Container pond trouble shooting!

Discussion in 'Water Gardening' started by beth3980, Sep 26, 2012.

  1. beth3980

    beth3980 New Seed

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    Hello! I'm new here and new to water gardening so you'll have to excuse my silly questions!

    So, I tried to start a small potted fish pond this month and it failed so miserably, I want to do some serious research before trying again.

    My container holds approx. 8-10 gallons. In it I had some lily pads I dug up from a local pond, 3 bamboo shoots, and a couple of plants I got on clearance, (Umbrella grass and a Caladium... not really intended for water gardening, but they were so cheap, I figured it was worth the risk.)

    So, I filled the bottom and covered the pots with small stones and got 3 fish: 2 Comets and some kind of bottom feeding algae eater. I had no filter, no water pump, nothing, as I was assured by my neighbor that all I'd have to do was flush the pot out with the hose every day or so.

    In less than 12 hours, one Comet was belly up. Before the end of the next day, the other Comet had jumped out. Then the next morning, the algae eater had jumped out too!

    I sought out the help of a pet store owner who told me the pot didn't have enoough oxygen to sustain the fish and I'd need an air pump and filter. Sounded like the obvious fix to me, but from what I've read here, it sounds like Comets don't need oxygenation?

    I'd really like to stick with Comets, if at all possible. Do I need a pump or not? Did they really die from a lack of oxygen or were they just poor quality Wal-Mart fish? Could it have been the fertilizer in the potting soil? Our chlorinated water? What did I do wrong??

    Also, the pot has been sitting stagnant for about a week now since the fish all died and today it was hopping with mosquito larvae! I dumped it all out and now am ready to start over, with better information, I hope.

    The plants are all fine, I just want to know what to do about maintaining 2 happy new Comets and maybe one other more functional species, (maybe something that eats mosquito larvae) if needed. Any help would be greatly appreciated!! Thanks!

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    ( photo / image / picture from beth3980's Garden )
     
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  3. carolyn

    carolyn Strong Ash

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    Is this for indoors or outdoors? A caladium is not going to do well in a pond/watergarden setting. Umbrella grass (cyperus alternifolius) should do fine, though. Elephant ears do well, water lettuce, lily pads, calla lily, water cannas are all water garden type plants....but I think these are mostly going to do well outside.
     
  4. chocolate

    chocolate In Flower

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    Hi, all parts of caladium are poisonous to all pets including fish....maybe something to look out for.
     
  5. beth3980

    beth3980 New Seed

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    *gasp*

    The Caladium are poisonous!? Oooh my. Ok. Yikes. Thank you for telling me that, and thank you for the other plant recommendations!

    So, in addition to leaving out the poisonous plants, if I get a pump/filter, should I have better luck with the fish and have less trouble with mosquito larvae? And if so, what kind of pump should I look for? I was thinking something submersible, but have no idea what size/model to get.
     



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  6. beth3980

    beth3980 New Seed

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    Oh and, it is outdoors.
     
  7. cherylad

    cherylad Countess of Cute-ification Plants Contributor

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    Hi Beth and welcome!
    You appear to have planted everything correctly... except for using potting soil. Try just regular old "yard dirt" (if it has some clay in it, that's even better). And I'd be leery of "wild" water lilies. There's a chance they have a disease.
    With that said, I think the SIZE of your container may be the problem. With all those pots, there's not much room for the fish. And you're right, Comets do not require pumps, aeration or filters. But they do need oxygen and with space comes oxygen.
    I think you'll have to decide... are you wanting this container for the plants or for the fish? Because I really don't think it's large enough to accommodate both.
    When you set your "pond" up again... let the water sit for a few days before adding the fish. And regarding "flushing the pot out every day", I don't suggest it because you'd be getting rid of beneficial nutrients for the plants and some of the food source for the fish.
    Regarding the mosquito larvae... the fish will, or should, eat the larvae. You can also add a product like Mosquito Dunks to prohibit the larvae from hatching and it does not harm the plants or fish. And keep in mind... water lilies do not like alot of motion, so a pump or fountain is not a good idea. And most like full sun, which could also be a problem your fish in such a small container.
    So basically, I recommend a larger container.
    There's a few other folks here with "real" ponds and container ponds that have helped me. I'm sure they'll come by soon to help you out also.
     
  8. beth3980

    beth3980 New Seed

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    Hmm... what about a small submersible aerator? Would that provide enough oxygen to the fish without too much disturbance to the water surface and plants?

    I'd definitely get rid of some plants to make room for the aerator... and hopefully give the fish more elbow... er, fin room in the process.

    Would an aerator be enough to keep the water from getting stagnant and yucky?
     
  9. Jerry Sullivan

    Jerry Sullivan Garden Experimenter Plants Contributor

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    Hi Beth, a pump with an aeration stone appropriate for the size container should eliminate oxygen problems. Check with a local aquarium supply place to get the right size pump and stone. Fish can be shocked when introduced to a new environment. It is best to acclimate the fish by using the container they were bought in(usually a plastic bag) and placing it in the water of the new container. This allows the water temperature to equalize gradually before releasing the fish, preventing the fish from being shocked. Fish often jump and most aquarium owners cover their tanks. For an outside container you may have to provide a barrier to keep the fish in the pond. This may be temporary till the fish get use to the new home. With fish it is always an experiment. Good luck

    Jerry

    P.S. Welcome to GardenStew
     
  10. beth3980

    beth3980 New Seed

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    Thank you, Jerry!

    I did leave the bag in the pot, but only for 30 minutes, which maybe was not long enough? How long should I leave them in next time?

    And your comment about the jumping fish is encouraging, actually. It makes sense that after they have a chance to settle in, they'd be less likely to jump. I'll have to come up with some kind of jump shield for the adjustment phase. Any suggestions for how to make something like that??
     
