If you have considered cutting the ties that bind your homestead with the unpredictable future that correlates with grid dependence, then you’ve probably also thought about how you would sustain your family’s dietary needs.
You have already stocked up on plenty of food, water and various supplies to protect your family in case of a grid-down emergency. But you know as well as anyone else does that if the grid stays down for too long, then those supplies are not going to last, and you will have to think of other ways to ensure that your family stays fed.
If you are already living on a homestead furnished with a pond, then you are living with a valuable resource. Having a productive watering hole with a bountiful fish population to supplement your family’s food needs can be a priceless commodity, but if you don’t keep a close eye on it, a lot can go wrong.
Making sure that your pond is providing your fish with a healthy place to live is crucial. Let’s go over some pond basics, so that the next time your water begins to darken or your fish begin floating to the surface, you’ll know exactly what to do.
How Your Fish Breathe
Many people living with ponds nearby don’t consider all of the natural variables that can have a drastic effect on the health of that pond. Just like we rely on plants to provide the air with oxygen for us to breathe, ponds rely on aquatic plants to provide the water with oxygen for the fish down below.
The most common aquatic oxygen suppliers for most man-made fish ponds are phytoplankton and zooplankton. Both of these types of algae are essential to the life of the pond. Through photosynthesis, these aquatic creatures release vital oxygen into the water that fish need to survive. If a pond’s oxygen levels begin to fall off, then the fish will become stressed and die.
So how should a pond owner determine if oxygen levels are at their optimal levels? A simple visual observation of a pond’s water can tell a pond owner a lot about its health.
Many people think that green water isn’t clean water, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing when it comes to fish ponds. If your pond has a light greenish tint to it, then odds are that plankton levels are at their best and your pond is receiving adequate oxygen from the photosynthesis that these plants provide.
If your pond has large areas where the water looks dark or black, then you may have an issue with expiring plankton. When a large bloom of plankton dies, it will appear as a large, dark mass in your water that can cause oxygen depletion – which will ultimately affect your fish population. If you suspect that your pond is suffering from a large loss of plankton, then it’s important to make sure that harmful runoff isn’t making its way into your water. Hillside runoff and chemicals are usually the culprits for expiring pond blooms.
How Your Fish Eat
Making sure that your fish are properly fed is another integral part of maintaining your pond’s fish population. But does that mean that you will also have to stock up on fish pellets? And what happens when the grid is down and you run out? It’s not like you will be able to just run down to the general store and buy some more.
When it comes to ensuring that your pond’s fish population has plenty to eat, it’s important that you feed your plants first. This comes by way of proper pond fertilization. Fertilizer applications to ponds will provide the right nutrients and balance to allow pond plants – like phytoplankton and zooplankton – to flourish. And since small fish actually feed off of zooplankton (the larger of the two types of pond plankton), you will be supplying your fish with oxygen AND sustenance, all through proper fertilization.
But what if your typical fertilizers aren’t readily available? According to a paper published by Clemson University’s Extension Forestry and Natural Resources Department, applying lime – an abundant natural resource – to a populated fish pond can increase pH and nutrient levels, which can help support your pond’s plankton population. And a healthy plankton population means plenty of nourishment for your fish population.
Harvesting Your Fish
Another fundamental part of keeping your pond’s fish population healthy is by harvesting your fish appropriately. Taking too many of one particular species can cause the less-desirable species to flourish – taking over your pond and producing little benefit in return.
Not harvesting enough fish, however, can have detrimental results on your pond, such as a population of fish suffering from malnutrition due to heightened competition for food sources.
So how many fish should you be taking home with you on a stringer, and how many should you be throwing back?
Well, that depends.
It’s easy to see the obvious differences in ponds across the country, but even ponds just a few hundred yards away from one another can have completely different characteristics. That’s why it’s important for you to consider these three things when determining the proper course of action before harvesting fish from your own pond.
1. How large is your pond? Removing about 45 pounds of bream from a one-acre pond per year is actually recommended by the Mississippi State University Extension Service. Taking the same amount from a quarter-acre pond, however, will most likely kill off your bream population. Knowing your pond’s size is a vital first step toward properly maintaining its fish population.
2. What types of fish are stocked? Ponds that are stocked with bass and bluegill are common pond setups in the South, but throwing a few channel catfish into the mix can cause excessive food-source competition. Grass carp can help reduce algae blooms that consume ponds in warmer climates, but too many can reduce the very plankton that is necessary for pond oxygenation. Making sure that you are harvesting the right type of fish in the right quantities each year is crucial for your pond’s success.
3. What regional factors are affecting your pond? Ponds that are being cared for in the North are going to face different challenges than ponds being maintained in the South. That’s why it’s essential for you to study up on the various environmental factors that affect the area in which you live. Ensuring that your pond’s fish population is prepared for the hard freezes of the North – or the summer droughts in the Southwest – will give your aquatic food supply the best chance for survival.
Preserving your pond’s fish population can provide your family with bountiful food to eat for generations to come. Making sure that your particular pond is getting the best possible treatment is largely dependent on the particular area that you live in, so check with your local department of natural resources or university extension office for local insight into your pond’s maintenance needs.
You may just find that getting a head start on maintaining your pond’s fish population is as easy as wetting a hook.
What are your pond and fish maintenance tips? Share them in the section below: