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Pond Fish Diseases: Bacterial Infections

Welcome back Melissa Leiter for another awesome post.

Bacterial infections are very common among goldfish (Carassius auratus) and koi (Cyprinus carpi). The two most common types of bacteria that cause problems in ponds are aeromonas and pseudomonas. Both are naturally occurring in ponds and lakes. They are not found in tap water since chlorine is added at treatment plants.   Likewise  when a new pond is filled using tap water this bacteria is not present.  Once fish are added the bacteria arrive with them.  The bacteria floating in the water does not usually affect healthy fish since they have a slime coat that protects them.  However, if the water quality becomes toxic, the fish lose that protective slime coat and are very prone to infections.  Aeromonas are more common then pseudomonas but both are responsible for numerous fish deaths.  They both present themselves in the form of ulcers, external and internal hemorrhages, red streaking in fins, fin and tail rot and mouth rot.  If left untreated most if not all the fish in the pond will eventually succumb to this infection.

Bacterial infections are treatable if caught early.  When sores are first observed the water quality should be one of the first things to be tested since many bacterial infections are caused by poor water quality.  Ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and pH should be tested.  If you do not have access to test kits many pet stores, such as That Fish Place, will be happy to test your water for free.  If the ammonia or nitrite are high they need to be corrected before any medications can safely be added.  Ammonia and nitrite are both very toxic to fish.  Ammonia irritates gill tissue and eventually invades other internal tissue and organs causing them to shut down.  High levels of nitrite readily oxidize with hemoglobin to form methemoglobin.  Methemoglobin hinders oxygen transport through the blood causing the fish to sufficate.  Microbe-lift is a good product to add live bacteria that will break down the ammonia and nitrite to make it less toxic to your fish.  Pond salt will also help if nitrite is high since the chloride ion competes with the nitrite ion on the gills.  As long as the chloride ion is at least 3 times but not more than 6 times the concentration of nitrite, the concentration of nitrite becomes reduced and the fish is able to retain oxygen.

If all the levels are in the acceptable range then medications may be used.  There are hundreds of medications out there so choosing the right one may be difficult.  Some medications that we have had success using in the store would be fungus eliminator, melafix, neoplex, kanaplex, sulfathiazole, and biospheres antibacterial.  Fungus eliminator and melafix are more economical then the others if you are treating a large pond.  Neoplex, kanaplex, sulfathidazole, and biospheres antibacterial are more acceptable to use in a hospital tank.  Iodine dabbed directly on the open sore then coated with petroleum jelly to seal the wound can also be done but this should not be attempted by the beginner.  Handling the fish can be very stressful and cause injury if care is not taken.

Ultimately prevention is the key.  With that being said here are some simple things that can be done to protect your fish from contracting a severe bacterial infection; monitor water quality weekly, preform mothly 20 percent water changes, quarantine any new fish for a minimum of 4 weeks before introducing into the pond, feed a high quality staple food as well as fresh veggies like romain lettuce, zuchinni, and cucumbers, and avoid over crowding.

Coral Propagation for Beginners

Dave here. Coral propagation, or fragging as we reef geeks refer to it, is the process of creating new coral colonies from a parent colony. Over the last several years, techniques, products, and general knowledge of the practice rapidly evolved to where it is quite common. As little as five years ago it was something new and exciting, or even scary depending upon your perspective. The thought of cutting pieces off of your prized coral colonies may seem intimidating at first, but it is actually quite safe, and the fragment has an excellent chance of survival if properly handled. Some corals are more easily fragged, and are better suited for the beginner, than others.

These types are what I will focus on for this blog. In general branching stony corals, and Zoo polyps, are among the easiest and most desired corals to frag. If you look around for your local reef or aquarium clubs, many of them will have frag swap meets, so that hobbyists can sell and trade frags with other hobbyists. It is a really great way to promote coral conservation: the more fragged corals you keep, the fewer corals need to be collected from the reefs. Frag swapping is also a great way to share knowledge, and increase the survivability of captive corals. Propagated corals are hardier, and often more colorful, than wild corals. They have been raised in artificial conditions, and will usually keep their color. Wild corals can change color dramatically when adjusting to captive conditions.

