03.06.09

Multiple pumps have multiple benefits

Posted in New Pond Construction, Pond Pumps, Ponding 101 at 11:54 am by Administrator


Hy-Drive Pond and Waterfall Pump - Pond PumpsFor years we have told our customers about using multiple pumps. There are many benefits to doing this and there are only one or two negatives. The negatives can be compensated for with the lower price of electrical cost and convenience.

Let’s say you need 8000 gallons per hour at your waterfall. You can purchase a direct drive waterfall style pump consuming 1300 watts (about 11 amps) or you can purchase two Hy-Drive 4800 pumps . Total energy for two of the Hy-Drive pumps would be about 560 watts (about 4.5 amps). This is a savings of almost 60% in electrical usage. Your cost to purchase the pumps is probably not much different than the cost of one larger direct drive pump and there are other benefits here:

·         Longer warranty (Hy-Drives have a 3 Year Warranty)

·         Replaceable parts (Most larger direct drive pumps are non repairable throwaways)

·         Less noise (vibration) (Direct drive pumps have stronger motors than the Mag-Drives)

Not to mention that you always have a spare pump if one should fail and you can always run one pump at less oxygen intensive times.

 

You can also apply this to three, four or even five pumps. You can combine four Hy-drive 4800 pumps together for up to 19,200 gph maximum flow rate or about 16,000 gph @ 5 ft of head.

Using the Pondmaster Hy-Drive 4800 is just one example. You can use the multiple pump rules for almost any type, brand or combination of pumps. External pumps can be run in parallel if this would benefit you such as running two low rpm pumps in place of one high rpm pump. It’s all about saving energy and getting more flow for your dollar.

You may ask; how do I hook these up? Well it’s pretty easy and you have many ways to do it.

·         You can run two separate lines – one from each pump going up to your waterfall or water feature.

·         You can run the pumps parallel to one larger pipe or a manifold if you have 3 or more pumps.

The most important thing to remember is to size your tubing correctly for the flow rate. Most people will size the pipe based on the discharge of the pump or based on the price of the pipe.

The smaller the pipe the less volume of water that can pass through!!!

Here are some examples:

·         Example 1: You have one Hy-Drive 4800 pump on a single pipe run. The discharge on this pump is 1-1/2” and most will go with 1-1/2” inside diameter pipe but if you have a typical 4-5 ft head lift you are not getting all of the flow you could if you ran 2” ID pipe. So this would be ideal. Even if you had a smaller pump in place you would still be better off going with the 2” ID pipe. Always go larger and it will not harm anything.

·         Example 2: You have two of the Hy-Drive 4800 pumps. You can run two separate 2” ID lines or if you will run one line you will want to come off the pumps with one 2” ID line and then increase up to a 3” ID or 4” ID line. This way you can maximize your flow rate. Same principal goes for three or even four pumps.

 

There are so many benefits to running multiple pond pumps and we hope you will use this information to your benefit. We love large flows going over the waterfall but hate the electrical costs. With these great energy efficient pumps on the market these days, it’s easy to find just the right one or two that will suit your pond and waterfall needs.  

02.24.09

Social Fish

Posted in Koi at 4:33 pm by Administrator


Salmon are independent, swimming alone throughout the year, until spawning season.  That’s when they flood the rivers and streams, swimming upstream to the places of their birth to begin a new generation.  Only the strong survive the rigors of this grueling quest, fraught with danger from predators and fishermen alike.  That is the life of a salmon.

That is not the life of a koi.  Koi are social fish.  They require other fish around them.  They swim in a school (if they have the required space) and communicate with each other.  The warning tail-splash from one will send them all to the bottom of the pond instantly.  They are in tune with each other.  If a new fish is added to the pond, they introduce themselves and the newcomer to the pond.  The old-timers show the new fish where and when to eat.  Newcomers just tag along for a while, learning, acclimating to a new home.

I’m not sure if regular goldfish have the same camaraderie with each other because I’ve never seen a goldfish pond with few enough fish to observe schooling behavior.  I have one goldfish in a 75-gallon fish tank at my house which seems perfectly satisfied to be the only fish in the “pond”.  Goldfish will make a suitable companion fish, for a koi in quarantine for instance, and doesn’t take up as much water space, making it more efficient than using a second koi.  Orfes, on the other hand are another social fish, swimming in schools and do best when in groups of five or more.  They do not thrive in solitary conditions.  They are compatible with koi, although more sensitive to the surrounding environment.

