In the northeast ( we are in zone 5) April is the start of Outdoor Pond fun. This also the "Danger Time" when most fish losses occur. At 48F bacterial infections start taking place and beneficial bacteria has not yet started to work. Watching the water temperature you can take the steps now to prevent bacterial infections and parasite infestations.
1. Start the pump and filter as soon the ice leaves. Pumps left running all winter can be dropped back to the bottom.
2.Give that pond a spring cleaning. We want to clean the mulm (debris) from the bottom of pond, it is essential that all the old leaves and mulm are removed! This is where the aeronomas bacteria and parasites live if you let them. Clean before you add any treatments. If the pond does not have large accumulations of debris don't empty the entire pond, just do a 30% water change ( use a dechlor), but be sure to check pH, and ammonia! If the pond was not netted or cleaned last fall and nasty looking you may need to do a full water change. The day before fill a large holding tank 1/2 way with fresh water with dechlor. On cleaning day, begin draining your pond, it's easier to net fish when water is lower. Net the fish and place in holding tank. Use a nozzle to squirt the sides and floor of the waterfall. You'll notice that all the mulm washes down the main sump area of pond. Vacuum the sided and bottom of pond ( watch for small fish you missed ) Use a Matala Vacuum to clean the bottom of pond which you can rent from us.) Don't feel you have to scrub the sides. Green algae on the sides is good for the ecosystem, it houses good bacteria , hides the liner and starves the algae that clouds your water. When done fill the container holding fish to top to adjust water temperature ( fish are stressed on water temp changes over 2 degrees in short time period). Start filling your pond with fresh water and dechlor. I always use a spray nozzle set up to fill so it aerates the water and dissipates Chlorine and Fluoride faster.
If you can cannot get the bottom perfectly clean or are stuck with stone/gravel bottom immediately go out and treat with Sludge Eating Bacteria! We use Muck Defense
3. Install a barley pillow treatment to balance the pond and prevent string algae. If Barley pillow not practical start with Barley Extract Plus or add Barley Pellets now. Arbordale Pellets are now twice as powerful as we treated peat with humic acid before soaking in Barley extract before processing the pellets.
4. Clean your biofilter - If you have a bead filter just backwash it and you are done (now you'rer happy you bought it) If you have a gravity filter wash it all outbut do not use detergents. Start adding nitrifying bacteria like UltraClear Filter Start when water temp is 52F then followup weekly with Ultraclear biological Clarifier and natures defense.
5. SALT - after cleaning treat the pond with salt, 7 of 10 common parasites that attack pond fish are controlled with Pond Salt. 3 lbs/100 gallons and don't do a water change for 3 weeks. After 3 weeks you begin regular water changes that will diminish salt level to one that all plants will thrive.
7. PLANTS - trim off all dead leaves you neglected last fall.
8. ANNUAL PLANTS INSIDE - look these plants over and decide if you are dividing the plants or moving them to a larger size pot. Starting in March try to get them more sunlight. When daytime temp is 55F start bringing them out to start "hardening off" put them under trees or on the north side of house as they can sunburn and windburn very easily. Bring back in the house on cold nights.
9. HARDY PLANTS - As soon as ice is off and water temp is 40/45F you can start moving hardy plants back into the pond or off the bottom and back on the shelf. See chart for plant reference. Start spring with the appropriate number of pond fertilizer tablets. Fertilize once a month with theses tablets, they will NOT cause algae! A trick I use while I am waiting for lilies to start covering the pond is to throw in handfuls of Duckweed as soon as water temp is around 50F, the fish will eat most of it by time the lilies are going and water clears much faster! I also keep a small water tank of duckweed separate during the season to feed with.
OTHER SPRING INCIDENTALS:
Feeding fish- after water reaches 50F you can start feeding when they are up looking for it. Now is the time to start feeding..
Watch your fish, look for lesions, signs of fungus and sluggish behavior.
Check all your wiring and impellers, take a good look at your sponges and media to see if they are deteriorating.
If don't have time or inclination toward some of these pond balancing techniques you should look at UV STERILIZERS - they keep water perfectly clear and if installed properly can eliminate most pond parasites.
If the water turns green after cleaning do NOT empty the pond again as you will just start the cycle again.
A good pond aerator keeps all these processes working effectively, costs pennies to operate, keeps a hole in the ice during winter, cuts the need for extra treatments and makes for healthier fish so has no down side!
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