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How things work - Fish Garden Pond Water Treatments  

Koi keeping is becoming an increasingly complex hobby, driven by the needs and expectations of ourselves and our koi.

On the one hand, the needs of our koi have never changed, being the same today as they were at the turn of the last century, whereas our own are pursuit for improvements in providing and maintaining a superior koi keeping environment motivates the manufacturers in our industry to continually innovate and improve the consumables and equipment available to the koi keeper.

It can be argued that the quality of pond and water in which our koi are kept today is far superior compared to that of our koi keeping pioneers, being achieved largely as a result of our improved understanding of the requirements of our koi. At times, we may have known what our koi have required but have not had the solution to hand, having to accept second best as our hobby's standard. Then, as technology allows, improvements are made available to us, and (hopefully) we see an associated improvement in the quality of our koi as a result.

But in a culture that has increasingly less time to think for itself, seeking 'quick fixes' or the solution to all our problems in a bottle, we can fall into the routine of treating first and asking questions later, caring very little for what chemical we may have actually put into our pond, or piece of hardware we may have bought to solve our problem. We can be guilty of keeping our fingers crossed when using new technology in our pond, being willingly blinded by science. But with a little better understanding of how things actually work, we can be better placed to work with the latest innovations, getting the most out of them.

True, as the technology progresses, our level of understanding and appreciation of how things work can be limited to what we remember from our school chemistry, physics and biology lessons (if we ever listened in class), but there is no excuse not to take a closer look at how and why many aspects that combine to make koi keeping possible actually work.

In this new series, we will be looking behind the scenes at an array of koi keeping equipment and consumables in order to understand how and why they work. By doing so, we will become better informed on our koi's behalf, as to what we are doing to their environment.

Pond water treatments.

Pond water treatments (as opposed to medications) are those formulations that can be added to a pond to improve a koi's environment. We will be looking at how some tapwater conditioners and blanketweed treatments actually work, once added to the pond.

Tap water conditioners:

tap water conditioners have seen at a great deal of development over recent years as technology has allowed new formulations to be created, with most improvements being led by the increasing challenges set by the variable quality of tap water over the years.

Chlorine: chlorine is a strong oxidising agent and is arguably the world's most established method of continuous disinfection for public water supplies. Chemically speaking, chlorine is a very reactive element and will oxidise both organic and inorganic matter in the water supply and distribution systems. The principal targets of chlorine are bacteria that will become oxidised and therefore denatured, when they come into contact with this added disinfectant. Unfortunately, to ensure bacteria counts remain low at the furthest extremities of the water distribution system, excessively high concentrations of chlorine are added at treatment works and they may even be boosted further along the pipeline. Just as chlorine indiscriminately oxidises bacteria, it will also damage the ultra-thin and delicate organic gill membrane on koi, leading to respiratory stress and other health problems; consequently, it must be neutralised.

Initially tap water conditioners containing sodium thiosulphate were formulated to neutralise the chlorine in tap water and these worked very effectively. Many tap water conditioners still use this type of neutralising technology today. The reaction can be represented by the equation:

2Na2S2O3 + Cl2 --> 2NaCl + Na2S4O6

This shows how sodium thiosulphate (made up of sodium Na, sulphur S, and oxygen O, atoms reacts up with chlorine to form sodium dithionate (Na2S4O6) and salt (NaCl). Thus, dechlorination is achieved.

In more recent years however, the water companies have moved the goalposts by disinfecting our drinking water with ever more persistent and stable compounds that are more likely than the highly volatile chlorine to arrive at the point of use at the end of the distribution system. The water companies combined chlorine with ammonia to form the more stable chloramine. Ammonia is made up of a nitrogen atom with three hydrogen atoms attached. The most common form of chloramine is monochloramine which is formed when only one hydrogen is replaced with a hydrogen atom.

NH3 + Cl --> H + NH2Cl

So instead of simply having to neutralise chlorine, we are now faced with a potential ammonia problem. Consequently, more advanced and indeed patented water conditioners have taken the thiosulphate approach further, by creating a compound that will firstly remove the chlorine from raw tapwater and then also neutralise the potentially harmful residual ammonia (as well as ammonia from any subsequent fish that may inhabit this immature pond environment). For those of you interested in the chemistry involved the sodium thiosulphate has now been replaced by sodium hydroxymethanesulphonate.

