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What does it mean when you say a pond must “cycle” before adding fish? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: What does it mean when you say a pond must “cycle” before adding fish?

Q: What does it mean when you say a pond must “cycle” before adding fish?

Sherry – Raleigh, NC

A: The term “cycle” refers to the nitrogen cycle – and it’s an important process to understand if you plan to keep fish in your pond. The nitrogen cycle provides the biological filtration in the water, which keeps the water free from toxic compounds created by decaying organic matter. The process is a complicated one, so here are the basics.

Nitrogen Cycle 101

Before we discuss cycling a new pond, let’s dive into how the nitrogen cycle looks in an established, mature pond. As organic material – like uneaten food, dead plant matter and fish waste – decay, the bacteria that break it down release ammonia, which is toxic to living organisms. One particular microorganism called nitrosomonas, however, loves ammonia. It feeds on ammonia and oxygen, and releases a chemical called nitrite.

Nitrites are also dangerous to fish and aquatic critters, and so another group of microorganisms – nitrobacter – enters the nitrogen cycle picture. These bacteria transform nitrites into relatively harmless nitrates, which are then absorbed by algae and plants or reduced by water changes.

New Pond, New Bacteria

A new pond doesn’t have healthy populations of nitrosomonas and nitrobacter yet, and so the pond must be “cycled.” This refers to establishing and maturing your pond’s biological filtration system so that it’s able to turn ammonia into nitrates. To do so, you need to start the process with an ammonia source (a few hardy fish) and seed the pond with these beneficial bacteria, which can be found in Pond Logic® Seasonal Defense® and in Microbe-Lift® PL Gel.

Nurturing Nitrosomonas

In the early spring when established ponds are waking up after a long winter, a similar cycling process will take place. Some nitrosomonas and nitrobacter will survive in your filtration media and gravel and begin to colonize, but it’s a good idea to give them a boost. Pond Logic® Seasonal Defense® is formulated for use in cooler temperatures – making it perfect for early spring applications. Since those microorganisms live in your filtration media, avoid washing it when you’re doing your spring cleaning.

Cycled and Ready for Fish

The cycling process can take four to six weeks, though in the warmer spring and summer this time may be reduced. Keep an eye on your ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels with a test kit, like our PondCare® Master Liquid Test Kit. Once it indicates that nitrates are present, your pond is considered cycled. Add only a few fish at a time to prevent ammonia levels from spiking again.

Keep in mind that this ammonia-nitrite-nitrate cycle is always occurring, so test your pond regularly to ensure the health and wellbeing of your finned friends.

Pond Talk: What has been your experience in “cycling” a pond?

Keep Pond Water Safe for Fish - PondCare® Master Liquid Test Kit

I want to upgrade my filtration system. What are my options? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I want to upgrade my filtration system. What are my options?

Q: I want to upgrade my filtration system. What are my options?

Brock – Baton Rouge, LA

A: In just about every pond keeper’s life, the time comes when they want (or need) to upgrade their filtration system. Whether they’re looking for a filter that will handle a higher fish load, a three-in-one system that has UV light built right in, or one that’ll efficiently skim out leaves falling from that overgrown maple tree, a new filtration system can improve water quality – and give hobbyists a fun new water garden gadget to play with.

Ready to check out some options? Below, we’ve outlined several upgrade choices for your pond filtration system.

