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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

There are so many de-icers to choose from. What size do I need? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: There are so many de-icers to choose from. What size do I need?

Q: There are so many de-icers to choose from. What size do I need?

Pia – Spokane, WA

A: A de-icer is an important piece of equipment in areas where water features freeze over during the winter. This little device maintains a small opening in the ice, which allows harmful gas to escape into the air allowing for efficient air exchange. It can be the difference between life and death for the fish and other inhabitants in your pond.

Which de-icer is best for your situation? It will depend on how many gallons your pond holds, and if you’re using it alone or with an aeration system.

First, here’s what we recommend for de-icers based on the size of your pond:

  • Up to 250 gallons: 100 to 250 watt de-icer
  • 250 to 500 gallons: 300 watt de-icer
  • 500 to 1,000 gallons: 750 watt de-icer
  • 1,000 to 1,500 gallons: 1,250 watt de-icer
  • 1,500 to 2,000 gallons: 1,500 watt de-icer

K&H™ Perfect Climate™ Pond De-Icer comes in 250-, 750- and 1,500 watt options. The thermostatically controlled de-icer is designed for floating or submersible use. Farm Innovator’s Floating Pond De-Icer, pumps out 1,250 watts of ice-melting power. It’s also thermostatically controlled and turns on when water temperature drops below 35°F.

These de-icers do a great job, but keep in mind that they can be expensive to run non-stop during the cold months. A 1,500 watt de-icer can cost up to $75.00 to operate. That’s a big bill for a small hole!

That’s where an aeration system comes into play.

Aeration systems – can help maintain a hole in the ice while adding oxygen and are infinitely more energy-efficient than pond de-icers. When used in tandem, aeration can significantly reduce the wattage requirements of your pond de-icer, allowing the use of a smaller 100 watt de-icer. It’ll cut energy costs and save you money all season long. For example a 2,000 gallon pond using the PondAir™ 4 and 100 Watt Thermo-Pond De-Icer will cost $5.40 per month instead of $75.00 using a de-icer alone. Not a bad deal!

If you decide to go this route – and why wouldn’t you? – Select the Airmax® PondAir™ and Thermo-Pond 3.0 De-Icer Combo. The combo comes with either the Airmax® PondAir™ 2 (for ponds 1,000 gallons or less) or the Airmax® PondAir™ 4 (for ponds 2,000 gallons or less). Both the PondAir™ 2 and PondAir™ 4 includes: air stones, check valves, black vinyl air tubing and the 100 Watt Thermo-Pond De-Icer. For an additional charge, you can also throw in a Mini Boulder TrueRock™ Cover to protect the air compressor.

De-icers are important, but they don’t have to break the bank. Invest in an aerator-de-icer combo and save your money for something you really want – like some new koi!

Pond Talk:What parts of your winter landscape do you most look forward to?

Safeguard Your Fish This Winter - PondAir (t) 2 & Thermo-Pond De-Icer Combo

Will I need to top off my pond this winter? If so, how do I stop my hose from freezing? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Will I need to top off my pond this winter? If so, how do I stop my hose from freezing?

Q: Will I need to top off my pond this winter? If so, how do I stop my hose from freezing?

Kirsten – Kalispell, MT

A: Though water fluctuations seem more pronounced in the summertime, winter water loss in your pond will happen. When it does, you’ll need to top it off – but access to liquid water can be a challenge in northern climates where landscapes freeze over.

Reasons for Winter Water Loss

Before we get into how to turn up the heat in your water garden, let’s take a look at why water loss happens during the cold season. It can be caused by the following:

  • Low humidity: When the air contains little moisture, evaporation rates increase as the dry air will absorb the water (frozen or not) from your pond.
  • Windy conditions: Wind can also escalate evaporation in your pond. A 5-mile-per-hour wind at your pond’s surface, for instance, results in roughly three times the rate of evaporation on a still day.
  • Ice expansion, formation: Because frozen water takes up more space than liquid water, it will appear that the volume dissipates in your pond as ice forms and expands.