There are a few basic items that you will need in order to start coral fragging. First, you need a suitable coral (Duh!). You should try to use only healthy coral colonies for fragging, as it will increase the survivability of both the parent and the cutting. While much fragging is done with damaged or dying corals in an attempt to save something, this is a much less successful way to produce coral frags, and should only be done as a last resort for the specimen. Fragging healthy corals will lead to a much better result.
Second, you will need something to mount the coral to, and there are several options here. Live rock rubble makes excellent, natural looking frags, but can be difficult to get in volume, and can be difficult to keep stable while the frag is securing itself. Commercially available Plugs and Disks, while less attractive initially, allow for quick and easy attaching. Using Plugs and Disks will also allow for easy volume production, as they will either fit snugly into egg crate material, or flat surfaces, so that you can grow out many frags, securely, in a small area. While we are on the subject of eggcrate, for those of you unfamiliar with the material, this can be found any home improvement center in the lighting section. Eggcrate can easily be cut and built into shelves and platforms to mount your frags for establishment and growth.
Next, you will need glue for attaching your cuttings to your rubble, plug, or disk. “Super Glue”,or Cyanoacrylate Gel is the glue of choice. This glue is harmless to the coral, dries quickly, and is easy to use. The glue is available in clear and pink colors, as well as different thicknesses for the job at hand. Your other choice is epoxy putty, this works well for some stony corals, and is well suited for use on rubble rock. Epoxy Putty is also available in several colors.

Finally, you will need cutting tools. Several types of cutters, scalpels, and snips are available on the market. Depending upon the type of coral being cut, different tools will work best, so it is best to have an assortment of tools at your disposal. What you may like to use may not be what I like to use, but if it suits your purposes, go for it. In general snips, shears, and cutters should be used on branching stony corals, and scalpels, razors, or chisels work best for Zooanthid polyps and encrusting corals.
You should strongly consider using safety goggles and rubber gloves, as many of the secretions and fluids that are produced when cutting corals can be very irritating, and even dangerous, to your skin and eyes. Protection is very important.

Once you have all the tools you need, the fragging process is easy. For stony coral, it is as simple as cutting the tips off of one or more of the branches of your parent colony and gluing the freshly cut tip to your plug or piece of rubble. Don’t be shy about the amount of glue that you use, you want to make sure that it stays attached so it can grow onto the plug. You can remove the coral from the water to perform this step. The parent colony will heal over and grow a new tip, or tips. The freshly attached frag will, over a period of weeks or months depending on species, grow over the glue and firmly attach to the plug.

Zoo Polyps can be removed from a parent colony by carefully removing them from the rock they are attached to with a scalpel or sharp chisel. Just a few full polyps are all that you need to start a new colony. With each removed polyp, a new frag colony can be started. Attach the cut polyp to a disk or piece of rubble rock, and then the polyp will attach and multiply on its own. Just as with the stony coral frag, the zoo polyp frag will grow over the glue and cover the disk or rock over a period of weeks to months.

This process can be repeated over and over, allowing you to produce many frags over time. Most people will choose to do this with just a few corals, and use these new frags to trade or sell for different species for their displays.

Interested in a more hands-on and guided approach? Stop by a frag swap! That Fish Place – That Pet Place in Lancaster, PA hosts one with the Reef Conservation Society Bi-annually. If you’re not in the area, Googling ‘frag swap’ is sure to yield one near you.

Until next blog


If You Build it They Will Come – New Ponds and Unexpected Visitors

Please welcome back Patty Little for another excellent pond blog.

Surprisingly enough, “If You Build it They Will Come,” does not only apply to ghost baseball players in a former cornfield. I think a lot of people are astounded at the plants and animals that appear and establish in their back yard when they build small ornamental ponds. Green Frog - a common pond visitor in the North EastBy creating a water feature, you invite all kinds of things from wild areas, and you may find the addition of this little oasis is more of a reward than you could have imagined. The more you are able to observe your pond, the more you are likely to see these visitors, or at least signs that they are visiting.

Whether you live in a rural, suburban or urban environment, the presence of fresh, cool, flowing water becomes an instant attraction for living things from land and air, both wanted and unwanted. I thought it might be fun to mention a few of the things you may encounter once your water feature is established.

The first thing we do to our ponds is beautify them with plants both in and around, then add some fish- koi, comets, orfes, whatever suits our fancy! Soon after, the magic begins. Think of all of those unseen eyes and keen senses suddenly aware of the newest neighborhood water resort.

You may see lots of interesting things appear beneath the surface. There are lots of insects whose larvae exist first in water, later to morph into airborne adults. These include some beetles, flies, and of course the lovely dragonflies and damselflies. Don’t rush to rid your pond of these alien-looking guys if you come across them, they will serve as a food source for more interesting visitors, and should not be harmful to large fish.

Frogs, toads, and newts may be some of the first outsiders to take residence. They love the water and the damp areas surrounding the pond, and the abundance of insects that will also be attracted to the water. These are for the most part desirable to have in the pond both for aesthetics and for insect control. In the spring, you may notice clusters of eggs and tadpoles. Most of the amphibians that survive to adulthood will probably move on when they are able, so don’t worry too much about being plagued by frogs.