  11. LynnD

    LynnD Seedling

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    I've never heard that comets don't need aeration, they are goldfish and goldfish require a lot of aeration. I'm not saying that is wrong, I've just not heard it before. If you have a lot of plants, or a lot of plants covering the surface (like the lilypads), then there likely is a lot of oxygen depletion. Water gathers oxygen at the surface through the movement of the surface water. So adding a small pump of some sort with be helpful. Also the plants will deplete the oxygen at night so you may have a few issues going on. If the water garden is small and the weather is hot, there is less oxygen in the water (cool water holds more oxygen) and goldfish prefer cool water.

    If you get the water moving that will also help with the mosquitoes, they don't like moving water. The water temperature could be the cause but I'm guessing that if you have stagnant water that it is a pH issue that is causing the fish to jump.
     
  12. Jewell

    Jewell Incorrigible Gardener Plants Contributor

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    To keep from poisoning themselves from their own waste goldfish need a gallon of water for every inch of fish. Your plants are taking up a good deal of water space. My three smaller ponds won't support fish, but dragon fly larvae have taken over the duties of maintaining a natural balance. Mosquito dunks also work well.

    I don't aerate any of my ponds, but do have aerating plants.

    I'm thinking that with so little water the water temperate will vary too much to support healthy fish even if you use aeration unless you live in a very temperate coastal climate or keep the pond indoors. Heat seems to be harder on gold fish than cold unless you freeze them.

    Good luck. I love my ponds. My water lilies were first gotten from a local pond 30 years ago and I still marvel at their blooms every summer. I also only buy feeder gold fish. They have multiplied and turned into eating size :D For the great blue herons. :eek:
     
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  13. waretrop

    waretrop Strong Ash Plants Contributor

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    beth3980, First off, Welcome.......

    Next, you have to realize that comets or feeder goldfish are raised in very very large ponds as well as most of our aquarium fish. So when they get into a small holding place they try to zoom as far as they did about a week ago. So for any of them to jump out is not uncommon. Try to leave the water level down for the first few weeks.

    Another thing....Your water couldn't have killed the one goldfish from lack of oxygen or even ammonias. It takes many hours to do that. Goldfish are handled horribly until they get to our homes. They are mainly used for feeders. They are so so overly packed for shipping. In the summer when it's hot, stores and the shippers are expecting to loose a quarter of them just to get them. They have ammonia burned gills many times and you don't see that. You don't know how many dead fish the store took out of the take before you got it. You don't know how many water changes they did before you got into that store. Most of them are taken home and fed in a few minutes. Most buyers would never notice if a few die.

    If you buy a few clean, full finned fish with very clear eyes and keep the water level down you should be ok. The other thing is if you can keep them in your little container and they live through their journey to your new home....don't feed them and if you do, don't overfeed them. That is the real killer.

    Try again to add some little fishies to your little pond. So keep us posted and we do love to see photos...

    Barb in Pa.
     
  14. beth3980

    beth3980 New Seed

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    Thank you Barb in PA! I must admit, my four-year-old and I may have been a little overzealous with the first feeding! We'll restrain ourselves with the next lot, for sure.

    Well, I purchased a tiny pump with a bubble stone yesterday. I'm going to put the pot back together with less plants and let it sit for a couple days before taking in new tennants.

    Another question... Do I need a filter of some sort? From everything I've read, it seems like I shouldn't, but I just can't shake the feeling that with such a relatively small pot, the fish poo will become an issue.

    Thanks all... you've been SO helpful. You guys put the pet store people to SHAME!
     
  15. waretrop

    waretrop Strong Ash Plants Contributor

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    There is a system called a Leiden aquarium that starts very slowly and eventually becomes a balanced aquarium by the plants using waste product and producing oxygen. Soon this wonderful natural bacteria begin to colonize and also help digest all the fish waste.

    When we start out a new aquarium nothing is balance, so it may need help. At the beginning if you don't have air you will need to do a couple of inches of water changes to help add oxygen and take out some of the waste products until the bacteria are present. It will take about 4 weeks. If you use an air stone you should still do water changes every week for the first month, but small ones.

    Soon the little world will become established and you won't have to tend to is as much. Just don't add extra food in there for there will be no one to work on getting rid of it those first few weeks. Plus we put a few fish in your little world to keep the mosquito larvae at bay in still water.

    I will recap this the same way I taught the children who came in my store. Add fish and water. The fish do their business and the Packman like beings, "bacteria" begin to eat and colonize, breaking down the "business" as they produce their own waste. Another smaller bacteria start growing and eating more waste. The last one to develop doesn't make waste...he farts, producing gas that is lighter than water. So it floats to the top and escapes from the little world rendering all the waste harmless to the fish and plants. All that is left is inert.

    Silly me....I added lots of silly things to this story for all the kids and they laughed but they learned more with me than anything.. so did their moms. LOL

    So go slow, don't overload at the beginning and if you don't clean the little thing out very well when you do clean it you will re-establish much quicker than the first time, as some of that bacteria will still be present.

    Got that beth3980? You are getting all kinds of advice and it is confusing. You use your own mind now that you have learned the facts.

    ...Barb in Pa. :p :p
     
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  16. cherylad

    cherylad Countess of Cute-ification Plants Contributor

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    I think Barb hit the nail on the head (and in a fun and descriptive way).
    Your little container pond, with all the right amounts of water, plants, fish, oxygen, food-stuff, will be it's own little self-sustaining ecosystem.
    I actually spent some time out by my 3 container ponds this afternoon, between rain showers, just watching the the fish in their private little ponds. Nothing more fun and relaxing than that... except maybe watching the one's in the aquarium from my comfy recliner!
     

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