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Imitating Nature

As if planning and building a pond isn’t difficult enough, actually making it natural or as close to natural as possible can be even tougher. The best way to erect a believable copy-cat of nature is to do just that, imitate nature. Keep the following facts in mind when planning your backyard water garden to keep things simpler and more efficient.

Water, in rivers for example, flows constantly. Of course your stream will not be as big and as powerful as a river but you can still give the effect of water running in from one end and out from the other. Water could rise from a cluster of rocks for example or from under a large boulder or slab. This will give the impression of a buried stream and it will appear to run out of the garden in the same fashion.

Water streams generally cut into hillsides. Water won’t run over the top of soil. For a believable look, dig a channel into the landscape for the water to run through.

Waterfall cascades will equal the slope of the slopes surrounding it. If you have a minor slope with a major Niagara sized fall, the effect will be uneven looking and unbelievable. Consider a series of smaller falls that will be proportionate to the surrounding slopes. The cluster of falls will create enough water movement and noise to be a focal point.

Watercourses follow the lowest points of the land. Water naturally flows downhill, cutting a channel into the earth. To avoid the collection of leaves and pollution at the lowest point of your streams, position your streams in low spots but not at the lowest. Bog plants will be the most suitable in the lowest point of your garden.

Spring bits

Spring Spawning

With spring coming around the corner, it’s good to know a bit about the activities that may be happening in your pond. Spring is the ideal time for spawning because the conditions are most comfortable for your fish. Ponds in the temperate zones are just beginning to awaken from the winter months. Although to some pond owners, this is a difficult period due to blanket algae and green water, but to fish it’s the perfect scenario because the extra algae attracts microscopic bugs to eat on the algae which in turn creates food for the fish which makes it a great time for breeding because the little critters feeding on the algae are a perfect meal for newly hatched fish. The green water and blanket algae is unsightly of course, but you should be careful to use products to clear the algae or flush the pond because this will disrupt the natural cycle of breeding.

 

Fish are classified as either egglayers or livebearers when it comes to breeding. Just as it sounds, egglayers lay eggs while livebearers give birth to live young. Most fish that are kept in ponds are egglayers. These fish will scatter their eggs among plants and then basically be done with it. The remaining eggs and surviving fry will be left to fend for themselves from that point on.

Spring Cleaning

Spring cleaning is more than just for your house, but also a task that must be done for the water garden plants and fish to thrive all summer long. Spring-cleaning consists of various things, that really don’t take too long, but you do need to remember to do them.

If you have a water garden that is just plants, draining, rinsing and vacuuming out the water garden is a good idea but only for the smaller ponds. Actually the larger water gardens will balance their environment over the spring months so you may only need to scoop out the debris on the bottom of the water garden and not drain it. Draining the water garden can be quite costly in time.

Spring Maintenance for Your Pond

Springtime is when your pond will seem to come back to live. It is a critical time to get your pond back into the beautiful condition it once was in. Because of the temperature rise and falls, this is the best time to help stabilize your pond.

Once your pond water has reached the temperature of 50°, your fish will begin to develop immunities. It is best to start feeding the fish sparingly and very early in the morning. This is recommended so that the fish can process the food before nightfall and the temperature lowers again. If you took care of your pond throughout the winter, the season transition should go very smooth. This is also the best time to clean and prepare pumps and pond filters for the upcoming season.

Some other things that should be on your checklist are.
Add algaecide to help kill the algae or scoop out the algae clumps by hand.
Test water regularly for ammonia and nitrites.
Replace a part of the pond water.
Provide shelter for fish until plants begin to grow again
Monitor fish healthy daily
Following the given checklist and other suggestions will help your pond make the season transition without a casualty.

If planning and executing the building of a backyard pond sounds too daunting or you’re just looking for something a step up from a bird bath, container water gardening could be for you. Practically any container can be used for your intentions. All you’ll need is some sealant and plenty of imagination. Urethane is a great sealer for wood, concrete and pottery containers. Neoprene paint is more expensive but gets the job done for bonding plastics and woods in doubly layers. Silicone can also be used as a glue for watertight results. Fortunately, all these products can be found at your local hardware or building supply store.

If you are looking to fashion a spouting ornament or a waterfall in your container, a pump will be necessary. Because the water flow through a small water feature may be only 50 gallons per hour, the pump itself and the cost will be small. Container pumps are submersible and usually don’t require filtration but usually come with an attachable filter screen. Be sure to support the pump either at the bottom of the container or suction cup it to the side of the container so it’s not just dangling by its cord. The pump should never be allowed to run dry as this will ruin it. Also, these pumps usually can’t withstand freezing due to cracking that will occur.

