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I know bass are good predator fish to put in a pond, but does it matter if they are largemouth or smallmouth bass? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I know bass are good predator fish to put in a pond, but does it matter if they are largemouth or smallmouth bass?

Q: I know bass are good predator fish to put in a pond, but does it matter if they are largemouth or smallmouth bass?

Joe – Alhambra, IL

A: Bass – both largemouth and smallmouth – make excellent predator fish. These strong, scrappy guys keep your bluegill population in check. They chase frogs, eat crustaceans and snails, and even catch unsuspecting birds and rodents like small muskrats. They’re a definite asset in your pond or lake.

These two fish cousins, however, have their differences. Read on to learn which is better suited to your pond or lake.

Distinct Differences

Though they’re both species of fish in the sunfish family, largemouth and smallmouth bass have different physical characteristics. The largemouth bass, Micropterus salmoides, sports a big grin that extends way back beyond its eye, while the smallmouth bass, Micropterus dolomieu, has a smaller smile that reaches only to the middle of its eye. They also differ in their color and color patterns; the olive green largemouth has dark blotches of scales that run horizontally down its flank, and the brassy brown smallmouth has dark scales that run vertically.

Happy Habitats

These freshwater fishes both thrive in lakes, ponds and rivers, but each species has its preference. Largemouth bass favor crystal clear lakes with 2 to 6 feet of water, and sandy shallows and abundant rooted aquatic plants or habitat for spawning. They flourish in warmer water – even enjoying 80 to 90 degree temperatures in the summertime.

Smallmouth bass, however, are primarily river dwellers that like to hang out around pea-size to 1-inch-diameter gravel for spawning. They’ll tolerate lakes and ponds, but they like the steady current and higher rate of dissolved oxygen it provides. They also like water temperatures a bit cooler; anything warmer than 90 degrees F is lethal to smallmouth bass.

Food for Thought

These fishes also have different tastes in food. Largemouth bass aren’t too picky. They’ll gobble through a variety of foodstuffs, from Game Fish Grower Food to smaller fish like shad, perch, bluegill and sunfish. Smallmouth bass, however, stick to the bottom of the lake or river and nosh on crustaceans, insects and smaller fish.

Potential Pondmates?

Because both these guys are fun and challenging to fish, it would be fantastic to have both species in your pond or lake, wouldn’t it?

Large- and smallmouth bass can live together, but it takes the help of an attentive game fish manager to make that happen. The general consensus from most experts is that the largemouths will typically replace smallmouths in smaller pond settings unless subadult or adult smallies are introduced annually. Even if you provide an ideal spawning environment for them, the largemouths will still edge them out.

Bottom line: You’re better off with the largemouths. They’re easier to keep, and they adapt more readily to a pond- or lake-type environment.

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We had lots of tadpoles in our pond last year. Will they still be tadpoles this year or can we expect more frogs? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: We had lots of tadpoles in our pond last year. Will they still be tadpoles this year or can we expect more frogs?

Q: We had lots of tadpoles in our pond last year. Will they still be tadpoles this year or can we expect more frogs?

Lynn – Beecher, IL

A: What would a summer evening on your pond or lake be without bullfrogs? Let’s discuss how to distinguish bullfrog and toad tadpoles and understand how they develop into adults.

What Came First: the Egg or Frog

Both bullfrogs and toads reproduce by laying eggs in the water. Female bullfrogs deposit their eggs on the pond surface in large round clusters or masses protected by aquatic plants. One bullfrog can lay up to 20,000 eggs, which are then fertilized by the males. Toads create strands of dark-colored eggs that look like black pearls attached to foliage and leaves near the water’s edge.

After 7 to 10 days, frog or toad tadpoles hatch from their eggs. Bullfrog tadpoles appear dark green to black in color and they’re big – much larger than other species of frog or toad. They also mature more slowly when compared to their toad counterparts. In fact, bullfrogs will stay in their tadpole stage for almost three years before transforming into adults.

From Aquatic to Terrestrial

A toad’s and frog’s physical development from tadpole (or pollywog) to adult are similar. As tadpoles, they live exclusively in the water and nibble on aquatic plants for nourishment. At first, their bodies are long and narrow and include a tail where they store fat when food is in short supply during the winter months. Eventually, the tadpoles will start to grow back legs, followed by their front legs. And then their tails shorten and disappear, and they develop lungs. Before long they’re full-fledged adults.

