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Is it time to start feeding the fish? They look hungry. | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Is it time to start feeding the fish? They look hungry.

Q: Is it time to start feeding the fish? They look hungry.

Ruth – Altoona, PA

A: Talk about feeling hungry! If your fish are actively (or anxiously!) swimming around your water garden, nibbling and tasting your budding plants, and gazing at you forlornly as you eat your peanut butter sandwich pondside, it sounds like your finned pals are ready for some grub after their long winter fast.

Signs like these are telling, but to make sure your fish are ready to start eating regular food again, here are some guidelines to follow.

Take Your Pond’s Temperature

Last fall when water temperatures fell below 40 degrees Fahrenheit on the thermometer, your fishes’ metabolisms slowed way down. For the next few months, they rested in a hibernation-type state when they fasted and lived off the fat stores in their body. They needed no food from you – in fact, feeding them when they’re hibernating can make them very sick.

Now that spring has finally arrived and the sun has warmed your pond’s water to 40 to 50 degrees F, your fishes’ metabolism has kicked back into gear. They’re swimming around and searching for food to fuel their increased activity levels. Begin feeding your fish up to 3 times per week, and only what can be consumed in a 5 minute period. They will need a wheat germ food that’s easy to digest, like The Pond Guy® Spring & Fall Fish Food. Packed with plant-based nutrients, the diet will satiate their hunger, and stimulate growth and fertility.

Pump Up the Protein

Late spring and summer bring even warmer 50 degree-plus water temperatures, and that’s when you can switch your fishes’ diet to one that will help them develop and build some serious bulk. If growing big koi and goldfish is your goal, feed your scaled friends a high-protein diet, like The Pond Guy® Growth & Vibrance Fish Food. It contains 38 percent protein for maximum growth and includes ingredients that will make their colors pop.

If you want to simply maintain their size while supporting their health, offer them The Pond Guy® Staple Fish Food. Perfect for all pond fish, the summer staple diet contains a balanced diet of vitamins, minerals and amino acids. It’s easily digestible and designed for everyday feeding. Plus, it floats – so it makes mealtime fun for you and your fish!

Check the Forecast

Mother Nature has fun with weather – particularly with temperature fluctuations in the spring – so be sure to check the long-term forecast before you start feeding your fish on a regular schedule. Ideally, the weather should be consistently keeping the water a warm 40 to 50 degrees F. At that point, feed slowly to make sure they’re consuming the food at a steady pace and increase the amount as they’re ready.

Happy feeding!

Pond Talk: What are your fishes’ favorite mealtime treats?

Perfect For Cool Weather Feeding - The Pond Guy® Spring & Fall Fish Food

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.

Pond Talk: What types of game fish do you have in your pond or lake?

Promote Rapid Fish Growth - The Pond Guy® Game Fish Grower Fish Food

Is there anything special I need to do to stock my pond this spring? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: Is there anything special I need to do to stock my pond this spring?

Q: Is there anything special I need to do to stock my pond this spring?

Bryan – Flowery Branch, GA

A: Fish are fun to catch and entertaining to watch, they also help maintain a balanced backyard ecosystem. There’s nothing quite like fishing for bass, perch or bluegill from your own pond or lake. Whether you’re stocking a new pond, replenishing an existing pond or adding to an already-established population, here’s what you need to know about when and how to best do it.

Spring Stocking: Spring is the ideal time to stock your pond with fish. Temperatures are mild and oxygen levels are rising, so the stress factors affecting your fish will be at their lowest. Once acclimated to your pond, they’ll be primed to flourish. Fish can be added in the summer, but they’ll need a little more time to adjust.

Remove the Competition: Before you stock your pond or lake with desirable game fish, you’ll need to remove any unwanted wild fish. They’ll negatively impact your new fish population by competing for food and habitat—or they may eat your new fish. Trap them with our Tomahawk Live Trap, which will enable you to relocate them.

Happy Habitat: Make a home-sweet-home for your new fish by creating a top-notch habitat for the smaller fish to hide, grow and reproduce. Weeds, grasses, felled trees and other debris already in your pond will provide some cover, but a specially designed environment, like fish attractor spheres or logs, can improve on what’s already there.

Healthy Population: Keeping a healthy underwater ecosystem means creating a balanced fish population. We advise sticking to a ratio of three prey fish (like sunfish, bluegill or perch) to one predator fish (like bass) when choosing species. The number of fish you add to your population will ultimately depend on the surface area of your lake or pond. To help you calculate what’s best for your situation, here are some examples of stocking rates.

