Summer is definitely the high-point in the water-gardener’s calendar – a time when the pond should be at its best and plants fish and wildlife thrive, bloom and breed; in short, summer is payback time for all the planning, planting and sheer effort involved in getting your water garden ready for your enjoyment.
At the same time, those long sunny days and hot, humid nights can bring challenges of their own for the inattentive pond-keeper, so alongside the enjoyment of our efforts, we also need to keep an eye out for signs of trouble. The warm temperatures means things can change very quickly in the pond and, if the early signs are missed, problems such as algae blooms and deteriorating water quality can soon become major summertime headaches.
With a little bit of vigilance and careful summer maintenance, however, you should be able to avoid having your enjoyment spoiled too much and have a healthy, thriving environment for you and your fish.
The fish will be most active at this time of year. You want to inspect them regularly for signs of disease or parasites that can be introduced by new fish, visiting birds or other ways. At the first sign of problems, check with our experts at The Pond Clinic. Some of these diseases can be easy fixes, others difficult to eradicate. Some can be disastrously fatal to your fish. You will want to buy the right treatments and use them immediately.
Water Quality – Add More Oxygen
Changes in the pond and the behaviour of its inhabitants during the warmer weather can make water quality problems more likely, particularly dissolved oxygen and nitrogenous waste – both of which are particular nuisances for ponds stocked with fish.
Oxygen dissolves naturally in water, but how much oxygen water can hold depends, amongst other things, on temperature; in short, the warmer the water, the less dissolved oxygen (DO) it contains. This is, clearly, a potential problem during the summer, since low DO levels precisely coincide with the time when fish require the most oxygen. In a well stocked pond particularly, this may cause a problem for the inhabitants, especially if it is well planted. Although an adequately sized waterfall, cascade or fountain should ensure that sufficient DO is added to meet their needs, it is important to remember that while plants contribute abundant oxygen to the water during daylight, they themselves use it at night. A heavily planted pond – or one full of algae – can develop seriously depleted oxygen levels as dawn approaches, especially if the previous day was a very warm one.
As a preventative measure, install an aeration pump to prevent harmful, oxygen-poor environments. Professional Aeration Kits allow efficient gas exchange to reduce buildup of harmful gasses while effectively increasing pond oxygen level. High oxygen content in pond water keeps your pond fish healthy and oxygen-loving beneficial bacteria working their best.
With the water in prime condition, the next thing to get right is the feeding. In the wild, most of the commonly kept fish species are omnivorous, happily eating a wide range of things from plants through to insects and larger prey including other fish depending on their size. The various forms of carp for example which includes goldfish and Koi are natural foragers, adapted to feed over a long time, often on rather poor quality food. This part of their character in the pond explains why they seem so eternally ready to eat and why overfeeding them is so easy to do, when they appear to be so permanently hungry. However, because fish are cold-blooded, the amount of food they actually need depends on the temperature of the water and as it rises in summer so does their food intake. They eat more and grow faster and that means greater waste production. Use an automatic feeder to monitor how much food your pond fish receive per feeding.
Good quality modern fish-foods are specially formulated to be easily digested and come in a variety of types. As a general rule of thumb, high protein foods should be fed during the summer, cutting back to lower protein content as winter approaches and stopping all feeding once the daytime water tempertaure drops to around 10 degrees C. Uneaten food should always be removed and, hard though it can sometimes be, the temptation to feed just a little bit more should be resisted; there will always be some natural food in the pond.
The good fish-keeper always needs to be on the lookout for disease. There are many different illnesses which can affect pond fish and the bad news is, that if one fish is ill, its friends are not likely to be long behind it, so early diagnosis and correct treatment are essential. Most books give very good descriptions of the more commonly encountered diseases and professional veterinary help should always be sought if there is any doubt as to what is going on. The key to disease control is in spotting the warning signs early enough, so any changes in behaviour such as refusing to eat, inability to swim properly, sinking to the bottom, or alternatively, always being at the surface should be cause for further investigation.
Finally, enjoy your fish! They are the true “stars” of your garden pond. Some of them are likely to even respond to the sound of your voice if they are used to hearing you call when you feed them. Ponds are soothing to our spirits, especially in this stressful world. Don’t forget to take the time to let your pond pay you back for all the efforts you put into taking care of it! Happy Summer!