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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.

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 the 3-in-1 Pond Tool and the 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 are there to help!

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

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I know herons are a common pond problem, but I think I have a raccoon around. Will it eat my fish, too? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I know herons are a common pond problem, but I think I have a raccoon around. Will it eat my fish, too?

Q: I know herons are a common pond problem, but I think I have a raccoon around. Will it eat my fish, too?

Matt – Burton, MI

A: Bandit-masked raccoons are a familiar sight just about everywhere because they will eat just about anything, including your fish. Found in forests, marshes, prairies, suburbs and even cities, raccoons can be a nuisance around ponds and lakes. Here’s what you need to know to keep them away from your pond – and your garbage cans.

ID, Please

With the exception of 75-pound Bandit that holds the world record for “World’s Fattest Raccoon,” these nocturnal foragers are typically between 15 to 23 pounds and 30 to 37 inches long, or the size of a small dog. They sport heavy fur streaked in brown, black and gray, and have black eye stripes that resemble a mask. Raccoons have bushy ringed tails that grow up to a foot long, and their dexterous paws and long fingers make distinct prints in the mud or snow.

Sushi for Dinner

Though raccoons love to eat mice, insects, and tasty fruits and vegetables (particularly sweet corn) plucked from your garden and garbage can, the opportunistic water-loving critters will happily take a dive in your lake to hunt for crayfish, fish, turtles, frogs and worms. They’ll use their lightning-fast paws to grab both aquatic and terrestrial prey.

Tracking a Bandit

Raccoons aren’t exactly stealthy. If they’re prowling around, they’ll leave telltale signs around your home and property – like knocked-over garbage cans, overturned rocks and flower pots, rooted-through plants and disheveled yard decor. They’ll also leave tracks in the wet soil around the pond. And, if you’re lucky, you may even find a shelter or den made in a hollow tree, culvert, woodchuck burrow or under a building.

Evicting Raccoons

Mother Nature provides her own raccoon control in the form of coyotes, foxes, great horned owls and bobcats, but you can give her a hand in several different ways.

  • A live-animal trap baited with cat food or tuna will allow you to capture and relocate your problem raccoon.
  • The Nite Guard Solar® deterrent keeps raccoons away with its solar-powered LED lights. Activated at dusk, the red lights resemble a predator’s flashing eyes flash and cause the critter to run away.
  • Keep garbage cans securely sealed and manage other easy-access food sources, like cat food bowls and compost bins.

With hundreds of thousands of raccoons traipsing across the countryside, you’ll likely discover one or two (or an entire family!) living on your property near your lake. But if you use some wildlife management tactics like these, you can keep them under control. Good luck!

Pond Talk: How do you manage the raccoon population near your pond?

Protects Against Nighttime Predators - Nite Guard Solar®

I thought I did a successful chemical treatment, but why are the weeds coming back? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I thought I did a successful chemical treatment, but why are the weeds coming back?

Q: I thought I did a successful chemical treatment, but why are the weeds coming back?

Barney – Andalusia, AL

A: Treating weeds is a tricky task. Despite dosing them with aquatic herbicides to clear your pond or lake of plant pests, they seem to grow back over and over again. It seems like a never-ending cycle! Why does this happen?

Well, chemical treatments have their benefits and drawbacks: On one hand, they work great as a quick fix to decimate actively growing weeds. But once those plants die, they become a food source for future weeds and algae, acting as a fertilizer for the very things you’re trying to get rid of. The herbicides do nothing to prevent future growth, and so you’re left with yet another growth spurt of pond weeds, which you’ll then treat with chemical herbicides – and around you’ll go again.

So how do you break the cycle? Here is a four-step approach that will help put an end to it.

  1. Remove the Dead Weeds: Once the weeds have browned, use a Pond & Beach Rake or PondSkim™ Debris Skimmer to remove as much dead material from the water as possible. This prevents dead plant material and muck from accumulating and fertilizing future weed growth.
  2. Be Proactive: Debris will still find its way into your pond, so add some beneficial bacteria to the water to manage the excess nutrients before they feed your weeds. The products found in the ClearPAC® Plus Pond Care Packages – including PondClear™ and EcoBoost™ for suspended debris, and MuckAway™ for accumulated bottom-of-the-pond debris – naturally break down that organic material.
  3. Add Aeration: If you don’t have one already, install a Airmax® Aeration System that’s sized for your pond or lake. By circulating and adding oxygen to the water column, the beneficial bacteria will thrive. In turn, they’ll eat through even more debris and prevent weed and algae growth.
  4. Shade and Color:  Pond Dye is another offensive tactic in your battle against aquatic weeds. Pond dye shades the water, preventing ultraviolet light from reaching the plants.

Throughout the spring and summer, weeds will grow. But with some pond management practices, you can keep those pesky plants to a minimum.

Pond Talk: How often do you treat your pond or lake for weeds?

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I started off with 4-inch koi and now they’re 8 inches. How big will they get before they stop growing? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I started off with 4-inch koi and now they’re 8 inches. How big will they get before they stop growing?

