• Archives

  • Categories

  • Pages

  • Follow me on Twitter

How do I know how many fish I can have in my pond? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: How do I know how many fish I can have in my pond?

Q: How do I know how many fish I can have in my pond?

Lynn – Leitchfield, KY

A: Fish are like potato chips: It’s hard to have just one. When you visit your local pet retailer or water garden center and see those goldfish and koi staring up at you through the water, how can you not take them home!

Too many fish in a pond, however, can create an unhealthy environment for your fish and a breeding ground for algae. The more fish you have, the more waste they produce – and that waste can turn into algae fertilizer unless you have the filtration power to pump it out.

Before you start buying bucket-loads of finned friends, figure out how many you can comfortably keep in your pond. Here’s how in five simple steps.

1. Calculate Pond Size

First, determine the square footage of your pond’s surface area by measuring its length and its width, and multiplying the two numbers. We recommend no more than 1 inch of fish for every square foot of surface area, so if your pond is 250 square feet, that’s a maximum of 250 inches of adult, fully grown fish. If you need help with the math, use our online calculator. You’ll just need to know your pond’s length, width and average depth.

2. Allow Room to Grow

If you’re starting with young or adolescent fish, don’t max out your fish volume right from the start. Remember that those little guys will grow – a 2 inch fry will turn into a 10 inch adult in no time – and they’ll produce more waste as they develop. Skip the guessing game of growing fish by stocking adults, such as those included in our koi packages. You’ll enjoy instant gratification and a pond full of colorful fish!

3. Add More Slowly

Whether you’re starting with young fish or adults, add just a handful at a time. Your pond will need time to “season,” or build up its biological filtration system (a.k.a. beneficial bacteria), to handle the new influx of fish waste. Introduce a few fish, and then wait several weeks before adding more. While you’re waiting, give your biological filter a boost with DefensePAC® Pond Care Package. It contains Nature’s Defense®, Clarity Defense® and Muck Defense® – all of which promote the growth of those beneficial microorganisms.

4. Keep Up with Routine Maintenance

Once your fish have moved in, help them feel right at home. Use natural bacteria to break down fish waste, uneaten food and other debris. Provide shade, habitat and safety with floating and submerged aquatic plants. Feed them a healthy diet, like The Pond Guy® Staple Fish Food, which has the right amount of protein to keep them healthy without producing a lot of excess waste. Provide a healthy ecosystem and tasty food, and you’ll have a pond full of happy fish!

5. Share – or Upgrade!

If your pond is overpopulated already, you have two options: Share some of your fish with a friend (or two!), or do some upgrades in either your filtration system or your pond itself.

A external pressurized filter like the AllClear™ PLUS can handle excess waste, thanks to its powerful combination of biological, mechanical and ultraviolet filters. Its backflush option makes it easy to clean, and it’s easy to install in an existing pond because the plumbing doesn’t need to be run through the liner.

Or if you want to upgrade your entire water feature, check out one of our Pond Kits. Available in several different sizes, they contain a pump, pressurized filter or waterfall filter, pond liner, underlayment, plumbing, foam, hardware and beneficial bacteria to jump-start your biological filtration. All you’ll need to add is fish!

Pond Talk: What’s your most memorable experience with a fish overpopulation problem?

Balanced Diet For Everyday Feeding - Pond Logic® DefensePAC®

What does it mean when you say a pond must “cycle” before adding fish? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: What does it mean when you say a pond must “cycle” before adding fish?

Q: What does it mean when you say a pond must “cycle” before adding fish?

Sherry – Raleigh, NC

A: The term “cycle” refers to the nitrogen cycle – and it’s an important process to understand if you plan to keep fish in your pond. The nitrogen cycle provides the biological filtration in the water, which keeps the water free from toxic compounds created by decaying organic matter. The process is a complicated one, so here are the basics.

Nitrogen Cycle 101

Before we discuss cycling a new pond, let’s dive into how the nitrogen cycle looks in an established, mature pond. As organic material – like uneaten food, dead plant matter and fish waste – decay, the bacteria that break it down release ammonia, which is toxic to living organisms. One particular microorganism called nitrosomonas, however, loves ammonia. It feeds on ammonia and oxygen, and releases a chemical called nitrite.

