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  • 1.Dr. Bob Answers
    This is a section answered by Dr. Bob
  • My pond is 12 feet deep center and about 80 by 110 feet. Can I put either a Catfish or some other fish that will not harm my Koi in the pond?
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hi Bob

    I have a major problem with my pond. I am not sure exactly how many Koi, but I assume many hundreds.

    My pond is 12 feet deep center and about 80 by 110 feet I will send you a few photos.

    Can I put either a Catfish or some other fish that will not harm my Koi in the pond?

    It was dug 65 years ago, not lined not filtered I do pump air 24/7 and add about 300 gallons a minutes for an hour about twice week. I have an over flow drain to add fresh water.

    I live on Nantucket Island.


    By my calculations, you do not have a pond. At 524,480 gallons, you have a small lake.

    Considering that your pond is probably a visiting point for countless marine and migratory birds, you probably already have a sizable population of fish other than your koi, their eggs brought in on the bird's feet and feathers.

    In all probability, the catfish are probably already present. As long as you do not import predators such as pike, bass or other game fish, your koi will be fine. All you can do with volumes like that is exactly what you are doing; aeration and fresh water. So far, I don't perceive the problem. Most of my Midwestern ponding friends would cheerfully commit major crimes for possession of that body of water!

    Bob

  • Hi Bob, 1) Have you ever experienced a sudden pond collapse/loss of water? If so, please tell us your tale, and how you coped with it. 2) What causes ponds to suddenly collapse and/or lose water (i.e. washouts, leaks, and seam failures)? 3) What c
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hi Bob,

    1) Have you ever experienced a sudden pond collapse/loss of water? If so, please tell us your tale, and how you coped with it.

    2) What causes ponds to suddenly collapse and/or lose water (i.e. washouts, leaks, and seam failures)?

    3) What can be done when building ponds to minimize the chance for collapse?

    4) What can be done to reinforce existing ponds?

    5) What 'clues' does a pond provide prior to failing?

    6) What facilities should you have on hand for rescuing your fish, before a collapse occurs?

    7) What are the major mistakes people make in transferring their rescued koi to a new holding tank? How should such a tank be prepared?

    thanks,

    jc


    Hi Jim,

    Ponding disasters? Yeah, we've had a bunch, over the years. Most were consequences of either vandalism (a double-sized hide-a-bed sofa over the fence and into the pond one Hallowe'en) or just poor design.

    1) Our scariest moment was a water loss issue, brought about by a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of water flow in a pipe. Our falls are significantly higher than our filters and the pipe runs are all deeply buried. As we were installing the pipe runs with 2-inch flex-PVC, we forgot to check that the run was without dips or bumps. We figured that as long as our big cloverleaf filter was four or five feet higher than the top of the falls, everything would be fine.

    Two things did us in. First, our pipe run had a slight rise-and-dip in the middle, and second, we had a brand-new 1/4 horse Sequence that the pond guy swore was perfect for the pond. You can guess the rest. The combination of in-pipe resistance to flow, the intermittent vapor-lock from the rise and the high flow generated by the very competent pump dumped the majority of our pond onto the garage floor. No safety cutoffs, either. Needless to say, all of those defects have been eliminated over the past ten years, and though our current system should not work, it has done so flawlessly for the past seven years. We now run two closed system bead filters on independent pumps from the skimmer and the bottom drain, and boost the input and output to and from the protein extractor/bioreactor array with matched and balanced mag-drives.

    2) Collapse and water loss occurs from poor design, poor preparation, and poor construction techniques. Wall collapse is most commonly caused by failure to compact and cover the pond bed, or water leakage from holes in the liner (careless rock handling) and seam failure. One of our club members had a catastrophic collapse due to vandalism by his certifiably insane neighbor. Nothing much you can do about that.

    3) You minimize the risks by doing your homework; by knowing how ponds work and by finding a competent contractor, or by learning how to do it yourself. Read read, read!

    4) If a pond is poorly enough designed or constructed to fail catastrophically, there is little to be done short of pulling it out of the ground and redigging, or replacing the filter array and pipe with gear less likely to fail.

    5) The most ominous clue that something bad is going to occur is a steady and untraceable leak. This suggests that water is disappearing under the liner or through an unreachable pipe run and the soil around your pond is liquefying.

    6) You need temporary holding facilities big enough to handle your entire pond population, with filtration enough to maintain them while repairs are under way. We use a giant-sized inflatable swimming pool. You'll also need dechlor, and Amquel.

    7) The most common errors include forgetting to add dechlor to the replacement water, failing to take temperature differentials into account, forgetting to filter or aerate your temporary facility, failure to do water testing and water changes, and feeding your fish while they are in temporary, cramped and under-filtered quarters.

    Bob

  • We were wanting to know how many gallons of water we have in our pond... Our pond is a round 10 ft diameter 18 in deep with a center 4ft circle that is 3 ft deep. What is your calculation?
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    We were wanting to know how many gallons of water we have in our pond... Our pond is a round 10 ft diameter 18 in deep with a center 4ft circle that is 3 ft deep. What is your calculation?



    The formula for you is the same as for two nested
    cylinders.

     

    Figure the volume of the larger first (pi x
    radius squared x depth) or 3.14 x 25 x 1.5 = 117.75
    cu. ft.

    Subtract the inner cylinder (4 x 3.14 x 1.5 = 18.8)
    117.75-18.8=98.95

    then add back the volume of the deep cylinder (3.14 x
    4 x 3 = 37.68 + 98.95 =136.63 cu. ft.)

    Multiply by 7.48 gallons per cu. ft = 1022 gallons.
    Remember to add the volume of your filter as well.

    Bob

  • I would like to know what the formula of salt per 100 gallons of water is. I have some stressed fish...
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    I would like to know what the formula of salt per 100 gallons of water is. I have some stressed fish...


    Here you go--

     

    Formula for Salt in Koi Ponds:

    1.0 lb salt/100 gal = 1.25 ppt (parts per thousand)
    1.5 lb/100 gal = 1.88 ppt
    2.0 lb/100 gal = 2.5 ppt
    2.5 lb/100 gal = 3.125 ppt

    For amount of salt to add to get to a desired concentration in ppt:

    Lb salt to add = (total gallonage of your system/120) multiplied by (desired salt conc. in ppt - current salt concentration in ppt)

    For example:

    Pond system volume: 4400 gal
    Desired salt concentration: 1.5 lbs/100 gal = 1.88 ppt
    Current salt concentration = 0.6 ppt

    Lbs salt needed = (4400/120) x (1.88 - 0.6)

    = 36.666 x 1.28 = 46.99 lbs salt

    Remember to add gradually, and preferably not into your filter inlet feed. Waterfall or stream is best.

    Please note that salt as a constant additive probably confers no provable benefit to the health of a fresh-water fish. It is useful in early spring to prevent methemoglobinemia ("brown blood disease") caused by accumulation of nitrite as the populations of bioconverting bacteria emerge at their own characteristic rates from dormancy. 1.5 lbs per 100 gallons (1.88 ppm) is probably enough. Wash the levels back down towards zero with water changes as your water warms up and your bioconversion fully kicks in.

    Note that the above formula can be manipulated to give you a fairly accurate figure for pond volume if you know how much salt you added and have salt concentration figures for before and after the addition.

    Bob

  • I am thinking of digging a farm pond on my property and putting Koi in it. The pond would be for our enjoyment but also to possibly raise Koi for resale. Also, could I put other fish (Cat, Bass, or panfish) in the pond. Would the Koi co-habit with th
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    I am thinking of digging a farm pond on my property and putting Koi in it. The pond would be for our enjoyment but also to possibly raise Koi for resale. Also, could I put other fish (Cat, Bass, or panfish) in the pond. Would the Koi co-habit with these fish?


    Well. Ambitious

    As far as farm ponds are concerned, I can tell you that koi, being carp, will survive if the pond is big enough and deep enough and has decent aeration, but they will be subject to predation from all sides, and of all the carp subspecies, koi are least able to survive the challenges of living in the wild.

    First, they are an entirely inbred and man-made creature. Their ability to withstand parasitic and stress-related diseases is impaired. Their bright colors attract the eye, not only ours, but also the eyes of kingfishers, herons, sandhill cranes, ospreys, bald eagles, cattle egrets, raccoons and 'possums (though the last tend to be too dam' dumb to do anything with the information!). Koi are naturally curious and will tend to swim towards anything new in the water, and as such, become "lunch" very easily. It's a lot like introducing your prize hunting dog into a pack of wolves' territory with no place to hide.

    Second, while koi are nonaggressive, they are very good at reproducing. Any of your critters that survive the challenges of predation (which means that you'll select for those fish most like their ancestors, grey carp) will stay deep and you'll never see them. While they are down there, they will reproduce, and within a very few years, will overpopulate the pond. What tends to follow this is a sudden die-off and all the fun of disposing of a couple of tons of dead fish. It should also be noted that koi are notoriously inefficient at food processing. They eat nonstop and produce huge quantities of waste products. A look at most successful hobbyist ponds will demonstrate that the major investment of the hobbyist was the biofiltration system.

    Fish for resale is even more problematic. Water gardeners come in a wide spread of enthusiasms. Those that look for fish to admire in our ponds and take to koi shows tend to be -er- picky about where the fish come from, and the fanciest want to know the bloodlines.

    Carp will cohabit with most fish, but you need to remember that panfish tend to be predators. Especially bass, who will look upon the small to medium koi as lunch, and bluegills, who consider fish fry of all types as delicious. If you are buying show quality koi for breeding (at $5000 to$40,000 per fish for the best bloodlines {no I am not kidding!}) a farm pond is not a good place to put them.

    Speaking of farm ponds...

    I'm an ex-farm boy myself (Starke Co., IN) and if I'm thinking what you are thinking, what you plan is your basic hole in the ground at the lowest point on your property. I can not begin to tell you what a bad environment that will be. It will be big enough to attract ducks and geese, and while they are pretty, they carry countless parasites and communicable diseases from elsewhere. A serious koi keeper is ultra-paranoid when it comes to these problems, and flat will not purchase fish from a random farm pond. Most farm ponds, unless they are spring-fed, tend to be stagnant, and murky. No oxygen gets to the bottom and anaerobic conditions prevail. Fish die quickly in these conditions if the water is deep. If it's too shallow, temperature changes will cause unacceptable stresses. Farm ponds tend to slope gradually from shallow to deep, and this form of construction encourages wading predators as mentioned above.

    The lowest point on the property will be a target for runoff, too. Any fertilizer, weed killer, insecticide or other pollutant in or on the surrounding soil will end up in the pond. If it rains heavily and floods, your fish are gone.

    Don't expect your farm pond to be crystal clear, either. It'll have a mud bottom and it'll look like mud, at least the parts of it not filled with microscopic and hair algae. You'll be tempted to use chemicals to control this. Also a bad idea. Once the chemicals are in they never come out. Remember too that stagnant water is perfect for raising mosquitoes.

    Please do not misunderstand. I'm not "anti-farm pond". They serve a specific purpose in the overall ecology of a farming system. If large enough and deep enough, many panfish will survive happily there if they are adapted to the conditions and water management is competent. Farm ponds are not a place for show-quality koi, though, and carp of any description can put a significant strain on an otherwise healthy and balanced pond ecology.

    Your best bet for ongoing education would be to find a reasonably local koi hobbyist society or a water gardening club, join it, and start learning about the animals and the challenges. A visit to a working koi fishery (Kloubec Fisheries in Amana, IA is fairly close to you and has a nice website) might also help.

    Hope this helps.

    Bob

  • 2.Water Quality
    Questions about water quality.
  • I just had my first pH crash and after researching everything possible to fix and recover from it I now have a BRAIN OVERLOAD.
    wpAdminMPKS12-02-2015

    Hi Dr. Bob.

    I just had my first pH crash and after researching everything possible to fix and recover from it I now have a BRAIN OVERLOAD. Carolyn from Microbe-Lift sent me your web link to get some answers from a pro (thus-YOU).

    I’m in Charlotte NC and 9 yrs ago I built a 4000 gal Koi pond and have 9 Koi (18-24’’) left ( born in the pond, hand feed and named), I also have 15 goldfish. I have a 200 gal media filter box and a 200 gal bio filter box both with up flow water that goes back to the pond. I also have a waterfall, UV light, skimmer and everything is running on two 5000 gph pumps with plenty of circulation. I faithfully clean out mechanical filter and do a 10-15% water change ever week using ML/Xtreme for conditioner (after pH crash I will also continue them through the winter months). I have never had a problem with the pond until pH crashed (a ton of rain) 2 weeks ago and lost 4 of my biggest Kio. With the cold weather and holidays I’m embarrassed to say the pond gets neglected for a couple months in winter. Now I need some help to recover from this.

    I’ve been using baking soda to bring pH and KH levels up, I also put 50 Lbs of crushed oyster shells in filter box to help maintain levels. I also put 30 lbs of crushed coral in filter box to help with pH, not sure if 30lbs is enough to do anything to pH levels. With the baking soda additions came ammonia spikes so I started doing water changes, 10-15% a day for 4 days. Went from 3.0 to 0.50 but know I’m noticing that nitrate levels that were 0 are also going up.

    Tap water test, pH/6.8 or a little lower, KH/40, GH/25.

    Pond water test today, pH/7.2, KH/80-100, GH/75, Nitrite/0, Nitrate/20, and Ammonia/0.50

    These are the only products I’ve ever used in my pond. Microbe lift/Xtreme for water conditioner and chloramines (tap water is treated with chloramines), ML/PL to help keep healthy pond and bio filter, ML/liquid barley (not with peat), and baking soda.

    I just started using crushed oyster shells and by Carolyn’s suggestion and ML/Nite-out ll for ammonia and nitrite oxidation. The water temp on Friday was 48 but we are suppose to be in the upper to lower 20’s at night for the next 10 days (thank goodness days are much warmer) so I’m not sure how well ML/nite-out ll is going to work because it said to start using at 55. I also order Koizyme to help out with aeromonas alley which I’m sure will be a problem in spring after having a pH crash and I’m sure the crash has killed my filters.

    So my question is how do I fix it? This is what I THINK I know from all the brain overload research. Ammonia levels are not as toxic in cold water but I’m concerned about when the weather warms up and bio filter starting over (with big fish in pond). How do I keep ammonia levels down and nitrite and nitrate levels going up without water changes every day? Is there a product you would recommend or will the ML/nite-out ll work? I also picked up a gal of kordon AmQuel plus at petsmart it’s an ammonia detoxifier, I haven’t used it yet because I’m not sure. I also read that salt will help, 1lb for 100 gals for me that’s 40 lbs. When should I put it in pond and for how long, is this the right amount and what kind of salt can I use. I’ve read that it can be salt for water softeners or rock salt (there is no where to get that much pond salt around here and price is very high for pond salt online). I’m also concerned about pH, KH and GH levels being low out of tap, how often can I use baking soda (adding 1/3 cup per 1000 gals). I also know that using baking soda raises the pH and higher pH leads to ammonia spikes. But I need the baking soda to raise the KH to keep the pH from falling to low. I just put in 50lbs of crushed oyster shells and I know they take a while to stabilize is 50lbs ok and how often should I replace them? GH is also low and from what I’ve read it works better a little higher for Koi, what should I use to raise it if anything.

    I’m sure I forgot to ask something and I’m so sorry about the BOOK, but as they say “Knowledge is Power” and I could use a little of that power right know. Thank you
    Deb


    Okay, I'll try to take these in order.

    1) How much drop in pH is a "crash"? You have to remember that pH is the reverse log of the hydrogen ion concentration. That means that a change of 1.0 in the pH reflects a tenfold change in the [H+]. A change of 2.0 is 100-fold! Usual water pH out of the tap around here is between 7.5 to 8.5, depending on the water source. Your pH of 6.2 reflected a sudden increase in acidity of nearly 100-fold. In fact, any sudden change in pH more than 0.1 is enough to impact your fish and filter. The reason for the crash was your KH. (Stands for "Karbonate" hardness {those sneaky Germans!}) We in the frozen North call it "alkalinity", also a misnomer. It is your pond's ability to resist changes in pH and should NEVER drop below 80-90ppm. Water out of the tap around here runs about 120ppm.

    2) Plaster of Paris. Get it from the craft store. It'll be purer calcium salts. The Dap stuff is strengthened to handle patching jobs. The craft stuff isn't. You use as many of the pucks as you need to keep your alkalinity up above 100.

    3) Solar salt. Look at the bag. If it says "99.mumblemumble % pure solar salt, it's good. Avoid pelletized or treated products. They are not fish friendly. For guidance in their use, go to the MPKS website for the salt formulae and the article I mentioned. Your fish can handle up to 3 lbs/100 gallons for several weeks without too much stress, and 1.5 lbs /100 gallons almost indefinitely. Your beautiful plants will die at the higher salt levels (3.8ppt) but can handle the lower concentrations (1.88ppt). Do not use salt unless you see the nitrite begin to spike up. It will start to rise as the ammonia begins to fall. Your pond's biofiltration will begin to rev up as your water temp approaches 50 F. At 55 F you'll see the ammonia begin to drop and the nitrite begin to rise. DO NOT FEED THE FISH! Salt up gradually over two or three days and watch the nitrites. As they begin to drop, you can start to wash down the salt levels with water changes. Do not use salt without a reliable way of testing for it. Do not use ANY formaldehyde-containing anti-parasitics in cold water or water with salt in it.

    4) Never NEVER throw away instruction sheets!

    Bob


    Bob,

    Thank you so much for responding so quickly, you help is greatly appreciated!

    First I want to say that I’m not exactly sure it was a pH crash because I’m not sure what the definition of a pH crash is. After the first 2 fish died and I wrote to Carolyn from Microbe-Lift because I thought it was some kind of illness. As she asked I went out to test the pond and that is when she suggested a pH crash.

    When I tested the pH was very close to 6.2 and the KH/40, does that mean pH crash. And at what pH number does it completely kill off my filter?

    I went to Lowes today to look at plaster of Paris; they have Dap in a 25lb box for $16. The ingredients are calcium sulfate, hemihydrate, calcium carbonate & crystalline silica is this ok to use or is there something different at the craft stores? You said I can throw a few in pond and they will dissolve in a week or two, when they dissolve do I throw in a few more and continue to do that each time they dissolve or only when KH gets low? Do they make pond look mucky after all it is a type of drywall mud. This idea sure sounds a lot easier than the heavy 50lbs of crushed oyster shells that’s taking up room in my filter box.

    Home Depot didn’t have the solar salt but Wal-Mart did, it’s a 40lb blue bag of Morton solar salt water softening crystals (is this the one to use). I’m not sure when to start using the salt, I have read that salt in very cold water will make the water feel colder for fish, thus the reason they use it to make ice cream. (Not sure how much truth) With that said it is going to be very cold here for at least 10 days, at what temp of the pond water should I start using the salt to keep my fish safe from nitrites. In your opinion what is the best ppt amount of salt to use and how many days should I keep it at that level without harming fish before I start to reduce it with water changes. Sorry about having so many questions about salt but, I’ve never used it before and 50 plus lbs of salt seams like a lot (scares me just a little).

    In the meantime I’m testing the water every day for pH, KH and ammonia. I have the API ammonia test kit and I’m almost positive that I read on the instructions sheet (before I threw it away) that it was salicylate. If Nitrite, Nitrate or ammonia levels go up I am ready for water changes. One end of the drain hose is connected to the bottom of the filter box and the other end is out at the street, just open the valve and out with the old and in with the new.

    And YOUR RIGHT, my goal period… is to never let this happen again! I’ve cried like a baby over losing my pets, they are to me like most people dogs are to them.

    Thank you so much for your help,

    Deb


    Hi Deb!

    Isn't this a great hobby? Aren't we having fun?

    I think sensory overload is a mild term for what you have, so let's try to simplify things. First, I think if you back off and look at the whole problem, it might get a little easier to cope with.

    pH crashes happen when the natural nitrifying action of your filter bacteria use up the carbonates dissolved in your water. As the buffering capacity of your pond decreases, the hydrogen ion (acid) liberated by the nitrifying process builds up, your pH drops (usually suddenly) and everything dies.

    From that point, you have two necessary strategies:

    1) Short-term, you need to restore as much buffer as you can as quickly as you can. You've already done this with the baking soda, and there's no real limit on how much you can use. While it will increase your dissolved solids load, it also acts a little like salt, but we'll talk about that later. Bicarb is not, by itself, a base. It's a buffer. It will raise the pH in the pond by soaking up the free hydrogen, but it won't push you so far into alkalinity so as to imperil your fish. Remember that for ammonia, low pH is protective. It ionizes the ammonia, rendering it less toxic. You run into trouble as the pH rises and the deionized ammonia levels increase. Your short-term solutions to this are water changes (done) and products like Amquel. The problem with Amquel and its cousins (ChlorAm-X and ProAm-X) is that they are pricey (especially when bought in a pet store!) and they also interfere with standard (Nessler reagent) ammonia test kits. They do a great job of taking the ammonia out and even deal with chlorine and chloramine, but you'll need a salicylate-method ammonia test kit to follow your ammonia levels until you can clear the Amquel out over time with water changes. To keep costs down, you can get ten-pound buckets of the powdered product as well as the LaMotte salicylate test kits from Aquatic Ecosystems (now Pentair Aquatics) in Apopka, FL. Your important measurements for the short term will be pH (7.2-7.5) , Ammonia (0) and alkalinity (KH- around 120 ppm). Forget GH, it has no value here.

    2) You are correct in assuming that your filters are quite dead. You now have "new pond syndrome" all over again. You WILL HAVE a nitrite spike soon as your biofilters come back. Remember that the bacterial populations that do the ammonia-nitrite conversion show up a couple weeks before the nirtite-nitrate bugs. Nitrite is ferociously toxic, and your mid-range goal is to control this. First, feed sparingly, if at all. Second, water changes are your friend. Third, salt helps. A lot. This is about the only ponding scenario where salt has any value. Concentrations of 1.88ppt (1.5 lbs per 100 gal) to 3.8 ppt salt will keep the nitrite from binding to the piscine hemoglobin in your fish's blood and giving them the fishy equivalent of carbon monoxide poisoning in humans. As your bacterial populations restore themselves, you can wash the salt levels down with water changes. While you are ordering your ProAm-X, get a salt meter from Pentair, too. They cost around $40 and are a really good thing to have.

    3) Salt is CHEAP! You just have to know what to buy. The "Solar Salt" in the 50 pound blue plastic bags at Home Despot or Menard's is just fine. "Pond salt" from the pet store is a ripoff. My article on Salt ("Oh Noes-More Salts") is up on the MPKS website.

    4) Most "bacterial boosters" are useless. Either they have very little in the way of active biofiltration bugs, or they have the wrong ones. My expert at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, Alan LaPointe, says that the only additive worth using is a custom product that is sent fresh to big aquariums when they are preparing new aquatic habitats. The stuff he uses has a shelf life of about 2 days, but it works.The company (Fritz Products) started marketing a modified version of this product with a longer shelf-life last year. It's called Turbo Start 700 and you can get it from www.proaquatics .com (800-955-1323, ext 158.) It is still pricey and needs to be kept refrigerated and used quickly, but it works. Reliably.

    5) Long-term, your goal is to NEVER LET THIS HAPPEN AGAIN! Given your location, you have a year-round ponding season, and even though you consider 40 F to be the deep freeze, your pond and your fish keep right on churning out the [H+] and the ammonia. For you, there is no time in the year when you can relax your vigilance on your water quality. The coral and the oyster shell are very slow releasers of calcium salts and do not work well in small-scale environments (i.e.: backyard ponds). A much more efficient solution to Alkalinity maintenance (besides frequent, year-round water testing) is the "pond puck". Go to your favorite craft store and get a big ol' box of Plaster of Paris. Mix up a batch of it and pour some into a bunch of empty margarine tubs. If this is just too low-class for you, you can use fancy Jell-O molds or whatever. When they have solidified, hide a few in your falls, skimmer and anywhere else the water moves. They'll dissolve over a week or two and maintain your alkalinity nicely. Cheap, too!

    Ponding and koi keeping is one of the most challenging and absorbing hobbies in the Universe. It forces you to learn new things on a constant basis and rewards you with summers of tranquility and "good ch'i" (for all you fung shui fanatics out there). As a fellow prisoner of the Three Laws, I salute you!

    Happier ponding!

    Bob

  • Putting in a koi pond in Champaign, Il, zone 5/more recently 6. First time. 10,000 gallons. Would like to include gravity fed (from bottom drain) mechanical (settling tank)/biological filtration...
    wpAdminMPKS12-02-2015

    Hi Dr. Bob.

    Putting in a koi pond in Champaign, Il, zone 5/more recently 6. First time. 10,000 gallons.

    Would like to include gravity fed (from bottom drain) mechanical (settling tank)/biological filtration. Looking at Bioreactor 10000 from Lagunakoi.com (owner is Ben, have spoke with him several times, but he is in CA and knows little about our winters).

    Could you help me with following questions:

    • Are you familiar with any this type of set up in zone 5—gravity fed biological filtration? I am not having much luck finding a discussion of this concept for colder climates.
    • It seems to me that such a system would need to be shut down in the winter (freezing, supercooling of water). What would happen to the biological filters during the winter following drainage of the filter—would all the bacteria die, and the system essentially have to start over from scratch? Would koi tolerate this each spring?
    • Are you familiar with anyone using the Laguankoi.com Bioreactor 10000 in this zone? Do you know if there were problems? Any thoughts about similar issues with the Ultima system in this zone?

    Thanks so much.
    Jerry.


    Hi Jerry!

    For discussions of filtration in our lousy climate, please see Mike White's excellent articles on filtration on our website (www.mpks.org).

    Any biological filter suffers in the cold, but there are some tricks you can employ that will allow you to extend your season, keep things running through the winter and eliminate the spring nitrite peak.

    Nothing is going to protect you from "New Pond" syndrome. It takes time for your pond to build up a steady population of biological filter bacteria, and most of the bacteria "boosters" are useless. There is a relatively new product by Fritz-Zyme called Turbo-Start 700 which is a consumer version of the stuff used by large aquariums to "jump start" fish habitats for new displays. It cycles up in about 5 days. It has a very limited shelf life and must be used immediately after being ordered. It is also expensive. It is the only product available that actually works. Research it at www.proaquatics.com.

    Any filtration system will work in our zone.These measures will help. A lot.

    1) Avoid the use of submersible pumps. They are unreliable energy hogs and require more maintenance than they are worth. They cannot be used during the colder months if there is any risk of freezing or if there is a chance that they will be inaccessible during the winter. Better yet, never put ANYTHING requiring live current in your pond. This specifically includes trough heaters and copper "ionizers". (Why would anyone willingly put toxic metals into their ecosystem?)

    2) Construct your pond so that the pipe runs (minimum 3" diameter) are all buried below the frost line and run to an enclosed filter and pump enclosure.( Home Despot prefab sheds work great for this.) Then insulate the shed and put a small electric radiator in the shed during the winter. All electricity, wiring and filters are INSIDE where they can be serviced out of the weather and kept dry.

    3) Design your pond and its surroundings so that it can be covered during the late fall and winter months. Midwest Trading in St. Charles, IL sells a wonderful kit called the Versa-Quonset. It can be set up by two adults in about a day, covered with leaf netting in early fall to keep debris off the bottom and then covered with 6 mil greenhouse plastic for the winter months. Another small electric radiator at pondside under the cover will keep things warm enough to prevent freezing. Remember to install a door so you can enjoy those "Spring in January" moments. The plastic greenhouse not only keeps the wind chill off, it also protects the pond from snow-borne chemical pollutants and rapid temperature changes.

    4) As you install the plumbing, remember to design in a maximum water level drain and a bypass from your filters to allow you to run filter output into the pond away from you falls. This will allow you to keep the pumps running year-round without the risk of ice dams and water diversion. An automatic float-actuated filler (with a charcoal filter in-line if you are filling from municipal water supply) is also useful.

    5) Strongly consider building UP. An 18-inch above-grade berm surrounded and enclosed with landscape stone makes a beautiful scenic statement and provides protection from runoff from surrounding lawns (and lawsuits from folks who "just fell in"). It will also buy you an extra two or three thousand gallons on the same footprint. It also brings you closer to the fish, giving you places to sit on the verge as you admire your gin-clear water.

    6) NEVER believe the claims made by filter manufacturers. Plan on installing at least twice as much filtration as your gallonage demands in the filter literature. More than that if you can. Keep your bottom drain and skimmer systems separate, with dedicated pumps and filtration for each. That way, if one system goes down for any reason, you still have a system up and running while you do repairs. Remember that your pumps, pipes and filters must be able to expose every molecule of water to your filters at least once an hour. The best defense against algae blooms is to deny the algae nutrient. Algae live on sunlight, CO2 and ammonia (NOT nitrates). The best preventer of "green water" is superb filtration. Resist the temptation to treat every problem you have by dumping in another chemical. Once in, it's in there forever until you can dilute it down with many, many water changes. If you run duplicate filters on the same system, hook them up in parallel, not in series. You'll reduce resistance to flow and expose untreated water to all the filters, not just the first in line.

    7) Install (or build your own) protein extractor. You can buy these things for $$$$$$$, but there are lots of nifty designs available online, build-able from standard PVC plumbing components. This will eliminate the foam that builds up from natural fish metabolism and will also get rid of that brown discoloration from plant materials that fall in and decay. Your water quality will be immensely improved as well.

    8) NO ROCKS ON THE BOTTOM! Bad bacteria and parasites grow in the sludge that inevitably collects, and they add nothing to the filtration.

    9) 10,000 gallons? Bottom drains, boss.

    10) Don't forget a UV system. It'll help with the floating algae.

    11) A backyard pond absolutely requires constant filtration and circulation, or everything dies. An absolutely reliable source of electricity is essential, and every city in the world has power failures. Get a generator system that automatically senses a power loss and starts up automatically. Get one that runs off of your natural gas or propane supply. Really.

    If you drain your filters dry, your bacteria are dead. If you just stop the pumps without draining, you run the risk of pipe rupture when everything freezes (especially if you do not cover the pond or enclose the filters) and your beneficial nitrification bacteria are replaced by anaerobic organisms that produce hydrogen sulfide, a poisonous gas that will kill everything in the pond. Far better to cover and protect your pond and filters and run the system all winter.

    Golly, you got me going! Sorry about the rant. It's hard to watch somebody start up in this hobby and risk making all the mistakes I made over the past 20 years without trying to help.

    Bob

  • I was reading about koi clay used as a product that eliminates string algae when the pumps are turned on...
    wpAdminMPKS28-02-2016

    Hi, Bob,

    On the Internet, I was reading about koi clay used as a product that eliminates string algae when the pumps are turned on. I never heard about this before! have you or any club members used it with success?


    Montmorillonite, also marketed as Renew (tm) is a clay product which contains a variety of metallic salts that are like vitamin/mineral tablets for both koi and filter bacteria.

    Insofar as it improves the efficiency of the bioconversion bacteria, it will cut back on the ammonia required as nutrient for hair algae and reduce its ability to grow. It is not a "cure-all" or an algaecide. The only way to safely eliminate hair algae is to filter your water thoroughly and eliminate all ammonia.

    Everything else is either a scam or a plant poison that will pollute your pond with organics and chemicals. The fancy electronic devices currently available saturate your pond's water with ionized copper, which is toxic to fish. The magnets don't work. Upgrade your filtration. That does work.

    Bob

  • Dear Dr. Bob: My husband failed to read the instructions on the algae medicine and killed all of our fish within hours. We have some plants in the pond that do not seem to be affected. What do I do now? Should I drain the pond before getting new fis
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Dear Dr. Bob:

    My husband failed to read the instructions on the algae medicine and killed all of our fish within hours. We have some plants in the pond that do not seem to be affected. What do I do now? Should I drain the pond before getting new fish?


    Absolutely.

    The chemicals in the water will stay in the water and can't be eliminated without a 100% water change. Remember that you will need to dechlorinate the water as it goes in.

    Make your husband read the help files on our website about algae and how to reduce it. PLEASE try to restrain the impulse to treat every "problem" by throwing a chemical into the water. Most pond problems have other, more fish-friendly, solutions.

    Bob

  • Bob, still having a struggle with the algae,the long stringy green stuff. i have a some floating plants in the pond, along with a couple in the pots that sit in the water. the algae seems to be growing on the milk crates that i use to hold the potte
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Bob, still having a struggle with the algae,the long stringy green stuff.

    i have a some floating plants in the pond, along with a couple in the pots that sit in the water. the algae seems to be growing on the milk crates that i use to hold the potted plants. the fish in the pond are gold fish, about 12-15, 750 gallons of water, and i keep pulling this algae out on a daily basis.

    whats your thoughts on barley pellets, or barley straw to control the algae, the pond water itself is relatively clean and clear. i have never had a problem like this before.

    steve d


    Hi Steve,

    Hair algae grows when three conditions are met:

    1) Reasonably warm temps 2) Sunlight and 3) Nutrients. We can't do anything about 1 or 2.

    Nutrient for algae is ammonia, produced by your fish.
    Algae will grow as long as there is excess ammonia to support it. The short-term solution is to pull the excess algae out with a biff brush on a broom handle. Long-term, the best solution is to reduce the level of ammonia in the pond. This is achieved by :

    • Reduced feeding. The more your fish eat, the more ammonia they produce.
    • Fewer fish. Are you allowing 200-300 gallons of water for each fish? If not, you need to reduce your pond's population.
    • Failing that, you need to seriously upgrade your filtration. Algae will not grow if all the ammonia is being removed by your biofilters.

    I am not now and never have been impressed by the ability of barley straw or its extracts to do anything but cost money, stain the water brown and increase DOC (Dissolved Organic Compound) load. Algaecides are even worse. Good water quality and zero ammonia levels will solve your problem.

    Bob

  • My question is that my koi are very skittish, they won't come out to feed. We winter them over in a 90 gallon aquarium, in the house. They were beginning to come to my hand to nibble...
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    I read about you organization in the Daily Herald, pond walks. I have a small backyard pond 100 (+/-) gallons. This is our 3rd year.

    My question is that my koi are very skittish, they won't come out to feed. We winter them over in a 90 gallon aquarium, in the house. They were beginning to come to my hand to nibble, then about 4 months ago they would run and hide when I came to feed them. I had 2 that always nibbled, and I want them to come to my hand.

    So when we transferred them to the pond they hide and never come out. I know they eat, because the food is gone. What is my problem, and what do I do to help them become friendly to me and my hands???? We really like the koi, and are happy with the ones we buy from Petsmart. Oh yes, they are about 3 - 4 inches. Thank you very much - Libby


    Altered behavior in all your fish suggests either predation or water quality issues. Small ponds are particularly vulnerable to backyard predators, likely raccoons in your case. Not much you can do there, I'm afraid, except dig a new pond with minimum four foot depth and nowhere for the raccoons to wade. Water spray devices such as the ScareCrow, are occasionally helpful. They are sprinklers triggered by IR sensors. When we tried one, it proved far more effective in nailing and annoying our teenage son. The raccoons merely snickered.

    The thing that worries me the most is multiple koi in a very cramped environment with no mention of biofiltration or water testing. If you have none of the former and have not been doing the latter, you probably have significant water quality issues. I urge you to go to our website (wwww.mpks.org), engage our Google Search Engine on "filtration" and "water testing", and read everything you find there. Koi are *not* goldfish! They generate more ammonia per ounce of fish than almost any other species. If you have multiple fish of questionable health (most pet store koi are heavily infested with various parasites) in a crowded pond with no way of getting rid of their waste products, I'd expect them to be irritable. If you were living in a sewage farm, you'd be pretty cranky, too. Get a test kit if you do not have one. Test your water. correct the problems.

    Remember that the recommended volume of a pond for koi less than 8 inches is 50 gallons water *per inch of fish*! I suspect that you are overstocked.

    Bob

  • Hi, I'm building a new pond in my back yard and I wondering if I can use limestone in and around my pond. I believe it is limestone. I got the white rock from creek beds here in Missouri. It is 3' 7" deep and it has a 20x20 pond liner. I was consid
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hi,

    I'm building a new pond in my back yard and I wondering if I can use limestone in and around my pond. I believe it is limestone. I got the white rock from creek beds here in Missouri. It is 3' 7" deep and it has a 20x20 pond liner. I was considering building up a little to make is a bit deeper and I want to make sure I can use the stone I have. I have had different opinions of this. some say not some say yes.
    Thanks


    Hi, Curtis,

    I'd have a sample checked. Limestone dissolves (slowly, we grant you) and it will tend to release magnesium and carbonate salts into the water. The magnesium salts will add to your "hardness" which can sometimes affect fish color. The carbonates are a good thing and will stabilize your pH a little. As long as the rock is smooth and does not present edges that will damage your fish, you should be fine.

    Bob

  • We have an established 3,000 koi pond in the country. The past couple of years, we have had a problem with keeping the water clear. We are running 2 pumps and have more than sufficient water exchange/turnover. We began hauling city water in 2008 an
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    We have an established 3,000 koi pond in the country. The past couple of years, we have had a problem with keeping the water clear.

    We are running 2 pumps and have more than sufficient water exchange/turnover.

    We began hauling city water in 2008 and have found the pond to remain more clear. Our well water has a lot of iron and calcium that seems to murk up the water.

    We do add a dechlorinator routinely when we add water. I have recently read that city water will kill our beneficial bacteria. Is this true?

    Thanks.

    Barb


    Frank & Barb,

    City water is pre-treated with chlorine and a chlorine/ammonia mix called chloramine. The whole purpose of these additives is to kill bacteria. All bacteria. Without treatment, it certainly will kill off your population of bioreactor bacteria. Additives such as Stress-X, ClorAm-X, Amquel and others remove the chlorine and chloramine, rendering the water safe for your fish and filters.

    Well water contains large quantities of dissolved minerals, including calcium, iron, sulfate and phosphate salts. These react with oxygen and sunlight, precipitating out as a cloudy flocculate material that makes your pond water turbid. Municipal water in the Chicago area is pulled from Lake Michigan, which has a relatively low level of these minerals, and has been filtered aggressively before pumping by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation folks. It's a lot purer than what comes out of your well.

    Well water run through a filter made of activated charcoal will stay clear and will not need to be treated with expensive dechlorinators. Municipal water, similarly filtered will also not need chemical treatment. Activated charcoal is cheap and easily available. You can make a filter out of a bucket. Look into it.

    Bob

  • My property was sprayed by accident a week ago for gypsy moths with BTK and three days later the ecosystem in my pond died and now one of my fish is in critical condition and 8 more in serious condition. I callour pond has to be treated as a
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hello

    My property was sprayed by accident a week ago for gypsy moths with BTK and three days later the ecosystem in my pond died and now one of my fish is in critical condition and 8 more in serious condition.

    I call the county about it and they said this was safe for my fish but said nothing about the ecco system that the fish live in. I seem to remember other people having problems after a spraying.

    To add insult to injury I was sprayed again today. I have been adding bacteria to the pond now and adding fresh water also.

    Anything else I can do to try and save this pond? The pond is (was) a established pond for 3 yrs. before this and many of my fish I've had for 6 yrs. in this pond and in another pond. I've also found 4 dead birds on my property also.

    Thank-you

    Cindy


    Cindy,

    When you are dealing with an induced toxin, water additions rarely work. Multiple large-volume water CHANGES (as much as 90% at a time) and repeated filter flushes with clean water are needed.

    At that point, your pond has to be treated as a new pond, and your biofilter has to regenerate itself over several weeks to months. Whether bacterial supplements and additives help with this is controversial.

    The manufacturers claim that their products are whiz-bang essential. Talking to the experts, like the guys who run water quality at the Shedd Aquarium, you learn that these products are largely useless.

    There are such products available, but they are designed to jump-start large-volume facilities (in the MILLIONS of gallons), are shipped live with a shelf-life measured in hours, are custom-tailored for the critters that will live in it, and cost thousands of dollars per application.Not suitable for the backyard hobbyist.

    The populations in backyard ponds arises from the source water and environment, which is why small ponds take so long to mature. Many water changes, sparse feeding and much patience.

    Sorry.

    Bob

  • After draining out about 2500 gal of water, I began adding water directly to my 5000 gal pond then add amquel every 30 minutes. This is not the best way. Can this hurt the nitrifying bacteria because soon after this I notice the nitrite rising and is
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hello Dr Bob,

    After draining out about 2500 gal of water, I began adding water directly to my 5000 gal pond then add amquel every 30 minutes. This is not the best way. Can this hurt the nitrifying bacteria because soon after this I notice the nitrite rising and is now (May 1, 09) at about .5 mg/L. Or is it more due to the spawning in the last week and the bead filter just can't keep up even though I have continued to change out the water.

    Thank you

    Antoine


    Hello Antoine,

    You've got a little bit of everything wrong here.The dechlorinator should be added to the pond BEFORE adding in the new water fom the tap, so the dechlor is there before it has a chance to enter your bioreactor and kill off your bacteria.

    Amquel is most useful when you have ammonia problems. While it does take care of chlorine and chloramine, it may be a little bit of overkill and it gives you a strong false positive reading on your ammonia test kit unless you are using the salicylate method. Most hobbyist kits use the Nessler method, and that reacts badly to Amquel.

    Stress-X is a better product for simple dechlorination.

    Your rising nitrite is the product of three issues.

    • First, you impaired your filter's development with the chlorine. Maybe not much, but enough.

       

    • Second, it is still early in what has been a cold spring. Your bioreactor has developed enough of an early bacterial population to convert ammonia to nitrite, but there has not been enough time to get the secondary nitrite to nitrate population up and active. Nitrite is pure poison.

       

    • Third, stop feeding. Do more water changes, and get about 2.5 pounds per 100 gallons of salt into your pond gradually over the next few days. Do not resume feeding until your nitrites are undetectable.

    See our website for information on water testing and spring pond management. There is stuff there about salt as well.

