Backyard ponds have become an exciting landscaping trend! Most homeowners want a pond to add ambiance to their yard or to simply enhance their outdoor living space. Goals range from fish collecting to plant collecting to just the sight and sound of water. Ponds create a respite from the techno-crazy world, and a haven for prized Koi and other wildlife. Yet few realize the countless environmental benefits to installing an ecosystem pond or water feature.
According to the National Gardening Association’s 2008 Environmental Lawn and Garden Survey, 9 out of 10 households believe it’s important to maintain their landscape in a way that benefits the environment. However, about only half of those are knowledgeable about how to maintain lawns and gardens in an environmentally-friendly way. Many don’t realize that by replacing some (or all) of their lawn with a pond or water feature, they can actually conserve water and energy, save money, and support the environment – not to mention reduce personal stress.
Lawns use A LOT of water
According to the University of Arizona, the average 15'x15' bermudagrass lawn uses over 5000 gallons of water per year. A typical residential lawn sprinkler system broadcasts about 10–18 gallons per minute, per valve or zone. By the way, broadcasting water like that increases evaporation and the lawn doesn’t really receive as much water as is being broadcast. So, if a lawn has two zones and waters for 15 minutes three times per week, the water consumption would range between 4,500 and 7,560 gallons per month. In Phoenix, that would equate to about $157.50 to $264.60 per month on your water bill.
Evaporation on a pond is the same as on a swimming pool: 1” per day per square footage of surface area during the hottest, driest months of the year (typically mid-May through mid-June). During the rest of the year, the evaporation is negligible. AND you’re not adding water during monsoon storms and general rain days. Unless you have one of those expensive timers that detects the moisture in the air and doesn’t water when it’s raining, your lawn gets watered no matter what. A pond will have an autofill device that only adds water when it’s needed.
Lawns require more maintenance than ponds, in general
Maintaining a lush lawn obviously requires regular watering, as pointed out above. But there’s also a LOT more that goes into maintaining a nice-looking lawn. You also have to fertilize it. When not done properly, runoff of excess fertilizer causes groundwater pollution. The EPA estimates that only 35 percent of lawn fertilizers applied ever reach the grass plant – the remainder ends up in our air or seeps into our water supply. During a typical year in neighborhoods across the country, over 102 million pounds of toxic pesticides are reportedly applied in pursuit of that perfect lawn and garden, says the National Coalition for Pesticide-Free Lawns. Is your “little patch of estate” worth that?
And you have to mow and edge it, enslaving the average man (or woman) for at least half a day on any given weekend. Aside from the time involved, about 54 million Americans mow their lawns each weekend, using 800 million gallons of gas per year, AND producing tons of air pollutants, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Garden equipment engines emit high levels of carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, and nitrogen oxides, producing up to 5% of the nation’s air pollution (and a good deal more in metropolitan areas). A traditional gas-powered lawn mower produces as much air pollution as 43 new cars, each being driven 12,000 miles. Lastly, more than 17 million gallons of gas are spilled each year refueling lawn and garden equipment. To put that into perspective, that’s more than the amount of oil that was spilled by the Exxon Valdez in the Gulf of Alaska. And this all adds to groundwater contamination and smog, the EPA reports.
Ponds, however, reduce the need for more lawn pesticides and fertilizers. They require about 10 minutes of maintenance per week, and pay you back with hours of enjoyment. And they certainly don’t require any gas-powered equipment. As an added benefit, the debris and sludge collected by your pond filter can be used as a nutrient-rich fertilizer for your lawn, garden, and trees.
Don’t get us wrong, if you have a bunch of kids that need a football or soccer field to play on, then by all means, plant a lawn! Or you could make use of a nearby park and let the City deal with the time and cost of the maintenance. But if you’re looking for a low water use, low maintenance, super enjoyable and entertaining landscape option, you might want to consider an ecosystem pond or water feature.
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Adding fish to your pond provides a whole new element to the overall experience of owning a water feature. In fact, many pond owners decide to install a pond for the sole purpose of fish-keeping. When acquiring fish, there are certain things that you should look for and ask about to make sure that you are receiving healthy fish. And if you're acquiring your fish from another pond owner, these tips for acquiring healthy fish are even more important!
Whatever type fish you choose to add to your pond, first and foremost you want to make sure they’re healthy. Don’t be shy about asking a few questions. In the end, you’ll be glad you took the time to acquire the right fish for your pond, especially if you're adding to your existing population. The wrong sick fish can wreak havoc!
We can effect repairs on many ponds. The easiest, of course, is if it's constructed using a flexible EPDM liner and low-pressure filtration. If it's any other type of construction (and there are literally HUNDREDS of ways to build a "pond"), then we'll need to chat about your options.
Repairs to a pond are typically a simple, less than one-day task. For example, if you have a rip, tear or hole in your EPDM liner, we can get that patched up.
Or perhaps you'd like to add a skimmer to make maintenance a whole lot easier, or a biological filter.
Or maybe it's time to update or upgrade your waterfall. This "repair" can make your water feature look like a new one!
A pond renovation goes quite a bit further than a simple pond repair. To renovate a pond, we remove everything within the pond. This may even include the liner, if it has an issue (too small for the excavation, rips, tears, holes, etc.).
If we remove the liner, we will most likely, re-sculpt the excavation, as well, to include plant pockets, and vertical walls to make rock stacking easier.
