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Pond Knowledge Base

How many fish can I have in my pond?

As a general rule, new ponds can have one inch of fish per square foot of pond surface. Older, established ponds can have two to three inches of fish per square foot of pond surface area. New ponds also need to be dechlorinated before adding fish, as tap water in many municipalities can be deadly to fish.

How do I introduce new fish into my pond?

The pH of you pond should be between 6.5 and 8.0. All new ponds must be treated with a dechlorinator before fish are added. Water temperature of the pond and water in the fish bag must be equalized. This can be easily accomplished by floating the bag of fish in your pond for 15 minutes (bag must be in the shade). After this time, remove and discard one cup of water from the bag and replace it with one cup of pond water. Repeat this process three more times at five minute intervals. You can then release the fish into the pond; however you should not dump the water from the bag into your pond.

In addition, if you are not sure the dealer where you purchased your fish employs preventive steps to insure healthy fish, you may want to do a salt dip for 15 seconds using 1 pound of pond salt per gallon of water in a separate container prior to releasing the fish. Do not use iodized salt.

How much do I feed my fish?

You should not feed your fish more than they can consume in five minutes. During the summer months fish food should be high in proteins. In the spring and late fall it is best to feed them wheat germ or other low protein food because it is easily digested.

What signs will indicate that the fish are having problems?

Not feeding, Gasping fish, Fins close to body, Isolated, Rapid gill movement, Flashing, Change in fins, White covering skin

What should I check if I have a fish kill or problem?

Make sure chlorinated water has been dechlorinated and then test the pH , ammonia, nitrite and oxygen levels. In some rare instances electrical shock or toxic run-off into pond should be considered.

How can I protect my fish against the Blue Heron?

Cover the pond with a net.
Get a Blue Heron statue and move it every couple of days or so. Herons are very territorial and will not come around if there is already another heron there.
Place monofilament fishing line about 2 to 3 feet off the ground around the perimeter of the pond.
Have a scarecrow, and as with the Heron statue you should move it to a different location every couple of days.
Let the dog out, some dogs will chase the bird away.
The most effective method is to cover the pond with a net, and remember these birds are on the protected species list.

Why use pond salt?

Pond Salt at the rate of 1 1/4 cups per 100 gallons of water is an excellent tonic for weak / stressed fish in a pond with plants. The salt reduces stress, adds electrolytes, and also improves gill function. In ponds without plants 2 1/2 cups of salt per 100 gallons is recommended.

How can I fight algae in my pond?

Oxygenating Plants

Oxygenating plants - one bunch for every two square feet of pond surface. Pot in pea gravel, wash gravel first, multiple bunches can be placed in the same pot. These plants thrive on the same nutrients that algae use to grow. Sufficient plants will greatly reduce algae in your pond. Plants should be fertilized with liquid aquatic fertilizer. Use as directed by the manufacturer.

Floating Plants

Surface plants - 60% to 65% of your pond surface should be covered unless you are in the deep shade. Potted surface plants such as lilies need at least five hours of sun per day to flower and should be fertilized on a regular basis. Remember lilies do not like water splashed on them. Place them away from waterfalls and fountains.

Filters

Add a submersible, mechanical / biological filter, or an external biological filter such as the Matala BioSteps 10 sized to the gallons of water in your pond.

To ensure optimal water quality, pond pumps must run 24 hours a day. Good bacteria (Aerobic Bacteria) can die if the pump is shut down for as little as four hours.

Optional: UV Clarifier – We highly recommend adding a UV Clarifier to any pond. Not only will a UV effectively prevent green water caused by algae blooms, but they can also help to ensure a healthy ecosystem in your pond.

What can I do about Blanket Weed/String Algae?

Blanket weed or string algae usually occurs in clear pond water. Remove manually or use an algae control product. Make sure to choose an algaecide which is fish-safe and confirm your pond is well oxygenated – using a pond aerator – before application.

How can I determine the square foot surface area of my pond?