NH2Cl + HOCH2SO3Na --> H2NCH2SO3Na + H+ + OCl- Monochloramine + sodium hydroxymethanesulphonate forms aminomethanesulphonate + hydrogen ion + hypochlorite ion

The hypochlorite ion (which damages gill tissue) now needs neutralising, also using sodium hydroxymethanesulphonate.

OCl- + HOCH2SO3Na --> H2NCH2SO3Na + Cl- The hypochlorite ion reacts with sodium hydroxymethanesulphonate to form aminomethanesulphonate + harmless chloride ions.

The resultant aminomethanesulphonate is non-toxic and can be broken down by nitrite loving bacteria. These new generation water conditioners are also mixed with other components to produce a multi-functional tap water conditioner with added benefits for your koi. Other additives include:

Protective colloids:

synthetic polymers are added to the concentrated formulation to provide fish with a protective slime coating to protect damaged or vulnerable areas of recently-handled or stocked fish.

Heavy metal neutralisation:

heavy metals are toxic and are readily taken up by fish from their environment. Specific reactive compounds are added to the tap water conditioner to precipitate heavy metals from solution, making them no longer available to fish.

Consequently, as tapwater has deteriorated for koi, tapwater conditioners have risen to the challenge to provide our koi with neutralised and safe tapwater.

The most frequently used pond treatments are arguably those aimed at ridding our ponds of blanketweed and other nuisance algae. Compared to tap water conditioners, where the approach is targeted specifically at neutralising chlorine and chloramine, algae (and specifically blanket weed) treatments may take one of several different approaches at ridding a pond of unwanted weed growth. This area of pond care is witnessing frenzied activity by many manufacturers to find the 'magic bullet' for blanket weed, with several different approaches being used to defeat blanket weed on many different fronts.

There is considerable legislative pressure to find new blanketweed treatments because by the end of July this year, we will all witness first-hand the implications of the PSD's (Pesticide Safety Directorate) new herbicide related legislation as it starts to affect all herbicides available for sale, with most having to be withdrawn. This gives manufacturers an even greater incentive to pursue new avenues of research when looking for novel and safer ways of addressing the ubiquitous blanket weed problem.

Herbicides.

Only a handful of herbicide pond treatments will be available for sale after July. Herbicides work by directly interfering with a plant's biological pathways compared to other treatments that may work indirectly by making the pond water itself less hospitable to algae growth. Two of herbicides that are found in pond algae treatments are the closely related to terbutryn and simazine. Plants are unique organisms on the planet in that they are able to convert light energy into chemical energy through reactions that take place in chloroplasts, courtesy of the green pigment chlorophyll. The functioning of the significant link in this chain, called Photosystem 2 is irrevocably affected by the two herbicides terbutryn and simazine, making photosynthesis impossible thereby preventing the plant from growing.

Microbial and enzyme products.

As the legislative clock continues to run down on those herbicides passed by the PSD, 'greener' remedies for blanketweed are being demanded by both government and consumer pressure. Microbial products are the new dawn and represent the future of treating blanket weed and nuisance algae in ponds. Compared to using a herbicide which may take the form of a one-hit remedy, a microbial remedy for the same problem will require regular dosing by virtue of the way the treatment works. If you think of a herbicide as a reactive treatment, killing the blanket weed itself once it has appeared, then microbial treatments are more proactive, making the environment less hospitable to blanket weed growth in the first place by removing the phosphates and nitrates from pond water.

How do microbial treatments work?

The secret behind how microbial treatments work lies in the way that the enzymes that they produce affect the concentrations of nutrients in pond water.

What are enzymes and how do they work?

Enzymes are best described as being biological catalysts, in that they are produced by a living organism to speed up the rate of a specific reaction. Enzymes are usually largely protein and are unchanged after the reaction, though being organic, may themselves be broken down in the pond by bacteria. Enzymes are very specific as to the type of reaction that they can catalyse (or speed up) and it is vital that a microbial blanket weed treatment contains and produces the correct enzymes for the job.

Enzyme activity is affected by several environmental factors, such as the temperature and pH of the pond water, with each enzyme having an optimal set of conditions. Generally, the warmer the pond water, the greater the rate of activity of the enzymes in the water up to a threshold temperature, above which enzyme activity is usually reduced. ____

We produce and secrete numerous enzymes into our digestive tract in order to aid the breakdown of insoluble foods into soluble by-products that can be easily utilised and transported around our body. Because bacteria usually only consist of a single cell, they must digest their food by secreting enzymes out through their membranes, into the surrounding environment and it is this strategy that we as pond keepers who are plagued by blanketweed can utilise.

