Reducing stress on goldfish going from cold to very cold water?


jb510

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The main question:
Is there any advice on moving goldfish (1-2") from a fish store into a very cold (35F) outdoor pond? I know it's stressful. I know to let temp and water chemistry change slowly, but what does slowly really mean? My suspicion is that most advice I've read is written around the idea of a 5-10 degree changes like from 65F down to 55F, not 65F all the way down to 35F.

Yesterday I just (Nov. 27th) I got 2 more Shubunkins and 2 more Comets (all 1-2") to join the 2+2 I already have in my tiny 40 gal 16" deep outdoor pond.

What I've done is taken a 2 gallons of pond water out and put it in a formerly empty 10 gal tank. Then I added 1 gal of warm-ish dechlorinated tap water to warm it up a little from the 35F it came out of the tank at. I then placed the fish still in their bags floating in the 10 gal tank for a a several hours. Then I released the fish into the 10 gal tank. I'm now keeping that 10 gal tank in my unheated garage which doesn't get as cold the actual pond I ultimately want them in, but giving them some more time to adjust. The 10 gal tank in the garage is currently 50F.

So... I what I was planning it to add those 4 new fish to the 4 in the pond in a day or two. Then I was going to use the tank just to over-winter a couple pond plants. I'm not sure if that's sufficient temperature transition time, but that was my plan.

However, I'm now debating pulling the 4 gold fish still in the pond out and putting them in the tank with the plants for the winter instead. I didn't really want an indoor tank, but maybe that'd be best. I don't know, but I'd keep it a simple bare bottom tank and then transfer everyone and the plants back into the pond early spring. Open to opinions on that?

Second question:
How bad is it to (slowly) cycle between indoors and out? Does more than once a year freak out fish they way it might a plant, or can they go in/out of dormancy/hibernation multiple times a year. How bad is it to do these big temperature swings? Any advice on how slow they need to be acclimated to minimize stress?


A bit more background:
I built a little 40 gal outdoor pond this past summer. It was kind of an experiment dipping my toe into something I've always wanted. The 40 gal just has an aerator (solar powered with battery runs pretty much continuously). I did manage to keep 4 goldfish (which grew from 1-2" to 2-3") and a couple water hyacinth alive all the way into winter. Yay me. I'm hooked and starting to build the 200 gal pond in a slightly different location that will eventually cascade into the little one it'll have more proper filtration and a little waterfall. I had really only intended using the 10gal tank to over-winter some plants.
 
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whoa, lots going on in your post. Where to begin...

I'm not a fan of taking warm water conditioned fish and plunking them into such an extreme situational change, no matter how slow. Now, goldfish are pretty hardy but still...I'd go with the keep them inside for the winter.

Second point; definitely go larger if the pond bug has bitten you--you won't regret it. THAT said, 40 gallons hardly constitutes a pond and 200 is much more in line with the idea but why not do something larger and give yourself more years to grow into the idea? Larger is also better in that you have a lot more latitude for mistakes and Mother Nature squatting on you. At 200 gallons, that's still going to require very regular maintenance, imo, unless you feed very sparingly and have some sort of summer and winter protection. Depending, of course, on where you're located.

Too, goldfish can get upwards of 14"; that 200 gallon addition is going to seem small in no time.

Another point; it's been relayed that it's a much better idea to have your large pond be the bottom of any cascade of ponds, NOT the top one. If power fails and the top (200) empties, your 40 isn't going to save anything.

I'd suggest you look into non-solar powered pumps/systems as ponds work best when running all the time and I have a hard time believing your solar system did just that. Did you have some sort of battery storage/backup?

I'd not cycel between dormancy and normal any more than necessary. This puts stress unnecessarily. Goldfish are tough, as i noted, but why make this harder than you have to? Just keeping the goldfish inside over winter will require you to watch the water parameters and keep good filtration up. Once you have your larger pond, the equation gets easier to solve but with more/different variables. Kudos for keeping the fish alive in such a small container and better yet that you enjoyed the experience. Seriously consider what you might like in 5 years and do it now.

