Category Archives: Care & Husbandry

Inherited a Koi Pond III

Inherited a Koi Pond III

We are not going to talk about viruses at this point, you just inherited a pond you have plenty to worry about. But you should know that there is a virus that can kill all of your fish in under a week if you don’t prevent it with quarantine.

It’s called Koi Herpesvirus and there is a lot of information about it.

Just to plant a bug in your ear with regards to Koi herpes virus, you can break its cycle and save your fish with simple heat. Carefully done, take the fish to 83 to 85°F, and the disease process will stop. Fish that are not “too far gone“ will live. They are considered contagious after surviving Koi Herpes Virus however there are many elements of this that are not supported in work done in Israel on carp.

I can summarize the Koi KHV x Heat equation by telling you:

Koi heating 101
A couple paint bucket warmers carefully suspended above the water line and operated on a thermostat….

One of the first times that that deadly virus, Koi Herpesvirus, was seen in the United States was when infected fish were sold to buyers all over the country at a Koi Show. The fish were distributed to individuals ponds from New York to California and as far south as Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Shortly after those fish were sold and taken home from the event where they were sold, outbreaks of Koi Herpesvirus erupted everywhere the water was under 83°.
Yes, you heard me right.

Owners that bought the fish from that infected show, took their fish home to Arizona New Mexico, Texas, even parts of Florida, and experienced no illlness nor mortalities and I presume their fish are still out there today doing fantastically. Nobody thought to go through and test those fish, I guess they felt lucky, or the virus had somehow ‘overlooked’ the fish that went into the desert.
The collections in more temperate waters died.

What If My Koi Get Sick Without Getting New Fish?

If your fish gets sick, and it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with a new fish, you have to look at water quality. You have to understand what the nitrogen cycle is, how your filter is working, and how it is maintained, you need to notice if you have too many fish, that means: “more than 1 inch of fish per 10 gallons of water“

I put together a short course of 20 items to knock down if your fish get sick. Nobody ever gets to the end of it because typically they have figured out what’s wrong by the fifth video.

As a brand new pond inheritor or owner, if you have any questions please reach out!

Sterilizing The Tank

“I’m going to break down, and sterilize the tank, gravel and plants.”

It’s promised often and it’s USUALLY unnecessary.

Sterilization of Environments is suggested as “The Way” to prevent diseases. This is widely advocated at the retail and wholesale level. They logically feel that a sterile environment is preferable to one that might harbor a pathogen from “the last batch” of fish. This is perfectly logical and actually works for some people.

On the other hand, it also means that your system (unless you use an existing filtration system which defeats the point of sterilization anyway) is starting from ‘scratch’ and will have to go through the entire nitrogen cycle again. This means that the incoming fish will have to bear up under Ammonia, then Nitrite, and then Nitrate, only then being rewarded by some algal growth and stability. I wager that the nitrogen ‘roller coaster’ is worse for the fish than anything (parasitic or bacterial) they could bring in with them.

Sterilization is usually unnecessary. It costs the system its entire ‘balance’ and you lose the beneficial bacteria and algae.

Besides, after you sterilize a system you’re only going to Bioseed it again, so it’s unsterile again.

After you’ve sterilized the tank and gravel, when the fish come back in, they will soon defecate in the tank, and will thereby (in most instances) inoculate the tank with the same pathogens that you’ve just tried to annihilate.

Most of the time, when you’re sterilizing a tank to “get rid of whatever killed the last batch” you’re actually trying to ‘sterilize’ a water quality problem that you didn’t know you had.

When the fish come in, you would observe the rules we laid out for Quarantine, especially observation (or the use of a microscope and diagnose any parasitic burden as early as possible). The earlier you diagnose and treat the fish, the better off you will be.

If you DO sterilize a tank, gravel and ornaments, set it up as new and do the following:

  1. Seachem Neutral 7.0 Buffer
  2. Plants for cover, live or plastic
  3. 78 DF temperature
  4. Sponge filter suitable to tank size
  5. Air pump to push sponge filter and aerate water
  6. Dechlorinate
  7. Bioseed

You won’t fail with the ‘new’ system.

Let’s just say, for the sake of argument that you’re not persuaded, and you want to be sure that there are no “leftover” pathogens in the tanks when your new fish come in. Here are some ideas you could employ with good success.

  1. Double dose Potassium permanganate with peroxide reversal. See formulary.
  2. Leave tank unoccupied for 14 days at seventy-five o This will eliminate parasitic pathogens, which require a host to survive for that long at that temperature.
  3. You could apply Formalin at 50 PPM with water change in four hours. This would also annihilate any parasite that might have been left behind. If you were concerned that flukes may have been there, you would repeat this treatment in 4 days.
  4. You can accomplish, against my advice, 100% annihilation of all viruses, bacteria and parasites with a 1:30 Clorox bleach dilution with water. Simply spray down tank or aquarium surfaces and wring out the sponges [or other filter media] with this dilute solution. Rinse with freshwater and refill, then you must de-chlorinate. Beneficial nitrifers are also annihilated.

The Two Gallon Fish Bowl: Cool, or Cruel?

Cruel or Cool? The Fish Bowl

The two-gallon fish bowl is ubiquitous in our society and has seen the residence of literally billions of Koi, goldfish and pond fish. I would estimate that almost all of us have had a two-gallon fish bowl. The original fish is usually some hapless Comet Koi, goldfish and pond fish which lives for about a week. The reason it died is that your fish bowl had no filtration system, and therefore no bacteria to reduce the excreted nitrogen from the food it was (over)fed. Ammonia surged and killed the fish. No one knew to test this parameter.

