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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

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

How do I know it is OK to put my fish back into the outdoor pond? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

How do I know it is OK to put my fish back into the outdoor pond?

Q: How do I know it is OK to put my fish back into the outdoor pond?

Ronnie – Salt Lake City, UT

A: This time of year, most of us are suffering with some cabin fever—including your pond fish. After being cooped up all winter long in a temporary indoor aquarium or tub, they’re ready to swim back to their spacious outdoor home.

But before you relocate your fish, you have some work to do first. The best time to return them to the pond is several weeks after you’ve done all the necessary chores to prepare for their homecoming. To make things easy, check out our four-step checklist:

    1. Spring Cleaning: First, clean out your dormant pond. Remove any debris that has settled over the past few months, and perform a thorough spring cleanout to remove winter buildup. This will give your finned friends a nice place to come home to—and minimize algae growth in the spring.
    2. Jump Start Filtration: About a month before you plan to return your fish to the pond, start your filtration system and let it run without fish. Turn on your mechanical filter and seed your filter pads with beneficial bacteria, such as Microbe-Lift® PL Gel, to speed the colony’s growth (but first make sure the water temperature is above 55° Fahrenheit with your pond thermometer). Keep in mind that in the spring, a filter can take four to six weeks to become established, so adding fish without adequate filtration established can result in quick algae formation.
    3. Test Your Water: While your pond is cycling, periodically check your water chemistry with a PondCare® Master Test Kit to ensure the pond water is balanced and pH, ammonia and nitrate levels are safe for fish.
    4. Acclimate Fish: The final step before re-homing your fish is to help them get used to the pond’s water temperature, which will likely be colder than their winter housing. Carry your fish out in a bucket and slowly add water from the pond to the bucket at 10- to 15-minute intervals, using your pond thermometer to check the water temperature as you go. This shock-prevention technique will allow them to adjust slowly—and safely—to their outdoor digs.

Your fish may become stressed during the indoor-to-outdoor transition, but you can keep it to a minimum by preparing their home and making sure they’re as healthy as possible in advance of their relocation. Have fun moving!

Pond Talk: Do you notice a change in your fishes’ behavior when they transition from indoors to outdoors?

Protect Your Prized Fish - PondCare® Master Test Kit

We just constructed out pond, how long should we wait to add fish? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q&A

We just constructed out pond, how long should we wait to add fish?

We just constructed out pond, how long should we wait to add fish?

Jay – Phoenix, AZ

When you create a new pond, you’re effectively building a new ecosystem from scratch. At the beginning, your pond’s waters might look clean, clear and inviting, but nature’s just getting started. Until the initial nitrogen cycle is complete, there’s still work to be done before fish can safely take up residence.

At its early stages, any new body of water – whether an indoor aquarium or a backyard pond – goes through the nitrogen cycle. This cycle begins when living organisms break down nitrogen through their natural digestive processes. Until that cycle is complete, concentrations of ammonia naturally build up in the water – and too much ammonia is extremely harmful to fish. Fortunately, with the introduction of natural bacteria in products like ourPond Logic® DefensePAC® to your pond, you can speed up the nitrogen cycle, making the pond safe for new fish in four to six weeks or less.

In addition to DefensePAC®, other products like Pond Logic® Stress Reducer PLUS and Pond Logic® Water Conditioner go a long way toward making new pond water inhabitable. Stress Reducer Plus helps fish to restore their natural protective slime coats, making them less vulnerable to illness. Water Conditioner helps to neutralize chlorine and other chemicals in the water that can lead to stress.

But simply adding DefensePAC®, Stress Reducer and Water Conditioner won’t tell you when your water is ready to support piscine life. For that, you’ll want to use our PondCare Master Liquid Test Kit, which tests water for pH, ammonia, and nitrite. When readings are consistently within healthy ranges – as clearly explained in the Master Liquid Test Kit’s documentation – you’re ready to welcome your new fish to their new home.

Pond Talk: Have you recently built a pond and are waiting to add fish?

DefensePAC®

Why Are My Fish Trying to Jump Out of My Water Garden? – Water Garden Q & A

Koi jumping out of the water.

Q: My fish are jumping out of my water garden. Is there any reason for this? How do I get them to stop? – Several Customers

A: Fish will jump out of the water for what seems to be no reason at all, but sometimes that isn’t the truth. One reason for this jumping is lethal ammonia levels. As fish excrete waste, ammonia levels begin to rise and if sufficient nitrifying bacteria are not present within your filter to breakdown this ammonia, it can become extremely deadly for fish. Constant high levels of ammonia will cause burns on the fish’s gills, thus causing them to want to jump out of the water to escape the pain. If your fish are jumping out of the pond, immediately test for high ammonia levels using an ammonia test kit. Doing a 20% to 25% water change as well as adding beneficial bacteria will help to bring ammonia levels down.

Another possible reason, is low oxygen levels. Usually the fish will seem to gasp for air on the water’s surface but they have been known to also jump out of the water as well. Use an oxygen test kit to test for proper oxygen levels and make sure during the warmer months of the year you have an aeration system running in your water garden. Another cause of low oxygen levels is after using an algaecide to kill off algae. When algae dies it takes oxygen from the water. If there is an abundance of algae and all of it is killed off in one treatment, there is a possibility for the oxygen levels to get extremely low. Doing a 20% to 25% water change is a quick short-term fix to get fresher, oxygenized water into the water garden.

As the above happens, the stress level of the fish can rise, it is always a good idea to add pond salt to your water garden. Pond salt will help the fish calm down as well as help to protect them against common fish diseases.

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