This Brick Walkway project in Lancaster, PA included lifting the existing brick walkway, removing stone dust and excavating for a proper base depth. We then installed a proper stone base and relayed the existing bricks in the similar pattern. Finally we will installed an epoxy based mortar between the brick joints and installed an edge restraint to prevent future separation of the bricks.
Magic in the Pond
Koi are basically river fish with mechanisms that were developed for river life. That’s not to say they cannot live in a pond. Actually, they do fine in ponds – but they’re bodies and their behavior is all “river-y.”
Why is this important in this conversation? Because they are engineered to scatter their eggs everywhere without parental care afterward rather than laying them in a nest like a pond fish would. The mother and father koi never give the fry another thought. In your pond, all the same stuff happens as in a river, but you get to see more of the gory details … and they matter, so listen up!
Do you know why fish spawn? Ostensibly, to lay eggs and make babies, right? But I meant do you know why, biologically they actually spawn? What causes it?
Well, it’s two things – first, the water warms up in the spring, and then the days get longer. These two changes in the environment cause hormones to be released by the fish, causing the female to become full (gravid) of eggs and the male to dress them up for hatchin’ (fertilization)!
The Spawning Dance
During this time you will likely see koi chase each other around the pond; usually first thing in the morning. It’s a remarkable sight because large koi can really, really wreck a pond with their shenanigans. They will bull around the plants in a group, upsetting pots, rocks, roots – and all for spawning. The female, usually a larger rounder fish, is “driven” by one or more males, and in their blind excitement, even females will join the pursuit of the female laying her eggs. They all get together going in one direction like, “Hey, it’s a Conga line!”
All of this has to happen because the female koi has no ability to push her eggs out with abdominal muscles. Instead, the eggs are basically leaked out of the fish from the passive pressure that comes with pushing the female fish around the pond, usually against something like a rock or some plant material. The males bump their heads (rather hard) into her flanks to provide the extra oomph needed to expel most of her eggs.
If there are no shallows, obstacles, or plants for the female to push into, it is unlikely, to almost impossible, that a female koi will spawn on her own. In plain liner ponds with no decorative elements, rocks, plants or shallow areas, the fish have no obstacles to spawn against and they may require artificially induced spawning hormones.
It Can Get Pretty Rough
The reason I want you to know about the spawning rush is because in the spring, the unprepared will be shocked and appalled to see their fish fighting when, in fact, they are not really fighting, but instead are rushing each other in a spawn.
The second reason I wanted to mention this is because of what some people refer to as breeding injuries. When the female koi gets rushed into the side of the pond, the shallows or the rocks, she may endure some abrasion of her face and/or flanks. These will quickly heal under two conditions:
1. Be alert to the number of females in your pond. Ideally, there should be about two males to every female. If there is a higher ratio of males to females, she becomes basically the only gal in the pond, and is pretty much rushed all day. When this happens, she can get pretty beat up and severe injury can occur. Remove any female that gets run for more than four hours.
2. If the water quality is healthy and the important nitrogen numbers are all zero or nearly so, then she should go on and heal up fine as well. If the water is high in ammonia, nitrite or nitrate, or if the pH is sagging low, the female will not heal well and infections are inevitable.
People talk about sharp rocks in the pond, cutting up the fish. There are several problems with this hypothesis. First, sharp rocks should never be used in the pond. Your liner is far more likely to get cut by (the weight of) sharp rocks than your fish are. So if you have sharp, gashy rocks in the pond, don’t gnash your teeth for the fish, gnash them for the long-term integrity of your liner! Ouch!
Secondly, rocks under water are not abrasive! Give any rock three weeks under water and, unless it’s a foamy piece of lava rock, it’s going to be too slick to stand on in that short span. I dare you to try! The slime on rocks is called bio film and it’s a wonderment to the fish as well as a beneficial cleansing component for your water.
So, now you have all these eggs, and spent fish. What now? Well, if the water gets quite foamy, a partial water change would be recommended. Then get in the pond and set up all the plants for tomorrow, because chances are there will be another female ready to pop and you can do it all over again … orrrrr simply put your plants in more protected or plant them in rock crevices in such a way that the fish can’t knock them over.
In two days, the eggs will hatch but they are so small that you really can’t see them. If you have gravel in your pond, it makes a great place for them to hide out, away from the danger of being snarfed up by the bigger fish. They will hide there for another day or so using their yolk sac for energy then, when they are 24 to 36 hours old they will swim up into the foliage of the pond. Of course, if you have no foliage, it’s a short story of delicious fry sushi and no babies the following day.