So, you buy a second fish, which lives a week more, then dies of Ammonia poisoning despite water changes.

Eventually, a Comet survives because enough beneficial bacteria have colonized the gravel and plastic-plant to reduce the Nitrogen. You may have fed less frequently by this time as your childhood enthusiasm for Koi, goldfish and pond fish waned.  Roman numerals get confusing as you get out to Beloved Koi, goldfish and pond fish George the XIII

Just as you begin to breathe a sigh of relief that “this one” is going to make it, you buy him a “friend” and you don’t know to do any kind of quarantine. The new one and your old one perish when they get Ich. You use “Ich-Be-Gone” with Formalin, which kills off that little bit of beneficial bacteria on the plant, and you’re into another Cycle when you restock.

After another full cycle and ten more “Georges” you finally get another fish to survive, and you decide that “new friends” are a bad idea. This particular fish actually does fairly well and starts to grow. It eats algae on the sides of the bowl and starts to get kind of big.

Eventually, it gets cramped and the fins start to curl. Cataracts develop when the fish is only four years old and the skin turns pale for lack of real sunlight. The spine begins to curve for lack of space and because of the refined flake food diet. By the time the fish is five years old, it has undergone years of chronic stress due to its own crowding. It’s only grown to be six inches long and finally perishes at the age of five-and-a-half looking like a geriatric specimen.

I am not so rabid as to call for the “outlaw” of the two-gallon fish bowl. In fact, it is not the manufacturer of the fish bowl who has committed the ‘wrong’. It is our responsibility to educate as many people as we can about the proper way to keep Koi, goldfish and pond fish. We can do it with helpful support, not condemning attacks. We can do it with understanding, not intolerance. Folks using fish bowls have not ‘seen the light’ and enjoyed the pleasure of having fish in larger facilities.

Phosphate Removers Are A Waste of Money

You should be aware that in the normal scheme of things, phosphates cause algae to flourish. As such, phosphates became ‘the enemy’ to marketing weasels who would have you believe that algae are the bane of our existence. Phosphates are not considered overtly harmful to fish in naturally occurring amounts. Phosphate removers will attempt to remove phosphates from the water, but you should know that the products are just an exhaustible resin.  Once they have accomplished their goal, and your water is blissfully free of phosphates, you will probably have poor-doing plants because plants tend to require Phosphates, Nitrate and iron to flourish. You will probably have higher than ideal Nitrate levels because they are not being used efficiently by plants. Worse; the fish will soon be fed, and then have a bowel movement, which completely replaces your preciously reduced phosphates. It’s a losing battle. When the phosphate removing resin is completely exhausted, you can replace it and start over again.

What’s Wrong With My Koi Fish?

What Is In Each Video? Table of Contents: Twenty Koi Health Video Tutorial

  1. Handling Stress -Have the fish been handled recently? Why that matters.
  2. Winter Stress -Temperature. Is it winter? Summer? Why that matters
  3. Feeding or Underfeeding – Feeding and Underfeeding. Why that matters.
  4. Ammonia Toxicity -Ammonia and it’s super common, why it matters and what it looks like.
  5. Nitrite Poisoning -Nitrites and what THAT looks like, why it matters and what to do about it.
  6. Nitrate Poisoning  –NitrAtes –  especially common fish killer / weakener in established pond.
  7. pH Explained -pH is the most common deadly water quality parameter to check. Crash discussed.
  8. Oxygen Levels – Oxygen levels. Why it might sag, impact of heat and plants, what to do about it.
  9. CrowdingCrowding. How many is too many. What does that do to fish?
  10. Still and StaleWater movement and turnover. Common. Stale, still water. Fish weakener.
  11. MetabolismTemperature; it’s influence, it’s pitfalls, the ideals for fish recovery
  12. InjuriesCuts and bruises. Is that an ulcer, or a gash? How can you tell. When and if you treat.
  13. Cleanliness Cleanliness – Is the pond clean? Properly maintained? Can fish recover in unclean ponds?
  14. Germs & MicrobesBacterial infections – a usually unnecessary video because 90% of people have figured out the source of a disease is in their water quality and husbandry. Injections, treatments, etc all discussed.
  15. FungusFungal infections, you’d be surprised the cause, and the treatment (or lack thereof)
  16. Bugs & CrittersThe Parasites, this is pretty common. What you need to know about them, and their treatment.
  17. Viruses like KHVViral diseases, like Koi Herpes virus and some of the skin-viruses that cause warts.
  18. Video 18 –> No video 18 lol
  19. QuarantineQuarantine. If you did it, then the list gets shorter. If you didn’t do it, (and how to do it) the field remains very wide.
  20. Further ResourcesResources for more help, diagnostics, fish vets who still do it.

What's Wrong With My Koi Fish

What’s Wrong With My Koi Fish?

For folks who don’t really want to mess with information, just adding stuff to get fish to live. Six things you add. Really sarcastic. But it works.

Goldfish Care and Success for the Beginner

Many Goldfish keepers are unaware that the highly selected Asian “carps” are very well suited for warmer waters. Ranchus, Orandas, Bubble eyes, etc all do better in heated systems, e.g. 74-78 degrees at a minimum, which *might* mandate a heater, especially during the winter.

Goldfish Care and Success for the Beginner
Ranchu and Lionhead goldfish have no dorsal fin, and thrive in warmer water.

