Quieting Aerator Compressors

My compressor may not be able to carry a tune but it sure can hum

A well-built, well installed aeration system should not be noisy, but even the great ones hum a little.  This blog addresses several things that can be done to quiet them to your liking.

1.      Buy a well-made system, such as a Vertex, that was made to mitigate sound naturally.

2.      Locate the compressor unit on a soft ground surface such as mulch that will absorb excess hum producing vibrations.  Avoid locating on a wooden or concrete surface, such as a patio or dock.  And, avoid locating it next to a wall that will echo the sound.  The Vertex system comes with its own preinstalled poly footing pad so it really can be just ‘plopped’ down on mulch, turf, or bare ground. (No additional footing needed).

3.      Locate the unit away from your sitting and activity areas if possible.  My Vertex Air 1 on my pond is located about 40 feet from my favorite chair.  I have to listen to see if I can hear it running, it is not intrusive at that distance. Instead all I hear is my little waterfall across the pond.

4.      Do not locate the unit in a building.  See my blog post on ‘Can I put my compressor in my tool shed?’

5.      If there is any rattling or obnoxious noises when the unit is first started up, check to see that all the bolts in the unit and its housing are tight as infrequently they may rattle loose in shipping. One loose bolt can make an inordinate amount of noise.

6.      Surround the unit with plush landscape material such as ornamental grasses.  The leaves and stems will blot up most if not the entire hum so that you cannot hear the unit even 20 feet away.  Just consider the mature size of the plantings such that they will always be at least 3 feet away from the cooling fans.  The goal is to minimize the sound without reducing air flow to the cooling fans.

7.      If these simple solutions aren’t practical in your location, another solution is to order the Vertex cabinet equipped with a sound kit.  These kits run around $200 to $250 and are factory installed when your order is assembled.

8.      Where all else fails, consider locating the compressor box at a distance from the pond and just running a 1” PVC airline down to a valve box at the shoreline where it will connect  to the bottomline tubing going out into the pond.  This configuration is done at the factory, taking the valve rail out of the main unit and placing it own separate brass ‘valve box’.  Aside from the cost of buying and trenching the 1” PVC, the add on equipment cost of this customization is normally under $100.  If you need to trench electric down to the site anyway, you could just as easily trench 1” PVC instead of electric line, allowing you to locate the compressor unit up where there is already an electrical receptacle.

Can I Install My Aerator Compressor in my Tool Shed?

Vertex Air One Plus for ponds to 2 acres

It seems like the logical thing to do – here you are, with your brand new Aerator system, wondering where and how you are going to shelter it. Naturally, you know that machinery that is kept under a roof and out of the elements lasts longer and performs better than machinery that is not.  However, in the case of an aerator compressor, it is a bit different. These systems need a constant supply of cool air to compress as well as a large exhaust system to take away excess heat from the compressors and manifolds. To do this, high-capacity cooling fans are used. By putting it in a shed, it restricts air both coming in and going out, and forcing exhaust back into the compressor, which can cause damage to the motor windings and other components.

However, like every other piece of outdoors equipment, an aerator compressor does need shelter. So what do you do?

Fortunately, the folks at Vertex knew what they were doing when they designed their systems. Each compressor comes already housed in a neat lit

tle lockable, aluminum compartment that is about the size of a microwave oven and completely maintenance-free. Built into the sides of this handy cubicle are cooling fans sized to keep the unit from overheating even in the hottest weather. Just another reason to love Vertex Pond Aerators.

So, there you have it; your aerator woes are gone before they can even begin. However, if compressor noise is your problem, just keep an eye out for our next post on tips about how to reduce and eliminate it.

Do I need to heat and or deice my koi / goldfish pond in winter?

Should I deice my koi pond?

I get quite a few inquiries about the need to heat koi ponds in winter to keep them from freezing over.  There seems to be some confusion out there about what is needed.

