uh oh..white moldy stuff in pond? dead fish...

daniellalellFebruary 13, 2009

hi all..last week I saw a couple of my goldfish dead in the ice on my pond. Well, now the ice is melting and I was able to get them out, and I noticed white moldy looking stuff in the string algae on the sides of the pond. It's very white, as white as snow..what the heck is it? I am thinking it contributed to the death of my goldfish. I thought they would survive the winter being the pond is 3' at its deepest. I was nervous this being my pond's first winter, and had brought in my 1 Koi in late fall..now I am so glad I did. I wanted to keep the pump running all winter in the middle of the pond, kinda like a fountain affect to keep somewhat of a hole open for the fish, but DH wouldnt go for it, or a heater, or a bubbler..now I have dead fishies :(

OK, yeah, I am partly blaming him, lol.

I am also thinking that now I will have to completely empty and clean the whole pond come spring due to this weird white stuff.

Am I right in thinking I will have to completely empty & clean it? Any clues as to what it is? I hope my frogs are alive!!

O, I do have submerged plants in there if it matters..waterlilies, thalia dealbata, & yellow water iris. Also left some watercress floating, which amazingly stayed alive and well thru quite a few freezes..till the whole pond froze up for the first extended time a few weeks ago.

I can't believe the string algae is still alive..and really multiplied (?) over the winter..it amazes me how much of it there is. Poor fishies probably had no oxygen. I feel terrible I killed them.

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FYI, most of us that run bubblers use cheapies from WalMart/Target/KMart. We buy "interior" aquairium bubblers. Usual cost is about $15-20. With airstones and tubes around $25 total. Electric cost is about $1.00/3 months. I leave mine running year round. I've found in the heat of summer, it helps the fish a lot.

Just make sure you have it in something that won't let it get wet.

This way even if pond freezes up, you are still providing 02 all winter long.

As for the white stuff? I have no idea. Perhaps Horton will pop on in. He's pretty smart about that stuff.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2009 at 2:30PM
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Thanks GB1, as you probably guessed the whole arguement over running something..anything over the winter was concerning the cost. I had no idea the bubblers were so cheap to run. I did have one set up for about a month, but it seemed like it was such a little amount it didnt seem like it was enough. Are there dif sizes? If so what do you use? I always just grab the cheapest ones, lol. I have a few, I should just go throw one in there tomorrow..there are 4 fish MIA that I havent seen, so they may still be alive. Either that or they died too & just stopped floating and went to the bottom.

Yeah the white stuff is pretty weird. I wanted to get a pic, but my camera has been acting up..a mind of its own.
Maybe I'll be able to get one tomorrow , maybe that could help.

thanks for the info GB1.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2009 at 6:04PM
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Get the "biggest" pump you can for $15-20. I have a model that has 2 air outputs. I also run 6" airstones. I tried a longer one, but it didn't work very well.

Don't worry so much about the "gallon" size that is on the box. In the summer you need to have a pump/filter running so that water coming back into the pond helps with 02.

In the winter, the cold water holds much more 02, so the air pumps do an excellent job keeping the fish alive.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2009 at 8:13PM
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horton(6 b Ontario.)

daniellalell, try reading the information about bubblers etc, in the FAQ link supplied below. I is a good start to the subject.
Air pumps are, as Groundbeef pointed out, very inexpensive to run all winter.
Place the air pump in a shed or on in a lidded plastic container, if positioned outside.
The container that holds the pump, should have a small hole drilled into it to allow the air to enter the pump.
Keep it up so as it will not be covered with snow.
Some folks tie the container up about three feet. tied on a stick, to keep it out of the snow. Others have the air pump container covered with a large planting pot, to keep it clear of snow.

Use the blue coloured, silicone aquarium tubing,to connect the pump to the air stone. it is much more pliable than ordinary pvc tubing and should not crack with the cold temperatures.
A small air stone placed 6 to 10 inches under the surface of the water, completes the bubbler assembly. Now you are ready to plug into the GFCI receptacle and power up the air pump. An air stone bubbler is the least expensive method of maintaining a vent hole in the ice covering your pond.

Keeping an electrical powered trough heater/deicer as a stand-by is a wise move.
You don't have to have it plugged in all the time. It is just there in case something does go wrong with the air stone pump arrangement, until it can be fixed and put back in service

Here is a link that might be useful: How to winterise a pond from the FAO

    Bookmark   February 14, 2009 at 8:39AM
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Im not sure about the white stuff. But the fact that the pond was frozen solid for any length of time was why your fishies died. It casues a build up of toxic gas that can not escape.