A small amount of water level fluctuation is OK – but if your pond is very shallow (18 to 24 inches or less) and stocked with fish, keep a very close eye on your water level. A few inches of water loss could leave your fish in ice!

Topping It Off

If your pond’s water level drops more than an inch, you’ll need to top it off. But how do you do that if the pond is covered in a sheet of ice, or if the water in your hose freezes solid as soon as you turn on the spigot?

First, you’ll have to break through the ice. To crack through it, remember to never use a drill, hammer or other blunt object, as the subsurface vibrations could harm your fish. Instead, fill a bucket with hot water and pour it on one area of the pond to melt open a hole in the ice, preferably near the edge.

Next, use the heated K&H™ PVC Thermo-Hose™ to fill up your pond through the hole. The thermostatically controlled hose prevents ice from forming in your faucet or hose. The unit’s built-in heating elements turn on automatically when temperatures dip below freezing so you’ll have liquid water coming out of your hose.

You can use the Thermo-Hose™ two ways: either keep it plugged into a power source all winter, or use it as-needed by plugging it in 30 minutes before use. Either way, hook it up to the spigot or water source only when in use and unhook it when you’re done.

Pond Talk: How much water loss do you experience in your pond over the winter?

Keep Your Water Flowing - K&H (t) PVC Thermo-Hose(t)

Do I need to do anything to my aquatic plants this time of year?| Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Do I need to do anything to my aquatic plants this time of year?

Q: Do I need to do anything to my aquatic plants this time of year?

Jaclyn – Tomahawk, WI

A: Shorter days and swaths of fall colors mean one thing: winter is on its way, and your aquatic plants will need some attention before the big chill sets in. So bundle up, pull on your hip waders and Aqua Gloves™ to keep dry and warm, dig out your easy-to-use Pond Scissors and Pliers – and let’s take care of some winter-prep pond plant chores!

Tropical Plants: Tropical water lilies, water hyacinth, water lettuce and other tropical plants prefer warm temperatures all year long. If you live in USDA Hardiness Zone nine or lower, you’ll need to completely remove these plants from your pond and relocate them to a protected indoor space for the winter, like an aquarium or large bucket inside a heated garage or workshop.

Tropical water lilies will need some extra care. When you pull the plants from your pond, remove any dead foliage, rinse the plant well, keep the tuber moist in distilled water and place it under a grow light until spring.

Keep in mind that despite these winterizing measures, your tropical aquatic plants might not survive the winter. They are from the tropics, after all …

Hardy Water Lilies: Hardy water lilies can tolerate cooler temperatures than your tropical varieties, but they need to be kept in a place that won’t freeze, like the deepest areas of your pond. Remove the plants from the pond, trim the foliage back to one to two inches above the root ball, and submerge them as low as they’ll go for the winter. Come spring, the greenery will reemerge healthy as ever from the plants’ crowns.

Bog Plants: Your bog plants’ leaves and stems will begin to die off as winter arrives, so you’ll need to trim them back to just above the soil with pond scissors. If they are in containers, sink them lower into the deepest parts of your pond where the water remains unfrozen during the wintertime. If they are planted directly into the ground, leave them alone for the winter.

Submerged Plants: The only thing your below-the-surface greenery needs is a quick trim to get rid of decaying and dead foliage. Cut plants in containers back to one inch above the pot and submerge in the center of the pond; any plants living directly in the ground can be left as-is.

Floating Plants: Unless you live in a climate that doesn’t freeze, floating plants like water hyacinth and water lettuce won’t survive the winter. Plan to remove them from your pond after the first hard freeze and toss them in your compost pile. If you leave them in the pond, the dead plants will decompose and cause water quality issues this winter.