  • Does this need to be done to protect the fish?
  • Do I have to keep all the ice off the pond all winter?
  • Is it ever safe for the pond to be iced over and if so how long?
  • If my pond needs to be deiced, how can I do this?

Generally ice on a koi pond for a week or two is not a problem for the fish.  At this time of year, the koi have already gone into hibernation and are not feeding.  This means that their metabolism has greatly slowed down and they are producing very little waste.  Plant life has died back and vegetative material has hopefully been removed from the pond so there is little to decompose.   Even if there is some vegetative material, with the water temperatures in the 30s and 40s, very little bacterial activity is occurring.  So, overall, the biological processes in the pond have slowed down to a crawl.  This means if any toxics are being formed, they are doing so at a very slow rate.  Therefore, a pond that is totally iced over is not in immediate danger of toxic poisoning to the fish.

Ice over does become a problem when this condition continues for more than a few weeks without respite.  Even though being produced at a very low rate, toxics can accumulate over time and stress or kill fish.  Unfortunately this stress is hard to detect while the fish are parked in the deepest part of the pond.

How will you know if you are having a winter fish kill? You may not know immediately as fish that die in cold water frequently do not immediately float up to the surface below the ice.  More than likely you will not know until the ice melts and the water warms just enough for bacterial activity to start decomposing the dead fish.  At this time, the bodies will bloat and be carried to the surface.  Not a pretty site.

Even if the toxics are not severe enough to kill the fish immediately, you may lose them later in the season.  Stressed fish this time of year typically show up when the ice melts.  At that time when the rest of the fish are beginning to surface on warm sunny days, the stressed fish will either hang by themselves at the bottom or if in dire straits, will gulp for air continuously at the surface.  By then the damage has been done

What to do?   It is not necessary to keep the pond all ice free all winter.  It is necessary to open some open water at least once every 10 days.   So, if you live in an area that has periodic icing in the winter, you probably do not need to take any action at all.  If you live in an area where ponds routinely freeze hard you can either periodically thaw your pond out as described below or invest in a deicer.

Deicing without a deicer: To vent toxics, you need only to open a spot a foot or two across in a backyard sized pond and keep it open for a day or two.  Here is what NOT to do.  Do not open the ice by pounding on it with a hammer or throwing rocks on it.  The vibrations from such actions will throw your poor disoriented fish into a frenzy.  Remember, your goal to provide a stress free winter for these guys.   What you can do aside from buying a deicer is:

1.      Hang a 100 watt light bulb about 6 inches over the ice, one with a utility deflector and cage, if you have one, to focus the heat down.  Leave it on until there is a hole in the ice at least a foot wide.  Yes, be careful.  Don’t climb out on the ice to hang the light where you will have to retrieve it later over thin ice.  Dah!  Just locate it over the edge of the pond.  Secure it firmly so it has no chance of blowing into the pond.  Plug it into a GFIC receptacle so if a blizzard wind comes along and blows it into the pond, your fish will not be shocked. (GFICs interrupt the power immediately when shorted and are required on all outdoor receptacles)

2.      OR, Pour a bucket or two of hot water over the surface of the pond until you have a foot wide hole in the ice.  Reapply enough to keep the whole open for a day.  Then let it freeze over again.

Deicers:  Pond deicers are made to be plopped into the pond before it freezes over.  They are made to be submerged so electrical shocks and shorts are not an issue unless you have curious pets that chew wiring.  These deicers are cheap to buy,(less than $50) but at 300 to 1500 watts, somewhat pricey to operate.

(At a typical $.12 per kilowatt price, a 1500 watt heater run continuously would cost about $4 per day to operate)

The better ones have thermostats so they are not running constantly.  A good substitute for a pond heater is a stock tank (horse trough) deicer.  They are built almost identically and can be purchased at most farm supply places like TSC at a lower price than a pond deicer.

In conclusion, only deice if your pond freezes solid for more than two weeks at a time.  Then open the ice gently at least a foot wide for a day, about every 10 days.

How long do you leave barley straw in a pond for algae management?