When you have a water feature, it is important to know the type of inhabitant you are to introduce because this may be essential to the success or failure of the species you hope to enjoy.

02.18.09

RE-LINE? OR PATCH?

Posted in Leaky Pond, Ponding 101, Pondliner at 11:23 am by Administrator

Pondgard Pondliner - Firestone EPDM 45mil Pond Liner


When the pond is obviously leaking, there are ways to find that pesky leak.  The first is to turn off all water flow systems, including the waterfall (the number 1 culprit when a leak is suspected) and stream (#2 most common culprit!).  Monitor carefully as you watch the water level drop.  Just in case, prepare a spare tank or quarantine system for your fish.  In case the leak happens to be on the very bottom of the pond, you don’t want the fish to run out of water.  Sometimes, it is not simply one leak, but hopefully, if you used a good liner, installed it carefully as per the directions, and didn’t make any “short” cuts in it initially, a simple fix is all that should be necessary… once you find it. 

 

            I’ve been asked about using dyes to detect a leak, but I have never seen one work.  I don’t even think it is feasible.  IF the water was coming IN, then it might.  But with water going OUT, I doubt it.  If you also consider the size of many ponds, shortcuts don’t really make sense.  It also may not make sense to reline the pond with new liner right away.  Before you make a decision, do the grunt work.  It can be time-consuming if it is a slow leak, but worth it, especially with spring coming.

 

            A tear in the liner can happen from rodents nesting beneath the liner.  It can be the result of sharp rocks and pressure, people or animals walking on them in the pond.  Whenever using heavy rocks with edges it’s best to double-line or use underlayment in that area so a leak is not imminent in 2-3 years.  I’ve talked to pond owners who’ve experienced a heron spearing a fish that has actually punctured the liner.  If you use a good quality EPDM liner, these occurrences will be much less often.  Another culprit is bamboo planted near the pond.  Bamboo shoots will pierce a pond liner, no matter how good the quality and all the water can drain out before you realize.

 

            In order to locate the potential leak(s), turn everything off and allow the water to settle.  In my pond, I fixed the small leak at the water level by simply following around the edge until I found it.  Another time, the leak was in one of my vortex chambers, not even in the pond itself.  I had to shut the vortex valve until we could get someone to weld a baffle in it.  That happened in deep winter.  It was repaired in mid-spring. 

 

            So, you thoroughly cleaned the area around that hole with isopropyl alcohol, used waterproof glue to attach a small bit of new liner and sealed it up.  You refilled the pond 12 hours later with hope in your heart.  Then you still had a leak somewhere.  Well, you repeated the process and found/fixed a second/third leak. 

 

I have to say here that it is more likely the waterfall is leaking, or the plumbing to waterfall or stream than the pond, but of course, it happens.  Good quality Firestone EPDM Liners generally have a 30-70 year life-span.  A good caliber liner is well-worth the investment when you consider the tedium and challenge of repairs in one of lesser quality.  So, when you have more than 1-2 leaks per year, I think it’s time to replace the liner.  Underlayment is also a must buy item as it will add to the puncture resistance. Rocks do not necessarily prolong the life of the liner.  Anything with sharp edges can be a liability to fish and liner.  But, by all means, start with good quality equipment and liner material.  Plan ahead!

02.14.09

POND BIOLOGY, in brief…

Posted in Algae, Pond Bacteria, Ponding 101, Water Quality at 3:20 pm by Administrator


In the pursuit of clean, clear water, we have gone to all extremes inventing filtration systems when filters were practically un-heard of, just a few decades ago.  One word seems to be linked synonymously with all good filters—biological.  I wonder how many people actually appreciate the concept of biological filtration today…

            Biological simply indicates through “natural” technologies, something found in nature.  And it always includes beneficial bacteria.  My first introduction to beneficial bacteria as it pertains to clear water in the pond came through a koi club lecturer.  This lecturer showed us, under a microscope, what is contained in the Bio-film.  Previous to that day, none of us even knew that black/green scummy lining that persisted in the pond even WAS the Bio-film.  Most of the members spent a good deal of time scraping and power washing it off, only to suffer with insufferably poor water conditions (which we invariably blamed on “too many fish” or “too much food”).