I run a Swimskim. It a free floating skimmer that shoots air out the outlet striahgt down in the pond. Causing a mixing effect in the water. the bubble help bring the warmers water to the surface and keep the wateer circulation. I had to shut off my main pump due to the unnormal cold weather we had this year. Only a few times I had to go out with some hot water and free up the swimskim. It was only in the single digits for several days when that happened. My 8 goldies and 3 koi are happy albeit cold. LOL

    Bookmark   February 14, 2009 at 12:07PM
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thanks for the info. I alreday have a bubbler set up today. Will get a bigger one when i get to go to the store.
I had read up on all the winterizing stuff, I knew everything I had to do..but ya know, since it's not important to DH, only me..it doesnt matter. I wont even get started on that!

GB, yeah during the warmer weather I have a normal pump going as well as a filter and small waterfall, which hopefully will be made bigger this spring. I have pix in the gallery.

I was trying to keep a hole open, I have duck decoys floating in the pond, and when it would freeze, I would pop them out so there was a hole, but the last time the pond froze, the ice was so thick, I couldnt get the ducks out to open up the holes. Well, lesson learned and next winter, I dont care what DH says, the bubbler will be going aaaalllll winter.

So no clues as to the white stuff then? Not even you Horton? hmmmmm..mystery stuff..figures it would happen to me, lol.

Bill, it sure was a cold winter this year! Glad your fishies are doing well!

    Bookmark   February 14, 2009 at 1:28PM
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sdavis(z7b nc)

When algae dies it can have a whitish appearance, though obviously fibrous and recognizable. If the ice and snow cover was dense and the aquatic plants could not get light, algae is likely to die and leave dead white remnants

When fish and plants respire, they give off carbon dioxide, that can combine with minerals to form calcium carbonate, chalk and limestone, which can deposit on surfaces. Harmless stuff, very normal, rather whitish

When herons hunt, or ducks feed they poop in the water, this can leave tacky looking traces of the same white stuff, this can delude fish into coming out of cover...

    Bookmark   February 14, 2009 at 1:48PM
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Most likely the white stuff that you are seeing is probably fungus that will grow on decaying organic materials. I would guess that you probably have four areas of this white material. I am sorry to say that the decaying material is probably the four fish that are missing.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2009 at 9:29PM
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I'm in northeast MD so my winter has probably been similar to yours. This was also my first winter with my pond-also about 3' at its deepest (mine is around 600 gallons). I had turned off the filer/pump when ice started forming regularly on the pond. I did put in a small cheap Walmart bubbler with just the clear tubing (and a check valve) and 6' stone suspended about 8' below the surface. On the coldest days, there was still at least a 14" diameter open in the ice. Ice didn't get over 3" thick-more like 2" at thickest. Pond is next to house but only gets half day sunlight.

All 6 of my goldfish and my 2 minnows appear to be doing well. Four large green frogs that had been on the bottom died-they were covered with a white film. I had seen two of the frogs during a late Dec. warmup so maybe they're victims of quick temperature fluctuation. One pickerel frog still survives.

I had removed almost all leaf litter in late Nov. but marginals and lilies stayed in the pond. I haven't seen any white stuff other than that on the dead frogs. The liner is covered with green film that is getting brighter with increasing daylight.

I hope that's useful for comparison.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2009 at 9:40AM
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Thanks everyone!

O..ew, I am so glad I havent poked the white stuff with my fingers, lol.

Riverspots, my frogs did the same thing when we had that short warm up..I couldn't believe they were all out and about. I wonder if that was temp fluc is what made them meet their maker? I was worried when I saw mine out. I guess I may have to go catch some new frogs this spring. I was hoping they would winter over in the lotus pond. It seemed the best place for them, but they all decided to go into the biggest pond. The kids won't be happy if thats what the white stuff is..they named all the frogs...I told them not to, lol, but they're kids.

The white stuff is in the algae, or surrrounded by it, so hopefully like you say SDavis, maybe it's dead algae..but if that were the case I think there would be more? I can hope! Its def not chalk, or limestone tho, and no water foul visit my ponds..just the mourning doves that drink out of one of the smaller ponds. That pond froze soild, but had no fish in it.

thanks Mike, if the white spots are dead things, either the fish or the frogs..I had no clue the would get white and icky..but now that I think about it more..the sizes seem right for either fish or frog.

poo! Live and learn. My first winter was nothing but a massacre of these poor helpless little creatures. An unexcusable failure. Next year I will do 2 bubblers, one on each end. thank goodness I brought in the Koi and some other fishies just in case. If the Koi had died I would have been really upset. And how things are looking out there, I'd say he def would have died.

thanks again to you all for all your help..I think this white mystery has been resolved..

