What you should know about Aquatic Plants

July 8, 2010

A pond with out Aquatic plants is like a person without skin-bare, ugly and unnatural. Aquatic plants are an important part of a ponds eco-system and create a feast for the senses. There are five basic types. Marginal, Water Lilies, Bog, Floating, and Oxygenating plants.

Marginal plants. You know that uncomfortable feeling when you’re neither dry nor soaked? That is the perfect condition for these plants-moist! They thrive on the surrounding area of your pond called the “Margins.” This area is generally where flooding occurs and can be either completely covered with water or slightly damp. Some are beautifully colored or uniquely shaped. They create the widest range in Aquatic plants.

Water Lilies. Ahh, the gem of ponds. Not only are they gorgeous, but they are one of the easiest type of Aquatics to grow! They flourish in almost any zone as long as temperature is at least 70ÚF. Most Water lilies are happy in depths from 1.5ft-2.5ft. Some types however, can be grown at 3ft water depth. The pads and new buds will reach the surface of the pond usually within five days. However, when placing a Water Lily, never place it near splashing or flowing water-they do not like to be disturbed.

Bog plants. Like Marginals they enjoy shallow water. They should be planted where water naturally tends to collect. They come in a variety of shapes and colors- a treat for the eyes! Bogs simply need wet mud to survive and can be used as a filtration system. Bog filters are also known as “Veggie filters.” They can be made by planting enough bog plants to cover at least 15% of the water volume in your pond.

Floating plants. I like to call these the roamers. They don’t stay put and they can very easily overtake your pond if it contains an abundance of nitrogen or phosphate, example: water hyacinth and duck weed (Hyacinth & Water Lettuce is illegal to buy or sell in Florida anyway.) However, they can be controlled by simply extracting large quantities of the plant out of your pond weekly. The advantages are far greater than any problems they might cause. They act as extra filtration by absorbing nutrients from the pond, make a nice treat for your koi and some even produce breath-taking flowers.

Oxygenating plants. Like the name suggests, these plants provide needed oxygen to all life in your pond. By far they are the most important Aquatic plant in a pond! Any fish will agree. They also provide spawning grounds and compete with algae for nutrients in your pond. These Aquatic plants are completely submerged and have no visible root system. They either float freely underwater or grow in the soil at the bottom. They are a necessity for ANY pond!

When creating a pond it is best to incorporate each type of Aquatic plant. Doing so should not prove troublesome.

First, draw an outline of your pond and decide what areas you plan to introduce plants and what type they should be. Take into account the needs of each type. A plant shelf can be built to help accommodate the marginals and special bank for the Bogs.

Then, it’s time to shop! Find a Plant Nursery or Aquatic Garden store in your area. Select according to type, rate of growth, sun or shade tolerance and color. Scented Marginal plants help attract insects and butterflies.

Floating baskets or creeper rings can be purchased if desired. They can be used if your pond doesn’t have a plant shelf or if you simply want to provide more shade or extra hiding area for your fish.

And last but not least, don’t forget to buy fertilizer! Fertilizer is an essential aid in the growth and bloom of your Aquatic plants. Once-a-year feeder tubes, tablets, or granular form are the most common types. Fertilizing depends on the method used, the type of plant, water temperature, and the size pot the plant is in. Ask an associate to help you make the right decision.

Once-a-year tubes prove to be the simplest method of fertilization. Simply insert the tube deep in the soil and forget about it for a year. If you are using the tablets, push one tab in the soil or potting media every 2-3 weeks for weather 70Ú-90ÚF. Granular fertilizer can be spread directly into the soil or can be used inside a coffee filter to make application easy.

When you begin planting, inspect and rinse all your plants for sandwich worms, aphides, etc… Also, make sure you trim off any dead leaves or stems. Re-pot any that have outgrown their current container. Potting media or even untreated kitty litter work well as the soil. Place rinsed pea gravel on top of the media. Then, position the plant in the desired spot or insert directly in the soil if they are Bogs.

Aquatic Plants are an essential part of the eco-system and the perfect finish to a beautiful water-feature. However, do not expect to see full, mature plants or spectacular blossoms right away. It may take up to 3 years for some types to fully develop. Good things come to those who wait!

For more information go to: www.coolponds.com


How can you create a breathtaking pond?

July 8, 2010

HERE ARE A FEW IDEAS:

1. Use a Variety of Stones!

Large Boulders along with medium and small river rounds protect liner and create an incredibly natural looking pond and waterfall! Do not forget to use Lg mixed gravel to fill in any gaps or voids between larger stones. A small layer of gravel in the pond adds to the natural look as well.

2. Showing Liner is a NO-NO!

The quickest way to ruin the beauty of an artificial pond is by having ugly black liner showing! It’s unprofessional and tacky. Always cover all liner with stones, or gravel. Mulch or some other aggregate such as lava rock make a fine cover as well.

