Category Archives: Water Quality

Water quality is the underpinning of fish health. Take care of the water, the fish take care of themselves.

PhPill

PH Pills – Making them for support of PH – The pH Pill

VIDEO VERSION PART I

VIDEO VERSION PART II

“pH Pills” Made with safe Plaster of Paris, (details provided) Support pH and Carbonate Alkalinity Against Crash – by supporting carbonates.  Well, it’s been interesting preparing the report on the “pH pill”. Some of the initial (and follow-up) research has yielded some interesting data. I will go through it all for you, from basics to “brass tacks”

NOTE: You could KILL your fish if you add Plaster of Paris to the water as a powder. I have no idea why Plaster of Paris has to be cured to chalky before it’s truly ‘safe’ for fishtanks and ponds.

The “pH pill” is a home-made pill, puck, or chunk, of white chalky material you can toss into the pond or aquarium, and it will slowly dissolve, liberating carbonates, Calcium, Magnesium and gypsum. The dissolution of the “pH pill” increases hardness, alkalinity and more in the water being treated.

It remains to be seen, but some enterprising individuals plan to borrow this technology and incorporate some medications into it for slow infusion into a system. For example, Dimilin (Diflubenzuron) would be ideally suited to this form of dosing.

TRADE SECRET: The “pH pill” is composed of nothing more than pure Plaster of Paris. For the research we did, we used high grade Plaster of Paris purchased at Home Depot. The ingredients are:

C.A.S. Limestone 50%
C.A.S. Gypsum 50%
…with no hardeners or setting agents added. You should be cautious to read the contents label, because some of the plasters-of-paris I saw at hobby shops had stabilizers, binders and hardeners to hasten the set up of the plaster.

Wanna hear something unbelievably stupid? The pundits (who didn’t have ANY idea what CAS stood for) decried this information, saying you don’t want to put Calcium Sulfate in your pond!!!! Remember these are the ‘know-it-all’ ass hats that are saying this. CAS stands for Chemical Abstracts Service. Not calcium sulfate.

There are precautionary statements on the bag, which suggest the dust from this compound can be eye irritant and should not be breathed. The bag weighs twenty five pounds and cost under nine dollars.

We mixed up the Plaster of Paris using regular tap water. Before it had a chance to set, we poured it into cupcake tins, making our initial batch of test-pills the size of small hockey pucks. [Two-and-a-half inches in diameter and one inch thick). It was very difficult to get them out of the pans, so we tried plastic containers the next time and had much better results.
From a friend/hobbyist: 12/19/98 (Yeah old)
“I’m using the pH Pill in my 500 gal. hospital tank (in which I always have trouble keeping the total alkalinity up) and it seems to be working just fine. BTW, a styrofoam egg carton works well to cast the Plaster of Paris into. The resulting puck has good surface area and can be easily broken into various sizes (now have 13 lumps in the tank – seems stable). I will try a little Pam spray as a release agent in my next casting (I’m using an 18 egg carton and Home Depot PP – works well.)” ~SC
Plaster of Paris sets up in less than ten minutes, so if you’re not pouring pretty expediently, you’ll have a chalky, lumpy mess, which will not pour. We found we could make it as thin as we wanted and it would still set up and harden. The more water in your mix, the more shrinkage will occur as it sets up. The quality and performance of the final product is unaffected.
In total; four ponds, and twenty-one aquaria were treated with varying numbers of these “pH pills” and the results have been very good. No toxicity or ill effect was noted in any dosing regimen.
We put whole-pucks into thirty-gallon aquaria, with tropical and coldwater fish, and they worked fabulously, lasting up to seventeen days. The PH of tested systems was always near neutral and best of all, water clarity was enhanced. More on this later.
We put whole pucks into thousand-gallon-ponds and found they dissolved fairly rapidly, but were not adequate to support the pH under heavy loading. In one pond, of twenty two hundred gallons, it took six or eight “pH pills” to support the pH and the pucks lasted nine days. It is now our recommendation that for large ponds, you can mix up a shallow plastic pan full of the Plaster of Paris, then liberate the entire slab from the pan when it is completely dry. The slab is struck in the center (or can be scored for neat breaks) and larger pieces should be used in larger ponds.
My own pond is now being supported by two pieces which are one-and-a-half inch thick and measure six-by-nine inches across the face.
We did notice that the dissolution of the “pH pill” can be slowed by the
addition of other carbonates to the system. When water is pre-treated with Baking Soda or Neutral Regulator, the “pH pills” lifespan is increased.
Placement of the “pH pills” is paramount. They MUST Be employed in the main water flow of the system. This can be either the pulling or pushing segments of the plumbing. For example; in my main system, the chips are used in the skimmer and a slow draw of water ensures their eventual dissolution. In aquariums, if you’re using undergravel filtration, best results are had when you lay the pill on the gravel near the “stacks”. You can even put the “pH pill” in the filter box hanging on the back if you use that type of filter.
There are some precautions concerning the use of “pH pills”.
First, to get good results, you must place the “pH pill” in the main pull or push of the water way as we have already mentioned..

