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Robyn's Pond Newsletter May 2003

Last Updated: 2/6/14

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?

The Koi America show is August 9-10. It is supposed to be the largest koi pond/watergarden show in the country and only comes around every two years. I think I will go this year despite the long drive to Chantilly, VA. For complete information on Koi America, see http://www.makc.com.

I finally did it! I bought a URL! I am not ready to move the site and may not ever do it but I did buy a web address that maybe somebody can get right! If you run into someone who might benefit from my pages, instead of spouting off http://www.fishpondinfo.com/ (if you even can) and having them look at you like you spoke Swahili, you can now tell them to visit fishpondinfo.com which has a single page (designed by them so I can only insert words and not how it looks!) that will link people over to my web pages. The e- mail I created (help@fishpondinfo.com) doesn't seem to work yet but perhaps it will eventually. It just forwards to my regular e-mail. So, if I ever do another interview, maybe they'll get the URL right for once!

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

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

Additions or Changes to Robyn's Pond Web Pages:

1. I added a small section on gravel in the bottom of ponds to my pond talk page.

2. I added 9 new pictures. The first 7 photos under fish, spring 2003 are new. There are two photos of the guppies I moved outside on 4/12/03 (guppy1.jpg, guppy2,jpg), two of the rosy reds I moved outside 4/12/03 (rrm1.jpg, rrm2.jpg), one of the Southern redbelly dace (srdace.jpg) I found in my 153 gallon pond on 4/2/03, and two of the two red shiners on 4/2/03 (shiner1.jpg, shiner2.jpg) I found there. These new photos are also on the pages about those species. Under frogs and toads, 2003 is a new photo of the green frog tadpoles in a kiddie pool (taddies.jpg) while I was cleaning out the 153 gallon pond on 4/2/03 (described in the last newsletter). Under other ponds, 2003 is a photo of that pond empty during the cleaning on 4/2/03 (Mtpondjpg). [To go directly to the photos and skip the pictures page and descriptions, enter in http://www.fishpondinfo.com/ followed by the file name in parenthesis above.]

Happenings at Robyn's Ponds:

1. On 4/6/03, it was a cool and windy day in the low 50's. Both ponds were at 56 degrees F. I got in the 1800 gallon pond to remove the floss for cleaning. It was really filthy due to the large amounts of plant debris that the goldfish had dislodged during their spawning two days before. Since then, the water has gone yellow but I hope it settles out. I can see orange moving in the pond but can only see details about half a foot down now which is very unusual for my pond. I'm always telling people it's crystal clear year round. Perhaps it is behind as the watercress is not fully recovered from the severe winter. I also put mosquito dunks in my fish-less ponds.

With my brother's help, we were able to pull out my 4 and 7 gallon pots of lotus from my 1800 gallon pond, just barely! That big pot is way too heavy! It was last repotted three years ago. Last year, there were no flowers and only a pathetic few leaves (as opposed to a normal of dozens). I thought it might be dying but once we got that pot off, there were thick, healthy tubers wrapped all around the inside, all the way to the bottom. It was smelly and slimy. Once again, I had to toss out hundreds of dollars worth of tubers, and I saved way more than I should have. The pot had a hole in the bottom side from a tuber busting it but I reused the pot anyway and put some gravel down there before putting in fresh dirt. I installed the "lily feeder" in the dirt with 5 fertilizer pills in it and 5 in the dirt, put in the tubers, packed dirt on certain parts of the tubers, leaving the many growing tips alone (I was surprised it was so healthy), washed the old pea gravel (and used a little spare), and put gravel on top of it. The tuber in the 4 gallon pot that I had had in my 20 gallon lotus tub pond last summer was pathetic so I just tossed it since it was the same variety as the "mother" in the 7 gallon. I ordered a native yellow lotus for the 20 gallon lotus tub pond this year that should arrive soon. With my brother's help again, I got the 7 gallon pot back where it belongs. Looking at the dozens of ungainly pots requiring repotting in my pond makes me feel overwhelmed once again. I'm hoping to get 3 of the lilies repotted next week and then start on the sweetflag, cattails, and too many to list!

