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Joyce Clark Unfiltered

For "the rest of the story"

It has been 17 years and 217 days since the city’s pledge to build the West Branch Library.

I haven’t done an update on the pond in awhile and it seemed like a good time to share how it and the Koi are doing. It’s early August and HOT. I was in the pond last week doing some trimming and cleanup work with the pond plants. Surprisingly, the water is much cooler than the ambient air temperature and the fish seem to enjoy it.

The pond in August

The pond in August

I am convinced that the shade cover is doing its job. The shade cover, the UV light, the barley bale and a very occasional dose of Algae Fix are keeping the algae down considerably. I’ve blogged about the shade cover and the UV light previously but I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned the barley bale or the use of Algae Fix.

A year ago I ordered 2 barley bales online for about $40. I didn’t realize they would last as long as they have. It took a year to use up one barley bale. The purpose of the barley is that it

Spring Spider Lily

Spring Spider Lily

retards algae formation. I take a mesh laundry bag (you can get them at a Dollar store for $1 each), fill it with barley straw and then insert it all into a second mesh bag. Add a string for easy retrieval and anchor the string around a rock. At first the barley mesh bag floats for about a week. Eventually it gets water logged and sinks to the bottom. As the barley decomposes it releases a natural chemical that retards algae development. The barley will virtually disappear over time. When the bag is empty I pull it and refill. I use barley in Arizona in the spring, summer and fall.

As for the Algae Fix I use it sparingly. In May the algae went wild and I was hand pulling pounds of it out of the pond daily. Yes, daily. I finally realized that I would need to use something to get a handle on the algae situation. I used the Algae Fix every 3 days as directed over two weeks. The algae disappeared considerably…not all of it but a good 80%. In July I started to put a cup in once a week and it has kept it under control. I still hand pull algae but not every day and not in the copious quantities I had been pulling.

I have tried to grow Lotus in the pond with absolutely no luck. First I got some Lotus seeds. I successfully got them to sprout, waited for them to grow and

gain strength. I then planted them in pots and set them in the pond. Every plant died. I have no clue as to why. I then ordered two Lotus plants and potted them this spring. Guess what? They died as well. I guess this pond is never destined to enjoy Lotus. I also ordered two Spider Lilly plants. They have done well and bloomed this spring.

The lilies are all blooming…yellow ones, blue ones, red ones and peach ones. As I write this I realize that I have no white lilies. Hmmm, maybe next spring. Our Snowflake plants have small, white flowers and grow like weeds. I find

Lillies and more lillies

Lillies and more lillies

culling Snowflake and Water Lettuce all the time. Both plants are very, very prolific and would take over the pond if I let them. The same can be said for Yerba Manza and my Taro plants. I finally ripped out the Yerba Manza but there is still one patch left that I will dispose of. The Taro has multiplied and now resides in two spots in the pond. The Iris is finished for the year and I have cut the leaves back so that they don’t obstruct the view within the pond.

Even though temperatures are soaring in Arizona the pond is happy and healthy and so are the Koi. We still sit outside every evening after dinner, feed the Koi and enjoy their antics. The pond has given us countless hours of enjoyment and well worth our investment.

© Joyce Clark, 2015

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Pond update…July 25

Posted by Joyce Clark on July 25, 2013
Posted in fish pondKoi pond  | Tagged With: , , , | 3 Comments

Those wonderful monsoon rains we experienced recently were great…except for the pond. We had a “gully whomper” one day and another entire day when it rained off and on. The rain cooled everything and washed away the dust and dirt…into the pond. Rain water, so I am told, does not contain oxygen and so it depleted the oxygen level in the pond. As a result we lost 3 fish after the rains.

We lost this goldfish. When my husband bought it, it was no more than 2″ long. It had grown to a whopping 8″.

goldfish 2

Goldfish

goldfish 1

Goldfish

 

 

 

 

 

The same fate awaited this metallic black and white skeleton Koi. He was no more than 3″ or 4″ when we got him and he, too, had grown to 8″.

skeleton fish 1

Skeleton Koi

skeleton fish 2

Skeleton Koi

 

 

 

 

 

The saddest loss of all was one of my favorite Koi. This guy was also 3″ or 4″ when we bought him and he had grown to a foot long. The coloring on this fish was really good. The front half was red and the back half was predominately black.

red white black koi 1

Red White and Black Koi

red white black koi 2

Red White and Black Koi

 

 

 

 

 

It’s always sad to lose pets whether it is a dog, cat, hamster or fish. I guess that’s nature’s plan and sometimes even with one’s best efforts, we cannot prevent their loss.