    Bob

  • We've been looking around for a new solution for our waterfall pre-filter. It seems to get clogged very easily and the waterfall slows down or stops every few days. It has been better since we did a complete water change and scrub a week ago (WOW! I
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    We've been looking around for a new solution for our waterfall pre-filter. It seems to get clogged very easily and the waterfall slows down or stops every few days. It has been better since we did a complete water change and scrub a week ago (WOW! I hope never to have to do that again!) It seems that the little sponge just picks up every bit of dirt, algae, and dust in the water - or sucks on itself. How can we get our waterfall to keep running - at least a week would be nice! Others we read about or talk to say they only change the filters once a season?!

    For reference, this is a PondMaster (I think) in a homemade backyard pond. Our best guess is 1100 G (4' W X 6' L X 2-5' deep), with a second filter in the shallow level. We have 5 koi (2 X 4"; 3 X 7") and 3 goldfish (6"). We also have rapidly multiplying mosquitofish. We had a little catfish, but only found his skeleton when we cleaned out the pond.

    On a side note, I've read the armored catfish are helpful with the algae. Will they get along with our already busy gang? Also, how do we get them out of such a large pond in the winter? We were unable to see more than a foot down before we changed the water last week - and getting even the little mosquitofish out was a chore and a half. Thank you in advance for your advice. ~Candace

     


    Hi Candace,

    Your problem has to do with the inherent design flaws common to submersible pumps and foam prefilters. Simply, they are high-maintenance and they clog and fail. A live system generates gunk, and if the first thing the gunk hits is a piece of sponge, it's gonna stay there. I try to discourage first-time ponders from using this system, since it does not contribute to the bioconversion necessary to keep your pond healthy and requires cleaning as often as twice a day at the height of the summer.

    You need to go to the website and read Mike White's articles on filtration, then go to the Q&A section and search on filters. In the short term, take the sponges OFF your pumps. The fouling will damage them. Get the pumps up off the bottom on some sort of support. Install a box filter with brushes or mat between the pumps and the falls to start with while you are doing your research. Go on a pond tour somewhere (heck, come to ours!) and actually look at successful small ponds and ask questions of the folks who built them. Learn about bioconversion. In the process of building a pond, you have assumed responsibility for an entire outdoor biome. It is a complicated thing. Join a POND CLUB!

    Armored catfish (Plecostomus) do indeed coexist with other pond fish and can grow quite large. They are tropicals, however, and must be taken indoors for the winter, a daunting task when you consider that they are experts at hiding in cracks in the rocks and those spiny fins are SHARP.

    Labor Day weekend is the perfect time to clean out your pond. We do not power wash. We use recirculated pond water and low pressure/high flow to get the crud out from behind our edging rocks. We leave the hair algae alone. Our koi enjoy it as a winter and spring salad.

    Bob

  • I just got thru reading your very interesting article on pond pH. I have a 2,000 gal pond with koi & red eared slider turtles and am having a constant problem with the pH. I don't overfeed, and change the water & add dechlor when doing so. My pH toda
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    I just got thru reading your very interesting article on pond pH. I have a 2,000 gal pond with koi & red eared slider turtles and am having a constant problem with the pH. I don't overfeed, and change the water & add dechlor when doing so. My pH today is at 8.0.

    I've lost a number of koi before I changed 80% of the pond water. Besides store available pH down like Pond Care & Jungle Laboratories which tend to be very pricey, is there anything else I can add to the water to stabilize it closer to 7.0 ??

    I clean the series of 6 filter pads in the bottom filter at least once a week or more if needed. There are two more bio filters in the top filter box where the water pours out into the stream. I also have two air pumps constantly putting bubbles into the pond as well. Thanks for any info you can provide.


    Hi Barry,


    Hi Barry,

    Koi are tolerant of a wide range of pH as long as it is stable. As I stated in the article, the pH depends on the balance of hydrogen ion against a variety of buffering salts, carbonate being the most prevalent. As long as your alkalinity is somewhere between 80 and 150, your pH will be stable and your fish should be able to maintain colors without problems. At high alkalinity levels, such as you find in well water, blacks tend to be unstable and will fade.

    Low alkalinity leads to pH instability and sudden development of acid conditions which are harmful to fish and filter bacteria. Alkalinity drops when fresh water from ground or lake sources is not introduced or replaced and the existing buffering capacity is used up by the production of hydrogen ions as part of the nitrification process that takes ammonia to nitrite to nitrate in our bioconverters. Frequent small water changes solve this problem.

    pH 8.0 is fine as long as it is stable. Trying to tinker with the pH with added chemicals is practical only in a small aquarium environment. A pond system is far too large and has too much electrochemical inertia to make it desirable, workable or affordable.

    As long as you are keeping your pond free of debris and cleaning your mats with pond water (NOT tap water!) and your biofilters at the top of the system are up to the task, you do not need to sweat the pH unless it it unstable. If your alkalinity is low, it can be emergently boosted with Arm & Hammer bicarbonate of soda. Longer-term, a "biscuit" made of old-fashioned Plaster of Paris can be placed in your falls or skimmer and allowed to dissolve. Bags of oyster shell do not dissolve fast enough to be effective.

    Your air stones are great for moving water out of dead zones in your pond but will not affect either your pH or your dissolved oxygen levels. Oxygen gets into the water best through turbulence at the water/air interface, so your falls and streams are your best adjunct here. Make them as fast and as noisy as you can. For Super-effective gas exchange, a bio-reactor or a Bakki shower (or both!) will keep your oxygen levels at max and blow off Nitrogen and CO2.

    Happy ponding!

    Bob

  • Our pond has a water particulate problem that hampers visibility. No green water, because we have a UV sterilizer. Just lots of floating particles. I've seen pictures of other ponds with clear water, and I wonder how they do it!
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hi Bob! Thank you so much for all your help! My wife and I have been members for a year now, and we really value all the help we receive from the club! I have one more question, if you don't mind.

    Our pond has a water particulate problem that hampers visibility. No green water, because we have a UV sterilizer. Just lots of floating particles. I've seen pictures of other ponds with clear water, and I wonder how they do it! We have vegetation growing along the edges of our pond, within the water. I've noticed that other ponds have no vegetation other than lily pads; they have vegetation outside the pond, but no dirt or bog area in the water.

    I wonder if the pond vegetation is part of our problem? Would taking out the vegetation within the pond clear the water, or are the particles just fish waste and normal decomposition? How do these other pond owners get such particle free water? We do 15-20% water changes every two weeks, so we are introducing particle free water into the pond quite a bit. Thank you in advance for the help, Bob. I promise this should be the last question for quite some time!


    Hey Frank!

    The particles are crud, pure and simple. They are leftovers from broken-down plant material, bacterial proteins, fish waste, uneaten food,and general stuff that is a natural part of any living system. What's missing from your system is mechanical filtration. If you look at the ponds with the "gin-clear" water, you'll find that they all have the same general system, done a bazillion different ways. They all will have a skimmer and a bottom drain. The skimmer takes care of the stuff that floats, the bottom drain sucks out the stuff that sinks or stays suspended. Most of the super-clear ponds you'll see have bare-liner bottoms as well. The absence of bottom rock eliminates a prime collection point for sludge and crud.

    The first contact the water has with the filter is a pre-filter or settlement device. This can take the form of a large circular vortex chamber, a linear-flow offset baffle system, brushes, mats, or any combination thereof. The job of this device is to get the big, visible particles out of the water before the water hits the pumps or the bioconverters. Mechanically clean water is much easier for a bioconverter to process, and cuts way down on fouling and the need for frequent maintenance.

    What happens after that, employing beads, mats, bioballs, PVC tape, Springflo, Kaldenes, UV, protein extractors, bioreactors, Nexuses or whatever is important from a chemical and appearance standpoint, but works so much better with a good prefilter.

    Bob

  • The plumbers connected a water source to our new pond. We have our own well not city water but the auto fill will be connected to our house soft water. Is this soft water a problem for the fish? We would have to drill an additional water line to con
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    The plumbers connected a water source to our new pond. We have our own well not city water but the auto fill will be connected to our house soft water.

    Is this soft water a problem for the fish? We would have to drill an additional water line to connect direct to the well but would if the soft water is harmful to them. I thought since adding salt is good for fish and soft water has salt in it that would be alright but I want to make sure.

    Also if you know of any members with large show quality Koi that are needing to find a home for them we would be interested in looking at them for this pond. It will be at least 35,000 gal.

    Mike White will be putting a meter on the hose when well fill it. It is 9 feet or more deep so they will have a great home.


    Hi Amanda,

    Boy howdy, am I envious! 35,000 gallons.

    Your soft water should be no problem, though it would be a good idea to keep track of your salt levels with a meter or a good test kit.

    After discussion with Allen LaPointe, the head water guy at the Shedd Aquarium, I am not convinced that salt has any actual benefit as a constant additive in a fresh-water pond except as an early-spring preventative for nitrite toxicity. It is a reasonably effective antiparasitic as a concentrated dip, but probably does not do much else. The concentration in softened water should not be a problem.

    BTW, what kind of quarantine setup do you have? Also, be conservative with additions to your new pond. Remember, you do not have established biofiltration as yet, and there is not enough time left in the season to get it fully established. Your pond's ability to sustain large fish at this time is far less than you think it is.

    Bob

  • I have about a 700 gallon pond that i put i this year. I have 3 Koi that are are approx. 8 to 9 inches and 4 that are approx. 5 to 6 inches I brought them inside this winter because i can't stand not to see them every day. I have 2 - 50 gallon tanks
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    I have about a 700 gallon pond that i put i this year. I have 3 Koi that are are approx. 8 to 9 inches and 4 that are approx. 5 to 6 inches I brought them inside this winter because i can't stand not to see them every day. I have 2 - 50 gallon tanks and separated the large ones from the smaller ones.They all are flourishing very well, always hungry and following me whereever I go.

    But today I noticed the small ones laying or resting on the bottom alot and trying to hide under the plants in a very close group practically one top of one another. I was wondering if they were mature enough to spawn? Because they still want to eat and follow me around but not as much.

    The tank temp is around 75 to 76 degrees. My bigger Koi that are in another is a liitle cooler which is down in the basement which I have a heater in and try to keep it around 71 to 75 I have seen them laying closer to the bottom, but as soon as they see me they come to the top. It almost looks to me that it could be a group spawing but I've never seen one before and I didn't know how old they had to be?

    Thanks
    Jen from Michigan


    Big fish. Small vats. What kind of filtration are you using? How often are you water testing and doing water changes?

    The behavior you are describing is not spawning behaviour. It sounds more like a response to poor water quality. You have a lot of fish in not very much water and are feeding them heavily. If you do not have an active biofilter on your vats, you probably have very high ammonia levels in your water by now and your fish are feeling it. Start by testing your water. High ammonia levels should be initially treated with a near-100% water change using a reliable dechlorinator like Stress-kote.

    Any filtration you set up now will take four to six weeks to begin to kick in. Do it anyway and do daily 25% water changes until your ammonia levels zero out and stay there. Make sure you watch Nitrite levels as well. Nitrite is more toxic than ammonia and takes longer to clear. Cut way back on your feeding until your filters come on line. Remember to check pH and alkalinity as well.

    Go to www.mpks.org and read everything you can find there about filtration and isolation tanks.

    Hope this helps.

    Bob

  • Hi Bob, We have a 12X16X3 koi pond. Last year I kept a hole in the pond all winter but still lost all the koi. All the goldfish managed to survive though. This year we brought the fish into the basement and placed in a stock tank. We have an air sto
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hi Bob,

    We have a 12X16X3 koi pond. Last year I kept a hole in the pond all winter but still lost all the koi. All the goldfish managed to survive though. This year we brought the fish into the basement and placed in a stock tank. We have an air stone and 1,000 gal filter running but have already lost 3 of the koi. We seemed to have the problem start when I did a 30% water exchange. I did use a declorinator. Any ideas as to what may be causing the fish to die? Thanks for your thoughts.


    Dear Polly,

    Are you water testing the stock tank? If your filter is new, and set up with fresh media, it probably wasn't performing any bioconversion at all. The only way to make sure you have an active system is to have the vat system up and running all summer with a small fish load. Your media should come from the filters in your pond. Starting up fresh with a load of fish who are still eating is a ticket to ammonia-flavored disaster. What probably did it for your critters was a pH shift as your fresh water hit the water in the tank. Mass die-offs in tank environments are almost always due to water quality issues.

    Bob

  • Early this week our pond started to get very murky, almost tea colored. Can you recommend a method or product to use to clear it again?
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Dr Passovoy:

    Thank you for your prompt response. We are relatively new to ponding; our pond is just two years old this month. When we started our water was really cloudy and our local pond supply house told us that we needed to lower the pH before we added any chemical to clear the water. So, we bought a testing kit and kept it below 7.4 and the water for the most part stayed clear. For reference, I am using a Wardley Junior Test kit, this only goes up to 7.4 pH. At the moment my pond is above this level but I cannot exactly how high it is. I found the article "Who's on pHirst" very informative. It would seem I have been wasting my time and money.

    I tested the source water and it is approximately 7.4, certainly by judging color it is much closer to 7.4 than the pond. Early this week it started to get very murky, almost tea colored. Can you recommend a method or product to use to clear it again? In the past we have used various products to clear it up. Also, I checked the aquaticeco.com site; I am considering purchasing their Aquacheck Pond Test Strips. Have you used these or can you recommend them or one of their other products?

    Thanks again for your help,

    Richard Ambrose


    Richard,
    Please try to resist the temptation to fix everything in your pond by dumping in some chemical. Once in there, chemicals stay there.

    pH is not the problem. It is also not controllable under outdoor ponding conditions with additives. The chemicals sold you at the pet store are designed for aquaria. Outdoor ponding pH usually runs at whatever the source water is, and this depends on where it came from and what it filtered through. As long as it is stable and above 7.5, your pond inhabitants will tolerate it just fine. Stability is conferred by dissolved carbonate salts (measured as KH or alkalinity). Levels between 80 and 120 ppm are optimal.

    The tan color is dissolved organic compounds and the only things that will fix that are water changes, a protein extractor, and preventing the accumulation of plant debris on the pond's bottom. The cloudiness is suspended solids, and better mechanical filtration will take care of that. If your source water is from wells, you may have dissolved iron, which turns tan and murky on exposure to UV (sunlight).

    I'd recommend the LaMotte fresh water pondkeeper kit, and would add a chlorine/chloramine set, a thermometer, a nitrate set and a salt test meter to that. Remember to keep records.

    Bob

  • We have a 3 year-old 3000 gal pond with plenty o' circulation. No amonnia, nitrate problems, but pH was high, at 9, last week, which I attributed to the heavy rains recently. We did our second 30% water changes of the season and saw the pH come down
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    We have a 3 year-old 3000 gal pond with plenty o' circulation. No amonnia, nitrate problems, but pH was high, at 9, last week, which I attributed to the heavy rains recently. We did our second 30% water changes of the season and saw the pH come down to 8. we don't have many show quality koi, but our prized 12" sanke(of course, the nicest, and only, one) lost a lot of color overnight. All colors faded considerably overnight several days after a 30% water change. Is the fading related to the pH levels, the water change, or something completely different? How do we maintain proper pH in such a large pond?


    Your pH problems may well be based on a lack of buffering capacity. You'll need to check your alkalinity, looking for levels between 75 and 150ppm. Anything lower will make the pond subject to wide pH swings with temperature, time of day and algae load. Remember, rainwater has very little in the way of dissolved salts, so a heavy rainstorm in a smallish pond can make the pH very unstable. You can supplement the alkalinity very easily with Arm & Hammer baking soda.

    Read "Who's on pHirst?" in the articles section.

     

    Bob

  • What are acceptable water testing levels for pH, ammonia, nitrites, oxygen?
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    What are acceptable water testing levels for pH, ammonia, nitrates, nitrites, oxygen?


    pH: Koi are pretty tolerant fish to steady state acid/base conditions. pH becomes a problem when it changes rapidly and as the water heats up in summer. Koi do best at 7.5 (neutral) but will tolerate 0.75 plus or minus this as long as it is what they are used to. High pH (alkaline) conditions makes ammonia more toxic. The tendency of some koi shows to freely bubble their vats blows off CO2 and raises pH. At that point, even minor increases in ammonia levels can cause big problems with the fish. More of a problem, especially in bare liner ponds with high fish loads, is loss of alkalinity.

    Alkalinity is, very simply, the measure of the pond's ability to keep its pH stable as conditions change. It is measured in ppm and ideal is around 100 ppm with a range of around 40 ppm in either direction. It depends on the presence of salts of various metals, primarily carbonate salts, which interact with the acid produced by the fish and the activity of the bacteria in the pond and the biofilter. This interaction smooths out the peaks and valleys of alkalinity and acidity that are natural pond water mechanics, and substantially lessen the stress on the fish and filter.

    Low levels of alkalinity can lead to a situation in the pond known as a "pH crash". In this situation, (usually found in the above-mentioned bare-liner ponds with high fish loads), alkalinity drops below the level needed to stabilize pH, and the continued bioactivity of the pond causes rapid increases of acidity (lowered pH), often to levels as low as 6.0 or less. At these pH levels, the bacterial population in the biofilter stops working and then dies, leaving the fish to go on producing ammonia. The only half-good thing about this situation is that at low pH, ammonia is ionized, and relatively non-toxic. The danger to your pond occurs when you correct the alkalinity and pH before you remove the ammonia. Under those conditions, the ammonia returns to the non-ionized state and kills your fish.

    Amquel will take care of the ammonia, just make sure you allow enough time to disperse it completely through your system before adding sodium bicarbonate to restore your alkalinity. Remember to take water samples frequently, and monitor ammonia first (see below) with a salicylate-based kit, then pH and alkalinity as you treat. pH can then be corrected with plain old Arm and Hammer baking soda. 1 pound in 1000 gallons will increase alkalinity by 70 ppm. The pH will "autocorrect" at this point, usually to a level of around 8.0-8.5. If it happens slowly, it's usually well-tolerated.

    Ammonia: Any persistent level of ammonia is bad, indicating too many fish, too little filter or not enough water. Ammonia spikes occur after rainstorms and during spawning, as well as early in the season when the fish wake up before the filter does. The more you feed (especially the high-protein growth foods) the more ammonia your fish will produce. Chemical treatments, especially formaldehyde and other disinfectants (Chlorine in tap water!) can kill off your bacterial population, crash your filter and leave you with ammonia galore and sick fish, as can natural loss of alkalinity (see above). Levels of .05 ppm are acceptable as long as they are recognized and dealt with, either by cutting down on feeding, lowering the population of critters or improving biofiltration. Sustained levels of 1.0 or above definitely indicate a real problem that needs a major fix. This is even more urgent if your pH and temperature are high. Your biofiltration setup's bacteria take ammonia to...

    Nitrite: Also toxic, indeed more toxic than ammonia, regardless of pH. Even low levels (.05) are cause for alarm if sustained. This usually indicates overloading or a seriously sick filter. In Spring, nitrite spikes are a common problem because the bacteria that takes ammonia to nitrite grows much more quickly than the species that converts nitrite to nitrate. This causes an approximate two-week gap in your pond's ability to cope with your desire to feed all those hungry mouths poking out of the water. High nitrite levels in the pond cause "brown blood disease" in koi, very similar to carbon monoxide poisoning in mammals. The nitrite binds to fish hemoglobin and prevent it from loading oxygen, at which point the fish die. Salt will, to some degree, prevent this problem. (See the question about salt and the salt formula.)

    Oxygen: Koi require levels of at least 7.0 PPM to remain comfortable. Cold water (38 degrees) can hold as much as 13 PPM As your pond warms up in the summer, the water can hold less. For this reason, most experienced ponders have at least one airstone running and many have installed venturis both to move the water and to inject air during the depths of the summer.

    See also Who's on pHirst?

    (Answer courtesy of Bob Passovoy)

  • I have heard about adding salt to my pond. What is the purpose and when should I do it? Also, how much do I add, what type of salt is used and is it harmful to my plants?
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    I have heard about adding salt to my pond. What is the purpose and when should I do it? Also, how much do I add, what type of salt is used and is it harmful to my plants?


    Salt is one of those topics that start fights at koi club meetings, conventions and shows. Once regarded as a general antiparisitic and stress-reliever, it is now felt that while it has some limited usefulness as a "shock treatment" for heavy parasite loads at high concentrations and very short time-frames (2.5 pounds per ten gallons, 30 to 40 seconds as a "dip") and as a specific precautionary pond treatment for nitrite-induced methemoglobinemia ("brown blood disease") in early spring when the filter bacteria have figured out the ammonia-to-nitrite part of nitrification but are still too stupid to get the cycle all the way out to nitrate. Concentrations of 1.5 lbs per 100 gallons (1.88 ppm) is generally sufficient for this task, and can be allowed to dilute back to source water levels with water changes as the water temperature rises and the biofiltration kicks in fully. Aside from that, salt is probably non-essential. I recently did an extensive search online, looking for the science behind our fascination with salt and found nothing in the scientific literature to support its use, except as noted above. The strongest support came from an endlessly repeated article written by a purveyor of pond services who, oddly, sells pond salt. Hmmmm.

    In an isolation tank, salt can sometimes save a fish with a large ulcer or (rarely) dropsy by lessening the osmotic gradient between the fish and the water. Fresh-water fish must pump water out constantly, and a breach in its skin allow water in. Salt in this situation reduces the amount of energy the fish has to expend on this pump and improves the chance of healing. A dropsical fish ("pine-cone" appearance) is a fish that has totally lost the ability to regulate fluid balance. Salt sometimes helps.

    Most of our members do not salt at all or only when they have problems with parasites or nitrite load. Salt will temporarily suppress some fish parasites in pond conditions but will not kill them. Pond plants will tolerate salt levels up to 1.5 lbs/100 gal water. For individual antiparasitic treatment, try "The Dip": brief immersion of your fish in a heavily aerated salt solution at a concentration of 2.5 lbs/10 gallons. (Take your fish out when he starts to tip over. This is a *major* stress!) Remember, do not use your salted water to fertilize your law

    Bob

  • 3.Fish Health
  • I plan to add 2-3 inch baby koi to my very large back yard pond. I live in Michigan north of Detroit and my pond just lost top ice last week (we had a very hard winter).
    wpAdminMPKS12-02-2015

    Hi Bob.

    I plan to add 2-3 inch baby koi to my very large back yard pond. I live in Michigan north of Detroit and my pond just lost top ice last week (we had a very hard winter). Should I plant them now or wait a month? Not many predator fish but plenty of birds. But not much to hide in yet such as plants either?


    Hi Tyson,

    The issue is not cover or predators, it is temperature. You do NOT want to introduce young koi into conditions guaranteed to kill them outright. Right now, your water temps are as near as dammit to freezing and a fish transferred in from a 70 degree tank will develop thermal shock and die on the spot.

    You'll want to wait until your pond temp is reliably and consistantly above 55 degrees and nighttime air temps are consistantantly and reliably above 45 degrees at their lowest. Water test before you transfer and do one or two fish at a time, bagging them in the warmer water and floating them on the colder pond for at least an hour. Do not feed for several days until they have had a chance to adjust to the colder conditions.

    Bob

  • I have some questions about the parasite you highlighted in the current newsletter. 1) Can you have the parasite in the water without the fish being affected? 2) Does water temperature make a difference - more common in the spring in cooler water or
    Bob Passovoy02-04-2016

    Hi, Bob,

    I have some questions about the parasite you highlighted in the current newsletter.

    1) Can you have the parasite in the water without the fish being affected?
    2) Does water temperature make a difference - more common in the spring in cooler water or hot summer water?
    3) Can humans be affected by it with what looks like bite marks on the skin if they are in the water for any length of time?


    Great questions!

    Parasites are always present in the water, either as larval forms or free-swimming adults. Their numbers are kept low by good husbandry, minimum organic residues, and superior water quality. Low fish population is also protective. Healthy fish are able to resist infestation. Crowded, sick fish in bad water are not. Sort of like the difference between a 24-year old Olympic athlete living in Aspen, CO and a 30-year chain-smoking heroin addict living in downtown Los Angeles.

    Early spring is a trouble time. Water temps between 40-60 F are warm enough for many parasites to be active, but too cold for a koi immune system to be fully awake. Very hot weather does not bother parasites. It will stress fish and make them more susceptible to infestation.

    Fish parasites do not affect humans. An immunosuppressed person (HIV, chemo, etc.) can be infected with water-borne bacteria.

    Bob

  • I have been trying to find reviews on Aquascape's IonGen. Is the jury still out on this product or is there some reliable reviews of this.
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    I have been trying to find reviews on Aquascape's IonGen. Is the jury still out on this product or is there some reliable reviews of this.


    I got a look at an IonGen at the MPKS koi show. The guy selling it knew next to nothing about how it works, but from what I could get from the AdBlurb and the device itself, what it does is slowly electrolize a bar of copper, distributing copper ions throughout the pond and killing off all the algae. The problem I have with this is that copper is TOXIC and there does not appear to be any regulation on the amount of copper zapped off into the water, or how much is required to kill algae and not every other living thing in the pond. There does not seem to be any distinction made between a pond containing 300 gallons and one containing 30,000 gallons.

    I'm in a hobby dedicated to preserving the health of a collection of "living jewels". I get uneasy when someone offers to solve a minor problem (solvable with other, more fish-friendly actions) by putting a potential toxin into my pond with no way of measuring its concentration or ultimate effect.

    No thanks, I'll just upgrade my filtration. Again.

    Bob

  • Recently we returned from a vacation to find ALL of our koi fish dead...about a dozen...but all of the goldfish seem to be fine. We have a pond pump and filter, so the fish received oxygen from a constant waterfall, and the filter was clean, so the p
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hi Dr. Bob,

    First off, thanks for being available for questions! My husband and I have a 1500 gallon pond with a couple of dozen (maybe 3 dozen) small goldfish and koi. Some of the fish have reached upwards of 6-8", but most of them are about 3-4" long.

    Recently we returned from a vacation to find ALL of our koi fish dead...about a dozen...but all of the goldfish seem to be fine. We have a pond pump and filter, so the fish received oxygen from a constant waterfall, and the filter was clean, so the pump was working. The pump is attached to our sprinkler system so it refills itself to stay at the same level all the time.

    I'm baffled at the fact that just the koi are dead, but the goldfish are fine. Do you have any ideas? Are the koi more susceptible to dying? Could there be a "natural" explanation for this, or is there another "human" explanation (like we did something wrong...)

    Other than the dead fish, the water is seemingly clear and clean. We have not sprayed poison in the yard or anything we can think of that could have contaminated the water. My children think it did NOT rain while we were gone, but they could be mistaken. We have had other koi disappear altogether in the past, but believe that to be a raccoon in the neighborhood. Could an animal kill the koi only but just leave them there?

    Again, we're so confused, but want to avoid this in the future. Thanks again for your thoughts!


    Small long-bodied goldfish tend to be well-nigh bomb-proof. Koi are more delicate. A complete die-off of the koi suggests a water quality issue. The fact that your filter was "clean" worries me a bit. Your fish load is fairly high for a small pond, and I'd expect there to be a fair amount of bacterial debris on the mat or filter media. Its absence suggests the absence of bacteria and hence the absence of effective bioconversion of ammonia to nitrate. Are you testing for ammonia and nitrite? What are your pH and alkalinity?

    If those questions are not triggering a response in your mind, please go to www.mpks.org and read all the Q&As and articles on filtration and water testing.

    The fact that your filter is hooked directly to your sprinklers is not reassuring, unless your sprinklers are fed by well water. A municipal water supply is heavily chlorinated, and the dissolved chlorine will terminally damage a koi's gills and your filter bacteria. Goldfish will also suffer, but seem to be more resistant to the damage. Passing the water through an activated charcoal filter prior to running it through your filter or into the pond will solve this problem.

    Predators would not select the koi exclusively. Goldfish are just as tasty.

    Bob

  • I was wondering if you would mind if I asked you some questions about my sick goldfish.
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Dear Dr. Passovoy, I am so sorry to bother you, but I was wondering if you would mind if I asked you some questions about my sick goldfish.

    I have had this goldfish for about six years and first acquired it when I was a teenager, and I have been learning about proper goldfish care ever since. This goldfish is now quite large, about 16 inches, and it is housed alone in a 55 gallon tank.

    It suffers from what appears to be Ick and some bacterial infections, fin rot and septicemia. I first tried to treat the Ich when it first appeared by adding aquarium salt to the water and then trying a couple of medicinal remedies, Rid Ich first and then Coppersafe. Neither of these were effective, and I did water changes after each course of treatment to remove them from the water.

    Recently I started the fish on a course of antibiotics, Triple-Sulfa, which I had never used before. It was initially effective, but even now, before the end of the treatment, the red streaks on the fins and the small red blotches on the body have returned. I was wondering if there was something else I could do, or something I'm doing wrong. I have been doing frequent water changes and the water tests are always good for ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates.

    Thank you very much for your help.


    Dear Riva,

    Your problem is mostly that you have been treating a protozooal infestation with antibiotics, which not only work only on bacteria, but also create resistant strains of bacteria and weaken your fish. In general, NONE of the so-called Ich "cures" available in pet store work. The other problem is that ich has a very complicated life cycle, involving a free-swimming phase, an embedded (feeding) phase, and two cystic (trophont ant tomont) phases. Only the free-swimming phase can be killed by water treatments. Treated food is an absolute waste of money, since it does not contain anything that will treat the infestation, and second, because your fish are already too sick to eat.

    Salt will inhibit, but not kill the infestation, requiring a concentration of 0.3% (3 grams salt per liter of water) to do the job.

    Formalin/Malachite green solution works well, but treatment (10 cc/100 gallons water) must be repeated every other day for a total of three applications and without salt in the water. The water must be vigorously aerated and circulated. This chemical will kill your filter bacteria. You may also need to repeat the treatment in 1 or 2 weeks, since the feeding phase can last as long as 30 days at lower water temperatures.

    Bob

  • Help!! my Koi are dying!
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Help!! my Koi are dying!

    We recently rebuilt my koi pond. My filtration system was only 1 1/2 months running but, Purchased (9) 15 inch koi put it in 1000 gallon quarantine tank for 2 weeks then I put them in the pond drain 10% of pond water once a week and add dechlor and maintain salt level at .3 feeding my koi with medicated food.

    Did I over load my system? The problems I'm having now is the fins& tail and outer edge of the gills are are turning red 3 weeks later. I have been testing the water for Ammonia & PH the test show it's all fined but did not test the nitrites.

    I decided to take 2 of my kois to the pond place 9 miles by my house she had tested the pond water she said was my nitrites was to high and kois are suffering from nitrites poisoning and fluke and told me to raise the salt level to .46 and purchased Trichloracide to treats the flukes

    it's been 2 weeks but, my koi are still dying. Any advice/help so I don't repeat the same thing again

    Husband comment is "very expensive fertilizer"


    Nitrite toxicity is not reversible.

    You can prevent it with salt added BEFORE the nitrite level rises, but most fish with "brown blood disease" succumb due to hypoxia before they have a chance to generate enough red cells to recover.

    A new pond must be loaded SLOWLY, with daily complete water testing. Medicated food will not help, and the fluke treatment may be stressing them further.

    Before you try this again, go to the website at www.mpks.org and read everything you can find there on fish health and water quality. Read ALL the Q & As.

  • I have a fantail goldfish about three inches in length that I purchased from the koi show last year. It was fine until several months ago when it began having problems staying upright. Eventually it completely turned over and now does not swim uprig
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    I have a fantail goldfish about three inches in length that I purchased from the koi show last year. It was fine until several months ago when it began having problems staying upright.

    Eventually it completely turned over and now does not swim upright at all. It has difficulty eating, and just lays upside down on the gravel of the tank. What is wrong with him and can I help him?

    Thank You, Drusilla Flowers


    HI Drusilla,

    Bob copied me on this email. It is not uncommon for Ryukin and Fantail goldfish to develop this problem, which is the result of genetics on the swim bladder of the fish.

    Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do about this. Provided the fish can eat, it can live several years with this condition. I have had fish live for 4 - 5 years swimming upside down.

    Regards, Peter Ponzio

  • Dr Bob, My Husband and I have a 28"-30" Tancho, he/she might be between 12-15 years old. Back in her day she had won a ribbon or two. Her / his once almost perfect red circle is today almost completely gone. The circle disappearance gradualy starte
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Dr Bob,

    My Husband and I have a 28"-30" Tancho, he/she might be between 12-15 years old. Back in her day she had won a ribbon or two.

    Her / his once almost perfect red circle is today almost completely gone. The circle disappearance gradually started to change, it seems in the last year, As we opened the pond up this year there was probably half of the pattern left, as of today it's almost completely gone.

    I have been told by various people that it could be a water issue, we have never had any issues with the water. Maybe it's the food, we always used a very reputable brand, to that the guy / girl is just getting ....OLD!. We see no other color issues with any of the other koi in the pond.

    Your thoughts please...

    Sincerely Karin
    Lombard IL
    Long time reader, first time E-mailer


    Hi Karin,

    Two main possibilities. The first (and least likely) is a condition the Japanese call Hikkui. It is a genetic failing causing promising young fish to decolorize. They are working hard to eradicate it, mostly by not breeding fish with bloodlines where it exists. Your fish is too old for this.

    As a matter of fact, that's most likely the problem. With the exception of the Asagi --where red develops late and tends to be durable -- in most koi varieties, especially the most "refined" (read inbred) GoSanke (Kohaku, Sanke and Showa) red is often unstable and fades or disappears as the fish ages. It is genetic, and it is nothing you did. The red tancho is gone for good. This seems to happen to tanchos more than any other pattern. Just naturally unstable, I guess.

    Bob

  • ...The fish is still alive, and there is swelling in the belly. The scales have not popped out or anything like that and the eyes are fine. I think that she may have come into season and not spawned. Perhaps she has a condition that I've heard of ca
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Good Evening Dr. Bob.

    I thought that my koi, who is about 5-6 years old, had dropsy. I treated the water and food for this and the condition has not worsened or gotten better. I have ruled dropsy out, as In my experience, the fish usually die within a couple of weeks.

    The fish is still alive, and there is swelling in the belly. The scales have not popped out or anything like that and the eyes are fine. I think that she may have come into season and not spawned. Perhaps she has a condition that I've heard of called egg impaction?

    Please advise. I have had the fish for years and I am rather attached to her, as is her comrade. Thank you,

    Emily


    Hi Emily,

    Without a photo, I can't help you much, but if you have a female koi 3 years old or older, now is the time for her to be forming her egg mass.

    If there are no males around, or if your pond is overcrowded, she will not spawn and will slowly resorb the mass. While this is a stress, it is usually not life-threatening if the koi is otherwise healthy.

    If she spawns, I guarantee that you'll know it.

    A dropsical fish has lost control of its ability to get rid of extra water. It is equivalent to congestive heart failure and kidney failure in a human. The fish looks like a pine cone and, as you said, rarely survives.

    Bob

  • We recently bought a small pond (100 gals) and put 2 small fantail koi and 4 goldfish in it. The black goldfish have lost their color and are fading to gold, what is happening and is there something we should be doing for them. We have never had a po
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    We recently bought a small pond (100 gals) and put 2 small fantail koi and 4 goldfish in it. The black goldfish have lost their color and are fading to gold, what is happening and is there something we should be doing for them. We have never had a pond or fish before so any winter tips you can send would be nice. We live in NW TN and the winters are moderate here.

     


    Hi Tamitha!

    We are in the middle of a discussion with our goldfish experts up here about this same issue. Our top local breeder is having the same problem with her Phoenix fish, which are supposed to be a velvet black and inevitably fade to metallic silver (pretty, but not what she wanted!) in her water. Our fish stay black just fine.

    The difference seems to be the alkalinity of our water. Alkalinity is the concentration of carbonate buffer in the water; it's a product of the water's contact with soluble minerals in the ground. Our alkalinity runs 90 to 120 on a consistant basis, the water source is Lake Michigan. Carol's water is well water with alkalinities running consistantly above 400.

    Over the next few months, we'll be running a series of experiments with these fish, taking some of the faded fish from Carol's pond and keeping them in our water to see if they regain their black. Carol will also be making up batches of water from distilled, adding minerals and adjusting to an alkalinity of about 100 to see if she can maintain color stability in her newer fish that have not yet faded and perhaps restore some black to her faded fish.

    I'd suggest that you test your water for hardness and alkalinity. I think your answer may be there.

    Bob

  • Where do I begin?I think it all started when I unintentionally killed all the good bacteria in my bio filter by cleaning it out with my outside hose.This is where the nightmare begins. Then I noticed the ulcer on one fish who then started to have tha
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Where do I begin?I think it all started when I unintentionally killed all the good bacteria in my bio filter by cleaning it out with my outside hose.This is where the nightmare begins. Then I noticed the ulcer on one fish who then started to have that kinked back. So I made a 25% water changed, declor, added salt (a week ago). got some pima fix( looked like ulcer cleared up after three days),then all fish started to look lethargic,not eating, got medicated food with vit.C, today I added trichloricide cause a few where flashing and more salt.

    I don't have the opportunity to QT but at this point I am sure all are somehow infected. Now they are still not eating, the gimpy fish with the kinked back is still holding on and they are by the waterfall facing out. I have two air stones, 1200gal, nitrate and nitrites low, and ph seems normal. It rained too the last two days.

    Is your head spinning yet? Should I just give up here or what. I want to have a koi pond so bad but it seems like the Koi Gods don't want it to happen. The funny thing is that my girlfriend has such a thriving pond and puts no chemicals what so ever, not even decholor! She also has a water softener too. Would that be a major role in it? I haev done so much research and seems like I can never get it right.

     


    Michelle,

     

    You begin at the beginning. I'm assuming that your murder of countless innocent beneficial bacteria happened recently; you didn't include that date in your story. At that point, your water quality began to deteriorate and you don't mention any water testing. I can only assume that your ammonia levels were toxic in the extreme, based on your fish behavior. At this point, you should have stopped feeding entirely and instituted daily 10-15% water changes until your filters recovered as indicated by daily ammonia and nitrite testing. pH and alkalinity would also have been helpful. Dechlor should have been used with each change, though prefiltering through activated charcoal would have been easier and cheaper.

    PimaFix is a proprietary mix of stuff purported to be an antifungal and mild antibacterial. What it does do for sure is interferes with your koi's sense of smell. They hate the stuff and will not eat when it is in the water. Your sick koi should have been removed immediately to an isolation tank and treated there, leaving the pond to recover without interference by all the chemical stuff you've been adding. Ulcers are mulitbacterial (NOT fungal!) and are usually an indicator of something else going wrong, like bad water quality.

    Salt is controversial, and probably should no longer be considered as a stress-reliever on an anti-parasitic, except in very high concentrations and used as a "dip" (at concentrations of 2.5 pound per 10 gallons) or as a specific treatment for the presence of Nitrite in your pond water (1.88 ppt or 1.5 lbs per 100 gallons). I don't see any mention of how much salt you added or how you were following these values.

    Trichloricide is just adding to the problem! Your fish are not infected, they are being progressively poisoned! Remember that any antibiotic you add to the pond kills off beneficial filtration bacteria and interferes with your filter's recovery. The presence of nitrite in your water suggests that your filters are recovering a little (you should have NO nitrites at all and nitrate isn't worth measuring at this point. What's your ammonia?)

    You need to STOP ADDING STUFF! Do frequent water changes until all the salt and other garbage is gone, and isolate your sick fish. The reason your friend has a trouble-free pond is because she does not mess with Ma Nature.

    The temptation to treat pond problems with tons of expensive and potentially toxic chemicals is a common error of inexperience, and sadly, one encouraged by the pond supply industry. The less you add, the better your fish and filters will do! If you must use Melafix, PimaFix or antiparasitics, do it in an isolation facility unless a vet or KHA has identified a pond-wide infestation.

    Bob

  • ...This fish was active and eating well twice a day. Surfaced and ate yesterday morning. Last night, didn't surface to eat. Found him hiding behind the water lily, very lethargic...
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hi Dr Bob,

    I bought a black butterfly koi from our PetsMart late last week. (They treat their fish twice a day, and I've never seen a sick fish there or lost one I've bought from there.) This fish was active and eating well twice a day. Surfaced and ate yesterday morning. Last night, didn't surface to eat. Found him hiding behind the water lily, very lethargic.

    Fished him out and it looked like something had pulled off the bottom lip. There didn't seem to be any cottony substance. Isolated and treated him with fungus/bacterial product (Fungus Clear). Died this morning with little twitching mouth as last movement. Any idea what happened. My other goldfish and koi seem to be active, eating and well. Should I do anything?

     


    Donna,

    Sadly, you can't rely on large volume pet stores for healthy koi, no matter what claims they make. "Treating their fish twice a day" doesn't tell you what they are treating them with or for, and probably indicates a general overexposure to unnecessary antibiotics.

    Your fish probably had "mouth rot" which is the popular term for an overwhelming Aeromonas infection involving the mouth of the fish. Aeromonas is a natural inhabitant of ponds, and is one of the bateria that breaks down slime coat shed by your fish. It becomes a pathogen in weakened or otherwise heavily stressed fish. I suspect that your butterfly had one of the parasitic infestations (Costia, flukes, dactylogyrus, etc) and couldn't cope with the stresses of transport, new pond and the infestation. I'd bet that there was mouth damage as well.

    Your other fish are probably not at risk if they are healthy, though I'm worried that you did not choose to isolate your new fish before putting him in your pond. Disease transmission works both ways. Your new fish may have succumbed to an organism that your older fish have become accustomed to. ALWAYS isolate new fish, preferably with an expendable fish from your pond, in a separate filtered and aerated tank for at least a month before introducing them to your pond.

    Any other technique risks major fish losses. Ask anybody who has had a brush with KHV.

    Bob

  • Hello Dr Bob, We just did a complete water change today. We emptied our pond and cleaned it with a power-washer and added tap water. The fish are at the top of the water, at the base of the waterfall. I think they are having a hard time breathing. W
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hello Dr Bob,

    We just did a complete water change today. We emptied our pond and cleaned it with a power-washer and added tap water. The fish are at the top of the water, at the base of the waterfall. I think they are having a hard time breathing. What do I need to do? I've heard of adding salt to the water but I don't know what I need to measure and how, and what kind of salt to add and how much. We also have an aerator in the pond and I added a half cup of Melafix to the water (I shut off the UV light) .