Survive and Thrive

As with most critters in the wild, the strongest will survive – and tadpoles are no different. Out of the thousands of pollywogs that are born, only a small percentage make it to adulthood. They have, however, evolved some survival traits that protect them from predators, including their camouflage color that makes them excellent at hiding.

You can help boost their survival numbers by adding pond dye or installing a decoy device, like an Owl Decoy or Nite Guard Solar®, designed to chase away rodents and snakes. With its timed head rotation powered by a built-in solar panel, the Owl Decoy will help repel nuisance birds and other small critters during the day. And the Nite Guard Solar® LED lights that resemble a predator’s glowing eyes will keep your pond – and your toads and frogs – safe at night.

Pond Talk: What kinds of frogs and toads live in your pond or lake?

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Do I need to put enzymes in my pond if I put bacteria in there? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: Do I need to put enzymes in my pond if I put bacteria in there?

Q: Do I need to put enzymes in my pond if I put bacteria in there?

Tom – Clinton, AR

A: Bacteria and enzymes may both be microscopic heavyweights when it comes to breaking down decomposing organics in your pond, but they play distinctly different roles. Here’s what you need to know about them – and how they complement each other.

Natural Bacteria: The Leading Role

Aerobic and anaerobic bacteria already live your pond, and they’re prolific. These hungry stars of the show decompose organic material, like dead algae, decomposing weeds and leaves, and pond muck.

Of the two types, the aerobic variety, which is found in bacteria additives like MuckAway™ and PondClear™, does a much better job at gobbling the decomposing organics than the anaerobic type that lives in oxygen-depleted environments. Most ponds, in fact, have an overabundance of anaerobic bacteria, thanks to poor circulation.

Enzymes: The Supporting Cast

Enzymes are a different critter altogether. In simple terms, enzymes accelerate chemical reactions – so in a pond, they play a supporting role. They’re catalysts that help natural bacteria by speeding up the digestion of all that organic material. This allows the bacteria to work more efficiently.

Give Them a Boost

Do you need to add both bacteria and enzymes to your pond? No, not really.

Self-sufficient microorganisms, aerobic bacteria naturally secrete their own enzymes to help digest muck. Simply increasing the number of hungry bacteria by adding PondClear™ and MuckAway™ (both found in ClearPAC® PLUS Pond Care Package) will grow the amount of productive enzymes, which ultimately means more decomposed muck and a cleaner, clearer pond.

If you want to give your bacteria a boost, be sure your aeration system is in tip-top shape to pump oxygen into your pond, and use EcoBoost™ Bacteria Enhancer to bind excess phosphates and other suspended organics in the water. It also adds more than 80 trace minerals to promote fish health and growth, so it’s great for all critters – microscopic or otherwise!

Pond Talk: What plans do you have for your pond or lake this spring?

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How can I tell if the duck that visits our pond is a wood duck? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: How can I tell if the duck that visits our pond is a wood duck?

Q: How can I tell if the duck that visits our pond is a wood duck?

Robert – Galesville, WI

A: As some of the most stunningly colorful visitors to pond, wood ducks – scientific name Aix sponsa – are easy to spot as long as you know what to look for. Get out your binoculars, because here’s a quick primer on wood duck field markings and behavior.

Unmistakable Appearance
Both male and female adult wood ducks measure about 19 inches high and have a wingspan of 26 to 29 inches. Unique among the duck species, wood ducks have a boxy, crested head, a thin neck and a long, broad tail. When airborne, their silhouette shows a skinny neck, long body, thick tail and short wings.

During mating season, which runs from autumn to early summer, male wood ducks sport colorful, ornate plumage. Some of their telltale markings – which are designed to attract females – include:

  • Red eyes and bill.
  • Metallic purplish-green plumage on his head and crest.
  • Black cheeks with a white stripe along his neck that extends up each cheek.
  • A yellow patch at the base of his bill.
  • Dark red chest and rump.
  • Drab yellow side with black and white stripes at the edges.
  • White belly.
  • Blackish tail and back.
  • Black and blue wings.

After mating season, male wood ducks lose their bold colors, but they retain their bright red eyes and bill.

Females lack the showy plumage of male wood ducks. Rather than colorful feathers, they don subtle yet intricate grayish-brown feathers on their bodies, with their sides a lighter shade than their backs, and a white ring around each eye. Their heads have a crest of feathers at the back and white feathers on their throat and chin.

Water-Centered Behavior
Wood ducks pair up in the late winter and breed in the spring. If you listen carefully, you can hear their calls: Males attract females with a squeaky whistle of “jweep,” and the females answer with a different, louder “oo-eek” whistle.