If the equipment, pump, and plumbing is of good quality and in good shape, there's no need to replace it.
We may re-use all or some of the rock, and will probably add some to spruce things up a bit.
The waterfall almost always will need to be rebuilt, because we start from the bottom of the pond and work our way up for stability purposes.
Once the foundation is in place, we can address the life in the pond, if that's what you want.
Basically, you'll have a brand-new-looking pond!
To see how we can help you repair or renovate your Phoenix pond:
We are asked quite frequently if we do consulting work for do-it-yourself ponds, or if we would just provide instruction to people (outside of the seminars and classes that we teach). No, we do not. Yes, we did do that at one time, but found that the experience on both ends was less than satisfactory for many reasons. And we'd really rather do things that we're actually good at and have fun with: ponds built right, customers served right!
What we mean by "helping" you with your DIY pond is to make sure you're thinking this whole thing through before you "dig yourself into a deep hole." The humorous (hopefully) article below may provide you with some insight on the DIY vs. PRO debate in your household.
Top 10 Reasons to Build Your Pond Yourself:
10. You aren’t too terribly concerned with saving money, as long as you’re having a good time. Folks often think that doing something themselves will save them a bunch of money. There are a lot of hidden costs, though, so don't be so sure.
9. You've got PLENTY of extra time on your hands with no demands from family or friends for that time.
8. You’re not challenged when it comes to reading directions. If you've never built a pond before, trust us, there's a big learning curve to do it right!
7. You don’t care if you get it done in one day or one summer. After all, you’re having a good time.
6. You're sure that you can do a better job than the Jonses' pro that they hired. That's just throwing away money, right?
5. You really can’t think of a better way to burn calories.
4. You enjoy physical challenges and you look good in a sun tan, too!
3. You love planning, tinkering with, and designing things. So whether you get it right the first time, or forty-first time is fairly inconsequential. It's just a hole with rock and water, right? Yeah, you just keep tellin' yourself that.
2. You take great genuine pleasure in creating something of beauty with your own two hands, and having others enjoy it as well. This is absolutely a legitimate reason to do it yourself if you have the time, the ability, the expertise, and will.
AND THE NUMBER ONE REASON:
1. Your spouse expects you to build a water garden! (You really don’t have to confess to this one out loud, or anything like that.)
Now, if this description fits you, then go ahead and have at it. You may be fiddling around with it all summer (or winter here in the Southwest, because doing this in the summer might kill you), but you’re the one who will enjoy the process immensely. That means that you are, in effect, a pond installer! Welcome to the club.
So, now here are some reasons to skip the above and just enjoy the fruits of OUR labor.
Top 10 Reasons To Hire a Pro to Build Your Pond:
10. In your day job you’re a business tycoon, you’re used to running your own corporation, or you're a professional of some kind. But you’re NOT A WATER GARDEN INSTALLER!
9. You’re 42 years old, 30 lbs. overweight, you haven’t been near the gym in many months, and this is HARD PHYSICAL LABOR!
8. You would much rather be spending your time with your family or your friends because you work hard and deserve the time off to enjoy life.
7. But you’ll save two or three thousand bucks by doing it yourself, right? That’s what everyone says, anyway. But who the heck is this "everyone?" Are THEY pond builders and know the actual costs, labor, and expertise involved? Hmmm...
6. You know that a well-trained crew can put this thing together easily in less than a week! You know down deep in your heart it will take you at least four weekends - minimum. And you’d still be just hoping to get it right. Think about the last time your tackled an unfamiliar home improvement project yourself. You might have ended up calling in a professional who had to clean up your mess before he could get started anyway, which made the project more expensive than hiring a pro to do it right the first time.
5. Impressing your spouse and kids with your ability to multi-task gets lower and lower on your list as you consider all the possibilities. And you'd rather treat them to a weekend of your undivided attention, and maybe an ice cream.
4. Impressing your neighbors, the Joneses, with your ability to multi-task, or anything else, has never enjoyed a position of priority in your life.
3. Your 9-year-old son who loves to play in the mud, provides you with all the fishing worms you’ll ever need. So digging a big-ass hole in the yard wouldn't really help with that.
2. You’re not a sado-masochist! Fact: the average do-it-yourselfer builds three ponds (or the same one three times) before they get it right.
AND THE NUMBER ONE REASON TO HIRE A PRO:
1. What the heck would John Wayne do? What would Clint Eastwood, or Bruce Lee, or Rambo, or General Schwarzkopf, or Arnold Schwarzenegger do? I’ll tell you what they’d do. THEY’D HIRE A PROFESSIONAL TO DO THE JOB. THAT’S WHAT THEY’D DO! Now these boys (John, Clint, etc.) are all rugged individualists for sure. But they aren’t stupid, and they know when they'd be in over their heads!
So, what do you want to do next? Dig in . . . or:
If you have a living water feature, you may be hearing, and even seeing, an increase in frog and/or toad activity now that it's Spring. And you'll probably be seeing egg sacks and tadpoles a little later on, as well.
We are lucky enough to have endangered Lowland Leopard Frogs on our property, which migrated here during a particularly heavy monsoon season about 17 years ago from the Agua Fria River bottom that we live next to. Because they’re endangered, it is illegal to transport them without a special permit from the State. This species has declined in abundance and distribution across its range in the United States, so Arizona Game & Fish keeps a tight rein on it. They make a delightful purring-type sound, and are actually fairly shy about showing themselves. But it's a wonderful sound to fall asleep to!
