## 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?

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!

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!

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!

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## Does the type of algae and where it’s growing determine what chemical is needed? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: Does the type of algae and where it’s growing determine what chemical is needed?

A: When battling algae, you have the upper hand if you understand the enemy. What type of algae is it? How does it behave? What are its strengths and weaknesses? Before we get in to how to treat the green menace, let’s discuss the different species of algae and where you are likely to find them in an aquatic ecosystem.

Algae Explained

In a large pond or lake planktonic algae, filamentous algae and chara, are the most common types of algae you’ll come across.

• Planktonic algae, the source of algae blooms, are floating, microscopic plants that color pond water shades of green, blue-green, brown or variations in between. In controlled amounts, this type of algae can actually be beneficial. It can shade the pond’s bottom, preventing subsurface nuisance plants from growing.
• Filamentous algae are single-celled plants that form long, visible chain, threads or filaments. These threads, which start growing along the bottom of the lake in shallow water or on rocks or other aquatic plants, intertwine and form mats that resemble wet wool. When these mats rise to the surface, they’re commonly referred to as pond scum.
• Chara is a gray-green branched multicellular algae that has 6 to 16 leaf-like branchlets that grow in spirals around the stem. Though bottom-growing chara superficially resembles terrestrial plants, it lacks flowers, true leaves and roots. It has a skunky, musty, garlicky-type smell and has a crunchy- or grit-type texture, thanks to calcium carbonate deposits on its surface.

In general, algae will grow just about anywhere sun penetrates the pond. Surprisingly, algae has some benefits: The tiny plants feed fish and make great homes for micro- and macro-invertebrates like bugs and worms. But algae has its definite drawbacks. Besides being unsightly and odorous, uncontrolled blooms can cause oxygen depletions, affect fish health and, in extreme circumstances, cause fish to die.

Vanquishing the Menace

The key to successfully treating algae – whether planktonic, filamentous or chara – is to make the most contact between it and the algaecide. Rather than dumping the chemical into one place in the pond, which will only kill algae in that small area, it needs to be evenly dispersed.

Floating mats of filamentous algae and suspended planktonic algae are best treated with liquid mixtures, like Algae Defense® and Clipper™, that are sprayed directly over the area with a pond sprayer. To treat extra thick mats, stick the top of the sprayer into the mat itself to get the chemical to the deeper portion of the problem.

For bottom-growing algae, use granular algaecide, like Cutrine®-Plus Granular and Hydrothol, and distribute it with a granular spreader. It’s the preferred choice because the granules will sink over the algae bed and make maximum contact with it.

Follow up by raking out any decaying or dead debris with the Pond & Beach Rake, setting up an aeration system and adding natural bacteria, such as the types found in ClearPAC® PLUS Pond Care Package.

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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?

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!

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## What should I feed my game fish? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: What Should I Feed My Game Fish?

Beth – Richmond, VA

A: Sure, your bass, trout and other game fish nibble on nature’s all-natural bounty of algae, weeds, insects and worms. However, they also need supplemental nourishment, particularly if you’re growing them for sport. That’s where fish food, like The Pond Guy® Game Fish Grower Fish Food, comes into play.

The Ingredient List

When choosing a food for your game fish, look for three vital ingredients on its label: protein, vitamin C and fish meal.

• The protein gives your fish amino acids that their bodies use to grow and repair muscles and other tissues, and reproduce and lay eggs. The protein quality and digestibility matters, as any that’s unused is excreted as waste.
• Vitamin C delivers essential antioxidants that help to fend off sickness and disease commonly found in game fish. Vitamin C also helps fish form collagen, which helps build strong bones and skin. Because fish don’t manufacture vitamin C on their own, they need it in their diets.
• Adding supplemental nutrients like vitamins, minerals, protein and fat, highly digestible fish meal helps your lake inhabitants grow to whopper size.

Don’t think we’ve forgotten about carbohydrates! While ingredients like grains do their part to bind the food’s ingredients together, they’re not essential in a fish’s diet. Most fish will get their daily dose of plant-based carbohydrates when they nosh on algae or other sub-surface vegetable matter.

Portion Control

Seeing those fish swim to the surface for food is certainly entertaining – and that enjoyment (coupled with dreams of giant fish!) might tempt you to overfeed. However, you should feed your fish an amount that they’ll consume in about 5 minutes. Any more than that turns into waste, which means more nutrients for algae.

If your pond or lake is stocked with small fish or growing fry, crush a few of the pellets into tiny bite-size pieces for them.

Along with the game fish food and foodstuffs found in the pond itself, you can also offer your fish human treats like torn-up chunks of stale bread, chopped up fruits and tiny minnows. They’ll add much-welcome variety to their diets – and help you clean out your refrigerator!

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## My fish are looking for food. Can I feed them now? What kind of food do I give them? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: My fish are looking for food. Can I feed them now? What kind of food do I give them?

Rick – Great Falls, MT

A: Fish sure seem know when spring is on its way. This time of year, your koi and goldfish that have been hibernating over the winter are beginning to waking up. Your fish may be moving slow, but they’re hungry and looking for food.

Slow Eaters

When water temperatures dip below 40 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter months, your fishes’ metabolisms slows down. They enter into a hibernation-type state, during which time they require little or no food. They literally live off the fat stores in their body.

As the water temperature rises above 40 degrees in the spring, the fish start moving. Their metabolisms turn back on, and they need food to fuel their increased activity. To transition the fish from no food to daily food, fish experts recommend feeding a wheat germ-based diet when water temperatures are consistently between 40 and 50 degrees. A diet like The Pond Guy® Spring & Fall Fish Food is quickly and easily digested by the fish.

