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Why did I lose my fish? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: Why did I lose my fish?

Q: Why did I lose my fish?

James – Willmar, MN

A: After a long, roller coaster winter, there’s nothing more disappointing than returning to your pond to find your fish floating and bloated in the water. This winter fish kill, or “winterkill,” can happen when the ice sheet on your pond prevents gas exchange and reduces the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water, ultimately causing your fish to suffocate. Shallow lakes, ponds and streams are particularly vulnerable to winterkill.

What causes it, and how can it be prevented? Read on to learn more.

Starved for Oxygen

Winterkill occurs when ice and snow cover your pond or lake for long periods of time. That solid sheet of cold stuff seals off the water, stopping oxygenation and gas exchange at the surface, but that’s not all it does. The ice and snow cover also prevent sunlight from reaching pond plants, which normally produce sub-surface oxygen via photosynthesis. Add to that a lake full of decomposing organic matter releasing toxic gases that are trapped under the ice, and your poor fish do not have enough oxygen to survive.

The ones that do survive are not finned superheroes, but they are more tolerant of a low-oxygen environment than their dearly departed cousins. The species type and size makes a difference, too, in their ability to deal with less-than-optimal living conditions.

Stayin’ Alive

Unfortunately, you cannot bring your fish back to life, but you can prevent winterkill from happening in the future. We recommend a simple, two-pronged approach:

  1. Aeration: Aerate your pond year-round with an Aeration System to circulate the water, increase dissolved oxygen and keep oxygen levels more consistent throughout the pond. It will also keep a hole open in the ice, allowing for gas exchange.
  2. Muck Removal: Using natural bacteria, like MuckAway™, or a dredge in extreme cases, remove as much muck and decomposing debris as possible before the ice forms. This will prevent the pond from naturally filling in, and it will reduce the amount of gas produced from the decomposition process.

Winterkill is a disappointment, but it can be prevented with some planning and preparation in the fall. In the meantime, restock your pond and enjoy!

Pond Talk: Have you even experienced winterkill in your pond? What did you do to remedy the situation?

Reduce Muck and Organic Debris Build-Up - Pond Logic® MuckAway™

Why do I have foam on my pond? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Why do I have foam on my pond?

Q: Why do I have foam on my pond?

Dom – Bellingham, WA

A: Foamy pond? No, the neighborhood kid (hopefully!) hasn’t dumped dish soap into your water garden or fish pond. The bubbly white or gray stuff you’re seeing on your pond’s surface is actually being caused by high levels of organic material in your pond. It’s natural – but it indicates an out-of-balance problem in your pond.

Question Your Water Quality

Foam forms when excess organic material has accumulated in your water garden. This happens when too many fish are living in the pond, you’re overfeeding them, you have inadequate filtration or there’s runoff flowing into the water.

When this nutrient-laden water pours down your waterfall, the air and water collide, causing the proteins and other organics to be trapped inside bubbles rather than turning into ammonia and nitrites. That air-water collision is why the foam seems to form at the base of your waterfall.

Tips for Removing Foam

So how do you get rid of the white frothy stuff? You can remove the foam in several different ways:

1. Use a defoaming product: A temporary solution is to dissolve the foam with a fish- and plant-safe defoamer, like Pond Logic® Defoam™. You simply shake the can and pour its contents into the water. The foam will disappear in no time.

2. Do a partial water change: To reduce the overall amount of organic material in your pond, you should drain the pond halfway or so and add fresh water and the defoamer. This will remove some of the organic material, dilute what remains and prevent foam from forming.

3. Reduce your fish population: Too many fish will produce excess waste, which means more foam. Remember that 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 your finned friends.

4. Feed the right amount: If you’re feeding your fish too much, the excess food adds to the extra organic material in your pond’s water. Only feed your fish an amount they’ll gobble down in a few minutes.

5. Beef up your filtration system: A more powerful filtration system will remove those excess organics, so if you really want to erase foam, think about going bigger with your filter.

If you do suspect the neighborhood kids have dumped soap into your pond, your fish could be in danger. Do a water 90 percent water change before chasing the perpetrators down.

Pond Talk: Do you notice whether foam forms more often during certain times of year?

Pond Logic® Defoam™ - Eliminate Unsightly Pond Foam

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