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Thread: Some Contrarian Thoughts: Promote Greenwater For The Summer

  1. #1
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    Some Contrarian Thoughts: Promote Greenwater For The Summer

    In the course of recent reading about greenwater algae, I came across a Peter Waddington story on his KoiKichi website in which he suggests encouraging greenwater over the warm summer months. I have commented in the past that I thought greenwater would be wonderful, if only it could be controlled; but the risk of oxygen depletion, etc was just not worth the experiment. To read Waddy promoting greenwater seemed a worth sharing, but I could never capture the spirit of Waddy's writing through a summary statement. Besides, his writing has always been grand entertainment, as well as informative. He definitely has his own biases, tends to exaggerate in his enthusiasm and enjoys a bit of controversy, so one should never take anything at 100% face value. Still, this tale is a worthy one, which I am copying here in greatly abbreviated, edited form, without the off-topic branchings so common in a Waddington tale…:

     ‘GIN – CLEAR WATER’
     ‘CRYSTAL – CLEAR WATER’
     ‘WATER LIKE GLASS’
     ‘PERFECT CLARITY ASSURED’

    The above often-used terms are repeatedly made in glossy advertisements by most pond filtration manufacturers the world over as their main selling point. These statements, often backed-up with money-back guarantees, tempt many thousands of Koi and pond enthusiasts to buy their products/designs purely as a result of these terms.
    And why not, if we wish to be able to see our collection of fish in fine detail at all times? Isn’t this the ultimate achievement and thus ‘proof of performance’ of any filter box? Surely there cannot be any higher aspect to strive for in any pond filtration system? Or can there?

    There are only two main factors that really stand in the way of crystal-clear water. One is brought about by a sudden and perfectly natural ‘algae bloom’ that soon produces ‘green water’ in various shades. These range from lime green through to British Racing Green and vary on a daily basis. *** [Greenwater algae are not harmful to koi], but their presence can reduce dissolved oxygen content in the pond – especially in warmer water temperatures. This can obviously have a serious secondary effect on the fish unless more aeration is given to raise dissolved oxygen content back to normal levels over 6.0ppm. The pond keeper can easily remove these algae forms and prevent them from striking in the first place with the help of ultra-violet clarifiers or ultra-violet sterilisers.

    *** The other factor that prevents crystal-clear water from being achieved is that of visible debris ranging from very large particles right down to the ones termed by many pond keepers as ‘fines’ which are absolutely minute. [Use mechanical filtration and dump out of the system.]

    ***If you really wish to see thousands of real ‘KOI’ in all sizes and all price bands/qualities possible and in perfect ‘bouncing condition’ – you could do worse than take a trip to Yamakoshi during October or November immediately after the harvests have taken place.

    The obvious ‘condition’ of these creatures is truly a sight to behold and the ‘very best’ on display are positively breathtaking and truly the ‘stuff of dreams’ for we Koi people. These Koi have just completed their last summer vacation (The Golden 90 Days) – in the hundreds of man-made field ponds (mud ponds – doro-ike – luxury hotels) of the surrounding mountainsides where their keepers have manually provided ample pelletised foods for them up to four times a day. To add to their luxury, the water temperatures have varied between ‘comfortable’ to ‘positively tropical’ and there’s the odd, tasty titbit for ‘snacking’. In short, this is pure heaven for a few coloured carp whose owners have considered them and some other lucky brethren to be worthy of the cost and labour involved in pampering them to the full.
    [Photos showing muddy and green mudponds.] ***

    ________________________________________

    Admittedly, the water ‘clarity aspect’ could do with some improvement if we humans wish to be able to ‘see’ the Koi within – but is crystal clear water really worth the risk in these field ponds?
    I assure you it’s not!

    Add to this ‘new-found’ crystal clear water, the powerful daily dose of the sun’s rays beating down upon the water surface. Within a few hours only, the white skins of the most precious varieties (Go-Sanke) will show the initial signs of ‘ultra-violet de-generation’ or, to the rest of us – sunburn! The skin’s previous pure white ground will now show shadows of ‘pinkiness’ – but only down to the lateral line; leave this alone for a day or so and it will become an angry purple; leave this alone for a further day and it will start to ‘peel’; after a day or so more – huge lacerations will be visible later to be further complicated by bacterial infections – leave all this alone and the Koi will die – IN AGONY!

