Really confused about water


Dbarr1575

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So I have been testing my water daily and except for when it rained (see previous thread about that) my ph is stable at 7.5 to 8 (depending on time of day), ammonia is at 0 and nitrites are at 0. Yet I just took a fish out that is not doing well, and I think it is from pop eye. Everything I read says this is caused by prolonged exposure to bad but not lethal water. Yikes.....so what am I missing. The water looks clear, there are plants and there is the good kind of algae. Is this just a "bad" fish? I just lost my shibunkin (quite literally I posted a thread about him elsewhere).

The pond is about 360 gallons and it right now has only 4 occupants all comet gold fish. One is 5 inches, the others range in size from 1 inch to 2.5 inches if measure nose to tip of tail. The one I took out just now and put in a hospital tank to treat with Kanaplex is 2 inches.

So if I'm testing the water and all parameters are correct, where is the "bad" water coming from that causes such things? I just got all new API test kits to make sure it wasn't faulty testing. It is extremely frustrating and I'm worried there is a parasite or something in the pond that I can't see. I recently cleaned the pond out because of these types of issues three months ago. Drained it, cleaned it, filled it. Did the same two weeks later (finished setting it up again end of March). I used the same lava rock to help jump start biological when that was done. Let it run with no fish in it for about a month, tested water, then put in the 3 small fish (feeders that I quarantined and treated with Melafix and Pimafix for almost 2 weeks). My 5 inch fish was the only one that survived from before and she had been housed in a 20 long tank while all of this was going on, now she's in the pond (about two weeks ago) and I'm terrified she's going to get something.

Please help and let me know what I'm missing. (just realized I didn't test the nitrates will do that now and post that).
 
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Dbarr1575

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Nitrates also zero. And sadly the little guy I took out of the pond died. Not having much good luck with fishes these days.
 

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Sorry to hear about your fish.

Some things to consider: If there is a parasite in your pond, switching the biological media may transfer it. The treatments you used for quarantine may or may not be effective, especially if you do not know the pathogen. With suspect fish, I would normally use a heavier anti parasite treatment. I used to use Quick Cure, if available.

Feeder goldfish are notoriously suspect fish.They come shipped in a bag of hundreds to the store, usually with DOA floaters and poor condition which is amplified during the summer and the higher shipping temps. Sometimes even the best cared for fish can have issues. 2 weeks is usually the minimum safe time of quarantine: https://www.vin.com/apputil/content/defaultadv1.aspx?pId=11103&meta=Generic&id=3981697
 
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So I have been testing my water daily and except for when it rained (see previous thread about that) my ph is stable at 7.5 to 8 (depending on time of day), ammonia is at 0 and nitrites are at 0. Yet I just took a fish out that is not doing well, and I think it is from pop eye. Everything I read says this is caused by prolonged exposure to bad but not lethal water. Yikes.....so what am I missing. The water looks clear, there are plants and there is the good kind of algae. Is this just a "bad" fish? I just lost my shibunkin (quite literally I posted a thread about him elsewhere).

The pond is about 360 gallons and it right now has only 4 occupants all comet gold fish. One is 5 inches, the others range in size from 1 inch to 2.5 inches if measure nose to tip of tail. The one I took out just now and put in a hospital tank to treat with Kanaplex is 2 inches.

So if I'm testing the water and all parameters are correct, where is the "bad" water coming from that causes such things? I just got all new API test kits to make sure it wasn't faulty testing. It is extremely frustrating and I'm worried there is a parasite or something in the pond that I can't see. I recently cleaned the pond out because of these types of issues three months ago. Drained it, cleaned it, filled it. Did the same two weeks later (finished setting it up again end of March). I used the same lava rock to help jump start biological when that was done. Let it run with no fish in it for about a month, tested water, then put in the 3 small fish (feeders that I quarantined and treated with Melafix and Pimafix for almost 2 weeks). My 5 inch fish was the only one that survived from before and she had been housed in a 20 long tank while all of this was going on, now she's in the pond (about two weeks ago) and I'm terrified she's going to get something.