    We've had out pond for 6 years, and it's approx. 1500 gallons. We live in Homer Glen a suburb of Chicago. We have "Chicago water".

    We are new to the Midwest Pond and Koi Society (We haven't joined yet, but I'm planning on it) We went to the pond tour in the south burbs and went to our first meeting this month.

    Any help would be appreciated.


    Susan,

    If you just refilled your pond with untreated tap water, you've just damaged your fish's gills. Total water changes are rarely necessary, and ANY water change must be done with DECHLORINATED water.

    The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District treats all tap water with a hefty dose of short-acting chlorine and long-acting chloramine to kill off harmful microorganisms in the water and prevent waterborne disease. Unfortunately, these doses are much higher in summer, and any of this material will damage your fish's gills. It is the same as chlorine gas and our lungs. It is very likely that many of your fish will die of this, and there is no remedy. Melafix is unlikely to help much.

    Water changes are best done in 10-30% increments, with the remaining water in the pond pre-treated with a reliable dechlorinator (Stress-X or similar) BEFORE the new water is added. It is also likely that the chlorine has killed off most of your biological filter as well.

    Pressure washing is also not necessary. The algae that form on your liner are beneficial, providing a snack for your fish when you are not feeding them and also helping to absorb some of the ammonia that they produce.

    Sorry,

    Bob

  • ... they recommended Melafix, we are treating at the correct dosage (it has been 5 days) but, the Kio that ended up in the skimmer now, has had the outer scales fall off ( just where the score was) and now has a concave, open flesh area, that hurts m
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hello Dr Bob,

    We are new to being pond owner's, we sort of jumped in and are learning as we go along, probably not the best way to do it. We have had our pond for about 1 full year, we were going to expand this spring/ summer but when we ended up with a green mess. We decided that we needed to learn to walk before we could run. Anyway, we have learned a lot, but we are still learning "hobbies."

    A few weeks ago we had a freak accident, one of our larger Kio's about 10-12" got into the skimmer and somehow he managed to get into the pump section. I still can't figure out how he was able to do this other than he is a jumper.

    My husband was doing daily maintenance, he was at the right place at the right the, so to speak, the poor fish was caught under the pump and probably close to suffocating.

    My husband quickly, got the fish back into the pond, the fish appeared to be OK, he lost a little bit of his fin, had what looked like a hicki, and a small flesh wound. The fish is swimming fine and eating normally, I have always called this particular fish, Hoover , he is still living up to his nick name. We also have another Kio, who we think is recovering from a raccoon scratch. We lost all our Kio early in the spring, we are netted now!

    Last weekend we were Lurveys , and they recommended Melafix, we are treating at the correct dosage (it has been 5 days) but, the Kio that ended up in the skimmer now, has had the outer scales fall off ( just were the score was) and now has a concave, open flesh area, that hurts me just to look at it.

    Obliviously this was more than a flesh wound, we are wondering if maybe he somehow was burned by the pump. We are concern with what should be the best course of treatment at this point. We are not in a position to set up an isolation tank. Can you continue to use Melafix for more than 7 days? Can or should we continue treatment until total healed? Is there something else we should be using? I am assuming we should not be doing water changes during the treatment. How long after we stop using the Melafix should we turn our UV filter back on?

    Also we were told that it is bad luck to name your Kio, is this true?

     


    Hi Bonnie,

    First off, the name for the fish you currently own are koi, not kio (which I think is a brand of Korean motorcar). Your injured fish has an ulcer, and if you can catch him, you could clean the wound with peroxide on some cotton swabs, followed by iodine or merthiolate, then cover the wound with orabase or powdered denture adhesive powder. Do that one time.

    Melafix is okay, but definitely not a cure-all. When applied to a whole pond, it'll tend to defeat your fish's sense of smell and they'll stop eating. Do not extend the treatment beyond what is recommended. NEVER stop water changes. It's the only way you have to get the Melafix *out* so your fish will eat again. Your UV can be turned back on after a few water changes. Remember, the UV is just suppressing your floating "pea-soup" algae. Nothing more.

    The only drawback to naming your koi is that it hurts a little more when they get sick. We have three kids. All our koi are named. So is the big tree out in our parkway, the lilac, the Concord grapevine and the milkweed.

    Bob

  • ...This "survivor" fish has been healthy since December and is showing no signs of developing the ulcers again. My question is: is it safe to mix this fish with other koi?
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hello,
    I have a single 10" koi that is the sole survivor of a mass die-off from ulcers that killed the rest of my pond back in November/December. The ulcers all developed on the mouth/jaw area and proved fatal to all fish who contracted them, which were all 3" or smaller. (I am not an advanced enough hobbyist to deal with injections & dippings, so I had to let them go). I'm pretty sure the onset was from overcrowding, because as the fish began to be removed from the pond the general onset of ulcers slowed and finally stopped.

    This "survivor" fish has been healthy since December and is showing no signs of developing the ulcers again. My question is: is it safe to mix this fish with other koi? I've read that the bacteria that cause ulcers is always present in the water, and it is poor conditions and stress that will make fish susceptible. Is this true? I want to close down my pond and give her away, but don't want to put someone else's fish in danger.

    Thanks very much.


    Hi Sarah!

    The ulcers you describe were most likely caused by an organism called Aeromonas aeruginosa, a bacteria that is always found in pond environments. It is one of the "housekeeping" bacteria that, in a healthy pond, help break down the mucus present in fish excreta and sloughed slime coat.

    It becomes a problem in ponds with poor water quality, overcrowding, and parasite problems. The stressed fish lose the ability to defend themselves against normally well-tolerated stresses and develop ulcers. The ulcers disrupt the fish's ability to regulate their fluid and electrolye balance and the combination of the underlying stress, infection and fluid imbalance ultimately kills them.

    Your survivor is probably okay at this point, but I'd wait to off-load it until late spring. If it survives the very stressful transition into warmer weather without problems, it is reasonably safe to give away, as long as the ponder you are sending it to is willing to isolate it for several weeks to safeguard the health of his pond.

    Bob

  • Started the winter with four 4" comets and two 3" fantails. Now left with 2 comets. Orange comet has white fungus or something on his head. Other fish is white so who knows...
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hello Dr Bob,

    Started the winter with four 4" comets and two 3" fantails. Now left with 2 comets. Orange comet has white fungus or something on his head. Other fish is white so who knows. The dead fish showed no signs of fungus or growth.

    Rectangular cement pond (7'x3'x3') painted with rubberized paint. Set up w/UV filtration, the filtered water enters pond thru PVC pipe. An old bird bath base sits upon a cinderblock and holds a copper bowl. A pump and hose bring H2O up thru the bowl to spill into the pond for Oxygenation.

    Two plants over wintering in bottom (parrot plant and small lily). They are cut back with about 4 inches of stem floating. A few leaves (3 or 4) on the bottom but pond is protected from elements. Some bubbles notable on water surface.

    pH reads 7.5 Have added 3 lbs of Kosher salt and a bacterial/algaecide OK for Fish. Water is down about 6" from the normal 32" depth. And the water is too cold to think of cleaning the intake filter - hasn't been cleaned since Sept/Oct.

    We are in the Phila area. Are the fish a lost cause? Should I drain, clean and refill with water in the spring? The clamps on the hosing show some rust could this be a prob.

    Sorry for the long winded explanation. Any help/advice is greatly appreciated. Fish and pond installed July '07.

    Thank you in advance.
    Sincerely, Pat


    Tough to tell, Pat.

    The culprit may well be the bacterial/algecide. Most of these chemicals are intended for use in warm water, and can harm the fish when it gets cold. Algaecides are not recommended in the winter months at all, and in the summer will increase your dissolved organics load and degrade your water quality.

    You may be able to save your last two fish with frequent 15% water changes, using dechlorinated water.

    As a rule, you should do your best to avoid using pond chemicals, especially additives that kill things, at all times. Goldfish are tough little critters and will thrive if the water quality is maintained. Look carefully at your filtration and improve it as much as you can.

    Bob Passovoy

    ...might I also suggest that you reconsider your waterfall? Copper is toxic to fish.

    Anne Passovoy

  • Hi Bob, please can you tell me if i should change my koi fish food for winter or should i feed them wheat germ just before winter starts and then stop feeding them
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hi Bob,

    please can you tell me if i should change my koi fish food for winter or should i feed them wheat germ just before winter starts and then stop feeding them

     


    Hi Dave,

    As your water temperature drops below 60, you should be feeding less in quantity and less frequently. In general, as long as you are feeding with a food that is primarily protein and soluble oil (Kenzen is currently the best available) you do not need to change brands. At water temps below 50 degrees, stop feeding entirely and wait for spring.

    Bob

  • Over the last 3 months (since the winter started) we have lost approximately 6 fish to ulcers in their sides and top of head. We were told it was because we left the pump on over the cold weather and therefore pushing cold water constantly to the bot
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Bob,

    We have a 12 month old pond. 24 feet long 8 feet wide and approx 2 feet deep at one end going to 4 feet deep at the other holding approx 1500 gallons. We have a waterfall, pump and UV filter. The ponds get afternoon late afternoon and evening shade.

    Approx 40 of the fish are about 6 inches long and the remaining 12 new ones are approx 3 - 4 inches long. Over the last 3 months (since the winter started) we have lost approximately 6 fish to ulcers in their sides and top of head. We were told it was because we left the pump on over the cold weather and therefore pushing cold water constantly to the bottom of the tank - this was stressing the fish. Since the warmer weather started we have treated the pump with an anti-bacterial treatment and also an anti-ulcer treatment. We have a lot of lilies so the fish do get shade from them but we have notices that during the past 3 weeks we have another 3 fish showing signs of ulcers. We feed some flake (Tetra flake) for the smaller fish and some pellets (also Tetra) for the larger fish. We also have a lot of blanket weed.

    Do you have any suggestion as to what we can do or are doing wrong? We are getting very desperate now.


    Hi Susan,

    Ulcers are a secondary infection, usually found in stressed fish with either environmental or parasite-induced stressors.

    If you have 1500 gallons and more than 40 fish longer than six inches, your problem is over-stocking. I notice that you haven't told me how you are filtering your water, nor what you water testing results are. Regardless, you need to cull back to about fifteen to twenty of your best fish, and find a way to unload the rest. The rule of thumb for koi is 100 gallons water per inch of koi, unless you have space-age filtering. I'd suggest you search on "water quality" and "filtration" on our website, and go from there.


    We filter through a standard sponge box its capability is up to 2,000 ltrs. We lost 6 fish in 3 days all with signs of ulcers. None yesterday or this morning though thankfully. We did take some water to the garden centre where we bought the fish and they said the water tested OK. We did treat the pond on Saturday with Ulcer treatment and salt (we never used salt before). All our problems seems to have started with the hot weather. How do we get rid of parasites?

    I will look on the web sites you suggested and thank you very much for your help.


    Quite frankly, Susan, I'd not trust any tests but your own. Please read the Help File on water testing, and get your own test kit.

    Your filter is mechanical only. If you are relying entirely on a small block of foam to remove ammonia produced by 40+ koi, you are truly deceiving yourself. You need to cull, and seriously upgrade your filtration.

    There are a number of anti-parasite treatments available, all with very serious risks to your pond if mishandled. Please get in contact with a local club and get someone experienced out to look at your pond and fish. If nothing else, go to the AKCA website and look for southern Wisconsin resources.

    The "anti-ulcer" treatment will not cure your fish. It alters some of the characteristics within your pond that favor the growth of Aeromonas, but this bacteria is an opportunist, and will cause ulcers only in sick, injured or stressed fish. It is actually an important component of the pond ecology, being the bug that breaks down the mucus that is a part of fish feces.

    Salt is only marginally useful. A "dip" of 2.5 lbs in 10 gallons might help individual fish, if heavily aerated. Make up the "dip", net out your sick fish, and, one at a time, place them in the high-concentration salt bath until they begin to tip. Pull them out immediately and return them to fresh water. This is a major stress, and may kill a seriously weakened fish.

    Bob

  • Last week I was house-sitting and, among other things, tending a 50-gallon aquarium with several cichlids and a plecostemus. On Thursday and Friday of the week, a crew came and sealed the concrete driveway outside the house with a potent-smelling co
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Here's my story:

    Last week I was house-sitting and, among other things, tending a 50-gallon aquarium with several cichlids and a plecostemus. On Thursday and Friday of the week, a crew came and sealed the concrete driveway outside the house with a potent-smelling compound and the fumes were very heavy in the house. By Friday night, the cichlids were sucking for air and by Saturday night I saw they were all dead (except, of course, the pleco). I hadn't noticed they were dead until after having administered two feedings on Saturday, simply because they often hide in the grasses when someone approaches the tank. When I removed the dead fish from the tank I missed one, who remained in the tank for several days.

    Anyway, the business that routinely handles the tank for this family tested the water and, finding the ammonia level high, said that the fish died from OVERFEEDING.

    So, my questions are these:
    1. Could there be another reason for the ammonia level being high, other than overfeeding?

    2. Could the level be high because there were several meals that the fish just didn't eat because they were dying?

    3. Could a small amount of overfeeding have had such a drastic effect in just 3 days?

    4. Would the dead fish that remained in the tank for several days have added to the ammonia level?

    5. Does plecostemi normally eat any fish food that drops to the bottom of the tank, or do they simply eat algae and the like?

    6. Is it more likely that the fish died from the strong fumes permeating the house? I lost two tanks of fish as a youngster following extensive painting in my home, so this seems the likely answer to me.

    Here's hoping you can give me some relevant information. I feel kind of guilty that I might have inadvertently overfed the fish, even though I have been feeding these fish on regular house-sitting gigs for quite some time now.


    Tom,

     

    This message was forwarded to me from Bob Passovoy. I raise goldfish and koi, and not tropicals, but the ammonia problem is similar for all types of fish. Some chemicals are air borne and can cause problems with aquaria; without knowing the exact nature of the chemicals involved, it is hard to say whether they had anything to do with the fish dying.

    Over-feeding can cause large ammonia spikes, but it depends on the level of over-feeding. I once had my nephew pond-sit for me, not thinking to tell him how to measure the amount of feed for the fish. I figured what could go wrong? Well, he literally dumped handfuls of food into the pond and the water quality after 10 days was VERY bad. I now measure-out food into pre-packaged plastic bags, and indicate how many bags should be fed per day. I guess the short answer is, it is possible that over-feeding could have led to the ammonia spike, but without knowing particulars of the amounts, it's hard to say. Another possibility is that water changes were not done as often as required, and the over-feeding tipped the balance of the ammonia produced by the fish. Still another culprit could be the effectiveness of the filtration system, which may have suddenly developed a problem (bacterial die-off)?

    I hope this helps. If you could provide more detailed information, I might be able to help more.

    Regards,

    Peter Ponzio
    Director and Goldfish Guru
    MPKS


    (Second answer)

    Tom,
    Sorry to hear about the problem you experienced. I will try to help.

    Ammonia is produced primarily as a waste product by the fish and and secondly decay of organic material (un eaten food, dead fish, etc). Ammonia levels can become very high when overfeeding occurs, the fish eat all they can (like us at Thanksgiving) and all that is then turned into waste product. The ammonia is removed by beneficial bacteria that grows in the filter on the glass, rocks etc. This bacteria consumes the ammonia. If more ammonia is produced than this bacteria can eat you can reach toxic levels quite quickly.

    The fish gasping at the top is an indication of poor water quality, typically lack of oxygen in the water. Hind sight is always 20/20, The best thing would have been to test ammonia and oxygen levels when the first signs of trouble occurred, you would then know what the issue you were dealing with. If both of these tests came back good or the oxygen was low I would then think it was possibly toxin introduced by the fumes was the problem.

    Next time you are asked to house sit it is a good idea to ask the owner to bag up daily doses of food in zip lock bags. The number one cause of death to aquarium fish is probably over feeding but after the fact I could not definitely tell you it wasn't the chemical (no fish CSI). A pleco will eat anything he can get his mouth on but algae is his primary food source. I have one that will flip upside down to get blindly get at floating food.

    Pete Adamovich
    AKCA Certified Koi Health Advisor
    MPKS Member

  • We bought this house with a small pond, approx. 6' x 3' x 28" deep, don't know gallons? Would like to keep our 3 goldfish alive thru Missouri winter in it, could keep in house if abs. ness., wonder if a water tank heater would work? Nights down into
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    We bought this house with a small pond, approx. 6' x 3' x 28" deep, don't know gallons? Would like to keep our 3 goldfish alive thru Missouri winter in it, could keep in house if abs. ness., wonder if a water tank heater would work? Nights down into 30's now, seem to be doing alright, still have pump and waterfall going,-should we? Please help as our fish seem to love us and will swim against hand and let us pet when cleaning filter, etc. Any info appreciated.


    Hey Jim!

    You've got about 218 gallons there (LxWxDx7.48)and a cold winter will put about 8 inches of ice right across the top. If your goldies are comets, sarassas or shubunkins, that is, long-bodied "carnival-prize" types, they tend to be pretty tough, and will do just fine outside as long as you stop feeding them when the water temp gets down below 54 degrees, cover the pond with a greenhouse arrangement to keep the wind off and critturs out, and stick a $30 Home Depot electric radiator under the cover to keep the pond at least partially ice-free. Small water changes with dechlorinated water on a weekly basis are essential. Round-bodied or "fancy" goldfish are not as durable.

    Bringing them inside will require a 100 gallon horse trough, a good air pump and airstone, and a box filter capable of holding a good portion of the active media from your outdoor pond's biofilter. While goldfish are not as demanding as koi, they will overwhelm most commonly available aquarium systems. You'll want to water test for ammonia, nitrite, pH and alkalinity on a regular basis, and don't forget those water changes!

    Bob

  • I just purchased a weekend home that has a 11' x 17' x 16" deep (approx.) pond. Seems none of the average landscapers, nurseries, plumbers, etc.. can fully give me a solution to my situation: The pond is consistantly fed by a deep artisian well, cons
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    I just purchased a weekend home that has a 11' x 17' x 16" deep (approx.) pond. Seems none of the average landscapers, nurseries, plumbers, etc.. can fully give me a solution to my situation: The pond is consistantly fed by a deep artisian well, constantly displacing the water & ecosystem. This makes any potential chemical treatment near impossible.

    I would like to put koi in to help keep down algae, snails & small swimming "creatures".

    The overflow runs off into a small wetland creek, connecting to a lake. The lake is naturally spring fed, and apparently the DNR want's this spring/well on-going. If I am unable to diffuse the water from this pond totally or partially, can Koi exist in summer water conditions that are about 58 degrees. I realize their digestive system slows down, but am thinking of the possibility of somewhat reversing their seasons - meaning: perhaps I can have them become partially dorman in the summer months (which would also work good for limited weekend supplemental feedings) & bring them into an adequate size aquarium in the house durring the winter & create the warmer, summer conditions for growth. Have you heard of this done before? And if so, with what kind of result?

    The Koi I have access to at this time are approx. 9" long (including fins). I found your site looking for a solution to rid the pond of leeches. Will the Koi eat the leeches, or more likely would the leeches "eat" the Koi ? Lastly, could increasing a soluble, unsaturated fat product in their diet help them in these lower water conditions? If so, what would you recommend? (The books I have read do not recommend feeding dry food in lower water temps.) ?

    Any info you can give me, would be very much appreciated. I have aways wanted a Koi pond, but do not know if this is the right opportunity.

    Thanks in advance, Tracy


    Water temps at 58 degrees are the absolute lower limit that koi can tolerate and still be able to eat and digest complex foods and operate their immune systems. At anything below 55 degrees, they just sorta shut down. In a natural pond, the koi will eat small bottom-dwelling critters, but don't expect them to do much with hair algae. They'll eat almost anything else first. They won't grow much and won't be able to spawn, either.

    Trying to reverse their season leaves you with the problem of keeping up with their demands indoors during the winter. A nine-inch koi requires either 50 gallons of water per inch of fish, or mega-filtration (like a couple of *big* bioreactors) to keep up with their warm-water ammonia production.

    You absolutely do not want to run the risk of introducing a foreign species into a natural ecosystem.

    Leave this system alone, or talk to the DNR guys about native species.

    Bob

  • Hidy folks. I've been poring over some of the very well written articles on your site, and decided to write and pester, in hopes of hearing some thoughts on my predicament with my black moors in my horse trough pond.The trough is 330 gallons. This is
    Bob Passovoy11-05-2016

    Hidy folks. I've been poring over some of the very well written articles on your site, and decided to write and pester, in hopes of hearing some thoughts on my predicament with my black moors in my horse trough pond.

    The trough is 330 gallons. This is its fourth Spring. The trough holds two water lilies, I replace water hyacinth and other floaters each year. There has never been any filtration system on this pond. First year I picked up three fancy goldfish. The only one to survive the Louisville winter was the black moor. The following Spring I picked up another two moors. They took to breeding and the trough is presently overcrowded with three Springs' worth of their breeding efforts.

    I am aware that I need to thin the numbers of fish. I am addressing this issue.

    Some of the fish have had a sort of milky film on them, which I understand to be the result of overproduction of slime coat due to poor water quality, fluctuation in pH or perhaps parasites. I have been doing about a 10 percent water change daily or every other day for the last two weeks. Actually I have been running the hose at the bottom of the trough for a specified amount of time (timing the amount of time it takes to fill a 5 gallon bucket, mulitplying it by 7), as recommended by my local pond shop. My local pond shop said that with such a small change it would not be necessary to treat the water with a dechlorinator, though I have been anyways. I took my water in for a test, ammonia, nitrate and nitrite were fine they said. I did not know about testing for kH. Tested pH here (I have the kit with the drops) in the evening it registered 9, in the morning it registered 7.6. Tested the pH of the tap water, it also registers 9.

    The water is green, but no stringy algae. I figure I'll pick up more plants in an effort to cover more of the surface...coverage at present is only about 30%.

    Over the last week, I have pulled 5 dead fish. Today's losses (3) included one of the big ones :(.

    Questions:

    1. I would guess that fish population (a few big moors and something like 30 small ones) has much to do with what is going on in the pond. But....besides thinning the numbers, where do I go from here? The scenario has always been a success, without the filter and with many plants.

    2. Does this sound like a pH or alkalinity issue? Of course I must test for alkalinity (I'm headed to the store for a kit upon finishing this post), but does a thick slime coat and subsequent die-off result from pH and kH swings?

    3. The pond shop mentioned putting in some salt. I have read so many posts regarding salt, and it seems that the general consensus is don't use it. I am concerned for the aquatic plants.

    4. Baking soda: use it?

    5. Water changes: continue? More? Less? Should I vacuum out the bottom of the trough, even though ammonia tested out fine?

    I hesitate to trust the advice received from the pond shop, based on the general no-salt sentiment I've gathered on so many koi and water gardening websites.

    Thank you all for your time.

    Mardi


     

    Hi Mardi,
    Wow, a collection of good, basic ponding questions. In general, you are correct in your analysis that you are woefully overcrowded, and the wide fluctuations in pH indicate that your alkalinity is likely way too low. Remember that every 1.0 fluctuation in pH is a 10-fold increase over the previous number, and your 1.5 difference reflects a 75-fold difference in hydrogen ion concentration. Fish can tolerate almost any pH over 7.0, as long as it is stable. Fluctuations as wide as yours confer unacceptable stress and a host of ills.
    In order:
    1) Where do you go from here? Either way less fish or actual biofiltration. Upflow filters are easy to build from 55 gallon plastic food-grade drums (or even Rubbermaid garbage cans!), bulkhead fittings and PVC pipe bits. Bakki towers are basically stacked-up window boxes with holes in the bottom of all but the bottom-most and filter media inside. All of these can be built with very little money and they all work! For your situation, a Bakki tower has the added benefit of being disguisable as a waterfall and will get rid of Nitrogen and CO2 gases, further enhancing your water quality, as well as getting rid of your green water.
    2) As I mentioned above, pH and alkalinity are inextricably linked. Alkalinity is how ponders refer to the amount of carbonate salts dissolved in the water. What these do is provide a "cushion" that prevents wide fluctuations in pH (the negative log of the Hydrogen ion concentration, remember?). Levels between 80 and 140 ppm are ideal. Below 60 is DANGER. Read "Who's on pHirst?" on the website. Alkalinity does not "swing", it gets used up as ammonia is converted to nitrite and then nitrate by the few, struggling filter bacteria in your tub. pH swings like a pendulum do...in the absence of adequate alkalinity.
    3) Salt is a temporary fix, and is best left alone. Read "Oh Noes-More Salts" on the website.
    4) Baking soda is the easiest, cheapest and most effective source of carbonate buffer available. It is fish safe. 1 pound in 1000 gallons will boost your alkalinity 70 ppm. Test and correct without fear.
    5) Without filtration, water changes are all you have. 10% change two or three times a week. Clean out that tank. The crud at the bottom is a source of noxious anaerobic bacteria and toxic gases, as well as a happy-fun breeding ground for every fish parasite known to man. Ammonia does not come from the crud on the bottom. It comes from the fish.
    Hope this helps.
    Bob
  • 4.New Ponders
  • Hi Dr Bob, My boyfriend and I bought a house here in Columbus, Ohio and as a result we inherited an unkept pond. We're doing our best to educate ourselves on pond and koi care but despite surfing the internet and reading days worth of material from
    Bob Passovoy02-04-2016

    Hi Dr Bob,

    My boyfriend and I bought a house here in Columbus, Ohio and as a result we inherited an unkept pond. We're doing our best to educate ourselves on pond and koi care but despite surfing the internet and reading days worth of material from a dozen different sites, still I don't feel like I have complete answers to our questions. I'm hoping you may have a moment to lend some advice. I would be very appreciative of any assistance. I have two questions, one regarding over-wintering and one regarding filtration.

    The facts:

    • Oval pond with dimensions 10ft by 15ft. It is a little over 2.5ft deep at the deepest point, however this is not a uniform depth through out the pond.
    • Pond was built approximately 20 years ago with an impressive waterfall that is not in use currently due to shifting of the rock shelf and subsequent leaking
    • Instead we use 3 water features powered by submersible pumps to make do until we can get a plan together to fix the original waterfall.
    • 1 central fountain unit (Lifeguard All in one system) 679GPH, UV filter, mechanical filter, bio filter
    • 1 side fountain pump, 1000GPH, standard square mechanical filter
    • 1 pump running up to the bottom shelf of the original waterfall using an external drum type filter with mechanical and bio filter material. Memory fails but I believe this pump is either 582GPH or 899GPH
    • We have 12 koi and most are under a foot in length. The majority are approximately 5 " and 2 of the koi are about 12"

    Question 1 Re: Over wintering

    Most sources seem to prefer a pond depth of 4-5 ft for koi. If we took your suggestion of using the hoop house and heaters, would our depth of approx. 2.5' still be completely hopeless for wintering koi outdoors? If it is as I suspect, and we need to over winter indoors, what is a recommended gallons per koi ratio for wintering? Also, I assume we could use our central fountain unit in a stock tank and this would be helpful because it has the bio filter material which has been in the pond all summer?

    Question 2 Re: Proper Pump and filtration

    As you can imagine, our current system of aeration and filtration is a giant pain in the ass. There's 3 separate filters which I change daily and they are not easy to get to ( hence the classy wood planks). Plus I still feel like we need greater filtration. The fish seem content and healthy enough but the water is periodically cloudy and I have had to physically get into the pond twice this summer to net leaves and fish waste. Goodtimes!

    Can you offer some advice on what to buy when we try to reinstate the original waterfall. I have no idea where to start. From what I've read, external pumps and filtration are the way to go. The water fall ( which originates from an approximately 2" diameter tube at the top) isn't particularly steep or high but I imagine that it still has to be somewhere near 5-6 ft above the pond water level. How do I know how to choose a strong enough pump and adequate filtration? Is this something that can be easily explained? I plan on reading the AKCA book on filters and prefilters regardless, but I would still really value your perspective if would care to give it.


    Hi Larisa,

    I've always felt that the folks who inherit ponds with no prior pond experience are often the ones that have the most difficulty getting themselves comfortable with the hobby. Those of us that became ponders the more natural way, that is by digging a series of ponds ourselves and re-creating history by making all the same mistakes that ponders before us had made, have an easier way to go, simply because we eventually arrive at a point where our ponds set what we feel is an acceptable level of inconvenience and effort. Folks who inherit ponds are just thrown directly into the.hobby and have to deal with the mistakes that the prior owner made, generally without any help from an operating manual or any help at all from the prior owners.

    In answer to your questions, a weather cover over your current pond will go a long way towards protecting your fish, regardless of your depth. A small hoop house with some sort of heat source inside will keep things warm enough to keep your water from freezing. You need not move your fish anywhere. If it is still warm enough, some effort devoted to cleaning as much junk off the bottom as you possibly can would be a big help. I will be sending you an article that I wrote for our club's newsletter. Feel free to raid our website (www.mpks.org) for more information. There's a lot of good stuff there, especially in the help section.

    Your second question is a little more difficult. I am a strong proponent of the bottom drain/external filter system, mostly because submersible pumps are trouble prone, inefficient and difficult to keep free of fouling. Just about any good high-capacity external filtration system works well if you have the space for it. Most of the "pet store variety" filters available are very limited in their capacity, largely because they do not allow for adequate flows. They are generally also made of very fragile and, by ponding standards, inadequate materials. Something as simple as a large box or tub filled with mat, brushes, or PVC tape will work as well or better than anything you can buy from your local Petco. Once again, our website has a lot of information about filtration, not only how you start, but also how you select pumps and filters that match well.

    Your waterfall looks like it might be wonderful, once you get it repaired. You will, I'm afraid, have to completely dismantle it and replace the liner underneath it in order to fix the leak. Remember that your liners edges need to the high enough and wide enough around the expected waterflow to prevent water loss by splash.

    I'm reasonably sure that there are water gardening and Koi clubs in the Columbus area. Joining one of them and availing yourself of the help available will solve a lot of your problems.

    Welcome to the hobby, even though you've been flung into it headlong. Happy ponding.

    Bob

  • What depth should I dig my pond to?
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    I am currently digging a pond, a koi pond in Northern Ill.

    My hole is currently 12ft by 7ft by 3.5 deep. The hole is situated on the south side of my house, just off my back deck.

    I have read many different recommendations for the depth of koi ponds, but to no avail it seems there is no solid advice for pond depth that I can find. Is 3.5ft deep enough or does it need to be 5 ft, or do I need 14” below 4ft?? I want to be able to leave my fish in the pond in the winter with some assistance from me.

    What depth should I dig my pond to? Thank you very much in advance.


    Hi George!

    Koi keepers will tell you that deeper is better, many recommending 12 to 14 feet for really big fish.

    The depth and gallonage buys you the opportunity for your fish to grow and your water temps and stability will be better.

    The downside is that you will need high-end pumps and bottom drains at that depth and good pumps and bottom drains at any depth more than 3 feet. Regular maintenance requires access to the bottom. 10 to 14 foot depth requires skill with SCUBA gear.

    A nice compromise is 5.5 to 7 feet. You still need the bottom drain, but can service it with swim fins and a snorkle.


    HI,
    Thanks for the time to respond to me.

    I am learning that a koi community exists and is much larger than I ever expected. As such I am learning you can have a varied degree of involvement in the community and with the pond itself.

    Although I am a certified scuba diver, I think I will pass on the very deep and large ponds unless I win the lotto. After talking with 2 people down the road who have smaller backyard ponds that I do, I will dig to 4 feet and leave it. One guy has a 2.5 foot pond and he keeps it unfrozen. Not saying his fish are the happiest in the world, but they look and act healthy this spring.

    I will be more involved than this guy with my pond, but will not be as involved as most of your members are involved. I wish I had the time, money and space to thoroughly enjoy the pond the way I want, but at this time in my life my kids demand more time and money than I all ready have. Thanks again for the time and good luck with all,
    George


    Go to 5 to 5.5 feet George. Honest, you will never regret it.

    Think about building up above grade with architectural stone about 18 to 20 inches. It buys an extra 1000 gallons in the same footprint, brings the fish up to you so the interaction is better, and prevents runoff from your yard from poisoning your fish and filter.

    About a foot of compacted dirt between the stone and the liner gives you the stability you'll need.

    Bob


    I did some 'engineering' with my neighbor and it looks as if maybe it can be done and maybe I will raise it. I'll use granite boulders instead of formed stones, I have access to a few farms in the area.

    Will I be able to see my fish at 5 feet deep?? I'm thinking of running a probead filter with a 2 speed artesian pump with two 3 inch bottom drains, a uv clarifier and 2 induction jets.

    Pond is under a tree, directly under a tree, lol.


    The key to seeing your fish is a bare liner bottom, bottom drains hooked to an independent pump,(your skimmer should be run from its own pump to its own filter) and the best biofiltration you can engineer.

    The main impediments to gin-clear water are floating (pea-soup) algae and dissolved organics.

    You control the algae by using a good UV system inline after your biofilters and denying it nutrients by removing the ammonia your fish generate with excellent bioconversion.

    Dissolved organics are reduced with water changes and eliminated with protein extractors.

    Bob

  • I got rid of my swimming pool this year but I have a like new sand filter that I would like to use on our large back pond is there any problem with using a silica sand filter for ponds with fish in them, I will get new sand and clean out the filter r
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    I got rid of my swimming pool this year but I have a like new sand filter that I would like to use on our large back pond is there any problem with using a silica sand filter for ponds with fish in them, I will get new sand and clean out the filter real well before using it, if anyone knows how this would be a problem please let me know....... Thanks in advance


    Hi Tom,

    Your sand filter will foul instantaneously and require backflushing three times a day if used in a ponding situation. The sand works in a pool situation because everything living has been killed off by the chlorine and all the sand is doing is filtering out the particulates.

    A pond is a living organism, relying on bacterial colonization of the filter media to provide bio-conversion of ammonia to non-toxic nitrates. The active, living biological system generates a lot of goo, and sand is just too fine to work. You could discard the silica and get an equivalent volume of polyethylene bead or Kaldenes media to replace it. The hardware is the same.

    Bob


     

    Thanks for the info do you think I could use lave rocks instead of the sand??


     

    No. Lava rock, while inexpensive and relatively light, breaks down to sharp-edged volcanic sand very quickly. This stuff will abrade and destroy your valves.

    Worse, all those lovely little holes fill up with goo very quickly as well, and you will end up with the surface area in your filter equivalent to a bin of tennis balls.

    Stick with polyethylene bead, Kaldenes or Biofil. They are biologically inert, structurally stable, do not channel or foul, and backflush easily.

    Bob

  • I have one koi. One of his eyes has been clouded white...[healing the fish, building a pond, duct taping the mom...
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hello, this might be long winded but here goes.

    I have one koi. One of his eye has been clouded white. I suspect that he scratch his eye and why it's infected. The other koi don't have it and it's on his left eye only. What would be the best course of action? I read all sorts of things and I am not sure what to do. I read that I should get a isolation tank for this sort of thing and just pour meds and see if it works. I read that I should continue observation and change my water more frequently. If it gets worse or spread, then meds the whole tank up. Only thing is that I am concern what it'll do to the bacterial colonies in my filter and what the cause is in case I have to do all the koi.

    Also, I know we are doing all the wrong things but my mom keeps on buying them. So I been reading up to actually take care of them. I been pleading for a pond and we might get one this summer.

    Anyways, our current setup is a 55 gal with eight koi. Each one being of various sizes. The largest one is (length-wise) 8 inches. The smallest is about 1.5 inch. I know we are way, way over stock. I try to change the water 50% every week. The filter is one of those hanging filters. We are sorely under-filtered but I like those media pads as I can pull them out to save bacteria colonies and speed up cycling of new tanks. But lately, I haven't been keeping up with changing the water. Also, green algae over-growth and I have yet to scape them off. I am not sure about diet but we got those pellets and I feed them every three days to cut back on the crap they put out. I try not to overfeed them and actually bought a divider between the bigger ones and smaller for them to get fair share.

    I planning on digging but I am not sure if I can go deep. I was thinking of digging maybe a feet or two, then build a stone wall around the hole and patch it up to increase the height of the pond to maybe five or six feet. Is this a good idea? I know that it might not be ideal but it'll giver more volume and I am pretty sure that in the winter I would close down the pond and hole the koi in a tank for the winter. I can try making a wall of dirt behind the stone wall for better insulation but I am not sure since the weather seems to be really cold and I am afraid of the pond completely freezing.

    Anyways, any advice would do.


    Hi Paul,

    Let's start with the eye. The damage you see is an injury coupled with bad water quality.The eye might have healed well in a better environment, but it is not going to respond to any treatment now. Leave it alone.

    Let's go on with the statement that koi are not indoor fish. The rule of thumb for water volume to support healthy koi is (for koi 8 inches or smaller) 50 gallons of water for each INCH OF FISH. You are correct in assuming that you are horribly overstocked and underfiltered. No commercially-made aquarium filter is capable of keeping up with the ammonia production of one small koi, let alone eight. They are designed to handle the much lighter demands of tropical fish.

    Find a way to restrain your mother. Duct tape sometimes works.

    50% water changes are good, but they should be occurring every two days with dechlorinated water, not once a week.

    The process involved in building an outdoor pond starts with JULIE. This is the free service that comes out and tells you what is buried where and where it is safe to dig. The next step is indeed a permit. The ordinances covering your pond are the same as if you were installing a swimming pool. Get the permit BEFORE you dig unless you enjoy paying hefty fines. The highest berm practical in this climate is about 18 inches. The shallowest pond depth (given koi health and predation) is 4 feet, with five to six preferable. External, high-efficiency filtration is a must. Skimping on that will kill your fish.

    Don't worry about the neighborhood cats. They won't go in the water. Herons and raccoons will, as will mink (Yes, we do have mink!) Deep water will discourage the herons and raccoons. There are no defenses against mink.

    Taking your koi in for the winter only works if you have an indoor facility of 500 to 1000 gallons capacity, serviced by the same high-quality filtration that your outdoor pond has. Your 55 gallon tank will kill all of your fish that have been living in the better conditions of your outdoor pond.

    Please go to www.mpks.org and read all of the articles and all of the Help Files. It'll get you started.

    Bob

  • I am trying to not treat it [algae] chemically but feel i have nothing left to try. I have about 11 small koi fish. What would you recommend?Also do you have a list of places to buy koi?
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    dr bob hi,
    I'm about three years into my pond. A year ago i purchased uv lights that really helped with my green water . My pond water (12x12 3-4 feet deep) is now very clear however algae is still growing on the bottom of my pond which is made of all rock boulders. I have about 60% coverage from pond lillies. I am trying to not treat it chemically but feel i have nothing left to try. I have about 11 small koi fish. What would you recommend?Also do you have a list of places to buy koi?thanks in advance for any advice.
    mike


    Leave it alone! It is your friend. During the winter, when your filter bacteria are asleep, it will sop up the ammonia that your fish are constantly excreting. It will provide a nice winter "salad" for them to nibble on. Trying to kill it will load your pond with chemicals that you will NEVER get rid of and the dead algae will create high levels of organic pollution that will favor the growth of anaerobic bacteria and parasites.

    If it gets too shaggy for your taste, a biff brush on a broom handle will take care of the problem.

    Buying koi now is a BAD IDEA. Unless you are planning to winter them over indoors, you do not have time to get them through six weeks of preventive isolation in your quarantine tank and into your pond before the really nasty cold sets in. Stay away from pet shops, their fish are reliably diseased and parasite-ridden.

    Your best bet is to locate a koi show in your area next spring and shop there.

    Happy ponding.

    Bob

  • ...Anyway, my questions are A) have you ever seen a liner pond tiled? B) will the mortar / grout have a negative effect on the water quality and fish? C) Is there a sealer that will help with keeping the mortar and grout from leeching into the water.
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hi there,

    I am not a member but am in the process of building a pond in northern CA. It is about 7' wide x 14' long x 4.5' deep at it's deepest averaging 3' deep. At one end it is dug into the hillside. The other end is filled concrete block.

    The walls are pretty much vertical. My intent is to use a liner but my wife hates the liner and wants to rock or tile it. I know with the vertical walls, I will have a lot of liner folds especially at the top which will make tiling very difficult if not impossible.

    Anyway, my questions are A) have you ever seen a liner pond tiled? B) will the mortar / grout have a negative effect on the water quality and fish? C) Is there a sealer that will help with keeping the mortar and grout from leeching into the water. Thanks in advance for any help on this one.

    Roy


    Hi Roy,

    I'm kind of opinionated here, being a poor Midwesterner who has to live through Chicago winters. I am a huge fan of liner ponds, largely because they are easy to build and are low maintenance when installed. A properly constructed liner pond will last for 40 to 50 years if the liner is protected from UV (i.e.: full of water) and provides a safe, smooth surface that will not injure my koi when they rub against it. Chicago winters cause heaving and ground shifts. So do California earthquakes. A flexible liner is not as likely to fail catastrophically under environmental stressors as a rigid masonry wall. Liner ponds can be made to look natural with proper design, which tends to be the preferred style back here.

    In specific answer to your questions:

    A) Never. There is no adhesive on the planet that will reliably hold tile to butyl rubber. If you can't talk your wife out of tile, build her a nice little water feature out of cast concrete and tile that she loves. It'll foul with algae within a month and require constant scrubbing in order to see the pretty patterns, but it'll be tile. Remember that we are not talking about a chlorine-toxic swimming pool here. With excellent filtration, the water will be gin-clear, but a good koi pond is a living system and stuff will grow. You want a layer of algae on the walls and bottom, you DO NOT want rocks on the bottom. You do want a bottom drain and a skimmer operating independently with separate pump and filter for each. You DEFINITELY do not want to have to scrub the walls every week to look at the walls. The stars of the show are the koi, not the pond walls.

    B) Absolutely. Mortar and grout will leach more or less constantly over the first couple of years, raising your pH.

    C) Nope.

    Happy ponding and good luck with your wife.

    Bob

  • We are having a small formal water garden installed next week. It is going to be about 6X6 rectangular in size, and about 2 ft deep at its deepest point.
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hi,

    We are having a small formal water garden installed next week. It is going to be about 6X6 rectangular in size, and about 2 ft deep at its deepest point.

