Whether you are a beginner in the pond hobby or are looking to make changes to your current pond size, everyone has questions. Hopefully, our list of frequently asked questions can help you with all the pond products, supplies, or fish needs you have.
Q. Why Use a Skimmer?
Any build-up of debris at the bottom of the pond can result in excessive nutrients for algae growth, and possibly other toxic compounds. This causes poorer water quality with increased algae growth and may compromise the health of your fish. Using a Surface Skimmer attachment as part of your filter system will trap any leaf debris that falls or is blown into the pond. Most Surface Skimmers utilize a coarse pre-filter that is easily cleaned, trapping debris before it gets to the pump intake. Most are designed to be placed along the edge of the pond during construction and have a floating door/guard to prevent fish from spilling into the skimmer. This allows the skimmer to function as the water level rises or drops. These skimmers offer a great pre-filter mechanism for larger ponds, and can be used with other external filters (Bio-Falls, Filter Falls) to create an excellent large-scale filter system. Their ease of use will enhance your pleasure of the pond, without requiring a significant amount of time.
Q. Can my pond get too hot?
At the height of summer, it is possible that the water could become too hot, especially if your pond is rather shallow. To prevent fish loss when the temperature raises, it will help to have floating plants or marginal plants to provide shaded areas. This is also the reason it is a good idea to have at least part of the pond be at least 3 feet deep, as the ground will cool the water at this depth. It will be important to have all water pumps working at peak efficiency to provide enough water movement for proper oxygen levels. You can also use an aeration device to greatly increase the surface turn over and keep the oxygen levels high. If you do not have enough natural surface cover, you can use fake floating Lily Pads to provide shaded areas. If the heat is making the fish lethargic, do not feed until the water cools. In extreme cases, you could start to add water via the garden hose changing up to 20 – 25% of the total volume. Be sure to add a dechlorinating water conditioner, like StressCoat.
Q. Do I need a heater in my pond?
In a pond application, we rarely use a heater to physically raise the temperature of the entire pond. The volume of water is such that it would require a very large heater (1000+W) and a very large electric bill. Generally when we talk about pond heaters, we are using small units as de-icers in the winter. These smaller pond heaters can keep a small area of the pond surface from freezing over, allowing proper gas exchange to occur. This can be especially critical in mature ponds, where there may be a build-up of “sludge” at the bottom of the pond or plant material that was not removed earlier in the fall.
Q. How do I increase the size of my pond?
This question is related to the first rule of thumb with ponds. No matter how big a pond you put in, within 1 year you will want a bigger one! You have several options to increase the size of the pond. If you are willing to tear down the old and just make the hole bigger, then you just replace the original liner with a larger liner. This is obviously a lot of work and a fair amount of expense. Another way to increase the total volume is to dig a second pond next to the original and connect the two with a stream or waterfall. You will need to overlap the liner from the higher pond into the lower level pond to avoid leaks. You can use sealing tape on the liner. You can seal rocks together with a Sealing Foam that expands to fill in the gaps between the rocks, holding them in place and waterproofing the sides of the stream. This double pond system has the advantage that you can use one of the ponds to grow lots of bog plants that will provide a natural filter system and improve the water quality. This allows you to keep Koi in the bottom pond where they would normally eat any plants in the pond.
Q. How often should I feed my fish?
This is a case were less is better. Most pond fish will always appear hungry, especially when they see your shadow at the edge of the pond. It is fun to “train” the fish to answer a dinner bell by ringing a bell before every feeding. They soon will respond to the bell-like fireman answering the alarm! But you need to exercise caution in the amount of food you offer. Most pond foods are floating pellets, so it is easy to observe how long it takes the fish to eat all the pellets. Ideally, they should eat all the available pellets within 5 minutes. One feeding a day, along with the natural bugs and algae in the pond, will provide adequate nutrition for most pond fish. You can offer two smaller feeding a day, especially if the fish are still smaller/younger. Be aware that it is best to feed a low protein food in the spring and fall, and a higher protein food in the warmest months. Once the water temperature drops below 50 degrees, you should stop feeding, even when the fish “beg” for more. At that temperature, they cannot digest the food they eat, and this can cause digestive problems. Over-feeding can lead to water pollution and more algae growth, so is best avoided by monitoring the time it takes your fish to eat all the food offered.
