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Friday, June 17, 2011

Organic Waste in a Koi Pond

     Contrary to popular belief that microorganisms like fungi and bacteria are disease-causing agents, they in fact, play a crucial role not only in biological ecosystems but also in the koi pond itself. Relatively few of these microorganisms are even pathogenic (disease-causing). Without the steady decomposing actions of these microorganisms, the planet would be covered in a layer of sewage several miles deep.

     There are two types of microorganisms abundant throughout biological ecosystems. The first type of microorganisms, heterotrophs, need organic carbon to provide them with energy and building blocks for other molecules like amino acids. In a pond, heterotrophs feed on fish waste and mulm. The other type of microorganisms, autotrophs, extract carbon from inorganic carbon dioxide.  Autotrophs feed on inorganic compounds like ammonia and nitrite in a pond. Fish waste is broken down by heterotrophs into significantly smaller compounds. Fungi, using enzymes that break down large molecules into soluble nutrients, are responsible for the initial composition. All microorganisms carry out the process of utilizing enzymes to break down organic matter into simpler compounds. In each instance, an enzyme will produce a different organic compound, until the original matter is converted into non-organic forms such as nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. Indeed, mineralization is the full process of the conversion of organic molecules into non-organic matter.

     In an ideal setting, the rate of mineralization in a pond would be matched by the production of organic compounds. Unless the filtration and husbandry in a pond is designed to remove these organics at the same rate as they are produced, there will be a significant amount of free organics. Unfortunately, there are many problems that may be encountered as a result of the pollution. Increased levels of organic compounds can make water look mucky and foam may be produced at filter outlets and waterfalls. Another complication is excessive algal growth, which leads to green water from free-floating algae or dreaded blanket weed. Algae will feed on the non-organic products of mineralization like nitrate and phosphates. High levels of ectoparasites like flukes and protozoa are likely to become an issue because they thrive in water with a high organic load. While organic matter is being oxidized or decomposed, it consumes a lot of oxygen. Under certain circumstances, it may be harmful to the health of koi. Environmental gill disease, a common but serious koi health problem, is linked to the presence of high organic loads in a pond. Although high levels of dissolved organic and inorganic compounds are not particularly dangerous alone, they promote disease and affect the overall water quality of a pond.

Sources:
"Controlling Algae." Pond Systems - Kits, Supplies and Koi. Web. 01 Mar. 2011. .
"Getting Rid of Algae in Koi Ponds | The String Algae Blues." Japanese Koi Fish Guide. Web. 01 Mar. 2011. .
"Koi Pond Filters – Keeping It Clean As Nature Intended | Koi Pond Garden." Koi Pond Garden | Koi Fish Pond Care and Maintenance. Web. 01 Mar. 2011. .
"Organic Matter, It Will Be Easier to Understand How These Pollutants Can Affect the Long Term Health." Home Page - Fishdoc.co.uk Koi Health Diagnostics and Pond Fish Medicine. Web. 01 Mar. 2011. 




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