Q: I started off with 4-inch koi and now they’re 8 inches. How big will they get before they stop growing?

Lauren – Lincoln, NE

A: In an ideal environment—a supersize space with pristine water conditions at a stable 75 degrees Fahrenheit—an adult koi can reach a whopping 3 feet long. A yard! Nearly a full meter! Yep, that’s a really big fish.

Don’t worry: Chances are slim that your finned pal will grow to that immense length, but you can help it reach its full potential. Koi will keep growing and growing throughout their lives, sometimes faster than others. How fast and large they grow depend on several factors, including:

  • Water quality. Clean water pumped full of oxygen will promote a fish’s health and growth, while poor water quality can stunt its growth. Koi will tolerate a dirty, cloudy environment, but their development and vitality will suffer. Make sure you have an aeration kit in place and are using beneficial bacteria from the DefensePAC® to keep the water crystal clear.
  • Water temperature. A steady 75° F will keep koi in a more active growth state where they’re building muscle and body mass like crazy. Cooler or fluctuating water temperatures trigger a slower growth rate as they slow down their metabolism and activity level. If you live anywhere other than in the tropics, expect to see slower growth in the winter months.
  • Nutrition. Food—and how much of it they eat—matters. Fish food that’s packed with protein and vitamins is formulated to help koi grow and develop. Some also contain ingredients that boost your fish’s vibrant colors.
  • Genetics. Genes play a huge role in how large a koi could grow in the right conditions. Colossal parents often produce colossal offspring, and if those fry live in a spacious pond with clean, aerated water and good food, who knows how big they’ll get!
  • Age. Like most living things, koi develop faster when they’re young and slower as they age. Your 4-inch koi quickly doubled in size because they’re still adolescents; as they get older, their growth rate will slow down.

If you have big plans for your koi, give them an ideal ecosystem and good grub. Your colorful friends may not reach that 3- or 4-foot mark—but you never know!

Pond Talk: What’s the largest koi you’ve ever had—or seen in person?

Energy Efficient Design For 24-7 Use - The Pond Guy® Water Garden Aeration Kit

 

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What can I do to help out a fish that was attacked by a heron? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: What can I do to help out a fish that was attacked by a heron?

Q: What can I do to help out a fish that was attacked by a heron?

Lori – Glen Forney, PA

A: Ouch. A heron attack isn’t pretty – and it’s potentially deadly to your fish. Unfortunately, you can’t call 9-1-1 or an emergency fish veterinarian for a pond call, but you can try some things that could save your pet’s life.

 

  1. Examine, Triage: The first thing to do is examine the victim and do some triage. Capture the injured fish in a pond net and take a closer look at its wounds without removing it from the water. How severe is the injury? Are there just a few scrapes, or does the fish have an open wound?
  2. Minimal Injuries: If your fish’s injuries aren’t too severe and it appears to be normal except for a few scrapes, leave it in the pond and add some Stress Reducer PLUS to the water. The liquid formula will help to calm the fish and rebuild its slime coat, which defends it against infection. You might also want to add some soothing salt to the water (read about it here).
  3. Remove and Isolate: If your fish is severely injured, set up a quarantine tank with pond water and an aerator, add some Stress Reducer PLUS, put it in a shaded and protected area, and gently move the fish from the pond to the tank.
  4. Watch for Infection: Keep an eye on your fish while it’s in the quarantine tank. Because damaged tissue becomes a breeding ground for bacterial and fungal pathogens, watch for signs of infection. If you see split or ragged fins, slimy patches or red ulcers on its body, or any other unusual symptoms, use CrystalClear® Wipeout™ or API® MelaFix to heal the wounds and restore damaged tissue.

While your finned friend is recovering, makes some plans for how you’ll guard your pond against future attacks. A Blue Heron Decoy will dissuade the real things from stopping by for a snack. Pond netting will prevent birds from reaching the water. Floating, submerged and marginal aquatic plants give your fish somewhere to hide, as do fish shelters, like the Koi Kastle. Set your fish up for safety – especially since that heron will be back for seconds!

Pond Talk: Have you ever nursed a sick fish back to health?

Reduce Stress & Heal Damages Tissue - The Pond Guy® Stress Reducer PLUS

 

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I would love to have ducks at my pond. Is there any harm, and how do I attract them? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I would love to have ducks at my pond. Is there any harm, and how do I attract them?

Q: I would love to have ducks at my pond. Is there any harm, and how do I attract them?

Jerry – Cass City, MI

A: Ducks certainly make an entertaining and colorful addition to a pond or lake. Various species of these plumed wetland visitors grace just about every continent and climate on planet earth – including sub-Antarctic islands like South Georgia and the Aucklands to oceanic locales like Hawaii and New Zealand.

Despite their worldwide distribution, getting ducks to call your pond home can be a challenge. But you can attract them if you understand their specific needs.

