Top posts for Pond Journals

Thanks for visiting my Pond Journal. The entries in this journal are my personal experiences and the advice I have gleaned from other experienced koi keepers. The pond conditions calendar entries are my ponds weekly water analysis. I hope you find something here that helps you prepare for your pond build or become a better fish keeper. You can use the search tool to poke around or use the menus at the top.

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Automated Koi Feeder

koifeeder So I’m getting too lazy or too old to remember to feed the fish everyday. The pond is running smoothly so I don’t need to baby sit it every day.
I am also considering the fact that the cost of paying a teenager to feed my fish daily when I go on vacation is fairly expensive. So I invested in a basic automated feeder. I purchased this one on EBAY for a mere $60. There are other models with fancier features but this one met my needs. My only issue is that the food drops out of the bottom rather than a side chute so it must be suspended over the pond. It also only releases a small amount but can be programmed to feed up to 4 times per day.

Options to consider when choosing your feeder:
1) How much food is dispensed? fixed amount or variable? Is it enough for your fish?
2) Where is food dispensed? Bottom, side?
3) Is the system programmable? How many feedings per day and how much food?
4) Placement requirements – Suspended above pond vs pond side
5) Aesthetics – Product design is always a consideration for our gardens
6) Automated vs on Demand – Some feeders allow you to teach your fish to pull a string to get food.
7) Battery vs solar? – Rechargeable batteries may be a good option.
8) Cost – price can vary drastically by construction and features. Will a plastic feeder hold up as well as a metal one?
9) Build your own – There are DIY instructions out there if you are so inclined.
10) Capacity of the feeder – Consider how fast food may spoil vs your needs to not be there to feed.
11) Is there a manual feed button – Some have this feature so you can feed while you are there.

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Spring maintenance 2014

Ok, so I have been a little neglectful this past winter due to all the cold. I merely dumped the filters every couple of weeks vs truly cleaning them weekly. Now that it is warming up I needed to do a full pond cleaning. The bradford pear tree is blooming and dropping all kinds of stuff into the pond so getting clear water will be a challenge for a few weeks.

I opened the filter box and gave the filter pads a good pressure hose nozzle washing. There was a ton of muck in all 4 layers and on the bottom of the filter. I rinsed with the hose a good bit then ran the pump to pull in new water and stir things up. I let all that drain out.

I then turned to the pump and gave it a good internal washing. The fines filter got a good backwashing too to open up its ports. Then I dumped all the leaves and debris from the skimmer. I ran the pump with only the bottom drain open for a while to help suck anything left on the bottom.

I replaced all the filter padding and added 1 new sheet. I refilled the pond with about 500 gallons of new water. As soon as the water rises above 60 degrees I will likely give it a potasium permanganate treatment.

Pond Conditions
water temp 52-56*, Air temp 45-70*, pH 8+ which is high for my pond.
I cleaned some of the algae off of the waterfall rocks and likely exposed some mortar. OR my test kit has gone bad over winter. I added a new back of shells to help stabilize the pH. pH should fall with water changes. There is no ammonia yet but I haven’t been feeding the fish since the water temp has not remained above 55* yet. Time to order some new test kits.

I already purchased some Hikari multi-season food so I can begin feeding the fish shortly. They are getting quite large even in my little 1600 gallon pond.

I may need to get my pump reconditioned this fall and replace the diaphragm on the air pump. Of course I’d like to remodel the pond and make it larger but I don’t think the wife will go for that.

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Koi pond Portland Japanese Gardens

I finally made the pilgrimage from Atlanta to Portland OR to see the koi pond in the Japanese Gardens. The setting was absolutely perfect for a koi pond with streams of water, bridges, and the perfect Japanese Maples and other evergreens around the edges. The water was crystal clear and the koi were better looking than I had imagined. The koi are still relatively small since the gardens had to replace their stock in recent years. I will post pictures in a few days so bookmark this page and check back later if seeing this before I have the chance.

