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Why did I lose my fish? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: Why did I lose my fish?

Q: Why did I lose my fish?

James – Willmar, MN

A: After a long, roller coaster winter, there’s nothing more disappointing than returning to your pond to find your fish floating and bloated in the water. This winter fish kill, or “winterkill,” can happen when the ice sheet on your pond prevents gas exchange and reduces the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water, ultimately causing your fish to suffocate. Shallow lakes, ponds and streams are particularly vulnerable to winterkill.

What causes it, and how can it be prevented? Read on to learn more.

Starved for Oxygen

Winterkill occurs when ice and snow cover your pond or lake for long periods of time. That solid sheet of cold stuff seals off the water, stopping oxygenation and gas exchange at the surface, but that’s not all it does. The ice and snow cover also prevent sunlight from reaching pond plants, which normally produce sub-surface oxygen via photosynthesis. Add to that a lake full of decomposing organic matter releasing toxic gases that are trapped under the ice, and your poor fish do not have enough oxygen to survive.

The ones that do survive are not finned superheroes, but they are more tolerant of a low-oxygen environment than their dearly departed cousins. The species type and size makes a difference, too, in their ability to deal with less-than-optimal living conditions.

Stayin’ Alive

Unfortunately, you cannot bring your fish back to life, but you can prevent winterkill from happening in the future. We recommend a simple, two-pronged approach:

  1. Aeration: Aerate your pond year-round with an Aeration System to circulate the water, increase dissolved oxygen and keep oxygen levels more consistent throughout the pond. It will also keep a hole open in the ice, allowing for gas exchange.
  2. Muck Removal: Using natural bacteria, like MuckAway™, or a dredge in extreme cases, remove as much muck and decomposing debris as possible before the ice forms. This will prevent the pond from naturally filling in, and it will reduce the amount of gas produced from the decomposition process.

Winterkill is a disappointment, but it can be prevented with some planning and preparation in the fall. In the meantime, restock your pond and enjoy!

Pond Talk: Have you even experienced winterkill in your pond? What did you do to remedy the situation?

Reduce Muck and Organic Debris Build-Up - Pond Logic® MuckAway™

Is there any maintenance I should do when I pull out my fountain for the year? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: Is there any maintenance I should do when I pull out my fountain for the year?

Q: Is there any maintenance I should do when I pull out my fountain for the year?

John – Epping, NH

A: Decorative fountains add beauty to your waterscape while pumping some extra oxygen to your pond or lake, but they are designed to be used in the warmer months – not winter. So when you’re ready to pull out your fountain for the year, follow these six steps to ensure it’ll be ready for use again in the spring:

  1. Pull Unit from the Pond: To remove your fountain from the water, simply release it from its mooring line and gently reel it in. Leave the mooring line stakes in place to make it easy to reinstall it in the spring. You’ll save time from having to place the fountain in position.
  2. Clean Your Fountain and Lights: As your fountain runs through the spring, summer and fall, algae and other debris accumulate on the motor, lights and float. This unsightly debris acts as an insulator that traps heat around the motor, which could cause overheating when you reinstall it in the spring. Get out your scrubber and polish your surfaces while they’re still wet. Some expert advice: It’s best to clean that gunk off before it dries on.
  3. Inspect for Damages: Normal wear-and-tear and curious critters can cause nicks and chew marks in the cord that will need to be repaired, so check it for damages. Also, if you haven’t performed routine maintenance on your unit, like changing oil and seals, winter is the perfect time to do so while your fountain is out of the water and in your workshop.
  4. Cover the Cord Ends: Once your fountain is cleaned and repaired, cover your power cord ends by covering them with a vented plastic bag to keep dust and debris out while it’s in storage.
  5. Store in Safe Spot: Find a safe, frost-free place to store your fountain over the winter. Ideally, stash it in your garage, basement or other place that won’t freeze.
  6. Keep Aeration Running: Unless you plan to use your pond for recreation, like hockey or ice skating, your pond will need oxygen through the winter. Continue to use your diffused aeration system to maintain a hole in the ice for ventilation and gas exchange.

Follow these simple maintenance steps and you’ll be ready to reinstall your fountain in the spring – once the ice melts, that is!

Pond Talk: Where do you store your fountain in the winter?

Protect Your Fish With Winter Aeration - Airmax® Shallow Water Series™ Aeration Systems

What is causing the bad odor coming from my pond? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: What is causing the bad odor coming from my pond?

Q: What is causing the bad odor coming from my pond?

Keith – Cedar Bluff, AL

A: There’s nothing worse than that musty, rotten egg, sulfur-type smell that’s pungent enough to ruin spring strolls by the pond. What causes it and what can you do about it?