    Next year we will be placing a few aquatic plants in it with a small fountain and maybe a few goldfish.

    The sides of the pond will about 18" tall and be made of paver bricks with a liner on the bottom. Only about a foot and a half will be dug out below ground level.

    We are familiar with keeping fish and the biological process, as we belonged to Greenwater Aquarists Society of Chicago for 6 years and have raised many types of tropical fish (this is, Angelfish, small chiclids, etc) indoors over the years. But this is our first venture into "ponds"..(not counting a small whisky barrel pond we had several years ago, which we really enjoyed.)

    We want to start small and work our way into something larger, if we like this type of activity.

    First, how should we winterize this small pond. It has no fish or plants in it this year. Should we keep water in it? If so, do we need to keep a heater in it to keep it from expanding and ruining the walls or the liner from lifting? Do we need to cover it??

    Secondly, next year what do you suggest we do to starting it up with a few plants and a couple of fish? What size pump should be get? Do we need added filtration?

    We'd appreciate any help you can give us to get started with this project. I'm hoping to be successful.

    Thanks, Sue


    Hi Sue!

    A pond that small should be drained completely and cleaned at the end of the season, the plants either brought inside to a large aquarium or treated as expendable annuals and the fish also brought in for the winter. The water garden itself should be covered to prevent damage to the liner and to prevent accumulation of winter debris.

    Your calculated volume is about 500 gallons. If you are stocking goldfish, especially fancy goldfish, they require great water quality. You should plan on installing a filter capable of handling 500-1000 gallons of throughput per hour and a pump robust enough to supply it at that rate. There are a lot of choices and options here. Haunt the web for Goldfish Society blogs and websites.

    Join your local water gardening club and mercilessly pick the brains of the experienced ponders. You'll get different answers from each person you ask, but that just makes it more fun.

    Beware the Three Laws:

    1) There is always a better fish.

    2) There is always a better filter.

    3) There is NEVER enough water.

    Happy ponding!

    Bob

  • I have just finished a new 3000 gallon koi pond and am wondering how this large volume of water will sho an amonia spike when cycling? Or if it will be very minute? I used Microbe Lift gel on the pads and Microbe Lift Liquid in the pond. Added 3 smal
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    I have just finished a new 3000 gallon koi pond and am wondering how this large volume of water will show an ammonia spike when cycling? Or if it will be very minute? I used Microbe Lift gel on the pads and Microbe Lift Liquid in the pond. Added 3 small koi 4-6" and 1 koi 12". I am planning to wait 1 week and test the water. If all is good should I add another koi or 2? The weather here is starting to cool off, but probably 5-6 weeks left before it will get very cold. I am hoping to move in a few more koi to this pond before winter hits and the filter bacteria go dormant. thanks for the help.


    Hi.

    Regardless of how big a new pond is or how much bacteria-booster you throw at it, a new pond is a new pond. It will have new pond syndrome regardless of what you do and you'll need to be prepared for it.

    3000 gallons is a modest-sized pond, and depending on your filters, may be able to support, when mature, up to 10 small koi or 6 large ones. Steve Childers suggests 300 gallons for each 12-18 inch fish, and at least 500 gallons for any fish larger than 18 inches. Since koi grow rapidly, you could reach the point of overpopulation very rapidly indeed.

    Commercial and hobbyist bacteria boosters are, in general, useless. The populations of bacterial species that perform the nitrification process that converts ammonia (toxic at warm temperatures and higher pH) to nitrite (toxic at very low concentrations at any temperature and pH) to relatively non-toxic nitrate number in the hundreds, are naturally occurring, are unique to each pond and are almost never active or available in commercial products. If you are starting a new pond, do not expect ANY bioconversion of ammonia to nitrite for at least four to six weeks. The dreaded "nitrite spike" is inevitable, will occur as the first populations of bacteria come online, and will clear slowly as the more slowly-developing nitrite-consumers begin to appear. Remember that you are constructing a new biome here. It takes time.

    "Instant" filter cultures can be purchased from specialty aquarium support centers. Unfortunately, these are custom-designed live bacterial cultures intended for startup use by outfits like the Shedd Aquarium, when they are receiving a new shipment of rare fish and need bioconversion Right Now! They have a shelf life measured in hours and cost thousands of dollars per application.

    You've started your pond rather late in the season. It is likely that falling water temperatures will significantly slow the development of your filter system and you may just begin to see your nitrite-to nitrate processing begin to show up just as your pond water temps drop below 50 degrees and you have to stop feeding.

    My advice is as follows:

    1) Water test for ammonia, pH, temperature, nitrite, salt (see below) and alkalinity at least every other day, and for the first two or three weeks, every day.

    2) Feed very sparingly, no more than once a day.

    3) DO NOT ADD ANY MORE FISH UNTIL NEXT YEAR. Do not add those fish until your nitrite levels are consistantly zero. Yes, you will see the ammonia peak/nitrite spike pattern every spring. It is a common factor in backyard ponding, unless you are planning on heating your pond all winter.

    4) Plan on doing a 10-15% water change at least twice a week. You have no bioconversion, no algae, and a bunch of ammonia-producing fish. The only way to get rid of it is to dilute it down.

    5) As your nitrite levels appear (or better, before!) add salt to your pond ("blue bag" solar salt from Menards is best) to a concentration of 3 pounds per 100 gallons, and maintain this concentration until your nitrite levels are zero. This will prevent "brown blood" disease (the koi equivalent of CO poisoning) caused by the nitrite.

    6) Remember to isolate any new fish in a heavily filtered quarantine facility ENTIRELY SEPARATE from your pond for at least 6 weeks to prevent disease introduction and mortality. If you do not have a quarantine tank, that will be your winter project.

    7) Go to www.mpks.org and read everything you can find on new pond startup, winterizing and filtration. It'll help.

    Hobbyists new to the challenges of koi keeping all make the same errors with their first ponds. It is so hard to wait, and none of us has ever met a fish we didn't like. Patience is critical. It'll pay big benefits. Remember that the single thing that you can do to keep your koi healthy is to give them the best water quality possible, year 'round.

    Happy ponding.

    Bob

  • I am building a pond approximately 23x19x3.5 with about a 30 f'oot waterfall/stream that will have about a 5' lift. I plan on using a skimmer on the opposite end from the waterfall intake, but may not feed that water up into the falls/stream but ins
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    I am building a pond approximately 23x19x3.5 with about a 30 f'oot waterfall/stream that will have about a 5' lift.

    I plan on using a skimmer on the opposite end from the waterfall intake, but may not feed that water up into the falls/stream but instead run it back towards the bottom of the pond ( any advantage to this, other than not having to run a larger pump to accommodate the lift?).

    How large of a pump and what is the best kind of filter to use for the pond/waterfall. I am looking for one that can be backwashed as opposed to have to rinse out bags ( which is the set up I have now).

    I have 2 turtles about 30 goldfish and only 2 koi right now but would like to add a few more koi. My existing pond has supported them fine but I want bigger!! I am thinking of using one of those floating islands for shade/shelter for the fish and turtles, have you heard much feedback on them.

    The water lilies have not done well the last two years between the combination of koi and turtles picking at them is there any suggestion on how to get them to grow better, and any other suggestions would be appreciated. Thank you


    Hi Nancy!

    Sounds like a nice pond, with a calculated volume just short of 12,500 gallons. Your plans, however, incorporate a series of potentially fatal engineering errors that you will regret for the life of the pond and will be correctible only when you rip it out to rebuild.

    1) A pond of that size with koi in residence needs to have its full volume exchanged every 90 to 120 minutes. A skimmer alone is not up to the task. I urge you to incorporate at least one bottom drain into the design, running as an independent system to its own set of filters. 3.5 feet is deeper than the maximum depth that a skimmer can handle without having a stagnant area at the bottom of the pond. Water moves in a laminar fashion, and without the bottom drain, your pond bottom will be a haven for anaerobic bacteria and debris. Bottom drains, especially in bare-liner ponds, are self cleaning and allow for thorough water mixing.

    2) You are planning on a pond that your herons and raccoons will love and will come back to often. All your fish will be named "Lunch". Your new pond , with its expanded surface footprint, will be instantly visible to herons, and 3.5 feet is still optimum wading depth for them. Go deeper; 4.5 feet minimum, and 5 to 6 feet if you can do it.(6 ft deep boosts your volume to 21,375 gallons in the same footprint!) If you want koi, this is optimum depth, both for koi health and for defense against the Dark Arts - er - predation. If you have otters, mink or cormorants, nothing will help you, but 5 to 6 feet with a vertical drop-off from the edge will frustrate raccoons and heron. Consider building up from ground level with landscaping block. This buys you not only more volume, but protects your pond from runoff (lawn chemicals are very toxic to fish!) and makes a very nice scenic statement in your yard. It also makes any external pump you use self-priming. The elevation above grade provides a natural place to sit and interact with your fish and helps prevent accidental falls and adolescent immersions.

    3) Routing the water from skimmer back to the bottom of the pond is a recipe for disaster. There will be no opportunity to aerate the water, your fish will die of hypoxia and your pond will smell of rotten eggs. Dissolved oxygen is introduced into water by surface turbulence. The best tools for this are multileveled, loud, splashy waterfalls and long, fast, shallow streams with rocks on the bottom to increase the turbulence. That 30- foot stream sounds great, but where were you going to get the water to run it if not from your skimmer? Adding a series of small falls along its length with lots of splash and finishing it off at pond's edge with something complex and dramatic in the way of splash will ensure lots of oxygen for your fish to breathe. Adding a Bakki tower or a bioreactor to your filter array will also improve oxygen transfer and will also blow off Nitrogen gas and CO2, further improving your water quality. A bypass from filter to pond surface is a good idea for winter to eliminate water loss due to ice dams, but not as a summer running condition. Do not ever believe that airstones aerate your water. They merely move it around. Turbulence at the air-water interface is key.

    4) If you want healthy koi, DO NOT PUT GRAVEL ON THE BOTTOM OF THE POND!

    5) Buy your pumps on the basis of their ability to move the entire volume in your pond through your filters once every 60 to 90 minutes, accounting for flow loss due to lift above grade and pipe friction due to run length and direction change. Our website (www.mpks.org) has tables to help you with the pipes and fittings, and any pump worth using (I hate submersibles!) comes with a flow graph which tells how much water it will pump how high off the surface of your pond. Buy accordingly, and get one for the skimmer and one for the bottom drains. Strongly consider 3-inch pipe throughout.

    6) I have no particular preference for any one type of filter. Any filter system should be bought based on its ability to handle the flows intended to be put through it, rather than on the manufacturer's claim of its ability to serve a pond of a given volume. These claims always exaggerate the filter's capabilities and never take fish load into account. If you have lots of room to hide them, open filter systems that receive water via gravity and have the pump situated between filter and falls work great, and many of the designs, like the Big Sister and the Nexus, are very low-maintenance. If you do not have a lot of room, closed, pressurized filters may work better for you. Your best bet is to visit a lot of ponds with different systems and see what has worked for other folks. The overriding principle has to be redundancy. Your fish health and survival depends on intact, reliable filtration and pumping systems, active and running 24/7. Parallel filters with separate water feeds and pumps ensure a safety margin for your fish should one of your pumps or filters go down. A backup generator is also a great idea. Remember that any filter system will die if not kept aerated in less than 6 hours. Our power failures in River Forest average 8 to 12 hours per occurrence.

    7) Floating islands are fun.

    Hope this helps.

    Bob

  • Our fish pond is going to be 5 ft deep at one end and 3 ft deep at the other end and 20 ft in length. I live in Missouri and I wanted to know if it is safe to leave the fish out for the winter?
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    My name is Nicole and my grandmother and I are digging a fish pond... Our fish pond is going to be 5ft deep at one end and 3 ft deep at the other end and 20 ft in length. I live in Missouri and I wanted to know if it is safe to leave the fish out for the winter?


    Hi Nicole!

    Welcome to the hobby! First, while you are still digging, I'd urge you to go to our website (www.mpks.org) and read up on pond construction (Mike White's articles are excellent) and everything you can find on filtration.

    I'd also urge you to dig to a constant depth of at least five feet throughout your pond. The fish won't register the shallower water as anything other than a smaller environment, and since you're going to have "gin-clear" water after you read up on filtration, the extra depth won't interfere with your ability to see them. The extra depth will buy you greater volume, which in turn will get you better thermal and pH stability.

    If you are planning a "water garden" featuring mostly aquatic plants and maybe some goldfish, feel free to decorate the bottom any way you please. If you plan on keeping koi, *keep your bottom liner bare* and install a bottom drain during initial construction. This is critical for fish health and pond maintenance in ponds deeper than about 32 inches.

    In answer to your initial question, koi are cold-water fish and can tolerate water temperatures down to about 38 F. Your real risks to fish health over the winter are decaying organic material on the bottom (hence the NO GRAVEL rule and the bottom drain), the risk of freezing over (which prevents gas exchange at the surface and allows buildup of noxious gases from decaying organics) and sudden temperature fluctuations in winter due to hail, freezing rain and snow.

    The organic debris problem is solved by a fall rinse-out behind your decorative edge rocks each year and a bare-liner bottom. The rest is most efficiently dealt with by planning in a removable "poly house" as part of the original construction. Kits for just this application are manufactured by "Versa-Quonset", are relatively inexpensive, erect and strike in about a day, and will keep your pond safe from wind, crud, snow and ice all winter. Your fish can stay outside safely and if you build it right, you can have a little "bolt-hole" of spring in the depths of winter. Your fish will thank you.

    Bob

  • Hello Dr Bob, I am about to install an new pond in the Kansas City area. I will be using the easy pro deluxe pond kit and the pond will be approx 8X12X3. Any suggestions on things that need to be added to begin with or things that what can be added
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hello Dr Bob,

    I am about to install an new pond in the Kansas City area. I will be using the easy pro deluxe pond kit and the pond will be approx 8X12X3. Any suggestions on things that need to be added to begin with or things that what can be added later? I am wondering about a bottom drain (of course that will need to be added when I start), any additional filters, uv lighting, etc. Any ideas?


    Hi Chris,

    Pond kits tend to be limiting, and are generally woefully under-filtered.Your pond volume will be 2145 gallons, which is probably a good starter size. At 3 feet deep, you should not need a bottom drain for filtration per se, although the installation of one with a bare liner bottom will make your pond self-cleaning. The best time to put it in is as you are doing the initial construction. Your best bet it to make the bottom drain and skimmer outlets separate, independent systems, each with its own biofilter. From my point of view, essential add-ons would include a high-capacity biofilter for each outlet, an overflow outlet, an automatic filler valve connected to a water source with an in-line activated charcoal filter, a UV unit to control floating algae and a protein extractor to eliminate dissolved organics. External high-efficiency pumps are less expensive to run and far more reliable than submersibles. You will need one for each system.


    Remember to provide a way for water to get from your filters to the pond that does not involve your waterfall. This becomes important during colder weather when you want to keep the water circulating but do not want to risk ice dams and diversion of your flows out of the pond. A valve-controlled bypass pipe does it.

    Most importantly, engineer in a way to cover your pond completely with a greenhouse-type construct during the winter months. Your depth is marginal at three feet, and a full icing-over, rapid temperature change, snowfall or a heavy fall debris load (leaves and other litter) can be fatal to your fish.

    Seems like a lot to start with, but the result will be ideal conditions for your fish. Keep your stocking levels low (500 gallons per fish for koi) and you'll do well.

    Join a club.

    Bob

  • Hi Bob, We just had a 4500 gallon pond put in our back yard this summer, with waterfalls, a spitter and submersible pump. We are so very new to this wonderful koi hobby. We live in Illinois. We noticed the algae problem on the very warm days and I
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hi Bob,

    We just had a 4500 gallon pond put in our back yard this summer, with waterfalls, a spitter and submersible pump. We are so very new to this wonderful koi hobby. We live in Illinois.

    We noticed the algae problem on the very warm days and I was instructed to use Pond Clear. There were no koi in the pond at this time (I'd already lost them).

    How can we properly operate our pond to insure that we can have healthy/happy koi? What equipment is needed, etc.

    Thanks

    Mary


    Hey Mary,

    Welcome to the hobby. You've already been subjected to your first hard lesson: Never trust a landscaper to understand pond ecology or filtration.

    Nowhere in your description did I see a mention of a biofilter, and without that, your pond cannot support any more than one or two small koi.

    I strongly encourage you to spend the winter doing some homework. Steve Childers has been writing a series of columns about pond design in Koi USA entitled "It's A System". It is a great place to start learning about pond ecology and management.

    Our website has lots of articles and the Help Files have loads of tips and tricks. Get started there, and come back to me with any specifics you need.

    Bob

  • Hello, I'm enlarging my pond for the 4th time and moving it closer to the house. I have never had the Koi outside in the winter. This is going to be a large and fun project. I'm looking for all the info I can get to help to keep them safe outside al
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hello,

    I'm enlarging my pond for the 4th time and moving it closer to the house. I have never had the Koi outside in the winter. This is going to be a large and fun project. I'm looking for all the info I can get to help to keep them safe outside all year long. I hope to do this right the first time or is it the 4th time.

    Thanks for any and all the help I get.


    Hi Charlie,

    In brief:

    1) Go deep. 5 to 6 feet minimum.

    2) Go steep. Foils predators.

    3) Bottom drains are your friends. So are skimmers.

    4) Bare liner bottom. Rocks on the sides only.

    5) No submersible pumps.

    6) Figure out how much filter you need. Now double it.

    7) Calculate your gallonage. Buy pumps and filters that can move your entire pond volume through your filters every hour (for 5-8000 gallons) or every two hours (more than 8000 gallons)

    Start with that and read everything you can find before you dig.

    Bob Passovoy

  • ...inherited a pond pre-form ...approx 8 x 4 about 22 in deep the max....Had 2 test koi which did really well up until the week we froze solid.(15 DEGREES FOR A WEEK)..I had a deicer.. it was dubious to say the least ..it pretty well froze or maybe t
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    ...inherited a pond pre-form ...approx 8 x 4 about 22 in deep the max....Had 2 test koi which did really well up until the week we froze solid.(15 DEGREES FOR A WEEK)..I had a deicer.. it was dubious to say the least ..it pretty well froze or maybe they freaked when I tried to break the ice with a rock...I knew about the 3 ft deep rule and now I know why.,,because I lost my fish..do I scrap this pond ...which I would like to keep..or try a pond heater or what..
    Thanks
    Lewis from brooklyn new york..


    Hi Lewis!

    In general, preformed ponds don't accommodate koi well at all, only in part for the reasons you experienced firsthand. Preforms are too shallow, not only denying anything living in them a place to hide from predators, but also lacking sufficient depth and volume to prevent freezing. A frozen-over pond can't vent decay-related gases like hydrogen sulfide into the atmosphere. They are trapped in the water and kill fish.

    Your attempt to break the ice with a rock was a serious error, and probably did more to harm your fish than the ice itself. All fish are cold-blooded, they go semi-dormant in cold water and are very sensitive to stress in this state. Hammering on the ice with a rock sent shock waves through the water, disrupting their nervous systems. In future, if this problem arises again, it would be much safer to melt a hole in the ice with a pan filled with hot water.

    What you describe as the "three-foot rule" is a simplification of the principle that koi are inherently inefficient and generate more ammonia per gram of protein than almost any other critter alive. For a koi less than 8 inches long, you need 50 gallons of water per inch of fish, double that for fish bigger than 8 inches. This rule can be fudged somewhat with high-tech filtration, but your pond's less-than-500 gallon size is not amenable to sophisticated filter setups.

    If you are serious about koi-keeping, find a local water gardening club in your area, join and learn the basics before digging a new koi-sized construct. A lot of information is available on a variety of websites, especially ours.

    Keep your preform by all means. It will support a few goldfish nicely, with careful attention to good water quality.

    Bob

  • I recently purchased a home with a pond that I believe to be 500-750 gallons but I have no idea what to do with it! There aren't any fish and I haven't seen any plants pop up yet. It is tarp lined and all that I've noticed growing is mosquito larva.
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    I recently purchased a home with a pond that I believe to be 500-750 gallons but I have no idea what to do with it! There aren't any fish and I haven't seen any plants pop up yet. It is tarp lined and all that I've noticed growing is mosquito larva. I would like to keep it, but I don't want it to be too much work. I have cleaned it out thoroughly with a net and have installed a pump and filter. Where do I go from here?


    Hey, Van,

    What you have in your back yard is a potential ticket to disaster. If you are really interested in the water gardening hobby, your best bet is to pump all the water out, pull the tarp out and discard it, fill in the hole and then join a water gardening or koi-keeping club and start learning about the hobby.

    Do not take the filter or pump out of their boxes unless you are sure that they will do what you think they will do. That tarpaulin was never designed to hold water, and it will begin to leak. Your volume may support a few goldfish, but without aeration your oxygen levels will not support much in the way of fish health. The small volume will make the water temperature unstable, in turn making the pond vulnerable to major fluctuations in pH. You'll also get considerable drops in alkalinity with each rainstorm which will give you more pH problems.

    From a pump/filter standpoint, submersible pumps are a pain to maintain and fail frequently, usually due to fouling. The absence of a surface skimmer will guarantee sludge on the bottom and anaerobic conditions in the sludge; bad for fish health.

    Please read the articles on pond planning and filtration on our website, and browse through our "help file" section.

    Trying to maintain what you have will leave you with a very unfavorable opinion of what can be a wonderful hobby.

    Bob

  • We are building a pond with a waterfall outside. It should be finished soon. My kids want to put fish in it. I understand the best fish are certain kinds of goldfish. My question is, does the pump have to run all the time or can it be placed on a ti
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    We are building a pond with a waterfall outside. It should be finished soon. My kids want to put fish in it. I understand the best fish are certain kinds of goldfish. My question is, does the pump have to run all the time or can it be placed on a timer to run certain hours of the day?


    Outdoor ponds in backyards are generally built to mimic streams with pools and differ from the real

    thing in one very important way. Natural streams are open systems. The water is continuously replenished from upstream.

    Backyard ponds are closed, recirculating systems and the water must move continuously through a filter to maintain clarity. If the pond houses fish, the filter must have both mechanical *and* biological capability to deal with particulate and chemical wastes (ammonia) and must run continuously. As you build, make sure your pond is designed to avoid dead spots and select pumps, filters and aeration systems robust enough to keep running all season long. Your goal in filtration is to put the entire volume of your pond through the filter once an hour, and both the pump and the filter need to be able to sustain and accept that flow.

    Our website has articles and a lot of information in the Q&A section that should help. Please go there before you finish your build. It might save you considerable trouble and heartache.

    Bob

  • My husband and I live in Lyons and are going to be putting in a new pond this year. We've had a pre-formed pond from Sam's Club, that worked nicely for the past 5 years, but we are now ready to move up in size, since we want a couple more Koi and the
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    My husband and I live in Lyons and are going to be putting in a new pond this year. We've had a pre-formed pond from Sam's Club, that worked nicely for the past 5 years, but we are now ready to move up in size, since we want a couple more Koi and the one's we have are bigger now.

    We're going back and forth with each other over whether or not we should have a raised pond or not. I don't care too much for a raised pond since I would like something more natural looking. I know that to winter your fish outside the depth needs to be below the frost level (18" sound right?). Now, if it's a raised pond my thought is that it would still need to be 18" below ground level. Or does it just 18" deep, like my husband thinks?

    Also, what kind of luck do people with ponds in our area have with bog filtration? We brought in our hyacinth and water lettuce for the winter, also, and I wonder if that's a good choice in addition to a regular filter and skimmer set up.

    Final question; if we winter our fish outside, heater or no heater? I understand no heater, don't feed, don't break the ice if any forms, shut off the waterfall etc. - is this accurate info? I can't believe how much conflicting information is out there. It gets confusing.

    Any help we can get would be appreciated!


    My first suggestion is that you join MPKS and attend a few meetings and talk to a bunch of our members. You may still be as confused at the finish, but you will have had a lot of fun and met some really neat people. The next thing you need to do is do the pond tour and get an idea of the multiple solutions to the Midwest Pond Problem. If you want to get a jump on the construction season, feel free to visit our pond in River Forest. Even in winter, it is instructive. We are home most weekends and are always happy to show off. Now you need to read all of Mike White's articles on the website and go through the FAQs. The answers to questions you have not yet asked are there.

    Okay, on to your questions:

    1) Raised or not? - You have to understand, I'm very biased on this subject. Our pond is raised 18 inches above grade, and we love it. The surround is weathered Creta Stone lined with rammed backfill. At the point nearest our patio, the earth packing is about 12 inches thick. Elsewhere it is as much as 4 to 5 feet wide, allowing for decorative and marginal plantings. The raised masonry allows us to sit comfortably at the pond's edge and have our fish within easy reach for hand feeding. We do not have to worry about runoff from our lawn or our neighbor's property, The water level above ground automatically assures prime on our pumps. Anybody falling into our pond really has to work at it and can't claim that they did not see it. It also bought us an additional 1000 gallons that we did not have to dig for!

    2) Frost Line - Weather aside, you need at least 4 feet of depth for happy and nicely-shaped koi. Five feet is better, and any ponder you ask will tell you that he wished he'd gone "just one foot further down" when rebuilding his new pond. Deeper is better from a water quality and fish health standpoint. Deep ponds have smaller fluctuations of temperature on hot days and are much more resistant to pH swings. Any pond deeper than 18-24 inches needs to be served with a skimmer *and* a bottom drain, and you need to talk to some knowlegable people without construction-type axes to grind before you dig. For freeze-safety in this climate, a minimum depth from the water surface of 36 inches is advisable. Also a good idea is a preplanned and designed-in method of covering the pond with leaf netting in the fall and plastic in the winter. The netting reduces the amount of plant grundge you have to pull off the bottom during fall cleanout, and the plastic provides greenhouse effect to keep your pond protected from the wind chill and maintain it largely ice-free. It also gives your plantings a nice jump on the spring.

    3) Bogs? - Pretty, and of some help with filtration, but you need huge volumes of water to get away with it. The only attractive bog-filtered pond I know of is Bill Stepan's pond in Yorkville. It contains 30,000 gallons, and about 1/3 of it is in his bog filter at any one time. Kevin Novack is also a proponent of bog filtration, but his filter ponds are kinda ugly. If you want koi in any number or size, you will have to employ bioconverters, mechanical filters and probably other adjuncts. Come look at my stuff. I don't have one of everything,(that would be Bry Bateman) but I'm close to it!

    4) Outside? All winter? - Sure, and you don't need an expensive pond heater either. If you cover the pond, all you need is a small oil-filled electric radiator under the cover. As long as your water temp stays around 36-38 degrees, your fish will manage the winter season just fine. You need to maintain an area of the surface ice-free to allow gas exchange, and the cover and a high-capacity air pump/airstone arrangement with the stone set 1 foot under the surface will work just fine. Your pumps should be off, to allow the warmer water to stratify on the bottom. Your fish will congregate there. If you do freeze over, the ice must be *melted* through. Striking the ice to break it will damage the fish's balance systems. Kinda like a concussion to us.

    Hope this helps. Come visit. Ask questions!

    Bob

  • I have been reading all of the emails sent, and I have a few more questions that hopefully you can answer/or go into more detail for me. 1. We are installing a pond 9 ft x 35 ft. It will have a waterfall and be circulated with the Large Clean Seep
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    I have been reading all of the emails sent, and I have a few more questions that hopefully you can answer/or go into more detail for me.

    1. We are installing a pond 9 ft x 35 ft. It will have a waterfall and be circulated with the Large Clean Seep Skimmer Filter, Standard Biofalls Filter and a 4500 Pump. We plan on stocking both regular Koi and Butterfly Koi. Is there any plus' and/or minus' on stocking both types together?

    2. We would also like to introduce either: Western Painted Turtle, Mississippi Map Turtle or even a Jumbo Pond Tutle. I hear a lot of different stories: they carry and/or create harmful bacteria that will/could harm the koi and kill them. How do I know what to believe. One of the emails I was reading on your website was that they can bring in Leeches. Is this all based on if the turtle has been quarantined or not?

    3. The Pleco (algae eater), would it be okay to get 2 of them for my pond to help keep the algae under control and bring them in for the winter? I know if we do get turtles that we will have to bring those in for the winter, so bringing the Pleco in wouldn't be hard. And is the Pleco bad for the koi?

    4. Lastly, what is the scoop with the snails. Are they good for a pond? What is the plus' and minus' to the snails with the koi? We have a pool approx. 4 feet from our pond. Would we need to worry about them getting out of the pond and going into our pool? Oh and the hot tub is only 2 feet away. Your help on clearing some of these concerns of mine would be a huge help. Our pond is being built on April 21st and I would like to get these questions answered.

    5. I am sorry, one more question. With the koi and depending on the answers, possibly turtles/snails; Is the Biological Filter (BioFalls) and the Aquascape 4500 Pond Pump good for my needs or would you recommend the bead filters? I would enjoy a gin clear and as much as an algae free pond as possible without harming the fish. I just don't know which is the better route to go. What are the plus' and minus'?

    Thank you in advance for your help!


    Alright, Vanessa, I'll give this my best shot, but you
    *really* need to join the MPKS and come to some meetings!

    1) 9 x 35, fine. How deep? If you are planning on keeping koi, your minimum depth should be 4 feet at the *shallowest*, and as much as 6 feet if you are serious about this. For a good koi pond, you will need a bare liner bottom and a bottom drain. Given the configuration you suggest, you'll need two bottom drains. Do not believe your contractor if he's telling you that koi will be he.althy in a shallow pond. Do not believe him if he tells you that rocks on the bottom are "low maintenance". Shallow ponds are otherwise known as MacRaccoon's and MacHeron's. They are very vulnerable to predation. They are prone to wide temperature shifts which will stress your koi and your filters. Rocks on the bottom collect mulm and sludge, which has to be cleaned out *every year*, usually by the contractor, which he will charge you $$$$$ for. A properly designed bare liner, bottom-drained pond is virtually self-cleaning.

    If you dig your pond to a depth of 4 feet, you are talking about 11,200 gallons here, and a pump that circulates 4500 gallons per hour is insufficient. You need to be able to circulate the entire volume of your pond through your filter at a minimum of once per hour.

    If you are keeping koi, you'll need much more filter than a simple skimmer/biofalls will provide. I urge you to talk to Mike White at White Water Filters in Batavia before you begin your dig. He can be emailed at mikew@whitewaterfilters.com.

    Koi and Butterfly koi are all the same species, the butterflys were the result of a cross-breeding between Japanese koi and an Asian carp in an attempt to restore some hybrid vigor and disease resistance to the ornamentals. What they got was vigorous, but had long fins. The Japanese hate 'em. Us gaijin love 'em. Koi and butterfly koi co-exist just fine.

    2) Do Not Import Turtles! Besides being ILLEGAL to import them from their natural habitats, it is very poor conservation practice. They are all natural predators and will feast on your smaller fish, and as they grow, will take stabs at your bigger fish too. Turtles are amphibs, and are not a controllable organism. They will escape, enter the local biome, and disrupt it.

    3) Pleckys do just fine in ponds. They are prickly enough that the koi do not mess with them. They are tropicals, so they can't go into the pond until the water temp is 70 degrees or higher, and they must be pulled out and maintained indoors when it gets cold out in late fall. DO NOT DO THE TURTLES!

    4) You'll get snails whether you want them or not, usually as passengers on your aquatic plants. They won't make a bit of difference to your algae control. That only works in small aquarium environments. Hair algae needs intensive verge plantings of greedy marginals and deep plantings of water lily. Further control is exerted by Pleckys and a toilet brush attached to a long pole. Floating algae is controllable with adequate shade and a high-intensity UV unit installed just after your final filter. As far as the pool and hot tub are concerned, the levels of chlorine required by code for those devices will promptly kill any form of aquatic life you could care to name. Please make sure that your pond is situated so that there is NO chance of runoff to it from either your pool or hot tub. Chlorine is deadly poison to a pond.

    5) No. The system you describe is not adequate for koi in any significant number. *Please* talk to Mike White. *Before* you allow your current contractor to stick you with something you can't maintain. Come to a meeting. Talk to ANYBODY!

    From your second email:

    1) Quarantine is absolutely essential. For details, go to the website and look up the article. Any new fish you buy must be isolated for at least three to four weeks and observed carefully prior to introduction to your pond's stable population. If you are starting a new pond, this constitutes the first fish you put in. Any further additions get quarantined in a separate tank with a separate filter and air system. Do not trust any vendor's promises about prior isolation, unless you know him well, trust him and know where he lives so that you can go there and beat the sn*t out of him when your fish die from a disease he brought in. We use two indoor vats, both with well-established box filter systems. (150 and 200 gallons, respectively)

    2) New fish can be added (once they clear quarantine) at any time the water is warm enough to support them, to the ability of your filters to keep the water quality good. If you want gin-clear water, Aquascapes can't do it. You will need at least a pre-filter type sellting vat, a large box or bead filter, a protein extractor of some type, a bioreactor or trickle tower, and a UV unit. Talk to Mike.

    3) You can decorate any way you want, but tropical aquatics will not survive a Chicago winter. Stay with hardy perennials native to this region. Less work and heartbreak.

    Hope this helped.

    Bob

  • My apologies for sending this email a couple of days after your call, but I simply could NOT get pictures of the poofy fish. I'm actually glad I held off, because I have some more questions and what I believe are some sick fish. To give you a little
    Bob Passovoy23-05-2016
    Hello Bob,

    My apologies for sending this email a couple of days after your call, but I simply could NOT get pictures of the poofy fish. I'm actually glad I held off, because I have some more questions and what I believe are some sick fish.

    To give you a little history, we moved into a house in Hyde Park last year that had an existing pond of around 700 gallons with goldfish. We added some koi last year that overwintered well. Within the last few weeks, we expanded the pond to around 1500 gallons, gave away all but 2 of the 22 goldfish, and added 6 more koi for a total of 18 koi and the two goldfish. We have a waterfall with bioballs, skimmer box, UV filter and a couple of pond lights. The pond is also in full sun, and I have ordered pond plants to cover it as I did last year, because algae was an enormous problem until we got the UV. I tested the water, and nitrate/nitrite levels are very low, pH is around 7.5 and hardness appears in the medium range. We are also using beneficial bacteria.

    1) We have a 10+ inch lovely orange, silver and black butterfly koi who has become quite rotund. I think I have adequately captured her blimp-like state, which I sincerely hope is an egg mass and not something else. On either side of her tail, she has these vaguely circular areas where it looks like she is literally bursting, and you can see what almost looks like torn skin (I'm not sure if you can see this from the photos, but I think you can see this a bit in the fourth shot). She is one of the friendliest and most beautiful of our fish, and I want to make sure I take care of her. I suspect one of our goldfish has an egg mass as well. Would love your thoughts on koi egg masses, spawning and what to expect as a new pond owner, etc. We don't anticipate wanting to try and keep koi babies.

    2) As I mentioned in my introduction, we also added some koi recently. The two newest butterfly koi have become rather listless, laying on the liner of the most shallow sections of the pond. I had purchased a product called PraziPro by Hikari, and put that in the pull in a half dose Friday. I seemingly have contracted the "don't-read-all-directions" virus from my husband, and somehow missed that I was supposed to turn off the UV filter. I'm not sure what good the product did. This morning, I noticed what appears to be a circular fuzzy patch on the other new koi. This fish as well as a couple of others are also occasionally shooting forward and then turning on their sides, which seems odd. I went out and bought a 5 gallon aquarium today and some aquarium salt. Do you think I should treat these two fish only or the whole pond? The silver fish seems to be much better today, but I included a picture of it resting on the liner. Is it even possible for the fish added on 5/10 to have developed fungus so quickly if it's from existing fish? I'm just trying to determine how this happened.

    3) I'm also interested in your thoughts on whether proactively treating ponds with PraziPro and ProformC at half strength is something you would recommend.

    4) I'd love a recommendation on what you think is the best product for testing pond water and how frequently it should be performed. I have API 5 in 1 pond strips.


    Oh dear.
    Don't you just hate answers that start like that?
    Okay, we've got a lot of issues here. I'll do my best.
    First, your butterfly is about as gravid as it is possible to be without actually exploding. Once the weather warms up a little more and the moon is right, the male koi in your pond will get started and there will be a spawn. You'll know it right away. The longfin will probably look beat-up and a lot thinner, the guys will be off in one corner smoking and bragging and the pond will smell to high heaven. This is because your longfin will have released 50,000 eggs, the guys a considerable amount of milt, and then they'll all get together and eat most of the result. This huge protein release will get your water all foamy and the fish will process protein directly to ammonia. Your water quality, which right now is tenuous at best, will tank. Given your current filtration setup, your only recourse will be water changes. Lots of water changes. Count on draining off 25% of your water, then replacing it with fresh dechlorinated water at least twice a week until your ammonia and nitrite levels are ZERO. DO NOT FEED THE FISH!
    What it boils down to is that you are way overstocked and way, way underfiltered. The system you are currently running, regardless of what you've been told, is a variant of the old Aquascapes system, which is barely competent to support goldfish. Bioballs are fine in Bakki showers or trickle towers for degassing but are a poor bargain when it comes to surface area per cubic foot of media, which is the critical factor in choosing media. If you look in the website archives (we're working hard on editing and posting these to our new site), you'll find articles by Mike White on filtration. READ THEM ALL. Childers' Law recommends 200 gallons of water with good filtration for every fish longer than 8 inches. Your current pond as it sits is able to support perhaps 5. Water changes now, serious upgrades in filtration very soon.
    Your algae problem was trying to teach you something. It was telling you that you have too many fish and not enough biofilter. Algae thrives on sun and ammonia. Your UV is keeping the microscopic floating algae suppressed, but that means that the ammonia is still there.
    Your fish are listless because your water quality is poor. Right now, you can improve things with water changes. Praziquantel is a general-purpose antiparasitic used for certain helminth infestations and should not be used unless you have documented the presence of these cooties, and then only as a 6-hour bath or an IM injection. Half-doses only encourage resistance and will not fix what is wrong. Proform-C is malachite green/formalin, must never be used in the presence of salt or at water temperatures below 60 degrees. It will kill off whatever beneficial bacteria you have in your filter and pitch you right back to "New Pond Syndrome". Right. No biofilter, too many fish. Many, many water changes. Please try to avoid the temptation to solve water quality problems with chemical additives. Once in your pond, the chemical is there forever, or at least until you can get rid of it with (you guessed it) many, many water changes.
    The behavior you describe in your newer fish is called "flashing". Fish do this when they are uncomfortable. The best human equivalent I can think of is Gary, Indiana on a hot temperature-inversion day.
    Please, please come to our Koi Show, come on our Pond Tour in July
  • 5.Pond Mechanics and Winterizing
  • My bottom drain is my problem. I have no mid level collection for my BD or a way to shut it off below the freeze line unless I plug it at bottom of pond. Will I disturb my water temperature levels too much by pulling water from my BD in the winter?
    Bob Passovoy02-04-2016

    Hi Bob,

    I live in Northern Illinois, near Rockford which is Zone 4B.

    I have a 3,000 gal pond with max depth of 6 feet and has partially raised walls one side. Pond is 12 ft by 7 feet. I have a bottom drain, 3” line running up, to artesian pro 12 inches above water level, then to an ultima II 4000, to uv then split to a water fall box and a mid level return. This line is next to my house and the filter is mostly buried. There is a pvc cleanout installed at water level before the pump.

    Skimmer is on a separate line, to a different artesian pro pump then to a different waterfall box and to a different mid level return.

    My bottom drain is my problem. I have no mid level collection for my BD or a way to shut it off below the freeze line unless I plug it at bottom of pond. Will I disturb my water temperature levels too much by pulling water from my BD in the winter?

    If I do not move this water will I crack my pvc BD line?

    I have lots of advice from many people, but none of it covers my BD line.

    I am concerned about my BD line because my bottom drain line will have water in it unless I plug it somehow and suck out the water or keep the water moving.

    I could replace the main pump with the smaller skimmer pump, same design artesians, and then move less water through and move the big pump indoors. But I am still moving water from the bottom to the top again.

    I am looking for a knowledgeable guess as to what would work so I do not lose a pump or crack my bottom drain line.

    I can cover the pond with a standard pvc pipe and 7 mil plastic cover.

    I can also add a heater of some kind to the pond.

    But in the end the BD line is the cause of my lack of sleep.

    Thanks for your time.

    George


    Hello George,

    Sounds like an absolutely fantastic pond. I would go ahead and cover the pond but would try to avoid using PVC pipe. As strong as it looks in short lengths, PVC pipe tends to be woefully flexible at the worst of times. Any snow load at all on top of the plastic will bend and collapse your PVC and less you are able to construct a fairly steep pitched "A-frame" arrangement that will allow the snow to slide off easily.

    A hoop house or Versa Quonset kit would work much better and the one of quarter-inch galvanized pipe stands up infinitely better than the stresses of bad weather.

    However you do it, I strongly recommend that you cover the pond. Once covered, something as simple as a small electric radiator at the edge of the pond under the plastic will be enough to keep your temperatures stable and your water unfrozen. That, in turn, will allow you to keep your bottom drain running. If you route that exclusively to your mid-level return you'll keep everything circulating nicely and have some mechanical filtration through the winter. Your fish will thank you.

    The theory that you need to maintain still waters and that the water down the bottom of pond is warmer, somehow, then the rest of the pond turns out to be true only for ponds in excess of 20 to 25 feet deep. Backyard ponds do not follow that particular set of physics.

    We've been doing this with our 4400 gallons capacity, 5 foot deep pond for about 10 years now. It works a treat. As long as you have the skimmer undercover, you can shut it down without worrying about it. If it's convenient, blowing the line clear, especially if it's near the surface or exposed to the weather would be a good idea.

    Happy ponding,

    Bob

  • I have a 27,000 gal pond in WI. Do you know anything about using those pond breathers I know most folks hoop and heat but the shape of mine does not lend it self for it. My pond will freeze all the way across the top so the pond breathers are the on
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    I have a 27,000 gal pond in WI.

