Small pond, first year! 'To feed or not to feed'

Discussion in 'Introductions' started by Sue Ellen Anderson, Feb 24, 2014.

  1. Sue Ellen Anderson

    Sue Ellen Anderson

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    Hello, I'm from West Virginia.

    I previously had a pond just for the sound and look of the water. I said I wasn't going to put in any fish or plants because I didn't want to be responsible for their demise! However, I'm retired now and willing to spend the time, a little money, and lots of concern for 3 little fish that live in my small, 4'x6'x11" pond.

    I bought a pond deicer and it's worked very well for our unusually cold winter (lots of below freezing days and weeks).

    I also bought a battery operated pond feeder alert. When it went red last fall after a few cold days, I stopped feeding my fish. However, we've had 60 degree days too, as well as snow and ice days.
    My fish lately have been coming to the surface of the water, like they're looking for food. They've been quite active all winter in their shallow pond, so I wondered if they ever went dormant or whatever it is fish do, that they don't need to be fed over the winter.

    I put the pond feeder alert back in and it's been green the last few 60 degree days. However, we're getting 20s next week.

    To feed or not to feed, that is my question.
     
    Sue Ellen Anderson, Feb 24, 2014
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  2. Sue Ellen Anderson

    addy1 water gardener / gold fish and shubunkins Moderator

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    I would wait until the pond water goes up above 55 and stays there. That is what I do.
    Or if you do feed them make it a wheat germ based food and feed them very small amounts.
     
    addy1, Feb 24, 2014
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  3. Sue Ellen Anderson

    Big Lou

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    Welcome Sue!
     
    Big Lou, Feb 24, 2014
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  4. Sue Ellen Anderson

    Sue Ellen Anderson

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    Thank you, Big Lou and addy!

    I have wheat based food I fed them last fall. I was just afraid to feed them anything because I heard or read that it can hurt or even kill them, if their digestive systems have shut down for the winter.

    I don't have a thermometer in my pond. Just this little floaty device that turns red or green, depending on whether the water temperature is acceptable to feed.

    I'll try your suggestion ~ wait until we have another couple of 60 degree days and my device turns green. Then feed a wee little bit of the fall feeder.

    Do they eat algae or plants in the water if they become able to eat over the winter? I do have a floating plant that they hide under.
     
    Sue Ellen Anderson, Feb 24, 2014
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  5. Sue Ellen Anderson

    Lisak1

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    Your fish will eat algae or other plant material if it's available. I would wait until you know the temps will stay consistently above 55 degrees before you begin feeding. I know we worry that the poor things will starve, but really - they'll be fine!
     
    Lisak1, Feb 24, 2014
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  6. Sue Ellen Anderson

    Sue Ellen Anderson

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    Thank you, Lisak. I really needed some reassurance that they could survive the whole winter without food.

    My little grandson was concerned. He's only 2! He noticed I wasn't sprinkling a little food in the pond and he pulled the container of fall food off the window sill, intent on feeding them. We both check on them several times a day!
     
    Sue Ellen Anderson, Feb 24, 2014
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  7. Sue Ellen Anderson

    JohnHuff Friends call me Dr. Sir John Huff

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    It's still too cold to feed them where you are. I'm also a little concerned about the depth of your pool. Is it a pre-fab pool or lined? It appears your fish have survived this winter, which is good, but it might be a good idea to have some kind of heat source for them next winter. What kind of filtration system do you have? Can you give us more information?
     
    JohnHuff, Feb 24, 2014
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  8. Sue Ellen Anderson

    addy1 water gardener / gold fish and shubunkins Moderator

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    Sue Ellen, my fish and a lot of ponders fish go for 5-6 if not more months without being fed. Mine it is around 6 months, esp this winter it got cold early. I quit feeding end of September. Like said above it is best you do not feed until the water temp goes up and stays up with out bouncing back down.
     
    addy1, Feb 24, 2014
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  9. Sue Ellen Anderson

    Lisak1

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    Our little granddaughter (almost three) loves to feed our fish, too! One of the best reasons to have a pond, in my opinion!