 

 

Second, do not breathe the powder, or allow the dust in your eyes.
Finally, do NOT use the “pH pill” until it is chalky, and bone dry. If it still feels slick or cool to the touch, it may not be “cured” and it MAY comprise a liability to the fish in that condition –  at the very least causing clouding instead of clarifying it. Funny how an extra day of curing works.

When completely dry, the “pH pill” weighs relatively little, and is chalky and dry. When placed in the water, thousands of tiny bubbles will escape it’s surface. This is perfectly normal and will subside once it’s let off its trapped air.
One interesting note on the “pH pill” concerns its composition. The “pH pill” is made of pure limestone (75%) and Gypsum (25%). Dr. Claude Boyd discusses the use of Gypsum to clarify pond water in his book, released through Auburn University entitled “Water Quality in Ponds for Aquaculture“. The book is superb and it’s availability from Auburn is discussed in the resources pages of my textbook, Koi Health and Disease.

In Dr. Boyd’s work, he found that Gypsum was a very effective water clarifier, and we have found this to be true in our own testing of these home made “pH pills”. Dr. Boyd’s book mentions and compares the clearance of certain turbidities with Gypsum so the benefit is not universal, and depends upon the cause of the particular turbidity. The turbidities I have found it to clear most propitiously are suspensions of the pond’s organics and “fines”. I doubt Gypsum’s ability to clear a bacterial haze.

Limestone is nothing more than pure Calcium and Magnesium carbonate. The limestone used in our Home Depot Plaster of Paris is extremely clean-dissolving, unlike agricultural or dolomitic Limestone. The dissolution of the “pH pill” liberates Calcium and Magnesium, which increase water hardness and is beneficial to juvenile fish that can use aqueous Calcium for bone building. The pill also liberates pure
carbonates, which stabilize and actually increase pH. I could not raise the pH of any system tested above 8.3 regardless of how much “pH pill” I used.
To test the higher end safety margins of the home made “pH pill”, I simply put three pucks in a ten gallon facility and had no mortalities among the following species: Goldfish, Koi, Tetras, White’s Tree Frogs, Alligator Snapping Turtles, and Plecostomi.

To close this discussion, I would mention that graphics (pictures) in support of this technology are available at phpill. I encourage you to click over there soon and see the actual plaster used, the pucks we made and the systems tested.
I do not recommend that this technology is a replacement for pH monitoring. It could [unfortunately] evolve that folks are using the “pH pill” and not checking their alkalinity or pH. The assumption would be made that in the presence of a “pH pill” there can be no pH crash and that the pH is optimal. Indeed, depending upon the start-condition of your water, the “pH pill” may be entirely unnecessary or even harmful. [For example, hard water areas].

But in this technology, we do have a back-up means of maintaining a suitable pH for Koi and Goldfish with the simplicity of manufacture, and an element of affordability which make it a treasure. I hasten to assure you that I still check pH, I still use neutral regulators, but I no longer worry that I am going to miss a day of testing and suffer a pH crash. The use of sufficient “pH pill” material, whether used as pucks or slabs, obviates this possibility.

——————————————————————————–
“It turns out that if your system is grossly overloaded, or if you’re retail, the pH Pill may not dissolve fast enough to support the PH against high CO2 – carbonic acid loading. You may either need to use more pieces than the average hobbyist or more work might need to be done to find a carbonate that dissolves more responsively.” ~ Doc Johnson
===DR. ERIK L. JOHNSON ===
“Using plaster of paris other than the one clearly denoted at right is a fool’s way to kill fish. Don’t do it!” ~ Doc Johnson

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.

Stable pH Is Easy

Stable pH Is Easy These Days

The most common cause of fish illness in the “established” aquarium is a sagging, or even “crashed” pH.

This is because literally EVERY biological process in the tank is bringing the pH down.

  • Fish breathe carbon dioxide –> carbonic acid.
  • Plants respire at night –> carbonic acid
  • Decay of fish wastes and bacterial processes –> carbon dioxide –> carbonic acid.

With all that going on, the pH would fall overnight EXCEPT there’s “carbonates” in the water that buffer that. Until the carbonates are “exhausted” then the pH *does* crash overnight.

pH crash
Dead fish. pH was not buffered, and the gravel offered no carbonates, either. Crashed pH.

So what you have to do is supply “carbonates” to the system. And you can do that with several things. I’ll tell you what’s wrong with all of them.

Compounds Which Stabilize pH

Oyster shell – (click) Dissolves too slowly to “fix” anything but really “keeps it there.”

Crushed coral – (click) Dissolves too slowly to “fix” anything but really “keeps it there.”

