Pond Tips - Ammonia_in_ponds

Ammonia is the major end product in the breakdown of proteins in fish. Fish digest the protein in their feed and excrete ammonia through their gills and in their feces. The amount of ammonia excreted by fish varies with the amount of feed put into the pond or culture system – increasing as feeding rates increase. Ammonia also enters the pond from bacterial decomposition of organic matter such as uneaten feed or dead algae and aquatic plants.

If you repeatedly have string algae growth, your water has far too much food for the algae. This can be from inadequate filtration, over-feeding the fish or built up debris in some part of the pond.
If you are not feeding more than your fish consume in 3-5 minutes, and your pond is not overstocked with fish, feeding is not the problem.
If your pond bottom has no rotting debris and your water is acceptably clean, then your filter is suspect.
Test your water with an ammonia kit. If the ammonia level is high, your filter needs inspection, cleaning or improvement. The filter provides two functions, separation and biological removal of ammonia. Separation removes the dirt and provides sparkling clear water. Ammonia removal is accomplished with a culture of microscopic bugs that live on a grid of filter media. This colony of microbes eats the ammonia as it passes thru the filter media while the water temperature is above 40F degrees. Below 40 degrees, the colony starts diminishing rapidly. The microbes pass the ammonia as a less harmful form that continues to degrade as a natural process.
If you continue to have dangerously high levels of ammonia, the first signs will be sick or dying fish. If this happens you have either too little filtration or too many fish. The biggest problem there is that things seem to happen rapidly. Since you can't see ammonia, if you don't test, your fish could be rapidly getting sick. All of a sudden you have a large die-off and loose most or all of the occupants in the pond.

Also test your tap water. You might be surprized to find out how high in Nitrates city water can be. It can be very difficult to control Nitrate levels in an area where water supplies are already high and dry air causes high evaporation, requiring constant replenishment. This creates a greater need for more capacity in Bio-Filters.

Testing of your water is the ONLY way to know for sure.
If your water always tests clear of ammonia, and the nitrate levels stay in an acceptable range, you won't have repeated string algae outbreaks or many of the other potential problems. Ponds can be very stable with good care. They can be a nightmare for folks that ignore the danger signs and fail to keep their pond clean.

There are two times each year when a pond owner must be especially vigilant. In early spring before we clean out the winters trash and at the peak of the summer heat. At both times the fish can suffer from lack of oxygen.
In early spring the Bio Filter is not yet functioning. This is a second reason why feeding should be put off until later. Bio-filtration is the only thing that removes ammonia. If you feed early, the ammonia level rises. Add that to the fact that debris is just starting to warm up causing decomposition which consumes large amounts of saturated oxygen. This double whammy of high ammonia and low oxygen is what causes spring die offs of fish.

Caring for ponds is a regular and continuous responsibility. A good clean up in early spring before the water reaches 55F eliminates the chance that rotting debris will suck all of the oxygen out of the water and leave your fish stressed from hypoxia.

Bio Filters loose most of their effectiveness in cold weather. They don't regain that ability untill the water stays above 55F for a while, giving the microbes a chance to rebuild colonies. Without help, our filters can take several months to reach their highest effectiveness. An addition of Pond Magic to the filter intake will assist in rebuilding these colonies much faster. The addition of the trace minerals in this powder adds to the stability of the pond.

When our ponds reach their peak temperatures in summer, waters ability to hold saturated oxygen has fallen to it's lowest point. If fish are ever observed gulping air at the surface, they are near dead. Vigorous waterfalls and air stones can eliminate this problem by forcing air back into the water. This is especially important during the heat of the day when your water temperature reaches it's highest. The critical point seems to be above 80F, but dense stocking of fish increases oxygen consumption and this can happen at much lower temperatures.

An emergency need to lower ammonia levels should be combatted with a water change. Caution, chlorinated city water from the faucet can be just as dangerous for your fish as high ammonia levels. Don't induce a worse problem by trying to solve the first one.

ALWAYS add a chrorine eliminating product to water added to a pond in greater quantity than 5%. If your pond holds 1000 gallons, you must add chlorine eliminator every time you add 50 gallons or more. And it's not a bad idea to use it even when adding small amounts of water. Continuous fill systems do not need these products if daily losses are small. When adding any chemcal to the pond, add it slowly to a 5 gallon pail that is overflowing water into the pond. Even distribution is important and especially so in large ponds. A properly sized pump will quickly mix additives if it circulates all of the pond in the recommended one hours time. A 1000 gal pond needs a 1000 gph pump. That is 1000gph at the highest point that the water crosses. Read up on pond pumps here.

Water changes of 30% will reduce the ammonia level by 30%. That is significant. It can make a difference in whether your fish will survive.

Plantings of live greens provides benefits from several areas. Plants, and especially a few specific ones, pass significant amounts of saturated oxygen to the water. These same plants are browsed on by the fish who benefit from vitamins that they don't get from processed foods. Like us, the environment and what is consumed, can have a huge effect on health. Fish benefit from fresh veggies and fruits, clear clean water and the lack of stress.
A little tender loving care, and an occasional treat can turn your fish into happy pets.