Frequently asked Questions & Sturgeon Information
I hope this covers most of your questions. There is more information on the rest of this site and on Pond Life, which includes our friendly forums where you can chat with other pond and sturgeon keepers.
Questions & Answers
Q: Why do some sturgeon bend in a to a 'U-shape' and lay on the bottom (or some times float)?
A: This is often the sign of malnutrition; as the fish starves the body breaks down the muscle tissue to supply energy to live. This leaves the fish with no muscle and eventually the fish is unable to move and death soon follows. See the Sturgeon food and feeding page for more information about feeding sturgeons and their nutritional requirements.
Q: How can I get my sturgeon to feed?
A: A very common question. If your sturgeon stops feeding, it is very difficult to get it to start again. Try the following steps:
- If there are a lot of other fish it may be better to separate the sturgeon, as they are not competitive for food.
- Try feeding bloodworm or tubliflex worms; these can be purchased frozen from tropical fish shops.
- Once the sturgeon is feeding well, add pellet food to the worms to take on the flavour, this will encourage the fish to eat pellets.
- After a week or two the sturgeon should take pellets on their own.
If your sturgeon is malnourished and won't eat it may be possible to bring it back from the brink but it does require some effort and dedication. Learn from some of the success stories on our Sturgeon Forum:
Q: What is the smallest pond I can put sturgeon in?
A: This depends on the species but don't even think about keeping any sturgeon species in less than 1,000 gallons (4,500 litres) and bigger is always better. The pond must be filtered and well aerated.
- The Sterlet (Acipenser ruthenus) is the smallest species and can be kept in 1,000-2,000 gallons (4,500-9,000 litres) for some years but 2,000-3,000 gallons (9,000-13,500 litres) is recommened if you want to keep one into adulthood as they can still reach up to 3ft (1m) in length.
- The Stellate sturgeon (Acipenser stellatus) is a very active species that will need 3,000-6,000 gallons (13,500-27,000 litres) to ensure it has enough room to swim freely.
- The Siberian sturgeon (Acipenser baerii) and the Diamond sturgeon (Acipenser gueldenstaedtii) can be kept in 3,000-6,000 gallons (13,500-27,000 litres) for some time but 6,000-8,000 is recommended if you wish to keep them into maturity.
- The Beluga sturgeon (Huso huso) is a very fast growing and large predatory species that is not recommended for all but the specialist keeper. A Beluga sturgeon can reach 6ft (2m) in four years and won't stop there so if you are considering keeping Belugas you are going to need a pond of at least 15,000 gallons (68,000 litres).
Q: What is the best and safest way to treat my sturgeon?
A: Salt (PDV, cooking or dish washer, NOT TABLE SALT) 0.15gm per litre of water (2oz per gallon) for a maximum of 15 minutes, in the form of a bath. This can be carried out every other day for 3 or 4 treatments and will clear/kill fungus and most skin parasites. See Medications and treating sturgeons.
Q: Do sturgeons mix with other fish?
A: Yes, they are no problem and harmless to all but the very smallest (less than 3cm, 1½in) fish, even then they are unlikely to catch them. A word of warning; once the other pond fish have eaten the sturgeon food they will be very competitive for it. Small sturgeons are shy and will struggle to find food.
Q: Why do sturgeons die during hot weather but the other fish are survive?
A: Sturgeons require high levels of oxygen and most other fish can survive much lower levels so sturgeons will die when other fish can breathe without trouble. Always have a back up air pump to help during hot weather and to act as a back up.
Q: Why do my sturgeons swim around the pond edge at night?
A: Sturgeons normally eat shrimps and snails which hide most of the day and come out at dawn/dusk so the sturgeon swim around looking for them.
Q: Can I keep sturgeons indoors in an aquarium?
A: No! They grow too quickly.
Q: Do sturgeons require filtered ponds?
A: Yes. They require high oxygen levels and it is difficult to achieve this in a non filtered pond, as the only way is to have lots of plants but plants use oxygen at night and sturgeons can get tangled in them. Otherwise a large lake would be OK (but only if you have permission from Cefas and an ILFA license from Defra).
Q: Do sturgeons keep the bottom of the pond clean?
A: No. There is no fish that will clean a pond for the following reasons; waste is called waste because it's waste! The main components of the waste are: soil (not edible) dead plant material (no food value) and old fish waste (no food value.)
