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I am seeing quite a few tracks near my pond. Who do they belong to? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I am seeing quite a few tracks near my pond. Who do they belong to?

Q: I am seeing quite a few tracks near my pond. Who do they belong to?

Shawn – New Hudson, MI

A: Water attracts all sorts of critters. From bugs, birds and deer to reptiles, raccoons and muskrat – and even an occasional coyote or bear – wildlife of all shapes and sizes frequent ponds and lakes. If you’re experiencing visitors near your pond, that’s great! You should be excited to have the animals use it as a natural resource!

To help you decipher what’s leaving behind those tracks, here’s a quick rundown of the most common critters we find near ponds and lakes:

Muskrats: Measuring about 2 feet long and covered in thick dark brown or black fur, these medium-size semiaquatic rodents are often found in wetlands and near the water’s edge. They have long, vertically flat tails covered with scales, which help them to swim. When looking at muskrat tracks, the hind feet will be larger than the front feet, and you’ll see a distinct mark from their tail that drags along the ground.

Raccoons: These little masked bandits, which will sometimes make a meal of your game fish, are very intelligent and have extremely dexterous front paws. They walk with their feet flat on the ground and can stand on their hind legs to examine objects with their front paws. When examining raccoon tracks, you’ll see the flat-footed footprints with claws on all the toes. Their front foot and opposite hind foot tracks will be side by side or close together.

Deer: Widely distributed across the country, deer—which are pretty good swimmers, by the way—prefer to live between forests (for cover) and grassy fields (for food), though you’ll find deer tracks anywhere around your pond. Unlike raccoons, deer walk on their hooves, or their toe tips that are strengthened by a thick horny covering. When looking at deer tracks, you’ll see the outline of their hooves, which will look like upside-down hearts.

Turtles: Terrestrial and amphibious turtles have short, round, sturdy feet to bear the weight of their heavy shells. They also have long claws that they use to help them clamber onto rocky shorelines and floating logs. You’ll most likely see turtle tracks near the water. The marks will look almost oval with toes or claw marks on one side of the oval. You may see a tail or shell drag mark, too.

In most cases, these critters will do little or no harm to your pond or lake. They do leave waste behind, but we can keep that in check with aeration and bacteria. So have fun identifying your little visitors!

Pond Talk: What’s the strangest animal track you’ve identified near your pond or lake?

Help Keep Pond Water Clear - Airmax(r) Aeration Systems

 

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I still have PondClear natural bacteria. Am I better off throwing the rest in, or will it still be good for next season? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I still have PondClear natural bacteria. Am I better off throwing the rest in, or will it still be good for next season?

Q: I still have PondClear natural bacteria. Am I better off throwing the rest in, or will it still be good for next season?

Jeff – Morris, WI

A: At the end of pond season, just about everyone has some leftover supplies. Half-full canisters of natural bacteria, bottles of dye, algaecides and more—what do you do with all of it? Do they have expiration dates? And how do I keep them until next year? Here’s what you need to know about the shelf life of your favorite pond products.

PondClear™
When stored in a dry and sealed container that’s kept above freezing, the beneficial bacteria found in PondClear™ packets will be good for five years, so hold on to those leftovers! As long as water temperatures are above 50°F, the waste and muck reducer will work to break down debris. After they fall below that mark, stash your PondClear™ and keep it on hand to start off next pond season.

Dry Treatments
Like PondClear™ packets, Pond Dye packets, EcoBoost™ bacteria enhancer, MuckAway™ muck reducer and other dry bacteria products also have a five-year shelf life when stored in a garage or basement in a sealed, waterproof container.

Liquid Treatments, Chemicals
Certain liquid bacteria and chemicals, including PondClear™ liquid formula, Algae Defense® and Shoreline Defense®, have a two-year shelf life. Nature’s Blue™ Pond Dye or The Pond Guy® PondShade™ Pond Dye, too, has a shorter, two-year shelf life. If you’re not sure, check the product label for specifics. Note: This does not apply to chemicals that have been mixed in sprayer. These should be used immediately or properly disposed.

Whenever you buy a pond product like these with an expiration date, take a clue from folks who preserve tomatoes each year: Take a moment to jot down the date (month/year) on the container with a Sharpie. That way, you won’t have to try to remember when you bought what and whether it’s past its prime.

