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Robyn's Pond Newsletter October 2004

Last Updated: 2/17/14

Introduction and Miscellaneous:

If you have something pond-related that you want to share (information, jokes, web sites, pond secrets and tidbits, 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 that I can answer or pose to others in the next newsletter?

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

1. http://www.fishpondinfo.com/myfish/animalphotos.htm (URL changed to a new directory in 2014)
2. http://www.fishpondinfo.com/myfish/fishphotos.htm (URL changed to a new directory in 2014)
3. http://www.fishpondinfo.com/pictures2.htm

Additions or Changes to Robyn's Pond Web Pages:

1. Under mammals are five photos of that young raccoon wandering around my yard and pond last month. The raccoon stopped doing that after about a week so I hope he/she is better and did not die.

2. Under fish for summer 2004 are three photos of my poor dead 14" female comet, Jack.

3. Under frogs and toads, the first photo is one of frog eggs sent to me that may be from a cricket frog.

Happenings at Robyn's Ponds:

1. On 9/5/04, I squirted off all the flosses and both bioballs/biothings. The 1800 gallon pond was at 72 degrees F and the 153 gallon at 75 degrees F. I potted up the red waterlily that Sheila sent me into a 2 gallon pot since it was so small.

2. I had a rare day off on 9/10/04 so I spent 3 hours repotting 3 iris. Why so long? I will try to explain. The iris were last repotted three years ago. The yellow flag iris had grown huge, at least 10 square feet out from a two gallon pot. First, I tried regular pruners. They wouldn't cut it. Then, I tried the loppers but those didn't fit around it. So, I got the hand saw. I sawed off some ends with leaves that were to be those I repotted and saved. Then, I sawed all the tops off the thing. It tried to also saw off the sides. Once I tossed those all out, I moved the root ball with pot under it. I don't know how I did it alone but I heaved that ball which must have been 40 pounds out of the pond. Then, I pulled it around to leave it rest by the edge of the weeds where it may continue to grow for a while (weeks later, it's growing quite well actually). After it was out, I went to find any other iris. It was hard at first to tell the iris from the sweetflag (of which I have about 5 pots) but then I realized that by feeling the leaf, the sweetflag has a hard ridge up the middle while iris does not. I found one pot of dainty but overgrown iris, probably my blue flag iris. There was only one other pot with live iris; I think it was the Colorific iris (purple and white) with more sweetflag that had grown into the pot than iris. My purple iris is apparently gone. My red iris died years ago. Getting these iris out was simple and easy.

The yellow flag had weird terrestrial snails on it and pink caterpillars that had eaten the insides out of the leaves (I forgot to look those up but if anyone knows what they were, please let me know). It was falling apart so I cut the tops off the piece I repotted into a 4 gallon pot. The other two iris went into two gallon pots. While I tossed some blue iris, I reused all the Colorific iris. I also removed a two gallon pot from my pond with nothing left in it. While in the pond, the lotus stalks cut my legs a few times. The lotus in my main pond is pathetic but does have a few stalks. In the end, I had a huge pile of tossed out yellow flag iris, sweetflag (I pulled pieces that were out of the pots) and a little blue flag. Too bad I couldn't sell it (to people who don't realize they grow like weeds!).

3. On 9/12/04, I squirted off the flosses. I tried to fertilize some plants for the last time this year. The 1800 gallon pond was at 71 degrees F and the 153 gallon at 72 degrees F. The new red lily from Sheila is doing okay with leaves out (but not to the surface yet).

4. On the morning of 9/17/04, I found and removed a 6" white common (short fins) goldfish from my 1800 gallon pond. The fish may have been female and had some pretty red color on the top. She was missing some scales. There were no bite or stab wounds or obvious problems although the abdomen was slightly large (may have been dead a few days or could by dropsy or tuberculosis). Perhaps the raccoons were trying to get her and cut her up on rocks or pots but didn't actually get to catch her, and she died later of her wounds. The scale injuries didn't look terminal though but you never know. Most times that a fish dies, the explanation is not known, at least not for sure.

