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I would love to have ducks at my pond. Is there any harm, and how do I attract them? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I would love to have ducks at my pond. Is there any harm, and how do I attract them?

Q: I would love to have ducks at my pond. Is there any harm, and how do I attract them?

Jerry – Cass City, MI

A: Ducks certainly make an entertaining and colorful addition to a pond or lake. Various species of these plumed wetland visitors grace just about every continent and climate on planet earth – including sub-Antarctic islands like South Georgia and the Aucklands to oceanic locales like Hawaii and New Zealand.

Despite their worldwide distribution, getting ducks to call your pond home can be a challenge. But you can attract them if you understand their specific needs.

Pondside Open House

The duck types that frequent ponds include mallards and wood ducks, along with Muscovy ducks, black-bellied and whistling ducks. Ducks are omnivores and like to eat a wide range of foods, from small fish, eggs, snails, worms and bugs to grass, weeds, seeds and berries. In general, they require a lot of space and copious amounts of water in the form of marshes, lakes or large ponds. Aquatic plants, like reeds and water lilies, make them feel at home, as does concealed areas with tall marsh grass and shrubby cover for nesting and hiding.

Attracting the Flock

Providing a duck friendly habit is the best way to convince the feathered visitors to stop by, but here are some expert tricks to make your pond more appealing:

  • Create a Mess Hall: Set up feeding areas by clearing out an area or providing large, low platforms, and toss out some cracked corn, spilled birdseed and kitchen scraps. Don’t feed them by hand, but use goodies to pique their interest.
  • Plant a Duck Garden: Berry bushes can help draw ducks. And if you have a garden area near your pond, use mulch to attract tasty insects and earthworms.
  • Offer a Nest Box: Though ducks will nest in a variety of places, from ground nests in grassy areas near the pond to brush piles and hollow logs, provide them with nest boxes to help attract nesting ducks.
  • Install a Fountain: Ducks flock to the sound of splashing, so consider installing a fountain or waterfall in your pond.
  • Use Natural Décor: Add some half-submerged logs, overhanging shelves, marsh grasses and marginals, aquatic plants and brush piles to your landscape.
  • Add Some Decoys: A duck decoy pair floating quietly on your pond will attract the attention of the real-life things. They’ll swoop down to investigate and (hopefully!) decide to stay for a while.

Duck Dangers

Unlike a Great Blue Heron, ducks will leave your fish alone – but they can trigger other problems. If a lot of them are visiting, they can cause water quality issues (which can be remedied with the beneficial bacteria in Pond Logic® PondClear™). They could bring in unwanted weeds, like duckweed and water milfoil, that weren’t present before. The ducks, ducklings and eggs could also attract feral cats, raccoon, skunks and other predators.

Having these colorful beauties visit your pond, however, is worth the hassle. When they do stop by, observe them from a distance – and enjoy bird watching!

Pond Talk: Do ducks visit your pond regularly?

Help Attract Ducks To Your Pond - Flambeau® Storm Front™ Mallard Decoy Pair

 

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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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What are some common types of baitfish used in ponds? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: What are some common types of baitfish used in ponds?

Q: What are some common types of baitfish used in ponds?

Steven – Johnstown, OH

A: If you stock game fish in your pond or lake, you better know your baitfish. Used as food for larger predatory game fish, these small swimmers are typically common species that breed rapidly. They’re easy to catch, easy to supply and easy to stock.

Freshwater baitfish include any fish of the minnow or carp family, sucker family, top minnow or killifish family, shad family, and some fish from the sculpin or sunfish family. Some common types that you’ll see in a recreational lake include fathead minnows, golden shiners, creek chub and white suckers. Let’s learn more about these specific types of fish and how to fatten them up for your bass and trout.

Fathead Minnow

The fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas) is a species of temperate freshwater fish whose natural geographic range extends throughout North America. The golden, or xanthic strain known as the rosy-red minnow, is a very common feeder fish sold in the United States. In the wild, the fathead appears dull olive-gray with a dusky stripe extending down its back and side. These guys will eat just about anything, and they prefer a water temperature of 50 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit and a pH range of 7.0 to 7.5. Its main predator is the northern pike.

