There is good and bad bacteria everywhere. Many forms of beneficial bacteria break down waste. We put bacteria in compost piles and septic tanks. We eat yogurt! Bacteria is present in healthy lakes and ponds. It must live in our pond to create a natural balanced ecosystem. Beneficial bacteria removes algae. Without it, we are leaving out an extremely important part of the ecosystem. We must add beneficial bacteria and trace elements regularly because they die off and get eaten by the fish. We don’t have a natural stream as a constant supply. A biofilter houses billions of bacteria protected from the fish. Beneficial bacteria is the “Bio” in the biofilter. Otherwise it is just a mechanical filter removing solids but not cleansing the water of pollutants. Bacteria is the bottom of the food chain. It breaks down the waste, turning into harmless gasses. Consider bacteria to be “waste management” or “pollution control”. It is like “yogurt in your pond”. If your pond has a heavy layer of waste on the bottom, add Bacta-Pur, Nutripak and Sludgebusters to remove it. If the pond bottom is relatively clean, add Nutripak and the maintenance bacteria Bacta Pur Klear. Always add water conditioner or neutralizer when adding tap water or you will kill the good bacteria that keeps our pond healthy and clear.
The quality of pond water is vital to ensure healthy fish and plant life. Poor water conditions cause fish to lose their colour, behave unnaturally and become prone to disease. Plants will also discolour and show signs of stunted growth. Pond water should always be tested before fish are introduced and regularly monitored throughout the year. Any changes in water conditions can be quickly identified and remedied. pH is a way of expressing whether water is acid, alkaline or neutral. It is measured on a scale from 0 – 14 with pH 7 being the neutral point. Any level below pH 7 is acid and any level about pH 7 is alkaline. Pond fish prefer a pH range of 7.0 to 8.0 although they will survive in slightly acid conditions. Below pH 6.5, fish will show signs of irritation and discolouration. At extreme pH levels, fish and plants will not survive. Pond treatments and beneficial bacteria perform better with a neutral pH. The decomposition of fish waste, uneaten food and decomposing plant material by beneficial bacteria is a process referred to as the Nitrogen cycle.
The first stage of the breakdown results in the formation of toxic ammonia and ammonium. Both are easily converted into each other depending upon the pH i.e. above pH 8.5 – ammonia (toxic): below pH 7.5 – ammonium (non-toxic).
The second state of the breakdown results in the formulation of nitrite. It can be more toxic than ammonia. Nitrite level should not exceed 0.25 mg/l. Nitrite poisoning symptoms are listlessness, oxygen starvation and discolouration. The third stage of the breakdown results in the formation of nitrate. Nitrate is less harmful to fish than ammonia and nitrite. It’s lowest limit of lethal toxicity is 50 – 200 mg/liter. High concentrations of nitrate, in excess of 50 mg/liter, can be harmful to fish and cause unsightly algae growth. Pond test kits are important and easy to use.
In your pond, everything is temperature related. A pond thermometer is an important tool. When changing pond water, adding too much cold water at one time can cause fish stress. Doing anything different may stress out fish and cause problems. Add large volumes of water over a few days. Add Stress Coat conditioner when moving fish or adding tap water. Beneficial bacteria must be introduced to your pond and bio filter now, before feeding fish. Waste eating bacteria must be available to break down solid waste, ammonia and nitrites that are toxic to fish. They also dissolve pond plant waste and debris that blow into the pond and pollute the water. As water temperature rises above 10 C or 50 F, begin to slowly feed fish with a low temperature fish food. Fish digest this easy and waste less. As temperature rises above 18 C or 65 F, feed with summer food until late summer. Begin to run your pump now.
- Control single cell algae that appears as water warms.
- Prevent soil from washing in from surrounding gardens.
- You may have the wrong soil in your aquatic plant pots. It should be a heavy clay mix.
- Use washed pea gravel on top of pots.
- Large amounts of bottom waste stirred up by pump or fish needs to be removed by hand or sludge- buster bacteria.
- Increase size of the pre-filter on your pump so it collects more debris.
- Use a new solids handling pump that removes up to 3/8” inch solids and deposits 90% of bottom waste in an external Bio-Filter. Fish can be the cause in several ways.
- If they are from the carp family – muckers.
- Too many fish stirring up bottom and producing lots of waste to food algae.
- Overfeeding fish or using bad food that fish will waste.
- Rain and tap water contain minerals that feed algae.
- Not cleaning pond of dead leaves or annual plants in fall that die over winter.
If you have any questions about your pond, plants or fish, stop in and see us at Rice Road Greenhouses.