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Robyn's Pond Newsletter December 2001

Last Updated: 4/18/12

Introduction and Miscellaneous:

Welcome to my sixth 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? I would love some feedback.

I want to remind everyone that it is only I who wrote my web site, the book based on it, and these newsletters. I am not a professional or expert on ponds or anything, just one pond keeper who is willing to share her experiences. I have also begun to write a watergardening mystery novel but I don't know if I will publish it and may not even finish it (lack of time). Perhaps I will e-mail a few pages from the novel for your feedback sometime. I finally got the galley back on my non- fiction pond book. It was horrendous (they really messed it up), and thus the book will be delayed another month or two and probably won't be out until spring.

I had two small web pages at but have been informed that Care2 will no longer be hosting web sites. I have just moved the small amount of information on those pages to my regular web site.

Happy Holidays!

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

4. (altered from the original URL since I moved it)
5. (altered from the original URL since I moved it)

Additions or Changes to Robyn's Pond Web Pages:

1. I have removed the previous newsletters from this page to make it faster loading.
2. Previous newsletters from this year are now on this new page.
3. The search page now has three ways to search my pages. My brother wrote a program that searches my pages very fast but it uses the pages as they were in October 2001 and will not be updated often. This fast search is much more useful than the full, up-to-date, wait-a-year searchlight search.
4. I made a few minor additions and changes to the snail page.
5. I made a few minor additions and changes to the snail species page.
6. I added a few things to the health page including information on using Program to treat anchor worm and fish lice. Luckily, I have not seen any of these parasites on my fish but years ago I bought a few aquarium goldfish that had anchor worm. They died before I even began treatment.
7. This information used to be on my care2 site but since it has been discontinued, I moved it to this new page.
8. I realized the information I had on "new, unknown koi outbreak" was very outdated, from 1999. I updated that section with some general information about viral gill disease which it what that koi virus is now called.

Happenings at Robyn's Ponds:

1. The fish in my 1800 gallon pond were last fed around 3 pm on 11/4/01 and also at 5 pm on 11/8/01 (when it was in the 70's degrees F). The other ponds with fish and tadpoles have been off food since the end of October. There were a few days that got warm after that. For example, on 11/16/01, it was 75 degrees F! I didn't succumb to the fishes' pleading because on 11/8/01, I put the feed in the basement and knew I'd be too lazy to go get it if I had the desire to feed them. Even though the air was warm, the pond water was still cool and with cool nights and cool days after the warm, even hot days, it was best not to feed the fish. Note: My plan didn't work as I gave in and fed the fish two more times (see Number 8 below).

2. On 11/10/01, I removed the PondMaster filter from the 153 gallon pond for the winter. I put in a de-icer and a Luft pump system. The Luft pump is a large air pump with a large air stone that I dropped in the two feet deep portion of this pond. I am trying to use the aeration this winter in this pond for the first time because every year, dozens of green frogs die in there, presumably from suffocation. Hopefully, they will do better this winter.

3. On 11/12/01, I got in the 1800 gallon pond with hip waders and gloves to remove and clean the floss around the Nautilus 60 pump. It was filthy since I did not clean it the week before. I also cleaned out the bioballs and lava rock in the biofilter. Since I have well water (with no harmful chemicals like chlorine), I squirted off the bags in a kiddie pool using the hose. There was a pickerel frog in the bottom I had to net and move to the actual pond. He/she was discolored, cold, and slimy which is typical for hibernating frogs but still tried to wiggle away from me. The water temperature was 48 degrees F. I cut out some more yellowed marginals including my cattails and sweet flag. Then, the "fun" began when I decided to remove some of the rotting water celery which is in a section that is about 8 inches deep where one of the waterfalls comes out. I turned back the net and began to pull out stuff. Most of what I got was, for lack of a better word, slop. The stinking, very wet, black sludge with roots mix that I removed had filled the entire area (about 10 square feet) to the top. I had forgotten how deep the water was there, and that there were two one gallon pots in there whose plants had long since died. The slop essentially was the organic debris, dirt, and bacteria that the plants caught in their roots as the water flowed by them. Both the water celery and watercress are amazing filterers considering how much slop collects in their roots. The watercress at this time was growing great in the waterfall itself. Below the waterfall, in the area that is like a pond of its own, I left some parrot feather and one area of slop with some still alive water celery. It will easily recolonize in the spring. Every once in a while, a better cleaning is needed than just removing the plants above the water line. All the stuff I removed stirred up a cloud of brown slop which made the pond go from crystal clear to completely opaque. By the next morning, I could see fish again, but not the bottom yet. After a few days, the pond was pretty clear again. I wish there 7were a way to clear out debris without releasing hydrogen sulfide and other toxins into the pond itself.

4. I checked on my "hibernating" tropical night-blooming lily tubers in the basement on 11/10/01 and added some water to their bags. The two chunky pieces had sprouted new leaves! On 12/1/01, I decided to clean the tubers and put in fresh sand as they were starting to stink. The two nut-like tubers were about the same but some of the sand in their bag had turned black. The two large live tubers had gone into dormancy, and I removed a lot of stinking stuff from the outside revealing two hard nut-like tubers on the inside. I put them all in fresh damp sand so they will hopefully survive until spring.