Q: Do sturgeons eat plants, blanket weed or algae?
A: No. Sturgeons are true carnivores, not herbivores or even omnivores. Carnivores.
Q: Why do my other fish eat all the sturgeon food?
A: Sturgeon food is much better quality and has a higher food value i.e. more protein and oil. Other fish soon work this out so always feed the floating food first.
Q: Why do sturgeons 'jump' or 'bob' around the edge of the pond?
A: The sturgeons are looking for food. They cannot see what they are eating so they must run over the food with their 'feelers' to taste it; this entails the strange bobbing up and down at the edge of the pond. In other words they are hungry.
Q: How fast will my sturgeon grow?
In a pond situation rough growth rates should be approximately:
- Siberian: 90cm (3ft) in 5-6 years
- Diamond: 90cm (3ft) in 4-5 years
- Albino Sterlet: 60cm (2ft) in 5-10 years
- Sterlet: 90cm (3 ft) in 8-10 years
As you can see, the rates are quite different from what farms can achieve but it does the fish no harm to grow slowly and in fact it produces a better fish.
Q: Why does my sturgeon lay still in the daytime?
A: Sturgeons are most active from dusk to dawn and in the strong sunlight will spend most of their time laying about sleeping, only the prospect of food will draw them out normally. Albino sterlets are very lazy and often only feed early morning late evening.
Q: Sturgeon and the Cold. Will sturgeon survive our winters?
A: Names like Siberian Sturgeon and Russian Sturgeon should give it away. Cold is not a problem, they will tolerate much colder weather than we will ever get.
Q: Is a license required to keep sturgeons?
A: Pet shops and anyone else selling and/or importing sturgeons must have an ILFA (Import of Live Fish Act) license as well as a pet shop license. http://www.defra.gov.uk/aahm/files/Form-ILFA1-Leaflet.pdf
ILFA:However, those wishing to keep grass carp,sturgeon/sterlet and ameiurid/ictalurid catfish in garden ponds and indoor aquaria or red shiners and fathead minnows ('roseyreds') in indoor aquaria (other than aquaria on retail or wholesale premises) are covered by a general licence and need not apply for individual licences.
So you don't need a license to keep sturgeons as pets in your own garden pond (as defined in the ILFA leaflet).
ILFA:Garden ponds - are described as discrete, isolated bodies of water not exceeding one acre in size on private residential premises, with no risk of escape of fish into the wild, and that are not used for fishing or any commercial purposes related to fish rearing or dealing.
[2015 addendum] New non native controls - ILFA 2014 Order. On 17 February 2014 the Prohibition of Keeping and Release of Live Fish (Specified Species) (England) Order 2014 came into force replacing the earlier 1998 and 2003 orders with regard to the keeping of non native freshwater fish in England. Keeping sturgeon (of the genera Acipenser and Huso) in ornamental wholesale or retail premises is now covered by the general licence so individual licenses are no longer required.
Feeding your Sturgeon
The most frequently asked question is about the feeding of sturgeons. This page and the Sturgeon food and feeding page should answer most of your questions. If you have any others please contact me. This may seem a little dull (sorry but fish food is not very exciting to talk about) but it does offer good advice that has worked for me, many customers and friends.
You are what you eat!
Sturgeons, like other carnivores, cannot, whatever people may claim, digest most plant proteins as they lack the enzymes required to break it down. Recent studies have shown that a small percentage of the required protein can be obtained from soya but it cannot replace fishmeal altogether. Therefore any sturgeon food that contains wheat or soya meal as the main ingredient is in fact no good for sturgeons. Vegetable protein is often used in fish diets as it is cheap compared to fishmeal. A small amount of wheat or soya meal will be needed to bind the food together and does no harm.
Sturgeon food should have a minimum (fish based) protein content of 40% and an oil level of 15% or more. Sturgeons require between 2-3% of their body weight per day, depending on size, to grow at their correct rate.
Most fish need to feed regularly through out the day as their gut is short and has a small capacity, so a number of small feeds are better than one large feed.
Due to the slow nature of sturgeons it important that you feed the other fish in the pond first to stop them eating all of the sturgeon food. When the other fish have eaten the sinking food can be thrown in for sturgeons. The sturgeon food is more often than not better quality than other foods so unfortunately the other fish will rush after it before the sturgeons have realised there is any food to eat.
