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Fish super-stressed; temp flux to blame?

Posted by zinniachick southwest Ohio (My Page) on
Wed, Jan 30, 13 at 10:33

Hi all, sorry to be such a foul-weather friend to the forum. We awoke this morning to a dead 20-inch koi. All the fish have been acting stressed this winter, hanging near the surface even when air temps were in the 20s, standing separately here and there instead of in a group like usual, and through the pea soup I can see clamped fins and pink tinge on them.

The weather has been bizarre, like everywhere else. A week of teens and 20s, then a couple days of 60s-70s, up and down like that. Record 65 at 3 a.m. today when the torrential rains rolled through, 55 now.

I did see something a few weeks ago I've not seen before in the 10 years of this pond, occasional thick green bubbles floating to the surface. And today, after the aeration, there's a whitish scum on the pond surface. It doesn't smell like soap or anything and I don't have cause to suspect vandalism.

We did vacuum in the fall, which is unusual; we usually vacuum in the spring only. Before the water clouded we noticed one of the huge 10-year-old koi (The Original Kittyfish, Andrea :) ) seemed like she might be getting pop-eye.

The dead fish this morning had clear gills, not too pink, maybe a couple of black spots on him I assume were parasites, but overall he looked great.

A water test this morning showed >8.8 pH, but the test solution might be faulty. A second test with another kit showed about 8 pH.

Ammonia 0.2 or so.

The pond is a 12,000-gallon pool, lined, no rocks, filters are off for the winter like always, no other variables from past years except the fish are bigger. We have about 20 koi over 15 inches, probably another 15 or so between 10 and 15 inches, and I'm guessing about 20 8-inch goldfish. From March to October the pump pulls from an additional 1,200-gallon settling pond, pushes through three 150-gallon stock tank filters and returns through three falls each 4 feet high.

This morning we hooked up the skimmer filter and hung the pump near the surface, shooting a dozen streams of water about 5 feet through the air to aerate in case there's a lack of oxygen stressing the fish. The fish have not gathered over there near the falls, so maybe that's not the problem. At this point I'm just looking for the can't hurt, might help actions.

I hesitate to do much else to change things out there, since the temps are going to plummet again tonight and the last thing those poor fellas need is big giant changes in their environment. So I guess I'm writing in case someone else is in the same boat and found a helpful hint.

Thanks, and I hope everyone's ponds are healthy and happy.

-- Zinnia


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Fish super-stressed; temp flux to blame?

Water temp is 40 degrees.


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white scum more pronounced

The white scum on the surface is more noticeable. I can't scoop it off, it just dissipates. The 2-foot-long white butterfly koi is now swimming on her side. Help.


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RE: Fish super-stressed; temp flux to blame?

I've had the temperature swings here in Michigan, too, but, my fish are staying at the bottom of the pond. Fish at the top during freezing weather indicates a lack of oxygen. Were they "gasping for air" - kinda opening their months wide and slowly at the surface? Are you bubbling or using a de-icer? My pond froze solid during out extreme cold last week, but I'm bubbling.

I think you're on the right track with shooting the streams of water through the air into the water. I would set up a bubbler, too. Since your pond is so large, maybe get a couple of pumps and run several air stones off of them. It shouldn't be very expensive - maybe $30. or so. In any case, it can't hurt and the extra oxygen will only help. Plus, you'll have the setup handy for those really hot stressful days in the summer.

I've lost fish in the winter in the past and it was always for lack of oxygen due to my inexperience and/or equipment malfunction. I've attached the post that shows a bubbler setup. I'd get those air stones in asap and worry about floating it later.

Good luck,
Gail

Here is a link that might be useful: This may be helpful


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RE: Fish super-stressed; temp flux to blame?

Thanks so much for responding, Gail. We do run an aquarium bubbler to keep a hole in the ice. They are not gasping, not even going near the streams of water now. They are all clearly in distress and I am in tears over their suffering. I just wish I could ease it.