    This is not unique to mud ponds by any means, I first came across this in the early ‘70’s after achieving true ‘Nirvana’ in my own garden pond by way of crystal clear water for the very first time. *** Experts of the day instantly diagnosed my problem as ‘Columnaris Chondrococcus’ and thus followed a course of Gentamycin injections. To carry all this out properly, I moved the affected Koi into an indoor system and started to follow the injection advice to the letter. This expert advice produced complete, wondrous and almost instant results – I was now an experienced Koi doctor and had all the practical results to prove this. Others in the UK also were suffering with this problem and so they contacted me for advice as to how to effect the cure. Of course I passed it all on in great detail only to find that few had my same measure of success. It was not to be until some four years later that I actually found the truth of it all by visiting the Fisheries Department of Stirling University and mentioning this problem to Professor David Roberts. He smiled and took me to an aquarium that contained a few small home-bred ‘Shiro Bekko-types’. Upon instructions, his assistants placed a huge lamp assembly over the aquarium and switched it on after we first put on sunglasses that were insisted upon. The light was blinding and we left for a coffee, 15 minutes later we returned to find our white Koi were now pink down to the lateral lines but still nice and white below. It was then pointed out that the sunlight could not penetrate below the lateral line and the culprit was indeed ‘sunburn’! This also affects Fresian Cattle; white horses; white mice and any other white creature that does not seek adequate shade from the hot sunlight.

    Gentamycin had nothing at all to do with the ‘cure’ – it was merely the shade that produced the result. However, sunburn can very easily be avoided in crystal-clear water by providing ample shade for our Koi as can be seen used widely in enthusiasts ponds from warmer climes in other countries.

    Now, back to the muddy green water as seen in the Japanese field ponds. [Waddy tells story of meeting the creator of Refresh brand clay and becoming introduced to the use of clay in the concrete pond.] *** he poured the contents of the bowl into his pond, in seconds the water had the similarity of that of a field pond seen above and the Koi had vanished from sight completely. He then stated that he used this whenever his pond turned clear during the summer months by repeating the dosage as and when required.*** Of course the product was ‘Re-Fresh’ that I later introduced into the UK in early 1984 although it was a struggle to even begin to explain to enthusiasts that it would be wise, for the health of their Koi, to forsake their crystal-clear water in exchange for mud! ***

    [Waddy then tells the tale of a fellow whose high-end koi had declined terribly due to poor pond design and filtration. The decision is made to have a proper pond built and Waddington agreed to take care of the 13 degraded koi in his own pond after relocating his personal koi during the pond build:]

    Early May 2009 – ‘The Sorry 13’ arrived and were released into my pond, even sorrier than before. Prior to this I had decided to do the very best I could to get them into some ‘reasonable condition’ in the summer months to follow because I do love a challenge! Within three days of the 13 being introduced my hitherto crystal-clear pond had turned into what you see here. [Photo with very green water.] Heavy aeration; heavy filtration; GOOD food daily and water clarity as GREEN as I can possibly get it. The ultimate aim of getting green water to a thickness whereby I can slice it into sections with a carving knife has not yet been achieved as of August 2009 but I still have another 8 weeks to try for this.

    Admittedly ‘controlling good, green water’ is, at most, a hit and miss affair at the least. The damned filters keep kicking in and ‘interfering’ with the planned process from time to time and we are thus seeing differing degrees of ‘clarity’ on almost a daily basis. Leaving only 13 ‘large-ish Koi’ in some 16,500 gallons of lush, green water without adequate filtration is not something to be seriously attempted. This product of nature has to be harnessed in some way and, as I see it, good aeration and good filtration are the only tools available.

    [After about 11 weeks, some of the koi were netted for inspection and Waddy & crew "marvelled" at how improved the koi were:]

    [Photo of gorgeous Sanke.]
    ________________________________________
    This Sanke was affected with hikui 11 weeks ago, not as badly as some others but there all the same. Now there is not even a trace and, believe me, I searched from a distance of six inches! The skin and pigmentation are superb and the overall condition is as perfect as possible. Another 5 Koi were then inspected, some with very bad hikui before now only showed some 30% of the previous areas and we still have another two months of controlled green water ahead.

    It is now that we should consider just what the effects of ‘non crystal-clear water’ will have on Koi that go into it in perfect condition for a period of time in the summer months ... Then we should ask ourselves if it is more important to give our Koi almost perfect conditions or is the greater importance that of being able to show them to our non-Koi friends in crystal-clear, sparkling water at summer barbeques? One simple way around this is to switch on U/V’s 10 days before the event and then switch them back off the next morning.

