my decision

cicadidaeJune 24, 2014

This is really hard but I have decided to transform my koi pond into a water garden with goldfish. Its a big pond and I did not know that the guy who built it for me did things that were not fish safe. Not enough filtration by any means and a pond that size needed two skimmer boxes. I have been trying to add veggie filtration but the truth is that bog filtration needs to have a surface size 1/3 of the surface of the pond and mine is not even a little there. Cleaning a pond this size (23'x43'x 4' deep) is massively expensive and if I do it myself, intensive and extremely time consuming. It simply was done wrong and I am admitting this before any of the koi are affected. My fish stock is low but they are breeding pretty fast. I have contacted my local pet store owner who is a sweet person and he is going to tell the koi ponders in my area that I am giving my koi away. Some of the fish are quite big and nets will only harm the fish so we will plan a few days to do this by draining the pond. Then people can come and we can seine them.( Cherokee Joe, I would like to keep your catfish but I am not sure if maybe they will need a better water quality than a goldfish can handle). Once the pond is drained, I will spend maybe a week cleaning it and then I will set it up for water lilies and hardy lotus and goldfish.
I have to be honest about something else too. I have no vet here who works with fish. I am very attached to my cats and dogs and I have an awesome vet. I believe in being responsible for any living thing I caretake. Where I lived before, I watched KHV kill off my entire koi pond. I am not willing to watch an animal suffer again at my hands if I can help it.
This is going to be painful but I truly believe that it is the right thing. Wish me luck!

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steiconi(12a-Big Island, HI)

good for you! I know it's sad to give up something you wanted, but it's better for everybody--you and the fish.

Aren't catfish mudfish? I would think they'd do well in poor conditions. I know tilapia are OK with the bare minimum; I had some survive in the mud when my pond leaked itself dry overnight.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2014 at 3:15PM
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waterbug_guy(Phoenix AZ (Melrose))

Karen, I hope you are not getting more bad advice on top of the previous bad advice. Koi do best in water many people would consider very poor, and can do poorly in sparkling clear water. If your primary concern is fish health you do have better options.

For example a predator can be introduced to remove fry. Something like a large mouth bass. Should pose no great harm to large koi. Or just let nature handle the extra fish. Maybe that seems cruel to you but that's the way it works.

That thing about needing a bog to be 1/3 the pond size is a complete fabrication. There is absolutely no data at all on bogs (gravel) as filters for ponds. Mainly because all people even mildly interested in fish rearing would even consider a bog as a filter. To the contrary they see bogs for what they are, a settling chamber that can ever be cleaned. Bogs are only considered to be filters by people with very light fish loads that know nothing about ponds or fish. People who like to pretend.

Removing a bog can improve water quality depending on the age of the pond. Extending it would do nothing but increase the amount of waste rotting in the pond.

As far as fish health is concerned there is only one type of filter you need to concern yourself with and that is a bio filter. You determine that by testing ammonia. If there is a high ammonia problem, that isn't explained by other causes, then bio filter(s) are needed. But only then. You don't need filters just because a bunch of people who know nothing and just repeat what each other dream up. The finest ponds for koi in the world have no filters and are far from clear. People actually pay serious cash to keep their koi in these ponds for long periods.

The key is fish load. High fish load ponds require all kinds of equipment to keep fish alive. But if a fish load is low enough a pond by itself can handle them just fine. Fish were living in ponds from before there even were people. People have been keeping fish in ponds since before we even had electric for pumps. It's only in the last say 20 years that tons of people have believed all this non-sense that's to the internet. There's one large pond forum where one moderator with thousands of posts thinks a bog makes water cleaner than drinking water and that their pond has zero DOC which is impossible and shows how little these people know or even care about ponds. They don't care at all about ponds, just about acting the part. Don't let them snow you. There is good info out there, but every year it gets harder and harder to wade through the ever growing pile of crap on the net.

And if you should ever actually need a bio filter you can easily and cheaply make a Trickle Tower on top of your bog. These are extremely good at ammonia conversion. But I highly doubt you need that. First of all if the fish load is light enough the pond itself will have no trouble. And if the water is green or you have macro algae the algae will consume ammonia directly. It prefers ammonia to nitrates because it's easier for them to strip the part they want out of the ammonia. It's like candy.

One more thing to consider...if you do this conversion you will be in exactly the same boat. Goldfish breed. Fish load is fish load whether koi, goldfish, catfish or whatever. So I sure don't see how anything would be changed.

I wouldn't bring up these issues if you didn't have such a big pond. You have a great environment for koi just by the seer size. If you adopt out the fish I'll bet most will end up in far worst conditions.

I don't really care what you decide but I've read so much horrible forum advice over the years that I didn't want you to base your decision on those people who only do harm to the hobby.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2014 at 5:27PM
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Today has been hellish. I had no clue I loved those fish so much. The idea of giving them away hurts so badly. I went back there tonight and its so amazing watching the fish swim across the pond.
My bogs are not inside of the pond but connected on stair stepped beds that lead to the pond.
I have to be honest. I am soooo confused! In Washington my mentors taught me about pea gravel bogs and thats what I built there. You can still see my pond in Ocean Shores using the google overhead map. I had HUGE bogs leading to a pond...took up the whole back yard and trust me, they stunk. First my fish got aeromonis ulcers and then khv and I swore I would never do this again here. But I did. I hired a guy to build my pond (because I ran into clay and my walls began to melt like jello) and instead of the bio balls I requested he put one man rocks into the waterfall filter when I was not around. Thats why I built my bogs/veggie filters to offset his work. But my bogs are supposed to be veggie filters because I learned from another internet site that plant roots work just as good at filtering as rock...specifically water celery, water hyacinths, sweet potato vines, etc. I was excited about this idea because I was tired of stinky heavy pea gravel. But my square footage is only about 1/8th of my pond surface and I honestly am not even sure the silly thing is doing any good. The water celery is sure healthy! The stuff is growing like crazy!
So here I am. I have lost only two fish so far this Summer and I see no ulcers. What I do see is missing scales as if possibly breeding caused it? Its also possible that neighbor kids fed my fish something bad. My mentors in Washington say I have to extend my bogs and I don't have too much more backyard space to do it and not a lot of funds for it either. After my heartache today, I know that if I can make my pond safe for my fish, I will reverse this decision. I don't mind giving the babies away. I will even buy a seine net to get them out. The idea of a better predator sounds good too.
Waterbug guy, I read your whole site and I like what I read. If you were me and were on a somewhat limited income, how would you ensure that this pond is healthy for koi? What would you do? I have a lot of energy and massive dedication. I have friends who can understand the complications of detailed instructions. I want to try.
I think my fish load is at about 35 medium koi, 4 large koi, and too many babies.
Thank you in advance

    Bookmark   June 24, 2014 at 9:14PM
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Here is a picture of my pond and the veggie filter as it was being created. It gives you an idea of size ratios.
The waterfall is to the left.
The man who created the pond was aquascapes and his submersible pump died one week after the warrantee was over. I have replaced it with a sequence external pump.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2014 at 9:46PM
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waterbug_guy(Phoenix AZ (Melrose))

Rule #1 - don't trust anyone. Including me. Listening to what people say is fine but you have to research and understand what they're say to decide if it is useful to your goals.

When people tell you stuff you are the only person who can decide if it applies to you. For example, if you go to most Koi Pond sites they're going to tell you to install maybe $15,000 worth of equipment and changes. That's because they only know about one kind of pond. They do understand that the best koi are grown in mud ponds but for some reason they can't see beyond their own pond. Most people are like that. They've had one pond, maybe two, their entire life and think everyone's pond has to be just like theirs. So you have to pick and choose info and understand it.

If you go to most Water Garden sites you will get the absolutely worst info the world has ever seen. Water Gardens are butt easy so any crazy thing people do they think works. That's fine for them since most of the crap they do don't harm the fish. Sometimes their advice is deadly and that is hard to watch.

Bogs are extremely easy to understand. Dirty water is pumped into them and some stuff settles and gets trap. It doesn't remove very much crap, most still settles in the pond. The stuff that settles in the bog rots there. It doesn't matter one bit whether crap rots in the bog or on the pond bottom. Zero. It doesn't evaporate or is carried away by fairies riding unicorns. To me this is pretty simple to understand.

It's amazing, like going back in time 20 years when filters like bogs were first tried. We've come a long, long way since then. And all the info is available for free on the web. All these people have to do is a little research instead of 6-8 hours a day posting the same crap over and over.

Plants can at least have some theory. A few waste water treatment plants have used wetlands to help clean water so there is data. These are massive wetlands and they're removing specific problem chemicals. So there is at least a grain of truth to plants. In backyard ponds plants add more waste than they remove. Plants are fine in Water Gardens, the system can handle it. That's the beauty of Water Gardens. In Koi Ponds (swimming pools with Koi) plants are an absolute bad thing. They max out the pond's ability to remove waste and they don't want to have to deal with the extra waste.

Now, to your case. I know almost nothing about your pond other than size and number of fish. Originally you said you had a low fish load but I'd say you had a medium fish load. But let's not freak out.

First thing you should do is buy a test kit for ammonia and KH assuming you don't have one already. The kit may have other things but to start ammonia and KH covers almost everything. If your pond is green I'll bet ammonia is 0.

If you're seeing ammonia it has to be dealt with. If you go into any water garden forum and say your pond is high ammonia you are likely to get several "experts" telling you to do water changes or to add ammonia lock or add a bog or a Skippy...because they're so dumb they don't even know what it would take to do that in a 30,000 gal pond. If you ever have ammonia issues add a Trickle Tower. This is nothing more than a pile of rocks that you pump water over. Never has to be clean and works 24/7 for many years. Building is pretty easy. Get some thick wire mesh fence, form into an upright cylinder (circle), say 2' diameter, maybe 3' high or more, or whatever, fill with rock (any hard clean rock you have) and run the pump output to the top and let the water wash over the rock. Even one of these will remove more ammonia than a bog will in a year of Sundays. These were tested against Skippy filters (another filter from a million years ago that people still push and very similar to how bogs work) and the TT removed 30 times as much ammonia. There are even better bio filters but TT is very good and is easy and cheap to make. You can build the TT right on top of your bog. The water will just go into the bog and back to the pond as it already does.

If ammonia is zero you don't need any more filters.

The absolutely worst thing you can do is look at a pond and say "that looks yucky...I'm going to add a filter". That's 2 kinds of wrong. First, if you remove one of your koi and set it down on your nice clean living room floor, get it a soda and turn on the TV so it can watch "Saving Nemo" guess what the koi is going to think of your house? "Yucky". The point is you're not a koi and koi are not people. I see it all the pond is yucky so I did...X,Y,Z and know my fish are dying. The second kind of wrong is that their are different kinds of filters that remove different things. No filter just "cleans a pond".

