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My friend talks about her fish coming up to eat from her hand. How can I get my fish to do the same? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: My friend talks about her fish coming up to eat from her hand. How can I get my fish to do the same?

Q: My friend talks about her fish coming up to eat from her hand. How can I get my fish to do the same?

Donna – Chesterfield, MO

A: Talk about a cool party trick! Feeding by hand is not only a fun way to show your friends how well-trained your fish are, but it also gives you an opportunity to bond with your finned pals.

Teaching your fish how to eat from your hand starts with understanding the temperament of the fish themselves. Are your fish friendly? Do they swim up and say “Glub, glub, hi!” when you visit your pond? Or do they scatter when you approach and your shadow falls on the water?

Friendly fish are easier to train. They already associate you as an approachable face that brings them tasty food every day. Sketchy fish, however, can be more of a challenge. They might be newbies that don’t recognize you or your feeding routine, or they might be spooked from predators visiting your pond.

If you’ve ruled out the possibility of predators (or put up some predator-control measures), follow these steps to help teach your fish to eat from the palm of your hand:

    1. Set a Routine: Fish are creatures of habit. They’re more likely to respond to something that happens the same way every day (or frequently, at least). To set a mealtime routine, visit your pond at the same location, at the same time of day, on a regular basis. They’ll get to know your patterns and learn to recognize you – and feeding time.
    2. Make Them Work: Throwing a handful of Growth & Vibrance Fish Food into the water and walking away teaches your fish an easy snatch-and-run feeding style. Instead, toss them a few pellets at a time and wait for the fish to eat them. They’ll rush to get the food first! Even the shy koi will get in on the action. This toss-and-wait style reminds them that you are hanging out and something exciting is happening.
    3. Get Brave – and Get Wet: Once your fish are used to your feeding routine and race to the pond’s edge to greet you, take the plunge! Hold a few pellets loosely in your hand just at the water surface without making any sudden or quick movements. It takes only one fish to act bravely and let the others know it’ll be OK. Before you know it, they’ll be racing to your hand to be fed!

Once your fish are trained to eat from your hand, you’ll be tempted to keep offering them food. Prevent overfeeding them by measuring out a predetermined amount of food – and stop when it’s all gone. If you can’t help yourself (or you’re sharing this cool new party trick with your friends), at least be sure to have some natural bacteria, like Nature’s Defense®, on hand to help clean up the leftovers after dinner.

Pond Talk: Have you trained your fish to eat from your hand? What tips can you share with this fish keeper?

Complete Koi & Goldfish Diet - The Pond Guy® Growth & Vibrance Fish Food

My pond was a mess, so I drained and refilled it. Now I have algae. What do I do? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: My pond was a mess, so I drained and refilled it. Now I have algae. What do I do?

Q: My pond was a mess, so I drained and refilled it. Now I have algae. What do I do?

Beth – Benton, AR

A: Sometimes it’s just easier to start from scratch – particularly if you have a disaster in your pond.

A complete water change rids your water feature of excess organic waste, clears up murky water (briefly, as you’ve discovered) and gives you a chance to start over with a clean slate. Those are some worthy benefits!

The urge to purge, however, has its drawbacks. If you’ve completely drained the water from your pond and scrubbed everything clean, you’ve also stripped a lot of the beneficial bacteria that was working to help clean the pond in the first place! The algae that’s growing now is most likely due to fish waste and a lack of mature filtration.

To return your pond to its crystal-clear state, here’s what we recommend.

  1. Decide how bad it really is: Believe it or not, some algae in your pond is natural and beneficial as it helps filter the water. Make sure your expectations are in line with the reality of having a pond, and then let the pond take its natural course with a little help from you. But be patient! The Nitrogen Cycle will eventually help clear things up naturally – but it takes time. If your water quality begins to suffer a few weeks in, think about doing a partial water change and/or following these additional suggestions.
  2. Treat if necessary: If the algae is becoming excessive, treat the algae growth with an algaecide in the morning or evening when water temperatures are cooler. In addition, make sure you have adequate aeration to ensure oxygen levels stay high for your finned friends.
  3. Seed Your Filter Media: To kick-start the regrowth and reproduction of beneficial bacteria in your pond, add some DefensePAC® to your pond and filter. The package contains Nature’s Defense®, which instantly begins breaking down dead organics in the pond; Clarity Defense®, which helps clear debris suspended in the water column; and Muck Defense®, which attacks buildup on the liner, rocks and gravel.
  4. Condition the water: When you refill your pond with water, be sure to use Stress Reducer PLUS to condition the water and reduce fish stress. It helps your fish form a beneficial slime coat that’s lost from stress or handling, and it also makes tap water safe by working to remove chlorine, chloramines and heavy metals.
  5. Learn from the situation: Instead of letting your pond fall into its “mess” state again, figure out why it wound up in that situation in the first place. Are there too many fish living in your pond? Is your filter too small for your pond’s volume and fish load? Do you need more plants growing in and filtering the water? Does your pond receive too much sun or rain runoff? Dig down to the root cause of the problem and correct it!

