There have been many times that I needed and wanted to complain about something in a very public way, to let the world know of some injustice. Be real, we all have had things happen in our lives that were just plain wrong or unjust, and we all wanted an ear at times to help release our frustrations, and/or to let the rest of the world know about the people or businesses that created or caused the problem. I am sure you have all had these types of experiences, and you may just enjoy this page of my site. On the other hand, you may end up thinking that I am just a whiner and chronic complainer, because this part of my website will be full of primarily complaints for the most part. There may be an occasion that I write something here that is good and will want to share those things as well, but the primary reason for this blog is for me to vent in a very public way! This is probably a character flaw of some sort I am sure, but for those of you that truly know me…..simply add it to that long list. Heck, there may even be the occasional Koi related issue here!
All of you that do know me, know that my life is an open book for the most part. Seems like I am always telling my customers my whole life story….even new customers at times! Some may think I am nuts, but for the most part I have found that most people enjoy and embrace my candor and honesty. For those new customers that do not know me well, I would hope that you get to know me before judging me or what I write here. For the most part I have found that most people enjoy and even appreciate my candor and openness in person to person meetings, but I am not sure that will fly in writing on my website. I guess time will tell?
Recently there have been many things, (seems like one after the other) that have happened to me that I feel were just plain wrong! In my frustration, and even anger at times I admit, I was trying to think of some way to let everyone out there know about some of the unjust things that can occur to all of us.This in an attempt to warn everyone so they do not have the same bad experiences, as well as me attempting to feel some sort of retribution in the matter by letting the world know. Things like businesses that I feel are crooked, scammers, poorly run, overcharging, etc. as well as some personal thing that may have occurred because of some individual or circumstance. Everything I write here of course will strictly be nothing more then my personal opinion, and with that you can judge as you deem warranted. You know what they say about opinions: They are just like a$%holes….everyone has one! and mine is no better I suppose.
I run my life and my business based on some very simple morals. Treat people as I would want to be treated. That is fairly, honestly, ethically, friendly, and with good intentions. For me personally, I add bluntly to this list, but I do know that this is considered harsh by some. I simply do not know any other way then to come right out with it. Of course, even I attempt diplomacy at times, but with some things there is simply no correct way to say something other then straight up and to the point.
Chris will also be posting his thoughts, whining, and rage here as well.
So if you are bored to death, or simply tired of feeding the animated fish on my home page, I hope all of you enjoy reading this blog. Feel free as well to laugh at some of the predicaments I get myself into! Hopefully I won’t end up in too many lawsuits over this blog either!
EBAY KOI?……OMG NO!
We get calls and emails literally daily from folks that purchased sick Koi from Ebay or Koi that have made their entire existing population sick two to four weeks after adding them with their fish. I can tell you for sure that 99% of the sellers of Koi there are not qualified to be dealing in fish! Most of them do not even know the proper breed/variety names of the fish they are selling! Yes, I will agree the fish are cheap there, both in price and quality, but you get what you pay for. In the long run those cheap, low quality fish could end up killing all of your existing fish. So is that really a good deal? No, in the long run it will cost you dearly when they infect and kill fish you may have had for years. There is a reason they sell these fish so cheaply believe me. With this in mind how much do you think they know about the proper care and treatment of Koi, if they don’t know the variety names? Many folks that experience problems within two to four weeks after adding Ebay fish do not realize what happened because of the delay in symptoms showing up, and therefore never fully realize the problem was brought in by the Ebay fish. This 2 to 4 weeks is the magic time it takes for these ” typhoid Mary ” fish to infect the others.
One of the top sellers on Ebay is also guilty of not knowing the proper variety names, but they also sell both domestic fish from the USA and fish from Israel. Understand that Israeli fish are some of the most dangerous Koi out there as for being carriers of the deadly Koi Harpers virus! You will notice on their Ebay page as well as their website they refer to these Israeli fish as simply “Imported” This is because they know how these cheap, low grade and dangerous Israeli fish are looked at in the Koi world. Deliberate deception! So if these sellers do not know the proper variety names of the fish they are selling, you can easily conclude they do not know much about Koi husbandry, treatments, and biosecurity. Also in bringing in dangerous fish from Israel, there is a very strict , time consuming and costly quarantine that needs to be followed. The minimum time these Israeli fish should be isolated in quarantine is six months! This place openly admits that they only do a two week quarantine! If they knew what they were doing they would not be doing such a short, and most likely inefficient quarantine. Also the quarantine protocol for handling such dangerous fish if very specific and complicated, and I doubt they have a clue. The biggest problem with these Israeli fish is they can be carriers of the KHV virus and not get sick or show symptoms themselves. However under the right conditions and stress factors they can infect your existing fish!
This year the amount of emails and phone calls about these issues have drastically increased, and especially about fish purchased from the most popular sellers on Ebay. These “puppy mill” type Koi sellers are really damaging this wonderful hobby! After all who wants to spend all that money on building a beautiful pond only to fill it with dangerous and even sickly Koi? If you still choose to buy from these very dangerous places, then you had better set up a proper quarantine tank, and properly quarantine and treat them PRIOR to adding with your existing population of fish. As stated if you get imported fish from Israel, you should plan to quarantine them for at least six months, and learn the proper way to quarantine for possible viral carriers.
You should read these two articles from our website to learn more about Koi pathogens, and proper quarantine.
Pond or Septic System?
(My Personal Review of the Rock/Gravel bottom Pond Design)
Over many years now I have seen and heard just about every type of problem associated with these poorly designed rock and gravel bottom ponds. After many years of testing as well, I have proven many basic design flaws with equipment, design and function of these types of ponds build by landscapers. This article will help you improve your pond if you have one of these, and/or tell your contractor how you want it designed and built.