In addition to the koi pond the rest of the garden was one of the best I have ever visited. I took several pictures of railings and bridges so I can one day adorn my pond with similar features.

Down the hill from the Japanese gardens was the Rose Gardens. Our trip was in mid June which was perfect for viewing the huge and colorful roses.
There were climbing roses, hedges, and even a couple of rose towers for inspiration.

Finding the gardens is an adventure in itself since there are no signs pointing the way. There are signs to Washington park which gets you to the correct roads where there is signage. It is off Burnside at the top of the hill. Voodoo donuts is at the bottom of the hill on 3rd.

Portland is beautiful place to visit. There are many day trips to mountains and oceans that can entertain everyone. The city itself is full of life during the week and on the weekends. Food is generally fabulous, hotels moderately priced, and is much more scenic than its fellow cities to the north.
If considering a trip to the Pacific North West, plan about 7-10 days for seeing all the sights between Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver BC(or Victoria). A car is a must since many destinations are outside of the cities.

Highlights from our tour
Portland Japanese Garden and Rose Garden
Daytrip to MT Hood and Gorge drive
Daytrip to Seaside and Cannon Beach
Voodoo Donuts, Beaches restaurant, Pastini restaurant

Space Needle, EMP Museum, Chihuly gardens, Olympic sculpture park, Argosy harbor cruise, Seattle Zoo, Pike Place
Glass blowing company, shopping, monorail ride, and adventures in parking.
Day trip MT Ranier
Old Spaghetti factory, Dinner at whole foods.

Day trip Vancouver BC (Glanville Island and downtown)

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Spring time parasites and treatments

As the water starts to warm up during the spring months so do the parasites and algae.

Algae can be controlled by adding Algaefix as a chemical additive or by turning on the UV Sterilizer. String algae will grow well in cool water that gets a lot of sunlight so you may need to attack it with a scrub brush or net. Your fish will tend to begin eating the string algae too, which may dislodge more of it than is eaten. Keep an eye on that pump leaf basket daily, or dump your settlement chamber more frequently to keep the algae from migrating to the rest of you filtration.

Parasites have different life cycles at different water temperature. There is not a lot of data about each parasite’s ideal temperatures and some treatments may not work at low temperatures. Potassium Permanganate is an effective treatment to use in cold water and higher temperatures and it kills a broad spectrum of parasites. Use additional aeration if water temperature is above 65*f/18c. Other treatments may require multiple applications to prevent a new outbreak from eggs. Identifying which parasites you have is also key to finding the best treatment for this time of year. Learn to scrape and scope or hire a local professional. ICK and flukes may not be affected by PP.

Water changes can be an excellent alternative this time of year. It will remove stagnant water from the winter, reduce free floating algae, reduce discoloration from debris, and reduce some of the parasite population. Be sure to de-chlorinate any new water for maximum fish health. Monitor your pH as well since large water changes will cause a fluctuation. I prefer to do large water changes over 3-4 days rather than 50%+ in one day. It is less effective but also less stress for the fish.

Do keep in mind that your fish’s immune system is not yet fully functional and nor is his digestive system. Don’t be tempted to over feed which can lead to other diseases and problems. Too much food in water also encourages algae growth.

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Cost of operating a pond

Like all hobbies pond and fish keeping is expensive. Beyond the initial outlay of cash for the pond build and the purchase of fish, there are additional expenses one must consider.

Electricity required to run pumps, UV Sterilizers, Air Pumps, and Lights. Added an average $30/month for me.

Food – Premium koi food is expensive. If you can buy a large bag at the beginning of the season your cost per pound is lower. But if you live in very hot and humid area it may not be feasible to keep the food fresh. Add $25-60/month.

Water changes – Here in the US it is not too bad. I generally run from $12-$20 per month. It will be more if you have a larger pond or do daily filter flushes.

Medication – $50-100 per year assuming you only have minor issues to deal with. There are some basic items you will need to keep on hand like potassium permanganate, fluke meds, ich meds and anti-fungal meds.

