The pond water temp has stayed above 50 degrees much later than normal this year. 50 degrees is the break point for feeding the fish, or cutting them off. That usually comes around Halloween. I stopped feeding the a day or two before Halloween anyway, better a little early then to feed them too long.
The key to good fish health is pristine water conditions. Normally I clean the pond in late October or early November, and for a bunch of reasons (excuses) I missed that window this year. Though I have a filtration system, 'stuff' gets in the pond over the summer: needles, leaves, lots of dirt in the form of dust, and too, the filter doesn't remove all the fish poop, so 'mulm' (fish keeper speak for pond muck) forms in the bottom of the pond and it is the perfect medium for growing parasites and bacteria which can cause health problems for the fish.
So sending them off for their long winter sleep in pristine water is really important - they won't eat again until April and so will be weakened by the lack of food and dormancy in very cold water. In this condition they become vulnerable to parasites and bacteria. Worse, the 'bugs' tend to come out of their dormancy on the bottom of the pond before the fish do.
So I was feeling 'dirty pond water guilt' when there appeared last weekend a hole in the rainy weekend cycle, and I got an extra day off thanks to the veterans. I decided to take advantage of the circumstances to clean the pond, especially opportune given that the fish were still lively, it's a stressful process for them and best not undertaken after they have gone into their dormancy.
First we set up the quarantine or "Q" tank, and add an air pump to assure the water will be amply aerated when we move the fish in. If they were going to be in there for more than a couple days I would also install a filter. In this case it would be just an over night 'camp out' for them.
Next is to transfer the fish.
This entails capturing them in the big dip net, then sliding them into a 'sock net, then carrying them to the Q tank and releasing them. This is a process that cannot be hurried: start 'chasing' the fish around the pond and they all get very stressed, and progressively harder to catch. It all went pretty well, the last of the Koi was pretty spooked so I had to catch him after I had started to drain the pond. The last fish to be caught is always the big, black Chinese catfish. He is almost impossible to see (he's black, the pond liner is black and by the time I have the pond mostly drained, the water is filthy, black.
Then drain the pond, power wash it, and then drain that water out, and finally getting down in the pond and scooping out all the mulm.
Then I refill the pond and add a chemical disinfectant, Potassium Permanganate and let that circulate through the pond overnight. This stuff does a good job of 'oxidizing' all the micro organisms in the pond that don't get removed in the cleaning.
Then next morning it is draining that mess out of the pond, scooping out any remaining messiness, and refilling the pond with clean water. Once the pond is refilled with clean water we again go through the process of transferring the fish.
I go to the trouble of measuring and recording the measurements of the fish when I do this. It is a good way to give them a close examination to assure that they don't have wounds or other problems and it is also nice to note their growth year over year.
Most of these fish started their time with us ranging from 6" to 10" in length. As you can see they have all grown quite a bit. (the grid on the bottom of the pond is 1"X1".
These last two little fish are comets, Japanese gold fish.
It's a big job and I usually prune the plants around the pond at the same time.
Mrs. Dr. C is always a great help.
Chairman Meow provides QC inspections.
and supervision from a distance when it starts to rain.