The water in these rock-bottomed ponds is extremely unsafe for fish, humans and your pets. They are breeding grounds for some pretty nasty bacteria that can negatively impact fish, humans, and other animals. Believe it or not a few people get deathly ill every so often from bacterial infections they get from cleaning these nasty cesspools of these poorly designed things they call ponds! In many of these cases the bacterial infections are very difficult to diagnose and treat, and many doctors have difficulty finding the bacterial strain responsible.
I have worked with many people who have these ponds to help them achieve proper water quality and clarity, and a safe, clean, and beautiful water feature. I basically redesign them to be suitable and healthy environments for fish, and/or to simply have better looking water that is not pea soup green or filled with nasty muck, debris, and fish pathogens.
These types of ponds may look good for the first year or two to the untrained eye, but as they mature they become complete disasters. The water will be dirty and murky from poor filtration and/or they become so green with planktonic algae you can’t even see any fish in them most of the time.
Aquascape designed and built ponds
This is probably one of the largest companies responsible for building these types of water features. As a matter of fact this company has probably trained more landscaping companies to build these systems than any other. They act as a parent company so to speak and sell the landscape contractors the equipment associated with these ponds plus many other products associated with them.
Focus is on contractors/landscapers – not homeowners
Aquascape’s primary focus is on contractors that build and install their ponds and Wittstock teaches them ONLY how to build the ponds. It’s mostly landscaping techniques they are taught. The contractors are never taught about proper water quality or clarity, and how to achieve it.
What little is taught to them regarding biology or water chemistry is completely incorrect as well. These contractors are taught to tell their customers that these water features are self-maintaining and will achieve their own balance in time. They really like to throw around the terms “balance” and “natural” in their sales pitches. They either imply or directly tell the customer that their ponds are balanced systems that take care of themselves. If you believe this one, then I have some swampland in Florida to sell you!
Aquascape ponds ok as water gardens, not so great as fish ponds
In reality, and by definition, a “water garden” is just that: A place to grow aquatic plants (thus the word “garden”). The Aquascape systems are just fine for being a true water garden that houses nothing but plants. However, as stated above, many, if not most, folks that have them prefer to have them for fish. Even if they originally had no intention of putting fish in it, many people end up doing so. Let’s face it, how much fun is it to sit and stare at plants when you can have fish like Koi swimming around that actually have individual personalities? A water garden with just plants is literally like sitting and watching the grass grow!
Since its inception, Aquascape has gotten into just about every aspect of the fish/pond hobby. This company even sells its own fish food for their so called “water gardens” that are supposedly not sold to house fish. Hmmm! If they are not for fish why would they sell fish food? If they are not for fish why sell all the ineffective chemicals to keep the water clear? You surely don’t need clear water for the plants. You need clear water to see fish, and chemicals and fish simply do not mix well.
Aquascape also manufactures and sells many types of equipment like skimmers, waterfalls, pumps, underwater lighting, etc. Some of their stuff is complete and utter garbage, and poorly designed and made. I would also be interested in seeing just how much of it is made in China as opposed to the U.S. As we all know most things made in China are of inferior quality. They have poor quality plastics and steel, as well as just about everything else.
“Magic Wands,” “Snake Oils,” & “Fairy Dust”
Let’s talk about some of the questionable things this company sells. It is ironic to me how they advertise how that their systems are “natural” and “balanced,” yet they manufacture and sell all these things to make the water better or more balanced and natural.
If their ponds are designed so well as to be natural and balanced, why would you need to add all these things to make them better? It’s simple. Their ponds are not natural at all, and definitely not balanced. No man-made ponds are, when speaking of the average size water garden.
First of all, Mother Nature would never allow such a small body of water to house much in the way of permanent life, and in most cases these small ponds would only exist seasonally for short periods of time. So forget natural as they do not exist in nature in the form or size of an average Aquascape water garden. As for balanced, the fact that they are so small does not allow for balance by nature’s standards. It requires human interaction to remain as balanced as possible, but no way can this be achieved in these shallow Aquascape ponds without constant upkeep. We will discuss this aspect a little later, and pick apart their design flaws. Too shallow being just one major flaw.
Their Magic Wand
One of the devices they sell I call a “magic wand,” (a $400 “magic wand”); they call it an Ion Gen. This device is supposedly sold for algae control.
With this thing, once again they have taken a little pinch of science and twisted it into something it’s not by leaving out some very important scientific facts. This little, crazily overpriced device uses electrolysis to emit small doses of copper into the water column. Why? Because copper is a known algaecide and can kill many unwanted algae like green water plankton and string algae.
One problem though; copper is HIGHLY toxic to fish — even in small doses.
A concentration of just .006 parts per million (ppm) is considered a toxic level to most fish and aquatic life like amphibians and other species. This unit is capable of putting as much as .25 ppm into the water column! As you can see, this level far exceeds that which is considered toxic to fish!
Now you also have to understand that you need a higher concentration than .006 ppm (and even higher than their maximum output of .25 ppm) to kill many of the common types of algae that end up in ponds. So… it won’t work anyway, and it will absolutely, positively affect the fish in some negative manner, and possibly kill them in time. For sure at minimum the fish will be under constant stress and duress from the continual and purposeful leaching of highly toxic copper into the water column.
Here is one of my favorites … (NOT!)
“Aquascape Beneficial Bacteria for Ponds provides clean, clear and healthy water conditions and reduces pond maintenance.
- Contains eight pure strains of concentrated beneficial bacteria;
- Effective at reducing sludge, uneaten fish food, fish waste, dead and decaying plant material and excess nutrients that cause poor water quality and clarity;
- Safe for fish, plants, pets and wildlife.”
(The paragraph above is an exact copy of one of their ads on this stuff.)
