Fish Health

Spring-time Fish Health:

Spring is an arduous time for fishes everywhere.  The changing environment puts a great deal of stress on all of our aquatic creatures.  These changes include temperature, microbiome, and the concentrations of dissolved solids that will rapidly fluctuate changing the basic water chemistry during this season of change.

As the snow melts (or the spring rains come) many a soluble minerals and compound flows into our ponds.  Be it 10,000 acres or 2500 gallons, these inputs change the environment drastically in the spring of the year.  Small systems (private ponds and water gardens) get the hardest hit because they do not have the environmental inertia that large waterbodies have.  That is: a lake of many millions of gallons of water can absorb the dissolved solids more readily without effecting a massive change in water chemistry due to its buffering capacity.  Said another way, due to its massive volume it takes a much greater volume of solutes to change any of the chemical attributes of that waterbody even a fraction of a point.  Small ponds and water gardens aren’t so lucky.  Every rain shower, snowmelt, and wind-blown event can introduce a difficult situation for the fish attempting to shed their lethargy after a long winter.

As the water warms, the macrobiotic (and macrobiotic) community awakens and effective changes the pond environment.  As different organisms (bacteria, insects, protozoa) become more prominent their biological functions change the environment as they grow and reproduce. This is a fancy way of saying, these critters grow up, mate and die…… all effecting the water quality in different ways.

The biggest issue in spring is the rapid fluctuations of water temperature.  Large waterbodies like lakes have a thermal inertia that allows for a slow rise in temperature allowing an easier transition into spring.  Smaller ponds and water gardens heat and cool rapidly.  Every day this spring a water garden of 5,000 gallons a can heat and cool 10-20 degrees every day until the weather stabilizes in summer.  A good example is this past week here in the mid-west.  We had a beautiful 70degree day which heated up water temperatures into the low 60’s.  This gorgeous chamber of commerce day was followed by a typical Midwestern spring day of 35 degrees and raining.  This quickly dropped the water temperature back down into the high 40’s.  As warm blooded humans, we just grumble about these rapid changes, curse our rotten luck and desire to live in such a climate and move on (mostly with help of adult beverages).  Any-hoo….. As exotherms, fish and amphibians take these changes very hard.  Many rapid temperature swings put major stress on the swimming creatures and can leave them vulnerable to infection and reproductive distress.

So those are the hurdles, here are some ways to help our wee swimming companions usher in a bountiful spring of joy and frolic-ish-ness.

Always do your spring clean-out either well before, or a good deal after the rapid spring temperature fluctuations.  Around here in the northern Midwest its early April or wait until June.  My preference is early spring as cold water is the best environment for healthy fish.

Be sure to use a cold-water bacteria product like (Crystal Clear Spring Prep) from the time the ice goes out (water temps of about 40deg) until you can start with your summer blend at around 55deg.

Be aware of the behaviors of your fish.  If all of the koi and gold fish are active and one is not, it may not be doing so well.  Maladies usually manifest as bacterial infections and present as lesions on the bottom of the fish or near the gills.  If you can isolate the infected fish, and inoculate with appropriate medications (like this CrystalClear KnockOut Plus CC136-16 to CC136G) it is very likely that your precious finned friend can pull through with flying colors.

Make sure to add (or maintain) your pond salt (salinity) levels at near 1ppt.  (Pond Salt) This will fortify your fish with a healthy slime coat to ward off infections and insulate them from parasitic invasion. Your fish can tolerate a much higher level (>1ppt) of salinity, alas your plants will not, and you need those plants later on to help out the pond during the summer, so keep the levels at about 1ppt, and all will be well.

Every pond has a carrying capacity for fish, if you are carrying too many fish, the biota gets all gummed up and you end up with fish health issues among a host of other management problems. So as a rule of thumb: 1” of fish for every 10 gallons of water in your water garden. It is important to note that there is a finite amount of resources available in a small pond environment, and the more fish-mass you pack in there, the more health issues you will encounter.

Alas, there is only so much one can do to sooth the passage into spring. Many a memorial service will be performed for our fallen Osteichthyes brethren as sometimes the world is not enough and they must swim through the cosmos back from whence they came. To join the circle of life, or fertilize a tree…. Whichever.


Thanks for reading


Senior Biologist


Summer Ponds!

Hello again …..

Your friendly neighborhood pond Biologist here to shepherd you through these hot summer months where all of your hard work in the spring and fall allow you to enjoy the sights and sounds of a healthy system. Alas, these are the days of rapid algae growth and the infrequent but potentially severe bouts with fish maladies. The following is a strategy to keep your fish happy and healthy, and the water looking fantastic for the remainder of the season.


July and August bring about our highest water temperatures (here in the midwest anyway).  Water temperatures over 80 degrees (F) bring a different set of challenges to the aquatic biosphere. High temperatures in fresh water hold a lot less oxygen and puts a fair amount of stress on the aquatic creatures that call your pond home.  Whether it be a back yard watergarden or a 2 acre pond, high temps are hard on most fish.