The problems you can encounter with Goldfish kept too cool include:

  1. Increased susceptibility to bacterial infection,
  2. Increased incidence of irreconcilable Dropsey or floater diseases; where the fish floats helplessly at an unusual angle, even upside-down!
  3. Filter bacteria in cooler systems do not function well, and ammonia problems may result.

All in all, you will only enhance th health of the fish and the function of the aquarium when you heat it up, as I said, 74 degrees minimum.

Goldfish success in seven easy steps:

1. Undergravel filter or sponge filter. (My favorite sponge filter)
2. Partial waterchanges weekly (Or trickle!)
3. pH supported above 7.2
4. Temperature 74 degrees or warmer (Best heaters EVER)
5. Live plants whenever possible (Apon, Anubias, floating Wisteria, Duckweed)
6. Turbulence but more importantly, high aeration are a must. Silent tanks spell death. This is VERY important.
7. Salt at the first sign of trouble. 0.3%

Invest in at least a ten or twenty gallon system.

  • Filtrate with an Undergravel plate driven by a single powerhead. Or, use a sponge filter (Click). 
  • If used, make sure the powerhead runs Venturi-style, which aerates well.
  • Make sure the pH is ‘buffered’ to neutral, there are chemicals for this. One such compound which is readily available and cheap is SeaChem’s Neutral Regulator.
  • Invest in some live plants. **Aponegeton**, Anubias, Cryptocoryne, Pennywort, etc are all good ones.
    Anachris, Cabomba etc are a little messy, and like cooler water.
  • Feed a good small pelleted food like *Hikari Lionhead Sinking Pellets* no more than twice per day.
  • Perform water changes every week or every other week – or TRICKLE new water all the time (best).
  • Use a siphon hose to clean the gravel periodically.

Did you know that a Goldfish can grow to be 8 inches long in a single season (one year) if fed well and given enough space?

Goldfish Care and Success: Filters

“I Heard undergravel filters were bad!”

goldfish beginnerIn the olden days, Undergravel filters were driven by airpumps. People had little idea about good water quality and if the water looked clear, it was “good.” Ages ago, people with undergravel filters left them alone for years at a time, and over time, the gravel would stagnate with toxic amounts of mulm and gas – Nowadays we understand that toxic gases can be made in stale gravel beds and these gasses can invisibly kill our fish. The key to using an undergravel filter successfully is to keep the gravel siphon-cleaned on a semi regular basis.
Still, there are arcane hold outs who still believe that Undergravel filters, even when properly employed, are dangerous and can result in toxin production. Whatever.
Then, instead of using an Undergravel filter plate, which at the very least 
keeps *some* water moving through the gravel, the poor hobbyist *eschews* the Undergravel filter and then suffers the fish on two inches of deadspace gravel with no circulation.
Consider the following on Undergravels:

Message-ID: <>
Subject: Goldies  update

Just as your article stated, after 24 hours of undergravel in place, a transformation beyond anything I have ever seen was evident.
The energy level of Goldies was increased, the clarity of water increased (although I did think it was clear before) their appetite increased, their colors were more vibrant, even the ulceration on Blackie had almost disappeared!
Ok, ok, 50 lashes with a wet noodle for me!
I regret not installing the undergravel sooner- I probably would not have lost my Ranchu or Fantails. Me a culpa.
I’m telling all my fish buddies to install their UG’s before it’s too late.
Your expertise has proven to be invaluable.

The Use of Salt as a Remedy

goldfish carelionheadThe following, on salt, is included because for a goldfish-beginner this should be your knee-jerk reaction to goldfish getting sick, once you’ve checked your water and proven the pH is okay.

I recommend that you use salt, before you try anything else for parasites.

I recommend salt so darn often because it has so many benefits over other medicants. Namely:
1) It does not harm the majority of fish species.
2) It rarely pushes sick fish “over the edge.”
3) It eliminates, QUICKLY, 5 of 7 ciliates I can easily recall.
4) It does not get bound out of the system by organics or sunlight.
5) It does not pose a health risk to humans contacting it.
and 7) It WON’T harm your filter!

Salt knocks off the following baddies:
50% of Costiasis (Ichthyobodo necatrix)
Almost every single Trichodiniid/Tripartiella organism.
External Tetrahymena
Inhibits trematode reproduction, clears 30% of adults.

Salt: Remove submerged plants. Perform a fifty percent waterchange if possible, and clean the tank as well as reasonably possible without causing undue delay in treatment. This is because after you apply salt, you should probably leave it in for a little over a week – meaning you won’t be doing consequential water changes AFTER application.

Apply one teaspoon of iodized-or-not-doesn’t-matter table salt per gallon of water every 12 hours for three treatments (3 tsp per gallon). Alternatively, for larger systems, dose one pound per hundred gallons of water every 12 hours for three treatments (3 pounds per hundred gallons). Add all at once in the case of epidemic mortality.

A word of caution on SALT though. It should be food-grade or non mineralized cattle feed grade. It should have no additives like Yellow Prussiate of Soda, (YPS) and it should not be a “trace-mineralized” feed grade salt. Further, it should be avoided when native South American fish are involved, eg: Brochis britskii cats, and native or wild caught Discus. Rams dislike it also. Figure if a fish was wild caught in the Amazon, it shouldn’t be salted.
Almost all submerged plants perish in the salt dose listed above.

Do not use salt if you value your live plants.

Note the divided dosing, so as not to add it all at once. It’s less disruptive to the fish when added over 36 hours.

How To Winterize Your Koi and Pond Fish

How To Winterize Your Koi and Pond Fish
Winter in the mountains of Niigata are cold.

