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Someone told me I need to do the Jar Test. What is that? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Someone told me I need to do the Jar Test. What is that?

Q: Someone told me I need to do the Jar Test. What is that?

Margie – Clinton, ME

A: Let me guess: You have discolored or cloudy water, right?

Your friend gave some good advice. If you have green- or tea-colored water, or murky water in your pond, a jar test is an easy way to diagnose just what’s causing those clarity issues.

It’s simple to do. Take a clear glass jar, dunk it into your pond, fill it up with the water and let it sit for 24 hours. Overnight, the jar and its contents become a miniature version of your water garden – and it’ll reveal the source of your problem. Here’s how to read your jar:

Green Water

If your jar contains green-tined water or if the water has green particles in it, you most likely have algae. Planktonic algae – the source of algae blooms – are floating, microscopic plants that color pond water green, blue-green, brown or variations in between. Your jar is telling you to treat for algae with an algaecide like AlgaeFix®. It clears up all types of algae blooms fast.

Tea-Colored Water

Discolored or tea-colored water means you have some leaf tea brewing in your pond. As organic debris decomposes in your pond, the tannins and other byproducts mix into the water column, discoloring it. Your first remedy is to add a bag of Activated Carbon to the water. It will clear up the dissolved materials that are causing the problem. While the carbon is working, remove floating and decaying material with Collapsible Skimmer Net and ClearVac™ Pond Vacuum. Keep your pond clean by skimming it regularly and covering it with pond netting or a Pond Shelter™ during the fall months.

Water with Sediment

Does your jar have clear water with a layer of sediment on the bottom? If so, you have an abundance of organics in the pond, and your fish are constantly stirring them up and clouding the water. Your four-step solution: Remove large debris, perform a partial water change, add a Water Conditioner, and double down on the beneficial bacteria from the DefensePAC®.

A jar test can reveal a lot about the water in your pond. If you need some assistance in discerning what your jar is telling you, just email one of The Pond Guy® experts. They’re there to help!

Pond Talk: Have you ever been surprised by the results of a jar test in your pond?

Safely Clear Tea Colored Water - Pond Logic (r) Activated Carbon

Is it normal for my koi to change color? Why does it happen? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Is it normal for my koi to change color? Why does it happen?

Q: Is it normal for my koi to change color? Why does it happen?

Judy – Southport, NC

A: They say a tiger can’t change its stripes – but did you know a koi can change its colors?

As you get to know each one of your koi personally (and you will if you haven’t already!), you may notice changes in the pigment, color depth and hue in the fish’s black, white and red scales. Don’t worry: It’s not necessarily a cause for panic. The color changes can be caused by several factors, including:

Sun Exposure: During the summer when the sun is shining, you get a tan; during the winter, you don’t. It’s the same thing with koi. Their scales can change color depending on their exposure to that bright orb in the sky. They won’t turn an Oompa-Loompa orange during the summer (though that may not be a bad thing to some koi keepers!), but you may notice a color change in some of your fish after their winter slumber.

Genetics: Koi experts will tell you how critical a role genetics plays in the coloration and patterning of koi. Dominant and recessive genes dictate how much hi (red), sumi (black), shiroji (white) and other colored markings appear. And, just like your hair color can change based on your genetic makeup, the koi’s scale color can change, too.

Stress: If your fish are stressed, they may show their unhealthiness in their coloring – just like when you take on a pallor-type tone when you’re under the weather. Make sure to keep your pond clean and well-oxygenated with an aeration system, like the Airmax® KoiAir™ Water Garden Aeration System. Also be sure to check your water quality with a water test kit, like the PondCare® Master Liquid Test Kit that measures ammonia and pH, and correct it if necessary.

Diet: A koi’s overall health – just like human’s – is affected by what it eats. Feed your fish food that has enough vitamins and nutrients to support vibrant color, like Pond Logic’s Growth and Color Fish Food. It contains top-quality ingredients, vitamins, natural color intensifiers and chelated minerals that enhance colors in koi and goldfish. To punch up your koi’s colors even more, add some oranges and watermelon to its diet.

Pond Talk: What kinds of color changes have you seen in your koi?