What most people have in and around their yards are Sonoran Desert Toads, which are the largest western species of toad, and considered to be one of the more aquatic of the southwestern toads. They dig into the dirt and hibernate during the dry times to avoid desiccation, and then come hopping out during wet and humid seasons. Desert toads make a distinctive sound, like a child’s short screech, and some people find this rather annoying. If you’re one of them, don’t sweat it, the toad season, which is typically during the monsoon season, doesn’t last long, and they’ll be dug back into their hidey holes as soon as it dries out again.
Yes, these are the ones whose skin toxins are strong enough to kill a dog, and reportedly have hallucinogenic qualities. Toad licking -- yuk! Our yard dog (a Blue Pitbull) gets ahold of one on occasion, and actually likes them. It doesn't kill her, and we can always tell when she's imbibed because she wanders around looked stoned for awhile, with one ear flopped over and stumbling around a bit.
One amphibian you DO NOT want around is the Bull Frog. They eat native wildlife species like birds, small mammals, dragonflies, butterflies, lizards, frogs, turtles, AND your fish – pretty much anything smaller than them that they can catch. We’ve even seen a photo of one with a bat wing sticking out of its mouth. They are prolific reproducers, considered highly invasive, and can travel 8 miles in one season to seek a new habitat. Their sound is VERY loud and annoying, and even your neighbors will know you have one around. If so, get rid of it – permanently. And if you’re the adventurous type, this is the species used for culinary frogs legs.
For more information on various amphibians in Arizona, visit www.azgfd.gov.
There's something simple and idyllic about living close to water, whether it's a creek (Oak Creek Canyon), or riverfront property (Mississippi River Valley), or the ocean (Jersey Shore, San Diego, Malibu). We humans are drawn to it. We feel more at peace. We sleep better. And we'll pay through the nose for it! "Land for sale; shack included" can describe a lot of real estate that sells for millions of dollars -- just to be close to water.
The Global View
Globally, water and water views impart a trillion-dollar premium on condos, houses, shopping centers, and all other forms of real estate. Just take a look at the restoration projects that happen next to a City's waterways. Cities and governments spend A LOT of money to transform old run-down warehouses and other buildings into restaurants, malls, offices, and even residential properties. And it's worth it because people will pay A LOT to be near water!
Restoration of waterfront property is huge, even in our neck of the woods! And if there isn't water, it can be created. Take Tempe Town Lake for example. Once a dry riverbed that collected illegal garbage dumping, it's now a huge park and metropolitan area, complete with recreation, shopping, eating, and condominium high-rises. The initial cost to the City and taxpayers? Almost $45 MILLION. Was it worth it? Everyone who enjoys that area certainly thinks so! And that's not the end of the expense. The City of Tempe pays $2-3 MILLION in annual operating costs, some of which is offset by usage fees. Spend any Saturday in the area and you'll see hundreds of people enjoying it all. People want to hang out near water.
Now, let's take it down a notch to apartment complexes, condominium complexes, assisted living facilities, and other community-type living arrangements. The owners and managers of these facilities will tell you that they have a waiting list for units that have a view of water features, AND can charge a premium for those units. People want to live near water.
How do I get Mine?
What would YOU pay to live next to a lake, or a flowing creek, or a serene pond? Would you like your own piece of blue?
Good news: you don't have to move! And it won't cost you millions! You can have a gorgeous water feature -- one that looks like it existed before you built your house next to it. If that thought appeals to you, check out the possibilities!
Urban Sprawl and Development Make Life as Bird More Trecherous
According to a Forbes Magazine article dated February 18, 2017, "a recent study of songbird survival during heat waves in America's desert Southwest finds that birds are at greater risk of lethal dehydration and mass die-offs when water is scarce, and this risk is predicted to worsen as climate change progresses."
Whether you subscribe to the theory of man-man climate change, or believe that climate change is happening because the Earth is a living, breathing organism, we can all agree that the concrete jungle has displaced a lot of wildlife, including both native and migratory birds that used to be common place.
A Bird's Plight
Imagine that you're a migratory bird. You embark on your annual migration flight. In years before, you've had places to stop, rest, eat, and drink. Now, all you see is concrete, steel and glass. You find an occasional swimming pool or spa, but the water has been poisoned and killed by chemicals. The estuaries, riparian respites, and oases that used to exist have been plowed under. The only thing now are houses, dead-water pools, chemically-treated lawns, and rock. Where do you stop? What do you eat? How can you quench your thirst?
Or imagine that you're a native desert bird. Blair Wolf, a Professor of Biology at the University of New Mexico, states: "When it's really hot, they simply can't evaporate enough water to stay cool, [so they] overheat and die of heat stroke. In other cases, the high rates of evaporative water loss needed to stay cool deplete their body water pools to lethal levels and birds die of dehydration; this is the stressor we focused on in this study." Desert birds are losing their natural habitats to urban sprawl and development.
Homeowners Can Provide a Respite to Native & Migratory Birds!
As individuals, we can't stop climate change alone. And we don't have much say in urban sprawl and development matters. But we CAN do something! According to the above-mentioned Forbes article: "We must do other things to help desert-dwelling birds. For example, we can identify and conserve areas that are home to diverse plant and animal communities that provide essential shelter and water to desert birds; areas such as ravines where shade is available during the heat of the day, and riparian habitats that have open water."
So what can we do to help out native desert birds, as well as the migratory birds passing through? You guess it -- provide them with organic, living water sources right in our own back (or front) yards! Just from personal experience, I can tell you that we've seen some AWESOME wildlife in our yard. And, yes, we're part of the urban sprawl and live in a planned HOA-run community. So, what's the difference between our yard and our neighbors'? We have living water features! We've watched hawks bathe (yep, they take water baths), Northern Cardinals drink from our front stream, Orioles hang out on our back yard waterfalls, hummingbirds drink & bathe from our fountain heads -- well, you get the idea.
Want to be part of the solution? Add a living water feature to your yard today! This can be something as simple as a re-circulating fountain that doesn't use chemicals to keep it clean, to a boulder waterfall, to a re-circulating stream, to a gorgeous living pond.
Looking to spruce up your yard in 2017? When planning your landscape ideas and options, consider a new water feature! Fountains and container water gardens are the perfect way to add a splash of water to your landscape. Affordable and easy to install, you’ll find a variety of water features to give your outdoor living space a unique look.
Miniature water gardens, also known as Patio Ponds, are becoming increasingly popular on patios and decks. These small-scaled ponds provide the opportunity to enjoy beautiful waterlilies in a variety of colors. You can even add small goldfish.
Refreshing fountains are popping up in yards all over the country as more homeowners look for unique ways to improve the curb appeal of their house. An underground reservoir holds the pump and water that recirculates through the fountain. You'll find a variety of fountain styles to suit your taste and budget.
The Stacked Slate Urn fountain does double-duty. Not only does it provide visual appeal during the day, but night lighting gives it a magical mysterious look.
A trio of stone fountains amidst the desert-friendly landscape welcomes visitors to this suburban home, adding to the home's value with increased curb appeal.
Birds and butterflies visit outdoor fountains to enjoy a refreshing splash or nourishing drink.
Fountains make a great accent piece for any area of your garden. This grouping of spillway bowls is part of a living fountain system. Who wouldn't enjoy coming home to this beautiful scene?
You can turn any garden container into a fountain. You only need to add the plumbing, reservoir, and pump. Your fountain becomes the crowning touch to any corner of your landscape.
One of the fastest-growing trends in outdoor living features is the combination of fire and water. The Fire Fountain creates a soft, pleasing sound of water as it flows over and around the pebbles. Fire adds a surprising element that looks great at night, too.
Whatever you choose, you're sure to enjoy the beauty and refreshment that a small water feature adds to your outdoor living spaces!
Living re-circulating pondless features (waterfalls and streams) are gaining in popularity for commercial locations at an astounding rate. Managers, owners, site services supervisors, etc., are opting for this site improvement for many reasons:
Here are just a few examples of what The Pond Gnome has installed in office centers, apartment complexes, churches, and community colleges:
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We've all been there. You’re enjoying your pond and all is going along swimmingly. Suddenly, one morning you go outside and the pond has turned green or brown. Or maybe your fish are swimming funny. Something is off with the water quality! What’s happening?!?!
To truly understand and remedy what's going on with the ecosystem in your backyard pond, it's important to understand the basic tenets of pond ecology.
Let’s Start from the Beginning
The word “ecology” comes from the combination of two Greek words: oilcos, which means house, and logos, which means the study of. Translated literally, ecology means study of the home. In the big picture of life, it’s hard to comprehend all the interwoven intricacies of a global ecology, but if you scale it down a bit, it makes more sense.
Pond ecology studies everything that has an impact on, or is impacted by, a given pond. Looking at a backyard pond, let's see how many interactions we can find.
Studying Pond Ecology
The Substrate. We’ll start at the bottom and work our way up. The rocky bottom of a pond is alive and brimming with activity; covered in algae, microscopic invertebrates, and bacteria. This section of the pond is like the compost pile in a garden. When organic debris falls to the bottom of a pond, it’s broken down by the benthic (bottom) inhabitants.
These organic recyclers live off of uneaten fish food, decaying plant matter, and fish waste. If they were absent, the pond would “die” quickly, suffocated from toxic fish waste and organic build-up. Fortunately, nature has given us a way to solve this problem. Organisms have evolved and utilize practically every bit of available food. Fish, crustaceans, and aquatic insects will feed on these minute organisms, bacteria, and algae that live on the pond’s bottom.
The Water. The water in a pond is vital to all life within it. The unique properties of water allow nutrients to be kept in aqueous suspension. Plants and animals can absorb compounds directly from the water.
Pond water can be several colors: green, brown, white, and clear. Ironically enough, green water is the last thing a pond owner wants, but it’s the best thing for fish and other pond animals. It’s loaded with food; plantetonic algae are making the water green and they are a great food source for small insects and crustaceans, which in turn feed larger insects and fish. You know: the circle of life.
Brown water is caused by tannic acid released from decomposing leaves. In small amounts, this is not harmful, but it can become detrimental if left unchecked. White water is usually slightly whitish in color and is caused from high mineral contents. This condition is usually very short-lived in a closed system.
