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.

Salt in Ponds

Salt as a pond Medicinal

Sal: Nature's Own Medicinal

Grandma’s salty chicken soup helped you get over your cold. Gargling with salt water cures your sore throat. Salt sprays clear up your sinus infection. So why not use the healing power of salt as a therapeutic for your pond? Salt can be used many ways, and in both tanks and large ponds.  Its benefits include reducing fish stress, reducing nitrites, and treating pond parasites.

Some Tips about Salt:

•             Caution: Whenever used, salt should be dissolved in a bucket of pond water, and not added directly – undissolved salt can irritate fish gills and lead to injury or death

•             Iodized salt should never be used, as iodine is toxic to fish.

•             Be careful when adding any kind of salt to an aquatic tank, as it can have detrimental effect on plant life

•             Before adding salt to a tank, make sure to remove all zeolite products

•             After using a salt treatment, test the water for ammonia spikes with Microbe-Lift Ammonia Test Strips, as fish tend to excrete high levels of ammonia after exposure to salt.

•             Dosing:

o             Small tank: ½ cup of salt per 10 gallons of pond water

o             Large tank: 5 cups of salt per 100 gallons of pond water

o             Stress reduction: 2 and 1/2 cups per 100 gallons of pond water

•             As a topical treatment for sick fish:

o             Mix salt with tank water until it reaches a thick paste consistency

o             Use a new basting brush to apply to affected areas such as excessive slime or reddened spots on the head, back, or underbelly

o             Take caution applying around the eyes and gills

o             Dispose of or sterilize the basting brush when finished to avoid cross-contamination

•             Salt does not evaporate from tanks and must be removed by water changes.

Remember this and you’ll always be a step closer to a healthy, happy pond with healthy, happy fish.

Can I clean my pond without removing my fish?

Let your koi shine in a clean pond

Fish are hard to catch, and harder to keep temporarily contained while your pond is being drained, cleaned, and then refilled. And nothing is more depressing as a fish-lover than watching your beloved pets flounder around a tiny prison for an hour while you struggle to clean their home as quickly and efficiently as possible. However, as springtime approaches, you begin to realize that your pond is probably looking like a sad, dirty hole in the ground, and not the masterpiece that you left it in the fall. At this time of year, fish are just coming out of winter hibernation and their immune systems are the most fragile, so you don’t want to stress them out by going through the torturous catching ritual. Stressed fish frequently become sick fish, especially if they are koi.

Of course, not all fish are created equal. Goldfish are a very hearty breed and can easily survive a few hours in a bucket. I remember being in fourth grade and insisting that I walk the six blocks to school for Show and Tell day, goldfish in jar in hand. Halfway there, I clumsily dropped the jar on the sidewalk and it shattered, sending my beloved fish flopping on the ground. I quickly scooped him up and scurried the last two blocks to school to the little girl’s room where I put him in a sink full of water. He lived. Some kinds of fish are definitely better suited to a moving arrangement than other.

But is there a way to clean your pond without the trauma and drama of catching up the inhabitants and subjecting them to The Bucket? Can you clean around the fish?

Yes, there is! Here’s how:

1.       Be patient: Wait until the morning temperature of the water is 50 degrees. The biological processes of your fish are so slow below this point that they are not effective. If you aren’t the patient type, consider doing this chore in the fall before it gets cold.

2.       Restart your filter: Turn on the pump and the filter if they have been turned off. Clean the filter media with a hose if it was not done in the fall

3.       Digest bottom sludge: If there is more than ½ an inch of “pudding” on the bottom of your pond, do a 5-week sludge digestion process with Microbe-Lift SludgeAway. To ensure that there is enough carbonate for the bacteria to be at their sludge-eating best, also add ½ of a cup of household baking soda for every 1,000 gallons of your pond every day of the first week. If you know for sure that your pond already has a total alkalinity of over 100 mg/l, you will not have to do this. This process breaks down the organic material into fine, floatable particles that can be removed by your mechanical filter. Therefore, check your filter often during this process and rinse off the excess accumulation as needed. The more sludge you digest, the more frequently you will need to flush the filter media.

4.       Digest twigs and leaves: If your pond is also littered with twigs and leaves, try some Microbe-Lift Spring/Summer Cleaner dry enzyme pouches. These are the same pouches that come in the Microbe-Lift Autumn/Winter Cleaner Prep kits, so you can also substitute those.

5.       Draw Down: At the end of five weeks, drain your pond until you can see the fins of your fish poking out of the water, but not below that. Stir the water a little to raise up any particles of gunk your filter has not removed so they can be washed down with the draw-down water, but be careful not to greatly disturb the occupants of the pond. This will also dispose of algae and water that has too many nutrients in it. When the walls of the pond are exposed, sprinkle Green Clean on them to kill any slimy scum that might be growing there. ¼ of a cup of Green Clean is enough to cover a surface 3 by 40 feet, so go lightly!

6.       Refill: If you are going to refill with chlorinated public water, be sure to add Microbe-Lift  Dechlor before you begin. If you are using well water, here are three important points to keep in mind.

a.       Groundwater in most regions is 52 degrees, so add water slowly if your pondwater is a significantly above or below this number.

b.      Groundwater contains little to no oxygen, so as you add the water, so use the nozzle on your hose to spray the water into the pond rather than simply letting it flow into the water.

c.       Keep an eye on your pond as it fills. Because the water level is so low, your fish may be vulnerable to wandering herons and raccoons.