3. Never Make a Straight Stream!

Streams add to the visual and audio effect of a water feature. They can be a treat for the eye or they can look unnatural and out-of-place. Streams found in nature are winding or curved but never straight. Also, keep in mind that most streams end when they hit a large boulder. Be sure to mimic this when creating a stream of your own.

4. Lighting!

A pond or water feature is something you should be able to enjoy at night as well as during the day! Underwater lighting gives your feature an enchanting look. Light with color lenses can also be purchased to enhance the brilliance. When installing lights always have at least 1 light facing your waterfall. This brings out the fall and creates a center piece in your pond. Remember to try and position the lights in a way where the wires are well hidden.

5. Don’t Forget the Plants!

An awful mistake when creating a water-garden is leaving out surrounding landscape and Aquatic plants. Doing so creates a dull, fake looking feature, lacking color and character. There are typically five types of Aquatic plants: water lilies, oxygenators, floaters, partly emerged, marginals, and bog plants. For the most natural look, try using a little of each type.

6. Wildlife!

Fish, frogs, snails, and turtles add to the magic and placidness of a pond. All ponds have the potential to become a natural ecosystem-if allowed to include some kind of wildlife. There is no need to purchase snails, or frogs-they will find you! Fish and turtles are a great way to finish off a dazzling vista and even become beloved pets.

Use these six tips to help you create your very own personal paradise! For more questions visit us at http://www.coolponds.com

Happy gardening!


Pond Fish Basic Care

July 8, 2010

Fish. For most people the only thing they know about these scaly creatures is whether they taste better with lemon or tarter sauce. For Pond owners however, a little more information is needed. If you’re a new Pond owner who has just purchased, or are thinking about purchasing, Koi, goldfish or other pond fish you might have a few questions. How do I introduce new fish into my pond? What do I need to do to make my pond suitable for them? How do I maintain my new friends?

Fortunately I know a little bit more about fish then the topping they taste best with. Here are a few basic tips all future pond fish owners need to know.

Before purchasing fish you must first have your pond suitable for life. Meaning there should be no (zip, zero, nada) Ammonia, Chlorine, Chloramines or Nitrite in your pond water. A test kit will be needed to determine the level of those parameters. A de-chlorinator can be used to rid the pond of Chlorine, Chloramines and Nitrites. And a water change can be conducted to do away with Ammonia.

A filter is crucial to maintain Ammonia levels. A Biological filter is the best choice. Be sure the filter can support a pump that is able to move the total gallons of your pond AT LEAST once per hour. So if you have a pump (assuming your pump is big enough for your pond) that has a GPH of 950 you would want a filter with the capacity of at least 950 (although a 1000 would be better.)

Once you have your water levels up to par, and proper filtration unit has been installed it’s time to purchase the new additions to your family- which is exactly what they will become. After selecting the right fish there are a few things you need to know when introducing them into your pond.

A bagged fish generally only lasts for 45 minutes, assuming the correct water to Oxygen ratio has been applied. Be sure your drive home is less than 30 minutes away. If this is not the case tell a sale associate so special measures can be taken. An additional supply of Oxygen can be given to you.

Once you are home, let the bagged fish float in the pond for 15 minutes before releasing it. This will regulate the water temperature and help to prevent it from going into shock. If however, you feel that your fish is stressed or the ride home took longer than 30 minutes, gradually fill the bag with some pond water to speed the regulating process.

Once the water from the bag is about the same temperature of your pond water you can place your new fish into the pond. Do not pour the water from the bag along with your fish into the pond. Use a net to drain the water from the bag outside your pond and then release your fish into its new home.

Now that your new friends are swimming pretty what has to be done to maintain them? Here are a few tips:

1. Test your pond water for Ammonia, Nitrite, pH, Oxygen, Carbonate Hardness, and General Hardness once a week for 2-3 months for new ponds. Once the pond is pretty much established, you can test as needed.

2. Do not over feed your fish. They eat Algae, Aquatic plants (especially lilies) and small bugs found in your pond. Only feed them fish or Koi food twice a week. This, along with regular filter cleaning, will help prevent high Ammonia spikes.

3. Keep in mind the changing seasons. As fall and winter come around, special accommodations will have to be made: A de-icer for climates that tend to drop below freezing and Wheat Germ food (no matter the climate,) for the fish slowing metabolism.

Then it is time to enjoy! Fish, whether they are specific breed Koi or simple comets, add to the beauty and placidity of your pond or water feature. They become dearly loved pets and extended members of your family!

For more information go to: www.coolponds.com


How can you protect Koi Fish-the jewel of the pond?

