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Robyn's Pond Blog for May 2011

Last Updated: 9/24/11

1. On 5/1/11, I lot was done with the pond that has made a world of difference! First, I tested the water with the pH meter. The 1800 gallon had a pH of 6.69 and a temperature of 59.8 degrees F while the 153 gallon pond had a pH of 6.74 and a temperature of 61.8 degrees F. The thermometers in the ponds both read 60 degrees F. I squirted off all the flosses (pre-filters). One of the new bullfrog tadpoles was jammed (deceased) in to the intake of the main pump and was hard to get out. I also squirted out all the bioballs and all the Cyprio bio-things (they are not balls but cylinders). I moved the new air pump from the bottom of the biofilter and put it in the main pond in the deep end. By wiggling the plug, I was able to get it to work in the bad outlet. My father finally bought a new outlet but refused to install it because he was afraid of bees. Keep in mind that I told him the outlet was bad about two years ago and also told him to install it before it warmed up. Anyway, I needed that spare outlet because I made Step #3 in my own pond upgrade! The previous two fixes were that new connector to keep the pump from popping off and redoing the top of the falls with a huge new slab of rock so it animals can't cause the water to easily divert by walking on loose rocks.

Step #3 was adding an additional pump to the system. I bought a PondMaster Mag Drive Model 12 which pumps 1200 gph. It is so heavy! It's heavier than my OASE 2600 gph main waterfall pump. I put the pump and its plastic pre-filter in the kidney shaped holed plant basket (like the one I tried clams in last year; those clams all died). I wrapped the pump in filter floss but the more dense green floss made from soda bottles. I normally use the loose white stuff. I held an end piece on with a diaper pin. I cut a hole for where the tubing comes out and a slit so I could remove the filter floss without having to remove the heavy pump. I diaper pinned the slit together. I bought 20 feet of Tetra kink-free corrugated black plastic tubing. I set the pump basket in the shallow end, not too far from the intake that goes to the Cyprio filter. I ran the tubing along the side of the pond inside and then up under the juniper bush, among the rocks, and had it dump in the mini-pool right above the main waterfall rock. I put a heavy rock on the tubing. So, when I turned it on, my main waterfall gushed and gushed. I wanted a sheet fall but it's got its own plans. But, finally, the pond is moving like it should. Foam started to appear almost right away (from DOC or dissolved organic carbons). Basically, the movement was causing foam fractionation, separating the organics from the water. This is not a bad sign in my case. So, I got more waterfall without having to install a new filter. I did not get additional filtration aside from the pre-filter however.

I put a white plastic trash bag over the outlet which won't close with the four plugs in it. The new outlet my father got is larger so maybe I can get him to install it next year (but I doubt it).

I topped off all the ponds, added additives, and collected some debris. I netted over 100 earthworms out of the 153 gallon pond following a lot of rain. I changed the PondMaster filters.

So, that's all great news but Step #4 was even better! My brother finally showed up to help with the overflow but not until about 3:30 pm. With his help, I was finally able to remove all the rocks from the overflow. The liner had been pulled down by the weight of rocks, gravity, and time. We propped up the liner from the back side with the new rocks I bought a few weeks ago. We made sure everything was stable as we rebuilt the overflow from the bottom up. There is a little bridge in the area too. You can finally walk across the area without having to put your arms out for balance as the slanted rocks wobble. There is no longer any exposed liner except I left the actual overflow visible so I could see its status. I would later come to find that a little green frog loves to hang there. With the overflow redone, the pond gained three entire inches in depth! I measured the distance from the rock I use as a marker down to the water. Water used to lap just below that rock. It was 3.5" below that level before the overflow was redone and about half an inch below the level afterwards. Things that have been exposed for years are finally underwater again. Plants have room to grow. The fish gained some 315 gallons of water by my calculations! This all made me very happy!

The next steps on fixing pond problems including making a walkway by the pond where it floods, putting in some liner down the side of the falls where it leaks in to the dirt, and I'm still not sure to do with the biofilter (as far as the leaking over the edges and the collapsed liner just below it). So, perhaps it turned out better that the pond guy never showed up like he promised.