Well, although those are real consideration today, as then, we also know a little about the microscopic bugs that should be cleaning the pond, removing organic waste and converting ammonia -> nitrite -> nitrate.  This still requires a measure of blind faith on the hobbyist’s part.  He can’t see or identify the bacteria (even if he has a microscope strong enough to find them), so he has to take the word of more experienced owners and microbiologists.  They are there.  And if not in sufficient quantity (or quality), the water will show it.

You need heterotrophic strains of microbes to remove the organics and nitrifiers to do the chemical work in converting ammonia into something with which your fish can live.  Sure, the fish food is still the #1 polluter, whether it transverses the fish or simply lays uneaten in the skimmer or on the bottom.  It brings nitrogen and phosphorus as waste products.  The fish are your #2 polluters: they give off lots of organic waste (fish poop) and emit ammonia from their gills 24/7.

So, you didn’t know the beneficial bacteria were colonizing on your liner?  And on your rocks?  Even on the fish??  You thought they were just in the filter.  Nope, they need to be everywhere and in large numbers.  They are even on the algae plants.  They build on top of each other, creating anaerobic zones that are microscopically thin, hardly noticeable.  These are the places where heterotrophs remove NITRATES, turning it into harmless nitrogen gas and water.  Wow!!   If you want clear water, all you have to do is nurture these good guys and take care in stocking and feeding the fish.  Regular filter maintenance and water changes will make up for the fact that these are “closed” systems, but the bacteria are other integral part of “the secret to success”.

02.09.09

Barley Straw Pellets (and Extracts)

Posted in Algae, Barley Straw Pellets, Ponding 101, Water Quality at 2:05 pm by Administrator


Barley straw pelletsThe primary purpose of using Barley Straw products has always been to clarify the pond.  Generally, this is in regard to algae since everyone has been told that Barley straw products, in the process of breaking down, will sequester nutrients that feed algae.  The primary problem with Barley is that people may not be using it correctly!  It should be utilized as a preventative, rather than a curative, product.  Once there is an algae bloom or string algae is out-of-control, the growth and reproductive rates of these primitive plants is such that any assistance from the barley will probably go unnoticed.  It isn’t that it isn’t working.  It’s that it cannot catch up to the alarming growth rate of algae plants once it has begun.  Recent university studies have proven that barley does work to help prevent excessive algae growth.

There are two processes involved in helping to prevent algae growth.  The first is the release of humic acids as the barley decomposes in your pond (or water feature).  This can take up to six weeks with barley bales.  Barley Pellets will release these compounds within approximately one week since the barley straw has been broken down to a certain degree in processing the pellets.  Barley extracts are in the simplest form so they release these compounds almost immediately.  The humic substances will tie up nutrients, primarily nitrogen and phosphorus, the essential algal proteins for growth in your system.  By removal of these macro-nutrients, you are essentially “starving” the algae out before it becomes the menace we all know it can be.

Another mechanism found to be in barley is the photochemical release of hydrogen peroxide, a strong oxidizing agent that clarifies water.  Regular hydrogen peroxide is not commonly used because it reacts too quickly and doesn’t remain in the water long enough to make a difference.  The way barley releases the hydrogen peroxide is in a slow, sustained natural way which is more effective and less costly than adding liquid hydrogen peroxide.

There is one other property of barley that is rarely mentioned: its capacity to tie up heavy metals as well as the macronutrients.  Barley Straw Pellets and Extract are one of the finest water conditioners, especially when using hard water or well-water.  Peat and other natural materials have been added to barley products to provide buffering properties.  It’s not just about algae!

02.05.09

Microbe-Life/PL

Posted in Pond Bacteria, Water Quality at 10:56 am by Administrator


Microbelift PL - Pond Bacteria - Nitrifying Bacteria - Clear Water - PLThis product is called by many names, “PL”, “Lift”, Microbe-Lift”, “the stinky stuff”… because it is the cornerstone product of the entire Microbe-Lift microbial line.  Everybody by now recognizes the name and the smell.  If it doesn’t smell, it isn’t good for your pond.  But, what’s the reason for that odor, really?  And how in the world can bacteria live so long (guaranteed two years, probably will last longer) in the bottle?  How should I store it?  And what’s the best way to use it?  What about the varying colors to the bottles?  What happens when the bacteria die??