In the future, if you find your pond’s water quality waning, consider doing a partial water change instead of a complete water change. A little fresh water will go far to clear things up without having to start completely over!

Pond Talk: Have you ever had to restart your pond from scratch?

Immediately Remove String Algae - CrystalClear® AlgaeOff®

How often are you really supposed to wash out your filter? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: How often are you really supposed to wash out your filter?

Q: How often are you really supposed to wash out your filter?

Al – Greenville, RI

A: The filtration system in your pond is made up of two parts: the mechanical filter and the biological filter. They both clean and clarify the water, but they do so in very different ways and require very different cleaning regimens to keep them optimally operating.

The Mechanical Filter

The skimmer or pump sock make up your mechanical filter. Able to function at all temperatures (as long as the water is liquid), their main purpose is to catch larger debris, like chunks of algae, leaves, foliage and other things that blow into your pond and settle on the water surface. These items are collected in a mat or debris net/basket as the water passes through the mechanical filter, which then protects the pump from clogging.

Cleaning the mechanical filter is easy. You simply remove the mat or debris net/basket, dump out the debris and rinse it with a garden hose. This can be done as often as you like or as needed when you see the water flow slow down. In fact, checking it often is a good idea, particularly in spring and fall when debris tends to collect in a pond.

The Biological Filter

Your waterfall box, pressurized filter and in-pond filter filled with beneficial bacteria-covered filter media make up your biological filter. Their main purpose is to break down tiny, suspended debris, resulting in crystal clear water.

Here’s how it works: Unlike a mechanical filter that physically removes debris, a biological filter works at a microscopic level. Aerobic beneficial bacteria colonize and flourish on the surface area of filter media – like BioBalls™, mats and the like. As the water passes through the filter media, the bacteria feed on the debris and remove it from the water. Because the beneficial bacteria are living microorganisms, they function best when water temperatures are near or above 50 degrees Fahrenheit when they’re alive and kicking.

You don’t really “clean” a biological filter at all because you want to retain as much of the beneficial bacteria as possible. In the early spring, perform a cleanout and seed with natural bacteria like Microbe-Lift® PL Gel or Pond Logic® Seasonal Defense® to give your filter a fresh start. Throughout the season, do a mild rinse in a bucket of pond water only when the water flow begins to decline. Each time to clean or rinse your filter media, add a dose of Microbe-lift® PL Gel or bacteria from the Pond Logic® DefensePAC® to re-seed the bacteria and replenish any bacteria loss.

Though it may be tempting, don’t power wash or swap out filter media mats. This strips the beneficial bacteria, which may take weeks to replenish! In the meantime, algae will feed on the unfiltered nutrients in the pond water, and you’ll see your water quality diminish as fish waste accumulates – which is something you don’t want!

Pond Talk: What’s your mechanical and biological filter cleaning routine?

Promote Healthy Filters - Pond Logic® DefensePAC®

I’m tired of fighting algae. Will a UV take care of all the algae growth? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I’m tired of fighting algae. Will a UV take care of all the algae growth?

Q: I’m tired of fighting algae. Will a UV take care of all the algae growth?

Cherice – Everett, GA

A: Who isn’t tired of battling algae!

Caused by excess fish waste and dead organics from leaves or previous algae blooms combined with excessive spring- and summertime sunlight, all that garish green growth looks horrible, ruins your water quality, and creates a headache for you and your fish.

Is an ultraviolet clarifier, like The Pond Guy® PowerUV™ Clarifiers or the AllClear™ PLUS Pressurized Filter the answer? It depends on the type of algae you’re trying to destroy.

Know Your Algae

The algae that forms in your pond comes in two basic flavors: planktonic and filamentous.

  • Planktonic algae, the source of pea soup algae blooms, are floating, microscopic plants that color pond water shades of green, blue-green, brown or variations in between. In controlled amounts, this type of algae can actually be beneficial. It’s considered the start of the pond food chain as the tiny plants feed fish inhabitants, and it can also shade the pond’s bottom, preventing subsurface nuisance plants from growing. In uncontrolled amounts, however, planktonic algae can cause oxygen depletions and fish kill.
  • Filamentous (string) algae are single-celled plants that form long, visible chain, threads or filaments. These threads, which start growing along the bottom of the pond in shallow water or on rocks or other aquatic plants, intertwine and form mats that resemble wet wool. When these mats rise to the surface, they’re commonly referred to as pond scum. These mats make great homes for micro- and macro-invertebrates, like bugs and worms, but they’re also unsightly.