Please help and let me know what I'm missing. (just realized I didn't test the nitrates will do that now and post that).
Hi. The only thing that sticks out in your description is that you “cleaned” your pond. I would suggest you look up how a nitrogen cycle works and the role of beneficial bacteria. The stuff you buy in a bottle does not compare to the real stuff that builds up in a pond. Every time you clean your pond you are starting all over from day one and it’s quite dangerous to do that . I didn’t see you mention if you have a biological filter. If you don’t have one I would recommend to get one so there is a place for beneficial bacteria to grow. I’m guessing your test strips are not accurate. I have over 50 goldfish over the course of the last 10 years and it is very unusual if I ever lose one to disease. The key is keeping a healthy water environment... also healthy does not always mean really clean because algae can help control ammonia if your pond has not cycled yet. Good luck! Sorry one more thing .. most experienced ponders have as much water movement as possible. This will reduce anaerobic bacteria that may build up from dissolved organic materials. I would recommend adding another water pump or air stone to help with that.
 
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Dbarr1575

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JRS thank you so much for your response. So how do I know if there is a parasite? Do I have to wait for the other fish to get it? We did rinse the lava rock real well in dechlorinated water before putting it back in.

I'd obviously like to be proactive. We thought the pond had issues because there was pea gravel in the bottom and it was really nasty. I could not get stable ph for anything. Now we have bigger gravel and I got a pond vac to get the things that blow in from the wind. I don't have a lot of leaves but some get in there and sink before I can get them. I generally vacuum them out every couple of weeks, scoop them out daily as I see them.
 

Dbarr1575

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Hi Keith,

Thank you so much for your reply. I need all the help I can get. I will say that I have had aquariums for over 30 years so I do understand the nitrogen cycle, learned about that the most painful way as most new to the fish hobby do. I don't use bottle bacteria but the dry beneficial bacteria sold by Aquascape. I add it weekly, and after heavy rain as recommended by the instructions. Is this not a good type of beneficial bacteria to use? If we do water changes it is only to replace the water taking out to vacuum the bottom and not more than 10%.

As I just posted above (while you were sending your response), when we cleaned the pond we basically took out the nasty gravel and all of the pine bark mulch that kept blowing into the pond (I now have gravel all around the outside of the pond too). I put in larger river rock gravel that is easier to vacuum up waste from (was going to keep the bare liner but I like the look of the rock). I kept the biological filter (lava rock intact only rinsed it off in pond water to remove the detritus), which now worries me based on JRS's post that if it was a parasite I kept it.

We also added large tab activated carbon (Polish AC) to give more biological space and clear the water, this was also maintained when we drained the pond. The waterfall also has sponge filters that we hose off every two weeks. It was recommended to me that we use the hose to clean these instead of just rinsing them in dechlorinated water so as not to slow the water flow if they get clogged (is every two weeks too often, every time we clean them they are really dirty). I was told these were not the biological filtration (was that incorrect information). I just bought new media that we are going to switch too since the ones that are in there are getting pretty beat up. I know in my fish tanks I switch out the sponges every other month, so this made some sense to me.

I am hoping to have minimal maintenance (getting to the nature taking care of it with some help from me) instead of the "yearly clean out" my pond service was doing. I mean they pressure washed everything off, including all the good algae and moss! In reading many posts on here and other sites, when I started losing fish, could not maintain ph stability no matter what, I decided something had to change. I fired the pond service deciding I could kill fish on my own without paying someone else to do it. Sigh. So using my knowledge of aquariums, I set out on this adventure of trying to make it more like an outdoor aquarium that has more nature to it. Is that an incorrect thought?

FYI, I'm not using test strips, I'm using the API liquid tests kits for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and ph. I have the wide and the regular range kits. I also have the liquid kh and gh test kits too.

