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FAQs on Container Gardens

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Aquatic Gardens

Ponds, Streams, Waterfalls & Fountains:
Volume 1. Design & Construction
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by Robert (Bob) Fenner

Goldfish Filters 6/18/2013
Hi. I have questions regarding two types of filters in two different types of goldfish system.
The first system I have questions on is a basic indoor tank of 30 gallons.
It contains 1 redcap Oranda and a 350 gph bio wheel power filter. Do I need to clean the bio wheels? If so, how often? Do I need to replace the bio wheels? If so, how often do I replace them?
<Mmm, I'd leave them on permanently, never replace; or if you find yourself doing so, leaving the other media in place for weeks thereafter>
How often should I clean the carbon filters in this system?
<As often as you'd like... every week, few weeks. The carbon, though high quality from Marineland, gets exhausted within hours>
When should I replace the carbon filters? How often should I clean the whole filter system?
<I'd check on all weekly; when you do your water changes... IF you have multiple sets of the mechanical filter media, including the wheel... you can switch these out, purposely bleach, rinse, air dry between changes>
The second system I have is a plastic, above ground, outdoor pond system.
It is a 50 gallon system.
It is rated for outdoor use and is fish safe. It has a 325 gph, submersible flat box filter, a fountain, a pump, and two airstones. The filter itself consists internally of a course <coarse, homonym> sponge, a fine sponge, and some smooth, pea-sized gravel. I change the water and clean out the tank once a week.
How often do I need to rinse the sponges?
<About this often during the warm months (when water stays above about 55 F.>
 Do I rinse them both at the same time?
<Yes; can be done>
 Or do I rinse them one at a time?
<Not so much a worry here w/ ruining your biofilter... can be done on the same day>
How often, if at all, should I clean the whole filter (the pump included)?
<I wouldn't do this ever>
 Do I need to add a carbon filter pad?
<Mmm, no; you could though; would benefit by having cleaner, clearer water... best to put said carbon in a purposed Dacron media bag... same sources as the carbon itself>
If so, how often do I rinse it?
<Only when first installing>
 How often do I need to replace the carbon filter pad in the pond system?
<Mmm, every month or so during the warm season>
Thank you for your time and patience.
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

50 Gallon Pond and 1 Comet in Arizona Desert, container pond stkg. chatting  /Bob     4/4/13
   I have a rotational molded, plastic, 50 gallon water feature/pond combination with a fountain feature. I called the company and asked if it was fish safe.
<Likely is polyethylene and is>
They said it is. I asked them if it needed a liner. They said no. So my pond has no liner. The pond itself is above ground and rectangular in shape.
<Umm, well... would be better in the shade and below grade/ground. Fifty gallons is very little volume in a highly changeable thermal regime/AZ>
 It is in the shade for most of the day and is on a flat surface. The surface area on the tank appears to be appropriate for fish keeping. It is outdoors.
   I have a submersible flat box filter.
<Mmm, most of these are simple mechanical... not useful for biological systems>
 The fountain feature and the filter are attached to a 325GPH submersible pump. The combination is said by the manufacture to be able to cycle 50 to 250 gallons. The whole thing came as a kit and is a Tetra Brand.
<A good brand/make/r>
 They are sold at Doctors Foster and smith and other stores that sell fish supplies. The inside of the filter has a fine sponge and a secondary course sponge. When I first installed this filter it floated and would not sink.
<Ah yes; likely have to squeeze the air out of both filter media underwater>
We called the company. They said to put in some smooth, pea-sized gravel we had. The gravel was of course safe for fish. I put in all of a 5 pound bag we had. There was plenty of room in the filter for the gravel.
<Good addition>
It did not seem to adversely effect the filter. I have a little pool thermometer in the tank to monitor the temperature.
   Today I got a tiny 2 inch comet goldfish.
<Mmm, how long has this all been up and running? Should wait a few weeks before adding fish>
I know full well the fish will not be tiny forever. I know comets can attain the size of 12 inches in length. Not including their lovely tails.
And I know not to keep single tailed fish, such as a comet, with fancy (also known as double tailed) types. That is why I put the comet I got in the 50 gallon outdoor pond (mentioned above) and not in with my other fancy goldfish (Rose). She is a redcap Oranda. And I also heard that fancy goldfish do not tolerate extreme heat or cold well, and you need to take them inside during the winter. I live in the Arizona desert. Arizona is a place of extreme temperature changes.
So placing Rose in an outdoor pond was out of the question. So I opted to try my luck with the hardier, but still beautiful, comet goldfish. Right now my new comet is all white. But it has a peculiar gold to orange hue that makes me suspicious that it will eventually turn all orange or maybe red.
<One can't tell when they're small>
   My question is, based on what I have been able to tell you, will my new comet do alright in my new pond with the Arizona desert's extreme changes in temperature?
Thank you for your time.
<Only time can tell... I'd be reading re cycling... and being very scant re feeding for now. Please read here:
and as much of the linked files at top that you have time for. Bob Fenner>
Re 50 Gallon Pond and 1 Comet in Arizona Desert  /Rick     4/4/13

