Pond & Water Garden Installation & Maintenance Guide
This guide is designed as an introduction to Pond and Water Garden installation and maintenance. Follow these simple steps and concepts, and you will enjoy many years of simple and beautiful pond ownership.
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Location can play a key role in the long term success of your pond, so it deserves a little extra consideration before you make any plans. Make sure you keep maintenance in mind when choosing your location. A pond that is easy to maintain will ensure that keeping up the pond is not a burden, and leaves more time to enjoy your pond.
Things to consider when choosing a location:
Local Laws: Check on your local zoning, HOA or other regulations that may affect you. Make sure you comply with any restrictions on what or where you can build, or if you need a fence?
Utilities: Don’t just blindly start digging up your yard, know where your utility lines are located. Cable TV, Gas, electric or others can be buried where you least expect them. Make the call and get your utilities marked. The service is usually free, and worth being sure about. In Pennsylvania use the PA 1 call service to have all your utilities marked by the suppliers. Dial 8-1-1 or 1-800-242-1776, you can also visit http://www.pa1call.org for more information.
View: You are building a pond to enjoy it, make sure that you choose a location where you can easily see the best features of your pond. Next to a patio or deck, near an entranceway, out the kitchen window, or near other places where you spend a lot of time, will increase your enjoyment.
Trees: Avoid placing your pond directly underneath large trees. Falling leaves and branches can rapidly clog and damage your filtration or puncture your liner. Sap and decaying leaves from certain trees can make a real mess, and affect water quality. Try to benefit from the shade of a nearby tree - just don’t place your pond underneath one if possible. If Trees are unavoidable, use of a leaf net and extra maintenance time will be needed.
Electric: Your pond is going to need power, so you will need to have a plan to use an existing electrical source, or budget for a new electrical line to be installed. New electrical service can be expensive, but is also the best choice. A dedicated electrical service with GFCI protection is safe, and is required by code in wet locations. If you are using an existing electrical outlet, make sure you know what else (if anything) is running on the circuit, and be sure that you are not overloading the outlet or circuit. If the existing outlet is not GFCI, you should look into installing one, or having a GFCI breaker installed to protect the circuit for safety.
Drainage: Take note of the water drainage on your property; avoid locating your pond in an area that is likely to fill with runoff during heavy rain. Your pond design should include an elevated perimeter so that potentially hazardous runoff cannot get in your pond, you may also need to consider using berms, or gulleys to divert rain water from your pond. Drainage from the pond itself needs to be taken into consideration also: where is the water going to go if the pond overflows? Don’t wait until the afternoon you left the hose running to find out. Include an overflow plan in your pond and landscape design.
Direct Sunlight: The ideal location will have a good mix of sun and shade. Too much sunlight can help promote algae growth and high temperatures. Too little light will limit what kind of live plants you can keep, and how well you can see your fish. A good thing to look at here is the light requirements of any particular plants that you would like to keep. If you are dead set on a plant, make sure it will have a good spot in your design. Most plants are going to require 6 – 8 hours of direct sunlight per day to thrive. Study the shadows in your yard, and how they change throughout the day. If you have no shade, you will have to use surface covering plants or an Ultraviolet Sterilizer/Clarifier system to keep your water clear.
Fish or No Fish: Pond size and depth are going to be your determining factors here, along with your local winter weather. In Northern climates where freezing is an issue, a 24-36” pond depth is going to be required to insure that fish can live outside all winter. Goldfish, which only reach 12" in length, can be kept in smaller ponds under 1000 gallons. Larger ponds 1000 gallons or more are required for keeping Koi, which can reach lengths of 36” or more as adults. Koi require more open space for swimming, and can also be destructive to pond plants if allowed.
Pond Plants: There is a huge variety of pond plants available today, and you can incorporate elements into your pond design to properly display and grow them. Pond plants are not just aesthetically pleasing; they also take in nutrients from your pond water and improve water quality. Hardy pond plants are tolerant of colder weather, whereas tropical plants are only going to survive in warmer climates. Design your pond with shelves and areas of different depths, so that you can keep many different types of plants happy. Most plants will have a planting guide that shows the depth, light, space and climate that they will do best in. If you have a few plants that you know you want to incorporate into your pond, make sure that your design will allow them to thrive. For Koi Ponds specifically, some pond builders install a shallow bog area for plants, so Koi are unable to uproot them.
