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How do fish go dormant? Are they really asleep? – Decorative Water Gardens Q & A

How do fish go dormant? Are they really asleep?

How do fish go dormant? Are they
really asleep?

Ryan – Falston, MD

With the warm days of summer now a distant memory and fall following in its footsteps your Koi are left with a few months of cold weather with nothing to do but relax. Since they 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 your aerator or a de-icer. Also, make sure you feed with a cold weather formulated fish food as water temperatures approach 50° so your fish are able to safely digest it before hibernation begins. You can use a pond thermometer to keep track of the water temperature in your water garden.

Pond Talk: What do you do to help your fish through the winter season?

Get your fish ready for wither with Pond Logic Spring and Fall Fish Food!

Can Koi and Goldfish Breed? – Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Can Koi and Goldfish Breed?

Can Koi and Goldfish Breed? Sheldon – Huntington, KY

Would That Make It A Koldfish?

Your fish have finally spawned and after what seems like eons of waiting they are starting to grow into full grown Koi…or Goldfish…or…what are they? Your newcomers seem to have unique new patterns and colors that are difference than their alleged parents, is it possible your Koi and Goldfish have crossbred?

While it is possible to crossbreed the two types of fish, it is fairly uncommon for the process to naturally occur in your pond. The outcome of such instances yields sterile offspring that are unable to reproduce. It is much more common to produce new colors and varieties of fish due to two different types of goldfish reproducing. While some pond owners are curious about the potential to crossbreed their fish, many more would be happy to just experience the spawning process even once in their back yard water garden regardless of the results. If it has not happened for you yet, make sure you are providing adequate habitat in the form of submerged plants so if your Koi do spawn the eggs and fry will have places to attach and hide to avoid becoming an easy meal (yes Koi will eat their own young). Furthermore, maintain a healthy water feature by providing adequate filtration, aeration, and beneficial bacteria. Using the products in a Pond Logic DefensePAC will give you a wide assortment of products that simplify your pond maintenance and promote a clean healthy environment. Click over to our Koi Spawning Blog for a little more insight on the matter.

Pond Talk: Have you ever experienced this phenomenon?

Water Hyacinth

Why do I need to test for carbonate hardness in my lake or pond? – Pond & Lake Q & A

Testing for Carbonate Hardness

Pond & Lake Q & A

Q: Why do I need to test for carbonate hardness in my lake or pond? – Jose in Michigan

A: A number of pond treatments, including some algae-control formulas and other herbicides, contain copper. In certain conditions, the copper chelate may break down and release copper ions, which could cause your pond or lake’s alkalinity to rise.

If you use these treatments in a pond or lake stocked with trout, koi or goldfish that are sensitive to high alkalinity levels, you need to test your hardness regularly to ensure the health of your fish population.

What is Carbonate Hardness?

Carbonate hardness, or alkalinity, is the measure of carbonate and bicarbonate concentrations in your pond or lake’s water. Alkalinity is a measure of the ability of a solution to neutralize acid without changing the pH. It both controls and maintains water pH.

Alkalinity is related to the amount of dissolved calcium, magnesium and other compounds in the water, so alkalinity tends to be higher in harder water. It naturally decreases over time through bacterial action that produces acidic compounds that combine with and reduce the alkalinity components.

In a pond or lake, the alkalinity of the water is critical to the health of the fish – especially for trout, koi and goldfish. For these fish, the carbonate hardness of your pond or lake must exceed 50 ppm for the fish to survive, ideally falling between 50 ppm and 200 ppm.

Testing 1, 2, 3

When you’re treating your pond with a product like Pond Logic Algae Defense, be sure to use a water hardness test kit, like Laguna Quick Dip Multi-Test Strips.

Carbonate hardness is measured in degrees (KH) or in parts per million (ppm). Because the water hardness test kit will give its results in degrees, you’ll need to convert your findings from KH to ppm to determine whether the levels in your lake are safe for your fish. Use this formula to figure it out: 1 KH = 17.848 ppm. So if your test kit reads 5 KH, you would multiply 5 times 17.848, which equals 89.24 ppm.

POND TALK: How often do you test your pond or lake’s carbonate hardness level?

Why are my goldfish changing colors? – Water Garden & Feature Q & A

Why are my goldfish changing color?

Water Gardens & Features Q & A

Q: Why are my goldfish changing colors? – Emily in New York

A: Whether you have a traditional goldfish in your pond or one of the many fancy varieties, you may notice their colors change over time – don’t worry. It doesn’t necessarily mean your fish have some sort of disease! In most cases, it’s normal for goldfish to change color. So before you start dumping antibiotics in your pond, first consider these possibilities:

Genetics

Goldfish naturally change color as they age. Though most do so during their first year or two of life, others change throughout their lifetime. Fish experts have identified two different types of color changes in fish: physiological and morphological.

Physiological changes occur when the pigments in the cells either spread out, which makes the colors more pronounced, or when the pigment clusters in the center, which makes the colors more muted. Morphological changes occur when the actual number of pigments in the cells increase or decrease. An example of a morphological change is when a black goldfish starts to turn orange or a young goldfish loses its black markings as it ages. In this case, as the fish matures, it’s losing its black pigment cells.

How and when their colors change really depends upon their individual genetic makeup. Inexpensive goldfish whose parents are unknown can change in unpredictable ways, while expensive show-quality fish will be a bit more predictable.