Midsummer is the most important time to aerate the pond.  Run your pump/waterfall filter as much as is feasible to keep your fish happy.  In larger ponds (with depths greater than 4ft and surface areas larger than 700 square feet) independent water circulation and/or diffused aeration is most efficient. Here is an example of a  aeration system: (aerator).  Moving water is key, the cycling of water allows for the elimination of harmful dissolved gases, and the import of oxygen into the water column, especially important at the sediment layer.  Getting oxygen to the sediments allows of the degradation of organic material like leaves, fish waste, and assorted goo that accumulates over time.  Just about all of the potential problems with ponds lies with in the accumulation of these organic sediments.  Lucky for us, this time of year is the best time to attack those sediments.

If you don’t have an aeration system for your pond, please give us a call.  Each system is unique and needs to be sized for your system for best effect.  (CSJ&J Gardens and 920-205-4560)

Your aerator is your single best tool for the reduction of organic muck. Here are some ways to make it better.

1. Start and/or bump up the dose of your bacteria regime for the breakdown of the goop.  Summertime bacteria like ( Beneficial Bacteria) will supercharge your system.  ponds of all sizes will benefit from the addition of beneficial bacteria during the summer months.  There are lots of bacteria products out there; my advise is to try different brands each year until you find the one that works best for your system.  Everyone’s water chemistry is different and each bacteria strain grew up in slightly different environments, so try a few out and find one that works well for your pond.  For large ponds your should be using 1-3 pound of bacteria per week, I can help you out there, just give us a call and we can set you up with a product and dose schedule that will get you started on the right track.

2. For watergarden, run your filter system into the night and very early in the morning, as the times just after dusk and before dawn are the times where oxygen levels will be at their lowest.  During these times, the plants/algae stop producing oxygen and actually start consuming it.  So it is very important that we are always turning in more oxygen to eliminate the possibility of an oxygen depletion.

3.Be sure to remove dead and dying plant debris from the pond.  If you are outside working in the yard, take a walk around the pond and clear out anything that could potentially become a problem later.  Dead pond lily leaves, seed pods from other aquatic plants, it all helps in the long run.  Your pond is a lot like your yard, if you leave it alone for a month it will look like poo.

In order to stay ahead of the algae, a bit of maintenance is on the docket.


Thanks so much for taking the time…..

Senior Biologist

Summertime Algal Blooms

Hello all,

Thanks for taking the time to read my articles, I appreciate it.


Summertime algae:

Hot sticky weather is perfect for growing algae.  Whether you own a pond that is 3 acres or a backyard watergarden; without a management plan, summertime blooms can/will be severe. Dense algae can endanger the health of your fish, denigrate the overall water quality, and degrade overall aesthetics of your favorite aquatic system.

Algae, being a photosynthetic organism, excretes oxygen as a waste product during the day.  At night, however, algae consumes oxygen and large blooms can deplete waters that are already starved for DO (dissolved oxygen), as warm water holds much less oxygen then cold water.  Therefore, it is imperative that you keep the water turning this time of year.  Keeping your aerators running and/or your waterfall filter operational into the night will decrease the likelihood of oxygen deprivation and the inevitable fish kill.

OK….. how do we prevent this from becoming an issue?  Maintain your pond!

If you ignored your lawn for a month in the summer, what would it look like?  The same is true for the waters under your care.  Nipping small problems in the bud removes the perils of huge algae blooms.

Nutrient management through a bacteria and enzyme regime directly competes with algae for food and space(Beneficial Bacteria).  Beneficial microbes kickstart the bottom of the food chain and are the crucial start to nutrient sequestration in aquatic systems.

Sometimes things just gotta die….

There are times where you’ve done all you can and you still get algae. Well, then, kill it dead……remorselessly obliterate the offending algal scum using the implements of phycological genocide (in the appropriate doses and active ingredients for your waters). (watergardens)(large non-koi ponds)…… Please read the labels so you do not endanger any non-target organisms (fish, frogs, small children, politicians).

It is always easier and better for your pond, no matter its size, to treat algae blooms when they are small.  All mat-forming algae begins its life on the bottom, so if you see some floating, there is a very good chance that the next generation is on its way behind it. Treating for the floating mats and the next wave will extend the length between treatments and make it more likely that you will be able to maintain your water with the more natural bacteria and enzymes noted above.

Important note:  Algicides also kill beneficial bacteria.  After treating for algae, be sure to increase your first dose of bacteria a couple of days later to bolster the natural recolonization of the bottom of your ecosystem.

So, Long story longer…… CONSTANT VIGILANCE! Summertime blooms are best avoided by keeping watch, and heading them off before they occur.

