Spring Fish Care
Koi are not indigenous to Canada, so in our northern ponds, much like their human owners, they survive winter but they don’t particularly flourish in it. Fish are cold-blooded creatures that cannot produce their own heat. Instead, isoenzymes are produced as needed to provide them with bodily functions such as the production of energy, regardless of temperature. As the water gradually warms up in the spring, these isoenzymes are no longer produced and regular enzyme systems begin to function.
Before the fish get “warm” in summer, there’s a small period of time where the water temperature has become too warm for the isoenzymes and too cold for the fish’s own immune system to function optimally. At the same time, parasitic and bacterial populations are proliferating at explosive rates – they like the cold water! This is when the fish are most prone to developing illnesses. Further compounding these difficulties, fish have usually not been fed all winter. Feeding koi in the springtime is important in rebuilding these energy stores and supporting their immune systems.
The first food in the springtime should be easily digestible. Wheat germ based foods like Aquascape Premium Cold Water Fish Food Pellets are popular, and for good reason. The fish like them and they are good “first foods” for the spring. Food should first be offered when the water temperature of your pond (not air temperature) reaches 10° C. Feeding should be sparing! If you load up the fish, they will load up the pond with fish wastes and the beneficial bacteria responsible for reducing the wastes will not be functioning optimally in cooler water. You can start with Aquascape Premium Cold Water Fish Food Pellets until the water reaches 15° C and then switch to any combination of two good quality summer foods. We recommend Aquascape Premium Color Enhancing Fish Food Pellets, Aquascape Premium Fish Food Flakes for smaller fish, and Aquascape Pond Fish Vitamin Treats.
Like any good parent, you don’t need to be a doctor to know when your aquatic “babies” are sick. As with human children, direct examination of your koi kids is important but can be much more difficult. You need to spend time, on a regular basis, observing your fish as they rest in your pond. Check for clamped fins, redness in the skin or fins, swollen eyes or lips, or fraying, rotting fins. Notice if any fish are on their own, away from their school. Look for white slimy patches on your fish. All of these symptoms could indicate that the combination of winter’s stress – no food, and possibly an opportunistic parasite or bacterial infection – is bearing down on your fish.
Water tests may be useful as elevated levels of ammonia and nitrogen can be toxic for aquatic life. Making sure the pond is as clean as possible, but not “scrubbed” will help bring the fish into springtime in the best possible health. We do not recommend draining a pond and scouring it until it’s sterile. Rocks, gravel, and a soft, light carpet of algae in the pond are all good things and contribute to the reduction of nitrogen and other fish wastes in the pond. In ponds that have balanced ecosystems with fish, plants, and plenty of space, the biological processes can take care of problems on its own. However, all riverbeds and ponds eventually turn into swamps or bogs as organic solids accumulate. This process happens in your pond, too!
It’s a good idea to clean your pond every year or so to keep sludge levels at a minimum and promote naturally balanced water chemistry. To fight a variety of parasites which may have gained an advantage over your fish through the winter, apply pond salt to your fish holding tanks during your spring cleanout. However, don’t put salt directly into your pond as it will kill your most precious plants. Medicated food is highly recommended for fish while in isolation tanks, as it contains safe but effective levels of antimicrobials to help fight infection in the fish during the springtime warm up, and when their immune system has not regained its full strength. If you have any concerns regarding the health of your fish this spring remember, our staff are always available to advise you when needed.
Summer Fish Care
Summer is definitely the high-point in the water-gardener’s calendar – a time when the pond should be at its best and plants fish and wildlife thrive, bloom and breed; in short, summer is payback time for all the planning, planting and sheer effort involved in getting your water garden ready for your enjoyment.
At the same time, those long sunny days and hot, humid nights can bring challenges of their own for the inattentive pond-keeper, so alongside the enjoyment of our efforts, we also need to keep an eye out for signs of trouble. The warm temperatures means things can change very quickly in the pond and, if the early signs are missed, problems such as algae blooms and deteriorating water quality can soon become major summertime headaches.
With a little bit of vigilance and careful summer maintenance, however, you should be able to avoid having your enjoyment spoiled too much and have a healthy, thriving environment for you and your fish.
The fish will be most active at this time of year. You want to inspect them regularly for signs of disease or parasites that can be introduced by new fish, visiting birds or other ways. At the first sign of problems, check with our experts at The Pond Clinic. Some of these diseases can be easy fixes, others difficult to eradicate. Some can be disastrously fatal to your fish. You will want to buy the right treatments and use them immediately.
Water Quality – Add More Oxygen
Changes in the pond and the behaviour of its inhabitants during the warmer weather can make water quality problems more likely, particularly dissolved oxygen and nitrogenous waste – both of which are particular nuisances for ponds stocked with fish.
