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Is it time to start feeding the fish? They look hungry. | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Is it time to start feeding the fish? They look hungry.

Q: Is it time to start feeding the fish? They look hungry.

Ruth – Altoona, PA

A: Talk about feeling hungry! If your fish are actively (or anxiously!) swimming around your water garden, nibbling and tasting your budding plants, and gazing at you forlornly as you eat your peanut butter sandwich pondside, it sounds like your finned pals are ready for some grub after their long winter fast.

Signs like these are telling, but to make sure your fish are ready to start eating regular food again, here are some guidelines to follow.

Take Your Pond’s Temperature

Last fall when water temperatures fell below 40 degrees Fahrenheit on the thermometer, your fishes’ metabolisms slowed way down. For the next few months, they rested in a hibernation-type state when they fasted and lived off the fat stores in their body. They needed no food from you – in fact, feeding them when they’re hibernating can make them very sick.

Now that spring has finally arrived and the sun has warmed your pond’s water to 40 to 50 degrees F, your fishes’ metabolism has kicked back into gear. They’re swimming around and searching for food to fuel their increased activity levels. When this happens, they need a wheat germ food that’s easy to digest, like The Pond Guy® Spring & Fall Fish Food. Packed with plant-based nutrients, the diet will satiate their hunger, and stimulate growth and fertility.

Pump Up the Protein

Late spring and summer bring even warmer 50 degree-plus water temperatures, and that’s when you can switch your fishes’ diet to one that will help them develop and build some serious bulk. If growing big koi and goldfish is your goal, feed your scaled friends a high-protein diet, like The Pond Guy® Growth & Vibrance Fish Food. It contains 38 percent protein for maximum growth and includes ingredients that will make their colors pop.

If you want to simply maintain their size while supporting their health, offer them The Pond Guy® Staple Fish Food. Perfect for all pond fish, the summer staple diet contains a balanced diet of vitamins, minerals and amino acids. It’s easily digestible and designed for everyday feeding. Plus, it floats – so it makes mealtime fun for you and your fish!

Check the Forecast

Mother Nature has fun with weather – particularly with temperature fluctuations in the spring – so be sure to check the long-term forecast before you start feeding your fish on a regular schedule. Ideally, the weather should be consistently keeping the water a warm 40 to 50 degrees F. At that point, feed slowly to make sure they’re consuming the food at a steady pace and increase the amount as they’re ready.

Happy feeding!

Pond Talk: What are your fishes’ favorite mealtime treats?

Perfect For Cool Weather Feeding - The Pond Guy® Spring & Fall Fish Food

I just saw my favorite koi. He used to have black spots – but where did they go? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I just saw my favorite koi. He used to have black spots – but where did they go?

Q: I just saw my favorite koi. He used to have black spots – but where did they go?

George – Price, UT

A: Koi aficionados call their fish “living jewels” for a reason. With their rich red, brilliant white, velvety black and shimmering metallic scales, these swimming beauties resemble vibrant precious stones that glisten and glimmer as they glide through the water.

Colorful, Dynamic

Thanks to generations of careful breeding practices, koi hobbyists have developed more than 20 varieties of nishikigoi (brocaded carp) that differ by their scale color and pattern. Some of the stand-out types include:

  • Kohaku: White body topped with large red markings.
  • Sanke (Taisho Sanke): Similar to the Kohaku but with the addition of small black markings called sumi.
  • Showa (Showa Sanke): Black body topped with red (hi) and white (shiroji) markings.
  • Ogon: Metallic scales in one solid color, usually orange, white, silver or gold.

A koi’s color pattern is dynamic through its entire life; the colors and markings change as the fish grows in size and loses and regrows its scales. For instance, a black spot on your Sanke’s back may seem to shrink or disappear beneath its red markings – only to return a year later in a morphed size or shape.