Hope this helps.
 

jb510

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I'm not a fan of taking warm water conditioned fish and plunking them into such an extreme situational change, no matter how slow. Now, goldfish are pretty hardy but still...I'd go with the keep them inside for the winter.
Thanks, noted. The rest is super helpful too, I'm going to respond to it all just in case others have the same questions.

Second point; definitely go larger if the pond bug has bitten you--you won't regret it. THAT said, 40 gallons hardly constitutes a pond and 200 is much more in line with the idea but why not do something larger and give yourself more years to grow into the idea? Larger is also better in that you have a lot more latitude for mistakes and Mother Nature squatting on you. At 200 gallons, that's still going to require very regular maintenance, imo, unless you feed very sparingly and have some sort of summer and winter protection. Depending, of course, on where you're located.
There are a few factors at play here that weren't really relevant to my urgent question. Size is mostly an issue of available space/landscaping. I live in the mountains, nothing is flat, and I jsut want a small water feature to blend in the the natural rocks. I attached a photo to my welcome post.

Too, goldfish can get upwards of 14"; that 200 gallon addition is going to seem small in no time.
We'll see. My hope is they won't outgrow their container, but if they do, they may just get re-homed elsewhere.

Another point; it's been relayed that it's a much better idea to have your large pond be the bottom of any cascade of ponds, NOT the top one. If power fails and the top (200) empties, your 40 isn't going to save anything.
I'm actually planning on two pumps. The first pump that runs "all the time" that pulls water from the upper pond into a waterfall/spillway/filter that goes directly back into the upper pond. Then a second pump that runs manually (or maybe on a timer) that would pull water from the lower 40gal pond, up 6' to the upper 200 gal pond, with a sluice for panning for gold (actually maybe rain gutter) not a typical 'waterfall' feature that drops water from the upper pond down to the lower. I'm not 100% set on that second part, that's very much still in the dream stage. It'll be seperated by both a ball valve and one way check valve and feeds into the spillway so, it's never going to siphon/drain the 200 gal.

I'd suggest you look into non-solar powered pumps/systems as ponds work best when running all the time and I have a hard time believing your solar system did just that. Did you have some sort of battery storage/backup?
Yeah, the solar thing is just for the 40 to keep well aerated and discourage mosquitos. Running electrical to the 200.

I'd not cycel between dormancy and normal any more than necessary. This puts stress unnecessarily. Goldfish are tough, as i noted, but why make this harder than you have to? Just keeping the goldfish inside over winter will require you to watch the water parameters and keep good filtration up. Once you have your larger pond, the equation gets easier to solve but with more/different variables. Kudos for keeping the fish alive in such a small container and better yet that you enjoyed the experience. Seriously consider what you might like in 5 years and do it now.
Noted. I'll also disclose here my white lie. A few days ago a raccoon got into my pond and got 2 of my fish. I knew it was a risk, but thought I had enough big heavy rocks in their for them to hide (200 gal will have a proper gave). The 40 now has a wire grate over it. that is really why I decided to get 4 new fish in winter, they remaining two seemed so lonely.

Hope this helps.
Tremendously. I've been in my own little world with this, it's fun to share.

First photo is the 40 gal pond. It's a preformed liner that just barely fits a natural depression and then rocks around it. That was day 1, it's much prettier now (better coping etc... more plants).

Second photos is where I'm starting to dig a second pond, and you can see why I can't really make it much bigger.

Now I know you're going to ask why I don't just make the 40 gal bigger and the main answer is it doesn't get enough winter sun. That first photo was months ago and not too far off from noon as I recall. At this point it gets about 1hr through the trees in the afrernoon.[/QUOTE]
 

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I share a lot of the same concerns as @brokensword already stated - I have a 40 gallon container pond and would never attempt to keep fish of any size or type in it over winter. As soon as the temperature starts to drop, we get the fish out of the patio pond and into the big pond. Every year we catch three or four of the babies from the year before from the pond and put them in the patio pond for the summer. When fall comes, they rejoin the herd and live out their life swimming with the big guys.