Neutral Regulator – Works great and “fixes” a crash in time to save fish lives. Contains phosphates which MAY contribute to algae growth in high lighting situations. Limit photoperiod to 8-10 hours a day and you’re golden. (Click to find it)

avoiding a low ph

Baking Soda – Works great and “fixes” a crash in time to save fish lives BUT doesn’t last long at all. No phosphates.

PH Pills – Made of Plaster of Paris. They work great, and last a long time. You can “SEE” whether they’re still there, so you know they’re working. Cheap. (PH PILLS)

Testing pH is simply a measurement of the free hydrogen ions(H+) in a system. pH is measured on a scale of 1-14, anything below 7 being acidic, and anything above 7 being basic. But the pH required for aquatic life ranges between 5.5-8.0. Koi and goldfish can, and do, tolerate a very high pH measurement.

People spend a lot of time and money trying to bring down the pH, but this is unnecessary unless there is also an ammonia accumulation in the system. The toxicity of ammonia is influenced by pH. At higher pH values, ammonia is more toxic. Below a pH of 7.2, most ammonia is ionized to “ammonium” and is far less toxic. This has relevance if you are considering raising the pH in a system with accumulating ammonia.

The toxicity of ammonia is influenced by pH. At higher pH values, ammonia is more toxic.

The pH level impacts fish in several ways. First, if it is too low, a condition inside the fish called “acidosis” results. Symptoms are a loss of appetite and then production of excess slime, as well as isolation, resting on the bottom of the pond, or piping at the surface. This is followed by a streaking of the fins; then death will occur. If the pH is too high – say, over 10.0-11.0, the fish will produce excess slime and gasp at the surface. Losses can be major. This condition, called alkalosis is hard to rapidly reverse once it occurs. pH is prone to decline in systems which do not contain sufficient pH buffers or carbonates, and pH can also decrease quickly due to oxygen consumption, accumulation of carbon dioxide, decay of fish and other wastes, and the normal activity of nitrifying bacteria that reduce ammonia to nitrite.

Crashes from a midrange pH all the way down to 5.0 can occur overnight. The pH doesn’t drop below 5.0 because at 5.5, the beneficial bacteria that may have contributed to the crash will cease to function and shut down, preventing the crash from dropping any further. In systems where pH has been chemically stabilized by the addition of carbonates such as baking soda, oyster shell, or any of the commercial buffers, the pH crash phenomena is not commonly seen. pH is supported by alkalinity, or carbonates. Without carbonates, the pH of the system will undoubtedly crash.

It is also worthwhile to note that in ponds built with natural rock aggregates, these construction stones and gravels, depending upon their type, can contribute a great deal of carbonate activity to the water, thereby reducing the need for concern regarding the pH. In other words: a pond made with Tennessee field stone is relatively safe from pH crash due to its possession of carbonate-donating rocks. Regular testing of pH will tell you if you have carbonate donating aggregates in use or not.

Stable pH Is Easy These Days

Stable pH Is Easy These Days

The most common cause of fish illness in the “established” aquarium is a sagging, or even “crashed” pH.

This is because literally EVERY biological process in the tank is bringing the pH down.

  • Fish breathe carbon dioxide –> carbonic acid.
  • Plants respire at night –> carbonic acid
  • Decay of fish wastes and bacterial processes –> carbon dioxide –> carbonic acid.

With all that going on, the pH would fall overnight EXCEPT there’s “carbonates” in the water that buffer that. Until the carbonates are “exhausted” then the pH *does* crash overnight.

pH crash
Dead fish. pH was not buffered, and the gravel offered no carbonates, either. Crashed pH.

So what you have to do is supply “carbonates” to the system. And you can do that with several things. I’ll tell you what’s wrong with all of them.

Compounds Which Stabilize pH

Oyster shell – (click) Dissolves too slowly to “fix” anything but really “keeps it there.”

Crushed coral – (click) Dissolves too slowly to “fix” anything but really “keeps it there.”

Neutral Regulator – Works great and “fixes” a crash in time to save fish lives. Contains phosphates which MAY contribute to algae growth in high lighting situations. Limit photoperiod to 8-10 hours a day and you’re golden. (Click to find it)

avoiding a low ph

Baking Soda – Works great and “fixes” a crash in time to save fish lives BUT doesn’t last long at all. No phosphates.

PH Pills – Made of Plaster of Paris. They work great, and last a long time. You can “SEE” whether they’re still there, so you know they’re working. Cheap. (PH PILLS)

Testing pH is simply a measurement of the free hydrogen ions(H+) in a system. pH is measured on a scale of 1-14, anything below 7 being acidic, and anything above 7 being basic. But the pH required for aquatic life ranges between 5.5-8.0. Koi and goldfish can, and do, tolerate a very high pH measurement.