I did not confirm that there was a parasite in the pond, I'm not sure how to confirm that. But I know things have been going better in the pond until today when that fish died from what looked like pop eye. But I think the pond is healthy, I have a good amount of the healthy algae on the lower rocks, there are some snails and I have a good amount of plant, but planning to add a few more at the edges to grow up the sides of the waterfall. I have never had such great test results consistently as I have for the past three weeks. So, as sad as it is I'm hoping it was because of the feeder fish and not the pond. But I am concerned about how to know if I have a parasite in the pond. I really don't want to lose my girl Freddie (started out as Freddie Mercury but I think she's a girl).

P.S. I added a pretty vigorous air stone in addition to the waterfall. It's been in there three weeks. I have plans to add more filtration with a decorative urn filter/fountain thing as soon as it gets off back order. I think I have pretty good movement, I could attach a video if that would help. I really appreciate all of your time and help, it's amazing how the pond is so different, yet so similar, to the aquariums. I mean I had a black belted cichlid for 15 years. I just have to get it figured out with the pond.
 

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IPA

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Your pond look nice, sorry to hear about your fish. I wouldn't worry if there is a parasite because there are always parasites and as long as the fish are healthy because your water is healthy they will be just fine. You may be a little too aggressive in cleaning your filters but the good news is that the beneficial bacteria grows on every surface. Biological media simply has many more surfaces to grow on than a rock. Maybe you could add bags of ceramic media (a few of the small Fluval bags, or whatever isn't too expensive) to your waterfall filter, just swish them around in a bucket to remove some of the detritus but don't "clean" them as you do the sponges. That may not even be necessary, based on your current biological load, though because the beneficial bacteria is growing everywhere so long as there is good water flow and it is being oxygenated. IMO, the one big thing hurting you is having rocks on the bottom, especially larger rocks where detritus can build up allowing fungus and possible even anaerobic bacteria to grow. With a rock free bottom you might clean out the heavy build up of leaves in the spring, but otherwise leaving the bottom mostly undisturbed has its own real benefit.

Keeping healthy fish is really about keeping healthy water whether it is through aggressive filtration, such as in an aquarium, or natural cycles like bogs or large ponds, or a combination of both. What type of water are you using, do you have well water or city water? If you use well water make sure to aerate before adding it; don't just stick the end of the hose in the pond, use a spray nozzle for example. Add a buffer to the system, oyster shells work well but if needed add baking soda every couple of weeks, depending on hardness test. The 3 most important test are pH, Ammonia and Hardness! Get your water healthy and the fish will be healthy.

I have a bog pond, have never cleaned it and only add well water due to evaporation. I do scoop out leaves, but not completely sanitize, early fall before the fish go into stupor. Once thighs cool down I don't touch it again until the spring, otherwise I try not to disturb the bottom as there are a lot of good things living down there. Plants are also an important part of the cycle. I have window screen "pockets" hanging along the pond walls with iris and a healthy stand of horsetail and creeping jenny in the bog. You can never have too many plants.
 

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I quit cleaning the bottom of our pond, 4ish years ago, every time I did a net out all I got was nothing to minimal amount of debris so decided it was not worth the effort and a lot of time picking out the trap door snails, the dragon fly larvae.

I think the bog sucks so much stuff out of the water column that anything that falls into the ponds gets absorbed. The 1000 gallon tank I do a bit of cleaning, it is under the apple trees and gets dropping apples and some leaves. But that only gets cleaned about every two years or so, I do grab floating apples.
 
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@Dbarr1575 I'm sorry to hear your frustrations - we've all had issues to work through at one time or another, so we can definitely relate!

Can you clarify for me - are these all new fish? All added at the same time? I'm wondering if you just need a new source for fish - if these are just unhealthy when you're bringing them home and the stress of a new environment is just exacerbating the situation? You seem to have covered all the other potentials.

And ponds and aquariums are exactly the same in two ways - they both have fish and water! Just kidding - there are definitely similarities, but also differences, mostly caused by external forces like rain and cold and debris. But the outside influence also allows for good things like all manner of beneficial bacteria and microscopic critters to move in.

