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My friend talks about her fish coming up to eat from her hand. How can I get my fish to do the same? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: My friend talks about her fish coming up to eat from her hand. How can I get my fish to do the same?

Q: My friend talks about her fish coming up to eat from her hand. How can I get my fish to do the same?

Donna – Chesterfield, MO

A: Talk about a cool party trick! Feeding by hand is not only a fun way to show your friends how well-trained your fish are, but it also gives you an opportunity to bond with your finned pals.

Teaching your fish how to eat from your hand starts with understanding the temperament of the fish themselves. Are your fish friendly? Do they swim up and say “Glub, glub, hi!” when you visit your pond? Or do they scatter when you approach and your shadow falls on the water?

Friendly fish are easier to train. They already associate you as an approachable face that brings them tasty food every day. Sketchy fish, however, can be more of a challenge. They might be newbies that don’t recognize you or your feeding routine, or they might be spooked from predators visiting your pond.

If you’ve ruled out the possibility of predators (or put up some predator-control measures), follow these steps to help teach your fish to eat from the palm of your hand:

  1. Set a Routine: Fish are creatures of habit. They’re more likely to respond to something that happens the same way every day (or frequently, at least). To set a mealtime routine, visit your pond at the same location, at the same time of day, on a regular basis. They’ll get to know your patterns and learn to recognize you – and feeding time.
  2. Make Them Work: Throwing a handful of Growth & Vibrance Fish Food into the water and walking away teaches your fish an easy snatch-and-run feeding style. Instead, toss them a few pellets at a time and wait for the fish to eat them. They’ll rush to get the food first! Even the shy koi will get in on the action. This toss-and-wait style reminds them that you are hanging out and something exciting is happening.
  3. Get Brave – and Get Wet: Once your fish are used to your feeding routine and race to the pond’s edge to greet you, take the plunge! Hold a few pellets loosely in your hand just at the water surface without making any sudden or quick movements. It takes only one fish to act bravely and let the others know it’ll be OK. Before you know it, they’ll be racing to your hand to be fed!

Once your fish are trained to eat from your hand, you’ll be tempted to keep offering them food. Prevent overfeeding them by measuring out a predetermined amount of food – and stop when it’s all gone. If you can’t help yourself (or you’re sharing this cool new party trick with your friends), at least be sure to have some natural bacteria, like Nature’s Defense®, on hand to help clean up the leftovers after dinner.

Pond Talk: Have you trained your fish to eat from your hand? What tips can you share with this fish keeper?

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The pH level in my pond always reads high. What can I do to reduce it? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: The pH level in my pond always reads high. What can I do to reduce it?

Q: The pH level in my pond always reads high. What can I do to reduce it?

Mike – Forest Hills, NY

A: Your pond’s pH – or potential hydrogen – level is an important measurement to understand because it affects the health of those things swimming around in the water. If your pH level is too high or too low, it could affect your fishes’ ability to reproduce, fight disease and metabolize food. It can also impact the well-being of other living things in your pond, like plants, amphibians and other aquatic critters.

A pH test, like the one found in the API® Pond Master Test Kit, can reveal a lot about your pond. But what does a high or low pH reading mean, and how can you adjust its level – or should you just leave it alone? Read on to learn more about understanding your pH level and how to change it.

Potential Hydrogen Defined

In super simple terms, pH is a measure of how acidic or alkaline a water body is on a scale from 0 to 14. Pure water is neutral. It has a pH close to 7.0 at 77 degrees F. Blood is also close to neutral. Ammonia’s pH is ~11, which is high on the alkaline charts, while stomach acid’s pH is ~1, which acidic enough to burn through your chewed-up chow.

Adjusting to a Proper pH

You don’t have to keep your pond at a perfect 7.0 pH all the time. In fact, an acceptable pH reading for a pond is 6.5 – 8.5, so if your score falls in this range you need not make any changes at all. If it’s outside those levels, however, you will need to make some adjustments. Here are some ways to reduce your pH:

  1. Partial Water Change: Replacing some of your pond water with fresh water is one way to reduce your pH. Remember to treat with water with a conditioner, like The Pond Guy® Stress Reducer PLUS, to remove impurities and heavy metals that could be harmful to your fish.
  2. Use pH Reducer: If you need to adjust your pH using a pH stabilizer like pH Lift or pH Drop, apply enough treatment to shift the levels 0.5 at a time, wait several hours before re-treating, and test the waters often with your API® Pond Master Test Kit.
  3. Test Your Water: Try testing your tap water, especially if you’re on a well. If the pH is high from your well, then your pond will stay at about that level and you won’t be able to do much to treat it.
  4. Try Clarity Defense®: A water clarifier like Clarity Defense® can help to add trace minerals while buffering pH to promote stable levels and prevent swings. Plus, it clears cloudy water by locking up excess nutrients and allowing your filter to remove them.