Layout: Once you have taken all these things into consideration for your garden pond, you can start to visualize and make a plan. I like to use a garden hose or a length of rope, to work on the actual shape of the pond. This allows you to easily experiment with a few shapes, and get the pond to fit in exactly how you want it. You can use spray paint or flags to mark the perimeter so you only dig out what you need. There are many choices available for pond liners, including preformed hard liners in various shapes for smaller ponds, and flexible liners which allow for creating a pond in any shape or size you desire. Make sure you include your filter placement in this step, especially if using a skimmer and waterfall type filter.
Choosing a Pump and Filter: The different types of pumps and filters are covered in detail below. Deciding what type of filter you need is going to be determined by the other choices you have made. Pond size, water features, fish, plants, & sunlight will all play a role in your pond's filtration needs.
Digging a Hole: This is where your dreams meet reality, and where most want-to-be pond owners have some tough questions to answer. Can I do this myself, or does what I really want require a professional? Can I dig the hole by hand, or do I need to get some heavy equipment involved? Do I rent equipment, or pay someone who is experienced with excavation to do the work for me? This will all depend upon your design and skill level (and what you find in the ground after a few shovels: a big rock can change the best of plans).
Your pond liner is what enables your pond to hold water, defines the shape of your pond, and making the best choice for your situation is critical to the success or failure of your pond. The information below provides an overview of pond liners and applications to help you choose the right type of liner for your installation.
Selecting A Liner
Pond liners are available in different sizes and different materials to fit any pond enthusiast's ambitions. There are three basic types of liners to choose from; pre-formed liners, roll liners and liquid liners. Pre-formed liners come in a variety of shapes and sizes and are very easy to install, however they can limit the creativity of the installation. A second type of pond liner is a flat roll liner, Roll liner can be made of either EPDM (Ethylene propylene diene monomer) rubber, or PVC (Polyvinyl chloride) plastic. Roll liners will conform to any shape pond you may want, simply stretch and fold the liner to fit the shape you have created. These types of liners are sold both in custom sizes, or boxed in pre-cut sizes. Roll liners are available in several different thicknesses, making them appropriate for a wide range of projects. Generally EPDM rubber liners are considered more durable than PVC liners. This is especially important if you're planning on keeping creatures like turtles in your pond which could easily scratch a hole in a thinner liner. PVC liners are lighter and easier to handle, and are an excellent choices for small ponds and patio water features. A third type of pond liner that is available is a liquid pond liner. Liquid pond liners are usually made of Neoprene or EPDM rubber, and are the most difficult of the three to install. In most cases liquid liners are applied over a concrete formed pond, which allows for great flexibility in design, and the most professional looking product. Liquid pond liners are not ideal for cold weather climates due to the damaging effects that freezing and thawing can have on concrete.
There are many similar products available for other industries, primarily roofing, that are NOT fish safe. Roofing materials should never be used in a pond or water garden. Another consideration for pond liners are warranties and guarantees. Quality liners will have a fish safe warranty, as well as sunlight UV protection guarantee.
Even the best pond liner can perform poorly if it is not properly installed. There are a few things to keep in mind when installing your pond liner. The most important step to insuring a successful installation is protecting your liner from sharp objects and tree roots. The use of an underliner, or fine sand, will help protect your pond liner from puncture. It is also a good idea not to cut your pond liner until you are completely sure you have it the way you like it, and make sure that you have completely filled your pond before trimming of any excess. Once cut, pond liners are not easy to seam. Here is a simple formula for determining the size pond liner you require:
Length of Liner: (Length of Pond) + (2x maximum depth) + (2 feet for overlap)
Width of Liner: (Width of Pond) + (2x maximum depth) + (2 feet for overlap)
Pond Filtration – What's Right for Me?
