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My water garden doesn’t ice over, but the water gets cold. Can I still use barley extract during the winter? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: My water garden doesn’t ice over, but the water gets cold. Can I still use barley extract during the winter?

Q: My water garden doesn’t ice over, but the water gets cold. Can I still use barley extract during the winter?

Mary – Marietta, GA

A: Barley straw is effective stuff. It’s an all-natural, chemical-free option for keeping pond water clear. And the best part? The temperature-tolerant natural pond treatment can be used year-round—even if your pond’s water gets cold.

Ever wonder how this seemingly innocuous bale of dried barley straw works? Read on to learn more.

It’s Science!

Though researchers have yet to precisely pinpoint how barley straw works, it’s generally believed that as a barley straw bale breaks down in water, it produces and releases many chemical compounds—and one of them may promote clearer pond water.

It has not been found to harm fish, water fowl or pond inhabitants in any way and, in fact, some studies suggest the straw benefits fish health.

Pond Particulars

When using barley straw in a water garden or backyard pond, forward-thinking hobbyists originally placed bales of it in their waterfall filter boxes, skimmers or waterfall areas where it would decompose. Things have sure changed! Those unwieldy bales have since been replaced by compressed, easy-to-use pellets and barley extract, which is basically the good stuff in a bottle.

If you’re thinking about using barley straw in your water garden, you have more options than ever. Check out these four popular methods:

  • Barley Straw Bales: Typically available loose in a mesh bag, small bales of barley straw can be placed in the pond several months before pond clarity issues are expected to occur (around March or April, depending on your climate) as the straw must start to decompose before it releases it’s special compounds. In a 1,000-gallon pond, 1 pounds of barley straw is needed, but it should be replaced every four to six months. Keep the straw well-aerated, floating it near your waterfall or stream or in shallow water. Don’t leave it in your pond beyond its prime time, however, because it can eventually become a nutrient source for algae.
  • Barley Pellets: Compressed into a compact form, Barley Straw Pellets also contain all the beneficial substances found in barley straw without the unsightly look of bales, pillows or pads. The pellets may also buffer pH and control alkalinity in your pond. A 6-pound bag will treat an 800-gallon pond for up to six months; a 12-pound bag will treat a 1,600-gallon pond for up to six months.
  • Barley Extract: Offering the benefits of barley straw without the mess or unsightly bale floating in your pond, Barley Straw Extract contains those beneficial substances in liquid form. Because you don’t have to wait for the barley straw to decompose, it goes to work on contact. An 8-ounce container treats up to 4,000 gallons for three months; a 16-ounce bottle treats up to 8,000 gallons for three months.
  • Seasonal Defense®: Seasonal Defense® gives you the power of activated barley straw with an additional punch of natural bacteria in one simple treatment. Used when water temperatures drop below 50°F, Seasonal Defense® helps break down muck caused by leaves, scum and sediment.

No matter what form you choose, barley straw extract is a good tool to keep in your water garden tool chest. It’s an effective solution you’ll use all year round.

Pond Talk: Have you used barley straw extract in your pond? Were you satisfied with the results?

Benefits Of Barley Without The Mess - The Pond Guy® Barley Extract

 

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My water turned brown about this time last year. How do I stop it from happening again? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: My water turned brown about this time last year. How do I stop it from happening again?

Q: My water turned brown about this time last year. How do I stop it from happening again?

Nick – Charlestown, WV

A: There’s only one thing worse than green water—and that’s brown water. In some ponds or water features, the end of summer or beginning of fall brings with it this discolored water. It’s caused by one of two reasons:

  • Debris Tea: When leaves or pine needles fall into your pond, the tannins in them create a type of all-natural debris tea, which turns the clean and clear water in your backyard feature a shade of brown. This is the most common cause of tea-colored water.
  • Sediment Stew: If you have a lot of floating particulates or sediment in your pond, playful fish, wind or some other action can sometimes disrupt it, mixing it into your water column via your pump or aeration system.

