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Robyn's Pond Newsletter February 2005

Last Updated: 2/5/14

Introduction and Miscellaneous:

If you have something pond-related that you want to share (information, jokes, web sites, pond secrets and tidbits, something pond-related for sale), let me know, and I will add it to the next newsletter. What topics would you like me to cover? Do you have a question that I can answer or pose to others in the next newsletter?

This newsletter is dedicated to Schmoo. Our Shih Tzu, Schmoozer, died on 1/31/05 of liver disease and general organ failure. He was almost 14-years-old. You can read the details at http://www.fishpondinfo.com/animals/schmoo.htm.

My poor cat, Elvisina, has hyperthyrodism. Not only am I a cat magnet but a magnet for cats with dire medical conditions. Elvi showed about a year ago, and it took half a year before we trusted each other enough that she first went to the vet. Details on my cats are at http://www.fishpondinfo.com/cats/mycats.htm.

Significantly Altered or New Pond Web Pages (explanations below, numbers match):

1. http://www.fishpondinfo.com/myfish/bigpondphotos1.htm (URL changed to a new directory in 2014)

Additions or Changes to Robyn's Pond Web Pages:

1. Under Summer 2004, after a few more recent photos, there are five photos of the 1800 gallon pond and yellow flag iris that I took while repotting that iris on 9/10/04. Since they were regular photos, I just recently developed and scanned them. Unfortunately, the photos are pretty dark but you can see the huge pile of iris.

Happenings at Robyn's Ponds:

1. On 1/2/05, I topped off the ponds, collected some leaves, and pulled out some water celery. It was warm enough to get in but I didn't since I'm now doing the cleaning of the filter material intake every other week. The 1800 gallon pond was at 42 degrees F and the 153 gallon at 44 degrees F.

2. Here in Maryland, January is now officially spring! For the first few weeks of January, temperatures are ranging from lows in the 40's to highs in the upper 60's! The fish are very active. The bulbs are going to start coming up, and our forsythia has blooms forming on it! This is wrong, wrong, wrong! The poor plants that flower now will be knocked back if winter comes back and then will run out of power to come up when the true spring arrives. At this rate, I'll be feeding the pond fish any day now! A few weeks ago the pond was frozen solid but that only lasted less than a week. When I check on the pond in the evening now, a couple of green frogs jump in! The frogs think it's spring too! Just a few states over, they're swamped in ice and snow. While I'm glad to not have to worry about power failures, driving in bad weather, and keeping animals from freezing to death, I do like some snow! It always makes me feel good (except when driving in it). It's just dark, warm, and rainy here day after day. The main reason the weather bothers me is that it's not normal and really screws up all the plants and animals and seasonal rhythms. I feel like I should be out mulching again!

3. On 1/9/05, I squirted off the flosses, topped off the ponds, and tidied up a little. The 1800 gallon pond was at 40 degrees F and the 153 gallon at 43 degrees F. I took a few fish photos. The weather man says it will finally become cold (normal) later this week. It looks like the weather is pretty nasty out on the west coast. I hope those of you out there have weathered the storm!

4. On 1/13/05, the air was at 64 degrees F but the pond water read 50 degrees F. When I came home and walked around the pond, half a dozen green frogs plopped in. The fish were all hanging in the shallows and at the surface. But, change does come. Overnight, we got a few inches of rain. My 153 gallon pond was a few inches over the overflow and wouldn't drain. It was also muddy. By early 1/15/04, it's supposed to go below freezing for the first time in weeks. Back to normal? In Maryland? Don't count on it!

5. On 1/16/05, I squirted off the bioballs and lava rocks from the waterfall filter but didn't get into the pond to do any work. I topped off the ponds. The 1800 gallon was at 39 degrees F and the 153 gallon at 42 degrees F. We got our first snow that night, just a dusting. I forgot to mention that in the last few weeks, I've discovered a few goldfish in my pond who have problems. One has severe dropsy and popeye. The other has two large white nodules, one over the eye and one on the nose. It doesn't really look like the fish tuberculosis my indoor fish have had for years. It may just be nodular disease, I'm hoping since that's not as bad. Because I've never had luck curing any of these conditions, I have just left the fish in the pond to tough it out. Even if I bought another tank, found someplace to put it, heavily medicated it, and invested the extra time to maintain it that I don't have, I don't think it would help. In fact, the stress of such a move might make them worse. There are also a few fish with cuts like I've seen during spawning even though it's winter. I've seen worse so again, lazy me, I'm leaving them to fend for themselves.

All my tropical pond plants in the basement have died except for the black taro and the bluebells which are doing pretty good. Aphids finished off the Aztec arrowhead and water poppies. I found a ladybug on the bluebells that must have been brought in as an egg or larvae. It was helping out by eating a few aphids I guess. The papyrus rotted pretty quickly. The canna which are in brown bags of sphagnum moss have grown out of the bag with very light green leaves.

6. The morning of 1/18/05, it was 9 degrees F out! The 153 gallon pond was half lightly frozen but the Luft pump and de-icer kept it mostly open. In the 1800 gallon pond, only the waterfall was unfrozen. The Tetra bird island thing, 24 W I think, was frozen solid with the water in it frozen too. When I removed the weights and lid from the top of the waterfall in the filter, it was frozen too with the de-icer in it. I broke off the ice and felt the heating element which was warm so the hot water was going right down the falls which were still running as they should.