It's often repeated here that smaller ponds like yours are typically more difficult to manage, so don't get too discouraged. Small changes have much bigger effects in the smaller volume of water. Keeping your fish load low will be very helpful as well as feeding with a light hand.
 

Dbarr1575

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@Lisak1 thank you for your post. The three little fish (two now) were new (feeders I got to "test" the pond after I set it up again. I did quarantine them but it seems not long enough), my 5 inch comet Freddie is about a year old and was in the pond before when I started losing fish and she started acting like she was dying. I took her out and managed to save her, but the other one that I cure of dropsy, yes dropsy, ended up dying because of whatever was going on with the pond. So flash forward that was in January. I got the pond reset up (didn't fully clean it, see above post) had it running for most of March but had not completed adding all of the rock back in, so was fully finished the first week of April and put the feeders in the second week, one day short of a two week quarantine. I could only wait a week before putting the other two fish in (Freddie and the shibunkin I got from the fish show in March) because I was worried about the tank they were in, I was having trouble with low Ph (it was not intended for it to have fish in it for 6 weeks, but because of the pandemic the pond was delayed two weeks) so I think it was trying to cycle.

So short answer, not all from the same source, and not added at the same time but a week apart, 3 one week 2 the next. My goal is to have 8 fish total, Freddie, whichever of the feeders that survives, and I was going back to the farm I bought the other fish from to get some other shibunkins (I want the Wakin variety because I read they stay a bit smaller than the comets). It's funny, when I first set the pond up four years ago I bough 20 feeders (was assured 10 of them would die) because I wanted to see what was going to happen, didn't quarantine anyone and those fish did great, lost only two. Then I had an accident where the pool over flowed into the pond and it killed all of them. Very sad day indeed, but they had all reached the size of about 5 to 6 inches by then.

So since that time I've had continued problems with the pond (probably because I killed off all of the original good bacteria), but the service I had did a full clean out once, and they supposedly did another clean out in November of last year, but I don't think they removed the small gravel to clean it like they did the first time because it was a disaster. Anyway, I wasn't a fan of the big clean out because I like the moss on the rocks, and I like the healthy algae on the rocks.
 

Dbarr1575

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More Pond Drama from Florida today.

So it seems it might be an oxygen issue. I came out this morning and the big fish was laying under the waterfall gasping, little one hiding somewhere. I immediately did a water change, about 20 gallons (not sure if that was enough) but she started swimming around again, but then settled on the bottom. Later I saw the little one sitting next to her. They don't seem to be struggling right now.

I tested the water again using the API liquid test kits, nitrite 0, ammonia 0, PH a bit higher at the 8 range but that was probably because I added so much water. I have the waterfall with three areas where water hits, and I have a decent sized air stone.

I'm sure it's algae growth, it's been growing so fast, I don't have a bloom or anything I can just tell by how fast it grows on the waterfall, that is the only rock we generally try to keep "clean" mostly so we can see how the algae is doing.

I'm not sure what to do next. All I know to do for low oxygen is do a water change and make sure you have good aeration. Is there anything else I need to do. The weather has been really hot lately (high 80's, with no rain), but I deal with that every year.

I have two big sun shades that shade the back half of the area where the pond is for most of the day, the whole pond only gets about three hours of full on sun (I know that's why my iris doesn't bloom). The front part is not under the shades but I have small umbrellas that shade the shelf so the fish can get out of the sun. I never did a lily because I was afraid the pond was too small, but I'm rethinking that now. I have a frogbit plant in the pot but it doesn't spread out very far, probably because it doesn't get enough sun. I know most of these plants say they need full sun for several hours, but that's not zone 9 sun. LOL If I left the pond in the full sun for 6 hours the fish would boil. I don't have the depth, so I am trying to find plants that are happy with some sun and some shade. The Arrow plant things I have in there like it a lot.
 