People spend a lot of time and money trying to bring down the pH, but this is unnecessary unless there is also an ammonia accumulation in the system. The toxicity of ammonia is influenced by pH. At higher pH values, ammonia is more toxic. Below a pH of 7.2, most ammonia is ionized to “ammonium” and is far less toxic. This has relevance if you are considering raising the pH in a system with accumulating ammonia.

The toxicity of ammonia is influenced by pH. At higher pH values, ammonia is more toxic.

The pH level impacts fish in several ways. First, if it is too low, a condition inside the fish called “acidosis” results. Symptoms are a loss of appetite and then production of excess slime, as well as isolation, resting on the bottom of the pond, or piping at the surface. This is followed by a streaking of the fins; then death will occur. If the pH is too high – say, over 10.0-11.0, the fish will produce excess slime and gasp at the surface. Losses can be major. This condition, called alkalosis is hard to rapidly reverse once it occurs. pH is prone to decline in systems which do not contain sufficient pH buffers or carbonates, and pH can also decrease quickly due to oxygen consumption, accumulation of carbon dioxide, decay of fish and other wastes, and the normal activity of nitrifying bacteria that reduce ammonia to nitrite.

Crashes from a midrange pH all the way down to 5.0 can occur overnight. The pH doesn’t drop below 5.0 because at 5.5, the beneficial bacteria that may have contributed to the crash will cease to function and shut down, preventing the crash from dropping any further. In systems where pH has been chemically stabilized by the addition of carbonates such as baking soda, oyster shell, or any of the commercial buffers, the pH crash phenomena is not commonly seen. pH is supported by alkalinity, or carbonates. Without carbonates, the pH of the system will undoubtedly crash.

It is also worthwhile to note that in ponds built with natural rock aggregates, these construction stones and gravels, depending upon their type, can contribute a great deal of carbonate activity to the water, thereby reducing the need for concern regarding the pH. In other words: a pond made with Tennessee field stone is relatively safe from pH crash due to its possession of carbonate-donating rocks. Regular testing of pH will tell you if you have carbonate donating aggregates in use or not.

The Best Aquarium Filters, EVER

Sponge Filters are the BEST

There are two reasons for this article.

First, I use sponge filters in all my tanks and I’m not ashamed. They’re soft on fish bodies, easy to clean, effective, and they won’t even suck up fish babies, water clarity is GREAT and they Bioseed overnight (If you have a donor system). No moving parts. Every once in a while you have to take them out and clean the sponge, and replace the air stone, if you use an airstone in them, at all.

Sponge filters in my 180
TBH I don’t even hide them.

The second reason for this article is that at the time of it’s publication, I found these monstrous 8x8x8″ 250-gallon size sponge filters at TEN BUCKS on Amazon, while literally EVERYONE else sells them for $23 to $25 each. I bought a dozen when I saw this. I don’t know if, by the time you read this, whether they’ll still be $10.

Click here to see if they’re still $10

Coarse pore weighted sponge filters
The 8 x 8 x 8 inch weighted aquatop sponge filter CAF-250 can handle up to 250 gallons.

The Best Aquarium Filters, EVER

Click for Amazon Offering 

It’s also possible to MAKE sponge filters. Which before the price drop on the above, I did for my fish room.

Getting Ponds and Koi Ready for Wintertime

Getting Ponds and Koi Ready for Wintertime

By Bonnie Hale Guest Author

Koi

MOVING KOI INSIDE FOR THE WINTER
If you must move fish inside for the winter, do this gradually. Move a few Koi inside to an aquarium or stock tank that has been set up in advance using pond water. Make sure that their winter home is large enough to accommodate them without over crowding them. Figure 1″ of fish length for every square foot of water surface. If you have a lot of extra filtration or lots of surface coverage with plants, you can bump that to 2 or 3 ” of fish for each square foot of water surface. Bring in as many plants as practical so that you have good water surface coverage. A tank, pond or aquarium that has a nice amount on surface plants will make for happier Koi. Rarely, if ever does a fish “jump” if you have good plant coverage. When they get scared they will hide under the plants. If there are no plants and the fish gets scared, he will jump out. I have never had a fish “jump out” in ponds or tanks that have good water surface coverage of plants!! But over the years I have lost my share of jumpers to tanks that do not have plants. I now keep netting over my non-plant tanks. Place lights above tank to support plants. Use a timer on the lights so that they have 10-12 hours of light a day.
If practical, move your pump and filter too so that Koi will be in almost identical situation as they were in outside. Do not move all fish inside in a new tank all at one time or they may all die. Plan to do this task early enough in the fall so that you can add a few fish every week. Monitor ammonia, pH, nitrite, and nitrate very carefully and take corrective measures if these measurements go out of balance. Feed very sparingly daily so that you do not get an ammonia spike. After a few weeks, increase feedings. My one stock tank where my favorite Koi spend the winter, get fed 3 or 4 times a day and they grow like weeds all winter long in 70 degree water.
IF YOU LEAVE FISH OUTSIDE FOR THE WINTER:
COLD ZONES
In order for the fish to remain outside for the winter, your pond has to be a minimum of 18″ deep. If less than that, see article above about moving Koi inside.
Leave the pump run all winter or use a de-icer. Move the pump close to the surface of the water by placing it on cinder blocks or upside down clay pots. You want to have the water just bubbling just under the surface of the water. This will keep an open spot so threw which gases can escape. Once the weather gets real cold, disconnect the filter, clean it and store it. Give your filter and pump a thorough cleaning before the frosty weather hits. Store your pump in a bucket of water somewhere where it will not freeze during the winter. This will protect your seals in the pump from drying out during winter storage.
Remove frogs and tadpoles and snails. Snails and tadpoles have a hard time in the winter. Bring snails and tadpoles inside for the winter. Release the frogs (they WILL find your pond in the spring) Check ponds frequently throughout the fall and early winter for frogs and remove them. They will probably not survive in your pond for the winter because they need to burrow into the dirt for the winter. Any experienced pond person will tell you that if you leave frogs in small ponds, you will be scooping their bodies out of your pond next spring. The decay from these dead creatures will wreck havoc with your Koi. Let alone the smell!
WARMER ZONES
If you live in a zone that gets cold but little or no ice during the winter, leave your filter run all winter long. It will be easier to get started in the spring. Clean it thoroughly before it gets too cold. Bacteria will not die if chilled. They will remain dormant and ready to start growing again in the spring when temperatures begin to warm up the pond.