Choosing filtration for your pond is a big decision you will have to make, and there are many options. Pond filters can be categorized in to four basic groups, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Below you will find information on Submersible Pond Filters, External Gravity Pond Filters, External Pressurized Pond Filters and Surface Skimmer/Waterfall Pond Filtration Systems.
Submersible Pond Filters are commonly used on small ponds and water features and are noted for their ease of installation. These filters are a favorite of people with patio ponds or barrel ponds. As the name suggests, these types of filters sit on the bottom of the pond and filter the water internally. Water is drawn through submersible pond filters by a submersible pump, which can be attached to the filter either internally or externally, and then discharged into the pond. Pond filtration generally takes place through a replaceable mechanical filter pad and a permanent biological filter. These filters must be removed from the pond for maintenance and cleaning, which is why they are not recommended for heavily stocked ponds or ponds with high debris loads. The water discharge from submersible pond filters can simply re-circulate water into the pond, or power a fountain or small waterfall. Many submersible pond filters include a fountain kit with purchase. Some filter models also include an integrated ultraviolet (UV) sterilizer feature, which further aids in purifying and removing algae from your pond's water. These pond filters can be used in both flexible liner ponds and pre-form type ponds.
External Gravity Filters
In external gravity pond filters, water is pumped from the pond or water feature into the filter, and then flows back into the pond by gravity. These filters must sit above the water level of the pond and are usually placed at the pond's edge. External gravity pond filters typically have a reusable/replaceable filter pad for mechanical filtration and permanent biological filter media. These pond filters are easily maintained and installed, and due to increased capacity for filter media, are generally more efficient and can handle larger debris loads than submersible pond filters. Some external gravity pond filters also incorporate ultraviolet (UV) sterilizers for further pond water clarification and algae removal. Unlike many submersible pond filters, external gravity pond filters require the purchase of a separate pond pump for operation.
External Pressurized Filters
External pressurized pond filters allow the greatest flexibility in locating your pond filter. Unlike other pond filters, these filters can be placed further away from your pond or can even be partially buried to hide them into your landscape. The function of external pressurized pond filters is wide ranging: from small to very large ponds. Basic pressurized pond filters consist of a sealed canister that is fed pond water through tubing from a pump. The water is then forced through a mechanical and biological filter media, then exits the filter and is returned to the pond. Basic pressurized pond filters need to be disassembled for cleaning and maintenance as flow decreases due to clogging. More complex styles of pressurized pond filters have backwashing ability. "Backwashing" is the ability to reverse the internal flow of the water and divert the outflow of the filter to a separate waste line away from the pond. By backwashing the pond filter, you can significantly reduce or eliminate the need to disassemble the filter for manual cleaning. Some external pressurized pond filters also incorporate the use of ultraviolet (UV) sterilizers into their design to further clarify and eliminate algae from your pond's water. External pressurized pond filters can be used on both flexible liner and hard pre-form type ponds. A separate pond pump is required for operation.
Surface Skimmers & Waterfalls
Surface skimmers and waterfall pond filters are two part systems designed for use on medium to large flexible-liner ponds. The first part of this pond filtration system is the skimmer box. The skimmer box is constructed from rigid plastic or fiberglass and is attached to the pond edge at ground level outside the pond. A "doorway" is cut in the pond liner and the liner is sealed to a matching opening in the side of the skimmer box, which typically houses a net or basket to catch floating debris and a filter pad for mechanical filtration. Surface skimming traps leaves and other surface debris before it can sink into the pond, keeping the pond much cleaner. A submersible pump inside the Skimmer box sends water to the second component of these pond filters: the waterfall filter. The waterfall pond filter is typically located on the opposite side of the pond from the skimmer box. Water is pumped from the skimmer box to the waterfall filter where it passes through biological filter media and then returns to the pond, cascading as a waterfall. Another benefit is that all the components of this system, including the pump, are outside of the pond, allowing easy access to everything. All of the components are easily concealed with landscaping and rock work, creating a very natural looking installation. The surface skimmer and waterfall pond filtration method is the preferred method for larger ponds and is used by many professional pond installers.
A pond pump is essential to pond maintenance. Most ponds require some sort of pump to power a filtration system, water feature, or for simple pond water circulation. Many types of pond pumps exist and each has its own unique features and applications.