Gin-clear water is what everyone wants, but it’s last on the list in terms of productivity. It’s dead. If it’s clear, there’s not a lot of stuff (algae, diatoms, protozoans, etc.) in the water column. Slightly tinted water is ideal for backyard ponds. They’re healthier and more stable in terms of oxygen production and buffering of pH swings. They also offer a greater and more diverse food source for other inhabitants.
The Plants. Aquatic plants are typically considered pretty or nice to have in a pond. And algae are always considered the enemy. What we need to realize however, is that both are important in a healthy and functional pond.
Aquatic plants use the carbon dioxide and nutrients that are produced by the decomposers on the pond’s bottom. Plants also drink in sunlight to create plant tissue or stems, leaves, flowers, etc. Without plants, there will be a nutrient overload in the pond. In other words, nutrients will still be produced, but they have nowhere to go. That’s where algae come in. Algae start growing rapidly to keep the system in balance and use the excess nutrients. It’s like the first week in a garden.
Most pond owners don’t like algae. But it’s a cheap form of insurance that helps balance a pond and it keeps the nutrients from getting to toxic levels. In a healthy system, there will be strong aquatic plant growth as well as some algae. We just don’t want the algae to get out of control!
Aquatic plants and algae do more than just absorb excess nutrients. They produce oxygen for aquatic critters, provide shade from intense sunlight, provide food for insects and fish, and provide shelter for small pond creatures. Yes, water lilies and irises are beautiful and functional, but don’t overlook their importance in a pond.
The Animals. In ponds, animals usually steal the spotlight. Colorful fish, darting dragonflies, and friendly frogs grace the calm waters. Children spend endless summer days capturing tadpoles and watching them transform into amphibians. Can you believe it -- a biological oasis right in the middle of suburban America? Inside the pond, fish and frogs rule as kings, feasting on the generous helping of insects, algae and crustaceans.
Many pond owners feed their fish on a regular basis. But don’t forget that in a well-balanced pond, fish can feed themselves, making them fabulously easy pets to have! The nutrients that are not naturally produced in your pond, (i.e. fish food) need to be broken down into less harmful compounds. This is why biological filters are necessary in ornamental ponds. They break down toxic compounds produced from fish metabolism, over and above what’s being handled by the bacteria living on the pond’s bottom.
The Humans. Human intervention is necessary only because of human intervention! Clear as mud? In small ponds, life will balance itself. If x amount of food is available to support x amount of fish, then only x amount of fish will live there because the system can support no more. When humans step in and want 10 times more fish than a pond is designed to handle, intervention in the form of supplemental feeding and filtration systems is necessary. A backyard pond is a semi-closed ecosystem. It relies on us for its continued health.
In summary, all forms of life within a given ecosystem pond are interrelated and affected by one another. By killing off all the algae in a pond, you would be taking away an important link in the system, causing a shift in the food web and nutrient utilization. This will cause the entire ecosystem to restructure itself. We must learn to work within the boundaries nature has given us. Each link is important for the survival of the whole. That’s that whole food chain thing, again.
If we could only follow these simple “naturally balanced rules of life” in all our backyard ecosystems on a global scale, maybe life in Earth’s ecosystem would be much better. Understanding pond ecology and the "naturally balanced rules of life" will help you educate yourself so you can better maintain your pond.
Have Questions About Your pond?
There's a lot of information out there on Koi fish. Here are a just a few fun facts that you might not know! When consulting an expert, make sure you're talking to someone who is familiar with the location in which you live!
Koi fish are sensitive to the sun. They may get sunburned if they live in ponds that do not provide enough shadow and shade for them to escape to. This kind of shade can be provided by either external elements, such as trees, bushes, or shade sails, or from within the pond, like as lily pads, marginal plants, and well-positioned rocks and Koi caves.
Koi fish release ammonia into the water. When a large number of Koi inhabit the same pond, levels of ammonia can increase rapidly and induce poisoning of the fish, especially if it’s not an ecosystem environment. Although life in a community can be dangerous, Koi fish enjoy the company of other Koi fish. It’s a good idea to consult an expert to see how many Koi are right for your size and type of pond before adding them.
During the mating season, females produce thousands of eggs that will be fertilized by the male's sperm in the water. Only 50% of fertilized eggs will survive. This explains the “foaming” and “fishy smell” that is sometimes present in the pond, particularly in the Spring.
Koi fish can mate with goldfish because they are closely related; however, the result is sterile offspring.
There’s been a lot of back and forth discussion on the subject of how water affects property values, particularly from real estate brokers looking to sell/buy homes. Some state emphatically that a water feature adds absolutely nothing to the purchase price, but if it’s nice, may make the place more saleable. On the other end of the spectrum, some say that it can add between $5,000 and $10,000 to the sale price, depending on the feature. Well, let’s look at some other types of examples.
An 800-square-foot, ramshackle house for sale on the beach in Del Mar. Almost no space between it and the two much larger homes on either side. Asking price of over $6 million. Not just because it’s in Del Mar, but because it’s on the beach. Meanwhile, two to three blocks inland, just a short walk or bike ride away from the ocean’s edge, you could buy the same size lot and house for $2.5 million. A bit of difference. This is a great demonstration of the value of proximity. People want to see and hear water from where they sleep and eat.
Two apartments in LA. Same floor and identical in size and floor plan. One faces the city; the other faces the ocean. The ocean view is over $500K more than the other. People want to see water from where they live.
