Aeration: Good Management. Good Fish Insurance.
In an earlier newsletter, we emphasized the importance of maintaining aeration equipment. This issue, we want to relate how aeration not only sustains a healthy environment but how aeration management provides an insurance policy for protecting money and time invested in developing your fishery.
During the next few months, ponds and fish experience the most stressful period of the pond management season–high water temperatures and varying oxygen levels. Too often, we receive phone calls about folks finding the surface of their pond covered with dead fish. Others are swimming in circles on the surface. When inquiring about conditions, we commonly learn there’s a dense plankton bloom or there was heavy rain runoff during the past 24 to 36-hours. If the problem is associated with plankton, the decomposing material is sapping already short oxygen supplies from the water. If there’s been strong rain, the event likely caused a turnover.
As ponds stratify this time of year, they create a thermocline at mid-depths of the water column. Zones above the thermocline to the surface hold oxygen. Areas below the thermocline to the bottom are void of oxygen. Cold rainwater is heavier than warm surface water. As cold water enters the pond, it’s like Drano accumulates along the bottom, and quickly pushes bottom water with no oxygen to the surface. The sudden action kills fish. Unfortunately, many ponds are five years or older. Mature fish are the first affected. Losses may include big catfish, six to eight-pound bass or quality bluegill tipping scales at one pound. Installing aeration is no guarantee to prevent a fish kill from some other rare water quality event. These valuable systems do, however, contribute more stable environments and an insurance policy to protect against sudden loss from years of work growing a successful fishery.
We may sound like a broken record when preaching benefits of aeration, but these systems are unsung heroes in minimizing potentially damaging events involving oxygen depletion. Don’t risk losing a mature fish population. Greatly improve water quality with a system that recycles the water column approximately every 48 to 72-hours. Aeration increases productivity and helps all aquatic life thrive.
Adding bottom aeration diffusers now might spare you an unfortunate event. Installation under current conditions, however, requires CAREFUL planning with strict start-up procedures. Failure to follow start-up steps may create the catastrophe you’re attempting to prevent. Some new aeration owners flip the switch and allow the unit to operate continuously instead of beginning operation with brief intervals. The sudden push of dead water to the surface replicates a turnover. Typical start-up is one hour the first day, two hours the second, four hours the third, eight hours the fourth, and 16-hours the fifth. On the sixth day, it can operate 24-hours daily. In the south, you may turn them off in December and restart in March.