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2010 Winterizing Your Pond Seminar Notes

Did you miss our Free Seminar?  Don’t worry, here’s a recap.

-Winterizing Your Pond Seminar-

 

-Introduction and brief history of Creative Visions

Creative Visions Landscape, Inc has been in business in the Portland Metro & Vancouver Area for 24 years. We started out providing maintenance services and in 1999 became licensed by the Landscape Contractors Board to do landscaping and water features. Our location where we are at now, we purchased 7 years ago. We operate our landscape company there and in March

2010 we opened our Water Garden Center. We hope it to be a destination for the water garden connoisseur for years to come.

 

-Water gardening philosophy

Our philosophy at Creative Visions Landscape & Water Garden Center is to provide good quality products and services that work well and the information on how to use them. If we don’t have the answer to your questions we will research it and get the answer for you. We also don’t think it is beneficial to our customers to be the cheapest in town or the most elite, so our goal is to have affordable equipment, products and services so you our most valued customer can maintain a healthy pond/water feature at an affordable price.

 

-Brief outline of the course

Topics covered today will include water health, fall and winter feeding, fall maintenance check list, cleaning your pond in the fall, cozy winter water, re-cap the most important keys and go over a winter maintenance check list.

 

-Water Health

• Water testing is extremely important especially for new ponds and during the early spring months. Test kits are available or you can bring in a water sample and we’d be happy to test it. Track your results so that you can detect any early warning signs of a crash. Usually what happens is that everything seems normal to the eye but the chemistry of the water is slowly walking towards the edge of a cliff. Once it falls of the cliff you are experiencing a crash, fish will start dying and it is extremely hard to bring the water back to equilibrium.

• Acceptable test results are a pH between 7.5 to 8.5, ammonia of 0.0 ppm and Nitrite of 0.0 ppm.

• Understanding the nitrogen cycle and the role that the beneficial bacteria play will give you an insight of the hidden workings of the pond and help you get to that initial vision you had of your pond. The nitrification process, or the nitrogen cycle, plays a crucial role in creating a healthy pond. This is a natural process that converts toxic nitrogen waste products into less harmful compounds.  During nitrification, oxygen-loving bacteria break down nitrogen waste products (ammonia and nitrite) and convert them into the relatively harmless by-product, nitrate, which is a food source for plants. These beneficial nitrifying bacteria establish the foundation for efficient pond biological filtration. Their numbers directly influence the efficiency of pond biological filtration. In other words, more nitrifying bacteria mean low or undetectable levels of toxic ammonia and nitrite.  Nitrifying bacteria require certain conditions in order to thrive. To maintain large colonies, they need a steady food source of ammonia or nitrite and oxygen-rich water. Fish waste and decaying organic material supply ammonia and vigorous water movement provides oxygen. These beneficial bacteria also require water temperatures above 55°F to effectively process the nitrogen waste products.

• Microbe-lift has a fall and winter bacteria treatment that works in even cooler temperatures to keep the nitrogen cycle turning all winter long.

• Regular water changes throughout the year are the key to healthy water. They remove excess waste products and replenish other valuable minerals in the water.  Water change amounts are usually around 10% to 20% and should rarely if ever exceed 50%. Perform your last water change of the year before Mid October by removing 10% to 20% of your ponds volume. When re-filling, be sure to use a de-chlorinator and a neutralizer, if necessary.

• Add salt to the pond when adding fresh water. Salt is an often overlooked super cure-all and preventative agent for many common problems. Just you and I need salt in our bodies, so do fish. Salt adds electrolytes to the water, boosts the effectiveness of fish immune systems, aids in oxygen uptake through the gills and promotes a healthy slime coat. Salt is added at a rate of 1 pound per 100 gallons.

• Baking soda is also very important for pond chemistry. Sodium Bicarbonate acts as a buffering agent to keep the pond at a consistent pH level of 8.4; pH fluctuations cause fish a huge amount of stress. Also some of the beneficial bacteria use components of baking soda to aid in the nitrification process. Add baking soda at a level of I TBS per 100 gallons.

 

-Fat Fish are Happy Fish

• Switch to wheat germ based food to build up fat reserves as the water temperatures fall.

• Koi digest food rather quickly through a very simplified digestive track. Koi and most other fish are poikilothermic which means that their body temperatures and therefore metabolic rates are dependent on the water temperature. So as the weather gets cooler and the water gets colder the fish need easier to digest low protein foods. Too much of a food engineered for mid-summer growth can sometimes sit in the digestive track and begin to rot because it is so energy demanding to digest. Wheat germ is an easily digestible food and helps pack on body weight to get through the winter.

