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Robyn's Pond Newsletter July 2002

Last Updated: 2/14/14

Introduction and Miscellaneous:

Welcome to my thirteenth newsletter. If you have something pond-related that you want to share (information, jokes, web sites, something pond-related for sale), let me know, and I will add it to the next newsletter. What topics would you like me to cover? Do you have a question whose answer I don't know that I can pose to others in the next newsletter?

Symptom: Unable to go swimming in our pool without deciding where I would place skimmers, bottom drains, filtration system, plant area, and waterfall to convert pool into koi pond.
Diagnosis: Ponditis and Cyprinus carpio deficiency (I only have two koi.).

Significantly Altered or New Pond Web Pages (explanations below, numbers match):

1. (URL changed to a new directory in 2014)
3. (altered from the original URL since I moved it)

Additions or Changes to Robyn's Pond Web Pages:

1. I have added 10 new digital pond photos. Under other ponds for summer 2002, you can see a photo of the 153 gallon pond with the yellow and blue iris blooming. Under the big pond for summer of 2002, there is a photo of the waterfall with blooming watercress and some fish on the side and also of the overflow area with blooming water forget- me-not. Those three were taken on 5/27/02. Under frogs and toads, there is a photo of a gray tree frog (6/9/02) and one of some green frog eggs (6/22/02). Under the big pond for summer of 2002, there is a photo of three hardy water canna flowers (6/17/02); the entire pond facing Southwest with lilies, sweet flag, lotus leaves, flowering canna, and the Cyprio filter (6/17/02); flowering purple pickerel rush (6/17/02); water hyacinth in a ring with water celery on the left (6/22/02); and a close up of the water hyacinth flower which only blooms for one day (6/22/02).

2. This is a new page showing the articles I have written for the Windstar Wildlife Institute newsletter. So far, it contains just the article, "How to Have a Crystal Clear Pond Year Round." Soon, I will add an article on the five best native (temperate USA) pond marginals.

3. By chance, I discovered that I have limpets in my 153 gallon pond! So, I added a new section on them on my snail page. Limpets are snails but they don't look like it! They look like a clam shell stuck to a surface but they're only about 1/8 of an inch long. They don't appear to ever move and touching them "pops" them. I've had them stuck to my PondMaster filter for years and was never sure what they were (I told you I'm no expert!). Then, someone asked rec.ponds about the same creatures and were told they were limpets. I found a web site with photos and verified I have them. When you have a pond, there's always something to discover!

Update 10/10/12: Yesterday, upon seeing photos of ribbon leech cocoons (eggs), I have come to believe that I have never had limpets in my ponds. I think they are leech cocoons. I am deeply sorry for this HUGE mistake!

4. Under the quick ways to deal with algae, I added a few sentences on lowering pH in high pH ponds and also on using potash (see the link below).

5. This is a whole new page on tub ponds that I wrote after reading so many articles on container ponds that always reference one particular site on half barrel ponds that doesn't have all that much information. Except for one mention in Organic Gardening, no publication has ever mentioned any of my 127 web sites. This new page includes a list of reasons to have a tub pond and which containers can be used as well as tub pond care and links to tub pond sites and my tub ponds. If you have anything to add to the list, please let me know. I will give you credit if you wish!

Happenings at Robyn's Ponds:

Note: If like my brother, you aren't interested in how many times I squirted my flosses, then please skip this section.

1. On 6/2/02, I squirted off the flosses and Cyprio bio-things. The water was 78 degrees F so I was in my swimming suit for the first time this year (except one hot day back in April). It looked like my koi Maggie finished off the tropical lily bulbs after all the work I did to get them through a second winter indoors (but they are tough and came back to life in early July with a few leaves which I'm sure will soon take over the pond).