Oxygen dissolves naturally in water, but how much oxygen water can hold depends, amongst other things, on temperature; in short, the warmer the water, the less dissolved oxygen (DO) it contains. This is, clearly, a potential problem during the summer, since low DO levels precisely coincide with the time when fish require the most oxygen. In a well stocked pond particularly, this may cause a problem for the inhabitants, especially if it is well planted. Although an adequately sized waterfall, cascade or fountain should ensure that sufficient DO is added to meet their needs, it is important to remember that while plants contribute abundant oxygen to the water during daylight, they themselves use it at night. A heavily planted pond – or one full of algae – can develop seriously depleted oxygen levels as dawn approaches, especially if the previous day was a very warm one.
As a preventative measure, install an aeration pump to prevent harmful, oxygen-poor environments. Professional Aeration Kits allow efficient gas exchange to reduce buildup of harmful gasses while effectively increasing pond oxygen level. High oxygen content in pond water keeps your pond fish healthy and oxygen-loving beneficial bacteria working their best.
With the water in prime condition, the next thing to get right is the feeding. In the wild, most of the commonly kept fish species are omnivorous, happily eating a wide range of things from plants through to insects and larger prey including other fish depending on their size. The various forms of carp for example which includes goldfish and Koi are natural foragers, adapted to feed over a long time, often on rather poor quality food. This part of their character in the pond explains why they seem so eternally ready to eat and why overfeeding them is so easy to do, when they appear to be so permanently hungry. However, because fish are cold-blooded, the amount of food they actually need depends on the temperature of the water and as it rises in summer so does their food intake. They eat more and grow faster and that means greater waste production. Use an automatic feeder to monitor how much food your pond fish receive per feeding.
Good quality modern fish-foods are specially formulated to be easily digested and come in a variety of types. As a general rule of thumb, high protein foods should be fed during the summer, cutting back to lower protein content as winter approaches and stopping all feeding once the daytime water tempertaure drops to around 10 degrees C. Uneaten food should always be removed and, hard though it can sometimes be, the temptation to feed just a little bit more should be resisted; there will always be some natural food in the pond.
The good fish-keeper always needs to be on the lookout for disease. There are many different illnesses which can affect pond fish and the bad news is, that if one fish is ill, its friends are not likely to be long behind it, so early diagnosis and correct treatment are essential. Most books give very good descriptions of the more commonly encountered diseases and professional veterinary help should always be sought if there is any doubt as to what is going on. The key to disease control is in spotting the warning signs early enough, so any changes in behaviour such as refusing to eat, inability to swim properly, sinking to the bottom, or alternatively, always being at the surface should be cause for further investigation.
Finally, enjoy your fish! They are the true “stars” of your garden pond. Some of them are likely to even respond to the sound of your voice if they are used to hearing you call when you feed them. Ponds are soothing to our spirits, especially in this stressful world. Don’t forget to take the time to let your pond pay you back for all the efforts you put into taking care of it! Happy Summer!
Winter Fish Care
So many of our clients ask us, can our fish really stay in the pond all winter? And the answer is yes! Your fish can, and actually should stay in your frozen winter pond! We have outlined all the things you will need to do this fall, to keep your pond pets safe in their home over the winter.
The “Hole” Story:
Your finned friends will do just fine in two feet of water as long as you keep a hole in the ice to allow for gas exchange and re-circulate the water for oxygenation. Any debris left in the pond over the winter will continue to decompose and produce gases that can be harmful to fish. If your pump moves at least 2000 gallons of water per hour, you can run your waterfall throughout the winter. This will keep holes open in the ice as well as help oxygenate the water. When you run your waterfall during the winter, Mother Nature makes extraordinary, natural ice sculptures that result in some especially beautiful winter scenes. Some caution must be taken with ponds that have long or slow-moving streams. Ice dams can form and divert the water over the side of the liner, so if you choose to keep your waterfall running, be extra vigilant.
To successfully over-winter fish, your pond must be at least 750 gallons and a section must be 2’ deep. As our geographical area experiences long periods of sub-zero weather, you may consider adding a floating de-icer in order to maintain a hole in the ice. Aquascape’s ’300W De-icer’ has a built-in thermostat which will draw current only as required.
A floating heater alone will not oxygenate the water. Large fish, and/or fish in heavily stocked ponds, require water to be actively oxygenated using an aerator in order to guarantee their survival. Ensure you use an aerator that is rated to withstand our Canadian winters; we recommend Aquascape’s Pond Air PRO 60. Place the aerator’s airstone approximately 12 inches below the water line, to achieve the best bubbling action at the surface, and to help prevent ice formation.