If you have let your attention wander or conditions are perfect for algae, the resulting large blooms must be dealt with very carefully.  Treating the whole pond can cause the same kind of oxygen deficit as discussed above. Treat half or 1/3 of the pond at a time as algae in its death throws consumes a good deal of DO.  Algae grows very fast and dies just as quickly. The decomposition process consumes adjacent oxygen in the water column.  Planktonic algae (pea soup greenwater) is harder to deal with. Treat with the appropriate dose of algicide or floculate it out of the water column (with this). This is a very delicate problem as algae densities are harder to diagnose and can be just as(or more) severe a problem than the filamentous algae.  Please ask questions in the comments if you need some help.

Please return to my page regularly, as I will be expanding and expounding on these topics in more depth as we go along.

This is a small chunk of a larger conversation, and everybody’s pond is different.  If you need help please comment or give us a call. We can set you up on a program to help make pond maintenance easier.

Thanks so much for taking the time to read…. enjoy the warm weather.


Senior Biologist
CSJ&J Gardens &

1-833-77WATER (1-833-779-2837)


Fish Growth, Condition, and Abundance

Well Hello!


Many times I have clients ask me:

“Why don’t I have any big fish?…”

Or, “All I have are a million stunted fish….. . ”

Or, “Why don’t my koi/game fish reproduce?…”

In small systems (waterbodies under 5 acres or so), it is necessary to manage your fishery to gain, then maintain, large fish in abundances that are healthy.

This discussion is mostly focused on bigger ponds, but the theories work well for the water gardeners out there too.

Small ponds are most of the time closed systems…very little movement in the way of new organisms entering and leaving the system. This lack of recruitment poses a problem for ponds; this leads to shortages of forage and cover.

There is only so much food a pond can produce by itself.  The insects, frogs, and small fish (forage species like fathead minnows, shiners, etc.) that make up the bulk of the forage base are finite, and in most cases…. limited. So, it is up to you to balance the fishery and make it more self-sustaining.

If you have a  3 acre(ish) pond or smaller… all the way down to the 500 gallon watergarden… the small forage species have nowhere they can hide for long (unless the pond was constructed with abundant fish habitat as its sole purpose).  These systems provide no constant sources of food.  This leads to protracted periods of time between the availability of quality meals, thusly leading to poor growth and condition of your fish and next to no reproduction.

What to do:

1. Provide cover.

Big Fu&%*ing Rocks:

This means large rock piles with big gaps between the stones (known affectionately as BFR’s in the fishery community).  These not only provide cover for smallish forage (like crayfish), they are also a favorite hangout for most species of gamefish.

Don’t use small rocks…. they are for wimps…..and communists…and landscapers, BOOOOO.

Large woody debris:

While sinking your old Christmas tree in the pond is great for the wee tykes of the pond, it’s not awesome for the lunkers.  You need large stumps, fallen trees, stacked logs.  These provide the large gaps for fish and insects, as well as the preferred cover for bass.  If trees aren’t your thing, try sinking some stacked hardwood pallets…


Fish always relate to where the food hangs out, as any fisherman will tell you. Aquatic plants are vital for cover for all fish in small ponds, as well as a source of sustainable food for the entire food chain/web.  Please allow aquatic plants to colonize your pond…. At times they can be a pest, and we can control them if necessary, but they are the hardest working organisms in the pond; not only for your fish, but for water quality too.  I will post an entire article about this soon….. stay tuned (OOOOOOO, I can’t wait!)

2. Provide forage.

Feed your koi, and they’ll be happy.  They are also very good at rooting around and finding sustenance for themselves, as they can eat just about anything (like goats… but more colorful).
Feed your gamefish too.  Just about all hatchery reared fish were raised on pelletized food.  They can be converted back to that kind of sustenance, but I hate that.  Ideally, stock your pond (twice per year) with whatever your most available forage species are. Around here it’s fathead minnows.

These critters can reproduce two or three times per season (under good conditions),and they are kinda dumb, which makes them very available to be eaten.  Whatever your forage of choice, make sure to stock enough that they last long enough to reproduce at least once in your pond.  It is harder than it sounds, as most ponds lack the cover needed to make reproduction successful. The rates at which I usually recommend are 100 lbs of minnows per acre, twice per year.  Now, this is an expensive proposition as these fish are about 5-6 dollars per pound, so it behooves you to upgrade your habitat to make your forage last longer.


Every fishery on this planet is harvested regularly.  Whether it’s by natural predation or by the knuckle-dragging human consuming machine, fish get removed from the resource…. and that’s OK.

It’s actually more than OK; it’s a vital function of the food chain/web.  Mother nature never intended there to be more predators than prey.  In fact, if the balance shifts even slightly, whole fisheries can collapse under the weight of tertiary predator dominance.  In other words…. Too many predators = unhealthy (at best) fishery/ecosystem.

In a balanced system, the total biomass of the fish population is concentrated in the youngest and smallest of the fish.  To state that differently, if you own a 1/4 acre pond and you have more than 2, 4 lbs of bass living there…. that’s out of whack and therefore unsustainable.  Your food/energy/mass diagram should look like a triangle where most of the available biomass is concentrated on the bottom, leaving ample food for the few (very few) large predators at the top.