    Then there’s always the thought that we will always have 8 months or so of crystal-clear water for the rest of any given year. Is 10 weeks lack of precious squeaky-clean clarity so much to go without?

  2. #2
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    And, to follow up, I can recall many Waddington articles on filtration and posts on the old NI board in which he proudly exclaimed "gin clear water" as a great accomplishment. And, I know of nobody who uses koi clay additives so frequently as to keep their pond muddy throughout the summer. That would have to entail daily dosings (at incredible expense if one used Refresh brand clay). 'The Great One' is not anything if not inconsistent in his hyperbolic flamboyances.

    So, I read the above as a challenge to self-satisfied thinking more than a set of instructions. Something to consider in the pursuit of perfection.


    ...I have some personal observations on the subject, but no time to post now.
    Brian and bobbysuzanna like this.

  3. #3
    Oyagoi RayJordan's Avatar
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    Easy to confuse what is done in a large mud pond utilized to grow koi a summer season with the much different environment of our high stocking rates in relatively small backyard ponds with a recirculating filter system. Dense green water is kind of like having a tiger by the tail. Sooner or later is will turn around and bite you. leading to stress producing episodes of pH and oxygen swings. Any sudden die of of algae can be a disaster of organic pollution and decomposition that can clog biofilters and plumbing lines.

  4. #4
    Jumbo sacicu's Avatar
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    How does green water and use of refresh clay inconsistent?

    Cant one not have "clean"green water with excellent parameters while using refresh clay as well?

    Or if that is not possible use refresh only when there is not sufficient sunlight to grow green water. Once the season allow green water, refresh clay is remove to let the green algae do its job as natures cleanup mechanism.

  5. #5
    Oyagoi yerrag's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sacicu View Post
    How does green water and use of refresh clay inconsistent?

    Cant one not have "clean"green water with excellent parameters while using refresh clay as well?

    Or if that is not possible use refresh only when there is not sufficient sunlight to grow green water. Once the season allow green water, refresh clay is remove to let the green algae do its job as natures cleanup mechanism.
    I thought from reading Mike's post that what Waddy espouses is to use Refresh to provide some murkiness to protect koi from the sun's summer intensity. Seems like a good idea if I substituted Refresh with bentonite or zeolite so it wont cause so much. But then, the water can only clear up and become clearer after these flocculants' clarifying effect kicks in.

  6. #6
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sacicu View Post
    How does green water and use of refresh clay inconsistent?

    Cant one not have "clean"green water with excellent parameters while using refresh clay as well?

    Or if that is not possible use refresh only when there is not sufficient sunlight to grow green water. Once the season allow green water, refresh clay is remove to let the green algae do its job as natures cleanup mechanism.
    I was referring to inconsistencies with other writings of Waddington in which he has promoted particular filtration techniques or systems to maintain 'gin clear water', and writings that raise the spectre of greenwater as a sign of bad pond conditions. Of course, views change over time.

  7. #7
    Sansai nivek's Avatar
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    With regards to the reference on hikui, over here ponds that are not covered with some sort of shade will have kois developing hikui sooner or later as compared to those that are covered due to the extreme sunlight.

  8. #8
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    I think the most important point made in Waddy's essay is the one Ray has underscored with his comments:

    "Admittedly ‘controlling good, green water’ is, at most, a hit and miss affair at the least. The damned filters keep kicking in and ‘interfering’ with the planned process from time to time and we are thus seeing differing degrees of ‘clarity’ on almost a daily basis. Leaving only 13 ‘large-ish Koi’ in some 16,500 gallons of lush, green water without adequate filtration is not something to be seriously attempted. This product of nature has to be harnessed in some way and, as I see it, good aeration and good filtration are the only tools available."

    In other words, if only everything was readily controlled, but greenwater algae are not readily controlled. When uncontrolled, the risk of mass death is very real. Indeed, mass deaths occur in mudponds around the world, including in Japan and including the ponds of master breeders, when the combination of a heat wave, greenwater and inadequate aeration occur. I could tell the story of my loss a few years ago of an amazing Showa in the mud due to this combination, but just thinking about it remains depressing.

