Pond Tips

TIP # 13
When should you stop feeding your fish?
Keep and eye on water temperature.
As the water temperature drops, we should be feeding our fish less.
Their metabolism slows as well their ability to digest food. Once the water temperature drops consistently below 60 degrees you should feed only two or three times a week.  At these lower temperatures, it will take 2 to 3 days for them to digest food. Feeding a cold weather wheat germ formula during this period improves digestion.  We carry a number of excellent food choices for this time of year including Pond Care’s Spring & Autumn Formula and Microbe-Lift’s Cold Weather Food. During the summer your fish have been building up fat reserves to help them through the cold winter months.  When the water temperature drops consistently below 50 degrees, you should stop feeding all together until spring when the water temperature remains above 50.
TIP # 12
Spring clean up
Part of your spring pond cleanup is the removal of organic sludge and muck that has accumulated on the bottom of your pond.  This is the "stuff" that will pass through a skimmer net and settle back to the bottom.  It is also extremely fertile (similar
to compost) and will be a major cause of algae blooms this spring.
Microbe Lift Sludge Away speeds the biological removal of slow to degrade organic waste matter from aquatic pond bottoms that may become toxic to fish and plant life.  As organic solids accumulate on the pond bottom, they begin to break down releasing toxic gasses to the surrounding environment. These gaseous by-products endanger fish, marine life and plants.
Microbe Lift SA removes bottom organic sludge and muck, reducing or eliminating the potential harmful gaseous compounds, and helps clarify your pond water at the same time.
Tip #11
Pumps and filters
It is time to get those pumps and filters running.  Before turning them on, it would be advisable to inspect them to ensure that they are running properly.   Thoroughly clean the filter material before restarting in spring and check filters for any damage caused by winter weather.   Add beneficial bacteria to biological filters in the spring.  Liquid forms, such as MicrobeLift PL, are faster acting than a dry powder form when starting your filter.  The beneficial bacteria will help with water clarity and water quality along with preventing the buildup of ammonia and nitrites in the pond. 
If you have a layer of sediment on the bottom of your pond that you just can't get out with a skimmer net, you should consider adding a product that will naturally eliminate this sludge.  Pond sludge is the result of decaying plant matter, leaves, excess fish food and fish waste which is easily comparable to compost, i.e. fertile material that algae loves.   There are several enzyme based products on the market that do an excellent job in ridding your pond of this sludge. MicrobeLift Sludge Away and and Pond Care Pond-Zyme virtually eliminates organic sludge to maintain a healthy pond.
Tip #10
Testing Water Quality
Spring is the time to start testing your pond water for ammonia levels using a suitable Pond Water Test Kit.  With fish starting to feed at an increased level, the ammonia levels will increase as well. The elevation of ammonia (NH3) will place an increased strain on your biological pond filtration. Beneficial bacteria take longer to colonize your pond filter at this time of year … Now is a critical time to keep a watchful eye on your eco-system by regularly checking the ammonia levels in your pond, using a proven ammonia test kit. The level of ammonia in your pond will be higher than it has been during the previous months. 
Providing your pond filtration is functioning properly, you ammonia levels should not spiral out of control.   A properly functioning bio-filter will eventually catch up and begin to reduce ammonia levels.  To help in this process, use biological enhancers to seed your filter, be careful not to overfeed and keep your waterfalls or fountains running 24/7. 
Remember, beneficial bacteria are living organisms and require a plentiful supply
of oxygen which in turn, they will do their job in reducing the ammonia levels in your pond.
Tip #9
When to start feeding your fish
Let's start with a brief explanation of why you should not be feeding your fish during
cold weather periods.
During cold weather periods, fish go into a period of semi-dormancy.  Their digestive and immune systems slow down, and they are not capable of digesting the same types of foods that they can during the warmer months. Koi are particularly susceptible to problems at this time, as they have no stomach to aid in digestion; food passes directly into their small intestines, where it will sit and rot. The ensuing intestinal bacteria can pass into their bloodstream, causing sepsis which will debilitate or even kill the immune-suppressed fish.
As the water warms into the 50’s in the spring, you can slowly start feeding again. Don’t be tempted with a few warm days!  Many people tend to jump at the first warm spell and start feeding their fish only to see temperatures plunge back into the 30’s. Wait until you're sure your water temperatures are going to stay in the 50’s before you begin feeding.
Once the water temperature reaches a stable 50 degrees, it time to start feeding your fish with a cold weather formula food.  These are designed to be easy to digest and allow your fish time to adjust to a more active and healthy life style. 