    Do you know anything about using those pond breathers I know most folks hoop and heat but the shape of mine does not lend it self for it. My pond will freeze all the way across the top so the pond breathers are the only means of a gas exchange. I do have a dozen aerator stones pulled to the surface that will bubble.

    Amanda


    By "pond breather" I assume you mean a concentration of high-flow air stones near the surface of your pond. The constant agitation at the surface keeps a hole ice-free.

    As long as you maintain that high agitation and do not allow the ice to form a bubble over your hole, your gas exchange, though suboptimal, will be adequate to get you through the winter.

    Covering the pond with a greenhouse arrangement is far superior. What about your pond makes this solution difficult?

  • we keep finding our koi inside our skimmer still alive
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hello, This is our first winter for our pond with koi. 6,500 gallon with waterfall pump and aeration at bottom going,our problem is we keep finding our koi inside are skimmer still alive so we gently keep putting them back into the open hole from all the ice.

    What is happening and how to stop this or is this ok? Another problem all are cool green frogs at least 4 that made a home in are pond this past summer we have found dead pieces that were stuck to the filter inside the waterfall opening. What is happening and how to prevent this next winter. Please help.


    Winter ponding. Ugh.

    Suggestions as follows:

    Cover the pond with some sort of greenhouse structure to prevent freezing.

    Cover the skimmer inlet with a coarse fish-friendly screen to keep them out.

    The frogs are hibernating and don't have any place in a bare liner pond to dig in. They'll go where the current drags them. At shutdown, put a couple of large tubs on the bottom with 4 or 5 inches of generic kitty litter in them for the frogs to burrow down into and sleep. Cover the surface with river rock to discourage gardening. Screen off the pump inlet or just shut down and remove your submersible pump.

    Hope this helps --

    Bob

  • 6.New Pond Syndrome
  • My husband and son dug out a small pond (5 feet by 3 feet, 2 1/2 feet deep) about 4 years ago. We have about four, 7-inch koi and eight 4 inch shubunkins in the pond. Our water quality has been quite clear for the past three years and our fish have b
    Bob Passovoy02-04-2016

    My husband and son dug out a small pond (5 feet by 3 feet, 2 1/2 feet deep) about 4 years ago. We have about four, 7-inch koi and eight 4 inch shubunkins in the pond. Our water quality has been quite clear for the past three years and our fish have been thriving.

    We had our pond professionally designed and redone about 10 days ago. The installer removed our fish along with more than enough water from our old pond, to keep them in a holding tank until he was finished completing the new pond. Ater the pond was completed, he put new water in the pond (we have Chicago city water), and then added our fish along with the old water from the holding tank.

    Unfortunately, the water has become murkier and murkier; ( we can barely see the fish until they are almost at the surface) it is a golden, light brown color, which I was wondering may have been caused by dust from the new rock materials, but sadder than the fact that we cannot see anything in the pond, one of our beautiful butterfly koi was found floating at the surface the other day. I'm concerned more fish will die.

    We have a large filter, a smaller skimmer box and a 2 1/2 foot waterfall that is providing good aeration. What should we do?


    Hi Linda,

    I'm always dismayed when a relative beginner with a small pond falls victim to a contractor with no actual ponding experience. Unfortunately, what appears to have happened is a combination of what we call "new pond syndrome" and the effects of Chicago tap water on a pre-existing system. I'm hoping that your filtration is the same set-up that you were running your smaller pond with. This will give you half a chance of restoring at least some bioconversion rather quicker than if all of the filters are new.

    Your new pond is just that. It's new. Your older pond had an established ecosystem with filter bacteria embedded in the rocks and in the liner as well as in the pipes and filters. It was reasonably well-balanced with your smaller fish. Your move to enlarge the pond was a good one given the robust growth of your for Koi. Your old pond had a volume roughly 280 gallons, which was clearly insufficient for your Koi, given that the appropriate amount of water for Koi runs about 200 gallons per fish for fish less than 8 inches long.

    You haven't told me how big your new pond is, but regardless of the size it still has absolutely no biofiltration available. Whatever biological activity was available in the filter died when the system was shut down, unless you used the the filter from the old pond to run your holding tank. If all of your filtration is brand-new, it is basically virgin and barren of life. Even if you are using your old filters, the heavy infusion of chlorine has killed off all your resident bacteria. If this is the case it's going to take 6 to 8 weeks to restore its ability to convert ammonia to non-toxic byproducts. Your new rocks and liner are in a similar state. The best you can supply at this time is frequent water changes, zero feeding, and patience.

    The brownish discoloration that you have noticed is a combination of dust from the rocks, dissolved organic materials and probably construction residue from the liner. In the process of refilling your pond, the contractor used Chicago tap water to make up the extra volume. If he did this without pretreating the water he was using to fill your new pond, the chlorine and chloramines in the tap water effectively killed off all of the viable bacteria in the older pond water. If the new pond is significantly larger than the old pond was, there was probably enough new water and therefore enough chlorine to significantly damage the gills on all your fish.

    You're going to need a fair amount of patience and an equal amount of energy to save the situation. You will need a sizable quantity of dechlorinator (Stress-X or NovAqua) or an in-line activated charcoal filter (available for about $40 at Wanamaker's) and lots and lots of water changes.

    Don't bother buying bacterial boosters. These tend to be relatively worthless from the standpoint of reestablishing nitrifying bacterial populations. You'll need to be water testing at least three times a week, looking for ammonia, nitrite, pH and alkalinity. With the water changes, you will need to be neutralizing chlorine and chloramine present in Chicago tap water. This means that you will also need to check your pond water frequently for these chemicals as well.

    The murkiness and particulate matter will filter out or settle out in time. Water changes will help here as well. The brown discoloration caused by the dissolved organics will clear with the water changes and will clear more quickly if you can add a protein extractor to your filter array.

    Growing pains are hard. Major changes to what was a balanced ecology always cause casualties of one sort or another. Don't lose faith. Warmer weather is on the way and your pond will recover given patience and a certain amount of effort.

    I invite you to read the articles on our website at www.mpks.org. There's a lot of stuff there on new pond syndrome, filtration and spring start up.

    In spite of everything, happy ponding,

    Bob

  • The next day, the pump was inadvertently turned off at approximately 6 PM. At 6 AM the next morning I was saddened to see that 4 of my 7 beautiful (large) KOI were dead and a fifth (small) one was very distressed....
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    I just installed a new AQUA UV ULTIMA 2000. After installation, the 1/2 HP PENTAIR pump ran through the filter and the 57 watt UV sterilizer, around the clock ...no problems.

    The next day, the pump was inadvertently turned off at approximately 6 PM. At 6 AM the next morning I was saddened to see that 4 of my 7 beautiful (large) KOI were dead and a fifth (small) one was very distressed. I had observed that the remaining 2 large KOI and the goldfish, were sucking at the surface, as if oxygen deprived. I could just deduce that it was just that...no aeration but I prior to this incident I routinely ran the pump timer from 7 AM to 7 PM and off for 12 hours, during the night, with no problems--- our electric costs .32/KWH

    The facts:

    • 1500 gallon pond with a surface area measuring 10' x 14' Waterfall, 30' away with a smaller pond and stream to the main pond
    • Water clear but lots of algae on all rock surfaces
    • No chemicals were being used
    • Ambient air temperature-low 90's
    • No city water added at this time
    • Very mature pond conditions

    Have not lost a fish in the two years here--not one! No goldfish died or even seemed sick The only variable is the addition of the ULTIMA 2000 filter to replace the pad filter and the higher temperatures--the PVC glue?? the "imbedded good bacteria" in the ULTIMA 2000?

    I'm running the pump 24/7 until we figure out what happened, can you help me, please?


    Hi Arnie,

    Sorry you are having problems.You have correctly deduced the major reason for your die-off. The behavior being exhibited by your remaining koi is called "piping" and strongly suggests a small, very warm pond with essentially no dissolved oxygen. Add to that a new filter, which, despite the manufacturer's claims, is not going to give you *any* bioconversion for at least a month post-installation, and you've got (at onset) an overcrowded environment with no oxygen and high ammonia levels, as well as probable pH issues.

    Did you do any water testing? What was your DO, ammonia, nitrite, pH, alkalinity?

    Best advice for now:

    1) Continue to run your new filter 24/7. Pressure-fed closed filters need constant flow and high dissolved oxygen concentrations for proper function. Cutoff of flow for more than 4 to 5 hours will kill off your bacterial cultures and leave you back where you started.

    2) For now, keep your pond census low. Plan on about 50 gallons of water per inch of fish until your new filter wakes up.

    3) Test your water frequently. Feed lightly. When nitrite starts to show up (as your ammonia drops), salt your pond to a concentration of 1.5 to 2 pounds per 100 gallons. Maintain this until your nitrites disappear, then wash down the salt to natural levels with water changes. This will prevent "brown blood disease" in your fish (the piscine equivalent of carbon monoxide poisoning in mammals).

    4) Frequent large-volume water changes will help replenish dissolved oxygen, replace dissolved buffers and stabilize pH, and wash down ammonia and nitrite levels.

    5) Find a way to maximize introduction of oxygen into your water. Airstones are NOT EFFECTIVE for this purpose. You need turbulence at the air/water interface. A spray-type fountain or very turbulent waterfalls and streams will do this well. Bioreactors and Bakki towers do it even better.

    6) Once your new filter is awake and ammonia and nitrite are at zero, you may begin to introduce new fish ONE AT A TIME, allowing your filter bacteria to adjust to the increased load. Your pond, even with the new filter, is able to handle no more than 4 or 5 large fish, figuring with Steve Childers' estimate of 300 gallons per fish for sizes less than 12 inches and 500 gallons per fish for larger fish.

    Hope this helps.

    Bob

  • I am in my second year with my (around) 900 gallon pond and I had tons of string algae this March and tried winding it up like spaghetti as you suggested but got frustrated and ended up draining and refilling the whole pond. My Koi (4-8" and goldfish
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    I just found your website last Friday and I can't stop reading! Thank you so much for the information - it's good to know I'm not the only one with some of these problems!!

    My question is like so many others I read about - I am in my second year with my (around) 900 gallon pond and I had tons of string algae this March and tried winding it up like spaghetti as you suggested but got frustrated and ended up draining and refilling the whole pond. My Koi (4-8"?and goldfish (2-6"?) nearly died! Duh! Anyways it's apparent I have too much sun, ammonia, etc. I haven't read much about pond vacuums, do you suggest that I get one to suck out the stuff in the bottom of the pond that creates some of the ammonia and perform smaller water changes? I do not have a bottom drain at this time (I have a plastic liner), but apparently that would be a better route to go?

    Thanks for your info!

    Jackie

     


    Hi Jackie,

    I think we need to clear up some misconceptions. The ammonia is coming from your fish, not the stuff on the bottom. The reason you have so much algae is that you have too many fish and not enough filter. Your fish are producing ammonia and excreting it via their gills. You do not have enough bioconverter capacity in your pond to get rid of it so the algae is doing you a favor and slurping it up. The payback is...more algae!

    The "stuff on the bottom" produces hydrogen sulfide, very poisonous, and worse when disturbed in the spring. Your best bet with this is to get all your fish out into a holding tank, drain down your pond this spring and sump out all the sludge. Refill with fresh dechlorinated water, add a big, competent biofilter to your array with a UV to kill off floating algae, add back your fish and WAIT. Do not feed until water temps are consistently above 55 degrees, and then feed lightly, water testing frequently (every day at the beginning of the season) and changing water at least 10-20% every three days. Don't feed freely until your ammonia and nitrite levels are zero and stay there.

    Water changes do more than dilute down ammonia. They get rid of dissolved organics and replenish essential minerals that maintain your pond's acid-base balance. (read "Who's on pHirst?" on the website).

    Bob

  • Warning! Danger danger Will Robinson! The water temperature is already about 44 degrees. We purchased three koi from this company in Utah and she is shipping them tomorrow...
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    We recently finished a new 1200 gal pond. It was filled with water about 7 days ago. It has a filtration system, bottom drain, and skimmer running. It was built using a soft black liner and has no plants in it at this time. Other than dechlorinating granules I have not used anything else in the pond per the recommendation of a company in Utah we have been dealing with.

    The only tests I have done are for nitrites and ammonia which are negative. The water temperature is already about 44 degrees. We purchased three koi from this company in Utah and she is shipping them tomorrow. After reading some of the info on different sites, it seems there are other chemicals or products I should have used before adding these fish.

    Will these fish survive in the pond or should I try to put them in an aquarium until I add other things to the pond. If so what else should be done? Please help

     


    Warning!

    Danger danger Will Robinson!

    Your pond is too new and your water far too cold to put you new koi into the outside pond. You have no biofiltration and no way of establishing any ability to convert ammonia to nontoxic compounds before spring.

    Do not pass Go, do not collect $200. Go directly to your nearest farm supply store and purchase a 250 gallon horse trough (Rubbermaid makes a dandy one for cheap). Set the trough indoors somewhere where it will be warm and protected (at least 60 degrees all day. Your basement would be best. Detach your filter from your pond or purchase a second smaller biofilter with a 1000 gallon capacity, a pump capable of moving at least 500 gallons per hour, an air pump and large airstone and set the whole thing up to run continuously, pre-treating the water with dechlor and, if you wish, bacteria booster.

    When your fish arrive, put them into your new isolation/overwintering facility (allowing them to float in the water while still bagged for at least 30 minutes to equalize temperatures and then moving them out of the shipping bags without mixing the water between vat and bag) and feed them very lightly with low-protein food no more than once a day. You will need to water test daily, watching for ammonia, nitrite, pH and alkalinity levels and doing 25 to 30% water changes every two or three days until your filter comes up to speed. This will take as much as six weeks.

    While you are doing this, go to our website and read everything about filtration, water testing and winter maintenance. DO NOT TRY TO PUT YOUR FISH INTO THE POND NOW! The combination of the cold water temperatures and the lack of filtration will kill them almost immediately. They will be heavily stressed by shipping and will need several weeks in warm conditions to recover. If they are small (less than 8 inches) they will have a tendency to jump, so you will need to net the top of the isolation vat.

    Your contractor should know better than to ship fish at this time of year. Tell him he's an idiot and earns a D-minus from me.

    You will need to keep your fish indoors through the winter, monitoring water quality frequently. Meanwhile, look closely at your outdoor pond and figure out a way to protect it from wind and snowfall during the winter. I use a greenhouse arrangement here in Chicago that is manufactured by Versa-Quonset. It is easy to set up and strike, and does a great job of keeping my pond (4400 gallons) ice-free all winter with only a small electric radiator placed under the plastic cover. When your water temperature is consistently above 55 degrees next spring, you can move your fish outside. Remember that you still have NO BIOFILTRATION in your outdoor pond and that it will take at least six weeks to develop, no matter what you try to add. DO NOT SUCCUMB TO THE TEMPTATION TO ADD ENZYME JUNK OR ALGAE-FIX OR ANY OF THAT GARBAGE. Watch your water quality parameters and control green water by feeding very sparingly and perhaps installing a good-quality UV unit. You will grow lots of hair algae over the first few years. It is a common outcome of "new pond syndrome". Algae of any type thrives on ammonia and sunlight, and in the early months, will be the only filter you have. Once your ammonia and nitrite levels are reliably at zero and the weather warms up, you can scoop out the excess hair algae with a biff brush on a stick. Algaecides and additives are pollutants and will only add to the dissolved organics load in your pond.

    I can't teach you all of ponding in one post. I hope this will get you started. Join a koi club or a water-gardening society and learn from the more experienced ponders. Feel free to mine our website for tips. That's what it's there for.

    Bob

  • We live in Michigan and like most, built our pond way too small. I have three wonderful koi, each about 7" long - they're like little kids and eat out of my fingers - there's also 5 babies. Here's my problem, the pond is only about 16" deep. If I rem
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hi Bob:

    We live in Michigan and like most, built our pond way too small. I have three wonderful koi, each about 7" long - they're like little kids and eat out of my fingers - there's also 5 babies. Here's my problem, the pond is only about 16" deep. If I remove the rocks from the bottom I will probably get another 5". I have been told that it would be better to leave the koi in their existing home but am afraid that it might freeze. The pond is about 4' x 4' - about 100+ gallons I suppose.

    If we install a pond de-icer and a greenhouse type of structure over the top and disconnect the biofilter will they be okay. Do I also need to run some form of aeration, airstone or pump in addition to the de-icer OR should I set up a 100 gal horse trough and bring them into the garage which will stay around 25-30 throughout the winter. If I do that will I have to run filters, aeration, etc. Since this is already September and the weather is getting cold at night, I need to make plans now rather than later. It will break my heart if I lose them because they froze to death when I could have saved them by taking other steps.

    Question two - I want to expand my pond - can I do it with my fish in the existing pond and join the two via a channel type of system and run two biofilters - one in each pond? I want to make the new pond at least 3' deep.

    Thanks for your help.


    You've got about 180 gallons, Jacque, and the best reason to get the rocks out would be as a way of getting rid of the sludge trapped between them and
    reducing the organic and anaerobic load on your pond.

    The most efficient way of over-wintering your pond would be to erect a greenhouse over it, and putting an electric radiator inside.(Not in the water!) This will keep the wind off and the winter crud out. The in-water deicers are energy hogs and can be dangerous
    if they corrode and short out. An air pump is a great idea. Your filter won't do you any biological good at water temperatures below 45 degrees, but may well keep particulate crud to a minimum. Remember that a filter that is kept running needs to be serviced. It also needs to be watched closely as air temperatures get below freezing. Water does not freeze in any predictable pattern, and random splash can form ice dams that can divert the entire volume of your pond into your yard in short order. Better to shut things down and drain the pipes as the water temp approaches 40 degrees.

    If you move your fish into the garage, you'll still need to heat the area to keep the vat from freezing. You are better off with the greenhouse, where you can
    get help from the sun.

    When you enlarge, use your current (live) filter and that 100 gallon vat as temporary storage. Resist the temptation to do the "connected pond" thing. That stream connection is a classic leak point and the area in front of the stream will become a dead spot. If you are dead set on two ponds connected by a stream, use the upper, smaller pond as a bog pond to augment your filters. Don't try to keep koi in it.


    Thanks a million for getting back to me. The pond is built in an irregular shape and surrounded by large rocks which will make it difficult to erect a greenhouse and have it sealed enough. Would putting a piece of plexiglass over the top with an aerator work or at that stage would it be better to just get them out of the pond altogether and put them in the horse trough in the garage. We keep our barn cat in the garage all winter and his water bowl seldom freezes over so the garage normally stays above 20.

    Since the horse trough is deeper than the pond are not the chances of it freezing solid if an aerator is running slim? I'm just afraid I can't get the baby fish out of the pond - they are frisky little devils and while two are friendly enough to come and eat from my fingers the younger ones dart from one end of the pond to the other. I also have some wonderful frogs that I will want to try and keep. I know I can sink a flower pot full of sand in the bottom of the pond and they will bury for the winter - if the pond freezes over will they be okay or should I put them in the horse trough, too I'm full of questions aren't I?

    Second thought - if we expanded our current pond (rebuilt the existing to be deeper and larger) can we immediately establish the pond's ecosystem and put the koi back into the new pond for the winter or would this stress them too much. I'm between rebuilding the pond this fall or rebuilding it in the spring - what would be best for my little guys? They are really healthy and absolutely beautiful with long sweeping tails - black and red over silver and white. The babies already have the same color as the parents - it appears two or three made it from each of two different breedings because two are much larger than the other three. The ponds balance is perfect - ammonia, nitrates, nitrites, salt are right where they belong - PH in our area is always high so we are running a 9 but the fish and plants seem to have adjusted just fine. A pond place in our area told me that all ponds in Livingston County (where we live) run a PH of 9 or above. We have taken all plants out of the pond except for our water lily since the need for 60% coverage at this time of the year has decreased.

    Your advice is really appreciated and I need all the help I can get. The pond lady we have been consulting says I am worrying way too much and that the koi will be just fine because the aerator won't allow the water to freeze - moving water can't freeze but I worry about a power shortage and the fact the pond is relatively shallow.

    Jacque


    Hi again, Jacque!

    Trust me, the greenhouse project is the cheapest and safest alternative, and does not have to be a perfect seal around the bottom. Just build it wide enough to go around the outside of the rock margins, and anchor it well. The frogs and fish will thank you, and the greenhouse effect and wind protection (plus the help of the $30 Home Depot electric radiator) will keep your water from freezing. A high-capacity air pump and
    airstone will complete the package. For helpful hints, see the September issue of Koi USA.

    Any new pond will have "new pond syndrome". An established pond emerging from winter has a resident, dormant population of beneficial filtering bacteria that just has to wake up and get working to be effective. A newly constructed pond has to develop an entire ecosystem from scratch. Better to protect the pond you have now with fish, frogs and plants still resident (even though it's deeper, that vat in your garage is half the volume and bereft of sun, and won't help your frogs at all) under the greenhouse, and build out in the spring. Remember that the Third Law of Ponding warns that "there is never enough water", so you'll want to dig deeper and wider than you originally planned. Five to six feet deep is considered optimal for koi. Find and join your local water gardening club. They'll be a huge help.

    Bob

  • 7.Koi Culture
  • Dr. Bob, Just yesterday my wife and I notice several little babies swimming around in our pond. We have a 3400 gallon pond with 7 Koi - 8-10 inches / 4 Shubunkin and 2 comets. The babies are from a dark color to a transparent color with spots. Could
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Dr. Bob,

    Just yesterday my wife and I notice several little babies swimming around in our pond. We have a 3400 gallon pond with 7 Koi - 8-10 inches / 4 Shubunkin and 2 comets. The babies are from a dark color to a transparent color with spots. Could our older Koi be mature enough to have babies? Either way we are mainly hobbyiest and have no harsh water conditions or problems with the pond but have a few questions.

    What are the do's and don'ts to care for the new fish?

    Can they live off the algae on the rocks?

    Will the bigger Koi eat them?

    We also have a bunch of plant life for them to hide, what percent survives and what is the growth rate?

    Thank you,

    Andy


    Hi Andy!

    How does it feel to be a koifather?

    Koi mature enough to start spawning at about two years.

    Your best bet as far as care for the sprats is to concentrate on maintaining great water quality and otherwise leave them alone. They'll do fine living off algae and debris in the nooks and crannies of the pond.

    The larger koi will ignore them as soon as they are recognizable as "fish".

    Depending on conditions and crowding, you can expect them to grow to about three to four inches in their first season. They can double or triple their size in the second year with optimal feeding and conditions.

    Per cent survival varies. Once they are an inch log and free of predation, disease and poor water quality, 80-90 percent is reasonable.

    Bob

  • Last spring (2009) I noticed that there were many babies present. The largest koi in the pond when they spawned was no more than 6". Upon my first spring visit of the current year (2010), it is clear that easily 25 or more babies exist. They have ach
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    A problem has developed that will require some attention. I have a formal pond located in the southwestern corner of Michigan. Its dimensions are 8' X 5' , one half approximately 18" deep and the other half being 36" deep. I have calculated the pond to be approximately 1200 gallons. Taking over the pond's upkeep 5 years ago, with the pond containing 6 koi, the situation changed drastically last summer.

    The fish have been very slow growing, their nutrition is derived almost entirely from algae and organic matter that is already present in the water.

    Last spring (2009) I noticed that there were many babies present. The largest koi in the pond when they spawned was no more than 6". Upon my first spring visit of the current year (2010), it is clear that easily 25 or more babies exist. They have achieved a size of 1/2" - 1" and for now the pond is a happy place. I am concerned that as they grow, overpopulation will become a major issue.

    Any advice that will allow me to maintain the pond optimally would be appreciated. The pond has other problems like too much aquatic plant life and abundant green water, but for now this issue is most important.


    Yup,

    you are officially way overpopulated. As you said, for now, as long as the water is cold and the metabolisms are slowed way down, you are okay. Once things warm up, you got trouble. Your green water will get much worse as the ammonia that your fish churn out gets converted into algal biomass. The algae will generate oxygen during the day, but will suck it entirely out of the water as soon as the sun goes down. I didn't see any mention of filtration in your statement, and whatever filtration you have, if you are planning to keep the sprats, you are going to need a whole lot more.

    Your options are these:

    1) Find a new home for all but one or two of the sprats. Your local stream or other body of water is ILLEGAL! Koi are an introduced species, your local Interior and Wildlife reps will come down on you very hard indeed. Find and join a local koi club or water gardening club and see if any of the members are willing to adopt.

    2) Do what koi breeders do. Cull. Sacrifice all but the one or two prettiest fish. A concentrated sodium bicarbonate solution is a humane way of doing this. Your only problem will be catching the little buggers. Upgrade your filters and add a UV system to deal with the algae.

    3) Seriously upgrade your system. This means heavy upgrades in pumps and filters as well as tripling or quadrupling your volume. Childer's Law suggests about 100 gallons of water for each fish smaller than 8 inches and 300 gallons for each fish larger than 8 inches. Best suggested depth is 4 to 8 feet throughout, with 5 to 5.5 feet being an optimal compromise between volume and accessibility. Your filters and pumps will need to be able to process your entire pond volume in one hour.

    Bob

  • Hi, Dr. Bob, I have about 900 to 1000 gallon pond with 4 Koi about 6 inches long. I was thinking of adding a few more fish but don't want to upset the ecosystem as everything seems to be fine right now. How many fish can a pond my size comfortably h
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hi, Dr. Bob, I have about 900 to 1000 gallon pond with 4 Koi about 6 inches long. I was thinking of adding a few more fish but don't want to upset the ecosystem as everything seems to be fine right now.

    How many fish can a pond my size comfortably hold?


    Your capacity will depend on the size of your fish. For fish 8 inches or less, figure 50 gallons water PER INCH OF FISH. Bigger fish require 100 gallons per inch. You can exceed this with EXCELLENT filtration.

    Steve Childers fudges this by advising a minimum of 500 gallons water per fish larger than 12 inches AND EXCELLENT filtration.

    I hope that helps.

    Bob

  • I have three koi, about sixteen to eighteen inches long.They started out about six long, three years ago. Are there any tell tale sign's as to ther gender? Hope you can help. Thank you. Carl
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hi
    How are you? Great site!
    I have three koi, about sixteen to eighteen inches long.They started out about six long, three years ago. Are there any tell tale sign's as to their gender?

    Hope you can help.

    Thank you.

    Carl

     


    Hi Carl,

    At three years, koi are mature and can generally be sexed by their shape.

    Males tend to be lean and torpedo-shaped, females tend to be broad in the beam, especially around the caudal area as they develop their egg mass.

    Or, as my wife puts it during spawning season, "The girls are the ones in front!".

    Bob

  • I live in Australia and I breed koi as a hobby. Can you please tell me how can I improve the red in kohaku.thanks Regards, Alf
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    I live in Australia and I breed koi as a hobby. Can you please tell me how can I improve the red in kohaku.thanks

    Regards, Alf

     


    Oi Alf!

    If I knew a sure-fire way to get great, brilliant stable red into a kohaku, I'd be breeding myself and keeping the process secret. Color and pattern are based on genetics, feed and water quality. So-called "color-enhancing" foods contain spirulina and other pigment-containing products and while they may temporarily intensify reds, they also discolor the white, the more important color on the kohaku.

    Breeders who are famous for kohaku use a variety of feeds, but rely on bloodlines and savage culling for success.

    No worries, though. She'll be right!

    Bob

  • Hello Dr Bob, Where in Florida do Koi live in the wild?
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hello Dr Bob,

    Where in Florida do Koi live in the wild?


    Dear Hal,

    Koi are an introduced species and by definition are non-native. That being said, they are carp. Carp flourish in fresh water anywhere in the world, as the fisheries on our major rivers are sadly discovering. Koi have the evolutionary disadvantage of being inbred, brightly-colored carp and are more subject to predation than native species that are grey.

    If you see a koi in a stream in Florida, it is a fish that somebody got tired of and "threw away".

    Bob

  • Since we are new to the fish, koi and ponds can you tell me how to be sure the fish we have are Koi or something else. We have been told that the Koi have the long whiskers and if they don't have that they are not Koi. Is this true? Where can we loo
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    I just discovered your site. Since we are new to the fish, koi and ponds can you tell me how to be sure the fish we have are Koi or something else. We have been told that the Koi have the long whiskers and if they don't have that they are not Koi. Is this true? Where can we look to determine how to distinguish between a Koi and a Gold Fish? We currently have 3 Shubunkin, 14 feeder fish and 2 Koi. Our outside pond is about 1200 gallons of water with a waterfall. Is that a good number of fish or too many for the size?

    Thank you for your website.


    Hi Fran,

    Koi have barbels, two at each corner of their mouths. Goldfish do not have these structures, which serve the koi as sensors for taste and smell.

    1200 gallons is great for two koi. Figure on needing about 100 gallons of water for each inch of koi. The goldfish will not put enough stress on the pond to matter. You will need to upgrade your filter systems as the koi grow.

    Bob

  • I have a very large indoor tank with very passive and friendly fish. I want to add Koi to the family can they adapt to water temps between 80 to 82 degrees. Please reply Thank You Harry C
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    I have a very large indoor tank with very passive and friendly fish. I want to add Koi to the family can they adapt to water temps between 80 to 82 degrees.
    Please reply Thank You
    Harry C


    That tank had better be 250 gallons-plus and fitted with a pond-grade bioconverter if you want to have any chance at maintaining water quality. Koi of almost any size will easily overwhelm even the fanciest of aquarium filters.

    Koi grow very rapidly, and while not aggressive, will tend to look at anything not clearly koi-like as a potential food source. They "garden" constantly, and will guarantee a murky atmosphere in any gravel-bottomed tank. A two-inch koi, grown indoors and fed regularly, will triple in size within two months while increasing its ammonia output almost tenfold.

    Koi will not do well at the temperatures you describe, either. They are cold-to-cool-water fish, and do best between 65 and 75 degrees. At 80 degrees, most koi keepers stop feeding!

    Koi are not indoor fish. Bad idea. Sorry.

    Bob

  • I have a question from MPKS member Carol B. Her Koi fish have been changing colors the last couple of years and she wanted to know what she can do to help prevent this. This year, she had a 1 year old fish that was White with 3 Orange spots. The fis
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    I have a question from MPKS member Carol B. Her Koi fish have been changing colors the last couple of years and she wanted to know what she can do to help prevent this.

    This year, she had a 1 year old fish that was White with 3 Orange spots. The fish lost all it's spots and is pure White now. She also had a 3 year old fish starting late last year into this year, changing from Black to Gray. Also early last year she had a 10 year old fish change from Orange, Black, and Red color to White and Black. She has been feeding them Tetra Pond Sticks. She doesn't have a problem with diseases and hasn't lost a fish in years. The water quality is good. The pond is in full sun and the water is clear. Any suggestion would be helpful.


    Hi Dave and Carol,

    Many koi are notorious for color changes. Kohakus (red/white) are known for having the red fade over time, and showas and sankes (red/black/white) can do the same. The rule of thumb is that red wil tend to be stable or fade and black will tend to increase as a koi ages. Factors such as food, fish genetics, sun exposure, water chemistry and stress will also affect color stability.

    You may get some improvement by varying the food they get. Try minimizing the off-the-shelf, industrial-strength koi chow, and feed fresh vegetables (romaine lettuce, oranges, thawed peas, melon, etc.). Besides being a good source of vitamins and minerals, the dark leafy greens are chock-full of color precursors. A fresh, good-quality koi food will be expensive, but way worth the money. Kenzen is about the best stuff out there at present.

    Bob

  • Hi, I hope you can help me, because I've been trying to figure out if this is feasible, and I'd really appreciate your input. I live in Iowa City, Iowa, and I have a (somewhat) large pond in my backyard. It is roughly 220 feet by 100 feet. It is in
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hi, I hope you can help me, because I've been trying to figure out if this is feasible, and I'd really appreciate your input.

    I live in Iowa City, Iowa, and I have a (somewhat) large pond in my backyard. It is roughly 220 feet by 100 feet. It is in the remains of an old limestone quarry, and is fed in the winter by an underground spring at one end. The water has an average depth of 3 feet, with a deepest point about 10 feet.

    Our house sits on the edge of the quarry, and we often spend time on the deck looking down at the fish in the pond. There is a very healthy (some HUGE) carp that live in the pond, and while I know koi arent the same thing as grass carp, I can't help imagine how beautiful they would be in this pond. I'm just trying to figure out if you think it would be possible to put fish in this pond. I'm not looking for any prize winning koi, but I believe that some pond quality koi would look really nice.

    I'm sorry to bother you, but I've been doing lots of internet research, and I just havent found anything like this. I dont know if its because its not really possible, or just that no one has tried anything like this. If you could let me know what you think, I would really appreciate it.

    Thank you very much,

    Shawn Sato


    Hey, Shawn!

     

    What you have there, by midwest backyard ponding standards, is a *gigantonormous* pond with built-in filtration. It is what us urban-dwelling techno-driven hobbyists cry ourselves to sleep over every night. Doing a rough calculation, you've got about 600,000 gallons in there. I'd be amazed if there were not multiple other native species of fish in there as well as the grass carp, simply on the basis of egg transport in on the feathers and feet of the waterfowl that must be visiting on a regular basis.

    If the water is replenished in the winter by a spring, I suspect that it is fed year-round. As long as the outlet does not feed a natural waterway, what you have there is technically the same as any other backyard pond, just a little (gulp) bigger and older. It is an artificial construct, with carp already in it.

    Given that grass carp are a much tougher organism than koi, (not having been inbred for two hundred years) koi should survive fairly well in your back yard, with a couple of cautions. First, don't expect to see much of them. Unless your quarry water is gin-clear (which I doubt), you won't see *any* fish unless it is right up under your deck. When small, koi are "hard-wired" with "evade and run" in their teeny-tiny brains, and will tend to stay near the deeper parts of the water.

    Grass carp and native fish are the colors they are for a reason. Camoflage. Koi are best described as "targets" under these circumstances, and any fishing bird worth his feathers (kingfishers, cormorants, bald eagles, herons, egrets, sandhill cranes) and every raccoon in the county will be coming over for lunch pretty soon, with koi at the top of the menu, simply because they are easy to see. This problem will be worsened if you feed them off your deck with floating food, since the koi will recognize any disturbance at the water's surface as something to eat, and will become part of the Great Circle of Life very quickly as a result.

    One other very important point to consider. Koi are an introduced, invasive species in this setting. What you want to do is actually ILLEGAL.

    Given that even "garden center" koi run $25-$50 dollars apiece, I don't think that it's a wise use of funds.

    Bob

  • I have a 7500 gal koi pond. How many koi should I have in my pond. I have several different sizes.
    Bob Passovoy19-04-2016

    Hi,

    I have a 7500 gal koi pond. How many koi should I have in my pond. I have several different sizes.

    Candy O.


    Hi Candy!

    Childer's Law suggests about 100 gallons of water for each fish smaller than 8 inches and 300 gallons for each fish larger than 8 inches. There are variations on this, but Steve, a talented koi keeper and Koi Judge, seems to have the most practical handle on this. The important things to remember are:

    1) Koi are potentially the most wasteful fish out there from the standpoint of conversion of food=fish+waste. This gets worse as the fish get bigger.

    2) Koi get bigger. Fast.

    3) There is no such thing as "two or three koi". Chances are that one of them is female, one or more are male. A female can drop 50,000 eggs in a spawn. Even if less than 1% survive, that's still more koi than your pond can handle. WAY more.

    4) Childer's Law can be "fudged" with high-quality, high-protein, liquid-fat-based koi food (i.e: Kenzen) and excellent filtration.

    There's lots of other things to remember. The FAQs on our website have some of them. As we bring our Articles section online, more will become available.

    Bob


    Thanks for the info! You are right when you say there is no such thing as just a couple of Koi!!Any suggestions on what kind of plants to have in my pond. My Koi look at them as dessert!

     


     

    Koi get bored. Given potted plants, they will happily garden them down to bare root. Water lilies in pots need to be protected with river rock too heavy for them to lift. Our senior Asagi, Boomer, loves to select perfect (large) pebbles from the lily pots and arrange them artfully around the bottom drain so that they foul the works. He has, on occasion, dropped them on my head as I snorkled down to disrupt his artistry. Rock and netting will slow them down, but unless you can protect the roots , it's better to rely on marginals in the edge rocks and leave the pond proper for the fish. Water hyacinth (illegal in most southern states) and water lettuce get root-eaten instantly. Try watercress in the edge rocks. Works great.
    Bob

  • 8.Winter
  • Hi I wonder if you could help me my pond froze quite deep and now I have 3 dead fish 2 are koi but it is still frozen how should I get them out before they harm the other fish Thank You
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hi

    I wonder if you could help me my pond froze quite deep and now I have 3 dead fish 2 are koi but it is still frozen

    how should I get them out before they harm the other fish

    Thank You


    Hi Lynn,

    What you do will depend on how thick the ice is and how deep the fish are. If the ice layer is a few inches at the top and the dead fish are in free water, you will need to melt a hole in the ice large enough to get a long-handled net through. Scoop them out. Multiple fish, multiple holes. The best way to do this is with hot water.

    DO NOT TRY TO CHOP A HOLE IN THE ICE. The shock waves from the tool you use will damage the balance and vibration sensors on your remaining fish.

    If you are frozen down to the bottom and the dead fish are encased in the ice, melt your way down to them and remove them.

    I can't emphasize enough how important winter protection is to a backyard pond, especially a small or shallow one. Pond heaters (available in pet stores) are largely useless and often dangerous, since they tend to corrode and short out in the dead of winter, either blowing your fuses or electrocuting your fish. Or both.

    The best solution is to cover the pond with a small greenhouse construction during the winter months. This not only keeps the temp above freezing (especially if you stick a small electric radiator in by the side of the pond under the plastic) but also prevents Ma Nature from distributing her winter bounty of snow, dead leaves, pollution, dirt, sticks and the occasional discarded couch into your pond. Look up "Versa-Quonset" on Google. They sell nice, affordable kits.

    Bob

  • This winter has been very cruel to our pond. I have lost all my Koi fish that we have had for nine years...I want to learn what I must do in the future to make my pond safe again.
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    I live just a few hours south of the Chicago area in the city of Lafayette, Indiana, so I have the same weather conditions as your area. This winter has been very cruel to our pond. I have lost all my Koi fish that we have had for nine years. Our pond is small, about 1000 gallons and is 30 Inches deep at the center. The first problem I had was that the water froze to the point that I had to shut down my waterfall stopping the water circulation. Then when we were experiencing the sub zero temperatures my pond heater could not keep up with the cold and the surface froze solid, at least 12 to 14" deep. When the weather got warmer and the ice melted, to me and my wife's horror we could see our fish under the thinning ice floating on there sides. Now that I have removed them and have the water flowing again, I want to learn what I must do in the future to make my pond safe again.

    I had planned to drain the pond and clean it out, but I have just read on line that this is wrong. It destroys micro organisms necessary for the pond to function. My water now is dark and I'm not sure how to treat this. I have added some bio-lift to the filter to try and jump start it, but I know that the water temperatures are very cold for it to work well. Do you have any ideas where I should start rebuilding? Are there any good articles or book?

    My wife and I want to start over. But we want to do it right this time and we need help.


    Hey Mike.

    Ouch.

    Okay, to start with, your pond is way too shallow to run unprotected all year. You'll need to plan on taking your fish indoors in the winter if you are set on keeping it as is. The only other alternative I can see short of digging would be to cover the pond every fall with a greenhouse and heat the air inside slightly.

    Your major problem this season has been the freezing over of your pond. This sealed off access to oxygen and sealed in the hydrogen sulfide generated by the anaerobic breakdown of organic debris on the bottom. The shallow water froze as soon as the water stopped moving and doomed your fish.

    There is nothing you can do to fix things until spring. The bacterial "boosters" don't work, and in any case, your water is too cold for ANYTHING to work just yet. As your water temperatures warm to 55-60 degrees, drain off all the old water you can and replace it with dechlorinated fresh water or well water. Restart your pumps and filters and replace your fish population SLOWLY. Treat this as a NEW POND! You will have all the problems normal for a new startup, including a slow startup of ammonia-to-nitrite and even slower nitrite-to-nitrate. Seriously consider digging deeper, down to at least 4 feet if possible, and absolutely get a winter greenhouse cover for whatever you end up with.

    Bob

  • Hello Dr Bob, We have a waterfall in our Koi pond and wonder if it would be safe to turn it off during the winter. We live in North Carolina. Please advise.
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hello Dr Bob,

    We have a waterfall in our Koi pond and wonder if it would be safe to turn it off during the winter. We live in North Carolina. Please advise.

     


    Hi Lynn!

    A lot depends on your water temperature. As long as your water temperature stays at or above 45 degrees, you'll be getting some benefit from your filtration and your filters and pumps should be allowed to run. Your fish will be active enough to need the filtration. If your water temps drop below 45 degrees, all you are getting is mechanical filtration and since you won't be feeding the fish, biological filtration isn't as much of an issue.

    Continued water circulation over your falls will maintain some oxygenation, especially if you've got a lot of turbulence and water movement.

    The point at which the falls become a liability is the point when your air temperature drops below freezing and stays there. Water over the falls will tend to freeze in interesting patterns, with the real possibility that your water will be diverted out of the pond, leaving your fish stranded.

    I suspect that long-term freeze is rare in North Carolina. Run your pumps as long as you can.

    Happy ponding,

    Bob

  • As the ice is thawing today there are a number (7 so far) of dead koi... The three most common causes of winter-kill are thermal shock, icing over and hydrogen sulfide
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Dr. Passovoy,

    I have an urgent problem with my one of my koi ponds. As the ice is thawing today there are a number (7 so far) of dead koi. This pond was put in in 2000 and has been well established. There are are approximately 30 fish from 2 years old to over 15 years. The pond is over 3 feet deep at the center and we have probably only lost 4 or five fish since it was installed. Normally we run the falls which connect to another pond until January but had to shut it down and start the heaters the first week of December this year. The fish I looked at this morning don't have any outward signs of fungus or damage and only one seemed to have been dead for an extended time. The others seem to be recent. There are live fish in the other pond and I have seen some of the smaller ones and a large frog in the pond in question but it still has a lot of ice on it so I don't know the total fish count.