The bacteria that are developed and cultured for treating blanketweed are special microbial cultures generated through laboratory techniques using innovative methods of selection, acclimatisation and production. The select bacteria produce enzymes to breakdown various materials into easily assimilated by-products, enabling the bacterial colony to continue to thrive, producing a potentially self-perpetuating system. Bacteria are selected on their enzyme producing characteristics.

A microbial pond treatment will consist of a blend of dried bacteria and enzymes themselves that are used to kick-start the decontamination of the pond water while the dried, selected strains of bacteria rehydrate, divide and start to produce and release more of the specific enzymes necessary to digest the particular target compounds in the pond water.

Just as enzymes require specific environmental conditions in which to work, the enzyme-producing bacteria also require a near neutral pH, warm water, sufficient oxygen and appropriate nutrients in which to thrive. As you will have probably already guessed, microbial preparations have been used to digest and decontaminate other compounds in the other industries such as herbicide and pesticide residues, petrochemicals, dyes and other industrial wastes. For example, those that produce enzymes that break down fats or oil and grease can be used to clear blocked drains, whereas those that secrete sedulous digest in enzymes will be cultured and could be used to breakdown wood pulp.

Microbial pond treatments will contain a range of different bacterial strains, each releasing a different enzyme. This produces a highly-effective enzyme cocktail that will reduce the nutrients in a pond, preventing the re-growth of blanketweed.

Bacteria found in a microbial treatment against blanketweed might include:

* Bacillus amyloliquefaciens

Breaks down starches and carbohydrates

* Bacillus subtillis

Breaks down starches, proteins + fats

* Bacillus licheniformis

Converts nitrates into nitrogen gas

* Cellulomonas biazotea

Breaks down cellulose

Our garden pond environments lend themselves ideally to the use of microbial pond products because they are enclosed, recirculating and bacteria-friendly places. Microbial pond products are to be looked at as treatment programmes, rather than one-hit-fixes and as a consequence, will require a longer period for them to become completely effective in a pond. In their favour of they are completely natural and harmless remedies that pose very few (if any) over dosing risks to us or our koi.

Did you know that the PSD (Pesticides Safety Directorate) was removing more than 30 algaecides from sale from July 2003 and over the next 18 months?

keeping pioneers, being achieved largely as a result of our improved understanding of the requirements of our koi. At times, we may have known what our koi have required but have not had the solution to hand, having to accept second best as our hobby's standard. Then, as technology allows, improvements are made available to us, and (hopefully) we see an associated improvement in the quality of our koi as a result.

But in a culture that has increasingly less time to think for itself, seeking 'quick fixes' or the solution to all our problems in a bottle, we can fall into the routine of treating first and asking questions later, caring very little for what chemical we may have actually put into our pond, or piece of hardware we may have bought to solve our problem. We can be guilty of keeping our fingers crossed when using new technology in our pond, being willingly blinded by science. But with a little better understanding of how things actually work, we can be better placed to work with the latest innovations, getting the most out of them.

True, as the technology progresses, our level of understanding and appreciation of how things work can be limited to what we remember from our school chemistry, physics and biology lessons (if we ever listened in class), but there is no excuse not to take a closer look at how and why many aspects that combine to make koi keeping possible actually work.

In this new series, we will be looking behind the scenes at an array of koi keeping equipment and consumables in order to understand how and why they work. By doing so, we will become better informed on our koi's behalf, as to what we are doing to their environment.

Pond water treatments.

Pond water treatments (as opposed to medications) are those formulations that can be added to a pond to improve a koi's environment. We will be looking at how some tapwater conditioners and blanketweed treatments actually work, once added to the pond.

Tap water conditioners:

tap water conditioners have seen at a great deal of development over recent years as technology has allowed new formulations to be created, with most improvements being led by the increasing challenges set by the variable quality of tap water over the years.

