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Lighting for your backyard oasis will add a relaxing feel and will make your garden enjoyable at all times of the day as well as night. Along with different styles and varieties, there are also different types of light sources made for outdoor use.

Standard Tungsten bulbs are usually the most least expensive and have a warm yellow glow. Unfortunately, they can get quite hot which limits the size of the bulb. These will generally be used in low-voltage lighting situations.

Halogen bulbs are becoming increasingly popular for their long time use. They are reasonably sized but cast a bright white light. Halogen bulbs are more expensive but give out much more light than equally rated tungsten bulbs. They are used for low-voltage setups.

Mercury bulbs give off a bright bluish white light that fortunately shows off colors and details well but tends to be rated as a little harsh.

Sodium bulbs give off a nice amber light and are fairly efficient to run. They are ideal for lighting vast areas and floodlighting for buildings and warehouses.

Metal halide bulbs give off an intense white light that can be compared to daylight. They are also useful for floodlighting large areas but are more expensive to buy than mercury or sodium bulbs. Mercury, sodium and metal halide bulbs all have a common disadvantage in that they each take awhile to heat up before reaching full capacity and they all require heavy duty starting equipment.

If natural remedies for your algae problem didn’t work to your satisfaction, there are chemical remedies that can be exercised with caution.

Remove as much algae as possible before starting chemical treatment. Maximum effectiveness of ridding algae occurs at 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Just as sunlight will feed plants as well as algae, algicides will slow the growth of algae as well as other plants and high doses may kill them. A way of avoiding too high dosages is to perform a fifty percent water change and then treat the water with a half dose.

The algaecide Potassium Permanganate is only to be used on cool, cloudy days when the water isn’t too warm. If used on sunny days, the treatment will turn the water a murky yellow. A maximum of three applications on three successive days is usually recommended. At the end of the treatment remember to remove the dead algae.

Formaldehyde (37 percent solution) may be used in the rate of one drop per gallon of pond water to kill floating algae. A possible killer of lily cultivators, it is wise to remove plants before treatment. Fish will not need to be moved as the 37 percent solution is safe for killing fish parasites but will not kill the fish. The person handling the solution should avoid skin contact and breathing in the chemicals.

For larger bodies of water, Copper sulfate can be used. Dosages vary and will usually be used on alternate days over a two week period if there are fish in the pond. Use Copper sulfate with great caution because a too high dosage can kill your fish by way of asphyxiation.

Algae can certainly be an annoying problem to deal with while maintaining a water garden. Fortunately, there are many ways to keep an algae-free pond but a good place to start is with plants.

Under water plants such as Elodea, Hornwort, Sagittaria and Cabomba are some primary plants to consider in this equation. Ideally, one bunch for each square foot of the pond’s surface is enough. If you have a high population of fish in your pond, consider more plants to counter-balance fish waste and their grazing habits. Elodea is a great plant to help control algae because it breaks dormancy earlier than other submerged plants. Usually in bloom a month earlier than others, you’ll get a head start on controlling algae. Keep in mind that Elodea grows and spreads rapidly and will need thinning by summer.

If your pond water is already green with algae, it will take longer (usually up to six weeks) to get the problem under control. Under these circumstances, submerged plants should be moved closer to the water’s surface where they can receive more sunlight for faster growth. As the problem lessens, the plants can be moved back to their original settings. Ponds that have up to four inches of pea gravel at the bottom are ideal for the “tame” Dwarf Sagittaria that roots directly into the gravel. Ponds with Dwarf Sagittaria are unlikely to experience any green water algae problems at all.

Sunlight not only helps submerged plants grow but also greatly aids in feeding algae so covering your pond with floating plants is ideal. A general rule of thumb is to cover one-third to two-thirds of the water’s surface with plants such as lily pads and floating plants such as Water Hyacinth, Water Lettuce, Fairy Moss and Duckweed to name a few.

Surface shading isn’t necessary in keeping a pond clear of green water algae, however it is much more difficult to maintain a pond without it and will require many more submerged plants. As stated earlier, Dwarf Sagittaria carpeted along the bottom will help compete with algae for the available nutrients.

Once your pond gets in a rhythm and everything seems to be running smoothly, it can be easy to get lazy when it comes to testing your water on a regular basis. Even if your water is crystal clear and your fish are swimming around and look healthy, it’s important to continually test your water and maintain your pond to avoid future issues.