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Dbarr1575

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I quit cleaning the bottom of our pond, 4ish years ago, every time I did a net out all I got was nothing to minimal amount of debris so decided it was not worth the effort and a lot of time picking out the trap door snails, the dragon fly larvae.

I think the bog sucks so much stuff out of the water column that anything that falls into the ponds gets absorbed. The 1000 gallon tank I do a bit of cleaning, it is under the apple trees and gets dropping apples and some leaves. But that only gets cleaned about every two years or so, I do grab floating apples.
Addy, you mean your fish don't like to eat the apples! LOL

I wish I had a bigger pond, I have the room out there the area is 30 feet long by 13 feet wide, but when I was putting the pond in, this little pond pretty much broke the bank! One day maybe I'll get to expand it. I normally don't clean it very often but because it's so small I don't think I can avoid water changes altogether. I think it's more like an aquarium in that way, but maybe I'm thinking wrong on that regard.
 

Dbarr1575

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do you know the temperature of your water .
I don't have an exact temp, as the thermometer I had in there vanished, but I would say it's around 80 degrees. Still feels cool.
 

Dbarr1575

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Keeping healthy fish is really about keeping healthy water whether it is through aggressive filtration, such as in an aquarium, or natural cycles like bogs or large ponds, or a combination of both. What type of water are you using, do you have well water or city water? If you use well water make sure to aerate before adding it; don't just stick the end of the hose in the pond, use a spray nozzle for example. Add a buffer to the system, oyster shells work well but if needed add baking soda every couple of weeks, depending on hardness test. The 3 most important test are pH, Ammonia and Hardness! Get your water healthy and the fish will be healthy.
IPA, thanks for your response. I have city water. When I add water I always use a spray nozzle and I always chlorinate. I recently, for evaporation, started using a 5 gallon bucket, filling it with water using the spray end of the hose, dechlorinating it and allowing it to siphon slowly into the pond. It takes about 30 minutes to put the whole 5 gallons in.

We had really tiny gravel before, but now it's big so it can be moved easily, and I have a pond vac that can get in between the rocks. I don't like to do that very often though, only when I see a build up. With this small of a pond though, I think I need to do at least monthly 10% water changes. Am I over thinking it? I am trying to increase the filtration, but alas the new filter (a pretty decorative urn with bioballs an a sponge in it that will flow into the water like a mini waterfall) is on back order.

I really think my biggest issue is I need more plants to fight the algae. I think I will get one or two potted hardy lilies (then I can take up some of those rock and put the pots on the liner). I'm also planning to get some "creeping" plants to put in the outer edges that can grow up the side walls. I just need to keep my fish alive long enough. I will be very sad if I lose my Freddie, she's been through so much!
 

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IMO There isn’t any reason to change the water, it’s kind of the point and beauty of the pond vs the aquarium, even in the size you have, especially if you are using city water. They add phosphates and if like my city, add it way beyond the amount they put in during test day. Look up what the EPA tells you is safe and tell me you don’t go out and buy a Zero Water pitcher the next day. It keeps the pipes from scouring and releasing lead in the water and after Flint they error on the side of not getting sued. Algae loves phosphates. Some people swear you should do them so two different schools of thought I guess.
I ran a UV filter (and used city water) before I converted over to the bog; there are nice all-in-one filters if you need the boost. UV will clear up pea soup and keep the bacterial load in check. Get a good hardness test and in the mean time add baking soda (something like 1 cup per 1,000 gallons but double check) and use charcoal bags in your filter.
PS: and I think a lot but not all will agree, lilies don’t really count as plants as far using them to control algae and maintain healthy water, especially if you are having to fertilize them.
 
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PS: and I think a lot but not all will agree, lilies don’t really count as plants as far using them to control algae and maintain healthy water, especially if you are having to fertilize them.
I agree with that assessment 100%. Lilies are heavy feeders, but don't seem to do much to control algae. Maybe if they were free to roam the pond they would help - in the pot, not so much.
 