    Questions:
    Is this a weather related issue? I've never had this problem even when the heaters where not working and they froze over completely. Pond bottom is better than 80% clean.

    Could there be a contaminate leaf debris that is fatal to fish that would have blown in? I can't think of any, or that would have not blown in previously.

    Is there someone that does fish necropsies in the western suburbs?


    Hi Bob,

     

    The three most common causes of winter-kill are thermal shock, icing over and hydrogen sulfide accumulation. The last two are related. Thermal shock occurs when the temperature of the pond changes suddenly, usually as a result of the sudden introduction of snow. Heavy snowfall, or more commonly, the failure of a protective structure and the sudden introduction of large quantities of snow will do it. Weaker fish will tolerate this poorly and will die as a result. The sudden introduction of what is essentially pure water without dissolved minerals can also catastrophically lower alkalinity in the pond and destabilize the pH. Sudden changes of any kind to the water quality in a closed system at low temperatures are dangerous, though those same low temperatures are actually protective for ammonia!

    Icing over locks in the pond's surface and leads not only to eventual oxygen depletion but also to accumulation of hydrogen sulfide, the major breakdown product of anaerobic bacterial breakdown of organic debris trapped between and behind your rocks and gravel. Experienced koi keepers go to great lengths to keep their ponds unfrozen, employing high-capacity pond heaters (not the gadgets purchasable at the Farm and Fleet, but big coil heaters capable of maintaining 15,000 gallons at above-freezing temps all winter) and greenhouse structures to protect the pond from snow, ice and debris. If your pond does ice over, attempts to break up the ice with a blunt instrument damages the fish's balance mechanism (sort of like us getting trapped in a belfry during the All-England No-Holds-Barred Smackdown Bell-Ringing New Years Marathon [see The Nine Tailors by Dorothy Sayers for details]) and they'll stress out and die as well.

    Bacterial, viral and parasitic causes are much less likely in very cold water, since water temps below 40 degrees inhibit the activity of all of these microorganisms. Water quality and thermal issues are much more likely.

    Necropsies won't tell you much in this case, as the cold water already guarantees that no bacteria or parasites are active.Rich Heimberger (thehealthypond.com) knows a vet who does necropsies.

    Bob

  • This is my first year with a pond and thus my first winter. Needless to say I'm a bit concerned with getting through the winter months. I live in the Columbus, Ohio area and I have a 4000 gallon lined pond and originally started out with eight koi t
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    This is my first year with a pond and thus my first winter. Needless to say I'm a bit concerned with getting through the winter months.

    I live in the Columbus, Ohio area and I have a 4000 gallon lined pond and originally started out with eight koi that were 3-5 inches long in the spring. Today a couple of my koi are much larger but to my surprise just this week I noticed that we have BABIES! One is orange and black but the other TEN! Are all black. I'm not even sure these black ones are koi…

    Here are my questions....

    1) Is it safe to clean the pond while the fish are in it? I was going to use a pool vacuum to clean the bottom of the pond and get as much of the yard debris out that I can.

    2) Should I move the babies into the house over the winter or leave them in the pond? My pond won't support these newcomers so I'm thinking about removing them...

    3) Just curious... How do I tell if these all black fish are koi? Could they be something else brought in by visiting birds and frogs?

    4) Speaking of frogs... we have two that have setup camp in our pond. Is there anything I can do for them for the winter so they stick around?

    5) My pond is about three feet deep at its deepest point. I've read that over winter I should turn the filter off, turns the falls off and just use an air stone to keep the top from freezing over. Should anything else be done?


    Hi Greg,

    In answer to your questions:

    1) Absolutely safe. Even with the sprats, you'll be fine. Get the crud out as thoroughly as you can. Think about rinsing the areas behind your edge rocks (if you have them) with a sump pump and pond water, then letting your filters take care of the suspended crud.

    2) If you are not planning to support the fry, just leave them be. They are too small and fast to be caught now and are not big enough to stress your filter yet. They'll be bigger and easier to catch in the spring. Any that don't survive the winter...well, that's the Great Circle of Life.

    3) Try catching one. Look at its mouth. If it has barbels (whiskers) at the corners of its mouth, it is a koi.

    4) Leave the frogs alone. They'll dig into any available mud for the winter. You'll see them again in the spring.

    5) Get a hoop house or other greenhouse application over your pond. It'll improve your fish health and survival. If you stick a small electric radiator under the cover next to the pond, you won't see any ice at all. Shut your pumps down and blow the water out of your lines when you start to get freezing temps at night.

    Bob

  • I am hoping you can lead me in the right direction here. My pond is 10' x 12' the shallow end is roughly 1' to 1 1/2' and slopes to the deeper end at roughly 2' to 3' at the most. My first question is do i need to keep the pump going all winter? Shou
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    I am hoping you can lead me in the right direction here. My pond is 10' x 12' the shallow end is roughly 1' to 1 1/2' and slopes to the deeper end at roughly 2' to 3' at the most. My first question is do i need to keep the pump going all winter? Should i be looking into buying a heater? I live in the greater kansas city area so at this point there is no telling how our winter will turn out , but i would hate to lose my fish! I currently have 4 med/small koi and 6 small goldfish in the pond , do you think the deep end is going to be enough for these little guys to make it this winter?

     


    Hi Amanda,

    Wide and shallow. Not my favorite kind of pond, but then, I've got a colony of raccoons next door...

    Shallow water is quick to freeze, and your pond's deepest area is shallow by koi-keeping standards.

    My experience with pond heaters, especially the "plug in and put into your pond" type has been universally disappointing. The safe ones tend to be too weak to be much help and the livestock tank heaters tend to corrode and short out halfway through the winter, electrocuting your fish.

    I'm a huge fan of protection. Simply covering your pond with a greenhouse construct covered with clear plastic greenhouse covering is often enough to keep your fish happy and your pond ice-free.

    If you have a way of getting water from your pumps into the pond directly (avoiding streams and falls) you could continue to run your filters through the winter, but you'll only be getting mechanical filtration. Your bioconversion will have gone dormant at water temps below 50 degrees.

    If you are using submersible pumps, it's best to pull your pumps and tubing as the water cools down, stop feeding and blow your lines clear. Do weekly water changes through the winter. All this works best if your pond is covered. If the winter is particularly cold, get a small electric oil-filled radiator from your local Home Despot equivalent and set it under the cover. Versa-Quonset makes a real nice kit, and there's probably a dealer in your area who'll sell you one.

    Bob

  • ...My question, now that the pond has frozen over and the temperatures have remained so cold for a prolonged period, will my fish survive and what do I need to do if they do survive, the temperatures start to warm up and now even though they survive
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hi Bob:

    Been over a year since we conversed and I have a question for you.

    Last year we wintered our koi outside and covered the pond with a greenhouse type frame. Water never froze but the pond was only 24" deep and we knew the koi would not stand a chance of surviving a Michigan winter.

    We built a new pond which is almost 4' deep and decided to leave them go through the winter in their own pond. We did not cover it but put a bubble, an air stone and a pond de-icer in the pond. The pond has not frozen over until last week. We have been anywhere from several degrees below zero at night to 20 above during the day for about 8 days now. The pond is frozen over and there is a hole in the ice around the de-icer, the air stone is working as is the bubbler. I have seen all of my koi alive and appearing well as if 8 days ago.

    My question, now that the pond has frozen over and the temperatures have remained so cold for a prolonged period, will my fish survive and what do I need to do if they do survive, the temperatures start to warm up and now even though they survived are going to stress and possibly get sick on me.

    Your help would be appreciated and thanks again, Bob.


     

    Congratulations on the new pond. As long as your bubbler is able to keep an opening in the ice clear,your fish should be fine. The ice will act as a windbreak, and as long as nothing occurs to disrupt these conditions or excite the fish, you should have no major problems come spring. If that hole freezes over, remember to reopen it with hot water. Do not bang on the ice to break it. The shock waves from the hammering will damage your fish's sensory apparatus.

    I'm a firm proponent of greenhouse covers for ponds in our area. Even without heated water, the fish just seem to do better under a plastic dome, and the water never freezes.

    Bob Passovoy

  • Hi Dr Bob, I am a first year Koi owner having inherited a large Koi, about nine inches, and five smaller ones. I built a 6' by 9' pond, about 21/2 feet deep and now it is September here in Minnesota. I don't want to try to heat the pond but when do
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hi Dr Bob,

    I am a first year Koi owner having inherited a large Koi, about nine inches, and five smaller ones. I built a 6' by 9' pond, about 21/2 feet deep and now it is September here in Minnesota. I don't want to try to heat the pond but when do I transfer them indoors and what size tank do I get? It is getting down to a high of 50 here some days this week.


    Hi, Marsha,

    Your koi are probably small enough to come indoors, but you'll need at least a 250 gallon horse trough from Farm 'n Fleet to house them. Move your current pond's filter system in with it (basement or heated garage is best) and get it running as your water temperature approaches 55 degrees F. You'll need a good air pump as well. Your current pond holds about 1000 gallons, so as long as you feed very sparingly and do frequent water tests and changes, the 250 gallons should be enough. Keep your tank's water temp at or above 60 degrees. This will give you a great start on an isolation and medical tank system for next year.

    Alternatively, you could purchase a greenhouse kit from a landscape supply outfit and cover the pond. Something that small should do well with a 30 dollar electric radiator stuck under the cover. All that's needed is to keep the water temp above freezing and aerated well. You can shut down your filters as water temps drop below 50 degrees. Pull out or drain your pumps and pipes to prevent freezing damage.

    Bob

  • Dr. Bob, At the present time, I am maintaining many score (perhaps hundreds) of koi and comet-tails in seven (7) 300-gallon tubs. (Our 44,000- gallon outdoor pond is undergoing renovations by a pond service contractor who is taking much too long to
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Dr. Bob,

    At the present time, I am maintaining many score (perhaps hundreds) of koi and comet-tails in seven (7) 300-gallon tubs. (Our 44,000- gallon outdoor pond is undergoing renovations by a pond service contractor who is taking much too long to complete the work.) I am hopeful that we can re-introduce the fish to the outdoor pond before much longer.

    My question is: generally, what considerations should I observe if I undertake this re-introduction during winter? I am also concerned about the possibility of maintaining so many fish until the weather again warms up. The present water temperature in the tanks is 52-54 F; pH, ammonium, and nitrite levels are stabilized; outdoor water temperature is approximately 50 F and, of course, falling. Thank you for your help.


    Hi Tom,

    Don't do it. It is now too cold out for the fish to make the transfer successfully. Cool-down is always more stressful than warm-up, and doing it rapidly is likely to stress the fish beyond their tolerance. You are better off maintaining them as you are, and taking the opportunity to cull your population.

    Bob Passovoy

  • Hi Bob, Our KOI are doing great. We now want to bring them in for the winter. How do we acclimatize the move into the house? We have a 110 gal aquarium in the house. Do we need to bring the temperatures close or can they go from the pond to the hous
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hi Bob,

    Our KOI are doing great. We now want to bring them in for the winter. How do we acclimatize the move into the house? We have a 110 gal aquarium in the house. Do we need to bring the temperatures close or can they go from the pond to the house in one move. Our pond temperature is about 55 Fahrenheit. House is about 68 Fahrenheit. Thanks for your help.


    Hi Betty,

     

    How many koi are we talking about? How big are they? How big is the pond they are in now and what kind of filtration do you have?

    In general, koi will do okay indoors if there is adequate water to house them and super-good biofiltration and aeration. Indoors at 70 degree Fahrenheit,the fish are fully awake and will be hungry. You'll need to feed sparingly, water test and water change at least three times a week, and have an established filter, preferably using the exact same filter media you had out in the pond all summer.

    If you were planning to use a regular aquarium filter system for your koi over the winter, don't even try. Koi will overwhelm an aquarium environment almost instantly. The minimum gallonage you should be shooting for is 150 gallons, preferably 250, and more is better. Rubbermaid makes a dandy 250 gallon horse trough, and a lot of our local hobbyists use them as indoor housing in winter and as isolation and medic facilities in the season. You will absolutely need a pond-grade filter loaded with mature media that has been working in your pond for at least six weeks.

    Your fish can be transferred from pond to vat in plastic transport bags with enough water to cover them and the rest of the bag filled with air. Seal the bag with rubber bands and float the fish in the warmer indoor water for at least 20 minutes. Once the temperatures have equalized, the fish can be released into their temporary quarters.

    If you have large fish, or lots of fish, consider covering your pond with a greenhouse or hoop-house arrangement and keeping the water temp above freezing with an electric space heater at pondside under the plastic.

    Best of luck,

    Bob

  • We live in Colorado and put a 1000 gallon lined pond in last spring. We have 4 koi, and were told by the garden shop that we needed to put in a de-icer that floats at the top and keeps a hole in the ice. No one of course mentioned turning our waterf
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hello; we live in Colorado and put a 1000 gallon lined pond in last spring. We have 4 koi, and were told by the garden shop that we needed to put in a de-icer that floats at the top and keeps a hole in the ice. No one of course mentioned turning our waterfall off, and we woke up yesterday to the exact scene you described in another post - an empty pond and sad fish in the bottom.

    We didn't know what to do, so we filled a 55 gallon tank, stress-coated the water and transferred the fish (not big - 4 inches each maybe) and some pond plants. They seem to be doing ok, but we don't know what to do next; do we keep them indoors (how best to care for them?), or, as we have refilled the pond, do we treat the pond water, cool the fishes back down to pretty chilly, and put them back outside with a tarp and heater? We want to stress them the least, given the circumstances.

    Thanks, Lara


    Once

    they are in, they are in. Cooling them down again will stress them enough to kill them in the spring.

    You'll need to set up a filter array and an airstone for them, preferably using media salvaged from your pond. The bacteria in that media is dormant, NOT dead, so it should bounce back pretty well. Do not feed the fish until you've got the filter up and running, do twice weekly water changes (20% will do, with stress-kote) and water test for ammonia, nitrite and alkalinity at least three times a week. When you do feed, feed sparingly.


    Thank you so much for the information; when you say media from the pond, do you mean the pond water/slime? We never set up the biological part of our filter. We have a filter up and running, and will get an airstone and test strips. The fishes seem to be thriving, and hopefully we can keep them that way.
    Thanks again, Lara


    You are going to need that biological filtration, both now and next spring. Your koi were too small this year to get you into trouble, but they grow rapidly and their ammonia output will rise exponentially. Get some plastic scrubbing pads or PVC tape (lathed continuous shavings from a block of PVC pipe) and shove them into your filter box. Grab a bucketful of small rocks from the pond's bottom and throw them in. Then wait, test and pray. You got off lucky this season. It will not happen again!

    Bob

  • ... Here is where I need your help. The winters in the midwest... Do I spend the money to heat the water? inline heater? de-icers? It's all new to me. Or will they overwinter okay? I'm just sick to think that they might freeze. My pond is only four
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hello!
    We have recently started up a new pond in Bellevue, IA. This is our second pond, however we relocated here from Vancouver, WA were the climate was much more mild.

    Our new pond is 12 weeks old and I am fighting to get it balanced. I know it takes take time to balance a new pond. The pond is 10,000 gallons with a skimmer and pre- filter. We are running a 10,000 Aqua bio filter. In addition, we have a waterfall and an aeration system.

    Here is where I need your help. The winters in the midwest... Do I spend the money to heat the water? inline heater? de-icers? It's all new to me. Or will they overwinter okay? I'm just sick to think that they might freeze. My pond is only four feet at the deepest part. Do I run the waterfall all winter or will it freeze solid. It was really cold here last year.

    Help! Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks,

    Darla



    Hi, Darla!


    ...and welcome to the wonderful Midwest. Do you realize that there is nothing between you and the North Pole to break the wind except moose, Minnesota, and a few disgruntled Canadians?

    Midwestern winters are indeed rough, windy and unpredictable. How you get your pond through depends on how much money you are willing to spend. At four feet deep, you will not freeze to the bottom, but an Iowa winter will put four to five inches of ice over the top if you do not protect the pond and keep an area open for gas exchange. Trough heaters are not up to the job and frequently corrode and short out, risking your fish both from a water quality standpoint as well as electrocution and electrical injury. A high-capacity airstone set about six inches below water level and run as hard as you can will help, but we've had that system "dome over" and become ineffective during really cold spells.

    A pond heating system is a marvelous luxury, and there are a number of them out there, but most of them require somewhere to place the heating coils so that the pond water can run over them (the KoiHeat system uses a heat exchanger, and does not require a tub for coils), and all of them are going to be increasingly expensive to run as the price of natural gas and propane rises.

    In any case, whether you choose to heat your pond or not, the key to successful overwintering is protection. My personal choice, no matter what else you do, is to cover your pond. The best solution for this is a "poly house", basically a hoop house like the ones you see pop up every spring in the parking lots of your local mega-mart and scattered over the grounds of your favorite garden center. These are available as kits from outfits like Midwest Trading in St. Charles, IL, and are easy to erect and strike. Once up, the plastic cover is held on by a spring-wire and channel arrangement that has proven windproof for us through sixteen Chicago winters and has not even flinched under seventeen inches of wet snow. We don't heat our water; instead, we shove a 30-dollar Home Despot oil-filled electric radiator in under the plastic on the verge of the pond, and that keeps the air temperature at about 38-40 degrees through the winter. The water never freezes, and the frogs and plants love it. We keep the filters running all winter. The bacteria go dormant and pop right back up in the spring.

    Covering your pond not only gives you that greenhouse effect, it also keeps fall and winter debris out of the pond, improving your water quality and lessening the need for cleanout in the spring. It minimizes temperature swings, especially with heavy snowfalls when the water is not frozen over.

    Don't be tempted to cobble something together from PVC pipe. It is too light to stand up to the winds you are likely to get, and PVC becomes very brittle at freezing temperatures. A good load of snow will shatter your framework, dump the snow wholesale into your pond, and kill your fish via thermal shock. Nothing works better than inch-and-a-quarter galvanized steel pipe. Really.

    If you choose not to cover the pond (Arrrghh!), running your filters and falls can be dangerous. Water is capricious, and freezes...oddly. You can build up ice dams in your flow system that will divert your water out into your yard, leaving you with a hole in the ground filled with crud and fish-sickles. Even if your pond is covered, a water circulation route that bypasses your falls and streams and dumps directly into the pond is a good idea.

    Cover that pond, Darla, you will never regret it!

    Bob

  • 9.Algae
  • i am expericing a lot of algae in my pond. this has never really happened before, but i cant believe the growth especially in march. the pond is about 900 gallons and is only about 32 inches in depth, there are only exotic gold fish and regular gold
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    I am experiencing a lot of algae in my pond. this has never really happened before, but i cant believe the growth especially in march. the pond is about 900 gallons and is only about 32 inches in depth, there are only exotic gold fish and regular gold fish in the pond, i have not started up the pump or anything as of yet, just shut everything down for the winter. the algae is growing mostly around the sides of the pond and a little on the bottom, i have scrapped off as much as i possibly can, what can i do to prevent this, this is only march, i thought algae blooms were a problem in the summer months. thank in advance


    Hi Steve,

    The hair algae you are describing is serving a purpose over the winter. It is sopping up the ammonia produced by your fish and providing a vegetarian salad for them to munch on. Leave it alone until you get your pumps and filters up and running. At that point, remove the longest strands with a biff brush on a stick. Don't bother scrubbing or pressure washing the liner. Your biofilters will reduce the ambient ammonia to zero and the algae will go semi-dormant, to the point where the fish will keep it under control.

    Algae requires sunlight, phosphates and ammonia to thrive. Deny it the ammonia and it will not grow. Filtration is key.

    Bob

  • I recently installed a 1200 gal pond with a 20 ft stream. Right after I started the stream all the stones in it turned a dark brown color. I used an algae killer and all brown stuff disappeared from the stream. Ever since then (about one month) the
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    I recently installed a 1200 gal pond with a 20 ft stream. Right after I started the stream all the stones in it turned a dark brown color. I used an algae killer and all brown stuff disappeared from the stream.

    Ever since then (about one month) the water in my pond has been an ice tea color.

    I have a skimmer with a filter and a waterfall filter system in the pond. The filters pick up a lot of stuff but the water stays ice tea color. What can I do to make the water clear?

    Thanks in advance for any advice you can provide.


    Howdy,

    Well, what started all this was the algaecide. You killed off the early growth of a hair algae that was going to be beneficial for your pond's ecology. The organic debris left after you used the plant poison is still dissolved in your water and is responsible for the discoloration.

    You can reduce the discoloration with multiple water changes and by adding a protein extractor to your filter array. You can minimize the problem almost completely by avoiding the use of algaecides entirely. Your pond is supposed to be a natural environment. Algae are all natural, and will help soak up ammonia in the winter when your filter bacteria are sleeping.

    Bob

  • Is there something natural that I can use to kill algae in my pond that won't harm my fish or frogs?
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hi!

    Is there something natural (possibly something in my home) that I can use to kill algae in my pond that won't harm my fish or frogs?

    Thanks


    Hi there,

    What kind of algae? Hair algae or microscopic (green water) algae?

    Regardless of the type of algae you are struggling with, its presence in this part of the season strongly suggests that you have too many fish, not enough filter, or both. Algal growth depends on three things, sun, heat and nutrient. You can't do anything about the sun, unless you can shade your pond, which will help a little. In this climate, we love heat. No help there. Nutrient levels are where you can fix things.

    Algae eat ammonia, which is the major waste product excreted by your fish when you feed them. The more fish and food, the more ammonia and the more algae you will have. To correct this, you need to [a] stop feeding, [b] get rid of a bunch of your fish or [c] seriously upgrade your biofiltration so there is no available ammonia for it to eat. Those are the only "natural" solutions.

    Algaecides are a bad idea. They'll kill the algae sure enough, but will leave you with a ton of brown organic sludge that you'll only be able to get rid of with a series of near-total water changes.

    An Ultra-Violet sterilizer will remove microscopic algae without harming your pond's ecological balance, but will not touch hair algae. If hair algae is your problem, your best solution is a rake or brush on a stick, and seriously upgraded filtration. Be careful, though. If you remove all the hair algae, you'll be destroying a good portion of what ammonia-removal you presently have.

    Happy ponding!

    Bob

  • My dilemma is our pond has no filtration and we have a bad pea soup algae problem what is the best king of filter to get that will help control pea soup algae in ¾ sun.
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Dear Bob

    I found your site just browsing the web and its been a great help. My dilemma is our pond has no filtration and we have a bad pea soup algae problem what is the best king of filter to get that will help control pea soup algae in ¾ sun.


    Angie,

    The website has a lot of information on algae control. The most important thing you can do is to reduce the nutrient load. Algae lives on sunlight, warmth and nutrient, primarily ammonia, produced by your fish. No amount of water changing will change this. Algaecides will simply pollute your water with added chemicals and the organic crud left as the algae dies. NOT recommended.

    You need to install and maintain enough biofiltration to reduce your ammonia levels to ZERO. No free ammonia, no algae. Simple. Any high-capacity biofilter will work. Ultra-violet sterilizers will help, but will be ineffective without biofiltration.

    Keep reading.

    Bob

  • I can't seem to get rid of the algae on the rocks and green water. My water is very clear just green. I did a treatment of Clarifier and a 50% water change it really made the water clear, but is still green. What am I doing wrong, how can I get crys
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hello Dr Bob,

    I have a 5,000 gallon pond with maybe 15 large Koi. I have a water fall with a bag of lava rocks in it, ran by a 3500 pump, in a filtered skimmer box, a 3000 external filter, a 12X turbo twist uv light.

    I have recently added marginal plants, and lilies. I have all my pumps that are running my filers in self made filter media boxes. I also have a fountain in the middle of the pond for extra aeration. My pond is a year old, and in a sunny spot. I can't seem to get rid of the algae on the rocks and green water. My water is very clear just green.

    I did a treatment of Clarifier and a 50% water change it really made the water clear, but is still green. What am I doing wrong, how can I get crystal clear water and get rid of the algae on my water fall?


    Hi Barbara,

    The algae on the rocks is a GOOD thing. Leave it alone. The slippery green coating protects your fish when they bump up against them. It is not the same algae that is making your water green. For that you'll need to upgrade your filtration to remove more ammonia from the pond and buy a new bulb for your UV. Most UV bulbs become ineffective after one season's use.

    Try to avoid the temptation to add chemicals to your pond. It only adds to the organic and chemical pollutant load and negatively impacts the health of your fish.

    Bob

  • Subject: Need to eliminate "Green Water" Hi Bob My wife and I recently re-did our pond from a 1000 gal pond to an approximately 1800-2000 gal pond. We live in Naperville and our pond receives direct sunlight almost the entire day. We have always had
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Subject: Need to eliminate "Green Water"

    Hi Bob My wife and I recently re-did our pond from a 1000 gal pond to an approximately 1800-2000 gal pond. We live in Naperville and our pond receives direct sunlight almost the entire day. We have always had trouble with green water and we want to do it the right way this time.

    I have addressed the filtration side of things with a high capacity pump flowing through a skimmer and waterfall that have bio and mechanical filtration. I am now shopping for a UV sterilizer that is durable and strong enough to keep my pond clear. My pump is rated at 4300 gph max and piped to the waterfall via 1-1/4 tubing. I have read you help files and I see you have recommended Aqua-UV brand. I have run across units from emperoraquatics and Matala also. Also, I see that pondmaster has a submersible unit. What do you recommend?

    Also, I am entering week 2 of the new pond and water and I am green already. Any recommendations on seeding the bio media and bacteria addition is welcome. Current fish population 2 koi and 15 shubunkin.


    Hey Nicos!

    What you got there is "New Pond Syndrome". Your filters are not mature enough to take care of the full ammonia output of the fish you have and the floating algae is taking advantage of the sun, the warm temperatures and the ammonia and just going wild.

    Algae thrive on all three, and nutrient load (ammonia) is the only one you can directly affect. If you continue to keep koi, you'll find that the biofalls-based filter is far too small to keep up. You'll need to add an external filter and will need to wait at least six weeks for it to come up to speed enough to reduce your nutrient (ammonia) levels enough to starve out the algae. The whole setup will actually take a couple of years to mature fully.

    As far as UV units go, pick a unit that is robust (as in: NOT PLASTIC!), has a high-intensity UV bulb that is easy to change (you'll be changing it out every season), and that does not impede your water flows. BIG (at least 2-inch ports, stainless steel construction and 80 watts of UV power are recommended. Be sure that the UV is the LAST thing your water sees as it leaves the filter. It won't work anywhere as well as it should on water that has not been at least mechanically filtered first. Submersible UV fails the ease-of-service test. Comprehensively. Remember that you're going to be changing that bulb in early spring. That's fun only for Polar Bear Club members and other masochists.

    Bob

  • Hi, I have a small 1,000 gal pond for over 15 yrs.I've always had great success. This is the first yr. I used a pond deicer. Well now I have lots of algae. Each spring I empty and clean out the pond to start fresh. Can I add algae fix to the water th
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hi, I have a small 1,000 gal pond for over 15 yrs.I've always had great success. This is the first yr. I used a pond deicer. Well now I have lots of algae. Each spring I empty and clean out the pond to start fresh. Can I add algae fix to the water thats been in the pond all winter long? Or should I wait till I'm ready to clean it when nicer weather gets here, if it ever will. It may be too cold to get in there to change the filter for awhile. I put my hand in there today to grab some algae and I didn't last long!


    Hi Javier!

    Algae is a consequence of nutrient (ammonia), sunlight and temperature. Your water is warming up, your fish (bigger now!) are waking up and the sun is shining longer. Right now, the string algae is your friend. It is sucking up some of the ammonia that your fish are generating and providing a little spring "salad" for them to nibble on as they wake up. Leave it be. As things warm up, your biofilter should reduce the available nutrients in the water and the algae growth will slow down. Hair algae and "pea soup" algae are independent problems but have the same causes. The microscopic algae can be controlled with UV, the hair algae cannot.

    Smart control of algae depends on reduction of nutrients and control of solar exposure. Algaecides pollute; most string algae "fixes" don't fix.

    Bob

  • Hi Dr Bob, My dad has a 15 X 8 15 inches deep pond in south east Texas (my pond is in Chicago). filtration includes a large skimmer w/ pads and bio balls, a large bio falls w/ ribbon material. He has a unusual type of algae. Wondering if you could h
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hi Dr Bob,

    My dad has a 15 X 8 15 inches deep pond in south east Texas (my pond is in Chicago). filtration includes a large skimmer w/ pads and bio balls, a large bio falls w/ ribbon material. He has a unusual type of algae. Wondering if you could help identify the type and if it will be a problem in the future?

    The algae is a densely packed sheet 1/8 to quarter inch thick on the walls and bottom of the pond. Firmly attached, non floating. If you scrape it off the side it stays in "large chunks/patches". during the summer visibility was almost zero, with colder temps (60 degree F water temp) water is clear but he is worried what will happen when weather warms up. Filter medium (finish grade) needs to be flushed every three days or so.

    Any help or information you could provide would be appreciated.

    Thanks for your time and help.


    Hi Joe!

    Your dad's got good old-fashioned blanket weed there. A variant of hair algae, it thrives on mineral-rich water, fish poop (ammonia), and sun. This being Texas, I figure he's got an abundance of all three.

    Short-term, he'll do just fine with a biff brush and soft squeegee. Long-term, adding aquatic and verge plants to the environment and upgrading his filtration to get the ammonia cleared more efficiently will work better.

    Algae thrive on ammonia, NOT nitrates, so spring conditions, when bioconversion efficiency is at minimum and the fish are waking up, favor increased algae growth. Note that this presupposes a Chicago-type climate. I don't figure your dad's seen a 40-degree day in years!

    Stay away from algaecides and water "enzymatic clarifiers". The former will foul the water with dead plant material and both will increase the dissolved organic load in the pond, degrading water quality and impairing fish health.

    Bob

  • ... It is in full sun around 9 hours a day and has 7 water lilies 12 oxygenators and 4 other plants. When we first put the pond in it had 7 koi fish and the water was clear with green rocks on the bottom looked great, then we got 20 more koi 3 days
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    HOPE YOU CAN HELP !

    This year we put in a new pond, I can't get rid of the green water, it measures about 15 x15 and steps down 2 steps, the center is 30 inches deep. I believe it is around 1,500 gal. it has a 5 foot waterfall, a 4,000 gph pump in the skimmer and 3 - 2 inch 24 x 24 inch filters and a sack of bioballs on the top.

    It is in full sun around 9 hours a day and has 7 water lilies 12 oxygenators and 4 other plants. When we first put the pond in it had 7 koi fish and the water was clear with green rocks on the bottom looked great, then we got 20 more koi 3 days later the water started turning green now we can only see down 3 " MAYBE. The sides and bottom of the pond are covered with pea gravel and a few other larger rocks.

    From the start I added microbe lift pl and barley liquid that I made at home 'I put the barley in a 5 LB bucket with water , set it in the sun and I add about 1/2 gal 2 x a week.. I have been told I have to many fish, there is not enough filters ' need 6 more filters' , Take my plants out of the pots, ' There planted in pots with clay and pea gravel on the top. The largest koi is 10 inches long 8 others are 7 inches and the rest are around 6'' long. The last 2 weeks I have done 2 partial 30 % water changes each week, does help a little I hate to do that all the time, my water bill will get to looking ugly. I feed the fish 2 x a day a total of about 1/2 cup of food each x .

    Please help I cant sleep at night trying to figure this one out.

    Thanks marty


    Well, Marty,

    for starters, you should have stayed with the 7 fish. You are now severely overstocked in an immature pond with a biofilter array that has not fully matured, with fish that are generating more ammonia than your filters can handle.

    Barley straw extract will not help you, since the inhibitory capacity of barley straw works on hair algae only, and is a result of a synergy of pond chemistry and a strain of bacteria found on the straw. Unfortunately, it leaves a root-beer colored stain in the water.

    Your problem centers around ammonia, phosphates and sunlight. Microscopic floating algae love these, and will explode in a pond with high levels of all three.

    Please resist the temptation to go out and buy chemical algaecides. Not only do they not work, but they end up killing all your other plants and leave a huge organic load in the pond. This will leave sludge in your rocks (which I personally dislike intensely) and foster the growth of fish-killing parasites.

    I would suggest:

    1) Get rid of two-thirds of your fish. 1500 gallons with that filter array will not support 27 koi.

    2) Upgrade your filtration. Big-time.

    3) Leave your plants alone. They are neither the problem nor (at this time) the solution.

    4) If anyone tries to sell you a chemical algae treatment, punch them in the mouth.

    5) Install a good quality, high-flow, high-intensity Ultraviolet unit into your system *after* the last filter. Make sure it is constructed of materials that do not deteriorate with UV exposure. It should also have inlet and outlet ports the same size as your pipe runs. The UV will sterilize the algae that flows through it, and your water will gradually clear as you run the system and do small water changes.

    Bob

  • 10.Spring Startup
  • Spring: When should I start up the pump? Should I clean the bottom first ? Should I do a couple of water changes?
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hi Dr Bob,

    I have a 4000 gallon 12 by 14, 4-5 foot deep pond. There are about (12) 1 and 2 year old koi in the pond. I use a skimmer and waterfall filtration system with a bottom drain, although my pump is in the skimmer. I also have a 36 inch UV filter, not it makes a difference for this question. During this winter I have been using an aerator, and a 300 watt deicer to keep the fish alive. Now for the actual question,

    When should I start up the pump ? Should I clean the bottom first ? Should I do a couple of water changes?


    Hi Tom!

    1) Start up the pump when you are fairly sure the air temp will stay above freezing all night and all the ice is gone from the pond's surface.

    2) Definitely clean off the bottom, but not until the water has had a chance to circulate and aerate for a few days. Do the cleanup in small increments, especially if there is a lot of debris on the bottom.There are almost certain to be pockets of hydrogen sulfide gas down there and you want to minimize your fish's exposure to this poison. A pond vac will help.

    3) Water changes are always a good idea. You should have been doing them all winter!

    Bob

  • What do you recommend is the time to REALLY start up the filter system for our area? Should you just go by water temperature alone? I know water is warmer on the bottom and I am afraid to start up the filtration too soon. OK, what about the outside
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    What do you recommend is the time to REALLY start up the filter system for our area?

    Should you just go by water temperature alone? I know water is warmer on the bottom and I am afraid to start up the filtration too soon. OK, what about the outside temperature factor - snow is still looming in the forecast.

    Please advise your wisdom is always greatly sought
    after.

    Sincerely,

    Just another happy
    ponder!

     


    Hi Kerry!

    The whole business of stratification is probably non-existent when applied to backyard ponds. You need to be a lot deeper to develop a thermocline. If your pond has been covered through the winter months, with a little heat added, I'd be running my pumps year-round. Under those conditions, the biofilter bacteria are dormant but not dead and will start up very quickly, often fast enough to completely avoid the dreaded Spring Nitrite Spike. If you've been open to the weather in full shutdown, I'd do a bottom cleanout first, as soon as you are reasonably sure the last of the truly freezing weather is past. Startup at that point will do everything good.

    Bob

  • Now, however, you may recall our pond was never shut down by previous owners before we moved in January. I looked at a relatively clear pond for the first time yesterday but after the massive rain, today i notice 2 things..
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hi Bob

    This is Barry who you met last Friday at your MPKS meet at The Oaks. Further to revealing our ignorance at managing koi, assuming the flooding yesterday was a good thing for melting ice etc, we find ourselves with about a dozen still going strong, including a couple of tiddlers so i think the 2 koi we lost must have been down to the extreme cold here in Naperville.

    Now, however, you may recall our pond was never shut down by previous owners before we moved in January. I looked at a relatively clear pond for the first time yesterday but after the massive rain, today i notice 2 things:

    1. the pond is very high although not in danger of overflowing - is there any dilution that i must immediately address due to the heavy rain? Should i test for ammonia levels?

    2 (and of immediate concern) i can't see a THING in the pond today - i'm guessing the heavy rain stirred up all the sludge and muck on the bottom (i'm guessing from a measure in the ice hole that it's only 18 inches deep all around (5*6 pond, 400 gallons about) but i was hoping it would settle by lunchtime and it hasn't. It's pea green soup murky so i don't know if i should just leave it, rescue (harm?) the fish out of the pond or what?

    please advise - thanks so much


    Hi Barry,

    In answer to your questions.

    1) Rain is generally free water, that is, water without dissolved minerals (except for whatever pollutants it picked up on the way down!). While ammonia is always worth checking, especially given your very heavy stocking overload, a more critical value would be your alkalinity and then your pH. You will not have nitrite yet; no active bacterial activity. If your alkalinity is less than 80 ppm, it needs to be supplemented with sodium bicarb. Watch out though. If your pH is low and you have ANY ammonia in the water (as I suspect you do, given question 2) you'll need to pre-treat with Amquel or ClorAm-X BEFORE correcting the alkalinity. Even with the protection conferred by the cold water, the conversion of ionized to unionized ammonia caused by the increase in pH will be enough to kill all your fish at once.

    2) What you got there, son, is a good old-fashioned Midwestern algae bloom. It is the combination of a little sun, a little phosphate and carbonate, and a whole lot of ammonia. What triggered the bloom was the warmup caused by the relatively warm rain. DO NOT ADD ALGAE KILLERS! You will poison the pond with herbicide, and, like salt, once that crap and the sludge from the dead algae are in your pond, they are there for good or until you remove them with water changes. Dilute the green with 20% water changes (dechlorinated first!) twice a week.

    Bob


    Thanks Bob - very helpful and precise info. I'm guessing by 'very heavy stocking overload' you mean we have too many fish in the pond for its size. Can you confirm i'm understanding you correctly.

    We bought 'Prime' which appears to be the same gunk as ClorAm-X so will use to pre-treat whole pond if the alkalinity proves to be too low. Also, will do this before adding any sodium bicarb if it's required. Is it safe to pre-treat for ammonia in morning and then raise alkalinity in afternoon or should one wait a day or two between exercises.

    Regarding pea soup, i think we should get going on 20% water changes like you advise. I'm assuming just remove 20% murky water, then simply add hose water which has been treated with the appropriate amount of Prime, right?

    I called the 'fish doctor' and she suggested gettting someone out to remove ground sludge asap. I prefer to wait till we do a total water change once temps are consistently above 50 so we can start feeding fish with a freshly cleaned out pond. ie take your advice till spring, then do a clean out and not 'deal' with the sludge at the bottom till then.

    Carelys (wife) - i'll head to fish shop after collecting kids to test a sample of water.

    thanks Dr Bob - this really helped us.


    Correct. Too many fish, not enough water.

    Check for ammonia and pH. Then alkalinity. Do not treat for anything unless you know what you are treating. If you have any ammonia in the presence of a low pH, correcting the pH will deionize the ammonia and kill your fish. Always treat ammonia first.

    You will need to clear out the sludge, but you'll need to get all your fish out of the pond first and into an isolation tank. Then you drain the pond fully and slurp out the gunk. Disturbing the sludge now can release pockets of hydrogen sulfide-rich sediments which will - that's right - kill your fish. Moving your fish now will stress them. Leave everything as it is except for the water changes and wait for your water temps to hit 60. Then go ahead with the cleanout. Do not power wash or rinse with hose water. Rinse down the sides with a sump pump and relatively clean water from your partially drained pond. Then sump out the pond and discard. Pretreat the pond with Stress-X (no more ammonia, so the "Prime" isn't necessary, refill and reintroduce your fish.

    Bob

  • ...I changed about 50% of the water on Sunday , added a bigain, Gretchen and I are both working this evening and can't make the dinner (believe me we would!). So... I changed about 50% of the water on Sunday , added a bit of salt, and we let the pon
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Subject: Re: First Koi Experience

    Hi Bob, Quick question again, Gretchen and I are both working this evening and can't make the dinner (believe me we would!). So... I changed about 50% of the water on Sunday , added a bit of salt, and we let the pond go. Filter still running, believing we had no fish. Cup of coffee this morning and up comes one. Appears to be ok, what of this secondary population of bacteria? Water is a little green/brown. I am not planning on doing anything other than testing for nitrite tomorrow, maybe adding a little salt if needed and letting it go to see what happens... Any advice, timeline for anything else? Sorry for all the questions , but I was quite surprised..... Thanx! Philip


    Phil,

     

    Nitrification is the process by which several different populations of naturally occurring bacteria in your pond convert ammonia produced by your fish to nitrite, then on to non-toxic nitrate in a second step. The first population of these bacteria develops in early spring and will generally be up and running about 3 weeks after the water temperatures are reliably and consistently above 50 degrees. The populations that convert the VERY toxic nitrite to relatively non-toxic nitrate develop more slowly and will generally take two to three weeks longer. As your pond matures, a process that can take between two to five years, the spring reawakening process shortens somewhat.

    Pond products that purport to contain filter cultures to "jump-start" your filters do not, in fact, work. Such cultures can be obtained from specialty labs, but they have a shelf life of about 12 hours and are generally used by large aquariums (i.e.: Shedd) to prepare habitats for large populations of newly acquired fish rapidly. These starter cultures cost the Earth, and the labs won't deal with you unless you are a commercial, museum or research enterprise.

    Bob

  • Bob: We put in a new pond last summer. We had it cleaned out for the winter. Is it necessary to do a total spring cleanout. ( taking the fish out, draining and cleaning the rocks)? Our fish seem to be doing fine and I tested the water and it was fin
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Bob:

    We put in a new pond last summer. We had it cleaned out for the winter. Is it necessary to do a total spring cleanout. ( taking the fish out, draining and cleaning the rocks)? Our fish seem to be doing fine and I tested the water and it was fine.

    Lynne


    Hi Lynne!

    Rest easy. Your fall cleanout is fine if you were smart enough to cover your pond to prevent leaf debris and winter crud from falling in and sinking to the bottom.

    If you did not protect your pond, you'll need to get that stuff off the bottom as soon as you can. You won't need a drain-out, but you will need to get the dead leaves and debris off the bottom; a cheap swimming pool bottom vac, powered by your garden hose works great if your pond bottom is bare liner. (remember to dump in dechlorinator before you start!) If you have rock on the bottom, you can get most of the stuff out with a leaf net, also available cheap from a pool supply place.