Thank you for your previous advice.
<Hi Cam, Rick here. I'm going to chime in on this since I also live in the Arizona desert, but I expect Bob will also have some things to say.>
   I agree the pond would be better set below ground. But that is not
possible where I live. The only place I have for the pond with shade is on our backyard porch, where it currently resides. The biggest volume of water I could possibly obtain for a single comet is 50 gallons. Some of the sources I read online suggested 29 gallons. While others suggested 180 gallons. One suggested 50 gallons would be the best place to start for 1 goldfish. So I picked the middle range and went for 50 gallons. I am sorry I could not get more water or a place below ground with shade. But the tiny space on the porch is the only place that this pond would work. I only plan on having the 1 fish in the pond.
<Here's the problem. Your comet is a cold water fish and your tank is going to get hot.  I had a similar sized container pond on my back porch in the shade filled with livebearers last summer.  We had 5 days over 115F degrees last summer and the water simply got too hot for the fish and they all died. These were fish that normally live in water a good 20 degrees warmer than what your comet should live in.  I had even put up some temporary shade and floated Styrofoam on the surface of the water and it still got too hot.  If warm water fishes can't take it, how can a cold water fish? A comet just can't tolerate our summers without some way to keep the water cool, and you haven't accommodated that. In fact, a pond has to be set *minimum* 3 feet into the ground to be deep enough to have water at the bottom cool enough for goldfish, comets, and Koi to survive in this desert.
 It's just a fact of biology and if you keep the fish outside in the summer under the conditions you are providing, it's very unlikely to survive.>
And the pond cycled 12 hours before I added the 1 fish.
<I don't know what this means. A body of water cycles until it is done cycling, in other words, when you test for ammonia, nitrite and nitrates and the ammonia and nitrite readings are zero, it's done.  You can sometimes shorten that by using material from another tank, or there now is available bottled bacteria that will speed up the cycle. I've had mixed results from the same bottle using that stuff on tanks set up in parallel.
One tank cycles fast, another does not, no idea why.  But, the only way a pond cycles in 12 hours is if it is seeded somehow.>
I read on many sources that the cycling would not begin without a fish.
<Not exactly correct. Read here:
 I have been checking on my comet all day and plan to do so again tomorrow and always. The fish seems fine. It is active, not hanging around at the surface, or at the bottom of the tank. It doesn't appear to be having breathing difficulties. No reddening of the body or gills that I can tell.
<The ammonia concentration doesn't usually start to show up until the second day. By then, you'll have to do some pretty large water changes daily until the pond cycles completely. Using a test kit is the best way to tell, not by using the fish as a canary in a coal mine.>
 I also have one of those bacterial starter cultures they sell at pet shops.
<See my previous comments. I've had inconsistent results from those products.>
Many of the internet sources I found say this helps new ponds and tanks to cycle to some extent. I also have a test kit and will be testing for water quality first thing in the morning. If the ph level is too high ( including nitrate levels, nitrite levels, ammonia levels, etc. .) I will be making the recommended 10% to 20% water change.
<Your pH will be around 7.8 if you live near Phoenix, and probably similar in the rest of the state. The pH is the least of your worries as the shop almost certainly kept the comet in tap water. It's the ammonia you have to watch immediately and nitrite a bit later.>
And I will be doing a lot of temperature, water quality, and fish monitoring tomorrow as well.
<Tomorrow is not the temperature you need to be concerned about, it's the summer weeks before monsoon season that will heat the water to problematic temperatures, but yeah, keep an eye on the temperature to get a feel for how the pond behaves. You will almost certainly have to take the pond indoors from about mid-May through September.>
I will be watching for the next 1-2 weeks at least. Is 2 weeks sufficient time to allow
for basic cycling to be complete?
<Maybe. You have to allow the test kit to tell you that. Could be quick with the bottled culture, or it may fail and take as much as 4 to 6 weeks.>
Thank you for your help.
<I know a lot of this is not what you wanted to hear, but I'd rather have you take precautions to protect the fish from the summer heat now, rather than have you go through all this work only to lose the fish at the end of May. - Rick>
Re 50 Gallon Pond and 1 Comet in Arizona Desert  /Rick     4/4/13
Thank you for your replies.
<Hi Cam. No problem.>
I am sorry Rick. But I can't put the pond in the ground.
<I saw that from the email Bob responded to. I'm working under the assumption of rental or condo.>
 I can't put it inside either.
<Maybe not the pond, but the fish...?>
I only have 2 options I could try to keep my much desired comet alive.
<More options than this, really.>
I have a 3 gallon plastic bucket. I could put the fish indoors in this. Of course this would only be temporary.
<Yeah, not a good solution and very stressful.>
And only when it gets too hot during the day. I can put an air stone connected to a pump in the water to get the needed oxygen into the water. Then I would place the fish back in the water when the temperature is at a range the fish can survive at.
<The water might be difficult to bring down to that temperature even at night in July.>
I could temporarily place the comet in a 30 gallon tank containing my fancy goldfish, Rose. I could then take the comet out during feeding time and place it in the bucket (mentioned above) to feed it if needed. Then return it after feeding to Rose's tank. Then return it to the pond when it is at a safe temperature.
<Constantly moving the fish is not a good idea.>
Both these options would stress the poor fish. But I can't think of any other options that involve bringing the fish indoors.
<Neither is a great solution. If it were me, I'd be haunting the Goodwill stores looking for the largest tank you can find as a second indoor tank to use during summer.  You can easily build a wooden frame with Home Depot cull 2x4s and a piece of plywood to set the tank on the floor.  Keep it set up when it's too hot and tear it down and store for the winter.  The comet
can survive the winters here outdoors, even in January. Cold water fish, remember.>
Would either of these options work?
<Not well, and the labor-intensive solution will only be acceptable for so long before you get tired of it, or get preoccupied with other things.
Pretty soon you've gone several days without the maintenance without intending to. Risky.>
As far as outside options go I am doing the following:
Added air stones to increase oxygen content.
Have a fountain running to help cool the water and add more oxygen.
Added floating fake plants to add shade.
Placed the pond on a cool concrete surface that is level and in the shade most of the day.
<All of this is beneficial regardless of temperature.>
The following is what I plan to do to lower pond temperatures:
Put in new water that has been treated to remove chlorine and chloramine.
Place floating bottles of treated frozen water in the pond to cool it down.
Will what I am already doing and plan to do be enough to save my comet in the pond?
<Again, labor intensive and the joy in doing this will wear off eventually.
Remember a healthy goldfish can live for many years.>
Thank you.
<Welcome. Rick>
Re 50 Gallon Pond and 1 Comet in Arizona Desert  /Rick     4/5/13
Thank you so much for your reply.
I would do whatever I could to keep the fish alive regardless of if it makes me happy or not. And I really have no place to put a large second tank in my home. It is a regular 2 story house I live in. But I must share my home with 2 other people. Right now as it is I am confined to one room to place any tank at all in inside the house in. And that already has Rose's tank in it. No more room in the 1 room I have for another tank. Any other advice on keeping the comet alive outdoors during summer in AZ would be most welcome. Do you think a chiller system would work for an outdoor pond?
<If you are intent on having a pond and cannot move things indoors I think a chiller is your *only* solution, but they aren't cheap.  (You might want to check the used equipment dealer on Cave Creek Road in Phoenix.) The only issue here is that you have to keep it clean and free of dust, and watch for dust storms especially.  The nice thing about a chiller is that a few years down the road, you already own one of the most important (and expensive) pieces of equipment for keeping a marine aquarium in this climate.>
Thank you for your time.
<Welcome. Rick>
Re: 50 Gallon Pond and 1 Comet in Arizona Desert  /RMF     4/5/13
Thank you for your previous advice.
   I agree the pond would be better set below ground. But that is not possible where I live. The only place I have for the pond with shade is on our backyard porch, where it currently resides. The biggest volume of water I could possibly obtain for a single comet is 50 gallons. Some of the sources I read online suggested 29 gallons. While others suggested 180 gallons. One suggested 50 gallons would be the best place to start for 1 goldfish. So I picked the middle range and went for 50 gallons. I am sorry I could not get more water or a place below ground with shade. But the tiny space on the porch is the only place that this pond would work.
<Do look about; on WWM, the Net, books on container water gardening: There are species of fishes, and plants that are much more appropriate than goldfish, particularly comets>
 I only plan on having the 1 fish in the pond. And the pond cycled 12 hours
<Not long enough for biological>
before added the 1 fish. I read on many sources that the cycling would not begin without a fish. I have been checking on my comet all day and plan to do so again tomorrow and always. The fish seems fine. It is active, not hanging around at the surface, or at the bottom of the tank. It doesn't appear to be having breathing difficulties. No reddening of the body or gills that I can tell.
I also have one of those bacterial starter cultures they sell at pet shops.
Many of the internet sources I found say this helps new ponds and tanks to cycle to some extent. I also have a test kit and will be testing for water quality first thing in the morning. If the ph level is too high ( including nitrate levels, nitrite levels, ammonia levels, etc. .) I will be making the recommended 10% to 20% water change. And I will be doing a lot of temperature, water quality, and fish monitoring tomorrow as well. I will be watching for the next 1-2 weeks at least. Is 2 weeks sufficient time to allow for basic cycling to be complete?
<Not usually; not even w/ the addition of a purposeful bacteria culture added... Do keep reading. BobF>
Thank you for your help.
Re: 50 Gallon Pond and 1 Comet in Arizona Desert

Thank you for your reply.
What species would you suggest I use Bob? And what can I do, other than brining the comet indoors or buying a chiller, to save the goldfish in the pond outside?
Thank you?
 Re: 50 Gallon Pond and 1 Comet in Arizona Desert

Thanks for the help Bob.
Would a Betta fish be suitable for my outdoor pond in the spring through fall?
I know winter would be too cold for a Betta.
Would a sunfish work in this pond? If so which species would you recommend?
<... A Betta would work; I'd keep Macropodus all year long though. B>
Re: 50 Gallon Pond and 1 Comet in Arizona Desert

If I keep the paradise fish (Macropodus opercularis), will I have to keep the pond heated in the winter, when the temperature gets below 60 ferenhight?
<... try the Net>
Re: 50 Gallon Pond and 1 Comet in Arizona Desert     4/6/13

Thank you so much! I shall try and locate an appropriate chiller. Thank you!
<Good luck. - Rick>
Re: 50 Gallon Pond and 1 Comet in Arizona Desert
If I remove the filter and the comet, would a Betta fish work in the pond during the summer?
<It's fallacy that Bettas do not need filtration. An air-driven sponge filter would be the best choice.  The fountain will cause problems, however. Bettas like still water and anything with a fountain will have currents the Betta won't like. On the other hand, a Betta is easy enough to bring indoors when it gets too hot.  I like the direction you are thinking, though. Bettas do like warmer water, just not a lot of current. - Rick>
Re: 50 Gallon Pond and 1 Comet in Arizona Desert
Before I answer this one , I want to comment on something I saw in a previous email tha tBob answered.  You asked about keeping sunfish in your pond. The answer is NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! in Arizona!  Sunfishes are restricted species and you need a special license from Game and Fish to keep them. To get a license, you need a legitimate reason, and "pet" is not considered a legitimate reason.  Actually, Arizona has a LOT of restricted species, some of which might surprise you.  See here:
http://www.azgfd.com/pdfs/inside_azgfd/all_azgfd_laws.pdf  search for "sunfish." The third occurrence is in the list of restricted fishes.>
I found information on the Net for zones where ice forms on the pond for coldwater fish. And I found advice that suggests taking the tropicals indoors in the winter. But nothing specific to AZ zones and the possibility of keeping tropicals in heated ponds year round.
<Arizona deserts have unusual weather compared to the rest of the US and Europe. Most tropicals indoors in the winter or with heater, but the summer is the real issue. That isn't true for most places.>
I live in the AZ desert. So there is little concern for the pond freezing solid.
<Worst you'll probably get will be a rare thin layer of ice that will melt by afternoon.>
The only concern I have is the water getting to cold for any tropical fish. I could manage to get a Betta indoors during the winter. But a paradise
fish would require more space for the winter than what I have available.
   Can tropical fish survive winters in a small (50 gallon), above ground pond if they have a heater?
Can you use an aquarium heater instead of a pond heater since it is only a small volume of water?
<Yes, if the cord and outlet are protected from the elements, but do make sure you have it connected to a GFI outlet.. - Rick>
Re: 50 Gallon Pond and 1 Comet in Arizona Desert
Found a review for an aquarium heater from a guy in AZ. He said he got the heater for the tropicals in his pond. He said it worked. Think a heater would warm the paradise fish (or the Betta) in my little pond enough, if I left them in the pond for the winter with the heater running?
<Probably. See previous response. - Rick>
Re: 50 Gallon Pond and 1 Comet in Arizona Desert     4/6/13
I just found out I cannot get a chiller! To expensive to purchase and run according to the other members of my household. Darn! So close to a solution.
<Yeah, that's why I didn't offer it as a solution until you asked about it.>
I was talking with Bob today as well. He recommended a paradise fish. I already asked Bob this question. But maybe you could answer it for me too. I
have a 50 gallon above ground pond, as mentioned earlier. I live in AZ so the water rarely freezes here. I have heard for an on line review of an aquarium heater. In this review some fellow in AZ managed to keep tropical fish alive during winter, in his small pond. He used an aquarium heater to do this. aI could bring a Betta fish indoors during the winter months. But a paradise fish would require too much space to bring it inddors during the winter. Do you think I could keep a paradise fish (maybe even a Betta) alive outside in the winter if I used a heater since I have only a small volume of water?
<I think a heater will work well in this pond in winter. I don't think winter is the problem, though. Summer is what you should be worried about.
See previous responses for more detail. - Rick>