Safely maintain your de-icing equipment by preventing snow from piling too high on the frozen pond surface. Keep the aerator’s compressor pump sheltered from too much snow and ice build up by placing it under a deck or simply by covering it with a board and brick. Building a berm with snow or burlap bags to create a wind barrier for your de-icer is a good idea; this way its heat is not dissipated by the cold wind. Placing the de-icer directly over or near the aerator gives the best results for keeping a hole in the ice open all winter long.
Fall Health and Nutrition:
When the water temperature falls below 15°C, the metabolism and digestion of your fish begins to slow down. Aquascape’s Premium Cold Water Fish Food is scientifically formulated to properly nourish your fish during these lower temperatures.
Fall is the time to make sure that you are generously feeding your fish. They need plenty of food now so they can store excess nutrients to help get them through the winter months. Now, this is not a license to overfeed your fish! The usual rule still applies … only feed them what they can eat in three to five minutes. Just make sure you’re feeding them regularly.
You may want to consider using Aquascape Pond Fish Vitamin Treat to help your finned friends bulk up even more for the long winter slumber. These worm-shaped treats includes nutrients, lipids and garlic as a control for internal and external parasites.
Continue to feed your fish Aquascape’s Premium Cold Water Fish Food as long as they are active and the daytime water temperature is at least 10°C. Be sure to stop feeding your fish when water temperature consistently falls below 10°C for more than a few days. At temperatures below 10°C their metabolism and overall activity slows down while they prepare for hibernation.
Taking a little time and effort to prepare your pond this fall not only helps your fish survive their winter siesta, but makes your spring fish care much easier. Be sure to follow these guidelines so you can experience the greatest joy from your pond pets when spring rolls around once again.
When you have a raised a gorgeous pond pet from a small fry, it can be hard to loose them to a predator! How do we protect our Koi from unwanted attention? And who is it, that’s hunting them? No matter what animal is hunting your pond pets, you need to give your fish cover! Lily pads aren’t just aesthetic, they can also be functional, providing a place to hide for your fish… If they are still on the local menu, adding some tree cover to the pond also helps. If the animals can’t see your fish, they won’t know the buffet is still open!
Most people assume that they suffer fish loss due to domestic animals, like cats and dogs, or other neighbourhood mammals, such as racoons. Although these animals do play a part, in fact, most fish loss is actually due to larger predator birds.
If you have persistent and very hungry animals or birds, then we have to consider other alternatives. A client of ours, Jackie, called and was quite frustrated with her local blue heron. She was at her wit’s end with the persistence of this bird and wondered if we had any suggestions. This is what we came up with!
First of all, try a Fountain! Yup, the AquaJet fountain pump provides a hiding place for your fish. The rippling of the water’s surfce helps confuse the herons making your fish harder to see, and when the fountain is in “bell” mode, the fish can actually hide right under the fountain spray! The AquaJet pumps are IN STORE NOW at a special 40% Off while supplies last….
Use an Atlantic pond net to cover the pond especially in early spring and late fall when fish are slower moving and they have little cover from aquatic plants. Again, we carry these IN STORE, and why do we do that? Becasue they work!
We proposed a sling shot and our client, Jackie, said her husband had already fired a few rounds from his paint ball gun, but the bird is relentless. Plus not everybody has the heart for that type of repellent!
In addition to the Scarecrow (motion sensored water sprayer), there are also ‘acoustic heron protectors’ that emit sounds triggered by sensors. These also work on other birds as well. You can check these out at: http://pigeoncontrolresourcecentre.org/html/reviews/sonic-pigeon-and-bird-control.html
Get a pet dog…Nothing says terrifying like 70 pounds of barking mammal, or if you’re not up for canine ownership, you could play the radio or sounds of dogs, to ward the predator off!
Herons will pick up on routines, so they will try to come by the house when people are out. Changing your routine slightly may make the heron more reticent to drop by. Incidentally, this works on Racoons as well!
Try to block the Heron’s pond access. Fishing line is one of the main suggestions and it should be placed near the heron’s landing spots. Conversely, you could also block landing areas with shrubs, bushes, decorative urns/features, etc. Basically anything that impedes its access will help protect your fish.
The Pond Clinic is proud to offer the very latest in fish treatments. MinnFinn is a two-step treatment, which is sold with a neutralizer (NeuFinn), and can treat up to 2000 gallons. MinnFinn is good to treat a number of organisms found on the outside of your fish. MinnFinn eliminates Protozoa parasites, Flukes and many external Bacterial infections. MinnFinn has effectively eliminated protozoa infections, fluke infections, red sores on fish and bacterial gill infections.