Bring Out the Brilliance

Though it’s part of a koi’s DNA to change its spots, environmental factors can cause modifications as well. Poor water quality, parasites and fungal infections, for example, may fade scale color. Insufficient sun exposure during the winter months, too, may cause colors to wane. But once the water quality is back up to par and sunless sky gives way to bright sunshine, those brilliant colors will return.

On the flip side, some external factors can actually enhance a koi’s color. Fresh vegetables and citrus fruits, like green peas, oranges and grapefruit, can bring out the vibrant red and orange tones, brighten the whites and deepen the blacks. You can also find commercial diets that are packed with ingredients, like vitamin C and spirulina, formulated to boost color.

Summer Color

As warmer weather approaches and your fish start to get hungry again, start them off with an easy-to-digest wheat germ diet, like The Pond Guy Spring & Fall Fish Food, followed by a higher protein, color-enhancing diet, like The Pond Guy Growth & Vibrance Fish Food. Also test your water quality and do what’s necessary to make sure it’s the best it can be. In time, you’ll likely see your koi’s black markings return – or change into something completely different!

Pond Talk: What changes have you seen in your koi’s color and markings?

Perfect for Cool Weather Feeding - The Pond Guy® Spring & Fall Fish Food

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

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

Do I need to do anything else to prep my pond for winter besides moving my air stones? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Do I need to do anything else to prep my pond for winter besides moving my air stones?

Q: Do I need to do anything else to prep my pond for winter besides moving my air stones?

Melinda – Novi, MI

A: Your to-do list of fall- and winter-prep chores isn’t as extensive as your spring to-do list, but you will need to do some housekeeping items before the cold weather settles in. Here is a checklist to help you complete your chores.

  • Move Your Air Stones: To keep oxygen bubbling in your pond through the freezing temperatures, move your air stones into an area that’s half the depth of the pond. For example, if your pond is two feet deep, position your air stones on a ledge or step that’s one foot deep.
  • Remove Glass: Drain, remove and store anything that has glass inside, such as your ultraviolet clarifier, pressurized filter and all-in-one filter. Keep them in a heated garage, basement or other indoor areas that won’t freeze.
  • Remove Ion Clarifiers: Ion clarifiers release copper, silver and zinc ions into the water to control string algae. Because copper levels are naturally higher in the winter, you can remove the ion clarifier and store it for the winter.
  • Pump Protection: Whether your pump feeds a waterfall, fountain or some other decorative feature, remove it and drain all the water from the tubing. Store your pump submerged in a bucket of water inside to keep the seals lubricated.
  • Nix the Netting: Before the first heavy snowfall of the season, remove your pond netting and store it until next spring.
  • Quick Pick Up: Clean up decomposing debris that can cause excessive toxic gas if your pond freezes over with helpful tools such as the Collapsible Skimmer and Fish Net or ClearVac™ pond vacuum. For smaller particles, rely on Seasonal Defense® which has beneficial bacteria with barley and is designed to work in cooler temperatures.
  • Switch Food: Help your fish transition to cooler temperatures by switching their diet to a wheat germ-based food like Pond Logic’s® Spring & Fall Fish Food. When temperatures reach below 40°F, stop feeding them entirely. Their metabolisms will slow down and they’ll hibernate for the winter
  • Get Your Plants in Shape: After the first frost, remove dead foliage from your aquatic plants. Trim hardy lilies and bog plants back and move them in the bottom of your pond to protect them from the cold temperatures. If you have tropical water lilies or other temperature-sensitive varieties, make room for them inside your home to regulate the required temperature.

Not too bad for a weekend’s worth of work! As soon as these chores are done, your pond will be ready for winter.

Pond Talk: What else do you do to prepare your pond for winter?

Make Fall Clean-Up A Breeze - The Pond Guy (r) ClearVac(t) Pond Vacuum

Fall is just around the corner. What kind of prep work should I be doing now? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Fall is just around the corner. What kind of prep work should I be doing now?

Q: Fall is just around the corner. What kind of prep work should I be doing now?