I am surprised they don't seem to care about the more oxygenated water in that end. The water is so cold, it seems even if I could find and wanted to afford the volume of water treatment it would take to attack parasites or bacteria that might be affecting them, it would not work well, especially with tonight's predicted cold front.

I would suspect decaying matter that's eating up oxygen but we did vacuum in October and the bottom of the pond was clean. I just checked fish load calculations again, and even a conservative estimate has our load "low."

Whatever this is, it has been a few months at least in the making. The fish have seemed slightly distressed all winter, but not like this.


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RE: Fish super-stressed; temp flux to blame?

Hi Zinnia,
I still think it's the oxygen level and when you cleaned the pond in October it didn't have enough time to balance before the cold weather. "occasional thick green bubbles floating to the surface" - something's decomposing down there. With the warm temps it's probably making the situation worse.

Hopefully, you'll see an improvement with the water sprays and cold coming in. I feel your sadness and hope all ends well.
Gail


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RE: Fish super-stressed; temp flux to blame?

That's what I would think, but there's nothing down there but liner. It's not like a horse fell in there or something. I guess my instinct is that it's a 10-year-old outdoor aquarium that has never had a complete water change, and maybe it's time to pay the piper. DH came home from work and we're going to pull out about 10 percent, maybe 15 percent of the water, start refilling from the well.

You'd think the fish would gravitate toward the spray, wouldn't you? But they're still not. I spotted a couple of smaller koi, 12 inches or so, spawning in it. At least someone's feeling spritely enough in there. All the big guys I can see are hanging out in the shallow (3-foot deep) end.

This may be absolutely insane in January in Ohio, but I don't know what else to do. If it was only one or two fish, I'd wait and see, but the majority of the fish are feeling none too pert. I'll keep you posted, and thanks again for being there. :)


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RE: Fish super-stressed; temp flux to blame?

  • Posted by ademink z5a-5b Indianapolis (My Page) on
    Wed, Jan 30, 13 at 15:11

The big guys will suffer most quickly from oxygen deprivation (believe me...I know when all of my big ones died this summer in my bottom drain mishap OMG).

It's odd that you have pea green w/ temps that cold...I think you are right that you have a major water quality issue. My water is crystal clear...I can see all the way to the bottom at 6.5 feet.

You may need to do a pretty aggressive water change...I would start pumping now!


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more

  • Posted by ademink z5a-5b Indianapolis (My Page) on
    Wed, Jan 30, 13 at 15:16

ok wait, i have more to say...lol

The whitish froth or foam or film is usually indicative of high protein levels in the water...read: too much crap, decay.

the bubbling green is definitely anaerobic gasses releasing in the water due to decaying materials. again, your water shouldn't be green this time of year w/ temps like they are.

i still vote for a fairly aggressive water change.

ok, i think i'm done this time. lol

PS..remember "what's in the bottom of the pond thread" from ages ago? that one was a hoot lol xoxo to you and kittyfish!


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RE: Fish super-stressed; temp flux to blame?

Thanks Andrea! Yeah, all signs point to a body in there or something. The pond always goes green like this and stays this way all winter, 10 years running now. Do you run your falls all winter? We shut 'em down, and it goes green pretty quickly after that.

Took 4 inches of water out in the past 20 minutes, and counting.


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RE: Fish super-stressed; temp flux to blame?

  • Posted by ademink z5a-5b Indianapolis (My Page) on
    Wed, Jan 30, 13 at 15:24

....oh BUT WAIT...there's more!

Are you sure your "scum" is white and not oil slick? Do you have a submersible pump in the water? Just curious if possibly it could be leaking...which can be a major issue (been there, done that and wore the dead koi tshirt)


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RE: Fish super-stressed; temp flux to blame?

  • Posted by ademink z5a-5b Indianapolis (My Page) on
    Wed, Jan 30, 13 at 15:27

Ahh, yes, that is the difference. We run the falls all winter. Didn't know this was your norm...sorry :)

Glad to hear that you are getting some fresh water in there. Watching for updates!


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RE: Fish super-stressed; temp flux to blame?

