Having a garden pond is the ultimate upgrade for any aquarium enthusiast, and while creating a backyard pond isn’t as hard as some might think, challenges and issues could still happen.
Luckily, however, you can learn how to deal with many of them if you know why they happen, and that’s what this guide is all about.
In today’s article, we’ll walk you through some of the most common pond fish problems and why they happen, so you can solve them and enjoy a thriving ecosystem!
Since most people create ponds for aesthetic purposes, pond lights can turn the pond into the focal point of your backyard garden.
However, many pond owners are concerned about the fish’s ability to get some rest in the presence of these lights.
Luckily, most pond fish species are quite adaptable to their environments. In other words, if they’ve always been around pond lights, they’ll have their rest anyways.
However, if you leave the pond lights on 24 hours a day, your fish will eventually feel a little stressed out and agitated, as it can disrupt its day and night cycle.
For that reason, a good rule here is to keep the lights limited to around 3 to 5 hours during nighttime.
Also, you should avoid using lights that are too bright because they can disrupt the fish’s vision, which causes them to bump into objects.
The answer here highly depends on the fish species in question. This is because some fish species are naturally slow and enjoy staying in a particular spot for a long time.
For example, Goldfish species, especially Fancy goldfish, are known for being slow swimmers, so you don’t have to worry about them not moving around a lot.
On the other hand, if your fish has suddenly stopped moving around suddenly or is known for being active, you need to check the quality of the water immediately, as it’s most likely the main culprit.
Many pond fish species will become sluggish if the water pH is out of their ideal range. Fish will also avoid moving when there is too much ammonia in the water.
This can happen for a variety of reasons, which highly depends on the conditions of your pond and the species in question.
The leading cause behind this phenomenon is the nature of the fish itself. Some fish species are typically quite territorial and predatory, so they would chase after any fish that comes close, such as native game fish.
Some pond fish species will also chase each other to show dominance and establish hierarchy in the pond.
Competition for food and mates in the pond is another reason why some species will naturally chase their own kind.
Additionally, some docile species may resort to chasing other fish because they’re stressed out, whether it’s due to excessive movement, poor water conditions, small small, etc.
All ponds have bacteria that are responsible for decomposing organic matter. In the presence of oxygen, these bacteria break down the organic matter into odorless compounds.
However, if oxygen levels are low, anaerobic oxidation of these wastes will result in the production of hydrogen sulfide gas, which has a distinct bad odor.
Another reason why some ponds smell fishy is stagnation. This gradually reduces the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water without making up for the loss.
As a result, a layer of bottom muck starts forming, which produces a distinct fishy stench, which is why you should keep your pond well-circulated and aerated even if it doesn’t have any fish.
If the healthy pond only smells fishy for a few weeks, it’s mostly because your fish are spawning. In that case, the smell is temporary and should go away on its own.
Although every fish species has different behaviors and temperament, many of them will resort to hiding and seeking safety when they’re stressed.
This happens for a variety of reasons. For example, if the water quality is heavily altered, most fish will retreat into a hidden spot as a natural response.
Water quality is affected by a variety of factors, such as changes in pH, water hardness level, temperature, or oxygenation level.
Additionally, fish will hide when they’re spooked, which may happen for various causes, such as approaching the pond quickly or being constantly chased by a larger, aggressive fish.
Most fish species have specific pigment cells that give them their unique colors, which are known as chromatophores and iridophores.
In many cases, these pigments are highly sensitive to the general condition of the fish and have developed an ability to fade and lose color when the fish feels endangered or stressed, which keeps the vulnerable fish hidden from the eyes of predators.
If your pond fish loses its colors, it’s most likely due to stress caused by overcrowding, poor nutrition, high ammonia concentration, low oxygen, poor exposure to sunlight, etc.
Some fish species are known for being “naturally jumpy”. The most popular species that does that is trout, which thrives mainly in high-current streams and rivers.
In the case of regular pond fish, jumping can also happen for various reasons. In most cases, if your fish starts jumping out of the water, it’s most likely due to high ammonia levels in the water.
A quick pH test can help you figure out whether the ionic imbalance is the culprit here. Low oxygen is also another reason why many fish species start to jump out of the pond.
Additionally, some fish species will jump during spawning season to help open the egg sack for better chances of fertilization.
This behavior, known as “flashing”, happens when the fish is trying to expose its body to more sunlight.
Unfortunately, flashing is usually a sign that your fish is suffering from skin irritation, which can happen for a variety of reasons.
For example, high ammonia and nitrites in water could cause the fish to flip sideways. Additionally, parasitic infections that target the fish’s skin and scales could also cause the problem.
Fish will occasionally rub against rocks and other objects inside the pond in order to rub an itch. If that happens every now and then, this shouldn’t be a cause for concern.
However, if the rubbing is taking a considerable chunk of the fish’s daily activities, or the fish is violently rubbing against the rocks, it could be a sign of a serious issue, such as:
- Parasitic infections like anchor worms, flukes, ich, or fish lice
- High chlorine in water
- High nitrite or ammonia
Pond drought can prove fatal to the vast majority of species. In most cases, the fish will simply dehydrate and die from suffocation or by getting eaten by land wildlife.
Some fish have developed unique abilities to help them survive if a pond dries up. For example, lungfish will typically burrow into moist mud and wait for rainfall to rehydrate the pond while some catfish species will skip and crawl until it finds a new pond.
This wraps it up for today’s guide that walks you through some of the most common pond fish problems and what to do about them.
As you can see, most pond fish’s unlikely behaviors come from problems in water quality, which is why you should regularly test the water’s conditions to make sure that they’re within favorable ranges.
Overcrowding and Incompatibility between fish species are also major reasons behind pond fish issues, so you have to keep that in mind while picking pond mates.
Ben has a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering. When not constructing or remodeling X-Ray Rooms, Cardiovascular Labs, and Pharmacies, you can find him at home with wife and two daughters. Outside of family, He loves grilling and barbequing on his Big Green Egg and Blackstone Griddle, as well as working on projects around the house.
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