Care & Feeding of Pond Fish
Keeping fish is a natural part of having a water garden. In addition
to their appeal as pets they are a part of your pond's ecosystem.
In order to maintain the health of your fish some basic precautions
are necessary. It is important to keep the right amount of fish for
the pond size, feed properly, and monitor the water. Since a backyard
pond is not a natural environment it is the responsibility of the
pond owner to govern the conditions.
How Many Fish Can I Have
The stocking level of the pond is critical to the health of your
fish. Too many fish leads to decreased oxygen levels and the extra
fish waste leads to ammonia and nitrite build-up. To a certain degree,
your fish load can vary based on your level of filtration. A pond
with an undersized filter will not be able to keep as many fish, while
an oversized filter will allow you a few extra fish. With an average-sized
filter, your preferred stocking level will be based on surface area
of the pond. For goldfish you can keep one average size fish for every
3-4 square feet of surface area. For koi, it should be limited to
one fish for every 10 square feet of surface area. For example; a
10 x 10 pond will have a surface area of 100 square feet (assuming
that it is a perfect rectangle). With an average filter this pond
could house up to 30 goldfish or 10 koi. Of course, keeping fewer
than this would make keeping good water quality even easier.
Fish Feeding Dos & Don'ts
There are two main aspects to properly feeding your fish. These are
feeding the right foods and feeding in the right amounts. Each time
you feed your fish, whether its three times a day or three times a
week, you need to make sure you feed only what they can eat in 5 minutes.
A little experimenting can teach you how much to feed. If, five minutes
after feeding, there is still uneaten food you know to not feed that
much next time.
Determining what and how often to feed your fish depends primarily
on water temperature. In warmer water (60-85 degrees) the metabolism
of the fish is high and they can be fed 2-4 times per day. At this
time you should be feeding a food with a high protein level such as
Legacy Variety Mix. If the water rises to 90 degrees or
above you should stop feeding. In spring and fall when your water
temperatures fall to 50-60 degrees, you should reduce feeding to once
every 1-2 days and feed a low protein food such as Legacy Cold Weather Food. When the temperatures drop to below 50 degrees stop
feeding the fish. On warm days the fish may become active and "beg"
for food. Don't be fooled. Stay strong and do not feed. If the fish
do need a little food, they will find enough growing in the pond.
The algae that coats the pond liner is all they need. These cold temperatures
slow the metabolism of your fish and food will not be properly digested.
It can take 3-4 days for the fish to digest the food. It's not worth
the fish's life to give it food.
Water quality is very important to the health of your fish. Poor
water conditions stress fish. A stressed fish is more susceptible
to disease. One of the most important things for water quality is
to make sure toxins are not getting in the water from fertilizers
or pesticides. Don't spray anything near the pond and make sure rain
run-off does not flow into the pond as this can carry these very toxic
chemicals. Some of the other factors in water can be tested, such
as pH, ammonia, and nitrites.
A pH level of 6.6 to 8.4 is safe. The idea range is 7.0 to 7.8. If
it becomes necessary to adjust the pH it should be done gradually
as a sudden pH can cause severe damage. Ammonia should be zero. Any
level of ammonia can be a problem. Note that ammonia is more toxic
in higher pH ranges.
The nitrite level in your pond water should be zero.
If your ammonia or nitrite level is high it tells you that you either
have too many fish or your filter is not doing its job adequately.
Another possibility is that your filter may not have had time to cycle
if it is a new pond. As with a new pond, a filter that has been shut
off for the winter will need time to mature. This can take several
weeks. A partial water change should be performed to dilute the high
ammonia or nitrite problem during this time.
It is best to set up a regular routine of water testing. Once a week
is recommended, more often if you are experiencing problems. Make sure
you test your pond at the same time of day each test. The pH level
can fluctuate throughout the day.
For ease in record keeping, we suggest that you print this Fish
Care Chart to keep detailed data on your pond water. (This is
a PDF file, Acrobat
Reader is required to open the page.)
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