The white scum is sort of like the spawning spew (sorry), may not be significant. It's not increasing. I just read your bottom drain saga -- oh, dear, I am so sorry! What a trauma. I'm glad you're up and running again.


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RE: Fish super-stressed; temp flux to blame?

  • Posted by ademink z5a-5b Indianapolis (My Page) on
    Wed, Jan 30, 13 at 15:37

ok, yep...that is excess protein in the water. I think your golden ticket is a water change! i would probably go for 25%


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RE: Fish super-stressed; temp flux to blame?

We took it down about 9 inches and are now refilling with the well. Our well pump is iffy and cold weather is moving in AND we are going away for the weekend... We may do another 10 percent change when we get back, or at least within the month. We'll see what's happening. I just keep picturing you wading out into that pool full of dead bluegill, scooping up huge koi... :(


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RE: Fish super-stressed; temp flux to blame?

You probably know this, but the new water won't be heavily oxygenated. Are you putting it through a nozzle?
G


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RE: Fish super-stressed; temp flux to blame?

We were, but the fill rate is so slow, we took off the nozzle; it's falling about 5 feet to the water's surface. I think it will be OK. Worried that we won't be able to replace enough water before we have to leave Friday.

You mention the oxygen level/balance as relates to the last cleaning/slight water change, and how it might not have had a chance to balance out before cold weather came. I wonder what the effect of this change will be at this juncture? It's 55 out there now, hi/low of 28 and 11 predicted for tomorrow.

My ignorant hypothesis is that since cold water holds more oxygen, the cold will help us.

Ahh, first-world problems.


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RE: Fish super-stressed; temp flux to blame?

  • Posted by ademink z5a-5b Indianapolis (My Page) on
    Wed, Jan 30, 13 at 16:58

Cold water is more oxygenated...you are correct. I think the main issue is the amount of crap in the water...

ammonia should read zero.

have you tested nitrates/nitrites?


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RE: Fish super-stressed; temp flux to blame?

DH says since the biofilter is not in operation those tests are not the concern right now. Those reveal whether the biofilter is working and we know the answer to that: Nope.

I'm so puzzled because whatever crap's in the water must be suspended, because we vacuumed the bottom clean in October and even if a tree fell in there, which it didn't, it could not produce enough debris and decompose fast enough to result in this.


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RE: Fish super-stressed; temp flux to blame?

Hi Zinnia,
How are things today?
Gail


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RE: Fish super-stressed; temp flux to blame?

zinnia give us an update as soon as you return. Im curious why and how your water is green in cold weather. Also hope your koi are hanging in there.


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RE: Fish super-stressed; temp flux to blame?

  • Posted by ademink z5a-5b Indianapolis (My Page) on
    Sun, Feb 3, 13 at 16:03

Zinniaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa


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RE: Fish super-stressed; temp flux to blame?

Hi all, I'm back from eagle watching in western KY, no change in pond except it's iced over but for the usual hole from the bubbler. Fish are hanging close to the surface under the ice. No new dead visible.

Gblazzo, the filters are shut down since October. We don't run them in the winter. The water always goes green within three weeks or so after filters shut down, then clears within a month of them starting up again in early spring. We don't want to risk an ice dam diverting the falls and emptying the pond, or a power outage freezing the pump.

I don't think the lack of circulation caused this problem, though it may be exacerbating it.

We'll do another water change when the ice melts, maybe next week.

If I thought it would save the fish, I'd ask the local pond club to come net them out and take them. But at this point, any additional stress likely will kill them, and moving in freezing weather from one pond to another will be a big stressor. Plus, dragging a landing net all over the pond will stir up whatever's on the bottom, and how will we tell which fish dragged up from down there are just in stasis or are dead? We'd have to bring them in, warm them up (in the same pond water)... and maybe one or two would fit in a bathtub but not 40.

I just wish they weren't suffering.

Thanks all of you for standing by. I'll keep you posted. Any ideas welcome.


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RE: Fish super-stressed; temp flux to blame?

After all of the fish died in my pond one winter (due to my stupidity) I run the pumps all of the time now.