The fish did not eat a few meals which I netted out. I suspect the heron has been around. I have not seen the baby orfe since the day after they went in. I can see a few of the new goldfish but not all of them.

2. On 5/4/11, I took the day off to bring all the indoor plants outside. First came all the house plants to the porches. While doing that, the guy cleaning out the septic tank said he saw the great blue heron on the roof. I then had to deal with the basement pond. There were a few hundred wood frog tapdoles in there. They all went in to the 153 gallon pond along with some snails and about five mayfly larvae that I found in there. They must have come with the few pieces of anacharis that I brought in with the wood frog eggs a few months back. The anacharis also went to the 153 gallon pond. The pink pickerel weed was 100% dead. I found the seeds I saved. Hundreds of them were all fungused and no good. Amazingly, I found five seedlings in the pond though. I potted those up in a one gallon pot but I doubt they will stay in there with only a dinky root to hold them down. I potted the few surviving pieces of bluebells in to a two gallon pot with aquatic planting media and pea gravel. I left the tropical lily in the one gallon pot as it was since it was so tiny. I may move it later. I put the tropical lily tuber that was in the sand back in to the five gallon pot in the main pond. I did not put in fresh dirt, just stuck it in there.

I removed three two gallon and four one gallon pots which showed no signs of life. So many plants have died. I rinsed off the floss around the new pump to see how that went. It's interesting. When it's unplugged, water flows out of it because the other end is in the tiny little upper pond which is getting water from the main pump.

3. On 5/8/11, I squirted off all the pre-filters. I didn't use the pH meter. The 1800 gallon pond's thermometer read 66 degrees F while the 153 gallon was at 65 degrees F. I netted some debris from the shallows. There were half a dozen wood frog tadpoles jammed in the 153 gallon PondMaster filter. These were the same tadpoles that I have brought out from indoors four days earlier.

The last week or so, a few of the goldfish have seemed lethargic and/or septicemic. In addition, all the fish are huddling together under the net in the deep end. Even though I have not seen the heron (or gotten reports of it from my parents), it must be coming by and times and scaring them to death. I can normally see two of the six new goldfish at any time but have not seen the orfe since the day after they went in. I sure hope they are still alive.

After 7 pm, my brother was finally able to help me again for about 30 minutes (via order of my mother). We moved four slabs of sandstone (used to make the area under our fireplace that we never use) that had just been sitting on the brick pile since 1977 along with 12 bricks. We made two large stepping stones (sort of a bridge but not really) next to the northeast side of the pond where it floods. The down spout has a pipe taking that water away from the pond that my father installed when the pond was put in but the gutters are all clogged, my father can't/won't clean them, and he refuses to hire anyone to fix them. So, when it rains, water gushes over all the eaves and very little comes out the down spouts anymore.

4. On 5/11/11, I took the day off to mulch and mow. I mulched the big pond from the outlet to the northwest walkway. It wasn't much accomplishment for almost four hours of work! I have become more and more worried about the fish. Half of them are lethargic, laying around with clamped fins. Some are gasping. There are no obvious markings, etc. on the fish to indicate what is wrong. All the other fish are flighty and huddled together. Most fish respond to being touched by dashing away. Nobody has actually died yet. I started dosing the pond with pond MelaFix. It makes the pond water super foamy. I will add some more salt as well.

5. The morning of 5/12/11, first thing, the great blue heron was in the big pond trying to eat the sickly fish. I chased him off twice. Colin, the big white koi, has a few poke holes in him that may have been done by the heron. Many of the little fish are missing. I am actually hoping that the fish are sickly due to the heron and not from a bacteria and/or parasite brought in by the new goldfish and orfe. I still have not seen the new orfe since they went in. In the past, I almost always quarantined, and it never seemed to make a difference. If it did this time, how can I live with that? By the same token, diseases can also be brought in by the snails and tadpoles that I added or even from visiting frogs and birds and new plants. The new goldfish that I do see seem completely healthy which should be a good sign. The pond cannot be treated for parasites without killing off all the snails, tadpoles, insects, etc. and perhaps even some fish. I am going to wait and see what happens. It's hard to keep track of who is sick and who has died if the heron is gobbling them up!