·         The odor from Microbe-Lift/PL is caused by hydrogen sulfide which is produced by the bacteria in the sealed bottle.  The hydrogen sulfide is a metabolic inhibitor that works on the bacteria in much the same way anesthesia works during surgery, slowing down metabolic functions.  It makes the bacteria to go dormant, which in turn will give them their longevity in the bottle.  Once the bottle is uncapped, some of the gas is released and the bacteria begin to resume activity.  Once you add them to your pond, and your pond is not “sealed” there is no build-up of hydrogen sulfide in the pond, they become active again in minutes.  This explains why it is so important for the bottles to be recapped tightly after using each time and not left open.

·         When the hydrogen sulfide odor is exhausted in the bottle, the bacteria are fully active and will not live long.

·         Storage requirements are easy… just avoid temperature extremes!  It is best stored in temperatures between 40F and 105F.  A shed, cellar or storage room can easily protect the containers from extreme heat and cold.  Putting them on the bottom shelf will keep them cooler in summer.  The top shelf will likely be warmer in winter.

·         Using Microbe-Lift/PL is the easiest thing you’ll have to do this week:  it is a five week inoculation period, followed by once a month maintenance applications.  All you need to do is measure the correct amount (more is needed in some instances, but generally will not speed up the process)…(less can be used, but you will have to wait a lot longer for the desired results)… and add it to the water that is going to your filter, be it the skimmer, bottom drains, or something else.

·         Photosynthetic bacteria will vary in color, depending upon the amount of light exposed while in storage.  If your container is very dark brown, your photosynthetic bacteria are alive and well.  If it is pinkish, don’t throw this PL away!  It has plenty of bacteria in there to clean your pond.  And the lack paleness does not mean the product is dead, dying or weakened in some way.

·         When bacteria die, they sort of explode, offering more food for the other bacteria.  At no time will the dead bacteria harm fish or other pond inhabitants.  Dead bacteria won’t remove organics, but live bacteria will remove both the organics and the dead bacteria… so, go ahead and use it.  In a worst case scenario, it certainly can’t hurt!

02.01.09

CATCHING YOUR FISH

Posted in Koi, Ponding 101 at 12:49 pm by Administrator


From time to time, everybody has had occasion to remove a fish.  Maybe the fish was ill or you just needed to do a scraping for parasites, as a preventive measure.  Or, maybe you needed to thin the herd.  The darker colored fish are the hardest to find and definitely the best swimmers.  I know from experience.  Even a sick fish has amazing agility when someone with a net is following it.  Everyone who has tried to catch a sick fish in a small pond (let along a large one!) knows how difficult the task.  This is further complicated by potted plants and decorative rocks in the pond.  Maybe you want to add to this a water quality problem, such as stirring up the bottom when you do not have a bottom drain installed, so the visibility becomes nil.  So, is there an easier way to catch ONE fish?  Actually, there is.  There are a few ways that would be much less stress to the fish and the owner.  Let me preface this with a caution: never come up behind or beneath a koi without expecting the fish to jump out of the net.  And never lift the netted fish out of the water.  Use a sock net or blue bowl to take the fish from the water to the transport tank or quarantine.

The first way is to use a seine net to herd the fish into one corner where one can easily use a sock net to scoop out the correct fish.  A seine net is a long net with weights on one side and floats on the other.  It is heavy to pull so two people will do a better job than one.  This is much less stressful than chasing fish around the pond.  This is the best way to catch fish in a large pond.

The second way is less arduous, however may require more patience and practice.  This is to use two people, one to “guide” the fish to the other person’s net.  The second person is the netter.  Once netted, use the sock net or bowl to lift the fish from the water.   I wouldn’t try this in any pond over 1,000 gallons.