Ever see commercials on TV for Rid-X? You know, the stuff they sell for septic tanks? Well basically Aquascape’s “Beneficial Bacteria” is the same stuff. Let’s look at their ad another way further below and add a few of my own comments (in bold type):
“Aquascape Beneficial Bacteria for Ponds provides clean, clear and healthy water conditions and reduces pond maintenance.” This is simply not true. It does NOTHING beneficial for your pond or your fish. They are implying that these bacteria are part of the nitrification cycle. They are not nitrifying bacteria. They are not even close, as a matter of fact.
“Contains eight pure strains of concentrated beneficial bacteria” that are used to break down muck and wastes that should not be there in the first place if the pond and pond filtration were designed properly!
“Effective at reducing sludge, uneaten fish food, fish waste, dead and decaying plant material and excess nutrients that cause poor water quality and clarity.” These bacteria are used in the waste water treatment world at much higher concentrations. They are naturally forming anyway, so even if you did want them in your pond, they would come on their own. This is not something you want to add or waste your money on! This sludge and muck, etc. is exactly why their ponds are cesspools/open air septic systems. Do you really want your fish swimming in a septic system?
“Safe for fish, plants, pets and wildlife.” Maybe, maybe not… doesn’t matter because you are not going to use this crap. You would be better off putting it down your toilet to help your septic system.
Oh, this is a good one, too. “Pond salt,” like it is some special salt made for ponds. Again… NOT! It is simply sodium chloride in crystalline form and there is nothing special about it. You can buy the exact same stuff in the water softener section of any home improvement store. I get mine at Lowe’s under the name Solar Crystals. All you need is 99% sodium chloride with no additives or preservatives.
First, you do not need salt at any level in your pond unless you have sick fish, or nitrite in the water. Other than that, YOU SHOULD NOT PUT SALT IN! Now here is the main problem I have with this company selling “pond salt.” At Lowe’s you can buy 40 lbs. of it for $5.00. That’s about 13 cents a lb. Aquascape sells theirs for almost $5 a lb! They are making over 3,500% gross profit on this. They are blatantly ripping you off, people!
I could go on and on about all the different snake oils they sell, but let me assure you that you don’t need or want any of it in your pond! It’s as simple as that! Some of this stuff is actually harmful to fish as well, and ALL of it is a waste of money. As I have stated, if these ponds were designed and built correctly to begin with, you would not need all of these Band Aid type of fixes.
So let’s talk about these ponds/water gardens/water features, or whatever you wish to call them, and go over exactly how they are designed.
First, you have to understand that Aquascape is a company geared toward the contractors and landscapers that install their ponds. It is NOT geared toward the consumer/end user, and especially not for Koi keeping.
Aquascape’s philosophies, equipment, training, etc., is all designed to make the building and installation as contractor-friendly and efficient as possible, and not much focus is put towards a safe, fish-friendly and healthy environment for fish or people. All their training is devoted to the contractors getting in and out as fast as possible, and selling the customers as many of the snakes oils and fairy dust as Aquascape makes.
This company devotes a ton of money and time into training their contractors to do things “the Aquascape way.” From strictly an aesthetics standpoint, their training is fine. They do a decent job of teaching these contractors how to make a pretty and natural looking environment, and their equipment they sell is geared towards this as well.
However, one problem I do have with their training is the twisted science, partial truths, and even downright misinformation from a scientific and biological standpoint that they teach their contractors. From a scientific and biological standpoint, their teachings are simply wrong, or at minimum leave out crucial information and scientific facts.
Shallow ponds cause problems
Let’s start with the pond depth they usually incorporate. Most Aquascape ponds are less than two feet deep. This makes for very unstable water conditions because these ponds are subjected to constant environmental changes in water temperature and water chemistry due to their shallow depths and small volumes of water.
The ambient outside temperature changes will quickly affect these shallow ponds and this is not good for aquatic life. Most fish and other aquatic creatures need a stable environment to be healthy and thrive. Shallow water simply does not allow for this.
If the outside temperature changes quickly, then so does the water temperature and chemistry of these shallow ponds. This causes constant stress on fish and will lead to their early deaths. Their colors as well will suffer due to the constant barrage of UV rays through the shallow water and the constant temperature fluctuations. Yes, fish can even get sunburn without the protection of deeper water. Shallow water also promotes extreme algae growth as well.
For example, when the outside air temperature gets into the 90’s and higher, some of these ponds water will reach dangerous water temperature levels in the mid to upper 80’s. Water at these temps holds very little oxygen, and this is no matter how much additional air you try and add to it with aeration or waterfalls!
Scientifically, the oxygen content of water is limited by the temperature of that water. The warmer the water, the less oxygen it can physically hold or accept from aeration or waterfalls.
On the other hand, when the outside air temperature is cold this can be hard on the fish in these shallow ponds as well. Once the water temperature on the bottom where the fish stay in winter reaches below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, the fish are under severe stress. In these shallow ponds there are no varied temperature zones as there would be in deeper waters. So the water can reach dangerously low temperatures due to the shallow water. On top of this, with the waterfalls running, the water can be super cooled and even get to below freezing. This, combined with the changes brought about by ambient air temperature changes, can all be a lethal combination for fish. So as you can see shallow water is not a good thing. Deeper is better.
Proper Biological filtration is required in an outside pond
Now Aquascape has even twisted the science here as well. Here is how they attempt to twist the facts. As most of you know, biological filtration is required in an outside pond. This is accomplished primarily with the filter, and, more specifically, on the filter media housed within the filter.
The filter media grows colonies of what are called “nitrifying bacteria.” No, not “beneficial bacteria,” but true “nitrifying bacteria.” These are very specific strains that are the heart and soul of biological filtration. These bacteria will also colonize on any substrate within the pond. They grow on the liner, rocks, plants, algae, etc.
So, Aquascape says that a shallow pond with a large surface area will grow more of these bacteria as opposed to a deeper pond with less surface area. Well, this is true when speaking of a pond with no filtration. The more surface area there is overall, the more “incidental” nitrifiers that will grow.