Summertime Bounty

In the warmer months when your water temperature tops 50 degrees, you can continue to feed the wheat germ-based diets, or you can choose to gradually re-introduce protein-based diets that help the fish grow quickly and show off their colors. Here’s what we recommend:

Choose the diet that best fits in with your goals for the fish. If you’re not interested in growing your Kohaku into show-quality specimens, for instance, stick to the everyday or color enhancement diet.

Word of Warning

The weather may be warming up, but make sure the water temperatures are at a consistent 40 degrees before you start feeding your fish. Feeding them before they’re able to properly digest the food can lead to health issues.

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## Are there any concerns using our pond if I fertilize the lawn? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: Are there any concerns using our pond if I fertilize the lawn?

James – Augusta, GA

A: Lawn fertilizers can do beautiful things to your terrestrial landscape. They infuse the soil with nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. They make the grass green and lush. They’re sometimes mixed with pesticides and selective herbicides, creating a bug and weed-free lawn. When used as directed, fertilizers give you an easy way to feed your meadows.

They do, however, have their down side – particularly if they find their way into your pond or lake.

The phosphorous found in lawn fertilizers can help feed algae growth in your pond. That algae growth, when left unchecked, can create pea-soup colored water, deplete its life-sustaining oxygen and harm your fish. That’s not all. Some lawn fertilizers contain other chemicals that may not be friendly to humans and your aquatic environment.

So how can you limit or prevent fertilizers from entering your pond?

1. Divert storm water away from your pond: Some runoff will inevitably flow into your pond but, if possible, fashion trenches and canals that steer that storm water into the sewer system or an unused field.
2. Find a fertilizer with low or no phosphorous: Fertilizer labels include three numbers that refer to their nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P) and potassium (K) levels. In a 5-3-4 fertilizer analysis, for instance, the “3” represents the amount of phosphorous; the higher the number, the more phosphorous in the mix. When shopping for a lawn fertilizer, choose one with the least amount of phosphorous.
3. When fertilizing, stay at least 25 feet away from the pond’s edge: This will create a fertilizer-free barrier around your pond, thereby preventing the chemicals from leeching into the water.
4. Use natural products that help cleanse organics from pond water: If algae blooms do happen in your pond, use natural products that contain nutrient-eating beneficial bacteria. The microorganisms found in products like Pond Logic® PondClear™ will break down the suspended debris and muck, while Pond Logic® EcoBoost™ Bacteria Enhancer binds and eliminates phosphates and other toxins.

If the chemicals found in lawn fertilizers concern you, consider using a more natural approach. You can keep your lawn lush and green with grass clippings, aged compost and organic fertilizers. Treat weeds with vinegar/water/soap mixture or corn gluten. Think “green” when feeding your lawn – your pond and its residents will thank you for it!

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## I’m tired of fighting algae. Will a UV take care of all the algae growth? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I’m tired of fighting algae. Will a UV take care of all the algae growth?

Beth – Casselberry, FL

A: Who isn’t tired of battling algae!

Caused by excess fish waste and dead organics from leaves or previous algae blooms combined with excessive sunlight, all that garish green growth looks horrible, ruins your water quality, and creates a headache for you and your fish.

Is an ultraviolet clarifier the answer? It depends on the type of algae you’re trying to destroy.

The algae that forms in your pond comes in two basic flavors: planktonic and filamentous.

• Planktonic algae, the source of pea soup algae blooms, are floating, microscopic plants that color pond water shades of green, blue-green, brown or variations in between. In controlled amounts, this type of algae can actually be beneficial. It’s considered the start of the pond food chain as the tiny plants feed fish inhabitants, and it can also shade the pond’s bottom, preventing subsurface nuisance plants from growing. In uncontrolled amounts, however, planktonic algae can cause oxygen depletions and fish kill.
• Filamentous (string) algae are single-celled plants that form long, visible chain, threads or filaments. These threads, which start growing along the bottom of the pond in shallow water or on rocks or other aquatic plants, intertwine and form mats that resemble wet wool. When these mats rise to the surface, they’re commonly referred to as pond scum. These mats make great homes for micro- and macro-invertebrates, like bugs and worms, but they’re also unsightly.

UV clarifiers work by destroying the ultrafine planktonic algae – but, unfortunately, they do nothing to combat the filamentous algae. You’ll need a different strategy for the stringy stuff.

Battling Planktonic Algae

So how does ultraviolet light fight planktonic algae? When the algae cells are exposed to the bulb’s ultraviolet rays, radiation destroys the plants’ cellular walls. As a result, the tiny particles of dead algae clump together, and those clumps are then removed by your mechanical filtration system.

For the UV clarifier to work properly, however, follow these guidelines:

• Replace bulbs yearly. Worn-out bulbs – even if they still light up – may not be as effective at controlling green water.
• Watch your flow rate. Pushing water past the UV too fast can damage the unit and not allow enough contact time with the UV bulb for it to be effective.
• Don’t flow too slow. Running a UV at too slow of a flow will act as a sterilizer and may also have a negative affect on natural bacteria meant to help decompose dead organics and fish waste.

Finding Balance

If you have an algae problem, be it planktonic or filamentous, it indicates your pond is out of balance. An ultraviolet clarifier should actually be one of your last tactics! Add some beneficial bacteria from the DefensePAC® Pond Care Package to help reduce the amount of organics in your pond. Start aerating the water. Consider using pond dye. If you have a thriving fish population, think about finding a new home for them (but don’t release them into the wild!). Manage the nutrients, sunlight and oxygen levels, and your algae proliferation should naturally level out on its own.

Pond Talk: How dependent are you on your ultraviolet clarifier?