Some Wintertime Koi Management Considerations
Winterizing Koi and Wintertime Koi Care – by Doc Johnson

This is the time of year that we consider our Koi as being “dead asleep” and we do not worry too much about them because water temperatures are so cool that parasites and bacteria are almost as dormant as the fish themselves.

Indeed, this is an important time of year because what you do (or do *not* do now) sets the stage for your springtime season in March, April and May, which traditionally marks the “Disease Season”.
There are several considerations for this time of year, which I will address individually.

How To Winterize Your Koi and Pond Fish

At this time of year, we should examine the 1-water quality, 2-the ponds’ cleanliness, the concept of 3-springtime feeding, 4-disease prevention and finally, 5-minimizing fish stress during pond start-up.

Water Quality at this time of year is usually very good. Cold water carries much more oxygen than warmer water does. Even with the filters off, oxygen tensions remain high, and very satisfactory for fish. Partially because their metabolism is so slow!

Ammonia can still be a problem in some ponds if the owner is feeding every warm day they get. I saw another pond that was made with a liner which was installed and seamed in two parts, and was positioned over some Septic tank field lines. The ammonia-rich ground water would well up through the seam in the liner, giving the owner a nice 2ppm Ammonia reading, even in the dead of winter! Ammonia testing is very satisfactory in the winter, if you would only **warm** the water in your hand to at least room temperature before testing it. You see, the reagents give falsely low readings in cold water.

Nitrites should not be a problem because Nitrosomonas is very sensitive and will be inactive in the wintertime. If you *freeze* these bacteria in a block of ice, they will be killed, but if you merely chill them to near freezing they will remain in a state of suspended animation until conditions return to more suitable temperatures.

pH is never a sure bet unless your pond is concrete lined, in which case it’s a sure bet that the pH will be high……Still, for those reasons that apply in the summer, periodic checking of the pH will avoid a “crash” in the pH, which can kill fish.

One other area of water quality for your consideration is the formation of Ice on your pond, which will trap gases and other toxins underneath to the detriment of your fish. It has been said that Ice can be permitted to form for a few days without hazard, and I substantially agree. But there is a period which is “too long”.

How To Winterize Your Koi and Pond Fish
How To Winterize Your Koi and Pond Fish

Folks who have left their traditional backyard ponds covered with ice for weeks have lost entire collections of fish. It’s hard to believe that there could be that much gas formation in the dead of winter, but the proof is in the experiences of hundreds of people every winter.
They reason that in nature, ponds freeze over. However, they do not realize that natural ponds are usually larger, less crowded, and may have inflow of springwater or stream feeds.

I urge you to keep a place in the ice clear for gas exchange and observation of the fish. Cattle water trough heaters (caged heaters) are cheap (about 30-50$) and can keep a patch of ice clear all winter for a small investment in electricity. Air blowers and stones may fail to keep ice from forming, in the harsh Northeastern climes. I have seen a regular stalagmite of ice form over the air-cap there, and the benefit is then lost.

Do not break the ice with a concussive blow, in the event that you are caught unprepared and you find your pond frozen. The blow to the ice is supposedly transmitted through the water and will shock and possibly deafen your fish, ruining their appreciation of music. I wouldn’t worry too much about deafening the fish, this ice-whack-and-shock-phenomona has not been seen in real life recently.

Take your time, you have days, even up to a week to open a hole in the ice. Use a hot teakettle, set directly on the ice. Some folks use coffee heaters, but I wonder if they heater could melt through and fall in?

Bil Wight’s Paste Food for Koi and Pond Fish 

Bil Wight’s Paste Food for Koi and Pond Fish

Some ingredients, like the seaweed flour, can be difficult to obtain, but if you persist, you can get lucky. when I bought the flour for the first time, because the animal feeds dealer had to buy a 25 kilo sack, which no-one else wanted, I bought the whole sack, even tho I figured it would take a couple of years to use it all. Ahaha. It lasted less than a season. Seaweed flour is a huge improvement on wheat flour for binding. It isn’t so downright fattening, it boosts the amount of algal proteins/amino acids, and it adds trace elements. 3 for the price of 1, as it were. It does need to be very fine, like flour. Granular seaweed won’t bind, messes up the consistency of the mix, and isn’t digested well by the fish.

Bil Wight’s Paste Food for Koi and Pond Fish

The amounts and ingredients are all variable, and can be adapted to what you have available. All the information, while as accurate as possible will not all apply to every pond, and common sense should be used in interpreting it.
The recipe is the way it is for a lot of reasons. It started off quite simply, and then like Topsy, it grew. It has had a lot of the corners knocked off by now, simply thru trying it and correcting mistakes a bit at a time over the last few years. Usually what happens is that the first thing people say is “I won’t bother with that, this isn’t necessary, and these would be be better.” They then mail me and say they are having problems with the recipe. It clouds the water really badly, won’t stay together, causes this problem or that and so on ad infinitum. What I would suggest is that no matter how stupid, unnecessary or silly you think some details are, make one batch exactly as I say. After that by all means experiment, and if you find something that works better, please let me know.

As time goes by, this ‘recipe’ is bound to change further, so feel free to mail me and ask for an update. If you are going to feed at cooler temps, the following should be borne in mind. Make sure your biofiltration is excellent, rather than adequate, and test regularly to ensure that ammonia or nitrite isn’t building up. Large females that are building up egg masses are best starved for some of the winter to reduce the risk of their becoming egg bound. However, the usual winter period where they show no interest in food is probably well in excess of this, and the average unheated ponder is unlikely to need to worry about that.

