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I just installed a water garden, added fish and they died. What am I doing wrong? – Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

My Fish Are Nibbling At My Toes When I Swim. Why Is This Happening And How Can I Stop It?

I just installed a water garden, added fish and they died. What am I doing wrong? Jeff – Warrensburg, IL

Great Things Take Time

It feels great to finally stand back and take a look at your finished handy-work. A brand new beautifully decorated water feature full of crystal clear water. It looks so great you may even consider jumping in it yourself. So what wouldn’t your fish love about it? It is important to analyze both the construction of your water garden as well as the water quality before you introduce your precious pets into their new home.

An “ideal” pond set up places your pond at a minimum depth of 18”, in an area that is limited to a maximum of around 5-6 hours of sunlight a day and includes aeration, filtration and a bit of water circulation. This ensures that your fish will have adequate protection from harsh weather, and are being supplied clean oxygenated water. You will also want to make sure your new water feature provides enough of these amenities to accommodate all of your finned friends. So what if your pond makes the cut and passes your quality control inspection but your fish still didn’t pull through?

While we consider tap water healthy by our standards, your fish may tend to disagree. When filling a newly constructed pond for the first time, you will want to make sure you rinse off all of the materials you are using (your rocks and plants for example) to make sure they are free of any potentially harmful contaminants. Harmful materials can be added to the pond regardless of whether you fill your pond with city water or well water. Well water can sometimes contain heavy metals while city water contains chlorides and other chemicals that are harmful to fish. You can detoxify and remove these harmful materials by adding treatments like Water Conditioner. The conditioner will not only neutralize the unwanted items from your water, it adds beneficial agents to the water body that improve the slime coat on your fish and increase their oxygen uptake resulting in happier, less stressed fish that are better protected against parasites and infections.

Once the pond is full and treated with conditioner you will still want to let the pond run on its own for a while to allow the water to commence its nitrogen cycle and balance. Without assistance the pond would take about 6 weeks to balance which, in our opinion, is too long. You can cut the wait down by adding PL Gel to your filtration media, using your Water Conditioner, and using beneficial bacteria like Nature’s Defense®. Purchasing a Test Kit will allow you an opportunity to watch the nitrogen cycle at work. You will be able to track the spikes in ammonia, nitrites, and pH, and make sure they settle down to acceptable levels. Read more about the nitrogen cycle in this blog. You can also introduce a couple small, inexpensive fish into the pond to help the pond balance faster and to test the water and see if it is ready for your more valuable fish. If your test fish do just fine then it is safe to add new ones to the mix. Try to add only 1 or 2 fish at a time to make sure your pond has time to gradually adjust to the increased nutrient load and to see if your filtration is up to the task of keeping the pond filtered and free of algae. Taking a little time when adding fish to your new pond will save you money and tears from lost pets. While you may be excited to stock your new pond, let patience prevail and provide you seasons of enjoyment with your new water garden.

Pond Talk: Did you have any complications when adding fish to your new pond? What did you do to remedy the issue?

2 Responses

  1. Before adding fish to your pond you should check the PH of the water, and try to find out the PH of the water from your local fish store. Or at least check the PH of the water that they are bagged in when you bring them home. If there is a big difference in PH, espcially if the water they are going into in your pond is a more acidic PH, that is enough to shock them and kill them. Also too, float the bags of fish for at least 20 minutes to let the water in the bag reach the same temp. as the water in the pond. If there is a vast difference that that is also enough to shock your fish. It also doesn’t hurt to add some of your pond water to the bags while they are floating, that helps the differance in PH/temp/ etc.

  2. To set a pond or even a salt water aquarium you start with getting your water tested run your water filtration for at least one weel with a UV light then after one or two weels with no fish then add on or two fish per week .
    In a four week period add no more than eight fish .
    do this and you can have a fantastic pond or aquarium .
    A good large pond will take maybe up to eight months before it is a good running pond .
    I have been in many stores that sell fish and hear customers asking the people asking why did there new fish poond have all dead fish when it looked perfect .
    I have a 2,500 gallion pond with fifteen large koi and it took me over eight months before I was sure it was running good .
    Peter C San Rafael Calif

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