I don't know where you're located, but if that water is already 35 degrees, it's only going to get colde - 40 gallons isn't big enough. It has the potential to freeze solid, since it's basically just a container of water above ground. If it were buried, you might stand a chance, but still I wouldn't risk it. We have a 100 gallon underground basin with a pump on another water feature - I don't even trust that not to freeze.

The idea that fish won't outgrow their container is a myth - you may be able to stunt the growth of a fish (heck, you can stunt the growth of a human for that matter) but that's not good stewardship. Your comment that you felt your original two fish may be "lonely" tells me that you care about them, so I know you will take all this advice as coming from fish lovers to another fish lover.

And @brokensword is sharing another piece of good advice re: your future plans. Your bottom most pond has to be able to contain the entire volume of water that will flow into it if you have to shut the pump down or you lose power - and when you do lose power, it won't matter how many pumps you have. Otherwise you'll end up with 40 gallons of water and the rest flowing down the mountain. I know you said check valve or ball valve - that's great if you're always home I suppose and can catch it if a pump goes out or the power fails. But we all know how that goes - the worst only ever happens when you're A. gone B. sleeping or C. in the middle of a blizzard. Just a little pond building wisdom - take it or leave it!

Do you plan to use a liner in this addition? It looks like you're planning to direct water between some very large rocks there...

Welcome to the GPF by the way! Lots of helpful, experienced and friendly people here to talk you through your plan!
 
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Go up! You’ve got lots of beautiful rock to mortar into the outside of the wall to make it look like it’s an older rock wall, especially if you work dirt on the outside of the set mortar and start a few clumps of moss growing, and if you have a few pockets built into the wall, for filling with dirt and maybe growing ferns, or other native plants.
 
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I didn't read your intro post until now and didn't realize you're in the mountains; for sure that 40 gallon is going to freeze solid, especially since it's bordered not by earth but by rock. For most ponds with any type of solid winter temps, recommended is at least a 2' depth below the earth. And being on a hill has more obstacles re pond formation but if you look at @addy1 's pond thread, you'll see hers is also on a slope and she's done wonderfully at creating ponds! It can be done, just plan accordingly.

You'll have to plan steep sides for anything new if you want the raccoons to keep away from your fish.

Good luck!
 

jb510

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@brokensword and @mrsclem
I understand the concern about freezing. I know the weather here quite well (30 years) and I'm not worried about it freezing solid. I've got a 3" deep bird bath, and it does freeze solid once or twice a year, but then it melts within a few days. It is rare we have cold spell (mountains of _southern_ california) that last more than a few days before return to out usual winter temps of 60F daytime and 40F night time.

Regardless, I'm watching very carefully and still experimenting. So far the little pond did get a 1" freeze during our first unexpected cold spell. The bubbler kept a little hole in.

I'm still contemplating various ways to "heat" the little pond, or at least keep a hole in it when it freezes over for a few days. I'm also kind of skeptical the gasses in the water build up that quickly though. The longest it'd ever have ice on it is a week.

I'm thinking though ideas to heat it though. I'm leaning towards the same kind of heat tape folks put on outdoor water lines https://heatitcable.com/product/hea...f-regulating-pre-assembled-pipe-heating-cable or maybe the stuff people use for heated flooring/sidewalks/driveways. That's just a "idea" at this point, not yet a well researched plan and is all probably better discussed in other threads (which I'm searching and reading up on, thanks for the link to Addy1),
 
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Would just add a pond breather to the pond, if it doesn’t freeze that hard. I wouldn’t take the chance on a small pond letting it freeze over even for a week, especially when something as simple as the aforementioned pond breather will easily solve the problem.
 
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