This recipe is aimed at the average hobbyist, to provide a good all year round food which needs no great variation. It does not claim to be “The Ultimate”, or even to be complete, in the sense that it is guaranteed to contain every single element essential for growth. It does try to come close, and it does offer you the opportunity to manipulate and alter the mix. This paste food is an attempt to give the koi a similar quality and variety of foodstuffs as it would find in the wild.

For a food strategy for those who wish to take it that bit further, please see the second part of this ‘recipe’.

Without a doubt, live food is the best. Feeding even a small amount of live food on a regular basis produces results out of all proportion to the amount fed. It is often rich in some of the amino acids and other substances that can be scarce in pelleted food, and this can enable the fish to make better use of the other food you give them. A wider variety of proteins, and hence amino acids, means better use of proteins for growth, and less waste amino acids meaning less ammonia for the filters to deal with. Woodlice, worms, spiders, grubs, centipedes, the list is almost endless. Avoid maggots, mealworms, millipedes and adult beetles, and it is wise to crush the “head” of anything like spiders or beetle grubs which could bite the fish’s mouth, and possibly put it off these valuable foodstuffs. Live freshwater foods should be avoided due to the risk of transferring parasites. Remember that some parasites are not removed by washing and cleaning, but are embedded in cysts deep in the tissues where they wait for their host to be eaten. For this reason anything that lives in water – salt or fresh, should be cooked thoroughly before feeding it to the koi.

Dried insects can be bought from bird food suppliers as an excellent dietary supplement. If you have some spare space in your garden, give some serious thought to providing refuges for invertebrates. If you have the space to run a small compost heap, and you put plenty of cardboard on it to mix and rot with the household vegetable waste, you will encourage woodlice and all sorts of other creepy crawlies. I try and make sure there are lots of old tiles and so on leaning in small stacks against the sides of the compost and elsewhere in the garden.

This provides them with good, safe homes and increases the biodiversity in the area. Plus, you increase the population which you can then harvest in a sustainable fashion for your fish.

Prawns are a great treat, but pull off the ‘heads’ and remove the shells. 3 reasons; the heads have a sharp spike, (the rostrum), they make a mess in the water and the carapaces get spat out and lie on the bottom. Save all this for the recipe. Cut the prawn tails up and feed all year round, especially in the winter AS LONG AS THEY WILL TAKE THEM.

Don’t give them the washed out shell less prawns from the freezer cabinet. They really need prime protein and oil, and shell on prawns provide this. (Note. Do not thaw them aggressively with warm or hot water, as this will drive the oils out of the prawn tissues, which is a waste). Plus, you help to keep the filter fed, so hopefully you won’t have so many problems in the spring. NOTE. If the temperature drops too low, your biofilter may not process ammonia etc so quickly, so monitor water quality very carefully if you feed at low temps, both in autumn and spring. Other primo snacks are mussels, cockles, and any other cooked seafood they enjoy.

The main ingredients here only cost a few pounds a kilo, and the protein content is very high. Prawns at £5 a kilo (less by the box), may seem expensive, but if you work out what you are actually paying per kilo for the small percentage of fish protein and oil in the pelleted food, then by comparison, prawns are pretty cheap. Especially if you eat the tails nd use the shell waste and heads! It should be noted that what is conventionally treated as waste, is actually the most valuable. The heads and shells of prawns, and the guts and internal organs of fish, squid etc are very valuable food sources, and should never be discarded.

To prepare the paste food, always use a reasonably large food processor ( A blender doesn’t really have the required oomph, though having one to hand is useful for some of the later stages.)
I have a square stainless steel pestle and mortar which I smash up the crab legs, waste and shells to splinters. When using crab, or whole mussels, I then put the mush into a blender and then sieve it to remove any larger shell fragments which get another pounding and blending.

This gives you a gritty soup which can be added to the protein paste base.

When you are processing crab shell especially, it can be hard to puree. If necessary add the juice from cooking the squid or fish to help turn it into a smooth paste, as that’s better than adding plain water (Use the minimum amount of water to cook the fish, and never throw the cooking water away, but add it too the mix.) If you are using a whole crab in the recipe, choose a female crab, as they are supposed to have more brown meat, which I feel (no scientific basis here) contains more useful oils, amino acids etc. than does white meat.

Slight update on the food recipe here. One of the things that has been bothering me about the recipe is its lack of quantifiable figures to create a repeatable, reliable result. Also, it’s a nuisance to get the equipment out for a small mix, but get a big mix wrong, and you are stuck with that, or else you have to throw a whole batch away. There is a way round this which also addresses the problem of damage to the oil based vitamins in the cod liver oil during freezing. The advantage is that overall the work is no greater. It takes me about 1 – 2 hours to make up enough base mix for a month to six weeks, and the daily chore of mixing the food for each day takes about ten minutes.
Plus, as mentioned earlier, there is a new ingredient you can add. Bird food dealers also sell dried bugs. In the UK, J E Haithe (01472 357 515) will sell you a kilo of dried “flies” (actually dried water boatmen) for £6, and these represent a useful additive.

Back to the recipe. Instead of mixing everything, you can simply prepare the base mix, and freeze that in usable daily amounts, then on the day, defrost the basic protein paste, add the codliver oil etc, and mix in the seaweed flour. This ensures that the mix is very fresh, the vitamins are as un-degraded as possible, and the texture doesn’t change in the freezer. No need to use the mixer again, as it is easier to stir up the mix for the day in a bowl by hand. It only takes ten minutes, if that.