Getting Ponds and Koi Ready for Wintertime
Getting Ponds and Koi Ready for Wintertime

REMOVE LEAVES
Cover pond with netting or skim pond with skimmer net daily. We now have a skimmer that can be “teed” off of your pond pump. It makes removing leaves a breeze. You simply remove the leaf bag and empty out the leaves! Decaying leaves produce poisonous gases. Leaves are double trouble-solid pollution and chemical pollution. Leaves are much easier to remove in fall as they are dropping then from the bottom of the pond next spring.
Water quality at this time of the year is usually very good. The water should be crystal clear. If it is not, do small water changes every couple of days, so that it is crystal clear. Do not raise or lower the temperature more than 2 degrees at a time, as this will stress the Koi. Add water slowly and watch your thermometer. Once algae has died off the water is usually crystal clear. It is very important to keep it that way by keeping leaves; frost damaged foliage from the plants, and any other debris out of the pond. You want the bottom of the pond as clean as possible. A lot of harmful bacteria live in the fouled water. These specific pathogens are Pseudomonas and Aeromonas. They depend on foul water to attack Koi. They will not be a problem in the winter, but come spring, you had better watch out. Entire populations of fish have been wiped out in March, April & May from Aeromonas and Pseudomonas.
Because cold water holds a lot more oxygen than warm water, this is a very satisfactory time of the year for your fish because of their lower metabolism rate.
USE A DE-ICER
Some folks prefer to use a de-icer in their pond rather than leave their pump run all winter. The ones I sell are very energy efficient. The thermostat clicks on when the water temperature reaches 32 degrees and clicks off when it reaches 38 degrees. The deicer will keep an open spot in the ice to allow toxic gases to escape and oxygen to enter. If the pond should completely ice over do not try to open a hole by force. Use a hot tea kettle and place directly on the ice to melt a hole in the ice. My pond froze completely for 2 weeks and the Koi were just fine. Short exposures to total ice coverage did not hurt the fish at all!
IF YOU REMOVE YOUR PLANTS
Add 0.3% salt to your pond. Figure the total amount of salt that you need for your pond and add 1/3 of the TOTAL amount over a 3-day period. This equates to 3 lbs. per hundred gallons of water. Salt kills 7 of the 10 parasites that attack fish. Yes, the parasites can live in cold water! They will begin attacking the Koi in the spring as the pond starts to thaw and warm up. We had great success curing chilodenella (a parasite) a year ago in early spring using 0.3% salt. It also works great on ICH. The salt will be removed in the spring by water changes when the temperature warms up and you are ready to start adding plants.
Fortunately, bringing the Koi through the winter is fairly easy. I have had a lot of customers tell me that their fish survived the winter with flying colors then died in the spring. One word: BACTERIAL INFECTION. The salt will help tremendously. Salt will help build up extra layers of slime coat to protect the fish and it will kill parasites as previously mention.
The salt to use – Water softener salt. This is what we used. Good old Morton in the yellow bag! And it is cheap. You can use any kind of salt as long as it does not contain iodine or YPS (an
Anti caking agent) Non iodized table salt will work but it is more expensive. Don’t waste your money on expensive sea salt or aquarium salt. I give you my word that what we used is Morton water softener salt and it worked well.

*2019 Note on Salt: Iodine in salt doesn’t hurt the fish. Someone (Doc Johnson) just had to do some calculations on the actual ppb of iodine in the water versus toxicity to biological processes and organisms, prove there’s no iodophore reaction and then test it. Which I did and nothing happens.

