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Robyn's Pond Newsletter August 2002

Last Updated: 2/14/14

Introduction and Miscellaneous:

Welcome to my fourteenth newsletter. If you have something pond-related that you want to share (information, jokes, web sites, 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 whose answer I don't know that I can pose to others in the next newsletter?

An article was written about me in our local newspaper. You can read it at http://www.sunspot.net/news/local/howard/bal-ho.writer11jul11.story (note, this was temporary and this site is now non-existent). Of course, there are errors. I don't coax frogs or count koi (above the two that I have). The author doesn't mention my aquariums or this free newsletter. The last two quotes from me were poor choices for the article. She didn't mention the discussion we had about why someone should buy the book and how it would benefit them. Finally, the web site URL is wrong. This wasn't the author's fault but the Sun's computer system which replaced "~" with "3/8."

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

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

Additions or Changes to Robyn's Pond Web Pages:

1. I have added six new digital pond photos. Under frogs and toads, you can see three photos of my huge male bullfrog (bullfrog1.jpg, bullfrog2.jpg, bullfrog3.jpg) that I took on 7/5/02. Under Summer 2002 fish, you can see a poor dead comet (gf.jpg; see Happening #2 below for more information), taken/found 7/5/02. Under other animals and then insects, you can see a photo of a female common whitetail dragonfly (dragon3.jpg) and a fuzzy photo of an unknown damselfly (damsel.jpg) taken on 7/7/02.

2. I added an article on the five best native (temperate USA, Mid-Atlantic) pond marginals. It was supposed to be published in the WindStar Wildlife Institute newsletter but he is holding it for a later issue. I love their newsletter which is usually about 15 pages long and full of wildlife information! You can sign up for it at http://www.windstar.org.

3. Under the leaking liner section, I created a list of reasons water levels may drop in ponds.

Happenings at Robyn's Ponds:

1. On the Fourth of July, the air temperature hit 100 degrees F. My 1800 gallon pond got to 88 degrees F. We hadn't had a drop of rain in over two weeks. The ground is split open all over. The grass and shrubs are dying. The local wildlife flocked to my ponds as they were the only source of water around. Our yard was abuzz with thousands of dragonflies, butterflies, bees, hornets, wasps, beetles, and songbirds. When the surface of the pond looks like a stinging insect airport, you know it's hot! All the local ponds were bone dry. Ponds save lives!

2. When I went to check on the ponds and animals at dusk on 7/5/02, I found more than I bargained for. The male bullfrog was there but this time he didn't immediately hide from me. Next to him was a dead fish. I thought he had killed her. I removed the fish. She was a 9" white and red comet full of roe (eggs). There were no injuries or damage or signs of parasites, infections, etc. In other words, she was in perfect health, except her mouth was agape. She had suffocated. Most likely, she was spawning in the shallows and got grounded. How she got back into the water is unclear; the other goldfish probably knocked her back in. Considering the air was in the 90's, and it was so sunny, it wouldn't take too long with her head out of water to suffocate. I took a photo, mentioned above. I also got, for the first time, excellent bullfrog photos of this HUGE male bullfrog that are mentioned above. Bullfrogs are known for their huge appetites but he didn't take the opportunity to dine on the poor goldfish.

3. On 7/7/02, a strange fog descended over us. It looked like it would rain but didn't. We later found out that it was smoke from Canadian fires 700 miles away! I squirted off the flosses and tidied up in the pond as there were lots of yellowed lily leaves from the heat. The pond water was down to 76 degrees F due to the smoke blocking much of the sun; the air temperature was only in the low 80's. The day-blooming white tropical lily is taking off now! The edges of its leaves are sharp!

