|Water Changes vs. Topping Up
between water changes vs. topping the pond up. Since actual water changes are important to the health of your fish, I think it's
necessary to better define the difference between the two.
Evaporation or plant respiration only removes H2O from your pond, and not any of the other toxins or organic materials present
in your pond water. Think of it this way - Over 70% of the earth's surface is covered with salt water, however, it never rains salt
water. Why? Because only pure H2O evaporates off the surface of the world's oceans, that's why. Everything else in ocean
precipitation and falls back to earth. Be it industrial waste, a volcanic eruption, or cow farts that add toxins to the
precipitation, whatever it is was added AFTER the H2O had evaporated and was not carried up into the atmosphere along WITH
the H2O during the evaporation process. My point here is that it doesn't rain salt water.
Thus, by only topping the pond up (or replacing lost H2O), you are not removing any of the toxins or pollutants present in your
pond water, you are mearly condensing them. The fish continue to produce more waste, plant and other organic material
decomposes, pollutants accumulate, and over a period of time, your pond water becomes toxic. The only way to lower the
pollutant level in your pond is to do regular (usually 10% - 20% is recommended) water changes, meaning intentionally removing
a portion of the polluted water from your pond and replacing it with fresh. I find it easiest to do this when cleaning out the
filter media. Since you are supposed to use pond water and not tap water to clean out your filter media, by flushing the media
in the pond water you are removing from the pond, you are effectively completing two task at once. Depending on fish load
and feeding habits, I clean out filter media at least once a month.
On a frigid December day a couple of years ago, I got a call from a paniced client (who shall remain nameless, but you know who
you are). All of his fish (about a dozen large koi and thirty or so goldfish) were all gasping at the surface. Since the ambient
temperature was -12, he was worried because he thought all of his fish should be at the bottom of the pond where it was warmer
and not at the top. He was right. Upon further investigation of his pond maintenance practises, I learned that he had NEVER
done a water change in the 4 years that he'd had the pond. Now his koi were all about 20" long, and the goldfish (which he had
thrown in for good measure) had successfully multiplied and were about the size of your hand. There were also a good number
of leaves that had fallen into the pond, releasing tannins and further reducing the dissolved oxygen levels. Keep in mind that
water holds more oxygen per volume when it is cold than when it is warm, so for his fish to be gasping at the surface with the
water temperature hovering at around 38 degrees meant he had hardly any oxygen available. We immediately set up a mag drive
pump in a shallow part of the pond to agitate the water vertically and increase his dissolved oxygen levels. I then set him to
work on doing a series of water changes and left him with enough AmQuel to complete the task. Within a half hour of adding the
turbulance of the mag drive pump, all of his fish had stopped gasping and returned to the bottom of the pond. In the end, he
only lost two of his larger koi, one of which was his favorite, Marble, but it could have been much worse.
Mark my words, if you ever DO have a problem, it will ALWAYS be under the most intollerable weather conditions and you will
ALWAYS lose your favorite fish. An ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure.
In most cases, topping the pond up is something you do because of evaporation or normal plant respiration (water plants absorb
water through their roots and respire H2O into the atmosphere just like terrestrial plants do), which causes the water level to
drop in your pond. Factors such as high winds, heat, and heavy plant load all contribute to the amount of water that evaporates
or is respired from your pond. I have personally had water losses in excess of 2" in my stock tanks in a matter of a day due to
high winds, however, here in Gridley, Illinois, there is really nothing to stop the wind out of Iowa, and we get some pretty
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