Abrupt changes in temperature filter channeling, growth of bacteria and other factors can lead to issues in your pond. Testing your water is the only way to catch these changes before they can turn deadly. Check the water temperature to know how much protein to feed your fish. Keep in mind that what goes in and out of your fish will greatly affect your bio-filter and its effectiveness. That said, it’s also important to clean the filter on a regular basis to keep it running smoothly. If applicable, clean the skimmer in the same fashion.

Keep any loose debris out of the pond. Debris can settle at the bottom of the pond. Sticks and leaves should be scooped out as needed. If you have a bottom drain, cleaning the settled debris will be easy. Without a drain, a vacuum will be needed to get the job done. Along with cleaning up the bottom of your pond, the debris that will be collected can also be used as fertilizer in your garden.

If done on a regular basis, these steps will help keep your pond in tip-top shape and will save you a headache later on.

Year Round Care

Taking care of fish is an year-round job so it’s a good idea to know how to take care of your fish in different water temperatures throughout the year.

In January and February your fish are living on stored food that they’ve kept on reserve in their bodies. Allow them to rest and do not feed them. Even if there is a warm day here and there, you should not feed them until the water temperature reaches and has stabilized at 50 degrees Fahrenheit because the slow metabolism of the fish can’t handle digesting food. Don’t let your pond completely ice over to allow the exchange of gas. Do not break ice because this can cause extreme stress or death to your fish.

During March, provide additional aeration in the water if you see your fish coming to the surface often. Fish will remember where they’re fed so if you see them gathering there then feed them, but lightly. Avoid high protein foods. If you pond has been covered, remove the cover on sunny days. If you plan on draining the pond for spring cleaning, be sure to carefully move and keep your fish in a proper holding tank. Keep them out of direct sunlight and treat the water with a Stress Coat and/or salt product to relieve stress.

In the months of April and May, your fish may be more susceptible to parasites due to temperature changes. Keep an eye on your fish to watch out for suspicious signs. Temperature changes will also promote spawning. Chasing or bumping into each other isn’t fighting, but part of normal mating rituals. If you want fry, netting them and keeping them in an aquarium until they’re big enough to survive on their own may be in your best interest. Begin feeding protein food at this time in the year.

Periods of heat or rain in the month of June may affect the water quality. Be ready to provide additional aeration to the pond if you notice fish surfacing to the top and chomping for air. When feeding, only feed the fish what they’ll eat in five minutes. The food should be high in protein at this time. Add in salad greens or celery to supplement their diet.

More so in July and August, oxygen depletion can occur. Constantly keep an eye on the behavior of your fish for odd behavior. Spraying the top of the pond with some cold water from the hose will help to lower the temperature as well as aerate the pond. Feed the fish as needed.

September and October are the months to move any fish that are sensitive to cold weather indoors. Decrease feeding as the temperature lowers and the fish slow down. Feeding should taper down to every two to three days by the end of October. Replace the high protein food with wheat germ varieties. If the water temperature falls below 50 degrees Fahrenheit during this time, stop feeding all together. Keep the pond clean of fallen leaves and dying vegetation.

During the colder months of November and December, keep the feeding down to once weekly until the water temperature gets back up to 50 degrees Fahrenheit once more. If you keep the pump running through winter, raise it within a foot of the pond’s surface to prevent overcooling of the lower water. Don’t let the pond ice over completely.

Keeping healthy fish

What is Spring Sickness and how can I avoid it and/or treat it?

Spring Sickness is a term that loosely describes poor health shown by some fish after the winter season. Spring Sickness is not a specific disease but an umbrella term for anything from excessive body slime or mucus production to Bacteraemia, also known as internal bacterial infections. Most cases of Spring Sickness will clear up on its own as spring progresses and the immune systems of the fish get going again.

The best way to avoid Spring Sickness is to make sure your fish go into winter in good health. Fish that come out of the winter season in a weakened state will have greater difficulty fighting Spring Sickness and are at a greater risk of dying and passing the sickness onto others. Spring cleaning not only applies to a cluttered garage but also to ponds that need a bit of TLC after the long winter months. Just keep in mind that slow and steady is the key. Treating your pond with an anti-bacterial mix while gradually increasing feeding as well as splitting and rearranging plants is a must as this will help keep down the stress level for your fish and encourage a lush water garden for summer.

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