People pay large premiums to live on river front properties, despite having to put up with flooding, erosion, and the very real possibility of being wiped out by a storm. What are they really paying for? The ability to relax to the ambience of flowing water. Can we put a value on that amenity?
Even though billions of people live close to water, the supply of water-front property is extremely limited. This results in a perfect case study on supply and demand economics. So, what is the perceived value of having a view of water from your living room couch, kitchen counter, or dining table? Or having the sound of a babbling brook within range of where you lay your head at night?
We believe there is real value in the sound of a stream, the meditative ambiance of a pond full of lush aquatic plants and moving flowers (fish), or the view of a waterfall. If you can have this home improvement for less money (by far), and with far less risk and inconvenience than that riverside home you’ve dreamt of, doesn’t it make sense to invest in it? Just our humble opinion.
Ready to invest in a home improvement that will turn your home into your own private paradise? START HERE!
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You hear it all the time these days. People are unplugging. Or cutting the cable. Or trashing the dish. Television viewing is changing. People want quality, not quantity nowadays. And that applies to everything! Koi ponds are becoming the new "TV" for people who want to spend quality time with their spouse, their kids, their friends.
"You probably saved my life! I spend time reading by my pond now instead of bar-hopping as much." Phil Holdeman, Phoenix, AZ
"It is very peaceful and has drawn us outside and away from the television." Doug Cutler, Peoria, AZ
" We have spent more time in the back yard in the past month than in the 13 years we have lived in the house!" Cyndi Reeder, Peoria, AZ
"I love it. I sit out there every day." Mark Beardsley, Phoenix, AZ
"Thank you for making our home our vacation place!!" Trish Kobialka, Gilbert, AZ
"I'd give up the phone and TV before I'd give up my pond!!" Laura Gibson, Gilbert, AZ
"It feeds the soul!" Joe Koenig, Mesa, AZ
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THE BENEFITS OF LIVING STREAMS & WATERFALLS
GREAT WATER FEATURE IDEAS
PONDS AND WATERFALLS MAKE RELAXING AT HOME MORE ENJOYABLE
Who isn't impressed with a stream or waterfall? And if it's alive with plants and organic water, that wow factor is greatly multiplied!
Sustainable Design Concepts
The water used to sustain a re-circulating pondless waterfall or stream is much less than a standard lawn! AND, you don't have to mow it, blow it, de-thatch it, or fertilize it. Such a deal!
Naturally clean water
By taking advantage of an ecosystem design, the water is clean, clear, and biologically available for local wildlife.
Low energy needs
It doesn't take a herculean pump to circulate the water, keeping energy costs low to operate.
Serviceable design, low maintenance needs
There's really not much maintenance to a living stream or waterfall. You simply garden it occasionally -- less work than many other landscape options!
Can be tied in with storm water control
Yep, it can be made even MORE sustainable with the use of the latest technology in rainwater harvesting or storm water management.
Repairs & Upgrades are a Cinch
Using a flexible system makes repairs simple, and upgrades easy as pie. After all, a garden is never REALLY done, is it?
Easy Addition to an Existing Landscape
A flexible system design makes for a clean, seamless insertion into existing landscapes. Your family, friends & neighbors will wonder how on earth you managed to find a house next to a creek!
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Ponds Have Measurable Value
Great Water Feature Ideas
Landscape Ideas Using Fountains
Fountains and ponds and streams, oh my! Did you know that you could add a cool fountain to your existing pond or water feature? You can. And what a great way to give your water feature a little face lift without re-doing the whole thing!
It can be something as simple as adding a Spillway Bowl fountain to the side of your pond. Just adds that little something-something to the view and sound.
Spillway Bowls can be mixed and matched instead of a traditional boulder waterfall, too!
Or maybe something a little more dramatic. This tree fountain feature looks great night and day, not only in a pond, but would work great in a wetland area, or even a stream!
Basalt Columns are fabulous because you can one, two, three, or as many as you want, and they come in lots of different sizes. They look terrific in a wetland or stream, just giving it a bit of pizzazz!
Another great look for a wetland area or stream is the multiple-head Mushroom Fountain. Installing it with a ball valve will give you the ability to control the flow for a nice slow-dripping effect.
If you're looking for a little more impact and high drama, this beauty is a show-stopper!
And a little nighttime ambiance is always in order!
The possibilities are endless!
So, take a look at your existing feature and think about adding another element. Keep in mind that if you have a living pond, the installation is a bit different than a sterile-water feature, and a professional may be needed to make sure you have the appropriate plumbing & circulation.
And let us know if we can be of service: CONTACT, PHONE, EMAIL!
Have you ever noticed that your pond water is clearer in the Fall? This is typically due to cooler temperatures and full, lush plants. To keep your pond looking its best throughout the Fall season, follow our helpful, easy-to-follow pond maintenance tips.
Prune yellowing leaves off your plants. Your lilies, both tropical and hardy, should still be going strong, and some may even send up the occasional bloom all winter long here in the Sonoran Desert. Once the plants go into dormancy, leave them alone and don’t prune them back at all until after the last danger of frost has passed (late February, according to the Farmer’s Almanac).
Stop fertilizing plants, if you’re doing so, when the weather becomes cooler. This lets the plants know the season is coming to an end.