I had a rock looking heater to keep a hole and a bubbler but it wasn't enough. i lost 12 big guys all over 2 foot long. I decided that in the future, I would rather replace a pump than all of the fish. And I couldn't replace the fish, the new fish didn't have the same personalities and I had to retrain to eat out of my hand.

My pond is always filthy come winter and I scoop out what I can, but without a drain, I end up with tea colored water very quickly. And to avoid the algae problems I just leave the pumps running. The water freezes over the waterfall and then water continues to run underneath the ice. I was always told that moving water will not freeze and it has worked for me the past 4 winters.

If I notice that the hole in the ice around my main pump is starting to freeze over, I get out the hose and add some water. It wouldn't hurt if the pond froze over the pump, but I like to keep an eye on it, just in case I need to pull it for an e,regency cleaning.

I live in Kansas and we get a lot of ice here in the winter, not much snow.

I hope you get something figured out.

Melody


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RE: Fish super-stressed; temp flux to blame?

Thanks Melody. That may be what we end up doing from here on out. We will have to rewire from house to shed, as there seems to be some kind of short that happens when it rains too much. Sadly, it's probably too late for this population of fish. I'm sorry you lost your pets.


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RE: Fish super-stressed; temp flux to blame?

I would keep an eye on the pH too. Goldfish and koi like hard water and high pH. Even if the sources of decay are removed, acid conditions stress the fish and allow more ammonium to stay in solution. Small amounts of baking soda (1 tbsp per 100 gallons or so) and liberal amounts of limestone and/or shells are always part of my winter prep routine. I also run my pump with a prefilter on the inlet side and open on the outlet so the water circulates top to bottom. Even if I don't get all the leaves out of the pond the fish still have oxygen and a healthy pH. I don't know if this will work everywhere. We get lots of ice but the ground doesn't usually freeze more than a couple inches.


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RE: Fish super-stressed; temp flux to blame?

I used to get a short in my wiring as well. It was happening because the outdoor plug wasn't grounded. I found an electrician that did it on the side.

He wired the power for my pond into the fuse switch as the bathroom. I don't know what the technical term for the bathroom plug is, but if the plug outside gets wet, it throws the switch on the plug in the bathroom. There is a little reset button in the middle of the plug in the bathroom. So I always know within a few hours if there is a problem at the pond because the electric plug in the bathroom needs to be reset.

Whenever I want to know whats going on in my pond, I get the hose out and make a hole in the ice. My pond is filthy come winter, but running the pump seems to keep all of the fish happy enough.

This may be a bad thing to do, but come the end of March, I get out with the hose to get rid of the ice. We don't usually freeze solid again after February, so I like to get the ice off so the sun can warm the water a little bit. And I also do this so I can start scooping out the decayed leaves. Here in Kansas, it is recommended to have the pond cleaned (total water change and muck scrub) no later than April. I say total water change because my pond is usually so disgusting the water can't be kept without adding a ton of chemicals to clean it and I don't like to do that.

Just keep your bubblers going, you may lose a few more, but hopefully most will be okay. Are you able to set up a separate holding tank area where you can put the few that are really in trouble right now? I've saved a few this way. They were clearly headed for death in the pond, so I moved them inside to the garage into a small 50 gallon tub or so that I had set up and a few of them recovered. I felt like I needed to try something...

Good luck to you,
Melody


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RE: Fish super-stressed; temp flux to blame?

  • Posted by ademink z5a-5b Indianapolis (My Page) on
    Tue, Feb 5, 13 at 12:13

Zinnia...it may be worth it to get a trough of some kind to setup on the back porch w/ a bubbler. You could fill it w/ half pond water and clean water at the same temp. Maybe you could save some of your big guys that way...?


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RE: Fish super-stressed; temp flux to blame?

I just dredged Angel, the 2-foot white butterfly koi, from the 5-foot-deep end. :( I got the landing net out and did a careful slow scoop just to see what was down there. I did a few more, netted nothing but a few leaves that weren't even decaying much. Still, there should be hardly any leaves in there since we vacuumed in October.