5. Pond work in November for me seems to be all about leaves, leaves, and more leaves!! I pull leaves out of the mulch and ponds. My father collects leaves off the grass with his mower and out of the gutters. After, the wind blows them all back. It seems as if I will never get enough collected to take the net off before it gets really cold. Our Fall has been abnormally warm and dry. The smaller ponds only had thin layers of ice a few times. Most days were in the 60's or 70's. As for rain, we have not had more than a sprinkle in two months! Maryland is behind about 6 inches in rain. Wildfires and building fires are sprouting all over. Dirt flies from the ground in a cloud as we walk. The ground is so hard that when I received some free seedlings from the National Arbor Day Foundation, I couldn't break the earth at all and had to plant them in one of my 4 gallon Lerio pond pots with potting soil! We need rain bad! The animals are really depending on my ponds for drinking water. High levels of songbirds, crows, cats, squirrels, and deer come to drink. They remove about ten gallons a day from my four remaining ponds (which hold only a total together of about 50 gallons) that are not covered with netting. The squirrels prefer my big pond so they chew holes in the net to get the cleaner water! At night, I'm sure nocturnal mammals show up too! We finally got rain, a whole 0.05 inches on 11/20/01! Then, finally the drought broke on 11/24/01 when it rained a drizzle all day for a total of 0.3 inches and then on 11/25/01 when it finally poured from a thunderstorm and we got 1.6 more inches. So, we're only about 4 inches below normal now!

6. On 11/18/01, I put the de-icer in my 1800 gallon pond even though it doesn't really need it yet. The water was 48 degrees F. I removed more dying plants including some arrowhead and pickerel weed. I used a bucket to collect a few more tadpoles out of the 50 gallon lotus tub pond and put them in the 153 gallon pond.

7. On 11/25/01, I changed the filter floss that surrounds my OASE Nautilus 60 pump in my 1800 gallon pond. I change it about four times a year. Otherwise, I squirt it off every week in warm weather and every other week in cold weather unless the pond is frozen over. I make a cylinder out of a piece of the floss which I buy from AquaMart and attach the ends together with three diaper pins. I put this in a large plastic square pot with holes meant for planting pond plants. I add a bottom piece. Then, I put in the pump and top it with two more pieces. This is my pre- filter or main mechanical filter. The men who made my pond provided nothing around the pump so it initially would suck in small animals and clog often with debris. It was only a few months before I devised this floss system.

8. When in the pond on 11/25/01, the thermometer read 54 degrees F. The highs were near 70 with lows in the 50's overnight. A few green frogs were even sunning themselves. I decided to give the 1800 gallon pond fish a little bit of autumn food as the forecast was for warm weather all week. It wasn't much food but the fish scarfed it right up! I did not feed them later in the week although it was warm because it was too cool at dawn, and by the time I get home from work, it is too dark for the fish or I to see. Ok, I must confess. I was bad. On the morning of 11/30/01, it was 66 degrees F at dawn. The goldfish were in the shallows zipping around, perhaps even contemplating spawning as they thought it was spring. The koi and orfe were zipping in the deep end. They all rushed to where I feed them when they saw me. So, I got a half cup of autumn pond food and gave it to them. It was gone in under a minute. I figured this would do no harm as it was supposed to stay in the 60's and 70's for a few days. The pond water must be near 60 on 10/30/01. Well, on 12/1/01, I checked the thermometer, and it read 58 degrees F. The air temperature was 70 degrees F. I again was bad and fed the fish a little bit at 11:30 am and again at 3:30 pm. The plants think it is spring. Carpet bugle that's grown into the waterfall is in full bloom. A strawberry plant has a flower on it. The dandelions and maple trees are flowering. The peonies have new growth. I'm sure it will be taxing for the plants when the cold returns and they freeze.

9. The three-year-old net on my 1800 gallon pond now has half a dozen holes from animals chewing into it and falling in and from my trying to pull it taunt. I think I may have to buy a new one for next year as I don't want to sew up all those holes. In just a few weeks, the nets will come off. That means collecting leaves and more leaves!

10. Here is an update on the goldfish that I brought inside to a 5 gallon tank after it was torn up. The fish improved but still has fungus on his left injured gill cover (operculum). I only treated with fungal medication for a few weeks because it can be dangerous. I was doing daily 40% water changes and adding aquarium salt, MelaFix, Stress-Zyme, and Stress-Coat. The water continually tested 1-2 ppm ammonia since he is so big. I assume the fish is male because, although he has no tubercles (and wouldn't in winter), his vent is concave (for information on goldfish sexing, see my goldfish pages.). I started on 11/26/01 treating him using tetracycline. It seemed to help a little. Even though he was not 100% healed, I put him back into the pond on 12/1/01. Over about an hour, I added pond water to a large bucket with the goldfish and enough water from the 5 gallon tank to cover him. The pond was at 58 degrees. I didn't want to wait any longer to release him because he was no longer improving and was suffering in such a small tank. It was probably also the best warm day to release him. If I waited and it got cold, I would be stuck all winter cleaning the tank daily, assuming the stress didn't kill him. He seems very happy to be back with his buddies.

