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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Clean Water Mystery: Three keys to maintaining the quality of your water

May/June 2013

Damon Roberts
Nothing excites a pond lover quite like clear, sparkling water. Regardless of the size of an architectural water body, if the water is murky or cloudy it makes for a poor impression. In contrast, clear water tends to be more enjoyable. However, clarity is only one variable that makes up the general quality of your water. While murky water does not necessarily mean poor water quality, it may be a precursor to quality problems.

Balancing Act
Water quality is a balancing act involving a number of important factors. For live systems, the balance between beneficial and harmful bacteria is one factor. The right amount of aquatic plant life is another. Taking nature into consideration is also paramount; even a heavy rainfall can shift the balance of the water.
Maintaining your water quality can seem a daunting task. But it doesn’t have to be; with these three critical keys, you can ensure your water will always be in great health.

1. Circulation and Filtration
Circulation and filtration make up one of the most effective mechanisms in your arsenal. Together, they keep water from stagnating and remove unwanted particles from the water body.
Circulation - When a water body is not circulated, stratification and anoxic conditions can result. As the oxygen levels are depleted, anaerobic bacteria processes replace aerobic processes. The water becomes murky and begins to produce an undesirable smell. The smell is a byproduct of anaerobic processes. This condition can be avoided by keeping the water moving.
Filtration - There are many types of filters available at various price points, two of the most common being sand filters and biofilters.
Another good filter application for architectural water bodies is a Horizontal Sub-Surface Flow (HSSF) wetland. This is a constructed wetland where water is passed through a course gravel filter bed that’s planted with wetland plants and grasses. The gravel filters out particulates and also provides a large surface area for beneficial bacteria to grow, providing biofiltration. In addition to removing particulates, the wetland plants also remove nitrogen and phosphorus. By removing nitrogen and phosphorus, the available food source for algae is reduced.
Another important aspect of circulation and filtration is skimming the surface of the water with pond skimmers. Skimming provides a mechanism for removing floating debris, oils and algae. By removing this debris, you can reduce the work- load of the microorganisms that would otherwise have to break down these materials once they sank to the bottom of the water body.

2. Aeration
Aeration assists in maintaining the proper level of dissolved oxygen (DO) and oxidation reduction potential (ORP) to reduce and break down excess organics. Aeration can be accomplished in several ways. Two of the most common ways include an aeration unit (i.e., a pump or blower) that can be used to introduce a column of micro bubbles to the water body; and a cascading waterfall, which introduces air as the water bounces around the rocks and falls into the pond. These mechanisms provide the added benefit of additional water circulation, particularly with an air column. With an air column, a vertical circulation cell is created that helps break up the stratification layers that can occur, especially with deep water bodies.
The introduction of an oxidizer into the airflow will also help ensure water quality. Ozone is a powerful oxidizer that kills the organics that adversely affect the water balance. It can control algae growth and help prevent algae blooms from forming. Ozone also breaks down into oxygen, which further increases the oxygen levels. Applying ozone is safe for aquatic life, but it must be applied in proper doses.

3. Water Management
The final key to water quality is the management of the water as it enters and leaves the water body. Most water leaves the system by evaporation. Therefore, in most architectural water bodies, the biggest long-term factor affecting water quality is the buildup of precipitates of salts and other elements left behind when the water evaporates. Some of these elements can be removed through filtration, but in severe situations the only way to remove them is to replace a volume of water. A regular schedule of replacing the water is the best method for maintaining the level of these elements. This can be accomplished by providing an overflow stream that dumps to a storm drain. If the water body is large enough, overflow could be used as a source for irrigation, as opposed to allowing the water to go to the storm drain.

Precipitation and Runoff
Two other important factors to keep in mind when designing water features are precipitation and runoff. Precipitation can introduce additional nitrogen when accompanied by a thunderstorm, and this nitrogen is the perfect booster for algae growth. Runoff can introduce nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizers used on adjacent landscapes. It can also wash in organic material and dirt particles, which have a tendency to alter the balance of the water. By utilizing the HSSF wetland filtration system, pond owners can manage the additional nitrogen and phosphorus invited by these types of situations, limiting their impact on the overall system.

Final Thoughts
By designing, engineering and applying these keys correctly, you can can unlock the ability to create and maintain a high level of water quality in any size or type of architectural water body. Each of these systems can be scaled to match the appropriate environment and application. While putting these systems in place can incur some additional upfront costs, that money can be recovered in operational and maintenance costs during the years to come.
Planning, designing and engineering with these three critical keys in mind right from the start will ensure that you have a pleasing water feature that will provide value to both owner and visitors. If you are planning a new pond, lake or stream and would like to discuss these critical keys in more depth, please give us a call or send an email.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Why Test for Ammonia?