The tank is a good idea except these are big, big fish. We have a 100-gallon stock tank, and of course the three big filters, too. That may be what we have to do, and if the stress kills them, at least they die faster than this torture.

So here's a question: Do dead fish usually float?


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RE: Fish super-stressed; temp flux to blame?

  • Posted by ademink z5a-5b Indianapolis (My Page) on
    Wed, Feb 6, 13 at 22:34

oh NO!!! I'm so sorry! :(

No, they don't always float...especially the big ones. Unfortunately, I learned the hard way.

I think if some of them are bad...the 100 gallon stock tank and filters may be your only option.

You know what...I lost a few of mine during my third winter...just remembered this... They all looked normal, no damage, no nothing...just dead. They had internal bacterial issues and it was exacerbated by fluctuating temps.

Wonder if that is what's going on?


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RE: Fish super-stressed; temp flux to blame?

It very well could be. So hard to tell. Thanks for standing by -- such a friend.


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RE: Fish super-stressed; temp flux to blame?

If you have space in your basement or somewhere, you could get one of these kiddie pools for a temporary pond.

Here is a link that might be useful: kiddie pool


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RE: Fish super-stressed; temp flux to blame?

  • Posted by ademink z5a-5b Indianapolis (My Page) on
    Thu, Feb 7, 13 at 15:09

Praying for some answers to come! I feel your pain...hate the not knowing. :( Keep us posted and hang in there...Spring is coming!! :D


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RE: Fish super-stressed; temp flux to blame?

  • Posted by steiconi 12b-Big Island, Hawa (My Page) on
    Thu, Feb 7, 13 at 17:01

Water here is very acidic, so we use white coral sand to adjust the pH in our ponds. It's cheap at Walmart, and dissolves only until the pH is pretty neutral--it won't make the water too alkaline. A friend even uses big chunks of coral in his catchment tank (household water), but I prefer baking soda for that. Seems cleaner.

Quote:
I would keep an eye on the pH too. Goldfish and koi like hard water and high pH. Even if the sources of decay are removed, acid conditions stress the fish and allow more ammonium to stay in solution. Small amounts of baking soda (1 tbsp per 100 gallons or so) and liberal amounts of limestone and/or shells are always part of my winter prep routine.


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RE: Fish super-stressed; temp flux to blame?

Re: test for ammonia/nitrite/nitrate - Im not quite understanding why that is irrelevant here. Yes nitrite/nitrate would indicate a working biofilter, but ammonia is ammonia - the fish waste straight from the fish, correct? Which if it builds up enough can be toxic. (I pose that as a question - doesn't the ammonia come directly from fish waste,rotting debris etc? It's not like its converted from something else.)

I think I'd want to know if there was excessive ammonia because it would need to be addressed in some other way besides the biofilter and the nitrifying bacteria (water changes, etc.)


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RE: Fish super-stressed; temp flux to blame?

Just as a thought.....you haven't fed them recently by chance have you? If so, the temps could have dropped while they still had food in their systems that didn't digest.

When I put my fish in a separate tank, I knew they wouldn't be very active, and even though it was too small for that size of fish to swim, it was an okay size for them to stay afloat in and not run into the sides.

If you put them in a separate tank and they perk right up, chances are its something with the water quality. If they don't perk up, it could be something internal that you aren't seeing, or it could simply be too late. I hope its the water rather than something internal.


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RE: Fish super-stressed; temp flux to blame?

Kasha Kat is totally right on with their response. Nitrates/Nitrites and Ammonia readings are all related to each other. Definitely check your Nitrates/Nitrites and Ammonia levels.

Ammonia is released from from debris, fish waste and the gills from your fish - If you fish are coming and going through dormancy, then there will be increased use of the gills on your fish. Hence the increase in ammonia output.

Ammonia will also affect the oxygen levels in your pond. Which is why your fish acting like they are not getting enough oxygen, because in reality they are not. The ammonia level has taken the oxygen out of the pond.

Another thing about ammonia levels - your ph will affect the levels of ammonia in your pond. So a reading of .2 on your test indicators is pushed higher by the higher ph in your pond.