By properly labeling, storing and shelving these pond products until next year, you’ll get a start on next year’s pond season—and save yourself some money.

Pond Talk: Do you save products from year to year, or do you buy all new supplies in the spring?

Protects All Year, No Mixing Required - The Pond Guy® PondShade™ Pond Dye

 

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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. If you have an AquaStream™ Fountain you can use caps to cover the power cord ends.
  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(r) PondSeries™ Aeration Systems

 

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Should I treat my pond weeds now, or will they die on their own now that it’s getting colder? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: Should I treat my pond weeds now, or will they die on their own now that it’s getting colder?

Q: Should I treat my pond weeds now, or will they die on their own now that it’s getting colder?

Ed – Norton, OH

A: This time of year, many aquatic plants—including weeds—seem to be no longer actively growing. Triggered by dropping temperatures and fewer hours of sunlight, the cold-weather slowdown sends perennial plants into dormancy, and it can be hard to tell if they’re dead or just holing up for the winter.

Because you’ll see little or no greenery, treating those weeds can be a challenge. Plus, most chemical treatments, like herbicides and algaecides, don’t work well in colder temperatures. Algae Defense®, for example, stops working when the water is below 60°F, and the beneficial bacteria in PondClear™ almost slow down completely when temps fall below 50°F.

So what options do you have for treating weeds when it gets cold?

  1. Rake Out Dead Vegetation: First, pull on your muck boots and gloves, and manually pull weeds and dead foliage from the water with a weed rake or other weed removal tool. This will take out growing plants and cut down on decaying organics, which means fewer weeds and fertilizer for them next spring.
  2. Dose with Pond Dye: Next, add some Pond Dye to the water. Available in convenient liquid quarts, gallons and water-soluble packets, it will shade the water blue or black and reduce the amount of sunlight that reaches the bottom of your lake. Pond Dye can also be used regardless of the temperature or time of year.
  3. Aerate the Water: Unless you plan to use your lake for winter recreation, make sure your Airmax® Aeration System is up and running. It’ll keep your water circulated, which will reduce the muck buildup throughout the winter, and it’ll keep a hole open in the ice, which will allow for gas exchange. Your fish will thank you for it.

If you’re concerned about weeds as fall and winter approach, give these three tricks a try. By removing existing weeds and reducing the decaying buildup (i.e. weed fertilizer) now, you’ll have less work to do next spring—and won’t that be a treat!

Pond Talk: What kinds of aquatic weeds grow year-round in your area?

Shade & Beautify Your Pond All Year - The Pond Guy® PondShade™ Pond Dye

 

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I occasionally feed my game fish pellet food, but they don’t seem as interested any more. Is something wrong? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I occasionally feed my game fish pellet food, but they don’t seem as interested any more. Is something wrong?

Q: I occasionally feed my game fish pellet food, but they don’t seem as interested any more. Is something wrong?

Scott – Fairfield, IA

A: Fish can be finicky eaters sometimes – particularly when something changes their routine. If your fish aren’t eating their Game Fish Grower Fish Food, it’s likely due to one of these three reasons:

  1. Spooked By Predators
    Have you noticed signs of predators prowling around your pond? Have you seen tiny footprints, disturbed areas around the perimeter or unfamiliar droppings? Raccoons, herons and other fish foes can spook fish and cause them to stay far below the water surface. When they do come up, they pop to the top, check for food and dive quickly back to their safe zone. If this sounds familiar, look more closely for tracks or telltale clues and find yourself a deterrent (or live trap).
  2. Under the Weather
    Sickness, injuries or an inhospitable environment can also change your fish’s eating habits. Check your fish when they come to the surface. Have they been gasping at the surface instead of showing interest in pellets? This could be a sign that your water needs more oxygen. Crank on your aeration system (or add one if you don’t have one). Changing temperatures could be causing the cooler and warmer waters to stratify, and an aeration system will keep the water column mixed.
  3. Wintertime Blues
    With the changing season comes a decrease in fish’s metabolisms – and appetite. Remember that fish go into hibernation and stop eating during the winter. If they appear to act normal but just shy away from their favorite diet or eat less of it, they’re most likely responding to the changing water temperature and preparing for the cold weather. Check your pond’s water temperature with a pond thermometer, and cut back feeding and stop entirely when the water temp dips to 45 to 50°F.