2. On 6/9/02, I (you guessed it) squirted off the flosses (my brother complained that he and others don't care if I squirt flosses!). The water was down to 70 degrees F. I found about a hundred fathead minnow eggs stuck to the bottom of the plastic plant pot I use to hold the pump and filter floss. A ton of little eyes were looking at me. There's nothing like it. I didn't bother with photos as they would never show up. Hopefully I didn't break too many eggs while moving and cleaning it. Every week, I remove the yellowed and damaged waterlily leaves from my 1800 and 153 gallon ponds. I also wash the aphids into the water but they just walk on water. I've used the herbal aphid killer but I don't know how well it works (see my plant page for information at Tiny green caterpillars have eaten all the leaves off my tropical water hibiscus as well as the terrestrial hardy hibiscus plant (that one is far enough from the pond that we used pyrethrin spray). For the ones in the pond, I hand removed them and put them into the water for the fish to eat but it looks like the plant has had it. The sweetflag has taken over a large area of the pond so I pulled out about 10 pounds of it, all of that had jumped the pots. I hand scooped a lot of duckweed from my 50 gallon lotus tub and put it in the main pond. The goldfish and koi had eaten it all by the next morning. The lotus in that tub is doing okay even though the deer eat half the leaves, and the aphids are partying on the stalks. My Momo Botan lotus in the 20 gallon tub has died. There's just a green frog, duckweed, and bugs in there. I'll probably wait until next spring to buy another lotus. As for bugs, I saw a mayfly larvae and an aquatic beetle larvae while working with the lotus tub and 153 gallon pond. I put out fresh mosquito dunks in the fish-less ponds where some wrigglers were wriggling. The back bluebird house hatched four bluebirds successfully so things are "a-changin'!" We've had bird houses up since 1977 and never had any bluebirds live to fledge (due to house sparrows, black snakes, and blowflies) until this time last year. We've now helped to fledge three batches of four bluebirds each.

3. On 6/16/02, I did the usual floss squirt and also put the Cyprio bio-things into a kiddie pool to clean those. Other regular weekly chores I do include netting the bottom for debris and gravel from the upper area of the pond, removing yellow water lily leaves (it looks better, reduces waste in the pond, and deters the aphids who like to party on my lily leaves), smelling the water lilies (they smell like suntan lotion), and pulling out pots where the plants died (this week it was a pickerel rush; I have another pot of it that's thriving and flowering). I installed a Pond Pads barley straw with lavendar pad into a pad holder (a few weeks later, the fish had ripped it totally to shreds!). I have other barley straw in the pond. Some would say I just like to waste money on my pond (like when I put an AquaMat Mini in the pond a few weeks earlier). While in the pond, I found my large lotus (in a 7 gallon pot) had jumped the pot and sent out runners. I pulled a piece off. Instead of tossing it, I put it into my 20 gallon lotus tub pond where the Momo Botan had died. As the tuber was large with one unfurling leaf and one root mass, I had to weigh it down with a rock. Just trying to put the root into the dirt, the thing would bounce back up. I ran twine around the terrestrial marsh mallow (not the kind with nice big flowers; this one has tons of white flowers that are less than one inch across) next to the pond to keep it in one place (otherwise, when it rains, I can't get by there). Marsh mallow can be planted in wet areas but ours isn't. Our plant grows to about 8 feet high and gets small white flowers. While painted lady larvae are supposed to feed on it, all we get is the same small green caterpillars (adult is a plain white butterfly) on it that killed my tropical water hibiscus and went after the hardy terrestrial hibiscuses. I cut back some aquatic grass that's growing in my pond near the overflow. I regret having added it from the nearby park as it's taken over. If I touch it by accident, it leaves painful cuts on my skin. It looks like regular grass or crabgrass. The pond water was 70 degrees F. Over at my other ponds, I cut out a ton of terrestrial mint that had grown into the 153 gallon pond, moving the edging and collected some duckweed to feed to the goldfish in the big pond (actually, I don't think of my 1800 gallon pond as big, it's just bigger).

4. On 6/23/02, I squirted the flosses and the bioballs in the main filter. The bioballs are so full of sludge that they weigh about 20 pounds as opposed to 5 pounds clean. I opened one bag and individually cleaned that one. It was a lot of work but if I do one each time, they will all be cleaner in a year. I haven't removed them from the bags in four years. I tried to fertilize the lilies and marginals but try as I might, I can't fit the fertilizer pills into most of the pots. Only about three marginals let me stick a pill in. The rest are too full of roots, even the lilies I repotted only a few months ago. While the plants have tons of leaves and are lush, they don't flower very much. Fertilizer would help but I can't get it in there! The lilies have "feeder tubes" but they're still full of pills so the lilies aren't even using it. I don't think the roots go down under the tubes in the pots so these feeder tubes aren't worth much. I fiddled with the rocks in my main waterfall trying to get more water to come over the rocks instead of behind them. I made it worse. It's pretty much a lost cause. The main waterfall used to gush and now it drizzles. It's pathetic. The cardinal flower next to the pond was about to flower. Our deer took care of that. No cardinal flower for the hummer this year. Aphids were all over the lotus in my 50 gallon tub pond. The non-toxic sprays and powders didn't phase them. What they didn't get, the deer are working on. I wish they would eat the tons of weeds I don't have time to remove instead! One step forward, two steps back seems to be the way things go in my garden! The pond water was 74 degrees F.

