We HIGHLY recommend (and have been preaching this for years) that Phoenix pond owners keep some battery-operated air stones on hand in case of emergency during the summer months. Warm water naturally holds less oxygen than cold water. At night, aquatic plants respirate carbon dioxide and steal oxygen from the already low-oxygenated warm water. Combined with a power or pump outage, this can create a very dangerous situation and suffocate the large fish in your pond overnight. Water movement and oxygen exchange are critical for keeping larger fish in your pond.
Having an aerator in your pond is a great way to help out the oxygen transfer (as well as offer some predator protection because they can’t see through the bubbles), but if your power goes out for any length of time, a battery-operated air stone could save the lives of your larger fish. Having an extra pump on hand may seem like a smart idea; however, the warranty period starts running at the time of purchase. Air stones are not ideal, but it’s certainly way better than nothing!
Guidelines for Air Stones IN A PHOENIX POND
There are some general guidelines to help determine how many air stones you might need to have on hand and drop in your pond in case of emergency. The guidelines assume the following:
If your pond meets the standards listed above, there is a rule of thumb you can use to determine how many 8” air stones you would need to keep your fish alive during a power outage or pump failure. If your pond exceeds any of these standards, you will need to adjust the recommended quantity to account for your specific conditions. Err on the side of caution because you can't have TOO much oxygen.
Rule of Thumb for Air Stones in a Phoenix Pond
We recommend one 8” air stone for every 25 sf of pond surface area. Remember, square feet is calculated by multiplying length times width. So, if you have an 8’ x 10’ pond, you have 80 square feet of surface area. 20% plant coverage would mean no more than 16 sf of water lily/plant coverage over the surface, so you would need a MINIMUM of 3 air stones. Again, if you have fish over 6” long, you need more because they need more oxygen than smaller fish.
If there is mulm on the bottom of the pond, keep the air stone(s) on a shelf above that so that you’re not stirring the mulm into the water column, which would exacerbate the situation.
Where to Get Air Stones for your Phoenix Pond
Air stones are used for bait keepers, and can generally be found at any sporting goods store. They are used to keep bait alive for fishermen.
Don’t wait until something happens, and the emergency is upon you – prepare now! At this time, The Pond Gnome does not offer 24-hour emergency service outside of our Platinum Maintenance Program. We may not be able to get help to you as soon as we would like for a pump replacement (and we have no control over power outages or electrical failures), so please, please, PLEASE take steps to take care of your fin-babies!
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Tips for a Healthy Late-Summer Pond
The beauty and joy of a pond makes summer far more memorable and relaxing! Summer is still in full swing here in Phoenix (as demonstrated by the 100+ degree days) and every moment with your finned friends and pond plants should be thoroughly relished. To fully enjoy yourself while Living the Aquascape Lifestyle®, you want to make sure your water feature is healthy and functioning optimally throughout the remainder of the warmer months. When water temperature remains above 80 degrees, it’s important to keep a few things in mind.
Health of Your Pond Fish
Keep an eye on your fish. Do your finned friends appear stressed out, gasping for air close to the water’s surface or especially close to a fountain or waterfall? Warm water has a low capacity for holding oxygen, while cooler water can hold very large amounts of oxygen.
Warm pond water and increased fish activity go hand and hand, and that increased activity also means your fish require more oxygen when less oxygen is available, thus creating a vicious cycle. Stressed fish often begin to develop diseases, and soon enough you’ll have a domino effect.
If you haven’t already done so, add oxygen to your pond by placing an aerator in your pond. You can also install a fountain with a pump, or even a simple spitter, if your pond doesn’t have a waterfall or stream -- and even if it does, this adds more interest in addition to more oxygen. Make sure all areas of the pond are skimmed and the water is being circulated -- keep those streams and waterways clear and flowing. And keep in mind that waterfalls, streams, and even fountains play a huge part in the oxygenation of the water in your pond.
Beat the Heat
There are some preventative measures you can take in order to keep your pond from turning into a warm, unhealthy mess at the end of summer. It all starts with a well-designed water feature. Depth of water, plant coverage, shade, and circulation should all be considered when designing and building a pond. A minimum depth of two feet is suggested; the bottom of the pond will remain cooler.