The above pic from the internet (pssst, that’s where I get most of my pics) illustrates the concept well. Now imagine that the top of this pyramid (the fish) is expanded where it’s the smallest fish at the bottom and your Bass, Pike, Trout, Salmon, Sharks, Whatever….  are at the top, the same theory applies.

This concept was the basis for like…. three college courses, so I fear I’m getting too far into the weeds here. (get it….. weeds….Plants,Plants,Plants,Plants,Plants,Plants, anyhoo…)

Ahem… Catch some fish! They are great on the grill, deep fried, or fertilizing a tree somewhere. Too many predators spoils the potential for the gloriously large specimens that is the potential for ALL ponds. There are WAY TOO MANY ponds out there with a marauding pack of a dozen 10in bass. Remove the biomass so it can settle into the largest and smallest fish. That way your reproduction is good, you select for the best genetics, and everybody has enough to eat.

Koi ponds are no different. There is only so much biomass that a watergarden can sustain without becoming a cesspool.  If you have (or want) large koi, remove the smallest (or least attractive) of the bunch so that your bestest pals can get even bigger and more enjoyable. With more abundant food and space the Koi will be healthier, grow faster, and have brighter colors.

A combination of these three points will maintain an environment that is conducive to/for big fish, all while maintaining a healthy ecosystem for your pond.  This is a huge complex topic, and I have much more to reveal for you with upon request or as I come up with topics that I want to share, so please ask away.

Thanks again for taking the time….


Senior Biologist



Aquatic Pond Plants, and their Role in the Ecosystem

Hey there,

If you want your pond to look good, have healthy fish, and not be a maintenance nightmare; you must have, and promote the presence of, aquatic plants.


That reminds me of an age old gardening axiom. You can’t plant any flowers if you haven’t Botany!


If you want a healthy pond, you need plants. Full stop. Plants are the hardest working organisms in the pond and are integral to the sequestration and mitigation of all soluble nutrients found in surface water.  Stated a different way, plants tie up nutrients. Plants also can out-compete algae for nutrients because they are way more efficient at converting available food into plant material.  So, the more plants that you allow to grow in and around your pond, the better your pond will look, smell, and function as an aesthetically pleasing ecosystem.

There are three types of plants that I will discuss here:

1. Emergent

2. Floating leafed

3. Submerged

1. Emergent Aquatic Plants:

These plants have parts above and below the waterline.  These are shoreline plants like Cattails, Pickerel, Arrowhead, Bulrush, and Blue Flag Iris.  Some of these plants can grow in 2-4ft of water (cattails ), others grow completely outside the water in saturated soils (Iris), and others grow in between those two extremes, but all are still deemed aquatic.  These plants hold onto the bank with thick tuberous root systems which helps stabilize erosion issues.  Also, they are fantastic filters in watergardens and aesthetic enhancements to any koi pond.  These species are many and varied in form and color.  Add these beautiful plants to compete for space and food against the algae blooms.

Location, Location, Location! Please be aware, it matters where you plant them. In order to find success, please read up on the species you like the most and plant them appropriately.  If you have questions, please ask me where they should go, or if they would be right for your pond.  Planting techniques for watergardens vary depending on species.  Most of the time I plant them between rocks in a nest of pea gravel so the roots can take hold, arranging them along the waterline.  Some plants like Arrowhead, and Pickerel, like to grow in about 3-6inches of water and need a bit more soil/media in order to thrive. I like filling a pot with pea gravel (and maybe some peat moss) and placing them on a planting shelf where they will burst from the water with cool foliage and blooms, attracting fish, insects, frogs, turtles, and people who will OOOO and AHHH all day at the wonderful oasis that you have created for yourselves.

Large ponds are super hard to plant. When planting, take the plant out of its pot and squish it into the soft soil at the appropriate depth for the plant. See…. super hard…. (wink wink). Remember, we want these plants to spread and multiply.  In large ponds you may have to protect new plantings from herbivory.  Geese, deer, muskrats, and many other such animals are jerks and are out to harvest/eat the very nutritious plants you just purchased and painstakingly placed in your pond. If you have critters frequenting your pond’s edge (and most do), please protect the new plantings with chicken wire or other semi-rigid apparatus for 2-3 seasons. That way, the plants can develop hardy rootstocks that will be able to withstand the occasional munching from wildlife (jerks)……

2. Floating Leafed Plants:

For this discussion, I am focusing on water lilies and watershield.  There are other floating plants, but they are mostly invasive or nuisance plants that will be discussed in a future post. Water lilies are great for creating habitat and shade for all species of fish and aquatic life likely to inhabit your pond. Goldfish, koi, bass, crappies and trout will use this cover to rest, hide or hunt for food.  Each lily also develops a huge tuberous root which stores a ton of nutrients, serving as a filter as well. When planting these in watergardens, use a pot with pea gravel as your planting media.  The tuber will eventually escape the pot, but that’s ok. We like big, beautiful waterlilies. In large ponds, either sink them in 2ft (or so) of water in the aforementioned pots, or just tie them to a brick and place them that way.