To determine what’s causing the brown water, grab a glass jar from your kitchen, dunk it in your pond and fill it with the water. Let it sit for 24 hours and take a close look at the results. Is the water still tea-colored? Then you have tannin-colored debris tea. Do you see sediment settled at the bottom of the glass? Then you have some sediment stew.

Once you pinpoint what’s causing the brown water, here’s how to treat the problem.

  1. Clean It Up: Because both causes start with an abundance of organics in the water, your first course of action is to clean the bottom of your pond to remove any muck, leaves and remaining debris with a pond vacuum or skimmer net.
  2. Water Change: Next, do a partial (10 to 25 percent) water change, which will freshen things up and clear the water. Don’t forget to add a water conditioner to treat the water for your finned pals.
  3. Add Beneficial Bacteria: If you have sediment stew, add some Nature’s Defense® (if water temps are above 50°F) or Seasonal Defense® (if water temps are below 50°F). The beneficial bacteria will digest any accumulated organic debris and eliminate the brown water.
  4. Use Activated Carbon: If you have debris tea, toss a media bag filled with Activated Carbon into your pond. The carbon will absorb the tannins, leaving behind clear water.

To prevent the discoloration from happening again, keep the organics out of the pond. Clean up the muck regularly with a skimmer net or vacuum, and when the leaves or pine needles start falling, cover the water with pond netting, like the The Pond Guy® PondShelter™ or The Pond Guy® Premium Pond Netting.

Pond Talk: Have the leaves started falling in your neck of the woods yet? If so, what do you do to keep them out of your water?

Remove Discoloration From Leaves & Debris - View The Pond Guy® Activated Carbon

 

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Why is my water foamy? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Why is my water foamy?

Q: Why is my water foamy?

Luke- Belen, NM

A:  Is foamy water making your pond look more like the inside of a washing machine than an aquatic oasis? All that bubbly white or gray buildup is likely being caused by an excess of organic material in the water.

Accumulation happens when too many fish are living in the pond, you’re overfeeding them, filtration is inadequate or there’s runoff seeping into your water garden. Then, as the water flows down your waterfall, air and water collide, causing the proteins and other organics to be trapped inside bubbles rather than turning into ammonia and nitrites. Air-water collision is why the foam forms, particularly the base of your waterfall.

What’s the solution?

Short-term, you can change out part of the pond’s water to remove the foam. When you do, be sure to add some The Pond Guy® Stress Reducer PLUS to the fresh water, which will form a beneficial slime coat on your fish and make tap water safe for them. In addition, add The Pond Guy® Defoam™ to your water. Safe for fish, plants and wildlife, you simply shake the can and pour its contents into the pond. The foam will disappear in no time.

Long-term, you have several options:

  • Increase Filtration: Boost your filtration by adding plants to your pond or increasing the capacity of your existing filtration system.
  • Relocate Fish: Too many fish will produce excess waste, which means more foam. The rule is to allow 1 inch of adult fish per square foot of surface area, so if you have too many koi or goldfish in your pond, you might want to think about finding new homes for some of them.
  • Cut Back on Meals: If you’re feeding your fish too much or too often, the excess food adds to the extra organic material in your pond’s water. Only feed your fish an amount they’ll eat in a few minutes.
  • Add Nutrient-Eating Bacteria: To help break down the nutrient load in the water, add beneficial bacteria in such as, LiquidClear™ to work. They digest the dead organics in the pond, making the water crystal clear and foam free.
  • Aerate the Water: Aeration will also help reduce the nutrient load by circulating the water column and feeding fresh oxygen to the busy bacteria.

Foamy water can be a nuisance, but once you achieve some balance in your pond’s ecosystem, those bubbles will disappear in no time.

Pond Talk: Have your fish survived a bout of fin rot? How did you treat them?

Rid Your Pond of Unsightly Foam - The Pond Guy® Defoam™

 

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Someone told me I need to do the Jar Test. What is that? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Someone told me I need to do the Jar Test. What is that?