KH is tested because it's easy and cheap to adjust. You may never have an issue with KH, but it's so easy to check why not. You add baking soda to raise KH. For your size pond you might have to buy 50 lb stacks of baking soda, I'm not kidding. You can get it for less than $50. But only if needed. It depends on your source water and other factors. Don't adjust KH until ammonia is known to be zero? This is all called "pH buffering" if you want to research. BTW, you don't have to test pH, just KH.

OK, ammonia and KH will tell you where you're at. Given your fish are spawning and you have lots of fry my guess is you have a great pond for fish.

Aeromonas.There's nothing you can do about this. Yes removing the bog and keeping the pond spotless can reduce the number of bad bacteria but fish immune system is way more important. Fish are vulnerable certain times of the year but lets be realistic, there's not much you can do about it. I wouldn't waste your time worrying about it. But it totally depends on the kind of pond you want.

Clear water...forget about it. It may happen, but unlikely. The cheapest best chance option imo would be to add a stream, as long as you can. A Trickle Tower also has a chance to clear a pond. The fish are happier in not clear water.

The not clear water is not a perfect world according to many people. It will have much lower O2 which isn't great...but fish can survive in less than perfect water. In high fish loads it's deadly. These things are trade offs. There's no such thing as perfect conditions. These systems are very natural, there is a lot of life and death stuff going on in there everyday.

You could consider adding some cattails assuming this is a liner or concrete pond. I'm not sure how you could do this, I'm talking about something big. Like maybe five or so 55 plastic drums strapped together so none fall over, full of clay soil. So the soil is say 6-12" below the water. That would give your fish a place to spawn. I say this because you mentioned missing scales, maybe from spawning. Giving them a place to spawn helps reduce the spawn time and gives females some protection.

Plants are bad and I just suggested plants. Confusing. Welcome to ponds. Here's the deal..what's the perfect environment for koi? It doesn't exist. There are lots of opinions. Is a koi happier in a perfectly clean and clear swimming pool or beating the heck out of each other in a muddy pond? I sure have no idea. My guess is they like the mud pond with plants. Is the goal to make sure a koi lives the maximum number of years in a swimming pool eating nothing but pellets its entire life. Or would they trade that for even a month in a mud pond?

Food my be an issue for you. Normally what happens in an overloaded pond is the fish can very little food and they don't grow very fast. You might end up with a bunch of 10" full grown koi. Does that mean you're starving the poor fish? I guess so if you choose to look at it that way. For the current number of fish you have, in the best conditions, those fish would be getting between 15 and 20 lbs of food every day when water temp was OK. So does that mean you're currently starving the poor fish. I guess if you choose to look at it that way. Or you could look at it as you provided a big body of water and let the fish do their thing. You can certainly choose to take every death like a personal failure if you want to.

So the bottom line is what I'm suggesting you do is to not have a Koi Pond or a Water Garden. Instead have something more like a Wildlife Pond. These are basically letting nature do what nature does. You might consider a vacuum like my Muck Mop. I mean the build up of leaves in particular can be an issue in some ponds. The Muck Mop is pretty easy to use, no need to hurry. Not like you have to keep the pond spotless. You have one great advantage, I assume, no hard long winter. Keeping a pond like this in Canada would be an issue.

If you want to add a predator to handle the killing for you I do think a small single large mouth bass would be good. A big one might have eggs. A single bass can't breed.

And the mentor that pushes bogs...learn for yourself instead. Believe no one and you'll be right 90% of the time. Way better odds.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2014 at 12:01AM
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Your pond was built improperly to begin with. A pond that size
should have had a Bottom drain -- gravity fed filter system.
Also it should be rockless on the bottom.

It's a shame cause it's a lovely pond. I would start with removing
the rocks on the bottom and lighten up your koi load considerably.

Without the rocks on the bottom you may be able to handle vacuuming
the pond on occasion.

Get an estimate on fixing it with a bottom drain and a proper filter system.
Save your money and perhaps you can tackle it next spring.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2014 at 10:10AM
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I see veggie bogs as doing 2 things-- 1 removes nitrate from the water through plant roots, 2 mechanically filters the water by trapping particulate in the plant roots and pea gravel. The particulate is moved from the main pond into the bog.

Waste will break down in time but I'd expect a bog filter to be a bit nasty since build up is continuous. Plants can't remove the particulate/waste, but can feed on it as it breaks down slowly.

I don't think Koi and Goldfish really have that significant of a difference in water requirements. Both are pretty hardy but "messy" fish in the amount of ammonia and waste they produce.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2014 at 11:50AM
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My test results are as follows:
ammonia = 0
Nitrites = 0
KH = about 11 kinda hard to get it accurate because of the blue dyed water (don't ask..another "pro")
I really like the idea of a trickle tower. This Fall after the celery has completed its life cycle I will add the trickle tower.

1. the only plants IN the pond are a few waterlilies (small and in pots of rocks due to koi play) and edging plants such as day lilies, mint, creeping charley, and iris. Last year I put water hyacinth inside of the hoops you see in the pics but not this year. I like the idea of being able to manage the dead stuff.
2. My veggie filters do not qualify as trickle towers because they hold water and rock right? (2" layer). If I cut down the steps so that there was no water retention and water simply flowed through the rock step by step, would that help the pond especially if I add the trickle tower at the top? If the plants in my veggie filters do not die and decay in the pond itself, do they do nothing in benefitting the pond ..are they just for pretty or are they helping?

Oh, there are no rocks on the bottom. I read not to do that when I was in Washington. Its a bare liner.

A true bottom drain may be beyond my financial ability but I will look into possibly retrofitting one or two. Got a suggestion on a DIY internet site for such?

I took more pics and will add them now. Please ignore the strange hoops in the water. They were there last year to corral the water hyacinths.

I am going to give away as many little guys as I can catch, plan to keep a bucket of water and a net handy during feeding time.

thank you
I really appreciate your support.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2014 at 3:45PM
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this is my (ugly I know) veggie filter. It is a series of stepped platforms holding about 2" of water, river jack (larger than pea gravel), and water celery.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2014 at 3:48PM
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waterbug_guy(Phoenix AZ (Melrose))

You have a great pond...I'm not talking just looks, I'm talking about a habitat for fish. Large size, plants are doing fine, and the water is green.

How much food do you feed?

I do want to make one disclaimer, I love all aspects of ponds. I think bogs are great for the right owner and pond, I think veggie filters are great for the right owner and pond, rocks on the bottom are fine for the right owner and pond (by far the most popular pond in the US is loose rock bottom, although I prefer mortared rock myself). Where things get off tracks is when people make up stories about these things to push others into using them. Pretty much everything that is put into a pond has drawbacks. The trick imo is to understand the downsides and the pluses and not add things that don't go toward an owner's goals.

Plants do remove nitrate and a few other things that most people don't measure. When nitrate levels start getting above say 50 ppm you do want to consider fixes. If it gets above say 100 ppm you want to get serious about fixes.

My bet is your nitrate level is near 0. I base this guess because I can clearly see the largest plant in your pond that sucks up all nitrate and ammonia just about as fast as it can be produced...algae. It is no surprise your ammonia is 0. Algae prefer ammonia to nitrate according to at least one study. Because ammonia doesn't get a chance to be converted by bacteria, algae is first in line at the buffet, it doesn't get a chance to be converted into nitrite or nitrate. Algae will of course also consume nitrate. So it would be very difficult to see a pond like yours with a nitrate problem. So the veggie filter and other plants imo probably remove a very small percentage.

When you pull plants out of the pond you are indeed removing nitrate and other things. Some plants do pull nutrients from the air and bacteria feed on plant roots, dead bits etc. When many people pull plants out of gravel they see a lot of dirt stirred up and assume the plant is trapping that dirt. And it does to a very small degree. But most of what you see is the result of a lot of life, bacteria bio film, bugs, dead root. All this stuff grow/dies in there and over a short time becomes what many people would consider dirt. If you remove the plants completely along with any media less dirt will be generated. The net result of plants is almost always more dirt in the pond.

Veggie filters were kind of popular a few decades ago in Koi Ponds. They were replaced by better methods for keeping nitrates down. Most Koi Ponds are kept clear with UV so no suspended algae, and macro algae is normally controlled by a large fish load (fish will eat it sometimes) or other methods. Plus their fish loads are large so lots of ammonia which ends up as nitrate. So nitrate levels in these ponds is an issue and it was once thought veggie filters were the fix. But then koi keepers started to see the bigger picture. We know nitrate levels because we have an easy cheap test. But nitrate is only one problem chemical produced by high fish loads. DOC levels for example and many other things. Veggie filters weren't handling those issues, and in fact add to DOC levels. Water changes were the cure. Dropping nitrate levels with water changes also reduces all the other problem chemicals and stuff. Today the state of the art imo is 24/7 drip water changing. Some of the most respected koi keepers use this method with very good results.

However, that's Koi Ponds. I would not consider your pond to be a Koi Pond. I consider it to be a Water Garden. Most have goldfish but there's not much difference between 700 lbs of goldfish and 700 lbs of koi. Fish load is fish load.

The question is: Do you want a Koi Pond? Clear water, maybe $15,000-25,000 worth of equipment and improvements, daily maintenance, $500-750 a month for food? It didn't sound to me like you do. If you don't want such a pond then don't go down that path.

For example, lets look at adding bottom drains.There are many good web sites for designing bottom drain systems so you can check this info out but here are the highlights. A single BD will sweep a circle about 8-10' in diameter. For your pond that's around 10 drains. We're around $1000 just for the heads. I know you're already shaking your head, but lets stay with this to see what going down this path means just for laughs. That way you'll understand what someone is telling you when they tell you to add this stuff. You'll know whether to listen to them or not.

In order for a drain to sweep a 8-10' diameter you need some pushing action, normally TPRs (like jets on a hot tub) and sometimes air pump is added. To get water current moving around each drain, all 10 of them would take at least 14 heads. $300 just for the heads.

Now for the pumps...a 4" drain needs about 2000-3000 GPH to work and much of the that has to come back out the TPRs. So lets say 2500 GPH per drain...that's 25,000 GPH. So around $1500 for pumps and about $200 per month for electric (assuming 12 cent/kWh).

OK, we have crap moving into the drains, now what? We have to remove the crap from the water stream. That would take 5-10 sieve filters, $6500-13,000 just for the filters.

And you need to dig a very large filter pit, pipe, fittings, valves, electric, sump pump.

Just for the major components we're at $9,300-15,800. To install everything we've got to be in the $20,000-25,000 range. To have it done professionally $35,000-50,000 depending on lots of things. Pond would have to be drained also, not sure were you'd put 39 koi.