Eat lots of prawns in the shell, as the heads etc are possibly the best ingredient. For a basic mix, I use 2 kilos of prawn waste, 1 kilo of whole herring and 1 kilo of whole squid. Cook the whole herring and squid thoroughly and allow to cool, keeping all the juices. Put 1/4 the capacity of the mixer each of the herring and squid and puree well to a liquid. Add twice that weight of prawn waste, and puree again, adding juice or water until the puree is smooth enough. Add some of the crab/mussel/lobster shell soup, four rounded spoonfuls of dried bugs and puree again. This will be the basic protein paste. Don’t worry about bits of bone, etc. When you roll balls out between your fingers to feed the fish, you will feel them and they can be removed. The proportions of each ingredient need not be perfectly balanced.

To store the paste, use small pots with lids, like the drinks containers from McDonald’s etc. I use a 1/3 or 1/2 litre container as this is a handy size for me, depending on how much the fish are eating each day. Alternatively, fill it to within half an inch of the top, smooth it to a flat surface, and put it into the freezer. When the top has frozen solid, pour a little water onto the top to cover the paste with 1/4 inch of water or so and leave it to freeze again. This system prevents freezer burn, and keeps it fresh.
The recipe I have been using to make a kilo of paste is as follows

  • 0.5 litre of protein slurry
  • 2 sachets yeast
  • 4g Vitamin C (1 level teapoon)
  • 4 tabs Vitamin B
  • 5g spirulina (1 rounded teaspoon)
  • 75 cc cod liver oil
  • 150g Refresh clay (4 heaped soup spoonfuls)
  • 120 – 150g seaweed flour (6 rounded soup spoonfuls)
  • 25g chitin powder (1 rounded soup spoonful )

To 1/2 litre thawed paste, I add two crushed vit B tablets, a level teaspoonfull of vit C powder, a sachet of dried yeast, a slightly rounded teaspoon of spirulina and some dried silkworm (which I grind down fine in a herb mill – this should only be fed when the water is warm enough). I mix this in before adding the codliver oil, mixing again and then adding two rounded soupspoonfulls of clay, and mix again.

I then add the seaweed flour slowly, mixing all the time until it has a good texture. This is then put in the fridge in a plastic bag.

It is interesting to see how much codliver oil you need. Koi pellets contain about 5% and commercial food fish pellets are alleged to contain more. Cod liver oil is not cheap, but if you buy it from a horse feed store, it is a lot cheaper. Be careful to buy pure oil, as some are mixed with soya oil, which should be avoided. If you add too much oil, you will see an oily scum develop on the water, so cut back on the next day’s mix.. The oil and clay in the mix give a good texture like putty that will hold the paste together well in the water. Thru experimentation, I have found that if the codliver oil is in excess of 7%, it tends to cause a white, opaque, oily scum to form in the skimmer/filter. That is an equivalent amount to 70ccs (7 dessert spoonfulls) per kilo of finished paste mix.

There are a number of additives suggested, eg vitamins, clay, wheatgerm, wheatgerm oil, spirulina, laver (algae again), chitin, propolis,/royal jelly, bee pollen, ground up silkworms and yeast. Any clay used should be good quality bentonite clay suitable for fish.

Yeast is an interesting ingredient. Some pelleted foods use derivatives of yeast which have a good reputation for improving health, and including yeast in the mix could reduce the need to add vitamin B.

Vitamins should be added to the food on the day of feeding. Wheat germ oil is rich in vitamins and fatty acids, just like codliver oil. Chitin is another useful ingredient. The owner of my local Chinese restaurant saves me the shells from the big prawn tails they use. I bake them in the oven on gas mark 2 or 3 until they are pink and bone dry. Then I put them into the food processor until they are small enough for the blender to turn to powder. Be careful handling these. They have sharp spikes that will cause a nasty, infected wound, but once turned into a dry, fine powder, they are safe to handle.

The seaweed is rich in all the minerals, metals and trace elements you might expect to find in any natural salt water product. Some people do suggest that a small amount of manganese sulphate, about a tenth to half a gram in a kilo of paste is a useful addition to promote growth. I have tried this for the last season, and I haven’t killed anything yet. I have noticed good growth, it has to be said, but whether it was down to this, I couldn’t say. You add it, like anything else at your own risk. Please note that more is not better. Ram this down the throats of your fish by the pound, and your roses will do well, not the koi.

If you wish, you can buy herring roes by the kilo to add to the mix. Always use the widest variety of seafood to mimic the diet of a wild carp, which includes annelids, molluscs, fish and arthropods and everything else that moves. Crabs, prawns and anything else with legs and a hard outer covering will do as arthropods, shellfish and squid are molluscs, and the annelids (worms) you can dig up in the garden and feed to the fish direct. Some people are concerned that feeding worms can add undesirable bacteria to the pond, so bear that in mind. If you buy shellfish in the shell, (eg mussels) there is no reason why the shells should not be crushed up very fine and added to the mix. Squid is an excellent addition, and I would use a decent amount in the recipe.

Oily fish are a valuable source of protein and oil. Remember that fish oils are the single best source of energy for your fish.

Thickening the mix. Conventionally, wheat, corn and/or soy flour is used to thicken and bind foods, both paste and pellet. One of the aims of this recipe is to remove all wheat, corn and soy carbo from the diet, and boost the algal content. It has been found that seaweed, ground to a fine flour is an excellent substitute for wheat flour. You can buy seaweed from animal feed stores, it’s used as a supplement to horse feed, and I feel that this in addition is a useful source of trace elements. There is another reason for being generous with algae. A fish protein only diet can be deficient in certain amino acids, especially methionine and cytosine. When this is so, a large percentage of the protein fed is unusable, which means the waste amino acids are burned for energy, and higher levels of ammonia are excreted into the pond. A generous proportion of algae in the diet means the fish will use more of the food, get better growth and produce less waste.