Golden Shiner

The golden shiner (Notemigonus crysoleucas) is a cyprinid native to eastern North America. In the wild, these bait fish grow to 3 to 5 inches long and have dark green to olive body with a silvery white belly. They prefer quiet, weedy waters and are fairly tolerant of pollution, turbidity and low oxygen levels. They can tolerate temperatures as high as 104 degrees F – which is unusually high for a North American minnow – and they nosh on zooplankton, insects, plants and algae. Predators include trout and bass.

Creek Chub

The creek chub (Semotilus atromaculatus) is another type of minnow that’s found in the eastern United States and Canada. Growing up to 6 inches, they typically have a dark brown body, sometimes with brown spots, with a white lateral line. These hardy bait fish, which prefer water temperatures between 35 and 90 degrees F, gravitate toward weedy areas and prefer stream or river environments rather than lakes. They’ll gobble just about anything – including fish, insects, larvae and vegetation. Predators include trout and northern pike.

White Suckerfish

White suckerfish (Catostomus commersonii) are found in small streams, rivers and lakes in the Midwest and east coast of the United States. Reaching lengths between 12 and 20 inches, the white sucker has a dark green, gray, copper, brown or black-brown body with a light underbelly. They’re bottom feeders, and they’ll use their fleshy lips to suck up bottom sediment and other organisms that live there, including small invertebrates, algae and plant matter. Predators include walleye, trout, bass, northern pike and catfish.

Using Baitfish

When it comes to using bait fish, you have two options: stock your pond with them and keep a separate supply on hand to use when you do some fishing.

To stock your pond with bait fish, purchase a supply from your local sports shop or pet store and introduce them to your pond or lake after acclimating them. Be sure to provide a fish habitat for them, like one of the Honey Hole Attractor Logs, Shrubs or Trees, so they can safely reproduce (and fatten up!) and keep the population thriving.

In addition, grow bait fish in a separate tub or tank for use when you’re fishing. Be sure to keep the water cool and fresh to reduce stress, and keep the oxygen levels high with a bubbler. They might be able to tolerate less-than-ideal conditions, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be without their O2!

Pond Talk: How do you stock your pond with baitfish?

Create Habitat for Baitfish - Pond King Honey Hole Fish Attractor Log

 

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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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We have a lot of mosquitoes, especially near the pond. With the recent concern over the Zika virus, what can I do to fix this? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: We have a lot of mosquitoes, especially near the pond. With the recent concern over the Zika virus, what can I do to fix this?

Q: We have a lot of mosquitoes, especially near the pond. With the recent concern over the Zika virus, what can I do to fix this?

Kym – Lake Butler, FL

A: Your concern is justified. According to the CDC, mosquitoes – specifically the Aedes species (Ae. Aegypti and Ae. Albopictus) – are one of the main transmitters of the Zika virus. The bite of an infected mosquito can cause fever, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis and other unpleasant side effects.

Mosquitoes should be eradicated from your property – and here are six ways to decimate their population.

