5 Ways to Conserve Water in Fish Ponds During a Drought

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Here in California, we are well aware of water restrictions. Keeping a large pond can make it hard to keep within our water budget and scrimping on pond water can have severe consequences for you fish. Here are our best tips to keep your fish happy and conserve water during a drought.

Our Best Tips to Conserve Water in Fish Ponds

Don’t add any more fish

Adding more fish to your pond will always put more stress on your filtration, no matter what size your pond or filtration is. The more water you have per fish, the fewer water changes you will have to do. Even if you think you have room for more fish, resist the urge! Don’t forget; you will need 250 gallons per koi and 50 gallons per goldfish MINIMUM!! Always remember your quarantine protocols. NEVER take the word of any dealer that their fish are “guaranteed healthy.” Spoiler alert: many of them aren’t!

Find and fix leaks ASAP

Leaks happen in most systems given enough time. If your water bills have been creeping up slowly, it’s time for a leak check. Either call a professional or turn off all autofills and watch your water level. Small losses due to evaporation take a few days to be noticeable. Most of the time, waterfalls and skimmer boxes are the most common sites of leaks. Once you find and fix the leak, you can expect your water chemistry levels to change. Leaks will dilute out your parameters, so fixing the leak may cause a very different set of water quality issues to appear.

Decrease the protein in your fishes’ food

The more protein in your fishes’ food, the more ammonia will be in your system, leading to high nitrate. Nitrate is the main reason for doing water changes, so if your fish can tolerate a lower protein, consider switching diets. I know this is the exact opposite of what all vendors and bags of food say, but we are here for your fish’s health, not appearance. (Have koi? Here’s our favorite low protein, maintenance diet.) “Maintenance” koi food should be 30-32% protein and <5% fat.

Consider adding an aquaponics system

Adding a few plants to your pond or tank will not significantly impact your water chemistry unless you have up to 1/4 of your pond dedicated to plant life. If you don’t have the space in your pond or have destructive fish, consider plumbing in an aquaponic system. This method of aquatic gardening is growing in popularity and can have a significant impact on your water quality levels, not to mention cut your grocery bills! Here is a great resource on all things aquaponic from the USDA. 

Test your water regularly

Water changes primarily remove nitrates from your system, in addition to growth and reproductive hormones. If you keep doing water changes without testing your water chemistry, do you know why you are doing them at that level? Instead, test your water chemistry levels, or just your nitrate levels, to get a better idea of how much and how often you need to do water changes. Aim for a nitrate level of 20 mg/L or less, but we know this may not be possible, especially for hungry fish in an overstocked pond. If your nitrate levels start creeping up, keep a close eye on your fishes’ behavior and appetite. As soon as you are able and water is available, work to bring those levels down again.

Clean and healthy water is critical to your fishes’ survival, so don’t ignore it until it is too late! Try out some of our recommendations above and see what works for you and your pond to conserve water and keep your fish happy and healthy.

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1 thought on “5 Ways to Conserve Water in Fish Ponds During a Drought”

  1. Thanks, I need to get back to doing the testing, now that my water is finally clear after adding a bead filter I have practically stopped doing the nitrate checks.

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