Oh, the pond couldn't have any plant pots as they would interfere with water movement.

Go into any pond forum and you will get told the same one sentence solution over and over..."add a bottom drain". But just for kicks call a few pond professionals, even if in another state, and get a quote. They'd be happy to give you a ballpark.

I don't think you should add a bottom drain system based on your goals and pond. There's no reason to spend that kind of money. Adding one drain would still be around $2000 if you did the work and clean 10% of your pond. What good would that do? Nothing.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2014 at 5:39PM
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waterbug_guy(Phoenix AZ (Melrose))

2. My veggie filters do not qualify as trickle towers because they hold water and rock right? (2" layer).
It isn't a TT because the rocks are submerged. When rocks aren't submerged the water flows over of the rocks in a thin film which creates max gas exchange (high O2). The ammonia converters require several things, one of which is O2 which is one reason for increased ammonia conversion. But the main reason is the rocks are washed 24/7 so less muck can settle on the rock which greatly increases space for ammonia converting bacteria. Interestingly one study still found that 90% of the bacteria on these kinds of filters are still the non-ammonia converter types. I've never read a study on submerged media but there's got to be close to 0% ammonia converters. That's why TT type filters (showers and moving bed too) are so many times better.

If I cut down the steps so that there was no water retention and water simply flowed through the rock step by step, would that help the pond especially if I add the trickle tower at the top?
I can't tell from text, a simple line drawing would help. But for sure adding a TT won't help your pond at all...because your ammonia level is zero. Every kind of filter removes one specific thing. There are filters that people claim remove everything but they're either trying to con you into buying something or just think they know a lot more than they do. A TT's job is to remove ammonia. It can't reduce ammonia below zero. So adding a TT would be a waste of time.

That's why you test ammonia. If sometime in the future you start to have an ammonia problem then sure, it might be time.

Now there are plenty of people lined up to tell you to add a filter "as insurance". That's like buying car insurance when you don't own a car. Well, you might buy a car sometime and then you'd have the insurance. Peoples' logic is perfect if you don't think about it at all.

If in the future you decide to add UV filters to clear the green from the water (I'm guess around $10,000) and we're planning to increase food amount then you might consider adding a TT "for insurance". Or maybe if the water clears on its own due to macro algae getting going, maybe you'd consider a TT.

But I suggest you turn your lemons into lemonade. You have a huge pond which makes adding bottom drain systems and UV filters unrealistic for your budget and goals which is the lemons. But a big pond is also very stable. If you started seeing ammonia you'd have plenty of time to start up a TT. That's the lemonade. When someone builds a 500 gal pond and wants to add 10 koi we know from the get go that they're not just going to need a bio filter (TT) but that they're going to have to add ammonia to get the filter running before fish are added. Those people are going to tell you all day long you have to add a bio filter because their pond has one and every pond in the world must be exactly like their pond. It's the only pond they have any experience with.

On the other hand if you just want a TT there no great harm. Because water has to be pumped 3' higher less water would be moved which hurts gas exchange in the pond but I doubt that would make much difference.

Oh, there are no rocks on the bottom. I read not to do that when I was in Washington. Its a bare liner.
Rocks in the bottom are nether good or bad for ponds that are never cleaned. Loose rocks just make cleaning more difficult (impossible). I mortar rocks in place to get the best of both worlds. But there are many pond forums where just the word "rocks" is enough to make people go crazy.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2014 at 6:11PM
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waterbug_guy(Phoenix AZ (Melrose))

KH = about 11 kinda hard to get it accurate because of the blue dyed water (don't ask..another "pro")
Need to know if 11dh or 11ppm.

If 11dh you're in fine shape. 11dh * 17.9 = 200 ppm.

If 11ppm I would study up on "pH buffering". It's not super hard and not super urgent but it would be first on my todo list. You have 0 ammonia so it's safe to raise KH, but I would also learn how ammonia is related to pH. (KH is related to pH which you will learn too). Oh crap...I was going to give you a link to a great site that explained ammonia provided by the Koi and Water Garden Society of Central New York but their site is gone. That's a total shame. Here's another one that looks good.

For info aquarium type sites are best (but sometimes for a specific type of fish), many koi sites are very good (some not) and virtually all Water Garden sites have no clue.

What you want to learn is why KH is even relevant. Most decent sites will at least mention "pH crash". The best sites will explain why ponds generate acid (waste decay and rain) and the very best will explain how ammonia converting bacteria "eat" KH. The ammonia thing isn't really relevant in your case because algae is consuming most of your ammonia.

There are many ways to bring up KH or provide alternative pH buffers. Most of these are truly horrible: plaster of paris, oyster shell, coral, egg shell, and pretty much anything anyone can think of that contains anything that sounds like it might have calcium. They don't understand what a pH crash is. For your size pond and budget I suggest you read sites that explain using baking soda. That will actually raise KH which means the stuff is throughout the water ready to react with acid in an instant. These other things require pH to drop (crash) before they will react. Oyster shell and coral are used in a few high end ponds, and in by some aquarists but they're using a massive amount compared to the water volume and are trying to achieve very narrow ranges for specific goals. You don't need all that complexity imo. Baking soda is cheap, easy and very effective.

Don't be too worried about not being able to tell exactly what the color of the test result is for KH. One nice thing is that it's hard to have too much. One koi keeper I respect, and is a chemist, once calculated in theory that KH would have to get to 10,000 ppm to be a problem for koi. No one comes close to ever reaching those levels. Some people do try to keep it in a narrow range in order to make pH perfect, but most koi keeper don't. They'll keep it up around 200 ppm just to be sure there's no pH crash and their bio filters have plenty, but some are fine at even 500 ppm. So the color doesn't have to match perfectly.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2014 at 6:52PM
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First, thank you!
What I want is what I have. I like green water. I don't want more fish. A water garden is my preference.
I feed maybe the equivalent of what you would put into two regular soup cans about 4-5 times a week. I was told to feed until they stop eating and that's what they seem to want. There are days when they don't get fed and I don't worry a lot about it. They get Cheerios until the temperature goes above 50 because of digestive issues (another pro).
I have never tested for KH. It was 11 drops. Hopefully that remains a good thing.
1. to be honest, I think my veggie filter is ugly. Are you saying that it is relatively useless as in I can take it down?
2. My understanding is that a pond needs to be circulated and oxygenated regularly. That is the purpose of the pump and waterfall? So I keep the pump running during the warmer months?

Again, thank you!


    Bookmark   June 25, 2014 at 9:59PM
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waterbug_guy(Phoenix AZ (Melrose))

I kind of figure you wanted a Water Garden. No problem having koi in a Water Garden. Green water is fine too, and way easier. Just always keep your goal in mine when reading or hearing advice. Many people will hear bah, bah, koi, bah, bah and then give you Koi Pond advice. That's going to be difficult to filter through. You have a rather unique pond.

That's more food than I was expecting. Sounds like maybe 5lbs per week? Food is a tricky and difficult decision. For 39 nearly full grown koi a high end max growth type koi keeper would feed 70 to 150 lbs per week. That's the highest end. At the other end there are koi that never get fed. So it's kind of impossible to say whether 5 lbs is too much or too little. Here's where it gets tough, food = fish. Scaling back food can decrease the survival rate of fish, especially fry. A green pond is great for fry survival because it has a food chain that they need. Once they get larger they compete with the big fish. Each fish starts getting less food. That's nature scaling back food for even if you keep up the same amount. If you increase the food to keep up with fish growth at some point the pond can't handle the amount of food and nature will scale back the fish load in a harsh way.

Food doesn't just grow fish, it adds to the entire food chain in your type of pond. Growing tiny creatures which fuel fry growth.

I'd consider scaling back food to just for your entertainment than a regular meal. If you have some fav fish maybe try to just send food their way. It's harsh no matter how you slice it. Maybe later, if a predator is added you can revisit the food amount. If you scale back food just keep an eye on the fish. Their bodies will shrink and their heads will start to look big for their body. That can happen over a few months, and by that time many fish will have probably moved on, so you could increase food, but to limit the number of fish food has to be controlled. It's harsh. You don't have a bad winter so hopefully you don't lose too many. This pond stuff isn't like having a puppy, it's more like being on a farm. It can seem harsh.

Somewhere between predators, adopting, food restricting, or catching fish with nets or fishing line or nature culling fish, not all fish can be allowed to survive. 39 koi, say half female, that's around 15,000,000 eggs per spawn. They all can't grow to adult. You will see how difficult it can be to adopt out a few hundred low quality fish. More than 99% of koi are culled before any make it to market and not all of those are purchased. The culled koi are just throw away, not even wanted as feeder fish. Its harsh.

Your KH test kit will tell you if 11 is dh or ppm. Without that the number 11 is meaningless. The box or manual might say something like 1 drop = 1 dh or dkh.

1. to be honest, I think my veggie filter is ugly. Are you saying that it is relatively useless as in I can take it down?
I'd bet serious cash your nitrate level is very low, maybe even zero unless something strange is going on. So I see no reason to keep the veggie filter.

On the other hand you have a Water Garden, sounds like you're a gardener. I am, and so I say the more plants the better. We really understand very little about Water Gardens. We know a lot more about Koi Ponds. Water Gardens are more like whole living systems and very complex. That complexity also allows them to run almost on their own, very resilient. We don't really have to understand it all. Plants do play a part in that system, probably mainly as a food base.

I think separate structures like veggie filter are the best way to add plants to a pond. Easy to clean, easy to pull plants. Lots of bugs grow in there and end up in the pond as food. Vacuuming a pond with lots of plant pots is a pain.

So it's not an obvious yes or no answer. If it were my pond I might add even more veggie filters because I like plants, and keep adding them until my wife threatened to live me. She just said "are you on a pond forum" so I'm already on thin ice. I'm not suppose to post on these any more.

But to answer directly I doubt seriously if your veggie filter is doing much good, if any. Removing it shouldn't affect fish health. Testing ammonia will tell you for sure, and maybe nitrate if you were concerned. You can take water a sample to many pet stores for a free test. Their test for pH isn't reliable, pH can change in a sample on the way to the store. They might try to sell you strong or just buy food. But they're good for testing nitrate. In a pond like yours I wouldn't normally test nitrate on a regular basis. It's more a one time thing just to make sure it's at the expected level, no surprises. There would have to be something really strange for nitrate to be a problem in your pond.

2. My understanding is that a pond needs to be circulated and oxygenated regularly. That is the purpose of the pump and waterfall? So I keep the pump running during the warmer months?
That's another kind of sort of half myth. I know what you mean by oxygenated, but a better term is gas exchange. It is just as important for CO2 and other gases to leave the water as it is for O2 to enter the water.

