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.

Zombie Winter Algae won’t die.

Do you have zombie winter algae that refuse to die even though you have treated it?

Winter algae can begin to appear when the water reaches 45 degrees.  But, the beneficial bacterias that fight algae do not become effective until the water reaches 50 degrees.  In that 45 to 50 degree temperature range, the algae grows freely.  In warmer waters, the bacteria in the bio filter, the cultured bacteria such as Microbelift PL and PBL and the natural barley straw, do a great job.  But at these low temperatures, only the low temp bacteria such as Microbelift Autumn Winter Prep are active.

Many people resort to an emergency first aid for the algae by using algacides.  Hopefully they at least use the environmentally friendly algacides such as Green Clean and Algaway 5.4.    In warm water Green Clean usually works over night and Algaway 5.4 works within 2 to 3 days.  Results are frequently not as stellar in cold water. Why?

Why indeed?  Think of it this way.  If you go out to your garden in the summer and cut off lettuce, the cut lettuce is definitely dead.  Put the lettuce out in the sun on the picnic table and within hours it will wilt, turn brown and curl up, almost gone.  Now take that same piece of dead lettuce and put it in your refrigerator.  There, it is still dead, but it will stay green and crisp for several weeks.

So, even if you kill your winter algae in refrigerator cold water, it will still stay green and life like for several more weeks.

What to do?  One product that will block the growth of algae regardless of temperatures is Microbelift Barley Straw Extract. This works regardless of temperatures.  Another approach is pond dye.  Both Microbelift Bio Blue and Bio Black, added to the pond before the algae appear, will block algae growth.  The downside to the dyes is that they will also block your view of your fish.

There is an up side to winter filamentous algae.  Algae is a perfect spring food for your koi.  High in vitamins, low in hard to digest protein.  A true Popeye Spinach for your sleepy koi.  Later in the season they will turn up their noses at such fare.  But in the spring when they are very hungry, (and you are not yet feeding them, please) they will readily nibble algae.

Red worms in my pond biofilter!

Red worms in my pond biofilter!

I have received many an alarmed email from clients all over the country, all concerning the same thing:  a species of small red worms that like to take up residence in filter boxes during the warm season. What are these things? Are they koi parasites? Are they harmful to my fish or my plants? Are they harmful to me? Should I get rid of them? How can I make them leave? One client even freaked out and put their filter material in the microwave oven to nuke the little beasts to be sure they were all killed.  (Bet that smelled good!)

Fortunately, there is no need to panic. They are not fish parasites, they are not harmful to your plants, and they are not harmful to you.

They have a name, albeit a rather unsavory one – sewage worms. Sewage worms thrive wherever there is a plentitude of organic waste; in this case, a pond filter. Typically, they are found in waste water treatment plants, digesting aquatic waste matter as an earthworm digests solid waste matter. If you have these little guys in your filter, it is probably an indication that there is too much organic debris on the material. In this way, they are actually beneficial to your system because they are getting rid of excessive waste. However, if you find them disturbing, a good hosing-down of the filter material will dispose of them; or, simply wash them separate from the organic debris and dump them in the pond where they can make a tasty, high-protein treat for your fish. To discourage re-infestation, make sure your filter is cleaned regularly. Like stray cats, if you do not feed them, they will not come.

Finally, never nuke (microwave) your filter material! Besides killing the red worms, it will also kill the beneficial bacteria that make the filter effective.

Time to Feed the Birds!

Birds of a feather flock to our feeder all winter.

My friend Dawn noted on her Facebook page yesterday that she had seen the first snowbird of the season at her bird feeder. Glancing at the forlorn-looking log cabin feeder outside the window, I too decided it was that time of year again. The air has long since chilled, the bright hues of fall are fading, and the droll patterns of frost now regularly creep across the farm each morning – In other words, winter is just around the corner, bringing with it one of my favorite activities, bird-watching. I keep my bird feeder right outside my bedroom window so I can enjoy the beautiful array of plumage with my morning coffee. It’s a pleasant way to start any day.

Away to the window I flew like a flash, tore open the shutters and threw up the sash… When what, to my wondering eyes did appear… A pitiful, empty feeder, caked with last season’s crud. Yuck. I grabbed it off the hanger, took it out to my workshop, and pulled a bottle of Microbe-Lift Bird Feeder Cleaner off the shelf. It’s a soy-based cleaner, safe to use on any outdoor surface, including birdhouses and birdbaths. (I even use it on grimy picnic tables and chairs after the summer!) The sad, grubby little cabin took on a new life in no time. I filled it right up and placed its gleaming frame back on the hook. Now all I have to do is wait for the first lucky guests of the season to arrive. Will it be a snow bird? A Carolina Wren? A charming Cardinal? A cute little Purple Finch? A Goldfinch? Besides those favorites, we also get Flickers, Nuthatches, House Sparrows, and an occasional Starling. It’s always fun to see who shows up each day. Our black-and-white housecat, Patches, also enjoys watching the birds through the glass, but for different reasons.

