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I know there’s fish in my pond, how can I identify them? – Ponds & Lakes Q & A

I know there’s fish in my pond, how can I identify them?

I know there’s fish in my pond, how can I identify them? Dustin – Vortex, KY

Which Fish?

So you’ve seen some fish swimming beneath the surface of your pond. Maybe they’ve even taken a nibble or two at your toes while you are swimming. Regardless of how you use your pond you would still probably like to know what types of fish are swimming beneath the surface. For all of you curious pond guys and gals out there who want to be better acquainted with their fish we present to you a blog on getting to know your fish. While there are many fish in the sea, there tends to be a slightly small selection in your pond. Let’s review the characteristics of some of the most common:

Bluegill

Bluegill / Hybrid Bluegill – Bluegill are one of the most common types of game fish introduced into lakes and backyard ponds. The body of a Bluegill is deep, robust, and cichlid-like. The mouth is small and the front of the dorsal fin is spiny. Bluegill are typically olive-green in color with five to seven dark vertical bands which fade as they approach the middle of the fish. Their belly is a creamy color and the pectoral and pelvic fins are often pigmented with white. There is a black opercular spot just behind the top of the gill and another on the back of the dorsal fin. The typical Bluegill will grow to a maximum of 10” in length and weigh in at around 1 pound, the largest caught weighing just under 5 pounds. Bluegill are a relatively hardy fish that thrive in water temperatures ranging from 39 to 72 degrees, feeding off of vegetation, insects and worms. Bluegill will spawn in water temperatures between 67 to 80 degrees in saucer shaped nests located in the sandy or gravel covered shallow areas of water. While people enjoy fishing and eating Bluegill they are also great food source for larger predator fish like Bass.

Bass

Bass – The Largemouth Bass is considered to be one of the most prized game fish in North America. Largemouth Bass are similar to the spotted bass and small-mouth bass but can be distinguished by the deep curvature of its dorsal fin and an upper jaw that extends past its eye. They are a rather slender and streamlined fish with colors that range from dark green on top, silvery green to yellow flanks, to a yellowish-white belly. Their sides are commonly accented with a dark and irregular strip. The average Bass will grow to around 16” in length and weigh in at or below 10 pounds with the worlds largest weighing a little over 22 pounds. Largemouth Bass are best suited for temperate or warmer water flourishing in temperatures around 80 degrees. Though tolerant of turbid water, Largemouth Bass favor clear water, sandy shallows, and abundant rooted aquatic weeds or slow moving rivers and streams with soft bottoms. Many species of pondweeds, water lilies, coontail, elodea, cattails, and bulrushes provide excellent cover. It has a widely varied diet that emphasizes on bluegill, minnows and other small fish as well as frogs and smaller animals like birds or young muskrats. Its predatory nature helps to keep bluegill from overpopulating. Bass spawn in early May and into June in firm sandy areas 2’ to 6’ deep when water temps are in the 60 degree range.

Perch

Perch – While they don’t grow large enough to be considered a prize game fish, the Yellow Perch is most sought after for its excellent table fare. Yellow Perch have bright yellow or yellow/green oval shaped bodies with a back ranging from a bright green to a golden brown. They are accented by seven dark, tapering, vertical bars, running from their back down to their grayish belly. Yellow Perch range from 6 to 12 inches in length and weigh in between 6 to 16 ounces with the largest catch weighing 4 pounds 3 ounces. Perch prefer cool clear water and should be stocked in lakes where the water temperatures remain below 80 degrees year-round. Yellow perch feed on zooplankton, insects, snails, and other small fish and are considered a prey fish rather than a predator. Yellow Perch become sexually mature at 5 to 7 inches and spawn in the early Spring when the water temperatures are between 45 to 55 degrees. The yellow perch makes an excellent forage fish for cool-water predators such as walleye, smallmouth bass, and northern pike.

