My wINTER Pond Is Different
Yes, every pond is an individual when it comes to how it will act in the Winter, or any other time of year, for that matter. Differences include: age, size, depth, filtration, fish load, additional wildlife load, exposure to sun and wind, adjacent terrestrial plant life, as well as the aquatic plant life, and a plethora of other micro-climate variations. Add to this how much fish food gets thrown in the water (any, a lot, none). It all goes together to make up the body of water that is your pond.
CYA Statement: Every article or blog that we write is based on the rules that we understand in average circumstances in the Greater Phoenix Metropolitan area. Your pond is an individual, with a unique set of circumstances, so please understand that what we discuss in any of these articles is the rule of thumb and may not be precisely descriptive of what you are experiencing today in your own personal backyard pond.
Fish and Water Temperatures in A Winter Pond
With winter temperatures, as the water dips down below 55 degrees (water temperature follows the nighttime temperatures, NOT the daytime highs), we recommend you stop feeding your fish. In colder water, the fish don’t metabolize high protein food like they do in the summer, and if it goes through their digestive system too slow, it could begin to rot inside them and result in a fish kill. We get a couple of calls a winter from people who have literally fed their babies to death. It's a very sad thing to have to tell people.
As always, natural treats like zucchini, melon, lettuce, oranges, and even Cheerios, can be given.
Algae Blooms in Winter Ponds
We don't freeze over here in Phoenix (typically, that is), so we tend to experience a big algae bloom in the Winter. We just had a caller this week tell us that we must be wrong about this because she had always heard that algae was more of a problem in the hot weather. She is not wrong, and neither are we. What’s the deal then? Our ponding system relies on a healthy ecosystem full of micro organisms and zoo plankton to keep the water healthy and clear. In a healthy ecosystem pond, zoo plankton are very active and do a great job in the warm weather, but they hibernate in the colder water temps. How much will YOU get? Well, that goes back to that ponds are individuals thing.
Plants in a Winter Pond
DO NOT thin or trim back your aquatic plants too severely just yet. Remember, we technically have a chance of frost through the end of February. Many years, that seems practically impossible, but we've been surprised from time to time, so better safe than sorry.
Your annual cleaning should be done when the water is COLD. So, plan to do that before the end of March. We provide that service, or you can certainly do it yourself.
Before you know it (and for those of us getting older, it seems to be in the blink of an eye), the water will begin to warm, your fish will become more active, and your aquatic plants will burst forth with new life. Then, we can all start complaining about the heat again...
Help! My Plants are all Dying!
Not exactly. The water is getting cold now in your pond or water feature (water temps follow nighttime temps). The aquatic plants are not dying, but simply going into their "winter" hibernation. We don't freeze over here in the Phoenix area, but our plants don't look their best while the water is cold. You may also see an increase in string algae, which is what we get instead of ice.
DO NOT be tempted to thin/trim them until the last danger of frost has passed now (typically, the end of February).
Just so you don't feel like you're alone, here's a quick video of what a typical "winter" pond looks like in our neck of the woods.
When we think of concrete, we typically think of something very durable that will last forever. And we’d like to believe that a concrete pond would follow suit. The foundations of our homes are concrete, after all! And our roads and bridges! And swimming pools! Yep, things that are expected to last forever are made of concrete. So, it just stands to reason that a pond should be made of concrete right? Meh, maybe not so much.
1. CONCRETE IS NOT FOREVER
Concrete is a rigid method of building. It’s exceedingly difficult (and often impossible) to add onto or enhance a concrete pond once completed. You also need to excavate it like a big bowl, which can be dangerous for pets, children, and wildlife if they fall in because it becomes very slick once the “pond patina” layer has formed.
Pools are made of concrete, this is true. However, underneath the concrete in pool construction are a bunch of things that help stabilize it and keep it rigid (like rebar), despite the movement of the earth around it. It's pretty expensive to put all that stuff in place, in case you haven't priced pools lately. If all you're going to do is dig a hole and slather concrete over it, you haven't done any of the things that make concrete durable enough to stand the test of time, like a pool. This process leads to failure of the concrete shell. Every time.
2. CONCRETE IS MORE EXPENSIVE
Once the ground has shifted or settled (which will definitely happen because the earth is always moving just a bit), you're looking at completely re-doing the whole thing in a few years because the concrete shell has cracked and now you have leaks. By the way, if you let that small leak go too long, it becomes a bigger leak, and the water leaking out may be undermining various structures around it via erosion.
You can try patching a leaky concrete bowl, but that’s not a permanent fix. A better “fix” would be to prep and coat it in a liquid rubber liner product, which is not cheap to do it properly. Oh, and it’s kinda ugly.