UV clarifiers work by destroying the ultrafine planktonic algae – but, unfortunately, they do nothing to combat the filamentous algae. You’ll need a different strategy for the stringy stuff.

Battling Planktonic Algae

So how does ultraviolet light fight planktonic algae? When the algae cells are exposed to the bulb’s ultraviolet rays, radiation destroys the plants’ cellular walls. As a result, the tiny particles of dead algae clump together, and those clumps are then removed by your mechanical filtration system.

For the UV clarifier to work properly, however, follow these guidelines:

  • Replace bulbs yearly. Worn-out bulbs – even if they still light up – may not be as effective at controlling green water.
  • Watch your flow rate. Pushing water past the UV too fast can damage the unit and not allow enough contact time with the UV bulb for it to be effective.
  • Don’t flow too slow. Running a UV at too slow of a flow will act as a sterilizer and may also have a negative affect on natural bacteria meant to help decompose dead organics and fish waste.

Finding Balance

If you have an algae problem, be it planktonic or filamentous, it indicates your pond is out of balance. An ultraviolet clarifier should actually be one of your last tactics! Add some beneficial bacteria from the Pond Logic® DefensePAC® Pond Care Package to help reduce the amount of organics in your pond. Start aerating the water. Consider using pond dye. If you have a thriving fish population, think about finding a new home for them (but don’t release them into the wild!). Manage the nutrients, sunlight and oxygen levels, and your algae proliferation should naturally level out on its own.

Pond Talk: How dependent are you on your ultraviolet clarifier?

Eliminate Green Water - The Pond Guy® PowerUV™

My mom wants a water feature but needs something easy to maintain. Any suggestions? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: My mom wants a water feature but needs something easy to maintain. Any suggestions?

Q: My mom wants a water feature but needs something easy to maintain. Any suggestions?

John – Bradford, OH

A: Sounds like mom has been bitten by the water gardening bug! Thanks to all the options available to budding pond hobbyists, she doesn’t need to install a maintenance-heavy feature. She can find a simple-to-use one that’s ideal for a small yard, patio or tabletop.

It’s easy to help her choose the perfect water feature. Simply ask her these questions:

1: Does She Want to Keep Fish?

If so, she’ll need a water feature that has a pond to house fish as well as a filtration system to keep their water clean – and the AllClear™ Ecosystem Pond Kits are designed for hobbyists who want just that. They come in several sizes, but the 6-foot-by-11-foot kit creates a pond that’s about 700 gallons, which is large enough for a few fish and a small waterfall. It includes fish-safe pond liner and underlayment, a pressurized filter, a waterfall filter, pump, tubing, waterfall foam, installation hardware and 12 packets of Nature’s Defense. All she’ll need is a little help digging the hole in her yard!

2: Does She Want a Waterfall but No Fish?

If a waterfall is her main wish, she won’t need to get dirty digging a pond. She can try something self-contained, like the Atlantic™ Colorfalls Basin Kit and Colorfalls Lighted Waterfall Weir. Basin Kits come in three sizes – 12 inches, 24 inches and 36 inches – and includes a Colorfalls Basin reservoir, a TidalWave 2 pump, splash mat, auto fill valve and installation kit. She can add some aquatic plants and choose a waterfall color for nighttime viewing. And talk about low maintenance: There’s no filtration system to worry about. Easy peasy!

3: Does She Just Want the Sound of Bubbling Water?

If she’s simply after the soothing sound of bubbling water, suggest something more decorative, like the Atlantic™ Color Changing Vase Fountain and Basin Kit. Available individually in several sizes or as a set, the polyethylene vases in this water feature come alive with color and light as water bubbles from the top. The kit includes a color-changing vase fountain, fountain basin, a plumbing kit, auto fill valve, pump and remote control to turn on the light display. This simple-to-operate feature becomes quite a show-stopper at night!

These easy-maintenance water features will transform your mom’s yard or patio into a relaxing oasis that she’ll love. But be warned: Once the water gardening bug bites, she’ll be hooked – and asking for a larger pond in no time!

Pond Talk: Do you remember your first water feature? What was it like?

Beautiful Color Changing Display - Atlantic™ Color Changing Vase Kits

Should I always add pond salt to my pond, or just when my fish are sick? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Should I always add pond salt to my pond, or just when my fish are sick?

Q: Should I always add pond salt to my pond, or just when my fish are sick?