MinnFinn can eliminate most Protozoa infections in ONE treatment (i.e. Costia and Trichodina). Cases of Ich will require three treatments with one day between treatments. Bacterial Gill Disease was effectively treated in one treatment and Red Sores cleared up in one to two. Flukes were cleared in one to three treatments (applied as for ich) depending on the species of fluke.
MinnFinn is Neutralizable so the treatment is ended immediately with the application of NeuFinn. Once neutralized it is like the treatment was never there. After neutralizing, MinnFinn does not require water changes making it very simple and safe to use. When our very own Nicholas Bott and Catherine Neville found they had some sick pond pets, they tried out this product. “We treated our sick fish in a 100 gallon hospital tank, so we followed the directions for this volume (1Tbsp = 15ml). This treatment can, and is, meant to be applied directly to the pond, but you must turn off the circulatory pump first, so that the product does not come into contact with the biological filter. After neutralization, the pump can be turned back on. Gloves are recommended during the product handling process. Gasping at the surface at the end of the one-hour long treatment of MinnFinn was alarming, but it is normal and the gasping stopped with the addition of NeuFinn…” said Catherine.
After their treatment the Koi were back in top condition, and safely back in the pond. To be honest, they looked better than ever! “I’ve NEVER seen a one-time treatment work like that! I mean ONE TREATMENT, and the fish were perfect!”, gushed Nicholas.
MinnFinn is the end product of over six years of research and development for application in the pond and aquarium industries. This product was originally developed as a sterilant for use in hospitals and biotechnology laboratories! MinnFinn can be used throughout the year and has shown to be compatible with fish in water containing salt. Like all therapies, it is not recommended for use in combination with ANY other treatments.
If you think any of your fish are looking a little down in the fin, feel free to drop by the Retail Store, to pick up the new MinnFinn treatment.
MinnFinn, Regular Strength (treats up to 2240 gallons) – $89.98
MinnFinn, Aquarium (treats up to 220 gallons) – $22.98
As your fish come out of their winter dormancy and are fully revived, they will require food that meets all their nutritional requirements, in quantity and quality. Fish have a limited season in which water temperatures allow them to eat, so it is important to understand the value of nutrition to keep your fish happy and healthy.
Neither goldfish nor koi have a true stomach. Unlike other animals that use acid to digest their food, koi and goldfish have long, folded, alkaline intestinal tracts where enzymes and bacteria digest food along the path. At colder temperatures these bacteria work much more slowly, so selecting an appropriate food is vital.
Koi and goldfish require proteins, fats (especially water-insoluble lipids), vitamins, minerals and small amounts of carbohydrates. The right balance will allow for optimal growth, development and maintenance.
The most important times of year to feed pond fish are in the fall, before they become dormant, and in the spring when they become more active. It is vital that fish have a store of fats and proteins to get them through the winter when they’re not eating. It is equally important to replenish those depleted stocks in the spring when your fish are most vulnerable to disease and parasites.
It is useful to think in terms of a base diet and a supplementary diet for your fish. The base diet provides the essential proteins, fats and most vitamins and minerals. The supplementary diet provides additional nutrients and fills in the gaps, but most importantly offers variety. This does not mean different brands of pellets but rather different types of food such as vegetables, insects, pond debris etc.
For the base diet, we recommend a quality commercial food like Aquascape’s Fish Food Pellets. Read labels and be sure the primary source of protein during the cold water season (10°C – 15°C) is derived from vegetable matter, either wheat or soy. Vegetable proteins are easier for fish to digest when their intestinal flora are sluggish from the cold. During the warm water season (15°C+), an animal protein such as krill, shrimp, or fish has the most nutritional value.
The supplementary diet should include algae, insects, decaying plant matter, vegetables (peas, spinach, leaf lettuce, not Iceberg!) and fruit (berries, apple, and pineapple and citrus in limited quantities). If fish refuse fruits and veggies, try boiling them for two minutes or coating them with fish food dust until they develop a taste for the flavours and texture of fresh food.
Koi and goldfish only need to be fed as much as they can eat in three minutes, once daily, as a maximum. This encourages your fish to scavenge debris, insects, and algae from the pond. This is the diet your fish are designed to eat, and it will help keep your pond sparkling clean! If you have water quality issues, reduce feedings to as much as they can eat in three minutes, twice weekly.
Lastly, proper storage of fish food is very important. Food that has been exposed to light or to air will quickly lose its nutritional value and may spoil. If food changes in colour or appearance, or if it contains bugs, it’s better to compost it than run the risk of making your fish sick. Store food in airtight and opaque containers in a cool, dry place. If the water temperature changes before you’ve used up your fish food, it can be stored in a tightly sealed container in the freezer until it’s time to use it again.
