Winter is a good time to lime your frozen pond

Frozen ponds are an opportunity to lime

If your pond freezes enough in winter you can spread your lime right over the ice

If you own a pond, you know the importance of liming. And if you own a pond in the far north, you know the nuisance of seeing your pond turn into a Popsicle. However, your pond-turned-ice-skating-rink has a special benefit that no other region does: You can lime it without the hassle of distribution.

If you live up north, and your water has been acidic (below a pH of 7.5) or you have a low Total Alkalinity (below 100 ml/g), right now is the ideal time to lime.  Fostering overall pond and fish health, liming definitely supplies the “biggest bang for your buck” for any pond practice. (And I don’t even sell it, so I’m not just trying to sell you lime)

Crushed limestone is cheaper than dirt. It can be purchased in 40 – 50 lb. bags from your nearby farm supply store for about $3 or $4 a bag, and even less if bought in bulk (ideal for large ponds).  Buy crushed or pulverized limestone, not hydrated lime (hydrated lime can kill your fish)

What prevents most people from liming is:

  • Weight:

o   You will need approximately one ton per acre (but check with your local Ag Extension Agent for the exact amount required for the soil under your pond)

o   If you have an acre pond, you can’t use your trusty ½ ton pickup truck, so you’ll need it delivered

o   One ton = 40 – 50 bags

  • Distribution:

o   Lime can’t be dumped all in one spot. That’d be too easy. It must be distributed evenly throughout the bottom of your pond, just like you would lime a garden.

o   A small boat or barge (a kayak or canoe is not the boat for this!) will suffice for this task, if the weather is warmer, however…

o   If you live up north, you can simply walk across the ice, distributing as you go.  All you have to do is wait for the ice to melt and the lime to sink for the process to begin.  Easy as pie.

So, for all you northerners, your job has been made drastically easier. Finally, a good liming will last for several years.  And whoever thought you’d benefit from that big old ice cube on top your pond?

My fish are at the surface gasping for air? What to do?

If your fish are at the surface gasping for air you need to apply the following emergency first aid immediately, then figure out what caused this condition and fix it long term.

The fish need highly oxygenated water quickly.

Do this by turning on a hose or any other water pump and spraying the water up in the air so it gets oxygenated then lands in the pond. If you have a waterfall or fountain, turn it on and leave it on until the crisis is past. Add Stresscoat if its on hand.

If the pond is a large earthen pond, use the biggest pump you can get your hands on and spray water over the pond.  If you do not have a second water source, its ok to pump the water from the pond.


If it’s possible to also do a water change, do as deep a water change as you can.  If you are using chlorinated public water supply and do not have any dechlor handy, don’t change more than 10%.

If you are using groundwater or have dechlorinator handy, drain the pond down til the fish’s fins are starting to stick out of the water.  If your source of water is more than say 10 degrees different in temperature, so the water change over a several hour period.

If you have koi and  this is happening in the early spring, try to avoid netting and removing them from the pond unless you have another pond of better / safer water quality all ready for them to go into.  This time of year koi are just coming out of winter hibernation and their immune system is very fragile.  Netting and moving them would just add to their stress.


Review site conditions and get some test kits to find out what caused the sudden loss of oxygen.

If its hot weather and there is excessive algae, plus the weather has been cloudy, dead organics are probably the culprit and added oxygen will be needed until this is digested.  For earthen ponds, consider getting a bottom aeration system.

The above type of oxygen problem usually does not develop in lined ponds with a 24/7 pumping/filtration system running.

In lined ponds the problem more likely is an unexpected sudden overload of nutrients from storm water runoff, grossly overfeeding by’ helpful’ visitors, or a fish disease/ parasite infestation.  Water changes will help the first two issues.  Close examination of the ailing and or dead fish, (post mortem) is  needed for the later problem.  Get professional help if you suspect a fish disease or parasite.  Look up your local koi club or consult one of the on line fish health sites such as

If you used too much  Algaway 5.4 or AlgaeFix for the size of the pond and /or you did not keep your waterfall/filtration system going, this can lead to oxygen depletion.

If you had a massive algae bloom and treated it all at one time with any algaecide, the dieing algae can consume all the oxygen.

So, there can be many reasons why you had the problem and once you get past the crisis you can take the time to find out why it happened and how to prevent it from reoccurring.

But your first priority is to get some oxygenated water going to buy you some time until you can solve the underlying problem and the hose sprayed in the air over the pond will do just that.


How loud are aerators? Ask your phone.

Sound Meter on my Droid

The Vertex Aerators are some of the most quiet on the market, but they do hum.  The statistics show that Vertex Aerators run around 60 decibels but what does that mean?  Well, its about the same loudness as normal conversation, but people don’t hum often so that is not very helpful.

Here is a great way to find out for yourself just how loud 60 decibels would be if you have a Droid phone.  My husband just showed me this App and it is so cool and its free.  It’s called ‘Sound Meter’ and the ‘lite ‘ version is a free download.  Just download this cool app and then walk around household appliances and you will get to sample what runs around 60 decibels.  Try it on your heat pump, they are usually just a little noisier than a Vertex.

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.

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.