Maintaining excellent water quality is essential to ensuring the fish and other inhabitants in your pond survive. If your fish are dying, the first thing you need to investigate is your water quality. It is important to test your water often to make sure it is okay. At the fish shop, you'll find two types of testing kits: 1) the kind with dip strips and 2) the liquid test tube kind with little bottles. The liquid tests are more expensive, but far more accurate then the strip kind. [Tip: If you get numbers that seem high or off with the paper strips, simply re-test to see if the second test mirrors the first strip exactly. If not, then your strips are likely old or not working properly]. Regardless of which testing kit you purchase, you need to make sure they test for the following things at minimum:
Ammonia: This reading should ALWAYS BE 0 (ZERO!).
Ammonia is deadly and the worst thing that can be in your pond. It is created through the fish’s gills, kidneys and by poop/pee waste. Rotting/uneaten food; and decaying plant and leaves also contribute to ammonia build up. Ammonia stresses fish greatly, which will lead the fish open to being attacked by bacterial or parasitic diseases it will be unable to fight off due to a weakened immune system. Trace or high levels of ammonia are created for several reasons: 1) you don't do at least 20% water changes every week (or at least every other week); 2) you are over-stocked with fish; 3) your filtration is insufficient for the gallons you have; 4) you are over-feeding (particularly in the spring before the beneficial biological bacteria has had a chance to take hold) growth or from inadequate filtration; 5) you have crud/rotted debris in the pond ; and/or 6) you have a new filter that has not yet cycled and built up the good bacteria to break down ammonia.
To correct ammonia traces, you need to do an immediate water change of at least 40%. Reduce feeding or stop feeding all together. If you don't like to use chemicals, out a small bag of ammo-rocks or zeolite in the pond. If you don't mind using off-the-shelf chemical treatments, then by all means use something like Ammonia Away or any similar binder. These are short term fixes, and you need to address the bigger problem (please see items 1-6 above) and figure out which of these is causing the problem (it can be all of them) and correct it. You may have to beef up your filtration, give away some fish to reduce your stock, add more/better media so that good bacteria can build up, add live bacteria in (such as Micro Lift) so a new filter cycles faster, remove debris in the water, do partial water changes more often, give your pond a good vacuuming or remove rocks in your pond floor—as they contribute to waste sitting in between the stones, etc.
Nitrites: This reading should ALWAYS be 0 (ZERO!)
This is the #2 killer of fish after ammonia. Nitrites create the first step in the nitrifying cycle, and this bacteria converts ammonia into nitrites. If you do have any nitrite readings when testing, this is normally seen as the nitrifying cycle is developing and can be present without an ammonia reading.
To remedy nitrite traces, do a water change of at least 40%. You should stop feeding for at least 3 or 4 days and add pond salt (not table salt!) at 2 to 2 1/2 pounds per 100 gallons of water. Salt will help detoxify some of the affects of nitrite poisoning. For a long term fix, you must continue water changes of 20% of at least every other week (preferably every week in warmer temps).
Nitrates: Readings should be anywhere between 0-200 ppm; Many breeders believe that 200-300 ppm brings out color
Nitrates are the final step in the nitrifying cycle, and bacteria converts the nitrites to nitrates. Nitrates are generally not toxic to fish, but high nitrate levels will likely lead your pond to a potential algae bloom (which will give you green water). Nitrates are essentially fertilizers. Acceptable test readings are 0-200 ppm. Many breeders and koi enthusiasts believe that a reading of 200-300 ppm brings out the best color in a fish. The Encyclopedia of Koi says that readings of up to 500 ppm can be acceptable, but I consider that to be exceptionally high though koi are highly tolerant of Nitrates. Most pond water test kits will not even read anything higher than 200 ppm. Though nitrates are not harmful to fish in and of themselves, they are a concern once there are any traces of ammonia in the water.
If your pond contains nitrate readings higher than 300 ppm you should do a water change of at least 40%. You should reduce the amount of food you feed your fish and also reduce your fish stock by re-homing some fish. Make sure you have no muck at the bottom of the pond, and clean out any rotting leaves or crud. Add plants into the pond, as they will consume a large amount of the nitrates.
pH: 6.8 to 8.5 is acceptable with no wild swings
pH is the measurement for how water is determined to be acidic or alkaline. 7.0 is considered neutral. Koi and goldfish live quite comfortably in pH ranges of 6.8 to 8.0. This number can even be 8.5 as long as that number doesn’t change. Problems with pH come when you have rapid spikes in pH levels, as this stresses fish and can lead to death. A slight change in a 24-hour period in pH is normal, but rapid spikes are not. Heavily planted systems will have more severe pH swings because the plants give off oxygen during the day, and then create carbon dioxide at night and suck up oxygen at night. Because of this, your lowest pH reading will be early in the morning, and the higher readings will come at night. pH does increase the toxicity levels of ammonia--the higher the pH, the more toxic any measurable amount of ammonia will become to your fish. This is why it is so important to have a zero reading of ammonia at all times, because it will not be damaging to the fish even if your normal pH is higher.
It is also important to determine what your normal tap water pH range is. Get a cup of water from your garden hose and test the pH. Whatever this number is, will be your average pH range and you should try to maintain that same parameter in the pond. Some people fret because they have a pond reading of 8.0 or even 8.5 pH, and use all sorts of pH lowering chemicals to attempt to lower their pH. It may temporarily work, but they will soon notice that the pH rises again. In this case, don’t fight your natural tap water pH level. As long as this number is relatively static and without swings, and the fish are doing fine, just go with it.