I have a question.
Rosey red minnows... more chatting   4/8/13
. I heard from one source on the Net they can survive a
temperature range of 39 to 100 ferenghit. <Fahrenheit>
<I looked the fish up in Dr. Axelrod's Atlas (Pimephales promelas) and this book indicates ideal temperature is 64 degrees Fahrenheit.  I found the same online information as you did, probably explained by the fact that this species has been a feeder for many many years and only the strong survive in such deplorable conditions. So, the feeder strain of the species may have evolved into a wide temperature tolerance.>
I understand they will not survive
indefinately at these temperatures unless kept cool. I already made plans to
keep them as cool as possible. But aside from keeping them cool in summer,
would they survive in my plastic, above-ground tank (which is compleet with
a strong filter, fountain, and airstones)?
<If you can keep the temperature down they should be fine in a 50 gallon container. They like plants, rocks and driftwood.  I've also heard they are not all that difficult to breed.>
<Second query appended below>
Would a fancy goldfish and 1 rosey red minnow get along in a 29 gallon
<According to this WWM article
15-20 gallons per goldfish, which is consistent with Axelrod, so you should be able to add several of the minnows no problem.>
Would the fancy goldfish (which is a redcap Oranda) be able to get enough food with the 1 minnow in the tank?
<You'll have to try it and see. You can always feed the minnows on one side
of the tank and then feed the goldfish on the other side once the minnows
are preoccupied, though it might take a week or two to train the Oranda
where to go.>
Would the tank be overcrowded if I put the minnow in it with my current
fancy goldfish?
Would I still have to get 2 more Rosey reds if I put the 1 Rosey red in
the goldfish?
<I think you can do this no problem. However, DO please quarantine the minnows first. As feeders, they are often disease carriers. - Rick>
re: 50 Gallon, Above-ground Pond and Rosy Red Minnows, fdg.    4/9/13

<Hi Cam, Consolidating 4 queries.>
1) Do you need to feed rosy red minnows in the winter, in ponds, if there is no other food available for them?
<Of course.>
2) Hello.
Do you need to feed rosy red minnows in the winter, in ponds, if there is no
other food available for them?
Thank you.
3) What are yearly feeding requirements for rosy red minnows, in my small pond, with no natural food available?
4) Hello.
I live in the AZ desert. I have a question.
Feeding rosy reds every year in my small, outdoor, plastic pond. There are no natural foods available for them. There are no natural plants. It is a new pond.
What and when do I feed the rosy reds over the course of a year?
In spring?
In summer?
In fall?
In winter?
Do I feed them like I would a goldfish in an outdoor pond?
Thank you.
<Cam, A quality veggie flake should do well for them, with occasional frozen food as a treat.  Feed more when the temperature goes up. In winter, you probably only need to feed every couple of days.  Eventually they should be able to eat algae and aufwuchs that will grow in the pond, but still need some regular feeding for nutritional reasons.  This website:
has a lot of information about caring for the rosy red minnow.
- Rick>
Thank you so much for your reply! <Welcome>  I am ever so glad you replied.
<It's volunteer work so response is not always immediate, alas.>
The only advice I could find on rosy reds was pond minnows and general feeding for aquariums. I found a Net source that said rosy reds were pond minnows. And another that said not to feed pond minnows in winter. But I also heard from another source that the minnows would live off insects and plants in the pond. I have none of these things in my pond and may never have them.
<You'll have insects because you have water outdoors, and algae will inevitably grow.  You may not need to feed much at all in winter as the metabolism of the fish does slow down significantly, but keep in mind your winter is milder than most places in the US.> I actually was under the impression that I was not supposed to feed the poor rosy reds, until you wrote back. <Just be careful not to overfeed. If they aren't taking the food, cut way way back on it. Use common sense. But I would still feed on occasion just to diversify the diet.>
Thank you so much! 
<Welcome. - Rick>

This is Rose, the fancy goldfish I mentioned to you 
<Nice. - Rick>

Thank you so much! If the comet does not make it, perhaps I can succeed with a paradise fish or a Betta in my pond year round. Thank you.
<Maybe. Keep in mind all we discussed.- Rick>Ah. So a Betta would be my best bet, since a paradise fish would require
much water for me to fit in my 1 room. Am I right in my guess, given my
<I think so assuming you can minimize the current in the pond. - Rick>
You won't believe this, but those members of my household I mentioned thin
even the heater will be too expensive to run during the winter months! I am

immensely frustrated.
<You're probably looking at a 100-watt heater maximum. Are you not
contributing to the electric bill?>
If I float ice in the pond all summer, add new cooler water when needed,
monitor the temperature constantly, do you think the tiny comet goldfish I

originally got will survive the brutal AZ summer outdoors? I am very
desperate for any help you can offer here. This above ground pond of 50
gallons already has aeration and a fountain going. I may have to turn the
pond into a very large planter for potted plants and garden vegetables, if

the comet does not survive somehow.
<Well, with all that intervention you might get it to survive a summer.
There's really only one way to find out. Good luck with it. - Rick>
This is a photo of the pond I have spoken so much about with you.
<Nice. I think if you keep the fountain on one end, the Betta will have
places with low current on the other end, but do give the Betta plenty of
plants to hide under. They like that and it will give protection from
birds. - Rick>
Here is a picture of the little comet I have spoken to you about.
<Thanks for sharing. - Rick>
Thank you for your assistance and comments on my photos.    4/6/13
I was told I could not get a heater for my outdoor pond either. I hope to
keep the comet I told you about alive this summer by making water changes,

running the aeration system and fountain, and floating ice in the pond. You

think this will be enough to keep the comet alive in the pond?
<You can try. Only one way to find out, really. - Rick
PS: Let's try to consolidate these into fewer emails.>>

Very Small Container Pond in Arizona 9/13/12|
<Hi Cam. I'm consolidating your three emails into one response. 1st email.>
Will least killifish (Heterandria formosa) eat hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum)?
What fish will eat hornwort?
<Not likely, and they don't eat much anyway.>
Thank you.
<2nd email>
I live in the Arizona desert.
<As do I.>
Can dwarf Sagittaria (SAGITTARIA SUBULATA) be grown in a small, outdoor pond (about 6 gallons)?
<You can try it. Not sure if it can take the heat. See here:
Would it make a good oxygenating plant for a 6 gallon pond?
<Your oxygen is going to come from surface agitation just like in an aquarium. All plants produce oxygen in the daylight, but they also consume oxygen at night.>
Would the least killifish (Heterandria formosa) eat dwarf Sagittaria?
<Nah, they graze algae.>
Thank You.
<3rd email>
Is it okay to use sand in my pond?
<As long as it's clean, like playground or pool pump filter sand.>
Will have least killifish, 1 dwarf water lily, and dwarf Sagittaria.
My pond will be 6 gallons.
<In Arizona? You'll have least Killie soup with vegetables after the first 110 degree day.>
My pond will be a barrel pond.
My pond will have a liner.
I will not be using gravel.
<A six-gallon pond is too small to maintain temperature, especially in the Arizona desert. You might get away with it through the winter, but the least Killies will never make it through a summer. I lost a bunch of Endler's in a 20-gallon pond during that 10-day stretch of 110+ degree days this past August, and that pond was in the shade all day.
- Rick
Re: Very Small Container Pond in Arizona 9/13/12