5. On 6/29/02, I planted a new tropical yellow water canna in my 2 gallon pot pond. I filled it half with dirt, added a few fertilizer tablets, and topped with pea gravel. I threw in some frogbit from my 50 gallon aquarium. I also put the Luft air pump out into the 1800 gallon pond to provide extra aeration during the hot months. Two of my new plants are flowering. The Siberian pink cups put out one light pink (almost white), tiny flower that lasted only one day. The frogfruit plant has put out half a dozen tiny flowers that remind me of small white clover (which just happens to be blooming right next to the frogfruit at the pond edge since I can't keep up with the weeding). As I walk around the pond, many newly-morphed green frogs hop into the water. They are SO tiny and cute! Some are the size of a thumbnail.

6. On 6/30/02, the pond water was up to 78 degrees F. I squirted off the flosses of course and the Cyprio bio-things. I added some FloraFin which has potassium to see if it makes a difference in my pond. The pond doesn't have any suspended algae but the water hyacinth could be doing better. I noticed the orfe racing faster than normal in tandem. Maybe they might finally breed.

Interesting Animal Sightings:

1. On 6/9/02, my brother found a male gray tree frog sandwiched between the pool deck beams. I did take a photo of him. After the swimming pool was filled, the frogs would hang around the sides. Some fell in and most got out but at least one was killed in the skimmer. I wish I could get the gray tree frogs to understand that they should breed in the shallow, fish-less ponds I have that don't have chlorine in them! Instead, they try to use the pool which is fruitless. All other frogs use the ponds.

Web Sites of Interest:

1. There is new site for the rec.pond FAQ's at that I got incorrect last month.

2. Someone finally pointed out where the long study on barley straw had moved. If you're interested in the science behind using barley straw to fight algae, see

3. Water Ways Nursery has an article on planting a water garden at

4. Check out to find out how to tell if you're an e-mail addict. I fit Reasons #13 and 14. I love Reason #16 (I always have e-mail though!). While this site has nothing to do with ponds, certainly being a pondaholic can lead one to be an e-mail addict.

5. An article that says that added potash (potassium) is required to clear a pond of algae is at My ponds are clear without the addition of potash but if you've tried everything to no avail, it wouldn't hurt to try to add potash.

6. There is an article on the China Mark Moth at

What's your favorite pond-related web site(s)?
Do you have a web site you want me to mention here?

Pond Tidbits:

1. Some people have problems with cats fishing in their ponds. Our two cats that spend time outside have never shown any interest in the fish or frogs. I'm not sure why. They do love to drink from the pond, a lot. If cats are a problem, increase the difference in height between ground level and the pond water. This is easy for new ponds. Some old ponds can take the water level being lowered. As with all predators, provide lots of hiding places with plants, rocks, clay pots, PVC pipes, or floating non-toxic mat-like things (try rubbermaid box lids, styrofoam that doesn't fall apart, plastic tarps, store-bought spawning mops or hand-made ones from nylon yarn skeins). Cats don't like getting wet usually so waterfalls, fountains, and the spraying predator-scaring Scarecrow product (sold at most pond suppliers) can all work to deter cats and other animals that don't like water. Some animals don't mind a nice spritz like raccoons. If all these fail, then netting the pond may be necessary.