Tip #8
Time to install your UV Clarifier
Now is the time to return your UV sterilizer or UV clarifier back into the pond. 
Early Spring algae blooms are a common occurrence and this will help prevent a lot of headaches down the road. 
Inspect your UV Clarifier for any damage and possible leaks.  Gaskets can dry rot and if not handled gently, the quartz sleeve can easily be broken.   Replace the UV Bulb if they were in use the previous season.  A typical UV lamps last about 8000 hours.  Even though they still appear to be lit, they will not emit a sufficient amount of UV rays to prevent an algae bloom. Green pond water is a direct result of increased natural sunlight, warmer temperatures, increased fish feeding and the resulting rise in the levels of nitrates and phosphates found in the fish pond.

Tip #7
Prevent String Algae with Barley Straw
Barley straw works by fostering large cultures of colorless, odorless, harmless, bacteria that help keep your pond clean and clear.  Barley straw is safe for fish, plants, snails, frogs, kids, dogs, livestock, songbirds, pesky herons, etc. Barley straw also boosts overall bio-filter capacity by increasing surface areas for native beneficial bacteria. The bacterial growth on the barley straw naturally retards the growth of many green algae including string algae (hair algae), also called pond moss and when floating on the surface, pond scum.
Barley straw may be placed in the pond at any time during the year. Once applied, barley straw should be maintained in the pond throughout the entire year. Maintaining straw in the pond thru the winter months will minimize the perennial early spring algae bloom.
Your straw should be replaced after every 6 months regardless of temperature, or when the volume of straw has decreased by 75%.

Tip #6
Choosing Your Pond Fish
Find a store offering a wide variety and selection of pond products and fish and particularly someone who is knowledgeable and will put giving good advice a priority ahead of making a sale. Before considering buying any additional fish for your pond you should consider whether your pond is ready for its first fish (if a new pond) or is ready for some extra fish if an existing pond.
Choosing Fish for a New Pond
Before stocking a new pond, ideally it should have been planted and the pump and filter running for at least a week. Fresh tap water and the new pond materials used in its construction create a very unnatural, almost sterile environment. Allow the water to mature and be circulated through your filter for as long as possible before stocking. You can speed up this process by seeding your biological filter with a bio-starter available at Pickering Valley Feed such as Microbe-Lift, Organica, and Pond Flush. 

Tip #5
Are you considering buying fish to replace some recent losses?
Be sure that you have established the reason for losing the fish (disease, poor water quality, old age, predators etc) before introducing any replacements or you may experience similar problems again. Ensure a clear two week period between losing any fish through disease and only restock once you are happy with the behavior and health of the existing stock. If you are thinking of simply adding to your existing collection then make certain that the new additions will not cause the pond to become overstocked. Adding too many fish would tip the balance of a well managed pond increasing the likelihood of water quality and disease problems and reducing growth rates.

Tip #4
Stock a new pond gradually.
A garden pond is a living ecosystem where the toxic waste excreted by fish and other organisms in the pond must be broken down by beneficial bacteria in a pond and filter system at the same rate at which it is being produced. It takes time for the bacteria population to react to an increase in waste and if too many fish are added too quickly the waste builds up quicker than it can be broken down, making the pond toxic, which stresses your new purchases leading to their disease or death. Add fish gradually over a number of weeks, monitoring water quality at every stage.

Tip #3
Select your fish wisely.
If you have a new pond it is wise to choose half a dozen of the cheapest fish as a means of testing the water for its suitability for fish. If there is a water quality problem which has not been detected and the fish show signs of stress then you are less likely to suffer great financial loss.
Choose fish that are going to be compatible. Fortunately most pond fish are not aggressive to each other and they all tend to get along. If a wide variation in size fish are selected then competition at feeding time may be an issue. Also, it is good to choose smaller fish that grow into the size of the pond rather than buying large fish that may be too large for a pond.
Tip #2
Select healthy fish; how can you tell?
Fish are actively swimming OR Fish are hanging at sides of the pond or sulking on the bottom or at the surface trying to suck in oxygen.                     
Fish swim towards you in response to your shadow or silhouette OR Fish remain motionless when you walk by the tank.
Skin, scales, and fins are clear without blemishes OR Skin, scales and fins are ragged, raised or with off-color protrusions of tissue from the body.
Tip #1
Introducing your new fish to your pond.
Float them in the bag for 10 to 15 minutes.
Open the bag and add some of your pond water and after another 5 minutes release the fish into the pond.
Feed sparingly for the first few weeks to allow the filter to keep pace with the waste production and test regularly for nitrite over the first 2 months of stocking.
Once you reliably get a zero nitrite reading, it is safe to assume that the filter has matured to the current stocking level and that you’ve come through the riskiest period of fish keeping.
If there is one golden rule when choosing fish for a new pond it is proceed with caution. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and by putting the water quality first, the welfare of your fish should follow automatically.

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