However, these incidental colonies are small in comparison to what a properly designed filter and the proper filter media will house. So, these incidental nitrifiers growing on the liner are not nearly enough to ever process all the ammonia and nitrite produced with the system.
Simply put, you need a properly designed and sized biological filter to accomplish this, and no matter the surface area of the pond, as these just aren’t enough. So they try and twist the facts to have you believe a shallow pond is better than a deeper one. Simply not true…period!
Lava rocks do not work well as biological filter media
Their filter waterfalls are just fine. However, the media they use primarily is not. The type of filter media is the heart and soul of proper biological filtration. Many times Aquascape contractors use lava rocks as filter media. Long story short, this rock does not work well, and you end up growing more bad, anaerobic bacteria than true nitrifying bacteria. Also they have no easy means built into their systems to be able to periodically clean and drain the waterfalls. So these waterfalls end up being a box of muck and harmful bacteria!
More serious design flaws – Inadequate Filtration
Most Aquascape ponds incorporate a waterfall as a combination mechanical and biological filter and a skimmer filter which filters the surface of the pond only. This in itself is a design flaw. Most of the muck accumulates on the bottom of the pond, and Aquascape has nothing to filter the bottom!
This is a HUGE design flaw! As for the waterfall filter, it is critical not to collect muck in the biological part of your filtration. If you do, and do not clean it regularly, you will grow more anaerobic bacteria than the good nitrifying bacteria.
As previously discussed, these anaerobic bacteria are bad for the pond, fish, and you. In most cases these waterfalls contain filter matting as the mechanical media to collect dirt and debris, and then have bags of lava rocks as the biological media. The waterfall boxes are designed as up flow filters.
This means the water enters the bottom of the waterfall box, rises up through the filter media, then overflows out to the pond. In many cases these contractors install one filter mat in the bottom of the waterfall then sit the bags of lava rocks on top of it, then sometimes have one or more filter mats on top.
Here is the problem. Firstly lava rocks make very poor biological filter media. Why? Because firstly they take up too much room in a limited space due to their size and shape.
Second, these rocks are covered in small craters. Aquascape will tell you with their twisted science that these craters give the bacteria more surface area to colonize on. This is true to a degree, however, these craters get plugged up with organic muck and dirt, and at that point the good nitrifying bacteria cannot survive there due to the low oxygen levels. So you end up growing anaerobic/bad bacteria that will harm the fish.
Another problem with lava rock as filter media is that muck gets trapped in and around these rocks, and this in turn inhibits proper flow through the waterfall tub. The muck buildup literally blocks proper flow. This is referred to a channeling, and thus you are wasting valuable space for growing nitrifying bacteria that is required.
Also, lava rocks are heavy and messy to work with, as you will find out when cleaning the waterfall frequently due to this design flaw.
There is much better filter material to use. You can get more details about proper biological filter media on my website.
Also the filter mat that they install under the lava rock is there as mechanical filtration. It is used to catch the dirt and debris and remove it from the main water body of the pond. So why put it UNDER the lava rock when it has to be frequently cleaned of all the muck it captures? It is design flaws like this that really make for poor filtration and lots of difficult maintenance on the pond to keep it clean. It doesn’t have to be this way, people!
Their skimmer filters are sufficient for this type of surface filtration. They do an adequate job of collecting the floating debris like leaves and such.
Lack of bottom filtration feature a serious problem
As discussed above, they do not have any means of filtering the bottom of the pond. This is where the majority of muck is collected. Instead they load the bottom full of gravel to hide the muck. We will discuss below in the next section why this is a big problem. The primary way to filter from the bottom of the pond is by incorporating a bottom drain. This is a specially designed plumbing device that is installed through the liner and then piped to some type of filtration. At minimum this can be piped right to the skimmer box. Since water seeks its own level, the water on the bottom will flow through the bottom drain by gravity to the skimmer or other specifically designed mechanical filter. The gravity part is important, as it keeps the dirt particles and fish wastes whole and thus easier to capture and filter out. Where if you had a pump on the bottom of the pond to pump this collecting muck, the pump would puree these particles into microscopic form, and thus be much more difficult to capture. Make sense?
So not having bottom filtration is probably the number one issue I have with Aquascape pond designs.
A Gravelly Mess
Probably my second biggest issue with Aquascape ponds is the gravel they put in to cover the entire bottom and plant shelves. This is where the cesspool comes in.
You see all the fish wastes, dead plant material, leaves, dead bugs, etc. all end up in this gravel. Over a very short time this gravel is barely visible because it gets full of, and covered by, all these waste products. First, it looks like crap! Second, when this occurs this biological muck is an anaerobic bacteria factory and parasite nursery. Anaerobic bacteria are not good, as they carry fish pathogens that can and will attack your fish.
Also these bacteria need no oxygen to survive and they actually thrive in a low to no oxygen environment. These bacteria end up there because of the muck, as this is what they live on for food. Yes, they consume and process this muck, and one byproduct of this action is hydrogen sulfide in gas form. Aquascape talks about this as if it is a good thing! It’s not!
This gas gets trapped in this muck layer, and in time releases as bubbles which rise to the surface and dissipate. Hydrogen sulfide is highly toxic to fish, and is responsible for killing more fish than almost anything in the pond. This is especially true in winter.
In winter, this regular gaseous release gets inhibited when ice closes off the surface of the pond. When this happens the trapped gas can and will kill most of the fish, especially the larger fish. This is why it is critical to keep a hole in the ice directly over the deepest part of the pond where the fish usually live all winter. That slightly deeper water is a tad warmer than the shallower water, so this is why the fish live in the deeper spot all winter.
Aquascape twists this science by saying the muck never accumulates to dangerous levels because these anaerobic bacteria are processing it out. Well this is simply not true because of the sheer amount of muck that forms in this gravel cannot be quickly processed by the bad, anaerobic bacteria. It is a slow biological process. AND, remember, these bacteria carry fish pathogens that WILL hurt your fish in time.