Common Causes

Those odors are common in ponds that aren’t aerated, particularly during certain times of year. In the summer and winter, non-aerated ponds stratify into layers of water with distinct temperature differences. This locks the bottom layer away for months.

While the water layer is trapped down there, the oxygen is used up quickly. It goes from an aerobic environment to an anaerobic environment – which is perfect for slow-moving anaerobic bacteria that use enzymes to ferment and digest the decaying muck on the bottom. Those microorganisms ultimately produce waste products, including carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide, which is that lovely rotten egg smell.

In the spring and during strong weather events, the water column turns over; the anaerobic layers on the bottom rise to the top, bringing with it all those foul-smelling odors. That’s likely what you’re experiencing with your pond, which could be made worse by melting ice releasing all those gases at once.

Stink-Stopping Solutions

So what can you do? At this point, first test your pH and water quality, as pond turn-overs could cause pH shifts, dissolved oxygen crashes and algae blooms that could harm or kill your fish (which could add to the odor problem …).

If the water temperatures in your pond are 50 degrees Fahrenheit or above, add some Pond Logic® MuckAway™ and Pond Logic® PondClear™. The beneficial bacteria in the products will help break down the decaying muck on the pond bottom as well as clearing up suspended particles in the water column.

As soon as you can, install an aeration system and crank it on. Our Airmax® Aeration System product line includes aerators suited for any size pond – from shallow water bodies to ponds up to 6 acres. They each include diffusers, a compressor, cabinet, airline and free mapping service that takes the guesswork out of diffuser placement.

Finally, cut and rake out dead and decaying organic material with a weed remover tool. The more you can eradicate, the better it’ll be for your pond’s water quality – and stink factor.

Pond Talk: How do you prevent or manage the odor coming from your pond?

Eliminate Noxious Pond Odors - Pond Logic® MuckAway™

Will my fountain be enough to keep my fish safe this winter?| Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q:Will my fountain be enough to keep my fish safe this winter?

Q: Will my fountain be enough to keep my fish safe this winter?

Holly – Gorham, ME

A: If your pond freezes over in the winter, a fountain won’t do you or your fish much good. It’s not designed to be run or left in the pond during icy conditions. The ice can damage the float or create a barrier that prevents water from passing through the spray nozzle. That could cause the motor to run dry and stop working. And that’s not good.

Instead, we recommend completely removing your fountain and a run a bottom diffused aeration system instead.

Before the Ice Forms

Autumn is the perfect time to remove the fountain from your pond before the ice forms. When unplugging the motor and pulling it ashore; inspect the cords, motor and lights for any damage. After sitting in a pond all summer, chances are you will have to clean the fountain and lenses from any algae, build up or debris. Once your fountain is ready to be stored, place it in doors until spring.

Below the Surface

Now that you have removed the fountain from the pond, it is a good idea to protect both your fish and boating dock from ice damage by adding an aeration system. Aeration keeps the oxygen levels up and the water circulating. Depending on how close the diffuser plates are to the surface or dock, aeration can also keep a hole open for gas exchange, and provide a place for ducks to gather when everything else is frozen over.

Keep your fish safe and happy this winter by giving them surface and subsurface aeration. They’ll appreciate it more than just your fountain!

Pond Talk: How much aeration do you have in your pond or lake during the winter?

Shade & Prevent Damage From Winter Ice - Airmax (r) Shallow Series (t) Aeration Systems

My water quality is good now, but what do I need to do over the winter to keep it that way? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: My water quality is good now, but what do I need to do over the winter to keep it that way?

Q: My water quality is good now, but what do I need to do over the winter to keep it that way?

Quintin – Pine Bluff, AR

A: When it comes to doing chores at the pond, it is easy to let your guard down this fall. Thanks to your hard-working bacteria, the water is clean and clear with minimal algae, and your fish are happy. You have nothing to do but coast into winter and hibernate until spring.

Not so fast.

As water temperatures drop, those bacteria and algaecides stop fighting off excess nutrients and cold-temperature plant growth. They are no longer effective at their jobs, and so you need to step in and help. Here’s what you can do to maintain pristine water quality over the winter.

  • Add Some EcoBoost™: Formulated to bind organic debris suspended in the water, Pond Logic® EcoBoost™ helps to clear water and enhance beneficial bacteria. It also provides more than 80 trace minerals to fish, keeping them healthy over the winter. EcoBoost™ has no temperature restrictions, so you can use it all year round. Simply mix the powder with some water in a pail and pour it in the pond.
  • Tint with Pond Dye: During the cold temperatures and even iced-over conditions, algae and plants can grow along the bottom since they are still exposed to sunlight. Pond Dye can be used year-round – winter included – to control algae growth by shading the plants from the sun’s UV rays. The dye also imparts a dramatic hue to the water, giving it a great look when it ices over.
  • Aerate and Oxygenate: You can also improve water quality through the winter by keeping the oxygen levels up and water circulating. If you are not going to use the pond for ice-skating or hockey, we recommend you use a subsurface aerator, like the Airmax® Aeration Systems. The system will keep the air bubbles flowing throughout the water column while maintaining a hole in the ice for gas exchange. If you have a fountain running, remove it and store it for the winter. Ice can damage the motor in the pump.

