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Besides the obvious charm and enjoyment water containers provide, there is still some maintenance involved in keeping them attractive and running properly. Along with general cleaning duties, protecting your water container fish and plants from insects and pests can seem like a full time job. To name a few: aphids, mosquitoes, spider mites, midges and moths are some pests that can affect the well-being of your water garden. Luckily, just having fish in your containers can help keep the problem under control. Simply hose the insects into the container and viola, fish food.

If you’re trying to avoid using chemicals to aid your efforts, there are some organic methods of fighting off insects and pests. A salt-like white substance called Diacetemous earth (found at swimming pool suppliers) can be placed in a salt shaker and then sprinkled over the affected area, where its tiny points puncture invaders and eventually kill them. Bacillus Thuringiensis (“Bt”), found at garden supply stores, is a bacterium that, when in direct contact with insects, will parasitize its digestive tract and kill it. Because this bacterium comes in a powder form, it can get messy so try mixing it with water and spraying it directly onto the affected areas.

For the control of aphids, try mixing a small amount of dishwashing detergent along with vegetable oil and water in a spray bottle. The detergent will help the vegetable oil mix with the water while the oil suffocates the aphids. Once the aphids are dead, remove the oil simply by flooding the container so as to prevent oxygen deprivation for the fish.

Although Spider mites are not common in larger water containers, they can be found as some sites. A simple hosing on a daily basis with a strong water jet will usually keep them at bay. For especially bad infestations, remove all plants and hose them off so as to remove any eggs and nymphs from underneath the leaves. Insecticidal soap can also be used every three days underneath the leaves to control the problem.

Mosquitoes are known to breed in the smallest puddle of standing water so it shouldn’t be a surprise to find them living in your water container. However, that fact doesn’t make them any less annoying. Again, in this case you may luck out if you are keeping fish in your container because mosquito larvae are a tasty snack for fish. If your container is sans fish, try floating donut-shaped Mosquito Dunks in your container for mosquito control. For smaller containers, try breaking off a small piece from the donut to float in your container. Mosquito Dunks contain Bacillus Thuringiensis (a bacterium mentioned earlier that parasitizes the digestive tracts of insects, killing them) and are completely natural and will not harm your fish, pets or people.

Clams and Mussels

After introducing fish and becoming experienced and successful in that aspect, you may be interested in adding different types of life into your water garden. Freshwater clams or mussels, for example, require similar care as crustaceans. Trays of sand or aquarium gravel help create the living environment and won’t cloud the water. Fresh water clams act as a filter by taking in as much as a gallon of water every two hours through their shells. They also feed on algae and other organic particles. Hold back on introducing them into your pond until your water garden is well established so the clams don’t starve.

The Swan Mussel is the mussel that is most widely available at most aquatic supply and pet stores. You can also search at local markets for this variety. Be sure to check that the mussels you are purchasing are in fact alive and are freshwater species. If you purchase dead mussels or those that are saltwater species that end up dying, their decay will pollute your pond and mask it with a disgusting stench. Be very careful to avoid this because the only way to completely start over is to drain and clean out the entire pond. Although freshwater clams can be found along natural creaks and streams, avoiding plucking them and introducing them into your pond because since they are wild they may be carrying parasites.

There are many types of fish that you are going to be able to choose from when building a water garden. The types of fish that you will use in the water garden will be dependent on how large your water garden is, what colors of fish that you like, and a little bit dependent on the climate or grow zone that you live in as well.

Two of the smallest cyprinids are the Bitterling and the Moderlieschen, Opaline, Clicker Barb, Stone Moroko and the Belica. There fish are range from 3.5 inches to about 4.5 inches. These small fish do really well in the smaller water gardens because of their size, of course you still will need to limit the number of fish in the water garden if you choose to build a smaller garden.

The Clicker Barb is a fish that actually makes clicking noises during their mating season. The Bittling is best known as a fish of the sea as they prefer to lay their eggs inside of water mussels when the mating season arrives. The Moderlieschen, Opaline and the Belica are all known for their easy to damage scales which could easily happen in you have several types of fish in the water garden or in you need to handle your fish more often than others.