Here's something few people believe but is easy to check...almost all gas exchange in most ponds happens at the pump is needed.

It's exactly the same as what happens in your house when you breathe. You can sit in a small room and breathe for days and days and not notice a drop in O2 or increase in CO2. Gases move by themselves to create equilibrium. In a house the outdoor air is only 10" away so gas exchange happens fast.

In a coal mine where people are thousands of feet away from outdoor air gas exchange slows way down. It takes a long time for gases to move those distances, plus a very limited surface area (diameter of shaft). They have to add fans and ducts to move air close to the people and away and then equilibrium can do the rest.

Water also slows gas exchange way down. So up near the surface all across the pond, not just near the falls, O2 will be maxed out. The deeper you go the slower the gas exchange so O2 drops and CO2 increases.

As far as pumping water goes for gas exchange the biggest bang for the buck isn't a waterfall, it's moving water in the pond. Moving poor gas exchange water from the bottom to the top is the best motion. Moving the water in a circular motion around the pond is next best. Waterfalls is last.

Water from a falls basically stays near the surface. So you're adding max O2 water from the falls into surface water that is already maxed. Not a big benefit. There certainly is water movement, but dollar for dollar falls aren't the best. Better than nothing because there is some movement.

Some people say to place the pump on the bottom to improve gas exchange, and it does. I think pushing water moves more water than pulling water, but I have no proof of that, never seen a test so I could be wrong. I don't like a pump intake on the bottom because if something breaks you can empty even your pond before you ever notice. Happens a lot. Happened to one of my ponds when the new owners hired a "pond expert" to "fix" the pond. Moved the pump from the skimmer to the bottom and added an unneeded filter which popped a hose in short order and drained the pond killing all the fish. And it only cost the owners maybe $1000.

What I prefer is a catch basin under the falls. Looks like this:
The falls enters the basin and is forced to exit at the bottom thru 2" to 4" hole(s). That moves max O2 to the bottom, moves bottom water toward the surface and even sweeps the floor of the pond for about 5-10' out so less area to vacuum. The basin also traps any foam so you never see foam floating on the surface which can get bad sometimes. Here's a picture of one in action.

Notice the foam inside the basin and the calm surface in the pond. This allows the pump intake to be up high and I think provide max water movement when a falls is needed.

Air pumps are also very good (dollar wise) at moving water from the bottom to the surface. Most people see the air bubbles and think that's what adds the O2 but really it's all the tiny bubbles rising to the surface pushing water up and out of the way to create a current getting bottom water to the surface where most of the gas exchange actually happens.

If you ever did worry about O2 the best thing you can do for the least cash is add an air pump. Try for as close to the middle of the pond as you can to create the most current. Run them at night, or on a timer starting at 3 am or whatever. The green water algae produce O2 during the day but consume O2 at night. So the closer you get to dawn the worst the O2 levels. And the warmer the water gets the worst too. I'm sure not saying you need that, but maybe someday you'll see a lot of fish gulping air at the surface and an air pump can make a difference. They're pretty cheap if you wanted one for insurance. BTW fish can gulp air for other reason, but adding air can't hurt.

The same for the water pump. If you wanted to scale back running it it's best to scale back in the day and run at night. Yes, more so as water temp (not air temp) increases. But in your climate temp may not be a real factor.

The other issue is of course fish load. High fish load ponds need excellent water movement and fish can die if pumps are off for even a few hours. Many ponds of all types have fish and never have any pump at all even in hot climates because the fish load doesn't overload the pond's gas exchange.

Decay is also a load on gas exchange and it can be a factor. But not in most ponds. I've only heard about it when people were growing fry to max growth and feeding lots (10-15 times a day) of rich food and not noticing a build up of uneaten food. It doesn't take much of that to cause a problem. Most people don't do anything like that.

This all goes back to whether algae is good or bad. Keeps ammonia down but uses O2 at night. It's good and bad. The real question is what's the biggest threat to fish. In high fish load ponds gas exchange is the immediate problem so they can't use algae for ammonia control and have to use bacteria based bio filters.

That makes this all very confusing. Almost everything we do effects the pond in both good and bad ways. Until you learn a little of the why's behind the answers. Then it's all pretty simple. I've written a lot, but it's not exactly Gone with the Wind. Couple of hours of reading, maybe 10-20 more researching and a person can know more than 100 pond experts put together. Just takes some reading. A lot easier than draining a pond and cleaning it or adding a football field size bog.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2014 at 2:26AM
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thank you again!
....added thanks to wife!!
My KH is in ppm.
I have no problem cutting back on feeding. I also note that the fry eat in a separate area than the big fish and I can feed just the big guys. I have a big gold ogon that eats from my hands and she seems to be teaching the other big fish to do this so this may be a solution.

My pump intake is located in my skimmer box. Another leg of it is near the floor of the pond but not near the waterfalls. The output is via the veggie filter and the waterfalls. I can make a basin with the diversionary wall as you show above where the water drops from my falls. It really wouldnt be that hard. It would be a project for next Spring I think. I remember once making a venturi too in Washington.
Anyway thank you!

    Bookmark   June 26, 2014 at 6:27PM
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Such an amazing transformation here. From hopeless to hopeful. From confused to having a plan of action. I am so glad that your beautiful pond will have a purpose that makes you happy and that you will able to continue to enjoy your beautiful fish. In the process, I have learned more about my own tiny pond, which is suffering from a broken pump and a small liner hole which I have found but not yet fixed. While the pump has been off for several weeks, I have enjoyed lush plants, healthy fish and clean water. And I thought that silly pump and waterfall were necessary! I didn't realize that over the years I have created a self-sustaining little ecosystem. Karen, thanks for sharing your story and Waterbug guy thanks for the advice. It has helped more than just one pond owner.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2014 at 9:33PM
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Yes, its so nice to walk back into the garden and enjoy the pond without feeling guilty or sad. Some of the best mentors are awesome sweet people and they really do believe in what they tell you. Thats the catch for me when they dont charge much and they clearly have huge hearts and they then tell you things to do to change that will KILL your wallet (and your back if you have ever cleaned a bog).
I am going to do this pond vac thing and the trickle tower will sit in the back of my brain for the future. It sounds like a fun project. I can do the waterfall thing next Spring too.
But its super nice to be able to go out there and just enjoy it.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2014 at 11:06AM
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waterbug_guy(Phoenix AZ (Melrose))

Good to hear.

The one thing I really dislike about the Water Garden hobby is the amount of myth and misinformation that is so universal. A newbie has almost no chance at all. You can read entire forums, books, watch videos and get the same crap info over and over because they all just repeat the same stuff to each other. You have to read info about aquariums, Koi Ponds, farm ponds and even waste water treatment to learn anything about Water Gardens.

Back when I was building ponds for people most of the contacts I got was to fill in ponds. I would guarantee I could fix their problem, they wouldn't have to pay a dime for 60 days and unless they were completely happy or I'd remove the pond for a given price. Not a single person ever wanted to even try. They'd been lied to so many times, tried so many crap ideas from forums, that they just wanted it gone ASAP and never wanted to hear about ponds ever again. And they'd tell all their friends...and we wonder why the hobby isn't more popular.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2014 at 10:08PM
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This is an awesome thread. I wish more people would have an understanding that "pond" can mean a wide range of things - and a pond should be built and set up to function according to the owner's purpose. Rocks aren't evil, not every pond needs a bottom drain, and even if you don't know what a trickle tower is you can still have a pond that you can enjoy. Knowing what you want the end result to be before you set out to build a pond can save you a lot of heartache (and cash) in the future.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2014 at 11:55PM
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I think a retro fitted bottom drain would improve your conditions.
I am a believer that all big ponds should have BD's.

Think about it...the water continually exits the pond through the BD
and flows through mechanical filtration 24/7...The mechanical filters are filled
with various filter material, and can also include vegetation. In all, as the water passes through the mechanical filters it it getting scrubbed by
everything in it's path before re-entering the pond.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2014 at 10:57AM
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waterbug_guy(Phoenix AZ (Melrose))

lisak1, I think you nailed the biggest problem that people looking for help face, different kinds of ponds. It makes it super confusing for people to read info that is so contradicting. Take just the 2 extremes, Wildlife Pond and Koi Pond. About the only question that has the same answer is "Should it have water?" Yes. Pretty much every other question is the exact opposite.

Plants OK? Yes, No.
Add soil to water? Yes, No
Pump needed? No, Yes
Feed fish? No, Yes
Algae good? Yes, No
Filters needed? No, Yes.

Water Gardens are somewhere in the middle, and most people keep their Water Garden more like a Wildlife Pond or more like a Koi Pond. And there are many other kinds of ponds, all with different methods.

Many people giving advice, if you stop them and slap their face, will come out of their daze and admit there are different kinds of ponds. But then go right back into their chant about how your pond has to be changed to be just like their pond. It's a real problem for people...or maybe it isn't people.

Software robots are being used more and more on the net to make posts, tweets, create web pages and blogs in order to boost activity. Some of the bad advice might be coming from robot software. It's very good at figuring out what people want to hear and then giving it to them.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2014 at 1:39PM
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Waterbug - exactly. There are as many different types of ponds as there are pond owners. Lots of things work, lots of things don't, and some things work for some people that don't work for other people for whatever reason. Too often I think we are just too quick with the fix instead of letting the pond fix itself. How often do you hear "I tried A, then B and C and then D, E and F... and now it's week two and still no result". Really? Calm down and let it sit!

C&J - with all due respect, I feel like telling someone to retrofit their pond with a bottom drain is like telling them to retrofit their house with a basement - I would just give up. The thought is completely overwhelming, especially with a big pond. I mean, unless I'm missing something, wouldn't that require stripping the pond down to bare liner and then going even deeper than that to install the drain?

    Bookmark   June 29, 2014 at 11:12PM
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Lisa, nothing is disturbed, everything stays intact -- the liner, the rocks etc.
The retro fitted BD goes over the side and lays on the pond bottom.
For a pond that size, I'm sure two drains would be needed.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2014 at 6:37AM
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Just did a quick search and found a pond website discussing
retro fitted bottom drains.

Here is a link that might be useful: Retro fitted bottom drains

    Bookmark   June 30, 2014 at 6:52AM
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Well, there you go! I figured I must be missing something!

    Bookmark   June 30, 2014 at 8:06AM
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Lisa is not wrong. The article indicates that the best way to create a retrofitted bottom drain is to install it through the liner rather than up and over the rocks because eventually air gets into the plumbing. I have heard of these so many times developing leaks and becoming unstable with shifts in the soil. In addition, retrofitted bottom drains are systems which require complete change in pond systems. These are not at all inexpensive and two would totally break the average family's budget.
I think my water garden is fine. I am done worrying about it. I have been feeding my bigger koi when they mass together. I notice that the little ones are scared to get too close to the larger sized group so it is easy to feed the fish I want to feed. I am also feeding much smaller amounts because I am only feeding certain fish.