There is a wide selection of pond pumps available, but all are rated the same way. The abbreviations GPH or LPH, meaning gallons per hour or liters per hour, are used to measure the maximum performance of pond pumps. Another common term used when rating the performance of pond pumps is maximum head pressure or head height. Head height is the measure of resistance to flow caused by friction and gravity. Pond pumps will have a maximum head pressure rating, this is an approximation of the distance in feet (both horizontally and vertically) that a pump can push water though your plumbing.
As head pressure increases, pump performance decreases, knowing the head pressure of your application is critical to your pump selection. A pumps maximum head pressure rating is the point at which the pump will no longer function. The effects of gravity on head pressure is very simple; every vertical foot of distance the pump moves water equals one foot of head pressure (1:1 ratio). The effects of friction on head pressure is a little more difficult to calculate. Every ten feet of pipe through which water will travel horizontally contributes 1 foot of head height (10:1 ratio). Every 90 degree turn in your plumbing will contribute 1 foot of head pressure (1:1 ratio). For example: if you were to install your pump 30 feet from the top of your waterfall, which was 4 feet above the pump, with two 90 degree elbows in your plumbing your water feature’s head height would be 9 feet (horizontal distance contributes 3 ft, the vertical height contributes 4 ft, and the 90 degree turns contribute 2 feet). In this example you would want to choose a pump that has the desired GPH rating at 9 feet of head pressure. Tubing size is also an important factor in accounting for head pressure loss, in general you should never reduce the diameter of the tubing below what the output size of the pump is, this will drastically increase head pressure, and reduce pump performance. For maximum pump performance, using the largest tubing that is practical is the best choice.
Types of Pond Pumps
Below are some common pond pump types, as well as common pond pump descriptions.
Statuary Pond Pumps: By far the most commonly used pond pumps, these submersible magnetic, or mag drive, pumps use electromagnetism to rotate an impeller and force water out. This method of forcing water is usually among the most energy efficient systems. Perfectly safe for fish ponds, these non-oil lubricated pond pumps are available in sizes to fit most ponds. They are ideal for powering everything from a small pond spitter to a waterfall system. They are easy to maintain and to service. Statuary pond pumps or magnetic drive pumps are an excellent value in reliability and energy efficiency.
Direct Drive Pumps: Designed to power water to greater head heights, Direct Drive Pond Pumps utilize electric motors that physically turn the pumps impeller with a drive shaft. Direct drive pumps are usually more resistant to head pressure performance loss, but require greater energy demands. Direct Drive pumps can be external or submersible in design. Some submersible Direct Drive Sump Pumps are lubricated with oil, making them unacceptable for fish ponds, though many recent models use a type of lubricant that is completely fish safe.
Submersible Pond Pumps: Submersible Pumps are designed to operate completely submerged in your pond, and many need the water to keep them from overheating. Many submersible pond pumps include integrated pre-filters or filtration systems, as well as pond fountain systems. Submersible pond pumps are very easy to install, however they must be retrieved from the pond to perform maintenance. The unobtrusiveness of submersible pond pumps allows you to easily conceal them; and they won't disrupt your outdoor activities with unwanted noise. Some Submersible pumps can also be used in-line outside of the pond, though this is usually not their ideal application.
External Pond Pumps: External Pond Pumps, or in-line pumps, are typically installed on large ponds, and offer maximum performance when high flow rates and head pressure are required, such as with large waterfalls or Pressurized Filters. External Pond Pumps tend to be more difficult to install than their submersible counterparts, but generally require less routine maintenance. If your external pump is not self-priming, extra measures must be taken to protect your pump in the event of a power outage, with the use of check valves. External pond pumps can be more noisy, which could disturb outdoor activities. A typical swimming pool filtration system uses an external pump.
Debris Handing or Solids Handling pumps: This term is applied to submersible pumps which are specifically engineered to handle large debris loads with little risk of clogging or damaging a pump's impeller. These pond pump powerhouses can continue to move water through difficult conditions. Debris handling pumps, also sometimes referred to as waterfall pond pumps are usually more powerful and more expensive than their counterparts, but are a good value due to the minimal maintenance required for operation.
