It isn’t easy not being green

Algae is an ongoing part of any endeavour involving water. Most aquarists and pond-keepers don’t like it, and we get a lot of questions about how to control it.

Algaecides – chemicals which kill algae – are illegal in Canada. While this is a bit of a nuisance for people who want a sparkling clean pond or aquarium, we regard it as being generally a good thing. It’s too easy simply to kill off what you don’t want, without considering the underlying situation that nurtured the algae in the first place. Killing it off won’t fix that, and may make it worse.

Algae needs light and food to thrive. “Food” in this case is nutrient in the water, and “nutrient” usually means something is decaying. That something could be fish poop, plant material or uneaten food. Whatever it is, the algae is removing it from the water. This is a good thing, unsightly as the algae may be.

To kill algae without harming your other aquarium or pond denizens, remove either the light or the food. Simply turning off the aquarium light won’t do it, because ambient light, while not enough to keep aquarium plants happy, is plenty for algae. You need to cover the aquarium with something which will keep out all the light, while still permitting air to get in. Our usual suggestion is a black plastic garbage bag. Open it, drop it over the aquarium, and don’t seal the bottom. After a few days the algae will die from lack of light.

Of course, if you don’t deal with the nutrients, the algae will be back as soon as the lights come on again. Reducing the nutrients involves better filtration, regular water changes and probably a reduction in feeding.

To reduce light and nutrients in a pond, use plants. Surface plants like water lilies cut off the light. Oxygenators like hornwort use nutrient in the water, reducing its availability for algae. Of course, you should also make sure that your fish aren’t overfed, that your pond isn’t overcrowded, and that you practice good pond maintenance with water changes and adequate filtration.

Managing the factors that nourish algae is more work than simply killing it off with an algaecide, but in the end your pond, and your fish and other plants, will be healthier and happier for it.

Of conures and koi

The conures have laid a second egg! We just might have babies – fingers are crossed!

There are still some beautiful koi left at very good prices. Most of them are going at $7.49 and $12.49, with a couple of larger ones at $49.99.

The larger koi are the ever-popular kohaku (orange and white), a couple of dark-coloured butterfly koi, and a couple of black and yellows. At least, they’re black and yellow right now, but the yellow on them is going to darken with maturity to red. That means these beautiful, though not showy, fish are going to turn into gorgeous hi utsuri (hee ut-SOO-ri), stunning red fish with black markings.

We buy our koi from a supplier in Southern Ontario. Gord is a knowledgeable and enthusiastic koi keeper. Every time I go to buy koi from him, I learn so much about these lovely fish. When we started to go to him, we saw right away that his koi were better quality than the ones we’ve had from other fish suppliers. Our customers notice it, too; the year we couldn’t afford to make the trip and wound up buying koi from somewhere else, everyone remarked on how much nicer the fish had been the year before.

There’s one good reason for this – he’s a specialist. He has time to know what the qualities of a good koi – or a great koi – should be, and we get the benefit of that knowledge when we buy from him. So do our customers.

Koi can easily live as long as seventy years if they’re well cared for and not overfed. They’re smart and friendly enough to learn to eat from your hand.

There are still several months of pond weather left, and koi kept outdoors get brighter and more beautiful. In part it’s the exposure to sunlight that deepens their colour, but they also benefit from eating algae off the sides of your pond.

Just another good reason to love koi!