Additives – Things like bacteria, algae killers, and chlorine removers can get quite expensive. Adds $20-$50 per month

Equipment items – I replace my filter pads annually which runs a little over $100 per year. Water Test Kits are relatively cheap and once you know how your pond behaves you can get by with just a couple of kits per year.

You will have additional related expenses such as books, magazine subscriptions, club dues, seminars, plants, travel expenses to see other koi/fish, etc. This hobby has all kinds of ways for you to part with your money but also is very personally rewarding. You are caring for living creatures and trying to provide them with the best environment to live in and thrive.

Happy Ponding.

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Shinju Koi Food

9/2/2012 – Trying a new Koi food; Shinju White Pearl – Premium All Season. supposedly gives stronger whites and leaves little waste (similar to Hikari I have been using). It sells for $90 (local retail with tax) for an 8lb bag which is a little cheaper than Hikari. The fish seem to eat it quicker than the Hikari. I will report later if I see any improvement in skin.

Update 9/25 – There is a noticeable difference of whites in my Showas and Sanke. Not dramatic and the heads are still beige or silvery on my other fish. I expect cooler weather will bring out other colors so whites may stand out more then too. Waste has been minimal.

Per website (

This Koi food is the perfect recipe for any time of Koi season (above 50 F)
Shinju Koi Food White Pearl will promote beautiful and healthy growth for your Koi .
Fresh wheat germ in White Pearl will not only keep your Koi’s skin lustrous but also very white.
Due to the use of very high quality ingredients, the food is digested and absorbed very efficiently and it leaves very little wastes in your pond and least burden to your filter. This means your water stays clean.

Crude Protein 38% (min)
Calcium 1.5% (min)
Fat 3% (min)
Phosphorus 1.5%(min)
Ash 11%(max)
Fiber 3%(max)

White Fish Meal, Wheat Flour, Defatted Soybean Meal, Defatted Wheat Germ Meal, Dried Brewers Yeast, Mono Dicalcium Phosphate, Vitamin A, Vitamin D3, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Niacin, Biotin, Choline Chloride, Vitamin C, Inositol, Folic Acid, Calcium Pantothenat e, Cyanocobalamine, P-Aminobenonic Acid, Manganese Sulfate, Iron Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Cobalt Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Calcium Iodate, Magnesium Sulfate, Disodium Hydrogen Phosphate, Potassium Dihydrogen Phosphate.

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API Test Kits Review

To monitor the Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrates in my pond I have used a couple of different kits. I have even used the test strips but found they were not informative enough to really know what was going on. I have found the API brand readily available and generally easy to use. It is only slightly more expensive to buy the kits individually than to buy a multiple tests kit. The multi test kits may have items you don’t need like pH test kits if you already have a pH meter. The individual kits seem to last longer too and you don’t have to worry about running out of one test before the others. One other thing I like about the API kits is that the color separation between various levels of Ammonia/Nitrogen are more distinct than other kits. There is less guess work between zero, and differing levels.

Ammonia test kit
Comes with test tube and two bottles of reagent. Merely fill the test tube to the line (5mm) and put 8 drops of each solution, then shake well. After 2-3 minutes the full color will develop and you can match it against the water proof color card for salt or fresh water. Dual use test kit for aquarium or pond. Color card is Yellow for zero, green for .25, the blues for higher levels.

Nitrite test kit
Comes with test tube and one bottle of reagent. Add water to line, add 5 drops of solution. Shake and wait. Match color of liquid to the colors on the included cards.

Nitrate test kit
Comes with test tube and two bottles of reagent. Add water to line, add 10 drops of each solution. Shake and wait. Match color of liquid to the colors on the included cards. Bottle #2 requires shaking/mixing well before adding and instructions indicate the two reagents should be vigorously mixed in the test tube.

The importance of using these products is that the pond owner can monitor the ammonia and nitrogen levels in the pond and help maintain healthy water for the fish. Kh/GH, phostphate, chlorine/Cloramine and other water tests are also available.