If you can’t fix it, you have to jackhammer out the old pond and put a new one in its place. And the whole process repeats. Remember the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results.
3. A GOOD POND LINER CARRIES A 20-YEAR WARRANTY
Liner ponds allow the ground to shift around it without damage. Sure, sometimes there's a settling leak at the edge of a liner pond. But that's easy to fix: you just lift the liner a bit, shove some dirt under it, and call it bueno.
A good liner product (i.e., 45-mil EPDM rubber) carries a 20-year manufacturer’s warranty. Most concrete contractors don’t warranty their work beyond the 2-year requirement of the Registrar of Contractors. The one thing that concrete is guaranteed to do over time: crack. And leak.
4. FISH & PLANTS DON’T LIKE CONCRETE
Many a cement head has said: “Sure, Mrs. Customer, you can put plants and fish in the pond” right before they run out the door with that final check. And, yes, you can. That doesn’t mean that they’ll be happy. Concrete, filled with Portland cement, leaches lime and alkalis into the water forever, which does not make for especially happy, healthy plants and fish – especially considering our naturally high pH here in Arizona.
Because you can’t really build in plant pockets in a cement pond, you have to keep the aquatic plants in buckets. Not very attractive, and thinning/dividing those plants will be a bear some day. Then there’s having to fertilize the plants because you just can’t seem to teach those darn fish to back up the plant pots to poop – although, they do tend to dig in the pots like dogs. Fertilizer can then cause water quality issues.
5. A CONCRETE POND OR WATER FEATURE WILL NOT ADD TO THE VALUE OF YOUR HOME
Despite the claims, just because a water feature is built out of concrete, that fact alone will NOT add value to your home. What adds value is a beautiful well-built, serviceable water feature that fits well into its surroundings. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the construction method.
All that being said, if you plan to go spear fishing in your pond, or hand your kids a trident to play with, then you want to find yourself a good concrete pond contractor. However, if what you want is a well-built, serviceable pond system, you might want to continue your research on ALL of your options.
5 Biggest Drawbacks to an Ecosystem Pond
Ecosystem ponds can be gorgeous and low maintenance. They provide hours of pleasure, while requiring only minutes per week of care. But they have their drawbacks and they’re not for everyone.
Here are the 5 biggest drawbacks to having an ecosystem pond that we hear about:
Water holds vast cognitive, emotional, psychological, and social benefits. We are, after all, made mostly of water. So, it naturally stands to reason that we are drawn to water to calm the mind, to gather with friends, to reconnect with nature, etc.
The “Blue Mind” is “a mildly meditative state characterized by calm, peacefulness, unity, and a sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life in the moment. It is inspired by water and elements associated with water, from the color blue to the words we use to describe the sensations associated with immersion.” The Blue Mind by Dr. Wallace J. Nichols.
But is the Blue Mind applicable to the Sonoran Desert? Absolutely! Natural water sources secreted away in desert oases are vital to native and migratory wildlife, as well as humans. Imagine how a backyard riparian zone, complete with organic water via an ecosystem pond or stream, could add to that, as well help replace the ever-diminishing natural wetlands that have been sacrificed for urban sprawl.
Check out this fascinating talk in the video below. And let us know how we can help YOU create your very own backyard version of "The Blue Mind."
We've done lots of articles, Facebook posts, etc., about dogs who love their backyard ponds. This story is about one of our clients, who happens to rescues cats. But rather than me writing about it, here is their story in their own words. Yes, it's a bit of a testimonial, too, but the story is great!
The "Catio," Complete with Backyard Pond
"We moved from a very private, quiet street in Scottdale to a 1 acre property in Paradise Valley, surrounded by acres of empty desert. Our kitties were used to being outside during the daytime hours in Scottsdale, but here in PV it was too dangerous for both the cats & the wildlife (bunnies, birds, squirrels, etc). We built a kitty enclosure and wanted something to entertain the cats plus give them fresh drinking water. The Pond Gnome was the only vendor we could find who would do a fresh water pond. These guys were amazing! We never expected the artistry, not only in the design, but in the building of the pond. I watched as rocks were moved around multiple times to get just the right effect of water falling (the sound is soooo relaxing!), and the best appearance for sunlight and evening hours. The Pond Gnome answered all our questions, brought us beautiful plants, tended to the pond until it was just right, gave me all instructions necessary, helped us know when & what kind of fish to get, plus how to care for them.... A phenomenal experience for us. The thing is, not only do the cats LOVE their pond, but we do too! We had no idea how often we would sit in the enclosure with the kitties, watch the fish, relax with the waterfall sound, and completely enjoy ourselves. Amazing! We absolutely love it.... my husband, me, and all 16 of our rescued kitty cats."