Pond Logic® Growth & Color Fish Food - Enhance Fish Health & Beauty

Do I really need to adjust my water’s pH level? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Do I really need to adjust my water's pH level?

Q: Do I really need to adjust my water’s pH level?

Terry – Bishopville, MD

A: Sure, you’ve seen those pH tests, like the Pondcare® Master Test Kit, online or at your local pond supply shop, and you’ve overheard veteran pond keepers talking about pH level adjustments. But what in the world is pH and why would want to monkey with it in your water garden or fish pond?

pH Defined

In super simple terms, pH, which stands for potential hydrogen, is a measure of how acidic or alkaline a water body is on a scale from 0 to 14. Pure water is neutral. It has a pH close to 7.0 at 77 degrees F. Blood is also close to neutral. Ammonia’s pH is ~11, which is high on the alkaline charts, while stomach acid’s pH is ~1, which acidic enough to burn through your chewed-up chow.

pH in Your Pond

So why is the pH level in a pond or water garden such a hot topic? Because pH affects the health of those things swimming around in the water. Fish love a liquid environment that strikes the right balance between acid and base. Your pond’s pH level affects their ability to reproduce, to fight disease, to metabolize their food – to do just about everything. The pH level also affects the health of your plants, frogs, turtles and any other living critters that call your pond home.

Adjusting to a Proper pH

Don’t worry: You don’t have to keep your pond at a perfect 7.0 pH all the time. In fact, an acceptable pH reading for a pond is 6.5 – 8.5. But you should use caution when adjusting it because doing so rapidly can harm your aquatic life. If you absolutely must adjust your pH using a pH Stabilizer like pH Lift or pH Drop, apply enough treatment to shift the levels 0.5 at a time, wait several hours before re-treating, and test the waters often with your Pondcare Master Test Kit.

Pond Talk: How often do you test the pH in your pond?

The Most Complete Test Kit For The Job - PondCare® Master Test Kit

We just constructed out pond, how long should we wait to add fish? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q&A

We just constructed out pond, how long should we wait to add fish?

We just constructed out pond, how long should we wait to add fish?

Jay – Phoenix, AZ

When you create a new pond, you’re effectively building a new ecosystem from scratch. At the beginning, your pond’s waters might look clean, clear and inviting, but nature’s just getting started. Until the initial nitrogen cycle is complete, there’s still work to be done before fish can safely take up residence.

At its early stages, any new body of water – whether an indoor aquarium or a backyard pond – goes through the nitrogen cycle. This cycle begins when living organisms break down nitrogen through their natural digestive processes. Until that cycle is complete, concentrations of ammonia naturally build up in the water – and too much ammonia is extremely harmful to fish. Fortunately, with the introduction of natural bacteria in products like ourPond Logic® DefensePAC® to your pond, you can speed up the nitrogen cycle, making the pond safe for new fish in four to six weeks or less.

In addition to DefensePAC®, other products like Pond Logic® Stress Reducer PLUS and Pond Logic® Water Conditioner go a long way toward making new pond water inhabitable. Stress Reducer Plus helps fish to restore their natural protective slime coats, making them less vulnerable to illness. Water Conditioner helps to neutralize chlorine and other chemicals in the water that can lead to stress.

But simply adding DefensePAC®, Stress Reducer and Water Conditioner won’t tell you when your water is ready to support piscine life. For that, you’ll want to use our PondCare Master Liquid Test Kit, which tests water for pH, ammonia, and nitrite. When readings are consistently within healthy ranges – as clearly explained in the Master Liquid Test Kit’s documentation – you’re ready to welcome your new fish to their new home.

Pond Talk: Have you recently built a pond and are waiting to add fish?

DefensePAC®

I’ve always been curious to know just what really lives down in my pond. – Ponds & Lakes Q & A

I've always been curious to know just what really lives down in my pond.

I’ve always been curious to know just what really lives down in my pond. Holly – Girdler, KY

The Company You Keep

Your pond is a beautiful and enjoyable addition to your back yard and just as it is full of water, it is also full of mysteries. Since we have at one time or another used our ponds for swimming, fishing, or maybe irrigation we can only wonder, “What really lives beneath the surface of my pond?”