Ammonia is a toxic waste excreted into the pond by fish, birds, and other pond life.
The natural process that controls ammonia in the pond is called the biological filter.
The biological filter is comprised of nitrifying bacteria that use ammonia as a food source to grow and reproduce. The nitrifying bacteria convert ammonia to nitrite (also toxic) which in turn is converted into non-toxic nitrate. A healthy pond has no detectable ammonia.
Newly set-up ponds need time to develop the biological filter. Until sufficient numbers of nitrifying bacteria grow in the pond, ammonia will be detected.
Overstocking the pond with fish, uneaten fish food and decomposing vegetation can cause excessive ammonia. Ammonia is highly toxic to all pond life.

What the Test Results Mean
In newly set-up ponds, the ammonia level may surge up to 10 parts per million (ppm) or more and then fall as the biological filter becomes established.
In an established pond, the ammonia level should always be zero. Ammonia levels above 0.5 ppm indicate possible overfeeding, overstocking of fish, or excessive decay of organic matter. The elevated ammonia level is not necessarily an indicator of the nitrite level. The nitrite level should be tested separately on a regular basis. Use the PondCare Nitrite Test Kit to test for toxic nitrite.

Reducing Ammonia Levels
In newly set-up ponds, ammonia and nitrite levels will rise and then fall in the first few weeks, indicating the formation of the biological filter. However, to protect the fish use PondCare AMMO-LOCK® as directed, to detoxify ammonia. It’s essential to only add a few pond fish for the first few weeks of the initial pond set-up. Test pond water weekly with the PondCare pH, Ammonia, and Nitrite kits. After both ammonia and nitrite levels drop to zero, a few more pond fish can be added.
If at any time ammonia is detected, take steps to reduce ammonia, such as cleaning the pond filter and pond bottom of debris, and reduce fish feeding. Make sure adequate oxygenation and surface agitation are provided. If the ammonia level exceeds 0.5 ppm, use AMMO-LOCK as directed, or make a 25% water change every two days until the ammonia level drops to zero.

We can help you to keep your pond on control;

Monday, February 4, 2013

Why Test for pH?

pH is the measure of acidity or alkalinity of water. A pH reading of 7.0 is neutral, a pH higher than 7.0 is alkaline, and a pH lower than 7.0 is acidic.
A healthy pond depends on proper pH balance. Many factors can significantly alter pond water pH, creating an unhealthy environment for pond life. Acid rain, minerals leaching from soil or rain run-off, decomposing plants and animal waste can all contribute to unstable pH levels in the pond.

pH in Ponds
A pH of 7.0 is considered ideal for plants and fish in the pond. Some species of pond plants, such as waterlilies and hyacinths, thrive in slightly acidic water below 7.0. Pond fish prefer an alkaline pH above 7.0. Therefore, an acceptable pH range is 6.8 to 8.2

Extreme pH levels above 8.2 or
below 6.8 should be avoided.

Problems of Low pH
Many ponds tend to turn slightly acidic (between 6.8 and 7.0) as the pond life
develops. A pH below 6.8 will stress pond inhabitants. A low pH may be caused by increased carbon dioxide concentrations, overstocking with fish or poor surface agitation. Proper fish stocking, as well as adequate pond filters or fountains, will correct carbon dioxide build-up and help stabilize pH.
A low pH (acidic water) may also be caused by decomposing organic matter, solid waste from fish and birds, and decaying vegetation.

We can help you to keep your pond with the correct pH level;

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Sexing Koi - Is a boy or a girl koi?

Sexing Koi
Customers tell me it's one of the most frequently asked questions that they get. Is it a male or female?  While it can be difficult to differentiate the two, it's not impossible. Use these tips to figure out the sex of your or your customers koi.

1.)  The Shape
The sex of a young Koi does not affect its body shape until it begins to reach sexual maturity, which is usually at around three years of age. Most females at this age will start to carry eggs and will tend to be more rounded and "blimp" shaped. Males are more streamlined and torpedo shaped. Males lack the swollen abdomen of females. Generally speaking, females will grow to a larger size than males. Take a look at the pictures below for an example of the two. 

male and female koi
Click for larger images

2.)  The Feel
Generally by two years of age, male koi will start to feel rough to the touch, especially during the spring season as temperatures are rising. If you rub your fingers on the gill plates and along the side of the body, it feels like sandpaper. Females will be slick and smooth to the touch.

3.)  The Vent
The male vent will be more con-caved in appearance where-as the female vent will be convex and slightly protruding with a slight pink appearance.  Below are an example of the male and female vents.  Click on an image to see it in a larger format.
male vent
Click for larger image.
female koi
Click for larger image

4.)  The Behavior 
During the spring spawning season sexually mature males will chase the females, nudging them with their nose to encourage her to release her eggs.  

Randy LeFever
Blue Ridge Fish Hatchery

Monday, April 23, 2012

How and when you feed your KOI fish?

