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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

I have a deicer but my pond totally froze over. Help! What do I do? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I have a de-icer but my pond totally froze over. Help! What do I do?

Q: I have a de-icer but my pond totally froze over. Help! What do I do?

Maggie – Carlisle, PA

A: Sounds like your pond fell victim to the 2014 Polar Vortex! When frigid weather persists for days on end – like those way-below-zero temperatures endured by a large swath of the country earlier this month – a pond can completely freeze over, even if a higher-watt de-icer and aerator are used. The ice-melting combination works great in most scenarios, but it just can’t keep up in extreme conditions.

If your pond has been totally frozen over for a day or so, your fish will be fine. But if it has been more than a few days, your pond pals could be at risk of oxygen deprivation or overexposure to dangerous gases trapped beneath the ice.

So what do you do?

Let’s start with what not to do – and that’s to try to smash the ice with a chisel or blunt object. The sound and vibration of that pounding on the ice amplify underwater, which can stress out your fish. They’re already unhappy, and so you certainly don’t want to make them endure more trauma!

Instead, use a pot of hot water to melt away the ice. If it’s particularly thick, you might need to repeat the process several times to open a complete hole in the frozen stuff. While the temperatures remain frigid, check on the pond every few days to make sure the hole is still open; if it freezes over again, use hot water to open the hole back up.

With another two-plus months of winter ahead of us, it’s not too late to add a de-icer to your pond if you don’t already have one. Simply place a unit, like the K&H Thermo-Pond De-Icer, on the ice and turn it on. It will heat up and melt through the ice – as long as temperatures aren’t too extreme!

Pond Talk: How did your pond fare during these extreme frigid January temperatures?

The Ultimate in Winter Pond Protection - PondAir™ & Thermo-Pond Combo

I’m not running my waterfall over the winter. How do I shut it down? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I’m not running my waterfall over the winter. How do I shut it down?

Q: I’m not running my waterfall over the winter. How do I shut it down?

Valerie – Smithsburg, MD

A: You want to shut down your waterfall for the season? You’re not alone. When the outdoor temperatures dip, most people don’t spend a lot of time lounging outside by their pond enjoying the sound of running water.

Though a pond with ice formations can create a beautiful scene, shutting down your waterfall or stream when it’s not in use for the winter is a great way to save some money, prolong the life of your equipment, and prevent ice dams from forming and potentially draining your pond.

Putting your waterfall to bed for the winter can be done in just a couple of hours – or less if you have a helper. Here, we’ve outlined four simple steps to make the chore easy:

  1. First, remove the pump from your pond. Store it in a 5-gallon bucket filled with water in a place that will not freeze, like your garage or basement, so the seals do not dry out.
  2. Next, blow out your tubing with an air compressor. Though most tubing will be OK if water freezes in it, it’s still a good idea to blast away all the gunk and debris that could be in there. Don’t forget to cap it off to ensure no water or debris enters the tubing.
  3. If your pump is in a skimmer box, drain the water to slightly below the weir door. You can also place a milk carton or 2-Liter bottle about ¼ filled into the skimmer. This will alleviate some ice pressure on the skimmer walls.
  4. If you have biological filter media in your waterfall box, spray the filter media off with a hose to remove built-up gunk, and pump the water out of waterfall box and scrub it down. The filter media will be fine stored in the waterfall box for the winter.

Because your waterfall will be turned off and not oxygenating the water for your fish, don’t forget to run an aeration system. Airmax® PondAir™ Aeration Kit is ideal for infusing O2 into ponds up to 2,000 gallons; Airmax® KoiAir™ Aeration Kit handles ponds up to 16,000 gallons. Both are energy-efficient and can be run 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Have you ever run your waterfall or stream all winter long? What was your experience?

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

What items need to come out of my pond before winter? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: What items need to come out of my pond before winter?

Q: What items need to come out of my pond before winter?