Try these tricks to reduce the pH levels in your pond – but remember to do so very gradually. Good luck!

Pond Talk: How often do you test the pH levels in your pond?

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My fish are looking for food. Can I feed them now? What kind of food do I give them? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: My fish are looking for food. Can I feed them now? What kind of food do I give them?

Q: My fish are looking for food. Can I feed them now? What kind of food do I give them?

Rick – Great Falls, MT

A: Fish sure seem know when spring is on its way. This time of year, your koi and goldfish that have been hibernating over the winter are beginning to waking up. Your fish may be moving slow, but they’re hungry and looking for food.

Slow Eaters

When water temperatures dip below 40 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter months, your fishes’ metabolisms slows down. They enter into a hibernation-type state, during which time they require little or no food. They literally live off the fat stores in their body.

As the water temperature rises above 40 degrees in the spring, the fish start moving. Their metabolisms turn back on, and they need food to fuel their increased activity. To transition the fish from no food to daily food, fish experts recommend feeding a wheat germ-based diet when water temperatures are consistently between 40 and 50 degrees. A diet like The Pond Guy® Spring & Fall Fish Food is quickly and easily digested by the fish.

Summertime Bounty

In the warmer months when your water temperature tops 50 degrees, you can continue to feed the wheat germ-based diets, or you can choose to gradually re-introduce protein-based diets that help the fish grow quickly and show off their colors. Here’s what we recommend:

Choose the diet that best fits in with your goals for the fish. If you’re not interested in growing your Kohaku into show-quality specimens, for instance, stick to the everyday or color enhancement diet.

Word of Warning

The weather may be warming up, but make sure the water temperatures are at a consistent 40 degrees before you start feeding your fish. Feeding them before they’re able to properly digest the food can lead to health issues.

Pond Talk: What’s your pond’s water temperature where you live?

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I’m tired of fighting algae. Will a UV take care of all the algae growth? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I’m tired of fighting algae. Will a UV take care of all the algae growth?

Q: I’m tired of fighting algae. Will a UV take care of all the algae growth?

Beth – Casselberry, FL

A: Who isn’t tired of battling algae!

Caused by excess fish waste and dead organics from leaves or previous algae blooms combined with excessive sunlight, all that garish green growth looks horrible, ruins your water quality, and creates a headache for you and your fish.

Is an ultraviolet clarifier the answer? It depends on the type of algae you’re trying to destroy.

Know Your Algae

The algae that forms in your pond comes in two basic flavors: planktonic and filamentous.

  • Planktonic algae, the source of pea soup algae blooms, are floating, microscopic plants that color pond water shades of green, blue-green, brown or variations in between. In controlled amounts, this type of algae can actually be beneficial. It’s considered the start of the pond food chain as the tiny plants feed fish inhabitants, and it can also shade the pond’s bottom, preventing subsurface nuisance plants from growing. In uncontrolled amounts, however, planktonic algae can cause oxygen depletions and fish kill.
  • Filamentous (string) algae are single-celled plants that form long, visible chain, threads or filaments. These threads, which start growing along the bottom of the pond in shallow water or on rocks or other aquatic plants, intertwine and form mats that resemble wet wool. When these mats rise to the surface, they’re commonly referred to as pond scum. These mats make great homes for micro- and macro-invertebrates, like bugs and worms, but they’re also unsightly.

UV clarifiers work by destroying the ultrafine planktonic algae – but, unfortunately, they do nothing to combat the filamentous algae. You’ll need a different strategy for the stringy stuff.

Battling Planktonic Algae

So how does ultraviolet light fight planktonic algae? When the algae cells are exposed to the bulb’s ultraviolet rays, radiation destroys the plants’ cellular walls. As a result, the tiny particles of dead algae clump together, and those clumps are then removed by your mechanical filtration system.