5. On 9/18/04, I got in the pond to upright the marginals. They blew down when the remnants of Hurricane Ivan came through. The quantity and devastation of the hurricanes this years has been unimaginable, and I hope everyone on this mailing is doing okay. If anyone has stories of how they helped their ponds before, during, and after the hurricanes, perhaps you could share them for the next newsletter to help others prepare in the future. My marginals fell right back down so I had to upright them again the next day.

6. On 9/19/04, I squirted off the flosses and Cyprio biothings. The 1800 gallon pond was at 66 degrees F and the 153 gallon at 68 degrees F. A ~6" common female orange goldfish with white tipped fins appeared dead but when I picked her up, she mouthed the air. I tried to get the fish to improve by moving it in the water, etc. but she died in short order. I don't know why I've lost so many fish all of a sudden. Sometimes, when rains come through, the oxygen goes down or the pH changes but my pond has good aeration. While the fish appeared to have nothing physically wrong with her, perhaps the raccoons had battered her.

7. On 9/26/04, I squirted off the flosses. The 1800 gallon pond was at 67 degrees F and the 153 gallon at 69 degrees F. I threw about 10 water hyacinth out (which the deer ate). I'll have to start removing a lot more of it once it gets cold. I plan on putting the nets on next week. I tossed in some barley straw pellets and Microbe-Lift Ox because I had them and figured I would (real scientific, aren't I?).

8. I don't know what's going on in my pond! On 9/28/04, I found and removed yet another big dead goldfish with no apparent cause of death (the fourth in less than 2 months). The 6" fish was all white except for a red ring around the eyes and a red spot on the tail. Scale damage was minor (non-lethal). This fish had been dead a few days and had post-mortem tail damage. Most fish will eat/shred fins on dead fish. Yuck! With all these dying fish, it's obvious why my pond is never overcrowded! But really, I've never had so many fish die at once before! I keep a pond inventory of all fish added and found dead. I normally lose about 4-8 goldfish per year, mostly in spring but some that freeze in the ice in winter. I almost never lose any during the warm months.

9. On 9/29/04, I went to the pond to feed the fish and upright the marginals. The remnants of Hurricane Jeanne had come through the day before, dumping a few inches of rain, putting leaves in the pond, and knocking over half a dozen tall marginals. When I pushed up a dwarf cattail, under the pot was yet ANOTHER dead goldfish! What is going on? Perhaps he just got squished when the pot fell. I will have to test the pond's water chemistry to rule that out. Rain can alter the pH, hardness, and oxygen levels among other things, causing problems. This dead goldfish was a little smaller, about a 5" mostly orange common goldfish with absolutely no external body damage or signs of anything abnormal at all (except for being dead!).

10. While feeding the rabbits the morning of 9/30/04, I heard a male green frog calling. That wouldn't be unusual except he was in the weeds behind the hutch, some 60 feet from any pond! I couldn't find him. Of course, they stop making noise when you approach and are super camouflaged. My 50 gallon lotus tub fountain popped off again and pumped mostly dry so I had to refill it before work so the tadpoles wouldn't be flopping around. I need to move them soon for cooler weather to my 153 gallon pond. The next morning, it had popped off again and pumped out so I unplugged it and will put it up for the year. Perhaps I can catch a few tadpoles! I wonder if the raccoons "helped" the fountain head come off?

11. Here are the test kit results from 9/29/04. All test kits required color comparison, many were long expired, and many were way off. I include the expiration date if it's on there and whether the test is based on a dip stick, liquid reagents, or dry chemicals. You'll notice they don't agree! From the results, I find that the pond's values are all fine. The pH results were all over the place so I tried the water using a pH meter at work. I was surprised the alkalinity and hardness were that high. I guess adding baking soda worked well. In fact, I may cut back on it.:

Jungle dip stick, 3/03 - nitrate 40 ppm (that high?), nitrite 0, hardness ~25 ppm (GH), alkalinity ~80 ppm (KH), pH 6.8
Wardley nitrate dry kit, 11/96 - 20 ppm
Mardel Aqualab 1 dip stick, 11/03 - total hardness 50 ppm, alkalinity 120 ppm, pH 8.4
Wardley pH liquid, no date - pH 7.2
Wardley ammonia liquid - 0.25-1 ppm (really? The plain water also has yellow tinge though. I will buy another kit.)
Pond Care pH, liquid, no date - pH 7.8
Tetra Oxygen, liquid, no date - ~10 ppm. At 60 degrees F, 100% saturation is 10.1 ppm so it's saturated with oxygen.
pH meter at work (this should be right!!) - pH 6.82, that's fine!
New Aquarium Pharmaceuticals ammonia kit (liquid reagents) tested 10/2/04 - probably reads zero but possibly up to 0.25 ppm but certainly nothing to worry or do anything about.