So many choices! You can go with this. Or you can go with that.
What if I travel a lot? How much maintenance does it take? Do I really want or need fish? How much room does it take up? Which one is best for me and my family, my situation?
If a water feature in your yard is a home improvement option that interests you, but you have analysis paralysis, take this short 10-question quiz to help streamline your focus. The results will give you information on the best choice for you, budget numbers, and maintenance needs.
If you don’t have the means, or the time, to travel the world, why not bring the world to you? An ecosystem water feature can mimic just about any zone in the world! So, where would you like to go?
How about a desert riparian zone:
Or maybe a Mediterranean feel:
How about a tropical paradise:
Rain forest, anyone:
Or perhaps a beach home:
Or maybe just a lake house:
Bio-mimicry. Yeah, we can do that!
Please keep in mind that all the articles/blogs that we write are in reference to organic, ecosystem ponds in Phoenix, AZ. If you live in another part of the country, or have a pool-type filtration system, or something else, please contact the person who built the pond or the manufacturer of the products to determine the best maintenance practices, as they differ wildly on occasion.
How Often Should I Clean My Biological Filter in a Phoenix pond?
We really don't recommend that you clean this filter more than once a year. Cleaning the biological filter too often can actually set you back because you're resetting all of the micro-organisms that help keep the water clean. However, sometimes it's necessary if the area has become really mucked-up due to excessive storm activity, etc. Remember to always re-seed your beneficial bacteria!
How Often Should I Clean My Mechanical Filter in a Phoenix pond?
Clean your mechanical filter in the summer as needed. The skimmer mat should be hosed off about once a month. The skimmer basket/net should be emptied weekly, or possibly more often, depending on the amount of debris that falls into the pond.
We have complete cleaning instructions on our site. If you find that you want help, just let us know! And we offer a variety of maintenance programs!
If you don't have an organic, ecosystem pond, and are sick and tired of the other kinds of maintenance involved, please don't hesitate to ask how we can help!
Did you know that there are 950,000 species of insects? And that most of those are beneficial to our environment or food for other beneficial critters? Most people are really only trying to kill about 10 unwanted insects in their yard. When you take that into account, does it really make sense to broadcast poison over your entire property? And if you have beloved pets, that can be a serious issue! Let’s take a look at another option for the common “pest.”
This little blood-sucker is probably the most despised pest on the list. It’s been known to carry all kinds of diseases, and many people have a very bad reaction to the anti-clotting agent that they introduce when they bite. Would it surprise you to learn that a single dragonfly can eat its own body weight of these insects in just 30 minutes? Damselflies, too. And where would you find such great allies for your outdoor environment? Hanging out around a living water feature (pond, waterfall, stream), of course! Many biologists agree that a well-built ecosystem pond is actually the cure for the West Nile Virus!
In the Far East, it’s considered good luck to have a cricket in your house, and very bad luck to kill one, even by accident. But here in the States, we don’t really adhere to that superstition. So, what do we do about those? Well, frogs and toads LOVE crickets. And where can you find those? Hanging out around a living water feature (pond), of course!
Yikes! No one likes these guys around the house! Even our cat isn’t real fond of them. But scorpions are actually pretty resistant to the common pest controls out there, despite advertising claims to the contrary. So, what now? Believe it or not: frogs and toads. And where can you find those? Hanging out around a living water feature (pond), of course! Are you sensing a theme yet?
That covers the three top hated insects. There are others, but they can all be hunted and eaten by cool critters that will live around your yard happily if you have the right environment for them (pond, waterfall, stream, etc.).
Here are some great resources to learn more about integrated pest management:
For more general information on insects in Arizona:
Insects of the Southwest by Floyd Werner, Phh.D. & Carl Olson, M.S.
Draongflies & Damselflies of the Southwest by Robert A. Behrstock
Twilight time. A couple sits side by side on a patio staring into a backyard pond. It’s quiet, except for the sound of the gentle waterfall and babbling stream. The colorful fish play tag in and out of the glimmers of the underwater lights, casting dancing reflections into the tree above. A night-blooming lily is showing off its white blossom. Between the chairs is a small table holding two glasses of wine: hers white, his red. And their cell phones are sitting on the table, not being held in their hands in front of their faces. There’s no TV on. No outside interruptions.
The lady sighs contentedly and reaches for her half-finished glass of wine. When she puts it back down, the man reaches for her hand and holds it gently. No words are spoken. Just quiet time together, decompressing from a day’s activities and technology.
“This is wonderful,” she says. “Absolutely,” the man agrees. More moments of silence, reflection, relaxation.