3. Submerged Plants:

In larger systems submerged plants are vital for the management of the pond.  I DO NOT recommend these for watergardens as they grow out of control very fast in small environments.  Contail, Sago Pondweed, Claspingleaf Pondweed, and Water Celery are common species from around here (upper Midwest).  They provide cover, spawning habitat and nutrient mitigation for ponds, lakes, and streams and must be present if you are to have a productive fishery and good water quality.  The more diverse the plant life becomes, the better off you will be in terms of wildlife potential and quality of your fishery.  These plants can become nuisances if that diversity is not achieved, but their presence is still very important.  If you kill off all of your plants, you open up the pond to colonization of species that are very difficult to control.  You’re also likely to have runaway algae blooms. A pond that looks like a fish bowl is unsustainable and inevitably, expensive to maintain.


This is a subject that is truly massive.  I will be delving into each category of plants, giving specifics on individual species that are either great for the pond or decidedly bad for the system, so stay tuned.

As always, please ask questions or suggest topics for me to address.  Take care out there, and plant something!


Senior Biologist

Filtering Waterfalls and why they are important.

Salutations and such……

I get this question from both contractors and clients alike….

What’s with this giant plastic tub at the top of my waterfall? Do I really need it?

  Atlantic watergardens Big Bahama

 Aquascape Grande Biofalls

  Savio 16in Filterweir

Short answer….. Yup, you do need it, and it’s there to help filter the pond.


Longer answer…. These big tubs are there to house physical and biological filter elements that reduce your maintenance costs and foster a healthy biome.

The filtering waterfall box/biofalls is a great way to increase your filtering capacity of the pond.  Its sole purpose is to hold media that will house billions and billions of bacteria colonies, which consume and convert nutrients that would otherwise gladly grow algae in the pond proper.  The water for the pond is pumped into the tub and forced through the filter media. This is perfect habitat for the bacteria that is indigenous to your area and the supplemental bacteria products (Beneficial Bacteria) that you should be using as part of your maintenance program. (If you’re not using bacteria in your watergarden, SHAME ON YOU.) The more beneficial bacteria that you have growing and reproducing in your pond, the better it will look.

Most filtering waterfalls come with planting trays that sit around the edge or completely cover the top of the unit.  If they do not come standard in your kit, they are available here soon: (Aquascape 2500, Aquascape 6000). If the tub doesn’t have a tray made especially for it, fashioning planting trays can be accomplished with clay pots or planters with many large holes drilled into them.  Installing plants is ALWAYS a good idea and will increase your filtering capacity by elevendy billion times, so…. you know…. do that, ok.  (PLANTS! PLANTS! PLANTS! PLANTS!)

Moving on……..

If you are installing a disappearing falls, where there is no pond at the bottom of the waterfall, feel free to use one of the smaller weir boxes or baffled units that are easier to conceal in the landscaping.

Biofalls do increase the cost of your project as they are large, bulky and are sometimes a challenge to install.  When installing any waterfall tub or weir (or skimmer for that matter), be sure to compact (or tamp down) the soil underneath the unit to limit the potential for settling and frost damage/shifting.

There will be times where the tub is too big for the site. In that case, there are plenty of compact baffled weirs that will fit your situation. The biofalls type of tub does help improve the long-term health potential of the pond.

Maintaining the biofalls is not difficult. Once a season (during the spring clean out/startup), remove and clean the filter media with a hose or pressure washer.  The goopier they are, the more bacteria has grown on them, which is good.

Filter media:

The tubs will come with some filter pads and maybe some bags to fill with loose media.  Historically, we used lava rocks in bags for the filter media (that was awful and WAY TOO Heavy). Now we have cool Matala brand pads and lightweight loose media like bioballs and such, which makes maintenance easier…and and they probably function better too.  When the original media wears out, replacement media is available right here.

(Matala mats)                       (filter mats)                                    (bioballs)

Link for Atlantic watergarden     Cut to size rolls for all               Link to Aquascape brand filter
model filterfalls                           brands                                        media and bioballs


I pulled this pic from the web (I believe it’s a Savio product, but I may be wrong…. meh). Anyhoo, it diagrams well the layers of filtration in a filterfalls.  Drop them in the tub, let the water flow through the media and seed your pond with the beneficial bacteria to get you going in the right direction.

In closing, these filter-type waterfall boxes are beneficial. Their cost is offset by the utility of added filtration.

Once again, If you have any questions about this topic, or any other, please comment and I’ll get right back to you.

Thanks for reading!


Senior Biologist

Adding lights to your backyard watergarden and waterfall

What’s up, Lads and Lasses?