If you follow this procedure, the results will be a clean, healthy pond and happy, unstressed fish. To help keep it that way, I recommend Microbe-Lift PL to get a jumpstart on biological processes. To block the growth of algae until your biofilter’s bacteria cultures grow strong enough to do so, pour in a little Microbe-Lift Barley Straw Extract. As a final touch to your masterpiece, add one pound (two cups) of baking soda to every 660 gallons over a period of seven days if you have soft water or a low alkalinity. Don’t know your alkalinity? Try our easy-to-use 5-in-1 test strips.

Finally, sit back and enjoy your clean, beautiful pond for the season.

Do I need to add cold water bacteria to my pond?

Whose pond needs cold water bacteria?

Cold water bacteria are used to keep the levels of toxic ammonia in check during the winter months. But why do you need them? Don’t you already have bacteria in your pond that do this?  When winter settles into your pond, the chilly water will slow down the life functions of everything in it, including your vital toxin-fighting little army. If toxins are allowed to accumulate, they can lead to illness or even death in your fish come spring. That’s where cold water bacteria come in. These guys are adapted to living in winter waters, so they can take over the tasks of your warm-water bacteria without missing a beat.

What Kinds of Ponds Will Benefit?

Backyard Ponds That:

  • Did not get a thorough cleaning in the Fall
  • Have accumulated bottom sludge
  • Have accumulated plant residue
  • Have a high fish population
  • Are experiencing high ammonia levels

Earthen Ponds That:

  • Are used to raise or hold high density populations of fish

What Kinds of Ponds Don’t Need It:

Any Ponds That:

  • Were thoroughly cleaned in the fall
  • Have no plant residue
  • Have no more than half an inch of bottom sludge
  • Have low density fish populations
  • Are earthen farm, storm water, or community ponds
  • Have no ammonia accumulations

How do I know if ammonia is accumulating?

Check it easily with our Microbe-Lift Ammonia Test Kit

If my pond needs cold water bacteria, what should I use?

Add a monthly dose of Microbe-Lift Autumn – Winter Prep throughout the coldest months of the year

Questions, comments, results? Comment and let me know!

How do you know what and when to feed koi and goldfish in winter?

When its too cold for any plant growth, don't feed fish

There is no one rule since winters vary from location to location and certainly from year to year.  The temperature can change dramatically from day to day in small shallow bodies of water.  And, feeding mistakes can be fatal. What to do?

A good way to judge is by the plants in the pond.  Plant growth is regulated by both the light and the nitrogen cycle.  The nitrogen cycle is regulated by water (and soil) temperatures.  Therefore the state of plant growth or lack thereof is a good indication of the micro climate in the pond.  Since fish are cold blooded animals their body temperature mirror that of the pond.  So, when cool temperatures are slowing down the nitrogen cycle, they are also slowing down the fish’s ability to digest food.

Here are a couple of easy ‘rules of thumb’ for what to feed and when.

  • As long as the lilies are blooming, it is OK to feed high protein feeds such as Microbe-lift

    While lily pads have emerged and are still purple, feed cold water fish food

    Living Legacy Summer Staple or Variety Mix

  • When the lilies stop blooming, switch to the high carb, low protein feeds such as Microbe-lift Living Legacy Cold Water Fish Food, Wheat Germ
  • When the plant tops die back, or you’ve cut them back and then they are too cold to regrow at all, stop feeding all together.
  • When plants start to regrow, send up new shoots, then reintroduce the Cold Water Fish Food, just once a day.
  • When the lily’s leaves change from purplish to full green, then it is safe to switch back to the high protein Summer Staple or Variety Mix feeds.  Start with once a day.  As the days get warmer and warmer, you can add more feedings ( if your filter system can tolerate the added waste load).

Following these simple, easy to observe rules of thumb will help keep your fish happy and healthy throughout the winter season.

Once lily pads have turned full green its OK to feed high protein summer fish foods

When should I turn off my bio filter for winter?

Natural Bio Filter

A  good rule of thumb is to run your bio filter whenever your weather is warm enough to grow and mow your grass.

The philosophy behind this rule of thumb is that the grass grows when the soil has warmed enough for bacteria to start the nitrogen cycle needed for its growth.  These are the same types of bacteria that are needed for your bio filter to function.  So, when its warm enough for soil bacteria, its probably warm enough for native beneficial bacteria in your bio filter. Conversely in the fall when it becomes too cool for the bacteria to operate the nitrogen cycle in the soil, it is probably too cool for the similar bacteria in the filter to function either.

  • For folks down south where your grass grows all year, run your bio filter all year.
  • For folks in the temperate regions, such as here in the Mid Atlantic, it is normally cold enough by Thanksgiving to no longer need to mow the lawn.  That is when to turn it off.  Our grass begins to grow again in April, so that is when we turn it back on.  Resist the temptation to turn it on with the first few warm days of spring as it almost always turns cold again, several times, before reliably warming up for the season.
  • Up north, you have a much shorter season, but let mowing be your guide.  Need to mow the emergent grass in spring, turn your filter on.  No longer need to mow your lawn in the fall, turn your filter off.