While you’re preparing your plants for winter, take some time to do a little clean up around your pond. Remove any dead leaves and foliage, and rake or net out leaves and fallen debris. Water quality matters – even in the winter!

Pond Talk: How long does it take you to prepare your aquatic plants for winter?

Keep Your Hands Clean & Dry- Coralife(r) AquaGloves(t)

Can you add too much beneficial bacteria to your pond? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Can you add too much beneficial bacteria to your pond?

Q: Can you add too much beneficial bacteria to your pond?

Michelle – Norman, OK

A: They say too much of anything is bad. In this case, too much beneficial bacteria isn’t necessarily bad – but your pocketbook might be getting a little lighter.

The Cycle of Life

Beneficial bacteria, those debris-gobbling microorganisms found in our Nature’s Defense®, Muck Defense® and Seasonal Defense®, lives just like other living things. They’re born (well, most bacteria come into the world via a kind of cellular division called binary fission), they eat food that’s available to them (organic debris in your pond), they divide to perpetuate the population, and they die when their life cycle is complete.

Survival of the Fittest

When too many bacteria live in your water feature, they battle and compete for resources rather than growing big and healthy and reproducing. A la Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection, the weaker organisms ultimately starve and die. The overall bacteria populations drop, and the pond owner then needs to buy more to replace what he or she has lost to keep up on managing the nutrient load. Those repopulation costs could certainly add up over a while!

Too Much of a Good Thing

Having too much beneficial bacteria in your pond is safe for plants and fish in most cases. But if your pond has a lot of organic buildup, a lot of beneficial bacteria and inadequate aeration, could be a recipe for disaster for your fish. As those bacteria launch their full-scale attack against all that detritus, they deplete the water of oxygen – which the fish needs to survive. An aeration system, like the PondAir™ or KoiAir™Aeration Systems, can help in cases like that by supplying the oxygen and circulating the water column.

The Right Dose

Our advice: For routine maintenance, dose your pond according to the instructions on Nature’s Defense®, Muck Defense® and Seasonal Defense® labels. After clean-outs or treatments, you can use a double dose of bacteria to kick-start the repopulation process, but no more than that. And, if you don’t have one installed already, consider adding aeration to your pond. All your pond’s inhabitants – from microorganism to macro organisms – will appreciate it!

Pond Talk: Have you ever added too much beneficial bacteria to your pond? If so, what were the repercussions?

Maintain a Healthy Balanced Pond - Pond Logic (r) Nature's Defense (r)

The string algae seems to grow in just a few hours in my stream. What can I do? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: The string algae seems to grow in just a few hours in my stream. What can I do?

Q: The string algae seems to grow in just a few hours in my stream. What can I do?

Edith – Marion, IN

A: String algae. It seems to just grow and grow, leaving a tangled mess of green slimy stuff in your stream and water garden. Like other types of algae, string algae thrives on sunlight and excess nutrients like fish waste and decomposing organic matter in the water. If you want to get rid of it, check out this five-step plan designed to get your string algae problem under control.

  • Add Plants: Water lilies, water hyacinth, water lettuce and other floating aquatic plants look much nicer than algae, right? These ornamental plants will compete for the food source algae uses for growth, so plant away! A simple rule of thumb is to have 60 percent of your pond covered with submerged, floating and marginal plants.
  • Ration Fish Food: Those pellets and sticks are necessary to feed your finned friends, but keep in mind that fish food adds nutrients to the water in two ways: as wasted food that the fish don’t eat, and as waste after the fish digest it. Monitor how much your fish actually eat and cut back if possible.
  • Pump Up Filtration: If your filtration system isn’t powerful enough to handle your pond’s total fish load, you’ll wind up with burgeoning algae growth and, in worst-case scenarios, lethal levels of ammonia – neither of which you want. Many filters on the market are rated for ponds containing no fish or minimal fish, so get a filter that is rated for at least two times the water volume of your pond.
  • Turn Up Aeration: Beneficial bacteria, like those found in the DefensePAC®, naturally break down fish waste, but they need oxygen to thrive and reproduce. By adding a PondAir™ Aeration System, you’ll boost the oxygen in the water, increase your bacteria levels and reduce the nutrient load, thereby reducing algae growth.
  • Use Oxy-Lift™ Defense®: As needed throughout the season, use Oxy-Lift™ Defense® to lift string algae from waterfalls, streams and rocks. Simply shut down your waterfall, sprinkle the powder directly onto debris-covered areas and watch it instantly start foaming. In 24 hours, it will have removed the algae. Be sure to pull out any debris with a pond net.