You’ll also want to stock your pond with a lot of plants to provide shade for the fish. A good rule of thumb is to provide plant coverage of approximately 1/3 to 1/2 of the pond’s surface area. It’s not too late to add plants to your pond.
Perhaps one of the most important parts of pond design is circulation. Hopefully your biological filter and mechanical filter are placed across the pond from each other, so that your pond receives optimal circulation. If not, consider adding a fountain or spitter for additional circulation and to create movement in stagnant areas.
Additional Late Summer Pond Tips
During the final months of summer, you can use these tips to help keep your pond performing optimally:
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Lucky is the pond owner who enjoys having a beautiful Kohaku koi swimming among the lily pads in their very own back yard pond. The Kohaku is the oldest and most well-known variety of koi, and is often the most popular among koi lovers.
Kohaku is a bright white koi, patterned with red. There are two types of Kohaku – one has the red pattern all over its body, which is the most common. The second type of Kohaku only has a red spot in the middle of its forehead. This is an extra-special type called Tancho Kohaku, and is a highly prized specimen because of its rarity.
A Model of the Japanese Flag
The red spot on the forehead makes the Tancho Kohaku a living, breathing model of the Japanese flag, which represents a red sun in the middle of a pure white field.
Kohaku is the most common fish to win “Grand Champion” in Japanese shows, because it is the most popular fish in Japan and therefore, the breeders of koi spend the most time producing the finest specimens of this type.
Judging Kohaku Koi
Judging good quality koi such as Kohaku is not an easy task! There are certain “pattern” basics that you can learn to apply when buying fish, but forecasting the way that pattern will look later as the koi matures is a special talent. Also, body shape and conformation are important features, and few Americans appreciate the complexities of this characteristic. Finally, the way the red, called Hi (pronounced “hee”), breaks into kiwa (the trailing edge of the Hi) or out of the white (sashi) is important. The more crisp the transition from red to white, the better.
The details concerning pattern intricacies of Kohaku during championship judging can seem tedious, so here’s a simplified method of Kohaku appreciation that, although likely inadequate in choosing show-quality koi, is effective enough to choose fish which most folks will value.
Patterns to Look For
When you see a Kohaku with a uniform pattern of a single, red blossom in the center of each scale, and the pattern is pleasing to the eye, it is called Kanoko (fawn). Some of these fish are thought to make a good investment, but rumor has it that Kanoko Kohaku are “going away” and the red dots won’t survive many years in the pattern, which leaves you with nothing but an expensive white fish.
The pattern of the fish can be solid (ippon), lightning strike or zig-zag (inazuma), or it may occur in spots. The appearance of two spots is called “Two-Step” Kohaku or Nidan, and three spots is referred to as “Three Step” Kohaku or Sandan. They even have names for Four Step and Five Step patterns, but they’re generally not as precious as the two and three step koi.
The body of Kohaku ought to be rather fat, rounded off, and sort of voluptuous or “Rubenesque.” The head should have fat “cheeks” in the more mature fish. The base of the tail, where the caudal fin emerges, should be fat and round instead of streamlining into the tail. The fan-shaped pectoral fins behind the head should also be big and round. The rounder and whiter, the better. Thin almond-shaped pectoral fins are a disappointment. The body of the fish should be wider than the head, which would suggest that the fish is a female, which is a good thing.
A Final Thought
Understanding the characteristics of different types of koi helps you make an educated selection when shopping for your finned friends. Keep in mind that unless you’re planning on entering your fish in competitions, it really only matters that you like the coloration and markings of the fish in your pond. Beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder, after all!
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If you’ve never owned a pond, or you know next to nothing about keeping koi and pond fish, three basic rules will help you create and maintain a healthy habitat for your new finned friends. We want fish to be happy, and your pond experience to be as enjoyable as possible. Once you become familiar with your fish and their basic needs, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying the full benefits of living the pond life!
1. Fish Need Clean Water
Your pond water should always be clean-smelling and have good clarity. On occasion, the water might be green due to suspended algae, or slightly brown due to tannins, or even a bit cloudy after one of our famous dust stroms.
