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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™

Do I need to put enzymes in my pond if I put bacteria in there? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: Do I need to put enzymes in my pond if I put bacteria in there?

Q: Do I need to put enzymes in my pond if I put bacteria in there?

Tom – Clinton, AR

A: Bacteria and enzymes may both be microscopic heavyweights when it comes to breaking down decomposing organics in your pond, but they play distinctly different roles. Here’s what you need to know about them – and how they complement each other.

Natural Bacteria: The Leading Role

Aerobic and anaerobic bacteria already live your pond, and they’re prolific. These hungry stars of the show decompose organic material, like dead algae, decomposing weeds and leaves, and pond muck.

Of the two types, the aerobic variety, which is found in bacteria additives like MuckAway™ and PondClear™, does a much better job at gobbling the decomposing organics than the anaerobic type that lives in oxygen-depleted environments. Most ponds, in fact, have an overabundance of anaerobic bacteria, thanks to poor circulation.

Enzymes: The Supporting Cast

Enzymes are a different critter altogether. In simple terms, enzymes accelerate chemical reactions – so in a pond, they play a supporting role. They’re catalysts that help natural bacteria by speeding up the digestion of all that organic material. This allows the bacteria to work more efficiently.

Give Them a Boost

Do you need to add both bacteria and enzymes to your pond? No, not really.

Self-sufficient microorganisms, aerobic bacteria naturally secrete their own enzymes to help digest muck. Simply increasing the number of hungry bacteria by adding PondClear™ and MuckAway™ (both found in ClearPAC® PLUS Pond Care Package) will grow the amount of productive enzymes, which ultimately means more decomposed muck and a cleaner, clearer pond.

If you want to give your bacteria a boost, be sure your aeration system is in tip-top shape to pump oxygen into your pond, and use EcoBoost™ Bacteria Enhancer to bind excess phosphates and other suspended organics in the water. It also adds more than 80 trace minerals to promote fish health and growth, so it’s great for all critters – microscopic or otherwise!

Pond Talk: What plans do you have for your pond or lake this spring?

Attack Suspended Debris & Clear Water - Pond Logic® PondClear™ Beneficial Bacteria

Should we leave cattails in the pond for the animals? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q:Should we leave cattails in the pond for the animals?

Q: Should we leave cattails in the pond for the animals?

Cynthia – Greenfield, OH

A: Cattails may be a nuisance in ponds and lakes, but they’re not all bad – particularly if you’re an animal. All kinds of critters, in fact, use the plant as a source of food, shelter and supplies.

Cattail Basics

Cattails are common aquatic plants that grow from 3 to 10 feet tall in dense colonies around the margins of ponds and lakes. In the spring, the green strap-like foliage grows from large, creeping, below-the-ground rhizomes. As the seasons progress, the cattail’s leaves and spikes—or the plant’s brown cylindrical flower—grow. And when the flowers open and let loose their fluffy seeds, the cattails spread and propagate new plants throughout the lake.

Cornucopia for Critters

A small, managed area of cattails can provide an ideal habitat for amphibians, insects, birds and fish. These aquatic critters use the plants for all sorts of things, including:

  • Nesting Spot: Red-winged blackbirds often use cattails for a perching and nesting spot. Water fowl, like mallards and Canadian geese, also use the tall, tightly bunched leaves and stalks for nesting. Turkeys—as well as deer, raccoon and other mammals—use cattails as cover from predators.
  • Hatchery/Nursery: Birds and mammals aren’t the only ones that find refuge in cattails. Insects and amphibians, like dragonflies, frogs and salamanders, will lay their eggs in the brush and water between the stalks. Below the surface, fish and other aquatic creatures will hide and nest in the growth.
  • Multi-Purpose Material: The cattail fluff that explodes from the plant’s spikes makes excellent nest-making material for birds –and that’s not all it’s good for. Native Americans used it to cushion moccasins and papoose boards. Pioneers used it to dress wounds, start camp fires, and stuff quilts, cushions, mattresses and dolls. And the military used the water-resistant, buoyant fluff to stuff life vests. Besides the fluff, the cattail’s leaves were used to make mats and webbing, and the stalks were used to make fiber and adhesive.
  • Grocery Store: An integral part of the pond ecosystem’s food chain, cattails’ leaves, shoots and roots make a tasty buffet for muskrat, geese and snails, while the plant’s underwater stalks feed fish, frogs and turtles. Humans can eat cattails, too. The rhizomes can be used like other root vegetables, and they can be dried and ground into flour. Young green shoots, which taste like cucumber, can be chopped into salads. Green flowering stalks can be boiled and eaten like sweetcorn.

Pond Owner Considerations

Allowing a cattail stand to grow in your pond for the animals’ benefit is a great idea—and those critters will appreciate what you leave for them—but there are some things you should keep in mind.

If you’re trying to deter troublesome predators, like raccoon and muskrats, keep the cattails cut back. This exposes their hiding and hunting spots, so they’ll be less likely to stop by for some sushi. Use pond weed cutters and a rake to remove dead debris and growing cattails, particularly around the pond’s perimeter. While you’re at it, add some MuckAway™ to the water to help break down muck and other decomposing materials.

Your best bet is to mark out an area where you’d like your cattail stand to grow, and then clean up what grows beyond the border. You’ll provide an ecosystem for the animals while preventing your pond from being overtaken.

Pond Talk: How do you manage cattails in your pond?

Cut Through Tough Pond Weeds - The Pond Guy® 28” Weed Cutter

I have a lot of leaves blowing into my pond. Will the bacteria still work this time of year? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I have a lot of leaves blowing into my pond. Will the bacteria still work this time of year?

Q: I have a lot of leaves blowing into my pond. Will the bacteria still work this time of year?

Austin – Breesport, NY

A: Leaves. There’s really no getting around them. Every fall, those deciduous trees drop their colorful foliage and leave behind a headache for those who have to clean them up.

Natural bacteria will do a great job breaking down the fallen leaves in your pond or lake – but only when water temperatures are above 50° F. Take your pond’s temperature with a pond thermometer; as long as your water is at or above that 50° F mark, keep using MuckAway™ and PondClear™. The microorganisms in those products will continue to work hard to break down organic debris.

Going into winter as temperatures dip below that number, however, the bacteria go on vacation. But there are some things you can do to keep your pond healthy as the cooler weather approaches. Here’s what we recommend.

  1. Rake Up the Leaves: As powerful as natural bacteria are, they will still take a long time to break down fresh leaves that blow into your pond. Help those microorganisms out by raking up and disposing of as many leaves as possible.
  2. Rake Out the Leaves: If they do float into your pond, use a Pond & Beach Rake or Weed Raker to skim and rake those leaves out of your pond. If an abundance of leaves remains in the pond as ice begins to form, this could lead to poor water quality. As the leaves continue to break down, they will release toxic gases that will edge out available oxygen – and if there is ice covering your pond, that’s bad news for your fish.
  3. Aerate All Winter: Unless you plan to use your pond or lake as an ice rink this winter, keep your aeration system running. This will help keep a hole in the ice, circulate the water and keep your oxygen levels higher.
  4. Maintain Your Landscape: In addition to raking up leaves around your pond, keep the foliage around your pond maintained. Prevent that organic debris from getting into the water and turning into algae and pond weed fertilizer.

Bottom line: Yes, bacteria will still work while temperatures are above 50° F, but help them out by removing as much leaf litter and organic debris as possible. There’s no way to fully prevent leaves from falling into your pond – but the fewer that do, the better.

Pond Talk: Have leaves started falling in your neck of the woods yet?

Remove Leaves & Debris - The Pond Guy® Pond & Beach Rake

Do I just throw MuckAway tablets into the pond from the shore? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: Do I just throw MuckAway tablets into the pond from the shore?

Q: Do I just throw MuckAway tablets into the pond from the shore?

Rich – Callahan, FL

A: MuckAway™ Pond Muck Reducer does a number on muck. The special blend of aerobic beneficial bacteria digests organic debris (a.k.a. muck), improves water clarity and eliminates noxious odors. The precision-release pellets are easy to use, and they’re perfect for battling built-up sludge anywhere in your pond.

