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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?

Perfect For Cool Weather Feeding - The Pond Guy® Spring & Fall Fish Food

I know you aren’t supposed to wash your filter, but how can I stop it from getting plugged? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I know you aren’t supposed to wash your filter, but how can I stop it from getting plugged?

Q: I know you aren’t supposed to wash your filter, but how can I stop it from getting plugged?

Jeannie – Omaha, NE

A:  Your pond filter is home to countless natural, beneficial bacteria that break down toxins in the water. It’s also home to globs of slimy gunk and debris that clog your filtration system. So how do you clean house without evicting those valuable microorganisms? We have a seven-step solution.

1. Clean Your Skimmer
First, keep an eye on your mechanical skimmer filter and clean it out as often as needed. This part of your filter is not intended to remove tiny particulates, so use lower-density filter media that will keep large debris out of your pump. Too-dense media will plug more easily and slow the flow.

2. Empty Debris Baskets
When your mechanical skimmer filter’s debris baskets and nets fill up with leaves and other material, clean them out. If they’re full, the water is forced around the debris dam and potentially carrying larger pieces that could create more plugs elsewhere in your filtration system.

3. Vary Media Densities
Use a variety of filter media densities, like those offered by Matala®, and stack them so that the water flows from lowest to highest densities. By mixing them, you have plenty of surface area for bacteria growth but better water flow with less frequent plugging.

4. Layer Media Wisely
Speaking of media densities, don’t go crazy with too many layers. If you have more than two or three layers of filter mat in addition to BioBalls™ or other media, you may be slowing the flow and leaving lots of places for debris to get stuck. A couple of layers is all you really need.

5. Seed with Bacteria
After you’ve hosed down your filter’s media pads, help the remaining bacteria boost their population levels by seeding the pads with bacteria found in Microbe-Lift® PL Gel. They’ll start reproducing right away and quickly help to better decompose debris.

6. Keep Pond Sludge-Free
Sludge is the enemy, so do what you can to keep it from building up in your pond. Use a pond vacuum to suck up large debris and DefensePAC® to break down fine debris; doing so will help with water quality and remove material that would otherwise need to be handled by your filter.

7. Balance Your Pond
Finally, take a look at your pond’s fish-to-plant ratio. More fish means more waste (and a clogged filter), while more plants means better-filtered water. Don’t overwork your filter by keeping an unbalanced pond. Let plants help do the work – naturally! – and keep your fish load to a minimum.

Pond Talk: What tricks do you have for preventing a plugged filter?

Four Densities for Every Filtration Need - Matala® Filter Media Pads

How do I divide my pond plants? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: How do I divide my pond plants?

Q: How do I divide my pond plants?

Karen – Fort Worth, TX

A: It’s that time of year, isn’t it? After a long winter’s nap, your aquatic plants are a great place to start flexing that green thumb of yours. Potted water lilies and bog plants will need to be divided, but how you do so will depend on the type of plants you have. In general, bog plants will need to be divided every one to two years, and water lilies will need to be divided every two to three years.

Here are simplified, step-by-step instructions for how to divide your aquatic plants. Pull out your waders, pruning tools, extra plant baskets, planting media and garden hose – and let’s get to work!

Divide Bog Plants
Bog plants include species like corkscrew rush, dwarf cattails and irises. Some have clumping roots, some have runners and some have rhizomes. Regardless of the type of root mass, here’s what to do with them:

  1. Lift the pot or container out of the pond and gently remove the root mass.
  2. Use your garden hose to wash the soil off of the root mass and trim any dead leaves and foliage.
  3. Divide the root mass depending on the type of root system.
    • Clumping Roots – Like corkscrew rush, separate the roots into sections, leave some roots intact with each section.
    • Runner Roots – Like dwarf cattails, cut the runner root and leave the root base with each section of the plant.
    • Rhizomes – Like irises, simply divide them into sections.
  4. Replant each section of plant in its own container and dispose of any plant overgrowth.

Divide Water Lilies
Water lilies – both tropical and the hardy variety sold in our Grower’s Choice collection – are also easy to divide. You’ll know it’s time to separate them when you notice fewer lily pads, reduced blooms or splitting pots.

