Congratulations! The fish and pond made it through winter and the even more challenging, spring. Now we get to enjoy the fish kids and relax by the pond all summer. Well, not quite!
If you followed our suggestions in the article Spring has arrived, but is your pond ready?
Then you are well on your way to an easy season. Pond keeping should be fun, it should be enjoyable and it should be rewarding. When it isn't, it's because of a few things, and we'll touch on them here.
If you've been here to Okanagan Koi then you've probably noticed that our ponds look pretty clean and clear. I just want to set the record straight. We do not vacuum our ponds. We do not do massive water changes..ever! And most of all, we do not use chemicals in our water.
We do tend to over feed our fish, especially now that there are Koi food dispensers for public use. We really have no idea how much food; any given pond gets in a day. We do know that the Koi are not starving, however, their begging will make you think otherwise..lol. The only pond we control completely, is the gated off pond where the show Koi reside.
We over feed and we get busy and don't backwash the ponds as often as we should. In our defence, we are quite busy and sometimes time goes by faster than you realize. That explanation right there, is why we spend so much time and effort into making sure the ponds are adequately filtered. A properly built pond, where the fish's needs are met, will make your life easier and your enjoyment level, that much higher!
Almost nothing bothers me more, than a person new to the hobby that got poor advice from their local “self-proclaimed expert” or advice from someone who just doesn't know. Take a guess, how many times I've had someone walk into our shop; all upset about the new pond they had built. A pond built by “experts” that cost good money, but is all wrong. Guess? More times than I could count, and it's sad! It's sad, because someone trusted a “professional” to provide a well-made product. They aren't happy and now they are disgruntled. I have fixed more landscaper ponds than I can recall. I have had more people remove rocks from the bottom of their ponds, than I can recall. I have had more, unhappy pond owners come for help, than I should have. That's what's sad. Those experiences tarnish a hobby and an industry.
The advice you will get here today, is what we do here at the farm. It is what we tell our customers, and it is good, correct advice. If ever, you read something you are unsure of, please ask us. If your landscaper tells you something, or the neighbor from across the street tells you something. Please, ask us first. We would rather explain something to you, than sell you a product you don't need. First and foremost, before being a business, this is our hobby and we want you to be successful!
Here we go….
1) If you want fish in your pond, you do not want rocks on the pond bottom! I know there's a fortune 500 company who built their whole company on this model, but I disagree with it, and here's why.
It's true, when they tell you that good bacteria grows on the surface of those rocks. But what is equally true; is that the bad, nasty bacteria grows under them. Everything (pretty much) that goes in a pond, goes down. Dust, dirt, fish poop, leaves, bird poop..everything! It works its way under the rocks, where it turns into anaerobic bacteria. The black, nasty smelling stuff, that is basically, a septic tank in your pond. You first must realize that your fish are swimming in their toilet bowl.
The preferred way to build a fish pond, certainly a Koi pond, is with a clean bottom, no rocks. Not only do the rock bottom ponds need yearly full cleanouts. That means draining, catching and housing the fish, power washing the pond, filling it back up and plunking your poor fish back into a sterilized pit. I don't know about you, but that doesn't sound much like “working with mother nature” that sounds like the opposite of that. If you don't do that, then you will have a build-up of skunk smelling rotten goo, that most certainly will be food for algae and ulcer causing bacteria.
In a properly made pond (our opinion) there will be either a pump on the pond bottom, or bottom drains. They will capture the waste and put it into an out of pond filter, where you turn a valve and backwash it weekly. We have 9 ponds here, and we don't spend an hour a week, looking after all of them.
All backwash water should be recycled and used in your garden, or for lawn and trees. There is no reason why a pond can't be part of a water smart design. We use less water on our acreage as a water garden centre, than was used previously as an estate covered in lawns. I kid you not!
