Q: How do I know it is OK to put my fish back into the outdoor pond?
Ronnie – Salt Lake City, UT
A: This time of year, most of us are suffering with some cabin fever—including your pond fish. After being cooped up all winter long in a temporary indoor aquarium or tub, they’re ready to swim back to their spacious outdoor home.
But before you relocate your fish, you have some work to do first. The best time to return them to the pond is several weeks after you’ve done all the necessary chores to prepare for their homecoming. To make things easy, check out our four-step checklist:
- Spring Cleaning: First, clean out your dormant pond. Remove any debris that has settled over the past few months, and perform a thorough spring cleanout to remove winter buildup. This will give your finned friends a nice place to come home to—and minimize algae growth in the spring.
- Jump Start Filtration: About a month before you plan to return your fish to the pond, start your filtration system and let it run without fish. Turn on your mechanical filter and seed your filter pads with beneficial bacteria, such as Microbe-Lift® PL Gel, to speed the colony’s growth (but first make sure the water temperature is above 55° Fahrenheit with your pond thermometer). Keep in mind that in the spring, a filter can take four to six weeks to become established, so adding fish without adequate filtration established can result in quick algae formation.
- Test Your Water: While your pond is cycling, periodically check your water chemistry with a API® Pond Master Test Kit to ensure the pond water is balanced and pH, ammonia and nitrate levels are safe for fish.
- Acclimate Fish: The final step before re-homing your fish is to help them get used to the pond’s water temperature, which will likely be colder than their winter housing. Carry your fish out in a bucket and slowly add water from the pond to the bucket at 10- to 15-minute intervals, using your pond thermometer to check the water temperature as you go. This shock-prevention technique will allow them to adjust slowly—and safely—to their outdoor digs.
Your fish may become stressed during the indoor-to-outdoor transition, but you can keep it to a minimum by preparing their home and making sure they’re as healthy as possible in advance of their relocation. Have fun moving!
Pond Talk: Do you notice a change in your fishes’ behavior when they transition from indoors to outdoors?
Filed under: Fish Population, Koi & Goldfish, Pond Cleanouts, Seasonal Care, Spring Cleanout, Spring Start-Up, Water Gardens & Features, Water Quality Issues Tagged: | acclimate your fish, acclimating koi, ammonia, ammonia levels, master test kit, nitrite levels, ph, pH levels, PL gel, pond thermometer, thermometer