Nitrites are also dangerous to fish and aquatic critters, and so another group of microorganisms – nitrobacter – enters the nitrogen cycle picture. These bacteria transform nitrites into relatively harmless nitrates, which are then absorbed by algae and plants or reduced by water changes.

New Pond, New Bacteria

A new pond doesn’t have healthy populations of nitrosomonas and nitrobacter yet, and so the pond must be “cycled.” This refers to establishing and maturing your pond’s biological filtration system so that it’s able to turn ammonia into nitrates. To do so, you need to start the process with an ammonia source (a few hardy fish) and seed the pond with these beneficial bacteria, which can be found in Pond Logic® Seasonal Defense® and in Microbe-Lift® PL Gel.

Nurturing Nitrosomonas

In the early spring when established ponds are waking up after a long winter, a similar cycling process will take place. Some nitrosomonas and nitrobacter will survive in your filtration media and gravel and begin to colonize, but it’s a good idea to give them a boost. Pond Logic® Seasonal Defense® is formulated for use in cooler temperatures – making it perfect for early spring applications. Since those microorganisms live in your filtration media, avoid washing it when you’re doing your spring cleaning.

Cycled and Ready for Fish

The cycling process can take four to six weeks, though in the warmer spring and summer this time may be reduced. Keep an eye on your ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels with a test kit, like our API® Pond Master Test Kit. Once it indicates that nitrates are present, your pond is considered cycled. Add only a few fish at a time to prevent ammonia levels from spiking again.

Keep in mind that this ammonia-nitrite-nitrate cycle is always occurring, so test your pond regularly to ensure the health and wellbeing of your finned friends.

Pond Talk: What has been your experience in “cycling” a pond?

Keep Pond Water Safe for Fish - API® Pond Master Test Kit

Should I always add pond salt to my pond, or just when my fish are sick? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Should I always add pond salt to my pond, or just when my fish are sick?

Q: Should I always add pond salt to my pond, or just when my fish are sick?

Ron – Whitefish Bay, WI

A: To salt or not to salt? It’s a question hotly debated by koi hobbyists. When used in low doses, salt has many health benefits for your fish – but when used in too-high doses, it can do more harm than good. Here’s what you need to know about adding salt to your pond.

Benefits Aplenty

Salt isn’t just for helping to heal sick fish. Constant exposure to low salt levels can improve your fishes’ overall health. It can improve gill function and oxygen uptake, reduce stress, and build a stout slime coat that’ll help them ward off parasites, bacteria and disease. Salt also adds beneficial electrolytes to the water.

The Right Type

You can’t, however, just dump a scoop of common salt, like tasty table salt or ice-melting rock salt, into the water. Fish friendly The Pond Guy® Pond Salt is made from pure evaporated sea salt – and that’s it. It contains no iodine, chloride or other harsh chemicals that could harm your fish.

Just Add Salt

If you’re adding low doses of salt to your pond and have no aquatic plants, use 2½ cups of salt per 100 gallons of water and disperse the pond salt evenly around the shoreline. Salt will not evaporate or get filtered out, so the only time you need to add more salt is when you do water changes.

Mind the Plants

If you have lilies and other aquatic plants living with the fish in your water garden, use 1¼ cups of salt per 100 gallons of water. Scatter it around the shoreline, being careful to avoid direct contact with your greenery.

Salt Therapy

Fish with parasites or bacterial infections can benefit from a salt bath. Prepare an isolation tank with 5 cups of salt per 100 gallons of pond water (not tap water) and add some vigorous aeration. Place the patient in the tank for 5 to 10 minutes, and then return it to the pond.

Try adding some salt to your pond today. Your fish will thank you for the spa treatment!

Pond Talk: Have you had success treating your fishes’ disease with salt baths?

Improve Gill Function & Reduce Stress - The Pond Guy® Pond Salt

I’m starting my pond up for spring. Do I need to leave my aerator running? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I’m starting my pond up for spring. Do I need to leave my aerator running?

Q: I’m starting my pond up for spring. Do I need to leave my aerator running?

Nikki – Glen Forney, PA

A:  As winter gives way to the sunny days of spring and summer, you should absolutely plan to leave your aerator running. That water-churning system that benefits your pond over the cold months will also benefit your pond during the summer—and then some.