Sturgeons normally live in depths where little light reaches, as you will have noticed they do not react well to sudden movement, so the need for good eye sight is not important. They mainly rely on light-dark differences not specific shapes or shades of grey. This means they are unable to see food, they must run over it with the 'feelers' that hang from their top lip to sense food, which they then pick up.
Feeding your Sturgeon in Winter
Like most fish, sturgeons reduce their food intake in colder weather as they don't use as much energy (cold blooded; no built in heater) so feeding can be reduced in quantity and frequency, but they still require food if they are active (as do all fish). In the recent mild winters it has become more important than ever to feed during the mild temperatures, otherwise the fish will waste away and die form malnutrition/starvation. Also, more importantly, the fish will become more susceptible to disease in the spring as the water warms up (the number one problem time of year for fish and their owners).
So the answer is to feed if the fish are active and only a small amount, just enough to keep them ticking over until the spring.
Just to quell any winter feeding issues
You can feed high protein in winter, as it does not rot in the fish if the temperature drops. This is true for the following reason:
Fish in the wild eat most of the year, ask any fisherman, if they died when the temperature dropped there would be no wild fish would there?
If any food becomes indigestible in cold weather it is wheat germ. The reason for this is:
Animals that eat plant protein generally use other life forms to digest it (i.e. bacteria) and they require a higher temperature in order to help the bacteria work faster, so cold weather is the opposite to what they need.
All my foods are feed trialed before they are released and many of the feed trialers use my food for their own private fish.
It is OK for the other pond fish to eat sturgeon food in the winter; it will not do them any harm. If they want to feed, let them.
Pellet to Sturgeon size
- 3mm pellet Sturgeon 15-36cm (6-14in)
- 4.5mm pellet - sturgeon size 30-50cm (12-20in)
- 6mm pellet Sturgeon 36-61cm (14-24in)
- 8mm pellet Sturgeon over 61cm (24in)
Sturgeon Feed Testing
We are often asked why our sturgeon food is the best choice for your sturgeon. Well, our Sturgeon food is made and used by one of the largest Sturgeon farms in Europe. They are growing the fish to increase the value (a Sturgeon farm is a business). The most important objective for them is to get the best growth rate and least wastage for the least cost and in the quickest time.
An independent test conducted (not by Orchard Fisheries) on the three main foods on sale showed how the less 'caring' food manufactures are really not even remotely interested in fish health and the most important thing is a pretty packet and a nice company car.
Sturgeons and Oxygen Levels
In the hot weather I receive many phone calls and e-mails asking why sturgeons die at night. It is quite simple, oxygen starvation. Every summer for the last 30 years I've had people asking me why their fish die in the hot weather. Please get it sorted, it's not difficult. Here are the main factors that affect the oxygen levels:
- As the temperature rises the water carries less oxygen.
- Most ponds carry around 70-80% oxygen saturation at best.
- If a pond drops to less than 6mg per litre the sturgeon will start to suffer.
- In hot heavy weather (thunder storms) the levels drop even lower.
- Chemical treatments will lower the oxygen levels.
- Algae treatments kill the algae and the dying algae consumes oxygen causing the level to drop.
- Dirty filters use more oxygen; remove as much solid waste as possible as soon as you can.
Tip: Buy an air pump;, there really is no excuse, they are so cheap now, less than the cost of one fish!
Get the oxygen levels sorted before the summer:
- By an Oxygen test kit. Ideal levels 6mg per litre or more *
- Check that the air pump is in good working order; check the airlines for holes or splits, check the diaphragm and replace if necessary.
- Buy new air stones or check old ones; if you can't blow through them neither can the air pump.
- Provide some shade for the fish; it not only offers a cooler place but shelter from predators.
- Remove blanket weed as often as possible.
- If the pond temperature gets too high add cool tap water to reduce it.
- Get a spare pump in case you have a problem, even a cheap sump pump will help.
- DO NOT turn pumps off over night; this will kill the sturgeon (and other fish) very quickly.
- If the pump clogs clean it. Don't wait until the morning it could be too late.
* Please note oxygen levels change during the day so test first thing in the morning, as this will be the lowest reading.
Remember plants produce oxygen during daylight hours and use oxygen by night so a pond with a lot of blanket weed could reduce oxygen to dangerously low levels (especially for sturgeons), so be warned!
If the weather is set to be very warm, reducing the food will reduce the oxygen demand of the fish.
Written by Terry White & Graham Quick