Catfish

Catfish – Channel Catfish are growing in popularity among sport fishermen due to its large size, hard fighting ability, and tasty flesh. Catfish are characterized by scale-less skin and barbells, better known as whiskers, about their mouth. Channel Catfish can be distinguished from other catfish by the presence of dark spots on its body and a deeply forked tail. Channel Catfish have awesome growth potential reaching lengths of 4 feet, the world record catch in South Carolina weighing in at 58 pounds. Channel Catfish prefer clear slow moving water but can also tolerate muddy water. Channel Catfish are scavengers and will eat just about anything it can find including live fish and game fish food. They are sensitive to light and will typically reside at the bottom of ponds and lakes. Channel Catfish usually become sexually mature when they reach at least 11” but do not generally reproduce in ponds due to the absence of an adequate spawning structure. A suitable structure can be installed by placing buckets or drain tile in depths of 3 to 4 feet of water along the pond bottom. They tend to spawn from May to July when water temperatures reach 75 degrees.

Walleye

Walleye – One of the most popular game fish in North America, the Walleye is second only to the Largemouth Bass. While it is not the most spectacular fighter, Walleye are quite tasty on the table. Walleye sport an elongated torpedo shaped body with highly variable coloring. Their bodies can range from olive green to brown to yellowish gold often marked with brassy flecks. They have no distinct markings or bars but instead an overall mottling of brown or black and a white belly. Walleye grow to be anywhere from 13” to 25” in length and weigh in between 13 and 22 pounds. The maximum recorded Walleye measured 42 inches in length and weighed 25 pounds. Walleye are considered a cool water fish preferring warmer water than Trout but cooler water than Bass and Bluegill. They enjoy water bodies with sand or gravel bottoms near vegetation though they don’t reside within it. Walleye have a special reflective layer of pigment in their eyes to help increase visibility in their favored dark and turbid waters. Yellow Perch, Whitefish and minnows are the food of choice for Walleye but they will also eat insects, frogs and small mammals. Walleye will spawn in early Spring when water temperatures are around 42 to 50 degrees. They tend to choose locations with rocky or gravel coated substrate in 1’ to 6’ depths where moving water is present. Neither parent cares for their eggs in any way.

Crappie

Crappie – Another popular sunfish behind the Bluegill, the Crappie is considered an excellent game fish when taken on light tackle and its flaky white flesh is considered very tasty. Crappie are similar in body shape to other sunfish but can be differentiated by connected dorsal fins that lack a notch and contain seven or eight spines. They also have a large anal fin consisting of 6 spines that is nearly as large as their dorsal fin. Their bodies range from dark olive or brown to a metallic green with a silver or blue cast with black mottling throughout. Crappie grow close to a foot in length and can weigh between 2 to 4 pounds. The largest Crappie caught weighed in at just over 5 pounds. Crappie prefer clear water with plenty of aquatic vegetation and mucky or sandy bottoms. They are highly intolerant of turbid water. Crappie eat insects and their larva as a primary food source but will also eat small fish and minnows as well. Like Bluegill, Crappie nest in sandy areas or places with fine gravel in depths of 3 to 8 feet of water. They typically spawn in May to June when water temperatures are within the 58 to 64 degree range.

Trout

Trout – One of the largest of the freshwater fish, it is endowed with a flesh of superb eating quality and is eagerly sought by commercial, sport, and subsistence fishermen. Trout typically grow to be around 27” in length and weight between 3 to 9 pounds but are known to grow to lengths exceeding 4’ and weigh over 100 pounds. The largest on record weighs 102 pounds and measures 49.6 inches in length. Lake Trout are the least colorful of all Trout with a light green, grey, brown or blackish torpedo shaped body covered with irregular lighter colored spots. Lake Trout sport a deeply forked tail and reddish-orange pectoral, pelvic and anal fins. Lake Trout are truly a cold water fish preferring water temperatures around 50 degrees. Most anglers fish for Trout in the cooler early seasons via fly or spin fishing and have to resort to long lines and heavy lures in the warmer months as the fish retreat to cooler waters. Lake Trout feed mostly off of other fish, insects and small mammals. It takes around eight years for Lake Trout to sexually mature, meaning heavy fishing demand can dramatically deplete the Trout population. They do not build nests or beds by simply scatter eggs among large cobble or boulder substrates in depths of up to 40’ in late autumn.