Winter Bubbles
As most pond owners know, an aerator, like The Pond Guy® Water Garden Aeration Kit, used during the winter serves two purposes: to aid de-icers in creating and keeping a hole in the ice, and to circulate water to vent gases when filtration systems are shut down for the season. The circulation also encourages contact between the water and the environment, which will increase the dissolved oxygen level in your pond.

Summer Aeration
In the summer, aeration provides some extra benefits. Besides moving the water and boosting the oxygen level in the water molecules, aeration does these things:

  • Circulates the water in areas where filtration may not reach, preventing stagnation and low-oxygen pockets in your pond. Filtration systems only move the top of the water column, not the bottom. But an aerator works from the bottom up, circulating the water and increasing dissolved oxygen levels throughout the pond.
  • Keeps oxygen distributed throughout the water column much more efficiently than a water feature, like a waterfall, spitter or stream.
  • Provides bubbly camouflage in which fish can hide.
  • Stirs up debris on the pond bottom, allowing it to be filtered out or broken down by beneficial bacteria. If that debris is allowed to collect, muck will build up and release harmful gases as the organic materials decompose.
  • Helps beneficial bacteria thrive and flourish, thanks to the circulation and oxygen. Higher oxygen levels stimulate and increase the number of natural aerobic bacteria living in your pond. More bacteria means more efficient filtration.

As you’re prepping your pond for spring, jump start the season with DefensePAC® Pond Care Package. It contains Oxy-Lift™ Defense®, Nature’s Defense®, Clarity Defense®, Muck Defense® and Seasonal Defense® — everything you’ll need for spring cleaning, bacteria boosting and water clarifying.

Aeration definitely has its benefits, no matter what the season. If you want a balanced ecosystem with healthier fish and plants, keep your aerator running.

Pond Talk: Have you started up your pond yet? What’s on your spring to-do list?

Enhance Oxygen Levels All Year - The Pond Guy® Water Garden Aeration Kit

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?

Promote Growth & Intensify Colors - The Pond Guy® Growth & Vibrance Fish Food

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

How can I tell if I have male or female koi? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: How can I tell if I have male or female koi?

Q: How can I tell if I have male or female koi?

Ann Marie – Casselberry, FL

A: If only koi were as easy to sex as a pair of peacocks! Like those fanciful birds, koi are sexually dimorphic – meaning the males and females look and behave differently – but it’s not an easy distinction to discern. They grow to roughly the same size and they both have colorful scales, yet there are subtle differences if you know where to look. With these clues, you’ll know whether to name your finned friends Fred or Frieda.

Clue #1: Age

Koi are easier to tell apart when they’re mature, and so your first clue will be age – which is related to their length. They’re considered mature (3 years old) when they’re about 10 inches long. If they’re between 3 and 10 inches, they’re still juveniles and may be difficult to sex.

Clue #2: Body Shape

Immobilize your koi by capturing it in your Collapsible Fish Net and take a look at it from above. A mature male koi will have a slender looking body, while a female koi will have a rounded body, particularly when it’s spawning season and she’s carrying a nest full of eggs!

Clue #3: Fin Shape

Next, examine your koi’s fins. A male koi’s pectoral fins, the ones near his head, will appear pointed and solid in color. In addition, the first ray of his pectoral fin may be more substantial when compared to his female counterpart, which will display rounder fins.

Clue #4: Tubercles

During breeding season, you may see little white growths, called tubercles, on male koi’s heads and pectoral fins. They’re perfectly natural and will disappear once the fish have finished getting frisky. Females don’t develop these protrusions.

Clue #5: Behavior

One final – and obvious! – clue: amorous behavior. When they’re not mating, they behave very similarly, but during mating season, the male koi will chase the female, encouraging her (sometimes enthusiastically) to release her eggs so he can fertilize them. After all that frolicking, the happy pair will benefit from some The Pond Guy® Stress Reducer Plus, which will help heal any damaged tissue.

It’s not easy to distinguish the male and female koi, but with these tips and clues, you’ll know your Freds from your Friedas in no time!

Pond Talk: Have you ever tried to determine the sex of your koi?

Safely Catch Your Fish - The Pond Guy® Collapsible Fish Net