4. On 7/14/02, the water was down to 75 degrees F, and we actually got some rain. We are still down over 1.5 feet of rain in the last year. I squirted the flosses and Cyprio bio-things in the kiddie pool. I trimmed a lot of yellowing plant leaves (perhaps due to the heat?). There was a dead fledgling in my 153 gallon pond. I couldn't tell which species it was but perhaps a catbird. He should have been able to get out of the water via the overflow but I guess he didn't find it. Or maybe the raccoon took him from the nest and dipped him in the pond for all I know! Every morning, the cat's water bowl is full of dirt from the raccoon washing off his hands. The raccoon has done little damage to the pond's inhabitants aside from lining up snails on the edge to dessicate every once in a while. One winter morning, I found a dozen small ramshorns around the pond; they were frozen there so I couldn't even remove them! On 7/16/02, I found the raccoon had pulled out all the new frog fruit plant which was blooming. None of it was eaten; it was just pulled out of the pot. The raccoon hadn't done anything like that before! I assume it was him as he knocked off the bird bath, pulled up the hummingbird feeder and emptied it, and spilled most of the water out of my 2 gallon pond which is his normal activity. I've never seen any pond damage to plants or fish before, just the snails.

5. On 7/21/02, the pond was 79 degrees F. I cleaned out the flosses and main bioballs. It was fun trying to catch the six or so newly-morphed green frogs in there! I didn't want them to go down the drain! I tried to put fertilizer in the plants' pots but it's really impossible. The lilies and most marginals are totally root bound but many were even recently repotted. Three of the five hardy lilies in my big pond are putting out occasional blooms but the red and pink water lilies haven't put out even one bloom this year! And they were just repotted this spring! I threw out a 5 foot section of sweetflag that had jumped the pot. I felt guilty just throwing it into the weeds but there was no where to put it. If I had felt so inclined, I could have peeled the rhizomes and cooked them.

6. For 25 years, we have lived about a mile from a convent and religious retreat but I had never visited there. On 7/21/02, my mother took me over to see their pond which she said was a cesspool. But, they had it redone last summer. This pond was the ultimate dream pond! It must have been half a million gallons! The pond was lined since we saw some exposed liner. The liner was covered in rocks of all sizes. There was an island with a waterfall fed by two skimmers which were obvious to me but perhaps not to others. The island had a wood duck house and a pair of live ducks (not mallards, not sure what they were). It also had a large weeping willow, shrubs, and beautiful flowers. The water was pretty clear (not crystal but not far from it). There was a HUGE red bridge that went some 10 feet over the water's surface where I could see a few foot- long koi, 2 goldfish, and a few dozen koi fry (under 2 inches). That was all the fish in this huge pond! One end had a vegetative filter with cattails and reeds. It must have covered 300 square feet and poured out multiple waterfalls. The pond seemed to be up to about 4 feet deep in sections but mostly in the 2 feet deep range. There were lots of dragonflies but few other animals. I saw one lily and some lizard tail and cattails on the edges. It was pretty new so I was thinking about all the plants and animals I would add if this were my pond. It was amazing but also depressing to think this was the ideal pond I would never be able to afford (it must have cost $100,000) or enjoy or add those animals I wanted to add like my green frog tadpoles. It also saddens me to think that in a few years, this pond will probably be filthy again since I doubt its caretaker knows enough to keep the pond clear long-term with more plants, good bacteria, filtration, and barley straw. But, those half dozen fish sure were happy to have so much room!

7. On 7/28/02, when I got in the pond, it was a matter of dodging dozens of stinging insects. Wasps, hornets, bees, and all their friends were landing on the water lettuce (which is spreading quite a bit) for a drink. I had to wait for each one to drink and leave to move around the pond. The water was going up at 79 degrees F and the air temperature was 90 degrees F. I removed the flosses to squirt them off. With my brother's help, I cleaned out some of the Cyprio bio-things. He squirts a hose in the filter, and I use a bucket to catch the black stuff that comes out. The aphids are really sucking the life out of many of the plants this year. They seem to just laugh at me when I spray non-toxic aphid sprays or diatomaceous earth on them. Oh, well.

Interesting Animal Sightings:

1. The bluebirds returned, and the female is now sitting on another four eggs, her third batch this year after they fledged two other batches of four. I find it hard to believe that for 24 years, we couldn't get any bluebird babies to fledge and now this year, they may put out 12 of them! The English sparrows, blowflies, and other nasties aren't killing the eggs and babies like they usually do. It makes no sense! Even more bizarre was that in between this batch and the last, the English sparrows did lay two eggs in there, and they were destroyed just like the bluebird eggs usually are. The sparrows abandoned the box. The bluebirds returned so I cleaned it out (it was full of poo and sparrow junk), and she (he just watched) built a new nest of pine needles in one day! She is very fritzy and leaves the nest box anytime someone opens or shuts a door and comes within 30 feet of the box. This is the opposite of the tufted titmice that have nested by my pond for two springs. The female stayed on the nest when I opened the box and hissed/screamed at me. She would not abandon her eggs!