The only thing I remain curious about is the idea of the veggie filter. Maybe part of me still thinks they do something. Maybe not much of something. See, I decided to change my above ground pool from sand filtration and chlorine into a natural filtration. I built an 18'x4' lined raised bed along the pool on the deck, filled it with plants, created an "out spout" back into the pool and waited. The pool was your typical green Summer pool. I added big bowls of water lilies in the center and along the sides and I trim off the dead leaves rather than let them fall back into the pool. The water is clearing up and when I play with my veggie filter, I see an accumulation of dead algae. The plants in the filter are growing like crazy. Since I have no fish in the pool, I think this might be a relatively safe way to slightly address the algae issues in the pool...or it is an awesome way to go swimming with the water lilies beside a pretty bed of flowers.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2014 at 11:48AM
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waterbug_guy(Phoenix AZ (Melrose))

1 bottom drain, maybe 2...for a 23'x43' pond?

Try a minimum of 10 drains, probably all the other equipment needed that make drains work.

I can understand suggesting a person look into bottom drains, that's a reasonable suggestion. But to tell them 1 or 2 drains added to a 23'x43' pond like that's all there to it isn't very nice. What's the point of misleading them?

Google "sizing pond bottom drain". Lots of info from many installers on what a bottom drain system is and how to design a proper system. Maybe 30 minutes of reading. Not really that difficult. Retro drains aren't magic.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2014 at 7:05PM
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So water think this pond will be manageable, with trickle towers,
veggie bogs and uv lights?
Unfortunately, whoever built this pond without including BD's in the built
did this lady a big injustice.
As you know fish make a lot of waste, no way is this going to be removable
without BD's unless it is emptied every spring and thoroughly cleaned.
How expensive would that be?
Admittedly, I only know how we built our pond back in 1997... one bottom drain, one 200 gallon biological pond, one skimmer only used in spring and fall, and NO uv light. And our pond is clear and healthy, and our fish
are happily and healthy. Only had one fish loss in 17 years, and it was not
due to illness.
I think 10 retro fitted bottom drains is overkill, and would look unsightly
as well.
Our Pond floor is all slightly sloped to the bottom drain, thus the muck naturally flows toward the BD. This is an advantage retro fitted BD's do
not have.

You have given good advise to help this lady, but if it makes you feel
good to jump ugly on others trying to help; I'm sure you feel you
did the deed.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2014 at 7:55PM
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well, I will be honest. I am a single tough 64 year old woman with a lot of energy, muscles, and a lot of brains but not the kind of cash that will create retro fitted bottom drains. I can do the muck vac. I can make a trickle tower. If I had to...I could back my veggie filter up to the fence. I am good with my hands and am beyond determined. I am not financially at the level to be able to afford bottom drain systems.

I came here ready to ditch the pond entirely and just let it be for water lilies and a few goldfish because I had already been told multiple other things that I should do and and could not financially. My heart was heavy and I felt like I was going to lose my finned friends. I had gone to my pet store and told the owner that I was giving all of my fish away and I sware I felt like crying all day.

Your suggestion of the bottom drains, while helpful, could easily put my heart right back into that space. I could take your suggestion which means...sell the koi and make it just for waterlilies and feel my heart break. Or I can keep my ears open and listen to everyone... and this one man has given me my dream back. I have read his literature. I understand that my pond is not perfect but he is telling me that I can keep my dream if I keep my fish stock low and keep my pond clean.

I think that this thread is really important because I sense that I am not the only person on this forum who has a pond like mine. Aquascapes is a thriving business and they do not install bottom drains. Like me, there may be others who cannot afford to remedy the situation yet might want to keep their puddle. I have neighbors on both sides of me with ponds built by the same company. All of us love our ponds. So yes, there are many different answers but in the middle of all of the complicated expensive suggestions, there are a few, like this one, that allow us to keep our dreams and not give up. Please realize when making suggestions that there is a heart behind the text and no matter how adamant you may feel about your method, if it isnt within the realm of that person and they take your word as the only truth, it can be devastating. Thats why having multiple suggestions and ideas are good.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2014 at 9:15PM
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That was basically my point cicadidae - there are so many successful ponds out there built in ways that lots of people will tell you will never work. Aquascape is a great example - we have an Aquascape style pond. Aquascape is the butt of many jokes on several other forums - maybe this one, too... I haven't really paid attention - but they have built hundreds of ponds all over the Chicago area and around the country that function beautifully and that their owners love. We followed the Aquascape model when we built our pond and we could not be happier with the result.

Our pond is extremely low maintenance. We do clean out in the spring and spend time puttering with the plants, but we enjoy working in the yard, so that doesn't even feel like work. We intentionally keep our fish load low and feed lightly because we do understand that this is still a man-made system and we are one element that we can control. Our only filtration is a large bog (1/3 the surface area of the pond) filled with gravel and growing beautiful plants. That's it. And for us it works.

I think it's great that so much information is out there about what other ponders are doing so that people can read and study and decide for themselves what level of ponding is right for them. But honestly, if someone had told me that I needed trickle towers and bottom drains and above ground filtration systems that had to be cleaned every day or week or month or whatever I would have said "no thanks". And I would have missed out on a wonderful hobby that my husband and I can enjoy together and the added benefit of a peaceful paradise in my own backyard. But that's just me. We know that we have a garden pond and enjoy it for what it is. I'm so happy to hear that your mind has been put at ease and you can go back to enjoying your pond and your fish!

    Bookmark   June 30, 2014 at 10:24PM
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I admire your determination Karen. I think it best to lighten up your fish load,
that would help considerably. What size pump is going through your
veggie filter? I would definitely try the uv light. Although we don't use one,
I know many people swear by them.
We only use 500 and 700 GPH pumps on our pond. The reason I ask
what size pump goes through the veggie filter is because if you use a more
powerful pump sometimes I think this would help. maybe a 900 or 1200
GPH pump?
The big veggie filter -- could you put in the front (where the water exits the
veggie filter into the pond) a layer of foam and some cotton batting to help
that the water has to pass through to help clear the water?
Also, water hyacinth with their long flowing roots help a lot with water purification. Unfortunately big koi love to eat the roots of the hyacinth, thus
killing the plant. We rotate our hyacinth back and forth between the biological
pond and the main pond to keep them alive. Water lettuce is good as well,
and the koi don't bother the water lettuce.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2014 at 10:54AM
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Lisa, I want to give you a hug and I'm not the huggy type!
I'm in Kentucky and water hyacinths are annuals here. According to what I read, water celery has almost as much root mass as the hyacinths and it is perennial. Being perennial, it allows me to start my veggie filter before the frosts are done. My koi love the hyacinths when in the water and when I put them into the waterfalls or veggie filters they clogged them up and caused problems. I do have them in my pool filter because I can control them better.
Trust me, the way I am feeding these days, my fish stock will be much lower next year.
My pump is a 1200 gph.
I don't see any sense on the uv light because I like algae and the fish do too. A super clear pond would look strange here in this garden setting. The water is clear enough to see the fish to about the 2' level.
I am not good at instructions but I have the old hayword pool pump and I am going to find someone who can read water bug guys instructions on both the muck vac and the other thing and create it for me. Then I am going to get further instructions on how to use it properly and if I have to get into the pond every month and play I will. Sometimes, when working with large projects, it just takes patience and dedication.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2014 at 11:58AM
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well, I will be honest. I am a single tough 64 year old woman with a lot of energy, muscles, and a lot of brains but not the kind of cash that will create retro fitted bottom drains. I can do the muck vac. I can make a trickle tower. If I had to...I could back my veggie filter up to the fence. I am good with my hands and am beyond determined. I am not financially at the level to be able to afford bottom drain systems.

I came here ready to ditch the pond entirely and just let it be for water lilies and a few goldfish because I had already been told multiple other things that I should do and and could not financially. My heart was heavy and I felt like I was going to lose my finned friends. I had gone to my pet store and told the owner that I was giving all of my fish away and I sware I felt like crying all day.

Your suggestion of the bottom drains, while helpful, could easily put my heart right back into that space. I could take your suggestion which means...sell the koi and make it just for waterlilies and feel my heart break. Or I can keep my ears open and listen to everyone... and this one man has given me my dream back. I have read his literature. I understand that my pond is not perfect but he is telling me that I can keep my dream if I keep my fish stock low and keep my pond clean.

I think that this thread is really important because I sense that I am not the only person on this forum who has a pond like mine. Aquascapes is a thriving business and they do not install bottom drains. Like me, there may be others who cannot afford to remedy the situation yet might want to keep their puddle. I have neighbors on both sides of me with ponds built by the same company. All of us love our ponds. So yes, there are many different answers but in the middle of all of the complicated expensive suggestions, there are a few, like this one, that allow us to keep our dreams and not give up. Please realize when making suggestions that there is a heart behind the text and no matter how adamant you may feel about your method, if it isnt within the realm of that person and they take your word as the only truth, it can be devastating. Thats why having multiple suggestions and ideas are good.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2014 at 2:49PM
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please excuse the double post above.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2014 at 2:52PM
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waterbug_guy(Phoenix AZ (Melrose))

So water think this pond will be manageable, with trickle towers,
veggie bogs and uv lights?
Going by cicadidae's goals, yes. There was a lot of discussion about whether cicadidae was OK with green water, we discussed feeding amounts, vacuuming. muck build up, gas exchange...I think cicadidae seems to be an intelligent adult and is more cable of understanding these things than many forum posters who want one sentence answers.

Whether I, or anyone else, personally would do this or that or my opinion about whether cicadidae's goals are right or wrong shouldn't matter. I'm just trying to first understand what kind of pond cicadidae finds acceptable and/or wants given whatever budget cicadidae wants to set aside, understand the current state of the pond, and offer information about options which I make as complete as I can manage and let cicadidae decide.

No pond is manageable a single way forever. Things change, people move, goals change.

Unfortunately, whoever built this pond without including BD's in the built
did this lady a big injustice.
I don't actually know what happened between the builder and owner in this case. I don't even know (or remember) how long ago the pond was built. So I'm not throwing stones. I do know cicadidae sounded unhappy with the result some time later. However the unhappiness sounded to be about the bog not being big enough. That told me cicadidae was getting bad information, apparently from some mentor, that bogs were somehow good for ponds. Or, if a person wanted to believe bogs were somehow good filters, that adding more would somehow fix the fish load issue rather than the truth that fish population will expand as long as resources allow.