Color-Enhancing Foods

Certain types of food, like Pond Logic Growth & Color Fish Food, can accentuate subdued colors in goldfish, too. Sometimes, a dull orange goldfish can be made a deeper shade of red with these specially formulated diets, which contain natural color-enhancing supplements like spirulina, beta glucan, vitamin E and vitamin C.

Keep in mind, however, that some of these color-enhancers may affect other colors, too. White areas on calico orandas, for instance, may take on an orange hue – which may not be the look you’re going for.

Illness, Poor Water Quality

If your goldfish’s color becomes very dull or it starts to become inactive, that could be a sign of illness or poor water quality. Use a test kit, like the Pond Care Master Test Kit, to check your water quality, including your pH, ammonia and nitrite levels. Then, if necessary, add a broad-spectrum medication, like Pond Care’s MelaFix or PimaFix, to treat parasites or bacterial infections your fish may have.

POND TALK: Have your fish changed their “spots?”

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?

Does Having Too Many Koi Cause String Algae? – Water Garden & Feature Q & A

Picture of String Algae.

Water Gardens & Features Q & A

Q: I have a bad case of string algae in my water garden and someone told me it was because I had too many fish. I have an approximately 1,000 gallon water garden and around 40 koi 6″ long in it. Is that really too many? If so, how many should I have? – Marco of Texas

A: You can ask anyone here at The Pond Guy; usually the first question we ask when someone says they have a bad algae problem is, “How many fish do you have?”, followed by, “What size water garden do you have?”. 9 out 10 times, there are way too many fish in the water garden. So why does having that many fish cause algae? Let me explain.

Sunlight + Food Source = Algae: Algae really only needs two things to grow, sunlight and a food source. The food source can come from many sources but fish waste is a major contributor. This means the more fish you have, the more waste, the more algae. Make sense?

Finding a Balance: When you put fish into your water garden always consider the future. Small fish become big fish and fish are very romantic creatures. Let’s say you purchased 20 koi at around 3″ each. Your pond may be able
to handle the fish load for a few seasons then all things start to change. As time went by, your fish have grown and maybe even started a family. As nature takes its course, your pond starts to pay the price and water quality becomes an issue. Take into consideration that 40 1″ fish produce the waste of just one 12″ fish. So even though you pond may have been able to handle the fish load in the past, you must consider that your fish load or fish waste grows expotentially every year.

Koi vs. Goldfish: I know that when you’re shopping for fish koi are more expensive and sometimes the goldfish look really nice too. I feel the same way myself at times. Just keep in mind that goldfish can reproduce up to 6 times a year where koi only reproduce once a year.

Fish Tips: Goldfish can grow up to 18” long and live up to 20 years, where as a koi can grow up to 36” long and live over 200 years! One famous scarlet koi, named “Hanako” (c. 1751 – July 7, 1977) was owned by several individuals, the last of which was Dr. Komei Koshihara. Hanako was reportedly 226 years old upon her death. Her age was determined by removing one of her scales and  examining it extensively in 1966. She is (to date) the longest-lived koi fish ever recorded (wikipedia).

POND TALK: How many fish do you have in your water garden?

Telling the Difference Between Koi & Goldfish – Water Garden & Feature Q & A

Picture of Koi & Goldfish.

Water Gardens & Features Q & A

Q: I have many different types of fish in my water garden. Most were given to me by my friends. I think they are koi but how can I tell the difference between a koi and goldfish? – Troy of Kansas

A: I remember when I first got into water gardening not only did I not know what the heck a water garden was, but pretty much every koi or goldfish I saw in a water garden was a goldfish to me. So how do you tell the difference? Is it by size? shape? Hopefully the following will be able to help you become a basic koi and
goldfish identifier!

Koi and Goldfish are related but not closely. Colors, patterns and body structure are the most distinctive differences between the two fish types.

Colors & Patterns: Did you know that koi varities are named by their color patterns?

Here are some of the most common koi varieties. See the pictures to the left to help identify them:

  • Kohaku, white koi with red patterns;
  • Sanke, white koi with red and small black “stepping stone” patterns;
  • Showa White, red and black patterns fit together;
  • Bekko Solid color koi with black spots;
  • Ogon Solid color in with regular or metallic scales just to name a few.

Just like koi there are many varieties of goldfish. Common goldfish found in water gardens are:

  • Sarassa, red and white patterns;
  • Shubunkin, “Calico colored” bluish tint with red and black spots;
  • Commons, Orange, yellow, red, brown, or black

Body Structure: A koi’s body is tapered at each end with pointy noses, barbells/whiskers like a catfish and flat bellies. Koi fins can be well defined (called standard koi by retailers) or long fins (called butterfly koi) shown in the pictures on the left. Scale quantity and placement may vary on a koi as well. Some koi have scales on just a few parts of their body while some may have no true scales at all.

Goldfish tend to be more rounded with a blunt nose and do not have barbells. Goldfish may also have butterfly fins or fan tails. Fan tail fish have divided tail fins that form a triangle shape or fan shape when viewed from above. Scales on a goldfish are more evenly distributed and located all over the fish.

If you would like to know more information about these and other fish types check out the Book The Hobbyist’s Guide to Pond Fish. It’ll make you an expert in no time!

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