Q. What are some good products to have on hand?
A great product to always have on hand is Pond AmQuel. This can be used to neutralize chlorine/chloramine in the tap water if you have to add new water to the pond. More importantly, it can also be used to protect the fish from any ammonia in the pond itself. This can be handy whenever you add new fish or after any type of treatment with antibiotics. Speaking of treatments, it is a good idea to keep some Pond Melafix available to treat any bacteria infection like fin and tail rot or open sores (septicemia) on the sides of the fish. To immediately be able to treat a parasite infestation, Pond Rid Ich+ is a good choice to have at-hand. If you have lots of potted plants in the pond, it is good to have a supply of the Aquatic Plant Food tablets ready to fertilize during the growing season. You might want to have the Pruning Tool around to do the maintenance the plants will require. The Herbal Aphid Control is good to have to prevent infestations of small aphids on your floating plants. You will also want to have replacement filter media for your filter system, and for most types of pumps, it is a good idea to have a replacement impeller ready to go if the first one stops working. A spare air pump (Luft Pump) can be used for extra aeration during hot spells or if a water pump temporarily is out of service.
Q. What does Aeration do for my pond?
In the simplest of terms, any type of aeration will provide water movement and ensure proper oxygen levels in the pond. You have a couple of options to provide the aeration. You can use an external air pump (Luft Pump) and airline tubing and airstone to create a column of air bubbles in the water. Or you can use one of the submersible water pump aerators (Ario Turbo or Pond-Air 30) to provide water movement with a stream of air bubbles in the stream. A third option for aeration is the use of a waterfall or fountain. The water sprayed into the air by the fountain will be aerated and the splashing of the waterfall will create surface agitation, increasing the oxygen levels. Using any of these systems will also help create water currents, drawing water from the bottom of the pond to the surface, helping to prevent stagnant areas.
Q. Why do my fish look like they are gasping for air?
This can be a sign of several problems in the pond. If the fish have been fine and this is a sudden occurrence, it could indicate that a water pump has clogged and is not providing enough water movement to aerate the water. Double check the pumps and clean any that are not flowing at full speed. If there is not a pump problem, it may be that you need to add another aeration device to the pond to provide more oxygen and water movement. If there is plenty of water movement and aeration, and the fish are still gasping, it may indicate high levels of ammonia that require addition of a product like AmQuel to neutralize. Unfortunately, it could also indicate the beginnings of a parasite infestation, requiring treatment with Pond Rid-Ich+ or Pond Parasite Guard. One last cause could be the introduction of a toxic chemical in the pond, such as bug spray or weed killers. If this has occurred, you need to do a 20 – 25% water change and add new activated carbon to the filter system to take out the toxic chemicals.
Q. What does Head Height mean?
This is a measure of the amount of pressure placed on the pump to push the water “up” through a hose/tubing system. Imagine pushing water straight up a pipe, and as the height increases, the pump has to work harder to maintain a flow. Eventually you will reach a point at which the pump can no longer push the water any higher. This would be the Maximum Head Height rating for this pump. We rarely pump water straight up, but there are other factors that determine the total Head Height pressure and the resulting water flow rate. Every 90 degree elbow can be considered 1 foot of Head Height, and generally about 10 feet of horizontal piping results in 1 foot of Head of (frictional) pressure. There is less frictional Head loss per foot the larger the diameter of the tubing. In a typical pond application, if you use a submersible pump and 10 feet of tubing to run a waterfall that starts 3 feet above the water line, you would be dealing with (3 ft elevation + 1 foot frictional + 1 foot one elbow outlet) 5 feet of Head Height. You could use this number with the pump’s flow rate versus Head Height chart to determine the water flow for your waterfall (or external filter).
Q. My plant arrived and it is in a little plastic pot with a fiber material surrounding the roots. Should I remove the plant from the pot?
There is no single answer for this question. With many plants, the roots may already be growing out of the pot and removing the pot would be too disruptive to the delicate root structure. Also, the plant, especially a Sword plant, has already established ground level for the crown. If removed from the pot, it is easy to accidentally bury the crown in the substrate, which can smother the plant. It may be beneficial to take a pair of scissors and cut out a few of the slats in the plastic pot to allow further root development. You will also want to trim about ½” from the tips of the roots before planting. With “bunch” style plants or types of Val, it will be better to remove the plant from the pot. Gently cut away the plastic pot with shape scissors and then carefully peel away the fiber material from the base/roots of the plants. Gently untangle the mass of roots and individually place the plants in the substrate.
