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Robyn's Pond Newsletter March 2003

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?

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

1. http://www.fishpondinfo.com/myfish/winter2.htm (URL changed to a new directory in 2014)
2. http://www.fishpondinfo.com/turtles/hatchling.htm
3. http://www.fishpondinfo.com/frogs/bullfrog.htm [Link updated for moved frog pages.]
4. http://www.fishpondinfo.com/talk.htm
5. http://www.fishpondinfo.com/fish/gfhealth.htm (moved later)
6. http://www.fishpondinfo.com/install.htm

Additions or Changes to Robyn's Pond Web Pages:

1. There are three new pond snow photos. They are under the winter photo section. A photo from 2/7/03 shows 7 inches around the pond. Two photos on 2/17/03 show our 2 foot snowfall around my pond and out the back sliding door. Descriptions can be found on the pictures page and also on the pond winterizing page. If you want to just dash over to the photos, then just click on Feb7.jpg, huge1.jpg, and huge2.jpg.

2. I created this new page to cover hatchling and baby turtle care. I was given a hatchling snapper in late October and am raising him until spring for release. I've learned so much caring for Snappy that I just couldn't keep it a secret anymore as already two people have asked me for detailed information including one person who found a turtle exactly the same size and type as Snappy wandering in a snowy parking lot when he should have been in bed (which means under the ground for hatchlings or in a pond or lake somewhere). Since I saved that baby's life with what I'd learned, I hope that putting the information out there will help others without promoting taking turtles from the wild. There are three new photos of Snappy and his setup on this new page.

3. I added a section on catching bullfrogs under the bullfrogs section since someone told me how they catch bullfrogs at their pond to be relocated.

4. I finally added a few old conversations I had onto my pond talk page (on the bottom) about why water changes spawn an algae bloom, koi clay, and water changes to replenish minerals.

5. I put in a new section called goldfish health. It includes new sections on trouble swimming, color changes, and torn fins.

6. I finally filled out some of the pond installation page, mostly on site preparation, underliners, liners, liner installation, and edging.

Happenings at Robyn's Ponds:

1. On 2/1/03, the 153 gallon was all melted out. The thermometer read 43 degrees F which was the air temperature. I saw another of my native fish. My three tub ponds and small back liner pond are still mostly ice with a layer of water on top. The big pond had small areas open but most is still thick ice with melted water on top. I finally removed the dead de-icer which was frozen in. I saw a group of about four fathead minnows swimming and a few more goldfish and orfe. I still can't see the koi. I got a chunk off the ice mountain which I threw up over the main ice sheet so when it melts, it will add volume (a few gallons) to the pond. Under the lip of where the falls splash into the pond, there was a patch of bright, bright green moss. Seeing such intense green when every plant looks brown and dead was a bright spot in my day.

2. On the morning of 2/4/03, I finally saw Maggie and Colin, my two koi. They are okay! The pond melted out some more and was a bit hazy which usually happens during thawing. It's supposed to go back to freezing nasty weather but it was nice to get a look under the ice while it lasted!

3. The morning of 2/7/03, I awoke to 7 inches of snow. The ponds were almost unrecognizable. After 3 hours of chores (normally 2 hours but I had to clear snow and feed the wild birds), I went to work late.

4. Of course on 2/9/03, the pond was still almost totally frozen so I still have not cleaned the floss or bioballs in a long time, and they're way overdue. Looking at my old newsletters, in past years, I was able to get in the pond multiple times in January and February as it always thawed and refroze. But, this is a REAL winter so the work must wait. The water that I see through the opens is cloudy, probably the worst it's looked in years. Hopefully when I eventually get in the pond and can change the floss and clean the bioballs, things will clear up. The cloudiness is not colored, it's not even white really. It's just hazy, not like a bacterial bloom either. Almost like slush in the water itself (which it's not). As I type this, I'm watching more snow fall (2/10/03).