  1. Lift the pot or container out of the pond, locate the tuber and gently remove it.
  2. Rinse off the soil, and trim away root growth and old foliage.
  3. Identify the crowns, or the little buds where a new lily pad group will sprout, and cut between them with a sharp knife. Keep the pieces 3 to 4 inches in length. Each one of these will become a new water lily plant.
  4. Using aquatic planting media, plant each section separately at a 45-degree angle so that the growing tip is still exposed above the soil.
  5. Place your repotted lilies in a shallow area of your pond where only a few inches of water cover the plants.
  6. Once new growth appears, move the lilies to the deeper areas of your pond.

Fertilize and Tend
After you divide and replant your aquatic plants, don’t forget to give them regular doses of fertilizer to ensure they’re getting the nutrients they need to thrive and produce vigorous blooms. Keep your colorful beauties looking good by keeping them trimmed and regularly removing dead foliage throughout the growing season.

Pond Talk: When you divide your aquatic plants, what do you do with your extra cuttings?

Add Beauty To Your Pond - Grower's Choice Hardy Water Lilies

What’s the best way to get debris off the rocks when I clean out my pond this spring? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: What’s the best way to get debris off the rocks when I clean out my pond this spring?

Q: What’s the best way to get debris off the rocks when I clean out my pond this spring?

Jake – Grand Junction, CO

A: There’s nothing like spring cleaning – especially when it gives you a chance to remove some of that icky, slimy scum and debris that’s been growing on your waterfall, rocks and gravel all year-long. With the water drained from your pond (after your fish are safe in a temporary tub), you have easy access to those hard-to-clean spots. Here’s our two-step solution to scrub everything clean.

Step 1: Power Wash
Without a doubt, power washing with a pressure washer or high-pressure nozzle is the quickest way to blast debris off larger rocks and features. Once your pond is drained, and you’ve removed large debris and trimmed away dead plant material, start power washing from the top and work your way down, being careful to avoid growing plants and curious frogs. Some of that debris contains viable beneficial bacteria, so it’s OK to leave a little behind.

Because all that stuck-on debris is easier to remove when it’s wet, start power washing as soon as possible after your pond is drained. Believe us: It’s harder to clean off that debris once it’s dried out and crusty!

Step 2: Oxy-Lift
Next, use Oxy-Lift™ Defense® to lift and remove tough debris on larger rocks, waterfalls and streams by pouring it directly on the trouble spots. While you’re at it, sprinkle some on the smaller rocks and hard-to-power-wash gravel, too. You will instantly see it start to foam and remove stuck-on scum. After about 10 minutes or so, hose everything down, drain the dirty water and debris, and repeat as necessary; it might take a few cycles for a thorough clean-out.

After your pond is spick and span, your rocks and gravel are in place, and your plants are repositioned, fill it back up with water and add a chlorine remover or Stress Reducer PLUS to condition the water and make the freshly cleaned aquatic environment safe for your fish. While your filters and pond are being reestablished with beneficial bacteria, keep your finned pals on a light spring diet.

For more tips on how to perform a spring cleanout, check out our video that details what you need to do to prepare your pond for the warmer months.

Pond Talk: When your pond is drained while you’re spring cleaning, what other maintenance chores do you do?

Lift Debris Away from Rocks in Seconds - Pond Logic® Oxy-Lift™ Defense®

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

My pond froze over. How do I get it open again? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: My pond froze over. How do I get it open again?

Q: My pond froze over. How do I get it open again?

Janet – Minneapolis, MN

A:  Brrrr. Jack Frost, Elsa and the rest of the cold-weather crew sure have been busy lately, haven’t they? Despite the use of a de-icer, aeration system and other ice-prevention tactics, long bouts of frigid temperatures and wind-whipped nights can cause ponds to freeze over. And that’s not good news for your fish.

So what can you do? When considering your hibernating finned pals, time is critical. Too long without an open area in the ice for gas exchange could mean dangerous conditions for your koi, goldfish and other pond fish.