After they breed, wood ducks build a home – preferably in a tree that’s near a wooded swamp, pond, lake or marsh with cattails stands, or along a river or stream. They fashion their nests in cavities in nearby trees that are either natural or abandoned by a woodpecker. If they’re unable to find suitable trees, wood ducks will readily use nest boxes built by people. (Check out how to build one here.)

Lined with feathers from the female, a wood duck’s nest can house anywhere from six eggs to more than 40 eggs. Why the wide range? If a female cannot find a nest of her own, then she will lay her eggs inside another wood duck’s nest.

After a few weeks, the ducklings – which are already covered in a full down coat – hatch from their shells and venture into the world. Rather than being raised in the nest, however, the tiny ducks get their feet wet by literally jumping out of the nest cavity and waddling their way to the water. Talk about sink or swim!

Grubs and Greens
As ducklings and juveniles, wood ducks eat a lot of protein, preferring bugs, worms and, occasionally, a small fish. As they get older, their diet grows to include more plant-based grub. They’ll seek out wild fruit, seeds, nuts and aquatic plants, along with flies, beetles, caterpillars, isopods and snails.

Wood ducks are particularly drawn to open-water areas with dense, vegetative cover for hiding and foraging. They also prefer clean, clear water when diving for fish, aquatic bugs and greens. You can optimize their food sources by using muck-busting and water-clarifying solutions like Pond Logic® MuckAway™ and EcoBoost™.

The bacteria and enzymes in MuckAway™ eat through the accumulated muck and debris at the bottom of your pond, and EcoBoost™ is a natural bacteria enhancer that will bind organics suspended in the water. When used together, you’ll see a cleaner, clearer water column – perfect for any wood duck!

Pond Talk: How do you encourage birds to visit your pond or lake?

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The ice is finally melting and there are dead cattails and phragmites everywhere. Do I need to rake them out? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: The ice is finally melting and there are dead cattails and phragmites everywhere. Do I need to rake them out?

Q: The ice is finally melting and there are dead cattails and phragmites everywhere. Do I need to rake them out?

Dave – Gary, IN

A: What an eyesore. As the snow and ice melt, those brown, dried-up cattails and phragmites do little to enhance a landscape. They can, in fact, cause water quality and weed management problems, especially as spring approaches and those green shoots emerge from the dead growth. You need to do something about them, and here’s what we recommend.

Frosty Water

With water temperatures still on the chilly side, it’s likely too early to start treating your pond or lake with beneficial bacteria, like those found in Pond Logic® MuckAway™. Those little detritus-destroyers prefer water that’s at least 50 degrees Fahrenheit – and chances are good that it’s well below that mark (unless you’re in sunny Florida or California …). Besides, even with some oxygen-infusing aeration, it would take a long time before they would be able to decompose large cattail or phragmite stalks.

Winter Management

One option is to leave those dead weeds in the water until spring. They may attract wildlife and create an ideal home for insects, amphibians and birds – as well as small rodents and other possibly unwanted visitors that will hide out in the shoreline brush.

Right now, your best bet is to pull out your weed whacking tools and get to work.

We offer a range of cutters and rakes that’ll make the job easy. From a double-sided cutter with an 11-foot reach to a V-shaped cutter that sinks to the bottom and slices weeds at their base, these tools help you cut down those dead plants. And a rake, like one of our weed rakers, will help gather the cut stalks for easy pickup and removal.

Spring Solutions

In the spring when the water temperatures rise and the weeds start to grow again, treat them with an herbicide formulated to tackle the toughest weeds. Remember: those chemicals only work when they’re absorbed by a growing plant, so there’s no sense in using them when the cattails and phragmites are dried up and dormant.

Happy winter weeding!

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How are algae able to grow in the winter when everything else is dormant? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: How are algae able to grow in the winter when everything else is dormant?

Q: How are algae able to grow in the winter when everything else is dormant?

Patrick – Vandalia, IL

A: Algae can be tough little buggers. An estimated 72,500 algal species exist worldwide, and some of them can thrive in inhospitable conditions, including areas with ice and snow. With a handful of nutrients and a little bit of light, they’re able to grow – even in the 39 degree water under the ice in your lake.

But if your lake’s water is clean and clear during the spring and summer, how can it explode with algae in the winter?

Food Aplenty

Algae feed on byproducts of decomposing organic debris, like phosphorous and nitrogen, in the water. During the warmer months, natural bacteria would typically break down these nutrients, leaving little food for the organisms. But in the cooler months, those bacteria go dormant. That means the algae enjoy a feast – and a population explosion.