  • In-Pond Filtration Systems: The ClearSolution™ 4-in-1 Pond Filtration System is an ideal upgrade for ponds 1,200 gallons or less, particularly if the existing filter is a waterfall filter box. This unit uses mechanical and biological filtration media to remove large debris and dissolved organics, while a powerful ultraviolet clarifier clears discolored water. The system also features a compact energy-efficient mag-drive pump, which circulates water through the filtration system and discharges it through a fountain head attachment or a diverter valve. You can upgrade your filter and add a fountain!
  • External Pressurized Filters: For those with larger ponds up to 4,800 gallons, the AllClear™ PLUS & SolidFlo™ Combo Kits offer mechanical, biological and ultraviolet filtration in an efficient, economical filtration unit – but it also includes a back-flush system that allows you to clean the filter with the turn of a dial and rinse away waste water and debris via a discharge outlet. The AllClear™ PLUS system with SolidFlo™ Solid Handling Pump is great upgrade for existing ponds with high fish populations.
  • Waterfall Filter Boxes: Add a water feature to your pond while stepping up your filtration with a waterfall filter box, like the ClearSpring™ Waterfall Filter. The unit houses Bio-Balls and two filter pads of varying density for maximum filtration. For the waterfall pattern, you can choose between two included weir options – a traditional smooth sheet-like surface and a ribbed pattern. You can even plumb multiple boxes together via FPT inlets located on both sides of the waterfall box.
  • Skimmer Boxes: A skimmer is a practical upgrade in ponds with a lot of leaves. If your pond requires a high-volume pump that you want to hide, or if you want to add some extra mechanical filtration, check out the TetraPond® In-Pond Skimmer. This unit includes a large removable debris basket and an automatically adjustable weir door for maximum surface cleaning. And it’s easy to install: Place the skimmer on the bottom of your pond, weigh it down with gravel, connect it to your pump and let the skimming begin!

A new filtration system is a great investment in your hobby. Whichever you choose, have fun and enjoy the upgrade!

Pond Talk: What kinds of upgrades have you done to your filtration system?

Create a Beautiful Waterfall - The Pond Guy (r) ClearSpring(t) Waterfall Filter

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)

Someone told me I need to do the Jar Test. What is that? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Someone told me I need to do the Jar Test. What is that?

Q: Someone told me I need to do the Jar Test. What is that?

Margie – Clinton, ME

A: Let me guess: You have discolored or cloudy water, right?

Your friend gave some good advice. If you have green- or tea-colored water, or murky water in your pond, a jar test is an easy way to diagnose just what’s causing those clarity issues.

It’s simple to do. Take a clear glass jar, dunk it into your pond, fill it up with the water and let it sit for 24 hours. Overnight, the jar and its contents become a miniature version of your water garden – and it’ll reveal the source of your problem. Here’s how to read your jar:

Green Water

If your jar contains green-tined water or if the water has green particles in it, you most likely have algae. Planktonic algae – the source of algae blooms – are floating, microscopic plants that color pond water green, blue-green, brown or variations in between. Your jar is telling you to treat for algae with an algaecide like AlgaeFix®. It clears up all types of algae blooms fast.

Tea-Colored Water

Discolored or tea-colored water means you have some leaf tea brewing in your pond. As organic debris decomposes in your pond, the tannins and other byproducts mix into the water column, discoloring it. Your first remedy is to add a bag of Activated Carbon to the water. It will clear up the dissolved materials that are causing the problem. While the carbon is working, remove floating and decaying material with Collapsible Skimmer Net and ClearVac™ Pond Vacuum. Keep your pond clean by skimming it regularly and covering it with pond netting or a Pond Shelter™ during the fall months.

Water with Sediment

Does your jar have clear water with a layer of sediment on the bottom? If so, you have an abundance of organics in the pond, and your fish are constantly stirring them up and clouding the water. Your four-step solution: Remove large debris, perform a partial water change, add a Water Conditioner, and double down on the beneficial bacteria from the DefensePAC®.

A jar test can reveal a lot about the water in your pond. If you need some assistance in discerning what your jar is telling you, just email one of The Pond Guy® experts. They’re there to help!

Pond Talk: Have you ever been surprised by the results of a jar test in your pond?

Safely Clear Tea Colored Water - Pond Logic (r) Activated Carbon

Should I turn off my UV light when adding water treatments, like Nature’s Defense®, to my pond? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Should I turn off my UV light when adding water treatments, like Nature’s Defense®, to my pond?

Q: Should I turn off my UV light when adding water treatments, like Nature’s Defense®, to my pond?

Olivia – Blissfield, MI

A: Great question! The answer all depends on the kind of ultraviolet light you’re talking about – so let’s quickly go through the differences between a UV sterilizer and a UV clarifier.