The seaweed does need to be as fine as flour. Too coarse, and the food will be friable, and break up in the water, which is both messy and wasteful. Really fine seaweed flour gives the paste an excellent texture, rather like plasticine/playdough/putty. It’s easy to shape into balls for feeding, and holds together well in the water.

Having said all this, I do feed some pellets. I was advised that with the best will in the world, the paste food may lack some vital ingredient. Since pellets are sold as a complete food (to whit, containing ALL the minerals, vitamins, trace elements etc that koi need), feeding some pellets should mean that this problem is properly addressed. However, over the last year or two, the amount of pellets I feed has more than halved, while the weight of fish has increased.

Do bear in mind that this paste is a rich food. If your koi are couch potatoes in a shallow pond, and you shovel this down their throats, you may end up with fat fish. If you can return the water to the pond to give them a good current to swim against, the exercise will help to keep them in good shape, as will a good depth of water. Ensure that the food is balanced, and feed to a sensible level. 2% of their body weight is sometimes quoted as the ideal amount to feed per day.
Bon appetit, bil.

Any suggestions, comments, corrections or additional information would be appreciated.
Mail me at


Levamisole for Camallanus Intestinal Worms in Koi and Fish

Levamisole can be added to the diet at 0.1% of the amount and fed for 7 days for removal of nematodes.

Tramisol Levamisol for Worms in Koi
Levamisole (Tramisol) – by Doc Johnson

Levamisole for Camallanus Intestinal Worms in Koi and Fish
Levamisole for Camallanus Intestinal Worms in Koi and Fish

As a water additive, Levamisole Phosphate can be used effectively as a dewormer for Goldfish and Koi, among other species, as an indefinite and safe treatment. The dosage is 0.5 ppm (zero- point-five PPM) added directly to the system without impediment to the filter or fish.

Levamisole / Tramisol will NOT KILL FLUKES

“Almost any veterinarian can and will get Tramisol if you ask nicely.” ~ Doc Johnson

Goldfish and Aquarium Fish. Free PDF

Dosing Levamisole for Camallanus and other Intestinal Worms in KoiGoldfish and Aquarium Fish. Free PDFDosing Levamisole for Camallanus and other Intestinal Worms in Koi



Waterchanges in Koi ponds, changing water in watergardens

Abstract: Changing water all the time, continuously, is easier than dump type water changes. It’s better for the fish because the water quality remains constant. Constantly good. Chlorine and Chloramine are not a problem because in any given hour, about 0.5% of the water will be “new”. Read on….

Water changes can be a total pain. They’re also a little stressful to the fish if they cause any sort of 30% magnitude fluctiations in temperature (~20 degrees) and pH (~two points). You also deplete some of the water’s mysterious organic “mojo” with major water changes, and this upsets the ‘feel’ of the water to the fish. HOWEVER – replacing water in the pond IS ESSENTIAL overall, because of some simple facts….

When solids are trapped in the gravel (ewww?) (not really) there are organisms in the gravel called: nematodes, rotifers, mollusks, worms, crustaceans, and even Koi who keep the mulm layer broken up and breaking down. There are also (important) beneficial bacteria which break down the chemical and solid wastes there. So, the stuff isn’t just laying there, “decaying”…..It’s in a dynamic state of breakdown just like in natural soil outside your window, a healthy natural process.

Uhhhh, as long as the byproducts are removed naturally, or by YOU!

Well-l-l-llll the ponds’ gunky stuff gets broken down into:
1. carbon dioxide
2. nitrate
3. phosphate
4. dissolved organic compounds. (DOC)

Dissolved Organic Compounds. (DOC)

Plants and algae [if present] will use A LOT of this stuff, but plants and algae themselves produce carbon dioxide (at night) and a variety of things which also contribute to a climbing DOC level.

Eventually, let’s face it, DOC and phosphates, and nitrates, can get built up to a level that impacts fish health. Trace minerals of import to fish and plants can eventually be depleted.

Therefore: Water replacement becomes important.

What if there was a way to make it so the waterchange happened SAFELY, and CONSTANTLY, and EFFORTLESSLY and AFFORDABLY……

What if you eliminated the need to buy dechlorinator????

You can relieve the owner of the need for dechlor except in emergencies, otherwise, for “the new way to do” water changes, it’s not needed *IF YOU DO IT VIA CONSTANT-INFLOW-WATER-REPLACEMENT*

Read on….

When was the last waterchange? You should be replacing ALL the water in the pond over time, at a rate of about 10% per week, whether you do that all at once, ten per cent per week, or replace thirty percent every three weeks. The larger the “all at once” water change, the worse it is on the fish as far as temperature and other “water mojo” characteristic changes….This is a stressor. Constantly-over-time inflow replacement of water is better by far.

If you use CONSTANT FLOW feedline technology to replace up to 25% of your water per week, you do NOT need dechlor. When you replace 25% “all at once” you DO need dechlor, unless you’re on a well or have a “whole house” water treatment system.

I prefer to run (ceiling-thread, or bury) a black or clear, 1/4 inch irrigation line off a hose bib splitter, with brass adjustable valve at the end, out to the pond to run CONTINUOUSLY.