5. On 2/11/03, I took the day off because I did my pond talk that night. In the morning, I bought 15 rosy red minnows for $1. I was going to bring some to the talk but ended up not doing so. The minnows were sold as feeders and in bad, bad shape. Some were hemorrhaging (bloody) from the employees bashing them into the nets and glass. All were underfed. I'm trying to rehabilitate them in my 20 gallon basement tub pond which already had about a dozen feeder guppies I got back in November for Snappy (he didn't want them). Whenever you get new fish, never add the store water to your tanks or ponds. I pour the store water through a net into a bucket and put the fish into their quarantine. I then bleach soak the bucket and net for a day followed by a soak in fresh water with dechlorinator for a day. I have added aquarium salt, MelaFix by Aquarium Pharmaceuticals, Maracyn by Mardel (erythromycin), and Aquari-Sol by Aquarium Pharmaceuticals (for ick, contains copper but has not killed off my snails) to try to make the tortured feeder fish recover and be healthy. I'm not adding stronger parasite medications due to the snails and the high toxicity of such "medications" but may have to if something becomes evident. All the rosy reds in my 1800 gallon pond have reverted to fatheads (as some were mixed in, and fathead is dominant and less likely to be eaten by predators). So, I'm missing the healthy rosy reds. There are only a few native fish left in my 153 gallon pond so I'll probably put the rosy reds in there to liven it up and to avoid adding possible new nasties to the 1800 gallon pond. It will also keep them from breeding with the fatheads and all reverting to fatheads again. The guppies will go in my 50 gallon lotus tub but come into the basement pond in the fall (unless the raccoon eats them all, we'll see). The first meal for the rosy reds was Tetra flakes and frozen brine shrimp. I could almost imagine them crying with happiness. I feel so bad for the millions of fish I left at the store never to know clean water, good food, and peace. When it came time to go do my talk, it was snowing so bad, it was almost a white out, and the lines on the roads were gone. My talk went well enough. There were about 9 people, none of whom had ever visited my site before. On the way home, they had not plowed or salted so it was a sheet of white ice (compacted snow). Cars were stalled on hills, and we had to maneuver our way around those areas. What was normally a 6 minute drive took 40 minutes. When morning came and I headed to work, the roads were still the same! They had done nothing! It had been more than half a day with no new precipitation but they hadn't bothered to even plow or salt the roads yet in my area. A stressful bumper-to-bumper, hour-long drive to work was the result. At work (18 miles from home), the roads were totally dry. They couldn't understand why I was late! How much better a day it would have been to spend it gazing at the ponds!

6. On 2/10/03, the local radio guy said we were going to get a "whopper" this weekend but the news said just a chance of some precipitation. Well, the radio guy was so right! We got the largest snowfall in Baltimore history on 2/16/03 and 2/17/03. The morning of 2/15/03, we got 3 inches. From 2 am to 8 am on 2/16/03, we got 9 inches. We got another 8 inches by 4 pm. By 8 am 2/17/03, we were up to at least 20 inches. As I write this at 10 am on 2/17/03, there is 21 inches in the least deep areas with over 3 feet in spots from drifting. We are snowed in, for real! These are cropped and added-to versions of two messages I sent to rec.ponds newsgroup the evening of 2/16/03 and again just now so I don't have to repeat myself.

I have to wear my pond hip waders to walk outside, and it's very slow. I'm barely able to keep the pond waterfall going. I covered the top of the filter with a plastic big tub lid and lead diving weights because it was coming too fast for the water to stay open. There are birds all over desperate for food and the feeders I filled Friday are nearly empty, and I don't have much food left for them. I brought the rabbit in but the chickens are closed in their 6'x6' house and fighting quite a bit about it. The falls are still running in my 1800 gallon pond but with all the snow, it's hard to see and the sound is completely muted out! My 153 gallon pond is open from an air bubbler and de-icer. The birds want to drink from it but there's a two foot cliff of snow all around and no place to land! The only open water in my 1800 gallon pond is two small spots where the running falls are exposed, and birds are trying to drink from it, on the wing! My other 4 ponds outside have completely vanished and no longer exist! My father drove his riding mower with blade trying to keep an area open but it became a losing battle. By that night, only a single lane was open to the mailbox. That morning, he did fishtail his pickup truck to the mailbox though. The mower is sputtering as it's too cold, and the gas surplus is running low. It's time to dig by hand. My car has vanished. I have dug out the two heat pumps though but the house seems colder as ice is forming on the heat pumps.