Fatten them Up: With your brood settled in, you want make sure they’re getting enough grub to thrive. A game fish food, like our Game Fish Grower Food, is a great way to provide the fish with protein and nutrients, bolster their immune systems, and grow healthy game fish. Plus, it’s a floating pellet—so you can enjoy watching them as they come to the surface and eat.

Spring stocking time is here! To find ready-to-stock game fish in your area, visit your local fishery. Happy fishing!

Pond Talk: What’s your favorite game fish to keep in your lake or pond?

The Pond Guy(r) Promote Fish Growth This Season - The Pond Guy(r) Game Fish Grower

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?

Four Densities for Every Filtration Need - Matala® Filter Media Pads

I spend a lot of time trying to kill algae, and sometimes it doesn’t work. Do you have any tips? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I spend a lot of time trying to kill algae, and sometimes it doesn’t work. Do you have any tips?

Q: I spend a lot of time trying to kill algae, and sometimes it doesn’t work. Do you have any tips?

Vince – Columbia City, IN

A: Frustrating, isn’t it? You spend hours upon hours pondside, dosing the water with algaecides and raking out algae-feeding plant matter and detritus, only to see the green menace return weeks – if not days – later. Is there a way to control the nuisance algae that’s turning your pond into pea soup?

You bet. Below are our top recommendations for battling the algae. If you follow these guidelines, you’ll have that green menace under control in no time.

#1 – Treat Only Actively Growing Algae
When using algae control products in your pond or lake, the algae must be present and actively growing. Why? Because the chemicals need to make direct contact with the tiny organisms and absorb into their cells for them to be effective; if there’s no living algae, the chemicals will land in the water and become diluted, and therefore ineffective when the green stuff blooms.

#2 – Treat When Weather Is Favorable
Algae can grow in cold temperatures – even frigid, depending on the species – but algaecides aren’t so tolerant. The pond water must be warmer than 60°F for the chemicals in them to work. Apply your algae treatment on a sunny, mild day when rain is not expected in the immediate forecast. This will allow the chemicals to adequately absorb into the algae. As always, read the product label for instructions and specific temperature requirements.

#3 – Treat Only a Third at a Time
When temperatures heat up and the algae dies off, that combination of warm water and decaying plant matter reduces the amount of oxygen available to fish and other living critters in the pond. Keep them in an oxygen-rich environment by treating the pond in small sections and wait 7-10 days before moving to the next section. In addition, keep your aeration system or fountains running during treatment to continue circulating and oxygenating the water.

#4 – Read the Product Label
Different algaecides have different active ingredients, inert ingredients and specifications, so always read your product’s label for appropriate protective equipment and application rates. Pay special attention to warnings concerning water use and restrictions in ponds used for irrigation, drinking and swimming, as well as in ponds that house certain types of fish. If you have trout, which are sensitive to copper-based treatments, test the carbonate hardness levels and ensure they are above 50 ppm prior to treatment. If they’re above that, use another treatment, like Hydrothol®, that contains no copper.

#5 – Follow Up with Airmax® Ecosystem Pond Management Program
Algaecides are a great tool that can temporarily clear up pea soup water, but they do little address the actual problem causing the algae – which is excessive nutrients and organics. By following your treatment up with proactive pond management practices, such as aeration and natural water treatments like MuckAway™, you will reduce the accumulation of dead organic material, which will help to keep your water clear season after season. Check out the Airmax® Ecosystem™ – Proactive Pond & Lake Management video below for more information or view the article here.

Pond Talk: Do you have any additional tips for successful algae management?

Eliminate Algae and Chara Fast - Pond Logic Algae Defense

How do I divide my pond plants? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: How do I divide my pond plants?

Q: How do I divide my pond plants?

Karen – Fort Worth, TX

A: It’s that time of year, isn’t it? After a long winter’s nap, your aquatic plants are a great place to start flexing that green thumb of yours. Potted water lilies and bog plants will need to be divided, but how you do so will depend on the type of plants you have. In general, bog plants will need to be divided every one to two years, and water lilies will need to be divided every two to three years.

Here are simplified, step-by-step instructions for how to divide your aquatic plants. Pull out your waders, pruning tools, extra plant baskets, planting media and garden hose – and let’s get to work!

