My wINTER Pond Is Different
Yes, every pond is an individual when it comes to how it will act in the Winter, or any other time of year, for that matter. Differences include: age, size, depth, filtration, fish load, additional wildlife load, exposure to sun and wind, adjacent terrestrial plant life, amount and variety of the aquatic plant life, and a plethora of other micro-climate variations. Add to this how much fish food gets thrown in the water (any, a lot, none). It all goes together to make up the body of water that is your pond.
CYA Statement: Every article or blog that we write is based on the rules that we understand in average circumstances in the Greater Phoenix Metropolitan area. Your pond is an individual, with a unique set of circumstances, so please understand that what we discuss in any of these articles is the rule of thumb and may not be precisely descriptive of what you are experiencing today in your own personal backyard pond.
Fish and Water Temperatures in A Winter Pond
With winter temperatures, as the water dips down below 55 degrees (water temperature follows the nighttime temperatures, NOT the daytime highs), we recommend you stop feeding your fish. In colder water, the fish don’t metabolize high protein food like they do in the summer, and if it goes through their digestive system too slow, it could begin to rot inside them and result in a fish kill. We get a couple of calls a winter from people who have literally fed their babies to death. It's a very sad thing to have to tell people.
As always, natural treats like zucchini, melon, lettuce, oranges, and even Cheerios, can be given.
Algae Blooms in Winter Ponds
We don't freeze over here in Phoenix (typically, that is), so we tend to experience a big algae bloom in the Winter. We just had a caller this week tell us that we must be wrong about this because she had always heard that algae was more of a problem in the hot weather. She is not wrong, and neither are we. What’s the deal then? Our ponding system relies on a healthy ecosystem full of micro organisms and zoo plankton to keep the water healthy and clear. In a healthy ecosystem pond, zoo plankton are very active and do a great job in the warm weather, but they hibernate in the colder water temps. How much will YOU get? Well, that goes back to that ponds are individuals thing.
Using copious amounts of beneficial bacteria in the winter is a waste of money. It does nothing to combat the algae. Beneficial bacteria is for cloudy water, not algae blooms. You can use other water treatment products, but take care to use them during the day, and never in the later afternoon or evening, because they steal oxygen from the water at night, which could kill your fish.
The algae can also be hand-weeded out, and even used in composting operations or as mulch around plants because it's full of nutrients. But remember: aquatic life likes a little algae to snuggle up in during the winter.
Plants in a Winter Pond
DO NOT thin or trim back your aquatic plants too severely just yet. In Phoenix, we technically have a chance of frost through the end of February. Many years, that seems practically impossible, but we've been surprised from time to time, so better safe than sorry.
Your annual cleaning should be done when the water is COLD. So, plan to do that before the end of March. We provide that service, or you can certainly do it yourself.
Before you know it (and for those of us getting older, it seems to be in the blink of an eye), the water will begin to warm, your fish will become more active, and your aquatic plants will burst forth with new life. Then, we can all start complaining about the heat again...
Did You Know These Facts About Koi Fish?
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Pond owners love their colorful Koi. And they also tend to love their pond plants. Yet many people struggle to keep their Koi from making a feast of their favorite waterlilies. What’s a water gardener to do? No worries, it really is possible for Koi and aquatic plants to live in harmony in the same pond.
Stocking is Key
One of the keys to the plant-eating Koi dilemma is to make sure you have the correct Koi-stocking density for your water garden. Put too many Koi in a pond and they’ll compete for everything – especially food. Your ravaged waterlilies are simply evidence of hungry Koi!
A good general rule of thumb for Koi stocking is to have no more than one inch of fish per 10 gallons of water. For example, you can have 150 inches of fish in 1,500 gallons of water, which is about five Koi. Remember, when buying small fish, they’re going to get bigger! So, choose fish based on how large they’re going to grow. If you don’t provide Koi with enough room, you risk plant health, water clarity, and the fish will suffer from stressful living conditions.
Another key is to have the pond well planted with mature plants BEFORE adding large Koi to the mix. Start with small Koi, less than 3” in length, and they won’t have the strength to disrupt your aquatic plants. Not only will this save your plants, but the Koi will adapt to pond life much easier.
The final key is to make sure those aquatic plants are planted securely in the rock substrate of the pond. Once the plants are established with a good root system, the Koi may nibble and root around, but won’t be able to uproot them completely.
Understanding and Feeding Koi
Keep in mind that Koi are inquisitive fish and explore their surroundings with their mouths. If you catch them rooting around the base of your waterlilies, simply use larger rocks around the base of the plant so the fish can’t move them and destroy the planting.
If your Koi are well fed, they won’t eat many plants. Although they love dining on your favorite waterlily, they actually prefer Koi food. Given the choice between a pelleted food and green vegetation, they’ll opt for the taste and high-energy of a pelleted food. Feed your fish once or twice a day all they can gobble in about two minutes, and they’ll be satisfied enough to steer clear of your plants.
When choosing fish food, the pellet size should be close to the size of the fish’s pupil (the black part of the eye). Toss in a few pellets for starters to get them going, and then throw in more food over the course of approximately 2 minutes. Excess food is caught in the skimmer and will decay, which isn’t ideal for the water quality of your pond. This is why it’s preferably to toss in a few food pellets at a time, as opposed to a large handful.