I just took some digital photos but it may be a few days or week before I get them on-line (they are the ones added to my pictures page). My ponds were basically unrecognizable this morning. In other words, what ponds? I found the top of the falls on my 1800 gallon pond under the plastic tub lid I put there. After digging that out, I could see the water was still moving but slower and could finally hear it as the snow blocks most sounds out. Only an area the size of my finger was open where the falls hit the water so it's running under a cap of snow! Drifts have filled in most of the pond which has a foot drop from edging to water (actually ice now covered in snow). When I went to my 153 gallon pond, only an area about 2" square was open where bubbles were. The de-icer was buried. I dug out the air pump 2 feet down (the snow had drifted back in though I cleaned it out 3 times yesterday) and then the air bubbles increased since it wasn't getting enough air. I can't see out the windows up here by the roof. I cleared off the porch and put out seed for the birds there. The cats are loving it, chattering by the windows, giving the birds mini heart attacks. My back is killing me. My father can't keep even a one mower wide path open anymore to the mailbox with his little riding mower. There's no place to push the snow as there are walls 5 feet on either side. The neighbors have pickups with plows and front-end loaders but drive by with the blades up! They won't help up dig out. My father who is 63 with a hernia and bad back is trying to dig 1500 feet down our road by hand! Then, there's another 5000 feet of private community drive to a state road. No one has plowed the community road either (the neighbors drove over it with their mega-trucks, creating a nice bed of ice underneath for us to enjoy if we dig out that far). I could barely get to the chicken's house or the ponds. The snow is 20 inches at its lowest and over 3 feet where it's drifted or been moved by us. I walk out using my pond hip waders but have to use a scoop to lower the snow level a few inches so the snow doesn't go into the boots which go up to my crotch! We're of course worried about the roof and losing power but so far, so good. My boss told me last week he (and thus I) should only stay home from work if there was at least 5 feet of snow. Well, he may get his wish as we have another half foot or more to add on to this. I love snow, a little bit, say under a foot! It's so deep it takes me a few minutes to move a few feet! Anyway, so far my 18 (non-aquarium and non-pond) animals are ok (all but the 5 chickens are now inside since yesterday morning) as well as my tank inhabitants and as far as I can tell, the ponds are hanging in there. The snow is acting like a blanket to keep back the wind chill. Oh, I didn't mention the high winds and drifting? It's fun being slapped in the face by thousands of tiny little "creatures" while you're buckled over in back pain and stuck in snow up to your butt contemplating what move to make before you freeze to death (oh, I didn't mention it's in the teens! I didn't really notice! I was already numb.). When I fall over or my knee gives out every other step, I don't fall as the snow holds me in place. I'm afraid of twisting my leg or ankle. I carried two buckets of hot water to pour down the main falls. I actually set them on TOP of the snow to rest, and they didn't sink although they weighed 15 pounds or so each. We had some sleet on top of the snow making it harder (and harder to walk and move it). I should take advantage of time off from my job but it's hard to do other stuff when I have a constant lump in my throat from worry. Did I mention I love snow but enough already!

7. As I write this on 2/19/03, I am back to work. We got a front-end loader in late 2/17/03, and my father spent half the day yesterday digging out my car. The ride to work was surreal. In some places, roads that were normally 3, 4, or even 5 lanes wide were barely 2 lanes wide. I passed some huge bulldozers on the highway scooping the snow over the guardrails to widen the roads. A tractor trailer blocked the road near my job since it tried to turn, right into a snow pile, so I parked a quarter mile away and walked. Good thing I brought my boots! Here at work, no samples to test came in until just now since Friday but clients want their results NOW! They don't care that the airport was shut down totally for almost three days. Unless you live it, you don't really understand. Pictures don't even come close to it. I put two photos on-line but they don't really give you a feel for the depth of the snow.

