Re-starting existing koi pond, checking to see if cycled questions

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kevinb120

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Jan 22, 2010
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Hi everyone, been forever and a day since I've been on, I broke down all my aquariums a few years back when I got married/kids/different home/etc. ANYWAY.....

I moved into a house that has a koi pond, they had removed the fish when they listed it last fall. I have left it running for all the reasons it should, and now I am interested in putting in new koi.

The system is fairly typical, with the horse tub bio filter(rocks and bioballs) with one pump, standard waterfall with a closed-loop pump. The tub is 2/3 full of stone and bio-balls, so it can hold a lot of material. I recently did a basic overhaul/cleaning, but never drained the filter system or added any chemicals. It's got sufficient 'muck' for me to believe that plenty of fish-in existing bacteria is still present. I occasionally have decaying matter in the pond, dead leaves, the occasional dead frog I didn't catch in time(they got through holes in the net and couldn't get out), and a lot of earthworms make their way in to their demise. I've finally had time to entertain fish. I bought another new API full pond test kit and am familiar with the natural cycle. I haven't tested the water yet, but I expect the conditions to show somewhere around 'acceptable for fish'.

However, my main question is, are my test results going to be accurate for fish? As I've had nothing living in there(on purpose).

I was thinking that maybe I should add some ammonia first to see if the pond reacts and tries to process it or triggers a cycle. Most questions I can find involve new pond setup or caring for just added fish on an as-yet uncycled pond system. I have a feeling that I should still have bacteria present that would fast cycle if 'challenged' with waste product. I'm hoping it would be cycled, but I don't want to do water changes on pond. My guesstimate is it is roughly 675-720 gallons. I just don't want it test OK and then have chaos when I add fish/ammonia. It's not like chasing a cycle on a 30 gallon bowfront :) Any thoughts or help is appreciated.
 

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You will still need to add ammonia to start or feed the cycle.
 

kevinb120

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Jan 22, 2010
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You will still need to add ammonia to start or feed the cycle.
Well I tested it a week after adding about 1/2 the pond back in with tap water and treated with prime. Throughout the winter there was always decaying matter in there, be it earthworms, general organic debris, and the aforementioned dead frogs. I did keep a couple pounds of worms In there after the basic cleaning. General specs are ph @8, ammonia/nitrites 0, and phosphate @.8 ppr, surely from the tap water added. I'm hoping the organic decay has kept it somewhat cycled.

Looks like the first course of action is to lower phosphate via additives, and slowly adding ammonia to ~3 ppm and see if it can deal with it. I don't want to go too far immediately requiring a pita water change only because I added too much, and the pond may have sufficient bacteria to convert ammonia. If it can't, I can probably also try 5lbs of established substrate in the tub in a mesh bag to fast cycle. Initial plan when safe is just to add 5-7 small shubunkins to start, and maybe a potted plant. It's actually closer to 900 gallons but not going to do koi.
 

myswtsins

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I am fairly confident that there is enough bacteria still present to handle a couple baby fish. All that organic matter should keep it going no problem. Add some plants to help suck up those phosphates and any extra ammonia. Something like water hyacinth is great for that. But maybe start with 3-4 instead of 5-7 fish.

I see you are already against it but.... Biggest problem I actually see here is Koi in a less than 1,000g pond. Rule of thumb is 1 koi for the first 1,000g and 1 per 500g after that. Goldfish come is awesome varieties now and some even look like mini koi. They will be MUCH better suited to your setup and are more forgiving for a first time pond owner. I'm sure glad I was talked out of Koi when I started.
 

kevinb120

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Jan 22, 2010
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Well everything seems good to go, I'll hit the 'good' lfs tomorrow. They have the full gamut of goodies including proper phosphate reducing products.

My neighbor has a slightly smaller pond with three huge koi that just mope around in the pond, I'd much rather have an eventual 15-20 smaller active fish. I'll see what sizes they have before determining how many to start. I'm patient, and even with new cycled tanks over the years can be happy with just a few small fish out of the gate, even after having just finished all the startup effort in time and money. Don't need it stocked overnight. I threw the idea of a few plants in the pond to my horticultural wife and she went right to research on Google.
 

myswtsins

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Well everything seems good to go, I'll hit the 'good' lfs tomorrow. They have the full gamut of goodies including proper phosphate reducing products.

My neighbor has a slightly smaller pond with three huge koi that just mope around in the pond, I'd much rather have an eventual 15-20 smaller active fish. I'll see what sizes they have before determining how many to start. I'm patient, and even with new cycled tanks over the years can be happy with just a few small fish out of the gate, even after having just finished all the startup effort in time and money. Don't need it stocked overnight. I threw the idea of a few plants in the pond to my horticultural wife and she went right to research on Google.
I completely agree with small happier fish, obviously cause that's what I did too. :) I had a friend with a 1,000g pond and like 6 or 7 koi plus a huge channel catfish that got a good size and looked great but did the same thing, just kinda moped around. Not what I was looking for. Watching my herd of goldies school around the pond is possibly my favorite thing to do.

I personally avoid adding extra chemicals to my eco-systems unless absolutely necessary but that's your call of course. The plants will remove the phosphates naturally.

Have any pics of the pond?
 

kevinb120

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Jan 22, 2010
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Just to update, I have no algae, so added a few small floating hyacinths(small for now at least), 5 saracha comets, and an 8 pack of rosy minnows to start. All of them less then half adult size. I used to 'layer' my fish stock, so figure the minnows will get anything the comets miss. All seem happy, particularly doing laps through the waterfall. Will check parameters in a week and see if all is well. Next batch will probably another 5 or so shubunkins. I didn't like the thought of more chemicals either, and with zero algae, am a bit skeptical of the phosphate reading to go chasing it so soon.
 

myswtsins

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Sounds good. I would check levels daily at first with adding that many fish at once especially if the sarasa (?) comets are anywhere near half adult size which would be about 6". Sarasa and shubunkins are me favs, post some pics when you can? Glad to hear you're holding off on chemicals at this time, hope the hyacinthi work out for you! They hate me actually lol. Think my other plants suck up too many nutrients.
 

kevinb120

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Jan 22, 2010
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Checked it again today, nothing added to the pond, not chemicals or even new water since the fish were added. I did add a few servings of flake and pellets, not just as food but to 'challenge' the pond. Nitrites and ammonia still at zero. Didn't check phosphate though, still no obvious algae. And we had an unusually warm week in the upper 80's with no rain after weeks of 60's. I think it's pretty stable.

Wanted to see how it held up without any thing including prime. Will probably top it off tomorrow with treated water, it's lost a couple inches with the heat. Fish are active and happy, no one coming up to the surface.
 
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