Reptiles need water too, so under the right conditions it is possible that snakes and turtles native to your area may be found in and around a pond. These may come and go, and the best policy would be to leave them alone, like any other wild animal. They do not intend you or your pond any harm, and in the unlikely event that you may encounter a reptile that does warrant outside attention, contact someone at your local fish and wildlife organization before taking matters into your own hands.

Songbirds are not the only feathered visitors you’ll see. Count on water birds like ducks to stop off for a swim, and herons, egrets, and kingfishers to name a few that might stop off for a snack, particularly with fish and frogs as food offerings. The best you can do is to look for methods to deter these predators from your pond if you find them troublesome, but do not cause them any harm.

Black Ratsnake - A common visitor in the North East USA.

Depending on your location, anything from opossum and raccoon, to deer and bear may be curious enough to visit your pond. You may never see any sign of these visitors as many are active at night, but under duress of climactic issues (like severe drought for example) or habitat infringement, animal encounters are seemingly more and more frequent. If you should witness their visits, it is best to quietly observe and leave the animal to its own. Anyone visiting the blog from more temperate areas than Pennsylvania may have other interesting tales of visitors as well. I’ve seen footage of Florida residents with visiting alligators and even constrictors (released or lost by irresponsible keeper, now established breeding populations) in small backyard ponds…that would be a shock to see here!

Other things you may find are snails that may hitchhike in potted plants or establish from eggs on plants. Plants, particularly small floaters like duckweed may appear in your pond too. Remember that birds and animals that visit your pond have probably visited lots of other watery areas and may carry with them welcome, or unwanted, introductions to your pond. If you build it, chances are they will come, good and bad, curious and hungry, but all unique and beautiful in their own right. Welcome to the world of ornamental pond ownership!

Until Next Time, Patty

Species Profile – Golden Orfe

Please welcome back Patty Little with an excellent species profile on a popular pond fish.

Golden OrfeTypically, when we consider fish to populate ornamental ponds, it’s koi and goldfish that are the most well-known and sought after types chosen. If you’re in the market for a new and interesting fish, let me introduce you to the Golden Orfe.

Golden Orfes, also known as Ides, are popular and attractive pond fish. They are long and slender with peachy-orange bodies and often small black spots across the back of the fish. Orfes originated in Europe and are dark, silvery blue in their wild form. The golden form was developed by selective breeding for ornamental use. Around 1880 Orfes were first imported to the U.S. and propagated in ponds along with goldfish and carp.

Orfes are sought after for their color and behavior. These docile fish are active swimmers, often staying near the surface where that can easily feed. Though they can grow to about 18 inches or more, they are not aggressive and will not cause harm to other fish in the pond, though tiny fish and fry may be seen as a food item. They are schooling and will be most comfortable in groups of at least three. Small Orfes make great additions to ponds as their social nature may encourage other pond fish to the surface and they will dine on insects and insect larva, especially mosquitos. They are fast swimmers, and some caution should be used in shallow ponds or garden ponds with bare edges as they may become stranded if they jump out of the water.

Golden Orfes are terrifically suited for larger ponds, at least 500 gallons, and should be housed in ponds deep enough for winter survival and with plenty of area to accommodate their mature size. They thrive in cooler temperatures up to about 77 F. They also require lots of oxygen and will appreciate waterfalls, streams and fountains that agitate the surface of the water. High temperatures and still, stagnant waters are detrimental to their health.
Sexing Orfes is not an easy task, particularly when they are young. Mature breeding adult females tend to have a heavier or thicker body than males, but even if you can’t tell male from female if you have a small school of these fish odds are you will have both. Breeding comes naturally and will occur in the Spring if the fish are mature and if they are given ample space and well-maintained conditions. Orfes are similar to carp, so you may notice some chasing and courting behaviors when the fish are preparing to spawn. Huge numbers of eggs are usually expelled on submerged plants and roots in well oxygenated areas of the pond. You may or may not notice the presence of fry once the eggs hatch, and survivability will probably be very low, but these fish grow quickly, and any baby Orfes that make it will look a lot like Rosy-red Minnows.

Under the right conditions, Orfes can be interesting and beneficial additions to ornamental ponds. Look for them to be available where koi and other pond fish are sold in the Spring. They may have sporadic availability due to their popularity and may be hard to come by in areas that have very hot climates, as they do not tend to hold up well in such locations.

Thanks for the great post Patty

Until Next Time,