Ron – Whitefish Bay, WI

A: To salt or not to salt? It’s a question hotly debated by koi hobbyists. When used in low doses, salt has many health benefits for your fish – but when used in too-high doses, it can do more harm than good. Here’s what you need to know about adding salt to your pond.

Benefits Aplenty

Salt isn’t just for helping to heal sick fish. Constant exposure to low salt levels can improve your fishes’ overall health. It can improve gill function and oxygen uptake, reduce stress, and build a stout slime coat that’ll help them ward off parasites, bacteria and disease. Salt also adds beneficial electrolytes to the water.

The Right Type

You can’t, however, just dump a scoop of common salt, like tasty table salt or ice-melting rock salt, into the water. Fish friendly Pond Logic® Pond Salt is made from pure evaporated sea salt – and that’s it. It contains no iodine, chloride or other harsh chemicals that could harm your fish.

Just Add Salt

If you’re adding low doses of salt to your pond and have no aquatic plants, use 2½ cups of salt per 100 gallons of water and disperse the pond salt evenly around the shoreline. Salt will not evaporate or get filtered out, so the only time you need to add more salt is when you do water changes.

Mind the Plants

If you have lilies and other aquatic plants living with the fish in your water garden, use 1¼ cups of salt per 100 gallons of water. Scatter it around the shoreline, being careful to avoid direct contact with your greenery.

Salt Therapy

Fish with parasites or bacterial infections can benefit from a salt bath. Prepare an isolation tank with 5 cups of salt per 100 gallons of pond water (not tap water) and add some vigorous aeration. Place the patient in the tank for 5 to 10 minutes, and then return it to the pond.

Try adding some salt to your pond today. Your fish will thank you for the spa treatment!

Pond Talk: Have you had success treating your fishes’ disease with salt baths?

Improve Gill Function & Reduce Stress - Pond Logic® Pond Salt

I want to put in a pond. How do I know what type of filter system I need? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I want to put in a pond. How do I know what type of filter system I need?

Q: I want to put in a pond. How do I know what type of filter system I need?

Barb – Denton, NE

A: Choosing the right filter for your water feature can be a daunting task – particularly if you are new to the pond-keeping hobby. With all the designs and functions available out there, where do you start?

Your first step is to consider your pond’s location and its use. As you’re in the pre-planning stages, where do you plan on putting it, and what will you use it for? Will your pond be situated in full sun, or will it be shaded by a tree that drops leaves every fall? Will you have a small pond with a few small goldfish or a larger pond teeming with koi?

Once you’ve come up with a place and a plan, then you can start narrowing down the type of filtration system (or systems) that will work best for your pond.

External Pressurized Filter
Perfect for: Ponds in full sun
External pressurized filters are designed for small- to medium-sized ponds that are in full sun. Because all that sunshine encourages algae blooms and green water, these filters include biological, mechanical and ultraviolet filtration – a three-pronged attack that will keep your water crystal clear. Some also include a backflush option, which makes it easy to clean without having to remove your filter media. It’s one of the easiest filters to add to an existing pond because the plumbing doesn’t need to be run through the liner.

Waterfall Filters
Perfect for: Large ponds with many fish 
Designed for small, medium or large ponds, waterfall filters provide a big waterfall display while biologically filtering the water. The pond water flows up through the filter media, where the beneficial bacteria clean the water, then spills out to create an elegant water display. They’re great for new ponds and easy to install in existing ponds and water gardens. They don’t offer the UV filtration, but they typically filter more water, handle larger pumps and won’t plug up as easily.

Pond Skimmers
Perfect for: Ponds that get a lot of leaves
Providing mechanical filtration, pond skimmers do an excellent job filtering ponds that receive a lot of leaves and floating debris. They contain a filter mat and debris net to catch leaves before they settle on the bottom of your pond, and they house your pump, giving you easy access to it for upkeep and maintenance. Because pond skimmers only provide mechanical filtration, be sure to pair it up with a waterfall filter.

Submersible In-Pond Filters
Perfect for: Small ponds with a few small fish
These all-in-one submersible in-pond filters are one of the easiest systems to add to an existing pond, as all the plumbing is conveniently contained right in the unit. Ideal for small ponds (up to 1,200 gallons) with just a few fish, these filtration systems can be combined with a fountain or used with a small waterfall. They provide mechanical and biological filtration and include a powerful UV clarifier to eliminate discolored water.

Whichever filtration system you choose, make sure it’s sized right for your pond – you don’t want to under-filter your new water feature! If you have questions about filter types and sizes, just talk to one of our experts. We’re happy to help!

Pond Talk: What advice about filtration systems would you give to this new pond owner?

Make Pond Water Crystal Clear - The Pond Guy® ClearSolution™

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