Web Sites of Interest:

1. A pair of UK koi keepers had their prized koi taken and eaten by their neighbors! See the story at http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/uk/england/newsid_2036000/2036439.stm.

2. It's illegal for frogs to croak after 11 pm in Memphis, TN. So, if you live there, better muzzle your pet frogs! See other dumb laws for your area at http://www.dumblaws.com.

3. See some photos of other pond enthusiasts' creations at http://watergarden.org/pages/index.html.

4. One place that now sells liquid barley extract can be found at http://store.yahoo.com/watergarden/barex25.html.

5. "Is a pregnant goldfish called a twit?" This question is answered at http://www.straightdope.com/columns/020329.html which contains a funny cartoon (see the twit's stomach!) and story. Apparently, at various times and various places, egg-laden (or ripe which makes them sound like a fruit!) goldfish have been called twits, twats, twirps, and twerps! But, in the end, no professional goldfish people use these terms.

6. Here in Maryland, the Crofton pond has become famous for the snakeheads. A Chinese man bought a pair of Northern snakeheads that his ailing sister was supposed to eat but she got better. So, he put them in an aquarium and fed them (our friend the) goldfish. He thought they had become too large to handle and let them free into this one-acre pond a few years ago. Now, those two have been caught and killed but they are finding hundreds of their babies. The news has blown things out of proportion, making snakeheads seem like some kind of hideous mutant monster from hell just because they grow large, eat fish, and can "walk" short distances out of water. Soon, they will have them flying around and zapping little children before eating them. The introduction of non-native fish is a serious problem. While snakeheads certainly shouldn't be there, what about the thousands of other non-native fish that end up where they shouldn't be (like our friends the goldfish and koi carp)? While they don't directly eat other fish and amphibians, they do eat their eggs and fry. It took this super "monster" for the general public to become aware of the problems of non-native species (second only to loss of habitat as a threat to the loss of native biodiversity). The powers-that-be will soon add herbicide to kill the beautiful water lilies and marginals and then rotenone to kill the fish. In the process, they will kill the native fish (despite them saying the snakeheads would eat everything, they have found large amounts of other fish still in the pond), turtles (I'm not sure if they are effected directly but with all their food sources gone, they might as well be), frogs, insect larvae, and other animals. The pond will be sterile. They will soon restock with game fish but without a properly balanced pond (all the plants and bacteria will be dead), I doubt they will fare well. So, never let your pet fish loose into the wild. I have more information on that at http://www.fishpondinfo.com/fcare2.htm. Go to http://www.sunspot.net and look up snakeheads to see the half dozen articles that have appeared in our local paper (note: they delete articles after two weeks so most are now gone). As for my opinion, I feel sorry for the snakeheads. The babies they say are hideous look cute and colorful to me. They just should be in their native habitat living as they were meant to be, not being hauled around for food and tossed into a pond where they weren't meant to be. But no, I wouldn't go swimming with them!

7. The poor froggies can't catch a break! There are numerous articles on frog deformities. At http://www.care2.com/go/z/1547 read about a study that indicates that pesticides and trematode parasites combine to make life for frogs more and more difficult. See photos there of poor deformed tadpoles. A quote in the article says, "Frogs may be a sentinel species that is warning us about the interplay between human caused environmental change and disease susceptibility. Hopefully, people will listen." Another article at http://www.gristmagazine.com/forward.pl?forward_id=232 is also about frog deformities and pesticides, notably atrazine and malathion which are used in great amounts as a weed killer and to kill mosquitoes respectively. We avoid using any pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers at our wildlife habitat. The pond animals will thank you if you at least avoid using chemicals near to the pond. Also, when building a pond, try to situate it such that it won't receive any runoff, especially from neighbors who may use chemicals. I have gotten e-mails from pond keepers whose entire ponds have been wiped out because their neighbors used pesticides or herbicides in their quest to destroy all unwanted (by them!) plants and animals in their yards or in agricultural fields.