STOP FEEDING
Koi do not have stomachs. Secretions in the intestine digest food. Their ability to digest is directly related to water temperature. Mix equal amount of wheat germ with regular food in September. Gradually switch over to fish food containing wheat germ. It is more digestible.
The Koi do not eat when the water drops below 46 degrees. If you continue to feed it will just sink to the bottom where it will decay and pollute the water. Essentially your fish will go to sleep at 46 degrees. Their heart and breathing will slow down to where there is little or no physical movement. You must treat them accordingly.
When we get into the “spring-like” days of January and February it may be tempting to feed your Koi especially if you see them gathering on the surface of the water. Avoid this urge. Use your thermometer and check the temperature. Feed strictly by the thermometer and not the calendar and you will not have any problems. The temperature has to be above 46 degrees. If you load up their bellies with food and we get a fatal cold snap, it could wipe out all of your Koi. They cannot digest food in cold water.
Use a reliable water thermometer
Feed as follows by water temperature

 61 degrees+ Twice daily or more : Mix wheat germ fish food with your regular food
 56 – 60 degrees Once a day discontinue regular food and use just wheat germ food.
 51-56 degrees Two to 3 times a week
Switch to medicated food. Store in the freezer as you will use it again in the spring when pond water temperatures start to go up again The antibiotic will have no effect on your biological filter. Starting and ending the season with medicated food ensures that your fish sleep or wake up without any bacterial infections.
 46-50 degrees Once a week | With medicated food Do not feed again until spring when water temperature reaches 46 degrees…
 < 46 degrees  Do not feed


Watch water temperature in the spring. Reverse above temperature chart and start feeding fish food with medicated food when water temperature hits approximately 46 to 48 degrees. Followed by wheat germ, then wheat germ mixed with regular food.

Monitor ammonia, nitrite, nitrate and pH levels if you turned your pump and filter off for the winter. Be prepared to do water changes if ammonia is present in even the slightest amount.

KEEP YOUR PUMP AND FILTER RUNNING EVERY DAY OF THE YEAR!!

  • WINTER ITEMS YOU WILL NEED
  • POWER LEAF SKIMMER OR LEAF NET
  • REGULAR FISH FOOD (preferably Optimun/Impact)
  • DE-ICER
  • NETTING FOR FALLING LEAVES OR ELECTRIC POND SKIMMER
  • MEDICATED FISH FOOD
  • POND WATER THERMOMETER
  • HOLE-LESS POTS OR CONTAINER FOR WATER PLANTS
    PLANTS
  • REMOVE PLANTS IF YOU ARE ADDING SALT
    Cover plants if light frost is predicted. You may want to take the tender plants inside on frosty nights so that they can adjust to the inside environment. If weather permits you can move them back out the next day. We usually get a frost that will damage plants. Then we get a few weeks of Indian summer where the plants will continue to grow and help remove ammonia from the water. Covering them on frosty nights will prolong their usefulness and beautify the pond. Indeed, some pond plants have striking fall colors. When we get 40-degree nights, it is time to starting making permanent arrangements for your plants.

IF YOU ARE NOT ADDING SALT
Clean up frost damaged foliage by trimming all foliage with shears or pruners even with the top of the pot. Drop the pots all hardy plants to the deepest part of the pond, where they will spend the winter. Move non-hardy plants inside for the winter

TIP
If you have a lot of plants that you plan to bring in for the winter, purchase one of those little plastic kiddy pools. Depending on your light situation, you may be able to place it near a real sunny window or sunny room inside for the winter. Or, set it up in a basement or other out of the way area. Add 3 to 4 ” of water to the pool. The plants do not need to have water over the top of the pot for this type of winter storage. If you do not have a sunny location, place plant grow lights over them with a timer and let the plants grow all winter long. Leave the timer on for 10-12 hours a day. You will have loads of plants come next spring!

Health Impact on Koi of VERY Cold Water: (Video)

Koi Fish Pond SuperCooling: What Is That?

Koi Fish Pond SuperCooling: What Is That?

SuperCooling, Common and Preventable

supercooling

Supercooling – When you want a cup of coffee to lose heat, the fastest way is to pour it through the air from cup-to-cup until it has lost it’s heat.  

And in the same way a waterfall and fountain can propel your water through a thin-phase causing a convergence of air and water temperatures. This means that by day, your fish will warm faster because the water can pick up heat from both sun and air, but by night, the pond plunges down as the water gives up it’s heat passing through the water feature.

Here’s how the typical case appears. This is a true, documented case:

“This is real strange again. On Thursday a fish was laying on its side at the bottom of pond. For all appearances he was dead. But when I got the net out to retrieve him, he swam away. This is a 12″ Kohaku that is in my main pond outside….”