After this, I finally got started mulching around my big pond, but with only one hour to spare, I only got 2.5 loads done, covering maybe 1/8 of the work to be done around that pond (can't even think about the 50-some caged trees and shrubs and dozen other garden beds!), and that section was the easy one since it has landscaping fabric under it, and the deer ate most of the plants sticking through anyway (mostly iris, too many to cage). There must be 200 cages on our land by now! I had my father make a bunch of 4' high vinyl-coated fencing cages to replace the chicken wire cages that were rusted, falling apart, and stunted everything. I have some 15-year-old trees that are under a foot tall because of it!! These include "fast growers" like white pine. Why not take off the cages? The deer will find and devour any small tree or shrub (even ones they "never" eat) in less than half a day. We have thousands of huge trees (10 to over 100 feet) that came up on their own and that my parents planted in the late 70's before the deer came fleeing to us to get away from the "developments" and hunters. Now, they tell all their buddies to come see us since we love them (just wish we could train them not to eat all my plants!)!

2. On 4/12/03, I netted out some guppies and rosy red minnows from my basement pond to put outside. I put three female and one male guppy in my mosaic pond on the front porch. Since there's no place to hide in there, they moved in under the mosaic where the pump is but come into view every once in a while. I put 8 rosy red minnows (at least 2 large males, 1 mature female, and 1 with a kinked spine; the rest were smaller) in my 153 gallon pond to join the one Southern redbelly dace and pair of red shiners. I will not catch more rosy reds from the basement until the tropical plants go out, I take that pond apart, and will remove all fish and plants from there.

3. On 4/13/03, I got in the pond to remove the floss for squirting, and I squirted down the bioballs. I always tell people that my pond is always crystal clear but now it's not! Why? First, the goldfish and orfe spawned a few weeks ago and stirred up a lot of crud but that's not enough of a reason. In past years, right now, my waterfall would be overstuffed with watercress. Instead, this year, there are a few small tufts. Why? The worst winter in 100 years froze out parts of the waterfall that normally don't freeze for long, and the heavy snows blocked sunlight to the watercress which normally stays alive year-round here. So, the adult plants all died. The few plants I have now came from self-seeding. So, for now, I will just have to live with the pea soup that many ponders assume is normal. Hopefully, next year, the watercress will again be lush and weed-like. The 1800 gallon pond started at 57 degrees F when I started but was up to 60 degrees F when I put the lilies back. The 153 gallon read 58 degrees F.

I repotted my yellow (Chromatella), orange (Comanche), and white (Albata) water lilies. All were in 5 gallon pots. They no longer sell that size, and I had one spare. So, I had to save two of the pots. After extreme duress, I got them off. At least my brother was around to help pull the pots out of the pond but I did all the other strenuous work on them (pulling pots around, getting the lilies out, hacking them up, hauling loads of dirt, repotting, dragging them back into the water). Again, I had to toss out hundreds of dollars worth of lily tubers and probably put back more than I should since I hated to waste them. The yellow and orange tubers were like pineapples but the white one is more like a lotus (snake-like) so it broke the pot in three places so I had to cut that one off with the utility knife. Last year, the white lily produced not a single flower. The yellow one did well, and the orange one produced just a few. Last spring, I repotted my other two lilies, a red and a pink one (Fabiola). Did I get more flowers? Nope, not a single one off of either! Plus, the red one which I repotted into two separate pots (a 5 and a 2) is totally dead. I don't have much luck with lilies despite repotting every two years and fertilizing every month during growing season. I'm hoping for a better lily flower crop this year!

