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FAQs on Environmental Pondfish Disease from Metabolite Accumulation 

Related Articles: Environmental Pond Disease, Koi/Pond Fish Disease, Gas Bubble Disease/Emphysematosis, Pond Parasite Control with DTHPHole in the Side Disease/FurunculosisGoldfish Disease,

Related FAQs: Pond Environmental Disease 1, Pond Environmental Disease 2, Pond Environmental Disease 3, & FAQs on Pond Environmental Disease: Prevention, Diagnosis, Causes: Cumulative Stress, Predation, Low/no Oxygen, Poisoning (Algicides, Metals, Pesticides...), Physical Trauma/Damage, Electrical, Troubleshooting/Fixing, & Pond Fish DiseasePondfish Disease 2, Pondfish Disease 3<, Goldfish Disease,

<Ammonia, nitrite need to be zero, zip> Nitrate... under 20 ppm. And... there are MANY organic products, by-products for which there are no practical testing... Thus the need for over-sized filters, aeration, water changes...  

Aquatic Gardens

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by Robert (Bob) Fenner

Pond goldfish; env. hlth. issues   6/27/12
<Good morrow Robert>
I keep about 20 nacreous veiltail goldfish in a pond that is 8 feet long by 8 feet wide and 3 to 4 feet deep. It is an above ground pond.  I have fish from three different English strains. The problem I have is that the fish from one particularly colorful strain (orange/red, black, blue and white) seem to have fins that are yellow, lightly red-veined and just not healthy looking. One of them gets a greenish brown ball of slimy growth periodically on the very tip of one caudal fin at the top almost like a bacterial bloom or something. I have remove this before and tried to look at it under a microscope but cant see anything moving, but the scope is a digital one that puts pictures on the computer.
<Am familiar>
The fish are vigorous and growing and active. But when viewed up close the fins look yellow and dirty. They all seem to have a yellowish cast not just to the fins but on the belly too.  I know some strains of fish seem to have this yellow pigmentation but there appears to be something else going on as well. Sometimes these fish show a band of visible red across the bottom of the tail fin about half a centimetre in from the edge. I have other fish and they do not show any symptoms although they get the odd fungusy-like patch on the tail which disappears.  I  keep a water hose slowly running in the pond continuously and syphon out the bottom every fortnight or so.
<Mmm, do you have gear, measures for aspect/s of water quality?
Am interested particularly in Nitrate/NO3 concentration... I suspect your system and fish have too much metabolite present>
I would estimate that the pond water is completely replaced every 2-3 days. 
I have tried malachite green, ESHa 2000, the stuff that turns your water purple (forgot the name).
<Potassium permanganate, KMn03 likely>
 I will be most grateful if you have any ideas. By the way, the temperature rarely hits 65 F. Usually about 60 F. And I have had trouble with Gas bubble disease in fins last year but not since I covered the pond with a bamboo screen. I am in North West England
Thank You
<Likely you need to add biological filtration, perhaps decrease food/s, feeding. The symptoms you mention are almost assuredly due to water quality. Dilution via the slow running hose pipe won't solve this... Bob Fenner>
Re Pond goldfish;     6/28/12

Hi Bob, Thank you very much. I have test strips
<These are notoriously inaccurate and imprecise. Look for a liquid or capsule reagent type master "pond" or freshwater aquarium kit>
 for water quality but I honestly can't make heads or tails out of the readings;
<You're not alone>
matching the colours, etc. I only know my fish are healthier in the pond than in a tank.
<Oh yes; assuredly. There is much more volume/space and cooler temp./lower metabolism in the pond>
 I suspect you are right that water quality is likely to blame I had thought that might be the case. I don't have an electricity point outside for filtration but will see what I can do to get that done. I do tend to feed the fish a lot of salmon based gel food that I make myself, so meantime I'll cut down on the amount of food too. I appreciate your time and expertise. I'll go now and sort out an electrician! Thanks Loads!
<Welcome in kind/degree. BobF>

Balancing objectives, bio-cycling new pond  7/28/10
Dear Crew,
We have set up a new 1,300 gallon pond. We treated the water with Amquel initially
<Mmm, better by far to "just wait"... let a week go by... to liberate sanitizer (Chloramine)>
and then aged it for 4 weeks
<Oh! So Amquel was unnecessary>
with filter and aeration. Finally we added a product our local Koi store sells called "super bugs"
<What is this specifically? A culture of nitrifying bacteria?>
and then 3 days later added 5 fingerling Koi. The nitrogen cycle started as predicted with the Ammonia slowly climbing up to .25
<... toxic, debilitating>
and then slowly back down. Along the way we sometimes gave way to worry about stress and added tiny amounts of Amquel. We knew this would affect the cycle by binding the ammonia that the bacteria needed, but we did it sparingly hoping that the bacteria would simply take longer to cycle.
<A reasonable assumption>
Now, the ammonia is zero, but the nitrites are over .50
<Also toxic...>
and maybe even climbing. The fish are flashing occasionally and certainly in distress.
<I'd remove them to elsewhere till this system is completely cycled>
Everything I've read says to do a minimum 25% water change, but since we don't have a place to fill and treat 325 gallons of water, we'll need to pour our local chloramine-treated water into the pond while interspersing
<... or just wait, feed the system a bit of food/s to finish cycling>
My concern is that I'll be changing too many things too quickly and substituting one terribly toxic condition for another while subjecting the fish to toxic conditions AND sudden change.
How do I get out of this cycle?
Thank you,
<Read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm
and as much of the linked files above as you deem gains you a sufficient understanding of your present position, options. At any length, if you don't move the tategoi, I'd stop feeding period... but the best course of action is to remove them to an established system, wait the few weeks till there is no NO2, some accumulating NO3, evidence of complete cycling here.
Bob Fenner>

