Temp is dropping and goldfish are dying one by one


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I think you should leave your pond as it is over the winter but add some ammonia now so the pond can establish a proper nitrifying bacteria population over the winter. You can add goldfish directly to the pond next year as soon as the two water bodies (barn tanks and outside pond) are of similar measurable parameters.
As for how much ammonia to add to the pond now, we need to be certain of the pond volume.
Can you post the pond dimensions, as best you can?

We can address you other questions later.
 
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@Jkm - I honestly believe you can find all the answers you need right here on this forum starting with the advice @MitchM just gave you. There's so much experience here and people who have shared so much knowledge that you really couldn't find a better source in my opinion.

I'm with @MitchM - leave the pond set up over winter and give it time to establish an ecosystem. Get ready to start adding plants as soon as you can in the spring - with a pond your size you have room for lots! - and spend the winter reading and learning.

Comets are simple, hardy, easy going fish to care for. They are not fussy at all and will thrive in your pond. Maybe consider shubunkins too, for the colors they can add. Just another type of goldfish but so pretty in the pond!

Post some photos of your pond - we'd all love to see it... especially since we got our first snowfall in Chicago yesterday and today's high won't even get us above freezing. I could use some happy pond pictures!
 
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The picture of the fish looks like either a fungus, or compromised slime coat? I'm not an expert, but from what I've learned over the years, those two possibilities come to mind.

If their slime coat is compromised, they are left susceptible to bacteria and parasites that are always present in the water.

Stick with @MitchM for excellent water quality info !
 

Jkm

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Please excuse my inelegant reply posting procedures - I’m still figuring it out.
Here are pictures from this morning and dimensions - it’s definitely smaller than I thought, so I overdosed everything.

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I hope my scrawls are legible. The drain is 5’ deep, and the pond slopes down to it all the way around. There are shelves all around the vary from 4” deep to 15” deep, and from 12” wide to 30” wide.

If I treat with ammonia now, I can’t drain it all and measure the volume when I refill it in the spring, can I? I will lose any bacteria that might be establishing themselves in the meantime...

Actual pictures (all the flagstone around the edge is still loose, to be finished in the spring):

6662A206-7F8D-4882-9B09-292B2E4C42FC.jpeg


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So, what do you estimate the volume to be? And what kind of ammonia do I use? I have a 1 oz bottle of aquarium ammonia; I’d guess it to be the same stuff in a larger quantity. From Amazon?

The skimmer, waterfall, and secondary outlet are all still running, and this morning the temperature was 39 degrees at the drain and the surface.
 
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Thank you for that information.
I would estimate your pond to be about 10,000 gallons. I used the dimensions of 25 foot circle and average 3 feet deep. I used this calculator: https://www.tlc-direct.co.uk/Technical/Ponds/PondRound.htm

Given your pond volume, you could add 2 liters (1/2 gallon) of 5% ammonia to achieve a 3 ppm ammonia concentration.
I used this calculator, you could try others.
http://spec-tanks.com/ammonia-calculator-aquariums/
By the time spring comes around, the nitrifying bacteria population should be established and your pond safe for fish.
Algae growth plus any plants you add will consume any impurities in the water that are present.

You only need regular grocery store ammonia with no added scent or foaming agents. I can buy 5% ammonia here for about $2 per liter.
You'll probably be fine just running an aerator and turning off everything else plus protecting the skimmer and plumbing from freezing damage.
Someone that lives closer to you could advise you better for winter protection of plumbing components.
For me, no plumbing is safe but you're in a milder climate.
 

Jkm

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Thank you so much!
So, without fish in it this winter I don’t need to worry about the thermoclines; would you advise me to run the bottom drain aerator, or just a shallow aerator at one end like I would if there were fish in it?

And just distribute the ammonia all around the pond? That sounds so easy

It’s ironic that for decades I had goldfish in my horse water tanks and never thought about them other than to feed them (which they mostly ignored - I know now that they weren’t hungry). No filters or pumps, just natural water changes from the horses drinking and the water being refilled. And they survived and grew and didn’t die. Hmmm... do less. That must be the trick.