    Waddington's observation of hikkui going into remission and vastly improved skin and pigments on koi kept in greenwater is nothing new. Japanese writers were quoting breeders making the same observations in Rinko articles published in the 1980s. Greenwater ponds were also said to promote the healing of ulcers, help restore pigment lost from scrapes and cuts, cure finrot and other bacterial infections, and promote overall robustness. Even back in the 1980s, these observations were not new. They were discussed as being ancient knowledge from the earliest days of nishikigoi. There are articles on hikkui recommending that koi be placed in mudponds for a summer to 'cure' the condition. And, such summers in the mud resulted in apparent cures. But, the hikkui recurred after the koi was returned to the clear water of the hobbyist's pond.

    My first observations on the beneficial aspects of greenwater actually go back to the 1960s, when as a kid I would spawn tropical fish indoors in aquaria and then raise up the fry in kiddie wading pools sunk in the ground. The most success was when the water stayed green. I'm sure availability of tiny fry foods in the greenwater was the major factor, but I now think there may have been other benefits when the young fish had outgrown tiny foods. With koi, the occasion that is most memorable was when my current koi pond was built. An above ground swimming pool was set up to hold my koi while the pre-existing pond was torn out and the new pond built. Among my koi was a Sanke that seemed to have some sort of bacterial skin problem which I now know was a form of hikkui. I had no time to deal with the fish in the midst of the pond build, so it went into the temporary pool. That pool became brilliantly green within a couple of days and the koi were completely invisible. It took only about two weeks to construct the new pond. When it was done, and it was time to get my koi out of that green soup, I called a friend, HenryC, and asked him to bring his injection kit and antibiotic. I was sure the Sanke would need treatment, if not beyond hope. When we got the Sanke out of the pool, there was absolutely no sign of anything being wrong despite having been in what appeared to be abysmal conditions. It was beautiful after being in that greenwater for just two weeks. But, 8 or 9 months later the hikkui condition had returned worse than ever and the koi was rehomed.

    If that koi had been regularly summered in greenwater, could it have been enjoyed indefinitely? Perhaps, but as Ray emphasizes above, the dynamics of a huge mudpond are not the same as our hobbyist ponds. There is risk in the mudpond. That risk is multiplied many times over in the home pond.

    What I find very curious is how Waddington kept greenwater going for as long as he says. A mature pond with properly sized bio-filtration will not stay very green for long.... Just a few weeks in my experience. The nitrifiers within a mature biofilm will out-compete the greenwater algae. So, was Waddington's pond under-filtered? Immature? I think it must have been, despite some of the things said in the article. Back when I was raising tropical fish in little wading pools, the water did not stay green even without any filtration. By late August, as summer was ending (this was in Kentucky, not Florida), the water would be quite clear. An 8-week period of truly green water was about the longest. Four to six weeks was more often case. Perhaps Waddington's experience is keyed to the climate of the UK and the types of unicellular algae composing greenwater there? There are numerous species involved and they do vary around the world according to climate. I'm sure greenwater could be maintained for long periods in warm climates through nutrient boosting, etc., but I am not so sure the water would be very healthy. And, in warm climates the risk of oxygen deprivation would be so high that continual monitoring would be essential. Perhaps a computerized monitoring system with literal bells and whistles to sound an alarm would mitigate the risk, together with a huge amount of work and constant attention.

    In the real world, it is not going to happen.

    Still, if you happen to have a bit of a green tinge appear in your pond during a spell when the bio-filters cannot quite keep up or have been setback by some disturbance, it isn't necessarily an emergency. I'll leave to others to reach their own conclusions on whether it might have some benefit beyond the algae consuming ammonia while the nitrifiers are making their comeback.

  9. #9
    Jumbo sacicu's Avatar
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    @Bro Nivek
    In a sense I have observed same as true. However, there were some ponds that had partial shade but had bad filtration setup but the water was not allowed to go green because of lots of UV and some of the koi also had hikui.

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    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    Hikkui is quite a mystery in itself. It is associated with sun exposure, genetic pre-disposition, high nitrate levels, but none of these factors seem to explain every instance. Why a period in greenwater temporarily resolves it, while keeping in well-shaded conditions does not seem to help established cases (but may reduce new occurrences???), has not been explained satisfactorily by anyone. I can make various guesses, but none hold up 100%. No doubt the effectiveness of greenwater algae in blocking light and consuming ammonia is at the root of the 'cures'.
    nivek likes this.

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