So as you can see, the number one thing you want in a pond and filtration system is muck removal on a continual basis. You want zero muck accumulation, or at minimum you need a design that allows for easy and regular removal of it!
It’s OK though, because Aquascape sells a special bacteria that help digest this muck as well. The same bacteria they use in wastewater treatment plants. Are you getting the sarcasm here people? Do you really want your pond to be this septic system that Aquascape designs promote?
One other key missing element is something to address green water algae. Your pond water will turn green. When this happens to your new pond, Aquascape will tell you it is normal and that you are simply going through “new pond syndrome”. I just love this stuff they come up with!
While it is true that a poorly designed pond will turn green it surely doesn’t need to be this way. There teachings are that it will turn green and all you need to do is purchase their special snake oils designed to eliminate it. Hmm, why does this not surprise me? All you need to do is buy this stuff and put it in for life and you will have no problems with algae. Poppy-Cock! Firstly the stuff will not work, or it is dangerous to the fish. Manu folks are duped into thinking it works sometimes though. This is because the pond eventually gets so green it chokes itself out of getting sunlight. Once it is so green the sunlight is blocked from penetrating the water. This fact, and this fact only is what leads to the eventual die off of the algae that causes the green water. Then the pond will clear for a short time. However, after a short time of being clear, the cycle will start over again. The reason some people think their snake oils like barley straw helps, is because the natural clearing of the green water by it blocking its own sunlight just happens to coincide with them putting these magic elixirs in their pond. Thus they are fooled into thinking the snake oils cleared the water, when in fact it was the lack of sunlight penetrating the water caused by the green water itself blocking the sunlight.
A properly sized and properly installed UV light is a 100% fix for green water, and EVERY pond ends up needing one. Another simple fact, and yet another design flaw of Aquascape.
I could go on and on, but frankly I am tired of typing. In general, some Aquascape equipment is fine to use. You can even hire an Aquascape contractor to install your pond. However, as you know, landscaping is an art, and water feature landscaping is a very specialized form of art. So be careful which Aquascape contractor you hire. Now you can also use your knowledge to have them install a proper pond per your direction, instead of their very lacking designs and function.
.If you need some recommendations I may be able to help. For more details I am available for pond design consultations, and can give you clear specifications to give to whichever contractor you hire. There are some critical things that need to be engineered into your pond design to truly make for a healthy, clear, and low-maintenance pond. This is not something you will get with an Aquascape design. If you want to learn how to tweak their designs for a proper pond, simply HKF and I can steer you in the right direction. You should also read through our website for other very important information.
Don’t Be Fooled by Cute Marketing Names
I know some of you out there are excited to see this word in anticipation that we offer these. Well I can assure you we don’t and we never will and I will explain why.
For those that don’t not recognize this word in the Koi world, “Peanuts” are very small (usually less than 2″), most often very low quality fish that are being sold by the bagful by some places. Generally they are sold in bags from 100 to 500 Koi fry depending on where you get them. They have become very popular to those folks that are not in the know about the true value of Koi, and/ or those that want to raise Koi to sell thinking they will get rich. Unfortunately this is not the case and MOST if not all of them die in a very short time in many cases. This is because many hobbyists simply do not have the knowledge to safely raise these large numbers of small delicate fish. Quite often they try to house them in too small a system and with little to no filtration. So in many ,many cases it was not a “deal” at all if you end up losing most or all of these delicate little fish!
Before I get into this any deeper, let me explain how most truly professional Koi breeders operate. Firstly you have to understand that the largest of Koi can lay about a half a million eggs. In nature most of these would be eaten in the egg stage before hatching. Then the largest percentage of the ones that do hatch would be eaten by other fry, Koi and other fish and even insects and many other critters. So in nature only a very small percentage grow to adulthood.
Now on a Koi farm, the way we do things allows for most of the eggs to hatch as we separate them immediately after spawning to isolate them from the parent fish that would normally eat them .As well, some of the eggs will be unfertilized and not hatch even in a controlled spawn. Some will succumb to fungus and die as well. For the most part however the majority will hatch in a properly controlled breeding. This leaves us with tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of fry from each spawn depending on the size of the broodstock. However, as soon as they are put in the ponds to grow, many things, especially insects will eat them as well. We will lose a from 5% up to 30% depending on the insect control. However, even with this fact we are still left with thousands to hundreds of thousands in most case, again depending on the size of female we breed and the number of eggs they put out. The bigger the female the more eggs that are laid.
So far this sounds great from a business standpoint huh? You can raise tens or hundreds of thousands of fry from one breeding. CHA CHING? Not hardly! Well let me tell you how things really work in professional Koi breeding.
Firstly there will be many deformities amongst the fry. Of course these have to be culled out and not sold. Well at least not by TRUE professional breeders. In many cases these deformed fry can make up from 2% up to 40% of the entire population hatched. Many variables come into play that dictate the percentage of deformities. So right there you lose this percentage of the fry to culling for deformities. However, there are some not so professional breeders out there that do not cull thru these fry because it is so labor intensive. Instead they sell them off cheaply by the bagful with the exaggerated promise that there are some quality fish in the mix. They actually use “unculled fingerlings” as a selling point! Well I am here to tell you that “unculled fingerlings is not a selling or bragging point! Firstly if it is really true and they did not pick out the better fish and keep them, it also means they did not pick out the deformed and weak fish as well. Secondly you have to understand that in the average spawning only a small percentage of fish are truly of a sellable grade. So these places can sell them cheaply because in their minds they are saving labor and money by not having to cull thru them. This is puppy mill mentality at its finest! While they advertise these as a great way for someone to get into the business of selling Koi, they do not tell you what is really involved in keeping them alive and/or teaching you what IS a good quality Koi as compared to a cull in the first place. Also as stated previously many of the folks that buy these bag o fish do not have the knowledge in keeping them alive and healthy.