6. On 5/13/11, I bought two bottles of MelaFix and two bottles of PimaFix for over $60 at Petco. I started PimaFix (for fungus and bacteria) that night while the MelaFix I am doing in the morning. There is a lot of foaming from it. I put in all the rest of the pond salt that I had. It is not enough to be a treatment but may help.

7. On 5/15/11, I squirted off all the flosses and did the usual. When I went out, the heron was there again. The pH meter said the 1800 gallon was at 67.6 degrees F and a pH of 7.01, and the 153 gallon was at 68.0 degrees F and pH of 7.25. At least the pH is not an issue. The thermometers in the ponds both read 68 degrees F. It's nice that they all agree. I did my best to fertilize the lilies, lotus, and marginals but, in most cases, I could not jam the fertilizer pills through the rocks and roots so the pills just sat on the surface and will hopefully find their way in to the plants' root zones. The raccoon(s) depotted the bluebells which are barely hanging on. The tropical lily (both pots) and pink pickerel sprouts all show no signs of life. I removed two more two gallon pots with nothing in them. I looked in my pond inventory and all nine marginals that I bought and put in the big pond last year are dead. I don't know why I bother. None of the new plants ever succeeds.

I was able to lift up (with the net and my hands) and examine some of the sick fish. The good news is that I have found no dead bodies. I am not sure if that means nobody has died, I never found the bodies (yet), or somebody (the heron and/or raccoon) ate them when they were listless and/or dead. More good news is that the three koi and two orfe (the two baby orfe are presumed dead) seem unaffected. The bad news is that the sickest fish do not seem to be better (although not really worse either). Here is what is perplexing - the variety of symptoms. A few goldfish seem to have classic ick with white spots although they are a bit larger white spots and could be from an infection. Some goldfish (the worst off) seem to have bad columnaris and/or fungus with a white film over their bodies (like their skin is coming off) including the eyes. Some goldfish have septicemia. One white goldfish had what I thought was the worst case I had ever seen with red circling every scale but now it looks like, in fact, the goldfish is undergoing an abnormal color change avenue to turn orange/red. Some goldfish seem to have fin and tail rot with their only symptoms being frayed fins and being listless. Three fish have physical injuries. Colin, my big white koi, has a few poke holes, probably from the heron who is there every day. They are turning black so they are healing. One goldfish was injured before all this illness. She has dropsy and abrasive wounds from spawning. Another goldfish has a new wound that looks like somebody took a utility knife to him. Some goldfish seem only to be listless and about a third (mostly the small goldfish) seem completely unaffected. None of the fish are scratching as they would from ick but most are darting to the surface for oxygen. This is probably due to the MelaFix and PimaFix foaming because there is plenty of aeration in the pond. Even the sickest fish are easily able to escape me when I try to collect them for examination so that is a good sign. I am hoping the MelaFix, PimaFix, and salt will be enough to pull them through.

8. I found the first confirmed dead fish from this illness on 5/17/11. It was one of the new yellow goldfish, about five inches long. It had mouth fungus as well as minor fin rot and some white spotting (a bit large though for white spot or ick). The other fish are about the same. One fish is so bad. Its skin seems to be melting off so it's covered in this white clumpy discharge almost. That seems to be columnaris. I sure wish I knew what was going on. I do know that I will never add any more fish to the pond. Quarantine is too much trouble, and the rare time I don't do it, it proves a disaster.

9. The second confirmed dead fish was removed the next day on 5/18/11. It was a 5.5" orange common goldfish with white tipped fins. The tips of the tail fins were rotted but had turned black which normally indicates healing. It had minor white peeling on the body but not too bad. This fish did not look as sick as the others. Some of the fish now have tufts of fungus on their tattered tails. The sickest fish seem no better but the apparently healthy fish seem no worse so that is hopeful.