I believe that lighting up a watergarden so that it can be enjoyed after the sun sets is 75% of the bliss that one will get out of their koi pond/waterfall. Most of the day, we’re at work, not enjoying the pond…..why not light it up so it can be relished with an adult beverage and the company of those you hold dear?  Plus, if you invite the neighbors over and they see your perfectly lit and accented pond, they will be green with envy, and who among us doesn’t like that?  😉

The industry has turned almost exclusively to LED lights as they use a ton less power and are elevendy billion times more reliable.  These lights come in an ever-expanding array of styles and output, so choose wisely.  One of the great advantages of LED lighting is that you do not need to have multiple massive transformers to run your lights.  Get one 60-watt transformer (like this) and run up to 55, one-watt lights. (You do not want to use 100% of the wattage capacity of your transformer, as the length of your cables takes up some of the capacity too.)


“How many lights do I need to make my pond as awesomely awesome as possible without overdoing it?”

Well…that depends.  You do not want to over-light the pond. I find that subtle enhancements and allowing the pond/waterfall to look and feel different during the nighttime hours is fantastic…..It’s like having two ponds; one during the day and another at night.

Here are some quick guidelines I use when installing ponds and waterfalls.

NOTE: It’s easiest to remain within one brand for your lighting, as it is then easier to find replacements and/or additions that will work seamlessly with your other connection hardware.

First, Aquascape brand products:

Each drop in the waterfall/stream gets at least one puck light or 1-watt spotlight.  These areas are natural focal points and should be emphasized. If the drop is wider than 18in (or so) use a second light to illuminate from underneath, behind or from the side of the falling water.

Here’s a picture that I have grabbed from the web that is photoshopped really nicely (great work fellas…top notch). It illustrates the need for a second light beneath the waterfall.  See how only half of the falls is glowing? I would place another puck light (or spot light) in the falls to get maximum effect.

Aquascape 1 watt Spot Light

Aquascape 1 watt puck light

Be sure to light up main features of the pond.  If your stream has a long run, or some dramatic bends/meanders, add a spotlight or two to add some rippling water effect to the display. Light up some submerged boulders or aquatic plants.

Do not be afraid to use these lights as terrestrial lighting too.  A spotlight on a shrub/boulder/tree that is adjacent to the pond will blend the effect into your landscaping and add some texture to your display. Steer clear of total illumination.  You already know what the pond looks like during the day, so no massive flood lights…..I find subtle lighting works great to enhance the environment, creating a different feel then during the day.

Aquascape also carries brighter spotlights used for illuminating the pond proper.  These 3- and 6-watt lights are great for shining across open water, allowing you to see your fish and to finish off the lighting of the pond.

In this photo (also taken seamlessly from the web), you see the spotlights in the pond. I personally would have them positioned facing away from the most used areas of the yard. That way, when you are looking at the pond you do not see the source of the light.  You just see the otherworldly glow and lose yourself in the wonder of aquatic bliss.

(3watt spotlight)(6watt spotlight)

The Aquascape lights are good products, and more lights can always be added easily with their quick connect and easy splitter cords. (here).

Atlantic Watergardens Lights:

This brand has more variety of form and wattage than does Aquascape.  They also offer color-changing lights that are pretty damned cool too.

The same guidelines apply here.  The added fixtures allow you to get creative with your light placement.  The color-changing lights are superb for altering the lighting effect or to just show off to the Joneses next door.

This whole line is easily used, with quick disconnects, splitters, extensions, and transformers.

(Available here) I use this product line for most of my installs and find them reliable and easy to use and maintain.


Atlantic also carries soft white lights (here) and larger spots as well (here).

I may have missed a few links, so please explore all of the options on and search for all the lights and accessories that you may need. As always, please ask questions in the comments section or give us a call.

Everybody’s pond is different, and these lighting options are flexible enough to fill your needs.  So, get out there and make your pond the envy of the neighborhood!  You have my blessing and advice if/when you need it.


Thanks For Reading…..


Senior Biologist

Spring Pond Cleanout!

Spring pond cleanout:


Hello, welcome to my blog here at  I plan to periodically bring up subjects that are common to the pond industry and maybe delve a little into some less discussed areas that I find interesting and may help out the pond enthusiast too.

Saying that; lets discuss the spring pond cleanout……

Yes, you have to do it.

Yes, it’ll smell bad.

Yes, it should happen every year for ponds less than 20,000 gallons.

This is a horrible job, but it is vital for aesthetics, and fish health.  Small ponds and watergardens just cannot take care of themselves; no matter how much beneficial bacteria you use, these small waterbodies need to be refreshed every so often to make summer maintenance easier and less costly. The biomass that accumulates in the nooks and crannies of the pond are the source of nutrients for nuisance algae growth and potential pathogenic bacteria in ponds.  Therefore if you want a nice pond this year…… you must clean out the goo.


Things you’ll need:

  • Plastic totes or other large containers for your fish to wait out the process.
  • A pressure washer
  • Nets/buckets/ gloves/plastic leaf rake (or any other tools of destructing you think you may need to complete the task).
  • Waders
  • Cold water beneficial bacteria supplement.
  • Flexible hose and fittings compatible with your skimmer pump to drain pond water too someplace safe.
  • A small tarp and buckets

Begin by pulling skimmer pump and attaching hoses of the desired length to dispose of the pond water in the pond. You will be moving this pump around a lot so it doesn’t need to get in the deep spot right away.