The fry eat microscopic plants and animals at this point. If you have a pond with a coating of biofilm and a thin greenish layer of algae on things, then the fry will have plenty to eat. They grow fast. Of course some of the fry will be spied by their elder siblings and the parents and, shall we say, be taken as food. Others will survive by color or cunning, and live to join the shoal.
Are They Really That Cute?
Baby fish (and young koi in general) grow an inch per month in the first year, especially in biologically filtered ponds with an abundant plant, copepod, nematode, rotifer, crustacean, molluscan, and protozoan-rich gravel bed to sustain them. In clean, liner-bottom, drained ponds, few fry live.
Of the babies that live, a small, small percentage of fish will have colors of any appreciable pattern or brilliance. Fish of collectable quality are very rare, and are hand-selected from a hundred thousand babies by talented breeders in Japan who recognize good fish nearly at birth and discard all the rest. In your pond, of the hundred thousand offspring, a thousand will hatch and a hundred will live to even be seen by you. Of that hundred, 10 will get big enough to catch with a net and be examined, and of that 10, maybe one will be tolerable as a “keeper.”
The vast majority of spawned “homemade” babies in your pond will be grey or brown. This is partly because the genes for that color are very, very common, and that grey and brown are good survival colors for koi ponds. So these will be the dominant babies you’re left with.
A Final Word
A word on mixed populations of goldfish and koi – koi don’t like baby fish very much. Oh sure, in a pinch, they’ll take some … probably more accidentally than intentionally. Goldfish, on the other hand, love baby fish – especially the big, chunky koi eggs and babies. When you keep koi and goldfish together, the surviving babies will all be goldfish babies, not koi babies. I’m sorry to tell you.
So if you want koi babies this spring, consider relinquishing your goldfish to another party who wants them, and leave the koi to the koi.
OVER THE TOP!
In the second episode of the Aquascape Pond Squad, Brian has an “over the top” vision for an indoor water garden the guys are building at the 2015 Chicago Flower & Garden Show. Will they be able to pull it off in time for the show? Watch and find out!
Join the guys as they tackle their most elaborate water feature display to date at the 2015 Chicago Flower & Garden Show. Nine long days and nights of construction take their toll and East Coast reinforcements provide some relief to help get the job done.
Before & After pictures of a 11-16′ pond with a 20′ stream in Lancaster. We added a few Koi, some aquatic plants, and mulch to soften up the project. There is also a large fish cave installed in the bottom shelve to help protect the koi from predators.
This pond project in Lancaster, PA included building a 3 foot tall boulder retaining wall to create a level area for excavating the pond. We then installed a 11×16 Aquascape Ecosystem Koi Pond with waterfalls and a built in fish cave.
Before & After Photos of a backyard renovation in Ephrata, PA. This renovation included a outdoor kitchen with a grill, sink and granite counter top, as well as a deck for the second level, and a pergola. Also involved were a Raised patio and lower level patio, with a seating wall, sunken hot tub, flagstone patio, Ecosystem Pond and landscaping throughout.
Are Your Levels up to Par?
By Ed Beaulieu
Oxygen is one of, if not the most vital element on the face of this Earth. Read any science journal you can find or even look it up on the Internet. You’re not going to find anyone that will dispute that fact. The truth is that oxygen is vital to many different organisms on Earth, not just humans.
Our watery friends are no different. They just get the oxygen from a slightly different source than we do. Fish and aquatic plants get oxygen from the water, so your pond is bursting with life because of the oxygen in and around it.
How Does It Get There?
Yes, the formula for water is H2O, but the formula’s oxygen contribution alone isn’t the only oxygen present in your pond. Just because oxygen is a part of the formula, doesn’t mean there’s enough of it to sustain aquatic life. The oxygen actually comes from several different sources, but the most common is good old-fashioned absorption. Oxygen from the atmosphere is absorbed into the water. Agitation at the surface and splashing (as in a waterfall or pond aerator) increases the absorption of that oxygen into the water because of the expanded surface area created.
Another way that oxygen gets into the water is through aquatic plants, but you certainly can’t rely on aquatic plants to do all the work. It’s a double-edged sword, really. Lots of folks know that plants with submerged foliage can produce massive amounts of oxygen. When the sun shines on them, they use carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. But plants don’t grow much by day, so they store that energy. When they grow at night, they use that stored energy, producing carbon dioxide and using up oxygen. In other words, when nighttime hits, submerged plants (a.k.a. oygenators) are not your fishes’ friends.
