Prepping Your Pond for Emergencies
Is your water garden or koi pond prepared for a natural disaster? Earthquakes,
hurricanes, floods, etc can wreak havoc in countless ways. Our ponds and fish are
not immune to these disasters. Many of us take steps to prepare ourselves for these
situations, but often forget that our ponds and prized fish need a little forethought as well.
If a disaster strikes, hopefully it will at least be with some advance warning. With some
time to prepare, the following steps can help reduce the severity of any problems.
- Stop feeding your fish as soon as possible. Goldfish and koi will be fine for
weeks with no food being added to the pond. By stopping the food, you can
reduce the ammonia buildup in the pond. If your power might be out for days,
this would mean your filtration would not be able to break down this ammonia.
You can resume feeding when the situation has returned to normal.
Place pond netting
over the pond. This netting can keep light debris out of the water. It can also help
keep your koi in the water, koi have a tendency to jump when stressed and could
otherwise end up outside the pond. Additionally netting that is secured tightly can
keep fish from swimming out of the pond in very heavy rains.
- Perform partial water change. Water quality is key, help the fish by going into the
disaster with fresher water. Replacing 25-50% of the water with fresh water can
make for dramatically better water quality.
- Clean filters. We just want to make sure everything is in as good of shape as
- Consider turning off pumps that pull water from the pond bottom or raising them
off the bottom. If the plumbing line gets damaged, this could pump all the water
out of the pond.
- Ensure any air pumps are located on high ground to prevent being flooded out in
- If heavy rains are expected you may want to drop the water level to make room
for the influx of new water. You may also wish to buffer the water (raise the KH
value) to help stabilize the pH as a lot of rain can alter the pH.
- Have needed supplies on hand. These include test kits, dechlorinator, ammonia removers,
hydrogen peroxide, activated filter carbon, pond buffer, and pond salt.
This next section covers steps to take once the disaster is upon you
whether you have time to prepare or were caught off-guard. This is
assuming that the disaster has left you
- Consider a generator. Generators have been known to save many thousands of
dollars of koi. While generators are not necessarily cheap it may be the best way
to ensure your fish stay alive. If you get a generator, make sure you know how
to use it before hand and have fuel available. If you have to make the choice
between running a water pump or an air pump choose the air pump. It generally requires less
electricity and provides more oxygen to the fish. Also, make sure the generator
is not near the pond or the air pump as you certainly don’t want to inject carbon
monoxide straight into the water.
- Another option is an uninterrupted power supply (UPS). With an air pump
plugged into a UPS, you can get at least a few extra hours of aeration after the
power goes out.
- An inverter is another options for providing needed electricity. This device can
run off of a car battery converting the DC to AC.
- A battery-powered air pump can work for a pond with a very light fish load.
These may be sold for aquariums or from fishing supply companies where they
are used to keep bait alive.
- If worst comes to worst and there are no options for providing power, hydrogen
peroxide can be added to the pond to increase dissolved oxygen levels. This can
be added at a rate of ½ cup per 100 gallons up to 4 times per day. Make sure it is
well dispersed in the pond.
- Beneficial bacteria in a filter begin to die very quickly with no water flow. If you
have an air pump running, you can keep the filter alive by dropping an air stone
directly into a filter.
- Oxygen levels will be lower with warmer water. You can place a tarp supported
well above the water to keep the sun off the pond and keep the water temperature
After power is restored and the situation is back to relative normal a few more steps can
help ensure a positive outcome for your fish.
- When the power was off, it is best to unplug pump so that when the current
returns it will not pump the water out of the pond in the event that there was
damage to the plumbing. You want to be able to observe the pond when the
- Any filters that were sitting without water flow should be emptied to flush out any
accumulated hydrogen sulfide from the anaerobic conditions.
- As soon as possible, performing a partial water change to dilute any buildup of
ammonia or other toxins would be time well spent. Again 25-50% would be
- Note that city water will often have extra chlorine added to it after a natural
disaster. If you are not able to monitor the chlorine levels, use a little extra
dechlorinator if you add fresh water.
- Adding activated carbon into your filter can absorb any remaining toxins.
Remember if there was a lot of rain or high winds, potential toxins could have
come from miles away.
As mentioned before, in the even of an emergency situation, water quality is key. An
overstocked pond is more likely to suffer disastrous consequences than a pond fewer fish.
If you are in an area prone to hurricanes, earthquakes, or any other cause of extended
power failures consider this in advance and consider finding a new home for a few extra
Finally, all this is to help you get your pond and fish through a disaster. You and your
family are more important than your fish, so please take care of yourselves first and