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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 3 in 1 Interchangeable Pond Tool, 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?

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 available Reference Books. It’ll make you an expert in no time!

How Do I Properly Transport Koi During Spring Cleanout? – Water Feature Q & A

Picture of Koi in a Pool

Water Feature Q & A

Q: This is our first year with a water garden. I would like really like to clean it out in the spring but I don’t know what to do with all of my koi fish? – Alice of Pennsylvania

A: First, you need to find a water tight container large enough to comfortably hold your koi. Kiddie pools or plastic storage containers work well for this. They not only are water tight, but will float on the surface of the water. It is important to fill the container with water from the water garden and not tap water. Simply use a small mag-drive pump to pump water from the water garden to the container. Use a fish net to carefully transport the koi into their new temporary home.

It is also important to maintain good water quality in the container. Since your container has no filtration I suggest to add an small aeration system to keep the water  circulated as well as to maintain oxygen levels. After moving your koi into the container, they will be under stress. Adding pond salt to the water will also help keep their stress at bay.

You will also want to place a net over the top of the container so the koi do no jump out. If you can, place the container in a shaded area. If no shaded area is present, use a cloth to minimize direct sunlight.

Once completed you may go ahead and complete a spring cleanout. Once completed and filled with new water, we suggest to add water conditioner to remove any chlorine, heavy metals and chloramines in your tap water before transporting your koi back into the water garden.

Is it Too Early to Feed My Koi? – Water Feature Q & A

Picture of a Group of Koi

Water Feature Q & A

Q: My fish are no longer dormant and they look hungry. Is it too early to feed them? – Joan of Virginia

A: This is a very popular question I get during this time of the year. As the temperatures slowly start to warm up, your once dormant fish become lively again and they look hungry. The best way to determine whether or not to feed your fish is by measuring the temperature of the water:

Water Temperature is under 39 degrees Fahrenheit: DO NOT feed them. When temperatures are this cold, a fish’s digestive system is shut down and anything they do eat would not get properly digested.

Water Temperature is between 40 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit: Feed them Spring & Fall Wheatgerm Fish Food. As fish begin to wake up from dormancy, you may begin to feed them a Spring & Fall Wheatgerm Fish Food. This type of food is more easily digestable by fish than their regular diet.

Water Temperature is above 55 degrees Fahrenheit: At this point the fish are readily active and their digestive systems are fully up and running. You can choose between as assortment of balanced diets fish foods such as Floating Ponstix or higher protein diets such as Growth & Color & Professional Fish Foods. You can also go with an High Protein, organic formula as well.

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.

How Many Fish Can I Have? – Water Garden Q & A

Picture of a School of Fish

Q: How many fish can I have in my water garden? -Several Customers

A: There are many rules of thumbs out there regarding how many fish you can have in your water garden. Just remember, the old saying goes, “The more animals in the barn, the more doo doo to clean up.” With that said, if you have the number of fish that the picture to the left has…my guess is that you have algae! Below I am going to explain the 4-Key Factors in Maintaining a Clean, Clear & Healthy Pond Ecosystem. The way these factors work is this: If you plan to increase your fish load, then you must improve the other 3 to help compensate. Hopefully this helps!

1. The DefensePAC®:
The products included in the DefensePAC® provides beneficial bacteria, trace minerals, and a fish and plant safe pond cleaner. The DefensePAC works to breakdown fish waste, leaves or other organics that accumulate in the pond. These are essential to maintain a clean, clear and healthy ecosystem.

2. Fish Load:
When calculating your fish load think of it in pounds of fish or total inches. For example, one 6” fish can weigh as much as four 4” fish. The number of fish will affect the overall fish load, although 10 small fish may only produce the waste of one large fish. With this said, remember that your fish are growing and in many cases multiplying. Always plan for the future and be careful not to overstock your pond.

3. Proper Filtration:
The size and type of your filtration system will depend on your total fish load. If your filter is not properly sized for max potential, your fish will outgrow the filter. In most cases filters on the market are rated for ponds containing no fish or a minimal fish load. It is always best to get a filter that is rated for at least 2x the water volume of your pond.

4. Aquatic Plants:
A simple rule of thumb is to have 60% plant coverage. This should consist of submerged, floating and marginal plants. Floating plants, such as Water Hyacinths, pull their nutrients directly from the water. Rooted plants, such as water lilies and marginal plants, create a great place for your fish to hide from predators. Please note when aquatic plants are not present, algae will take their place.

When to Start Feeding Fish Again – Water Garden Q & A

Q: When do I start feeding my fish again? -Louis of Buffalo, NY

A: Thank you for your inquiry Louis. We recommend using the Spring and Fall Fish Food until the water temperature stays above 55 degrees. The Spring and Fall fish food is a wheat germ formula that s easier for the fish to digest when they are less active in cooler water temperatures. Once the temperature is over 55 degrees start using another blend of fish food such as our growth and color, organic, professional or ponstix.

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