We build a pond and fill it’s depths with fish that call it home, but we are committing to much more. We must keep a clean and clear space, built for health and happiness. Fish require care - in good times and bad, and just with all living creatures, health is not always preventable or predictable. A regular visual assessment, up close and in detail, can help us notice when the tiniest of elements change. This change can take the form of appearance or behavior, so pay close attention.
Since fish can become sick quite gradually or extremely quickly, the most optimum outcome is achieved when an ‘emergency’ plan is already thought through and in place. Stress alone, much like with humans, can further hinder a fish already plagued with bacteria or parasite infestations.
If fish health is in question, quarantine is the most efficient way to prevent illness from worsening or spreading to other fish. Locate a watertight fish-safe container, with a top rim, can serve as a quarantine holding tank for up to 3 weeks. Create as little disruption to the fish as possible - avoid any additional unnecessary stress. The container should provide fish sufficient space, or else stress can bring on additional health issues.
Ensure that water used to fill the chosen container is free of parasites or bacterial infection - do a water change and treat the current pond water, and do not fill with tap or chlorinated water. Then add required medication. The top rim will hold enough air that the container should naturally float in the pond.
Surrounding pond water will work to equalize water temperature in the quarantine container. A water or air pump should be included in the quarantine tank to provide proper aeration to fish already struggling. Some level of shade should be considered for a pond receiving considerable sun. Added netting will keep fish in and predators out.
The water quality of a quarantine tank can be an issue. Water test kits are widely available - an ounce of prevention will go far. Test for elevation in ammonia and nitrite before adding fish to water, then every 1-2 days while in quarantine. Ideally a quarantine tank could be set up ahead of time, and a biological filter established (which would take approximately 4-6 weeks). If a quarantine tank boasts a biological filter, only 10-15 percent of total water volume will need to be exchanged twice weekly. Without a biological filter, the quarantine tank will require 50 percent water exchange every day. Take care when feeding fish in quarantine - overfeed and risk elevated ammonia. Avoid adding any chemicals to a quarantine tank.
The life of pond fish is, to a great degree, dependent on the commitment of their owners. Shifts in health can be subtle or obvious, quick or slow. Know the signs, minimize the risks and avoid unnecessary and irreversible threats to fish.