UV Sterilizer: Cleans It All- Good and Bad

A UV sterilizer completely sterilizes the water – which means it kills anything and everything that floats past its path, including beneficial bacteria found in some water treatments. These units are effective at killing floating algae and harmful pathogens like parasites, but they kill the good stuff, too. We don’t recommend adding bacteria to your pond while using a UV sterilizer.

UV Clarifier: Targets the Green Stuff

A UV clarifier is different. It targets just algae and leaves the bacteria alone (as long as the unit is sized right for the pond). The clarifier uses ultraviolet light to destroy the reproductive ability of suspended green stuff. Dead algae then clumps together into particles large enough to be removed by mechanical filtration, leaving the pond cleaner and clearer. If pea soup water is a recurring problem for you, add a UV clarifier to your pond.

Optimize the Flow

If you use a UV clarifier, you can leave the light on while you use bacteria-based treatments, like those found in the DefensePAC® Pond Care Package. But just be sure the bulb and pump are sized correctly.

Bright Enough Bulb: For a UV clarifier to be most effective, the bulb needs to have a high enough wattage for your pond’s volume. All UV clarifiers are rated based on pond size. The larger the wattage, the larger the pond size the UV clarifier can handle.

Power to the Pump: The water needs to flow pass the UV bulb at the just right speed, so the pump size is important. If the water moves too quickly, it won’t kill the algae and it could cause the seals on the unit to malfunction; if it moves too slowly, it will kill the algae and beneficial bacteria. A great rule of thumb is to push the water approximately half of what the UV is rated per hour.

A convenient option is to try out an all-in-one unit, like the AllClear™ & SolidFlo™ Combo Kits. The mechanical and biological filter system comes with a built-in UV clarifier. When used with the SolidFlo pump, you’ll be well on your way to clear water.

One last tip: Keep the water well-circulated by running an aeration system, like one of the Airmax® Aeration Kits. Its diaphragm compressors and air stones keep the beneficial bacteria supplied with oxygen, as well as ensure every drop of water and every algae cell float past that UV bulb.

Pond Talk: When have you used an UV clarifier in your pond?

All-Natural Pond Care System - Pond Logic (r) DefensePAC 9r)

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

Why are water changes important? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Why are water changes important?

Q: Why are water changes important?

Shirley – Warr Acres, OK

A: It’s nice to open a window on a warm spring day and let the fresh air flow through your house, right? Well, a partial or complete water change in your koi pond or water garden is the same thing: It freshens your finned pals’ environment, making them happy and healthy.

Here are five reasons why water changes are so important to your fish, plants and other aquatic life:

  1. Nutrient Removal: Muck and debris buildup happens in just about every water feature. A water change manually removes any excess nutrients and chemicals like nitrates, phosphates and ammonia that can be harmful to fish and other underwater critters.
  2. Healthy Fish: Fresh, clean water means improved water quality, which ultimately promotes your fishes’ health. Just as you need oxygen to thrive, your fish need clean water to thrive. Their well being is directly related to the liquid environment in which they live.
  3. Algae Control: Pea soup and string algae feed on all that decomposing waste, which they use as fertilizer. By removing those excess nutrients in the water column with a water change, you can discourage the growth of algae.
  4. Fights Foam: Foam forms when excess organic material has accumulated in your water garden. 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. A water change will quickly reduce that foamy buildup.
  5. Clears Water, Stabilizes pH: A water change will also improve the appearance of cloudy water and maintain pH levels, resulting in a pristine pond filled with healthy fish, lush greenery and clean water.

To keep stress levels down among your fish, we recommend doing partial water changes as soon as water temperatures reach 50° F. In addition, be sure to add some Stress Reducer PLUS and LiquidClear™ to your water. The Stress Reducer PLUS forms a beneficial slime coat on your fish and makes tap water safe for them. The LiquidClear’s™ beneficial bacteria helps to digest dead organics in the water, making it crystal clear.

Pond Talk: How often do you do water changes in your koi pond or water garden?

Builds Protective Slime Coating - Pond Logic (r) Stress Reducer PLUS

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