Black spot spreading to other fish, does not resemble fish pox. Env. pond dis.   8/7/08
 Hello WWM crew! <C...> I have a question about my pond fish. First of all, I have approximately a 900 gallon pond that has been set up for about two years now. Earlier this spring I noticed that one of my larger koi had a black spot that had developed on his side. It was a single spot that has some mass to it, but did not look like a growth of the fish's flesh. Probably the best way to describe it would be like a tiny leech (sp.?) about 3mm in length and perhaps 1.5-2mm in width. <Likely a trauma site originally...> By the time I had noticed the spot, the fish had already exhibited some tail rot and an open sore near his head. <Mmmm> Thinking that perhaps this was a parasite of some sort <... Where would this come from originally?> I treated the pond with a broad spectrum anti-parasitic medication (I width I could remember what brand it was) and some melafix for the tail rot. <Worthless. Worse than worthless> Sad to say that after a few days, even with the fins clearing up and the black mass falling off, the fish still passed. Everything has been fine since then until a couple of days ago I noticed two of these spots on another of my koi. I'm making an assumption that perhaps this wasn't parasitic, or at least not one affected by the medication I used, so I've been trying to identify exactly what this is. <Is environmental... worse with the "fix"> I've looked all over your site (Kudos by the way, I've been using it re: my reef tank for a long time) and have not been able to find anything that looks or sounds similar. I've looked at fish pox, but the mass doesn't really look anything like the pictures I've seen. I'm hoping that you might be able to give me some insight as to what I might be dealing with. I will try and get some pictures of it though it will probably be much more difficult to do so than with my aquariums. Jeremy Johnson <Nine hundred gallons isn't much for a pond volume... I suspect you have insufficient water quality measures... I'd be testing, making a standard operating procedure for maintenance... including water changes during warm/er weather... Perhaps adding some additional filtration capacity... "It's the water" very likely. Bob Fenner>

Re: Black spot spreading to other fish, does not resemble fish pox.    8/8/08
 Thank you for the quick reply Bob. Perhaps you might give me a clue as to what environmental element I should be looking at as I do test my water weekly and the current readings are: pH-7.2 Ammonia-0 NO3-10ppm NO2-0 GH-75ppm KH-120ppm Chlorine/Chloramines-0 (apologies for not including this in my first email) <Ahh! These are all fine... from their lack of mention I had guessed that there might be a metabolite accumulation issue here... no longer> I also do 25-50% water changes bi-weekly depending on nitrate accumulation during the months where the water is above 60 degrees. <Outstanding> As far as filtration goes I'm using an open top 55g plastic drum with four stages of poly media along with bio media in the lower "section" of the filter that gravity feeds to a waterfall weir. <Wow!> The water is being turned over at a rate of approximately 4000 gallons per hour through this filter, and then I also run a store bought filter bed on my fountain pump just because I can. I don't have any discernable nuisance algae and the substrate is continually stirred up during water changes to help get rid of any built up organic material. The time frame between the first fish showing symptoms and now has been about two months so I've changed more than 100% of the total water volume by now which should have rid the pond of any left over medications. Jeremy <You read as an exemplary pond keeper... Not much I would actually "do" to "treat" the system, livestock here... Other than the good care you're apparently providing, time going by. Have you perused the env. pond disease areas: http://wetwebmedia.com/PondSubWebIndex/pdenvdisfaqs.htm and the linked files above? Bob Fenner>

Dead fish Aarrgh... ponds period  3/20/06
 Hi <Hello> I inherited a pond last year when I moved house.  There are [or should I say were :-( ] 5 fish - look like goldfish but I'm not sure, they are mostly orange, orange and white and there is one black one - they range in size from about 15cm - 25cm in length.  About a week ago my son found one |(apparently) dead at the edge of the pond, but although it did move when he fished it out, it was obviously not long for this world and was barely breathing.  We put it in a large container (plastic barrel) to reduce the likelihood of any infection to the rest of the fish - though I suspected water quality to be the problem - <Me too> from what I know of aquarium fish.  I really know nothing about pond fish other than a note left me by the previous owners advising me to stop feeding and turn off pump with the onset of winter (which is about when we moved so we haven't had much to do with the fish up till now) and to turn the pump on in spring which I have now done. <You hopefully flushed the lines, filter/s if there...> I don't know what type of pump it is but it seems pretty basic and they didn't mention anything about filters - just that it may need cleaning out occasionally. We now look as though we are about to lose another fish - again one of the smaller ones - I cant see any obvious injury or illness other than the lack of life!  Not wanting to be flippant - I am really concerned.  Would appreciate any advice or request for additional information you may need.  I can send photos if you need. <You need to read first> We have loads of amorous frogs who seem very lively - would the change in pond life have any effect? Thanks in advance for your help. Also can you recommend a book on keeping pond fish - I think I need to do some swatting. Janet <Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PondSubWebIndex/Pond%20Sub%20Web.htm Start at the top...> P.S constipated aquarium Oranda - we have been feeding daphnia to no effect and have added salt - going to try peas - do I squash them, remove the skin or what? <Pinch the skins off> (Obviously talking about the peas not the Oranda) <Bob Fenner> Re: Dead fish Aarrgh... ponds period   3/23/06 > Thanks for help - have done some swatting <?> and know where to look if need more help.  Have done massive water change and pump clean and all now seem to have livened up.  Found a rotten frog at bottom which must have been breeding bacteria etc. badly. <Yikes> We have 2 large fish and one small left and I think that 's probably enough from what I've read.  Anyway I'll keep on swatting and hope situation won't arise again! Janet <Swatting? Thanks for the further input. Bob Fenner> Hi Swatting = intensive reading Janet <Ahh! Thank you for this. RMF>