Written by our own Fish Specialist, Cass Fortier
Spring is the perfect time to treat your fish to a special day spa, and help them swim into the season in style. While you are doing your yearly spring pond cleaning, your fish must be removed from the pond providing a perfect opportunity to treat them to ‘Champagne Baths and Caviar Dreams’, as Robin Leech used to say (pun intended!).
Before your fish get “warm” in summer, there’s a narrow period of time where the water temperatures are too cold for the fishes’ immune system to function well. This is when your fish are most prone to developing illnesses because parasitic and bacterial populations are growing rapidly.
Setting Up The Spa
In order to create the perfect fish spa experience, set up a large holding tank in a safe quiet place near the pond. A well-rinsed Rubbermaid storage bin or cattle-feed trough works well. A good rule of thumb for the size of your holding tank is 1 gallon of water for every 1 inch of fish. Fill the tank about ¾ full using the clearer water drawn from the surface of your pond. Just like people, fish don’t like change. By using existing pond water to fill your holding tank, you can reduce fish stress during the transfer, by keeping temperature and water biochemistry constant. Also don’t forget to place an aerator in the holding tank to increase the dissolved oxygen levels in the water and help remove toxins.
Once you have filled your therapeutic tank, it is time to add the proper water treatments. Dissolve the appropriate amount of Aquascape Pond Salt in a small bucket of warm water, and then slowly pour it into the holding tank. Saline water helps fish develop a healthy “slime coat”, which treats and protects the fish from harmful parasites and bacterial infections. It also helps promote healing for any minor skin injuries. Don’t over salt the water. Adding 3 pounds of pond salt for every 100 gallons of tank water creates a salt concentration of 0.3 percent, which is perfect for a therapeutic treatment. In addition to the salt, you must add Aquascape Pond Detoxifier to bind any harmful toxins, balance water chemistry, and further relax your fish.
When you are moving your pond pets from their natural environment to their holding tank, be sure to drain the water down low first, so that they are all swimming at the bottom of the pond, and don’t have to be chased around. As you know, fish can be nervous, and this can also raise stress levels. Ideally, equipment should be sterilized before it’s used on your fish to avoid the transfer of a virus or bacteria to your fish.
Sterilization of fish handling gear is simply achieved with a misting bottle of chlorine bleach at a 1:30 dilution, then rinsing with clear water and air/sun drying.
To prevent fish spinal injuries when netting, approach from below using a proper koi net larger than your LARGEST fish. Catch your favourite fish first, and don’t forget to cover the net when travelling between your pond and the therapeutic tank. Fish can swim up to 40 km/hr and jump higher than an NBA all-star! Remember to release the fish gently into the tank, by lowering the net gently into the water, and letting them swim out on their own. Your fish can spend the next several hours in their “day spa” while you finish your spring pond cleaning.
For The Pond
Don’t use salt in your pond, as this will kill all your favorite aquatic plants. The best way to prepare the water for your pets’ return is to treat your pond with Aquascape Cold Water Beneficial Bacteria. Beneficial bacteria start working immediately in spring reducing ammonia, nitrite & organic debris at water temperatures as low as 5 degrees Celsius. While not essential, adding cold water bacteria will give your pond ecosystem a 2-3 week head start in spring. Equally vital is Aquascape Pond Detoxifier to remove harmful chlorine & ammonia, chelate copper & heavy metals, and instantly “age” the water. Once the water warms to 15 degrees Celsius, switch over to using Aquascape Aquaclearer Beneficial Bacteria to help keep water clear all season long.
Once the water in your pond has been treated, it’s time for your fish to go back home. It is VERY important to check the pond water and the tank water temperatures using a Pond Thermometer. Fish can be reintroduced to the pond once the temperature difference between the tank and pond is within 4 degrees Celsius. If not, you must cool/warm the tank water no faster than one degree Celsius per hour to safely acclimatize your fish to the newer temperature. Hold off feeding fish in the clean pond for a few days after their spa treatment. This will allow fish to de-stress and adapt to their freshly cleaned home, and build up stomach enzymes to easily digest food. Use high-carbohydrate Aquascape Cold Water Premium Fish Food when the water temperature reaches 10 degrees Celsius and high-protein Aquascape Premium Color Enhancing Fish Food when your pond warms to 15 degrees Celsius. And if you REALLY love your fish, give them delicious Aquascape Pond Fish Vitamin Treats twice a week to help boost their immune system.
Wow! After a spa say like that, what’s on next – a ‘finacure’?