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Water Quality Issue#010
November 02, 2009


Welcome from the Koi Pond Guide to the 43 new subscribers.
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The quality of your water is the biggest source of potential stress for your Koi. Day in, day out, night in, night out, your Koi breathe in water, extract oxygen, and push the water back out. But in fish, gills have a dual role, in addition to allowing for respiration, they are also excretory organs. As a result, fish excrete ammonia across their gill surface and release it into the water. Therefore, a water-quality test should be your first reaction to any abnormal behavior (lethargy, rubbing, disinterest in food, and so forth) that your Koi exhibit. If dissolved oxygen is decreasing, the fish can become sluggish and may be seen gasping at the surface. This is easily remedied by the addition of extra aeration or by increasing the water turnover.

Triggers you can not control

Toxic substances may accidentally be added to a pond, and will cause your fish great discomfort. Take care when using insecticides or weed-killers, as they can easily find their way into the water.

You can be as vigilant as possible, but sometimes happenings outside of your control affect your water quality. For instance, it rains after your neighbor fertilizes his lawn, so some of the fertilizer runs off into your pond.

Tap Water

Most tap water is treated with a disinfectant such as chloramines to make it safe for humans to drink but, these compounds are toxic to your fish. So, you will need to treat the water whether first filling your pond or doing a partial water change. A simple solution is to add a tap-water conditioner. Make sure you know the volume of your pond so you will know how much water condition to add. There are several full function water conditioners on the market that provide dechlorination along with other benefits like ammonia reduction, nitrate reduction, replaces skin slime coat and reduces stress in fish and also adjusts pH, which makes water changes very simple and minimizes the need for several different products. Generally these types of water conditioners are only used when making partial or full water changes.


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A question I am asked frequently is “If my pond is already balanced why is it necessary to carry out partial water changes?” Well, compared to a naturally occurring pond or lake, the water in an artificial garden pond is not balanced. Due to the unnaturally high stocking density, the addition of artificial food is necessary, which leads to the accumulation of nutrients in the water. As a pond ages, the water’s appearance may deteriorate, becoming discolored. Nutrient buildup will also lead to the risk of nuisance algae, which will thrive on any freely available nutrients, such as nitrates and phosphates. To maintain the balance you will need to intervene with frequent partial water changes. In warmer months your pond will benefit from a 10 to 20 percent water change every 2 weeks. This is also an opportunity to clean out part of your filter. To maintain a stable environment, it’s better to carry out frequent, small water changes rather than fewer, larger ones. In the colder months water changes are less vital.

pH Levels

For ponds that have a high pH – that is the water is too alkaline, first check whether the temporary water hardness is OK. This can be measured using a simple test kit for kH, carbonated hardness or alkalinity, which are all the same. If the water is too soft use agricultural lime as detailed above. If on the other hand the hardness is fine use either gypsum (plaster of Paris) or calcium chloride. This will improve calcium or general hardness and stabilize pH. Substantial amounts may be needed. Some experiments in 10 liters of water will give some indication, and agricultural gypsum is available if you need large quantities. Make the adjustments over a period of several days.

If you need to physically alter the pH, use a proprietary buffer for aquaria. For ponds with a low pH – that is too acidic- use agricultural lime (calcite CaCO3 or dolomite CaMg[CO3]2) to buffer the water and increase pH. Do not use slaked lime or unslaked lime. It needs to be added over a period of a few days until the required level is reached. I would suggest some experiments in 10 liters of water to establish the amount needed for the whole pond (we are talking about several kilos normally).



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Happy Ponding!
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