Karen – McHenry, IL

A: Though we all wish summer could linger on forever, the reality of fall—and its associated pond chores—is nearly upon us. Cooler temperatures, shorter days and those brightly colored (and falling) leaves means you need to take a break from summer fun and get to work.

Here’s a quick rundown of the prep work you should be doing now:

Add Bacteria

When temps start to fall (particularly below 50°F), it’s time to add some cool-water beneficial bacteria to your pond, like the tiny muck-eaters in Pond Logic® Seasonal Defense®. They go to work decomposing leaves, scum and sediment that will inevitably build up over the fall and winter, which will result in better water quality for your finned friends.

Clean Up Your Plants

Cut back and remove any dead plant vegetation that’s inside and around your water garden. Use a handy long-reach tool, like the Pond Scissors and Pliers, to cut back water lilies and clear away dead marginals. As the temperatures cool even more, you’ll need to remove floating plants like hyacinth and water lettuce, sink your hardy water lilies and marginals into the deeper areas of your pond to protect them from freezing, and make plans to overwinter your tropical lilies inside.

Cover Up

Blowing leaves and other debris will drop into your pond during the fall, and if you don’t get them out, they’ll decompose over the winter and create a mucky mess in the spring. Plan to put a net over the pond, like the The Pond Guy® PondShelter™ Net Kit, to keep them out, and use a skimmer net to remove any stragglers.

Have Supplies Ready

While you’re thinking about fall, now is a great time to stock up on winter water garden supplies. Purchase a six-month supply of Seasonal Defense®. Buy some Spring & Fall Fish Food, which will help your fish transition from their regular diet to one that’s easier to digest in cooler temperatures. Make sure you have an aerator or deicer ready to keep a hole in the ice. Preparing ahead of time will prevent any last-minute scrambling.

Regular Maintenance

Finally, continue to perform regular maintenance chores, like keeping your filter clean and operating well, doing periodic water changes, and feeding and checking on your fish. Summer is nearly over, but don’t neglect your pond-keeping routine!

Pond Talk: What other fall chores do you do in and around your water garden?

Keep Leaves & Predators Out - The Pond Guy®  PondShelter™ Cover Net

My fish are looking for food. Can I feed them now? If so, what kind of food do I give them? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

My fish are looking for food. Can I feed them now? If so, what kind of food do I give them?

Q: My fish are looking for food. Can I feed them now? If so, what kind of food do I give them?

Rick – Great Falls, MT

A: Fish sure seem know when spring is coming. This time of year, your koi and goldfish that have been hibernating over the winter are waking up—and they’re hungry.

Slow Eaters

When water temperatures dip below 45 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter months, your fishes’ metabolisms slows down. They enter into a hibernation-type state, during which time they require little or no food. They literally live off the fat stores in their body.

As the water temperature rises above 45 degrees in the spring, the fish start moving. Their metabolisms turn back on, and they need food to fuel their increased activity. To transition the fish from no food to daily food, fish experts recommend feeding a wheat germ-based diet when water temperatures are consistently between 45 and 55 degrees. A diet like Pond Logic® Spring & Fall Fish Food is quickly and easily digested by the fish.

Summertime Bounty

In the warmer months when your water temperature tops 55 degrees, you can continue to feed the wheat germ-based diets, or you can choose to gradually re-introduce protein-based diets that help the fish grow quickly and show off their colors. Here’s what we recommend:

Choose the diet that best fits in with your goals for the fish. If you’re not interested in growing your Kohaku into show-quality specimens, for instance, stick to the everyday or color enhancement diet.

Word of Warning

The weather may be warming up, but make sure the water temperatures are at a consistent 45 degrees before you start feeding your fish. Feeding them before they’re able to properly digest the food can lead to health issues.

Pond Talk: What’s your pond’s water temperature where you live?

Specialized Cool Weather Diet - Pond Logic® Spring & Fall Fish Food

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