Pondside Open House

The duck types that frequent ponds include mallards and wood ducks, along with Muscovy ducks, black-bellied and whistling ducks. Ducks are omnivores and like to eat a wide range of foods, from small fish, eggs, snails, worms and bugs to grass, weeds, seeds and berries. In general, they require a lot of space and copious amounts of water in the form of marshes, lakes or large ponds. Aquatic plants, like reeds and water lilies, make them feel at home, as does concealed areas with tall marsh grass and shrubby cover for nesting and hiding.

Attracting the Flock

Providing a duck friendly habit is the best way to convince the feathered visitors to stop by, but here are some expert tricks to make your pond more appealing:

  • Create a Mess Hall: Set up feeding areas by clearing out an area or providing large, low platforms, and toss out some cracked corn, spilled birdseed and kitchen scraps. Don’t feed them by hand, but use goodies to pique their interest.
  • Plant a Duck Garden: Berry bushes can help draw ducks. And if you have a garden area near your pond, use mulch to attract tasty insects and earthworms.
  • Offer a Nest Box: Though ducks will nest in a variety of places, from ground nests in grassy areas near the pond to brush piles and hollow logs, provide them with nest boxes to help attract nesting ducks.
  • Install a Fountain: Ducks flock to the sound of splashing, so consider installing a fountain or waterfall in your pond.
  • Use Natural Décor: Add some half-submerged logs, overhanging shelves, marsh grasses and marginals, aquatic plants and brush piles to your landscape.
  • Add Some Decoys: A duck decoy pair floating quietly on your pond will attract the attention of the real-life things. They’ll swoop down to investigate and (hopefully!) decide to stay for a while.

Duck Dangers

Unlike a Great Blue Heron, ducks will leave your fish alone – but they can trigger other problems. If a lot of them are visiting, they can cause water quality issues (which can be remedied with the beneficial bacteria in Pond Logic® PondClear™). They could bring in unwanted weeds, like duckweed and water milfoil, that weren’t present before. The ducks, ducklings and eggs could also attract feral cats, raccoon, skunks and other predators.

Having these colorful beauties visit your pond, however, is worth the hassle. When they do stop by, observe them from a distance – and enjoy bird watching!

Pond Talk: Do ducks visit your pond regularly?

Help Attract Ducks To Your Pond - Flambeau® Storm Front™ Mallard Decoy Pair

 

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We just bought a house with a half-acre pond. Where do we start? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: We just bought a house with a half-acre pond. Where do we start?

Q: We just bought a house with a half-acre pond. Where do we start?”

Hans – Brandon, MS

A: Some home buyers look for granite countertops or in-house movie theaters – but a half-acre pond is an amenity that makes us giddy! Because you likely don’t know the history of the pond, how it was built or how it was maintained, it’s best to give that new pond a complete rehab from the bottom up so you can use it to its full potential.

Here’s a five-step process that will make the job easy:

  1. Assess the Pond’s Condition. Before you begin rehabbing your pond, take some time to examine it, including measuring its size and depth, identifying weeds and beneficial aquatic plants, checking for fish, and inspecting pre-existing structures like a dock or an aeration system. These details will help maintain your pond or get it back into shape.
  2. Give It an Oxygen Boost. Your real work begins with installing a bottom-diffused aeration system, like one of the Airmax® Aeration Systems. The units, which include a diffuser, compressor and airline, circulate oxygen throughout the water column so that it’s readily utilized by critters living in your pond, including fish, frogs and beneficial bacteria. It also helps remove harmful gases from the water. If your pond already has an aeration system, thoroughly inspect all its parts and tune them up as necessary.
  3. Control Weed Growth. Treat prolific growth of aquatic weeds and algae. Invasive plants like cattails, chara, phragmites, bulrush, watermilfoil and even out-of-control water lilies can become real problems in a closed ecosystem. Depending on your situation, you may need to use an herbicide and/or algaecide to get them under control before they take over and negatively impact your water quality. For help, check out our Weed Control Guide, which can help you ID and choose the right remedy for the weed.
  4. Remove Unwanted Vegetation. Before and after you treat the weeds and algae, mechanically remove growing and dead vegetation with a Weed Razer™ and Weed Raker™. If you don’t pull that growth out of the water, it will break down into detritus and pond muck, which will actually fertilize the weeds and algae you’re trying to eliminate!
  5. Do Your Maintenance Chores. Now that your pond is on its way to being clean, clear and usable, keep it that way by maintaining it with beneficial bacteria and pond dye. Beneficial bacteria, like those found in ClearPAC® PLUS Pond Care Package, will break down any residual pond muck buildup and keep the water clear. Pond dye will tint the water blue or black, preventing ultraviolet rays from reaching problem plants like algae while adding beauty to your waterscape.

With a little work, you can transform your new pond into a dramatic part of your landscape – particularly if you decide to add a decorative fountain or other feature to it. Have fun with your new aquatic playground!

Pond Talk: What advice can you share with new pond owners?

All-In-One Pond Care Package - Pond Logic(r) ClearPAC(r) Plus

 

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