4. On 4/16/03, I discovered some things when I did my evening feeding and pond check. The good news is that my bog bean has flower buds for the first time. I have had it maybe three years (I'd have to check my pond inventory list I keep). A male toad also has showed up and started his lovely trill. No girlfriends yet have appeared. When I went to put some food in for the wood frog tadpoles, I didn't see any. The water was greenish and a little foamy. I put my hands in and scooped up some water. Dead poles :-( and I was devastated. I saw a few move though. It was 83 degrees F outside and since there's only about 20 gallons of water in there, it must have gotten warm, and the oxygen crashed. Or perhaps, the ammonia spiked, or both. If I'd been at home and noticed, I would have put in an air stone for the day. The next morning after some rain and a large temperature drop down to 50 degrees F, the goldfish were having a huge spawn-fest in the main pond, and I could see that at least a dozen or so wood frog tadpoles were hanging at the surface (sign of low oxygen) of their pond. Since the parents decided to lay there and would normally lay in small vernal pools anyway, I can only consider this to be normal and hope that the remaining tadpoles survive and in fact do better with less competition. The rosy reds in the 153 gallon pond are staying out of sight among the tons of hornwort but I see them zip by sometimes. I wonder how long it will be before they have babies (there were mature males and females in the bunch). The males aren't hanging out around the clay pots but I saw one hanging in a crease in the liner so I guess that's his territory. I put some more hornwort in with the wood frog tadpoles as I think they ate what was in there.

5. I had a few rare days off. On 4/18/03, I started by squirting off the floss and installing the Cyprio planter filter (700 gph) and new OASE air pump for the warm season. I'm hoping the pond will clear up faster now! I removed three one gallon pots with gravel that housed submerged plants from last year that lasted a few days. I netted the bottom well in that area. I then planted 10 anacharis, 10 hornwort, 7 jungle valisneria, and 7 cabomba into 4 separate 3 gallon pots. They were installed into submerged plant protectors I finally bought this year. I've been wasting money on submerged plants before as the koi and goldfish eat them all! Perhaps the submerged plants will grow in their mesh prisons. I'm awaiting the results! I potted the plants in dirt topped with small pea gravel (since the fish can't reach the gravel anyway, and I'm out of bigger pea gravel). I don't normally fertilize submerged plants but put in a few PondTabbs anyway for good measure. I also got a bunch of parrot feather which I separated and stuck around various places (they all wilted out in a few days but I hope they come back). All this took a few hours. The air temperature was 41 degrees F, the water was 51 degrees F, and it rained the entire time.

6. On 4/21/03, I also had the day off and did more than 6 hours of physical labor. The pond is starting to clear. The water temperature was 57 degrees F. I squirted the floss again. I also have to squirt the air pump often. The plastic casing was cracked (I wish I'd known this when I ordered it last fall or I would have asked for another one; now, it's too late) so I cut a hole in an aquarium fine mesh filter bag (wish I had a bigger mesh one!) and slipped it over the whole thing. It clogs every few days but at least I can pull it out by the cord to squirt it off. I fertilized the red and pink water lilies. I'm pretty sure the red one is dead. I repotted the sweetflag in my pond. It had all jumped the pots. There are 2 and 4 gallon pots of it. I threw out tons. I also repotted the common cattail which had burst the pot in 3 places. I put it in a 3 gallon pot (old pot was 2 gallons). Sweetflag and cattails are very invasive. I hope to repot my plantain, hardy canna, dwarf cattails, zebra rush, and other plants as soon as I can (at least 9 pots plus the two 20 gallon tub ponds to go!). I looked in the bird house by my pond to find a chickadee sitting in there. She didn't make noises at me like the tufted titmouse who nested there the last few years did. The lid is rotting off so I hope the chickadees do ok. To aid the wood frogs when they're ready to leave (or the few that are left, assuming they make it), I put in a flat rock to act as a ramp out of the in-ground 50 gallon lotus tub pond. Only one shut lotus leaf has come above the water yet. I pulled the mosaic out of my mosaic pond and found my three guppies in there deceased. So much for guppies doing okay outside. I guess it's still too cold, and the pond is too lifeless. I won't put any more life in there so it's purely ornamental. Now I have to figure out what to do with the rest of the guppies! Of my 5 water lilies, only two have up a few paltry leaves on the surface. I can't believe most people but me have flowers already. Obviously, I'm doing something wrong! Over 4 hours, I hauled 5 loads of mulch; 2 went to caged plants, 3 to the pond (after hours of weeding). I'm about 60% done around the pond but not enough! I've done about 20% of the cages. Plus, there are half a dozen other gardens that have more weeds than plants. It looks so nice when the pond area is first mulched but within a week with fresh mulch, the weeds take over again, and it looks like I'm a dumpy individual. I have too much to do!!!

