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Fish expel carbon dioxide as a by-product of breathing.  They also release waste products (goldfish are very good at this…lol).  Leaves, dirt and other debris including uneaten food also fall into the pond and sink to the bottom and decompose.  This waste produces ammonium compounds which are dangerous to the fish.  The fish can die if this level of poison gets too high.  If a pond has sufficient plant life these chemicals are absorbed by the plants.  The plants might even convert some of these chemicals into food items for their own needs.  I found that my pond stayed so much cleaner once I had established plants in the water making it so much easier to maintain my pond.

Decomposition is caused by anaerobic bacteria (non-oxygen breathing lifeforms).  They release nitrites into the water, which are lethal to fish.  However, they are converted to nitrates by aerobic bacteria (oxygen breathing lifeforms).  The plants absorb the nitrates.  This is known as the nitrogen cycle.  Ammonia is one of the lethal by products of this cycle.  See by chemistry class at college paid off, I remembered something!

The tricky part is keeping this all in balance.  The least expensive way to maintain water condition and clarity is to have a 25% water exchange every other week.  This removes a lot of suspended debris and dilutes dissolved gases and chemicals.  It is time consuming though to do this, and usually tap water is chlorinated so it must be left to stand for a day or so for the chlorine to dissipate into the air, or it must be sprayed in a fine jet to achieve the same result (this is the way that I do it, because I can’t think of a way to hold the water for a day or so).

A better way to maintain a healthy pond is to use a pump, filter or aerator to help keep a pond safe from stagnation and pollution.  (My pond always looks very dirty after a day of rain, makes you wonder about acid rain).  So please try to include plants in your ponds layout and plan on adding some type of aeration pump, even if you have a waterfall.

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