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Old 03-31-2012, 08:47 AM   #1
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Question fetid whiskey barrel ponds

I have started a couple of half-whiskey barrel "ponds" on my patio, and am experiencing a problem. Here is the setup:
The barrel-halves are unlined, and have the charred wood layer on the inside which is used in the whiskey aging process. They were pretty fresh when I got them, and hold water without a problem. Both barrels are in a place where they get about 6 hours of direct sun and then are shaded by the house in the afternoon.
In one, I have a small clay pot with a pond lily (Nelumbo lutea). In the other, I have about 15 mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis) and some coontail (Ceratophyllum demersum) and southern naiad (Najas guadalupensis) to help oxygenate the water (free-floating). I don't have any kind of aeration device in either one.
In both barrels, after about 2 days, the water takes on a fetid odor, becomes cloudy, and is obviously very low in DO. the Gambusia start gulping air at the top of the water.
I have tried changing the water, but after two days, I'm back where I started.
Any ideas what is going on? I would like to put goldfish in both of them, and keep the gambusia (to control mosquitos).
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Old 03-31-2012, 09:05 AM   #2
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Are you sure the barrels were fresh and never used to store any whiskey? Maybe there's residual stuff in there generating co2. Even if it holds water I would line that with the rubber sealant they use for plywood tanks.
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Old 03-31-2012, 10:05 AM   #3
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Yeah, that's about what I've concluded, too. The barrel halves smelled pretty strongly of Jack Daniels when I got them, and you can still get a whiff every once in a while. Can you give me a link to where I could buy the sealant you mentioned?
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Old 03-31-2012, 10:14 AM   #4
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It will take a while for the barrels to be clean of the alcohol. numerous fill and drains need to be done, allowing time for whatever is in there to leach out. Lots of people used to make barrel wash by adding water to whiskey barrels and allowing it to sit for a period of time. The resultant wash was pretty close to the original, if somewhat weaker. did you remove the charcoal layer?
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Old 03-31-2012, 10:19 AM   #5
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BillD: No, I left the charcoal in, thinking that it would be harmless at worst, and might even remove impurities for a while. I've changed the water several times, and the odor (of whiskey) is getting less noticeable, but I think there must be some bacteria or something hiding in the crevices between the staves that is causing the problem. I'm going to try putting the fish and plants in a plastic container and see if the problem goes away. If so, I'll line the barrel halves and see if that works. Thanks, all!
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