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Our second excursion was to the Laguna Koi Ponds located at 20457 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, CA 92651. Their hours of operation are Mon-Sat 9-5 and Sun 10-5. Their phone number is 949-484-8960 and their website is www.lagunakoi.com.

This was a very well run commercial operation. Again, we were the only visitors that morning. One of the owners, Danny, was extremely informative and answered our questions thoroughly. They had some small demonstration ponds and here are some photos.

demo pond 4demo pond 3demo pond 2demo pond 1

Laguna Koi has a humongous filtration system.  I didn’t think to get any photos but I can describe it. It was an above ground, large box, about 4’ or 5’ wide, 3’ deep and about 4’ high. In it were a series of approximately 8 to 10 medium to fine filter media. Danny said that his system handles 5,000 gallons and they usually only have to clean the filter media once a year.

little guys

Little Koi

All of his fish holding tanks were concrete and the water was very, very clear. This brings me to two major lessons learned in visiting both Koi farms. One lesson learned is that shade is essential.  We all know that California does not experience the temperatures that we do in Arizona. They also do not deal with intense sunlight 360 days a year yet they consider shade in their environment to be very important. Both Koi farms had shade over their fish holding tanks. Laguna Koi said it brings down the temperature of the water by as much as 15 degrees and the shade also inhibits the growth of algae which loves the direct sunlight that causes it to grow and multiply.

medium guys

Medium sized Koi

When we returned home we bought some shade cloth and had it assembled into a canopy measuring 18’ X 33’. We plan to put it up this week and I will share our experience as we do so. We are expecting the shade to lower our 86-90 degree surface water temperature by 10 degrees and we are hoping it will reduce the tremendous algae production we experience during July-September. It will be portable and we will take it down in the fall for reuse next summer. Stay tuned for our shade erection adventure.

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Large Koi

The second major lesson learned is that our filtration system is inadequate. Both Koi farms had very large filtration systems with lots and lots of filtration media. We know from our experiment with our small, garbage can-sized, external filtration system that it helps to rid the pond of algae. Our visit confirmed that we are on the right track but our system is undersized and is being overwhelmed by algae. This fall we will develop a plan to add more filtration and in the winter when the fish are torpid we will build it. This, too, I will share.

big guys 1

Large Koi

There has been one more lesson learned but not by visiting the Koi farms. About a month ago we added an aerator to the pond. It is a temporary measure. We have two waterfalls that run 24/7 but on extremely hot days the oxygen levels in the pond can drop precipitously. We placed a pump in the pond, connected a piece of hose and put a spray nozzle on the end of the hose. It adds additional oxygen to the pond water. One day we had to turn it off. By that afternoon I saw one of the 8”-10” goldfish coming to the surface and desperately gulping for air. The fish usually stay at the very bottom of the pond during the day. I freaked out, restarted the aerator and let it run all night. Usually I run it during daylight hours only. I expected to see a dead fish on the surface the next morning. To my delight he did not die and can be seen swimming and feeding with the pack. We learned that our instinct was correct and the extra oxygenating is helping our fish to combat the stress of an Arizona summer.

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June fish pond update

Posted by Joyce Clark on June 12, 2013
Posted in fish pondKoi pond  | Tagged With: , , , , | No Comments yet, please leave one

Surprisingly we can still see the bottom of the pond and the fish despite the fact that the temperatures have been running in the 105 to 110 degree range. We have a new addition to the pond and it seems like I have to stop trolling the Net for pond information for awhile or we will go broke.