The rules and guidelines for keeping fish in a pond and a water container differ greatly. Because air temperatures and sunlight affect the water containers much more than a vast pond, choosing fish takes some consideration. Goldfish, for example, are cold water fish and would get stressed out and may even die due to higher water temperatures and the constant rise and fall of water temperature from day to night. Thus, tropical fish are a popular alternative. In most cases, water containers are dismantled during the winter at which time the tropical fish can be moved to an inside aquarium.

Popular fish choices for water containers include smaller species of the semi-tropical and tropical variety such as mosquito fish, white clouds, guppies, swordtails and Chinese algae eaters. Beta and Siamese Fighting Fish are also popular choices, although they live in solitary by nature. A general rule of thumb for stocking fish in water containers is on fish per gallon to avoid over-stocking. Containers are usually too small to provide enough food for the fish so be sure to feed them lightly with floating food that can be netted out if not eaten so as to avoid mucking up the water.

Buying Koi

You have decided that you want to stock your pond with koi. Knowing what to look for when koi shopping is the next step. Consider fish shopping in the same way you would when car shopping. You need to observe the fish, watch it’s movements, notice it’s color and size and most of all, make sure it’s what you’re looking for.

First of all, watch the way the fish moves. Its movements should be smooth and fluid, not jerky. Consider how it interacts with its surroundings and other fish if applicable. Check to make sure that its gill movements are slow and steady, using both gills. The gill plates of a healthy fish are close to the body. Fish with gills that are protruding and show irregular movement should be avoided.

Keep a mental checklist of deformities to be aware of such as white blooms (Ichthyobodo-parasites), raised scales, holes, cloudy eyes, fin rot, bumps on the gills or the head, to name a few. These illnesses can be treated but can get costly and lengthy in treatment time. Find a dealer that will allow you to “bowl” the fish you want to consider buying so you can examine it closer and away from other fish.

Once in a smaller container, check for redness on the body or around the fins. If it shows signs of redness that could mean it has just been imported and is stressed but could also be the starting symptoms of internal problems. Check closely for parasites at this time. Fish lice (Argulus) and anchor worms (Lernaea) show around the dorsal fin and tail area. Again, this can be treated but knowing about it before you buy is advised either way.

Once you have found the fish you wish to purchase, be sure to ask the dealer what variety you have chosen so you can have a better understanding of what to look for in the future. Dealers can indeed be very helpful but just as you wouldn’t buy a car just because the dealer wants you to, be sure to keep your personal preference a priority when shopping for your new pet koi.

Koi Fish, History Bits

Koi fish are an every changing fish, from breed to breed and with the ever changing generations, the Koi fish varies. If you are looking for the highest quality and the purest breeds of Koi, you will be happy to know that they do still exist but these pure breeds are more expensive. Most of the purest Koi fish are still found in Japan where the Koi originally was ‘found’, but in some fish breeding stations around the world, they still try very hard to keep their Koi blood lines in tact but it is difficult. Most Koi are cross bred and interbred so that the colors of the Koi and the hardiness of certain fish are ‘brought’ out for the amazing displays that are seen in the water gardens around the world.

Most all modern Koi fish keepers are happy with the lesser pure breeds of Koi because these fish keepers are looking for the colors, the habits and the hardiness of certain fish. Pedigree Koi are more difficult to raise in some areas of the world which is the main reason behind the interbreeding to begin with. While the quality of the ‘pure’ bred Koi is reduced, the quality of the overall fish that are still named Koi fish are better for fish keepers everywhere, but be sure you know what you are looking for so you don’t pay for expensive pure bred fish when you don’t live in an area that can support this need.

Pond Goldfish

There are numerous types of goldfish; some of these varieties can be raised in the water garden while others must be kept in an aquarium or a more stable controlled environment. Goldfish that cannot be kept in the water garden are most often the tropical an subtropical types of goldfish. One thing to be aware of when you are going to keep goldfish in your water garden is the other fish that are kept in the water garden as well. Some fish will eat the goldfish such as the terrapins, just as some birds will eat the small goldfish as well. The birds that often prey on the goldfish are the heron and kingfishers.

What is often found, in the varieties that are in the water garden, is that attacks by birds or other fish can cause harm to the fish that are more delicate. The delicate fish who have the fluid filled sacs below their eyes are most at danger. If you only have goldfish in your water garden, you have already eliminated the problem of other fish attacks. Rocks on the sides of the water garden, cement in the bottom of the water garden, and even statues or plants in the middle of the water garden can sometimes cause damage to the delicate fish, but you can help control this problem with salves and medications for treatment.

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.

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