To determine the square foot surface area of your rectangular or square pond simply multiply average length x average width = square feet of surface.

To determine square footage of surface area on your circular pond multiply (half the diameter) x (half the diameter) x 3.14 = square feet of surface.

How can I determine the amount of water in my pond?

To determine the gallons of water in a square or rectangular pond:

Multiply average length x average width x average depth x 7.5 = gallons of water.

To determine the gallons of water in a circular pond:

Multiply (half the diameter) x (half the diameter) x 3.14 x depth x 7.5 = gallons

How can I determine the cost of electricity to operate my pump?

To determine the cost of electricity per month to operate your pump.

Multiply amps x volts divided by 1000 x cost per kilowatt hour x 24 hours x 30 days = cost per month.

Your power company will provide the actual cost per kilowatt hour.

How can I control mosquitoes in my pond?

Mosquito larva will be consumed by the fish. If you do not have fish or if your fish are not doing an adequate job use mosquito dunks containing Bacillus Thuringiensis (BT). Float one dunk in the pond per 100 square feet, each dunk lasts about 30 days.

What can you tell me about hardy water lilies?

(Nymphaea species) Hardy lilies are perennials and frost tolerant. These lilies are produced from rhizomes and grow horizontally. They are sweetly fragrant and bloom on or just above the water's surface. Each bloom lasts 3-5 days and opens in the morning and closes in the late afternoon. Hardy lilies require very little care. Give them at least 5-6 hours of direct sunlight and still water 6-18" deep. They should be fed every 2-4 weeks from May 1 to September 1. You will be able to enjoy these lilies year after year. Hardy lilies are available in pink, red, white, yellow, peach/orange and changeable, which starts yellow and changes to copper.

What can you tell me about tropical water lilies?

(Nymphaea species) Tropical lilies are exotic! They evoke romance and glamour. They are very fragrant and are exquisite as cut flowers. Tropical lilies are treated as annuals and are frost tender. They hold their blossoms high above the water and come in vibrant colors - blue, lavender, pink, green, purple, red, white, yellow and autumn shades. They grow from tubers and produce large leaves, some with frilly edges, some with striking mottling, all with spectacular blooms. They require 5-6 hours of direct sunlight and still water 6-18" deep over the rootstock. Fertilize freely, every 2-4 weeks from May 1 through September 1. Day bloomers open mid to late morning and close mid to late afternoon. Night bloomers open at dusk and remain open until mid to late morning the next day. Dark cloudy days allow them to remain open later in the day. A pond containing both day and night blooming lilies can be enjoyed any hour of the day or night.

What about lotus?

Lotus are spectacular plants with large blossoms and magnificent foliage. These exotic plants are sure to be the focal point of any water garden. Lotus are hardy plants boasting colorful flowers in varying degrees of red, pink, yellow and white, lasting 3 or more days. The blooming season begins in summer and continues into the fall. Big leafy foliage that seems to float above the water's surface adds to the exotic appeal.

Lotus should be planted in large no-hole containers and submerged 2-6" below the water's surface. They require 5-6 hours of direct sunlight per day and should be fertilized freely during the growing season. Once planted, you can expect blooms within one year, often sooner, depending upon how long it takes the plant to become established.

What about marginal plants?

Marginal, or bog, plants are aquatic plants which grow in shallow water and are commonly found along the water's edge. There are many varieties of marginal plants that will add height and texture to the water garden. Some stand above the water while others rest on the water's surface. Some marginals add a handsome display of foliage while others will create constant blooms throughout the season. Lush, green foliage, with accents of pink, white and yellow can be obtained. Plants must be fed regularly.

What about surface (floating) plants?

Floating plants are desirable and fascinating as they add color and shade to a pond. They do not require planting, although some varieties perform better if planted first. Others, you can simply float in the pond. Due to the shade given by floating plants, they are ideal for ponds with an algae problem. Roots provide fish spawning beds and protection for newborns. All floating plants should be removed from the pond prior to frost.