“An hour later he was back on his side so we netted him out and I did slides, 2 from gills and 2 from body. Nothing! The ammonia, nitrite and nitrate are all zero. Ph was 8.2 which is normal for me. Water temps was 38 degrees. …”

“I put him in a 20 gallon tank inside and let the water warm up from the 38 degrees to about 62 on its own. He swims upright and does not lay on his side at all now that he is inside. There are no marks, ulcers etc anywhere on his body. Gills are bright red in color. He acts totally normal now that he is inside. Swimming and staying upright. My hubby said maybe he just wanted to come in from the cold so that is why he was playing dead. Surely that cannot be the answer!”

“We are having and been having big temp swings the past few weeks. I have been feeding Impact every few days if the water temperature warrants feeding….”

“This morning the outside water temp was 42 tonight at 6 PM it was 53.”

“The water fountain (3900 cal pump) shoots the water up 10 feet so it is not an oxygen problem…”

“The thing that bothers me is the 4 fish I lost in March did the same thing, they just laid on their side and moved when you tried to net them. They eventually died.”



DOC JOHNSON’S RESPONSE:

“There’s the whole answer:

‘We are having and been having big temp swings the past few weeks. I have been feeding Impact every few days if the water temperature warrants feeding…..The water fountain (3900 cal pump) shoots the water up 10 feet…”

When fish are rapidly chilled they lay over. Laying over is seldom  more than a clinical manifestation of shock/severe stress.
When brought and slowly warmed up, they usually recover, but they ought to be injected with antibiotics at least once, or they will die a week after warming up. This is because the bacteria will traverse the gut when the fish is nearly frozen and proceed to kill it later.

Do not feed when you think, or even imagine, there’s even a 2% chance of dropping below fifty degrees (F) within three days of feeding..

This fish should survive, but you should evaluate for things which may cause “supercooling”. Waterfalls and fountains can make water and air temperatures parallel, which means that when the air temperatures plunge and your waterfall is running, so shall the water temps fall, and when air temperatures warm by day, if there’s a fountain or waterfall running, so shall the water be warmed, and thence when the air temps fall by night, so shall the water temperatures fall, and thence the fishes will layeth over….I need a cup of coffee…it’s early.”


Best Regards,

“Doc Johnson”



RECOMMENDATIONS:

  • Maintain water circulation at all times but when the temperatures are dropping, the circulation should be gentle and minimally break the water surface.
  • To keep water moving under the surface, disturb the top HALF of the pond water only. For example, do not put the circulating pump on the pond BOTTOM – allow the bottom depths to remain minimally disturbed when it’s cold out. Circulators could be halfway down in the water column.
  • Do not feed when you think, or even imagine, there’s even a 2% chance of dropping below fifty degrees (F) within three days of feeding.. Exceptions would include those areas (Portland) where water temps do drop below fifty but never below forty..
  • When temperatures are climbing, you can employ any feature desired.
  • When ice is a threat, you may maintain a hole in the ice for gas exchange with a cattle trough heater (35$) which will NOT disturb pond hydrology or cause turnover in the water layers.
+ “Supercooling theory can be of some benefit if strategically used in the cool of the night or the heat of the day depending upon what your water temperature goal is. Running your pumps during the day can absorb heat and turning them off at night can conserve it.” Doc Johnson
+ Note From Doc Johnson
In the winter, I just run a circulating pump for underwater circulation, and I return my filter under water as well to minimize surface disruption. I do not remove water from the deepest part of the pond, preferring instead to let that water remain still for fish rest.” Doc Johnson

Koi Fish Pond SuperCooling: What Is That?

Water Testing: How and With What Kit

To keep track of water quality, which is the absolute UNDERPINNING of fish health, you need to test the water and some of you may have noticed that there are test kits that cost literally HUNDREDS of dollars. (The Hach Kit – Sweet!)

Do you really need that? What kind of kits do you really need?

Water Testing: How and With What Kit

Water Testing: How and With What Kit
Water Testing: How and With What Kit

It’s pretty simple, really. If you have Ammonia levels in the water it’s a problem. If the pH is a point below neutral, there’s a problem. A full point above neutral is just okay. You get the idea there that a “range” within a half a point accuracy is entirely fine.

A “range” within a half a point accuracy is entirely fine.

Here’s a video about Water Testing: How and With What Kit – in which I tell you about the different kits and home-in on the best one, the one that I use all the time.

Water Testing: How and With What Kit

New Fish in New System Won’t Live, Dying

New set up … I have recently started a new pond or tank and introduced several fish. I have lost several fish. There are no marks or signs of disease?

New Fish in New System Won’t Live, Dying

This is caused by new pond/tank syndrome due to a build up of toxins such as ammonia and/or nitrite.  It takes a new filter at least 6-8 weeks to mature – that is for the nitrifying bacteria to start to colonize the filter media. The only way around that is BioSeeding from an established tank.