Can’t We All Just Get Along?
The truth is that aquatic plants and fish complement one another. Combining the two creates a healthier, cleaner pond that’s easier to maintain. Pond plants offer coverage from predators and our Arizona sun, reduce nitrates, and oxygenate the water during the day. Just remember not to overstock the pond and to feed your Koi a quality fish food on a regular basis. You’ll find that Koi and aquatic plants can live in peace and harmony, providing you with hours of water gardening enjoyment.
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What's the Best Food to Feed my Pond Fish?
Just like humans, the absolute best food to feed your fish are natural whole foods, like fruits and vegetables, and allowing them to graze on the algae that naturally grows in the pond. Okay, maybe as humans, we don't want to eat the algae, but that's a whole different discussion. Feeding your pond fish lettuce, zucchini, oranges, melons, etc., will not only keep them healthy, but help maintain your water quality.
What's The Best Commercial Food Can I Buy for My Pond FIsh?
If you opt to keep commercial fish food around, be sure it's the best stuff. If you feed your kids a diet comprised of just breakfast cereal, that's not enough to keep them healthy. The same goes for feeding your beloved wet pets. Read labels, like you do when buying food for your dogs and cats. If you consider your pond fish your pets, then you'll want to feed them the good stuff. They'll be healthier, live longer, and look better, too! Here are some commercially-made fish foods that we've personally found are great.
Warm-Weather Pond Fish Foods
When your water temps (which follow nighttime temps) are above 55 degrees, these fish food options are terrific.
Aquascape Premium Staple Fish Food Pellets are formulated for everyday use and provide your pond fish with the nutrition they need to thrive at an affordable price. This food contain probiotics that aid in digestion and reduce fish waste, while the high-quality protein included helps to optimize growth rates. The floating pellets contain stabilized vitamin C and other quality ingredients and are scientifically formulated for all pond fish, including Koi and goldfish. This fish food will not break apart during feeding, helping to maintain clear water conditions.
One step further would be the Premium Color Enhancing pond fish food.
Cold-Weather Pond Fish Food
When your water temps are below 55 degrees, you can switch over to natural treats (fruits & veggies), or this fish food works well.
The Premium Cold Water pond fish food is actually formulated to be fed to pond fish when the water is cold and their systems are not as active.
The bottom line is to read labels and make an informed decision. I guess that's actually good advice for us human, too!
Watching your fish glide gracefully and happily through the pond is a sight for sore eyes after a long day and/or week at work. But do you have a pond that promotes the health of your fish? Several factors influence whether a pond is habitable by fish, so before you stock your new pond or choose a few new finned friends at your local pet store, take a few minutes to assess your fish’s dwelling space as it relates to pond fish health.
Healthy Goldfish and Koi in an Ecosystem Pond
It all starts with the size of your pond. You need to make sure that it is large enough to support the type of fish you want (whether that’s Koi or goldfish) and their growth potential. Pond fish generally need 10 gallons of water for every inch of their length, and you have to be ready for them to grow larger, so be careful not to overstock, no matter how tempting this may be! Some pond experts go so far as to recommend only ½ inch of fish per 10 gallons of water as a maximum stocking density.
You’ve probably seen ponds crowded with two or even three inches of fish per 10 gallons of water and the fish seem to be fine. However, the density and ecological strain of this kind of fish load turn these ponds into fragile systems. The fish tend to grow more slowly and disease can become a too-common occurrence. Too many rats in a cage, so to speak.
You won’t be able to salvage sick fish in a pond that’s overcrowded. Eventually, Mother Nature will pick off some of your fish (mostly likely your favorites) to achieve her ideal stocking density based on the environment the fish are in, and then the remainder will recover as if by magical intervention. Reduce the number of fish if your pond is over-stocked before Mother Nature handles this crucial step for you in a manner you may not appreciate.
Good Morning, Sunshine
Some aquatic plants that tolerate shade include Taro, Papyrus, Horsetail, Cardinal Flower, and Lizard’s Tail.Ponds that have at least some sunlight are also beneficial to pond fish. Valuable vitamins are contained in sunlight. Sunlight also helps the plants in your pond grow, thereby reducing nitrates in the water. Unfortunately, you can’t just up and move your pond, so if you have a shady-place pond, add shade-loving plants to help balance the water. Aquatic plants play a critical role when it comes to enhancing pond fish health.
When it comes to pond depth, Koi and goldfish aren’t really very picky. Just be sure that the pond is deep enough (generally about 2 to 2 ½ feet) to give the fish a chance to get out of the way of predators. Or you can opt for a cave network within the pond to allow them to hide when need be.
A Balancing Act
The quality of your water is critical to pond fish health and you want to make sure your water garden is balanced. The proper mix of fish, plants, filtration, circulation, and rocks and gravel all provide an important role in your pond’s ecosystem. Work with Mother Nature, not against her, and you’ll find you spend more time enjoying your pond and less time maintaining it. Now, doesn’t THAT sound like a dream come true?
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IT'S ALL ABOUT BALANCE!