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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?

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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?

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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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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™ 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?

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My pond was a mess, so I drained and refilled it. Now I have algae. What do I do? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: My pond was a mess, so I drained and refilled it. Now I have algae. What do I do?

Q: My pond was a mess, so I drained and refilled it. Now I have algae. What do I do?

Beth – Benton, AR

A:  Sometimes it’s just easier to start from scratch – particularly if you have a disaster in your pond.

A complete water change rids your water feature of excess organic waste, clears up murky water (briefly, as you’ve discovered) and gives you a chance to start over with a clean slate. Those are some worthy benefits!

The urge to purge, however, has its drawbacks. If you’ve completely drained the water from your pond and scrubbed everything clean, you’ve also stripped a lot of the beneficial bacteria that was working to help clean the pond in the first place! The algae that’s growing now is most likely due to fish waste and a lack of mature filtration.

To return your pond to its crystal-clear state, here’s what we recommend.

  1. Decide how bad it really is: Believe it or not, some algae in your pond is natural and beneficial as it helps filter the water. Make sure your expectations are in line with the reality of having a pond, and then let the pond take its natural course with a little help from you. But be patient! The Nitrogen Cycle will eventually help clear things up naturally – but it takes time. If your water quality begins to suffer a few weeks in, think about doing a partial water change and/or following these additional suggestions.
  2. Treat if necessary: If the algae is becoming excessive, treat the algae growth with an algaecide in the morning or evening when water temperatures are cooler. In addition, make sure you have adequate aeration to ensure oxygen levels stay high for your finned friends.
  3. Seed Your Filter Media: To kick-start the regrowth and reproduction of beneficial bacteria in your pond, add some DefensePAC® to your pond and filter. The package contains Nature’s Defense®, which instantly begins breaking down dead organics in the pond; Clarity Defense®, which helps clear debris suspended in the water column; and Muck Defense®, which attacks buildup on the liner, rocks and gravel.
  4. Condition the water: When you refill your pond with water, be sure to use Stress Reducer PLUS to condition the water and reduce fish stress. It helps your fish form a beneficial slime coat that’s lost from stress or handling, and it also makes tap water safe by working to remove chlorine, chloramines and heavy metals.
  5. Learn from the situation: Instead of letting your pond fall into its “mess” state again, figure out why it wound up in that situation in the first place. Are there too many fish living in your pond? Is your filter too small for your pond’s volume and fish load? Do you need more plants growing in and filtering the water? Does your pond receive too much sun or rain runoff? Dig down to the root cause of the problem and correct it!

In the future, if you find your pond’s water quality waning, consider doing a partial water change instead of a complete water change. A little fresh water will go far to clear things up without having to start completely over!

Pond Talk: Have you ever had to restart your pond from scratch?

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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?

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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?

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