I visited YouTube and can spend hours watching videos of koi fish spawning, feeding, etc., or I can watch fish growing or just swimming around. Everyone once in awhile a video leads to some new discovery. That’s how I happened on the Aqua-Sphere. I saw it on a video, went to the site, bought it and it is now sitting in the pond. While a neat idea, I would not recommend getting it until the company does some modifications. The concept of putting floating food into the ball and seeing the fish magnified is a very good one but their equipment needs modification. The base is too short and not wide enough to provide stability. Since the opening in the sphere is only supposed to be a few inches below the water line we found the base legs to be woefully short. The company should supply taller base legs that can be cut to your appropriate height. So we took an old, plastic tub turned upside down, drilled holes in it and wired the base to in essence, another base. Here is the tub and the Aquasphere:

base for stand

Tub used as base for
Aqua-Sphere stand

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Aqua-Sphere in pond
at dusk

 

 

 

 

 

The base ring that the sphere sits on should be wider as well to provide more stability. The first day I discovered that cleaning the pond and creating a strong current will tip the sphere over. Solution is to be more gentle and careful in my movements to clean around the sphere. Have we had fish in the sphere? Yes and no. If you count our hoard of Gambusia (mosquito fish) attacking the floating food, the answer is yes. The Koi are very wary of it so far. One of our Goldfish has exhibited great curiosity and may be the first to venture into it.

Here’s our current Fish Roster. We currently have about 20 fish but I am only going to share photos of half of them. I classify them as Large (between 12” and 24”); Medium ( between 6” and 12”) and Small (up to 6”).

First up is “Big Alice”, an all white, Large Koi. We were calling her “Big A” but during breeding season we realized that she is a female.

Big Alice 1

Big Alice
White koi

Then there are “Ying” and “Yang”, both are Large Butterfly Koi. Ying is orange and Yang is white with black spots.

Orange Butterfly 1

Orange Butterfly koi
Ying

 

 

 

Blk Wh Butterfly

Black and white butterfly koi
Yang

Next, unnamed and Large is a Koi that is primarily white with some red and black on its back.

Wh with r b 1

Unnamed Large koi
White with red and black

“Half and Half” is a Large Koi whose front half is red and back half is black.

Half and Half

Half Black and Half Red koi
Half and Half

Another unnamed and Large Koi has red on its head with mainly black on its body but with some red and white showing.

r w b 1

Red, white and black koi
Unnamed

 

 

 

 

 

 

“K1” is also a Large Koi. He is a light, golden color.

Lt golden 2

Light golden koi
K1

In the Medium category there is “K2.” He started off looking a lot like “K1” but as he has grown he has become more orange and has lost his golden luster.

Golden turned orange

Golden turned orange koi
K2

 

 

 

 

 

Also Medium size and unnamed are our two Skeleton Koi. One is orange and black and the other is silver and black.

orange skeleton 2

Orange skeleton koi
Unnamed

 

 

 

 

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Black and silver skeleton koi
Unnamed

I will post about the pond in July and introduce you to the rest of the pack. They all appear to be healthy. I feed them every evening at about 6 PM and it is a joy to watch them hone in on a morsel of floating food. It is the best time of the day.

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Another Rube Goldberg pond contraption

Posted by Joyce Clark on May 28, 2013
Posted in fish pondKoi pond  | Tagged With: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Pond vac 1

Pond Vac

Having put together our shop vac system to muck the bottom of the pond I wanted something to combat the free floating algae in the pond water. Back to Internet surfing again. This time I found a suggestion for an external filter. Our filters are doing a good job but there is so much fine, lacy algae they simply cannot keep up with it all.

I went to Wal-Mart and bought another bag of polyfill batting, a round sprinkler and a tall kitchen garbage receptacle. Again, my purchases were under $20. The only other items needed were a piece of hose and a submersible pump. Fortunately we had both lying around.

The old pump is submersible and moves 600 gallons of water an hour and can completely recirculate the pond water in about 12 hours. We placed the pump is in a sack we made of old, screen door netting to protect it from becoming clogged by algae. We attached an old shovel handle to it so that we can pick up the pump and move it around without having to get into the pond.

External filter inside

Inside of external filter
Poly fill batting
Sprinkler and hose

External filter trash container

External filter
trash container
holes drilled in
bottom, front

External filter hose and pump

External filter
hose from submersible pump
to sprinkler in trash container

 

 

 

 

 

 

A piece of hose runs from the pump into the plastic garbage can filled with polyfill batting. Again we drilled about 9 large holes at the bottom of the garbage can on one side only and drilled a hole at the top on the side to slip the hose into. We attached the sprinkler to the hose end draining into the garbage can. We run this external filter system during the day from about 7am to 11pm. It has been working for about a week and we can see that the water is clearing.