Chlorine: chlorine is a strong oxidising agent and is arguably the world's most established method of continuous disinfection for public water supplies. Chemically speaking, chlorine is a very reactive element and will oxidise both organic and inorganic matter in the water supply and distribution systems. The principal targets of chlorine are bacteria that will become oxidised and therefore denatured, when they come into contact with this added disinfectant. Unfortunately, to ensure bacteria counts remain low at the furthest extremities of the water distribution system, excessively high concentrations of chlorine are added at treatment works and they may even be boosted further along the pipeline. Just as chlorine indiscriminately oxidises bacteria, it will also damage the ultra-thin and delicate organic gill membrane on koi, leading to respiratory stress and other health problems; consequently, it must be neutralised.

Initially tap water conditioners containing sodium thiosulphate were formulated to neutralise the chlorine in tap water and these worked very effectively. Many tap water conditioners still use this type of neutralising technology today. The reaction can be represented by the equation:

2Na2S2O3 + Cl2 --> 2NaCl + Na2S4O6

This shows how sodium thiosulphate (made up of sodium Na, sulphur S, and oxygen O, atoms reacts up with chlorine to form sodium dithionate (Na2S4O6) and salt (NaCl). Thus, dechlorination is achieved.

In more recent years however, the water companies have moved the goalposts by disinfecting our drinking water with ever more persistent and stable compounds that are more likely than the highly volatile chlorine to arrive at the point of use at the end of the distribution system. The water companies combined chlorine with ammonia to form the more stable chloramine. Ammonia is made up of a nitrogen atom with three hydrogen atoms attached. The most common form of chloramine is monochloramine which is formed when only one hydrogen is replaced with a hydrogen atom.

NH3 + Cl --> H + NH2Cl

So instead of simply having to neutralise chlorine, we are now faced with a potential ammonia problem. Consequently, more advanced and indeed patented water conditioners have taken the thiosulphate approach further, by creating a compound that will firstly remove the chlorine from raw tapwater and then also neutralise the potentially harmful residual ammonia (as well as ammonia from any subsequent fish that may inhabit this immature pond environment). For those of you interested in the chemistry involved the sodium thiosulphate has now been replaced by sodium hydroxymethanesulphonate.

NH2Cl + HOCH2SO3Na --> H2NCH2SO3Na + H+ + OCl- Monochloramine + sodium hydroxymethanesulphonate forms aminomethanesulphonate + hydrogen ion + hypochlorite ion

The hypochlorite ion (which damages gill tissue) now needs neutralising, also using sodium hydroxymethanesulphonate.

OCl- + HOCH2SO3Na --> H2NCH2SO3Na + Cl- The hypochlorite ion reacts with sodium hydroxymethanesulphonate to form aminomethanesulphonate + harmless chloride ions.

The resultant aminomethanesulphonate is non-toxic and can be broken down by nitrite loving bacteria. These new generation water conditioners are also mixed with other components to produce a multi-functional tap water conditioner with added benefits for your koi. Other additives include:

Protective colloids:

synthetic polymers are added to the concentrated formulation to provide fish with a protective slime coating to protect damaged or vulnerable areas of recently-handled or stocked fish.

Heavy metal neutralisation:

heavy metals are toxic and are readily taken up by fish from their environment. Specific reactive compounds are added to the tap water conditioner to precipitate heavy metals from solution, making them no longer available to fish.

Consequently, as tapwater has deteriorated for koi, tapwater conditioners have risen to the challenge to provide our koi with neutralised and safe tapwater.

The most frequently used pond treatments are arguably those aimed at ridding our ponds of blanketweed and other nuisance algae. Compared to tap water conditioners, where the approach is targeted specifically at neutralising chlorine and chloramine, algae (and specifically blanket weed) treatments may take one of several different approaches at ridding a pond of unwanted weed growth. This area of pond care is witnessing frenzied activity by many manufacturers to find the 'magic bullet' for blanket weed, with several different approaches being used to defeat blanket weed on many different fronts.

There is considerable legislative pressure to find new blanketweed treatments because by the end of July this year, we will all witness first-hand the implications of the PSD's (Pesticide Safety Directorate) new herbicide related legislation as it starts to affect all herbicides available for sale, with most having to be withdrawn. This gives manufacturers an even greater incentive to pursue new avenues of research when looking for novel and safer ways of addressing the ubiquitous blanket weed problem.

Herbicides.

