Goldfish on surface of pond gulping


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Hi all, I found this forum in an online search for help with ponds and Goldfish. I have absolutely no idea about keeping Goldfish or maintaining a pond.

When I purchased my house the owner left me a note saying there were 2 Goldfish in the pond outside. The pond is a half cast iron bath type structure situated above ground in a shaded position. It has a good growth of lily-type aquatic plants.

I’ve never changed the water in the 2 years I’ve been here. I top it up regularly when watering the garden, letting it overflow to allow debris from plants to wash away, however I imagine there would be significant debris at the bottom.

The water is a green colour.

The most bizarre thing happened this morning... my 2 Goldfish re-surfaced after about 11 months! We were hit by a cold ash storm in last year’s bushfires... and I never saw my fish after that so assumed the oxygen had been stripped from the water and they died and were eaten by a bird.

In the past 11 months I did not put food in the pond... a dog jumped in one day a couple of months back and I have been far from gentle when topping up with water... assuming the fish were gone.

I’m still in disbelief that they’re there... I have no idea what they’ve been living on.

Anyway this morning they are very present and staying at the top. I can’t tell if they’re eating or gasping for oxygen. I would hate to have them back only to lose them. They are swimming around at the surface gulping. They do dive down every so often but come up again pretty quickly and do the same.

Please let me know if they’re behaviour is normal or if they’re struggling for air.

Thanks in advance.
 
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brokensword

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I'd get out as much of the bottom muck as you can, careful to not stir everything up too much. I'd also partially change the water, say 30%. Then see how they do. When you have an algae bloom (your green water), oxygen is consumed. When you have a lot of rotting organics (the muck), oxygen is consumed as well as toxic gases given off.

Goldfish are pretty tough; they can exist by eating the good algae on the walls of your tub/pond as well as any bug/bug larvae in the water. Don't feed (as you haven't) as it will only further the green water. You can put in more floating plants to help with shading the pond; they'll also help out compete the algae.

If you change the water, make sure you put in dechlorinator if using public main water.
 

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@NatureGirl
 
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I'd get out as much of the bottom muck as you can, careful to not stir everything up too much. I'd also partially change the water, say 30%. Then see how they do. When you have an algae bloom (your green water), oxygen is consumed. When you have a lot of rotting organics (the muck), oxygen is consumed as well as toxic gases given off.

Goldfish are pretty tough; they can exist by eating the good algae on the walls of your tub/pond as well as any bug/bug larvae in the water. Don't feed (as you haven't) as it will only further the green water. You can put in more floating plants to help with shading the pond; they'll also help out compete the algae.

If you change the water, make sure you put in dechlorinator if using public main water.
Thank you so much @brokensword... they have since gone under the surface but I will definitely follow your advice.

Being outside the water evaporates weekly, so I’ve been topping up with the garden hose and never used a dechlorinator.

I imagine I would need to do this every time I top it up?

Also, any clues as to why I didn’t see them for nearly a year?

Cheers.
 
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And a large aquarium air stone and pump, will work wonders for oxygen.
Hi @Bluerooster, there is a pump in the pond and a friend had tried on a couple of occasions to get it going but it seems to clog up and stop flowing. Thinking the fish had gone I haven’t tried getting it going again.
 
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brokensword

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Thank you so much @brokensword... they have since gone under the surface but I will definitely follow your advice.

Being outside the water evaporates weekly, so I’ve been topping up with the garden hose and never used a dechlorinator.

I imagine I would need to do this every time I top it up?

Also, any clues as to why I didn’t see them for nearly a year?

Cheers.
you're welcome; glad to have helped.

You probably only noticed since they came to the surface. Hard to see much of anything with green water. Also, if they feel threatened by any sort of predator, they'll be more than just shy.

If you're just topping off a small amount, I doubt any chlorine would hurt them. I used to top off my aquariums from the tap and no harm. Though, the less gallons you have, the more effect chlorine (and other chems/water imbalances) there is. If you have any pics, most here would love to see them as well as give a better idea what we're trying to advise on.
 
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Thanks @brokensword, I’ll take some pics. The thing is I used to see them all the time... they were at the surface more... and I was feeding them. It’s just so bizarre there has not been one sighting in nearly 12 months... but it brought me great joy to see them again. Now I really have to learn all about ponds as want to give them the best environment to live in
 
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you're welcome; glad to have helped.

