohydrate diet like Pond Logic® Spring and Fall Fish Food, which is packed with easier-to-digest wheat germ. Feed them two to three times a week and only give them an amount that they will eat within 5 minutes. When temperatures drop below 40°F, stop feeding them entirely.

Peas to the Rescue

The best treatment for swim bladder disease is found in your refrigerator or freezer. Frozen or cooked peas, will blast through the impaction and reduce the pressure on the fish’s swim bladder. If your fish starts floating sideways, we recommend you stop feeding them for a few days and then hand feed peas to help clear up any blockages.

Medicating fish in outdoor ponds with cooler temperatures really is not an option, as the medications won’t work – so stick with the fasting-plus-peas remedy.

If one of your fish is really stressed, a salt bath could help – but you will need to dissolve the salt in an indoor holding tank filled with warm 78 to 80ºF water. Keep in mind that when you transfer your fish from the cooler 40°-50°F outdoor water to the warmer treatment tank, that temperature change can easily shock the fish. It should be avoided.

Pond Talk: Have you ever had to treat one of your pond fish for swim bladder disease? If so, what did you do?

Easy To Digest In Low Temperatures  - Pond Logic (r) Spring & Fall Fish Food

Is fall a good time to add new fish to the pond?| Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Is fall a good time to add new fish to the pond?

Q: Is fall a good time to add new fish to the pond?

Janice – Woonsocket, RI

A: Fish prefer moving to a new pond during the summertime when temperatures are steady, and they have time to get used to their new digs and mature a bit before the cooler months take hold.

So, in general, we don’t recommend that hobbyists add new fish to their pond right now – unless their water does not dip below 50°Fahrenheit in the fall and winter. That’s the point at which the fish lower their metabolisms and become dormant, and that’s not a very hospitable environment for getting settled in their new home.

If you are one of those lucky warmer-than-50° folks (or if you want to start thinking about next spring already!), follow these recommendations when introducing new fish to your pond.

Test the Water: Have uneven ground around your pond? Before adding your new finned pals, test the water in your pond to make sure it has acceptable pH, ammonia, nitrate, nitrite and phosphate levels with an easy-to-use Master Liquid Test Kit.

Remove Dangerous Chemicals: To ensure the water in your pond is free from dangerous heavy metals, chlorine and chloramines, use a water conditioner, like Pond Logic® Stress Reducer PLUS. A conditioner will also replenish your fishes’ protective slime coating and heal any tissue damaged during the move.

Temper the Temperature: Water temperature changes can stress out the fish, and so it’s not a good idea to toss them in the pond as soon as you bring them home. Instead, you’ll need to help them gradually get used to conditions in the pond. When you’re ready to introduce them to the water, float them in a bag on the surface for 20 minutes and periodically mix some pond water with the water in the bag. The environment inside will start to even out with the pond, and that will make the move easy on the fish.

Introduce the Fish: Just in case there is a problem with your water chemistry, or some of your new arrivals carried a disease or parasite with them, introduce inexpensive fish to the pond first while quarantining your more expensive ones. After waiting a few weeks to verify that everyone is healthy and happy, then add them to the mix.

Once the fish are in the pond, take a few minutes several times throughout the day to check in on them. Active and curious fish are healthy fish, and so keep a close eye on any odd or erratic behavior. In most cases, it’ll be a smooth transition and easy addition to your finned family.

Pond Talk: How many fish did you add to your pond this year? How are they faring?

Reduce Stress & Build A Protective Coat- Pond Logic(r) Stress Reducer PLUS

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

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