What size pond would you recommend?
<Hi Cam. If I do another container pond, I doubt it will be smaller than 50 gallons. The more water you have, the more energy it takes to heat it up. 
Most of the successful ponds I've seen out here  are either permanent very large ponds or larger containers, like horse trough sized.- Rick>
Re: Very Small Container Pond in Arizona 9/13/12

sorry for this second reply, but more questions have come up.
would the 6 gallon pond and its occupants I plan survive frost?
<Mmm, would have to "come on" very gradually. If it were me/mine, I'd drain the system down enough to move it indoors, then refill, to a garage for overwintering>
Would they survive an Arizona hard freeze?
And would they survive temperatures that can get to 32 to 69 degrees Fahrenheit?
Thank you.
<Again... I'd place all near a building, in shade... to discount swings in short-term temp. change. BobF>
Desert Heat and Aeration 9/13/12

I live in the Arizona desert
I plan on a 6 gallon container garden with fish.
I plan to keep least killifish (Heterandria formosa).
I was told by your staff I would need a larger container due to the strong heat in my state.
The only problem here is that 6 gallons is all I have to work with.
<Can be made to work>
I read you can aerate (pardon if my spelling here is wrong) the water to help cool it.
<A little>
Would a battery powered air pump or aerator (like the type used for live bait in fishing) keep the oxygen in the water during the hottest days (like from 89 to 124 degrees Fahrenheit) in the water so the fish would survive?
<IF the system were in the shade, and out of the sun, likely so. A better choice would be a canister filter, or inside power filter if electricity is nearby>
Is there anything else I could do to keep this tiny pond cool during summer?
<Likely all else is impractical. B>
Floating Bottles of Ice In Tiny Pond 9/13/12

I live in the Arizona desert
I plan on a 6 gallon container garden with fish.
I plan to keep least killifish (Heterandria formosa).
I was told by your staff I would need a larger container due to the strong heat in my state.
The only problem here is that 6 gallons is all I have to work with.
Would floating bottles of ice in my tiny pond help keep it cool?
Is doing this a good idea to try?
<It/this might be of use in an emergency. B>
Re: Desert Heat and Aeration    9/14/12

How could I make a 6 gallon pond work in Arizona?
<Already answered: Yes>
Re: Desert Heat and Aeration    9/14/12

I cannot add a filter to this 6 gallon. How do I make this work with no filter?
<Constant vigilance, light feeding, weekly water changes>
Re: Desert Heat and Aeration   9/14/12

Would a sponge filter work in a 6 gallon container pond that needs low filtration speeds?
<Very well>
Lily Question   9/14/12

Would the lily Nymphaea 'Pygmaea Helvola' survive in a pot with sand if root tabs are used?
If not, what is the correct soil type to use for this species?
Thank you.
<Please learn to/use the search tools on WWM. B>
Warming the Water Without a Heater    9/17/12

I plant on not using electrical items with my small pond. The pond will be about 6-8 gallons.
<Obviously too small for fish. So this pond is like a water feature? With just a few aquatic plants? If so, provided it doesn't actually freeze, most pond plants should be fine without a heater.>
It will be inside a container. And It must stay outside. How do you keep ponds warm in cold weather with no heater in Arizona? Would adding luke-warm dechlorinated water help? Could I float warm water in a bottle to warm it up?
<I suppose you could, but why bother? Given this pond doesn't have fish in it, there's no particular reason to use a pond heater (pond heaters DON'T heat the water, but instead heat a very small bit at the top, keeping it ice-free, so it doesn't freeze over completely, allowing oxygen to get in).
But 6-8 gallons is so small that the rate of heat loss (and in summer, heat gain) will be so rapid there'll be little/no chance of moderating rapid temperature swings. Most folks with water features simply switch them off in winter, remove such plants as they don't think will survive any frost or ice, and then rebuild in spring. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Warming the Water Without a Heater    9/17/12

This pond will have fish in it. Very small fish. I plan to keep least killifish (Heterandria formosa). Will I be able to keep the pond warm for them in winter without a heater?
If so, how?
<Honestly? Well, even a 6-8 gallon aquarium is very small, and barely adequate for Heterandria formosa, let alone a pond. Basically, it's a puddle, and you're asking how to keep fish in a puddle. How is the pond filtered? Let's assume for some reason you have an 8-gallon pond together with an external filter of some sort, plus a bunch of plants to help provide shade and moderate water quality problems. During winter, if the water temperature drops below, say, 10 degrees C, then you would bring your Heterandria formosa indoors and keep them in an aquarium of similar size.
You can't heat a pond outdoors. However big the heater, the Planet Earth is even bigger, so any coldness outdoors will sap heat right out of the pond.
Make sense? I suppose the best you could do would be to cover the pond with a glasshouse of some sort, and use a thermometer to watch water temperature, again with the knowledge that Heterandria formosa is a subtropical fish that shouldn't be exposed to very cold water. Your key problems are that such a small volume of water will [a] change temperature very quickly and [b] be too shallow not to ice solid. If ice is a problem in your area, then a pond should be at least 90 cm/3 ft deep. Less than that and the fish won't have any relatively warm water underneath the ice.
Honestly, much easier to keep your fish indoors during winter, then let them outside in summer while it's warm. Have done this myself with things like Corydoras paleatus. Of course the problem with Heterandria formosa is that it's so tiny you'll have a hard time gathering them all up in autumn, especially the males. Do look at the natural range of this species, and compare the climate in its natural habitat (Atlantic coastline, North Carolina south to Florida then west through Louisiana) to the climate where you live in terms of highs and lows. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Fish In the Container Pond 9/18/12

<Hello Cam>
I live in the Arizona desert.
I am planning a 6 gallon container pond.
Its dimensions are 16"w x 16"d x 7"h
There will be no filter, heater, or de-icer.
This pond will not have electricity available.
I Plan to add the following plants:
Sagittaria subulata
Limnobium laevigatum
I would like to add fish to this small container pond.
I have two species in mind.
Heterandria formosa and a Betta fish.
I will be placing one of these species, not both, in the container pond
<Good. The Betta would eat the H. formosa.>
I plan on taking both these species indoors during the winter.
Which species do you think would do better in the tiny container pond I plan?
Are there any other species  that would work in this tiny container pond?
<Let's look at the two species in question. Heterandria formosa is a US native livebearer that prefers a little cooler water than many livebearers, though I have personally kept it in water with a temperature in the low 80s Fahrenheit. The Betta (I assume you mean splendens) is a labyrinth fish that prefers water a bit warmer.  Given that you plan to leave the pond outdoors in the summer and you will not be aerating the pond, there is definitely going to be a problem with dissolved oxygen. For that reason alone, the Betta would be a better choice since it can take air from the surface.  I still think you are going to overheat in the summer, and this will be a problem for almost any fish. You will need to monitor that very closely and
possibly bring the pond indoors for June, July and August.
Unfortunately, the fishes native to your region that can take the heat are pretty much all endangered species, so they are not legal to own.  An alternative species that would have a much better chance of survival is the Australian Desert Goby.
These are extremely resilient fish that can tolerate water temperatures of 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  They are brackish, but they can be kept in the very hard water that comes from the tap in Arizona, though they may need salt to breed.  The main disadvantage to this goby is that these fish are annuals, living only about 12-14 months.  That means if you want to keep
them, you absolutely must breed them. It isn't difficult, but it does require a setup.  They are not easy to find, however.
- Rick>
Re: Y/our AZ friend w/ the tiny outdoor container pond    9/18/12

Gabaldon is local to me.  Nice lady.
I'll get on the query shortly.
<Ahh, I thank you. B>
Re: Fish In the Container Pond - 9/18/12

Thank you for your reply. <Welcome>
 I think I'll try a Betta fish with careful monitoring outside.
<Good luck.>
 I will have another 11 gallon tank setup indoors for this fish in the winter.
 If things go bad outside I'll keep the fish in this tank year round.
<Ah, good plan.>
 Thank you for your advice and time.
<My pleasure. - Rick>
Container Garden and rainwater and sprinkler water 9/20/12

I plan on making a small (6 gallon) container garden.
It will contain 1 Betta fish.
How do you protect your container pond and fish from rain and sprinkler water?
<Keep it under a covered patio?>
What should I do if rain water or sprinkler water gets in the container pond (especially if the fish is still in the pond)?
<Two cases. (1) Rain: In your climate, this is usually monsoon rains and you may have to scoop some water out of the pond if you get a hard rain.  (2) Sprinklers: You have some control over this. Try to put the pond where the sprinklers don't spray. If it must be sprayed, try to minimize it.  I don't think you have much to worry about in terms of chlorine as the droplet size from the sprinklers should be enough to drive it off while it flies through the air.  With both rain and sprinklers, I think there is a bigger problem, and that's overflow.  Keep the water line well below the top, which you need to do to prevent the Betta from jumping anyway. From the fish's point of view, I doubt it cares much if it's raining or not.>
Thank you.
<Welcome. - Rick>