Items needed:

Typical drip irrigation kit is just missing the pressure regulator
Typical drip irrigation kit is just missing the pressure regulator

All items are available at most large hardware stores. Home Depot sells a roll of 100 foot of 1/4″ irrigation line and all the appropriate unions, fittings and valves, the total cost to do a whole fish room is about $100. For the normal pond, probably closer to $50. To make measurements simple, try and have ONE feedline and terminating feedline-valve to adjust, instead of several.

Basically you go into Home Depot and say “Where is your ‘drip irrigation’ supplies area? And they will indicate almost a whole aisle dedicated to this. It’s so easy to install….Or Amazon has the kit at left.

Spool of “X” number of feet of 1/4 inch icemaker / irrigation line. Black or clear. I like black because it inhibits algae growth inside.
Brass 1/4 inch hose-to-line adapter.
1/4 inch adjustable-valve (the cool thing about using 1/4 inch line and valves is that even “wide open” you probably cannot open it enough to cause chlorine damage or overflow damage to the fish or pond…
1/4 union or coupler (to cut out leaks if they occur.)
5 gallon bucket (optional)
Glass or plastic graduated 1+ liter container to measure water flow. (Necessary)

Apply the hosebib splitter to the hosebib nearest the pond. This leaves one hosebib for your wife to garden with. Close hers unless she’s using it. Attach your ‘hosebib-to-1/4-inch-line-adapter’, this adapter you just attached is for your fill line and should be left wide open. Put a small sign on the hosebib that the main hosebib *and* your irrigation line “half” of the hosebib splitter should be left open….run 1/4 inch line to the pond. Attach the 1/4 inch valve. Affix that valve to the waterline somehow so it doesn’t plop out and irrigate the floor or lawn. Bury your line if possible. If you knick or pop the line you can cut out the leaking-piece and splice in a new piece with the brass unions which are simple.

Do NOT run constant hosebib pressure on the 1/4 irrigation line with the irrigation line valve CLOSED …or the line MAY eventually expand and burst. I’ve never seen this, but it happened ONE TIME at Pike’s Nursery where we’ve been using this technology on their fish for sale.

To calculate the maximum hose volume. (Optional)
Run the hose “wide open” and fill a five gallon bucket. Time the process to the second.
If the bucket fills in 45 seconds.
That’s 5 gallons in 45 seconds, which calculates out to one gallon in nine seconds.
That means, wide open, your hose system can generate 400 gallons per hour, since there are 3,600 seconds in an hour.

To adjust or control the flow, these barbed cutoffs work. Otherwise use an emitter.
To adjust or control the flow, these barbed cutoffs work. Otherwise use an emitter.

To calculate the irrigation system flow volume:
Run the irrigation line into your graduated container and adjust the brass valve down until the flow is appropriate for the chart below.

Make a simple conversion, and run thusly:
Look how simple these calculations are:

If the pond is 3500 gallons = Drop the decimal point back a tenth, to convert to a “maximum non-dechlorinated flow rate” of 350 milliliters per minute and use the following chart:

[Remember there are 10,080 minutes per week.]

For 3,500 Gallons:

Flow 350 ml-per-minute constantly during DISEASE or medication application = 25% per week.

Flow 175 ml-per-minute during the heat of summer and HEAVY feeding or stocking = 12.5% per week replacement.

Flow 90 ml-per-minute for MODERATE loading and feeding and during fish health. = 6.5% per week.

Flow 45 ml-per-minute for WINTER. = 3% per week.

Let’s do a smaller example:

The pond is 1600 gallons.
160 milliters per minute is 25% per week replacement – good for disease times.
80 ml per minute is 12.5% per week replacement. – good for peak summer loading
40 ml per minute is 6.25% per week replacement. – good for moderate summer loading
20 ml per minute is a measly 3% per week replacement. – good replacement for wintertime.

If plumbing in the house and not a hose bib, use a saddle tap on a copper line.
If plumbing in the house and not a hose bib, use a saddle tap on a copper line.

It pays to use a couple rubberbands to hold the terminating 1/4 inch valve on its setting, lest it open or close more. Also, with a brass fitting immersed in the water, these fittings turn brown, which is okay, chemically and for the fish. If you use a small wrench and tighten the lock nut on the valve, the nut under the adjustment stem, you can stiffen it up, but this also happens over time as the valve ages. As it stiffens, it’s harder to adjust up or down, which is a Good Thing from the standpoint of “accidental adjustments” on smaller systems. If you use an emitter – you have to figure out what to do with 12 gallons of water a day. Which might be just perfect.

Never eyeball the adjustment of the valve on a small system.
For example, on a 160 gallon tank, you can do 16 milliliters per minute and that replaces 25% per week with no dechlor needed. Buu-u-u-ut you can see that if the valve gets knocked open a little, you might change MUCH more water too quickly and then get into chlorine issues…..The consolation is that through a 1/4 inch line, even knocked wide open – MASSIVE water flow just isn’t really feasible. But in a half whiskey barrel facility, such an accident with chlorinated water would be enough to do some damage.

By running “new” water to the system all the time, you not only replace evaporative losses but you add new buffers, and replace accumulating DOC with healthy fresh water. You eliminate the need for dechlorinator except when you are forced by rare emergency to change a LOT of water at once. And you give the home owner a chance to relax and never drag around a drain pump, and have to stand by while refilling the pond.

This is an "emitter" which allows 1/2 a gallon per hour. 12 gallons a day.
This is an “emitter” which allows 1/2 a gallon per hour. 12 gallons a day.

No matter where the owner is, or what they’re doing, they have the satisfaction of know that at the house, they’re always doing a water change and it’s painless.