Q: How do I keep wildlife from eating the fish in my water garden?
Plastic netting can be spread over the surface of the water to prevent birds and mammals from entering.This can interfere with some of the plants natural growth however and make it difficult to maintain the pond.Fencing is another option, using either wood or netting. Again this may be unsightly in some gardens. Proving the fish with a place to take refuge when faced with a predator is a less visible solution.A flat stone can be raised from the bottom using bricks or stonework to form a cave.When the fish feels threatened they will often take refuge in these types of areas. It will also help if the water level is 6 or more inches from the surround edge of the pond. Irregular rocks or flat paving stones that extend over the edge a few inches can accomplish this and hide the liner at the same time.
Q: How do I plant my pond plants?
We recommend using a planting basket when establishing or propagating pond plants. Baskets allow you move the plants around easily without disturbing the root structure. Baskets also help to keep soil where it belongs, near the plant and not clouding up your water garden.Lining the basket with burlap and adding a layer of pea gravel across the top after placing the plant will assist in preventing soil erosion.
Soil selection will have a strong influence on the success of your water garden plants. It is important to avoid fertilized potting soil mixtures that are designed for use with house plants. The added nutrients will be released into the pond water and fuel algae blooms.An ideal planting soil should be approximately 75% or more clay and relatively free of compost. Most all-purpose top soils are well suited for potting pond plants. Some plants will require additional fertilization, fertilizers are available that are formulated for use in the aquatic environment. Additions of Laterite or Flourite are safe and will encourage growth.
Planting baskets are highly recommended for your new plants.They serve several functions in the water garden. The plant can be easily moved between locations without much effort. Fertilizers can be targeted to the specific plant that you want to feed. The basket limits the spread of the root structure, keeping the plant’s growth more in your control. Lining the baskets with burlap also helps to prevent soil from escaping into the water where it can cloud the pond. A thin layer of pea gravel over the top of the basket assists with limiting soil escape and later fish disturbance of the roots. The soil in the planting basket should be heavily watered to prevent floating when submersed.
Planting depth is very important for the success of your new pond plants. Because each plant is different the space to go into detail about each plant here is not available. Recommended water depths are available in the detailed information page for each pond plant. Many plants do however like to start at a shallow depth and gradually be lowered as the foliage increases in length. Bricks can be stacked to provide a base that will effectively move the plant closer to the surface. Removing a few bricks at a time will slowly lower the plants over time.
Q. How much water flow do I need for a waterfall with a width of 24 inches, located about 18 inches above the pond?
While the answer to this question is relative to the visual effect you wish to achieve, generally, for a standard flow water fall you want approximately 600 GPH per linear foot. In your case we would want about 1200 GPH at the head height of the water fall. Head height is defined as the total height above the surface of the pond, plus any frictional loss for plumbing fixtures and tubing. This can become very difficult to calculate exactly, but usually figure every 90 degree elbow is one foot of head height and every 25 feet of horizontal tubing is one foot of head height. You need to calculate to the highest point of the water flow. In your example, figure a real height of 2 feet, plus 2 or more elbows and maybe 10 feet of tubing, giving a total head height of approximately 5 feet. So you need to use a pump that is rated 1200 GPH at 5 feet of head. Be aware that most manufacturers are a bit optimistic about their pump performance, so err on the side of too much flow. You can always slow it down or divert some of the flow.
Q: How do I prevent my water from turning pea green with floating algae?
You have the option of a couple of approaches. The natural approach would involve planting enough competing plants and especially floating plants to shade the water and absorb all the available nutrients, starving the algae. This will take a lot of mature plants. Another natural remedy is the use of a bale of Barley Straw placed in the pond. As this decomposes it releases chemicals that inhibit free-floating algae without bothering other plants. You can also use extract of Barley Bales to treat moderate size ponds. Another possible method is the establishment of a bog filter connected to the pond. This area will contain intense stocking levels of bog/terrestrial plants and as the water slowly flows through, these plants utilize most of the nutrients and eliminate waste products. Chemical methods can work, but most will inhibit other plants. One exception is AlgaeFix that will stop free-floating algae but not bother other plants. While these previous solutions may work, one method that will work over 90 percent of the time is the use of an ultraviolet sterilizer/clarifier. You need to match the size of the UV system so that it is still effective (high enough kill dose) with a water flow equal to at least one-half of the total pond volume. A properly sized water pump and UV system can offer crystal clear water, just be aware that it will not affect algae growing on the rocks and bottom of the pond.
