We Love our Wet Pets!
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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Yerba mansa (Anemopsis californica) is native to Arizona!
Yerba mansa is a fabulous plant to have in your living ecosystem Phoenix pond, waterfall, or stream. It's actually an Arizona native.
This plant displays showy white flowers which rise from a dense growth of dark green leaf clusters. The compact conic flower spike is very distinctive. Similar to the sunflower family, what appears to be a single bloom is really a dense cluster of individual small flowers when observed closely.
In nature, Yerba mansa is found in wet, usually alkaline, soils along streams and in wet meadows, often growing in large colonies, typically from 1,000-6,000 ft elevations.
Yerba typically flowers April-October.
Yerba mansa is well known for its medicinal uses, including external use on sores and burns, as disinfectant for cuts and scrapes, and as a wash for sore feet and muscles. It’s also used internally for stomach ulcers, colds, coughs, menstrual cramps, diabetes, gonorrhea, tuberculosis, and syphilis. It's been used as a laxative and an emetic, and the seeds are made into mush and eaten by Native Americans. It’s quite versatile!
The only caveat to cultivating Yerba mansa in your back yard pond or water feature is that you’ll have to keep it under control. It reproduces rapidly via red runners (rhizomes) that shoot out across the ground and the water, and can be quite prolific in the warmer months. It’s easy to thin, though, by just yanking some out, and having a serious talk with it about slowing it’s roll.
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The beauty of a pond is something everyone can appreciate and enjoy. Yes, even in Phoenix, AZ! A flash of colorful fish swimming in clean, clear water beneath the pads of waterlilies is a sight to behold and enjoy. Add the sound of a running waterfall or babbling brook stream and you have a dream come true in your backyard.
Keeping pond water clean and clear is the basis for a healthy pond that requires little to no maintenance. Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to create a proper pond environment that benefits your fish and plants. Follow our not-so-secret steps to ensure a naturally-balanced, low maintenance pond throughout the year! Remember: it's SO much easier to work WITH Mother Nature than AGAINST Her.
Make sure your pond pump is the correct size for your pond and waterfall. A pump provides valuable aeration to the water. Several variables need to be considered when choosing a pump, such as the size of your pond and the height of your waterfall. Most pumps will give you the specifications you need for water flow, head pressure, etc.
More often than not, when answering questions about pond water quality, we find that people don’t have proper filtration installed on their pond. If you don't have a filter, you ARE the filter, and this makes for more maintenance. For the lowest maintenance possible, you want to make sure your pond has both a biological filter and a mechanical skimmer. The biological filter is typically the apex of your waterfall and adds beneficial bacteria to your pond. The mechanical skimmer is similar to a pool skimmer, removing surface debris such as leaves and sticks. Ideally, you want to position the biological filter and skimmer at opposite ends of the pond. This ensures movement throughout the entire pond so you don’t end up with stagnant areas.
Rocks & Gravel in a Pond
Ponds can be built in various ways. Some are created with concrete, others with a simple pond liner. We believe in an ecosystem approach to the pondering lifestyle and use rocks and gravels in our ponds, after installing underlayment and liner. Gravel provides much-needed surface area for beneficial bacteria to grow. Your fish will graze on these bacteria, as well. The gravel won’t be a breeding ground for muck and debris if you ensure that your low maintenance pond has the proper pump and filtration system. The ecosystem works together, like a circle of life, so it’s important not to eliminate any of the elements.
While fish keeping is fun, your finned friends also play an important part in the overall ecosystem of your pond. They eat algae, and their waste becomes fertilizer for your pond plants. Too many fish, however, can pose a problem. A good rule of thumb is to limit your fish load to no more than 10” of fish per 100 gallons of water. So if you have a 20 fish at various lengths totaling 300” when combined, then you need a 3,000 gallon pond.
Plants in a Pond
Plants also play a critical role in the pond’s ecosystem due to their filtering capabilities. Plants absorb nutrients from fish waste and help starve algae of its food. During hot summer months, make sure to have at least 40% of your pond’s surface covered with plants. You can accomplish this with waterlilies and various marginals or floating plants.
There you have it! Not so tough, eh? You now know the secret to a truly low maintenance pond. Start with the basics and create a naturally balanced pond with a combination of proper circulation, filtration, fish, plants, and rock and gravel. You’ll be amazed at how easy pond-keeping can be!
How can I tell if I have frog eggs or toad eggs in my Phoenix pond?
To start with, both amphibians make up the order Anura in the animal kingdom, but there are some key differences in the critters themselves. You can tell most toads and frogs apart by the appearance of their skin and legs. Most frogs have long legs and smooth skin covered in mucus. Toads generally have shorter legs and rougher, thicker skins.
As to the eggs you might be seeing in your Phoenix pond, toads generally lay their eggs in very long strands of clear jelly, sort of like small black pearls in a long clear plastic tube (dish on right). Frogs, on the other hand, lay their eggs in a cluster that resembles a bunch of grapes (dish on the left).
Here's a little graphic on what you might see over the next few months after the toad or frog eggs appear:
pH? What's That?
Strictly speaking, pH is a measure of hydrogen ion concentration, a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of a solution.
In layman terms, it's how hard the water is. You're probably already aware that here in Phoenix, our water comes out of the tap pretty darn high, around 8.5 on the pH scale.
So, what's to be done about this where it concerns a pond or water feature in your Phoenix yard?
Check out a quick video on the subject of pH and the Phoenix pond or water feature: