Q: Can fish stay in the pond all year?
A: Yes, all of our ponds are dug to a 24" depth. In Michigan a 24" deep pond can only freeze 8 inches thick so the fish still have 16 inches of water. However, it is necessary to keep a hole in the ice so gases from rotting plant matter and fish waste can escape. It is also necessary to keep some form of oxygen running. We suggest a bubbler (aerator) and floating heater when needed.
Q: At what temperature is it safe to feed my fish?
A: It is not safe to feed your fish untill we have a constant water temperature above 55 degrees. Below that temperature, the fish cannot properly digest the food, and it can sit in their gut and rot causing an infection. There are low temp foods available but even those are not safe until 45 to 50 degrees.
Q: How often should my fish be fed?
A: If you keep your fish load at no more than 1 inch per sq ft of surface area it is not neccesary to feed the fish. The ecosystem can maintain that level of fish. But most of us choose to feed the fish so they become tame to us. In that case, we feed once a day, what the fish will eat within a 2 minute time frame. The fish will act hungry again within 10 minutes if the water is warm but dont fall for it. Excess feeding will lead to poor water quality which results in poor fish health.
Q: How many fish can my pond hold?
A: We try not to exceed 1 inch of fish per sq ft of surface area unless additional filters and pumps have been added. So if you have a 96 sq.ft. pond, dont exceed 96 inches of fish. Koi will grow very quickly to a size near 12 inches , so I count each fish as 12 inches. So a 96 sq. ft. pond can have 8 koi.
Q: How many plants do I need?
A: We plant our ponds so that when the plants mature there is 30% to 50% of the ponds surface that will be covered. Plants eat the same nutrients as algea. Plants also shade the pond, and algea needs sunlight to grow. So the more plants we have in a pond the easier it is for us to maintain clear, algae-free water.
Q: Is it necessary to add salt to my pond?
A: Salt is not necessary, but it is a very good idea. A level of 1 to 1.5 pounds of salt per 100 gallons of water is what we maintain in our ponds. Salt relaxes the fish by making it easier for them to breathe and it also inhibits algae growth. Make sure you know the gallons of your pond before adding salt - too much salt could harm some plants, or in a high enough level - harm the fish. I suggest when you do your spring clean-out you check the water meter on your house before and after filling your pond. If your meter reads in cubic feet multiply the difference by 7.5. If this is not possible a decent guess is length x width x average depth x 7.5.
Container (to hold fish while you work) - I recommend using 13 gallon Rubbermaid containers.
Aerator - An aquarium bubbler should be fine, just don't overcrowd the containers.
Power sprayer - We use 3000 psi sprayers but 1500 will do. The rocks do not need to be moved, our goal is just to remove any string algae that has grown over the winter and any debris in the rocks.
Dechlorinator - Once the pond is cleaned and refilled the water should be dechlorinated before the fish can be introduced.
The first step is to fill your Rubbermaid containers with pond water. Then drain pond until the water is just above the fish's backs. This makes it much easier to capture the fish. Once the fish have been captured and placed in the Rubbermaid container, make sure to place the containers in the shade with an aerator in each container, and the lids in place. The fish will try to jump. Then begin to power wash the stones and our filter media, you don't need everything to be spotless, the goal is just to get the bulk of the algae and silt. The bacteria will handle the rest.
Once you feel the rocks have been sprayed enough you can begin to flush the pond using a garden hose. Have your pump draining the pond the entire time you are flushing the pond. Reconnect pond pump and fill your skimmer with water so you can flush out the water lines and biofalls. It helps to keep the hose running in the skimmer and fill any extra containers you have with water so once the pump drains the skimmer, you can start pouring the containers in the skimmer. This helps to properly flush the lines.
While you have your pond empty make sure to check that all of your underwater lights work properly. It is much easier to switch the bulbs now. After you are sure everything is clean enough, the filter pads and media can be put back in place.
Now you can begin to fill the pond, I suggest you check the numbers on your water meter before and after you fill the pond. This is the only accurate way to know the gallons of the pond. If the meter is in cubic feet multiply the difference by 7.48 to get gallons. Knowing your gallons will help you know how much salt and bacteria to add, ormedications to use if the fish get sick.
Once you start filling, set the Rubbermaid containers in the bottom of the pond so the fish can begin to acclimate to the temperature. Add dechlorinator now so if the fish accidentally escape they won't be harmed. Float the containers until the pond is full. Then the fish can be released, and the cleanout is done.
Add beneficial bacteria for green water every day for the first ten days, then once a week after that for the remainder of the season. You can also use Pond Balance for string algae 3 times in the first month on ten day intervals, then once a month. Beneficial bacteria can be added directly to the pond, but Pond Balance must be mixed in a bucket of pond water then spread over the entire pond.
We also recommend using an ultra violet light when needed. This is usually used early in the year when temperatures are down, and then again in July when the temps stay in the 90's for several days in a row. Only run the ultra violet light long enough to clear the pond, then the light is shut off. Running the UV light all the time is in our opinion a bad idea. It is not necessary and will usually result in string algae growth and poor water quality since extended use of an ultra violet light will also kill beneficial bacteria.
You should also weed out the dead vegetation from the pond once a week and clean the skimmer if you have one. Plants should also be fertilized every two weeks with aquatic fertilizer tablets when water temperatures are over 70°F. Our goal is 30% to 50% coverage of the pond in plants. Entire maintenance should take around ten minutes a week. You should not clean out the biological filter except during the spring cleanout. The filter is where our beneficial bacteria grow and cleaning it would set the system back and cause green water.
Adding salt is also a good idea if you have valuable fish. Add 1 to 1.5 pounds of salt for every 100 gallons of pond water. Koi have a .09% salt level in their blood so adding salt helps them with the osmosis process. Know how many gallons of water you have before adding salt - too much salt could harm some plants and even the fish in a high enough level.
At the end of the season (usually some time in November) we winterize our ponds. Below is an explanation of how we handle our ponds.
1.) All plants should be cut off to the bottom
2.) Remove any leaves that have fallen into pond
3.) Remove filter pads and media. Clean and store away for the winter.
4.) Remove pumps and store in a bucket of water somewhere that it cannot freeze
5.) Install aerator - we use the Easy Pro LA10 (produces 1.8 cfm of air)
6.) Install floating heater (we use 1250 watt, but do not plug in until neccesary)
7.) Cover pond in netting. Net should be staked every few feet so it will stay tight and not sag under the weight of the leaves. Once all leaves have fallen from the trees and been removed from the yard the net can be removed.
8.) (optional) We treat our ponds with Prazi and raise our salt level to 3%. This is to remove possible parasites that would do harm to our koi in the spring when the koi's immune system is low. We add Prazi at a rate of 1 teaspoon per 300 gallons. Prazi does not mix well in water so we use a grain alcohol (Vodka). Salt is added at a rate of 3 pounds per 100 gallons.