As you are draining the pond fill your fish totes with pond water, and begin carefully netting out your fish.  This will get easier as the waterline recedes, but the sooner you get the fish out the less stress they’ll have to deal with.

Once the pond starts to drain proceed power washing the exposed rocks and removing any large debris and leaves that will clog the pump. This is also a good time to pull out and wash off any filter media in your system as coming out of winter, all of the good bacteria is mostly dead.

Once the pond level gets to the point that you are able to fish out all your fish, you may proceed to fill ½ way and empty the pond with a garden hose and pressure washer slowly removing the majority of the goo,

(organic soft sediment), leaves, dead frogs, snapping turtles, giant clods of algae, and unknown objects onto the tarp to be disposed of once they dry out.  This detritus, if you can allow it to dry out, is some of the best fertilizer on the planet.  Spread it on flowerbeds or wherever you want for some excellent jolt to your terrestrial gardens.

Proceed to fill and drain at least three times, or to the point that the pond water is mostly clear.  This is a good time to split (or cut back) any plants, do repairs, or restack/glue rocks and fish caves back together.

**Periodically check on your fish, make sure their water isn’t getting too hot, move then to shade and refresh water from the tap.  Having and aerator for these totes is necessary for large koi.**

Refill the pond for the final time and add pond salt (at about 1ppt), cold-water bacteria to biofalls and pond at double dose and reinstall waterfall pump and bacteria media.  The salt will help the fish develop a good protective slime coat to ward off infection, and the bacteria are needed to jumpstart the ecosystem for the season.

Reintroduce your fish slowly by acclimating them to the new pond water and temperature over about a half an hour.

There…. You did it, it was awful, but take pride in the fact that you will not need to spend so much time and money keeping you pond clean and clear this year.   Know that I am proud of you, and you have my permission to sit down with your favorite adult beverage and relax.

Thanks for reading, I’ll be by to scan the comments for any questions I can help out with and will be posting more in depth articles about pertinent issues soon.



Senior Biologist

Filamentous Algae

What is up my friends?

Filamentous algae:

Otherwise known as:

Horsehair, cotton candy, pond scum, moss (though there are aquatic mosses that can be a big issue too)…..

The nuisance forms of filamentous algae form heavy matts and/or slimy balls, and/or stick to rocks and wave in the streams and ponds edges.

The Filamentous algae that is prolific enough to become a problem are all colonial organisms… That is, they are many individual, multi-celled (most of the time) micro organisms living together.

There are many thousands of genera of green and blue-green (cyanobacteria) algae.

These are photosynthetic organisms. They excrete oxygen as a waste product (thanks for that btw) this process is also why they become an issue when they become overabundant.  All filamentous algae begin there lives attached to the bottom.  As the grow, the oxygen (and other gases) begin to accumulate underneath the matts as they form.  The collecting gases and buoyant biomass get to a point where it peals off of the bottom and floats to the surface.  This does two things…. It creates those floating matts we all love, and it makes way for the next generation to begin its life on the vacated bottom rocks/sediment.

The above information is important because it tells us why controlling them can be a challenge.  Filamentous algae can grow very quickly because it is a simple organism and can assimilate available nutrients at high rate because 100% of its surface area is capable of fueling growth.  This allows for rapid regrowth after treatments.  If even one cell is left alive, it will begin growing and multiplying immediately.

This also makes any treatment a temporary endeavor. Algae are not plants, they do not have roots or a fixed location, and therefore cannot be controlled systemically.  That is: one treatment will not control them for an entire season.  If there are enough nutrients and sunlight, the algae will regrow.

As I am wont to say…. Every pond is different.  Water chemistry, temperature, weather, biodiversity, and nutrient load all play a huge part in how ponds fare through the season.  So the rule of thumb is that there are no rules of thumb.  There are generic guidelines about dosage and a multitude of products out there to help control this scourge, but it will take some tinkering to find out what works for your pond and what will not.


Filamentous Algae Control:

If one allows the problem to get out of hand, algae control requires much detail and attention to potential changes in the water column.  Whether you have a back yard watergarden or a 3 acre pond….. Large algae blooms must be dealt with carefully.  If the bloom covers more than half of the pond, or inundates sensitive areas (special habitat,  spawning fish, or unique cover)  you should not treat the entire area at one time. As the heavy product volumes necessary to gain control and the associated oxygen deficit from the breakdown of the dead and dying algae will potentially consume too much oxygen in the water leading to a fish kill and other ecological degradations.

During times of large algae blooms treat 1/2 the area or less and wait several days for the algae to break up, then treat the next section.  This will ensure the survival of your fish and allow the ecosystem to rebound to a more stable state.

Once the matts emerge on the surface, know that the next generation is not far behind. All algaecides are contact killers and are most effective when broadcast on top of existing mats and churned into water where algae is regrowing from the bottom.  This way, you are controlling both the matts you see and the matts that would float to the surface next week.