10. When I came home on 5/19/11, the third goldfish was dead. This was the first adult, a 9" female common goldfish. She had minor tattered fins but not too bad. The bad part was the white film on her head and shoulders and to a lesser extent on her body. She was peeling. It seems like a severe bacterial infection but I don't know for sure. My order of 20 pounds of pond salt and huge jugs of both MelaFix and PimaFix arrived. I put in 5 pounds of salt and another dose of PimaFix (that in the evening and MelaFix in the morning). I have also ordered two other medications that claim they kill parasites but don't kill the good bacteria, tadpoles, snails, and insects. Some say they work great; others say they do nothing; and a few say they kill. I am hesitant to try more things. I have now spent almost $200 on medications.

11. On 5/22/11, I did some usual pond work but started off with trying out some water test kits. First, I tested the salinity with a pond hydrometer to see how much was in there. It did not even register (less than a specific gravity of 1.001) after all that salt that I put in there! So, I would add another four pounds or so of salt. Then, I tried to test the ammonia. My test kit was old and both the 1800 and 153 gallon pond waters registered low levels of ammonia that may have just been due to some low levels of suspended algae. Regardless, since there was no difference between the two pond waters, I can assume that ammonia is not one of the causes for all the fish health issues. Since I have been doing the full dose of PimaFix at night (once I got a gallon of it), most of the fish are a lot better. Only half a dozen are laying about and twice that amount have signs of fin rot and infections. The remaining fish are now schooling in the group and have regained their appetite! So, things are on the mend. Only a few fish look in bad shape but no more fish have died. I am pretty confident now that the main problem is bacterial and/or fungal.

The pH meter said the 1800 gallon pond was down to a pH of 6.67 at 70 degrees F and the 153 gallon pond at a pH of 7.08 at 69.0 degrees F. So, I would add more baking soda to the 1800 gallon pond. The thermometers in the ponds read 68 degrees F and 71 degrees F for the 1800 and 153 gallon ponds respectively.

I changed the floss around the main pump and squirted the flosses around the other two pumps in the big pond. I changed the PondMaster filters in the 153 gallon pond. The gray tree frogs have laid many eggs in the 153 gallon pond this year. They call around the pool cover and normally lay there but it is better that they do it in the pond as anything in the pool cover will be destroyed by my father. He rakes it out this time of the year, and we'll pull off the cover in a few weeks.

12. I found the fourth goldfish victim on 5/23/11 after work. She was a 7" common goldfish female. She was mostly orange with white-tipped fins (the most common kind). She only had very minor fin rot and some of the white film and peeling on her face. The remaining fish do seem better but this girl must have had enough.

13. The morning of 5/24/11, I found that the raccoon had made a mess. He dumped the fake floating plants out of the mosaic pond which is not a big deal; it's always dirty thanks to him. What bothered me was that he de-potted (totally dumped out the dirt, rocks, and planting media) the two newest pots I put in the pond. They had the tropical waterlily from the basement pond and the seedlings of the pink pickerel. I am pretty sure they had died but now they certainly had. The raccoon also dug a good amount of the stuff out of the bluebell's pot. The bluebells are barely alive.

14. I used up the last of the PimaFix with the 5/24/11 and did the last MelaFix dose the next morning on 5/25/11 (two weeks of that). For the first time, there were no goldfish laying about. They are all now swimming together or hiding. A few still have fin damage and/or infection but I think they are past the worst.

15. On 5/26/11, I fed the fish and went to upright one of the hardy canna. I found the fifth goldfish victim. It was a 7.5" common goldfish. I did not think anymore were going to die. This one I had noticed was one of the ones still sick. It was interesting because it was right in the middle of a color change so I took photos for that reason. It has blotches of the old brown natural color and the rest is about half white and half orange. The photos do not reveal cause of death though. There was only minor fin rot and that white slimy stuff (sloughing off of the slime coat and/or fungus) on the body. It is not enough to see it in the photos.

[Photos added later, 9/24/11.]

Dead goldish - right side, 5/26/11. The poor fish was in the middle of changing color. The fish was going from brown/gray/blah/natural to orange and white. The dark spots almost look like a disease but they are not.
Dead goldfish - left side, 5/26/11.