July 8, 2010

With their striking colors, beautiful shape, and graceful motions, the Koi are considered the jewels of the pond. From humble beginnings as wild carp, these fish have been domesticated and bred to become the renowned beauties they are today. Once owned only by the wealthy, Koi are now loved and kept in garden ponds across the world. As a pond owner or future Koi enthusiast, you may want to learn to tell the BASIC differences between the thirteen types of Koi and distinguish a high quality fish from an ordinary, colorful one.

Koi, or Nishikigoi as the Japanese call them, come in over 100 different varieties but have been reduced to thirteen major groups-as previously mentioned. They are as follows: Kohaku, Taisho-Sanke, Showa-Sanshoku, Bekko, Utsurimono, Asagi Shusui, Ogon, Koromo, Hikari-Moyomono, Hikari-Utsurimono, Kawarimono, Kinginrin, and Tancho. It’s difficult to correctly distinguish all the types of Koi in the beginning, but with practice and determination it will become easier.

Before you can start to classify Koi you must first know the basic body shape and anatomy of the fish. A Koi is usually bilaterally symmetrical. What does that mean? If you were to draw a line along the dorsal (top) fin from the tip of the snout to the tip of the tail, the shape of both pieces would be the same. Although this is a good trait, it is a MUST in any show Koi.

Like most carp, Koi have barbells, a dorsal fin, pectoral fins, pelvic fins, an anal fin, and a caudal (tail) fin. If a Koi is missing any of these it is considered abnormal and of poor quality.

The head of the fish should be of normal proportion to the body. It should not be extra long or to short. The mouth should be inferior, which means it opens from the bottom, like most scavenger fish.

Now that you know a Koi’s basic body shape and requirement you can get to know the color variations.

The most known Koi is the Kohaku. The Kohaku has white skin (Koi have two skin base colors, white and blue) with red markings. This is the simplest variety to spot and arguably the most beautiful. One of good quality has a milk white skin and deep red pattern. The most highly admired pattern is the stepping stone patterns- 3-5 red markings resembling a rock pathway.

Then there is the Taisho-Sanke or Sanke for short. It has the same color variation as the Kohaku (white with red markings) along with black as a third less obvious color. A high quality Sanke will have red (with no other color) on the head and an interesting pattern of red and black.

The third is the Showa-Sanshoku, Showa for short. This is the same three color distinction as the Sanke. However, black is the basic color and there are red and white markings contrasting it. An ideal Showa has deep black markings and an interesting pattern of red and white.

The Bekko is two colored with small black patterns on top of another color-white, yellow and red are most common. There are many kinds of Bekko’s. The most standard is the Shiro-Bekko (white with black.)

Another two colored Koi is the Utsurimono. Like the Bekko, it has black and one other color. However black is the main color and there are spots or markings of another color-white, red, and yellow.

The Asagi Shusui is a blue skinned Koi with white edges and red covering on the gills, stomach and pectoral fins. They have a net like appearance and the German (Doitsu) scales. The German scales are typically larger or leather like (no scales at all.)

Koromo’s are fish with blue scales. There are different types of Koromos such as the Aigoromo and Sumigoromo. The word Koromo comes from the word garment. This fish looks like it’s wearing a blue scaled veil or net on top of its regular color scheme.

An Ogon is a Koi with a metallic luster. They are typically white or gold. They should only have one color and most commonly have the Doitsu scales. A good Ogon is robust with nice muscle structure.

Another metallic Koi is the Hikari-Moyomono. They are a cross breed from the Ogon and have more than one color.

The Hikari-Utsurimono is a metallic Koi that is a cross between the Ogon and the Showa. They have the coloration of a Showa-black as the main color, with red and white markings-but are lustrous like the Ogon.

Kinginrin are a shiny sparkly Koi. Do not confuse them with the Ogon which are metallic. Kinginrin have a shine in each individual scale but not all of them. They can sparkle with either gold or silver. For a Koi to be prize worthy it must have at least 20 glistening scales. These Koi are great for Dark bottom ponds due to their outstanding visibility.

The Tancho’s are Koi with the Hi (red) patch on their head. The patch can not be connected to other markings and must be contrasted with a white skin. It can not cover the eye and is only recognized on the Kohaku, Sanke and Showa variations.

The last variation of Koi is the Kawarimono. Simply put, they are the Koi that do not fit any other category. This category was invented for the purpose of selling and shows. Although they are not as valued as the other twelve varieties, these Koi are very beautiful and make a great addition to any collection.

These are the recognized variations of Koi. There are also long fined or butterfly Koi. These have abnormally, yet extremely beautiful long fins. This category is not recognized by the Japanese in Koi shows. In the U.S. this type is bred and sold in large quantities. They are a graceful and welcomed member of the Koi family.

