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Robyn's Pond Blog for March 2010

Last Updated: 4/3/10

1. I put up these old photos on 3/6/10 from other people:

Heidi sent this photo of a wood frog from North Carolina on 11/3/09:
Wood frog

James sent these photos of a large softshell turtle on 9/21/09:
Female spiny softshell turtle
Female spiny softshell turtle

Chris sent these photos of some fish on 4/25/09 that he found in South Manchester, UK. They look a little like some dace in the US. Do you know what their species is?
Unknown fish
Unknown fish
Unknown fish

2. I saw the missing orfe on 3/3/10. He is washed out and laying in the shallow area. I would bet he's deceased but I cannot get to him with the net still in the way. When will the snow ever melt!?

3. Finally, perfect weather was coming for 3/7/10! What could go wrong? Let's see. My 2.5- month-old scar swelled up; the urgent care doctor on 3/5/10 told me I had to take Bactrim which made me sick, and I was going to die from MRSA (not true); the surgeon gave me the most painful shot ever in my scar on 3/6/10, sliced open my scar, and said it was probably just a seroma again, waiting on culture results; I took just two doses of Bactrim (never again!) and got so sick that I got zero sleep Saturday night along with diarrhea, headache, dizziness, confusion, anxiety, sweats, chills, and zero energy. So, by the time Sunday came, my body gave up. I canceled vacuuming and cleaning the rabbit hutch but not all of my pond chores. I didn't squirt out the bioballs and change the Ammocarb and so on yet but this is what I did do.

The 1800 gallon was at 41 degrees F and the 153 gallon at 50 degrees F. The day before, I had shaken the ice snow off the net where I needed to get in so I lifted that up. I went to net out the dead "goldfish" from the shore. I turned it over. I was my baby koi, Mac! I wanted to cry. She was 6". I stepped in to the pond in my hip waders. Ut oh, cold! I watched bubbles come up from my left hip wader. I just bought them last year! I guess all that walking in the deep snow took a toll on the hip waders. I took the filter floss out. My brother was over and actually agreed to help me since I couldn't stand for long. He just cut the new floss for me but it was a help. I netted a little bit off the bottom of the pond. I pulled the net back farther and went in and used my pond gloves to bring out the dead orfe. He/she was 18.5" from tip to tip. I removed a few leaves from the net and found a third dead fish, this one an all white 7" goldfish. I added water to the big pond but not the others that were just a little low. I added some pond salt, BZT, baking soda, and Koizyme to the big pond.

4. On 3/2/10, Sherri sent this photo of a salamander that may be a dusky salamader.
Dusky salamander

5. When I got home on 3/9/10, it was almost 60 degrees F! All of a sudden, spring comes in one day, and there are a trillion things for me to do outside that I can't do without any time. I fed the fish for the first time this year. They were ravenous! I need to buy them their spring Cheerios.

6. They're back! It rained on 3/12/10. The wood frogs returned that night to quack.

7. It poured rain all day on 3/13/10 but luckily let up the next day. On 3/14/10, I finally got to squirt out the bioballs after I squirted off the floss which was remarkably dirty for just a week's worth of use. Both the 1800 and 153 gallon ponds were at 49 degrees F. I removed the green Rubbermaid tub cover with two five pound weights from the top of the biofilter as well as the de- icer and put them up for the spring. I threw in a new (well it was in the basement since last year) bag of barley straw. My mother gave me a bunch of watercress roots which I stuck in the stream.

The bioballs weren't overly dirty. I found one pickerel frog in the filter and had trouble catching him despite the cold. I had been afraid of finding dead frogs in there since the filter was off for a month. When I lifted up the last bag of bioballs, the zipper failed, and bioballs went all over the place. It took an extra 20 minutes to pick them all up. The only filter bag I could find among my stuff was a huge blue laundry bag with a draw string so I stuck the bioballs in there. Half of the filter bags in the filter are near failure and worn out. I changed the bag of AmmoCarb. I tried to open the small bag of crushed coral but couldn't open it so I discarded it and filled up a new small mesh bag with that.

