Increased Fish Kills Another Result Of Drought

By: Jason Tarr Email
By: Jason Tarr Email

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Friday, July 27, 2012

Gwen Johnson has lived in the Preston Trails neighborhood in east Wichita for 12 years. But so far, she hasn't seen anything like this.

"I just thought it was trash or rubbish that had blown there," Johnson said.

A closer look revealed one dead grass carp after another in the pond behind her home.

"To have fish floating in it is rather unpleasant," Johnson said.

Unpleasant as it may be for people, area wildlife experts say it's not uncommon during the summer. It's a problem many communities face.

"Now that it is warm outside, the oxygen levels are going down and fish are just suffocating," said Tonya Bronleewe, Natural Resources Agent for Sedgwick County Extension. "There is not enough oxygen to keep them alive."

Bronleewe says part of the reason for the decreased oxygen levels is not enough rain to cycle the water.

"We don't have the inflow and the outflow we are used to and the water is just stagnant," Bronleewe said. "That just makes it worse."

Also, algae that gives off oxygen is dying in the heat and sinking to the bottom.

"All the decomposers at the bottom of the pond, they are animals, and they suck up the oxygen and that leaves less oxygen for the fish," Bronleewe said.

So, how do you know if your pond has an oxygen problem?

Bronlewee says the size of the fish is often an indicator. Big fish tend to be most affected.

Another sign may appear in the morning. That's when oxygen levels are at their lowest point for the day.

"If the fish are up at the top gulping for air, that's when you know they are stressing for air and it may be time to get an aerator or a fountain or something like that," Bronlewee said.

Gwen Johnson says she's confident the local homeowner's association will take action like that to help fix up the pond.

"I'm sure it will get cleared up," Johnson said.

To report a fish kill that you think might be linked to a lack of oxygen, you can call (316) 683-8069. The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Tourism works with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

If you suspect a blue-green algae problem, log onto the Kansas Department of Health and Environment website and submit the online Algal Bloom Report form.

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