Question about sick pond goldfish... Mmm, and Pond Circ., Filtr., Maint.    8/7/06 Hi - I could not find the answer to my question on your web site and hope you can help.    <Will try>   We have a natural outside pond. It is under shade all day and has much foliage around it but none in it other than the occasional foliage which drops in from around the pond.  The pond measures aprox. 26 ft by 14 ft by 4 ft deep.  It is always clear and is fed from the runoff of our spring box. <How nice!> The water is constant circulating and has a pipe in the middle of the pond to control overflow. <Mmm, I would "sleeve" this... put a pipe over this one, notched at the bottom... to "force" "old water" and silt from the bottom rather than venting newer water from the surface>   There is a dirt bottom and a layer of leaves.  Also at the bottom is a very small spring which additionally feeds the pond. <Great>     I am not sure how old the pond is, we have lived here 5 years and it was here when we bought the home.  The only upkeep is the removal of leaves every 2 years or so.    The current gold fish we have in the pond have been there 3 years.  We originally had five. <No reproduction? Odd...> Just this past year, around the beginning of spring we lost one fish and now, recently, a second.    The goldfish both measured about 6 to 8 inches long.   Prior to dying, they both became lethargic and kept themselves close to the edge of the pond.  Resting themselves there and not swimming around at all.   They also lost many of their scales and where the scales were, there was "fuzz".      <Perhaps... secondary... decomposition>   We are worried there may be a disease or parasite in the pond. <Mmm, not likely... or at least not likely a primary cause/source of mortality here. Much more likely is some sort of environmental complaint... most easily addressed with the added "sleeve" over your standpipe mentioned above...>   We are also concerned that the problem may be at the source spring. <Mmm, yes... and/or some bit of decomposition in the "overburden"... the unconsolidated "ooze" at the bottom... again, best addressed with the sleeve, periodic increased (overflow from rain...>   This is concerning because we use the water from this spring for our home use.  It is a separate spring box pumped to our home but the overflow from this spring feeds the pond.      <Mmm... Am sure you have particulate and chemical treatment to make this safe, potable... If it were me/mine, I would make use of a reverse osmosis device for potable uses... adding a "booster" pump for needed pressure if required...>>   Any help you could give would be greatly appreciated.   Thank you.      J.M. <Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Re: Question about sick pond goldfish   8/8/06 Thanks Bob,   <Welcome>   Need clarification on the "sleeve".  I understand a pipe over the existing pipe but please explain the "notches" at the bottom and how it allows for water and material to be pulled from lower pond depth.      <Wish I knew how to make, post a drawing of such... imagine your existing overflow pipe... with a pipe of larger diameter placed over/around it. The new, larger pipe is "taller", and there are some holes, inverted "V" cut outs in this pipe at the bottom... such that, when the water level rises, the water from the bottom of the pond (about the cut outs) travels up, between the inner wall of the new pipe, the outer wall of the old standpipe... and to waste>   And again for clarity - the "sick fish" problem is likely environmental? <Almost assuredly> If so, then explain how the "sleeve" will "fix" this. <By improving the environment... helping vent "bad water" (nutrient laden, low/no oxygen...) from the system> Are we likely to lose the rest of our fish before the problem is resolved by the "sleeve"?      <Mmm, impossible to say. However, not worth trying to do something "overt" here... adding a large influx of water, "treatments"...>   I too was surprised that we have not had "babies" yet.   Any ideas on cause? <Many possibilities... mostly "environmental/water quality" probably... though could be predation... frogs, insect larvae (do you have Odonatans/Dragonflies?> Should we create "ambiance"? :) <Could... more diverse habitat would help... plants...>   Or,  there are babies but they get eaten.  Or there are eggs but environmentally the conditions are not right for maturity. <Some should survive>    Maybe I should stick to one problem at a time - the "sick fish" for now would be the priority.   If we lose the rest of our fish, is there a "stronger" fish we should consider for replacement? <Mmm, would need much more information... on where you're located, the local laws, the likelihood of the animals getting loose... too many issues to speculate on w/o much more input>      Again thanks for all info - and your quick reply.  JM <Bob Fenner>

Old Tank Syndrome (or pond rather) NEED HELP ASAP... IMPORTED KOI NEED HELP!!!   9/6/06 Hi,     My Grandfather has a 2000 gallon pond with very  large imported Koi, comets, and channel cats. <Mmm... can be a dangerous mix...> The pond is  EXTREMELY over stocked. The reason being is that we were building  a 4000 gallon pond on his property over the weekend and he was "conditioning"  these large Koi for the new pond, but he added a few to many. In addition to  that, he did a large water change a week ago, and his bio filter seems to have  crashed. <Yikes... with no back-up mechanism?> (Our tap water has chlorine and chloramines, and he accidentally put  Clear Pond in, instead of Stress Coat, while doing the water change.) So, today  being Wednesday, the new filter for the 4000 Gallon is coming, and he has lost 5  comets already and many more fish look like they are on the way out. Yesterday,  the ammonia was 6- 8 ppm, <Yeeikes... no feeding!> so I purchased Amquel (I know it slows down the cycling process, but I did it to save their lives) and added 3 more pumps to  increase water movement. <All good moves> I tested the water an hour afterwards and the  results were: Ammonia 3.0 (so it basically halved) Nitrite:15 ppm, <Yowzah!!!> Nitrate 250  ppm, and the pH was so low it was off the charts! <Thank goodness. DO NOT adjust the pH upward... all will die... almost immediately> Also, the buffering capacity  was on the lowest level on the test kit. What should he/ I do?  I planned  on doing a 1/3 water change and adding a 150% dose of stress coat, as well as  add a concentrated shock of some powdered bacteria he adds regularly. Please  help, I don't want him to loose any more fish. Thanks, Anthony <Quickly call, run/drive to as many fish stores that have Bio-Spira in stock and add this to the filter intake... Quick! Bob Fenner>