Next, and by far the easiest, especially if the water is turbid, lower the water level down until you can see the top fins of the fish.  It will be easier to distinguish one from the other at this time and you can practically “pick up” the one you need.  If walking in the water, be careful not to walk on small fish.  This is also a great way to get nice clean water into the pond and remove a lot of pollutants while you’re at it!  This can be costly (water) and wasteful (if you live in a drought area), so one should use discretion when deciding what tactic to use.  No matter which method is chosen, patience and gentleness are the keys to success.  If you try and miss the fish on the first attempt, let the fish (and yourself) calm down before trying again.  It’s best not to terrorize (or traumatize) fish we are trying to help.

01.24.09

BACTERIA AND BEAD-TYPE FILTERS

Posted in New Pond Construction, Ponding 101, Water Quality at 9:39 am by Administrator


Aqua Ultima II Bead Filter for PondsSome people say not to add bacteria to the pond with such-and-such filter.  Well, what exactly is the purpose of a bead filter?  Is it not the same as any other filter media?  Is it not to have plenty of surface area (beads) for bacteria to colonize?  Of course it is.  In fact, the biggest selling point for filter media is “larger surface area” and “takes up less room”.  So, to dispel the myth that you don’t need bacteria with a bead filter system, go ahead and add the bacteria.  It will help colonize the beads more quickly and with the right kind of bacteria, rather than leave it up to chance.

What types of bacteria are we talking about in a pond?  That’s easy: heterotrophs to clean up organic waste, Nitrifiers to convert ammonia to nitrite and then to nitrate, and of course, there’s the Aeromonas, Pseudomonas and other nasty critters that are in everybody’s pond.  There are autotrophs, chemotrophs, and bacteria (beneficial bugs) that work in aerobic, anaerobic and anoxic layers of your filter.  In order to have a really healthy pond, you have to have them all.  These bacteria produce enzymes, break down specific proteins, and clean up the environment for your fish in one way or another.  You can’t see them, they are microscopic, but their presence will show in water quality and overall pond condition.  But don’t be worried, these guys are in every mountain stream and desert oasis in which you may ever have quenched your thirst.  They are in the ocean and lakes, mudholes and canals.  Bacteria are the janitors of the world.

What about backwashing the filter?  Sorry, but bacteria are not going to wash off the beads, or off the other filter media.  You can kill bacteria with chemicals (chlorine comes to mind) but you won’t wash them off.  So, go ahead and backwash the filter.  It isn’t going to harm the biological workforce.  It will clean off any extra debris that might be slowing down the biological progress, that’s all.  That dirty water you see coming out of a backwashed filter is not bacteria, it is dirt.  And we do not need to preserve dirt in our ponds.  Just because some bacterial additives have a brownish color in the bottles does not mean it is brownish in your pond.  It is not.  The bacteria themselves are invisible (microscopic, remember?)…  Am I prejudiced about bacteria?  Perhaps, but I’m also educated.  Adding beneficial bacteria can never harm your filter.

01.18.09

Bacteria and Cold Water

Posted in Pond Bacteria, Ponding 101, Water Quality, Winterization at 6:51 pm by Administrator



There are live (vegetative) beneficial bacteria in our pond, and there are spore-based (beneficial) bacteria.  The spore-based bacterium does not have the adaptability and competitive edge which our vegetative strains do, but at the same time, they will work better in the colder temperatures.  All bacteria slows down in winter if the water temperatures are lower than 45-50F.  But the vegetative, which is super-active during the summer months, when the organic loading is at its highest, are the first to slow down and “sleep” when the temperature drops.  Being alive, they have a metabolism which, although they do not die, will slow down considerably.

For best results, add your live (odorous liquid) bacteria once the water temperatures have gotten back into the more hospitable ranges.

 

Q. How do I know if I have bacteria in there?  How do I know it is working in my pond?

 

A. The first signs of bacteria working for you will be to lower ammonia nitrogen levels in spring, converting it to nitrite and then to nitrate.  So, if you are doing water testing, you will see the levels fluctuating as the process begins to percolate.

Then, you can see without a water test to know the nitrates are forming by biological/chemical conversion by the perennial algae bloom and emergence of pond plants.  If the bacteria were not functioning properly, your pond would not “come to life” each spring.