2) How often should you clean your filters? This is a great question and is very important. All filters should be flushed at least every week. Bio filters, pressure filters and gravity fed filters. All should be flushed weekly. Now, I bet someone told you not to clean your bio-filter, right? Well, that's kind of true. You should use pond water to flush out any built up debris. You should not, however, clean the bio media with a garden hose. Chlorinated water instantly kills the good bacteria in your pond and filter. It takes 3-6 weeks to grow it back, and in that time, you may get green water and string algae. Why? Because you threw off the balance of your pond.
Your bio-filter, is a colony of good and helpful bacteria. They should live undisturbed. If you don't clean off the debris that catches on the bio media, then it chokes out the very bacteria you need for a healthy pond. So, regular flushing and gentle swishing or agitating, is okay, as long as it's not too vigorous or with chlorinated water. If you don't flush it weekly, the good bacteria turn anaerobic (bad) and make your fish sick.
Think of pond waste this way; if it's in your filter system, its still part of the pond. Waste makes food for string algae and green water to flourish..flush it out!
If you have filter matting that must be hosed off, then only do part one week and the other part the next. Just like an aquarium filter, never clean it all at once.
3) How much water should I change out? When you backwash your filters, you should take the water down a minimum of 10% a week. Fish give off growth pheromones, and will grow better if they are removed. You are also getting rid of water rich in fertilizer, which equals less algae issues. An absolute minimum water change in a month would be 20% and evaporation doesn't count!
4) The only products we add to our ponds are our AquaSphere balls and Blast. They are all natural and keep our water balanced, and they eat the debris. They help immensely with algae, because they eat debris that would otherwise turn into plant food. They are extremely cost effective, even for big ponds. On occasion, our water gets a bit murky. Maybe after a heavy rain, or sudden temperature swing. In that case, we use RapiClear by Crystal Clear. We used to use D-Solv for string algae issues, but we find that the AquaSpheres and Blast makes that unnecessary. We do have one pond that grows string algae. It's up in the waterfall where the Koi can't eat it, so got unsightly. We are too busy to deal with it, and added an Ionizer to that pond a few years ago. We now have zero algae in the pond, not one speck!
5) Keep all rotted leaves cut back. Leaving them to fall in the pond, will add to your organic load. More organics equals more algae.
6) What you're feeding your fish, is as important as how often you're feeding them. People ask how often we feed our fish. When we feed them, they eat 3-4 times a day (in summer). Now that the public feeds them, they eat 50 times a day. This is usually my answer when I'm asked. Feed them as much as your filters can manage. That's when I usually get a weird look, followed by “what does that mean” I then confuse them further, by saying “you can't over feed your fish, but you can over feed your filters” That is a confusing statement to some people, my mother included..lol. She understood that to mean, that you can feed non-stop. That understanding had me arrive home from holiday one winter, to some very black looking water in my indoor pond.
If you have no filtration (shame on you!) then you should feed minimally. If you have just enough filtration to barely handle your fish load, then you should feed minimally. If you have more filtration than you need to handle your fish load 5 years from now, then you can feed more. The more you feed, the more often you need to maintain your filters. If feeding your fish when company is over, is a fun activity, then do more maintenance. If you want your fish to grow well and be fat going into winter, then feed more and do more maintenance. Honestly, if you've built the pond right, are over filtered, then maintenance if a breeze. Have fun, feed the fish and enjoy the pond! Note: if you have an abundance of string algae, you're feeding too much! For more information on green water & string algae, see our article “Green Water & String algae, Why Do I Have It?�
The quality of the fish food is also very important. We don't sell crappy cheap food for Koi. If there is corn in the first 5 ingredients of your fish food, its crap! Corn is a cheap filler, which your fish can't digest any more than you can. First ingredient of most good foods is white fish meal. Other good ingredients are wheat germ, spirulina, shrimp meal, kelp, silk worm etc.
The biggest things to remember about maintaining your pond during the summer, is patience and consistency. Backwash weekly, add Blast weekly, add your AquaSphere ball monthly and always feed a good quality food (without over feeding). If you do that, most everything will fall into place.