Waterfall Pumps: Waterfall Pumps can process high volumes of water loaded with moderate amounts of solid particles, and are ideal for use with external filtration systems and for creating streams and waterfalls. Most modern waterfall pumps are energy efficient, and have built in protective housings that prevent clogging and keep larger damaging debris out of the pump's impeller.
Nobody is happy when their pond water turns green, or when masses of thick green algae erupt from seemingly every surface in your pond. You work so hard to keep your pond clean, clear and looking good, but even with the best efforts, algae can appear in a flash. Sunlight and high nutrient levels are the perfect combination for growing algae. Future algae outbreaks can be prevented by addressing water chemistry issues such as the presence of high phosphates, high nitrates or other organic nutrients with water changes and chemical filter media. Sunlight can be limited with shade, surface covering plants, and even water dyes. While these underlying causes should certainly be addressed to eradicate and prevent future algae outbreaks, they will not be a fast cure for your algae problems.
To take care of an existing Pond Algae problem you may need to take a more aggressive approach. There are numerous products for pond algae control (both natural and engineered) on today's market to help you rid your pond of annoying nuisance algae. When you reach the point that you are thinking about using an Algaecide, it is important to know how to use them correctly to ensure that you are using the best product for your situation.
The first thing to know when applying any treatment is the size (volume) of your pond. Overdosing, particularly with chemical algaecides, can be lethal to pond animals and plants. Calculate the volume of your pond with these formulas: Rectangular ponds - Length x Width x Average Depth x 7.5 or for round ponds - 3.14 x (radius)2 x Average Depth. Make sure that all of your measurements are in feet. For oddly-shaped or angular ponds calculate using the surface area x the average depth, or calculate the volume of small areas and add them up. Once you know how much water you have to treat, you'll be on the way to successful algae control.
Next you'll want to explore the various types of algaecides and algae-fighting treatments available to find one that will suit your needs. What kind of algae are you fighting? Do you have livestock in your pond, or do pets and other animals drink from the pond? Do you have ornamental plants in the pond that may be affected by the treatment you use?
Try Alternatives to Algaecides First
Natural solutions including barley straw products, biological additives and fish safe water dyes may be the first options to explore. As the lignin in barley straw biodegrades, natural compounds act as oxidizers to combat algae. This process happens over time as the Barley Straw breaks down. Barley pellets, extract and other variations work the same way, but faster, as the compounds are more readily available in these forms. Biological additives boost bacterial that help to digest muck in the pond, reducing nutrients that feed algae. Water dyes and tints block the sunlight and prevent algae from forming and taking over. These methods allow for continuous control, simply replenish the straw as it degrades and the dye as it fades to keep algae in check.
When Taking the Conservative Approach Doesn't Work
For ponds already overwhelmed with algae, free-floating algae blooms or algae on tough to reach or clean surfaces like rocks and equipment, it is time to turn to an Algaecide to help you get your Pond Algae problem under control. There are a few different types of Algaecides that are available for your pond. Algaecides for planted ponds are generally formulated with oxidizing ingredients that destroy algae on contact or chemical ingredients that break down cell walls of simple algae. These treatments are typically safe for fish, ornamental plants and other animals in and near the pond provided instructions are followed. Algaecides for non-planted ponds often contain copper as the active ingredient which has the potential not only to kill plants, but is also harmful to snails and other organisms in the pond. If you have an advanced free-floating algae issue (if your water is green like pea soup) you may consider adding a UV sterilizer.
Manual removal of as much algae as possible before treatment is highly recommended to allow algaecides to work more efficiently and to prevent potential dangers for the pond after treatment. Closely follow the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure proper dosage and to take any precautions recommended by the manufacturer. Make sure you have adequate aeration and surface agitation to supply your fish with vital oxygen, especially important during the warmer months. It is best to treat early in the day when you are able to observe how your animals are responding and take steps if necessary to add more aeration should they show distress.