    I've met ponders who never feed their fish at all. The fish live on algae, plant material and bugs that make their way into the pond. Our fish, like addy said, go five months or more without being fed. It's hard for us to imagine with our three meals a day schedule!
     
    Lisak1, Feb 24, 2014
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  10. Sue Ellen Anderson

    sissy sissy

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    welcome and would love to see pics .I live on the southside of VA.Have to ask do you go to the Hillsville flea market
     
    sissy, Feb 24, 2014
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  11. Sue Ellen Anderson

    j.w I Love my Goldies

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    Yep I am one of those who when I built my first pond did not feed the goldfish at all for several years. They ate on bugs, worms, algae anything el naturel they could get there mouths on. They did fine and no population explosions either as they kept most of the eggs eaten. Now I have a larger pond and do feed them a couple times per week cuz I like having them come to me but only during Spring to Fall when temps are consistently in the mid 50's using wheat germ food to start in Spring and then switch to Summer food w/protein and then when Fall approaches and temps start to fall I switch again to wheat germ and then stop when temps fall below 55f again.
     
    j.w, Feb 24, 2014
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  12. Sue Ellen Anderson

    dieselplower

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    I believe it is hard to say if they can go the whole Winter without food or not. There are a number of reasons for this. One, you are heating the pond. They may not go into their "hibernation" like stage if the water is too warm, in which case, they will look for food. Two, the pond is small. If they do get hungry, there may not be much in there for them to scrounge for. And three, if you are keeping the pond just warm enough to keep the fish from hibernationg, you are probably also at a point where the benificial bacteria that turn toxic ammonia and nitrite and nitrate are not going to be effective. This could high levels of ammonia and nitrite which could harm your fish. The level remain low since you are not feeding, but the fish respiration also causes ammonia. Im not trying to scare you, but I would suggest testing the water from time to time.
     
    dieselplower, Feb 24, 2014
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  13. Sue Ellen Anderson

    sissy sissy

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    I read on the test kit that it does not read well on water that is below 40 degrees and some say different on different brands
     
    sissy, Feb 24, 2014
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  14. Sue Ellen Anderson

    Catfishnut

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    Welcome Sue Ellen.

    Fish do not hibernate, of course. They are ectothermic and although the closest term applicable is "dormancy" they do not actually become dormant. They are in some way active through all seasonal temperautures, until the water temperature falls below freezing long enough for the water to freeze solid. Then the fish do become dormant, um... permanently dormant that is.

    Fish cannot control their metabolism or temperatures since they are ectothermic. Their activity is controlled by the water temperature and sunlight. They might be observed swimming about, but the water temperature is probably still too low for them to require feeding. If they do require food, they can absorb much of that from stored fat and small meals during extended or abnormally long warm periods.

    The major problem for fish in winter is build up of toxic compounds and gases in the water. Ammonia, nitrites and CO2 and lack of O2. Keeping the surface ice open allows much of the gases to escape and oxygen to enter. The fishes slowed metabolism as a reult of the cold temp will reduce their ammonia output from their gills and urine, so they are kinda being aided by the low temps in this manner.

    Feeding the fish during the winter may result in them producing more ammonia. But I think that what happens more than this is that the fish don't eat all of the food and it lays on the bottom of the pond or tank and decays to give off the same toxic compounds and gases.

    Personally I view the situation as totally climate dependant. If we have an unusually warm winter and the water temp is remaining above 55 degrees for an extended time period it would be acceptable to feed the fish limited amounts of the appropriate foods. If the water is only that temp for several days or a week, I definitely would not feed them. They have their reserves that they can rely upon for much longer periods than that and they won't require much.