Larger fish that you can buy include Silver Carp, Chub, and the Bream. The Bream is a flat bodied fish that will grow to be about 30 inches long. The Bream is also best known for its bottom feeding practices. The Silver Carp is a good example of a fish for the larger water gardens, pond, and streams. The Silver Carp will grow to about 40 inches long and feeds on floating types of small plants. The Silver Carp has a huge head and a smaller body that has small scales.

Similar to the Silver Carp the Chub is a fish that will grow to be about 25 inches long. It has a large mouth, large head and a slimmer body than most fish along with a silvery color along its scales.

Pond Start Up

Once you’ve gone through all the hard work of planning a pond, cutting and laying liner and filling your new pond, it’s about time to get some fish in there. But not just yet; first you’ll want to turn on your filters and test everything for a couple of days. Check for leaks and make sure any fountains or waterfalls you may have are working properly. After you are satisfied with how everything is running, then you can introduce fish into the pond. Some people prefer to first introduce “test” fish to see how they manage. Goldfish are usually the most popular for this task but keep in mind that they reproduce like crazy so start with only a couple and go from there. Now you are ready to bring Koi into your pond. This is also the time to start adding in aerobic bacteria to jump-start your bio-filter.

Your group of fish will naturally provide the waste needed to feed the bacteria so that they can colonize and live. Check the manufacturer’s labels for instructions on how much bacteria to use and for how long. At the same time you’ll want to test the water daily for ammonia and nitrite levels to really make sure the bio-filter is up to snuff. If the test shows any amount of ammonia or nitrite in your water, you’ll need to change out about 1/3 of the pond’s water to rid of the toxins. Don’t forget to add salt into the water to replenish what was removed along with the water. Keep in mind that it generally takes 4-6 weeks to get a properly balanced bacteria colony. Fewer and fewer water changes will be necessary as time goes on.

Expect a bit of an algae bloom while you are establishing your bacteria colony. Don’t fret; this will clear up with time. Patience will be your best friend in this respect. Once your bio-filter is running smoothly, your pond will be at its best and your fish will be happy too. Although most of the hard work is done, don’t get lazy with testing the water. This needs to be done on a weekly basis to avoid any surprises that can negate all the hard work you’ve just done.

By starting your pond project you are trying to decide what type of pond you want and how you are going to make it happen. You should think about the location of the pond and how big you want it to be. Once you have this decided you can then figure out what type of materials you want to make your pond out of. Getting started with your pond means that you need to find the right set of directions to get you on your way to building a sturdy and beautiful pond that you can be proud of. Digging is the next step for your pond and then you must fill it in with the type of foundation you are using. Some do not use a foundation and let it stand with dirt. After that, you are then ready to start filling in your pond and adding our pump and filter. You are well on your way to a successful pond project.

pH Defined

The pH level in your pond is important, everybody knows that. But what is pH exactly? According to the (Webster’s New Collegiate) dictionary, pH is the negative logarithm of the effective hydrogen-ion concentration or hydrogen-ion activity, in gram equivalents per liter, used in expressing both acidity and alkalinity on a scale whose values run from zero to 14, with seven representing neutrality. Numbers less than seven increase acidity and numbers more than seven increase alkalinity.

Phew! That’s quite the definition and may not make complete sense. To explain it a little bit more, logarithmic means that a pH of 5.0 is ten times more acidic than 6.0 and 100 times more acidic than 7.0. On the flip side, a pH of 9.0 is 10 times more alkaline than 8.0 and 100 times more alkaline than 7.0.

The amount of solid waste (nitrite) from one pond to another is also the difference in the acid level. The water source, vegetation and whether there is a bio-filter present or not, are also factors affecting the pH level. Water plants and algae increase the acidity by changing out calcium, potassium and manganese that they consume and switching it out for hydrogen and aluminum ions.

Knowing what pH is exactly isn’t as important as how to control it. Simple kits can be bought to take care of this. A sign of poor pH levels is if you see your fish rubbing themselves on the sides or bottom of the pond (also known as flashing). This can be caused by parasites or a big change in the pH.

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