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Using a Trough as a Pond

Plastic troughs meant to feed farm animals are perfectly safe as fish ponds.

By Stephen M. Meyer

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Q. I've had salt and freshwater aquariums for years, and for the past three years I've goldfish in a wading pool each summer, bringing them in before it freezes. I'd like something more durable and deeper, and was thinking of using a 100- to 150-gallon plastic watering trough intended for livestock. How can I be sure that the new trough (from a feed store) won't be toxic to my 12 4-inch comets? Since I bring my fish in and drain tank over the winter, how can I keep lily pads and cattails alive to use again next year?

Also, my fish don't spawn. Are they too young? I've had them for two years. They eat a variety of frozen and dried food while in the house tank. Once outside they also get live food and floating pellets.

Last, I have a 12-inch plecostomus I'd like to move outside for the summer. Will this work? Thanks for the information that you provide each month. It has helped me a lot over the last few years.

A. The plastic troughs sold through feed stores are perfectly safe for fish. Rubbermaid, for example, has a half dozen models from 50 to 300 gallons that make fine above-ground pools, as well as excellent filter boxes for biological and vegetative filter systems.

Cattails and water lilies can be overwintered most effectively using a tuber storage method. Wait until late fall, after the leaves have yellowed. Remove the plants from their pots and cut back the leaf and stalk growth. Treat the tubers gently, being careful not to crack them or snap off the brittle roots that protrude. Place them in a bed of water-logged vermiculite and store them in a cool (preferably less than 55 degrees Fahrenheit) and dark location. Some people have good success wrapping the tubers in damp paper towels and newspapers. Keep the tubers damp and cool all winter.

The readiness of your fish to breed is conditioned by their age and their health. The timing of their spawning activity is triggered by environmental cues: increasing daylight and rising water temperatures.

Goldfish tend to become sexually mature at two years. This varies as a function of health, nutrition, genetics and environment. Even mature and healthy goldfish may not exhibit spawning behavior if they do not get the right cues. If you maintain a constant water temperature in your aquarium and they do not get sufficient natural light to sense changing day length, they may never breed.

You can increase the likelihood of breeding by maintaining low water temperatures (around 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit) between December and March, and then raising the temperature slowly during March and April. At the same time, allow the tank to receive indirect natural light (by placing it to the side of a window) so the fish can sense the lengthening day. Putting the fish outdoors in early April will accomplish much the same thing.

The pleco can go outside once water temperatures rise into the upper 60s consistently. It will thrive outdoors. Just don't put it in the same pool as the goldfish!

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