For all I know the pond builder didn't want a bog at all and the mentor talked cicadidae into it. Don't know and it isn't the issue. A builder's job is to build what the buyer wants. Sure, a good pond builder may refuse a job they think the owner is going to end up unhappy with if only to protect their reputation. Been there. Whatever happened, how ever long ago, cicadidae doesn't seem to be looking for info on how to take the builder to court or get the builder to change the pond. Sounds like the builder built the pond and cicadidae was initially happy. My guess is the builder and owner and certainly the mentor didn't know much about ponds at the time (and the mentor never will) and everyone was happy with the build. How is that the builder's fault?

As you know fish make a lot of waste
I don't know that at all. In a Koi Pond with a high fish load and 3% of fish weight is being fed daily the amount of waste is a huge issue. I wouldn't personally call the amount of waste a lot, but that's subjective. More importantly the waste load in that type of pond requires a certain design and equipment to keep fish alive and more importantly the proper kind of growth and color development.

In a Water Garden with a much lower fish load the waste is much different. I would say 90% of waste in many of these ponds is decaying vegetation. Algae, leaves, you name it. Fish food and poo are much less of an issue. We certainly know koi can be kept in ponds with no filters at all and that koi owners consider these ponds to be the absolute best type of pond for fish development because they pay serious cash to have their fish kept in these ponds until they reach a certain development. The fish is then removed from the mud pond and flown to the owner where it is kept in a high fish load Koi Pond with lots of filters and clear water for the owner's viewing pleasure. But certainly no koi keeper that knowing anything would say these high fish load tanks are better environments. way is this [waste] going to be removable
without BD's unless it is emptied every spring and thoroughly cleaned.
How expensive would that be?
Around $1500 per year I'd say based on the amount charged for smaller ponds being $300-$500.

Let me ask expensive would it be to add a BD system that removed the waste? I gave a pretty detailed estimate on that in an earlier post, $35,000-50,000. For that cost the owner could afford to have the pond professionally cleaned for about 40 to 60 years depending how the saved $35-50K was invested, but at least 23 to 33 years if the money were just put under a mattress.

If you want to debate my cost estimates no problem.

But this all isn't remotely the issue in this case. There are 3 main issues.

1. There is no $35-50K budget.

2. In no way shape or form would it fix cicadidae's main issue, a growing fish load.

3. The unbelievable concept that 1 or maybe 2 retro drains would someone have any meaningful impact on the waste load in the pond. Call any, and I mean absolutely any, reputable Koi Pond builder and ask one question "how many bottom drains do I need for a 23'x43' pond?". Or read any one of the many web sites reputable pond builders have made for people to learn about bottom drain systems. Or go into any good Koi Pond forum and ask if 1 or 2 retro drains will do any thing meaningful in a 23'x43' pond and after the laughter dies down you will get a serious answer.

And then of course the elephant in the room is your assumption that a bottom drain or emptying a pond are the only 2 possible ways to remove waste from the floor of a pond. My suggestion of vacuuming isn't even worth being in your list of options? Because vacuuming doesn't work? Hurts fish? Some reason so obvious you don't even want to address it? Instead the answer can only be BD or empty? Or does the vacuum option interfere with the logic of 1 or 2 drains? Change the question to win the debate and to heck with whether cicadidae is helped or pushed further down the path of bad info?

Well I think vacuuming is an option worth considering. And I have provided several web pages for people that covers several vacuuming options, what kinds of ponds it can be useful in, pluses and minus and even DIY instructions on how to build 2 different kinds of vacuums that have several years of testing in many kinds of ponds. So people can learn a little and make their own choice to fit their own needs.

I'm trying to provide detailed information about ponds to people willing to read a little rather than just take the word of people in forums or mentors. cicadidae got into this by taking the word of someone who acted like they knew what they were talking about instead of pointing cicadidae to places to research this stuff. And heaven forbid a mentor ever do any actual research. I mean that would take an hour or two.

Admittedly, I only know how we built our pond back in 1997... one bottom drain, one 200 gallon biological pond, one skimmer only used in spring and fall, and NO uv light. And our pond is clear and healthy, and our fish
are happily and healthy. Only had one fish loss in 17 years, and it was not
due to illness.
I've very happy for you and have admired your pond for many years. I've always wished to learn exactly how you run your pond to see why it appears so clear. I think it would take detailed study. I've read your posts for years trying to get some insight. I do know this...many people keep ponds the same way you do and get no where close to the same results you do. So to me, I think something more is going on with your pond than you're aware of. It could be anything or lots of little things. Personally I've always considered your pond to be a kind of Holy Grail and sure wish someone would study every aspect of your pond and how you keep it to see if something could be learned.

I think 10 retro fitted bottom drains is overkill, and would look unsightly
as well.
The number of bottom drains and how the system should be designed I covered. Easy to verify my claims. If anyone needs specific links I'm happy to give as many, but Google gives you independent access to the same info. I do tend to go with people who have lots of experience with many ponds, people who earn their living at it, to provide info rather than just repeating forum lore.

I also think retro drains are very unsightly and also aren't as easy to install as sellers say (putting aside they rarely talk about all the other things needed to make these work). Installed the way many sellers say they have a way of moving around and breaking pipe joints. I think they have to be anchored some way. But I have a low opinion of retro drains in general anyways.

Our Pond floor is all slightly sloped to the bottom drain, thus the muck naturally flows toward the BD. This is an advantage retro fitted BD's do
not have.
The need of slopped bottoms for bottom drains is a myth that was disproved many years ago and can be read about in many of the professional web pages about bottom drain system design.

The myth came about because we live in a world where gravity is a big deal. We trip, fall on our's an important force in our lives. We think we understand it...what goes up must go down. And so we apply that to ponds. Sloped surface, objects must go down.

The pond isn't like our environment because it's water. Throw a piece of wood into a pond and it's unlikely to sink to the bottom. So problem #1, objects do not in fact act the same way in water as air.

Problem #2 is the assumption that objects move downhill. The fact is an object's size, density and shape all determine movement. If you toss a steel sphere the size of a softball into a clean concrete pond with a sloped floor the steel ball will indeed roll down the slope to a low spot. A wooden ball wouldn't. A solid plastic ball...well now it gets tricky. Does a plastic sink or float? Well that depends on the plastic. Some float, some sink. Many are very close to the same density as water. In still water some might sink very slowly. In even the slightest water movement it might take days or weeks to sink. We can see this exact thing in our homes by watching dust in sunlight. Dust is heavier than air, and we see lots of dust land on all kinds of surfaces including vertical surfaces. But dust also floats in the air. There's more to gravity.

Much of the dirt in ponds is nearly weightless. When it does sink to the bottom it still has to overcome friction to move down the slope. Snow flakes on a roof will build and build until it's mass overcomes friction and falls off the roof. Metal roofs have less friction so snow builds less before falling. Or we increase the slope. But even max pitched steel roof still collect snow.

The bottom of a pond is extremely rough, objects nearly weightless, and the slopes are almost nothing in most ponds. Which is why sloped bottoms do nothing to help bottom drains work.

Instead we use water movement to sweep waste to the drain. Normally water jets called Tangential-Pond-Returns (TPRs and other more specific terms). The best systems do create a low spot around the drain but this is flat. It's to create an area of water around the drain that has less water movement (but still some) so waste has a better chance to sink. Vortex filters do have highly sloped coned shaped bottom to create this effect. Most people think the cone shape is so stuff slides down the slope but it's only to create a vortex current, thus its name.

In fact most sloped bottoms are less efficient at moving waste to drains. Flat bottoms are more efficient because less water movement ($$$) is needed to move the same amount of material to a central drain at the current's vortex.

You have given good advise to help this lady, but if it makes you feel
good to jump ugly on others trying to help; I'm sure you feel you
did the deed.
Does it make me feel good? Tough question. When a pond owner comes to a forum saying they want to give up on their pond only because they've gotten horrible advice it is a tough deal. In this case I certainly could have posted "Oh your mentor is right. Bogs are great and you should mortgage your house and add a bigger bog" That certainly would have made the mentor feel good. Maybe even made cicadidae feel good about the decision to give up on koi that are loved. Yes, indeed, everyone would have been happy. Koi don't get a vote of course.

And that is what forums are all about after all, people feeling good.

Yes, I am indeed a tool in forums.

Trying to help is admirable. The real question though is who is being helped in forums. You say 1 or 2 bottom drains will fix cicadidae's issues. I say it won't. Do I step on your ego and point out the problem with thinking 1 or 2 drains are a solution? That would certainly upset you. Of course on the other hand you could have done 15 minutes of reading about bottom drains to see maybe 1 or 2 drains weren't really useful, or at the very least "in question". But you didn't. Instead we're going to do what is always done in forums, we're going to start with the catty digs. Because that's what forums are all about...being right. Whether true or not doesn't matter even one little tiny bit. Whether cicadidae's koi are saved or not doesn't compared to whether your toes were stepped on. And that's why forums can be the worst possible place to go for info.

So I'm very sorry your ego was damaged. Wish there was another way. But on the other hand knowing cicadidae, and maybe a few others, know a lot more about pond and maybe saving fish and improving their enjoyment of the hobby and spreading that joy to others instead of telling friends to never have a pond, does make me feel kind of good.

My only defense for making you mad is that I did provide a lot of info about bottom drains. Suggested ways to research if what I was saying could be verified. So you could have checked my sources before saying 1 or 2 drains would work in a 23'x43' pond. Or you could have offer sources of your own to show your claim had some merit. We could at least discuss that. But you decided to stake your entire claim on "my pond is great, so what I say must be true". That was your choice. After that it's my choice to say nothing and leave cicadidae to believe such a claim is true, or point out again the many sources available that give very detailed reasons why such a claim is baseless. To you that makes me a tool. A badge I do wear with honor.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2014 at 3:39PM
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Firstly, my ego wasn't damaged, you're giving yourself a tad more credit
than you deserve. ( no offense intended)

Are you in the camp that believes a BD has no merit and is unnecessary
in a large pond? yes, it is unnecessary and a pond can be managed
without one. Does it have merit? In my opinion it does, and makes
pond cleaning a lot easier. You never have to empty your pond for cleaning,
you also never have to muck mop ( whatever muck mopping is? ) or vacuum either. for the pond floor slanted towards the drain,.. the drain has a dome
which created a swirl like a shower floor, the water gets pulled to the drain
swirls around and gets sucked through the drain.
We add water everyday to our pond a couple of times a week we lay the
hose on the pond floor, thus sweeping any debris that haven't made
it to the drain get to the drain. We also have a anti syphon valve.
We only clean the first filter box once a week. It's filled with a lot of fish waste,
and black water ( we use this to water all our plants and flowers around the
pond and garden.
I explained the whole operation of our pond many times on this forum, it's
no secret, it's a combination of many things...but, I will tell you this, we never
use chemicals, never use a uv light, and our pond is always clear.