12. Today, 10/2/04, I wanted to put the net on the 153 gallon pond but first I had to find half of it! I cut out enough terrestrial mint to fill an industrial wheelbarrow! I also cut back some butterfly weed and other weeds to clear the edge. The mint was growing through the bricks and in the water, all over. I put the net on really loose over top of all the plants left in and around that pond. This also lets the frogs come and go since they're still active. I actually saw a pickerel frog too a few days ago. Most of the frogs around my ponds are green frogs.

Before I did this, I did some regular Saturday pond chores that I usually don't mention such as topping off the ponds, adding BZT, adding mosquito bits to the smaller ponds, removing some leaves, squirting off the PondMaster filters in the 153 gallon pond, and other tidying up. I put up the little pump and filter in the 50 gallon lotus tub. I tried to run the fish net through there but only got about a dozen tadpoles rescued. I hope to get more later. It's hard with all the plants in the way. The poor lotus is basically dead but water poppy and hornwort are doing well in there.

Alas, in my 1800 gallon pond, I found another dying goldfish. This 7" orange common goldfish moved when I went to remove him so I left him there until tomorrow. He looks completely normal! This is really bothering me because I rarely lose fish and certainly not half a dozen in a month! I've ruled out the most obvious water quality problems. We even ran my pond water on a GC-MS (if you don't know what that is, it's too complex to explain). It was mostly clean (meaning few organic chemicals, no obvious pesticides, etc.). A few peaks came out but they may have been contamination from the ethyl ether used for the extraction (a blank wasn't run). Those peaks were possibly identified as ethyl acetate (what's now used for nail polish remover instead of acetone; it's actually in some human foods; at the levels we saw, it probably would not be toxic; if it is in the pond water, I have no idea how it would get there!) and (get this, we couldn't find out what in the world this chemical is or if it's dangerous) phenol, 2,2'- methylenebis[6-(1,1-dimethylethyl)-4-methyl-p-cresol, 2,2'-methylenebis[6-tert-butyl...] and it goes on but the computer ran out of room! There were also a few other peaks but the chemical names are again kind of useless since they are so complex even for a chemist! Basically, my boss thinks my pond water is fine. That leaves me with thinking the raccoons must be giving the goldfish internal injuries that aren't obvious or exhausting them. Why they don't manage to eat the fish or damage them, I don't know. The other fish all come to eat like pigs and look perfectly fine. So far, only the goldfish have died, no koi, orfe, or minnows that I've found. If it's the raccoons, then when I put the leaf net on all the way, the deaths should stop. This all proves that I am not an expert at all on ponds! Those of you that are, if you have ideas as to what may be going on, please enlighten me! I don't want more gorgeous, sweet goldfish to die!

Pond Tidbits:

1. Sandra asked about overwintering tropical water lilies. My one is in bloom and will not be brought inside until the first frost when I store it in wet sand. I've successfully overwintered it for I think three years now. The details can be found at http://www.fishpondinfo.com/plants/overwinter.htm.

2. Kathy informed me that the bamboo-like grass I have all over is Japanese stiltgrass which is an invasive species. She said to pull it all. I have ripped a lot out of my mulched gardens. It is easy to pull but I can't do much since there's about two acres of it, and I have no time to do anything since I'm working non-stop and am 6 years behind on chores. In past years, where the stiltgrass is growing well in the shade, there was nothing but mud so at least it has the benefit of greening things up and reducing the mud. Here are some links on this invasive grass: http://www.nps.gov/plants/alien/fact/mivi1.htm and http://tncweeds.ucdavis.edu/esadocs/micrvimi.html.

Web Sites of Interest:

1. Greg sent me a link to his mother's pretty pond web site to share:

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

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