I checked some of my waterliles. I think my Chromatella (yellow) and Albata (white) lilies are still alive but the Comanche (orange changeable) which I replaced last year doesn't show any signs of life. Neither does my pink Fabiola. I know the two red waterlily pots are dead as they were last summer. I should get replacements but only when I'm sure they're dead. I have limited space and physical effort reserved for waterlilies with four or five pots being enough.

Around the edge of the biofilter, some animal has shot out piles of dirt on top of my rock edging. It doesn't look very good and would require me to remove all the rocks, dig down, refill, and reset rocks. I don't know if or when I might do that.

I am still not sure why the water almost entirely goes down the main waterfall (like I wanted it to in the past) with very little down the stream. I removed the top ten rocks or so from right under the biofilter lip to try to figure it out. I think rocks deeper down have shifted. Under one rock at the edge of the pond, I found a tiny pickerel frog, less than an inch long. The liner long ago separated from the biofilter. Now, there is about a 5" drop from the lip of the biofilter to the liner (they used to touch). Since the water splashes going down, very little wicks back. If it did wick back, there is an inch of ground between the filter and the liner now so water would be drastically lost. Since the liner has sunk down and collapsed in time due to settling (but the filter has not), this could not be fixed without removing all the rocks and liner and starting all over. I dread that day.

Then, I went and planted the last 15 daffodils from last fall which I had stuck in the refrigerator in November I think after being in the hospital then. I'm fairly sure none will grow but I had to try. I was thwarted last fall by my endometrioma and then this winter by four feet of snow. The bulbs from past years have sprouted.

8. This morning, 3/15/10, the wood frogs were still really calling. I found one ball of eggs and four frogs in the 153 gallon pond that I could see. Two males were grabbed on to a big female; one male was on the wrong end! It looked like all three frogs would be in pain from their tight positioning. When the third male swam over, the male on the right end of the female kicked him in the head. I would have taken a photo but they soon vanished. I think there are at least a few more frogs since they dive when I approach.

9. Here are photos from 3/7/10 I put up:

Pond facing southwest.
Dead Mac 2 - warning, she is partially decomposed.
Here are two photos of my poor dead 18.5", 13-year-old orfe. I have one more old one left. Warning - the orfe is partially decomposed . You can see how deep bodied orfe are.
Dead orfe with ruler, side view.
Dead orfe top view.

10. The weather on 3/21/10 was near perfect, 75 degrees F with a light breeze when it started to get too hot. I was in shorts! I brought in the lighted penguin; its feet broke off. The 1800 gallon was still low at 57 degrees F, and the 153 gallon was at 55 degrees F. I squirted off the filter floss. In the bottom of the pond, I found a well decomposed dead frog, about 4". I couldn't tell for sure if it was a green frog, bullfrog, or pickerel frog but I think it was a green frog. While that was disheartening, my huge, live female bullfrog and a male green frog were sunning themselves under the net in the overflow area. Both were still brownish as the frogs appear when they're cold.

I managed to get out the smaller of the two lotus pots. Inside, I found one real looking tuber and half a dozen skinny, snake-like tubers. I cleaned the pot and put in "fresh" clay dirt from our old garden. I filled it a few inches from the top. I then laid the tubers on top of the dirt. Since I have such poor luck with lotuses, I only made one break in the tubers and didn't throw any away. I rinsed various sizes of gravel and filled them around the and on the tubers so that the only real growing tip that I saw was sticking out. I would come to find in the morning that one of the smaller tubers was floating! I didn't want to jam the tubers down in the dirt since it is heavy dirt, and it might have snapped the tubers. I figure they'll grow down in to the dirt soon enough as long as the fish don't root the tubers all out! My father had to help me get out the largest pot in my pond, a 7 gallon that had my original lotus. It didn't appear last year, and it was verified dead when I found no tubers. I left the pot out figuring it gives the fish 7 more gallons in the pond. I moved the golden club to the shallows. It needs repotting badly so I will definitely do it first. The waterlilies need repotting but not due to overgrowth; the fish removed almost all of the rocks and some dirt leaving the tubers exposed. I hope to be able to tackle the 20 and 50 gallon tub ponds next weekend.

11. On 3/22/10, I saw a bunch of wood frog eggs in the 50 gallon tub pond. I hope I can get that pond cleaned and the eggs from the 153 gallon put in there before I clean that pond next Wednesday.