Koi make a lot of waste, have you ever seen a glass sided pond?
We have, and it's unreal the size and amount of waste they make.
It's no secret, I can explain our pond set up and maintenance in detail
if anyone is interested. And the best part is that it's DIY and only
costs a few hundred dollars to build. ( for the filters, plumbing,
and bottom drain. I have pictures and diagrams.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2014 at 9:29PM
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What Lisa said is right. There are a lot of people out there with aquascapes type ponds and without the funds to change them radically. We love our ponds and they bring us a great deal of happiness. I understand the desire to stand by what works for you but in a forum like this, it is imperative that other options such as the ones waterbug guy has given, be offered. There are not a lot of open minded pond forums out there. Most of them, on hearing of our type of ponds/water gardens have members who are extremely opinionated and harsh. For people who have not yet built their ponds, they can get help from you Cliff and Joann if they perceive that your suggestions are correct for their situation. What Waterbug guy says is correct... there are a ton of people out there who are adamant in what they think is right and they can and do charge massively. We need an open minded forum in which all ideas and thoughts can be bantered about and all types of ponds can be discussed without judgement. One thing I observed in the pond fora over the years is that even the best and most well maintained pond systems can crash in a heart beat. None of the ideas are perfect and none are immune to a disaster. My KHV crisis did not happen due to negligence. I thought I bought from a reputable breeder. And it has happened to others well known to the hobby. Its about life and living things and there are simply no guarantees. We all do our best.
Because Waterbug guy was kind enough to share his suggestions, I can share them with my two neighbors and when I get my muck vac built, I can share that too. And for that I am quite grateful!

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 11:26AM
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Karen, Somehow, I must have given the impression that my way is the only way.
This impression is incorrect. I've seen nice clean and clear ponds without
BD's ... Even rock bottom ponds that look healthy.
However, they do take more maintenance. The BD's operate like a swimming
pool, the water runs through the drain and then through the filters just like a swimming pool operates. The muck and fish waste is caught in the filter
tub(s) .
Aqua scrapes makes it money buy building a pond in a day or two,
then they can come back each year and clean out your pond for a maintenance fee. Fast and easy, nothing wrong with that, if that's what
you want, and you're willing to spend the money to have your pond emptied and cleaned each year. Did I read it could cost 1500.00 to empty and clean
a pond like Karens?
I realize that a small pond can be manageable with all the suggestions
given here...However, when you get into big ponds built this way, you
quickly can get into a lot of issues you hadn't planned on, such as poor
fish health and green water just to name a couple of problems.

Some people don't mind green and mucky water. We prefer clear water
and enjoy seeing our fish.

It was not my intention to offend Karen, when I said that Aqua Scrapes
did her an injustice by building her a huge pond without adequate filtration.
It is not something that would be easily manageable for a single woman.
In fact, it was not easily manageable, that's why she came here -- to seek
advise on maintaining it and or getting rid of her koi and turning it into
a water garden instead.

I've done my best throughout the years to help people so that they can enjoy
their ponds. My point being that It's not what works for me, but I want to share how easy it is to maintain a clean and healthy pond and fish, without
chemicals and stress on both the fish and the pond owner.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 4:26PM
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waterbug_guy(Phoenix AZ (Melrose))

Firstly, my ego wasn't damaged, you're giving yourself a tad more credit
than you deserve. ( no offense intended)
No offense taken. I didn't actually think your ego could be damaged ( no offense intended).

Are you in the camp that believes a BD has no merit and is unnecessary
in a large pond? yes, it is unnecessary and a pond can be managed
without one.
I don't really consider my self in any camp. I know today people hold onto beliefs like they were their own child and defend them at all cost, ignoring all logic and science...especially science. If I have to choose a camp I choose to be in the science camp. I go with the best data I can find and am happy to change my mind when there's more data.

I was once in the exact same boat as many people here, believing every crazy thing people posted in forums or I was told. Wrote a web page about it years ago.

Bottom drains are great for some ponds and some people. Don't know how many posts I'm made over the years explaining to people how to design and install bottom drain systems but certainly dozens. DIY bottom drains, waterfall catch basins to reuse the water as a TPR, etc. That's not really needed anymore (except the catch basin, which is my invention) because today there are so many great sources that go into extreme detail on how bottom drain systems work.

Just because for this one specific pond a bottom drain system is so far away from being useful doesn't mean I wouldn't consider a well designed bottom drain system a requirement to keep fish alive in another pond kept by an owner with completely different goals. Or that a well designed bottom drain system could be a useful optional feature for a different pond and owner. It's a tool. Useful sometimes, not useful other times.

I know in most forums an any subject a person has to be in one camp or another so everyone can beat the heck out of each other. Unfortunately for me I just happen to be interested in ponds so I get crap from both camps at one time or another. Yeah me.

I don't have a problem changing views because virtually everything I say isn't my idea by any means. Almost all concepts I share were developed, proven and documented by other people. Bottom drain systems for example have been around a very long time, are extremely well documented and pretty easy to understand for anyone wanting to take the time to read. Less reading than this thread and anyone can know everything there is to know about bottom drain systems. It has nothing to do, at least for me, in needing to believe in something or not. It's just a tool. It performs a certain way and that's it.

Does it have merit? In my opinion it does, and makes
pond cleaning a lot easier. You never have to empty your pond for cleaning,
you also never have to muck mop ( whatever muck mopping is? ) or vacuum either.
Now you have to admit, that's a little silly to dismiss something while saying you don't know what it is. I mean I'm really not trying to bust your chops, but that's text book silly. Your telling me you're closed minded on this subject and that's that. Message received, this isn't a discussion, it a rant. You sure don't need me for that. Good day.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 8:17PM
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waterbug_guy(Phoenix AZ (Melrose))

To cicadidae and anyone else interested in using UV, water hyacinth or anything else to clear a pond...

The most important design element to cicadidae's pond is the green water. It's likely what's keeping the fish alive and so healthy there's starting to be a population concern. Green water = algae = no ammonia. Should anyone ever attempt to clear a green pond, or even if a pond clears on its own, you really need to consider testing for ammonia immediately and understand about the 2 kinds of ammonia and be prepared for dealing with ammonia. In low fish load ponds probably not a big risk. Higher the fish load = higher the risk.

When water clears it means the algae have actually been dead for at least a few days already. Cut flowers in a vase don't instantly turn to dust, same with algae. So by the time the water clears you may already have a problem.

cicadidae has already said she's OK with the green water. That's her bio filter.

When clearing a pond it isn't unusual to see some ammonia in tests. If you have a large fish load it could climb fast and you'll have to deal with that. Not feeding fish for the first week can help a tiny bit. In lower fish loads the ammonia will never appear or climb slowly and hopefully stay below dangerous levels. After a week the level will hopefully start going down. If after a week the levels are still climbing, or get stuck for more than a week, you have to start thinking about alternative bio filters like a Trickle Tower, Moving Bed or Shower depending on which fits you best.

I personally would be concerned for cicadidae's pond if it were to be cleared. Certainly ammonia can be managed other ways. But I get the feeling clearing the pond is being suggested as some kind of isn't. It's an option sure. cicadidae has chosen not to take that option at this time which I think is smart for her pond and goals.

Really important to understand the difference between toxic ammonia (NH3) and pretty safe ammonium (NH4). Your test kit is likely "Total Ammonia" meaning both of these. These 2 chemicals change back and forth as pH and water temperature changes. That's why KH is very important to know too. You never adjust KH without knowing the ammonia level first.

Disclaimer: I'm not in the "Pro Green" pond camp and I am not in the "Clear" pond camp. There are pluses to green water and downsides. There are pluses to clear water and downsides. Neither is good, neither is bad. To the people in the "Everyone Must Take a Side" camp...sorry to jump ugly on you .

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 9:11PM
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sue_ct(z6 CT)

Can you recommend a test kit that has all those things? I am considering testing again, which I haven't done in years with a seasoned pond. But since I have changed things lately, including my filter, I probably should keep an eye on things again.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 10:29PM
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"Aqua Scrapes". Really? Why be derogatory towards a company that has done so much to promote ponds and water gardens? They make great products, they build beautiful ponds,and they are really, genuinely nice people. They did not build our pond, but they were immensely helpful in our DIY build - answering every question we had patiently and thoughtfully. And the end result is a pond we are proud of and love having in our yard. Mocking them because they have a point of view that differs from your own seems rather childish. Why do you care, really, if someone wants to pay a company to clean their pond? How is it any different than someone who pays a company to mow their grass or clean their house? They wouldn't do it if they couldn't afford it. And isn't it great to live in a country where people can make a living doing things for people that they would rather not do themselves?

We, however, do NOT empty and clean our AquaSCAPE style pond every spring. In fact we have NEVER emptied our pond. We do some netting in the spring and that's about it. Again - our pond is a garden pond with some fish. It's not a koi pond that happens to be in our garden. Our water is clear enough that we can see the bottom of the pond easily - it's just over 3 feet deep at the deepest point. It is not high maintenance - in fact, just the opposite. We could ignore it most of the time if we chose.

It is important that people are able to read about all kinds of pond setups and understand that there are a variety of ways to build a pond, depending on type of pond they are interested in owning and maintaining. I would never tell someone "oh, don't put a BD in your pond because of XYZ" because I've never had a BD and I know nothing about them. So it puzzles me that people who don't have my style of pond freely tell others not to build their pond that way because it will never work... really? How do you know?

Again - this is a great thread. Lots of useful information for anyone trying to learn about different types of ponds.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 10:51PM
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Yes agreed, there are many different types of ponds.
My argument is a big deep pond with just a liner such as
Karen has is difficult to maintain, especially if you are planning
to keep koi.
Glad you're happy with your set-up and it works for you.

How do I know it will never work? Do you think my pond is the only
pond I have ever seen up close and personal? I have two friends
with ponds, two neighbors with ponds and a son with a pond. I have
stocked their ponds with my koi offspring, as well as plants such as taro and
umbrella palm.

I know how difficult it will be
to keep a pond the size of Karen's pond clean and healthy...I think
she posted here in the first place because it was green and she was
having difficulties and was upset because she felt she had to give away
her koi.
Out first filter tub is usually cleaned 'weekly' the amount of
waste and Black sludge in that tub that accumulates weekly is unreal.
Where does that stuff go without a BD or adequate filtration in a koi pond?

I said it here many times, there are all types of ponds, not everyone
has to have a BD to maintain a healthy garden pond, however, in a big pond
such as such as Karen stocked with koi it makes it a lot easier to maintain
good water quality with a BD and proper filtration.

We do a lot of things differently than other ponders. Aggressive water
exchanges is one. We exchange 35 to 45 % of our water each week.