  • Create Water Movement. Ever notice how mosquitoes avoid moving water as much as possible? This is because the movement isn’t conducive to their life cycle. A female mosquito lays her eggs in stagnant water that’s full of nutritious algae, plankton, fungi and bacteria. When the eggs hatch, the larvae and pupae thrive and grow, developing into adult mosquitoes that perpetuate the population. Stop that cycle with aeration. The water movement created by the pumped-in oxygen creates an inhospitable environment for the mosquitoes while promoting your pond’s overall health.
  • Check for Standing Water. An old tire, ceramic flower pot, cracked bucket – mosquitoes aren’t particular about the vessel of standing water they use to lay their eggs. If it holds stagnant water and contains some type of food source, it’s fair game. The CDC recommends a once-a-week check for standing water around your property. Empty containers, scrub them clean, and turn them over or cover them to reduce your overall mosquito population.
  • Eliminate Food Source. Developing larvae and pupae need algae to fuel their rapid growth to adulthood, and so another way to reduce their population is to reduce their food source. In your pond or lake, use algaecide to remove suspended plant matter and muck reducers to break down detritus on the bottom of your pond.
  • Trim Shoreline Vegetation.  Unlike their developing larvae, adult mosquitoes live in the plants and vegetation along the pond’s shoreline. Evict those pests by clearing out and trimming back grasses and aquatic weeds. Use some herbicide to kill aquatic weeds and grasses, and use weed removal tools, like a weed cutter, rake and debris skimmer, and remove the dead plants and overgrowth.
  • Boost Fish Population.  Fish and other mosquito-eating pond life, like tadpoles, minnow, bass, bluegill and catfish, love gobbling those mosquito larvae and pupae. If you don’t already have a fish population living in your lake, consider adding some! The American Mosquito Control Association, in fact, recommends adding predacious minnows or native fish to lakes and ponds for biological control of the insects.
  • Keep Unused Standing Water Bug-Free.  Despite your best efforts, it can be impossible to completely eradicate mosquitoes in places with standing water – like around a pond or lake. Likewise, vessels like stored rainwater, water troughs and even bird feeders can become a breeding ground for mosquitoes. So what can you do? Consider mosquito dunks or bits. These handy little disks or bits contain a specially formulated biological pesticide designed to kill mosquito larvae. You simply toss them in unused bodies of water and let them go to work.

Zika and other mosquito-borne diseases are a real concern. Plus, all that buzzing can be annoying when you’re trying to enjoy your pond or lake during the warm days of summer. Use these tips to keep your yard mosquito-free – and your family and friends happy and healthy.

Pond Talk: Have you stocked your pond with mosquito-eating fish? If so, what types?

Keep Your Pond Water Moving - Airmax(r) Aeration Systems

 

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I thought I did a successful chemical treatment, but why are the weeds coming back? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I thought I did a successful chemical treatment, but why are the weeds coming back?

Q: I thought I did a successful chemical treatment, but why are the weeds coming back?

Barney – Andalusia, AL

A: Treating weeds is a tricky task. Despite dosing them with aquatic herbicides to clear your pond or lake of plant pests, they seem to grow back over and over again. It seems like a never-ending cycle! Why does this happen?

Well, chemical treatments have their benefits and drawbacks: On one hand, they work great as a quick fix to decimate actively growing weeds. But once those plants die, they become a food source for future weeds and algae, acting as a fertilizer for the very things you’re trying to get rid of. The herbicides do nothing to prevent future growth, and so you’re left with yet another growth spurt of pond weeds, which you’ll then treat with chemical herbicides – and around you’ll go again.

So how do you break the cycle? Here is a four-step approach that will help put an end to it.

  1. Remove the Dead Weeds: Once the weeds have browned, use a Pond & Beach Rake or PondSkim™ Debris Skimmer to remove as much dead material from the water as possible. This prevents dead plant material and muck from accumulating and fertilizing future weed growth.
  2. Be Proactive: Debris will still find its way into your pond, so add some beneficial bacteria to the water to manage the excess nutrients before they feed your weeds. The products found in the ClearPAC® PLUS Pond Care Packages – including PondClear™ and EcoBoost™ for suspended debris, and MuckAway™ for accumulated bottom-of-the-pond debris – naturally break down that organic material.
  3. Add Aeration: If you don’t have one already, install a Airmax® Aeration System that’s sized for your pond or lake. By circulating and adding oxygen to the water column, the beneficial bacteria will thrive. In turn, they’ll eat through even more debris and prevent weed and algae growth.
  4. Shade and Color:  Pond Dye is another offensive tactic in your battle against aquatic weeds. Pond dye shades the water, preventing ultraviolet light from reaching the plants.

Throughout the spring and summer, weeds will grow. But with some pond management practices, you can keep those pesky plants to a minimum.

Pond Talk: How often do you treat your pond or lake for weeds?

Skim Dead Algae & Vegetation - The Pond Guy(r) Pond & Beach Rake

 

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