Pond Protein Skimmers: Koi Pond Bio Filtration

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Page Summary: You can be pretty sure that if you never feed your koi your fish will continue to thrive. OK they will not grow as big and you will not have the fun and excitment of seeing your koi or goldfish feed actively (your fish in the pond are pets after all) but they will scrape together a living from the other aquatic and terrestrial life forms that appear in every pond... the most common food item is the larvae of mosquitoes. Other morsels might be snails, worms, "drowned animals", and other lifeforms that find their way inevitably into a fish pond. The major problem associated with feeding koi or goldfish is to feed too much rather than too little. This creates significant bio filter problems and possibly health problems for the fish in the pond. One critical rule: always feed high quality food. Cheapest food is definitely NOT the BEST nor frankly the cheapest economically

Protein skimmers

Protein skimmers are a relatively new type of device designed to make the bio filtration process in ponds more effective and efficient. In essence pond skimmers help to maintain stable pond water quality in koi and goldfish ponds by using proven foam separation technology, simply and inexpensively.

What is a pond skimmer?

A basic pond skimmer is a device that will help you to get rid of floating and dissolved debris to minimize the amount of undesirable "gunk" that flows through the bio filtration system.

While a good quality filter will do a pretty good job when it comes to keeping pond water clear (with UVC), clean and healthy, by helping the filter to operate at maximum efficiency, a skimmer helps to prevent any possibility of the water from getting discoloured, murky and unhealthy.

A good pond skimmer will certainly make pond water look a lot clearer.

The original pool skimmers were designed for swimming pools and they would quite simply skim the surface of the water and so get rid of leaves and other floating debris before it started sinking to the bottom where it would degenerate and pollute the water.

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Any good quality fish pond skimmer will be made from heavy-duty components as well as debris nets to catch the dirt, brush panels that reduce pool maintenance and weir openings. The better the quality of the material, the longer it will last. For example a stainless steel framed trap net will probably last a lifetime. Well made, it will allow you to trap and then get rid of leaves and debris, but it won't trap fish or frogs in the skimmer unit.

What is a protein skimmer?

A protein skimmer, or more appropriately a foam fractionator, also removes material from pond water, but it does it by literally floating dissolved debris and other contaminants to the surface with bubbles (or foam). The foam separates the dissolved material from the water, which is something that mechanical filters cannot do.

Even though the name, "protein skimmer" seems to imply that only protein is removed from the water this is not the case. In fact it is able to remove all kind of dissolved compounds, both organic and inorganic.

There are various different types of protein skimmers, but essentially they all consist of:

What a pond skimmer can do for your koi or goldfish pond

Quite simply, a pond skimmer will make your fish pond cleaner than it would have been without the skimmer. While pond filters – together with the manual changing of water – keep our ponds reasonably clean, protein skimmers go that much further, ensuring that the water remains clear, clean and healthy. The filter will strain debris and organic compounds, but it won't remove them from the pond completely. You do this by cleaning the filter. A protein skimmer, on the other hand, does permanently remove this unwanted matter that would otherwise continue to pollute the pond water.

Most of the organic matter is what scientists call DOC (dissolved organic carbon). When we don't install a protein skimmer, the only way to get rid of a build-up of DOC is to do a partial water change of the pond. That involves draining dirty water and replacing it with clean water. But when we install one of these new-age pond skimmers, even the tiniest traces of DOC are removed on ann ongoing basis, so manual water changes are not necessary.

What happens is that DOC molecules create stable bubbles in the pond water, which become foam. The more foam the skimmer creates, the more DOC there is in the water. This foam rises above the surface of the water and is channelled into a collection chamber in the skimmer unit. Some units are fitted with a pipe that drains the foam from the unit, out of the pond. Others have to be emptied manually. Either way, your koi will be a whole lot happier without any DOC accumulating in their environment.

On this site we don't pretend to be "Koi Crazy" despite the fact that you will see I refer to koi more often than not.

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