Charles – Billings, MT

A: You probably spent a pretty penny on your pond equipment, and so there’s no doubt you want to make that gear last as many seasons as possible. Certain components will survive longer if you remove them from your pond during the winter, including:

  • All-In-One Filtration Units: This submersible mechanical, biological and ultraviolet filtration system should be pulled from your water feature and stowed away for the winter. Don’t forget to remove the mag-drive pump from the unit and store it in water in a place that will not freeze.
  • Pressurized Filters: As with the All-In-One Filtration Units, plan to remove your pressurized filter and put it up for the cold-weather season. Doing so will prolong the life of your unit’s gaskets, washers and other temperature-sensitive parts.
  • Pumps: Whether your pump feeds a waterfall, fountain or some other decorative item in your pond, it will need to be removed and stored in water in a spot that won’t freeze, like a heated garage or basement.
  • UV Clarifiers: If your ultraviolet clarifier is separate from your mechanical and biological filtration system, be sure to remove it from your water feature and store it until spring, when you should plan to replace the bulb.
  • Ion Clarifiers: String algae won’t likely be growing in the winter, so you can disconnect your ion clarifier and keep it stashed until the warm weather arrives.

Once all of your gear is removed and stored away, blow out the water lines with your air compressor and cap the ends until spring. You wouldn’t want that water to freeze and crack your pipes!

Add Winter Gear

While you’re doing some winterizing chores, now is the perfect time to add an aerator to your pond to keep the water oxygenated for your finned pals during the winter months.

Airmax® PondAir™ Aeration Kit is designed for water gardens up to 2,000 gallons. It’s powered by an energy-efficient diaphragm compressor and includes an airflow control valve, air stones and flexible black vinyl air tubing.

Airmax® KoiAir™ Aeration Kit is designed to aerate medium and large water gardens and koi ponds up to 16,000 gallons. It’s powered by an energy-efficient dual diaphragm SilentAir™ aeration pump and includes a diffuser plate for maximum oxygen uptake and a weighted airline.

Completing these simple tasks will prolong the life of your pond gear and ensure your fish and other pond critters stay happy and healthy all winter long.

Pond Talk: Where do you stow your pond gear for the winter?

The Ultimate in Winter Pond Protection - Airmax® PondAir™ Aeration Kit

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

My fish hang out near my waterfall during hot days. Do I have enough aeration in my pond? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: My fish hang out near my waterfall during hot days. Do I have enough aeration in my pond?

Q: My fish hang out near my waterfall during hot days. Do I have enough aeration in my pond?

Amanda – Rowlett, TX

A: On hot days, who wouldn’t want to hang out near a waterfall! For humans, the water pouring into the pond cools and hydrates the air; for fish, that action acts as a giant aeration system, infusing oxygen into the water beneath the waterfall.

But that raises a valid question: If your fish spend a lot of time near the waterfall, does it mean they’re not getting enough oxygen? Yes, it’s possible. Here are some questions to ask yourself about your pond’s aeration situation.

Is It Getting Full Aeration?

If you’re running your waterfall 24 hours a day, your pond is likely getting full aeration. If your pond is more than 24 inches deep, however, and you have a skimmer/waterfall system in place, more aeration may be necessary. Why? Because the oxygenated water will circulate across the water surface, leaving the water at the bottom of the pond stagnant. Adding an aeration system will prevent stagnation by raising the bottom water to the surface.

Do You Have Many Plants?

Plants may release subsurface oxygen to the water during the day, but at night those plants take in oxygen, which means your fish may be gasping for air. If you have quite a few plants and your waterfall is off—and you experience an algae bloom—you should definitely think about adding some aeration.

Do You Have Many Fish?

The more fish in your pond, the more oxygen you’ll need—which means you’ll need more aeration. If your pond has a high fish population, consider adding some more aeration. For comparison, we recommend one 6- to 8-inch fish per 10 square feet of surface area.

How’s Your Muck Level?

Another clue that your pond is insufficiently aerated is the amount of muck that has accumulated at the bottom of your pond. When your pond is properly aerated, muck naturally breaks up thanks to the healthy and growing population of gunk-gobbling beneficial bacteria.

Low-Cost Aeration

If any of these scenarios apply to your pond, we recommend adding the energy-efficient Airmax® PondAir™ Aeration System for ponds up to 2,000 gallons or the Airmax® KoiAir™ Aeration System for ponds up to 16,000 gallons. They help to circulate the water and add valuable oxygen, providing the best possible environment for your fish.

Pond Talk: What do you do to ensure your finned friends get enough oxygen during the summer months?

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