Large ghost <Koi>, off colour. 12/13/06 I live in the UK, I have a large doitsu <Oh! A "German scaled carp"... Doitsu is a Nihongo take on the word Deutsch... a Koi variety... one with large lateral and/or dorsal scalature... a variety developed by the way, to facilitate their cleaning for human consumption> ghost that has been off colour for some time. I have an established 2000 gallon set up that is well filtered with no water quality issues. (Nitrite/ammonia maintained zero, plenty of aeration, Ph at 7) Other than Nitrate creeping up towards 100 ppm, <Bingo... this could be the cause, alone here> but our tap water is nearly half that. <... danger... to humans... from consuming such... I would be checking into this> The fish is one of 10 Koi and is the only one displaying these symptoms. <Mmm... "happens" with some Koi... Ohgon varieties quite often...> At 24 inches and a weight of 10 pounds she has always been the largest, greediest fish and has grown an awful lot this year. <Also common of Ohgons ("sun colored fish"... one-color, warm... silver-platinum, orange... varieties> She lost interest in feeding however around about November - water temp. was still mild, holding around 12 degrees. <And... such color changes, color losses are often timed/identified with thermal changes> All other fish remained feeding (much less, of course). Even now, in December, the pond has stayed mild, but she does not want to feed. <Time to stop offering> She will eat the odd bit of brown bread if you can get it to fall near her nose, and pick out whatever she might bump into, but frequently just spits it out. She just won't eat pellets or sticks (Kasuri / tetra wheat germ). <Good products> She will follow the pack at feeding time, and I can tell she isn't blind, but she has always only had one eye. She didn't spawn this year, she remains quite bloated, firm gut, she's a broad, deep fish but is certainly much wider at egg end. Being sparsely scaled it's difficult to see if scales are raised, <Mmm, are not... this would be obvious> also having only one eye, it's difficult to see if this is bulging. It looks like it is, but not overly. She swims slightly awkwardly, flashes sometimes- very precisely just rubbing her head. She tries to squeeze herself between pipes frequently. I've even seen her try to engage the males into what looks like spawning- now- in the winter! <Mmm, not spawning behavior... likely dominance displays> She will sit near the outlet sometimes. She has now got a slight grey appearance to her scales, and head- could be extra mucus. I got her out a couple of weeks ago, checked what I could, and she looks fine. I've had her five years and you get to know your fish, I know she's not right. I'm reluctant to treat, I have added 0.3 % salt. And this week Acriflavine, <These are relatively safe remedies> mainly because I don't know what I'm treating and these products are harmless. <Oh, yes> I've ruled out simple parasites, as it's not behaviour common to these I've ever seen before. I have no 'tank' to separate this fish, certainly nothing large enough. She has always been an extremely hardy fish, tough as old boots and wanting to climb out the pond to feed, even in winter. I hope you can appreciate my concern and hope you can help. Many thanks, Julian. <Mmm... well, not much "to do" here... but give up on trying to feed this animal... hope that the swelling, bloating and other aberrant behavior "cures" itself over the winter... I would cease feeding/offering foods of all types once the water temperature is below 55F. consistently. Bob Fenner>

Re: Large ghost, 'off colour'-  well, 'sick'!.   12/15/06     Dear Bob Fenner,    <Julian>   Thank you for your response re. My large Doitsu Ghost. I can see a 'language' mis translation here as in the UK when we say 'off colour' we don't mean it literally- we mean 'sick' or 'poorly'.    <Ah, yes>   I'm unsure about the nitrate readings (near 100) as i only test for these on a 'strip'. <This really needs reducing... but I would be careful, likely ignore most all water chemistry (lest it were outright toxic) during the cold months... once feeding has ceased... below 55 F.> I use proper tests for everything else so I will purchase a proper test for the nitrate to double check (tap and pond).    <Good>   Since sending the message I did get her out to have a careful look. Her large scales aren't raised but they're 'glassy' in appearance. And her abdomen huge. She seemed fine other than this. My gut feeling is that there is an internal problem, best left alone.... do you think? <Is possible... however... what to do? It is dangerous to handle, treat Koi during cold water seasons...> I shan't get her out again, as when I put her back she lay on her side, clearly stressed, for five minutes.    <Yes>   Sometimes in my experience trying to 'interfere' can make things worse. <You are correct here... our observations concur> I agree that she might just come out of the winter fine... I just needed your re-assurance I guess. I thank you for your help, and informative web site.      Julian. <Thank you... I would wait till Spring... perhaps try an Epsom Salt bath then if the swelling has not been resorbed. Bob Fenner>

Fishy <I'll say!>... Over bio-loaded pond... stop-gap measures   4/19/07 Dear Bob & crew <Big D> Last night, for no apparent reason, my white tip reef shark bit the fluke of my bottlenose dolphin I bet you wish you had a nickel from every time you've heard THAT, right? (ahem - just kidding) <Heeeee!> Finally, my son's marine aquarium is stable, thanks in great part to your wonderful site and expert advice. Things are nice and quiet. Yep.  You guessed it. Too quiet. Nature abhors me having a nice, relaxing day. <And a vacuum!> So a woman I know called and told me she just bought a house with a Koi pond and asked if I could come take a look.   So I get there and it's a nice house and a nice pond.   There are six 22+ inch Koi and two 8 inch Koi in a 650 gallon pond with a 800 GPH submersible pump emptying into a 30 gallon filter. <Yikes... too much life, too little water, filter...>   OK, it was a nice pond when there were 8 fingerlings in it.   So I whip out my test kit and get exactly what I expected:  1.0+ Ammonia, 5.0 Nitrite & 8.1 PH.    So I ask her:  Are you sure they're not dead and it's just the current blowing them around? <Good one> Well, no I didn't ask exactly that ...  but now I'm under more stress than the Koi. Changing close to 650 gallons of water over 36 hours improved things dramatically, but I swear, even as I'm doing this ... a couple of the Koi would nose to me, head almost out of water and then turn and shoot poop out as if to say "we've evolved, we LIKE ammonia!" <Doubtful> Anyway ... a bigger pond and less fish is the answer and we're working the logistics on that ... but in the near term, what would you think about 4 litres each of Purigen and Phos-Guard in the filter as an artificial assistant while I dig the other hole, pour the other cement and beg the homeowner for the funds to do all this? <This and more or less constant water changing, very limited feeding... Bob Fenner> White blotches on Koi, env. dis.  06/11/07 Hi WWM crew, Thanks for your help in the past. <Welcome> I have a 2,000 gallon Koi pond, established 10 years ago. It's been remarkably problem-free over its life, and a few of my Koi are originals purchased in 1997. <Nice> It has 15 or 16 fish, all Koi except three comets, ranging in size from 5 to about 15 inches. It is filtered with a big Savio trash can-sized filter that feeds a 15 inch waterfall, a 35-gallon bacteriological filter that feeds another small waterfall, and a 6 foot long algae mat. I also have a third circulating pump feeding a 6 inch waterfall, with no filtration mechanisms attached. <Good... and am hoping that all these pumps are on separate electrical circuits...> It is under trees, so the water is mostly shaded, some dappled sunlight. The water is clear but not as clean as it used to be, and has a brownish tinge, probably tannic acid. <Ah, a clue...> With three waterfalls evaporation is rapid, so once a week it gets a generous top off/water change, and a few times a season I remove and change a few hundred gallons. <Better by far to make sure you are removing water regularly... to prevent a sort of "Dead Sea" effect, the accumulation of solids (left behind with water evaporation)... replacing said removed water with new> I noticed that a few of the fish, but one in particular, has white splotches. On the fish most infected there are three, each about the size of a quarter. They are pretty pronounced. On a few other fish there are smaller, less obvious ones. All fish are acting and eating normally. <Mmm... likely environmental in origin> A visit to the water gardening section of my local nursery led to the recommendation of using a treatment with Clout <No!> (filtration stopped during this time) I did this but it had no effect, although in fairness I probably turned the filter back on too soon, as the blue disappeared within an hour or so of turning the filters back on. Any suggestions? Thanks Jeff <Relatively large serial water changes... along with testing... I suspect you have very high TDS, nitrates... And do look into adding a UV or Ozonizer to this system... cheaper to run than one of the pumps... and much improvement in water quality, livestock health. Cheers, Bob Fenner> Jeff Zegas