Q: Someone told me I need to do the Jar Test. What is that?

Margie – Clinton, ME

A: Let me guess: You have discolored or cloudy water, right?

Your friend gave some good advice. If you have green- or tea-colored water, or murky water in your pond, a jar test is an easy way to diagnose just what’s causing those clarity issues.

It’s simple to do. Take a clear glass jar, dunk it into your pond, fill it up with the water and let it sit for 24 hours. Overnight, the jar and its contents become a miniature version of your water garden – and it’ll reveal the source of your problem. Here’s how to read your jar:

Green Water

If your jar contains green-tined water or if the water has green particles in it, you most likely have algae. Planktonic algae – the source of algae blooms – are floating, microscopic plants that color pond water green, blue-green, brown or variations in between. Your jar is telling you to treat for algae.

Tea-Colored Water

Discolored or tea-colored water means you have some leaf tea brewing in your pond. As organic debris decomposes in your pond, the tannins and other byproducts mix into the water column, discoloring it. Your first remedy is to add a bag of Activated Carbon to the water. It will clear up the dissolved materials that are causing the problem. While the carbon is working, remove floating and decaying material with the 3-in-1 Pond Tool and the ClearVac™ Pond Vacuum. Keep your pond clean by skimming it regularly and covering it with pond netting or a Pond Shelter™ during the fall months.

Water with Sediment

Does your jar have clear water with a layer of sediment on the bottom? If so, you have an abundance of organics in the pond, and your fish are constantly stirring them up and clouding the water. Your four-step solution: Remove large debris, perform a partial water change, add a Water Conditioner, and double down on the beneficial bacteria from the DefensePAC®.

A jar test can reveal a lot about the water in your pond. If you need some assistance in discerning what your jar is telling you, just email one of The Pond Guy® experts. They are there to help!

Pond Talk: Have you ever been surprised by the results of a jar test in your pond?

Safely Clear Tea Colored Water - Pond Logic (r) Activated Carbon

 

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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?

Prevent pH Swings & Keep Fish Safe - Pond Logic® Clarity Defense®

 

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I started off with 4-inch koi and now they’re 8 inches. How big will they get before they stop growing? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I started off with 4-inch koi and now they’re 8 inches. How big will they get before they stop growing?

Q: I started off with 4-inch koi and now they’re 8 inches. How big will they get before they stop growing?

Lauren – Lincoln, NE

A: In an ideal environment—a supersize space with pristine water conditions at a stable 75 degrees Fahrenheit—an adult koi can reach a whopping 3 feet long. A yard! Nearly a full meter! Yep, that’s a really big fish.

Don’t worry: Chances are slim that your finned pal will grow to that immense length, but you can help it reach its full potential. Koi will keep growing and growing throughout their lives, sometimes faster than others. How fast and large they grow depend on several factors, including:

  • Water quality. Clean water pumped full of oxygen will promote a fish’s health and growth, while poor water quality can stunt its growth. Koi will tolerate a dirty, cloudy environment, but their development and vitality will suffer. Make sure you have an aeration kit in place and are using beneficial bacteria from the DefensePAC® to keep the water crystal clear.
  • Water temperature. A steady 75° F will keep koi in a more active growth state where they’re building muscle and body mass like crazy. Cooler or fluctuating water temperatures trigger a slower growth rate as they slow down their metabolism and activity level. If you live anywhere other than in the tropics, expect to see slower growth in the winter months.
  • Nutrition. Food—and how much of it they eat—matters. Fish food that’s packed with protein and vitamins is formulated to help koi grow and develop. Some also contain ingredients that boost your fish’s vibrant colors.
  • Genetics. Genes play a huge role in how large a koi could grow in the right conditions. Colossal parents often produce colossal offspring, and if those fry live in a spacious pond with clean, aerated water and good food, who knows how big they’ll get!
  • Age. Like most living things, koi develop faster when they’re young and slower as they age. Your 4-inch koi quickly doubled in size because they’re still adolescents; as they get older, their growth rate will slow down.