For the UV clarifier to work properly, however, follow these guidelines:

  • Replace bulbs yearly. Worn-out bulbs – even if they still light up – may not be as effective at controlling green water.
  • Watch your flow rate. Pushing water past the UV too fast can damage the unit and not allow enough contact time with the UV bulb for it to be effective.
  • Don’t flow too slow. Running a UV at too slow of a flow will act as a sterilizer and may also have a negative affect on natural bacteria meant to help decompose dead organics and fish waste.

Finding Balance

If you have an algae problem, be it planktonic or filamentous, it indicates your pond is out of balance. An ultraviolet clarifier should actually be one of your last tactics! Add some beneficial bacteria from the DefensePAC® Pond Care Package to help reduce the amount of organics in your pond. Start aerating the water. Consider using pond dye. If you have a thriving fish population, think about finding a new home for them (but don’t release them into the wild!). Manage the nutrients, sunlight and oxygen levels, and your algae proliferation should naturally level out on its own.

Pond Talk: How dependent are you on your ultraviolet clarifier?

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Is it time to start feeding the fish? They look hungry. | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Is it time to start feeding the fish? They look hungry.

Q: Is it time to start feeding the fish? They look hungry.

Ruth – Altoona, PA

A:  Talk about feeling hungry! If your fish are actively (or anxiously!) swimming around your water garden, nibbling and tasting your budding plants, and gazing at you forlornly as you eat your peanut butter sandwich pondside, it sounds like your finned pals are ready for some grub after their long winter fast.

Signs like these are telling, but to make sure your fish are ready to start eating regular food again, here are some guidelines to follow.

Take Your Pond’s Temperature

Last fall when water temperatures fell below 40 degrees Fahrenheit on the thermometer, your fishes’ metabolisms slowed way down. For the next few months, they rested in a hibernation-type state when they fasted and lived off the fat stores in their body. They needed no food from you – in fact, feeding them when they’re hibernating can make them very sick.

Now that spring has finally arrived and the sun has warmed your pond’s water to 40 to 50 degrees F, your fishes’ metabolism has kicked back into gear. They’re swimming around and searching for food to fuel their increased activity levels. Begin feeding your fish up to 3 times per week, and only what can be consumed in a 5 minute period. They will need a wheat germ food that’s easy to digest, like The Pond Guy® Spring & Fall Fish Food. Packed with plant-based nutrients, the diet will satiate their hunger, and stimulate growth and fertility.

Pump Up the Protein

Late spring and summer bring even warmer 50 degree-plus water temperatures, and that’s when you can switch your fishes’ diet to one that will help them develop and build some serious bulk. If growing big koi and goldfish is your goal, feed your scaled friends a high-protein diet, like The Pond Guy® Growth & Vibrance Fish Food. It contains 38 percent protein for maximum growth and includes ingredients that will make their colors pop.

If you want to simply maintain their size while supporting their health, offer them The Pond Guy® Staple Fish Food. Perfect for all pond fish, the summer staple diet contains a balanced diet of vitamins, minerals and amino acids. It’s easily digestible and designed for everyday feeding. Plus, it floats – so it makes mealtime fun for you and your fish!

Check the Forecast

Mother Nature has fun with weather – particularly with temperature fluctuations in the spring – so be sure to check the long-term forecast before you start feeding your fish on a regular schedule. Ideally, the weather should be consistently keeping the water a warm 40 to 50 degrees F. At that point, feed slowly to make sure they’re consuming the food at a steady pace and increase the amount as they’re ready.

Happy feeding!

Pond Talk: What are your fishes’ favorite mealtime treats?

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I see unique koi online but I can’t find them at the pet shop. Do they only sell certain ones, or do they change when they get bigger? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I see unique koi online but I can’t find them at the pet shop. Do they only sell certain ones, or do they change when they get bigger?

Q: I see unique koi online but I can’t find them at the pet shop. Do they only sell certain ones, or do they change when they get bigger?

Jeri – Hartsville, SC

A:  It’s easy to spend hours online ogling champion koi. The fishes’ near-perfect silhouettes, vivid color palettes and balanced scale patterns – not to mention their healthy size – inspire hobbyists to go on their own quests for the Holy Grail of pond fish. So they search pet store aquariums. They peruse tanks at their local pond supplier. They even eye their friends’ fishes, finding themselves coveting a golden butterfly or a sparkly gin rin kohaku.

Does this sound familiar?

