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How do I know when I can feed my koi again? – Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Koi FeedingQ: How do I know when I can feed my koi again? – Jim in Michigan

A: Now that we’re at winter’s peak, many of us begin to think about the coming spring.  As we start the spring to-do list, we remember those poor little koi that are out in the water garden.  Since you’ve kept a hole open in the ice all winter, you really have nothing to worry about, right? But your koi seem to be a little more active lately with the approaching spring and look like they have a mighty appetite since they haven’t eaten all winter. Should you start feeding now, or later? This all comes down to water temperature. Let me explain.

During the winter months koi go into a state of near-hibernation where their bodily systems are doing just enough to keep them alive.  Much like the frogs and turtles, koi typically do not eat during this time.  This is because their digestive tracts have slowed down so much that food cannot be fully digested by their stomachs. It is for this reason that we recommend that you stop feeding your koi altogether once water temperatures dip down below 40ºF.  As water temperatures being to climb between 40ºF & 55ºF the optimum food to feed your koi is a wheat germ based fish food like Spring & Fall Fish Food.  Wheat germ is specifically designed to be easy on the digestive tract for koi as they transition in and out of winter.

Fish FoodSo in summary, during the spring thaw watch your water temperatures. As they approach 40ºF, you will notice the koi becoming more active. At this point, throw in a very small amount of Spring & Fall Fish Food to see if they are interested. Once they start eating the pellets, you can begin ramping up the spring feeding. As the koi eat, continue to increase their rations (never more than they can clean up in a few minutes) until the water temperatures reach their normal levels for the summer. At this point, switch them over to a higher protein fish food like Growth & Color or Professional Fish Food.

POND TALK: When do you start feeding your fish?

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?

What Kind of Fish Food Should I Be Feeding My Koi? – Water Garden & Feature Q & A

A Family of Koi Posing for a Picture.

Water Gardens & Features Q & A

Q: What kind of food should I be feeding my pond fish? – Jamie of Florida

A: One of the greatest joys of keeping koi or goldfish in a decorative pond is mealtime. When it’s time for the fish’s daily dose of food, they’ll swim right to shore and seem to beg for those tasty morsels!

Of course you want to provide your finned friends with a diet that’s healthful, but choosing one can be a challenge. Food makers have formulated all sorts of blends for difference purposes. They’ve designed special fish foods for summer and spring/fall. Some are enriched with vitamins to enhance color. Some even come up with organic meals for fish owners who want to go eco-friendly with their ponds.

As omnivores, most pond fish, whether they’re koi, goldfish, comets or even mosquito-eating minnow, will eat both plant and protein matter. However, depending on the time of year, certain types of food are more easily digested than others. To help you decide which type of fish food to feed when, here’s a quick rundown of the different types available on the market today:

Wheat Germ-Based Foods: These wheat germ-based diets, such as Pond Logic Spring & Fall Fish Food, are packed with easy-to-digest plant matter and should be fed to fish during the fall and spring months when their metabolisms have slowed. As water temperatures cool, pond fish enter into a hibernation state and gradually stop eating for the
winter. Helping them ease them into and out of winter, these diets are gentle on their digestive systems while keeping their constitutions strong to fight off disease. Feed these spring and fall fish foods when the water temperature is between 40 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

Well-Balanced and Maintenance Foods: When water temperatures warm to 55 degrees or higher, you’ll want to change your fish’s diet to one that’s formulated for growth and maintenance. Some great well-balanced fish foods are Pond Logic Floating Ponstix if your feeling green you can choose Pond Logic Nature’s Blend Organic. These fish foods contain protein, minerals and vitamins to help the fish develop muscle as it becomes more active during the summer months. These foods are especially important if you have young or growing fish.

Color-Enhancing & Growth Foods: Color-enhancing foods bring out the color in your fish, making the reds more vibrant, the blacks deeper and the oranges richer. These unique protein and nutrient-filled diets can be fed throughout the summer months. Vitamins like Beta Glucan, Vitamin E and Ascorbic Acid, along with chelated minerals and natural color intensifiers, make your fish’s color pop in the pond. These foods also include extra protein. This extra protein will help allow koi to grow at a faster rate. For Color-enhancing and Growth fish foods use Pond Logic Growth & Color or for the best of the best use Pond Logic Professional Growth, Health, & Color.

Besides feeding your fish a healthful, balanced diet, you may wish to supplement it with some treats, like fresh watermelon or lettuce. Not only will your fish gobble them down, but you’ll also be developing a closer relationship with them, and ensure they’ll follow you around the pond at mealtime!

POND TALK: What do you feed your fish?

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?

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