What about oxygenating (submerged) plants?

Oxygenating plants are vital in a water garden. They absorb impurities from the water which helps to prevent algae growth. Oxygenating plants should be anchored in one gallon pots and placed on the bottom of the pond. They absorb carbon dioxide fish give off and liberate oxygen for the fish to live. Fish spawn and lay eggs in oxygenating plants. Baby fish use these plants for shelter.

What about winter care of water lilies?

Hardy Water Lilies

Once winter approaches and the water temperature of the pond drops, the hardy lilies automatically go dormant. If any new leaves appear, they will be very small and will remain under the water, close to the soil. As the old foliage browns, simply prune and lower the lily to the deepest part of the pond. If a sufficient depth of water can be maintained so that freezing does not occur at the root level, the hardy lily does not need to be removed from the pond.

If there is a possibility of the pond freezing solid, there are several methods of protecting the lilies. If you prefer to leave the lilies in the pond, place boards, side by side, across the top of the pond. Cover the boards with mats or layers of straw or leaves, weighted down with stones. In the spring, as the ice thaws, all coverings must be removed to prevent premature growth.

You can also bury water lily tubers in the ground. The hole should be eighteen to twenty-four inches deep and covered with leaves or straw. Simply replant in the pond in the spring.

For indoor storage until spring, a cool basement or heated garage are possible choices. The lily tuber should be covered with moist burlap, peat moss or leaves. You could also cover the soil with newspaper and place the entire container in a sealed plastic bag. Check occasionally that the soil is moist.

Tropical Water Lilies

Tropical lilies are most often treated as annual. They continue to grow and bloom until several freezes drive them into dormancy.

If you choose to store your lilies through winter, a greenhouse is the most successful way. Provide only 10-20% of the space of your pond. A wash tub or tank is suggested. The lily should be kept small, therefore, do not fertilize.
Another method is to use an aquarium. Pot the lily in a 4-6" pot, plug holes, and place in at least a 20 gallon tank. Heat the water to 70 - 75 degrees F and place a florescent grow light close to the top of the tank. Do not encourage growth. Simply keep the lily alive.

Some specialists consider starving plants in late summer, causing the formation of tubers. Once all leaves are dead, feel under the crown for a hard tuber. Remove the tuber and wash it thoroughly. The smaller tubers generally make the nicest plants next spring. If there's any root or stem tissue still attached to the tuber, air-dry a few days and snap it off cleanly. Again, wash the tuber well and place it in a plastic bag or mason jar. Fill the container with distilled water or slightly moist sand store it in a cool dark place, at approximately 50-65 degrees F. Be sure to check the container regularly. If the water is foul or discolored, replace it with fresh distilled water.

Remember when spring returns a tropical lily should only be placed in water at least 70 degrees F. Do not rush the plant outside. It could return to dormancy or it may die.

Spring Start Up Tips

Drain pond water using your pond pump. When pond is almost void of water it is time to remove fish and plants. Fish should be stored in a container such as a Rubbermaid Tank or child's plastic swimming pool depending on size and number of fish. They should be kept in original pond water and should be covered with a net to prevent them from jumping out of the container. A small water pump or air pump should be used to supply oxygen to your fish during this period. Potted aquatic plants should be kept moist and in the shade until returned to the pond. We will discuss plants later in this article.

After all water has been removed use a soft brush and plastic scoop to remove sludge from the bottom of pond.

Power wash the liner and copping stone and remove debris. Waterproof reusable gloves are available for this job.

Refill pond with well water, tap water or use a commercial water truck. Add a water dechlorinator at this time.

Dechlorinators instantly neutralize chlorine, chloramines, chlorine dioxide, and other heavy metals.