You may have a harder time finding Trout or Bass in your pond in comparison to Bluegill as they tend to be a bit less social. You can take inventory of the fish in your pond by trying to fish them out or by using a Fish Trap. When stocking or manipulating your fish population be sure to provide adequate habitat for smaller prey fish to hide from predators and grow. You can achieve this by installing Fish Attractor Spheres or by providing aquatic plants. Take a look at our Pond Stocking Blog and Fish Habitat Blog to learn more about predator/prey ratios and implementing habitat.

POND TALK: Which types of fish are present in your pond? Which do you feel are the best to fish or eat?

Attract tons of gamefish to your pond!

I didn’t have fish in my pond before but they are there now. How did they get there? – Pond & Lake Q & A

I didn’t have fish in my pond before but they are there now. How did they get there?

I didn’t have fish in my pond before but they are there now. How did they get there? Brenda – Golddust, TN

Where Did YOU Come From?

In states everywhere people are being shocked and amazed by the random appearance of fish in their ponds. These fish were not added by the owners of the pond but there they swim none-the-less, almost mockingly. What is this strange magic?! Is this some form of prank?! Perhaps it is the work of alien beings?! What is going on?

Unfortunately, I can not weave a tail of some sort of intricate conspiracy against pond owners across the nation. The far less captivating reason is that, by some sort of mistake, either you or Mother Nature, have unwittingly moved these fish into their new home. Fish can be introduced into new ponds in quite a few ways. Eggs or fry can be carried in on the feet or mouths of water foul and other animals, or can be clinging onto some aquatic plants you decided to add to your pond. Sometimes flooding can wash fish from nearby ponds, lakes, and streams into your pond. While you can try to prevent any fish from making it into your pond, it is pretty much inevitable that over time, they will find a way to make your pond a place of their own. It is not all bad news though, having a balanced fish population actually contributes to a healthy ecosystem and can actually provide you with a form of entertainment whether it be fishing, feeding, or just watching them from the shore.

Not sure if you have fish? Try baiting a hook and doing a little bit of fishing. Odds are if there are some fish in the pond at least one or two of them will bite. If you are not into the fishing scene you can try to place a Fish Trap in the pond with some bait and see what you pull up. You may get lucky and coax them up to the shore just by throwing some bread or Fish Food into the water. Keeping track of the size, number and types of fish you pull out of the pond will give you an idea of what type of fish population you will be dealing with later on down the road. If you notice you are only pulling out prey fish like Bluegill, you will eventually have an over abundance of little fish swimming around the pond in the seasons to come. To keep things balanced you would want to introduce a few predator fish like Bass to the pond. On the other hand, if you notice that you have a lot of small Bass in the pond, they may need a little more help with finding food. Stocking some Minnows, Bluegill, or feeding them Fish Food will help them grow to a more appealing size. You can read more tips on adding fish by reading our Pond Stocking Blog.

You can also find some helpful information on the pros and cons of feeding your fish with fish food or properly stocking the pond to let them feed themselves here.

POND TALK: What types of fish naturally found their way into your pond? Did you ever find out how they got there?

Grow your fish fast!

Do fish drink? – Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

 Do fish drink?

Do fish drink? Kristie – Doglap, MS

You would think that your koi need a drink of water like the desert needs another grain of sand but just like us; they too need a little refreshment from time to time. Koi utilize water to maintain proper body functions the same as us but they just do it a little bit differently.

Koi don’t per say “drink” like we do. If we want a glass of water, we pour water in a glass and drink away through our mouths. Koi on the other hand absorb water through their gills and body in a process called osmosis. Osmosis is defined by dictionary.com as “the tendency of a fluid, usually water, to pass through a semipermeable membrane into a solution where the solvent concentration is higher, thus equalizing the concentrations of materials on either side of the membrane.“ In other words, koi have larger concentrations of water that contain salt in their body than does the surrounding water garden. Through osmosis water is constantly passing through koi’s semipermeable skin into their body to equalize these concentrations. Since water is constantly absorbing into their bodies they have to immediately excrete this water to prevent them from bursting. During the course of a day, they can excrete up to 10 times their weight.

Feed your fish with the best!