Water temperature can dictate how and when you feed your fish. Careful consideration should be given to the condition of the environment as well as the activity level of your pets. Also consider your own knowledge and experience with your fish! Use the chart below as a guide to help you in chilly times.
86°F or higher (30°C)
Feed no more than 2 times daily(no more than 4 times daily for small koi)
At higher water temperatures koi can lose their appetite. Feed smaller amounts of an easily digested food if your fish are in good condition. Try to reduce the water temperature by providing shelter from direct sunlight. Baby koi are less affected by higher water temperatures and can be fed small amounts more often (Use premium, max growth/Color food).
68-86°F (20-30°C)
Feed 2 to 4 times daily or more in smaller amounts
Koi are most active in this temperature range. You can feed as often as you like any of our color enhancing, growth or staple diets. Feeding smaller amounts more often can actually increase weight and girth more rapidly. Always monitor your water quality and the activity level when deciding how much to feed. Always avoid feeding within one hour of sunrise or sunset.
59-68°F (15-20°C)
Feed 1 to 2 times daily
Carefully monitor your pets activity level in this temperature range. As the water temperature drops so does your koi’s digestive capacity. Care should be taken to avoid over-feeding and offering food during periods of inactivity. Always feed during the warmest part of the day if your water temperature is not stable.
50-59°F (10-15°C)
Feed no more than 2 times daily
When your water temperature is in this range you should monitor your koi’s activity level carefully and avoid feeding if you pets do not readily eat. (Use only easily digested diets cool season food) . Try to feed between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm if possible.
41-50°F (5-10°C)
Feed no more than 2 to 3 times weekly
When the water temperature is in this range, technically you may stop feeding until spring. If your koi are active and you want you can feed an amount they will consume within a minute or so, but never more. Always try to feed between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm.
Below 41°F (Below 5°C)
Stop feeding
Your koi should be in their hibernation mode now and no feeding is necessary.

By Hikari

Monday, April 9, 2012

Japanese Koi carp - The Origins, The History and Today

Koi, a Japanese word meaning carp. Today,
it is the Japanese that are revered as the authority
on Koi fish, as it is there continued breeding efforts
that have led to many of today’s
colour varieties and species.
In Japan the Japanese Koi Carp is a symbol of strength,
and it is the Japanese Koi Carp ‘NISHIKIGOI’ (brocaded Carp)
that are revered all over the world as the most stunning
of decorative pet fish. It is also widely known that all carp
are direct offspring of
black Koi known in Japan as ‘Magoi
But, the history of Koi goes back much further then
the widely popular Japanese Koi Carp of today.

Let’s dive in.
There are carp fossils in China dating back some
20 million years, and there are historical records
which point towards China as being the first to breed
carp for colour mutations. In fact, Prussian carp were
selectively bred leading to the development of
the ever-popular goldfish. Now goldfish were not
introduced to Japan until the 16th century.
In all accounts, it is recognized that Koi,
from the Latin name Cyprinus Carpio meaning Carp,
originated in the surrounding areas of the Caspian Sea.
Koi had an exceptional ability for survival and adaptation
to divers water and climate conditions, thus making
the domesticated species ideal for circulation to
new places including Japan. Legend has it that Koi
were introduced to Central Europe around the 14th century
by the crusaders. Later, Monks adopted this role continuing
the distribution of Koi throughout China and South East Asia,
all as a major source of food.
Now no one really seems to know exactly how or when Koi
were first introduced to Japan. Some have theories of Koi being i
ntroduced to Japan during an invasion by the Chinese, while others
speculate about Koi having been kept by a Japanese emperor
dating back to 200 AD. But, Koi history is still a mystery
from the 2nd to the 17th century as the investigation continues today.
As time moved on, historical commentary tells us that Japanese
rice farmers of Ojiya in the Niigata province, were raising common
Japanese Koi carp as a food source for sale in local markets.
These farmers became Koi breeders between the 1820s and
the early to mid 1840’s. This transformation occurred
when farmers began to notice random pigment irregularities
 in some of their Koi food stock. This is said to have led to the
development of Koi keeping as a hobby among local working class farmers.
These early Koi breeders began keeping these specially
colored carp as pets. Soon after, as a leisurely past time,
neighboring farmers would collaborate on breeding
their collection of colored Koi together.
Now up until the early 1900’s, only the farmers themselves kept
their colored carp as a private hobby and pastime.
But in 1914, during the Tokyo Taisho Exhibition,
Koi farmers/breeders brought their colored carp to the attention
of the Japanese public. It was then that the interest in Japanese Koi carp
exploded throughout Japan. With the national enthusiasm of Koi sparked,
and an ever-growing popularity of Koi, there began a kind of competition
among owners to breed new colors and species of Japanese Koi carp.
The hobby of Koi keeping eventually spread worldwide.