7. On 4/27/03, I squirted off the flosses and bags around my main pond pump, Cyprio filter, and the OASE air pump. The water was 67 degrees F and still not very clear. This is the first time in years it has been this bad. Not only is the lack of watercress at fault, but the goldfish seem randier than normal and in their greater numbers, during spawning, tear up a lot of plants, stir up dirt, break off lily pads, etc. The lilies should be covering a large part of the pond by now but only a half dozen small leaves are up. I hope things improve soon so I can see how things look down there! This proves that I'm no expert! As another example, it was time to fertilize the plants but I can't! Except for the plants I've just repotted, I can't get any fertilizer pills into the pots as there's no room! I repotted my water plantain which was WAY overgrown. Of course, I tossed a hundred dollars worth of it over the hill. [I tried giving away a few hundred dollars of water plants of five species at a gardening center big party the day before where I had a table to try to sell my books (at first, the plants and a bunch of other stuff were going to be free with purchase but I changed it to just free for nothing). I not only sold nothing to the hundreds of people there, I couldn't find anyone to take the plants. Finally, someone working there for the day took them without a single thank you for all the work I did to gather them. She acted like she was doing me a favor which I guess she was because I didn't want to repot the plants. Never again.] The chickadees have 6 eggs in the nest box next to my main pond. They were screaming while I was squirting, repotting, and later mulching. I looked in the box and a bumblebee came after me. I ran so fast, I almost fell on the pond rocks. Hopefully, the bee, who went in and out quite a lot over many hours (we tried to catch her), decided not to live there, and chickadee eggs are still viable. It seems plants and animals are doomed when they come anywhere near me.

8. On 4/28/03, my life-free mosaic pond was pea soup despite being on the porch and getting no sun. I finally found a use for the free copper-based algaecide block I got free years ago! After four days, there was no effect yet though.

9. When I came home on 4/29/03, another grievous find I found. My one LAST male green frog is dead. I found his head, front feet, and some internal parts floating in my main pond. The body had been bitten off obviously. I don't know who ate him, perhaps the bullfrog (although I haven't seen him lately either), the raccoon, the opossum, the fox, the cat? I will miss him terribly. Whatever is doing them in may never allow the remaining tadpoles a chance to be frogs for long. Why now are they all gone after six years of booming green frog populations where dozens of my buddies would line up around my ponds and let me pet them? My ponds really seem dead and stone quiet. Not a warm day in five years until this year has there been the lack of that banjo twang. The toads have failed to come this year too. The one male I heard for a few nights has vanished (eaten?). I did however see something rare in my 153 gallon pond that night. A flash of red going into the water I saw. It was a woodpecker I didn't recognize. Our bird book confirmed it was a male yellow-bellied sapsucker. Not much to many of you I'm sure, but a much-needed bright spot in my day.

10. On 5/1/03, my mother says she saw two bullfrogs at once! I saw two large splashes the next morning when I came out so maybe she is right. She also says she saw two green frogs in one of my tub ponds where my remaining small female is hanging out (away from predators hopefully). I think I saw a male indigo bunting the evening of 5/1/03 but it was too fast to see more than the color. The English sparrows are back with a vengeance and have taken over the two bluebird houses. We've learned evicting them just makes them mad, and they attack the other nest boxes that are around so we addle their eggs instead.

11. On 5/3/03, I bought some watercress at the grocery store to put in my waterfall since mine is only in small patches after the die off from the severe winter. The pond is clearer a little. At the same time, the main waterfall has slowed to a drip (they clogged up the floss with debris from spawning I guess) which I will fix tomorrow.