String algae may seem like a never-ending battle, but you can manage it with these tried-and-true methods. Good luck!

Pond Talk: How often do you need to scrub string algae from your waterfall or stream?

Lift Debris From Waterfalls Instantly - Pond Logic (r) Oxy-Lift(t) Defense (r)

I just bought a plant package. What should I do now? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I just bought a plant package. What should I do now?

Q: I just bought a plant package. What should I do now?

Rick – Winchester, NH

A: Congratulations! For water garden enthusiasts like us, opening an aquatic plant package is like celebrating Christmas in spring. A box of colorful flower tubers, oxygenating plants and algae-eating snails arrives at your doorstep, and you get to look forward to a season of fun in your backyard playground.

Depending on the package size (small, medium or large) you received, you’ll get:

  • Water lilies
  • Floating plants, like water hyacinth, water lettuce and parrot’s feather
  • Bog plants, like blue flag iris and dwarf cattail
  • Pond snails

These pond plants work together to shade the pond, aerate and filtrate the water, provide habitat for wildlife and insects (and your snails), and beatify your landscape.

Ready to get growing? Here’s how to care for – and play with – your Christmas-in-spring present.

Pond Snails

After traveling all those agitating miles to your doorstep, the Black Japanese Trapdoor Pond Snails may appear lifeless or even dead, but don’t worry: They’re most likely hiding inside their shells. Wake them up and welcome them to your garden by filling the bag halfway with pond water, and then floating or holding it for a few minutes while the gastropods acclimate to the new environment. Then place the open bag in a shallow area and let them work their way out and into the deeper section of your pond.

Plant Care

Before your plant package arrives, purchase some planting containers (like baskets, bags or pots) and aquatic planting media. Use soil designed for water gardens; avoid using bagged potting mix and other lightweight soils from your local garden center, as they will float and cloud the water in your pond.

  • Water lilies: With your pots and plant media ready, take out your water lily tubers and place one inside a pot with the growing tip facing outward. Fill in around the tuber with the aquatic planting media, making sure the roots are well spread and the crown is sitting just below the soil surface. Place the planted pot in a shallow area of your pond to encourage faster growth. Once leaves have reached the surface, you can move the water lily to a deeper part of your pond.
  • Floating Plants: These plants are easy to propagate. Simply place in the water! They will float freely and take up nutrients from the water through their root systems.
  • Bog Plants: Like the water lilies, these around-the-edge plants require a pot and planting material. Position the tubers in the media so that the cut end of the tuber is against the side of the pot, not in the middle. Why? Because the roots need as much room as possible to spread through the soil and across the container. Once it’s planted, submerge the container on a shelf that’s up to 6 inches below the water surface.

Keep Them Growing

Like the plants growing in your vegetable garden, your aquatic plants will require fertilizer to help them grow healthy and strong. Spikes or tabs, like CrystalClear® Thrive™ tablets, can be pushed into the soil at planting time. They’ll slowly release into the media, feeding your lilies and irises the nutrients they need to thrive. From April through August, continue to feed your plants, following all manufacturers’ recommendations for fertilizer application rates.

Pond Talk: What’s your favorite aquatic plant?

Pot Your Plants with Beneficial Bacteria - Microbe-Lift(r) Aquatic Planting Media

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