Now back to culling; Once we cull for deformities we let the fish grow some. and do it all again . This culling for quality may happen up to 4 times per season per pond! That means each time we net up the fish, look at each and every one and then decide which go back to the pond to grow, and which get culled. With that said, and after all the culls are done for that season, we may be left with anywhere from 30% to 60% of the total fish hatched. In some cases as high as 95% of the fry of a given spawn may be culled, and we are left with only 5% to sell. Also in this 5% they will be graded and some will be more valuable than others.
Now in all of this you have to remember that with each culling of the same pond of fish we are culling more. However up to whatever size that may be we have been feeding them all the way to the point of culling. That alone is lost money and labor. So as you can begin to see, breeding and selling Koi is very labor intensive to say the least, and it is not a get rich quick deal at all. There is a reason quality Koi cost what they cost.
OK, so let’s say you are one of the few folks that buy these “Peanuts” that does have the proper knowledge of water quality, parasites and disease. You still most likely do not have the knowledge to tell a good quality fish from a low quality one. In many cases it is hobbyist that are buying these fish to keep for themselves thinking they are getting such a deal on Koi. In these cases even if they knew how to care for so many fish, what do they do when the fish out grow their systems? Since the largest percentage of the fry are low quality cull grade fish, then you can’t even get a decent profit if you sell them for their true value in the Koi world. This not to mention this puppy mill mentality is polluting the world and the market with very low quality and truly worthless fish. So as you can imagine this is not even a wise decision from a business standpoint. You are flooding the market with cheap low quality fish, and losing future sales on better quality fish that will fetch a much better price for your margins. Also you are bastardizing the Koi hobby by tearing down the standards created by the Japanese that created this hobby! Koi are not valuable just because they are Koi, but many Americans do not understand this.
Understand that there is nothing wrong with having lower quality fish. As a matter of fact most of the American market does not care about all the Japanese standards and even breed names for these fish. All they want is some pretty fish for their ponds. I totally get this, and that is why we as well sell “Grades” of fish. Lower grades are cheaper than higher grades of course, but understand there is a line of ethics. Even our lowest grade of fish are better than most retailers best ones! So don’t get suckered in by fancy marketing ploys. If you want to learn about the Koi business then you need to first learn and master all that you can on water quality and Koi husbandry. As well, you need to learn about all the biology when it comes to the diseases, and parasites these fish can get. ONLY THEN should you consider getting into the business of selling them. Even today there are far too many Koi retailers selling sick and diseased fish because they do not have the knowledge and skills to do it any other way, and they have no plans to even learn the proper ways.
So before you decide to get into the Koi business, do your homework and research to learn the proper ways to care for them, as well as how to identify low quality from good quality. I can assure you from experience that you will not get rich, but it can be a labor of love.
As for the hobbyist buying these “peanuts” just to get a “deal” on some Koi, I can assure you in most cases they are not worth the price or the effort. More than anything you to have to learn the science and biology to raise them as well. This is the exact reason we offer all the free information on our website for mastering Koi and pond husbandry as well as how to identify true quality. This free info is there for everyone and this includes all those folks selling sick and diseased Koi out there!
Amazon Sucks! (And will cost the consumer in the end)
Many people now go to Amazon.com when purchasing ANYTHING nowadays it seems. Why not, you can surely find the best deals on many things there. Or can you? Basically put, Amazon.com has become an e-commerce monopoly, and as with all monopolies they are completely exploiting and abusing the retail world as well as the buying public, to fuel their evil greediness! Read the facts below and you will quickly see how they take complete advantage of any business that wants to sell on their marketplace. They will destroy any small business in the end as well, as they cannot absorb this abuse like the big lot stores. In the end this monopoly will destroy the ecommerce world, and/or the consumer will end up suffering for it. So if you think you are saving money there now, just wait for it. In the end you the consumer WILL end up paying for how Amazon abuses their power. The money squeezed out of the sellers there will eventually be passed onto the consumer.
As many of you know, Amazon.com is the leading internet retailer worldwide, and had $107 billion in net sales in 2015. They’re touted as the leader in e-commerce, e-retail, and the premiere internet marketplace. Who wouldn’t want a piece of that, right? This is what I thought 2 months ago when we signed up for a professional seller account for HKF. Since then, dealing with this site and everyone associated with it has been nothing but a hellacious nightmare. Let me walk you through why Amazon is a huge scam for sellers and buyers alike.
The first problem is that Amazon is a seller on the Amazon marketplace!!! That’s right, unlike Ebay, they list and sell stuff on their own site. Not only do they dictate how everything on Amazon.com is bought and sold, they’re also selling stuff themselves! So of course they warp the entire system to give them an advantage and help THEM sell the most. Products sold by Amazon itself (not an independent seller on Amazon) get priority over those sold by EVERY OTHER VENDOR selling on Amazon: Their products appear highest in buyer search results, and they are always the first vendor in line to get the sale when a buyer purchases a product, EVEN IF THEY DON’T OFFER THE LOWEST PRICE FOR AN ITEM. So buyers are getting screwed because Amazon is trying to force them to pay more by buying from them, and sellers are getting screwed because Amazon has unique advantages that can’t be competed with. For sellers like me, who are paying $40/month just to list our items for sale on Amazon, it’s a kick in the teeth knowing that, even if I offer the best price, shipping, and customer support, I’ll still never be able to sell more than my competitor: Amazon itself.
