Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Are You Ready For Spring?

Are You Ready For Spring? by Bob Grinyer

Bobs covered Koi Pond
Unfortunately, it’s far too easy to get caught out as spring approaches and the temperatures begin to rise in our ponds.

Our fish begin to get more active and look for food – so we feed them more.

Consequently, the Ammonia and Nitrite levels increase as a result, but the friendly bacteria in our filters are neither numerous or lively enough to cope with the extra load.

The levels continue to increase as our beloved koi get more active and we continue to feed even more – but all we’re really doing is creating a poor environment for our koi to live in and so they get stressed.

Sadly, nature has determined that harmful bacteria that thrive in any detritus and mulm in our ponds and filters will become active and proliferate at lower temperatures than our koi’s immune systems become effective.

Add to that the fact that we haven’t maintained our ponds and filters very frequently during the winter months (be honest, we’re all guilty of that) and you can see that the baddies have the ideal conditions to gain the upper hand – unless we ensure we’re ahead of the game!

What can we do about it?

Knowing the problems we may experience may help us identify them if they do occur. However, I’m a great believer in prevention being better than cure, so what can we do to reduce the likelihood of problems occurring?
First and foremost, we need to give our ponds and filters a good spring clean to get rid of any build up of detritus that will provide ideal breeding grounds for harmful bacteria.

UV sterilisers can be effective at dealing with harmful bacteria in our ponds – but only if they are clean, working and have effective bulbs fitted. Check your UV is working, clean the quartz sleeve and, if your bulb is more than 6 months old, consider fitting a new one.

Resist the temptation to feed too much too soon. Check your water parameters regularly to ensure Ammonia and Nitrite levels remain within acceptable parameters and that your pH remains stable. If you haven’t got a water test kit, or the one you have is out of date, buy a new one now!

Be vigilant. Spend more time watching your koi so that you identify any problems at an early stage and can take action before a minor problem becomes a crisis.

Ensure you have sufficient pond treatments ready to deal with any eventuality. Check that they are within their use by dates and replace any that are out of date. – and hope that they also turn out to be a waste of money because they’re not needed!!

Salt is a very useful treatment to help reduce nitrite toxicity. However, koi are fresh water fish and should not be kept in salt water for long periods. Also, once added to a pond, salt concentrations can only be reduced by carrying out massive water changes. And remember, if you need to treat for parasites, the presence of salt in the pond will restrict your choice of treatments – especially those containing formalin! Therefore the use of salt to reduce nitrite  toxicity should only be used as a last resort.

Remember – don’t add any treatments or medications to your pond unless you are certain you know what the problem is, that it’s the correct treatment for the problem and that you know the correct dose for your pond. Adding a treatment just because you have it to hand and/or because you want to do something rather than nothing, may only add to the stress your koi are suffering and delay administering the correct treatment.

Finally, don’t forget - as the pond temperature increases the amount of oxygen the water can hold reduces! Also, if you have plants in your pond, they will use up more oxygen as they grow – i.e. during the night when you’re not around to notice!. So, check your air pumps are working, clean the air filters and change the diaphragms if necessary.

As Lord Baden Powel once said “Be Prepared!”

Bob Grinyer

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