Planning a Tiny Pond   9/12/12
Lately I have been considering placing a small pond in my backyard.
I did some research and discovered container ponds.
I did some more research and discovered I could make a pond as small as 5 gallons.
<You can, could... needs to be placed in a spot where it's afforded protection from "the elements", to discount variation in temperature et al.>
I discovered you can grow water gardens in plastic buckets.
I have one fish in mind to put in the 5 gallons already (least killifish, Heterandria formosa). <Heterandria> Apparently a colony of these very small fish can live in 5 gallons of water and can live in ponds. They apparently prefer no movement in the water. And provided you have a planted pond they do not require a filter. Just water changes twice a week.
I plant on adding hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum) and a small water lily (Nymphaea pygmaea alba) to my pond to help with water quality and oxygenation.
If I add a pond liner to a 5 gallon plastic bucket, could I keep small fish in the bucket?
<Better to have something larger, with more surface area. Look about for "oak barrels" cut in half (and liners for same) and chemically inert troughs like the Rubbermaid line. And read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PondSubWebIndex/contpdsart.htm
and the linked FAQs file above. Bob Fenner>

Unhealthy Comet Goldfish in an Outdoor Half Barrel Pond 4/25/10
Hello crew.
<Jim... I'll be, there's another friend... HHH and around the corner with your same name>
I would like to start by saying that I have been using your site for a couple of years now and find it a valuable research tool for both my aquarium and my pond. Keep up the brilliant work.
<Will do>
My question regards the size of my pond and the number of goldfish in it. I have researched your site for the appropriate number of fish for the size of the pond but require some additional <sic> advise. The half barrel, with the fish in, is supported by a second barrel which houses my own design of biological / mechanical filter, in a third barrel and the pump (The attached photos will illustrate how it is constructed.).
<Looks good>
I have had the pond for 5 years, four years with 5 x gold comets in it. Last year I added 15 x little Tetras and had them all living very happily together until winter. I removed the Tetras to a planted aquarium indoors and decided to replace these with 4 x small yellow comets this year, after I had refurbished the pond in May.
When I calculate the ratio of fish to the ponds surface area, should I calculate the area of both barrels or just the one with the fish in it?
I understand that only the volume of the primary barrel is important for the fishes space requirements, but what about water quality parameters?.
<Both/all, the more "the merrier">
I use the volume of both barrels when calculating any medication doses.
I am asking this because many of my fish have become ill over the last two weeks and I'm trying to do everything I can to fix the problem, using advice from this forum as well as a couple of others for a second opinion.
*The history of recent problems are as follows:*
From a total of 9 comets, (5 x gold and 4 x yellow)
1 x yellow comet has suffered with Dropsy but after hospitalisation has reduced its swelling and is now eating and active, although still scarred1 x yellow comet is showing signs of Dropsy but is eating and active1 x yellow comet is lethargic and gasping as if it is eating something and prefers to hide
1 x gold comet became lethargic, stopped eating, laid on the bottom of the pond and died last night with no outward signs of distress or parasites
1 x gold comet has become lethargic and prefers to hide The other fish are active and eat well.
The average size of the gold comets is 12.8 cm long and the yellow comets are 9.6 cm. Following much research I realise that this might be too many for their space requirements, but what about the quality of the water?
<An important measure... but the overall apparent and real health of your livestock is most valuable>
I used to believe I could keep more fish in the pond if I had good filtration and a high flow rate of water through the filters, hence my pond and filter barrel design. I'm beginning to wonder if this was the right thing to do.
<When in doubt, under-crowd>
I have a total of 90 cm of fish in approximately 0.2 m3 of water (both barrels) with a combined surface area of 0.669 m2.
<Comet goldfish get very large... more than a foot in length... this is too much fish life for here>
The problems have all occurred since I refurbished the pond, after the winter period, by removing the plants, cutting their roots back and re-potting them, removing debris from the bottom of the pond and cleaning out the filter. From my own research it looks like I have affected the natural balance of the pond by removing the plant roots and replacing last years filters with new ones. I only started feeding again in March when the water temperature rose above 8 degrees. I stopped feeding them in December. Thread algae has also started to grow vigorously, some of it is removed daily but I maintain a patch of it on the slate stone, in the flow of the water from the pump, to house any good bacteria and act as a food source.
I perform regular water tests every two weeks and acted when my tests showed elevated Nitrite & Nitrate.
17/04/10 pH 8.5, Ammonia 0.1 @ 15 degrees, NO2 0.1,
<Mmm, Ammonia and Nitrite need to be zero, undetectable>
NO3 10 - 25
After this reading I carried out a 20% water change, using Tetra Pond's AquaSafe to condition the new water and then medicated with Tetra Pond's MediFin. The health of the fish continued to deteriorate and 1 x yellow comet was already showing signs of Dropsy and placed in a separate tank.
By now I am using this site for advise and read an article on using salt in the pond water. I researched this extensively on both this site and others and returned to this site and followed advice from article *Goldfish Disease: Prevention, Causes, Treatments*, *Koi, Pond Fish Disease* and FAQ *Re: Help My Goldfish Bandi - Dropsy? -- 4/30/09*
My next water test, prior to a 25% water change and addition of salts (Epsom Salts, Bicarbonate of Soda & Maldon Sea Salt) in the ratios described in the FAQ but halved to give me a 0.05% concentration, to protect the plants and bacteria. The Hospital tank had a higher concentration..
26/04/10 pH 8.5, Ammonia 0.1 @ 10 degrees, NO2 0, NO3 0.
The Nitrite and Nitrate have reduced and I am now working on bringing the Alkalinity down slightly. I have now changed 25% of the water, conditioned with AquaSafe, added the salt in steps of a 5th every 3 to 4 hours and will continue to change 15% of the water every two days, with only Maldon Sea Salt in a 0.025% concentration and AquaSafe. I have stopped feeding flake food, I have tried peas but only 2 fish like it, I have fed them Tubifex worm
<I would not feed these to goldfish>
with more success but only 4 fish are
eating it. I am not feeding them anything else for 3 days.
*Technical details of the pond and its construction:*
Primary Barrel = 80 cm diameter x 35 cm deep.
Secondary Barrel = 46 cm diameter x 30 cm deep.
Pump = Libel Xtra 2300 (580 lph go to the primary barrel and 250 lph are cycled through the secondary barrel)
*The third barrel housing the filter is constructed as follows:*
River Pebbles on a plastic support grid over 3 layers of graduated foam filter with the most open at the top, the least open at the bottom over approx 150 pieces of 30mm diameter ribbed pond hose, cut to approximately 25 - 30mm long acting as an environment for good bacteria.
The pump draws water through the filters via a sealed exit point at the bottom of the third barrel and returns it to the pond. This set up allows me to maintain a constant depth of water in the pond, because of the weir. Any loss of water is buffered by the secondary barrel and it is here that I normally top up the water, although medication and water conditioning is done by adding it to the water which flows over the slate stone.
I know this a long e-mail but I thought it best to give you as much information. I'm sure you will have many more questions
<I do think you're statements are correct, useful re changing all so much with your "Spring cleaning" and their being so/too much fish life here. At this point, I would just keep feeding sparingly and not at all if there is any detectable ammonia or nitrite. Bob Fenner>

galvanized steel stock tank 9/13/09
<Hi there Holli>
I'm wondering if it is safe to keep goldfish in a galvanized steel stock tank?
<Mmm, I have seen these used over many years, but have read that one needs to make sure the water used, in place, doesn't become "too" acidic... I think as long as conditions are alkaline... You should be fine>
They have seemed to be getting more lethargic and not eating very much for a while. I've tested the water quality and it is fine - 50% water change every week too. They have been in there since last fall. There are no signs of parasites or any visible cause of this behavior. I'm starting to wonder if they are getting slowly
poisoned by something leaching from the tank.
<Mmm, if you have a means... a canister filter, or box... you might want to try some activated carbon (in a bag, placed in the water movement path)... Even a "Polyfilter" might yield useful information re the possibility of poisoning here. Bob Fenner>