8. It's 2/20/03 now, and the pond now has visible water. The thing is since the overflow is frozen up and packed with snow, the water level has risen a few inches over maximum and climbing as the snow around and in the pond melts down. It should be okay for now as the liner goes up 6-18 inches (depending on location) above the maximum water line set by the overflow. Hopefully, I can make my way to clear the overflows out of both my 1800 and 153 gallon ponds this weekend as it's supposed to rain a lot. The main concern is not getting mud in the pond or, if it's bad enough, having animals go for a ride out of the pond to their doom. A few times this winter, my 153 gallon pond has filled with dirt already. Hopefully, the animals will stay at the bottom when the flooding starts!

9. The flooding wasn't too bad, and the water levels in the two fish ponds went down to the correct overflow maximum level even before I dug out the overflows.

10. It's now 2/27/03. We got an inch of snow yesterday that gave me an hour long commute to work. There is supposed to be snow overnight but guesses range from 2-10+ inches so we'll have to wait and see. The snow has melted a lot. At home, there is maybe 6-12 inches on the ground, and it's hard. I can walk on top of it and only fall through every 6 steps or so. Here at work, before yesterday's snow, there was some exposed grass already. I took the lid off the top of the waterfall on 2/21/03 but maybe I should put it back! I saw my goldfish Jill this morning in my 1800 gallon pond. It is about 3/5 snow covered, 1/5 ice covered (can see through), and 1/5 open water now. The 153 gallon pond is all water even though temperatures are in the 20's as the de-icer and bubbler keep it nice and toasty. As for the other four ponds outside, I must still say, what ponds? They are still 100% obscured by snow.

11. On 2/28/03, we only got 4 inches of snow so I had to go to work. The main pond is starting to melt out but I can see it will be a long time before I can get in and tend to the filter. It has been two months since I did it and normally through winter, I do it every two weeks. It is way overdue!

Interesting Animal Sightings:

1. This winter, we have a different mix of birds than usual. Normally, it's lots of cardinals, blue jays, house sparrows, house finches, chickadees, tufted titmice, mourning doves, and juncos/snow birds. This year, we still have plenty of cardinals but very few blue jays, chickadees, tufted titmice, and juncos, and I don't think I've seen any house sparrows (good) or house finches. Instead, we have lots of Carolina wrens, native sparrows, grackles, bluebirds, starlings, and goldfinches which I hardly ever saw in the past. They may be coming as food is more scarce this year or West Nile has wiped out certain species, thus favoring other species. I've also been putting out more suet and freeze-dried bugs this year which the wrens love and nyger seed (aka thistle) for the finches. See the article in the first web site link below about West Nile and birds.

2. The night of 2/23/03, when I went to put leftover hedgehog food outside on the back porch, I was startled by a large raccoon eating cat food. I don't know who was spooked more. When he turned to run, his claws scraped on the cement. A short time later, I turned on the back porch light to show my mother the raccoon, and he wasn't alone! There was an opossum with him! It would have made a great photo but they of course, didn't stick around long enough. The opossum had really, really thick fur and looked more bizarre than I'd remembered as I got a better look this time.

Pond Tidbits:

1. I get a lot of questions about sick goldfish, in aquariums or ponds. Often, they do not know what is wrong. Oftentimes, it is something that is rarely treated successfully. Often, it is a physical injury (torn fins, cuts on sides from rocks). In such cases, I like to use a safe "treatment" to help fish (especially goldfish, koi, minnows, etc.) overcome their damage. You can add salt to the water. I like to keep it low enough to not bother sensitive fish, invertebrates, and plants. In aquariums, that's about a tablespoon per 5 gallons. In ponds, it's about 0.05% salt (a little less strong). I've never had a problem with low levels of salt harming anyone, and it helps goldfish and koi a lot. The other thing I use to help fish recover from injury is MelaFix by Aquarium Pharmaceuticals. I can't say for sure how well it works but it is safe (unlike most "medications"). It has tea tree extract which smells and will foam the water. I've used it in aquariums and my main pond with no problems. I don't like to use "medications" as they're really just poisons. The safest antibiotic I've found is Maracyn I by Mardel which is erythromycin. It doesn't kill the good bacteria. Years ago, I used penicillin in a 10 gallon tank and everyone died but my 2-inch plecostomus (now over a foot long). Adding medications to a pond is much more risky and very costly. If you under-dose, nothing happens. If you overdose, the animals suffer and maybe die. We all think we know the volume of our ponds but how many of us actually bailed buckets of water or used a water meter to measure it? I bailed my 153 gallon to get the volume but I used measurements to estimate my 1800 gallon pond which was supposed to be 3000 gallons. Plus, medications may harm certain fish, frogs, insects, snails, etc. So, I have only once put a medication in my outdoor ponds. Back during the first or second year, I put in some anti-fungal stuff because a few fish had fungus. It cost a ton of money, was stinking green, and didn't seem to make a difference. I never medicate my ponds now. I rarely medicate my aquariums (almost always Maracyn). I do use Aquari-Sol when quarantining. I've lost more fish from "medications" years ago than those I've saved with it. All of the things I mentioned are sold by most aquarium/pond dealers. I've found the best prices, selection, and service from www.thatpetplace.com and www.DrsFosterSmith.com (they're a little more expensive but have more selection in some areas). I order 80% of my pet supplies from those two places.

2. Koi afficionados would be aghast to learn that I have no bottom drain, no skimmer, and no UV. Why? Am I insane or just poor? Maybe both. The men who built my pond never asked me about those three things or if I even wanted them. Actually, you don't need those things unless you have a large, expensive, dedicated-to-koi pond. How do I live without them? Well, the bottom drain is nice if you have large fish and a lot of debris on the bottom. I have a few large fish but not many but very little debris. I net the bottom often in the warm seasons and add BZT weekly (see my pond algae page for more information on that) which eats up debris. What would happen if I now installed a bottom drain (you can put some kinds on top of an existing liner)? It would become a death trap. My green frogs, minnows, insects, small goldfish, and who knows what else would be sucked away if they got too close (although the same could be said for an unprotected pump inlet which is why I cover mine with floss). I don't want to do that. Next comes the skimmer. It would be a lot of work to install one into my existing pond but I guess it could be done. What would happen? Again, the aforementioned animals might take a deadly voyage or at least a vacation in a new location. Then, my floating plants would keep getting sucked in. In fall, it would remove leaves. Great! Not so great when you have as many as I do. It would clog probably five times a day. If I'm not there, it stops flowing or overflows depending on how it's made. A leaf net is best for me and my animals. Finally, the UV sterilizer. I have a whole section on it on my pond algae page, the pros and cons. Basically, my pond is already crystal clear 99% of the year, UV's aren't cheap, and they kill the good along with the bad. Not for me. Plus, the more drains, skimmers, UV's, etc. that you have, the more chance for leaks or something to go wrong. Simple is sometimes better. So when the rich show off their fancy bottom drains, skimmers, and UV's that I don't have, I'm glad I don't have them. Of course when I see their filtration systems, deep ponds, large ponds, etc., then I'm not so happy! Then again, one rich man has to scuba dive to clean the bottom of his koi pond (20,000 gallons maybe, 10 feet deep). I can't do that! So, maybe I'm fortunate to have a simple, wild, and poor pond! If you have lots of money invested in fancy koi, then by all means get these three things but don't expect to also keep small fish, amphibians, water plants, and other wildlife as well.

Web Sites of Interest:

1. An article on the impact of West Nile on North America's birds can be found at http://www.faultline.org/place/2003/01/westnile.html.

2. There is an article about testing for Chytrid fungus in frogs using a salt dip at http://www.nature.com/nsu/030203/030203-11.html.

3. If you are a caring aquarist, you know that painted glassfish and other painted fish are at risk from the toxic colors injected into their bodies. There is a petition at http://www.petitiononline.com/fishtank/ asking for an end to this fishy torture that you can sign.

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


"The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe, the less taste we shall have for destruction." - Rachel Carson

"Never a day passes but that I do myself the honor to commune with some of natures varied forms." - George Washington Carver.

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