If you are unable to drain your pond, scoop the sludge from bottom of pond and net floating debris. At this time add Microbe-Lift Spring and Summer Cleaner or another Sludge Reducer. These products accelerate the brake down of leaves, twigs and other accumulated dead organic waste and are harmless to humans, fish and plants. Add Microbe-Lift PL and a dechlorinator if adding water to pond.

Check Your Equipment

Examine your equipment for loose and/or cracked fittings and tubing. Tubing and some replacement fittings are available on our site.

Submersible Pumps

Clean pump pre-filter, replace pre-filter if worn. Clean pump in-take, check electrical cord of pump for cracks or cuts.
Test run pump in shallow water before you submerge pump in deep water. Never hold pump by electric cord and never lift pump by cord.

External Pumps

Clean strainer basket and lubricate seal on strainer basket.
Check strainer basket for wear or cracks, replace strainer basket if needed.
Check electrical cord of pump for cracks or cuts.
Do not submerge external pump.

Filters

Clean filter, bio-balls, beads, foam replacement pads, filter cartridges and or brushes. Be sure to replace anything that appears to be worn or cracked.
Add Beneficial Bacteria to jump start your filter. For filter pads and filter cartridges try Microbe-Lift PL/Gel. This new technology puts the bacteria right where you want it and it stays there. For bead filters use Microbe-Lift Super Start Bead Filter Bacteria or comparable product, as this reduces buildup of residue in the filter decreasing maintenance and improving filter by avoiding 'channeling'.

UV Light

Check for loose fittings, clean quartz sleeve and look for cracks in sleeve. A cracked or broken sleeve will ruin a new uv bulb. Replace uv bulb every season.
Test Water before Adding Fish to Pond

pH

The pH of your pond should be between 6.5 and 8.0. Test your water in early morning and test at same time of day when you re-test.

Nitrites

Ideal reading is zero. May rise to 0.25 as pond becomes established. If necessary use Microbe-Lift Nite-Out II. Toxic past 150-200 mg/l Ideal reading is zero.

Ammonia

Ideal reading is zero. High reading is deadly to fish. When necessary use one of our Ammonia Detoxifiers.
Solutions to water quality issues– Partial water changes will help dilute the concentration of Nitrites, Ammonia and/or Nitrates. Don't overfeed and make sure your filtration system is rated for your pond size. Add plants to naturally balance the water and use ammonia remover or water conditioner to detoxify Ammonia if the reading is more then 0.25.

Pond Test Kits are a must for every pond keeper.

Reintroduce Fish to Pond

The pH should be between 6.5 and 8.0. Water temperature of the pond and water temperature of the fish holding tank water must be equalized. Use one of our Pond Thermometers to determine temperature. Equalizing the temperature can be accomplished by floating the fish in a bag of old pond water in the newly cleaned pond for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes remove and discard one cup of water from the bag and replace it with one cup of clean pond water. Repeat this process three more times at five minute intervals. You can then release the fish into the pond; however you should not dump the water from the bag into your pond.

Feeding My Fish

In the spring and late fall it is best to feed your fish Wheat Germ or other low protein food because it is easily digested. During the summer months fish food should be high in proteins. Never feed your fish more than they can eat in five minutes.

How Many Fish

New ponds can have one inch of fish per sq. ft. of pond surface, established ponds can have two to three inches per sq. ft. of pond surface with proper filtration.

Fish Health

What are some of the signs indicating that my fish are having problems?
Not feeding in season, Gasping, Fins close to body, Isolated, Rapid gill movement, Flashing, Change in fins, White covering skin, Gray/White film, Difficulty swimming, Red streaks on skin, Pop eye.
See our Fish Disease & Treatment Guide for more information.
We stock many remedies including Medicated Fish Food. See Fish Medications.

Fish Health and Pond Salt

Why Use Pond Salt?

Pond salt at the rate of 1 and 1/4 cups per 100 gallons of water is an excellent tonic for weak/stressed fish in a pond with plants. The salt reduces stress, adds electrolytes and also improves gill function. In ponds without plants 2 and 1/2 cups per 100 gallons is recommended.