How long do you leave barley straw in the pond for algae management?

There appears to be some confusion about the use of barley straw to retard the growth of algae in ponds.  Some users have been directed to leave it in 60 days and then take it out.  Others were told it is only good for about a month. What is the real story?

Since I have probably sold more straw to more customers than anyone out there and have probably received more feedback on what works, I feel comfortable to advice on this subject.  Here’s the deal.  Put the straw in the pond any time of year and LEAVE IT THERE UNTIL ITS GONE. It the decomposition bacteria feeding on the straw that makes it work.  As long as there is straw there, it is working or will work as long as the water is or again warms to above about 45 degrees.  If after a period of effectiveness and while the water is still warm, if the algae begin to re-surge, you can add new straw to the pond.  But do not take out the old.  Even when the volume of the old straw diminishes, leave it in as it is well inoculated with the beneficial bacteria.  And, yes, it is recommended to leave it in over the winter as it will reactivate again in the spring when the water warms up.

Correcting Total Alkalinity

Baking Soda makes a safe cost effective alkalinity booster.

WHY: Total Alkalinity is a measure of the carbonates in the pond.  They are essential to creating an environment where beneficial bacteria flourish and fish stay healthy and grow rapidly.  Many people are blessed with high natural total alkalinity, some are not.  Those who live out on the plains, the desert south west, California, in limestone valleys, or otherwise hard water are generally among the blessed.  Those of us who live in the mountains, or near the top of a ridge, on the east coast, or otherwise have soft water, not so much.

TESTING:  It easy to find out your total Alkalinity using our Microbelift 5 in 1 Test Kit. The goal for Total Alkalinity is 100 mg/l.  If you have more, great.  If you have a little less, it’s not terrible.  If your readings are down in the 20s, 30s, 40s, you really need a fix.

RULE OF THUMB: For backyard ponds, add 1 pond of Arm and Hammer Baking Powder, yes the kind you use for baking, to raise the total alkalinity of 3300 gallons of water by 20 mg/l.  If you need to raise it more than 20mg/l, add this quantity every day until to get to the desired level.

EXAMPLE:  If you have a 3300 gallon pond and it tests at 20 mg/l and you want to take it to 100 mg/l, add 1 pound of baking soda a day for 4 days.

RULE OF THUMB: For farm ponds, add 1 ton of crushed limestone for each surface acre of pond.  For a more exact dosing recommendation, consult your local Agriculture Extension Agent in your County for directions to have the pond water or its sediments tested. For small earthen ponds with a limited flow through, you can also use Arm and Hammer Bulk Sodium Bicarbonate (ag grade baking soda), in the same quantities as you would use crushed limestone.  Unlike crushed limestone, it will dissolve immediately and give an instant boost to your carbonate.  As with backyard pond applications, if you are raising the total alkalinity more than 20 mg/l do not add more than will change the water by 20 mg/l per day so to not to shock the aquatic life.

Should I overwinter pond barley straw?

Overwinter pond barley straw below the ice.

Another question I get a lot during the winter months is this: If I leave my barley straw in my pond over the winter, will it still be good in the spring?

Yes! The bacterial cultures that make Barley straw effective will again become active as soon as the water warms up to above 40 or 50 degrees. Like all other processes in the pond, biological activity that occurs with barley straw slows down in the winter and regains efficiency with the coming of spring.

However, there’s a catch. With the increase in temperature, sometimes algae can grow faster than Barley Straw is able to keep up with. So although it may seem like your over-wintered straw is losing its functionality, it is really just being overwhelmed by a temporary algal growth. But this is not entirely a bad thing. Many fish and other aquatic creatures rely upon this initial flush of vegetation as their first post-hibernation food source, like a spring tonic. Unfortunately, as the season progresses, they will abandon this source in favor of better, more nutritious food. Finally, once water temperatures regularly exceed 50 degrees, bacterial growth will begin to take over and the algae will once again remain in submission.