While you won’t find any man-eating sharks or lost cities like Atlantis at the bottom of the pond, there is a surprisingly diverse selection of living creatures cozying up in your water. In your average back yard farm pond you can expect to find large creatures such as fish, frogs and turtles, snakes and muskrats. In regards to the smaller inhabitants in your pond you have tadpoles, a variety of insects, and don’t forget your microscopic bacteria in both aerobic and anaerobic flavors. Your pond also plays host to aquatic plants like Cattails, Algae, and submersed weeds like American Pondweed, Hydrilla, and Naiad. It is only natural that since your pond is choc-full of life, it will draw additional wildlife to its shores like birds and deer. The physical location of your pond will directly influence what kinds of creatures you will find frequenting the water as certain animal species are located in select regions in the US.

Now that you are certain you are not alone in your pond, rest assured that the majority of what is living in your pond actually helps create a balanced ecosystem at best and is a minor inconvenience to people at worst. Having a healthy and balanced fish population will help keep your pond clear of insects and leeches. Creating an ideal environment for beneficial aerobic bacteria like those in PondClear™ and MuckAway™ to thrive will improve your water clarity and reduce muck accumulation and weed growth. Click over to our Bacteria Blog to learn more about these microscopic maids.

With all of these animals in your pond who is responsible for room assignments? If you are not aerating your pond, then your pond is most likely broken up into layers or thermoclines. You may have experienced this when swimming in your pond. Your chest is nice and warm but the water your feet occupy is cold. Many customers confuse this stratification with their pond being spring fed. Oxygen and light can only travel so far beneath the surface of the pond without assistance. This means that the top layer of your pond is typically a warm, oxygen rich environment which is prime real estate for the ponds inhabitants. The lower layers of the pond are darker, cooler and have considerably less oxygen. Gasses released by decomposing plants and fish waste (thanks to anaerobic bacteria) are trapped in this bottom layer creating a toxic environment that is not a very ideal living space. Installing an Aeration System, you can infuse oxygen and circulate the entire water column allowing your fish and their roommates to utilize the entire pond. Aerating the pond will also cut down on those smelly toxic gases and encourage a cleaner healthier pond which makes it more enjoyable for not only the wildlife but for you as well.

POND TALK: What types of creatures have you found in your pond?

Get clear water naturally!

How do I calculate my pond size? – Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

How do I calculate my pond size?

How do I calculate my pond size? Pete – Steele, AL

If someone were to ask you how big your water garden is, how would you respond? Most pond owners have an idea of how many gallons their pond my hold or how many square feet their water feature occupies, but have you ever really measured to see how close your guesstimates comes to the actual numbers?

Knowing how large your pond is down to the square foot or the nearest gallon is not realistic nor is it, by any means, necessary. You will just want to verify that what you “think” is a 15’ x 20’ is not actually 30’ x 40’. People tend to associate size with common everyday items they see around their home. It is not uncommon to hear someone tell us that their pond is about “half of a horse trailer long” or “up to my knees deep”. This may seem like a reasonable answer at the time, but when trying to break down how many gallons are in your pond, or how many square feet of surface area we are dealing with, we, unfortunately, aren’t sure how long your trailer is or how tall you are. =) To keep everyone on the same page and make sure we are all dealing with the same units of measure, we suggest you break out a tape measure and break the pond down into feet and inches.

You may be wondering to yourself why you even need to really know how much water your pond holds or what it matters if you don’t know its surface area. Bacteria products like Nature’s Defense® or Liquid Clear™ are added to the pond based on the number of gallons you are treating. The same holds true with algae killing products like TetraPond® Algae Control and even Barley Extract. Other products require an estimate of the pond’s surface area for proper application. Aquatic Plant Packages and Pond Netting are examples of such products. Knowing the size of your pond can also help you determine how many fish your pond should typically hold or what size Pond Vacuum is best suited for your particular application.

Now that you know the whys of sizing your pond, let’s get down to business and measure your pond out. The easiest ponds to measure are those that are shaped as simple circles and rectangles, the more irregular the shape, the less accurate our measurements become.