You probably only noticed since they came to the surface. Hard to see much of anything with green water. Also, if they feel threatened by any sort of predator, they'll be more than just shy.

If you're just topping off a small amount, I doubt any chlorine would hurt them. I used to top off my aquariums from the tap and no harm. Though, the less gallons you have, the more effect chlorine (and other chems/water imbalances) there is. If you have any pics, most here would love to see them as well as give a better idea what we're trying to advise on.
Here are some pics. The water colour is a little better than before I took out about 30L the other day and replaced it (with dechlorinatwd water).
 

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brokensword

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Here are some pics. The water colour is a little better than before I took out about 30L the other day and replaced it (with dechlorinatwd water).
Thank you for the pictures; it helps!

How are the fish doing? Still at the top gasping or more normal now? If still on top, do another 30% water change and get more muck out.

Re the green water;
did you take out the muck accumulating on the bottom? If so, was there a lot?
The plants you have look like water poppies; yes? Or are they Frogbit? Either way, what you want is some plants that have aggressive root systems to help absorb the extra nutrients. Lily like plants aren't known for their water clearing properties.

Not sure what kind of filtration you have but betting it's a 'behind the waterfall' type with some sort of organic-catching sheets/cartridges. In any event, it looks like it's too small and not doing the job for you.

From your pictures, you could get a lot of help by setting up a container bog. What this might look like is a windowsill planter,


something at least 8" in depth, preferably 12" ( or less if you can't find deeper ones). You'd set this up along one side of your pond and send pond water via your pump to a pipe (manifold with slits) that lies on the bottom. Fill with pea gravel and shallow rooted plants (water cress, parrot's feather, pennywort, etc) . The water then rises up through the pea gravel and you allow it to spill back into your pond. This will also give you more aeration, which is also a green algae deterrent. The idea with a bog is that you give the pond a lot more surface area (the pea gravel) and the good bacteria colonizes there, converting the fish and bio waste into nitrates which the plants you have in your bog feed upon. This will give you a great chance to have clear water again. And if you choose to go 'bog', you won't necessarily need any more plants in your pond, imo, as the bog ones will do the work for you.

And one last word of caution; if you get to the clear water place again, it will also allow any predators to more easily see your fish, so plan on something to protect them.

Hope this helps keep you going!
 
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Thank you for the pictures; it helps!

How are the fish doing? Still at the top gasping or more normal now? If still on top, do another 30% water change and get more muck out.

Re the green water;
did you take out the muck accumulating on the bottom? If so, was there a lot?
The plants you have look like water poppies; yes? Or are they Frogbit? Either way, what you want is some plants that have aggressive root systems to help absorb the extra nutrients. Lily like plants aren't known for their water clearing properties.

Not sure what kind of filtration you have but betting it's a 'behind the waterfall' type with some sort of organic-catching sheets/cartridges. In any event, it looks like it's too small and not doing the job for you.

From your pictures, you could get a lot of help by setting up a container bog. What this might look like is a windowsill planter,


something at least 8" in depth, preferably 12" ( or less if you can't find deeper ones). You'd set this up along one side of your pond and send pond water via your pump to a pipe (manifold with slits) that lies on the bottom. Fill with pea gravel and shallow rooted plants (water cress, parrot's feather, pennywort, etc) . The water then rises up through the pea gravel and you allow it to spill back into your pond. This will also give you more aeration, which is also a green algae deterrent. The idea with a bog is that you give the pond a lot more surface area (the pea gravel) and the good bacteria colonizes there, converting the fish and bio waste into nitrates which the plants you have in your bog feed upon. This will give you a great chance to have clear water again. And if you choose to go 'bog', you won't necessarily need any more plants in your pond, imo, as the bog ones will do the work for you.

And one last word of caution; if you get to the clear water place again, it will also allow any predators to more easily see your fish, so plan on something to protect them.

Hope this helps keep you going!
@brokensword Can’t thank you enough for all the info. I’ll have a good read after work and start making the changes.