    Just for a sidebar to this discussion, regarding how fish survive winter... It is Mother Nature's handywork that has allowed life to survive because of one simple physical property of water. This property is the density of water versus temperature. Water is most dense at 39.2 degrees F (4 degrees C). Since this is above the freezing point, the warmer liquid water sinks to the bottom of the lake or pond and the colder water that is about to freeze rises to the top and freezes at the surface, so the the fish have open water below the ice to swim around in with oxygen available and the ice sheet above helps to insulate the water below to prevent the lake from freezing solid all the way. If water were like all other compounds, the density would increase all the way to the freezing point and that would have made lakes and rivers freeze from the bottom up, leaving NO liquid water available during winter so all aquatic species would have perished.

    Gordy
     
    Catfishnut, Feb 25, 2014
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  15. Sue Ellen Anderson

    Sue Ellen Anderson

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    7 13 14 Fish are hanging in there.jpg
     
    Sue Ellen Anderson, Feb 25, 2014
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  16. Sue Ellen Anderson

    Lisak1

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    Gordy,
    Thanks for clarifying that the important part is the WATER temperature, not the air temp. I meant to clarify that after my first post. I find our pond water is much more stable in temperature than the air temperature. The pond cools slowly in the fall and stays cool and it warms slowly in the spring and stays warm, regardless of the relatively large fluctuations in air temperature that we see at those times of year.
     
    Lisak1, Feb 25, 2014
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  17. Sue Ellen Anderson

    Sue Ellen Anderson

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    John Huff, I am concerned about the depth of the pond too. I had a little landscaping done at the front of my house last Spring and asked them to install a pond kit that I'd had for quite awhile. It has heavy black material that they doubled to make the bottom and sides of the pond. I'm so sorry I didn't think to ask them to make it deeper. Now, I'm not wanting to disturb my 3 fish by scooping them out next summer, cleaning the liner, digging deeper. I'm afraid I'll harm them. Is that hard to do w/o problems?

    My filtration system is a replacement one I ordered from Pondmaster's. The small filter that came with the kit would plug up within hours last summer. The larger one only has to be cleaned once a week. I only turn the filter on now when the days are warm, not wanting to make the water colder than it already is. You can see the filter in the area the fish are gathering.

    The large egg-shaped thing on the surface is my deicer. Before I got that, my pond almost went completely iced and I was afraid of ammonia build-up in such a small pond. They like to hide under. It may provide them with a little warmth.

    I also set up a large flat rock, supported by two rounder rocks so they could hide under it.

    You can see the one plant I put in last summer. Looks like they have been nibbling it this winter.

    Finally, I have 3 rock-like solar lights on the bottom of the pond. Don't know if these provide a little warmth, but they are very pretty, reflecting up on my brick house.

    Hope I've answered questions above. I am a newbie and not nearly as knowledgeable as you all about what I need to do to maintain my pond and keep my fish healthy. Is there a device that checks ammonia and oxygen levels in the pond?
     
    Sue Ellen Anderson, Feb 25, 2014
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  18. Sue Ellen Anderson

    Sue Ellen Anderson

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    Sissy, I'm afraid I've not heard of the Hillside Flea Market. I live in central West Virginia, near the capitol of Charleston. We have a big flea market in Milton, WV. And every year, there is an Arts & Crafts Fair near Parkersburg, WV, that has a big flea market before you get to the craft show.
     
    Sue Ellen Anderson, Feb 25, 2014
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  19. Sue Ellen Anderson

    sissy sissy

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    The Hillsville one is only 2 times a year and is the whole town .I am rebuilding my pond and moved my fish and better to do it when they are smaller .These are the 2 tanks I put them in with temporary filters and aerator and I have not moved my 2 ft long koi until the last minute .The tank with the fish .Better to do it now and have happy fish
     

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  20. Sue Ellen Anderson

    Becky Administrator

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    Welcome to the forum Sue! (y)
     
    Becky, Feb 25, 2014
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