Length x Width x Height

This is the formula used to find the volume of a rectangular shape. It can still be used to get you in the neighborhood if you are measuring a kidney shaped pond, the numbers you get on paper however will be slightly higher than what your pond actually consists of. Measure your pond at its longest point and then its widest point. To demonstrate, lets say the length came to 15 feet and the width 10 feet. You can then measure the depth of the pond. If it is the same depth throughout use this number in our formula. If you have a plant shelf or the depth varies, measure the maximum depth and cut it in half to create an average depth. Let’s say the pond is 4 feet at its deepest but has some shallow areas for plants. We will use half of that depth, 2 feet, for our formula. If you are just looking for surface area, multiply the length and width (15 x 10) to get 150 square feet. If you are looking to find how many gallons the pond holds then multiply the length by width by height (15 x 10 x 2) to get 300 cubic feet. A cubic foot can hold 7.48 gallons of water so to find out how much 300 cubic feet can hold just multiply the two (300 x 7.48) to get 2,244 gallons. If you are also running a waterfall take into account that there is also some water being held in the stream, use the length and width of the stream to calculate a rough volume on it as well. Just like that you now have the volume of your pond.

Easy As Pi

If your pond is round in shape we will use the formula Surface Area = Pi x R² or in other words Surface Area = 3.14 times radius times radius. The radius of your pond is simply half of the distance across. If the pond is a 10 foot circle then the radius is 5 feet. Multiply 3.14 by 5 and then multiply by 5 once more (3.14x5x5) to get 78.5 square feet of surface area. To find your volume you multiply this number by the depth and convert to gallons just like we did with the rectangular pond.

If you want to know exactly how many gallons are in your pond you can use a meter to physically measure the amount of water it takes to fill their pond using a garden hose. If you are constructing a new water garden or pondless waterfall don’t forget to take into account that some of the water from your pond will be held in the stream bed. Give yourself a little wiggle room when digging the basin pond to hold the extra water if you have to shut off the waterfall for any reason.

We have a few helpful Calculators on our site that can help you find your recommended fish capacity, select the proper pump, and if anything, play with your new found pond dimensions.

POND TALK: Now that you have a better understanding of how to measure your pond compare your results with what you originally estimated. Were you close?

How do I calculate my pond size?

How do I know if I have proper aeration? – Pond & Lake Q & A

Don’t Under Aerate
How do I know if I have proper aeration? Felipe – Moscow, ID

The bigger the better when it comes to aeration.

When purchasing your aeration system you were told it will promote a clean, healthy pond with less algae and clear water. With more and more customers installing aeration systems in their ponds now may be a good time to discuss some of the assumptions and mistakes made when choosing an aeration system.

An Airmax® Aeration System can make the difference when it comes to your pond’s health, so selecting the right system can be very important.  In the long-run there is no free lunch.  If you try to “Make Do” with a smaller aeration system than what is recommend, it may come back to haunt you.  When an aeration system is sized correctly it will eliminate any thermoclines (thermoclines are a separation of water based on temperature). Have you ever swam in your pond and felt very cold water at your feet? Most pond owners believe this is a spring, when in reality, it’s caused by a thermocline. Proper aeration improves water quality, breaks down organic debris (muck) and improves the overall ecosystem in your pond.  Aeration works by circulating the entire pond’s water column from top to bottom.  The tiny bubbles created by the diffuser forces cool oxygen deprived water from the bottom depths all the way to the pond’s surface. This circulation drives oxygen to the bottom of the pond allowing “good” bacteria to digest muck, reducing nutrients and increase the overall dissolved oxygen in the pond.  If the system is undersized it will not create uniform circulation and simply pump small amounts of the cool nutrient-rich water from the bottom of your pond to the top.  This is the equivalent of adding fertilizer to your pond.  This can result in additional algae growth, odors and even fish kills.  This can all be especially true during the warmer months of the year.

If you currently have an aeration system running and you are not sure if it is sized correctly, there is an easy way to tell with a thermometer and long string.  You will use the string to extend the reach of the thermometer taking temperature readings every 24 inches, letting the thermometer rest long enough to get the true temperature reading at your desired depth.  Take readings every 24 inches until you reach the bottom of your pond. If there is more then a few degrees difference in any of your temperature readings you are more then likely under aerating your pond.

If you haven’t purchased an aeration system yet take advantage of The Pond Guys and Gals, we offer free aeration mapping and technical support.

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