Whether you are interested in including these unique fish in your garden pond or want to learn about and keep them as a hobby, it is always good to be able to identify each type of Koi. This will not only help you make an educated decision when purchasing your new found friends, but it will also help you to appreciate the diversity of Koi even more. Some say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I say beauty is in the eye of the Koi holder!

For more information go to: www.coolponds.com


How can you protect your pond from predators?

July 8, 2010

HERE ARE SOME IDEAS FROM COOL PONDS!

Have you ever gone out to your pond and found a few of your favorite fish dead or half eaten by the neighborhood animals? For most pond owners with outdoor ponds this is a constant problem. Birds, raccoons, cats, and other animals often lay claim to ponds as their own personal buffet. However there is hope for this seemingly endless struggle. Let me share a few methods we have used in the past that proved successful.

Hiding places are a must when creating a pond. Fish caves can be purchased or built by placing a piece of slate or flat rock on top of a couple boulders. Be sure to build them in the deepest part of your pond. Most animals do not enjoy getting wet (with the exception of some birds,) and more than likely won’t dive in your pond to catch fish. Floating planters and plants are another way to help your fish hide. They provide a protective covering and allow a place to escape potential predators.

If your problem is primarily with birds there may be an easy solution. Fake, realistic looking birds can be used as a form of protection. Most types of birds are territorial. If another bird is occupying a pond (or open buffet as they see it,) they usually fly off to find another fishing-hole. However, this might not work with every type of bird. Also, if you use this method be sure to reposition the replica bird every week. We have found that they are clever and quickly discover our ruse.

Another inexpensive and fairly effective method is a decoy fish. They are very colorful, fake fish that float in your pond. Birds and other predators tend to go after the slowest, weakest one. The animal will attack the decoy first, allowing the rest of your fish an opportunity to hide!

A more maniacal deterrent is the use of fake alligators or other predators. Scare away the uninvited! These are simple floaters or statues that can be purchased in any garden or water décor store. Some even come with solar power eyes that glow in the dark!

The simplest method however, would be netting for your pond. Although not the prettiest accessory it definitely works! Pond nets can be bought to fit ponds of all shapes and sizes. Watch out for poorly made nets with weak meshing. These can easily be torn by beaks or claws.

If these inexpensive, simple methods prove unsatisfactory you can use a motion sensor sprinkler. These devices attach to a garden hose and can be mounted on a patio deck or secured in the ground. They spray unwanted animals and/or people with a burst of water when triggered. Although this product is very effective is can be costly.

No method (short of extermination,) will prove 100% effective. There will always be a clever predator that finds a way to outsmart you. However, by using some of the ideas shared with you, you can convert your all you can eat buffet to a once-a-year snack!

For more information go to: www.coolponds.com


What DON’T you do whan building a pond?

July 8, 2010

1. Starting Off Blind!

Building a pond can be a great learning experience and a lot of fun. However, do not start constructing one until you have fully researched the steps and constructing advice from other, experienced professionals. There are easy to comprehend books and videos that can help you create your very own beautiful water garden!

2. Under sizing a Pond!

Did you know that the average pond owner will build three ponds? The reason is because most people always a bigger and better pond then the first one. Unless you want to plan, and construct three ponds there is a way to avoid this. Simply build a big, spectacular pond the first time!

3. Liner NO-No’s!

The biggest mistake pond owners (or future pond owners) make have to do with pond liner. They either purchase a pond liner too small, barely big enough, or end up cutting the excess off before actually starting up their pond and checking for leaks. Avoid this at all cost!! It is better to spend a little extra time in doing things correctly than constructing a leaky, tacky pond.

4. Deadly Rocks!

When constructing a pond, boulders are a major part of the naturalness and design, but there is one type of rock you want to avoid using: Lime stone (lime rock.) Lime rock is native to the beaches of Florida and its white color and coral look is an appealing prospect when deciding what rock to use. However, this rock can greatly raise the pH in fresh water causing chemical imbalance and potential death to your fish.

5. Noxious Gases!

When adding gravel to your pond it’s crucial that you do not put a layer any thicker than 1″. Noxious gases can build up in gravel thicker than that and can be fatal to aquatic life.

6. Small Filters!

Be sure your pond filter is large enough to adequately support the fish load in your pond. Under sizing a pond filter will lead to more maintenance, a build up in debris, and potential Ammonia and/or Nitrite spikes, (see article “Biological Filtration.”)

7. Unnatural!

Have you ever seen a pond with excess liner, exposed PVC and little or no rocks or Aquatic life? What crossed your mine when you saw this? No doubt the only thing that came to mind was how ugly and unnatural this pond looked. A pond is meant to be a resemblance of nature-beautiful and perfectly designed. Unless you desire the no-no’s I pointed out above, try to avoid them by all means.

Save your pond! Use these Pond-Don’ts and you can build a beautiful outdoor escape worthy of a life time of bragging rights.

For more information go to: www.coolponds.com