Caring for Your Pond Fish During an Emergency
Do you have an emergency plan for your pond fish? When you're making plans with your family about what to do during natural disasters like hurricanes, blizzards, or fires, you may forget about your pond fish. Other types of pond emergencies require immediate action, or you could risk losing all of your fish. Learn how to care for your fish during different emergencies, including evacuation and low oxygen.
Relocation or Evacuation
If you have time before a natural disaster or harsh weather conditions, you'll want to relocate your fish to a safe spot. Pond fish are incredibly vulnerable; they can't pack a bag and head out of town. You may need to relocate your fish temporarily for many different reasons. If there is an environmental issue like extreme weather or an issue with the pond itself, your fish will need to be kept safe and contained until they can go back into the pond.
When temporarily moving your pond fish to a new home, you'll need a container to store them in. The bigger the fish you have, the bigger the container will need to be. You don't want your koi or goldfish jumping out of the water. You can use netting or mesh covering to put over the container so your fish can't escape and predators can't get in. At a minimum, the container should be 12 inches deep. A kiddie pool, a large aquarium tank, or a plastic tub will work.
The water should be taken directly from the pond, and it will need to be circulated. The temporary home for your fish will most likely be smaller and more shallow than their original home. The container will be more vulnerable to temperatures and must be stored inside or in a shaded area. Direct sunlight could make the water temperatures rise very quickly. This is a good time to utilize a backup pump.
Fish are stressed easily, so you can skip feeding times until they are settled or moved back into their new home. They will not likely eat the food, which will sink to the bottom and hurt the water quality. If you have to relocate your fish to a new place, ex. during an evacuation, you can use bags or a watertight container with a lid to store your fish. The bag or container will need enough water to cover the fish completely, using the water from the pond. You can remove the fish from the pond by using a fish net to scoop them out gently.
Prepping for a Storm
Depending on the storm's severity, your pond fish will likely be okay with staying in their pond. If there is an intense snowstorm, your fish may need to be relocated inside. When the surface freezes over completely, for an extended period, there will be no way for the harmful gases to escape the water, and oxygen levels can drop.
Your power could likely be shut off during a storm or natural disaster. Power outages are a major pain when you're stuck inside your house, and you may forget about how it's affecting the pond. The pumps, waterfalls, and other aerators will not work until power is restored, which can cause water quality and oxygen levels to drop. You can prepare for this by having a gas-powered generator to power your pond equipment. A generator can run the pump and aerators for quite a while, depending on its size and how much fuel you have available.
When the power goes off, unplug your pond equipment so it is not damaged by a power surge when it turns back on. If the power is flickering on and off, keeping the pumps and aerators unplugged can be safer until it stabilizes. You can also plug in your pond equipment with a surge protector strip. These regulate the power and make sure none of the connected devices are damaged in the event of a surge. Surges can cause the electric equipment to malfunction, so make sure when your pumps and aerators are powered back on, they are running properly.
When you're preparing for a storm, pond flooding may not be at the top of your list of concerns, but it can be problematic. If your pond overflows, your fish can escape and swim to nearby areas in your garden or lawn. As the water dries up, they can become stranded on land.
Flooding can also push runoff and debris into your pond water, which affects water quality. You can prepare for flooding by building up the edge of your pond using rocks or bricks to try to minimize the runoff that enters the pond. If the pond is at risk of overflowing, you can drain some of the water beforehand so there is room for the rainwater by using a pump. You can also create a drainage outlet so the water can flow out of the pond, just make sure your fish can't get through it!
After an Emergency
Check the Pond Equipment
It's always a good idea to check and ensure all of your pond equipment is working properly after being unplugged for a bit. Look at your pumps and aerators to make sure they are running as they should be. Check the filters to ensure they aren't damaged or need to be cleaned/replaced. Your pond will need the filtration and aeration systems working at 100 percent to help clean up the water after a storm.
Tip: It can be helpful to keep your old pumps and have spare filters and other equipment in case your pump or aerator breaks and you need to fix it or use a backup until you can go to the store.
Test the Water
Perform a water quality test after a storm as soon as you can. Check whether you need to dechlorinate the water or if the ammonia levels are too high. The water quality can be unbalanced due to runoff, and your fish are already stressed, which makes them extra vulnerable.
A quarantine tank is essential to have in case of a fish emergency. Ideally, you want a gallon of water for every inch of fish. The quarantine tank is not a permanent home, so it can have a little less, but you want to minimize as much stress as possible. Your fish will enjoy plenty of room to swim around and adjust to the new surroundings. Be sure to treat the water with Chlorine Remover Plus Conditioner to make a safe environment for your fish.
The tank will need water (from the original pond), an aerator (the fish will be in here for a while), and some sort of filtration to keep the water clean. If you notice one fish acting differently or is sick, it should immediately be put in a quarantine tank away from the other fish. Any other fish showing symptoms should also be put in the tank. Once the sickness has spread to multiple fish, you may need to do a pond-wide treatment. When the fish are in the quarantine tank, they can be treated and monitored. At a minimum, the fish should be quarantined for one to two weeks.
Tip: New fish can be quarantined as well to help build up their immune system (from the stress of moving) and be observed to make sure they are healthy.
Your pond shouldn't lose more than a 1/2 or 3/4 inch of water per day in the hottest summer months. Ponds that are losing more than an inch per day may have a leak. It's important to determine whether the leak is coming from the water features/pumps or the liner. You can shut off the water features and pumps for a day and see if the water levels continue to drop; if they do, it's a signal that the liner needs to be patched.
Low oxygen levels
Oxygen is incredibly important for fish health and water clarity. During the summer, the water cannot hold as much oxygen as it can in the winter; as the weather heats up, the oxygen levels can drop. If your fish are surfacing and you believe there is not enough oxygen in the water, you should quickly add aeration to avoid algae blooms and to keep your fish healthy.
You may have a predator if you notice fewer fish in your pond. Turtles, frogs, and other pond life may be able to walk and test out nearby ponds, but your fish can't go anywhere. Predators like birds, snakes, and raccoons can quickly eat all of the fish in a pond. Find out how you can protect your fish from predators.
Natural disasters and pond emergencies can be stressful, and it's important to have a plan beforehand to act quickly. Don't forget about your fish during a storm or if you must evacuate. They're vulnerable and need help to stay safe. You can take your fish with you or keep them in a temporary container out of the pond. Other pond emergencies like fish sickness or low oxygen levels can take you by surprise. Fish do not react to stress well, and you'll need to act quickly when there's an emergency. Caring for your fish during an emergency can be stressful, but it's a lot easier if you have a plan.