2. There are many views on using salt in a pond. For planted ponds, many advocate not using salt at all. This is fine. Koi pond owners usually add salt to about 0.1% solution. The exact volume or weight of salt added depends on many factors so it is best to follow the directions on the container of pond or aquarium salt used. Salt helps fish regulate their electrolytes and also deters many parasites (like ick) and funguses. It helps to treat fish with parasites and/or fungus with salt in addition to a medication. Sometimes, it's hard to tell what's wrong. I don't advocate using medications unless you know the problem because many medications are worse than the problem. For example, potassium permanganate will kill the biofiltering bacteria and copper will kill invertebrates and harm sensitive fish. When the problem isn't known, salt often helps. I use salt in all my aquariums at about a tablespoon per 5 gallons, sort of as a preventative for problems. I've not had any problems with its use. For my ponds, I salt them up mostly just in spring (March here in Zone 6/7) at about half the total recommended dose over about three weeks. I don't put the whole dose in because plants and orfe don't like salt that much. I also don't add it all at once to give the animals and plants time to adjust. Over summer, rain dilutes the salt out. I don't think it's required for a healthy pond in high doses as my pond does very well. By fall, the salt level is low. Aquarium Pharmaceuticals sells a test kit for salt in ponds. If you want to maintain a certain level of salt, only add salt initially and with water changes. Remember that in some cases, rain is acting as a water change. More salt information is at and (sample calculation).

3. I've fed tadpoles Cheerios, various fish foods, and whatever aquatic plants and algae are with them. Someone recently said they were feeding their toad tadpoles with rabbit pellets. I guess it worked as they turned into toad-lets. Fish and tadpoles will eat a variety of foods but be sure they do have variety and not just one food unless you're sure that that food has everything they need. I feed some 20 different foods to my aquarium fish! The pond fish have lots of natural foods so I feed them less variety of man-made foods. Speaking of tadpoles, fish eat frog eggs and young tadpoles. One way to keep a breeding population even with ponds full of fish is to set up a number of tub ponds like I do. The frogs lay in there all summer. In the fall, I move the now larger tadpoles into the deeper fish ponds to overwinter. So, I have a large friendly green frog population of all ages (and a few bullfrogs that are scared of me).

4. A ponder asked me why I clean my bioballs so often (every month in summer) when you're not supposed to clean biological filter material often. The reason is that all I have before the bioballs is some floss around the pump. I don't have a nice vortex, brushes, etc. to do a lot of mechanical filtration for me. So, the bioballs not only act as biological filter but also mechanical filter which means they crud up with pond gold (black sludge) pretty fast. I have well water so it's no problem for me to squirt them off. If the water were better filtered before arriving at the bioballs and later lava rock, I certainly wouldn't clean them as often. For those with city water, it's recommended to use pond water to clean biofiltration material to avoid killing the good bacteria but some say it doesn't make too much difference as long as you don't squirt them off too well. When I clean, I would say that less than half the gunk comes out as it's deep within the bag of balls. It's important to keep bio-materials clean enough that new bacteria have a place to colonize; so that they don't become too anaerobic (low in oxygen which kills the good bacteria); to prevent channeling (where the water avoids the clogged material and goes around it); and to simply remove that rotting stuff that may start to produce more nitrogenous wastes, hydrogen sulfide (smells like rotten eggs), and methane. Anaerobic bacteria produce hydrogen sulfide and methane. For more on bacteria and filtration, check out the e-mail discussions I've had with Christine at

5. Another pond keeper wanted me to point out the effect of pH on algae. She had a pond with high pH and couldn't keep it clear. The addition of pH-down solution (sulfuric acid) cleared the pond. This may work if the pond is small or you have lots of money to buy pH-down and monitor the pH closely. In the long term, it is easier to deal with whatever water chemistry you've been given. Ideal pond pH is 7 to 8 but some people have successful ponds outside of this range.

6. In the last newsletter, I said I did not know of a down-flow filter with a safety overflow back to the pond. David informed me that he has such a filter. It's a Cyprio Green Machine Model 6000. He provided the URL for information.

Pond Plant of the Month:

Few plants are as prolific as water celery. I have an entire section dedicated to it on my web site at for information. Along with watercress, water celery provides most of the vegetative filtration in my 1800 gallon pond. The runners even grow and live around the edges of the pond. I bought a number of plants years ago. I don't recall what the name of the plant was that I ordered but I got water celery instead. My mother eats some of it as do the deer. When it puts out its white flowers, it attracts all sorts of small insects.

Vote for the pond plant of the month! Let me know which plants you want me to cover. I got no responses last month! So as to provide first-hand information, I will only cover species that I have had for more than a year. Whichever plant gets the most votes will be covered in the next newsletter.

"Our task must be to free widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty." - Albert Einstein

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