If you have big plans for your koi, give them an ideal ecosystem and good grub. Your colorful friends may not reach that 3- or 4-foot mark—but you never know!

Pond Talk: What’s the largest koi you’ve ever had—or seen in person?

Energy Efficient Design For 24-7 Use - The Pond Guy® Water Garden Aeration Kit

 

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My fish’s fins are starting to look red. Do they have fin rot? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: My fish’s fins are starting to look red. Do they have fin rot?

Q: My fish’s fins are starting to look red. Do they have fin rot?

Rita – Caney, KS

A: Inflamed, red patched on its fins … faded color on its fin tips … frayed, decaying tissue around its mouth or fins … yep, it sounds like your fish pals are fighting fin rot.

One of the most common and preventable diseases in pond and aquarium fish, fish rot typically starts around the edges of the fins and gradually destroys more tissue until it reaches the fin base. It also can make a fish lethargic, lose its appetite and, depending on the disease’s severity, spread to other areas of its body.

If caught early, however, fin rot can be cured. Here’s what you need to know about its cause, treatment and prevention.

Causes of Fin Rot

Fin rot is caused by several different types of bacteria, including Aeromonas, Psudomonas and Vibrio, that eat the delicate membranes of the fish’s fin, leaving behind the fin rays. The frayed, damaged tissue is then susceptible to secondary fungal infections, which exacerbate the sickness.

The root cause of fin rot can most often be traced to its environment. Poor water quality, low oxygen levels and overcrowding set up a perfect situation for bacterial overgrowth and disease proliferation. Fish with compromised immune systems living in that type of environment are particularly vulnerable to fin rot.

Treating Sick Fish

To treat the sick fish, start by moving it into a separate holding tank. Give it an anti-bacterial treatment, such as CrystalClear® WipeOut™, that’s formulated to prevent and control fin rot. Be sure to add plenty of aeration and circulation to the water, as well as some Stress Reducer PLUS or Pond Salt (1 teaspoon per 5 gallons of water) to soothe its stress and help it recover faster.

Eliminate the bacterial threat from your pond by improving water quality. First, test your water for ammonia, high nitrates and high nitrites, and check the pH level, and correct as necessary. Then clean out any decaying plant matter from the pond with net or vacuum, check and clean your filter and skimmer, and do a 20 to 50 percent water change. Make sure your aeration system is working properly and, if possible, crank it up.

Once water conditions have improved, you should begin to see your fish’s fins regenerate. Depending on the degree of fin rot, it can take several weeks to several months for the fins to look normal again, however some scarring or discoloration may occur.

Preventing Fin Rot

With a few preventive measures, you can keep your pond fin-rot free. We recommend this three-step approach:

  1. Evaluate Your Pond: Take an honest look at your setup. Do you have sufficient filtration and aeration? Are there too many fish in your pond? Do you (or family members) feed them too often, causing poor water quality? Improve equipment where needed. Find new homes for aggressive or overabundant fish. And try to limit mealtime to once a day.
  2. Maintain Water Quality with Natural Bacteria: The microscopic beneficial bacteria found in DefensePAC® Pond Care Packages will help break down excess waste, uneaten food and decomposing organics. When used as directed, you’ll see improved water quality and clarity – and healthier fish.
  3. Aerate and Circulate: Air pumped through an aerator boosts oxygen levels in your pond and improves the health of your fish. If you have a waterfall, consider adding a small aerator, like our Water Garden Aeration Kit, at the other end of your pond.

Though your fish are showing signs of fin rot, you can help them recover with quarantine, treatment and regular pond maintenance. Good luck!

Pond Talk: Have your fish survived a bout of fin rot? How did you treat them?

Reduce Stress & Heal Damaged Tissue - The Pond Guy® Stress Reducer PLUS

 

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