Before you hibernate for the winter, spend a few hours out at the pond to prepare it for winter. When you look out on a crystal clear pond in January, you’ll be happy you did!

Pond Talk: How do you keep your pond clean and clear during the winter months?

Sink Suspended Organic Debris - Pond Logic(r) EcoBoost(t) Bacteria Enhancer

What is supercooling? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: What is supercooling??

Q: What is supercooling?

Aloma, Warroad, MN

A: Supercooling is uncommon, but it can occur in lakes and ponds, particularly in the northern states. Here’s what you need to know about it and how to prevent it from happening.

In the winter time water stratifies in pond and lakes without proper aeration when surface temperatures are extremely cold, creating what’s called a thermocline. A thermocline happens as warmer water about 39°F or so – sinks to the bottom, while colder water about 32°F or so – rises to the top. Very little mixing of the layers occurs, particularly in calm weather.

Supercooling could become an issue if you’re running a surface aeration system in shallow ponds with fish. The fish prefer to stay on the bottom of the pond in the warmer pockets of water during the winter. They’re in winter-hibernation mode, and all they want to do is be in a stress-free spot until spring.

As the aerator circulates the warmer water with the cooler water at the surface, the overall temperature could drop. In extreme cases when the temperatures are well below 0°F, the water temperature can actually drop below its freezing point without becoming a solid – a rare process known as supercooling.

If the water gets too cold, your fish have nowhere warm to go. Living without their warm hangout spot could compromise their oxygen supply and immune systems, making them vulnerable to parasites and diseases.

The best way to deliver oxygen to your fish is with a bottom diffused aerator, like an Airmax® Aeration System. You can keep it running without creating an inhospitable environment for your finned friends by simply moving your diffuser plates closer to the surface or turning half of them off.

If you relocate the diffuser plates to a spot that’s about half the depth of your pond or run only 50 percent of them, a pocket of warm water will remain for your fish at the bottom. You’ll continue pumping oxygen into the water and keeping a hole in the ice for gas exchange without having to worry about freezing your fish.

Pond Talk: What steps do you take to prevent over cooling or supercooling your pond?

Call (866) POND-HELP - Free Aerial Aeration Mapping Service

When treating weeds and algae, why do I have to treat in sections? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: When treating weeds and algae, why do I have to treat in sections?

Q: When treating weeds and algae, why do I have to treat in sections?

Zahn- Cedar Rapids, IA

A: It’s all about the fish. Though it’s an inconvenience to you, treating your lake or pond’s weeds and algae in sections is critical for the health of your underwater inhabitants. Those herbicides and algaecides deplete the oxygen in the pond, creating a stressful environment for the fish. Partitioning the treatments keeps oxygen levels safe while minimizing the stress.

When combating weeds and algae in the summertime, remember these three things:

  • Warm Weather = Less Oxygen: In the hot summer months, the water column will naturally hold less oxygen as it warms up.
  • Chemical Treatments = Less Oxygen: When you treat the weeds and algae with Shoreline Defense® or Algae Defense®, the oxygen levels will decline in your pond.
  • Decaying Matter = Less Oxygen:As the herbicide and algaecide start to work, the decaying matter will begin to be consumed by microorganisms, which use up the oxygen in the water.

All of these things create a stressful situation for your fish. When that happens, their immune systems could suffer, and they could develop and succumb to disease – which is something you don’t want to happen.

So while treating your pond or lake, break it into quarter sections. Then treat one section and wait 10 to 14 days to allow the water time to rebalance its oxygen level before treating the next section. Some other things you can do to improve the oxygen levels in your pond:

  • Add Aeration: Aeration, like the Pond Series™ Aeration Systems, adds oxygen to the water below the surface. The oxygen is utilized by the fish as well as the beneficial bacteria and microorganisms, which break down the muck and detritus that feed the algae and weeds.
  • Rake Away the Debris: As the herbicide and algaecide go to work killing the pond pests, take time to rake out the dead debris before it becomes algae- and weed-feeding pond muck. The Pond & Beach Rake makes the chore quick and easy.

Pond Talk: What kinds of spring and summer maintenance chores have you been doing so far this year?

Create the Perfect Pond - Airmax(r) Pond Series(t) Aeration Systems

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