 

Q. So, if I get an algae bloom and have no measurable ammonia or nitrites, then why do I need to add more bacteria??

 

A. Bacteria take in nutrients until they are so fat they split in two.  Then, there are two (or more) bacterium where there initially was one.  This can occur in as little as a few hours in the pond.  The warmer the water, the more speedily they will divide (multiply).  Ah, but, the catch is that after about 4-5 divisions, they lose some of their original potency.  So, by adding a larger initial dosage, followed by smaller ones on a regular basis, you will keep a sufficient quantity to maintain the integrity of your pond system.

 

Q. What about the powdered bacteria?  Is it as good as the smelly stuff?

 

A.  It has pros and cons, but overall, it can never do what the live bacteria will.  It will contain a limited number of strains, producing limited types of enzymes, so the job may remain half-finished.  Whereas, by using the vegetative (live, liquid) bacteria blends, you will assure whatever your fish, food, and pond surroundings throw at it this year will be oxidized (broken down).

 

Q.  Is there a limit to how much the beneficial bacteria can do for my pond?

 

A.  Yes.  Your pond is part of a complete system, containing filtration, circulation, and maintenance.  The amount of fish, the volume of food supplied, and even weather conditions, if in excess, will overwhelm the pond to the point where the bacteria alone cannot clean it up.  Your responsibility is to stock carefully, feed prudently, maintain the filter and skimmer, and do water testing.  You need to do water changes to lower the pollution levels if you notice too high organic loading.  This will be obvious by the look and smell of the pond, or the health of your fish.  Bacteria will grow at the rate of the “food” supply, but it can become overloaded without proper maintenance.

01.14.09

DOES POND WATER HAVE TO BE CLEAR?

Posted in Ponding 101, Water Quality at 3:32 pm by Administrator


Where is it written that pond water is supposed to look like a swimming pool, or drinking water?   Is a mud pond clear?  Of course not, but it produces the largest, fastest growing fish every year.  It is algae-filled, un-shaded, unfiltered, sitting out in the heat without the “requisite” depth for a koi pond.  It is out there where our koi are sitting ducks for predators.  It is not treated for parasites or algae.  Hey?  So, if clean, clear water is the ideal then why do fish fail to thrive in our ponds, yet grow to their full potential in a MUD pond?  Are we being too picky with our water or do we think a dirty pond reflects on us as bad fish parents?

My own pond never ceases to amaze me.  It will be clear one day and so cloudy the next, I can hardly see the fish.  And yet, they have clearly grown since last year in this pond.  I do lots of water changes but am never sure about the incoming well-water.  Well-water is totally un-pure, full of minerals, alkalinity, and bacteria, which is why we go to such lengths to filter it before drinking or washing in it.  I have a reverse osmosis system under the kitchen sink so I can drink it.  The shower sometimes smells so bad I’d rather swim in the canal!  And that water, the shower, is softened with salt.  The water I put into my pond is not filtered, not with an R/O system or even salt.  It is pure unadulterated filthy ground water.  But my fish seem to love it.  It has no chlorine or chloramines.  It contains no fluoride for strong healthy teeth.  It is not potable.

I throw some good stuff into the pond to make it better.  I keep adding Barley Straw Pellets to soften the water (without salt or chemical salt preservatives such as YPS).  It buffers the pH a little, but at 8.6, there’s not too much anybody can do.  I like the pellets because they are fairly easy to use.  Just toss some in a flow-through media bag and away we go!  Sure, there’s some small fibrous material that remains for a few weeks, as it finishes breaking down, but it also ties up phosphates in the process, another good thing.  My filter should be able to remove the little pieces that remain.  It clouds the water a little, but it does “so much!”  I throw in beneficial bacteria too.  I want as many bugs working for me as there might be working against!  Aeromonas and Pseudomonas are ubiquitous, everywhere.  Parasites exist in almost every pond, if not every pond, whether we want to believe this or not.  Generally, our fish have plenty of built-in immunity to things like this and can coexist nicely.  To even up the odds a little, I want my pond as clean as possible.  The beneficial bacteria will work hard to remove any organic waste before it can build up and give house and home to the bad bugs.

But does any of this guarantee clear water?  Not really.  Clean is not necessarily clear.  And clear is not necessarily safe for fish.  Something to think about…

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