Last spring, we had a particularly personable pair of finches. They were identical, mature birds, but I like to think they were mother and daughter. They always flew to the feeder together. One bird would pick up, crack, and eat the seeds, but the other bird just sat there and chirped loudly. Sometimes, the feeding bird would crack a seed and feed it to the complaining, oblivious bird and then go back to feeding itself. It seemed to me that the second bird had not learned the avian art of cracking seeds, and so instead of taking it upon herself to learn, simply demanded of her mother to feed her. The mother tried and tried, but to no avail. The pair is fond to my memory because they remind me of myself and my own wearisome teenage daughter. I keep encouraging her to get a job, learn to drive, save for college, but she just keeps sitting on the perch and chirping loudly. Teenagers and baby birds, what’s the difference?

I live in central Maryland so I see a lot of birds indigenous to the northeast, but what kind of birds does winter bring in other parts of the country? Do you have any funny or interesting bird stories? Leave and comment and let me know!

Do turtles make good pond pets?

Barley Straw Bag Turtle Island

Turtles add so much charm to a pond.  They are like tiny submarines, poking their little head’s up like periscopes, gliding thru your pond.  Adorable.  But do they make good pond pets?  And, what does it take to make them happy?

What kinds of turtles are best?  Turtles native to your area, such as eastern painted turtles here in the Mid Atlantic, are the easiest to manage.  Red Eared sliders are not native but can adapt well to pond conditions if you can keep them from escaping into the wild where they can pose a problem.  Both are readily available on Craigslist from pet owners tired of their aquarium pet.

If your pond can provide food, shelter, and security (their escape artist), your pond may be a great home for these cuties.

Food: Both species start out life as carnivores (meat eaters).  And, when small, are fast enough to catch your smaller fish.   Not good if you prize your fingerlings.  If your pond gets overpopulated with fingerlings each year, they will help you thin them out.  Unfortunately there is no guarantee they will only eat the ugly ones.  As they mature, they gradually rely more on vegetation for the bulk of their diet.  Not good if you prize your lilies and other soft aquatic plants.  Great, if your pond is over planted and can stand the grazing.  Sorry they don’t eat the obnoxious stuff like algae.  Some will learn to like your fish’s food and you will see them surfacing to feed with the fish.   So, they are pretty easy to feed if you can spare some of your plants and or fingerlings.

Shelter:  Turtles are fairly defenseless against predators such as cats, dogs, foxes, raccoons, and hawks.  Therefore they need to be

Turtles flock to floating islands

able to escape to a float or island out in the pond.  They will also use this refuge to sun themselves on sunny days when the water is still cold.  Floating Island Planters make a great refuge and sun deck for turtles. Large Bags of barley straw placed in the pond for algae management can also be used if some flotation material is placed inside to keep it from sinking.  One empty capped pint sized water bottle will do the trick.

Wintering:  In the winter, your turtle will swim to the bottom of the pond and hibernate there until better weather.  The pond needs to be at least 3 feet deep in temperate regions such as the Mid Atlantic to ensure a large enough pool of frost free water.   And, they like to have something in which to hide .  A 5 gallon bucket on its side with some sand or gravel inside works.  They really like to nestle into large planters if you have one big enough to accommodate them.  They will stay submerged as long as the air is as cold as the water.  However, if you get a few warm sunny winter days, you may see them up sunning themselves on their island, so make sure it is there through the winter.

Security:  They are escape artist.  They may not leave at first, but once they are comfortable that they can hide out in the pond, wanderlust takes over.  The first two painted turtles I got for my pond, a gift from a customer, delighted me with their antics for about a month and then disappeared.  Two weeks later I found one wandering around 100 feet from the pond up near the barn.  I picked him up and put him back in.  Two weeks after that, I found him, or the other identical turtle, wandering up by Bill’s shop.  Picked him up, put him back in.  Then they stayed put for the rest of the season and overwintered great.  The next spring when things warmed up, they disappeared, permanently.  Our pond is along a natural stream,  so I supposed they found it and headed downstream.  They are native to this area, so no harm done, but I miss them.  I caught a few more in the nearby lake that season and enjoyed their company for a few months before they too went back home.  So, they really need to be fenced.  It’s not practical to fence my pond, so I’ve just given up on having submariners in my pond.  If you live along a natural stream and are close to a lake or bog, you can try to lure wild turtles to your pond by placing Bagged Barley Straw or Floating island Planters as habitats in the pond.  This is probably the best way to go if possible, since they are more likely to stay if they come on their own accord and find food and safety there.

So, there are pros and cons to turtle pets, but if you can provide for all their needs, go for ‘em, they’re adorable!

Welcome to the Still Pond Farm Blog!

We have created this blog as a place to post updates, pictures, information about the pond lifestyle and products.

Visit our pond products website to learn more about us.