Possible sick Koi and gold fish 09/19/07 Crew at Wet Web Media, <Hail!> I have a fresh water tank (pond) that is rectangular in shape and built into my deck outside. I have had this pond in my deck for over 11 years. Outside of having to rebuild it 3 years ago because of termites in the wood frame I have had no problems with it at all. I use a biological filter that consists of a bucket with lava rock with water that circulates at 300 gallons per hour. I have water lilies, originating plants and a fountain. <OK.> The total volume of the pond is around 800 gallons. I have 4 Koi and about 12 gold fish in the pond. <All sounds fine.> There is 1 Koi and 3 of the gold fish that exhibit a peculiar curvature to their spine (my main concern). None of the fish swim around like they used to. They mostly stay on the bottom and only come up to feed and are not friendly at all (they used to feed out of my hand). <When a bunch of fish all at the same time show skeletal deformities, and they're not congenital defects, then you have to look at water quality and diet.> I have tested my water and the following are the readings that I'm getting. PH between 7.4 and 7.8 <OK.> Ammonia is less than 0.5 <Unacceptable. Must be zero; there's no "Safe" level of ammonia. It's either zero or dangerous, there's nothing in between.> Nitrate (No3) is between 20-40mg/L <OK.> Nitrite (No2) is >2.0 <3.0 <Dangerously high.> Total Hardness (GH) is around 150 <A bit on the low side for goldfish, but acceptable.> Total Chlorine ppm is < .05 <Again, should really be zero. Are you using dechlorinator when you change the water?> Total Alkalinity (KH) is >120 <Acceptable; with goldfish and Koi, the basic rule is "the harder the water, the better".> I realize that the pH, Nitrite, and hardness are high. However never having a problem before I do not know how to safely bring all the readings down to a ideal level. <The critical issues are the ammonia and nitrite, and to a lesser degree the chlorine. Using dechlorinator and adding something like a fountain should drive off/remove the chlorine quite well, so this is an easy fix. The ammonia and nitrite levels together indicate a pond that is either overfed or underfiltered (or both).> The only thing out of the ordinary is that a snapping turtle found its way into the pond somehow (it was removed immediately upon discovery with no visible harm done to any fish). <Irrelevant. Wildlife moves in and out of ponds whatever you do. Admittedly, big turtles will eat the fish, but that's not the problem here!> Any help in correcting my water to bring it to good readings and an idea of what is going on with my fish and how to help them would greatly be appreciated. <Review filtration. Clearly, your pond doesn't have enough. If the filter is new, then maturation may be an issue, but if the tank is established, then check that the pump is working and that the filter medium is not hopelessly clogged up. If everything seems normal, then you may need to install additional filtration, or else thin out the livestock. Reflect on how much food you're adding, and especially what kinds: both Koi and goldfish are largely herbivorous, and at least 4 meals out of 7 can be plant material. Plant material includes kitchen greens, pondweed, algae-based foods (like Sushi Nori) and so on. The point here is that not only is this healthier for the fish, but also plant material contains less protein while retaining the energy and vitamins the fish need. So less polluting.> Thank you in advance. Sam <Hope this helps, Neale>

Re: Possible sick Koi and gold fish  7/21/07 Neale Thanks for the input. I am currently feeding the boys and girls "Tetra Pond" pond sticks and they usually get fed once in the afternoon when I get home from work. Do you think it is advisable to mix some greens with the pond sticks? I will watch and only feed them what they will eat in five minutes. I will also add another pump, filter, and fountain to the pond and watch the chlorine level to make sure it goes down. Now that I think about it the pump is a new one that doesn't have as much flow as the previous one had I hope that this will take care of the ammonia and nitrite problems. I forgot one of the first things that I was told about ponds, "The more flow and filtration the happier the fish". With great appreciation. I have searched for answers at other places on the Web and you are the first and only one to respond. You guys are great. Sam <Hello Sam. Happy to help! Yes, mix greens with the pond sticks. Do one on one day, and the other the next if you like. If you dump some cheap pond plants (like Elodea) into the pond, you can skip feeding them for a few days entirely, and the fish will eat those instead. This is especially valuable in the cooler seasons, where pond fish are easily overfed (to their detriment). Live plants are an excellent food source at these times. It sounds as if the pond pump might be one factor at work here, so yes, go ahead and check that. Water flow *is* the key in small ponds especially. Good luck, Neale>