Now, if your pond water has dramatically changed pH readings from what your normal tap water pH is, you need to stabilize your pond water. Store bought products can be purchased that will buffer your pH to 7.0 or 7.6. These products stabilize your water so that the increases and decreases are minute. Some people add crushed oyster shells or crushed coral in a mesh bag to do this naturally instead of using chemicals. Stabilizing your water and preventing swings is also is referred to as total alkalinity. A normal total alkalinity range is 120-180.
Hardness is the measurement of the amounts of calcium, magnesium hydroxides, carbonates and bicarbonates in the pond water—some tap water is soft and other tap water is hard. How does this affect your fish? Pond fish hold their best color when there is some hardness in the water. Figures of at least 50-150 are what color enthusiasts want to see.
In general, it is good to have harder water rather than soft in your pond because it helps in controlling variations in pH, and it also reduces stress to a fish. BUT, water can also be too hard and this situation helps in the formation of string algae or blanket weed which is a huge nuisance. In very hard water, you may also notice excessive algae build up on the sides of your ponds. Softening hard water where you have a string algae problem can help, and you can do this by mixing soft water like from a home water softener unit. Raising the water hardness can be improved by adding sodium bicarbonate or calcium chloride.
This is my opinion. It is worth exactly what you paid for it.
I bought test strips the other day and the only one missing on them is the ammonia, It list everything else. They were all well within the acceptable range but my water has started to cloud and green up, I have been told this is normal as i just added fish and the filter was brand new. SO my question is IS that normal? and how long can i expect it to stay that way?
Well, is the cloudiness like if you put water in a glass that was used to drink milk? Kind of milky? I guess that would be hard to tell if it's also turning green though. In the first part of "the cycle" it is common for the water to cloud, but it isn't necessarily good for the fish, but it happens almost all the time at this stage. What you have is a bacteria bloom. The important thing now is to keep your water well aerated. The "good" bacteria that "get rid" of ammonia need oxygen, water and darkness. The cloudy water is an unbalance of bacteria, it will go away. The green water is built up excess nutrients and dissolved organics ( fish poopy water ). Koikeepr is right about the test kits. If you run out of test strips I would get an API master test kit. It will last a year or more. Also watch pH, having a higher pH is a good thing at this stage.
my PH was in the middle but a little on the higher side, The water is just cloudy as you can not see to the pump right now and the fish can only be seen when they eat. I can tell you that they are very active and love to swim around all 6 of them swim together in a "school", I thought about using the polish filter idea on the site to try and clean it up some. I have a Water feature that is pumping air by splash into the pond and my pump for the biofilter is at the deepest part and comes down the waterfall into my stream. I am looking into a air pump and stone but they are expensive!
2 PONDER 450 gallon in front with 2 SHUB'S. 1 FANCY TAIL GOLDIE. 1 COMET Tetra pond pump and filter combo.
1200 gallon in back with 2 BUTTERFLY KOI, 2 SHUB'S, 2 KOI DIY 55 gallon drum with cut irrigation tubing. 4300 gph pump feeding filter and fountain.
Well, for now, getting oxygen to the biofilter will help bacteria growth out. If you can, maybe just an aquarium sized air pump for your 30G filter and a small airstone. just a suggestion. Most of your "good" bacteria will grow in your filter media. The "good" bacteria like dark, wet, and aerated areas best. the polish filter will help clear out the algae, it wont do much for the bacteria bloom. The bacteria bloom will go just as quick as it came. When your bacteria establishes itself it will be like someone flicked a switch and the milky cloudiness will be gone.
I happen to have the same test strips at the moment and mine does not have the ammonia reading either (I think I got 'em at Petsmart). I simply bought a separate strip that just tests for ammonia and nothing else to make up for it (got those at a pet shop for 50% off that was closing down their fish section).
It's not uncommon for a pond to go a tad cloudy when you are starting things up. The bacteria has not yet taken hold yet and is not in sufficient numbers to do it's job well. However, you want to make sure this doesn't go on too long. As the weeks go on, you should see gradual clearing. If by week 6 this doesn't happen, something may be off.
How long has the pond been up and running now? Are you doing your weekly water changes?
If the water is going green-ish, have you thought of installing a UV clarifier? With this kinda heat, you are going to have algae blooms take hold and you want to stop 'em in their tracks.
This is my opinion. It is worth exactly what you paid for it.
To get everyone up to speed, I had questioned Koikeepr on the level of Nitrates listed, 200ppm - 300ppm. I was and am confused by this. Everything I learned about nitrates and fishkeeping water chemistry is that nitrates are harmless to fish unless they get over 80ppm. For algae control, the less the better, <10ppm would do it. Koikeepr rechecked "The Koi Bible" and it indeed said 200 - 300ppm was ideal. I checked as many sources as I could on the web includeing some Koi Society pages, Koi pages and even Koiphen which is suppposed to be the "elite" ponders. They almost all reccommended <50, one <80 and another <120. My test kit for nitate only goes to 160ppm.
That's about it.
I am almost thinking that it is a typo. Maybe 20-30ppm? Or 200-300ppb. I will continue research as soon as I am done making Jello, that I promised to make with the kids.
Jello's been in the fridge for a while and I did look around more, but would like to clarify. I am saying it's impossible that 200ppm-300ppm would be OK. I did come across an report from Perdue's science department on water parameters for fish and they said that "some fish can tolerate several hundred ppm of nitrate". The only thing I don't like about this is the word tolerate and some of the other things in the article where a little sketchy.
I can't tell you how many times I came across bogus "facts" in fish forums before that where gospel until they where proven incorrect. That works either way.
It's a reasonable point. Koi are fairly tolerant fish in terms of their environment.
Many koi keepers don't even monitor nitrates because it's a non-issue unless you have ammonia. Of course, higher nitrates do encourage the possibility of an algae bloom. But that's what we have UV's for.
This is my opinion. It is worth exactly what you paid for it.