    Bookmark   February 15, 2009 at 11:28AM
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Oops- just saw that the pickerel frog had died. It was alive and looked fine a week ago when I pulled out the dead green frogs. But it was near 70 here last weekend so maybe it warmed up even though stayed in the water. I think I'll encourage the frogs to find other winter accommodations this fall.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2009 at 10:39AM
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newbirdman(7 b NJ)

I'm also in NJ . Do as groundbeef said . You dont need to buy the most expensive, I buy the cheapest double air pump from walmart for about $10.00. Take a plastic soda bottle and cut the bottom off , slide the pump inside and stick the air tubes out the top of the bottle. This will keep the rain off it . Mine last for 2 years this way . I have 2 of these pumps in a 3000 gallon ponds . You only need one air hole in the ice . As for the white stuff , can it be a dead goldfish or a frog with fungus ? Rick

    Bookmark   February 16, 2009 at 3:17PM
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I keep seeing all these post about cheap air pumps. Let me tell you about a friend of mine that brought a cheap air pump from a big box store to put on his aquarium in his house. Well it caught fire and burned the room that the pump was in. It did about $9000.00 in damage. After the room was repaired and the aquarium was set back up he went to the same big box store and brought another cheap air pump. This time it burned the entire house to the ground. Yes this is a true story. A cheap air pump by the pond outside probably isn't going to due much damage but be careful where you put them.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2009 at 4:07PM
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After 2 pump fires, I would suggest that perhaps the pumps were less to blame, and the home wiring is suspect.

After all, there isn't a rash of aquarium pump fires raging across the US.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2009 at 9:00PM
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horton(6 b Ontario.)

Right on! GB. LOL

    Bookmark   February 17, 2009 at 6:42AM
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johnkr(z5 PA)

I think the description of an aquarium air pump is being taken out of content. They are not "cheap" as in poorly manufactured. They are simply inexpensive. The air pump I own was manufactured by a well known company and carries a UL listing and warranty.

I purchased my air pump at Wal-Mart for $20. I saw the same exact model in a stylish pond store for $39. I guess it would not be a cheap pump if I purchased it from the pond store. Perhaps those of us who own one of these pumps should pretend we bought it at the stylish pond store and refrain from using the word "cheap".

    Bookmark   February 17, 2009 at 8:32AM
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I would doubt that it could be house wiring for a couple of reasons. One if the pump was functioning properly it would draw so little power that it could not have given even a poor outlet to have a problem. Second the point of origin would be totally different from an air pump versus an outlet or house electric.

If I had to guess as to the cause of these two fires would actually be a power outage. When the power goes out the pump is no longer pumping air and can actually start a siphon and get water inside the pump. In order for it to do this the valves in the pump have to leak a little. They have to leak the air in the tubing going to the air stone. If they are leaking air they will leak water. The water than probably got to electrical leads so that when the power came back on it shorted. This created enough heat to catch combustible materials on fire. But this just my guess.


    Bookmark   February 17, 2009 at 6:05PM
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@ Mike,

Thats a good theory. Either way, it still isn't the fault of the pump. If your friend had placed the airpump properly, (higher than the aquairium) it wouldn't have been an issue.

An "expenisive" pump is still held to the same laws of fluid dynamics. If the placement is such that siphon can occur, it will happen to a $15 or $5000 pump.-

Too bad it took him 2 fires to get it figured out.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2009 at 11:02AM
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Groundbeef that isn't quite true. Yes they all tell you to put them above the surface of the water but that isn't always the nicest place to put them. I use quite a few better quality air pumps and I have found that they have a better reed valve in them with a lot less problems with siphoning but even if they do all that happens is water leaks out on the floor. I have one that has been submersed in water twice and it still works just fine without drying it out. They all have metal housings so there is nothing to catch fire. Using an inexpensive air pump out doors is not a problem usually other than you are using an electrical devise some where it was not designed to be and then telling people here to use them and ways to protect them maybe. I don't think that is a wise decision but I could be wrong. God forbid if someone was to get hurt by this.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2009 at 3:09PM
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Mike- are they sure that the fire started at the pump and not the outlet the pump was plugged into? Any chance that water could have traveled back to the outlet via a heater cord? Did the room have GFI outlets? I've noticed that tanks can raise the room humidity quite a bit-almost as much as a vented shower.