I couldn’t pull out much of the leaf litter from the bottom as seemed very compacted with plant roots in it, and obviously can’t see due to colour of water. It seemed to be around 3-5cm thick on the bottom. I couldn’t tell you what sort of plants they are.

Thankfully the fish went down about an hour or two after my first post... I haven’t seen them since... but I still want to improve things for them now I know they’re alive. (Still in disbelief about them being there this whole time).
 
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There is so much nutrients in your water that your water is alive. Alive with floating algae every square inch and 1/4" inch is demanding oxygen from all the nutrients it has in order to grow. At night it absorbs 02 and co2 during the day. Thats where this site has largely adopted the bog. It to demands the same nutrients and tries to out compete the green water/algae. But we need to do our part and that is to remove and try to keep dead and decaying plant and animal matter from accumulating. It appears the only plants you have are lillys and they are slow growers. I would take a milk crate and line it with batting that you can get at any pet store or quilt and sewing shop but you need to make sure theres no fire retardants and such. slip the water fountain through the milk crate and fill the milk crates outside walls with the batting and let the fountain run and as the water starts to over flow the batting pull out whats clogged and clean or dispose of it and start all over again and again. This will only help clear the water temporarily you need to remove that sludge /and or leaves
 
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There is so much nutrients in your water that your water is alive. Alive with floating algae every square inch and 1/4" inch is demanding oxygen from all the nutrients it has in order to grow. At night it absorbs 02 and co2 during the day. Thats where this site has largely adopted the bog. It to demands the same nutrients and tries to out compete the green water/algae. But we need to do our part and that is to remove and try to keep dead and decaying plant and animal matter from accumulating. It appears the only plants you have are lillys and they are slow growers. I would take a milk crate and line it with batting that you can get at any pet store or quilt and sewing shop but you need to make sure theres no fire retardants and such. slip the water fountain through the milk crate and fill the milk crates outside walls with the batting and let the fountain run and as the water starts to over flow the batting pull out whats clogged and clean or dispose of it and start all over again and again. This will only help clear the water temporarily you need to remove that sludge /and or leaves
Thanks @GBBUDD - I appreciate your advice but don’t have a filter. The pond has a small pump to reticulate / aerate the water but it hasn’t been switched on the whole time I thought the fish had died (from the cold ash storm last summer).

Someone locally suggested a flocculant. She uses Splosht (we are in Australia). Would this be helpful as a starting point?

When I felt around with my hand the leaf litter was very matted and seemed to have roots growing through it, so I’d hate to pull it all up and take the plants I do have with it.

Short of emptying the whole pond, due to lack of visibility because of the water colour... I don’t know what I can do in the interim to improve the water , other than replace 30% as suggested in this forum. I’d hate to kill the fish while trying to help them.

This is a big learning curve for me and making big changes like bogs, a filter, new pump, etc won’t happen overnight.

For now I’m going to replace some water to try and get better visibility so I can see what’s going on with the plant roots and leaf litter

But happy for suggestions on the swiftest and easiest fix until I get around to making other improvements.
 

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A filter system would help and the diy bog I suggested would do you well. You'd need to get a couple of the windowsill planter boxes I linked, some pea gravel, and some water cress from the market (or other shallow rooted marginal pond plant from your local pond supply store), then a pump large enough to push your pond volume through the bog once an hour.

Look at some of the bog threads to get an idea what I'm talking about as it's easy to do. Setting up the pipes beneath the pea gravel in your planters is also easy and you can just tip the planters so they pour over and back into your pond.

With the bottom filled with roots, I don't think you have a serious problem. i'd stir the water (after you get pump) and get out anything loose. Anything that is root bound should actually be okay. The plants for your bog will be the ones to starve out the algae. If you have any other questions, just ask. Seems complicated but it's not; you're doing a mini bog setup but the principles are the same.