Water Garden Plants

We recommend planting lilies and marginal plants in pots rather then directly in the bottom of the pond. This makes maintenance easier by making the containers retrievable. All of the plants should have at least 5 hours of direct sunlight for maximum growth. Fertilize throughout the growing season using fertilizer tablets at the rate of 1 for every gallon of soil in pot.

Tropical Water Lilies

Should be planted in pots at least 2 to 3 gallon size. Fill the pot half full with aquatic potting soil add fertilizer tablets, then continue to fill the pot with soil to about 2 inches from the top. The rhizome should be set upright with the roots buried gently in the soil. Make sure the tip of the rhizome is not buried. Next add an inch or two of gravel in order to prevent the soil from escaping from the container. Remember to keep the gravel away from the crown of the rhizome. The plant can now be lowered into the water slowly to a depth of approximately 6 inches. As the plant grows it can be lowered deeper remembering to keep the lily pads on the water surface. Tropical lilies cannot tolerate cold temperatures and should not be planted until the water reaches a temperature of at least 70 degrees. Planting too early can cause dormancy and restrict growth of the plant. Tropicals bloom from late spring through early fall, depending on the weather.

Hardy Water Lilies

Hardy lilies are planted in much the same way as tropicals. The rhizome should be planted at one edge of the pot with the rhizome planted at an angle of about 45 degrees with the crown exposed. Remember to add fertilizer, use a good aquatic soil and top the soil with an inch or two of gravel. Lower hardy lily into pond as you would a tropical lily. Hardy lilies should be planted in early spring. They bloom from June through September depending on the weather, they become dormant during the colder months and should be kept in the deepest part of the pond. As spring approaches growth will begin again.

Marginal or Bog Plants

Marginal/Bog plants should be planted in individual pots of at least one gallon size Most of our marginal/bog plants are grown in 2 inch net pots and it is recommended that you plant without removing these net pots as not to damage the roots. Plant as you would the lilies but when adding fertilizer tablets, use 1 tablet for 1 gallon pot and 2 tablets for 2 or 3 gallon pot size Marginal plants should be lowered to a depth of only 2 to 3 inches above top of pot. Remember, tropical marginal plants can not tolerate cold temperatures.

Floating Plants

These plants require no planting. Simply place them in the water and they will grow. Feed during growing season with liquid aquatic fertilizer. Floating plants desire warm temperatures and cannot tolerate a frost.

Oxygenating Plants

All ponds should have underwater oxygenating plants to aid in maintaining clean water. These plants help prevent algae growth and provide oxygen. Oxygenating plants can be planted as you would plant lilies or marginals. A one gallon size pot is recommended. Completely submerge these plants to a depth of at least 12 inches. For best results use one bunch of oxygenating plants for every two square feet of water surface. For example a 4' X 8' pond (4x8=32 divide by 2 = 16 bunches) should have 16 bunches.

Pond Winterization Tips

Keep leaves, twigs and other debris out of your pond. Use a mesh pond netting to cover you pond. If a net is not used it is important to remove leaves as some leaves can turn the water brown and can be toxic to fish. Add Microbe-Lift Autumn/Winter Prep or similar beneficial bacteria as this helps accelerate the decomposition of leaves, scum, sediment and other organic matter during the fall and winter months. Microbe-Lift Autumn/Winter Prep or similar product will also jump start your pond to a healthier environment in the spring.