When the water temperature is around 50 degrees F, stop feeding your fish. If you continue to feed them commercial fish food, you might create health problems for your finned friends, since their digestive systems are beginning to slow down for the winter. Remember that the water temperature follows nighttime temps.
As leaves fall from nearby deciduous trees, you'll need to empty your skimmer’s debris net every day to keep up with the influx of leaves. Some leaves will undoubtedly sink to the bottom of the pond; try to remove as many as you can. However, a few left in the pond will give insects and frogs a place to over-winter. This is also true for the string algae that we get here in the desert instead of freezing over.
And speaking of string algae, this is something that you might experience during our “winter” months. If it becomes too unsightly, you can remove it by hand or use a product like Ecoblast. Personally, we prefer to leave some of it in our pond to act as a winter blanket for the aquatic life.
If you leave too much organic matter in your pond, the water may turn brown. If this happens, remove the excess debris and add activated carbon to clear the water.
The most important thing is to enjoy your water feature all year long. Keep some of these key maintenance issues in mind, and it will be smooth sailing. And, if you need any help or advice, we're as close as your phone or email!
Does your water have a brown tint to it? You can see your fish, but the water's just not quite gin-clear, and is a bit tea-colored? Sometimes that can be attributed to a tannin effect: like dipping a tea bag into water for just a few seconds, it discolors the water. Tannins come from the leaves or flowers of a nearby plant, or perhaps even the water filling the pond, especially if you're on a well and not city water.
This is a naturally-occurring phenomenon that is not hazardous to the health of either fish or plants. Typically, this can be easily cleared up with activated charcoal. You can purchase activated charcoal, place it in a net bag, and add it to the biological filter on your pond. This may need to be replenished occasionally, but should do the trick within a few days.
When you hear the word “pond,” any number of things may come to mind, depending upon your personal experiences, or that of friends and relatives. For example, if you’re from the Midwest, a pond to you is probably anything you can see across. If you’re from the Southwest, it may be a cow tank.
Game Fish/Recreational Pond
This type of pond can be anything from a cozy little fishing retreat to a man-made lake supporting everything from bass fishing to water skiing. If your goal is to hang out on your back porch and practice your fly casting, this might be something that interests you.
Pros: Quite entertaining if you're into fishing or raising game fish
Cons: Generally not very attractive
This type of pond is specifically designed to catch run-off from rain, irrigation, etc. It is actually designed to be dry most of the time. This is something of a requirement in some cities and communities, either as a neighborhood or on individual lots.
Pros: Acts as stormwater management
Cons: Can breed mosquitoes if the water stands too long because it has no circulation
Rigid System Pond
This type of pond is appropriate in some settings, such as swimming pools. There are several types of rigid liners to choose from, depending on the application and your goals.
Pros: Can be easy to maintain, just throw in a chlorine tab once in a while
Cons: Will absolutely eventually crack and leak, and because it's a rigid system, repair is costly and most of the time ineffective compared to the cost. Not very natural-looking.
Koi Pond With Techno-Filtration/Sterilizers
This type of pond is for those of you who are specifically interested in raising multi-thousand dollar show fish. They are generally not pleasant to look at, they require a lot of equipment and maintenance (see picture), and they are rather expensive, both to set up and to maintain. However, if your goal is to raise show Koi, this is what you need to invest in.
Pros: Great for raising show Koi
Cons: Maintenance-hogs; not very attractive
Organic Water Garden/Flexible System Pond
This is the type of pond that we will spend the majority of this book discussing. An organic water garden is a sustainable, low maintenance, ecological environment created within the pond. This pond will support Koi (as pets) and aquatic plants, and provides a rich environment for both to thrive.
Pros: Beautiful; low maintenance; last a LONG time
Cons: Your friends, families, and neighbors may visit more often than you'd like just to hang out by the pond
Clean your filters ONLY as needed. The skimmer mat should only need to be cleaned about once a month, at the most. The skimmer basket/net, however, should be dumped weekly, or more often if there's a lot of debris falling in the pond. Some customers have trees over their pond, which necessitates dumping that basket/net a little more often. Our dust storms and haboobs can also be a nuisance during monsoon season.
Your biological filter, however, should ONLY be cleaned if the flow of water is being restricted due to an accumulation of debris, but most of the time should only require cleaning once a year during the annual cleaning process in the spring.
If you feel you must clean your biological filter, do NOT over-clean it. It is only necessary to remove the debris that are restricting flow. Over-cleaning the filter can destroy the bacteria (the "good guys") that have colonized on the media, doing damage to the healthy ecosystem and causing you more work to get it back in balance.
Curl up with a Good Brook!
Who doesn't love to hang out next to a babbling brook? It's such a soothing and relaxing sound! Sometimes, a waterfall is just too much sound if you have a quiet little yard. And maybe you don't want a pond for whatever reason. A re-circulating disappearing pondless stream is a great landscape idea!
Backyard Design Ideas for Streams
Streams are SO versatile! Here is just a small list of benefits to landscape ideas for streams to "wet" your appetite:
Did You Know These Facts About Koi Fish?
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HOW DO I ADD FISH TO MY PHOENIX POND?
HOW MANY FISH CAN I HAVE IN MY BACK YARD POND?
The Pond Gnome designs & builds award-winning living water features for the desert Southwest. Invite a little magic into your garden!