12. The best laid plans never work out. I planned to move the wood frog eggs from the 153 gallon pond on 3/28/10 after cleaning the 50 gallon tub pond. In the past, referring to my wood frog page, the eggs should have hatched a day or two after that. In fact, when I checked the eggs on 3/26/10, they had already hatched! When I go to clean the 153 gallon pond on 3/31/10, it is going to be very hard to try to save the tadpoles. I only hope I get the majority.

13. On 3/28/10, I squirted off the flosses. The 1800 gallon was at 47 degrees F and the 153 gallon at 49 degrees F. Its been cold again so I've stopped feeding the fish who had really been packing it down. I tried to shove the smaller lotus tubers back in the pot with no luck so I just dumped some rocks on them. At least the largest tuber stayed put.

I finally repotted the golden club. According to my pond inventory list, it was last repotted on 4/27/05 from a plant bought in 2004! I apparently bought golden club three times, and the 2004 plant is the current one. The golden club was in a two gallon pot. It was severely pot bound such that I had to use the utility knife to not only cut down one side but the other side and the bottom before I could get it off! It took 10 minutes of jumping and yelling to cut the plant up using a full size shovel and all my weight! It was so hard to separate so I had to mutilate it much more than I wanted to do. I made three clumps and cut off most of the extra roots. I saved two clumps and potted them in to two separate two gallon pots and put them back in the shallows. I repotted them well at least!

I then cleaned out the 20 gallon pond. That involved lifting out the 30 pound mass of yellow flag iris and then shop vacuuming out the water. I don't think there was anything living in there and saw nothing special. That was until I used the shovel to cut the iris up and almost cut a green frog in half! I put the guy in the 153 gallon pond. I removed some extra roots and otherwise cut the yellow flag iris mass in to about two equal parts and tossed one of those. I put the few bricks back with the bareroot yellow flag iris back in and filled the pond back up.

I had planned for an hour to clean out the 50 gallon tub pond but it took two hours! First, I tried to find the wood frog eggs but couldn't. Then, I put my torn up net over the pond vacuum's intake and tried to drain most of the water that way, hoping that with the net, I wouldn't suck up the animals. Animals in this pond included a few hundred Melantho snails, a few ramshorn snails, one aquatic beetle adult which I failed to rescue, and one green frog who spooked me (he went in the 153 gallon). I also had to rescue the plants which included the potted plants (one iris, one waterlily, and errant water celery) and loose hornwort (a good amount) and a few anacharis sprigs. I would estimate that I got over 100 Melantho snails and hopefully saved more than half of them. I would hope the same for the hornwort. It was so meticulous and time consuming to hand pick through the enormous wads of slop to try to save the animals. I eventually couldn't take it anymore. If a 50 gallon takes two hours to sort through, my 1800 gallon would take 72 hours straight to clean which is why I've never done it! In the bottom of the pond, I found the wood frog eggs. They have not hatched yet but they were all separate. So, I netted and scooped what I could. That meant putting the involved slop back in the pond but I try to think of it as starter food for them and not a failure in my pond-cleaning abilities. I potted back up three two gallon pots. One has the iris (purple I think, maybe blue) which I hacked up and saved only about a quarter of it. I hate to discard it but my ponds can only hold so many iris. It usually won't flower since I repot it in the spring. I repot the iris in my main pond in the fall which is the way to do it correctly. Another two gallon pot got some water celery, a dozen little sprigs. The final pot got the waterlily which was amazingly still alive but very tiny. Last time, I potted in aquatic plant media (that clay cat litter type stuff). This time, I used clay soil topped with pea gravel. I sure hope the raccoon stays away!

14. I developed these photos and video.

I put up this video from 3/19/10 at dusk. You can hear the wood frog males calling and spring peepers in the background (farther away).
Wood Frogs - 3650 KB, mpg movie.

On 3/21/10, my huge female bullfrog and a male green frog were sitting next to each other in the 1800 gallon pond's overflow. They were still brownish because it was cold.
Two frogs - green frog on the left, bullfrog on the right.
Green frog - close-up from last photo.
Bullfrog - close-up from two photos before.

15. I cleaned out the 153 gallon on 3/31/10. You can read all about it on this page.

Continue to the April 2010 pond blog.

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