Remove as much of the dead algae and debris as possible when treatment is complete, so that it isn't left to decay in the pond. Once treatment is finished, a partial water change/siphon is also recommended, with particular attention to the bottom of the pond to remove the debris that may settle there. Addition of a biological "sludge remover" or bacterial supplements will help to breakdown the remaining debris to prevent water chemistry issues.
Best Solution for Green Water
The most common algae problem that pond owners confront is green water, caused by free floating green algae in their pond water. Using a UV Sterilizer or Clarifier is by far the most effective method for eradicating green water, and maintaining a crystal clear pond. The UV light produced inside these devices destroys the green water causing algae’s ability to reproduce when it is exposed, resulting in complete removal. While the initial cost may be more than the cost of an algaecide treatment, free floating algae will usually reoccur, and a sterilizer can be a permanent chemical free solution.
Most folks in the U.S. have some seasonality to weather conditions where they live, obviously more extreme in the northern states. Depending on how extreme your seasonal conditions are, you will need to know how to prepare and maintain your pond under these conditions. Here are some things to consider for your seasonal pond care.
Spring Pond Maintenance
As spring and warmer weather arrive your pond or water garden becomes an important part of your daily life again. Although it’s not quite time to add new fish and plants, a small amount of maintenance will go a long way in maintaining the proper environment for your pond inhabitants. Your local climate plays a major role in when steps need to be taken, as well as what equipment will be necessary.
Pond Prep: Water temperature in the pond is the most crucial factor determining the schedule of maintenance. You don’t want to disturb your pond too early, if your pond is too cold when you start the process of “opening” your pond for the season, undue stress may be placed upon your fish potentially causing diseases. Waiting until after the last frost of the year to begin working on your pond is a good general rule of thumb. Waiting until the pond temperature is consistently around 50 degrees, your fish are starting to get active, and springtime has finally warmed things up is the time to get your pond in shape Since your pond has been dormant for many months, the bacteria colony that was well established at the end of last year has been reduced and will need to be re-established in the pond filters. Water will need to be monitored and tested carefully for the first few weeks after the filters are running. Once the temperature permits, remove leaves and other forms of debris that may have accumulated during the winter. This also includes removal of any sludge build up in your pond and filter.
In warm climates, or climates in which temperatures do not stay below freezing, you can let your pond filter run year round. However for those who live in cooler climates where temperatures can go below freezing, the pumps, filters and plumbing should have been shut down and drained over the winter. With the arrival of spring it is time to relocate them along with your ultraviolet sterilizers and prepare them for operation. It is very important to check to make sure your pump is in good working order, the pumps impeller is in good condition, no debris or dust has found its way into the mechanics and filter media is replaced.
Ultraviolet Sterilizers: One of the best investments for your pond will be a pond ultraviolet sterilizer. A sterilizer is the most effective way to control green water, and also has the ability to kill microorganisms. Using a UV Sterilizer will decrease the chances of parasites and unwanted organisms that may thrive as the pond slowly comes back to life. During the spring, fish are particularly vulnerable to disease, they are slowly becoming more and more active and their immune systems are still strengthening after being relatively dormant over the winter months. Also, as the sun is out more and more each day free floating algae can begin to take over before the pond has established surface covering plants, or trees have any leaves to provide shade. A U.V. Sterilizer will keep your pond clear allowing you the best conditions to view your fish.
Fish: Water temperature also plays a major role in fish keeping; you should always have a pond thermometer for your pond and track your temperature. As spring arrives and your water temperature returns to around 50 degrees, use a spring/fall food two to three times per week. Usually wheat germ based, spring/fall foods are easier to digest, and are safer to use as the fishes’ metabolism rises. During the summer when water temperatures are above 65 degrees your fishes’ metabolism is in high gear and they have hardy appetites. During this time use a high protein staple food which will allow fish to gain maximum weight and build up a fat reserve. Although you may have to add new fish to your pond, it is best to wait until the water temperature is around 65 degrees.
Plants: As spring moves into summer and water temperatures continue to rise, move your plants from the deep section of the pond back to the shelves they were the previous summer. New arrivals will have to wait until the last frost has passed, after which begin with plants such as water Hyacinth, water Lettuce and Hardy Lilies. Taros, Cannas, and the remaining tropical plants should only be added at the beginning of summer when the warmest water temperatures and the longest light period are available.