7. I wanted winter but now I regret it! It's gotten so cold that the pond is barely open at the falls. Some goldfish keep hanging out in the shallows, and I just know at least one is going to freeze solid up there! There's nothing I can do about that. On 1/19/05, we got 2 inches of snow. Now, the pond has vanished. On 1/22/05, we got 6 more inches which I plowed myself with the mower for the first time since my father couldn't.

8. I was due to squirt off the flosses on 1/23/05 but the pond is now almost completely hidden from view. Because it's been running 5-15 degrees F at night and only in the 20's during the day, the pond is sealing up more and more. Until things warm up, I have to try to keep things running. Here is my routine for this past week. Using buckets of scalding water, the blunt end of my pond net, a sledgehammer, and my aquatic waterproof gloves, all I can do at this time is keep the falls running. I remove the temporary green rubbermaid tub lid from the top of the falls, sledge off some of the ice around the de-icer, grab it with my gloves and toss it out, pour a bucket of scalding water down the lip of the falls, and re-secure the lid. The waterfall has two main flowing paths. First, I uncover the small one and remove snow and ice to leave a small opening there. Then, I go to the main falls. I have to walk out over the waterfall rocks which I would never and have never done except when the falls are snow covered. I guess I think all the snow and ice will prevent the rocks from shifting and tossing me off. So far, so good. I squat, sledge the ice tunnels forming around the running water, grab them if I can and swing toss them onto the top of the pond (um, what pond? It all looks the same, snow everywhere but I know it's under there!), lean over hanging over the pond a little to sledge some ice off the tunnel down into the pond itself (not too good at that!), and finally pour another bucket of hot water down along the ice and into the pond. [It's important not to sledge the ice over the pond itself as the shock waves can harm the fish but I only lightly hammer and not on the pond itself but up on the falls.] The opening is about a foot wide along the falls and goes out only about five inches surrounding by ice formations that are a foot high! That's the only real opening in the pond. [On 1/24/05, I actually measured the hole. It was 8 inches long parallel to the falls, 6 inches out, and had a vertical foot of ice/snow on all sides.] Oh, the 1800 gallon pond was at "touch it, and you'll freeze instantly" degrees F (ok, so the thermometer was frozen in) and the 153 gallon was about 34 degrees F. I forgot to look actually at the 153 gallon pond thermometer which was not frozen in but half of that pond is open as the de-icer and aerator there keep it in good condition even with the foot deep snow drifts.

9. I came home on 1/24/05 to find that my 153 gallon pond was frozen solid. No power. I finally got the power back up by resetting the external reset button after powering down. A few hours later I checked and no power. This normally means a de-icer has degraded and needs replacing. So, I put in another used de-icer after breaking a hole in the ice. An hour later, no power so I put in a brand new de-icer. The air stone won't put air through now, must be frozen. This was all I dreamt about that night. The next morning, no power again! It was harder to get a hole in the ice this time. I unplugged the aerator and left the new de-icer on. When I got home from work, it was tripped again! I took out the air lines and soaked them in hot water for a little while and got the air pump and de-icer running again. I wiped out the outlet box which was pretty clean. When I checked right before bed, the power was off again. My father thinks water must be in the control box. He can't fix it until spring. I got out a long extension cord and ran it from the pool deck to the 153 gallon pond. I wrapped a ziploc bag around the outlet since it's open (not meant for this kind of thing!). I can only hook up one thing so I chose the aerator. The pond is bubbling away again. I just hope it's enough and will work until spring. Hopefully a few days frozen didn't suffocate the minnows, frogs, and tadpoles in there. Too many crises!!

I really wish that each outlet was on a separate circuit so when one tripped, they didn't all go. Thank goodness my 1800 gallon pond is on a separate line now than the 153 gallon pond though. That happened a few years ago when both de-icers pulled too much load and kept tripping so my father separated the lines.

10. On 1/30/05, the ponds were still frozen in completely except for the falls and bubbler. The 153 gallon was at 36 degrees F I think. We got two inches of snow over an inch of ice balls which was interesting to plow. A fox left footprints walking over the surface of my pond like it was just land. It was actually warming up so he's lucky he didn't fall in!

11. We got two more inches of snow, this time wet and sticky on 2/3/05. The foxes left prints all over by the next morning. On 2/5/05, it got up to 50 degrees F. The pond has a good opening (maybe 5' by 1.5') in it now but I still can't see the fish as they're hiding up under the ice and snow shelf. I was able to hit the ice tower around the waterfall with one tap of the hammer, and it fell into the pond like a big iceburg.

Pond Tidbits:

1. Now is the time to look through those spring pond plant catalogs and dream and wish you had the time, room, and money for all those plants!

2. If you ever find your pond frozen solid due to a malfunction or power outage, there are a few ways to get an opening in the ice. If the ice is already really thick, you probably won't have much luck but if it's still not too thick, you can try a few things. I just plug in a de-icer and set it on the ice. It will melt its way in. You can also boil some water and set the pot on the ice. You're supposed to catch it before it dumps the water (and itself) in but don't ask me how! I think it's safe to lightly break the ice if it's thin. By light, I mean standing/stepping on it (hey, only do that in the shallow end!!) or lightly hitting it with the end of a pole without much force. If you have to hammer or bash, that's too much force, and the shock waves can harm the fish.

Web Sites of Interest:

1. The site http://www.vickysbirds.com has some interesting sculptures that would work around ponds.

What's your favorite pond-related web site(s)?
Do you have a web site you want me to mention here?

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