Btw, the green water, other than sucking up oxygen, won't hurt your fish. But it is a sign you have an unbalanced system and that's where we're trying to lead. The pea gravel in the bog planters will colonize with good bacteria which will also feed your bog plants. When the bog plants get established, you'll see the algae will disipate and your water parameters will actually get better and you'll achieve equilibrium, such as it is. Remember, the smaller the pond, the easier it is to have the water parameters get out of whack. This bog system will really make a difference. Just for reference, look at one of my latest pics



and see the water clarity my bog provides. The camera is showing the far wall at 14' distance. The water changes are going to help short term re oxygen but won't really change the color permanently as long as algae has something to feed upon. Also, your fountain probably isn't doing as good as it can because you need surface water agitation to give the pond aeration and I bet a lot of fountain water is hitting the water poppies you have now. This would also be helped by having the planter bog system as it'll pour into your pond, aerating as it does.


Also; a flocclant while effectively binding algae will also leave it to die on the bottom of your pond. You'll get clarity but also provide food for the next wave of algae. Best to get other plants to starve the algae out and get you past any algae blooms/cycles.
 
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Hi NatureGirl, most of my ponds had no filter and have even done the bathtub type. The plant in the pond can be cut up, use a large knife and cut through the roots to take out about 3/4 of it and leave the rest to continue to trap nutrient. Only 2 fish will be quite happy in that size just don't add any more. I use a hand pump, Cheap as Chips kind, to reduce the sludge from time to time in Mums small pond. You'd be surprised how any bugs fall in the pond and moths on a moonlit night, mozzies in the evening etc. They have plenty to eat. They will eat the plants if hungry enough. Depending where in Aus you are depends on the salinity of the water, here in SA PH is 8.9 so you I need to watch evaporation so the water doesn't become too salty. Get a test kit from a pet shop, nothing flash just to test the PH. I keep my pond between 7.5 to 8PH, keeps the fish and the plants healthy. If you are in the position to build a bigger pond it's easier to maintain. My large one can be left for weeks but the small one needs to be watched more for changes. You can lay a couple of bricks in the pond slightly apart and put a pond plant pot on top to add more colour and make a small cave for protection. I have a ferel cat taking my fish atm, dog not doing her jpb. The smart fish go into the clay pipes to hide. You may find your little pond will turn into an obsession like most of us on this site. It changed my life 40 years ago.
 
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A filter system would help and the diy bog I suggested would do you well. You'd need to get a couple of the windowsill planter boxes I linked, some pea gravel, and some water cress from the market (or other shallow rooted marginal pond plant from your local pond supply store), then a pump large enough to push your pond volume through the bog once an hour.

Look at some of the bog threads to get an idea what I'm talking about as it's easy to do. Setting up the pipes beneath the pea gravel in your planters is also easy and you can just tip the planters so they pour over and back into your pond.

With the bottom filled with roots, I don't think you have a serious problem. i'd stir the water (after you get pump) and get out anything loose. Anything that is root bound should actually be okay. The plants for your bog will be the ones to starve out the algae. If you have any other questions, just ask. Seems complicated but it's not; you're doing a mini bog setup but the principles are the same.

Btw, the green water, other than sucking up oxygen, won't hurt your fish. But it is a sign you have an unbalanced system and that's where we're trying to lead. The pea gravel in the bog planters will colonize with good bacteria which will also feed your bog plants. When the bog plants get established, you'll see the algae will disipate and your water parameters will actually get better and you'll achieve equilibrium, such as it is. Remember, the smaller the pond, the easier it is to have the water parameters get out of whack. This bog system will really make a difference. Just for reference, look at one of my latest pics



and see the water clarity my bog provides. The camera is showing the far wall at 14' distance. The water changes are going to help short term re oxygen but won't really change the color permanently as long as algae has something to feed upon. Also, your fountain probably isn't doing as good as it can because you need surface water agitation to give the pond aeration and I bet a lot of fountain water is hitting the water poppies you have now. This would also be helped by having the planter bog system as it'll pour into your pond, aerating as it does.


Also; a flocclant while effectively binding algae will also leave it to die on the bottom of your pond. You'll get clarity but also provide food for the next wave of algae. Best to get other plants to starve the algae out and get you past any algae blooms/cycles.
Thanks again @brokensword... I value your input and advice.

I’ve been consistently changing water out fir the past couple of weekends and can see a change, with the water becoming clearer with each change. Still a way to go but getting there. A friend also got the pump going so that runs regularly to help aerate the water.

I’ll look at making the long term changes you and others have suggested... and opted to not go with the floculent.

Cheers and have a wonderful festive season.
 
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