Here are some products that will help get your pond up and running:
Pond Net: A good sturdy net will help you remove accumulated debris from the winter, as well as safely catch your fish if needed.
Pond Vacuum: These can be either pump powered or gravity powered. Use the vacuum to suck out debris and sludge.
Bottom Drain: By placing a bottom drain in a low point of your pond you can increase the amount of material that gets trapped in your filter.
Biological Pond Treatments: Special bacteria cultures have been formulated to maximize your biological filter efficiency, and to break down waste and debris biologically. Along with the removal of this debris a partial change of approximately 25% is recommended. This will allow for the addition of well oxygenated water to the pond.
Barley Straw Treatments: Barley treatments offer a natural approach to combating algae, these products work slowly as they break down, starting barley treatments early in the season will allow them to be in full effect for warmer weather.
For those who live in northern states, and cooler climates, fall means leaves. Left unchecked, falling leaves can cause disastrous conditions in your pond or water garden. Leaves and other debris can clog filters, damage pumps, block spillways and reduce water quality. The best approach is a good defense; here are the products that will give you the best results:
Pond Netting: This is probably the easiest and most effective method for preventing leaves from getting into your pond. Pond Netting is a lightweight, easily installed barrier that shields your pond from leaves and other light debris. Pond Netting also has the added benefit of predator protection for your fish and frogs.
Pond Skimmer: These filters are designed to constantly skim water off the surface of your pond, trapping any floating leaves or debris, before it can sink and break down. These skimmers work well year round, used with Pond Netting; they can greatly reduce the amount of debris that makes it into your pond.
Skimmer Net: This is a broad sturdy net designed to catch leaves and other light material that may be floating in your water. Inevitably leaves and other debris will make it into your pond, break down, and result in an organic sludge build up in your pond and filter. This sludge should also be removed as much as possible. These products will help with removal.
Pond Vacuum: These can be either pump powered or gravity powered. Use the vacuum to suck out debris and sludge.
Bottom Drain: By placing a bottom drain in a low point of your pond you can increase the amount of material that gets trapped in your filter.
Biological Pond Treatments: Special bacteria cultures have been formulated to maximize your biological filter efficiency, and to break down waste and debris biologically.
Once winter has set in, another serious concern in northern climates is ice. As organic material in your pond decomposes toxic gases are released. Under normal conditions, these gases escape into the atmosphere through the water surface. If your pond is allowed to be completely covered in ice these gases cannot escape and they can concentrate to dangerous levels. Using a Pond Heater will fix this problem. Floating heaters are designed to keep a small area of the pond surface ice free, allowing gas exchange with the atmosphere. Floating heaters are not designed to heat the pond significantly; in cold weather most of the pond will remain frozen.
Filter: Winterization of your pond filter also depends very much upon the climate in which you live. In warm climates, or climates in which temperatures do not stay below freezing you can leave your filter running year round. If you live in a cold climate where temperatures are below freezing, or even if your climate has the potential to dip below freezing for a several days, shutting down and draining your filter and plumbing is the safest path to take. Water expands as it freezes, and can damage your pumps, plumbing and filters if left running or full of water. Damage to plumbing, or ice dams in spillways can cause rapid draining of your pond, it is not a risk worth taking. Remove your pumps, Ultraviolet sterilizers, and external filters, drain them, clean them and store them out of the weather until the threat of freezing weather has passed in spring.
Fish: Water temperature plays a major role in your fish keeping; you should always have a thermometer for your pond, and know your temperature. Most of your work on the fish should have been done in the months leading up to winter. During the summer when water temperatures are above 65 degrees your fish’s metabolism is in high gear and the fish have a hardy appetite. Use a high protein staple food during this time. This will allow fish to gain maximum weight and build up a fat reserve. Once fall arrives and your water temperature falls below 65 degrees, switch to a spring/fall food. Usually a wheat germ based food, spring/fall foods are easier to digest and are safer to use as the fishes' metabolism slows. Decrease feeding as water temperatures approach 50 degrees, two to three times per week is fine. At temperatures near 50 degrees it can take several days for fish to digest a full meal, overfeeding at this point can harm or even kill your fish. Once your water temperature has fallen below 50 degrees for an extended period of time stop feeding your fish! Your fish’s metabolism has slowed to a point where it is dangerous to feed them, they can now rely on their built up fat reserves until spring. Do not start to feed your fish again until your water temperature has stabilized above 50 degrees in spring.
