Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Edible pond plants

In case you are ever stranded while camping or otherwise in need of survival food, the pods of yellow hardy pond lilies and pickerel rush are edible. You can bake or boil them like potatoes. They certainly are not gourmet food, but would probably taste pretty good if you were hungry enough.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Your UV Light in Winter

If you live where the temps drop below 40 degrees F in the winter and use a UV light, you can remove it until the weather warms again. Algae die off in the winter plus you can save electricity if your UV is not running. Be careful, those bulbs are fragile. And expensive.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Epoxy Pond Liners

Epoxy pond liners were around when I started building ponds back in 1987. There was not a market for the epoxy for the small residential contractor or do-it-yourselfer yet because there was not much of a pond market yet. The epoxies made then were for large commercial applications where waterproofing was necessary and huge machines were available for mixing and spreading. We tried to mix it using a paint stirrer on the end of a drill, but the results were disastrous and getting the epoxy off whatever it got on was almost impossible.

In recent years epoxy pond liner makers have made great strides in research, development and application. Building a pond using epoxy can be done by the small contractor or the homeowner. It is easily mixed and applied. But do be careful. Getting on your hands or clothes means living with it the rest of your natural life.

One of the most wonderful uses for the new epoxies is for patching concrete ponds. I have told my concrete pond owners when they called with a cracked leaking pond that there was nothing that could be done. I would put some plumbers' epoxy in the crack and tell them just to keep on doing that every time the pond cracked again. And concrete cracks in tropical climates where most of the land is below sea level. Now a crack can be patched just like patching dry wall. Use some cloth made just for epoxy use, insert it in and over the concrete crack and then float the epoxy over it. Most installers proceed to coat the entire concrete pond because it looks better and will stop further and inevitable cracks.

PVC liners came first in the pond building business. They were all we had, so we loved them. Their biggest drawback was not standing up to sunlight. PVC liners cracked like visqueen and needed replacement if the pond wasn't built so water covered every bit of the PVC liner.

Rubber liners were next and will undoubtedly rule the industry for years to come. If you want to know what a rubber liner is, just think about a huge piece of inner tube material. That's a rubber liner. Firestone makes them. I am sure many other companies do as well. A 45 mil thick liner comes with a 40 year warranty. They run about $1.00 a square foot, although you can get them online for cheaper. The biggest drawback of online buying is paying the shipping, but often you can still save money. The next biggest drawback with rubber liners is weight. If you buy a 45 mil rubber liner 20' x 20', you better have a couple of strong guys to put it in place for you. I still love rubber liners and after they were widely available, have used them exclusively. Rubber liners withstood anything Katrina threw at them. My customers and I were happy to see them whole after seeing everything else destroyed.

I think epoxy is coming into its own. It may well be that it will be the liner of choice one day. As far as I am concerned, the ability to patch a concrete pond is reason enough to love it.

Isn't it great that we have another liner choice now. We can apply epoxy to the sides of a hole and have a waterproof hole. Now that's nice.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

How to Build a Koi Pond

Koi and goldfish? There's a difference?

Koi? What are koi and why must I build a koi pond differently than any other pond? Can't I just put koi in my pond? One would think so, but one would be wrong.

First of all, a koi is a carp, just like a goldfish, but it is from a different family. Goldfish are descendants of crucian carp and koi are from common carp. Koi usually have two whiskers like a catfish and goldfish don't, so they are easy to spot if someone wants to give you one.

And there are other differences as well. Goldfish dart around more in the water and will eat your submerged vegetation as they fertilize it. Your pond will be a relatively maintenance free ecosystem with plants and goldfish. Koi, on the other hand, swim lazily around eating everything they can get their mouths around. They love your most expensive water lilies and will dispatch with them first. They work their way through every piece of vegetation you have in your pond and look for more before you even realize you must feed them.

So a koi pond is a special outdoor aquarium made just for koi. Koi will pull plants down from outside the pond just for sport. They also have a awful habit of jumping out of the pond where you find them stiff and dry when you come home from work. The jumping out is often a sign of foul water. A goldfish pond is a water garden with goldfish swimming around behaving themselves.

Before you even think of building any pond, think long and hard: Do you want a koi pond or do you want a water feature with plants and goldfish? For goldfish pond building see How to Build a Pond

You have decided you want a koi pond because you want koi as pets.
A koi pond must be deeper than a goldfish pond. Koi need more room to move around. They like to swim up and down as well as back and forth. They also grow and grow fast, so make your pond at least 3' deep, deeper if you can and as big as you can afford. Try to get your koi pond dug below the frost line or you will be trying to figure out how to over winter them in the house when it freezes outside.

A koi pond should be built up above the ground. I like to do this with goldfish ponds as well to keep run off out and therefore avoid chemicals that may run into your pond. If you can get your koi pond edges up at least 6", you will be safer and possible keep your koi in the water instead of lying on the ground. I have known professional koi keepers who build their ponds at least 18" above ground, usually using concrete for the entire pond rather than a butyl rubber or EPDM liner.

Koi ponds must have filtration. As much filtration as you can afford. Do you get the idea that koi keeping can be expensive? In the past koi keepers used swimming pool filters. Now bead filters are popular. If the bead filters are just too expensive, a quality biofilter will do. It should be big enough for your pond. Most biofilter manufacturers will help you pick out the one that will work best for your pond size.

Using a UV light sterilizer, usually called a water clarifier is necessary for your koi pond. It will kill algae microorganisms and keep the water clear so you can see your fish.

Koi are hungry fishies. You must feed them. You will find scores of koi foods available. I make no recommendations about which one to buy. I suggest finding a koi club in your area and see which ones their fish like and following their examples and suggestions. One thing I know koi love to do is play with a half of a red cabbage. Don't shred it. Let them play with it like a basketball.

The water chemistry must be perfect. Any radical changes in pH, nitrate, nitrite, ammonia must be corrected immediately or your fish will get sick.
The biggest difference

Don't forget one basic difference. When you build a koi pond, you are building a special house for your pets. When you build a goldfish pond, you are putting a water garden in your landscape.

And you will name those koi, I know that. Because you named your children and your other pets. Koi can get sick and die of the strangest diseases before you are even aware they are sick. I suggest not naming them.