But there is a way to best apply MuckAway™. Here’s what we recommend.

  • Disburse Evenly: Whether you’re using MuckAway™ near the shoreline or across your entire pond, the pellets will need to be spread evenly across the treatment area. Plan to use one scoop per 1,000 square feet.
  • Use a Boat: If you are treating the entire pond or lake, consider using a boat for uniform MuckAway™ dispersal. Individual tablets that are spread very far apart (tossed from the shore) will not have as dramatic an impact on muck as those that are densely and evenly distributed.
  • Consider MuckAway™ TL: A large pond or lake may need the super sludge-busting power of MuckAway™ TL Pond Muck Reducer. When used as directed, it’s designed to break down up to 2″ of muck per month!
  • Combine Forces: Many customers choose to use a one-two punch when contending with water clarity issues. They’ll use PondClear™ Beneficial Bacteria water soluble packets to clean and clear the water column, and MuckAway™ or MuckAway™ TL to break down the sunken muck around often-used areas, like the pond perimeter and beach areas.

You can increase the effectiveness of MuckAway™ and MuckAway™ TL by raking out any large, long-to-decompose debris from the pond before you begin treatments. This allows those aerobic beneficial bacteria to target the fine debris that’s difficult to remove.

Airmax® Aeration is also key to helping your bacteria be more effective at battling muck. The moving, aerated water provides both oxygen and circulation, which creates an ideal environment for MuckAway™ or MuckAway™ TL to flourish. Looking for proof? Check out our Fox Lake Field Study. It shows the results of what happens to muck when MuckAway™ TL and aeration are used together.

Pond Talk: How do you use MuckAway™ in your pond or lake?

Remove Up To 5 Inches of Muck Per Year - Pond Logic® MuckAway™

Do you really need to add EcoBoost? What is the best way to apply it? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: Do you really need to add EcoBoost? What is the best way to apply it?

Q: Do you really need to add EcoBoost? What is the best way to apply it?

Becky – Easley, SC

A: If you want to get the most out of your beneficial bacteria, control excess amounts of nutrients and have a pond full of healthy fish, you need to add Pond Logic® EcoBoost™ to your maintenance routine. Think of it like a multivitamin for your pond; it enhances what you already do to create a clean, clear ecosystem.

Here’s what you need to know about the benefits of EcoBoost™ and how to effectively use it in your pond or lake.

Benefits Aplenty

EcoBoost™ has three main functions. It binds excess phosphates, enhances the growth of natural bacteria and adds trace minerals that fish need to thrive.

Phosphates – which enter a pond or lake via lawn fertilizer and storm drain runoff – can wreak havoc in an aquatic ecosystem. They act as algae and aquatic plant growth steroids, causing algae blooms, weed proliferation and muck buildup. If left untreated, the result is oxygen depletion and poor fish health.

EcoBoost™ helps to control those phosphates, and in doing so it acts as a boost for the natural bacteria living in your pond. As the beneficial microorganisms found in MuckAway™ and PondClear™ gobble through organic debris on the bottom of your pond and suspended in the water column, EcoBoost™ binds excess phosphates and removes them from the water.

In addition, more than 80 trace minerals found in EcoBoost™ promote fish health and fast growth. It’s also safe for other aquatic critters as well as horses, livestock, birds, pets and wildlife.

Easy to Apply

EcoBoost™ comes as a powder that you simply mix with 2 to 3 gallons water in a pail and pour along the shoreline of your lake. You can apply it every two weeks, or on a routine schedule along with MuckAway™ and PondClear™. It has no temperature restrictions, so you can use it all year long.

If you use chemical algaecides or herbicides, be sure to wait for three days before adding EcoBoost™ and your beneficial bacteria products.

This spring, try adding EcoBoost™ to your maintenance routine. You’ll enjoy clear water and healthier game fish.

Pond Talk: What plans do you have for your pond or lake once spring finally arrives?

Bind Excess Phosphates - Pond Logic® EcoBoost™

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™