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Microbe-Lift PL review

Since I gave the Buffer a bad review I thought it only proper to also review the product suggested by Mark Krupka: Microbe-Lift PL.

“Denitrification is the reduction of nitrate to nitrogen gas, and an excellent way of removing nitrogen from your pond. (For people who have trouble denitrifying, there is an excellent denitrifier in MICROBE-LIFT PL.)” –Mark Krupka

So I have added it at a higher dosage than recommended over a few weeks and it seems to be working at keeping Nitrites/Nitrates at near zero. I also performed a 50% water change by accident before adding it and have done 5-10% changes every few days since.

My Nitrite test kit is showing a slightly blue color which is bluer than the teal green of zero, but certainly not the purple color of .25 ppm. Nitrates and Ammonia are zero on the test kits. Since there have been no other additives other than koi clay I feel confident that the Microbe-lift PL is doing most of the de-nitrification. It does appear to be reducing the amount of dead algae and sludge in my skimmer and box filter. Looking back over the last year’s pond conditions and other posts, I used this product most often plus the PondCare dechlorinator which also has an ammonia remover. I have been using the dechlorinator without ammonia remover most of this summer. I also moved the air system to the box filter which may be helping too.

The product is a bit expensive running $32-35 at my local pond shops for 32 oz size. But it should work for several months per the manufacturers website.

From the Microbe-lift website:

Specially Formulated for Decorative Fish Ponds, Lagoons & Smaller Water Features
Creates a cleaner environment for your pond, promoting faster fish growth
Reduces ammonia nitrogen levels
Dissolves away organic sludge
Seeds and maintains biological filters
Significantly reduces noxious odors caused by dead algae, fish fecal matter, and urine
Reduces hydrogen sulfide, which creates strong, offensive odors
Reduces biological oxygen demand (B.O.D.)
Reduces buildup of bird droppings, fish feed and dead leaves
Breaks down dead algae
Improves dissolved oxygen levels
Contains photosynthetic bacteria which reduces cloudy water by promoting flocculation and settling of organic and inorganic particles
Effective over a wide range of pH conditions

32 oz. (10PLQ) Treats 500 gal. pond for 11 months or 1,000 gal. pond for 8 months.

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Microbe-Lift 7.5 pH Buffer Stabilizer Review

This week I tested Ecological Labs Microbe-Lift 7.5 pH Buffer Stabilizer to determine if it would stabilize my pH at 7.5. It did not. My pond continues to fall below 7.5 at both morning and night. The goal is to keep my ph at 7.5 or above so that nitrifying bacteria can reduce my nitrites. This product may work in some ponds but not in mine.

I have 1600 gallons with 8 medium koi. Water changes 15-20% per week.
Added 2 lbs per instructions.
pH rose above 7.5 initially and has fallen as low as 7.2 1 week later.
This would be my normal pond behavior so buffering has no effect.
Only other chemical used was Chlorine remover when adding water from mains.
Only 1 filter cleaning performed during this time.

I would call this product a failure. If you have had luck with this product please let me know your particulars.

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Great Gifts for the Pond owner

Here are just a few items you might consider for the special pond owner in your life at gift giving times, whether he be a spouse, father, or good friend. While you can not likely give a special fish or know what pond equipment they may need there are some generic options for every pond keeper.

  • BOOKS! For the koi enthusiast there is no better book to give than Koi Kichi or Koi2Kichi. For others please see my Bookspage.
  • Gift certificates from their favorite pond/fish store, or generic gift cards to be used for supplies.
  • A personal coupon – Good for one (or more) filter cleanings or other pond tasks.
  • Gift basket – Restock supplies, fish food, fish treats, water test kits, water declorinator, a new pH meter, etc…
  • Outdoor furniture for the enjoyment of the pond – New Adirondack chair, firepit, hammock, garden bench, planters, etc…
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