If you keep a hole in your lake’s ice, you can help control the nutrient density with a product like Pond Logic® EcoBoost™. This bacteria enhancer, which has no temperature restrictions, binds suspended organics while providing trace minerals to fish. Simply mix it with water and pour it into the lake.

Let There Be Light

Algae also require sunlight to thrive – but not much. Even through a clear, solid sheet of ice, algae can get enough light to use for photosynthesis. When that light is impeded, however, the algae won’t grow as quickly.

A layer of thick snow cover is Mother Nature’s way of preventing light from penetrating the water, but you can also use pond dye, to block those rays. Pond dye is available as a liquid or in water-soluble packets that you can toss into your pond.

Algae’s Benefits

Believe it or not, algae growth in the winter does have its benefits. It helps to filter the water, and on warmer days it’s a great snack for your fish. Plus, when the algae photosynthesize, they give off oxygen as a byproduct – which is then available for your fish (and other aquatic critters) to breathe.

Don’t worry: The algae won’t take over your pond like it does in the summer. It can grow, but the cold temperatures aren’t ideal for explosive outbreaks.

Pond Talk: Have you seen algae growing beneath the ice in your pond or lake?

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We just purchased a house and it has a backyard swimming pond. How do we measure it? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: We just purchased a house and it has a backyard swimming pond. How do we measure it?

Q: We just purchased a house and it has a backyard swimming pond. How do we measure it?

Rob – Hawthorne, FL

A: Surface area and pond depth are important measurements to know. They’ll help you determine dosage rates with chemicals like algaecide. They’ll help you calculate the right-size aeration system for your pond. And they’ll help you figure out how many and what types of fish to stock.

Finding those magic numbers isn’t difficult – but it does require some tools, the right equation and a little bit of work. Before you head out to your pond, grab a rope marked at 1-foot increments, a weight that’s heavy enough to sink to the bottom, and something for notetaking.

Calculating Surface Area

The easiest ponds to measure are those that resemble a rectangle, but you can figure out the surface area of a circular, triangular or odd-shaped pond, too. First, you’ll need to measure (with your marked rope) or pace off (one step is about 3 feet) some specific distances, depending on the shape of your pond. Then, plug those numbers into one of these formulas:

  • Square/rectangle: Calculate length and width; L x W = Surface Area
  • Circle: Calculate radius; Pi x R2 , or 3.14 x R x R = Surface Area
  • Triangle: Calculate base and height; (0.5 x B) x H = Surface Area
  • Odd-shaped: Use a handy online tool like Bing Maps to measure the pond. Online tools may be easiest, especially for irregularly shaped ponds.

To determine how many acres your pond is, you’ll then divide that surface area figure by 43,560 (one acre).

Calculating Depth

Figuring out your pond’s depth is a bit trickier, particularly if you have plant shelves or if the pond has a slope. Grab your marked string, the weight, something to write with, and a boat or canoe. Then, head out to the pond and follow these directions:

  1. Securely attach the weight to one end of your string.
  2. Climb aboard your boat or canoe with your weighted string and note-taking materials in hand.
  3. Travel to at least five points in various areas your pond, more if your pond is particularly large.
  4. Drop the weight into the water and note where you feel it hit the bottom. Repeat until you’ve gone to all the different spots and gathered a good sampling of your pond’s depth.

If math isn’t one of your favorite subjects, just take your measurements and plug them into our pond calculator. Simply select your pond type and shape, enter your measurements and let the calculator do the math!

Why They’re Important

Now that you know your pond’s size, why are those calculations important?

You’ll need the numbers to determine dosage rates on chemical products like those found in Pond Logic® ClearPAC® PLUS. If the pond has been around more than three to five years, chances are good that you’ll need to address problems like muck accumulation and string algae growth in the spring.

Those numbers will also help you select the right-size Aquastream™ Fountain and Airmax® Aeration System. For instance, if your pond is less than 6 feet deep, the Shallow Water Series™ Aeration System is a good choice; if your pond is greater than 6 feet deep, the Shallow Water HP Series™ or PondSeries™ Aeration System is the one for you.

Since you’ll be able to calculate how many acres your pond is, you’ll also be able to determine what types of fish you can have and how many of them you can keep. Finally, because you’ll know the various depths of your pond, you’ll be able to stake out safe swimming areas for children – but don’t forget to put out your life ring!

Pond Talk: What pond maintenance tips can you offer to this new homeowner?

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