What's Involved With Getting a Pond Designed & Installed?
You want a pond, or some kind of water feature in your yard. The first thing that happens when you contact us, is that we can ask you a TON of questions over the phone. Why do we do that? So that we can do the best job possible for you, of course! If we don't ask lots of questions, we can't properly meet your expectations. For example, if you want a pet-friendly pond, but just tell us you want a "Koi pond" because that's simply the terminology you're familiar with, we might design something completely different than you had in mind. And if you have a budget of $6-10,000, and we design a pond that will cost $25,000, that's going to be an awkward conversation.
Our number one goal is always to ascertain and exceed your expectations, and we can't do that without information. So, please be patient with all of our questions because we're doing it for you!
ARE WE A GOOD FIT?
After we have a handle on your dreams and goals for your pond, or water feature, then we make sure that our company is a good fit for what you want. Hey, we're not for everyone, and we understand that. We don't want to jam our company down your throat to make a sale, when in the long run, you won't be happy. That doesn't do either of us any good in the long run. Who is NOT a good fit for The Pond Gnome.
THE ONSITE DESIGN CONSULTATION.
If we all agree that we're a good fit for you, and that we can meet or exceed your goals and expectations, THEN we move forward with an on-site meeting and design. An experienced consultant will come to your home at a mutually-convenient time to design your pond or water feature. Yes, we charge for this service (which we apply toward the contract). Why do you suppose we do that?
First of all, we hear stories all the time about the contractor who didn't show up for an initial meeting or to give a "free estimate," while the homeowner waited at home for hours, possibly taking time off work, etc. If we're charging for a service, you can bet that we'll show up when we say we will!
Second, as an accredited and certified pond professional, we have spent hours and hours on continuing education, as well as being mentored by some of the best pond builders in the world. That education was not free, and we simply can't afford to give away our time. As much as we would love to hang out with all you cool people and chat the day away, we just can't. We love what we do, and we do it to pay our bills.
Third, if you are at a point where you are just dreaming about a pond, or are even considering doing it yourself, then paying a professional for their time is appropriate and the right thing to do.
Fourth, and this is the biggie: If we've done our job properly up until then (ascertained your goals, made sure we're a good fit for each other, and had an honest conversation about a reasonable budget), and if you are seriously ready to move forward with your project, the design process goes smoothly, and a contract is written right on the spot, we will gladly waive the fee!
Once a contract has been signed, and a deposit received, we add you to our construction calendar for next in line. We are typically 3-4 weeks out, sometimes more, depending on the time of year. You will then receive a welcome email with information on your start date, what will happen next, contact information, etc.
Several days before your project is to begin, your consultant will meet with our Foreman on site to go over the contract with him. You are absolutely welcome to be at that meeting to meet your Foreman and ask any additional questions you may have. The meeting will be set up in advance, and you will be notified of it.
Once we begin your project on the pre-approved date, our crew will be on site every day until the job is finished. The average project takes 1-2 weeks from breaking ground to flowing water.
AFTER THE INSTALLATION.
Once the installation is complete, your consultant will return to walk through your new pond or water feature with you. He will make sure that we have met, or preferably exceeded, your expectations. And he will collect final payment at that time. You will also be added to our electronic newsletter list so that you receive timely and relevant information about the care and upkeep of your water feature, events that we host, seminars being taught, etc. We never leave you hanging!
IN A NUTSHELL.
Well, that's it. It's pretty simple, and we're happy to hold your hand along the way. Ready to get started? Let's go!
"i want to remember our vacation"
How many of you have fond memories of a favorite vacation? I know we do! For some people, it's Hawaii. For some, it's a cabin in the woods. For others, it's the beach. What if you could re-create that feeling in your own back yard through specific landscape ideas? You can! So, close your eyes and picture yourself back on that island, or that beach, or in that cabin? What do your surroundings look like?
Need some help? Let us know how we can be of service! Wouldn't you just love to go on vacation every day without having to travel?
fountains make great landscape ideas!
There are no limits to the landscape ideas for which fountains can be used. For this blog post, we'll focus on living fountains -- many people don't realize that this is even possible! A fountain does not have to be a dead-water feature to be low maintenance.
living fountain design
Landscape ideas that begin with the goal of having a living fountain should follow through with an appropriate design. This means that the plumbing and pump choices need to be made with that in mind. You'll need plumbing that is big enough that it doesn't clog easily, a pump that will pass some degree of heavy solids (just like a water garden), and an autofill device so that you don't have to fill it manually all the time. Remember that form follows function, and you want it to be as low maintenance as possible. A little bit more time spent in the planning phase will be greatly rewarded with long-term enjoyment!
adding a fountain to an existing pond or stream
Yes, you can! If your yard and water feature is ready for a little face lift, adding a fountain to it is a great landscape idea that's a lot of bang for the buck. You can add a spillway bowl to the side of a pond, or add a stacked slate urn or fun spitter to your wetland area. The landscape options are limitless!
Barbi Holdeman, co-owner of The Pond Gnome, enjoys sharing their 15+ years of education & experience with you! She writes about Phoenix Ecosystem Pond Installation, Pond Maintenance, Wildlife around the Pond, Koi and Goldfish in the Pond, and the Pond Lifestyle. If you enjoy what she writes, please share it!
Disappearing Pondless Waterfall or Stream