We also have five small waterfalls in the main pond
and one in the bio pond. We usually run three in the main pond all
the time, and all five are run when we feel like it, or when we have tourists
over. The fish love the aeration that the falls provide.

We also hardly ever test our water. I am not saying that people should
not test their water, it just that our fish are our head guy
knows every one of our seventeen koi up close and personal and would
know if something was wrong with our water quality and if the fish were stressed because of poor water quality.

The Japanese always have a white fish in their pond because they believe a white fish is good luck, but also because a white fish is the first
fish to take on a pink hue when stressed because of poor water quality.

We also clean (rinse) the filter pads with pond water, ( with big 5 gallon buckets) not the hose, as the hose would remove the good bacteria that
we want the filter pads to maintain. We also don't use a uv light as we feel
it removes a lot of the good bacteria as well.

Our son has a small pond lined with BD and no koi.
It has plants and a uv light and goldfish. It's pretty, and clean and has clear water. He also vacuums it on occasion with a shop vac. Every spring
he empties it, cleans all the rocks and refills it. This is of course manageable
with a small pond and small goldfish.

I mention this because it's not that I think my way is the only way, but let's
compare ponds to ponds... a large koi pond and a smaller water garden
with small goldfish is not the same comparison.
I stand by what I believe, if you want a large healthy koi pond, it needs
to be set up in a way that would be easy to maintain and healthy for
the koi...and that would include a BD and adequate filtration; this is based
solely on my opinion and with pond keeping over seventeen years of personal experience.

I would like for the ponders that have large koi ponds that are
stocked with large koi and without BD's -- explain how they maintain their ponds. I would like to see pix and also know the age of their ponds and the size of their koi. Our koi are 18 to 21 inches long.
Their waste matter is the size of earth worms, this waste matter is being removed every day through the BD and trapped in the three filter tubs.
I currently have a thread up explaining our inexpensive DIY set-up.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 6:30AM
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35-45% weekly? For me that would be close to 6000 gallons a month on the low end - that's more water than we use for the rest of our household water needs combined. And our water is expensive - we would go broke paying the water bill. But our pond water would be crystal clear, that's for sure. Our only "water exchange" comes from water we add to top off the pond. So far this summer we've had so much rain we haven't had to add water more than once or twice.

Another good example of different styles of pond keeping.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 7:34AM
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Just so you know Lisa, just doing aggressive water exchanges does
not give you a crystal clear pond, actually without the other components
such as mechanical filtration and bio filtration -- aggressive water changes can make your pond worse; a slight algae bloom will get much worse and can quickly turn into pea soup.
Water here on Long Island is inexpensive.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 7:56AM
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You find what works for you and go with it. If it doesn't work, adapt and try something else. No reason for anyone to stress or argue about it.

I have a water garden pond that by design will take run off (we have poor drainage in that area, so I made it as a mini retention pond, after bad rains the water will seep into the bog that edges it and then the pond). Everything I read says the will not work and a pond that takes run off is never going to be healthy. Mine is thriving, my goldfish are thriving, and the pond is a lovely element that's worked out great in my garden.

I've found some engineering faults in my design, but the concept has worked out. I love my pond.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 10:56AM
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I posted here because I had a fish death which I now know was related to some kids feeding them the wrong things. I blamed my fish death on my filtration because I knew, or thought I knew, from further reading on veggie filtration that my pond was not filtered sufficiently and I felt that I could not afford to add the needed things. I have had two deaths in my pond, both related to the same thing and both within two weeks of each other. Other than that, my pond has been healthy. I appealed to my mentors in Washington because I could find no clear answers in my area that I trusted. Their answers were to extend the filter to the fence. I came here sad because I thought I would have to give my fish away. I expected to get slammed as I see others without bottom drains are in these forums. I found waterbug guy's post in another thread and read all of the material he has on his web pages. Its really interesting and it gave me a thread of hope. When he responded to this thread I was happy because I sensed that he was not judgemental and he wasnt. Instead he listened to me carefully, asked questions which I answered the best I could, and he gave me suggestions which tell me the following:
1. pond is NOT unhealthy and it never has been.
2. Yes, it can be cleaned easily and no, I do not have to drain it and I do not intend to.
3. I can keep my koi if I reduce my fish stock.
4. No, I never wanted gin clear water. I understand algae and I have no problem with it.
I appreciate Waterbug guy because he is the only person in this forum considering themselves having experience who has not offered complex and costly solutions and has not made harsh comments about the style of ponds we have. I agree with Lisa, "aquascrapes" shows the very tone we hear in fora all the time when we dare speak of our ponds. Cliff and Joann, that use of semantics is ugly and shows your disdain. I have always respected you for your work with your pond but with that attitude, I think I have lost a bit of respect for you personally.

Again, there are a LOT of people out there with ponds just like ours. We love them. They are beautiful and some of them are quite healthy. Those people need a forum which does not demean their ponds or offer single choice solutions. As Waterbug guy says, there are no true right or wrong answers and every solution has a bit of good in it. Each pond is unique. It is an amazing adventure to learn the biology of our planet. There is no need to take away from the joy of ponding with sarcasm or underhanded comments or with single minded answers. Genius comes from a completely open and accepting and humble mind.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 11:58AM
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I have just read most of a lot of information in this post. Its all very informative and helpful.
I think I follow the thinking of many who say that this is a enjoyable hobby and there are limits financially and physically I would find unacceptable.
I have over 20 years of pond experience and my most recent pond for 9 years. Never had any problems (until this year) but thats another story. Karen I think you have a beautiful pond that is well worth keeping.
I might have miss this but can you please tell us the size of the pump you are using & how many gallons your pond is or estimate?

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 5:22PM
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I would also add that there is science to support the Eco-system pond, too. It's not just a fantasy idea - it works, if you understand the concept of keeping things in balance.

As for large ponds with large koi, if you're ever in St. Charles, IL stop and check out the pond in front of the Aquascape building. It's huge, rocked, full of giant koi, and it's beautiful. Here's a link to the YouTube video documenting part of the build:

The three top guys at aquascape all open their homes to pond tours every year. They all have the same style ponds they build for their clients. They believe in what they create. The owner himself has a liner pond that encompasses something like an acre of his property - it's spectacular. LARGE pond if I ever saw one. And not a bottom drain in sight.

Also when you say "Aquascape", unless you had a pond built by the guys from St. Charles, then you had a CAC - Certified Installer - which is an independent contractor who was trained to build AS ponds and is supposed to only use AS components. Like many independents, sometimes they veer off the path and revert to their own pond building techniques.

I am sounding a bit like an advertisement for Aquascape. I really have no dog in that fight. I just know I get so tired of the digs and jokes and treating AS like it's a dirty word that dare not be uttered in a respectable pond forum. And anyone who builds one like they are ignorant. You can hear the undertone - "suuuuuure your pond is clean...uh huh." I had one guy tell me on another forum "just wait a year - you'll see!" When I said "this is year four"' or whatever it was he said "well wait until NEXT year". I think I could have said my pond was 100 years old and going strong and he still would have warned me that NEXT YEAR is the year it will fail. Whatever.

There's room for all of us, is all I'm saying. An open exchange of ideas and experience will only grow the hobby which is good for everyone.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 6:20PM
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waterbug_guy(Phoenix AZ (Melrose))

Can you recommend a test kit that has all those things? I am considering testing again, which I haven't done in years with a seasoned pond.
If you mean being able to tell ammonia from ammonium you just have to make sure whatever kit does that. They're a bit more money than Total Ammonia, but not a lot. Some tests I think can also tell the difference between bound ammonia (when you add a chemical to make ammonia safe) but I think with those the binding chemical and test have to match, like from the same manufacturer.

I've never used an ammonia/ammonium test because there are tables to figure it out (the tables I was using online recently went away). You have to know the water temperature and pH to use the table. For me that's just easier because the Total Ammonia tests are easier to get and cheaper.

IMO all test kits that perform the same kind of test are all the same. Doesn't matter what manufacturer because the chemicals are all exactly the same. They have to be exactly the same because they're all well defined standard tests.

Then it's just a question of strips, drops or electronic. Strips are fast but not too accurate. Drops are accurate but a bit more work. Electronic is expensive and complex.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 6:53PM
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waterbug_guy(Phoenix AZ (Melrose))

"Aqua Scrapes". Really? Why be derogatory towards a company that has done so much to promote ponds and water gardens?
That's just the way forums work. Pretty much every forum I've read there is a small set of people with a single perspective and they tell each other they're super. In high school we called them cliques.

This pond forum here on gardenweb has shrunk a lot and the only reason we could have this discussion. In other forums there would have been a flood of posts pushing that clique's dogma.

There is a concept in forums that it's OK to disagreement with an idea, like whether 1 or 2 drains will work in a 23'x43' pond. But the reality is if you disagree with an idea the person always takes it as a personal attack and respond with passive aggressive stuff as seen here. So this thread is very rare.

It's cool in almost all pond forums to degrade Aquascape ponds, makes you in with the local clique. The only pond forums where it's OK to discuss Aquascape is in Aquascape specific forums.

Can't take it too personal because it has nothing to do with ponds and everything to do with the people. Cross learning is never ever going to happen in any pond forum. It is just not in human nature.

To me this is all really fascinating because I write software. Recently I found out there's a big business in writing robot software that act like people and post in forums and other places. Some forums pay for these to create traffic, all forums make it easy for robots to operate in the forum. It's estimated that 50% or more on posts on Twitter are by bots. The big money is having robots create a reputation over years and then having that respected robot push a product, recommend web sites to push traffic, post Yelp type reviews for sellers, etc. One robot doesn't earn a lot, but it's pretty easy to have hundreds with the right management software.

I had one test bot on another pond web site, took a weekend to build. People love that bot. Gets likes, people talk to it. It even recommended a pump that someone said they'd buy. It's wild. The bot just always agrees with people. That's why they're there.

None of this was possible even 10 years ago. Today it's easy. Search a forum, see bogs mentioned a million time and have your bot be pro-bogs. Koi Pond forum, push expensive filters. Fox News web site post anti-Democrat stuff.

And the really cool part is people are totally OK with it. The stuff Facebook was recently found problem. A little grumbling, but no big deal. 10 years ago Facebook would have been in front of Congress for that.

It's a whole new world. Pretty fun. So this clique thing happening everywhere has a plus side.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 8:33PM
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Very interesting and yet a bit creepy, too. Tell me water bug... Are you a bot? :)

    Bookmark   July 4, 2014 at 8:13AM
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waterbug_guy(Phoenix AZ (Melrose))

I am not a bot. I am not a bot. I am not a bot. I am not a bot. Oops, rebooting.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2014 at 5:09PM
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