Overnight, No Problem

If the pond has been frozen over since last night, your fish should be just fine. Cold, windy nights often cause extra layers of ice to form on the pond’s surface. If your de-icer and aeration are on and functioning properly, some of the ice should melt on its own. Meanwhile, your fish will have plenty of dissolved oxygen in the water to tide them over.

A Week or More, Get Busy

If it’s been a week or longer with no hole in the ice, it’s time to take some action. Without a hole, ammonia and other noxious gases are unable to escape into the atmosphere, and your fish will have no access to fresh oxygen. Here’s what to do when ice overtakes your pond.

  1. Melt It: First, melt a hole back open in the ice by pouring a bucket of hot water onto the frozen stuff near your de-icer or aerator’s airstones. Do not drill through the ice or bang on it with a hammer as this will stress your fish, which are probably already stressed out.
  2. Systems Check: Once a hole is open, check to be sure your de-icer and aeration systems are still running and functioning properly. If not, repair the damage or replace the unit altogether. The PondAir™ & Thermo-Pond Combo, which is an all-in-one aerator and de-icer, works to keep a vent open in ponds up to 2,000 gallons. See the video below for tips on installing the PondAir™ & Thermo-Pond De-Icer Combo.
  3. Reposition Airstones: Finally, if your airstones are positioned at the bottom of your pond, relocate them. Put them in a shallower area that’s closer to the water surface. This will create more movement – and that means a bigger hole.

Should frigid temperatures and a solid ice sheet persist, take a daily trip to your pond to check on the gas exchange hole. Your aerator and de-icer should do the trick, but be ready to melt through the ice if needed.

Pond Talk: How often does your pond freeze over in the winter?

Vent Ponds Up To 2,000 Gallons - PondAir™ &;amp Thermo-Pond 3.0 De-Icer Combo

I have a small pondless fountain that’s cloudy and slimy. What can I use to clean it? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I have a small pondless fountain that’s cloudy and slimy. What can I use to clean it?

Q: I have a small pondless fountain that’s cloudy and slimy. What can I use to clean it?

Stephanie – Covington, GA

A:  Pondless, fishless water features are known for being low maintenance – but even they get slimy and scummy and in need of some attention. Dust and debris blow into the water, leaves and twigs somehow find their way into the basin, and algae starts to grow on the surfaces. As all that stuff builds up and breaks down, you’re left with a mess.

Good thing it’s an easy problem to manage. Because you have no pond and no resident fish to consider, there’s no need to worry about de-chlorinators, test kits, filtration systems and all that nonsense (although adding a filter always helps, even in a fishless feature). Here’s what you’ll need to do to keep your fountain clean and clear:

  1. Give It a Good Scrub-Down: First, give your feature a thorough cleaning. Shut down the pump, empty the water basin and use a cleaner like Oxy-Lift™ Defense® to break down debris and speed cleaning. Once you’re done scrubbing and rinsing, refill the reservoir with fresh water.
  2. Move It Out of the Sun: Full sunlight will encourage the growth of gunk so, if possible, move your feature to a sun-free spot or shade it from the UV rays with an umbrella or covering. Doing so will keep the fountain cleaner for a longer span of time. Which leads us to No. 3 …
  3. Keep It Clean: Finally, once it’s scrubbed and moved to a protected spot, keep it clean! We recommend our FeatureFix™ & FeatureClear™ Combo. It includes FeatureClear™, which contains concentrated beneficial bacteria that digest organic debris; and FeatureFix™, which eliminates discolored water with a fast-acting formula designed for pondless features. It’s easy to use: Simply remove excess debris from the feature, shake the FeatureFix™ or FeatureClear™ well, and pour into the water. FeatureClear™ works best when temperatures are above 50°F, but FeatureFix™ works no matter the temperature.

Easy-to-maintain pondless water features, birdbaths and fountains allow you to enjoy the aesthetics of flowing water with minimal work, but these simple steps will ensure your water stays clear and your fountain remains slime-free.

Pond Talk: Do you keep your pondless water feature running all year long?

Keep Water Features Crystal Clear - FeatureClear™ & FeatureFix™ Combo