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Joyce Clark Unfiltered

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Shade over the Koi pond

Posted by Joyce Clark on August 9, 2013
Posted in fish pondKoi pond  | Tagged With: , , , | 2 Comments

Another lesson learned from our visit to some California Koi farms was that our pond needed shade. California’s temperatures are much lower than those of Arizona yet every Koi farm had shade. Shade covering serves several purposes. It keeps the water cooler, it inhibits the growth of algae that is aided by direct sunlight and it prevents debris from going into the water. We plan to use the shade cloth during the summer (July-August-September) and take it down for the rest of the year.

This project was perhaps the most difficult we have tackled due to the very size of the shade needed. The Koi pond itself is 15” X 25” which necessitated a shade cover larger than those dimensions. We planned on a cover 18’ X 33′. The 18’ dimension would cover the pond proper – not the main waterfall or the stream waterfall. The 33’ dimension would allow the necessary posts to be set to the left and the right of the Koi pond.


Shade cloth diagram

Shade cover assembled

Shade cloth assembled

Grommet corner

Grommet corner

Our first chore was to find shade cloth. It’s readily available at big outlets like Home Depot and Lowe’s but they carry cloth no wider than 6’. I called a lot of stores and all had 6’ wide cloth. We ended up getting two rolls of shade cloth 6’ X 50’ (at a cost of $69 each) which would require cutting and piecing together to end up with the right size. Since I do not own a sewing machine I started assembling the shade cloth by hand sewing. It took a day or two for me to realize that I might finish the job by next year. So I started calling upholstery shops. I finally found one that could do my rather unusual job in a week at a cost of $75. My fingers were very grateful!

Posts in concrete

Posts set in concrete

Cables attached

Cables attached to posts

Cover attached to house

Shade cloth attached
to house

In the meantime my husband was acquiring the necessary hardware and would be setting two posts in concrete. His list included grommets – many, many grommets, turn buckles, cable, nuts and bolts, 3 pieces of rigid pipe and several bags of concrete mix at a cost of about $150. The total cost of the project was about $365.

It took a week to assemble the shade cloth and another two weeks to set the posts, string cable, insert grommets on the shade cloth and assemble pigtails, etc. We worked on it periodically and didn’t rush.

Pond covered 1

Shade cloth covering the pond

The shade cloth is up now. It looks like a giant parachute. It looks homemade and is not elegant but it is doing its job. The cloth was rated at producing 80% shade but we think it’s more like 60%. Since putting it up the surface water temperature has never risen higher than 85 degrees. Prior to putting it up we were seeing surface temperatures of 92 to 95 degrees. The water at the bottom of the pond is now between 75 and 78 degrees. Previously the bottom water temperature was 82 to 85 degrees.

There were definitely lessons learned on this project. The next time I will order the shade cloth online so that I can obtain a wider bolt of cloth that does not require so much piecing and assembly and perhaps find cloth that is denser to reduce the amount of sunlight reaching the pond’s surface even more. The grommets were placed on the outside hemline of the shade cloth but there are tears next to a few of the grommets due to the tension created in stretching the cloth. I would reinforce the areas where the grommets are placed.

Would we do it again? You bet. With the new external filtration the water is incredibly clear and with the new shade the water temperature has lowered. These were the outcomes sought and we achieved them.


Fish grazing on the bottom

When the pond water was clouded with algae and the fish were not to be seen I assumed they spent the day underneath their “fish shelf.” Now that we can see them we realize that they are busy all day grazing on the algae. I am happy and the pond is happy until I dream up the next “honey-do” project.

©Joyce Clark, 2013

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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.

big guys 2

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.