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Fish in May 2013

We will never rid ourselves of all the algae nor would we want to. The fish do eat the algae and as they root around the bottom and sides of the pond eating algae they disturb it and the fine stuff floats up to the surface. We do see clumps of this fine stuff on the water’s surface. I have tried skimming with our trusty pool net it but it is so fine, it just dissolves. However, it does float over to the internal filters where it is sucked into the system.

water quality 1

Water quality in May
in Arizona

As we enter the really hot part of the year in Arizona the water is becoming more cloudy and with time, we will not be able to see the fish. The filters will not be able to keep up with Mother Nature’s algae production.  I am determined, no matter the temptation, not to use chemicals this summer for summer will end, the water will clear and we will be surprised at how big the fish became while invisible to us.

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Fishes out of water

Posted by Joyce Clark on March 23, 2013
Posted in BlogsKoi pond  | Tagged With: , , , , | 2 Comments

It’s late April 2011 and I now have this beautiful pond filled with water plants; lilies, Yerba Mansa, Pickerel Wart, Taro and Mosaic.   We had small, starter landscape plants around the pond. We had 2 pumps – a large one for the waterfall and a smaller one for the stream waterfall providing plenty of oxygen. We had 3 filters – the main one for the 2 pumps and a filter for the main waterfall and another for the stream waterfall. We had plenty of filter capacity to ensure that the water remained clean. The water completely recirculated through the filter system every 3 hours.

our first goldfish Ap 2011

First goldfish
April 2011

The time had come to add fish. A co-worker said that she and her husband were dismantling their small pond and asked if I would like to have her goldfish and lilies. Boy would I! Our first additions were a few more lilies and a dozen goldfish – little guys. Everything was going well. Our pond water was clear and we could see the fish. They seemed to be growing! The lilies were blooming. We had our paradise. My husband even named each of the fish as he watched them feed every afternoon. We were enjoying the time spent on the patio, listening to the sound of splashing waterfalls and watching streaks of color swim by.

Paradise was soon to be lost, stolen by oppressively hot days that invited the algae to bloom unmercifully, causing the water to turn darkly green and murky. We could no longer see the fish. We wondered if they were still alive for how chemical 2could they breathe and live in that morass of water? Every time that we cleaned the filter net we expected to see at least one small fish carcass.

Once again, I returned to the internet, this time to research algae and its causes. I called “experts.” I visited other pond sites. Did you know that there are almost as many remedies for ridding a pond of algae as there are people on this planet? I was horribly confused and panicked that I would soon have a steady dead body count of goldfish.

Just as we take pills to cure every ailment I decided a judicious use of chemicals applied to the pond would solve the problem. My first mistake was reliance upon science and the internet hawkers of algae remedies. They would have you believe that the algae are destined to vastly populate the pond water turning it into something the consistency of thick, country gravy, consuming every ounce of oxygen and asphyxiating the fish. My friend, who has a koi pond, cautioned patience. She said the water would turn green with algae and once the water “balanced” the algae would diminish greatly. My second mistake was not to heed her advice or the advice of others – all of whom – said, wait, the pond would right itself without my benign interference.

So began the great “Chemical Odyssey.” First I would order one, sure-fire chemical cure for algae. I’d faithfully followchemicals 1 the directions for its use, wait and wait some more, looking for the water to become at the very least, less greenish. When that batch of chemical didn’t work, I’d order another. Soon, the Fed-Ex guy and I were best buds, on a first name basis. This routine went on for the entire summer and into the fall of 2011. Now we actually had a dead fish count. Every couple of days another would be found belly up in the filter net. I would go to the local pet mart and buy a few more small fish to replace the “victims.” My husband despaired. All of his little goldfish that he had named and nurtured died and still I persisted, looking for the Holy Grail of Algae Killers while the water stayed a thick, murky green and the fish died.

This scenario continued until around October, 2011. Miraculously the water finally cleared not completely, but a lot – not because I had found the answer but because the water was cooling and the algae was dying off. But by then, so had the fish. We now had a beautiful, fish-less pond and despaired.