Q. Can I train my fish to come when I feed them?
This should be rather easy to accomplish, except perhaps in a natural pond with lots of floating vegetation. Most fish will learn to recognize the movement of a large body along the edge of the pond (your body) and if you throw in food, they will start to associate your shape with food and start to gather when they see you. You want to try to avoid casting a shadow over the pond as this triggers a response to avoid the surface and dive deep. You can even train them to respond to a bell/whistle if you use it every time before you feed for a few weeks. They will start to come when they hear the dinner bell! (Overfeeding is always a problem, so don’t over do it!)
Q: What is the difference between Spring, Summer and Fall foods?
These different foods will have different ratios of protein and fat (carbohydrates). During the Spring and Fall, the water temperature will be lower and the fish’s metabolism will slow down and there will be less growth. During these times, you want to feed a diet lower in protein and higher in carbohydrates. During the Summer months, with the warmer water the metabolism of the fish increases and they can grow rapidly if provided with a diet high in proteins. It is still a good idea to occasionally mix in some Wheat Germ or Spirulina based diet to provide “bulk” and ensure proper digestion.
Q: My neighbor has his backyard sprayed for insects/fleas and I am worried about some of the chemical drifting into my pond. Is there anything I can do?
Ideally, you would want to be home when this occurs. If possible, you could erect a temporary barrier with bed sheets or plastic sheeting and a couple of poles between the pond and his yard. If it is really windy, this is obviously difficult to do. You could set up a sprinkler system with a constant upward spray to “trap” most of the wind-borne chemicals. Depending on the size of the pond you could place a tent like cover with plastic over the closest end or the entire pond.You would also want to add a large amount of activated carbon to the filter system. This will absorb most chemicals that might make it to the pond. Remove the carbon the next day and discard. Make sure the water parameters are good and that there is a lot of water movement. Turn off any air pumps used with the pond until later in the day. Most yard fertilizers would only cause a possible algae bloom, but insecticides can be dangerous. If you place a garden around the pond, use extra care when treating the plants with any types of chemicals.
Q: Will it harm my lilies to prune older leaves and blooms?
This is actually a good thing to do. Removal of older, decaying leaves and blooms will not only eliminate a source of organic waste, they will encourage the growth of new leaves and blooms by the lilies. Remember to add lily tablet fertilizer once a month during the growing season to maintain those beautiful blooms.
Q: How much salt should I use in my Koi pond?
A good rule of thumb is one to two pounds of salt per every 100 gallons of water. This will be expressed in parts per thousands (ppt), referring to weight. A 100 gallons of water weighs approximately 800 pounds, so if we add 2 pounds of salt, the ratio of salt to water is 2 divided by 800 equals 0.0025 which converts to 2.5 ppt. Koi can withstand up to 5 ppt of salt, but most Koi keepers maintain a range from 1.5-2.5 ppt. You can use a hydrometer or test kit to measure the salinity. Remember when replacing evaporated water to not add any more salt, only when doing a water change. Salt can lessen the effect of nitrite on fish and also be used as a “bath” to treat the Koi. Also be aware that salt could damage floating plants, if your Koi haven’t already eaten them.
Q: What is the best pH value for my pond?
There is more to this question than you might think. Goldfish and Koi can tolerate a pH value from 6.5 to 8.5 without too much trouble, but the key is to have a constant pH value. If the pH drops below 7.0 during the day while plants are taking up CO2, this will slow down the activity of the biological filtration nitrifying bacteria. This is still OK since ammonia is not toxic below a pH of 7.0. BUT, if the pH then rises above 7.0 in the evening, there is a chance that there will still be residual ammonia that will produce a toxic reaction. The best way to avoid this problem is to add a buffer to the water to ensure a constant pH, be it above or below 7.0. You also want to take into consideration the pH of your replacement water (tap water). If it is within this 6.5 to 8.5 range, it is best to just leave it as is to make water changing easier. Make sure it does have enough buffering capacity (alkalinity) to avoid the pH drop mentioned earlier. It will also help if you control the development of free-floating algae to prevent wide pH fluctuations.
