Condition Your Pond for Healthy Fish

Published on: June 08, 2020

Many farmers and pond owners decide to stock their ponds with fish. Whether it be for recreation or profit, some spend thousands on maintaining a pond stocked with fish. After putting all the time, money, and passion into a pond, what could possibly be more devastating than experiencing fish kill.

A fish’s fate depends on its environment, part of that is its food, something that most people focus on when they want to grow larger fish. But large fish are healthy fish and healthy fish need a healthy environment. This article gives you all the tools you'll need to create a healthy environment for fish, from creating the right balance of fish breeds, maintaining healthy oxygen levels, feeding, vegetation, and structure of the pond.

Choosing Fish for Your Pond

Pond owners typically like to stock ponds with fish they like to catch and eat. You also need to keep in mind that the types of fish in the pond have to form a healthy balance. A balance must be met between forage fish and predator fish; in the right conditions, any breed can take over a pond if overstocked.

Steve Fender, our Pond Expert and Owner of Fender's Fish Hatchery, one of the largest fish hatcheries in the mid-west with hundreds of acres of farm ponds under management, has been giving pond maintenance advice for over three decades and has thousands of customers who rely on his advice to keep their ponds clean and fish healthy. Each state or jurisdiction also has certain regulations on what can and cannot be stocked. Based on Steve's book 'Pond Management', see some of his recommendations for stocking a 1 acre pond below:

Fender, Steve: Pond Management pg.13

According to Steve, "Farm ponds should have fish that the pond owner would enjoy catching and/or eating. For example, if you don’t like to catch or eat catfish, you shouldn’t stock them."

Conditioning your Pond

Using a natural pond conditioner can safely clean and clear the water, at the same time it can reduce muck and sludge on the bottom. Clear ponds allow fish to see and consume insects floating on the top of water. Reduction of muck and sludge improves oxygen levels, provides a healthier environment for fish to grow and thrive.

Nature’s Pond Conditioneris a natural pond treatment product that contains a natural blend of beneficial bacteria and enzymes that are designed to both clean and clear the water and combat pond sludge and muck. Most importantly, it is completely safe to use with fish in the water, unlike some herbicides and algaecides that contain chemicals that can be harmful to fish and the people who eat them.

Shade with Pond with Pond Dye

Nature's Pond Dye is not just to make the colour of the water look good on the surface. It helps to inhibit the suns rays from entering the depths of the pond. This not only keeps the water cool, but it also slows down plant and algae growth, by limiting the amount of photosynthesis that can occur.

Choosing an Aeration System for Your Pond

The main cause of fish kill is lack of oxygen in the pond. A pond can become depleted of oxygen for many reasons. Nutrient pollution which leads to overgrowth of weeds and algae results in amounts of decaying organic matter that a pond can’t keep up with. When organic matter dies it is beneficial bacteria’s role to consume the matter and aid in the breakdown process as is found in our Nature's Pond Conditioner. Bacteria are living organisms that require oxygen which can quickly deplete the environment of oxygen.

Another cause of fish kill in the summer could be due to stratified pond water. In the summer, the top layers of a pond are warm and the bottom of the pond is cold, this is called stratification. The cold water at the bottom has less oxygen than the top layer, and fish spend most of their time in the top layers. If a summer storm hits the pond; wind and rain can stir up the pond, de-stratifying the water. When the two layers are mixed, the oxygen levels are lowered dramatically, and the shock can cause a fish kill.

The best way to restore a body of water’s oxygen levels is through aeration. Aeration helps decompose organic matter in water and provides the necessary oxygen levels for fish to thrive and remain healthy all year round.

There are two types of aeration systems; 'bottom up' aeration and surface aeration. 'Bottom Up' Aeration is considered the most efficient way to aerate ponds and is found to be up to ten times more effective than surface aeration. For more on bottom up aeration CLICK HERE. Air is pumped from an aerator down to the deepest area of the pond where a diffuser pushes oxygen into the water as fine bubbles increasing the oxygen levels of the water.

Koenders Water Solutions manufactures windmills, electric and solar aeration systems. They are the world leaders in windmill aeration systems with over 100,000 windmills installed in countries all over the World.

  • Windmills do not require electricity to run and will operate in almost any area of North America, even in areas that have average winds as low as 3-5 MPH.
  • The Electric Aeration Systems are high performance and designed to aerate ponds as deep as 30ft and up to 3 acres in surface area. They will consistently pump oxygen throughout the body of water.
  • Solar Aeration Systems are energy efficient, cost effective options for introducing oxygen into ponds where electric or windmill aeration is not a possibility. Solar aerators are ideal for remote locations where there are no electricity hook ups available, or for the environmentally conscious consumer who is looking for ways to minimize their ecological footprint and their monthly energy bills.

To read more about which would be better for you CLICK HERE.

Remove Unwanted Aquatic Vegetation

Removing unwanted aquatic vegetation is an important step in keeping the ponds habitat suitable for fish health. Too much vegetation can deplete the environment of oxygen that fish desperately need, but some vegetation is still required to help produce oxygen naturally if the pond is not being aerated. A balance must be reached.

Many turn to herbicides and algaecides as methods to rid their ponds of vegetation. This may not be your preferred option with fish living in the water, because of the harsh chemicals they contain. With a simple weed cutter and rake, vegetation can easily be removed in areas of the pond that need grooming, no chemicals required. By physically removing the vegetation you are minimizing the amount of organic matter that decays and settles on the bottom of the pond. You are also reducing the nutrient load in the water that is used for further algae and weed growth.

If permitted in your region you may also consider adding Amurs. Amurs are a type of fish that are very effective in consuming vegetation. They typically take at least a year to mature, as they grow they will consume more vegetation.

Pond Structures or Cover for Your Fish

An important part of a pond’s production revolves around how much structure (fish cover) is in your pond. The reason for cover is to help increase survival rates and thus reproduction potential. When any type of fish hatches, they will need some place to hide and feed. This will give a big boost to the survival rate of all species of fish. The fry (baby fish) will go into hiding and find cover until they reach a few inches in size. Giving little fish a chance to grow and reproduce will increase the pond’s population.

Steve Fender, in his book Pond Management, tell us that the best type of cover is natural cover such as tree branches, small trees, pine trees, scrub brush, and brushy trees of any kind (stay away from anything thorny). Try to place cover two to six feet out in the water (if placed too deep, the small fish will not go out to it). By using natural cover you will invite insects and other living matter for your fish to feed on.

Feeding Your Fish

Steve Fender suggests that pond owners who choose to feed their fish should consider doing so with pellets. This can be great for the whole food chain. For example, larger fish size as a result from feeding can result in earlier breeding in forage fish like Bluegill, and excess food from feeding can enable organisms at the bottom of the food chain like phytoplankton to grow, affecting all organisms higher up. If fish are being fed with pellets it also means that there is less competition for food, which will increase health and reproduction in all species in the pond. A good example of successful supplemental feeding in an ecosystem is if there are catfish and bass in the pond. Because of the rapid growth of catfish, they are very much in competition with bass. By using pellets catfish tend to become lazy and will feed off of pellets, leaving more room for bass to thrive in the environment.

If you don't have time to go to the pond everyday or so, there are a lot of automatic feeders on the market that will do the job for you. If you do decide to start a feeding program it is important to feed your fish on a routine basis so that they can be trained. Evenings are usually the best time to feed, around dusk. Just like dog and cat food manufacturers, there are fish feed manufacturers. Select quality feed - remember you are eating these fish so you are what they eat.

To learn more, download a FREE digital copy of Steve Fender's book, Pond Management by CLICKING HERE.

Share Article