My next grand plan was that since we had no fish, the pond should be drained so that we could get rid of the muck at the bottom and kill off whatever algae still existed. So that’s what we did in January of 2012. We rented a siphon pump and pumped out all of the water. It didn’t go to waste as we used it to irrigate most of our backyard, nearly an acre in size. We even used bleach figuring that it killed everything.

Pond Ap 2012 no fish

April 2012
No fish

Thinking we had nipped the problem in the bud we prepared to move forward. We refilled the pond and once again, had clear, sparkling water and a new home for more fish. We again waited a month or so for the water to “balance” itself and then we blithely went about picking out more fish for our pristine pond. We were filled with self-confidence. Surely the great pond draining and cleaning must surely have done the trick. My husband was happy and again, he named the dozen fish, a mixture of goldfish and Koi. He made sure they were fed once a day. He and I delighted in watching them from our back patio. All was right with the world…until…

chemicals 3It was the late spring and early summer of 2012 and the hot weather and the algae returned with a vengeance, only to again raise our fears about the fate of the fish. Like a dummy, I repeated the cycle of last summer and turned to my vast bag of chemical tricks along with some new, untried ones. I was still on a first name basis with the Fed Ex delivery man. Only this time I would be smarter and use the chemicals more sparingly. I even had the water tested.Yet all of the fish died or disappeared (that’s for another blog about predators) and by now we were both despairing of ever having fish in our fish pond. Then it dawned on me and I will admit to bring a slow learner at times, that I had created a toxic waste dump! In attempting to get rid of all of the algae I had gleefully poured so many chemicals into the pond that the fish couldn’t possibly survive the onslaught. Their demise was a testament to my stubbornness.

By July, 2012 I had had it. I vowed no more chemicals and come what may; we would coexist with whatever algae bloomed. For the next 5 months I used no chemicals. We had no fish and did not get any to replace our latest set of “sacrificial victims.” Yes, we got algae but it wasn’t the darkly green kind. The water did get murky but you could still see the bottom of the pond. I will admit that there were times when I was tempted to add just a little of some chemical or other but then I pictured another dead fish in the filter net and strengthened my resolve. Unknowingly I was doing what I should have done that first year. I was giving the pond enough time to really “balance” itself. I was allowing the “good” biological enzymes to build up in the filters.

Pond fishes Jan 2013

New fish
January 2013

This past Christmas our kids bought me three beautiful Koi for the pond. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that it was probably an exercise in futility and that they likely had thrown their money away. So we dutifully put them in the pond fully expecting to see them floating “belly up” within a week. To our surprise and relief they lived! Three months later, they are healthy and growing. After 8 months, chemical-less,  I think we had finally rid the pond of all of the chemicals that I had used for a year.

We will get algae bloom again during the hottest part of this year but I have learned my lesson – no more chemicals. The fish will survive. They will reemerge to our delight when the weather cools enough to make the algae dissipate. We and the fish will have 8 enjoyable months of coexistence, reacquainting ourselves and my husband will happily name each and every one of them.

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Our grand plan

Posted by Joyce Clark on March 7, 2013
Posted in Koi pond  | Tagged With: , , | 4 Comments

So you want to build a fish pond. OK then. Let’s get started. Obviously planning is crucial. If you are like me, you’ve saved pictures and articles over the years. Time to pull them out and to list the elements you would like. Questions to answer as you begin to plan are how large will your pond be? What kind of pond construction do you want? Lined or concrete? What kind of filter system and how large? Perhaps the most important question is how large is your budget? That of course, will be the determining factor of your final pond construction and its features.

We had an acre (very rare in the urbanized Metro Valley of the Sun!) with which to play and plan. We immediately decided that we wanted the pond to be close to our patio and to become an extension of that area. We also knew that we wanted a rather large pond with a stream and waterfall feature. A large pond to eventually accommodate many fish and a stream and waterfall that would help to oxygenate the water.

Pond Shape 2

Garden hose layout

Pond Shape 1 Jan 2011

More garden hose layout

We started with garden hoses to lay out our dream project.

 

 

 

 

Pond Plan 2

Ground staking outline

Pond Plan 1

More ground staking

Then we graduated to marking the ground and using contracting stakes. Then we sat back and contemplated for at least a month. We fiddled here and there and modified the layout several times.

 

 

 

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