I Just Bought Some New Fish, How Should I Introduce Them To My Pond? – Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Pond Fish & Koi Acclimation
I Just Bought Some New Fish, How Should I Introduce Them To My Pond? Paul – Baytown, TX

Best In Show

So you’ve made the decision to invite a few new friends to your home, but are you getting more than you bargained for? As is true with any purchase, you want to make sure you are getting quality before you hand over your hard-earned dollars. Inspect the fish you intend to purchase for symptoms of illness or poor health. Look over their fins, mouth, and gills for blemishes, discoloration, or signs of fin rot and check their body for growths, loose or missing scales, or other blemishes as they may be an early indicator of disease or parasites. Take a few moments to observe your prospect’s behavior to make sure they are active and having no mobility hindrances.

Prep The Pond

Your newly purchased fish are typically handed over to you in an oxygenated plastic bag or container to allow adequate time to transport them to their new home. While it may be tempting to just dump them into your water garden upon your return home, you will want to make sure your pond is ready to accommodate its new inhabitants before you begin their acclimation process. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Make sure the water in your pond is free from potential fatal heavy metals and chlorine by adding Pond & Fish Conditioner during your water changes.
  • To help prevent disease and reduce fish stress in your new tenants, add Pond Salt to the water between your water changes. To ensure the well being of your Aquatic Plants, only add 1 1/4 cups per 100 gallons of pond water.
  • You can purchase a Master Test Kit to verify acceptable pH and Nitrate levels in the pond.
  • You can prevent many potential health issues throughout your fish population by simply maintaining a clean and healthy pond. You can read more about pond maintenance here.

Well, You Better Get Used To It

Now that the pond is ready for the addition of fish, it is time to get your finned friends ready for the big show. You will want to gradually equalize the temperature of the water your fish are currently occupying with that of the water in your pond. If the container carrying your fish floats, go ahead and place it in your pond. As the bag bobbles around in your pond, the water inside will start balancing with the outside water temperature. This process should take no longer than 30 minutes. During this time frame, slowly add small amounts of water from the pond into the container which will allow your new fish time to acclimate to the chemistry of your pond water. Most of us have, at one time or another, jumped into a pool too early in the summer only to find that the water is unimaginably cold. Those of you who’ve been in that situation understand why you will want to take your time with the acclimation process. Now that the water on both sides of the container is the same and the fish have had time to try out the make up of the water in the pond, you are clear to release them into their new environment! Take a few moments throughout the day to check in on the pond and monitor the behavior of the newly introduced fish. Active and curious fish are happy and healthy fish.

POND TALK: Are there any tricks that you’ve done to acclimate your fish?

Remove Heavy Metals and Chlorine with Pond Logic® Pond & Fish Conditioner

I found what looks like a sore on my koi. What should I do? Could this have happened over winter? – Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Dyed PondQ: I found what looks like a sore on my koi. What should I do? Could this of happened over winter? – Fred in Kentucky

A: As we close in on spring and the ice melts off of our water gardens, our koi start to become lively again. This is a very crucial time for koi. When koi begin to awaken from their winter dormancy, they can show signs of weakness. This is because during the winter, not only do their metabolisms slow down, but also their immune systems can be affected.

As the temperatures outside begin to rise above 40ºF begin a Spring/Summer Prep bacterial application, like Seasonal Defense, and start to feed them Spring and Fall Fish Food. Keep an eye on the koi for any signs of excess slime, sores or lesions. Weakened fish are much more susceptible to bacterial and parasitic infections when the temps are just beginning to rise.

Here are few products to use if your koi happen to be sick:

Using the products mentioned above you can be assured your fish will be lively again in no time. To help prevent koi sickness during the early spring, be proactive and ensure your koi are healthy in the fall time.

POND TALK: What do you do to keep your koi healthy?

How does winter affect my pond? – Ponds & Lakes Q & A

Winter PondQ:  How does winter affect my pond? – Steve in Michigan

A:  A Closer Look at Water in the Winter…

We field many questions about water and the way it works during the winter.  With such a range of questions, here is a quick course on the physical properties of water and how they relate to your pond.

Here’s a review on density.  On our planet, matter that is denser will always be pulled down (gravity) more strongly than matter of lesser density.  Density is temperature dependant in that warmer matter is always less dense than cooler matter.  A good example is a hot air balloon, which lifts up because the air inside the balloon is warmer than the air outside.