I have to agree with GB-will all the aquarium stuff that the big box stores sell, it would have made the news by now if a pump was causing fires. I did a quick search-there was a recall in 2006 for an aquarium kit that contained an air pump-something about shock hazard-probably lack of grounding in one of the lamp cords. But nothing about air pumps.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2009 at 10:55AM
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well...I went out to the pond today as most of the ice has melted. Unfortunately, every critter that was unaccounted for is dead except 2 frogs I havent found yet. I'm sure they are dead somewhere.
I am def investing in a net this year. So much crap found its way into the pond..turns out the white stuff was a piece of newspaper, a piece of burger wrapper, and what looked like a wet napkin.
I'm pretty ticked..none of it was from me..was all stuff from litterbugs. There is also a plastic bag stuck way up in a tree where I cant reach it. The house next door has been vacant, and I suppose some of the crap came from over there. So much litter is in that yard, plus their garbage cans blew over awhile back into the backyard..guess they didnt take that last haul out b4 they moved.
I hope there arent any bags in my pond!!! God, people really p!ss me off. Someone threw an empty vodka bottle in my driveway the other day..what is wrong with people??? I need to move out into the middle of nowhere so I dont have to deal with this anymore.
Sorry about the rambling..guess I needed to vent.
BUT white stuff mystery solved. No fish living.
I have decided to empty & clean the whole thing come warmer weather, and start all over again. Maybe I will take some algae mixed with wet leaves from the pond, make balls out of it and whip it at people as they litter by my house..right at their heads..that could be fun. I could wear camo and hide in the bushes, lmao.

Sorry to hear about the fires..kinda odd it happened twice. But I'm not gonna get involved in all that lol.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2009 at 6:58PM
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horton(6 b Ontario.)

daniellalell, sorry to read about the outcome of your frozen over pond.
I doubt that the newspaper/napkin/burger wrapper would kill your fish, but as you say that mystery, to what the "white stuff" was, is now solved. And it wasn't some exotic " killer blob" after all.
I guess in preparation for next winter a pond clean out in the fall is in order, to lessen the amount of decomposing plant wastes. Netting your pond over will help keep most of the leaves and errant 'burger wrappers etc, out of the water. And of course installing some device for keeping your pond vented throughout the winter, will go a long way in ensuring the health and welfare of your fish and frogs.
Keep your chin up, we have all gone through one or two of these mishaps and have learned from them.
Take care,

    Bookmark   February 21, 2009 at 6:50AM
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sleeplessinftwayne(z4-5 IND)

I haven't needed to buy a new air pump in a while but I seem to remember they all had instructions on using enough tubing to form a loop so such problems could be avoided and I thought the 'legs' on the newer Tetra models was a way to avoid the problem and a lot of tubing and air stones come with anti siphon devices. I even have a little shelf that hangs over the back of the tank so there is no excuse except stupidity which is no excuse.
The freeze has settled down on us again and we can expect several inches of new snow over the weekend. I really need to get my gardening prep started. I am determined to have home grown lotus this season. Sandy

    Bookmark   February 21, 2009 at 10:07AM
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johnkr(z5 PA)

Adding to Horton's advice about the netting. I purchased some fruit tree netting about five years ago and it works great. It is exactly the same as the "pond" netting, but somehow it sold for about half the price. Look for nylon netting with small enough holes to keep leaves and gargage out of your pond.

Sandy, my Tetra air pump from a "box store" has thoses funky legs that keep the motor from touching anything. Good point!

    Bookmark   February 21, 2009 at 6:43PM
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Thanks Horton! I had tried to keep up with the leaves getting into the pond in the fall, and it wasnt a hassle till December when it was really cold and there were still leaves falling! I dont know why the leaves fell so late this year. I gave up on keeping the leaves out of the gardens and pond in ealry December and that was the beginning of the end I guess. I can't believe how many are in there right now.
DEF will get a net!! I am glad the white stuff mystery is solved..I was really worried it was some kind of exotic killer fungal blob thing, lol. Thank you :)

Sandy, cold here again too..supposed to get snow tonight, blech! I'm so sick of it already! Not that we've had much snow..but the cold!! yuck! Good luck with your lotus! :)

John, thanks for that tip! I will def look for that!

thanks again everyone!
keeping my chin up!! :)

    Bookmark   February 21, 2009 at 7:10PM
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i had the same thing happen to me but i lost at least 25 lois and some gold fish ice melted and i was able to get them out i think the white stringy stuff may be oil for the dead fish i am starting to work on mine now i think i have to empty mine and start over not sure if any livied my pond is 14x16 and is a little over 3 feet deep

    Bookmark   March 5, 2011 at 7:03PM
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