8. A site on California's vernal pools can be found at http://www.vernalpools.com. You can make your own vernal pool. Design a small to medium shallow pond and line it as usual. Fill it full around February in most areas. Then, simply don't add more water (unless it goes down too quickly) so that by summer, it dries out (except in very wet climates). Then, you can leave it dry or refill it for wildlife to enjoy for the rest of the year. Some species of amphibians will only breed in vernal pools [pools that dry out (which promotes metamorphosis) and contain no fish (who eat the eggs and larvae)] but some will breed in ponds that are simply fish-less. If you're scared about mosquitoes using the pond, see http://www.fishpondinfo.com/insects/mosquito.htm for information on preventing them without harming other species (except some other insect larvae).

9. An article was written in the New York Post about a pond keeper with loud toads (he uses both frog and toad in the article but in a personal e-mail to me, he says they were "common toads in no need of protection."). The article is VERY anti-amphibian. I and many others have e- mailed the writer to tell him what we think. Read it at http://www.nypost.com/commentary/52487.htm and e-mail him your opinion.

10. A member of the freshwater plant newsgroup mentioned this web site that has the most AMAZING photos of aquariums full of plants, fish, and Amano shrimp (although I didn't see them in the photos). These are professional photos that practically made me cry (because they're so beautiful, unlike my tanks)! See http://visual35.tripod.com/amano.html.

11. Bentonite clay can help clear large koi ponds. It causes the particulates to clump. The clay also adds minerals that are beneficial for koi. The site http://www.koiclay.com is one place that sells calcium bentonite clay.

12. I found (by accident) another pond discussion group at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/goldfishloverspond/ which I joined. This Yahoo group allows you to post questions and get answers from a group of 70-some pond lovers.

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

Pond Tidbits:

1. There are few definites in ponding. For example, you don't HAVE to have many of the things that some people say you must. All you really need is water and a non-toxic container to hold it. Everything beyond that depends on your personal preferences. So, I always find articles that say you HAVE to have a skimmer, UV sterilizer, or whatever in your pond or everything will die to be funny! A recent article was posted on rec.ponds (the usenet group or newsgroup on ponds) called "Beware the Stagnation Zone in Your Pond" by Joseph F. Cuny. This article takes the side against rocks and gravel for the "to rock or not to rock, that is the question" debate. I have a section listing the pros and cons of gravel in the pond on my web site. I think that a pond can be successful either way if maintained properly. Mr. Cuny's article talks about anaerobic conditions and "putrefaction" occurring in gravel in the bottom of ponds. Yes, anaerobic bacteria live there and yes they produce some methane and hydrogen sulfide which can harm fish. But, it's all a matter of how much (how much water, how many rocks, how much debris, how well filtered and aerated the pond is). Natural ponds are full of dirt and rocks and somehow they seem to manage just fine. Anyway, he says that if you have rocks in your pond (he doesn't differentiate between large rocks on the edge and sides and pea gravel on the bottom), "In time, such a pond would smell like a cesspool!" This made me laugh. Whether I would do gravel in my pond again or not, it is five years old and smells nice. I collect large debris and add beneficial bacteria and enzymes to help digest wastes in the bottom. The pond gets lots of aeration to add oxygen and drive off carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, and methane. It's certainly no cesspool. And unlike a sterile "expert" koi pond, my koi and other fish enjoy a pond with hundreds if not thousands of beneficial microorganisms, tadpoles, snails, insect larvae, worms, and plants. If I had a lifeless pond, my koi would sure be bored! I've seen a super expensive koi pond with all the equipment (skimmers, vortexes, bottom drains, UV sterilizers, bubble bead filters, Springflo filters, 10 foot waterfall, water heaters, 10 feet deep, no life forms other than the koi) and three-foot long koi. The koi are gorgeous but once you look at them a few times, there's nothing else to do! You can scuba dive with them like the owner does to clean the bottom drains but I'm a poor swimmer myself. My ponds bring almost daily discoveries and endless joy to the local wildlife. So, maybe sometimes it pays not to be rich!