Unfortunately, championship-quality koi are rare, as are some of the hard-to-find varieties. The good news, however, is that all koi are unique, and each variety has its own distinct color combination, scale pattern and physical characteristics. They’re called “living jewels” for a reason!

Read on to learn more about the different koi varieties – and how to find the exceptional ones.

Colorful, Common Koi

Most pet stores and pond supply shops stock the most popular varieties of koi, including these, below.

  • Kohaku: These fish have a solid white body overlaid with large red markings (hi). Top quality Kohaku display a bright, blemish-free white combined with deep, vibrant red patterns that are evenly distributed along the body.
  • Sanke (Taisho Sanke): These koi look similar to Kohaku, but they also have small black markings (sumi) overlaid on its white base. Experts say a high quality Sanke pattern begins with a great Kohaku pattern, to which the black is a welcome complement.
  • Showa (Showa Sanshoku): Commonly known as Showa, these fish have a solid black body that’s topped with red and white (shiroji) markings. Showa can be confused with Sanke; the difference is that in Showa, the black patterns wrap all the way around the body and appear on the fish’s head. The red, white and black should be evenly balanced, with crisp, clean edges between each color.
  • Ogon: Their metallic scales are in one solid color, typically yellow (Yamabuki Ogon) or white (Platinum Ogon). A clean solid-color head and unblemished body are crucial to a high-quality Ogon.

Exceptional Specimens

If you want to add some rarely seen jewels to your pond, check out these varieties below. Though you may find them at your local retailer, you’ll have better luck sourcing them via online vendors and koi auctions.

  • Shusui: Shusui are the scaleless (doitsu) version of Asagi, which are koi that display a blue net-like pattern on the back that’s complemented by red or orange patterns on the body. In Shusui, the blue net pattern is replaced by a single row of scales along the dorsal line at the top of the back.
  • Kumonryu: Another scaleless variety, Kumonryu have patterns of grey or white combined with black. They will completely change their pattern many times throughout their life. They can go anywhere from solid white to solid black, or any conceivable combination in between.
  • Tancho: Tancho is a popular variation of Kohaku, in which the only red pattern appears as a single red dot on the head. The symmetry and placement of the Tancho mark are main factors in determining the quality of any particular koi.

Whether choosing a common or uncommon variety, look for bright colors, crisp edges and interesting patterns. The koi’s color vibrancy and pattern edges will change over time (dramatically, in the case of the Kumonryu!), but its variety will stay the same; a Kohaku, for instance, won’t change into a Showa.

Nutrients in your koi’s food can affect its color display, so be sure to feed them some Growth & Vibrance Fish Food after transitioning them from their wheatgerm-based Spring & Fall Fish Food. It contains spirulina and stabilized vitamin C for show-stopping color.

Pond Talk: What types of koi do you have in your pond? Do you have a showstopper swimming among them?

Easy to Digest Wheat Germ Formula - The Pond Guy® Spring & Fall Fish Food

 

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Why do koi have barbels? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Why do koi have barbels?

Q: Why do koi have barbels?

Janice – Clear Creek, KY

A: Koi have been growing trendy whiskers way before the hipsters made it cool! Those whiskers—or barbels—are a defining characteristic of the fish. Here’s what they are, what they do, and why the popular pond fish has them.

Super-Sensing Organ
Barbels are sensory organs not unlike whiskers in mammals. Rather than being used for tactile sensing, however, a fish’s barbels are used for taste. Koi, along with catfish, goatfish, hagfish, sturgeon, zebrafish, some species of shark and other carp, have barbels. They use these taste bud-covered organs to search for food in murky water.

Tasting Without Ingesting
Koi and other carp have four barbels, with two on each side of the koi’s mouth (termed “maxillary barbels”). The top two appear shorter than the lower two, but they all serve the same purpose: taste debris without actually ingesting it. Being omnivorous scavengers that forage along murky pond and river bottoms, it’s a good survival skill to have.

Weird Appendages
As spring approaches and you start feeding your finned pals some Spring and Fall Fish Food, take a closer look at these weird appendages. Most koi (except those with mutations) have barbels—even koi fry have them! So go grab a pond net, catch a koi or fingerling, and look closely to see them.

As with hipsters and their whiskers, they probably won’t like you playing with their barbels. But they’re still fun to look at!

Pond Talk: Are some of your koi’s barbels bigger than others?

Easy to Digest in Cooler Water - The Pond Guy® Spring & Fall Fish Food

 

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