So, next question:
Come spring how many fish should I get? I’m thinking 4”-5” comets/shubunkins. Should I start with just a half dozen and get more as the ecosystem gets established? Or start with more and let them and the new plants and the algae all get established together?
 
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I think you mentioned you have a Savio skimmer. I'm in zone 6 and do nothing to my Savio skimmer and I leave a pump submerged in it. I've been doing this for at least5-8 years without problem. I had a different type of skimmer prior to my Savio and also did nothing, so 13-14 winters without issue. Hope this helps.
 
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Thank you so much!
So, without fish in it this winter I don’t need to worry about the thermoclines; would you advise me to run the bottom drain aerator, or just a shallow aerator at one end like I would if there were fish in it?

And just distribute the ammonia all around the pond? That sounds so easy

It’s ironic that for decades I had goldfish in my horse water tanks and never thought about them other than to feed them (which they mostly ignored - I know now that they weren’t hungry). No filters or pumps, just natural water changes from the horses drinking and the water being refilled. And they survived and grew and didn’t die. Hmmm... do less. That must be the trick.

So, next question:
Come spring how many fish should I get? I’m thinking 4”-5” comets/shubunkins. Should I start with just a half dozen and get more as the ecosystem gets established? Or start with more and let them and the new plants and the algae all get established together?
Your pond is not deep enough to have thermoclines be a factor. Plus with the slightest circulation, the temperature will be equalized throughout the water column anyways.
Without any fish, you can pour the ammonia in one spot and let the water circulation take care of distribution.

For fish stocking in the spring, I would suggest 6 shubunkins plus a dozen rosy red minnows. The shubunkins for larger show fish and the minnows for their fast reproduction rate which also will provide food for other pond inhabitants. Once your pond balances out, I think you'll have about 1000 schooling minnows that spawn year round, are fun to watch and will take care of any mosquito problems. Minnows are also detritus eaters so they will help keep the pond clean.
Most important - no feeding your pond once you get the fish in there.
You want a balanced pond that takes care of itself as much as possible.
Let us know how the pond is doing in the spring and we can go over that again.
You'll need some lilies that will provide a sense of security for the fish. If you have herons, you'll need a method of protecting the pond fish from them.
 
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Jkm

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Hi, Tula,
So do you leave the skimmer running? Or just leave it with water in it?
Mine doesn’t have a pump in it - it’s plumbed so the pump draws water through it and through the big filter. The winterization instructions say to drain the pond level to below the skimmer door, and drain the filter (which means nothing runs).

So, Mitch, are you saying the whole pond will be super cold anyway, so it’s okay to use the big aerator in the drain?

And thank you for the fish suggestions - I hadn’t considered minnows. What a great idea!
 
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...

So, Mitch, are you saying the whole pond will be super cold anyway, so it’s okay to use the big aerator in the drain?
...!
Use only enough aeration to keep a hole open in the ice.
I've used strong aeration during the winter and have found that it winds up cooling off the whole pond which only results in an overall colder pond with thicker ice.
Gas exchange should be your main concern. A pond breather would be your most economical choice.
Here's the pond breather I'm talking about:
https://www.farmandfleet.com/products/531773-allied-precision-pond-breather.html

A lot of us on this forum use it.
 
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Jkm

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Okay, now I understand - all I want to is keep a hole in the ice open. This pond breather looks interesting. I already have a floating de-icer, which I assumed would do the same thing. I think it’s worth an experiment in this fishless winter: use both, at a distance from each other, and see which works best at keeping a quiet open hole in the ice.

Thank you for the link and all the rest of your help - I’m feeling a whole lot better about my new pond now. It will be wonderful once it’s all done and self-sustaining.
 
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What a pretty pond! Those six goldfish will be the luckiest fish in the tank when they get chosen to live in your pond! And I'll bet it won't be long before you have lots more than six. Goldfish are easy breeders - they will populate your pond in no time!
 

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What a nice pond you have. Sorry about your fish. As said before, the best way to eliminate algae is by adding more plants to the pond.
 
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Nothing buy my pond breathers and small aerator run in the winter, but I don't lower the water level below the skimmer. I don't want to steer you wrong , so if your instructions tell you to do that, do it :)
 
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