2. One question I get often is about masses of pink or yellow dry eggs above the water line of a pond. These large clumps on plants, rocks, and objects are apple snail eggs. I had some apple snails the first year of my pond (Golden Inca and Four-Horned snails to be exact). They laid eggs (none hatched that I know of) but all died over winter as apple snails are tropical. Nobody told me that when I bought them. I've corresponded with ponders in Florida and other warm areas who keep apple snails alive all year, and they do get eggs to hatch. There is more information on apple snails at http://www.applesnail.net and on my snail page at http://www.fishpondinfo.com/snails/apple.htm.

3. I visited Piney Run Lake on 7/14/02. I was amazed because the water was crystal clear. Other man-made and natural lakes in our area are usually full of algae and gunk so that you cannot see into the water. Why is this lake so clear? First, it's pretty large (50 acres?) and very deep in the middle. Second, the bottom in the shallow areas is absolutely covered in anacharis and smaller amounts of valisneria, sagittaria, arrow arum, horsetail, pickerel rush, a few water lilies, and other plants. I have never seen such huge fields of anacharis in my life! There weren't too many ducks, geese, turtles, or plant-eating fish or that anacharis wouldn't last long! The lake was stocked with large game fish who would make short order of most smaller fish! They also have some beavers there. They seem to leave much of the aquatic vegetation alone, instead taking down many trees. I have a book on the life of a beaver family that subsisted almost exclusively on water lily tubers because they had few trees in their area.

4. Did you know that a female swan is called a pen, and a male swan is called a cob? If you throw some corn on him, he becomes corn on the cob!

5. Wondering what to do with your excess duckweed? You can feed it to your pet ducks, turtles, goldfish, or other herbivores (in my case, chickens, rabbits, and guinea pigs), and they will gobble it up. Don't have those? You can also eat it yourself! Rinse it in a colander and then sprinkle on your salad like alfalfa sprouts. Bon appetit!

6. Recently, information about cornmeal has been mentioned in the newsgroup rec.ponds. The corn gluten in it suppresses plant growth, including algae. It's an old algae "remedy." I've not tried it. The main problem is that if you have koi or goldfish, they just eat the cornmeal. But, it may work in a pond without fish. The dosage is 1 cup per 100 square feet of surface area.

7. In an article in the Mid-Atlantic Koi magazine (see http://www.makc.com), there is a suggestion to deter raccoons by this method. Find the hottest chili peppers you can. Coat them in peanut butter. Then, lay the peppers around the pond. Supposedly, after the raccoon tastes one, he will figure your place is a nasty place to eat and not come back. It may also work to deter opossums, skunks, foxes, etc. but I have no idea if it would work!

8. There has been much question on-line recently about how to calculate salt dosages. As a chemist who has done the actual calculations from scratch with correct conversions, I can tell you that to obtain a 0.1% salt solution in a pond that is salt-less (no salt already) or to add 0.1% to the existing salinity, you should add 0.75 pounds of salt per 100 US gallons. Keep in mind that many salt test kits may not be all that accurate. I add salt only in spring to a level of maybe 0.02%. Plants do not like salt.

9. I've gotten a number of snake questions this month. Due to the drought in many areas, snakes are coming to ponds more than normal. In most cases, the snakes are not water snakes and are not poisonous. To find out which one you might encounter, go to http://www.enature.com and enter your zip code. A guide showing those species native to your specific area will come up, and you can compare photos. I've had garter snakes visit my pond. They usually only stay about three days and leave. I've not seen them eat anything. Water snakes do eat fish. See my snake section at http://www.fishpondinfo.com/animals/snake.htm for photos of our garter snake and a link to a site with a water snake eating a fish much bigger than itself. Snakes can be netted with long pond or pool nets, put into a burlap bag or pillowcase, and relocated in a wilderness area about a half mile away or so.


"Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads....We need the tonic of wilderness." - Henry David Thoreau.

"Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect." - Chief Seattle.

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