A water molecule (H20 – don’t worry that’s as technical as we’ll get) contracts as it gets colder, causing it to become more dense.  As water closes in on the freezing point, we run into one of nature’s great exceptions.  At 39ºF (4ºC) water actually starts becoming less dense as it prepares to shift from a liquid to a solid at the 32ºF mark.  Why is this so important?  This means that water at the bottom of your pond will always stay about 39ºF because it is the heaviest.  We refer to this as inverse stratification, where a pond has a thermocline that separates warmer water on the bottom from cooler water on top (FYI, normal stratification occurs during the warmer months of the year when the cooler water is at the bottom and the warmer water is at the top).

Winter PondHow does this apply to your fish?  Fish actually get quite sensitive to temperatures below 39ºF.  This warmer 39ºF pocket on the bottom of the pond is where they tend to hang out during the winter.  This is why it is recommended that an aeration system be installed a couple feet up from the bottom of the pond to keep the 39ºF water in tact. Should you worry if yours isn’t? No, not really, mortality due to water temperature is extremely rare and NOT aerating is way more risky. The more severe issue is the toxic gases under the ice. Continuing to aerate will vent these gasses while also infusing oxygen into the water keep your fish happy and healthy.

Why Are My Fish Hiding? – Water Garden & Feature Q & A

Why Are My Fish Hiding?

Water Gardens & Features Q & A

Q: Why are my fish hiding now when they didn’t before? Is something wrong with them? – Rob in California

A: There’s nothing more frustrating than hiding or skittish fish. Part of the joy of having a water garden is to sit by the pond’s edge, feed your fish and relax while you watch them enjoy their underwater world. When they dash off and hide at the site of anything coming near them, or they hole up and never come out, it almost defeats the purpose of having koi or goldfish in your pond! Here are a few reasons why your fish may be hiding.

New Digs

It’s tough to move into a new pond. If you’ve recently added new koi or goldfish to your water garden, you can expect them to be a bit shy or skittish. They need to check out their new home, get used to having new roommates and adjust to a new way of life. The fish already living in the pond could turn tail and hide, too. The new fish could spook the old fish, causing them to retreat to their favorite hole.

If this is the case in your pond, give the fish time to adjust. As soon as they’re used to their new home and used to one another, they’ll eventually come out of hiding. Encourage them to be social by tossing some floating food, like Pond Logic Floating Ponstix Fish Food, into the pond. That’ll bring them to the surface!

A word of advice: Before adding new fish to your pond, remember to quarantine them for a week or two in a separate tub to be sure they don’t have any parasites or fungal infections that could infect the rest of your population.

Water Changes

Fish can also become skittish and hide after water changes. Any change to their environment – like the water quality, pH level, or oxygen level – can cause them to stress, and when they stress, they may retreat to their favorite hiding spots.

To keep the water quality as even as possible, test your water’s pH, ammonia, nitrite and phosphate levels regularly using a commercial water testing kit. You’ll also want to keep your water well-aerated using a diffuser, like the Water Garden Professional Aeration Kit, to be sure the fish get an ample supply of oxygen. Also, be sure to check your filtration system regularly, cleaning or replacing filter media as needed.

Predators

Imagine looking up and seeing a clawed paw grab for you or a sharp beak slice through the water. Predators, like raccoons and herons, love a good sushi dinner – and that’s how they see your fish! If your pond and its inhabitants have been visited by hungry predators, your fish are hiding for their lives.

To chase off unwanted visitors, you can try a range of deterrents, including motion-activated sprinklers, like the Motion Activated Scarecrow; decoys, like the Great Blue Heron Decoy or 3-D Coyote Decoy; pond netting, like the Atlantic Pond Protector Net Kit; or reflective tape hanging from trees. Having 40-60% surface coverage of aquatic plants such as water lilies, water hyacinth or water lettuce will give your fish a place to shelter themselves from predators.

Under the Weather

Stressed or sick fish will also hide. If they’re not feeling well, it’s normal for them to segregate themselves away from the crowds. If you think your fish may be sick, try taking a closer look at it. Using a net, like the 4 in 1 Interchangeable Pond Net, fish it out and put it in your quarantine tank. After you determine what the problem is, treat the fish and the pond accordingly.

POND TALK: How have you coaxed shy fish out of their hiding places?

