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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

I top off my pond for evaporation, so why do I need to do water changes? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I top off my pond for evaporation, so why do I need to do water changes?

Q: I top off my pond for evaporation, so why do I need to do water changes?

Joan – Bethesda, MD

A: Topping off your pond with fresh water isn’t quite the same thing as a water change. Think of it like the oil in your car: You may “top it off” when the lubricant gets low, but to keep your motor humming, you need to do a complete oil change every 3,000 miles or so to remove the dirty oil that’s full of sludge and combustion by-products.

It’s the same idea with the water in your pond.

Adding water every week or so to replenish any lost from evaporation is certainly important—but it does nothing to remove the sludge, or algae-feeding nutrients, in your pond. As the water evaporates, the gunk stays behind and concentrates. Your filter does a good job removing the pollutants, but unfortunately it’s not always enough.

So why do water changes?

  • Remove the buildup of nutrients, like nitrates and phosphates
  • Promote fish health, as their well-being is directly related to your water quality
  • Reduce algae blooms

To keep buildup under control, we recommend you change 10 percent of your water every week, or 20 percent of your water every two weeks. Many pond owners use a spare pump and hose to draw out the dirty water and send it down the drain. If you have a pressure filter, using its back flush feature is the perfect way to make the water change.

If your tap water has chlorine or other heavy metals, don’t forget to make it safe with Pond Logic® Water Conditioner. It removes chlorine, destroys chloramines and detoxifies heavy metals. One ounce treats 500 gallons.

In addition, make sure you add some beneficial bacteria to the mix, like Pond Logic® Nature’s Defense® or LiquidClear™, because when you change the water, some good stuff goes out with the bad! Both products contain microorganisms that instantly activate once they hit the water, multiplying every 20 to 40 minutes as they digest organics in your pond.

Make water changes a regular part of your pond-maintenance routine.

Pond Talk: What water-change routine has worked well in your water garden or koi pond?

Neutralize Harmful Water Contaminates - Pond Logic(r) Water Conditioner

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