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My two cents is the pond is too small for outdoors in Florida. people think that the larger ponds have to be soon much work when the fact is the smaller pond is where the work is. The temperature in a 350 gallon tub can fluctuate so fast from the hot sun that your fish can get so stressed out. Look at it this way when its 60 in the morning and it hits 90 by noon its not a enjoyable temperature change. fish do not do well with ANY quick changes be it Temps or ph or even ammonia.
 
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IPA, thanks for your response. I have city water. When I add water I always use a spray nozzle and I always chlorinate. I recently, for evaporation, started using a 5 gallon bucket, filling it with water using the spray end of the hose, dechlorinating it and allowing it to siphon slowly into the pond. It takes about 30 minutes to put the whole 5 gallons in.

We had really tiny gravel before, but now it's big so it can be moved easily, and I have a pond vac that can get in between the rocks. I don't like to do that very often though, only when I see a build up. With this small of a pond though, I think I need to do at least monthly 10% water changes. Am I over thinking it? I am trying to increase the filtration, but alas the new filter (a pretty decorative urn with bioballs an a sponge in it that will flow into the water like a mini waterfall) is on back order.

I really think my biggest issue is I need more plants to fight the algae. I think I will get one or two potted hardy lilies (then I can take up some of those rock and put the pots on the liner). I'm also planning to get some "creeping" plants to put in the outer edges that can grow up the side walls. I just need to keep my fish alive long enough. I will be very sad if I lose my Freddie, she's been through so much!
Hi Dbarr. You are getting a lot of good advice. I think everyone that Is trying to help you Is very knowledgeable. A couple thoughts. One. Every pond is different. What works well for one person may not be as effective for you. Two. Avoid feeder fish at all costs. Even one sick feeder can kill a whole pond of healthy fish. Have you ever gone to those stores first thing in the morning? They are busy scooping up all the dead feeders that are floating at the top. Three. 80 degrees is too hot. You need to find a way to shade your pond. Also oxygen levels are lower at higher temps. Four. Give as much oxygen as possible. Happy and healthy fish love water with high levels of dissolved O2. Five. Never clean anything related to your pond with chlorinated water. It kills the good stuff ie bb. Six. We are all mass murders of poor little fish when we started ponding.. or at least I am. My oldest fish from a long time ago was the only one that survived my inexperience. Now he has lots of younger relatives all living happily in my pond. You are getting great advice . If you keep up the hard work you will eventually get the knack for having a successful pond and healthy and happy fish! If you want to see any pics of my fish you can look at the thread “my goldfish pond“ under the photography heading. Good luck with everything!
 
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Dbarr1575

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@CometKeith Thanks again for your time and great advice. So I do have the pond shaded most of the day with sun shades and umbrellas (I posted earlier that it only averages about 3 hours of full sun and even that is broken up by some shading from my pool screen). I'm just glad the pool screen is there because it cuts a percentage of the UV lights. The question I've been wondering lately is if I should put more plants in. I hear conflicting advice on this, some say too many plants are bad, others say can't have too many.

I just ordered a DO test kit and a good pond thermometer so I will know the temperature. I was told that I could float frozen water bottles in the pond to help chill it? Is that really a thing? I could definitely do that, but I will wait until I get my thermometer so I don't make it too cold.

I always dechlorinate water, either by putting enough in the pond if I have more than 5 gallons to add, or in a bucket before siphoning it slowly into the pond to replace for evaporation. Sadly, I learned that the hard way many years ago, as well, so many fishy deaths on my conscious.

I too have one that I'm trying to keep alive, she is the last from my inexperience and I'm hoping she survives the night, but I'm worried about the DO. Even though it's 4 am I'm going to go out and check on her to make sure they are not struggling. I added another air stone to help.

And, yes this last experience has taught me not to use the feeders. I am headed to my local fish breeder once I get every thing for sure and certain stable.

I really appreciate everyone's help, I just wish I knew more I could do to make sure they are getting oxygen. I mean I think I have a frozen water bottle right now I could go put in the pond!
 

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