Do I Have to Take My Koi Out of My Water Garden for Winter? – Water Garden Q & A

Picture of a Water Garden in the Winter with a Bubbler Aeration System.



Q: Do I have to take my koi and goldfish out of my water garden for the winter? – Barbara of Massachusetts

A: No you don’t actually. They are many water garden owners who leave their koi and goldfish in their water garden throughout the winter season with no issues whatsoever. There are really only two things that you need to do to make sure your water garden is fit to allow fish to winter over:

Does your water garden have a depth of at least 18″?:
This is very important. There are places in the US alone where water freezing depths can easily be around 18″ to 24″. I suggest a minimum of 18″ of depth to be safe, but I am more inclined to recommend 24″ just to be double safe. We want to make sure our fish friends don’t become icicles. In either instance, it’s also extremely important to make sure we keep a hole open in the ice during these cold times, which leads me to the second thing.

Keeping an open hole in the ice during the winter:
During the winter, when the ice forms a solid layer across on the surface of your water garden, there are toxic gases, caused by decaying vegetation or organics, that can build up underneath the ice. This build up can become so toxic underneath the ice that it can kill all of the fish in the water garden. The best thing to do in this situation is to keep a hole open in the ice to allow for these gases to escape. This is actually very easy to accomplish. Using a pond heater/de-icer, such as a Pond Saucer or ThermoPond, is a great way to keep a hole open in the ice. Another way to keep a hole open in the ice would be to use a small bubbler aerator. These will not only keep a hole open in the ice, but will also add oxygen as well! Bubbler aerators can be used all year to keep oxygen levels high.

Fish Stocking Predator to Prey Ratio – Pond & Lake Q & A

Picture of a Bass

Q: I am looking to stock my pond this year and in the past I’ve had trouble with keeping the fish population balanced. Any suggestions? – Ed of Kentucky

A: Initially, when stocking your pond, the biggest factor to keep in mind is the predator to prey ratio.

Predator to Prey Ratio: 1predator fish to every 3 prey fish is a great rule of thumb when stocking your pond. Predator fish are large mouth bass or walleye,
while prey fish would be perch, hybrid bluegill or redear sunfish. Also, add fathead minnows to feed the predator fish to allow the prey fish to get established.

Please note: Adding catfish to your pond does not have any effect on predator to prey ratio but they will cause your pond ‘s water to be cloudy.

Advantages of Stocking Your Pond:

  • Fishing!…Of Course! Why not have a great fishing area, right in your backyard.
  • Keeps frog and leech populations at bay. Do you stay away from your pond because of the annoying frogs or blood sucking leeches? Well, stocking your pond helps keep down that population.

Another thing to keep in mind regarding fish is aeration. Using an aeration system will ensure not only clean and clear water, but healthy fish as well.

Fish Day is Saturday, October 4th, 2008: If you’re in the Southeastern Michigan area and are looking to stock your pond with fish, our semi-annual Fish Day is here to help. Click here to read more.

Is It Possible to Have a Weed-Free Pond & Still Have a Good Fish Population? – Pond & Lake Q & A

Porcupine Fish Attractor

Q: I would like to kill off the weeds in my pond but I am nervous that the smaller fish will not have any place to hide from the bigger fish. Is it possible to have a weed free pond and still have a good fish population?
- Scott of Texas

A: Absolutely. In most cases, artificial habitat is more productive than the real thing. For example the porcupine fish attractor (pictured left) is a simple way to create a working ecosystem within your pond or lake. Due to their unique design they create a natural habitat allowing multiple places for small fish to hide. The porcupine fish attractor is made of a custom green thin wall PVC. The green color allows the habitat to blend into the pond and the diameter of the PVC provides a safe place for minnows to spawn. Another important advantages are the sustainability of the PVC material. PVC will not decompose, cause any water quality issues, and will not snag a fisherman’s hook.

Note: For those of us northerners that enjoy ice fishing, now is the time to make your own fishing hole. Simply place the porcupine fish attractor where only you can find it and you’ll be sure to be filling your buckets come this winter!You can also build your own structure out of PVC or create a structure with rocks and boulders or other materials. If possible stay away from materials that can rot and put unnecessary debris and nutrients into your pond. Read more about creating fish habitat here.

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