Fish

As the water temperature drops your fish will become less active. At water temperatures below 50o fish become almost motionless, hibernating in the deepest and warmest part of the pond. Fish are the most attractive at this time of the year because the decrease in the water temperature intensifies their coloration.
Feeding schedule for fish according to water temperature, use a pond thermometer to monitor the temperature:
60-65 degrees - twice a day
55-59 degrees - once a day
50-54 degrees - once a week
42-50 degrees - feed only Wheat Germ Fish Foods

Koi need an open area in the ice, which provides them with an oxygen / gas exchange. Do not place a pump or air bubbler on the bottom of the pond as this will result in warmer water at the bottom being pumped to the surface resulting in cold or freezing water. Raise the pump or bubbler well off the bottom of the pond, or better yet, use the Thermo-Pond 100 watt energy efficient floating pond de-icer or one of the many pond heaters that we offer. The Thermo-Pond de-icer is the world's most successful and efficient low wattage pond de-icer, it can save you 30.00 to 50.00 a month in electricity compared to 'stock tank' de-icers.
Never break a hole in the ice as the shock could be harmful to the fish.

Filters and Pumps

Unless the pump and filter are to remain in operation (some of our pond friends in protected areas operate their pump and filter throughout the winter) clean both the filter and the pump before storing for the winter. Do not store in the house as the odor could become quite strong.

Once winter approaches and the water temperature of the pond drops, the hardy lilies automatically go dormant. If any new leaves appear, they will be very small and will remain under the water, close to the soil. As the foliage browns, simply prune and lower the lily to the deepest part of the pond. If a sufficient depth of water can be maintained so that freezing does not occur at the root level, the hardy lily does not need to be removed from the pond. If there is a possibility of the pond freezing solid, there are several methods of protecting the lilies. If you prefer to leave the lilies in the pond, place boards, side by side across the top of the pond. Cover the boards with mats or layers of straw or leaves, weighted down with stones. In the spring, as the ice thaws, all coverings must be removed to prevent premature growth.

You can also bury the water lily tuber in the ground. The hole should be eighteen to twenty-four inches deep and covered with leaves or straw. Simply replant in the pond in the spring.

For indoor storage until spring, a cool basement or heated garage are possible choices. The lily tuber should be covered with moist burlap, peat moss or leaves. You could also cover the soil with newspaper and place the entire container in a sealed plastic bag. Check occasionally that the soil is moist.

Winter Care of Tropical Water Lilies

Tropical lilies are most often treated as an annual. They continue to grow and bloom until several freezes drive them into dormancy. If you choose to store lilies through the winter, a greenhouse is the most successful way. Provide only 10-20% of the space of your pond. A wash tub or tank is suggested. The lily should be kept small, therefore, do not fertilize.

Another method is to use an aquarium. Pot the lily in a 4-6" pot, plug holes, and place in at least a 20 gallon tank. Heat the water to 70-75 degrees F and place a florescent grow light close to the top of the tank. Do not encourage growth. Simply keep the lily alive.

Some specialists consider starving plants in late summer, causing the formation of tubers. Once all leaves are dead, feel under the crown for a hard tuber. Remove the tuber and wash it thoroughly. The smaller tubers generally make the nicest plants next spring. If there's any root or stem tissue still attached to the tuber, air-dry a few days and snap it off cleanly. Again, wash the tuber well and place it in a plastic bag or mason jar. Fill the container with distilled water or slightly moist sand store it in a cool dark place, at approximately 50-65 degrees F. Be sure to check the container regularly. If the water is foul or discolored, replace it with fresh distilled water.
Remember when spring returns a tropical lily should only be placed in water at least 70o. Do not rush the plant outside. It could return to dormancy or it may die.

Winter Care of Hardy Marginal Plants

Cut plants to 6" from the top of the pot and place in bottom of pond after the first heavy frost. However, hollow stemmed plants should be trimmed above the water line. Trimming these below the water line could cause rotting.

Winter Care of Tropical Marginal Plants

Should be moved indoors before the first frost. Plants must be kept in water.

Winter Care of Tropical Floating Plants

All floating tropical plants including water hyacinth and water lettuce should be discarded unless you bring them indoors and keep the water temperature at least 70 degrees F. and use a good grow light. A rather expensive endeavor.

Winter Care for Oxygenating Plants

Cut back to 2 to 3" above pot and place in the bottom of the pond. Decaying plants will foul water quality and should be removed from the pond.

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