Nothing about selling on Amazon is user friendly. This wouldn’t be so bad if you had decent customer support, right? Well Amazon’s seller support is a complete joke. It’d almost be funny if they weren’t playing around with YOUR MONEY. I logged half a dozen complaints about problems with the selling programing. I reported the first problem (I couldn’t change the price of shipping on some items I was selling) on October 1. It’ currently November 30, and Amazon still hasn’t fixed the problem. The same is true of all the other problems I’ve reported to them. They either never address the problem, or when they do provide a solution (which is rare) it doesn’t work. I’ve communicated with Amazon “seller support” through email, phone, and online chat. None of the representatives spoke English well, and most of them couldn’t answer the simplest questions about Amazon. You can never reach the same representative twice, and most of the time they have no idea which seller they’re talking to, let alone what problem they’re addressing (During one email conversation, the Amazon rep called me a different name in each email: Chris, John, David, and Robert [who are David and Robert]). There are no managers or higher-ups to speak to speak to so if you have a problem with using Amazon.com you’re better off googling it than asking an Amazon Rep (because they’re just going to google it anyway: we caught a rep doing this during a phone call once).
Finally, the seller fees charged by Amazon are ridiculous. For every item you sell, Amazon takes at least %15 of the selling price as part of their fees. This is IN ADDITION to the $40 monthly subscription fee for professional sellers. This makes it even harder to compete with Amazon (which, remember, is selling stuff right alongside you) and turn any kind of profit. But it’ll be ok as long as your making sales, right? Wrong. Even if you manage to beat out Amazon on their own marketplace (which is unlikely), you don’t get paid until well after you ship the item. That’s right: Amazon holds your earnings until 10 days after the item you’ve sold is supposed to ARRIVE to the customer. So, after paying your monthly seller fees, you make a sale! Then you lose at least %15 of that sale to Amazon right off the bat. Then you have to ship your item to the customer (you have to mail out a product BEFORE Amazon pays you for it). Then you wait until 10 days after the latest calculated delivery date. During all this, if you have more monthly seller fees due, Amazon will kindly automatically deduct these off your profit from this sale. Then, generally about 60 DAYS later, you get paid whatever’s left. So basically, Amazon is like a deadbeat roommate: they’ll pay you the money they owe you but only some of it, and only when they feel like it. So sellers are getting screwed, but what does this have to do with the majority of Amazon users who are strictly buyers? Well, when the sellers are hit with these crazy fees, they have no choice but to cover their costs. How do they do that? They have no choice but to raise their prices. Amazon has just forced them to pass on the cost of all the fees to the buyer. Amazon squeezes profit out of the sellers who then have no choice but to squeeze what little they can out of the customer. So in the end, Amazon is NOT saving the buyer any money: their policies are COSTING the buyer more. This is sure to get worse as more Amazon sellers figure out that they can’t stay in business without raising their prices to cover themselves. So even if Amazon’s prices appear cheap now, I can guarantee they will NOT stay that way.
Let’s review: the website itself barely functions, sellers are pegged against Amazon (who makes and breaks all their own rules), customer support is useless, and Amazon will siphon off your earnings through the whole drawn-out selling process. Needless to say, we’ve made the executive decision to withdraw all our items from Amazon, close our Amazon account, and spit on Amazon’s shoes on our way out the door. If you are a small business, or anyone looking to make an honest dollar selling products in a competitive marketplace, DO NOT sell on Amazon. You’ll save yourself time, sleep, headaches, and a whole lot of money.
So here’s what I propose, on behalf of every small business owner trying to scrape out a living doing what they love and doing it honestly and competitively: Don’t give Amazon your money. Don’t buy FROM Amazon and don’t buy ON Amazon (because no matter who you buy from, Amazon’s the only one making money). They don’t deserve it. Show them that Americans still care about business ethics and that these marketplace monopolies that extort both buyers and sellers are NOT going to be accepted.
Instead, buy directly from the seller. If you find a vendor you like on Amazon, look for them outside Amazon (they’re sure to be somewhere else on the web). That way you both dodge Amazon’s BS, and you’ll actually be supporting the (often small) businesses you’re buying from, away from the draining fees Amazon marketplace. It’s no different than choosing a Mom & Pop produce store over your “local” Super Walmart. Take your money where people still care about you as a customer, not just a source of their $107 billion in yearly earnings.
Thanks for listening, guys
-Chris & John
Hanover Koi Farms
Credit Card Companies & Banks SUCK!!
We all know most of the ridiculous and sometimes fraudulent things that banks and credit card companies do and advertise, so i won’t go into those details. However you may not be aware of their latest form of scamming us and misleading advertising.
I am sure you have seen all those bank and credit card commercials that have been advertising how they and their cards will give you a percentage of “rewards” “cash back” etc. on every purchase when you use their cards. Well guess what? Again they are criminally misleading us. While it is true you will get these incentives, the lies come from whom actually gives them to you!
As most of you are aware, I am a seasonal business. In the winter sales are slow. One particular month this winter I had only one credit card sale. However it was for $6800.00. When I got my statement from my credit card processing company, I saw the normal percentage that they take out of every sale for this particular sale. However, in another section of the statement I noticed another charge of $175 taken from my account, and it was listed as “reward” for that particular card. Well, it was no reward to me as it was be DEDUCTED from my account on behalf of that $6800.00 sale! Since I did not know what this charge was, I called the company. They told me that this was an additional fee I had to pay because the customer used a card that offered a “reward” on their purchases. It was at this moment that I found out that the MERCHANT pays these incentive and NOT the credit card companies or banks! On their commercials they say that THEY will give you a “bonus”, reward”, etc, BUT it is not them at all giving them to you. It is the merchant like myself that pays 100% of this incentive, and the banks and credit card companies gives you NOTHING! Yes, you heard right! It’s just another form of misleading advertising where they try to make themselves look good, when all along they are hurting you the consumer!
Can you imagine the meeting that took place when they came up with this idea? I can picture it perfectly. I picture some idiot sitting in the meeting at the bank or credit card company saying “how can we sucker more people into using our cards without it costing us (meaning them) a cent? Then someone chimes in and says;” I have an idea; Let’s offer a reward or cash back BUT let’s make the merchants pay all of it!” We can then advertise that we give these incentives, and it makes us look good, but in reality it we are giving up nothing”
Yes, that’s right people, the MERCHANT is the one that is paying all those reward s and what not, and not the banks and credit card companies! So guess what? This will eventually mean these added costs to the merchant will be tacked on top of the purchase price of whatever product you purchase. In the end you are getting no rewards at all, and in the end it will simply jack up what you pay for things in the long run.