    You'll want to get this done before the water heats up. The debris on the bottom makes a great breeding ground for parasites.


    Bob: Thanks for the quick reply. Glad to hear that. We were smart enough to cover the pond over the winter and debris is minimal. Our only concern is the string algae that is still present and attached to the rocks. Is a spring cleanout with it's power washing beneficial to removing all that algae off the rocks?


    Hey Lynne!

    Gosh no! Leave that wonderful stuff right where it is. Right now, it's the only biofiltration you've got. It is also a source of nutrition for your fish and cushions the sharper edges of the rocks, reducing the risk of fish injury, especially during spring spawning. A short, thick coat of hair algae on your rocks is the best sign of a mature pond.

    I prefer not to power-wash any part of our 4400 gallon pond. We leave the algae on the rocks and the liner, and simply flush and sump out the crud between our verge rocks with recirculated pond water. We use our pond's main pump fed by the bottom drain to do the job. Works a treat. Use your power washer for your patio and driveway, not your pond. The bigger, more powerful washers are capable of punching a hole right through your liner if used incautiously.

    Bob

  • I have kept my koi inside for the winter. How do I: get their immune systems up before reintroduction to the pond? get the PH level similar to the pond? get the pond as good for them as it can be - reduce "nasties" get good bacteria
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    I have kept my koi inside for the winter. How do I:

    • get their immune systems up before reintroduction to the pond?
    • get the PH level similar to the pond?
    • get the pond as good for them as it can be - reduce "nasties"
    • get good bacteria going?

    Do I put in one or two at a time, then a couple more? (There are 2 koi who stayed in the pond over winter).


    What great questions! I hope you won't mind if we send this one directly to the website.

    1) If your indoor koi are swimming around in 65 - 70 degree water, their immune systems are just fine and functioning at 100% efficiency. Good food with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetable supplements will set them up great. Don't even think about reintroducing them to your pond until the outdoor water temperatures are reliably above 55 degrees, and preferably 60.

    2) Don't sweat the pH. If your water source for indoor and outdoor is the same, the pH will be the same. You'll want to do a full test run before introduction of your fish, with temp, pH, ammonia, nitrite, chlorine, chloramine, and alkalinity at a minimum.  Remember that your outside fish are not the only things that are dormant. Your filter bacteria are also offline, and won't be able to keep up with the load if you dump all of your fully awake and hungry indoor fish into the pond all at once.

     

    The best thing you can do to get the pond ready is to make sure it is as clean as possible and that your biofilters are up and running. You'll want to introduce you indoor fish back to the pond gradually, in ones and twos over several weeks, watching ammonia, alkalinity, nitrite and pH carefully.

    Give your filter bacteria time to adjust to the load of warm, hungry fish. Remember that biological systems have considerable inertia. Also, remember not to transfer your fish until your indoor and outdoor water temperatures are within 10 degrees of each other. The wider that gap is, the longer you'll need to float your fish before releasing them into the pond. One or two degrees isn't a big deal. Five or ten degrees is, and if the change from warm to cold is sudden, it'll kill your fish.

     

    Bob

  • 11.Predation
  • The Question: Is there anything else i can do short of shooting the ducks ( I do have a 12 guage lol) but i realize ILLEGAL. Any help would be appreciated 🙂
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    I recently cleaned out a 3 tier pond in my back yard and after much work and testing started to incorporate the fish into the pond. The fish were doing well, healthwise and were starting to eat regularly when i came home one day to find the largest 3 missing, presumably cause the smaller where able to hide in the side rocks.

    I assumed it was a heron or cat because it happened during the day. I also thought that the depth might have something to do with it because a leak had dropped the pond to at most 18". I proceeded to fill the pond to a depth of 24" + and added some larger koi who were at most 4" and built a center shelter with 3 rocks to create a overhead hiding spot.

    Within 5 minutes two mallards, a male and female, proceeded to eat the largest new koi as i watched in amazement, i did not see her take it but watched and ran to get rid of them with only the fileted fish left on the side. After searching the internet I found more instances of mallards not being a fish eating predator than those that said they were????...therefore, i made a the rock area in the middle more of a fort with a way in and out big enough to let the fish in and a large enough area to hold all the fish. In addition i ran fishing line across the pond in hopes of deterring them.

    Not sure at this point if this is going to work but hoping it will. I realize that if the koi were larger this probably wouldn't be a problem but i can't afford larger ones and would really like to raise the ones I have rather than buying ones that someone else has raised.

    The Question: Is there anything else i can do short of shooting the ducks ( I do have a 12 guage lol) but I realize ILLEGAL. Any help would be appreciated 🙂

    Chad


    Hi Chad,

    Ducks are a problem, but thankfully less of one than herons. Your major problem is your depth. At two feet, it is perfect feeding depth for every predator in the neighborhood. Going deeper (four to five feet) would eliminate herons and raccoons. Ducks have the unfortunate ability to float and have no problems with water landings. Loud noises, paintball guns and high-pressure water sprays via an automated spray device (ScareCrow) have all worked for various members of our club. Small, yappy/hysterical dogs with no fear of water are good, too, but then you have to put up with the dog.

    The best thing about ducks (aside from being delicious) is that they can be discouraged. Irritate them enough when they show up and they will eventually stay away. This time of year, the pairs are looking for nesting sites. The appearance of constant threat to nestlings will chase them off.

    Bob

  • Is it possible I received a visit from a Heron recently or is there something wrong with my pond's environment?
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Dear Bob,

    I have a pond 55' x 32' and 8" to 48" deep. This is my pond's second year with fish.

    This morning I found one of my sixteen Koi dead floating in the shallow end of my pond. Looking over the fish, I did not see any signs of disease but did observe a small hole located in the top of its head. The puncture size of the hole was that of a small flathead screw driver or about a quarter of an inch.

    Is it possible I received a visit from a Heron recently or is there something wrong with my pond's environment?

    Thank You,

    Ron


    Hi Ron,

    If you live where we do, it's a little early for herons, but if your pond is below the Mason-Dixon Line, predation is very likely.

    The fact that there is only one fish dead and there's a definite sign of trauma reinforces this. If you had a water quality or disease issue, you'd have multiple fish dead or sick.

    Bob

  • This morning my koi pond was empty. Then I found the two largest ones hiding under the bridge. The others (about 12) are all gone. There is no evidence of eaten or damaged fish, nothing at all, so could the thief still be a heron? I haven't seen one.
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    This morning my koi pond was empty. Then I found the two largest ones hiding under the bridge. The others (about 12) are all gone. There is no evidence of eaten or damaged fish, nothing at all, so could the thief still be a heron? I haven't seen one. I live in Cape Town, South Africa.


    Not necessarily a heron, but almost certainly predation, given the behavior of your remaining fish. Cape Town is on the seacoast, so ospreys and other fish-eaters have found you. It might be worthwhile to cover the pond with a hoop-house arrangement and shade cloth to hide the presence of water from the air. The herons already know you're there, and the only things that work for them are either water too deep for them to wade in or effective anti-aircraft fire.

    Bob Passovoy

  • 12.PVC!
  • I bought 50 feet of 2” flexible PVC pond tubing because (according to a couple of websites) it was suppose to be easy to connect and glue to PVC fittings. Well, I found that it doesn’t fit PVC fittings. So I called the company I ordered it from and
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Bob,

    Do you have , or know of anyone in our club that has, experience using flexible PVC? I bought 50 feet of 2” flexible PVC pond tubing because (according to a couple of websites) it was suppose to be easy to connect and glue to PVC fittings. Well, I found that it doesn’t fit PVC fittings. So I called the company I ordered it from and the guy told me that fittings that you buy from the local hardware store will not fit.

    So I ordered schedule 40 PVC fittings that were made for flexible PVC tubing and they don’t fit either. The PVC tubing is still slightly too large. Since it doesn’t fit inside the PVC fittings, I don’t know if PVC glue will bond the tubing to PVC fittings Did I fall victim to a marketing scam? Do you think I can make it work by sanding down the tubing and fittings until the tubing fits inside the fitting? I’d appreciate any suggestions.


    Hi Bob,

    Large portions of my 19-year-old pond's tubing is 2" flex, and I've never had problems with the fittings, which I generally buy cheap from Menard's. You will need to prep both the fittings and the pipe with primer, and the glue for flex PVC is also different. It acts as a lubricant when applied and you need to hold it still for much longer to set the bond. Standard PVC glue will pop right off. It does not have the punch to dissolve the outer layer of PVC on the flex pipe. If you let go of the joint too soon, even with the flex glue, you can watch the fitting creep right off.

    The "schedule" rating denotes what contents the pipes are rated to carry. Schedule 40 is rated for water only. Schedule 80 is more robust, gray in color and rated to be safe for some chemical applications. It is also way more expensive.

    Get yourself some of the right glue, some standard fittings and (unless this guy sold you a pipe with a non-standard external diameter and you were scammed) playing with the scraps should get you the technique.

    Bob

  • 13.Pond Construction
  • I wonder how you prevent freezing the water left over in the pipe from the bottom drain to your filter system in the garage. I use a knife-valve that's buried in the ground next to the pond. I've never been able to completely shut it off and so the u
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hi Bob,

    How are you? I haven't been to the meeting of late - no excuses! 🙂

    I wonder how you prevent freezing the water left over in the pipe from the bottom drain to your filter system in the garage. I use a knife-valve that's buried in the ground next to the pond. I've never been able to completely shut it off and so the underground vortex always has water through the winter (that freezes).

    We're moving across town in Palatine and I'm designing my pond at the new house. I remember you have your filtration system all neat in the garage but wonder how you shut off the water from the pond in the winter. I'm contemplating a system all above ground (instead of having the gravity fed pre-filter buried in the ground).

    p.s. - I plan on moving my 1500 gallon preformed W Lim pond. I am intimidated by the task of maintaining a liner pond with a higher likelihood of punctures.

    Thanks,

    Yuan


    Yuan,

    The best way to keep the lines open is to keep the water flowing. Second-best would be to buy the highest quality gate valves you can for that one application and install an air valve between them. When you want to shut things down, close off the gate valve and pump air into the lines. The pipes do not have to be completely dry, just empty enough so the residual water has enough room to expand without bursting the pipes.

    I generally do not shut my system down. The cover keeps things warm enough to allow year-round running.

    Liners are tough and will not leak if due care is taken during construction.

    Bob

  • what is a good rock to utilize inside and outside the pond (oval in shape - boulder type I prefer)? Also will a UV sterilizer kill beneficial bacteria?
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Dr. Bob,

    I took your advice and bought a bunch of the product you informed me to purchase. I have 2 more questions, my last pond I used flag stone and was not to happy with it, what is a good rock to utilize inside and outside the pond (oval in shape - boulder type I prefer)?

    Also will a UV sterilizer kill beneficial bacteria?

     


    Hi Andy,

    1) The stuff most folks like is Wisconsin "cobble rock" which is basically glacier-polished granite. As you might guess, it comes in a wide variety of colors and sizes, is relatively cheap and stacks well as long as you put the big ones on the bottom. It tends to be very stable.

    2) UV units perform only one function reliably: they prevent microscopic floating algae from reproducing, thus preventing "pea-soup" ponds. The filtering bacteria you are worrying about are sessile. They adhere to rocks, filter media and the insides of your pipes. They never see the inside of your UV. There is some evidence that high-intensity UV will kill some free-swimming parasites, but since most parasites are stuck to your fish and it's kinda hard to get the fish to swim into the UV unit...

    Bob

  • Since I'm only 2 years in to this hobby and this will be the last pond I make, I wanted to make sure everything is more than adequate for handling this pond...
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    I'm currently upgrading my pond from a 700 gallon pond to a 1700 gallon pond. For this new pond I was able to purchase a Savio Waste Master 2050 pump and a Compact Savio Filter at a good price brand new. I was told this would be sufficient for this appx size. I'll be running appx 17 feet of flexible hose to the biofalls. The biofalls will be no more then 2 feet higher then the skimmer. My current biofalls is an Atlantic BF1000, not sure if I'll need to get a bigger Biofalls. If so, any suggestions?

    Since I'm only 2 years in to this hobby and this will be the last pond I make, I wanted to make sure everything is more than adequate for handling this pond. Currently we have 4 small Koi and 2 shubunkins which I know will get bigger this year.

    Please let me know your thoughts, every Koi pond retail shop has given me different answers and I don't want to redo anything.

    Thanks for your
    time,

    Andy


    Dear Andy,

    I applaud you intention to make this pond your last, but knowing this hobby, I'm willing to bet that you'll be digging again in a few years.

    1700 gallons is small, and all you need to be concerned about is that your pump, filter and falls box are capable of handling flows sufficient to exchange all 1700 gallons through your filter in one hour.

    Your piping should be as big as you can afford, with a minimum diameter of two inches. Remember that you will lose flow volume with every foot of pipe your water runs through, and more with every corner it turns. Every inch your water has to be lifted also loses you flow. Your pump should come with a graph detailing flow rates at various elevations above pond level. Our website has links to graphs (see Pipe Run Tables) that allow you to calculate the flow loss per foot of pipe and per fitting. Use them before you start your build. You may find that you'll need to modify your design.

    Bob

  • Hi, Do I need to obtain a building permit to install a pond in my back yard? It would be done with a rubber liner. Thanks, Ken
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hi, Do I need to obtain a building permit to install a pond in my back yard? It would be done with a rubber liner. Thanks, Ken

     


    Absolutely!

    The correct sequence goes like this:

    1) Decide you want a pond.

    2) Decide what you want that pond to be and what you want to live in it.

    3) Find a contractor or other advisor who has built MANY ponds, or join MPKS and come to meetings and talk about ponds with people who have them and have maintained them for years.

    COME TO THE MPKS KOI SHOW AT THE MAX IN McCOOK AND ASK A ZILLION QUESTIONS. I'LL BE THERE. LOOK FOR ME INSIDE THE CORE DOING MAD-SCIENCE STUFF.

    4) Go out into your yard and look carefully at all the ways a pond would be an absolute utter disaster if you built it that way. Plan on NOT building it that way. Go back inside and draw pictures of your pond and then have another argument with your advisor/contractor/MPKS club member.

    5) Add at least two feet more to your planned depth and upgrade your planned filtration by a factor of five BEFORE you even think of digging.

    6) Call JULIE (Joint Utility Locating Information for Excavators) at 811 and have them come out and scan your yard for buried treasure like high-voltage electricity, gas lines and sewers.

    7) NOW go to Village Hall and ask to see the local regulations and rules regarding backyard ponds. If what you get is blank stares, ask for the rules for swimming pools. Most municipalities require some form of fencing, self-closing gates, self-latching latches and no overhanging electrical wires. All will require a plan diagram including where your electricity is coming from.

    8) Ask for an application for a building permit while you are there.

    9) Follow the rules. It saves a ton of grief later.

    10) Have the Building Permit in your hands.

    11) Dig.

    Bob

  • Hello Dr Bob, We are building our new house & we were wondering if we can have an indoors Koi pond; if yes what is the minimum size (especially depth) required?
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hello Dr Bob,

    We are building our new house & we were wondering if we can have an indoor Koi pond; if yes what is the minimum size (especially depth) required?

     


    Hi Abdullah!

    Truly, there are no limits. One of our members has a 30,000 gallon indoor pond; anything smaller will just fit better. Indoors, your pond will not need heating, but the constant temperatures will probably interfere with the normal koi spawning cycle.

    Indoors, predators will not be a problem. This eliminates the need for nets, fishline, ScareCrows, caltrops and anti-aircraft emplacements.

    You'll have to figure a way to deal with the indoor humidity issue.

    Remember to engineer in an isolation facility, electricity that is safe, and a safe and easy way to fill and drain the pond.

    You will need a source of sunlight or similar full-spectrum light source for your plants.

    Make sure you have room to expand your filtration and pumps at need.

    Find a contractor who has done this before! If you want to keep koi, plan on a minimum depth of 4 feet, strongly consider going deeper.

    Bob

  • I am completing a modest sized pond, with a 40ml rubber liner. I have also lined the inside of the pond (to hide the liner) with these blocks I got from Home Depot, called rumble wall...a nice, large heavy rustic concrete block that looks great as I
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hi Bob

    Hey...Great site and info and your sense of humor makes it all the better. I'm not sure if you're still answering general questions or not, but if so, here's mine....

    I am completing a modest sized pond, with a 40ml rubber liner. I have also lined the inside of the pond (to hide the liner) with these blocks I got from Home Depot, called rumble wall...a nice, large heavy rustic concrete block that looks great as I'm needing more of a formal look than a natural pond scheme.

    I was told that since these blocks are formed from concrete that I would have trouble keeping the PH balance because of the limestone in the concrete, and should have used some type of natural rock instead. I won't be putting any fish in there til next spring, but am wondering if it's gonna be a chore to keep this water balanced because of it.

    Relining the interior of the pond with natural stone really isn't a good option based on money already spent and labor as well. Is having all these concrete blocks in constant contact with the pond water really a big deal or am I really gonna have to stay on my toes about keeping the water balance where it needs to be.

    Also, any comment on these kinds of blocks holding up under the freeze and thaw action during the winters here in E. Tn? After doing all this work I'm wondering if they will end up disentegrating because they can't hold up to the contraction /expansion of cold weather.

    Thanks!

    Kevin


    Concrete in direct contact with water and fish is generally a bad idea, especially if it is not a specific mix and has not been thoroughly cured, then prepped with muriatic acid and then multiply washed. Any commercial artificial rock not specifically produced for aquatic use has the possibility of sharp edges that have the potential to harm both your liner and your fish and may not have the stability you need.

    The lime part of the concrete is not stable in circulating water and will erode over time, depositing sand and sharp-edged gravel on the bottom of of the pond and also exposing it on the bricks themselves for the fish to get scratched up on. Water quality issues aside (and yes, there will be significant problems with your pH) you'll need to watch your water parameters carefully over the next several months, concentrating on pH and alkalinity, and keep a sharp eye on the durability and smoothness of the artificial block.

    Best of luck with this. Concrete ponds are common in the hobby, but the mix is a specialized one, and may not be the same as used in your product.

    Bob

  • I live just north of Grand Rapids Michigan & would like to build a large koi pond & waterfall. I want to landscape around it w/ plants trees & bushes. I've looked into pond liners but worry the tree roots will puncture it. Can I build a pond with con
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    I live just north of Grand Rapids Michigan & would like to build a large koi pond & waterfall. I want to landscape around it w/ plants trees & bushes. I've looked into pond liners but worry the tree roots will puncture it. Can I build a pond with concrete or mortar? I would appreciate your advice on the pros & cons on this project.
    Laura


    Hi Laura,

    The fear you voice is a common misconception. Tree roots grow out as fine tendrils and thicken as the shade line of the tree expands. About the only plant with root systems capable of damaging a 44 mil EPDM liner is bamboo. As long as a liner pond has an adequate underlayment of heavy-duty garden fabric, old blankets, tarpaulins or similar material, your pond is safe. Most leaks are caused by careless handling of rock, bad piping and improper liner seam technique.

    Concrete is certainly a possible building material, but requires a certified ferrocrete contractor, extensive pre-construction with rebar (interlocked steel rod) and costs the earth. Any piping you want to do has to be carefully pre-planned and laid in prior to your pour, and once in, is there forever. Poured concrete is great if you are a multi-million dollar international corporation showing off your new headquarters, but it is impractical for the beginning backyard ponder, especially when you remember that a pond enthusiast generally builds between five and six ponds of steadily increasing size during his or her career. It's easier to pull up a liner than to dynamite out reinforced concrete. Easier on the neighbors, too. Besides, concrete leaks, and wide temperature swings (as in Central Michigan) can cause heaving and cracks.

    There is a new resin-based pond construction material out there, but it costs the earth and the rest of the solar system.

    Look up your local water gardening society and ask for a referral to a reputable contractor in your area. He'll be able to advise you on the best construction materials for your locale.

    Bob

  • Hi. I live in Houston, Tx and wanted to build koi pond with concrete and someone mentioned that concrete is bad for fish. Is that true? If it is, what do you recommend? Thank you.
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hi. I live in Houston, Tx and wanted to build koi pond with concrete and someone mentioned that concrete is bad for fish. Is that true? If it is, what do you recommend? Thank you.


    Concrete isn't bad at all, just cranky and expensive. In order to hold up to the mass of water and the force it exerts, a concrete pond must be a ferrocrete or steel-reinforced structure. Construction requires professionals expert in the trade to avoid leaks, and those gentlemen are very aware of the value of their skills. Concrete is an unforgiving medium to model in, and once set, modification requires a jackhammer. Water feeds, drains and skimmer positions have to be thought of and designed in *first* and can't be easily removed or modified once the pour is over.

    Once dug, constructed and poured, it must cure, and then be washed down with muriatic acid. It takes weeks for the surface limestone to leach enough of the alkali out of the walls to allow the pH to stabilize enough to allow you to begin to introduce fish. If it leaks, repairs are difficult. If you live in a part of the country prone to earthquakes, even a small temblor can crack and ruin your construct entirely.

    Most of the hobbyists I know have opted for liner-based ponds. The two guys with more grandiose ideas who went for concrete had endless trouble which was funny only in retrospect, years later.

    Once established and stable, they are durable, but most ponders tend to regard their ponds in the same light that model railroaders consider their layouts. Neither is ever finished. A liner pond has only to be drained and the old liner pulled up to prepare for expansion. Concrete must be blasted.

    If the hobby interests you and if you are a beginner (especially if you are a beginner!) avoid concrete. Liner is much cheaper, quicker and more forgiving.

     Bob

  • I have a question about expanding my existing pond. I currently have a 4X6 pond that is about 18" deep with two bio filtration falls (one 16 inch bio fall and one home made up-filter made out of a 6 gallon office wastepaper basket and filter media)
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hi,
    I am not sure if your e-mail is open to general questions or if it is just open to members, so if it is please disregard this e-mail.

    I have a question about expanding my existing pond. I currently have a 4X6 pond that is about 18" deep with two bio filtration falls (one 16 inch bio fall and one home made up-filter made out of a 6 gallon office wastepaper basket and filter media) and about 1500 gallons of flow between my two pumps. Like most first time builders I built much too small. The problem is that my fish are now well established (4 5-6" comets, two 5" fantails and one 7" butterfly koi) and I would like to expand the pond on its existing site while keeping the fish alive.

    !) I am not really comfortable with the idea of splicing liners so I would like to drain the current pond and expand the current hole to accommodate a 10x6 pond that varies in depth from about 18" to 24". Do I currently have enough water movement and filtration? (I can easily build a bigger up-filter with materials on hand)

    2) I anticipate construction lasting about 3-4 days (I plan on building this one much better than the last). How can I keep my fish alive and healthy during their time outside of the pond?. I have thought of getting a large Rubbermaid container and hooking one of the pumps and filters to it for a temp solution. Will this work? Also, how can I avoid new pond syndrome?

    3) I would like to add koi to my new pond. I think a maximum of 4 would suit me, but I am wondering about the pond volume. Will I overrun the capacity of my bio filters? I will be moving 1500 gallons in a 900 gallon pond, but I have read horror stories of the stress that koi cause on a smaller pond.

    Thanks so much for your time and your response. Your site is perhaps the most helpful and informative site on the web for hobbyist ponders. Even though I am in the Mid-Atlantic, (Richmond, Virginia) I have found many tips and Q&A's that have been very useful.


    Hi Whit,


    Yep, you've run afoul of the Third Law of Ponding, alright, the one that says: "There's Never Enough Water". You are currently running 270 gallons, which is just about right for your goldfish, but which your koi will outgrow within the next two seasons or so, so your plan to rip out the current pond and expand is a good one.

    Your interim plans for construction are good. A 150-gallon Rubbermaid horse trough from one of your local feed supply places (here in the midwest it's Farm 'n Fleet) filled with your pond water and filtered with your existing setup, augmented by a robust air pump and airstone will work just fine.

    Let me encourage you not to limit yourself to the 890 gallons you are currently planning. If you want healthy, big koi, you'll need at least 4 feet of water for them to swim in, and you would not believe how fast the critters grow. Also remember that with 4 koi, you'll almost inevitably end up with fish of both sexes, and in the spring they will spawn. You will then have many more koi.

    Deep water is to koi as a stair-stepper is to a human. The exercise they get in the transition from deep to shallow water helps with conformation and health. Going deep is also a wonderfully sneaky way of buying yourself more water in the same footprint. Another successful trick to enhance volume (and believe me when I say that larger ponds are easier to maintain, more temperature-stable and less liable to predation) is to build *up* about 18 inches with landscaping stone lined with rammed earth. That extra height not only gives you a comfortable place to sit around the edge of the pond so you can play with your fish, but also buys you an extra 600 - 700 gallons.

    Ultimately, you'll need to set up your pumps, falls and filters so that you move the entire volume of your pond through your filters at least once an hour, and if you go deeper than 24 inches, you'll need to consider a bottom drain system for ease of maintenance and optimum water quality. If you are planning in this direction, I'd also suggest sticking with a bare liner bottom, since these designs tend to be self-cleaning and do not accumulate sludge the way rock-bottomed ponds tend to.

    The best reason to go deep in your area is predation. My memories of the Richmond area are that it is still fairly open and rural, with a lot of wildlife. Its proximity to the Atlantic coast ensures the presence of cranes and egrets, as well as osprey and heron. The semi-rural nature of the area ensures the presence of raccoons. All of these critters (with the obvious exception of the osprey) are waders who look on shallow hobbyist ponds as their equivalent of McDonald's. Brightly colored fish are easily-spotted targets; your best defense is to go deep and steep, and leave the monsters no place to stand.

    Look up the Mid-Atlantic Koi Club and join. It is full of nice people with extensive ponding experience in your area. They'll help you avoid mistakes.

    Please feel free to use any of the information in our Articles and FAQs sections to help you plan. There's even a nice, simple, cheap design for a homemade self-aerating upflow filter in there if you look.

    Happy planning and Ponding,

    Bob

  • After getting quotes on a pondless waterfall installation, my wife and i decided to install one ourselves. The problem now is that I've got leaks springing up along my streambeds. It was reccomended that I use Gret Stuff! foam sealant between the ro
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016


    After getting quotes on a pondless waterfall installation, my wife and i decided to install one ourselves. The problem now is that I've got leaks springing up along my streambeds. It was reccomended that I use Great Stuff! foam sealant between the rocks. It is now looking like I have more foam than rocks. Any advice on products to use to seal between the rocks?


    Great Stuff is not waterproof! It will divert water but will not form a seal. Your problem is with your liner in the stream bed. If you were careless or too hasty with the liner joins ( not enough sealer, or not enough overlap or not enough cure time), your joins will leak like seives. You may not have allowed enough extra width at stream's edge to accommodate splash and turbulence, or your streams may simply be too shallow for your flows. Look at the back of your falls reservoir. If your flows are too high for your falls outlet, you could be losing water from the back of the falls.

    Did you carefully place the rock into your stream bed, or did you just drop it in? Depending on what kind of liner the kit supplied, it is entirely possible that a jagged edge of a rock has perforated your liner. The lightweight liners supplied in the kits are often undersized, very fragile, and prone to these types of leaks. 44 mil EPDM butyl rubber remains the best and most cost-effective material available.

    Rip out the Great Stuff, then get the rocks out. Look for the damp spots under the liner. The leak will be obvious.

    Bob

  • I live in northeastern Ohio. I have a homemade pond in the backyard, about 500-750 gallons. The pond has a black plastic liner. I just went outside and the plastic liner has risen up from the ground; I removed some rocks and looked under the plastic
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

     

    I live in northeastern Ohio. I have a homemade pond in the backyard, about 500-750 gallons. The pond has a black plastic liner. I just went outside and the plastic liner has risen up from the ground; I removed some rocks and looked under the plastic liner. There is ground water that is forcing the liner to rise. This happens several times a year and I have to use a sump pump to remove all the water from beneath the liner, then put it back in place and wait for the liner to rise again. I have contacted several landscape companies and none can give me a way to fix this problem, short of installing some sort of expensive permanent sump pump in the yard. Is there a way for me to solve this problem on my own? What about removing the plastic liner altogether?



    Hi Heather,

    The only real solution to your problem would be to move the pond. Many inexperienced ponders assume that the best location for a pond is the most "natural" one; that low spot on the property that is always the last place to dry out after a rain. It's the worst possible place to put a pond, since the proximity of the water table to the surface will push the liner right up.

    Move your pond to high ground, the highest place on your lot would be best. If necessary, *make* some high ground with landcaping block and put the pond there!

    Bob

  • 14.Pond Gear
  • Our pump is no longer working and needs to be sent back to dealer for a warranty replacement. How long will my Koi and goldfish survive without the pump circulating the water? The pond is about 800 gallons with a waterfall that the pump normally run
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Our pump is no longer working and needs to be sent back to dealer for a warranty replacement. How long will my Koi and goldfish survive without the pump circulating the water?

    The pond is about 800 gallons with a waterfall that the pump normally runs. We only have 5 fish in the pond now. The dealer says it might be 10 days before we get a new pump.

    Thanks for the help,

    Tim


    Hi Tim,

    Your filter is essentially dead 24 hours after flow stops. You can keep things going with daily 50% water changes and NO FEEDING. Remember to pretreat for chlorine and chloramine.

    Your filter will need about three to four weeks to come back online once flow is restored.

    Best advice...buy a new pump now and avoid manufacturers that won't back up their equipment properly and promptly. When it finally comes back, keep the old pump as a reserve.

    Bob

  • If this was your pond, what pump would you recommend with a Biofalls- size pump and biofalls? My main concern is my daily energy draw...
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Thanks for follow-up, I apologize for all the questions. I probably can add more to the pond and will take a look at the site and do a redesign. I have the capability of making the pond at least 2600 gallons with the 45mil liner I purchased. If this was your pond, what pump would you recommend with a Biofalls- size pump and biofalls? My main concern is my daily energy draw. I'd like to stay around $25.00 extra a month or less. But purchasing a quality pump and biofalls is also something I want.

    Sorry for all the basic questions.


    Andrew,

    The size of the biofalls you choose will be governed by the flows it can handle. As a bioconversion device, it is too small and too inefficiently designed to contribute significantly to the health of your koi. For that you'll need to depend on a separate set of devices, including a pre-filter to get the large junk out of the water, a high surface area-to-cubic footage bioconverter using an efficient media and a UV sterilizer to eliminate unicellular floating algae. Other useful add-ons include protein extractors (removes dissolved organics)and in-line heaters (too expensive to contemplate).

    The best thing you can do for your fish is go deep and steep. The depth (5 feet has been excellent for us) confers thermal stability and room for the fish to swim, the steepness (5 feet deep EVERYWHERE, no shallows!) foils raccoons and herons. If you go deep, plan on a bottom drain and hook it to a separate pump and filter array.

    Your key purchases here are your pumps. I prefer external pumps (Wave, Sequence, Dragon, Artesian) for their reliability, long life and efficiency. Most of these operate at fairly low pressure heads but are incredibly efficient, many drawing around 1.5 to 2 amps. Select pumps that can deliver double your expected pond volume through your filter arrays once an hour. Your biofalls are just a box to catch the purified water and dump it into the pond. You can have more than one or build your own!

    Get a copy of the new AKCA Guide to filtration, a copy of the new Aquatic Eco-Systems catalogue, and the time to read all the articles and FAQs on our website about filtration.

    Bob

  • I am converting a irregular 22 X 40 foot gunite pool to a pond. I will be filling it to approx. 3' throughout which comes to about 17500 gal.? I will have two bottom drains with 4" piping and two Savio skimmers with pumps and filters. I still do not
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    I am converting a irregular 22 X 40 foot gunite pool to a pond. I will be filling it to approx. 3' throughout which comes to about 17500 gal.? I will have two bottom drains with 4" piping and two Savio skimmers with pumps and filters. I still do not know what size primary filter to use, I have been looking at the Nexus 300 with gravity feed, what do you recommend?

     


    Hi!

    17.5 K gallons is a gracious plenty, and the piping, at 4-inch diameter is appropriate. Your pumps and filters should be capable of moving and accepting a flow rate sufficient to send about one half of your total water volume through your filters every hour. Smaller ponds require flows able to exchange the entire pond volume in that same time. Select your pumps and filters with that in mind.

    Do not expect your water to be gin clear if you are keeping koi. Koi love gunite ponds, mostly because all sorts of tasty critters burrow in gunite and they can dig happily after them. Your water will reflect this happy activity and will be constantly turbid, since koi eat constantly, given the chance.

    Bob

  • ...you described how to build an economical or CHEAP up-flow Bio-Filter. I'm not "cheap" by nature, but now I'm planning Phase 2, which will include the Stream and Waterfalls (as well as the Bio-Filter). Just FYI, the pond is just slightly over 3 fee
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hello Dr. Bob!

    I recently joined the MPKS and I have enjoyed a few of the books and videos from your Library. I also have thoroughly scanned your web site and I'm learning something new everyday!!! The "Help Files" have been very informative and interesting................I love your detailed replies to everyone. How in the world do you make the time and manage to keep up with all of us crazy Pond Newbies???? All your efforts and dedication to this wonderful hobby are GREATLY appreciated!!!!!

    OK, now on to my silly questions...............in the Help Files , you described how to build an economical or CHEAP up-flow Bio-Filter. I'm not "cheap" by nature, but the wife has just about had it with me when it comes to the thousands of dollars that I have already spent building my little 800 gallon pond. Somehow, I have already managed to spend just over $3,000 and that was only Phase 1 (last summer)...................now I'm planning Phase 2, which will include the Stream and Waterfalls (as well as the Bio-Filter). Just FYI, the pond is just slightly over 3 feet deep and I only have 5 small fish in it (2 Comets, 2 Shubunkins, and 1 Butterfly Koi), all right around the 5 to 7 inch mark. I don't plan on adding any other fish since my pond is so small. Anyway, all your directions on how to make this Bio-Filter make perfect sense, but I'm confused on exactly how this "L" shaped pipe works on the top or highest bulkhead???

    1) How exactly do you get this "L" shaped PVC Intake line or pipe attached to the 4 inch Aeration Tower? It sounds like it comes into the top of the 55 gallon drum and then it "exits" thru the top lid. Is my understanding correct? How do you get the incoming water flow to go down the 4 inch pipe? Also, how do you make sure that it STAYS there and doesn't become dislodged or mis-aligned (and drain the pond)?

    2) You mention that you should be able to "swing" the "L" piping away to help with changing pads, etc...............I'm lost on exactly how that works as well? I'm thinking that all the joints or connects with this "L" shaped line would have to be sealed or glued together, which would make it hard to move or swing, right??? Can you explain it in more detail for goofs like me?

    3) Is it hard to get the lid off with this type of setup?

    4) How many inches do you recommend for the bottom sump area (just below the grate that holds all the bio media)?

    5) Any "secrets" you can pass along for attaching the bulkheads? Does adding a small amount of silicone lubricant to the gaskets help any, etc. etc.?

    6) You prefer Knife valves over Ball valves. I've never used either, so I don't know why one is better than the other?

    OK, I think that's all I've got for you. Sorry for all the stupid questions!

    Happy New Year to you and your family!


    Hi Britt!

    I've built three or four of these, and two of a more elaborate filter, modified from a design that appears in the new AKCA biofilter manual. To answer your questions:

    1,2,3) The water inlet is NOT attached to the 4-inch central stack. It starts from the threaded bulkhead fitting on the inside of the garbage can and rises to a level above the top edge of the central stack pipe. a 90-degree fitting on this pipe brings the water to a point directly above the center stack and another 90 degree fitting sends the water splashing right down the middle. You'll be cutting a notch out of the rim of the lid to fit the inlet pipe and a larger central hole for the center stack pipe. The lid lifts right off, and is in any case only there to keep debris out of the drum. Your water level in the filter will always be below the rim. The threaded fitting on the inside allows you to swing the upside-down "L" away to remove the top ring of mat and clean it. The outside of the bulkhead fitting, also threaded, can be connected any way you want to your pump, though I strongly recommend rubber couplers for ease of servicing.

    4) The sump depth should be the thickness of the bricks you are using to support the grate!

    5) Two secrets. The first is to get the hole you cut for the shaft of the fitting as small as you can. The second is to AVOID sealants! The drum will be flexible enough to flatten out a little as you tighten the fitting. Make sure both sides of the barrel are clean. Sealants degrade the integrity of the gasket rings supplied with the bulkhead; they partially dissolve, soften and lose shape. Use them as is, tighten firmly.

    6) I prefer knife valves. They are easier to use, easier to install, take up less space and can be rebuilt at need.

    Bob

  • We have a 10x8 2.5 foot deep koi pond with 10 to 12 inch koi in it. Last year we took them in to a 55 gallon tank for the winter. This year we purchased a stock heater (used for water source for cattle) which will keep the water above 40. I
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hi Bob,

    We have a 10x8 2.5 foot deep koi pond with 10 to 12 inch koi in it. Last year we took them in to a 55 gallon tank for the winter. This year we purchased a stock heater (used for water source for cattle) which will keep the water above 40. I was planning on covering the water with mylar to insulate a little better. Do you think they will survive?


    Hi Jeremy,

    Unlikely. Stock heaters are designed for watering tanks and do not have the punch to keep a 1500 gallon pond clear of ice. They also have a tendency to corrode and short out in the middle of winter, electrocuting your fish and blowing out your circuit breakers.

    Mylar placed on the surface of the water will simply be a matrix for the water to freeze onto, generating an excellent seal over the water's surface and preventing any gas exchange at all.

    You are too close to the Arctic Circle, Jeremy, and your plan is appropriate for, say, southern Tennessee. A more appropriate solution would be either to purchase a couple of Rubbermaid 250 gallon stock tanks from your local Farm and Fleet, set up airstones and box filters for both, using media from your pond's active filters and moving your fish inside, or covering your pond with a poly house or hoop-house arrangement. These are manufactured as do-it-yourself kits by an outfit called Versa-Quonset. A setup like this can keep the pond ice-free by adding a small electric radiator under the plastic cover. It uses air, nature's best insulator, to do the job.

    Bob Passovoy

  • This past Fall I had a deeper pond dug and kept it full over the winter. I had a bubbler pump going 24/7 to stop the ice from forming completely over the pond. I am noticing what appears to be string algae on the rocks where I did not have any last F
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    This past Fall I had a deeper pond dug and kept it full over the winter. I had a bubbler pump going 24/7 to stop the ice from forming completely over the pond. I am noticing what appears to be string algae on the rocks where I did not have any last Fall. I have heard that nitrites from the snow will cause algae to "bloom". Do I have to do anything "special" to avoid green water or will the natural process of getting the biofalls going again and natural growth of my pond plants take care of controlling algae in the "pond season" months?

    I have never had algae problems in the past years - algae on the rocks but nothing major enough to change the water color.


    Hi Alicia!

    The rule of thumb for larger koi ponds (10000 gallons and up) is enough pump flow to put about 1/2 to 3/4 of your water through your filters every hour. Smaller ponds require higher throughput, that is, every molecule of water in your system exposed to the filter media once an hour.

    Remember that what the pump's label advertises is not what you are putting through the system. Every foot of elevation above grade added to every foot of pipe and every turn your piping makes adds to your head loss and decreases your flow. Our website's home page has a series of links to tables that will help you calculate how much flow you are losing from these sources of resistance. It should help you upgrade your system.

    Please note that your problems with algae and debris are not  your pump's fault. Algae is the product of sunlight, temperature, ammonia and phosphate. You will reduce the algae load some by improving your filter throughput and reducing your ammonia load. You may want to set up a whole new filter system in parallel to your existing setup to increase your pond's bioconversion efficiency. Floating (microscopic) algae can be controlled with UV. Hair (or string) algae is best handled with nutrient and sun restriction and control of ammonia. Excess algae can be removed with a toilet brush on a broomstick. Avoid algaecides.

    The debris problem has many sources. Outside debris can be partially cleared with a skimmer setup. Large suspended solids require a pre-filter or a vortex. Bottom debris resolves with removal of all that rock on the bottom of your pond and installation of a bottom drain.

    Ponding is fun. There's always another challenge.

    Bob

  • ...Where I would like to place a bio-filter is after the Sequence pump and slightly hidden in a covered trench that contains the pump and therefore below pond water Ievel. So below water level I'm thinking that a pressurized filter is the way I have
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    I last asked a question a couple of years ago and your group was very helpful! I appreciated your advice then as I do now!

    I have a 2,000 gallon pond with 10 good sized Koi. I have a Savio Skimmer/Filter and UV (Absolutely love it!) but last year I had consistently clogged filter after about 4 days with blackish type sludge. The large bio-filter I tried didn't work well and I need to rethink a workable bio-filter.

    Where I would like to place a bio-filter is after the Sequence pump and slightly hidden in a covered trench that contains the pump and therefore below pond water Ievel. So below water level I'm thinking that a pressurized filter is the way I have to go? One shop recommends a NitraMax 2,000? I think I need bacteria to solve or counter this sludge problem? Before I spend the $300 on the NitraMax, what are you thoughts?


    Hi Tom!

    Your problem is a universal one , and has to do with the fact that, as ponders, we deal with living systems. The combination of fish, plants, food and sun generates organic byproducts (s**t) plus dirt and sand. This is your sludge. Your problem is twofold. First, you are running a heavily-populated pond without a bottom drain. I'll even bet that your pond's bottom is covered with rocks. Sludge is unavoidable, and if you are using a submersible pump, the pump is pulling up the sludge, homogenizing it and shooting it directly into your filter. Under these circumstances, fouling is inevitable. A bead filter run with this system will foul just as quickly as what you have now.

    The best solution for your pond would be to place a vortex or other prefilter between the skimmer and your pump. The prefilter (something as simple as a big box with offset baffles and a sloped bottom with an outlet valve) set at pond level and gravity-fed, will remove the larger suspended particles. The partially cleaned water can then go to the pump and from there can go to whatever filter you prefer. Next in line would be your UV and from there back to the pond.