This time of year is difficult, however, there are some microbe lift products that will work in cold water and the microbe lift will unlock the ammonia and release the oxygen levels in your pond almost immediately. I was very surprised to see how quickly this happened in my own pond. The microbe lift product that I used was the Spring/Summer clean up - I am not sure that would be the correct one to use for winter. The people at microbe lift are very helpful. Their # 1-800-809-7102. It will cost nothing to call and talk with them.

I do believe it was mentioned here before - you want your ammonia levels at 0. This is critical as the elevated ammonia levels will kill your fish and I believe this is already happening in your pond.

One other thing - somebody mentioned not feeding your fish - I am assuming when we have the freezes and thaws that you are not feeding your fish. You are in Southern Ohio, which is zone 5-6, which is about the zone I am in. I would think typically your start up would be Marchish with feeding starting when your water temps are consistently in the 50's, so that would be April/May, depending upon how early or late Spring occurs.

Not sure if you can access my pond journals as I am typically on DG and that is where my journals are. But if you can, you will see in 2007 is where I had these problems although my problems occured in April.

Good luck.

Here is a link that might be useful: Microbe-Lift


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RE: Fish super-stressed; temp flux to blame?

Thanks everyone. Carolyn, the Microbe-Lift site is very interesting reading. I'm going to give them a call for best product for cold water. That may be the ticket.

We started circulating today after DH cleaned out the 1,500-gallon settling pond yesterday, sledged the 1.5" ice layer off, pumped, vacuumed and scooped the sludge from the bottom. That pond and the big fish pond are connected through a 4" siphon bottom drain. Here's hoping for an improvement.

No more dead fish. In fact, I threw the cast net three times and came up with nothing twice, (a couple leaves) and the third time two live fish, very sluggish.

Melmel, we don't feed them when the water temps dip below 55. They haven't had anything to eat but the algea they find in their pond since probably October.

Steiconi, I have a couple of plaster of paris pills I made last fall I could drop in the waterfall spillways. It may not change the pH but it will provide a buffer against big swings in pH.


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RE: Fish super-stressed; temp flux to blame?

Zinnia

Ever since that episode with the elevated ammonia in my pond early on in the season, I make sure I order more of the Microbe Lift in my fall orders for the following ponding season.

Best of luck - I am hoping you don't lose anymore fish. I know how upsetting that can be.


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RE: Fish super-stressed; temp flux to blame?

OK, two gallons of Microbe-Lift Aqua Extreme added last night. So far so good. The fish are not drifting around just under the surface, probably are back down near the bottom where they belong in sub-freezing weather. Water temp is 39 degrees. What's inexplicable is, DH did a water test last night before we threw in the Microbe-Lift and the nitrites were back to zero. What gives? Still, some fish were near the surface, clearly all was not well. Maybe circulating with the big pump for a couple days helped disperse the nitrites?

Ponding is an inexact art, to be sure. If we knew the answers nobody would ever lose a fish. Thanks everyone for your help and support, and I'll post when anything's new.


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RE: Fish super-stressed; temp flux to blame?

Sounds good so far - I am thinking because you haven't posted since Friday, that no news is good news.


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RE: Fish super-stressed; temp flux to blame?

:) True dat.


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RE: Fish super-stressed; temp flux to blame?

Hey Carolyn, does the microbe-lift last from season to season, ie, is there an expiration date on it? I'm thinking of buying the 5-gallon jug and just having it on hand. Do you have a source you prefer to buy from?

No news on the pond, all is chugging along. Still quite green but circulating fine. No new dead fish, water about 32 degrees.


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RE: Fish super-stressed; temp flux to blame?

Zinnia

I don't know about the shelf life of the liquid Microbelift - I buy the packets with the dry powder inside, which does last quite awhile.

We put Microbelift in every spring with start up, so each year in the fall when I do my ordering for the following year, I order a new box of Microbelift.

I have used the liquid but really prefer the dry packets because of the ease of use and shelf life.

Great news that everything is still going well with your pond....


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