 

 

 

 

 

-Fall checklist

-[ ]Apply last application of any algae kill chemicals.

-[ ]Continue to flush filter once a month.

-[ ]Test water quality at least once a month

-[ ]Perform a 20% water change with or without a quick fall cleaning to remove some    

     debris off the bottom.

-[ ]Add Microbe-lift Autumn/Winter prep bacteria treatment as per directions.

-[ ]Switch to an all wheat germ based food for fish by October 1st.

-[ ]Bring any non-hardy tropical plants inside for the winter.

-[ ]Trim back all non-evergreen plants within a few inches of their base after the first hard

     frost.

 

 

 

 

-To Clean or Not to Clean

• Assess the cleanliness of your pond using as many of your senses as possible.  Look to see if there is debris in and around the water, a lot of algae growing, dead plant matter or seasonal tropical plants (lettuce, hyacinth). Use a net or your hand to scoop some debris off the bottom, if it smells foul a cleaning may be in order. The goal is to eliminate as much decaying debris as possible.  A quick cleaning with a water vacuum can remove quite a bit of muck and leaves to leave a reasonable amount for the bacteria to deal with.

• Ask yourself when the last time it was cleaned.  If it has been a year or two or more a cleaning may be in order.

• NEVER COMPLETELY DRAIN AND COMPLETELY CLEAN A POND.

• Evaluate the ponds exposure to debris from nearby trees. Pine needles and leaves can travel quite a distance and build up rather quickly on the bottom.

• Leaf nets are nice if there are many deciduous trees in the area to keep fall leaves out of the water.

• Over-wintering plants can be done pretty easily. Most tropical plants just need a constant temperature and plenty of water. Move them indoors or into a greenhouse. Many hardy water plants can be trimmed to the base and sunk to the bottom of the pond so that the roots don’t freeze. Grasses, rushes, reeds and cattails can be left in the same spot and trimmed down to the base at the end of fall.

 

-Comfortable and Cozy Winter water

Temperature stratification

As water cools, it expands and becomes lighter than warm water (that’s why ice floats) so there is a layer of warmer water on the bottom of the pond that is insulated by the top layer. It is vital to the health of the fish that the layers not mix by waterfalls or pump intakes and outputs.

Pumps should be raised towards the surface to draw the cooler water and any water that is returned should be returned to the top with a ”T” fitting to divert the water horizontally.

• Pumps and filters

Pumps on and filter on, pumps on and filter off, pumps off and filter off.  Depending on the fish load and amount of below freezing weather you can opt to leave filters running or shut them down for the winter. Small fish loads won’t require filtration because there is no waste being produced. If pumps and filters are left on make sure to insulate plumbing and filters or routinely check that nothing has burst due to being completely frozen.

• De-icing heaters

Keep a hole in the ice to allow for proper gas exchange. You can also use a pot of boiling water to melt a hole in the ice, but never break the ice with a rock or hammer as the shock waves will severely distress or possibly kill the fish.

• Gas exchange

Toxic gasses can build up under ice if the pond remains frozen for an extended period of time and has excess decaying organic matter. A portion or small hole must be kept ice free to allow gasses to be released in the air and oxygen to be absorbed by the water.

• Water circulation/ fish hide

Minimal water circulation and currents are ideal so the fish can stay in a type of suspended state were they have to use as little energy as possible to remain still. Fish hides provide a good over-wintering spot as well as protection from predators. Rock caves, cinder blocks or large ceramic pots can all work well.

-Keys to successfully over-wintering Koi

• Fat healthy fish

• Calm, clean and warm water

• Sufficient gas exchange

• No rotting debris or detritus

-Winter Checklist

-[ ]Continue with bacterial treatments throughout the winter.

-[ ]Keep a hole melted in the ice to allow for adequate gas exchange w/ either a

     heater or boiling pot of water.

-[ ]Stop feeding fish when water temperatures fall below 50° F.

-[ ]Shut down pumps, waterfalls and filters.

-[ ]Drain lines and filters.

72°F

• 50% water change

• Divide and repot

   plants

50°F

• Change food to

   wheat germ

60°F

• Mix staple diet

   with wheat germ

• Bring in or dispose

   of tropical plants

• Install pond net

   when leaves begin

   to fall

45°F

• Trim hardy water

   lilies and move to

   deeper water

40°F

• Stop feeding fish

BELOW

40°

• Move or remove

   pump

• Install De-Icer

 

 

 

Salt: Add 1 pound of salt for every 100 gallons of water added during a water change.