16. I got home a few hours early from the hospital (mother gets transfusions) on 5/27/11 and linked in just a few of the pond photos I have finally! This is only about 10% of the photos that I took this spring that I have to link in! As for photos other people have sent me, there are probably 3000 by now, and I'm never getting to them if I'm honest!

These photos were taken on 3/13/11 to show the bad condition of the filter and waterfall:
Biofilter - this shows the biofilter and how the cap stones are all loose, and the caulking is all worn off.
Waterfall - facing east. This is the top of the falls and shows how the rocks are all out of place, the hill has collapsed, and water is leaking.
Waterfall - entire falls, facing northeast.
Waterfall - base of the falls that go in to the swampy area. An area indicates one location where water goes outside of the lined area. The water celery was just starting to sprout.

More photos from 3/13/11:
50 gallon tub pond before being cleaned.
20 gallon tub pond before cleaning.
Wood frog eggs in my hand in the 153 gallon pond.
Wood frog eggs in my hand in the 153 gallon pond.
Wood frog eggs in the 153 gallon pond.
Female bullfrog hiding under where the water comes out of the biofilter. The hill has collapsed almost a foot under the lip of the biofilter.
Yellow flag iris pulled out of the 20 gallon tub pond.
50 gallon tub pond half empty during cleaning. Yuck!!
Woodfrog eggs in a bucket being transferred from the 153 gallon to the 50 gallon pond. There were seven batches of eggs.
Woodfrog eggs- close-up.

These photos are from 3/19/11:
Wood frog tadpoles that hatched out in my 50 gallon Rubbermaid stock tank basement tub pond.
Wood frog tadpoles
Wood frog tadpoles - close-up of the last photo

Wow, I normally get the photos from the 153 gallon cleaning up that day or within a week! It has been two months now! Well, here they are! Everything has turned green a long time since then.
Photos from the 3/30/11 153 gallon pond cleaning:
153 gallon and tub ponds before the cleaning, facing northwest.
153 gallon pond
153 gallon pond during the cleaning when the pond was empty. Supplies are all over.
Brick work looking inside the 153 gallon pond. You can see the two cap stones on the right that I changed out.
Brick work - this is a close up of where I changed out the cap stones where the edging has collapsed. It collapsed because it was built over the hole of my first pond which was a 50 gallon storage tub buried there.
Brick work - the shallow overflow area
Brick work - the close up of the bricks was to show how I made a ledge on which two layers of bricks sit which are topped with the brick cap stones which are stepping stones. You can also see hair algae on the liner.
153 gallon pond - empty
153 gallon pond - refilled and ready to go, facing northwest. The 20 and 50 gallon tub ponds can also be seen.
153 gallon pond - facing northwest after I put in a little mulch
153 gallon pond - facing west
153 gallon pond - facing southeast

Only a few hundred to go! I am sorry that I am so far behind! I have photos all ready to link in showing all the renovations that I have done.

17. The morning of 5/28/11, the goldfish were spawning! I take this as a great sign as they had stopped doing this since the illness started. It looks like the crisis is over. The heat is back so that helped I think.

18. On 5/29/11, I squirted off all the filter flosses and also the bioballs. I tested the ammonia with a new test kit that has yellow water with a negative result and green with positive. There was no sign of ammonia in the 1800 gallon pond water. The pH meter said the 1800 gallon had a pH of 6.79 at 73.6 degrees F, and the 153 gallon had a pH of 6.80 at 75.2 degrees F. The air temperature was 84 degrees F when I started. The 1800 gallon was at 78 degrees F and the 153 gallon at 74 degrees F according to the thermometers.

I moved the dwarf cattails that were in the medium-depth area and fallen over. I think they are dead but I moved them to the shallows to see if they revive later. The colorific iris was in bloom. I forgot to get a photo of it (only one flower lasted just a few days). The purple iris is blooming in the 1800 gallon pond and the 50 gallon tub pond.

While things are going better with the fish, I did find another dead goldfish this day. She was a 9" female comet with nice long fins. She was all white except for a red spot on her back and red around her eyes. She looked like a Tancho. Her only obvious symptoms were some septicemia at the base of the tail and a bit of body slime.

Continue to the June 2011 pond blog.

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