Algae is typically expected in the winter and spring when the plants are not growing aggressively. Once the plants grow, they consume more nutrients from the water, thereby starving algae of food to survive. Ponds in sunny locations experience higher algae growth, but this can be alleviated by shading the pond surface with waterlilies or floating plants like water lettuce.
Keep in mind, algae isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Your pond fish will eat algae off the rocks in your pond so it’s good to have a little of the green stuff. Too much algae can become unsightly, but can be controlled with various water treatments.
If you’re going to keep fish, it’s imperative that your pond have proper filtration. A mechanical skimmer is your first line of defense for removing unwanted debris such as leaves and twigs from the surface of the water. If left to decay in the pond, organic material can cause a host of water issues that could make your fish sick. The skimmer also houses the pump, which circulates the water and helps to aerate the pond. A biological filter is positioned opposite the skimmer to create the beginning of a waterfall. This filter uses bacteria to break down pond waste, converting it into less harmful compounds that can act as aquatic plant fertilizers.
2. Maintain a Healthy Population
One secret to making sure your pond water remains balanced and healthy, is to control your fish population. Sure, it’s tempting to add lots of colorful koi and pond fish to your water garden, but you want to avoid over-crowding. Too many fish creates excess waste in the pond water, which in turn can cause water quality issues. As a general rule of thumb, pond fish need 10 gallons of water for every inch of their length. So a 10-inch long fish needs 100 gallons. If you have five 10-inch long fish, your water garden should have at least 500 gallons of water. Keep in mind that your fish are going to grow so be sure to under-stock your pond in the beginning.
3. Feed Your Fish Appropriately
Koi and other pond fish will feed on natural sources such as algae and wayward insects, but they’ll benefit from a prepared, quality fish food such as Aquascape Premium Fish Food Pellets. Just like other pet foods, not all fish food is created equal. You want to look for food that contains a high-quality protein along with stabilized multivitamins and probiotics. Only feed your fish what they can consume in about three to five minutes, at the most. In the summer, you can feed them twice per day, but in spring and fall you should only feed them once per day. Be sure not to feed the fish at all after your pond water temperature is below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, although you can give them natural treats like oranges, melons, zucchini, and even Cheerios!
Following these three basic rules for keeping koi and pond fish will help ensure that your finned friends have a solid foundation to grow and thrive. You’ll enjoy hours of watching your colorful koi and goldfish swim around the pond, gliding here and there beneath the waterlily pads. It’s a great stress reliever and a perfect activity to enjoy a bit of nature in your own backyard with the family.
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Using Salt in Phoenix Ponds
Should I ADD salt TO my Phoenix pond?
We often get the question about salting ponds. Salt enhances the slime coat on fish, which aids them in fending off parasites. If your fish are jumping and flashing (scratching up against rocks, or other hard edges), then we do recommend salt for helping the fish fight the itching that comes with the spring parasite bloom. But there are some rules and caveats!
What are the drawbacks to using salt in my Phoenix ecosystem pond?
The main drawback is that your aquatic plants are not keen on a lot of salt in the water, so you have to be careful as to how much you add. Too much salt may affect your plants and cause them to die. Also, when salt is used constantly in a system, even at low levels, various parasites can become resistant and pose an even bigger threat to the overall health of your fish. For this reason, it would be best to use salt as a preventative for disease in the springtime only, allowing the water to return to it's natural level the rest of the year. Massive die-offs of algae due to the addition of salt can also cause a substantial drop in oxygen levels in your pond, causing stress and/or death to your fish.
How much salt should I use in my Phoenix ecosystem pond?
Recommendations range from 1% to 3% solutions in your water. So....if your fish seem fine and your plants are young, you probably shouldn't add anything to the water. If your fish are itchy and your plants are mature, you might want to add a 2-3% solution, but be aware that your plants will start to suffer and burn at a level over 2%, and at over 3% you will kill more delicate plants.
What kind of salt should I use in my Phoenix ecosystem pond?
You absolutely don't use table salt! You want pure non-iodized salt. Avoid using any salt with additives such as iodine and other minerals, as well as those with anti-caking agents which can out-right suffocate your fish.
Pond salt can be purchased on-line, or at various pet supply stores.
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