Plants: Once fall has set in and frost is on the horizon, you can prepare your pond plants for winter. Hardy marginal pond plants and lilies should be trimmed back, removing all the old growth and dead leaves. Place these plants in a deep section of the pond to protect their roots from a hard freeze. Hardy plants will go dormant and survive the winter outside with few problems. If you have a pond that is too small, or freezes solid, you can bring all your plants inside. Store them in a container in the garage or basement where they will stay cool and stay dormant till spring.
Many tropical plants can be brought inside and used as houseplants for the winter. Umbrella palms, Taros and Cannas will do well in sunny rooms so long as their pots are kept moist. Tropical water lilies can be kept in small containers if you have a sunroom or an area where they can get at least 6 hours of direct light. Otherwise they can be stored in containers in your basement till spring. Water lettuce and Hyacinth can also be brought inside; however they require high amounts of light and temperatures above 70 degrees to do well. In most cases it is easier and cheaper to dispose of your Lettuce and Hyacinth and replace them in the spring once your pond has warmed up.
Much of the routine maintenance required for a garden pond has already been covered. Cleaning or replacing the filter pads, or backwashing your filter as needed. Keeping streams and waterfalls clear of debris, which could potentially cause water to flow out of your pond. Trimming dead leaves or branches from your plants, so that they can’t break down and pollute your pond.
You need to periodically check your water quality, to make sure that chemistry is within acceptable parameters. Replace any chemical filter media that is being used to control water quality, like activated carbon or phosphate removers. Here are a couple of lists of items to keep handy, that will help you install and maintain your pond easily, leaving you more time to relax and enjoy.
Pond Maintenance Checklist:
- Skimmer Net for Floating Debris
- Deeper Net for Sunken Debris
- Soft Net for Fish
Submersible Pump and Tubing
- Water Changes
- Lowering Water Level for Repairs
Algae Removal Tools
- High Pressure Nozzle for Hose
5 Gallon Bucket
- Easily Transport Waste Pulled From Pond
- Check Ponds Basic Chemistry
- Troubleshoot Health or Water Quality Problems
- Conditioners for Tap Water
- Bacteria for Boosting Biological Filtration
- Algae Control - Barley Products, Water Shade, Algaecides
- Chemical Media – Activated Carbon, Phosphate Removers, Zeolite
Pond Installation Checklist
Equipment you will need:
- Liner – Make sure you account for extra liner that will be needed for folds, shelves and securing the perimeter of your pond.
- Filter - Choose an appropriate sized filter for your pond
- Pump – Make sure that you properly account for the total head pressure affecting your pump, and make sure that you choose an appropriate size pump.
- Tubing – Choose tubing that is at least as large as the output diameter of the pump you have chosen, smaller tubing will increase head pressure, and reduce flow.
- Clamps – Make sure that all tubing connections are secure with proper clamps when needed. Stainless Steel or Plastic Clips should be used outdoors.
- Test Kits – Make sure that your water source is safe for fish and plants, and test your water as your biological filter matures to keep your fish healthy.
- Nets – Proper nets make maintenance easier, debris, skimmer, and fish nets are available.
Optional Equipment you may want:
- UV Sterilizer – Best option for control of green water
- Plant Baskets - Baskets contain plants, makes moving and maintaining plants easy
- Fountain – Visually interesting feature, helps oxygenate water
- Thermometer – Keep an eye on your water temperature, feed proper food, prepare for seasonal changes
- Leaf Net – Cover your pond in the fall to keep leaves out, also works well for keeping some predators away from your pond.
- Heron/Predator Scarer – Don’t let your prized fish become breakfast, keep predators away
- Lighting – Create brilliant night time displays in your pond or garden