Goldfish with that sinking feeling - 3/21/08 Hi crew, <Linda> I have an outdoor half-barrel pond (approx. 28 gallons) with three feeder-type goldfish purchased from a megastore. <Mmm, will need more room...> One fish appears to have developed a problem with his swim bladder; the other two are fine. I checked the pond chemistry using a five-in-one dipstick test and levels are all good; I have had the pond for about two years and it has long been stable, and I do water changes (though perhaps not as often as I should, especially in winter). <Okay> The sick fish appears very weak and lays on the bottom of the pond without moving. He has been ailing for several days and getting progressively worse. I have tried shelled peas but he doesn't appear overly interested in eating. He did eat a bite or two of pea yesterday, but has trouble eating since when he does try to swim, he's head down, tail up, and doesn't seem to have much control over his direction. I read that I could try adding Epsom salt to the water, and I believe the recommended ratio was 1 tbsp per 10 gallons. I also read that I could try a more concentrated salty "bath" for a shorter period. Do you think I should try this or would this put him over the edge? <I would add the Epsom to the tub garden at the 1 tsp/10 gal. volume... Should be okay for plants... in the container, outside if the water is dispersed in your garden> Is there anything more I can do for him? I don't have high hopes for him at this point but will do what I can. Thank you. Linda <Hope, like Spring for me, is eternal. Bob Fenner> goldfish with that sinking feeling Forgot to mention that I feed them the dreaded pellets only occasionally (perhaps once a week), and the pond is full of tasty plants for the fish to nibble at their leisure. <And likely all manner of other bits... insect larvae, what have you. No worries. Bob Fenner>

Re: goldfish with that sinking feeling, & stkg. cont. garden ponds f' -- 03/22/08 Thank you, Bob. I will add the Epsom salts this morning. The fish is still alive but rarely moves at all, though yesterday was the first official day of spring, so... <Ah, yes> I have one question about your response. I thought the rule of thumb for goldfish was 10 gallons per fish. <Mmm, something more than this... perhaps 15-20... and a bit more again for this "variety" (all goldfish are the same dihybrid crossed species)... The Comet gets quite large, even in small volumes...> I had just under that with the half barrel, at 9.3 gallons per fish. I just transferred two fish to a new, full-size wine barrel (with a fish-safe liner) which holds about 60 gallons. (I left the ailing fish in his old habitat, with a partial water change; once he is well or passes, I plan to have only water plants in that barrel due to raccoon problems.) I was going to buy another fish or two, thinking the 60 gallon pond could hold up to 6 fish, though I was planning on only 4, perhaps 5. Am I wrong? Thank you again. Linda <Mmm, not really wrong... to be clear/er here, it's a good idea to switch out such comets as they grow a bit larger... Bob Fenner>

Update and a question, Goldfish cont. garden 3/23/08 Hello again, Sadly, the fish did not make it, despite my efforts. I have a new question. As I wrote below, I moved two fish to a larger container pond, which is a full-size wine barrel with a fish-safe liner. I did so because the raccoons ate some of the fish from the half barrel, and I think they will be safer in the larger one (as it's taller and at least they have some depth to escape to). The habitat is new but I moved rocks, plants, and the old filter (with old media intact) to the new barrel, along with some water from the old pond, to ease the transition. Chemistry is all good per the five in one test strip. The fish are not that big, perhaps 2 1/2 inches long each. <Okay> Today I noticed the two remaining fish hanging out at the surface. Not gasping, but just lingering below the surface, whereas when I put them in a few days ago, they swam all around and spent most of the time about halfway down. I wonder if there is an oxygen problem. <Could be> The barrel diameter at the surface is 23 inches, and it's about 36 inches deep. I have a filter running which has a rate of 185 gph (not sure if that's big enough?); it's at the bottom of the barrel. I do see water moving on the surface. I have two couple of bunches of elodea underwater (suspended midway down) plus water hyacinth floating on top. <Could be some decomposition from the plants as well> I haven't been able to find any info online about whether the surface area/depth ratio may cause oxygen problems. Can you advise if you think this is an issue and what I can do to resolve it (i.e. will more elodea help, should I get an airstone, or a larger filter)? Thank you. Linda <I would add a "bubbler" here... Likely a Tetra Luft pump... tubing, check-valve and large/r bead glass airstone. Bob Fenner>

Re: update and a question, Goldfish cont. garden 4/8/08 Greetings once again, <Linda> I added a bubbler, and it doesn't seem to have made much of a difference. The fish still linger under the surface most of the time, one more than the other. They are not gasping at the surface, just... hanging out among the water hyacinth. I don't see any unusual physical markings, spots, or bulging. If I feed them peas, they do become more animated and chase after the sinking pea bits. I tested the chemistry again yesterday with a six-in-one test strip and it's the same: nitrite 0, nitrate 0, <Mmm, this is dubious... these test strips are notoriously inaccurate and imprecise> total hardness about 75 ppm, chlorine 0, total alkalinity about 120, pH around 6.8-7.2. <The rest is believable and fine> I wonder if this surface lingering behavior is due to the cold? <Also doubtful... is the container situated such that there is too much exposure and hence thermal variation diurnally?> It has been chilly here, in the low 50s at night, and I can tell the larger barrel (about 58 gallons) is significantly colder than the half barrel (about 28 gallons) where they were previously, <Oh! Then this could indeed be a factor. Best that the daily temp. not range much more than 5, 6, 7 F.> as measured by the highly scientific method of stinking my fingers in one, then the other. In winters past, though, the fish usually hovered midway down, or close to the bottom, rather than at the top. I guess I'm worrying since the one fish died recently. Is there anything I should do other than just wait? Thank you. Linda <Mmm, I would start changing out about ten percent of the water every week... sometime when you can be present during the entire change, re-fill... if the water temp. is about 50-55 F.... From the bottom, with a siphon hose... in hopes of diluting "wastes", possible contributing factors. Bob Fenner>

Fish in a Turtle Pond - 04/04/2007 < A 50 gallon tub is not really that big. If you are not interested in what the fish look like then I would go with a few Gambusia or simple mosquito fish. Being outdoors you don't want this tub to be a breeding ground for mosquitoes. They are small and fast but very attractive. Another interesting fish to try would be the common paradise fish. They can actually be quite hardy in the temp. range you described. They are colorful and can actually breed outdoors when conditions are right. As far as plants go I would look at any of the pond plants that grow out of the water. They provide shade and are very effective at removing toxins from the water. If you are going with the hose technique from replacing water, you will need a water conditioner to treat the chloramines for the fish.-Chuck>
Re: moving red ear slider turtles and fish to an outdoor 50 gallon pond. - 04/04/2007
Thanks for the quick response. I looked it up and will have a bit of both. What type of rule of thumb do I need to follow as far as how many I can put in the pond? 5? 10? More? < I would put a dozen of the mosquito fish in to start. If conditions are favorable then you will have plenty in no time at all. I would stick to just a couple paradise fish. They are territorial and two males may fight.-Chuck>

Indoor Pond... actually container gardening f' 7/11/06 I have a pair of 3" comets in a twenty gallon aquarium - which I know is too small for these fish in the long run - so I'm interested in building an indoor pond. <Neat!> My plan was to connect four 45 gallon plastic bins together with 12" thick piping, using aquarium sealant to keep the joints water tight. <Mmm... Silastic won't really work here... to seal twixt the plastics... depending on what they're made of (not polyethylene) you might be able to have them welded... elsewise there is a possibility of using clear or not PVC and through-hull/bulkhead fittings, gaskets... Though much more expensive the larger they are> Filtration will be achieved by having an outlet in the first bin to a wet/dry filter, with the water return being on the last bin (so as to achieve water flow between the containers). <Sounds good> Do you see any potential problems with this setup? I plan to rinse the bins and PVC pipes beforehand to ensure no chemicals leach into the water, <And give them a scrub with rock salt and water...> and I have bioballs from my established tank to jump-start the wet/dry filter. Also, what size will the pipes have to be before the fish will swim through them? <Mmm... the biggest I think you'd have to go is 4 inch ID> There will only be about 4" of space between the containers, and I'm aiming to make the pipes about a foot in diameter. Paul <Look into the bulkheads... Bob Fenner> Pond Scum 6/5/06 I recently purchased a half-barrel as a water feature for my garden; when I bought it it smelt of spirits i.e. whiskey. <I'd use a liner of some sort with this....> I thoroughly cleaned it and set it up with various plants and fish. All was well for approx. 3 months. Now I am getting a thick grey slime which clings to everything and seems to be smothering some of the plants though it is not causing the fish any problems. If you can imagine wallpaper paste it is very similar with a strong smell similar to vomit [sorry for that description but that is what it smells like]. Any help on what it is and what possible treatment there is would be very much appreciated. <It's probably a bacterial bloom of some sort.... To be quite honest, I would remove the plants and fish, drain it, clean it, and add a liner before filling it again, just to be on the safe side. Though I'm not positive, I would think this would at least decrease the problem. I would also add some sort of pump/fountain for circulation, if you're not already using one.> Thank you. <Wishing you well, -Sabrina>