Sarasa comet gasping for breath? Pond Troubles - Water Quality 06/08/2008 Hi Crew, <Hello, Amanda! Sabrina with you today.> I hope that somebody is able to help. I have just recently set up a new pond with just over 3000 litres and a waterfall. <Approximately 800 US gallons, for metrics challenged folks> I am using a Hozelock Cyprio Bioforce UVLC 8000ltr filter and an Oase Aquamax 3500 pump. The pond had been up and running for about 3 weeks with plants etc. before I did a first water check to be able to introduce some fish. The levels were pH 8.5 and nitrite .1. <Wait, wait! What about that all-important, deadly toxic compound, Ammonia? Please, this is urgent.... Do be testing for Ammonia and Nitrate in addition to pH and Nitrite. Ammonia and Nitrite in ANY concentration should be treated as toxic or deadly. pH should remain stable - goldfish are very tolerant animals - though closer to 7.0 would be nice, stability is far more important than precision. I would prefer not to take goldfish above 8.0 if possible, but again, stability is far, far more important here. Nitrate you'll want to aim to keep as low as possible, probably with plants and a low stocking density as water changes in a pond aren't necessarily easy or fast.> I gave these levels to the aquatic centre and they assured me that it would be fine to introduce some fish. <.... Did they not question the presence of Ammonia?? I would be VERY cautious here.... Dead fish mean you'll buy more fish. I am not saying your local shop is unscrupulous, just that some very few are. Further, even some great shopkeepers can forget new hobbyists' lack of knowledge or experience and recommend courses of action that they, in their experience, might be able to handle but which a new hobbyist maybe just doesn't have the experience or knowledge to deal with.> I bought just 6 fish to start....2 Sarasa, 2 canary yellow goldish and 2 red comets. Everything seemed to be going fine. 10 days later I decided to introduce some more fish...I did another water check and levels were much the same...nitrite slightly higher (between .1 and .25), <Dangerous, here.... this *needs* to be zero to be considered "safe".... Please do NOT add any more life to this system until this "cycling" is under control. There is much information on WetWebMedia regarding establishing the "cycle" that will keep your livestock alive and well. Please start here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm .> ...think I may have overfed the first fish slightly. so I reduced their feed to help lower the level. I also checked nitrate which was 10mg/l. <This is a safe/appropriate level.> I gave the levels to the same centre as before, who again said everything was okay to introduce some more fish. <Whaaaaaat?? All that fish "want" in life is a proper environment, a bit of food, and maybe some pals to spawn with. Focus on the proper environment, and you'll do very well. Again, in short: Ammonia and Nitrite must be ZERO, Nitrate less than 20ppm (ideally - a little higher may not be too bad, but can lead to trouble), pH *stable*, and ideally closer to 7-ish (once more, stability is key - if 8.0 is easy to maintain, then 8.0 it is.) Please know that Ammonia or Nitrite in any concentration can lead to real issues. Further, Ammonia is "more toxic" at higher pH, so this is even more important in your case.> This time (yesterday) I purchased 7 fish...(2 Sarasa, 3 golden tench and 2 shubunkin) all fish around 2-3 inches long. <Do please be concerned.... and begin changing water right now, if you can.... and please, no more fish until this environment is much, much more stable.> The smallest Sarasa almost since being introduced (after a couple of hours) to the pond, has been at the surface 'gasping' for breath, he is also not moving around that much....at times it almost appears that he is in a trance and just 'floats' with his the tip of his head out of the water. <Trouble.... Symptoms of a problem (Ammonia or Nitrite) in the environment.... Do not add medications for this; rather, *change some water*. Good water quality is of the utmost importance here. Be sure to dechlorinate new water. Keep that waterfall running for good oxygenation.> I have read some of the FAQ on suffocation and can only assume that it might be parasites as none of the other causes seem to be relevant. <This is more likely environmental than pathogenic. I would work first on correcting the environment. Even if there IS a parasitic complaint as well, the environment must first be safe and stable before you tackle treating a pathogen.> I just wondered if this might be correct because I don't want to lose the fish, however, I do not wish to give unnecessary medication or introduce anything to the pond that might affect the other fish. <Gooooood job, and kudos to you!!> If it is parasites, is there anything that I can clearly look out for to help diagnosis? <Certainly! Observe the animal as closely as possible. Fix the environment before taking any other actions (e.g., do some water changes). Look at the fish's skin; look for any "obvious" parasites, as well as other abnormalities.... Streaks or inflammation in the fins and body may well be attributable to simple poor water quality (again, presence of Ammonia and/or Nitrite). Trust your gut instinct, do not add medications or other chemicals to the water until/unless you *know* you have a real pathogen to battle. You might do well to remove the little Sarasa and quarantine him separately from the others, in case there is something communicable present. I still rather suspect that this is just environmental.> Also, if this is the case, would it be infectious to my other fish as currently they all appear to be fine. (The Sarasa both came from the same tank at the aquatic centre). <Coming from the same tank doesn't necessarily mean that he can't have something the others don't, but really.... chances are that this one little Sarasa is, for whatever reason, more susceptible to poor water quality than the others. You mention that he's small; young fish often show problems sooner than older fish. Test your water, get Ammonia and Nitrite to zero with water changes, and you'll be off to a great start.> Sorry to be so long-winded, but I wanted to give as much background and information as possible so that you might be able to help. <Don't apologize for this, please! You did very well to provide the information that you have. Thank you for being detailed.> Thanks in advance, Kind regards, Amanda <Best regards to you and your fishy pals! -Sabrina C. Fullhart>