“When will the kids be home?” he asks after awhile. “They’re spending the night at Grandma’s,” she replies with an arched eyebrow.
“Oh…,” he responds…
What is your version of romance? In today’s techno-crazy world, we sometimes forget to unplug, decompress, relax, and just BE with each other. When was the last time you reconnected with your partner without interruptions? Even going out to dinner and a movie comes with outside influences: traffic, waiters, other patrons. Wouldn’t it be nice to have the ability to simply step into your backyard and into a whole different world without having to leave the house to “get away?”
Some of the things our clients have told us:
The cost to build a backyard pond in Phoenix, AZ, can vary greatly. The size, style, materials, and equipment you select will all impact this price -- not to mention the contractor/artist you choose to hire, depending on level of experience, training, certification, and warranty policy.
The cost of a pond also depends on your definition of a “pond.” Some people view a pond as an organic body of water, large or small, while others envision a concrete fountain shaped like a pond with dead sterile water. The first questions to ask yourself are what do you want it to look like, why a pond (or a pondless water feature option), how do you want to enjoy it, what kind of money do you want to spend on this home improvement project, and what kind of maintenance are you willing to put up with?
The Cost of a DIY Pond in Phoenix, AZ, is Not Just the Equipment
If you’re building the pond yourself, you can do it for about a hundred dollars, depending on where you buy your supplies. A little DIY kit from one of the big-box stores is pretty cheap. And if you’re not sure you’ll enjoy the hobby, this is an inexpensive way to test the water, so to speak. We’ve replaced LOTS of DIY ponds over the last 17+ years because people fell in love with the hobby after trying it out on their own and are ready for the next step or a larger pond.
A couple of caveats about a DIY project: it’s a PROJECT. It might take you literally a month of Sundays to finish. The DIY kits are also not likely to come with the best equipment and filtration, so your maintenance chores will be a bit more than professional-grade equipment. Be sure to check the parts warranty, as not all warranties are created equal. Some parts you can just return to the store; others, you have to ship across state lines to get a replacement, provided a replacement part is still in production and available. Don't expect any help or advice from the sales people, either. They're there to sell stuff, and are not a "ponder." And in this neck of the woods, if you want aquatic plants, that can be a tough find for a do-it-yourselfer.
The Cost of a Professionally-Installed Pond in Phoenix, AZ
When dealing with a true experienced certified professional, you can expect to pay between $8,000 and $14,000 for the average-sized professionally-installed custom pond. Our pricing starts around $5,000 for a small goldfish pond. If you’re looking to keep Koi, plan on spending at least $10,000 for the extra size and filtration necessary.
Of course, we highly recommend that you hire someone whose work you’ve seen in person, and whose licensing and references have checked out. This is a bad time to make an impulse purchase! We’ve replaced countless poorly designed and installed ponds that folks have spent plenty of their hard-earned money on in the heat of the moment because of a home show mock-up, special deal, or because the salesman was a nice guy. FYI, you can see a variety of our work via our FREE Pond Tour.
You also want to make sure that the contractor you’re considering is in tune with what you really want in your yard. For example, if you want to raise multi-thousand-dollar show-quality Koi fish, you want to hire someone who specializes in that type of pond and filtration and isn't too terribly worried about the pond aesthetics themselves. If you want a gorgeous living ecosystem pond, and the fish are simply a beautiful part of that system, then that’s a whole different philosophy.
Shopping for a Pond Contractor in Phoenix, AZ
The best way to shop for the contractor who will best suit your needs is to first visit their website. Make sure that the photos on that site are actually pictures of THEIR work. As in any industry, there are always a few charlatans out there. If you like what you see online, go see their work in person. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but seeing it for yourself is priceless! And talk to a client or two. Most reputable companies will list references/testimonials right on their website that you can contact. If not, then ask. Do your due diligence! If they can’t send you to see some of their work in person, and they can’t produce at least 3 references, flee!
Before you actually talk to a contractor, have a strong idea of what you’re looking for (but be open to options), what kind of budget you have to work with, and be clear in your mind about how you will know when you’ve found the right contractor for you. Did they listen to you? Can they meet your expectations and budget? Do they seem knowledgeable and competent?
It’s not ALL about price when shopping for a pond in Phoenix, AZ. Yes, you probably have a budget to live by, as most of us do. This is an investment in your home, and your property value. Remember: it’s always more expensive to have to do it over than to just do it right the first time, as several of our clients can attest.
Good luck in your quest, and let us know if we can be of service!
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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Barbi Holdeman, co-owner of The Pond Gnome, enjoys sharing their 17+ 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!