Pond Maintenance: 101

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by: Brandi McFadden

 

Pond1

Do you have a pond in the backyard with plants, goldfish, and maybe a koi or two?

Would you rather tell the neighbors you have an enhanced water feature stocked with Shebunkin and Lionhead Goldfish, Tancho Sanke and Nishiki Koi, thriving in a natural setting with plants like Pickerel, Curly waterweed, and Water Hyacinth?

This and more are possible if you take time for maintenance. Think of your pond as a water garden. Like any garden you need to maintain the plants, monitor the water (instead of the soil in this case), and keep out unwanted pests and weeds.

Whether you are looking at a small fountain or a small lake, owners of water features have one common enemy.

Algae, Algae, and you guessed it, Algae.

Like dandelions in your lawn or clover in your flower garden, Algae is part of the water landscape.

The key – know what resources Algae needs, and then limit those resources.

Algae varieties come in many forms, but all forms thrive with sunlight, low oxygen levels, and nutrients (nitrates and phosphates).

1st – Limit Sunlight

Congratulations if you are blessed with large shade trees over the pond. Think of the shade and those leaves as natural algae control as you clean them out of the pond each fall. This thought helps the leaf removal task seem less arduous.

If you do not have lots of shade trees then make your own. Add a variety of plants in and around the pond to provide the necessary shade.

There are many added benefits to pond plants:

  • Plants add oxygen to the water – good for fish and bad for algae
  • Plants provide fish with food and shelter from predators
  • Plants enhance the natural look and function of a pond
  • Plants attract other pond dwellers like frogs and turtles

As with all plants, your pond plants need to be pruned, thinned, and provided with adequate nutrients.

2nd – Dissolved Oxygen

Lots of oxygen in the water has numerous advantages (including limiting algae growth):

  • Oxygen is a by-product of plant chemistry and provides a natural supply in the pond
  • Oxygen is used by the fish to process food and stay healthy in hard winter months
  • Oxygen promotes breakdown of nutrients and thereby limits their availability to algae

Beside adding plants to your pond as an oxygen source – install a pump to circulate water. Adding a pump opens a whole new range of pond possibilities:

  • A pump with bio-filter system improves the water quality. Bacteria in the filter media promote nutrient breakdown and limit algae growth.
  • Pumps lead to fancy additions like waterfalls and fountains. Aside from the addition of dissolved oxygen, the aesthetic possibilities are extensive.

3rd – Limit Nutrients

  • Limit run-off from your lawn into the pond. Fertilizer that makes your lawn beautiful also makes the Algae bloom.
  • Keep mulch below the top of the pond. Mulch washed into the pond degrades water quality and you end up cleaning it out each fall/spring.
  • If you feel the need to feed your fish. Do NOT over feed your fish. The extra food ends up on the pond floor and becomes food for algae. With the proper mix of plants your fish will find all the food they need (another advantage of pond plants).

There are numerous avenues of pond maintenance, tips of the trade, and best management practices we could explore. For the near future – work on the algae issue and check back for future pond maintenance advice.

If you plan to dive in the pond and clean out leaves or prune up plants, then 50 degrees Fahrenheit is the magic temperature:

  • Fall – with the average temperature at 50, fish are more sluggish, but not too stressed from cold.
  • Spring – with the average temperature at 50, fish are still sluggish, and most pond plants have not started blooming.

When the neighbors stop by, you are not performing boring pond maintenance; you are monitoring and maintaining your natural water feature for balanced water chemistry to promote a healthy pond ecosystem.

 

Pond2 Pond.

 

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