Re: Sarasa comet gasping for breath? Pond Troubles - Water Quality II - 06/09/2008 Hi Sabrina <Hi, Amanda!> Thank you so much for your information and help. <Glad to be of service.> I have checked on him first thing this morning and he is swimming around a little more, however, I will begin to implement all of your advice today <Excellent!> and do some more research, <Ahh, WONDERFUL. That's the best thing you can possibly do.> and let you know. Thanks again. <Any time.> Kind regards, Amanda <Wishing you well, -Sabrina> Re: Sarasa comet gasping for breath? Pond Troubles - Water Quality III - 06/09/2008 Hi again Sabrina <Hi again, Amanda!> Just a quick update and therefore a couple more questions...sorry! <Hah! No apologies, here. I mean, heck, you're capitalizing your sentences, using proper grammar/spelling, and researching about your livestock - what more could anyone possibly ask?? You're the ideal question-asker, as far as I can tell.> I tested the water this morning and the nitrite was .1 and ammonia was 0. Could it be this is just my new pond settling down? <Yes, this is *exactly* what is going on. If the little fellah is still having trouble, you might still try a water change or two over the next day or two. A cycling system - pond or otherwise - is, in my opinion, no place for a fish. Keep Ammonia at zero, and get the Nitrite down if you can. You'll probably see Nitrate going up a bit soon, which is expected and okay.> The Sarasa is moving more today so far...although does still appear to be coming to the surface far more than the others. I have been keeping an eye on him (as much as is possible in a pond), to see if I can see any parasites on him...nothing seen so far. <Good.> I have also looked into a live bacteria additive for new ponds and wondered if this might help...one that is safe to use with fish. <Quite possibly.> However, my concern with this is that it would push all levels up first as the bacteria is introduced before it began to actually stabilise the environment more...is this right? <Well.... In some cases, you would be right, and in others, actually, it's the opposite. Some products just speed up or induce the growth of new bacteria, by providing "stuff" for them to consume... some of these products will result in a faster increase in Ammonia and Nitrite. However, the very, very few "real" products (such as Marineland's Bio Spira, when that used to be available) actually contain the real bacteria that oxidize Ammonia and Nitrite, so you would see a pretty fast decrease in Ammonia and Nitrite.> I obviously don't want to do anything that might harm the fish. <Obviously, indeed - you are doing an excellent job thus far. Your fish would thank you if they knew how dedicated you are!> Thanks very much, and also many thanks for your very swift response previously. <You are very welcome.> Kind regards, Amanda <Wishing you well, -Sabrina>

Goldfish dying - water quality? Hi.   Thank you for getting back to me so soon Sabrina.   <Sure thing.> I would not think the water quality is killing them as I use the same well water for my indoor guppies for  years and I have had great great success with them with only a few dying from old age as they only live to a maximum of 2years old. <I doubt very much that the issue is related to the source water, especially if your indoor tank(s) are doing well.  No, what I meant was the water quality in the pond itself - you introduced a whole lot of fish at one time, which would put a lot of stress on whatever biological bacteria had built up already (it's an issue in a pond just as much as in an aquarium).  The wastes from all the fish likely built up very quickly, and with not enough bacteria to compensate, ammonia and nitrites would rise to toxic levels.  Please do get yourself some test kits (ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, pH) so you can know what's happening in the water.  The sick/dying goldfish probably succumbed to ammonia and or nitrite poisoning.  Again, it's not the well water that I'm concerned about (especially with your indoors fish doing fine), it's what's going on with the water once it's in the pond.  Also, please make use of the following links, to help you understand pond water, water quality issues, and cycling: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PondSubWebIndex/h2ochempds.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PondSubWebIndex/tstkitspds.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PondSubWebIndex/trttap4pds.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PondSubWebIndex/pdh2ochgs.htm This should be plenty of info to start, then please make use of other pond information on WWM, such a wealth of knowledge.  And of course, feel free to keep asking questions.> Goldfish should be able to live in the same water as guppies I would figure. I took the pond temperature after reading your  response and it was 61 degrees Fahrenheit at the edge of the pond. Deeper down it would be colder. <That should be plenty warm enough for them to be feeding.  I would bet they're chowing down on what countless organisms there are occurring naturally in the pond.> I wonder if when I run cold well water straight from the tap into pond this sudden shock of colder water somehow hurts the fish because I do add hundreds of gallons at a time since the pond leaks into the ground slowly and steadily.   <Oh gosh, yes, that could be a problem.  How fast is the pond leaking?  Is it slow enough that you could just top it off more often with less water?> Any response to this letter would be very nice of you... The 4 goldfish left in the pond are still  alive  and I have not added cold well water for several days now seeing if it helps. <With so few fish left, and it being two weeks later, I'd bet that the cycle's complete now.  Do please get test kits, find out where your water is right now, and wait a couple of weeks, see how the remaining four goldfish do, then, if they're still okay, add fish - but only a couple or a few at a time.> If the peas I have put into pond fall to the bottom, will goldfish still eat them off the bottom or do they have to float on top?? <Goldfish will eat pretty much anything that they find anywhere that they find it.  I do recommend that you feed them primarily with goldfish pellets or flake food.  They shouldn't need to be fed more than two or three times a week, really.  Less would be okay, too.  My ponds get fed once a week, with great results.  See here for some info on pond feeding: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PondSubWebIndex/pdfishfeeding.htm > Thank you, Todd from Canada <Any time.  Always glad to be of service.  -Sabrina>

Fungus question Hello, <Hi there> I have a large fishpond with about 40 Koi and I recently noticed that one of the larger fish has dark furry spots on it's side. It is still eating along with the other fish. <Mmm, furry spots... does sound fungal> I have read about fungus on your site and I believe this is the problem. I admit that we have not cleaned the pond since we moved into this house a couple of years ago. We planned to do so this spring when the fear of frost was past by draining 1/2 of the water and vacuuming out the organic matter and debris collected at the bottom. <Good idea... but I would change out a quarter at most... wait a few weeks, do again...> In the meantime I am very concerned about this fish. I have never removed any of the fish from the pond for any reason and I am not sure how to handle treating it for the fungus. Someone has suggested capturing it, removing the fungus with a q-tip and applying Neosporin cream to the wounds. Do you have any tips on treatment? I am afraid I will stress the fish more if I don't handle it properly and I fear it will jump out of my hands! Also, should I salt the water in the meantime before I can get to the cleaning? How much salt per gallon? <You can use a topical... mercuric compound, not Neosporin... Mercurochrome, Merbromin... with a dauber... but where will you put the fish after? Back in the same pond? I would not do this... too much stress to warrant its removal, treatment. Do the water changes, add salt... Bob Fenner> There are aquatic plants such as water iris and lily pads in the pond. It has a waterfall to circulate the water, and a UV light filter which we will re-introduce when fear of frost is past.  Thank you so much for your help! Sincerely, Laura Keitlen Seekonk, MA  <About one pound of salt per hundred gallons of water.>  

