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Healthy Pond Keeps Water Clean, Fish Happy
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One of Don Bradley’s female koi is this 7-year-old beauty with fanned butterfly fins that he named “Mama.”
For those who like the thought of a gurgling pond, filled with pretty koi and floating lily pads in their backyard, Don Bradley, owner of Healthy Pond, is the man you should pencil into your calendar first.
Bradley moved to Oakdale and started his new business after his job with Georgia Pacific was downsized after 30 years of employment. Wary of just doing nothing, he turned what had been a relaxing hobby for the past 20 years into a business venture and he hasn’t regretted that decision yet.
“For years I used to help out friends and family with their ponds and over the years I’ve perfected the process. It’s something I enjoy. Listening to the waterfall and feeding the fish, it’s so peaceful and relaxing,” Bradley said.
Bradley built his first pond —†1,200 gallon, kidney-shaped — in the backyard of his Modesto home in 1983 and it’s still functioning.
“My daughter, she was 11 at the time, she helped me dig the hole,” Bradley said, remembering. “I’ve learned a lot since then.”
Bradley, a member of the Inland Koi Society of San Bernardino, can sit down with prospective pond owners, talk to them about what they will need in terms of equipment and habitat, as well as perform monthly checks to ensure that their ponds are healthy and their fish are happy.
For people who already have ponds but are experiencing reoccurring problems such as cloudy water, stressed fish, or any number of issues related to owning a pond, Bradley is happy to come out and diagnose the problem.
“Most people don’t do enough research and have insufficient equipment,” Bradley said of the problems he sees most commonly among pond owners. “Location is important, too. Is the pond getting too much sun? Is the water hard? Is the water pH balanced? There’s things you can do that are pretty simple that will fix the problem. But the best advice I would give to new pond owners is to get in touch with someone in the industry to discuss their plans because there’s always a lot of questions.”
Another aspect of pond ownership that many new owners aren’t aware of is the cost of maintenance, Bradley said.
“It’s not cheap,” Bradley said. “It’s an ongoing expense but it’s an investment.”
An investment not only in your home but your sanity, Bradley implied.
“There’s too much stress in the world today,” he said. “More and more people are turning their backyards into their paradise so they can forget about the world.”
Bradley speaks from experience. 
“After a long, hard day I looked forward to sitting outside by the pool and feeding the fish,” he said. “It’s very relaxing. I could let the rest of the day just fall off my shoulders.”
And if pond owners plan to put koi in the pond, there are things one should know about the fish, such as koi — although you can pet and hand feed them —†are easily stressed.
“Koi are a high-strung fish. They’re thoroughbreds bred for color and their scales start to turn colors when they’re stressed. Water quality is very important and you need air in the pond. A waterfall will aerate the pond and plants are good, too,” he said.
Bradley will test a pond for alkalinity, pH, nitrates/nitrites, and hardness.
“Fish will adjust to some things but you have to watch for pH swings,” he said.
Koi also have interesting mating habits, which can send a female fish flopping out of the pond to bake on the rock or cement pad.
Apparently, the male koi take turns bashing the female to knock her eggs loose to start the spawning process and some of the more exuberant males can send the battered female bouncing right out of the pond.
Then, after the eggs are released, the koi enjoy gobbling them up.
Currently, Bradley has seven koi in his pond and only plans to go to nine. 
“I try to keep the pond gender-balanced,” he said of his own pond, which features bloodlines from Japan. “But I let nature take its course. So far, we haven’t had any babies.”
For more information on Healthy Pond, call Don Bradley at 848-9191.