Divide Bog Plants
Bog plants include species like corkscrew rush, dwarf cattails and irises. Some have clumping roots, some have runners and some have rhizomes. Regardless of the type of root mass, here’s what to do with them:

  1. Lift the pot or container out of the pond and gently remove the root mass.
  2. Use your garden hose to wash the soil off of the root mass and trim any dead leaves and foliage.
  3. Divide the root mass depending on the type of root system.
    • Clumping Roots – Like corkscrew rush, separate the roots into sections, leave some roots intact with each section.
    • Runner Roots – Like dwarf cattails, cut the runner root and leave the root base with each section of the plant.
    • Rhizomes – Like irises, simply divide them into sections.
  4. Replant each section of plant in its own container and dispose of any plant overgrowth.

Divide Water Lilies
Water lilies – both tropical and the hardy variety sold in our Grower’s Choice collection – are also easy to divide. You’ll know it’s time to separate them when you notice fewer lily pads, reduced blooms or splitting pots.

  1. Lift the pot or container out of the pond, locate the tuber and gently remove it.
  2. Rinse off the soil, and trim away root growth and old foliage.
  3. Identify the crowns, or the little buds where a new lily pad group will sprout, and cut between them with a sharp knife. Keep the pieces 3 to 4 inches in length. Each one of these will become a new water lily plant.
  4. Using aquatic planting media, plant each section separately at a 45-degree angle so that the growing tip is still exposed above the soil.
  5. Place your repotted lilies in a shallow area of your pond where only a few inches of water cover the plants.
  6. Once new growth appears, move the lilies to the deeper areas of your pond.

Fertilize and Tend
After you divide and replant your aquatic plants, don’t forget to give them regular doses of fertilizer to ensure they’re getting the nutrients they need to thrive and produce vigorous blooms. Keep your colorful beauties looking good by keeping them trimmed and regularly removing dead foliage throughout the growing season.

Pond Talk: When you divide your aquatic plants, what do you do with your extra cuttings?

Add Beauty To Your Pond - Grower's Choice Hardy Water Lilies

Our pond attracts all kinds of wildlife. What can you tell us about snapping turtles? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: Our pond attracts all kinds of wildlife. What can you tell us about snapping turtles?

Q: Our pond attracts all kinds of wildlife. What can you tell us about snapping turtles?

Gail – South Boston, VA

A: Healthy ponds do tend to attract all types of creatures to your backyard, some more desirable than others. Snapping turtles (Chelydra serpentina) are large freshwater turtles that make their homes in ponds and streams with plenty of room and food. When encountered in the water, they typically slip quietly away from any disturbance – but because they can have fierce dispositions, it’s a good idea to get to know these shelled reptiles and their habits a little better.

How to Identify
Snapping turtles have a look all its own. Resembling a prehistoric dinosaur, the snapping turtle has a large, muscular build with a rigid carapace (hard shell) that can grow up to 18 inches. They usually weigh between 10 to 35 pounds. Its most defining features, however, is it’s long, flexible neck and beak-like mouth used to snap prey and defend itself from predators.

What They Eat
This omnivore’s preferred meals include just about anything it can capture and swallow, including aquatic plants, invertebrates, fish, frogs, reptiles, birds and small mammals. Snapping turtles also clean-up your pond by consuming carrion (or dead animals). In a farm or swimming pond, a snapping turtle might snap up some undesirable visitors, like snakes.

Nocturnal Activity
A snapping turtle is mostly active at night, but it does venture out during the day to bask on fallen logs and scavenge and hunt for food. When C. serpentine is on dry land, it can be aggressive, particularly when it feels threatened – and this is when you should avoid contact at all costs. A snap from a snapping turtle can be painful!

Remove & Relocate
If a snapping turtle is causing problems in your pond, your best bet is to safely and humanely remove it. Grabbing its shell with your hands is a bad idea; it can easily stretch its neck back across its own shell to its hind feet and snap your fingers, and it can scratch you with its sharp claws.

Instead, trap it in a turtle trap, like a Tomahawk Live Traps. The 32-by-18-by-9-inch trap made with 12-gauge wire comes pre-assembled and ready to use. Simply place it in the water partially submerged and bait with fish or meat. When you capture the critter, relocate it to a place that has a water body, food and shelter.

Pond Talk: What types of game fish do you have in your pond or lake?

Trap Unwanted Guests - Tomahawk Turtle Trap

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