Interesting Animal Sightings:

1. One thing I would have missed had I been at work doing meaningless labor instead of at home doing meaningful labor was to see an animal I doubted I'd ever see again. I was feeding the rabbits at about 8:45 am (the last of my 2 hour morning feedings) when my mother came out flailing her arms. "A turkey, there's a turkey in the tree," she said. I didn't believe her at first. With binoculars, I saw a yearling tom Eastern wild turkey. Without binoculars, his head looked like a heron. He was 50 feet up a white pine tree all by himself. He should have been with a bachelor group so there are probably very few of them. Years ago, we got a pair of wild turkeys to release but they didn't go anywhere so I led them into a pen where they lived as pets for many years. The state park near me released some wild turkeys there years ago. I "thought" I saw a few back in the late 80's and early 90's but none in over 10 years. I was elated to see him. I hope he comes back. Perhaps he can meet the pileated woodpecker who I now see flying over every few weeks. I still cannot believe my eyes when I see him. He's amazing.

Pond Tidbits:

1. I'm running out of ideas for this section. Do you have a question which you think others would also like to know what I think? If so, ask, and I will answer in the next newsletter. Do you have a pond idea you want to share about which the rest of us may not have thought?

2. Beverly asked me what my "floss" is exactly that I keep on mentioning. If you go to http://www.aqua-mart.com and enter in "filter material" in their search engine, what I get is the third one down, called open-weave filter material 1-1/4". It works great for a pre-filter like I use it but also in a main filter for mechanical filtration. I cut it into 4 pieces. The largest piece I make into a cylinder and secure together with four baby diaper pins. I set this into my large plant basket with holes. Then, I put a piece in for the floor. Then, in the pond, the OASE Nautilus 60 pump goes into the basket with floss (I know, it's filter material but I'm in the habit of calling it floss). Then, I use two smaller pieces on top of that to cover over the pump but let the 1.25" flexible PVC tubing stick out obviously. Sometimes, fish manage to get down into the whole thing. The bullfrog was in there over winter. In 1998 I think it was, there were a few female goldfish that decided it was a great place to spawn, got stuck, and died. The point of the floss is so that the pump intake (just a small wire cover) does not too readily clog with leaves and debris. It still does clog so I clean it weekly but without the floss, it would clog daily. Also, the floss and plant basket keeps smaller fish, tadpoles, frogs, etc. from being sucked into the pump, pureed, and sent to the biological filter. This whole thing is out of reach in the pond, thus, I have to get into the pond to service it. Those of you with skimmers don't have this problem! Of course, a skimmer wouldn't work for me either with floating plants and animals being sucked into that.

3. The Maryland government has started "work" on shooting 1500 mute swans in the Chesapeake Bay area. They killed 80 on 5/1/03. They claim that the swans are solely responsible for the reduction in native grasses, ecosystem quality, and fewer native birds. Mute swans are large, non-native, and boisterous. But they are beautiful, wonderful birds, and it's not their fault they are in this situation (guess which species did that). I think this is all an excuse to cover over the main, if not sole cause of all these problems with the ecosystem. Unfortunately, we can all look in the mirror. There is no easy answer as the swans shouldn't be there but they shouldn't have to suffer either. A site has been set up protesting the slaughter at http://www.savemarylandswans.org .

Non-Pond Animal News:

1. On 5/3/03, I let my baby danio out of the net breeder. The baby is a longfin blue danio which means the parents are my pair of those fish. I couldn't get a good look at him in the net but now I can see how cute he is! He's big enough that he fits right in with the group.

Web Sites of Interest:

1. Sheila who is a tub ponder who lives in my area and with whom I exchanged plants last year has set up a small web site on her tub ponds at http://members.aol.com/per fectpl antsgro/containerponds.html. She also has started her own plant business. See http://members.aol.com/perfectplantsgro for more information. For now, she plans to sell mostly potted plants but she will perhaps start selling some pond plants next year.

2. On the package of watercress I bought was the web site http://www.watercress.com which has some recipes and articles (although the site doesn't seem to have much on it).

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


"The possibility that we may fail in the struggle should not deter us from supporting a cause we believe to be just." - Abraham Lincoln (found in a Care2 newsletter, see care2.com).

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