Baking Soda: Add 1 TBS for every 100 gallons of water added during a water change.

 

 

 

 

Personal Pond Attack Plan for Fall and Winter

 

*Identify your most important keys for success and come up with a personalized to do list. *

            Fat healthy fish                                              Calm, Clean and Warm water

            Sufficient gas exchange                                  Elimination of rotting debris and detritus

 

Know your Pond:

Size: (L x W x 0 x 7.4=gallons)

Filtration:

Problem Areas:

To do list:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pond Maintenance Tracking Sheet

Date  pH Ammonia Nitrite Water Change Salt Added Baking Soda Added Notes
                
                
                
                
                
                
                
                
                
                
                
                
                
                
                
                
                
                
                
                
                

Yearly maintenance check list

Fall (mid-Sept. through mid-Nov.)

-[ ]Apply last application of any algae kill chemicals.

-[ ]Continue to flush filter once a month.

-[ ]Test water quality at least once a month

-[ ]Perform a 20% water change* with or without a quick fall cleaning to remove some debris off  

     the bottom.

-[ ]Add Microbe-lift Autumn/Winter prep bacteria** treatment as per directions.

-[ ]Switch to an all wheat germ based food for fish by October 1st.

-[ ]Bring any non-hardy tropical plants inside for the winter.

-[ ]Trim back all non evergreen plants within a few inches of their base after the first hard frost.

Winter (mid-Nov. through mid-Feb.)

-[ ]Continue with bacterial treatments** throughout the winter.

-[ ]Keep a hole melted in the ice to allow for adequate gas exchange w/ either a heater or boiling  

     pot of water.

-[ ]Stop feeding fish when water temperatures fall below 50° F.

-[ ]Shut down pumps, waterfalls and filters.

-[ ]Drain lines and filters.

Spring (mid-Feb. through mid-June)

-[ ]Bring pumps and filters back online once freezing is not a hazard.

-[ ]Perform a 20%-40% water change* while doing a cleaning to remove excess dissolved

     organics and detritus.

-[ ]Add Microbe-lift Spring and summer bacteria treatment** as per directions.

-[ ]Test water quality at least once a month.

-[ ]Begin feeding fish again after water temperatures rise above 50° F, start with wheat germ   

     based foods; after a few weeks slowly move into higher protein foods.

-[ ]Treat for algae blooms with Algae Fix or Green Clean

-[ ]Perform monthly 10% water changes*.

-[ ]Flush filter once a month.

-[ ]Add plants to the water feature.

-[ ]Perform any upgrades or repairs in late spring.

Summer (mid-June through mid-Sept.)

-[ ]Switch to Microbe lift PL bacteria treatment** and add once a month.

-[ ]Test water quality at least once a month.

-[ ]Perform monthly 10% water changes *.

-[ ]Flush filter once a month.

-[ ]Continue adding Plants.

-[ ]Early Summer is the best time to add any new fish.

-[ ]Switch fish food to a high protein diet ..

*When performing water changes it is easiest to do simultaneously with filter flushes. When adding water back into the pond be sure to add I pound of salt per 100 gallons of fresh water and 1 TBS of Baking soda per 100 gallons to help ensure proper water chemistry.

**When adding bacteria treatments it is vital that only one is used at a time so as not to overdose the pond. Wait a week between treatments and when in doubt perform a 10% water change.

Glossary as it relates to Pond keeping

 

Ammonia - a toxic waste product produced by fish.

Nitrate - a non toxic by product of the nitrogen cycle that is a food source for plants.

Nitrite - a toxic waste product produced by fish and decaying plant matter.

Nitrobacter sp. – A beneficial bacteria that oxidizes Nitrite to Nitrate.

Nitrosomonas sp. – A beneficial bacteria that converts Ammonia to Nitrite.

Nitrospira sp. - A beneficial bacteria that oxidizes Nitrite to Nitrate.

Nitrogen cycle – The circulation of nitrogen in nature, consisting of a cycle of chemical reactions in which atmospheric nitrogen is compounded, dissolved in rain, and deposited in the soil, where it is assimilated and metabolized by bacteria and plants, eventually returning to the atmosphere by bacterial decomposition of organic matter.

PH - A measure of how acidic or basic the water is.

Poikilothermic - An organism, such as a fish or reptile, having a body temperature that varies with the temperature of its surroundings; an ectotherm.

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