Goldfish barrel-pond questions - 4/11/2006 Thanks for your informative website. I've been reading it and taking notes, but would very much appreciate some feedback if possible. <Okay> I recently set up a half-barrel water garden which was previously used with success by a family member a year or two ago (but in storage since then, so no living good bacteria present). I read a few articles online and thought it seemed like a simple enough endeavor. Just enough education to be dangerous, right? <Perhaps> I placed the barrel in an area that gets a few hours of sun daily; our coastal weather rarely gets hot. I calculated that its capacity is just under 43 gallons. I filled it with tap water, added a de-chloramine solution (Kordon's Pond AmQuel), put in 18 stems of Anacharis, a bog plant (society garlic) and a hardy lily both potted in aquatic plant media, and topped the barrel with water hyacinth from a friend's pond, covering about 60% of the surface. I plopped in a small mechanical filter also acquired from the barrel's previous owner, not sure of the brand or size offhand, but the type that pulls water through a sponge to trap particles. <These are very appropriate technology here> I also put some small pebbles in the bottom, not entirely covering it. When everything was in place for a day or two, my husband went down to the local pet megastore and bought four small "feeder" goldfish, though I told him to only get two. I know now: Not enough time. The little fish seemed happy enough for about 10 days, during which I realize now we were overfeeding them the flake food from the megastore. <Likely don't need to fed at all during the colder months (water temp. below 55 F.> One of them grew noticeably bigger. Then they seemed less active and I noticed the bronze colored ones had changed color to a dark gray. They became increasingly listless, and the worst affected was sitting on the bottom with fins clamped. I went online and determined that we likely had a water quality problem. <Mmm... actually much more likely a cycling, lack of cycling issue> Another megastore visit, this time for test kits. The tests revealed that the water was very acidic; 6.2 on the strip, but that was the lowest it went so it could well have been lower. The ammonia kit read .25 ppm (one of these color-coded deals, this seemed the closest color match). Nitrate 0 ppm ("safe" on my color chart), nitrite .5 ppm ("caution" on my chart). <Bingo...> The fish were clearly all getting worse, so I panicked and decreed that a total water change was in order, pulled everything out, hosed out the barrel and started anew. I know: Too extreme. <Yes> While the fish were in a pot awaiting their freshened barrel, I noticed they were all covered with a whitish-blue coat. No! More Google, back to the store for QuICKCure, <... toxic...> which I have dutifully applied for the past three days. I reintroduced the fish as gently as I could, taking a couple of hours to add in small amounts of the new water with their old. The new water, our tap water, is alkaline, a big contrast. <Fine if you just change out, or even just overflow for a bit every week or so... while watering your garden perhaps> The tough little guys survived and seem happy once again, darting about and munching the Anacharis, since I have cut food down a couple of flakes which they consume inside of two minutes. The bronze fish are showing the bronze color once again on their bellies and the whitish-blue coating has largely abated but is not yet entirely gone. So that's the background. Sorry it's a bit long winded but I want to be clear. I don't know why the water became so acidic. <The barrel, potting soil, feeding... captive aquatic systems are "reductive" (as in RedOx reactions... trading/stealing electrons...) do go "acidic" in time. You don't list much in the way of countervailing "alkaline reserve" (perhaps the pebbles)... so not much to "buffer" this change in pH. Understanzee?> We have had an incredible amount of rain since I put the barrel together (probably 10 inches or more over a two week period) but I don't know if that might have contributed? <Yes, could have> My questions for you are if this system is sustainable as is or if I need to add a better filtration system/additives to support these four fish. <What you list should work out for these few fish for a good few years... just do be careful re feeding... and do the water changes> I have no intention of adding more fish. The cavalier water garden articles I read made it seem that the fish would be fine with the plants and no filtration at all. If something further is needed, any recommendations? I can't seem to find a product that's appropriate for my 43 gallon outdoor barrel. Everything is geared towards 10 gallon indoor tanks or 1000 gallon Koi ponds. <I sense marketing opportunities....> Also, my internet perusal showed that the coating on the fish was likely a secondary illness that had the opportunity to set in because of poor water quality. <You are very likely correct... and perceptive> Is that right, and is QuICK Cure the right thing to use? <Mmm, I would avoid this as much as practical... one ingredient is formalin... a biocide... crosslinks proteins...> Thanks so much for any advice you can offer. Linda <Do feel free to write-back if this is not clear, complete (enough)... and peruse WWM re cycling: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm Hold off on "supplemental" (the fish are nibbling on indigenous materials) feeding till there is no detectable ammonia, nitrite. Bob Fenner>
Re: goldfish barrel-pond question/s - 4/11/2006
Thanks for the fast response. I have read the cycling info at the link you provided and will follow those steps. I have three follow-up questions on what you wrote. <Ah, good> First, what can I do to provide an alkaline reserve? I haven't read anything about how to balance the system's pH. <... Mmm, please see WWM re pH, alkalinity...> And second, as Quick Cure is toxic, what would be a better medication to use, since the fish still show symptoms? <Posted as well... under Goldfish Disease... simple salt is almost always the best cathartic with these fish> Or should I leave them be for now, without medication? <Bingo> (Though I'd like to know for future reference.) Finally, on regular water changes, how much and how often? 20% weekly, or more? <... also posted my friend. Enjoy the process. BobF> Thanks! Linda
Re: goldfish barrel-pond question - 04/11/2006
I spent the past two hours reading the site; somehow I had missed all the info on pH before. Then I retested the water and found that it's gone very acidic again and there are small levels of ammonia. Poor fish. They've gone through quite a bit in the past week. As I formulate a plan to deal with buffering the pH longer term, I wanted to ask if you think I should buy a plastic barrel liner first -- to cut out the contact with the wood and make stabilizing the pH simpler? Thanks again. Linda <Mmm... you could... (realize I have no way of knowing the "history" of your barrel... many are recycled from the alcohol biz...), but I might try using simple baking soda here (in the absence of an alkalinity test kit, testing...) to bolster the acidic trend... Barring this however, a liner is prudent. BobF>

Goldfish pH Concerns 3/13/06 <Hi Greg, Pufferpunk here> I know there are many articles on your site about pH and I have read what seems like hundreds of them but call me dense--I still can not seem to solve my issue. I have a terracotta tank outside that holds 20 gallons and 4 small gold fish in a "pond environment" with an aerator, filter, plant and waterfall. I flush the water in the tank regularly and it has access to fresh rain water. I also test the tank often and it tests great with the exception of alkalinity (ability to buffer) and pH, both are unbelievably low. <Acid rain?> I have tried using the pH up drops but they move it only slightly and then the pH falls again. I know changes in pH do not have a good effect on the fish, so I am concerned about continuing to use the drops only so they will drop again. Do you have any suggestions on how I can increase the pH and therefore the alkalinity so that it will stay at a proper level? Since low pH is acidic would adding a little diluted base like baking soda work? <You are correct. It is worse to make a fish live in fluctuating pH, than low pH, so don't add buffers. They will just break down & the pH will go down again. I wish you had posted what your pH is. What is the pH of your tapwater? You should be doing large weekly water changes on a goldfish tank (90%). Most fish can adjust to most any pH, so as long as you are doing regular water changes, I wouldn't worry much. Eventually, 20g won't be nearly large enough for 4 goldfish. ~PP> Thank you for all of your help. Greg

Container Pond, Unhappy Fish? 03/07/2006 Hi Bob, <Actually, Sabrina here tonight. We had some technical difficulties; turns out my laptop at home has a configuration that allows us to read and respond to your query.> I found your website through Google and I sincerely hope you can help! I purchased a glazed water bowl (very large) on the weekend and have filled it with water, placed 4 goldfish and a water lily plant in a tub in the base of the bowl. It sits outside and is about 1 metre in circumference. I have feed the little fish each morning, however it doesn't seem like they are eating. They certainly do not respond at all when I place the food in the water. They float at the base of the bowl and rarely move. I must say I am very concerned for them!!! I bought the fish from a brilliant pet shop and requested the most hardy fish possible for outdoor ponds. No other information or recommendations were provided. Can you please help? <Very much to learn, here.... First and foremost, the basics of keeping fish.... Cycling the "tank" (pond, in this case), maintaining the system, caring for a pond.... As for why the animals are listless at the bottom of the container, this could be anything as simple as a very low water temperature to something as deadly as high ammonia. Please read the following link, and the other pages linked at the top: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm , and the applicable sections here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PondSubWebIndex/Pond%20Sub%20Web.htm .> Look forward to hearing from you. Yours sincerely, -Peta Donaldson <I do hope this is the beginning of an exciting learning experience for you! Container ponds are great fun. Wishing you well, -Sabrina>
Container Pond, Unhappy Fish? - II - 03/07/2006
Sabrina, <Hello again.> Thanks for your reply. However, a little too late... the fish all died two days after I sent you the email. I contacted the pet shop from which I purchased the fish and told them how bitterly disappointed I was. <Very sorry to hear this.> Fish abuse at its best. Very upsetting. <Indeed.> That is definitely the first and last time I purchase fish. <Do please take some time to read, research, perhaps invest in a couple good books (or even borrow from a local library) and look around on WetWebMedia - and once you have a better understanding of the animals you wish to care for, try again.> Best regards, -Peta <All the best to you, -Sabrina>