Goldfish turning white 8/21/05 Hello, I have 7 goldfish not sure what kind they are. The pet store called them feeder fish, they were about a inch long, now they are about 4 to 6 inches long. <Otherwise known as "comets"... a variety developed in the west> They live in a 100 gallon plastic shape pond in my front yard. I have had goldfish for about 10 yrs now and never had this problem. These 7 goldfish I have had for about a year now. I had one that was losing his color. He started turning white in spots <In spots... likely a parasitic disease... were the spots very small? The fish lethargic, hanging at the surface?> until he was totally white. He died after about 2 weeks. Now I have two other goldfish getting the white spots on them now. It looks like, its just losing its color, it does not look like it has something attach to the skin. I have read about Ich, these do not look like little salt spots on them. <Oh...> They do not scratch up against anything in the pond. These spots are on there bodies and not there fins. They do not look like any of the pictures I have seen of Ich. I have tested the water, the nitrites is in the stress level 3.0, <... this is past the deadly level... 1.0 ppm at high pH is very toxic> and I am now treating the water for that, but everything else is ok. I do not know what else to do. Can you help me or have you heard of this problem. Betty   <Fix your water quality... do you have a purposeful biological filter? Aeration? A regular water change maintenance schedule? These are covered on WWM: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PondSubWebIndex/Pond%20Sub%20Web.htm I strongly suspect the root cause/s of your troubles are environmental... Bob Fenner>

Re: Goldfish turning white 8/22/05 Thanks Bob, Yes I do have bio filter and a Aeration pump. No, the fish is not lethargic, or hanging at the surface. I will do a water change and keep a closer eye on the levels. Thank you for all of your help. Betty <Ahh, I see... I do hope the water change/s solve the issue/s here. Your root trouble/s may be seasonal, from crowding, elevated temperature... Bob Fenner>

White fungus on Koi  10/3/05 Hi I have just started up a pond in the garden, 1000 gals 3' 8" deep with a waterfall fed by an Oase Aquamax 8000 pump through an Oasis 24000  green2clean UVC/bio filter.  I have been given 7 fish (all from one pond)  including 3 Koi of around 18" long. <Too large for this size system> I have noticed that one of the large Koi has  about 3 small semi transparent white patches that are slightly proud of its  scales.  It looks like some kind of fungus but I am not sure.  I have  also noticed that a few of the larger fish are 'flashing' and appear to rub  themselves against the sides of the pond.   <Likely "just" environmental... getting used to a new system that is not quite aged "enough"> I noticed one of the fish do this about 5 times yesterday morning.  At other times they are quite stationary.  They are all feeding OK at the moment on Koi staple pellets and wheat germ sticks. I have tested the PH which is at about 8.5 (similar to the pond they came from).  Ammonia, Nitrites and nitrates are all very low. <Ammonia, nitrite need to be zero, zip> Any advice? Thanks Chris (Newport S. Wales) <Read through our Pond Subweb on WWM. Bob Fenner>

Koi sickness... env., lack of biol. filtr.   2/24/06 This is my first time posting but I read your site all the time and is very helpful, great site!  I'm having a problem with my Koi which is getting weak. The Koi is 2.5 years old and about 10 inches long in a 75 gallon tank. Last week he started to act funny by jumping out of the water, darting aimlessly at times. But I didn't see any signs of disease, bacteria, fungus, or parasites on him. I checked the water conditions and the ammonia was a little high .75 and so was the nitrate .50. <Likely nitrIte... both these measures are very toxic!> I do 25% water changes, clean filters, and add new carbon weekly. Second time toxins went above .25 after I got a biological filter. <You obviously need more biological filtration. Koi of this size, in warm/er water are copious producers of ammonia waste... needs ready processing> I never use salt but added 1 teaspoon per 5 gallons this time to help him (mixed in water bucket first). That night he looked a lot better and thought he was just being a weird fish. But now he is acting listless at the bottom of the tank, hiding, won't eat out of my fingers, looks scared, clamped fins, eyes looks bulged, and nothing on his body to indicate infection when I looked closely at him. Also I don't see heavy mucus build, he not losing color yet, but his scales are a little beat-up possibility from banging himself up. I have one 4" shark, one small tiger barb, and 2 algae eaters in the tank and leave the Koi alone (unless the Koi steals the algae disc.. lol). The Koi still eats, but there is something wrong. My cold blooded friend needs your help. Can you help me?                                                  Thanks,                     Wayne <Only you can help here... you need more bio. filtration. Add an outside power filter, quit feeding, don't gravel vacuum... till there is not detectable ammonia or nitrite. Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Re: Koi sickness,,, env., lack of biol. filtr. - 2/28/2006 Sorry to disturb you again. I was wrong. Ammonia and nitrites are fine...no traces. But my NitrAte is out of control. Out of frustration, I changed out 80% of my water, <Best to limit this to no more than 20-25% per any given day> added Amquel, salt, cleaned my filtration/ and biological filter a little. But despite my efforts my NitrAte remains at a level of 40? (border line) and raising. My Koi now has something large (bacteria?) on his tail with some steaks also, I added Maracyn-Two to try to control the Popeye and  possible tail rot. I understand Ammonia and Nitrite toxins but cant find any beneficial information on NitrAte except declining fish health. <Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwnitrates.htm and the links above> I hope I took the right steps using a gram negative antibiotic. <... trouble... in the way of interrupting nitrification... Read, understand what you're doing, then act...> But still not sure what to do with my original problem considering I got mixed up with my Nitrate and Nitrites. Could you lead me on the right steps. I know its hard because you cant see the fish. But I thank you for your time and patience.             Thanks,             Wayne <Keep reading Wayne. Learn to/use the Google search tool on WWM, the indices, links... Bob Fenner>

Aquatic Gardens

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

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