A pond is a positive addition to any home or commercial venue. Not only can it increase property value by 6% or more, but it also is an incredibly aesthetically pleasing way to spice up your space and make it unique.
For all the benefits of a pond, the work you need to put into it is well worth it. Still, in order to maintain a balanced koi pond and ensure the safety of your fish, you'll need to understand the biological cycle of your pond. Read on to learn what this means and why regulating this cycle is important for the health of your fish!
What Is Pond Cycling?
Pond cycling is the process used to break down toxic compounds in a koi pond by using good bacteria. This process occurs naturally in large bodies of water like lakes, but in a man-made pond, you'll need to use a biological filtration system.
Filtering happens when ammonia, found in waste products and dead organisms in the water, is converted to nitrate. This happens when aerobic bacteria called Nitrosomonas feed on ammonia and excrete nitrate. Nitrate is desirable in a pond because it fertilizes the plants in your pond including algae, which your koi eats.
This biological cycle is also sometimes referred to as a 'pond nitrogen cycle.' The reason for this is that you as a pond owner are trying to get rid of nitrogen waste in the pond water. However, it must also be done before introducing fish to the pond because it's found in many proteins and bacteria that may already be in the pond water.
While you may think that this cycle can begin after the introduction of your koi, this isn't the case. You need to measure and filter the water before introducing the fish into your pond's water system. Not doing so can kill your fish as a result of unchecked ammonia levels.
Why Is This Important for a Koi Pond?
There are a couple of distinct reasons that pond cycling is important in a koi pond.
First, as we discussed, nitrate is essential for the life of algae and other naturally-occurring pond plants. Your koi need these plants to eat so that they can get all the nutrients they need. Additionally, water hyacinth and other flowers are a great way to make your bond beautiful, and nitrate is necessary to oxidize these plants, too.
The other reason that water cycling is important is that it gets rid of toxins in the water. Chemicals in the natural nitrogen cycle can become toxic to koi when they're concentrated in the small space of your pond. Because you don't want your expensive fish to become poisoned, you need to eliminate the ammonia in the water regularly.
This of course is the case for toxic ammonia, but nitrate also must be kept at a safe level. 20-60 parts per million (ppm) is the ideal range of nitrate, and around 80 ppm you really need to change the pond's water. Above 120 ppm, your koi are almost sure to become very ill and die, so make sure that you measure the chemicals in your pond regularly.
How to Prepare a Pond
Now that you know about the nitrogen cycle necessary for a healthy pond, it's time to take a look at how you can stimulate the shift from toxic ammonia in water into non-toxic nitrates. Read on to learn how to prepare a pond before introducing your goldfish into it!
- Supplies Needed for Aquatic Cycling
To begin putting your pond through the nitrogen cycle, you're going to need a high-quality pump and filter. This ensures regular water circulation until you get an effective level of good bacteria. Once that happens, biological filtration will create a much more balanced and safe pond environment for your fish.
Basically, filtering water will clean it out!
You also may want to purchase some beneficial bacteria and introduce them to your pond by hand. While bacteria are naturally occurring, adding some additional bacterial will help the nitrogen cycle to move more quickly and allow your fish to be introduced sooner.
- Other Essential Pond Supplies
In addition to submersible pumps, you may want to have a pond-external filter. This will keep the pond as clean as possible.
You'll also want to get pond liner and underlay so that the mud from the ground doesn't seep in and contaminate the water. Tubing and plumbing supplies also make sure that these issues don't arise. You also will want to get a heater, water vacuums, and water treatments to prevent your fish from freezing or being overly exposed to the elements.
While you can buy all of these supplies individually, you can also get a full pond kit! These kits contain all of the main things that your pond will need so that you don't need to worry about forgetting anything. They also are less expensive than buying all of your supplies individually, so this is a good way to save a little cash.
- Measuring the Pond's Biological Cycle
No matter what supplies you choose to get, you'll need to take the time to measure a pond biological cycle before introducing the fish. Even if you see that your supplies are all working correctly, it's essential that you take the few minutes to ensure that the water is safe for your koi.
Generally, you can use a liquid test or 5-in-1 test strips to check the nitrate levels in your pond. If it comes out between 20 and 60 ppm, you're good to go!
- Adding the Koi and Maintaining Your Cycle
Once you've completed the water testing process, it's time to introduce your koi into the pond. Congratulations!
However, this doesn't mean that you never need to check up on your pond again. You will need to test the nitrate levels in the water periodically. Since it takes only five minutes, we recommend doing so about once a week, just to be safe. You'll need to clean your pump and filter out at about this interval, too, so that you can ensure it keeps working properly.
This is also the point that you can add fancy aesthetic features to your koi pond. While waterfalls and fountains should have been added prior to the koi, you can now place plants like water hyacinth into your water. You also can place decorative water features into the pond.
Build Your Pond Today
While there are many aspects to setting up a koi pond, understanding and regulating the biological cycle is perhaps the most important.
Now that you know how to keep your fish safe by converting ammonia to nitrate, it's time to contact us with any lingering questions you may have. We're happy to help you select the appropriate supplies for your pond and direct you towards them in our online store.