Large fiberglass or polyethylene tanks 8/12/05 Hello- <Howdy> Can you point me in the direction of some businesses that sell large fiberglass or polyethylene tanks? <Mmm, two critical questions... how large is large, and where for? The U.S.? Shipping can be expensivo... Here's the Google response: http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&rls=GGLD,GGLD:2004-27,GGLD:en&q=large+fiberglass+and+polyethylene+tanks+in+the+U%2ES%2E Bob Fenner> Thanks- Mark

Minnow and comet pond... container 07/01/05 Hi, <Hello there> I have a 35 gallon container on my patio. 5 2" grey minnows, 3 comet goldfishes and 1 medium rosy red. I got the grey minnows from the pet store. The pet store said that the minnows are rosy reds ... but they're grey ... <Do change color with season, temperature...> Anyways, I added the 3 comets recently and one of the minnows was aggressive to ALL the fishes. The aggressive minnow is always around the same bush of Anacharis. Picking at it and chasing anything that it sees. <Happens> I thought minnows are supposed to be peace and that's why I added comets. What should I do? Is this a temporary thing? Thanks, LH <Mmm, best to remove the most aggressive fish here... May seem like a lot of space, but the crowding is a factor. Bob Fenner>

Pool to pond I found your name on the Internet and hope you don't mind the e-mail. I was wondering if you had any knowledge of transforming a child's plastic pool into a pond, and, would this be practical. If so, what precautionary steps should be taken for longevity? Thanks for your time. Beau Collier <Mmm, can be done... need to add a filter, perhaps an air-driven type so you get redundant aeration... a sponge type would be best... and leave the water level down a bit to discount "jumping" out of the livestock... The same sorts of considerations re goldfish systems should be followed as are posted on the WWM freshwater and pond subwebs for this species. Bob Fenner>

Bird poop in small goldfish pond II 8/27/03 Dear Anthony, Since I wrote you last week about what I though were bird droppings in my 44 gal in-ground pond with two comet goldfish and a sponge filter pump, I've now lost one of the fish. The "stuff" I'm seeing is bluish/green shreds or matter in the water attaching to the plants. <have you tested your water chemistry or had your local fish store do it. Its helpful to know where you stand in this regard. As far as the matter... we unfortunately cannot explain it from such a general description> In your responses you indicated a good bio filtration system. What could I add to the pond to create this? <there are many wonderful filters on the market... Supreme makes a nice submersible "Pondmaster" tray filter... and Tetra makes some nice external green barrel filters> Also, do I clean the sponge filter? <yes... but rinse in some aged pond water in a bucket during water changes... never tap water> I have been doing that (and that may be the problem) therefore washing away good bacteria. <no worries as long as you avoided tap water (even then not that big of a deal). Nitrifiers are stuck firm to the substrate and don't wash away easily. Water tests will indicate if you have enough filtration... or too much feeding/load> Oh boy. Please any help much appreciated. Marty <pond keeping can be fun and very easy... but it sounds to me like you really need to read up on the basics my friend. Did you follow the links in our archives I mentioned last time to you? Do consider if you did not have a chance: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PondSubWebIndex/Pond%20Sub%20Web.htm there are some excellent pond books too: Water In the Garden, by Allison... and Book of Water Gardens by Dawes (TFH). Best regards, Anthony>
Bird poop in small goldfish pond III 8/27/03
Thanks Anthony. Perhaps I'm a bit daft (I think that's a word) but I have read, and read. Everything seems to talk about a 1500 gal. pond or greater. I'm talking 44 gal., 2 little fish (now 1) and he's no more than 3-3-1/2", pond has constant circulation and lots of oxygenating plants. Water levels read in the good to safe range, this has been constant. There is not a lot more room in this little container for bio filter but I am looking into it. <Ahhh... I see. Indeed... understood and agreed. These "patio" ponds/barrels really are quite handsome, but alas subject to a volatile existence for fishes (even the day night temperature swing of 4+ degrees is enough to weaken many fishes). Such ponds really work best fish-only... but do enjoy the plants. Some snails too> (I have a water lily and papyrus that hog the deep part of the pond. The "outside" filters seem pretty expensive, I know, whine whine. Anyway, obviously I'm doing something wrong or my other fish would still be with me. <no worries... tis the nature of the beast. The small volume of water is simply too unstable for many fishes outside> I'm working on it which includes reading. I know you are being very patient with me but I'm not getting something!! Marty <in part, you have been a victim of misleading marketing, I suspect. In this case, its all about size. My advice is to simply enjoy a handsomely planted pool instead. Anthony>

Small Patio Pond - 8/28/03 Thanks again Anthony for your response. I have come to that conclusion too but alas, I have one goldfish whom I haven't seen much of lately and really hate to sacrifice him too but know that may be the outcome. <indeed... small patio sized tub/barrel ponds are volatile environments... very tough for fishes> I thought I had everything balanced and stable. I too think it is the too small pond, too unstable, no matter what. <even just the day/night temp swings are a challenge> (Plus ignorance on my part.) Poor fish. I want to do something to save him but not sure what. I have another indoor aquarium (10 gal.) but that is quarantine for my stocked 20 gal. I have a neighbor with a LARGE pond, and he has none of my problems. Thanks for your patience and words. Marty <no worries... simply enjoy this tub with fantastic plants and algae.. perhaps a few snails or tadpole too. Best regards, Anthony>

Patio goldfish pond Dear Mr. Robert, Will a fiberglass pond built to go in ground, serve as well sitting on top of concrete floor? <In general yes. Do make sure and "nest" the area underneath... support all the way about with old carpet, what have you... and take care (of course) to avoid stepping into it... Does your ground freeze in Winter? You will need to allow for expansion... Please read about fiberglass ponds on our site here: http://wetwebmedia.com/fibrglsconspnd.htm> Have found one with one straight side that could go against brick wall and supported with large stones might be stable. Ft. Worth, Texas very hot in summer so keep umbrella over pond now.....problem has been finding above ground fish pond for patio holding at least 100 gallons. <Go to the large "warehouse" hardware stores in your area, and ask the landscape/garden folks to show you what they can get you "special order"... there are a few pre-made units to check out... including ones made of sturdier polyethylene... In fact, do look into the fabulous containers made by RubberMaid (tm) here.> AT this time I have 8 large goldfish doing well in cattle trough but would like something more decorative and where fish can be more easily viewed. Please advise. Thank you, Ginger <Be chatting my friend. Bob Fenner>

outside fish A while back I put a small- 15 gallon or so, RubberMaid container on my patio with some live plants in it. I just wanted to see if they would grow. Well they did! <I'll say! Sometimes very much more so than in aquariums.> Then to add to the experiment, I thought I would throw some fish in and I added 3 swordtails, 2 females, and 1 male. I wanted to first see if they would survive, then to see if they would breed. I rarely feed this "tank" as I am sure they get enough bugs, etc. from being outside. Well I recently noticed that sure enough, there are many babies scurrying across the water surface. Now I added food on a more regular basis to help them grow to adulthood, but here is my question, it has started to cool down and I wonder when I should bring them in for the winter. I live in TX so I wont freeze over at all, but it does get to around the low 40's F. <Yes to moving this container into an area where there is more protection from daily fluctuations of temperature.> What water temp is too low for them so I can bring them in? <About fifty five F., but as I state, more important to avoid vacillations> Do I bring in the plants too? <Yes. Please read over this piece on container water gardens: http://wetwebmedia.com/contpndsart.htm and our site (WetWebMedia.com) re aquarium gardening> Any other advise would be appreciated!!! Thanks!! You are helping to save a new generation of swordtails in TX!! <Share them with neighborhood children and relate your experiences. Thank you for sharing. Bob Fenner>

Aquatic Gardens

Ponds, Streams, Waterfalls & Fountains:
Volume 1. Design & Construction
Volume 2. Maintenance, Stocking, Examples

V. 1 Print and eBook on Amazon
V. 2 Print and eBook on Amazon

by Robert (Bob) Fenner
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