    As far as what kind or size of filter you need, you need to get to a fairly large Koi Show where a number of dealers and manufacturers will be present. KoiAmerica or the MAKC show would probably serve. Our koi show does not have a large number of filter manufacturers present, but we've got a lot of experienced ponders.

    Happy ponding!

    Bob

  • #1 I live in Las Vegas ,NV so not bad winters but 115 degree days in summer, I have right now an Aquadyne 60B Bio Bead filter a 40 watt UV and an external pump that is rated for 2900 GPH,my pond is an Oval shape 12' x 9" x 2.5 feet deep, I have 5 la
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hi Bob,

    First of all I have read and have learned a lot from this Q and A session, one of which I learned from reading on here is I think my Bio Bead filter screen inside is plugged with the beads because my water color has deteriorated quite a bit, going to take it down next month when fish are not eating so much. My questions are as follows, I want to thank you in advance for such an informative site.

    #1 I live in Las Vegas ,NV so not bad winters but 115 degree days in summer, I have right now an Aquadyne 60B Bio Bead filter a 40 watt UV and an external pump that is rated for 2900 GPH,my pond is an Oval shape 12' x 9" x 2.5 feet deep, I have 5 large Koi and one Goldfish, I am going to expand my pond to 12' x21' x 4' deep, should I use two 3" drains or would one 4" be enough?

    #2 I know my pump will not be big enough and was wondering if I made my own settlement tank out of a 55 gallon plastic drum and a bio filter out of another, would that be enough filtration and what would be the best way to make them, my pond also has a water fall, where in the system would I install my pump, can I use my existing pump and get another pump as well or just go with one bigger pump that will handle my pond.

    #3 UV...I have a 40 watt UV plastic type is it big enough, does all my water have to go through the UV? Thanks for your help.


    Hi Jody!

    In order of asking.

    1) If your flow rates through your filter are still good and you are not having problems backflushing, your beads are not the problem, nor is the screen. Water discoloration is usually dissolved organics, which bead filters can't do anything about. You need either massive water changes or an efficient protein extractor. If you've been using algaecides or barley straw, stop. That's the root of your problem. Decaying plant material contains phytocyanins; yellow-brown proteinaceous pigments which will stain your water and cause it to foam. Once in your water, it will stay there unless bubbled off or replaced with clean water.

    2)You'll be going from about 2000 gallons to 7500. How many bottom drains you'll need will depend on the shape and design of the pond. If it is going to be longer than it is wide, two drains seems to be a good idea. Look hard at the design, figure out where the water flows are likely to be going and how much water you need to move through the pipes, and decide based on that. Your contractor should (if he's any good at all at this and not just some doofus with a backhoe) be able to advise you. Don't forget to add a skimmer to the array.

    3) I can guarantee you that 55 gallon drums will not be adequate. You will need to move between 6000 and 7500 gallons of water through your filters every hour to maintain your water quality. Your pumps will need to deliver this with resistance from pipe runs and bends taken into account, and your prefilters and filters will need to be big enough to handle the flow without either overflowing or allowing the water too little time in the filter to get the ammonia and nitrite broken down. You can run a pond that size with home-built 55 gallon drum filters, but you'll need several of them set up in parallel array. There are a number of good articles on this subject on the website.

    4) Your 40-watt plastic job will fail. Look at Aqua-UV's products and opt for a high-intensity UV unit with inlet and outlet ports the same size as your filter piping. Any UV system should be set up with a diverter pipe to allow some of the flow to bypass the unit, since most UV systems have a series of right angles built into the flow to slow flow through the unit and maximize exposure time to the UV radiation. This can severely limit your flows through your system if you insist that all your water needs to see the UV every time it goes through the filters. It's actually not necessary. Remember that UV is only effective for prevention of microscopic "green water" algae. Hair algae is a whole other issue and your UV will be no help at all, at all.

    Have fun with the new pond. You and your fish will love it!

    Bob Passovoy

  • We have a 4year old 2,000 gal pond with bottom drain, skimmer, 3600 gal per hour pump, large water fall, eleven 3 year old Koi, and really green brown water. We live in Aurora and our PH runs high 8-9. We have planted many plants to create a natural
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Bob,

    We have enjoyed your many tips and advice through your web site. We hope that you can help us with a decision on purhasing a UV sterilizer.

    We have a 4year old 2,000 gal pond with bottom drain, skimmer, 3600 gal per hour pump, large water fall, eleven 3 year old Koi, and really green brown water. We live in Aurora and our PH runs high 8-9. We have planted many plants to create a natural balance and each year our water begins to clear up at the end of the season. We would like clear water in the begining of the season. We have been on many pond walks and found that many people use UV sterilizers and swear by them.

    There seems to be a ton of choices and we are narrowing it down to Gallons Per Hour as the deciding factor. We have 2" piping and that also seems to make a difference on the choices. Originally reading Dr. Foster's articles, they seem to focus in on size of pond and watts.

    Any advice on 1) are UV sterilizers effective 2) should we be using our GPH as our guide for selecting the right UV, or gallons and watts?

    If you know anyone that has used these and has any other advice, we would greatly appreciate it.


    Hey, K&T!

    In answer to your questions:

    1) UV units work well for floating (microscopic) algae. They'll keep the blooms from happening by preventing the algae exposed to the UV light from reproducing. By doing so, they'll reduce the organic load on the pond and eliminate some of that "root beer" color caused by dissolved organics.

    2) Filtration systems are all about flow. Choose a UV unit with inlet and outlet ports the same size as your pipe runs, and make sure that it is rated for GPH. Many of the mass-marketed UV units have low-intensity bulbs that require the water flow through the unit to be slow. They are also constructed of plastic, which deteriorates rapidly under exposure to ...(wait for it)... UV light! Find a unit with stainless steel construction and a high-intensity bulb that will accept your flow rates and work effectively with them. You'll pay more for it up front, but you will only need to buy it once.

    Bob

  • Please help, my mother is driving me mad with her pond. It is in direct sunlight through the day and i know she has too many fish for the size that it is. I would guess that it's 12 x 12 x 4 at the deepest. The water has already turned green and the
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hello,

    Please help, my mother is driving me mad with her pond.

    It is in direct sunlight through the day and i know she has too many fish for the size that it is. I would guess that it's 12 x 12 x 4 at the deepest. The water has already turned green and the two brush type filter boxes that she has just can't keep up with it. I often see people giving away their above swimming pools with the filters. Could the pumps and filters be cleaned and used for pond use? I know that I will be digging a new pond this year and just want to make sure that we get better filtration. It would be nice to see the Koi that I bought her last year.

    When I was on the pond tour a few years ago I did notice that several people were using the swimming pool type filter, that's what gave me the idea. The "free" part of the used filters was even more intriguing. Please let me know your opinion if you have time. Thank you!


    Hey Tim,

    Your mom's problem is definitely filtration. The fact that that you've got floating algae means that your filtration is not up to the fish load and there's lots of ammonia around to feed it. It is fairly clear that neither of you is doing much water testing, and that's got to change if you are to survive in this hobby. A kit that can show you salt, pH, alkalinity, ammonia, nitrate, nitrite, temperature and hardness is necessary for water quality maintenance. Your algae bloom can best be fixed by installing a good-quality high-intensity UV unit and seriously upgrade your biofiltration. Get equipment rated for the flows you'll need to maintain your new pond, so you don't have to buy another one when you dig.

    It is true that pond filters and pool filters look a lot alike. The difference is that pool filters are filled with sand and pond filters use a variety of plastic beads and extrusions.You could get a used pool filter and replace the sand with bead, but I'm not sure that the internal piping would be compatible. Trying to use sand in a backyard pond setup is not practical. Too much crud is generated in a balanced ecosystem to allow for flow, and the sand will foul almost instantly. Bead filters require a fairly sophisticated pre-filter setup to function properly.

    Bob

  • We are in the process of "redoing" our pond. We originally did our pond with the acquascape system, and have been slowly redoing it as we have realize that it wasn't very efficient. My husband did build and dig it out himself. We have been very lucky
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hi Dr. Bob,

    We are currently members of the MPKS, and I have always read your articles and commentaries which are always very helpful and quite entertaining. As you do seem very knowledgable, I was hoping that you could help us by answering a few questions, or guide us in the right direction.

    We are in the process of "redoing" our pond. We originally did our pond with the acquascape system, and have been slowly redoing it as we have realize that it wasn't very efficient. My husband did build and dig it out himself. We have been very lucky that our koi have been healthy, but we have been very diligent with cleaning, water changes etc. However, we are ditching the all the gravel (we don't have a lot left) and would like to get a new liner, and put in a bottom drain. However, we would like some advice on the best type of filtration system to get for our pond. My husband will be doing a lot of the work himself as he is quite knowledgable in plumbing and electrical. We will most likely hire someone to help dig and also remove boulders.

    However, my main questions are:

    --What brands would you recommend for a filtration system?

    --What bottom drain brands or systems would you recommend?

    Or do you think it would be worth our while to consult someone like Mike White (I don't really know him, but again he seems to be quite knowledgable and reputable). But again, we would like to keep our costs to somewhat of a minimum, as we know that these types of things can really get out of control cost wise (from personal experience of course).

    Any suggestions or insight would be very helpful to us..thanks.


    Hi Mary and Don!

    I have no particular brand preference, since just about all of the filters available run to three basic designs.

    1) Big open boxes full of assorted stuff that the water runs through.

    2) Big open vats full of fancy stuff that air and water run through (bioreactors and the Nexus filter).

    3) Big sealed vats full of beads or fancy media of one sort or another.

    The best thing to do is to dig deep and steep to frustrate the herons and raccoons, decide what kind of bottom drain you want to use (through the liner or above the liner), and get everything set. Then come to the Trade Show in early May and talk to everybody. Mike White will be there with a whole bunch of hardware, as will other vendors. Look, learn and choose. You can even ask folks at the Club Table how to build your own.

    My own preferences run to an independently pumped skimmer and bottom drain system, each running to its own set of settlers and filters.Return back to the pond should be switchable between waterfalls and streams with an alternate feed to the pond through a simple pipe just above water level for fall and winter circulation as well as an enhancement to water movement. Whether you choose open or closed systems is up to you and depends on your available space, your pond's setup, and the amount and type of maintenance you are willing to do.

    Another good idea would be to do the Pond Tour in July, though that may delay you more than you'd prefer.

    Bob

  • hello my name is james and I wrote before with a question and you were a big help thank you, I have another, i am making a 3 cotainer vortex system, my first tank is the vortex where the waste settles, comes in from bottom up to the top into a tube d
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016


    hello my name is james and I wrote before with a question and you were a big help thank you, I have another, i am making a 3 container vortex system, my first tank is the vortex where the waste settles, comes in from bottom up to the top into a tube down the tube and out of the settling tank bottom, Is this right, then back up to the mechanical tank top the water drops trought the brushes and out the bottom is this right, then pipes back up to the top of the biological tank where I could have a spray bar with a tee so air would get in trought the top of the tee, dripping water on Japanese matting then down to bioballs and out the bottom of barrel is this right, then going out from bottom to a sand filter, this is optional...then to a pump. please let me know if all this is right and if I need any corrections please help. I have a 7500 gallon pond stoked with about 20 nice size koi, please help to let me know what size pump to use. also how does the pump pump water to each barrel if the pump is after the last filter, wouldn't it just suck air,after it sucked all the water from the last barrel, I know it is all gravity fed, how is it pushing water out from the bottom drains.


     

    <<first tank is the vortex where the waste settles,comes in from bottom up to the top into a > tube down the tube and out of the settling tank bottom,,,,,Is this right >>

    No. The vortex settler is indeed the first step, but the flow should enter the basin from the middle and be directed so the water swirls in a circular motion. The larger clumps of waste settle to the conical bottom of the vat for eventual discard. Outflow is off the top.

    <<then back up to the mechanical tank top the water drops trought the brushes and out the bottom is this right>>

    Again, no. If you are using brushes, the flow should be horizontal through them.

    <<the top of the biological tank where I could have a spray bar with a tee so air would get in trought the top of the tee, dripping water on Japanese matting then down to bioballs and out the bottom of barrel is this right >>

    That could work.

    I'd avoid sand filters. Too much maintenance for too little return, and not terrifically compatible with an open filter system. You'd have to place your pump between the biofilter and the sand filter and run the outlet from the sand to the pond via a high-energy UV to take care of algae. I'd suggest a bead filter rather than sand, anyway.

    As far as pumps go, you need to put the entire volume of your pond through your filters *once an hour*! You'll need to pump 7500 gal/hr (125 gallons/minute) and your piping and filters have to be big enough to handle that flow without overflowing.

    You'll need to set the system up so that the water level in your filter vats is at the same level as the top of your pond. All piping should be 3" diameter minimum, especially connections from bottom drain to filters and connections between filter vats. Output from the pump and through the bead (sealed) filter and UV can be 2", but it's better to keep the same diameter throughout. As long as your pipe runs are short and straight and big, your vats will fill passively from the pond as their levels are drawn down by the pump.

    You need to read up on pond design and filters.

    Bob

  • We have a 1800-2000 gallon pond with 4 koi. We have two pumps running to a biological filter and want to replace the two pumps with one big one and also add a UV filter. We came across a calculation for figuring out how much a pump puts out per hour
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    We have a 1800-2000 gallon pond with 4 koi. We have two pumps running to a biological filter and want to replace the two pumps with one big one and also add a UV filter. We came across a calculation for figuring out how much a pump puts out per hour but cannot seem to find it now. We want to figure out what the equivalent of the two small pumps would be to give us a better idea on what size should be for the one big one. The calculation we saw was to fill a five gallon container and to time how long it takes. One pump took 45 seconds and the other took 1 minute. The two together took 27 seconds. Do you know of this calculation or a different one?

    One other question is, we have well water and the "general hardness" is
    extremely high. What are your thoughts on lowering the hardness to an acceptable level.


    Hi Craig,

    Pump #1 is easy. 5gal/1min x 60min/hr = 300gal/hr

    Pump#2: 5gal/0.75min x 60min/hr = 400gal/hr

    Doing the same math with your combined flows gets you roughly the same number (actually a little less: 667
    gal/hr)

    Either way, it is inaccurate, because it does not take into account how high you are pumping this water to get to your falls, how long your pipe run is, how many elbows you have in the run or the diameter of pipe you are using. Each one of these parameters adds friction and reduces flow.

    In any case, you are severely under-pumped right out of the box. The goal in biofiltration is to present each molecule of water in your system to your biofiltration media at least once an hour. For optimum bioconversion, your pond needs a pump that can deliver 2000gal/hour from your pump inlet to your falls, measured at the top of your falls.

    Most good pumps come with a graph indicating flow loss per foot of "head" (how many feet above water level you are lifting the water) I'm sending along a series of tables that will help you estimate how much estimated "pressure head" you need to add to this number to calculate what any prospective pump you are thinking of buying will actually deliver to your falls.

    Remember that your filters will also add resistance, especially if it is one of those commercially produced canisters with teeny-tiny inlet and outlet ports. It is actually a great idea to maintain the same pipe diameter throughout your system, and many advanced hobbyists actually increase the diameter of their pipe runs as they get further from their pumps.

    The only problem that hardness will give you is a tendency for your kohakus to develop little black dots (called "shimmies") and your kawarimonos to go black in your water. This isn't dangerous to koi health, only dissapointing to the ardent hobbyist who just went to Japan and brought back a $10,000 fish which is now speckly and will *not* win Grand Champion. Don't worry about it, and don't get seduced into adding chemicals or hooking up a water softener (which only adds salt) to try to change it. That way lies madness.

    Bob

  • 15.Critters
  • I have a family (or more) of voles living in my rock wall of the stream. Any suggestions?
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    I have a family (or more) of voles living in my rock wall of the stream. Any suggestions?

     


    Hi, Barb,

    They are burrowing insectivores, and generally too small to damage your liner. Enjoy.

    Bob

  • Hi there hope you can help answer this question lots of frogs are in my pond and they are hatching lots of babies !Is this safe for my KOI fishes?is there anything we need to do to stop them many thanks cathy
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hi there hope you can help answer this question lots of frogs are in my pond and they are hatching lots of babies !Is this safe for my KOI fishes?is there anything we need to do to stop them many thanks
    cathy

     


    Frogs?

    You got frogs?

    If you are situated, as we are, in the upper Midwest, it's too early for frogs. If your tadpoles are tiny( about 1/2 inch long) and black, what you got are American toads. Be very happy. Toads are non-toxic and while courting, sound like crickets on steroids, emitting a long, drawn-out chirr. Their eggs are laid in long, gelatinous strands. They will mature into useful and handsome garden companions who will hide in your underbrush and eat all your garden slugs. They don't taste very good, and your fish will leave them pretty much alone. They are not disease carriers.

    Later on, as the weather warms up, you may get frogs. The egg mass is a large clump, the tads are about i.5 to 2 inches long, and koi find them delicious. Green frogs are native here and are recognizable by skin folds extending from their tympanum down along their flanks to their bottom. They are beneficial insect-eaters. Their song is a "glump" or "boing".

    Bullfrogs sound like a disappointed donkey or a low-pitched bass fiddle. They get big, and in their niche are an apex predator, able to catch and eat baby birds, small rodents and all your goldfish. Their tads are large and heavily speckled. They are a brighter green than green frogs and have a blunter nose and a smooth back. If you've got these, they need to be introduced to Mr. Raccoon or otherwise escorted away from your pond. One of our naturalist friends once remarked that the only reason that bullfrogs do not rule the world is because raccoons find them tasty. Big koi will slurp the tadpoles up like gumdrops.

    It's the Great Circle of Life, writ small.


    BTW, if what you have are indeed greens, and you are local to the Chicago area, please let us know. Our resident population is pretty scarced-out and we'd love an egg mass or a buncha tads.

    Bob

  • We have had our pond for about 8 years and have had minimal problems until recently. Without going into a tons of detail....had some electrical issues over the winter and lost some koi due to the surface freezing....BUT NOW.... a heron has found our
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Subject: My koi are gone

    We have had our pond for about 8 years and have had minimal problems until recently. Without going into a tons of detail....had some electrical issues over the winter and lost some koi due to the surface freezing....BUT NOW.... a heron has found our pond in the middle of the city!!

    I ran out and bought a heron to stand guard 5 days ago only to find BIG BIRD dining in my pond every day. It is a beautiful Friday morning and I have just scared him off once again only to find my last fish flopping in the grass. PLEASE HELP WITH ANY OTHER SOLUTIONS!!! Thanks!

     


    Hi Tammy,

    Once you got herons, you always got herons. The only successful solutions I've heard of are either digging your pond too deep for the heron to wade in or surrounding your pond with an electric fence. Heron statues don't work because they don't move. Herons are SMART. They are also PROTECTED. Shotguns are frowned upon by the local DNR cops.

    Bob

  • ...Today, I was very surprised to see that one of the larger frogs had swallowed about half of one the goldfish. We quickly scooped up the frog with a net, and the goldfish popped out its mouth. We put them both back in the pond, and they both are sw
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hi Bob,

    We have a new backyard pond with a waterfall that we installed this year. The pond has been a joy; and we have enjoyed watching the growing community of frogs that have taken residence.

    We started our fish population with 15 small comet goldfish, and 2 small koi. All the fish have grown during the summer, and they are now at least 6" long.

    Today, I was very surprised to see that one of the larger frogs had swallowed about half of one the goldfish. We quickly scooped up the frog with a net, and the goldfish popped out its mouth. We put them both back in the pond, and they both are swimming around with no ill effects that we can see. We are concerned about leaving this large frog in the pond because we don't know if this was a freak occurrence; or if this frog will try to eat the fish again.

    We have 4 other ornamental goldfish and three other small koi and would hate to lose any of them. What is your opinon of this situation? Have you ever heard of frogs eating goldfish?


    Hi Marilyn,

    What you got there is a gen-you-wine bullfrog, Ma Nature's most ridiculous apex predator. A naturalist friend of mine once told me that the only reason bullfrogs did not rule the world was because raccoons found them delicious. Frenchmen, too, find them tasty, and indeed, they are not native to North America, but were brought over from Europe by French settlers who were unwilling to do without their favorite delicacy.

    A full-grown bullfrog is as big as a dinner plate and will eat anything it can get into its mouth. This includes all of your goldfish, small birds, smaller species of native frogs and tadpoles, and ground squirrels. Most experienced ponders hate them, and will go to great lengths to remove them from their ponds, since they will even take a swipe at koi many times their size, and can do damage to fins and scales.

    Net 'em and dump 'em into the nearest swamp if you are soft-hearted. Prep them and fry up the legs if you are into gourmet cookery. They will not leave your fish alone. I'd suggest a clan of raccoons, except that they'd eat the frogs and the goldfish both. Not a desirable solution.

    Bob

  • Hi Dr Bob, Is it safe to put catfish into a rubber lined pond? is it advisable? what would be the advantages and disadvantages of having catfish in the pond?
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hi Dr Bob,

    Is it safe to put catfish into a rubber lined pond? is it advisable? what would be the advantages and disadvantages of having catfish in the pond?


    The major problem with catfish is that they get big very quickly, and may overwhelm your pond's capacity to support the fish load you have. Small "armored catfish" (Plecostemus) do okay in koi ponds during the warm months, but are tropicals, and must be removed and brought indoors during the winter. This is more difficult than you might think, since they *really* like it in your pond and will wedge themselves into impossibly tiny niches between your rocks and fight to stay put.

    I've never heard of problems related to catfish barbels and liner ponds. We had Pleckys (which are spinier!) for years without problems. Pleckys do better with koi because their spines keep the larger koi from bullying them.

    Bob

  • Hello, my name is Maria I built a pond outside and for the past two years when we clean the filters there are little red worms. Should I be concerned or is it normal. Also someone told me the frogs would eat baby fish. Is that true? Thank you, Mar
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hello, my name is Maria

    I built a pond outside and for the past two years when we clean the filters there are little red worms. Should I be concerned or is it normal. Also someone told me the frogs would eat baby fish. Is that true?

    Thank you,

    Maria


    Hello Maria,

    The worms in the filter mat are juvenile earthworms. They are harmless.

    Bullfrogs will eat anything they can fit into their mouths. When adult, they will go after baby birds and chipmunks. If you have bullfrogs, which have a smooth back and are a medium green, they should be netted and transported far, far away.

    Green frogs and leopard frogs eat only insects, are smaller and are great complements to any pond. A green frog can be any color from light tan to deep green and have a fold of skin from their tympanum back to their hip on both sides of their back. Once they are used to you, they will sit around and disapprove of everything you do. Wonderful fun.

    Bob

  • .... I recently bought a vacuum (suction) cleaner with the intent to clean the silt that has accumulated, but I'm not sure how it will work with all those roots and shoots. I should clean the silt off the bottom, right? And I should clean the dead p
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hi!
    I have a small pond (about 350 gallons, 30 some square feet). It performed fabulously this last season (its second summer)....comets and minnows thrived, a couple of tadpoles made it to little frogs (and I assume are hibernating at the bottom), and my plants did well.

    One of my plants is a clover. This last summer it just took off, spread throughout the pond and provided nice coverage. Now, after a couple of freezes the floating petals have died, but there are still quite a number of shoots underwater that have green buds.

    As I tried to pull some of the dead petals off, it became clear that there is an extensive network of roots that have crawled along the bottom in the silt that has accumulated. Pulling up on the shoots feels like I could lift the entire bottom of the pond up.

    I recently bought a vacuum (suction) cleaner with the intent to clean the silt that has accumulated, but I'm not sure how it will work with all those roots and shoots.
    I should clean the silt off the bottom, right? And I should clean the dead plant life out of the pond too, right? Is now (January) a good time or should I wait til it warms? Will I disturb the frogs and fish? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


    Hi John,

    Leave everything strictly alone until your water temps are above 55 degrees consistently in the spring. By then, your frogs will be awake and your fish will have recovered enough from the winter to be able to manage the stress of the cleaning.

    By all means vacuum up as much of the loose sludge as you can off the bottom. Don't disturb the root system of the water clover, since it will be busy getting rid of the ammonia your fish will be producing while your filter bacteria are coming back online.

    Go gently and give your frogs time to move out of the way.

    Bob Passovoy

  • Hi All!! Oh Boy!! Just when you think you have outwitted nature. We have just created an obstacle course (fishing line around the pond and other fun stuff) for Harold the Heron, and he has (thankfully) not been back in a few days. Perhaps having gi
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hi All!!

    Oh Boy!! Just when you think you have outwitted nature. We have just created an obstacle course (fishing line around the pond and other fun stuff) for Harold the Heron, and he has (thankfully) not been back in a few days. Perhaps having given up.

    great blue heron

    However, we now have a visitor that is new to us. We have researched this little snot and found out that we have a Little Blue Heron visiting. He is about 20 inches tall, short legged and "determined." He (unfortunately) does not walk into the pond, rather he flies in and happily sets up residence on top of the floating water hyacynth.

    Little Blue Heron

    I suppose our friends have nothing other then the "netting the pond" option and ridding ourselves of all floaters?????What about the lilly pads???? ARGH!!!! Has anyone had to deal with this little bugger???? He is a pint size of his cousin the Great Heron.

    Anyway, any suggestions are MOST WELCOME!! We are exhausted with this battle with nature of late. Seemed to have been so quiet here for so long and now suddenly we find ourselves in the throws of a battle of WITS!!! I think we are beginning to blieve that these birds are all talking to each other and sending them our way!!! ARGH!!! THANK GOD through it all, not one loss...........how long can we keep this up before we collapse?? :o) See you all Friday night!!!! Hugzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz Deb
    Below is the latest resident.........attached is a pic of Harold realizing we are up for the challenge!!! (AND he is walking by the water cannon. Yes, it did go off, but missed him and he pretty much ignored it, he was on a mission)


    Hi Deb,

    Oh joy, oh rupture.

    Yeah; net, far enough above the water so Little Snot can't sit on the net and fish thru the mesh. Figure the length of beak and neck plus the inches his weight will sag the net.

    Congrats on supporting the local endangered wildlife.

    Anne

    ****************************
    I recommend substituting the water cannon with a real one.
    Bry

  • We have had a couple of interesting things happen in the natural pond in our backyard the last two summers. We have lived here 19 years and these are both firsts. Last summer, after a heavy rain, we found over twenty crayfish in our inground swimming
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    We have had a couple of interesting things happen in the natural pond in our backyard the last two summers. We have lived here 19 years and these are both firsts. Last summer, after a heavy rain, we found over twenty crayfish in our inground swimming pool which is about 60 feet from the pond. This happened twice. What would cause them to want to enter our pool?

    This spring we looked out and could see an orange glow in the pond and found there to be well over 100 goldfish that are six to eight inches long in the pond. We live in Minnesota and the pond's deepest point is four feet deep, it is 300 feet long and 100 feet wide. We do know that a neighbor put five goldfish from their home aquarium into the pond last summer. Would these goldfish have reproduced and grown this large in this short amount of time? What will happen to them? Will they continue to multiply at an alarming rate? (The pond is also treated monthly from May through September to prevent the growth of algae and other weeds and is not a DNR controlled pond.)

    Thank you, in advance, for any insight you can give us to these happenings with our pond!
    The Johnsons


    Hi!

    The crayfish didn't invade, they were there all the time in dormant eggs. The conditions were right, and they hatched and matured. Don't worry about them, they are a natural (and tasty!)part of your pond's ecology, though with all the algaecides you are dumping in I don't think they are very good for you. Here's a great article about them.

    The goldfish have no predators, yet. They will attract herons, egrets and raccoons. They will spawn two or three times a season and each spawn will yield 10,000 eggs per female fish. Within two or three seasons, your population will be dense enough to encourage disease and a mass die-off. If this is truly a natural pond, get some bluegills in there. They'll eat the fry and eggs, and are native to the area. Small perch or maybe a bass or two could also work, though bass usually need colder and moving water that your pond can't supply.

    Bob

  • Our beautiful clear, clean pond just got contaminated by a fair amount of dirt. The waterfall portion is on a slope, and a gopher dug around the side of it and pushed dirt up and over the side of the waterfall and into the pond...
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hi Bob,

    I have another concern that perhaps you can help me with.

    Our beautiful clear, clean pond just got contaminated by a fair amount of dirt. The waterfall portion is on a slope, and a gopher dug around the side of it and pushed dirt up and over the side of the waterfall and into the pond. I don't know exactly how much dirt, but the water is dirty, and the rocks on the sides and bottom of the pond are covered by a fine silt. (We have an effective erosion barrier of rocks around the sides of the pond, but this dirt came from underneath and was pushed through the rocks along the side of the pond and it fell into the pond).

    I need to get this dirt out of the pond, but I don't know how. I am concerned about the following:

    1. Will this dirty water harm the fish? I am concerned about them getting enough oxygen (the pump is running and the water is circulating). I don't think there is a lot of dirt, as in buckets, but it is probably a few handfuls of dirt--enough to coat the bottom and make the water very dirty. I can't see through the water at all.

    2. We feed the fish once daily, but will this dirt affect their ability to graze in the pond?

    3. Will the dirt eventually settle to the bottom, or will it stay suspended because the water is circulating?

    4. Is there a way to get this dirt out of the pond without removing all the water?

    5. I can't even face the idea of having to remove all the water in the pond to get this dirt out. If that were to happen, would it be starting at ground zero to get the new water seasoned? It took nearly a year to get this pond balanced, and it is (was) beautiful. It has stayed clean, clear, and hardly any algae.

    The fish have been so healthy--I don't want this dirt problem to affect their health. I would be very grateful for any advice that you can offer.


    Freeze, Gopher! (Kaboom!)

    Dirt per se is not that much of an issue. Remember that one of the healthiest environments for a koi is a natural-bottomed "mud pond", the mud suspended in the water courtesy of the constant "gardening" activity of the koi themselves. Koi love mud. It is their true natural habitat. The gin-clear water is an artificial condition that hobbyists impose because we like to see our fish.

    Suspended soil will be removed eventually by your mechanical filter and the rest will settle out onto the bottom. The koi will sift through it and may resuspend it, but it won't hurt them unless it is loaded with pest killer or something. Your koi track food by smell and taste sensors located in their barbels. Their eyesight is actually fairly poor.

    Relax, lay back. Your pond and fish will resolve this one on their own.

    Bob

  • ...alarming problem in an established pond (approx) 5000 Gallons, Located in East Tennesse, During extreme dry season, we have had several snapping turtles occupy our pond. Is there any possible prevention or way to deal with them after arrival? Tha
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    ...alarming problem in an established pond (approx) 5000 Gallons, Located in East Tennesse, During extreme dry season, we have had several snapping turtles occupy our pond. Is there any possible prevention or way to deal with them after arrival? Thank you so much for your assistance Jay



    Hi Jay,

    Oh great. Another apex predator. Get some help from your local Forestry Service or Animal Control Rep,
    trap 'em and transport 'em out. They'll rip your fish to shreds and if you aren't experienced in handling them, they'll tear you up too!

    Oh well. It could be worse. It could have been alligators.

    Or hippos.

    Bob

  • I live in Oregon and have a swimming pool that I have turned into a pond. It is quite deep, 12 feet at the deepest end and about 4 ft in the shallowest area, other than the steps. Yesterday I saw a great blue heron standing on the edge of the deep se
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    I live in Oregon and have a swimming pool that I have turned into a pond. It is quite deep, 12 feet at the deepest end and about 4 ft in the shallowest area, other than the steps. Yesterday I saw a great blue heron standing on the edge of the deep section, waiting. My fish who come readily to the surface when I appear to feed them were nowhere to be seen. In fact, still this morning I see no sign of my 20 or so koi. My question is this: how big a threat are heron to koi in a large deep pool where they really can't get in and wade around? Are these diving birds? I would hate to lose any of my beautiful fish but also can't imagine trying to cover my 30' by 30' pool/pond. I have already determined from articles that decoy heron don't work reliably. Any thoughts would be most helpful!
    Thank you! Laurie


    Your koi are smart.

    Your heron is frustrated. This is good. Very good. You are 'way too deep for him. Good on ya, mate!

    Herons and egrets are wading birds, and can neither swim nor dive. Kingfishers are divers, but are too small to trouble a good-sized koi, though they can take smaller fish. About the only bigger birds capable of causing you trouble would be cormorants, who have essentially taken over two of the heron rookeries in the far western 'burbs, and eagles. We in Chicago are too far inland for ospreys, though you probably are not, but we both have the possibility of suffering a surfeit of Bald Eagles.

    Never give a wading bird a place to stand. Never give a diving bird unencumbered air space.

     Bob

  • I have a small pond and was just wondering if there was any good way of keeping the raccoons away? Last year, they trashed my water plants and ate my fish. Now I'm afraid to put more fish in this year. Also, I have a friend with a very large pond w
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    I have a small pond and was just wondering if there was any good way of keeping the raccoons away?

    Last year, they trashed my water plants and ate my fish. Now I'm afraid to put more fish in this year. Also, I have a friend with a very large pond who is also having problems with raccoons eating his Koi. Any suggestions would really be appreciated.


    Ah, critters. So cute. So destructive.

    Raccoons are a tough problem, especially if your pond is small and shallow, and even larger ponds are subject to predation if they've got shallow areas where raccoons can sit.

    Koi, being basically curious and trained to come towards a disturbance in the water in the hope of food, fall prey to raccoons who use this as their hunting technique. They'll sit in the shallows and pat the water; the fish, hoping for lunch, swim close and become lunch.

    As an add-on, the only trick that I've seen work are the IR-actuated "Scarecrows". These are sprinklers hitched to the garden hose and set up so their infrared sensors will pick up raccoon-sized critters in the pond area. The circuitry then delivers a 5-second directed schpritz of cold water on the area, annoying and driving off the 'coon. Also works on groggy humans who forget they've got it activated and stumble into range on fine weekend mornings.

    Fencing, netting and chemical repellents are largely ineffective. Yappy little dogs tend to be outclassed by a full-grown boar raccoon.

    The best solution to raccoons and herons occurs in the pre-planning stages of pond construction. Steep sides, deep ponds and no shallows remains the best solution. Raccoons can't hunt when they are dog-paddling. They'll do minor damage to your verge plantings out of frustration and spite, but your fish will be safe.

    Bob

  • 16.Koi Transport
  • I installed a pond in 2003 and have seven good size KOI in my pond. I am moving from southern Lake County IL to Aiken SC and would like to know you view on relocating the KOI. I plan on having a KOI pond and would like to have "the boys" with me.
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    I installed a pond in 2003 and have seven good size KOI in my pond. I am moving from southern Lake County IL to Aiken SC and would like to know your view on relocating the KOI. I plan on having a KOI pond and would like to have "the boys" with me.

    I am concerned about both the trip to SC and the change from well to city water. How would you treat the fish for such a move and what concern about the water.

    Former MPKS member.

     


    Hey folks!

    .

     


    Hey folks!

    Koi move around all the time. Anyone that's been to a show can tell you this. For details, see the article:"Transportation tips" and "Snag 'em, Bag 'em and Drag 'em" on our website. As long as you have oxygen in the bags and keep them boxed, covered and cool, your koi should make the trip without problems. Be sure you have their new home up and operating before you get there with them, and that means a functioning biofilter array, not just a hole in the ground. If you can't get a new pond dug before you move, an isolation tank (which you'll need anyway) will work, if you can set up an active filter before you move.

    The difference in water shouldn't be much of a problem. If you are using city water, just be sure to dechlorinate with Stress-X or some similar substance, or run your source water through an activated charcoal filter as you fill.

    Bob

  • 17.Water Loss
  • This winter year I am having a problem with too much water evaporation in my pond...
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hi my name is Michelle and I live in Plainfield, IL.T his winter year I am having a problem with too much water evaporation in my pond. It's wierd! I have a 7ftx 3ft approx 1500gal pond with a de-icer and all pumps/filters off. 75% of the pond is frozen over except around the de-icer and it's only 5 inches of water. What the heck? Why is this happening? I put some water in it but it seems to evaporate again. What else should I be doing so that my fish won't die? I know we're having some frigid air lately but could this be my problem? I was thinking of putting a tarp over the pond and still keep the de-icer, so it creates a "warming house" effect.

    Sincerely,
    Michelle from Plainfield

     


    Hi Michelle,

    I'm afraid that you have a leak somewhere. The amount of open water you've got would not cause that much evaporative loss, even with the air as dry as it is. You are not going to be able to look for the leak until things warm up some, but be suspiucious of anywhere you have exposed pipes, rocks, sharp objects pressed up against the liner, or places where the liner has shifted. Look for soggy or soft areas around the edges of the pond, or for "bubbles" under the liner and soft spots in the sides or bottom of your pond.

    If you suspect that the leak is somewhere around the sides, you can let the water level recede until stable, then concentrate your search at that level.

    Pipe runs and connections, especially those exposed to freezing weather, are prime locations for water loss.

    Covering your pond in this climate is always a good idea, but a tarp will not help much, since it will not prevent evaporative loss (if any) and will not help with sunlight-induced UV warming. You'll be better off with a small greenhouse structure and greenhouse-weight transparent or translucent plastic sheeting. Kits are available from Midwest Trading in St. Charles, IL.

    Bob

  • 18.Plants
  • A friend of mine gave me some water iris a few years ago. They are now taking over my pond. They are a tall iris with a yellow flower and long narrow leaves. I have tried to pull them out but they are woven right into the bottom of the pond.
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hi Bob:
    A friend of mine gave me some water iris a few years ago. They are now taking over my pond. They are a tall iris with a yellow flower and long narrow leaves. I have tried to pull them out but they are woven right into the bottom of the pond.

    I would also like to reduce some of the miniature cattails. Any advice on how to do this without harming my fish? The iris have just finished blooming.

     


    Hi Renee!

    Omigod, you've got Iris pseudacorus, which, BTW, is kinda illegal in Illinois. It is an invasive, vicious plant pest. What kind of pond do you have? If it's a natural or clay-bottomed pond, just get in there and rip out the giant tubers that are that monster's root system. Get them to dry land, then jump up and down on them until you are sure that they are dead. Then jump on them some more.

    It will not be easy and they will fight back. So will the cattails.

    If your pond is a rubber liner pond, their roots can't penetrate the rubber. Get in there and rip 'em out.

    Your fish will love it. Carp love mud and tolerate turbid water just fine. Ripping out the plants will stir up stuff from the bottom that they'll find delicious. DO NOT USE HERBICIDES! You'll kill everything else in there, and the iris will just laugh at you.

    Bob

  • ...There are many trees in the area and a weeping pine tree all of which, in the fall, causes major work on a daily basis to keep the pond clean. I would like to place pond netting, but it would be very difficult to remove and replace on a regular b
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    Hi Dr Bob,

    I just recently learned that you were "Dr Bob". I've read some of your articles. I am new (2 years) with having a functioning pond. I have ~8,000 gallon in-ground concrete pond with embedded large rocks and a stone concrete waterfall.

    There are many trees in the area and a weeping pine tree all of which, in the fall, causes major work on a daily basis to keep the pond clean. I would like to place pond netting, but it would be very difficult to remove and replace on a regular basis to remove the leaves. I assume that using a power blower to blow the leaves off the netting is probably not a good idea.

    I am considering "big top" netting where I place several poles in the pond to support the netting above the water. The deep end is about 5 feet deep and the shallow end only 2 feet deep. If I place netting, what do I do about the frogs?

    Any advice you have would be greatly appreciated. I will attach some pictures of the pond to help you see the problem.


    Hey Lar!

    Your best bet for tree spit is a skimmer array. Even with concrete construction, there are skimmer designs that can be retrofitted to require the minimum amount of disturbance to your pond margins.

    A skimmer is situated at the point in the pond margin farthest from your falls with its outlet set so your pond's water level comes about 2/3 of the way up over the opening. Surface water is drawn into the skimmer either by a submersible pump in the skimmer box or by a dry pump plumbed to the box with a bulkhead fitting. The pump flow can be directed either back to your falls or, preferably, to a seperate filter system independent of your bottom drain. Anything hitting the surface of your pond capable of even brief flotation will be pulled into the skimmer for easy disposal.

    I strongly recommend leaf netting in the fall. I use a pre-fab hoop-house kit sold locally by Midwest Trading in St. Charles. (Versa-Quonset) setting up in early October with the leaf netting and then covering with greenhouse-weight poly just before Thanksgiving.
    Bob

  • 19.Bogs
  • we have a koi pond and it developed a leak so we thought it would be a good time to build a bog system. We are interested in making a bog filtration system for it. what websites do you recommend to get this info.from. We live in hot AZ. - would a bog
    Bob Passovoy03-04-2016

    we have a koi pond and it developed a leak so we thought it would be a good time to build a bog system. We are interested in making a bog filtration system for it. what websites do you recommend to get this info.from. We live in hot AZ. - would a bog system be good in this type of climate?


    Hi Gloria!

    Bogs in hot climates are difficult. Your biggest challenge will be keeping it cool enough to function; either that or stock it with tropical water plants such as lotus, bamboo (in pots! Bamboo roots will rip right through pond liner) and tropical water lilies. Look around for heat-hardy marginals, and dig it somewhat deeper than you would in more temperate climes. Make sure that it gets partial shade at the peak of the day.

    "Bog" filters are not true bogs, since they do not contain peat. What you will be constructing will be closer to a marsh (swamp without trees), but with brisker water movement. Plan on about one-third of your water flow diverted through the marsh and the remaining two-thirds over your falls. You can play with this ratio to suit your own tastes. Do not rely on the marsh to supply all your filtration. You'll still need higher-tech biological and mechanical filtration to keep up with your koi. Your marsh will help with nitrates and nitrites. Sludge, algae, dissolved organics and ammonia will still be the responsibility of your bottom drains, prefilters, protein extractor and bioconverters.

    Newer marsh/bog designs incorporate a sump on the bottom that simplifies cleanout. During construction, dig a trench the full length of the bog to accommodate a length of 8-inch perforated drainage pipe. Cut a hole in one end to accept a vertical length of solid-wall pipe long enough to extend above the water surface. Block both ends of the horizontal pipe. Cover with gravel or fine river rock. For cleanout, plunk a high-capacity submersible pump into the vertical pipe and turn it on. Use the effluent to water your flowers and veggies.

    Bob