Only a handful of herbicide pond treatments will be available for sale after July. Herbicides work by directly interfering with a plant's biological pathways compared to other treatments that may work indirectly by making the pond water itself less hospitable to algae growth. Two of herbicides that are found in pond algae treatments are the closely related to terbutryn and simazine. Plants are unique organisms on the planet in that they are able to convert light energy into chemical energy through reactions that take place in chloroplasts, courtesy of the green pigment chlorophyll. The functioning of the significant link in this chain, called Photosystem 2 is irrevocably affected by the two herbicides terbutryn and simazine, making photosynthesis impossible thereby preventing the plant from growing.

Microbial and enzyme products.

As the legislative clock continues to run down on those herbicides passed by the PSD, 'greener' remedies for blanketweed are being demanded by both government and consumer pressure. Microbial products are the new dawn and represent the future of treating blanket weed and nuisance algae in ponds. Compared to using a herbicide which may take the form of a one-hit remedy, a microbial remedy for the same problem will require regular dosing by virtue of the way the treatment works. If you think of a herbicide as a reactive treatment, killing the blanket weed itself once it has appeared, then microbial treatments are more proactive, making the environment less hospitable to blanket weed growth in the first place by removing the phosphates and nitrates from pond water.

How do microbial treatments work?

The secret behind how microbial treatments work lies in the way that the enzymes that they produce affect the concentrations of nutrients in pond water.

What are enzymes and how do they work?

Enzymes are best described as being biological catalysts, in that they are produced by a living organism to speed up the rate of a specific reaction. Enzymes are usually largely protein and are unchanged after the reaction, though being organic, may themselves be broken down in the pond by bacteria. Enzymes are very specific as to the type of reaction that they can catalyse (or speed up) and it is vital that a microbial blanket weed treatment contains and produces the correct enzymes for the job.

Enzyme activity is affected by several environmental factors, such as the temperature and pH of the pond water, with each enzyme having an optimal set of conditions. Generally, the warmer the pond water, the greater the rate of activity of the enzymes in the water up to a threshold temperature, above which enzyme activity is usually reduced. ____

We produce and secrete numerous enzymes into our digestive tract in order to aid the breakdown of insoluble foods into soluble by-products that can be easily utilised and transported around our body. Because bacteria usually only consist of a single cell, they must digest their food by secreting enzymes out through their membranes, into the surrounding environment and it is this strategy that we as pond keepers who are plagued by blanketweed can utilise.

The bacteria that are developed and cultured for treating blanketweed are special microbial cultures generated through laboratory techniques using innovative methods of selection, acclimatisation and production. The select bacteria produce enzymes to breakdown various materials into easily assimilated by-products, enabling the bacterial colony to continue to thrive, producing a potentially self-perpetuating system. Bacteria are selected on their enzyme producing characteristics.

A microbial pond treatment will consist of a blend of dried bacteria and enzymes themselves that are used to kick-start the decontamination of the pond water while the dried, selected strains of bacteria rehydrate, divide and start to produce and release more of the specific enzymes necessary to digest the particular target compounds in the pond water.

Just as enzymes require specific environmental conditions in which to work, the enzyme-producing bacteria also require a near neutral pH, warm water, sufficient oxygen and appropriate nutrients in which to thrive. As you will have probably already guessed, microbial preparations have been used to digest and decontaminate other compounds in the other industries such as herbicide and pesticide residues, petrochemicals, dyes and other industrial wastes. For example, those that produce enzymes that break down fats or oil and grease can be used to clear blocked drains, whereas those that secrete sedulous digest in enzymes will be cultured and could be used to breakdown wood pulp.

Microbial pond treatments will contain a range of different bacterial strains, each releasing a different enzyme. This produces a highly-effective enzyme cocktail that will reduce the nutrients in a pond, preventing the re-growth of blanketweed.

Bacteria found in a microbial treatment against blanketweed might include:

* Bacillus amyloliquefaciens

Breaks down starches and carbohydrates

* Bacillus subtillis

Breaks down starches, proteins + fats

* Bacillus licheniformis

Converts nitrates into nitrogen gas

* Cellulomonas biazotea

Breaks down cellulose

Our garden pond environments lend themselves ideally to the use of microbial pond products because they are enclosed, recirculating and bacteria-friendly places. Microbial pond products are to be looked at as treatment programmes, rather than one-hit-fixes and as a consequence, will require a longer period for them to become completely effective in a pond. In their favour of they are completely natural and harmless remedies that pose very few (if any) over dosing risks to us or our koi.

Did you know that the PSD (Pesticides Safety Directorate) was removing more than 30 algaecides from sale from July 2003 and over the next 18 months?

 

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