Ammonia is freely excreted by fish as part of normal metabolism and during this maturation time the levels of these toxins can rapidly build up to dangerous levels. It is important to only introduce only  few fish at a time during this period, and constantly monitor (at least twice weekly) water quality for ammonia, pH and nitrite.  For more details see the nitrification page.

If Ammonia levels do rise they should be reduced by carrying out a 10 -50% water change (depending on the degree of pollution). For example, if the ammonia is twice the acceptable level, a 50% water change will only reduce it back to an acceptable level, whereas a 25% water change would still leave it 1½ times the acceptable level!  Obviously, smaller more frequent water changes are better.

As conditions improve the frequency of testing and water changing will slowly reduce. Once levels have stabilized only introduce a few new fish at a time as every new addition will increase the ammonia load on the filter.

Please note that to bypass the “break in” period you can Bioseed from a safe, established donor system.

“Carbonates” Support pH, But Can Be Exhausted

Carbonate balance is a long subject, but I intend to keep it brief. I will over simplify for greater understanding. As we mentioned before, pH is a measurement of Hydrogen ions in the system. Hydrogen ions can come from the reduction of Ammonia and several other biological processes. We mentioned that in the absence of carbonate molecules, these Hydrogen ions would drive down the pH.

“Carbonates” Support pH

Carbonate molecules come from several places. Sometimes, they occur naturally as a result of the dissolution of rocks like Limestone and Dolomite. These rocks are made of Calcium and Magnesium carbonate. When these rocks dissolve they release those minerals, plus Carbonates.

Unnaturally, the carbonates may be supplied directly in the form of Sodium bicarbonate. Indeed this is nothing more than Baking Soda. (pH Pills Home Made)

Carbonates can be supported by pH PILLS
Carbonate in the water to support pH can come from pH Pills.

The carbonate molecule exists in a balance with the environment. When Hydrogen ions become abundant, the carbonate molecules pick up the extras, which prevents the pH from falling. When hydrogen ions become scarce, as in a high pH [to assign a number; 8.3] the carbonate molecules will liberate some Hydrogen ions.

“Carbonates” Support pH

The net effect of the carbonate molecules on the water is to hold the pH at some, constant level. This is why there is a benefit in knowing the “number” [quantitative] measurement of carbonate activity.

Carbonates And Bicarbonates
Most biological processes produce carbon dioxide, which becomes carbonic acid, which brings down the PH.

When you’re measuring the carbonate levels in a system, it’s known as a test of the “Total Alkalinity” of the system. There are affordable Total Alkalinity test strips on Amazon, at most major garden centers and pet shops. Pools supply stores also provide very reliable strips that measure TA.

“Carbonates” Support pH

Water Changes for Health, and Ammonia Control

If fish are suffering illness due to any obvious deterioration of water quality, you are well advised to begin a systematic daily changing of 20-40% of the total volume in the system.

There are some important points to consider before going out and wholesale changing the water.

First, make sure the water change does not radically change the temperature of the system.

Secondly, be sure that the water change does not result in truly electrolyte poor water. One test of this is the Total Alkalinity, but other salts are important as well. It might no hurt to add a teaspoon of salt per gallon of water in any major water change where live plants are not being maintained. This will ease the stress of the change on the fish and stimulate the production of a healthy, protective slime coating.
Scaleless fishes will not be harmed by that salt dose, the salt to use would be either non iodized table salt or sea salts.

The final consideration in doing daily, massive water changes, is to be sure the pH is not fluctuating wildly with each change. Does the tap water resemble the pH in the system?

Water Changes for Health, and Ammonia Control
Water Changes for Health, and Ammonia Control

As a side note, be careful about adding all sorts of fancy water conditioners to the water. For example, the product that rhymes with Press Coat is a synthetic agent that coats the fish with a protective coating. Neat. But consider that until it is reformulated, it will be a detriment because the gills are coated as well. This can complicate respiration where the gills were not functioning beautifully to begin with.

Another set of chemicals are sold to bind Ammonia. They use aldehydes to accomplish this feat. The aldehydes can accumulate and become caustic to fish if no ammonias are actually present. They are useful, but should be used sparingly and judiciously.

So, to re-cap, change 20-40% per day, watching temp and supporting Total Alkalinity and electrolytes. Consider adding a teaspoon of salt per gallon with the changes, and finally, don’t go overboard on the water conditioners.

On the long term, Constant Inflow Water Changes are a good idea. Installing a “drip irrigation system” TO a pond or tank brings SLOW inflow of new water, and a simple overflow device (overflow box) lets water leave the system. Ideally, you would replace 10-20% of the system volume per week. This is a VERY low flow taken on the 24hr x 7d cycle. No dechlorinator is needed.

The pundits will attack the assertion that ‘no dechlorinator is needed for drip irrigation water changes’ BEFORE they do any math on just how much “New” chlorinated water is in the system at any given time. (Drip Irrigation Water Changes)

Dr ErikJohnson