Watergardens are easier as they have built in mixing apparatus that will transport the algicide to the problem. but it is still important to apply to areas that do not mix well to get a complete treatment.  Pleased not use copper based algicides on your koi, they will not thank you for it. (That is code for “they will die….and it’s all your fault”) use the oxidizers like (Algaefix)

Large ponds…. unless you are raising trout (see koi from above) the chelated copper algicides are the way to go.  (like this one)   Chelated copper algicides do not persist in the environment and with not bioaccumulate.  So please dose according to the label and you should be fine.

In both cases, whether it a watergarden or large pond, if the algae hasn’t turned brown and gone away with in 4-5 days, treat again because it didn’t work.  Increase your dose, or try a different algicide.  Each pond is different, and if yours has difficult conditions then a professional like myself should probably come out and take a look.  At the very least, give me a call/comment/email…. tell me what the problems are and I’ll steer you in the right direction.

Also in both cases, be sure to fire up your bacteria and enzyme regime a couple of days after the treatment; just about all algicides also kill the beneficial bacteria you have growing in the pond.

This is a large discussion that I have not explored fully here, but I hope that I’ve given you some idea in how to proceed and make you favorite waterbody pleasing and usable for the duration of the season. please contact me with questions so I can get you the answers your are searching for.


Thanks for taking the time….


Senior Biologist

Planktonic Algae

Good day all….

Planktonic Algae

Blue Green Algae (Cyanobacteria)                       Green Planktonic


They are widely diversified in form.

Planktonic algae are single celled organisms that live both solitary and colonially, and encompass a wide swath of the algal taxonomy…. They are very hard to control, and are most often best left alone. They are also a valuable part of the ecosystem. Otherwise known as phytoplankton, they inhabit the bottom of the food chain (along with zooplankton) for fish and other creatures of the depths. Most of the time the diversity of these wee folks makes for a balanced system, and allows for free competition for food and space, which is what I look for in healthy systems.

When conditions arise that lead to a monoculture (high nutrient load, heavy treating of weeds and algae, large runoff event, prolonged heat and sun exposure).  Too much of anything is bad.

The issue lies in which species is found in your particular waterbody.  Most genera (and species) are harmless and can controlled with the strategies described below. However, if you have a special few algal species (that are fairly common) in high concentrations, problems may ensue.

Some blue green algae (cyanobacteria) that are a common pest in small garden ponds and large ponds and lakes can be dangerous to higher lifeforms like fish and even people (microcystin toxin). While only harmful in large doses, the threat is real and must be taken seriously.  The big issue is that if you do not have a positive identification of these organisms before you treat, you risk the release of a toxin into the water as the algae die, potentially making the water poisonous.  If your see dead fish, or thick concentrations of Bluish Green soup, please get a sample tested to see if you have an issue that needs to be addressed.

Saying that…..If you have pea soup green water, there are ways to handle the problem.  My favorite for watergardens is installing an ultraviolet filter system (like this). This reduces to near zero the potential for a toxic bloom to run through your system. The UV clarifier exposes the single celled invaders to UV light rendering them inert.  It will never allow the populations of planktonic algae to rise to the level of toxicity no matter which species invades your system.  For larger systems (0.2 acres and larger), UV systems aren’t as practical.  Historically Planktonic blooms are dealt with by adding dye to water to limit light penetration and starve out the algae as it cycles through the water column, it is definitely worth a try as it is the cheapest potential solution available… (pond dye). If this doesn’t work (and I admit, most of the time it only helps a little) the following are good options for the control of persistent planktonic issues.

Sonic units:

Installing these units appropriately will control most algal species (including most filamentous as well).  They emit many amplitudes and frequencies of sonic waves. These waves disturb the interstitial fluids and organelles within individual algal cells, eventually killing them off.  These units are expensive but are a good option for the longterm control of planktonic algae.  Sonic units do not harm fish or people, they are silent and easy to install and maintain.

Silver ion filtration:

These units work like the UV systems listed in article above but you can link a couple of them together to lower the concentrations of planktonic algae (and other bacterial organisms like e coli). They require the install of and external pump as well, so they can get pricey. Here’s one sized for watergardens. (Iongen)


If your planktonic algae is a temporary issue or if its brand new to your system, you may be able to drop it out of the system by glomming it together and sinking it to the bottom.  Flocculants also grab excess phosphorus and other particles in the water column to improve water clarity.  ( here’s one) The link is to a product sized for watergardens. Please contact me for large pond products that do the job.

We’ll be adding all of these (and many more) products (specifically large pond products) to in the near future. Please contact me through the comments section or email: for more product info and advice. Over the next few months I will be reviewing all of these products on this blog to completely flesh out how they have worked for my clients here in the midwest. So stay tuned, and if you would like a particular issue of product talked about, by all means shoot me a line.

Thanks So Much…


Senior Biologist