Interesting Animal Sightings:

1. As I went to lock up the house to go to bed at 10 pm on 11/4/01, I saw a house mouse in one of our live traps in the garage. Since our garage cat died over a year ago, the mice had a population explosion. Last spring, I moved all the animal feed into hard plastic containers to keep the mice out and put up live traps. My father's death traps weren't working very well. Mice are smart. Ours usually remove the baited food without getting caught. Anyway, I decided to walk the mouse down the road for release with a flashlight before going to bed. On the way back, I heard rustling in the leaves. I turned the flashlight expecting to see a cat, bird, or maybe the raccoon. It was an opossum. The cute guy looked at me and turned and ran away. This was the first live opossum I've seen on our land (since 1977). There was a dead one a few years ago. I'd seen a live one in our neighbor's garage too. So, I have to wonder, does this opossum get water and food from my pond too? And maybe someday I'll see that skunk that occasionally leaves a scent behind at dawn by the pond, as long as I'm not too close!

2. From 11/8/01 to 11/11/01, I and other members of our family saw a large blue heron near my pond. I saw it only in flight on 11/8 and 11/9. I would have liked to see if when it was on the ground to see what it thought about my pond being netted and the yummy fish being out of reach.

Web Sites of Interest:

1. There is a new product (to me anyway) at that heats a pond without electricity in the fall and spring. It looks like a good idea but it's a bit expensive for me though.

2. For a large site on snapping turtles, check out the Snapping Turtle Website at

3. One pond keeper encloses their pond in a dome for the winter. They can enjoy flowering lilies and picnics under the dome in Zone 5/6 in winter. To see photos, go to me.htm.

4. The pond store at has a pond quiz at tsUpDoc/PondIQTest.htm which has 60 questions. I felt like I was back in school. I did pretty good on the test. See how you fare. I will say that for hardy water lily depth, most in my pond and others' ponds do fine with only one to three feet over the crown. It's hard to say what the lily prefers because you can't ask it! Also, protecting fish from herons is not merely related to pond depth but also the difference between ground level and water surface and obstacles. My pond has a maximum depth of 26 inches (I paid for 36 inches but that's another story that's on my pond problems page) but has an almost foot drop off from the ground to water so the herons that visit have never actually gotten any fish (yet).

5. Pond Rushes, the popular pond web site by Chuck Rush has moved to

What's your favorite pond-related web site(s)?

Pond Tidbits:

1. Stephen from Australia corresponded with me about his koi's temporary quarters. He used a new PVC (polyvinyl chloride) liner in a wooden box frame. The liner smelled very "plasticy." The two koi died as the liner leached plasticizers and other chemicals. He treated the liner using sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3, that's baking soda to you non-chemists) and then used it without trouble. He wanted others to be wary of PVC liners. Here in the USA, most fish liners are now EPDM rubber (ethylene propylene diene monomer) which I have or Butyl rubber or even a newer material. If a liner is very cheap, it may be PVC. If you do use a PVC liner, be sure to scrub it down well before using it and perhaps test it with fish less important to you. PVC also doesn't last as long as it degrades when exposed to light.

2. Scott asked me about where you can buy pond vacuums. The vacuum I mentioned for cleaning out my small pond was a standard wet-dry shop vacuum. They are great for doing total cleanings on ponds under 200 gallons. The pond must be mostly empty for them to work properly. All plants and animals must be out of the pond too. The actual apparatus called the pond vacuum is usually a vacuum-like bottom attachment attached to a garden hose. Water flows into a T and exits into the pond. The water pressure over the attachment sucks debris off the bottom into a silt sock (nylon bag or white pantyhose). These work well for collecting small and light debris but not well for big leaves and gravel. I have one and use it sometimes but only after using a net for the large debris. Benefits of this vacuum are that the pond water level does not need to be lowered, and water is actually added to the pond. Fine silt or debris may go through the collection bag and cloud the water. Rocks may tear the bag. There are newer vacuums that are supposed to work more like real vacuums or pool vacuums. The debris is collected into a solid container and the dirty water is actually removed from the pond. These vacuums cost much more than the relatively-inexpensive traditional pond vacuums but they work a lot better. I would love to get one someday. A number of the various pond vacuums out there can be purchased from Pet Warehouse, That Pet Place, or AquaMart which are my three favorite places to buy pond supplies. Contact information for them and other places is on my pond catalogs page at

Pond Humor:

Koi enthusiast: "Something is wrong with my Showa!"
Commoner: "Did you call a plumber?"

Do you have some better pond jokes? E-mail them to me, and I will put the best ones in the next newsletter.

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