Q: How can I determine the total gallons for my pond?
The simple answer is to figure out the cubic feet (L x W x D) and multiply that by 7.4 to get total gallons. Or calculate cubic inches and divide by 231 for smaller ponds. The hard part might be figuring out the cubic total of irregular shaped ponds. This is where your old Geometry teacher will tell you they “told you so!” If need be, break the pond into smaller “cubes/boxes” and calculate each area and then total them all up for a grand total. Figure a water garden with a 10 x 20’ surface area, mostly 1 foot deep with a center section that is 5 x 5’ a total of 3 feet deep. Figure you have one pond, 10 x 20 x 1’ on top of another pond 5 x 5 x 2’ for a total of 200 plus 50 equal 250 cubic feet times 7.4 equals 1480 gallons.
Q: What should the dissolved oxygen level be of my pond? How low can it go before my fish are stressed?
The dissolved oxygen level is directly associated with the temperature of the water. The higher the water temperature, the lower the oxygen level. Normal levels would be approximately 8 PPM at 75 F and 7 PPM at 90 F. The oxygen demand of the fish and bacteria can lower this number, and you would not want it to go lower than 4 to 5 PPM for more than a short period of time. If it does, you will see the fish at the surface gasping or congregating near the waterfall return or fountain head. What you won’t see is the nitrifying bacteria starting to die off from oxygen starvation. This releases more wastes into the water, aggravating the low oxygen levels. What can you do? Make sure you have LOTS of water movement with waterfalls and/or fountains and even large airstones when the temperature starts to rise. This water movement is even more important at nighttime if there is free-floating algae that will also take up oxygen during the darkness.
Q: I have noticed a reddish hue in some of the whiter areas of my Koi. Is this a disease problem?
It is possible that this is the start of a bacterial infection, especially if there are a lot of dark red veins in the area. This “ulcer disease,” haemorrhagic septicaemia, is caused by Aeromonas, Pseudomonas or Vibrio. Eventually it will develop into an open wound on the side of the fish. It might take a fish veterinarian to treat this problem. But, if the reddish hue is limited to the white areas and is more like a rash, your Koi may actually be experiencing sunburn. That’s right, sunburn! This can occur is shallow ponds without adequate surface cover and/or deep areas for the Koi to retreat into during the day. You can provide cover with floating plants or artificial lily pads. Ideally there should be a deep area several feet deep and maybe a rocky overhang for the Koi to rest under.
Q: Some text I read refers to the total length of the fish and others to the standard length of the fish. What is the difference?
The total length is what you would expect it to be. It is the total length from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail fin. Since tails can be rather variable, this length is sometimes misleading, especially in reference to calculating the total mass of the fish. So they came up with standard length, which is the length of the fish from the tip of its nose to the beginning of the tail (the region of the caudal peduncle). This includes all of the body but not the tail fin, so is more important in determining the fish load of a pond. Be aware that the length versus mass is not a linear ratio. A Koi with a length of 8 inches may have a mass of 0.1 kilograms, while one 16 inches long will have a mass of 0.8 kilograms.
Q: Can I keep tropical fish like Angelfish in my pond?
As long as the water temperature maintains a minimum of 70 F and stays below 95 F there really should be no trouble to keep the Angels in the pond. It is somewhat amusing that we are so conditioned to think of Angelfish as aquarium fish that we forget where they come from! Streams and ponds. They would probably have trouble competing with Goldfish or Koi for food, so the pond should have all tropical fish in this case.
Q: I noticed some small “growths” on the head of my Koi that have a smooth, slimy look. Is this a parasite? What should I do?
This sounds like the viral growth called fish pox. It usually looks like a waxy blob and is the fish equivalent of a wart. Since it is a virus, there is no treatment available. It is rarely infectious and generally will not bother the infected fish, it just looks unsightly. Sometimes raising the temperature will help, but this is rather impractical in the pond. Most of the time it will go away on its own. Just be sure to provide the best water quality and a varied diet to ensure proper health of your Koi.