Pond Talk: How have your game fish started preparing for winter?

Provide Balanced Nutrition - The Pond Guy(r) Game Fish Grower Fish Food

 

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Why is there fog on my pond in the mornings? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: Why is there fog on my pond in the mornings?

Q: Why is there fog on my pond in the mornings?

Joann – Knoxville, TN

A: A misty morning fog conjures a sense of mystery—but why the fog appears isn’t so mysterious once you understand what it is and how it forms.

Fog Defined

Fog is simply a concentration of low-lying water vapor in the air. In the fall, these tiny liquid water droplets often form over bodies of water like your pond or lake.

Temperature Mix

Fog forms when cool air and warm water meet and, more specifically, when the difference between the temperature and the dew point is less than 4° Fahrenheit.

You see, in your pond, the water, heated by the sun, stays warmer than the air temperature during the cool night. When the cold layer of still air settles over your pond, warm water vapor from the pond evaporates, entering the cool air above it. The cool air then traps the concentrated water vapor and fog forms. In the morning, as the sun heats the air and temperatures rise, the water vapor evaporates and dispels.

Fog Fighters

If you don’t like fog and prefer to use your pond early in the morning before the misty stuff dissipates, consider installing an AquaStream™ Fountain. A fountain adds oxygen to the pond—but that’s not all. It also creates movement above the water, which prevents cool air from settling on the water surface. This will help prevent fog from forming.

Pond Talk: Are you a fan of fog on your pond or lake? Why or why not?

Add Tranquility & Peace to Your Pond - The Pond Guy® AquaStream™ 1/2 HP Fountain

 

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I know a net won’t fit on my pond, so how do I keep the leaves out? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I know a net won’t fit on my pond, so how do I keep the leaves out?

Q: I know a net won’t fit on my pond, so how do I keep the leaves out?

Jack – Fairport, NY

A: Big lake? Blowing leaves? No problem! Though it might seem like an impossible task to keep those drifting fall leaves from landing in your pond or lake, it is possible to manage them even without the use of pond netting. With a little bit of planning you can use this three-step solution. Here’s what we recommend.

Step 1: Continue to Aerate

No, your aerator won’t blow away debris like your leaf blower, but it will help to circulate oxygen throughout the water column. An Airmax® Aeration System will keep your pond or lake healthy by removing dangerous gases like ammonia while delivering O2 to your fish and muck-eating beneficial bacteria.

Step 2: Put Bacteria to Work

Continual use of some beneficial bacteria like those found in Pond Logic® MuckAway™ throughout the fall will help decompose the leaves that have landed in your lake or pond. The bacteria-packed pellets sink below the water’s surface and instantly begin to digest muck, gobbling through leaves and improving water clarity.

Step 3: Manually Remove Debris

Because a net won’t fit over your lake, you should plan to manually remove fallen leaves and debris in addition to aerating and adding bacteria. Doing so will lessen the workload—and give you some good stuff to add to your compost pile. Tools that will make the job easy include:

    • Pond Rake: Perfect for mechanical control of weeds, algae, muck and debris, this 3-foot-wide aluminum rake comes with an 11-foot two-piece rust-proof powder-coated aluminum handle, detachable polyethylene float and a 20 feet length of polypropylene rope.
    • 2-in-1 Pond Net: This heavy-duty handheld net includes a 4-foot aluminum neoprene-grip handle that extends to more than 11 feet. It also comes with a 14-inch interchangeable net frame that supports both a durable ¼-inch mesh fish net and ultra-fine skimmer net.
    • PondSkim™: Remove floating debris quickly by dragging this skimmer across the surface of the water. It measures 5 feet wide and is constructed with a tough collection screen, a buoyant float, a sturdy abrasion-resistant lower crossbar and a 24-foot pull line.

It can be a challenge to prevent leaves from settling in a large pond or lake, but with a little planning and hard work, it can be done. Good luck!

Pond Talk: If you have a large pond or lake, what do you do to prevent copious amounts of leaves from landing in it and turning into muck?

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

 

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