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.

Don’t feed the beggars during this Mid Winter Thaw!

Ah, the mid winter thaw.  It’s like spring time out there.  The birds are singing.  One corner of my pond actually has some open water.  It on days like this that can bring your koi to the surface looking for food.  They are hungry.  They have not eaten all winter.  Please please feed us they say.

Don’t do it.  Or put another way, don’t do it!  Mid winter feedings can pr0ve deadly. Sure its warm today.  Maybe spring is here early.  The groundhog did not see his shadow in PA this month.  But, its more than likely just a little teaser of spring to come.  Next week there could be a blizzard, or at least more of the same frigid weather we’ve been having since December.

If you feed your koi now, the food will be in their digestion system for several days.  If the weather turns cold again before it is completely digested, the digestive processes will grind to a halt.  There it will lie and molder, releasing toxins, until the weather again warms up.  This can be deadly for your fish.  And it will be a slow agonizing death.  Your fish will look normal until the pond warms up, then one by one they will sicken and some will die.  At that point it is generally too late to help them.

So, be mean, ignore the little beggars, do not feed them.  Let them graze the mid winter algae that has suddenly sprouted up in your pond.  That is a better safer course of action.  Resist feeding the little cuties until your water lilies start to grow and then just feed them cold water feeds that are high in wheat germ such as Microbelift Living Legacy Wheat Germ Feed.

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.