Some of the best oxygenators (also known as submerged aquatics) are fast growing plants with lush foliage that grows under the water line, including anacharis, elodea, and cabomba, as well as a not-so-favorite plant, algae.
Oxygen is Essential
Once the oxygen is present in the water, it is used by aquatic plants and animals for respiration. Respiration is a key to their growth and survival. Oxygen is even used by bacteria to help break down dead plant material. So how much oxygen is needed for fish to survive? Minimum levels should be at 5 parts per million (PPM), allowing the fish to live a few days, but levels of 8 PPM would be more desirable. Levels of 11 to 14 PPM are the best. Keeping fish means maintaining a suitable oxygen level. It’s certainly as important as the very water in which they live … water is not enough.
Keeping Your Cool
Pond owners in colder climates always seem to get the short end of the stick in other areas of water gardening, but in the case of oxygen levels in backyard water features, they’ve got a bit of an edge. In case you don’t remember from Chemistry 101, colder water (under 60° F) dissolves (or carries) more oxygen.
Regardless of whether you’re in a warm or cool climate, you’ll want to be careful with your fish during clean-outs. Putting fish in a tank or tub in the heat of summer for a clean-out can be risky. If you don’t aerate or agitate the tank or vat, or the tank or vat is in the sun and heating up, your fish may be in danger due to low oxygen levels. You can simply aerate or agitate water that’s over 75° F. An air stone makes this task simple and easy. For a little extra help from Mother Nature, pick a nice, shady spot for the fish to hang out while you do the dirty work!
Where Does It Go?
Hot weather isn’t the only villain in the dissolved oxygen saga. There are a few common ways that oxygen levels get reduced. The most obvious is fish and plant respiration, which is why it’s so important to make sure you don’t overstock your pond. One inch of fish per square foot of pond is the recommended stocking number, keeping in mind that fish grow and you need to save room for them.
Bacteria are also culprits in oxygen respiration, and beneficial bacteria have especially voracious metabolisms when it comes to consuming oxygen. Your pond’s bacterial flora consumes more oxygen than your fish could ever attempt. So basically, the very things you need and want in a pond consume the most oxygen. Isn’t that ironic?
Less common ways that may cause dissolved oxygen levels to fall include decaying algae, treating with chemicals, and the depth of your pond. Algae eats up oxygen as it rots away, consuming massive amounts of the precious element. If your fish are sick, you may also want to keep an eye on the oxygen level of the water. The use of certain chemicals in the pond for treating fish diseases can consume a lot of oxygen. It’s a good idea to agitate the water while treating the fish.
Also, the depth of your pond plays a role in the available oxygen in the pond. Ponds over five feet deep, for example, will have low dissolved oxygen levels at the bottom. This will be true unless there is a means to bring the bottom layer of water to the surface.
Testing One, Two, Three
If you catch fish gasping for oxygen at the water, you may want to look into the oxygen level. There are a couple test kits on the market that can help you find out if your pond is up to par with oxygen.
Finally, don’t forget that ponds are meant to be a relaxing oasis, providing relief from the troubles of the day. Running out and testing a pond every day is not relaxing. If the oxygen level in the pond is good, there’s no need to try to improve the levels. The fish and plants in the pond get used to their surroundings and have probably already adjusted to the pond’s chemistry. Just remember that favorite pond pets are just like you, living and breathing the same air … just a little bit differently!
This Pond project in Quarryville, PA consisted of updating and renovating to a existing stream & waterfall of an ecosystem pond. The old waterfall was torn apart and reconstructed into a beautiful one of a kind masterpiece.
The Aquascape Pond Squad is challenged to renovate an old indoor turtle rescue pond with a state-of-the-art critter pond, complete with barriers so the turtles can’t escape! Can the guys mastermind the proper design for this indoor critter pond? Watch as the Aquascape Pond Squad invites a group of kids to give the final seal of approval on this watery wonderland for stray turtles.
This Pond project in Ephrata, PA was highlighted by a pond renovation which consisted of a tear out and rebuild of an existing pond as well as adding a cast iron fountain feature! The main feature was a 11′x 11′ Ecosystem Pond with a 20′ long stream, LED pond lighting, and aquatic plants. Also included was a 10?x10? flagstone landing up against the driveway, with a recirculating cast iron pump water feature with LED lighting, and a boulder wall.