Doesn’t this just piss you off? It surely does me! Americans are so easily manipulated and fooled by all the false and misleading advertising going on out there. I am here to tell you that banks and credit card companies WILL be the final nail in the coffin of the American economy. Think about this the next time you use your credit card.
Please do not take this rant as me saying or implying I will not take credit cards for purchases any longer, or that I do not wish to. I will continue to take them , and please do not feel guilty using them at my business. I just thought the truth needed to be told to all of you. By the way, You are all welcome for those rewards and such that we the merchants are giving you, but please give the credit to whom it belongs.
A DIY Pond Cover for Winter
A great option to support your pond net and keep it up off the surface, is with a homemade support frame, which can be easily fashioned from PVC and anchored around the pond with short pieces of metal rebar.
Just pound some short rebar stakes in around the pond, slip some long pieces of small diameter (3/4” or 1”) pvc over the rebar, and bend the other end of the pvc into a large arch. Then just secure the other end of the pvc by slipping it over another rebar stake and you have a large and surprisingly strong hoop over your pond. Repeat this for as many supports as you need and drape your pond net on top, securing it to the frame with tie wraps and to the ground with rocks or landscape stakes.
This frame can also be covered in clear plastic to serve as a greenhouse! Simply hang a light bulb from one of the supports and this homemade over-pond greenhouse can keep your pond running completely ice free all winter long!
For more info on fall and winter prep, check out the “About Ponds” section of our website:
Pond nets are available here:
The American Mink: Deadliest Winter Koi Predator
The American Mink: Deadliest Winter Koi Predator
Very few people know what a mink is, let alone how common they are, and the risk they pose to Koi in backyard ponds. Next to the great blue heron, otters, and alligators in the southern states, mink are one of the few predators capable of clearing a Koi pond of even the largest fish- and can do so literally overnight! They can easily swim down a healthy fish and catch it under water. The only other animal that does this is the less common otter can.
So what’s a mink?
Mink are essentially weasels that swim. Dark brown in color, and usually less than 18” long, with a slender tube-like body, pointed face with small round ears, short stubby legs, and a sleek furry tail, about a third the length of its body. They look very much like ferrets in shape and body language. Mink are in the weasel family, but are excellent swimmers and vicious predators of fish and other prey much larger than themselves. They commonly catch and kill fish up to and over 2 feet long! They will dive over 10 feet underwater and actively chase down healthy Koi and snatch it right up!
Do you have minks near you?
In short: probably yes. Minks are native to most of the US and Canada and can be found almost anywhere there’s a fresh water source and a decent food supply, although they are more common in rural or wooded areas. Streams and creeks are their favorite haunts, so if you have one on or near your property you need to consider the very real threat of a mink eating your Koi.
Is a mink taking your fish?
Mink are very hard to detect, unlike blue herons which can normally be caught red handed at first and last light. Mink operate primarily at night. Being small and quiet, they are very hard to see invading your pond, and often leave no clues other than missing fish and maybe a few scales laying around.
Mink are shy critters normally, but when their natural food sources are depleted (usually in winter), they will venture into your yard to get at your fish. If you’re missing fish in winter, and have not seen any herons or other birds that prey on fish, a mink should be a top suspect.
Unlike herons, OVERPOND NETS WILL NOT STOP MINKS. Slender and intelligent, these water weasels only need a hole about the size of a golf ball to enter your pond. They will climb over fences and berms, and even up the sides of above-ground ponds.
Clues that you may have a mink problem are:
1. Missing fish especially if:
a. The largest fish are missing
b. Fish go missing in winter
c. Fish go missing despite having the pond covered with a net
d. You have a stream, pond, lake or woods near your home.
2. Fish acting skittish – however this can be hard to detect in winter, since the fish are usually lethargic anyway due to the cold temperatures
3. Loose scales on the pond bank or in the area around the pond- mink typically catch fish and drag or carry them out of the pond and off to somewhere they feel safe eating them: this can sometimes leave a trail of a few scales or blood as the fish is dragged off wriggling in the minks’ mouth.
4. Disturbed rocks around the pond’s edge, disturbed plants, or the water suddenly appearing muddy or dirty : minks are voracious predators and will relentlessly stalk and chase fish around the pond, displacing rocks and plants and stirring up mud or muck during the pursuit.
What can you do!?!
Mink are notoriously hard to deal with as pests around our backyard Koi ponds. Nets, sprinklers, fishing line, and deep pond will not stop mink. If a mink is visiting your pond, your best option is to trap it. You can do this yourself, although mink can be tough to catch in this situation. They are caught more easily in the wild as opposed to in your yard as they are especially wary in close proximity to humans. Professional trappers can use However mink in the backyards already know what they are there for and where the food is so scents and baits don’t work as well as they do out in the wild. Your best bet is to use a professional fur trapper. They can usually be contacted through your local taxidermist, Dept. of natural resources or a local hunting outlet. They will often be willing to properly set traps around your property free of charge as they sell the fur of the mink. They can also use dog-safe traps for those of you with pets or children). Make sure you check your local regulations pertaining to trapping before taking attempting trapping yourself.
Mink can also be caught in the cage type live-traps like those made by Have-a-heart, although getting them to enter these traps is even harder than the standard traps use by trappers in the wild.
Heads up and eyes open
Just like any Koi problem, predation from a mink is best addressed through diligence! Keep your eyes open for the clues and pay close attention to your fish even in winter. When dealing with mink, early detection is a MUST as they can and will take all the large fish from a pond within a matter of days.
Video courtesy of Hunting estate “Krasny Bor”.