The beauty and joy of a pond makes summer far more memorable and relaxing! Summer is still in full swing here in Phoenix (as demonstrated by the 100+ degree days) and every moment with your finned friends and pond plants should be thoroughly relished. To fully enjoy yourself while Living the Aquascape Lifestyle®, you want to make sure your water feature is healthy and functioning optimally throughout the remainder of the warmer months. When water temperature remains above 80 degrees, it’s important to keep a few things in mind.
Health of Your Pond Fish
Keep an eye on your fish. Do your finned friends appear stressed out, gasping for air close to the water’s surface or especially close to a fountain or waterfall? Warm water has a low capacity for holding oxygen, while cooler water can hold very large amounts of oxygen.
Warm pond water and increased fish activity go hand and hand, and that increased activity also means your fish require more oxygen when less oxygen is available, thus creating a vicious cycle. Stressed fish often begin to develop diseases, and soon enough you’ll have a domino effect.
If you haven’t already done so, add oxygen to your pond by placing an aerator in your pond. You can also install a fountain with a pump, or even a simple spitter, if your pond doesn’t have a waterfall or stream -- and even if it does, this adds more interest in addition to more oxygen. Make sure all areas of the pond are skimmed and the water is being circulated -- keep those streams and waterways clear and flowing. And keep in mind that waterfalls, streams, and even fountains play a huge part in the oxygenation of the water in your pond.
Beat the Heat
There are some preventative measures you can take in order to keep your pond from turning into a warm, unhealthy mess at the end of summer. It all starts with a well-designed water feature. Depth of water, plant coverage, shade, and circulation should all be considered when designing and building a pond. A minimum depth of two feet is suggested; the bottom of the pond will remain cooler.
You’ll also want to stock your pond with a lot of plants to provide shade for the fish. A good rule of thumb is to provide plant coverage of approximately 1/3 to 1/2 of the pond’s surface area. It’s not too late to add plants to your pond.
Perhaps one of the most important parts of pond design is circulation. Hopefully your biological filter and mechanical filter are placed across the pond from each other, so that your pond receives optimal circulation. If not, consider adding a fountain or spitter for additional circulation and to create movement in stagnant areas.
Additional Late Summer Pond Tips
During the final months of summer, you can use these tips to help keep your pond performing optimally:
OTHER POSTS YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
WHAT SHOULD I DO ABOUT BEES IN MY POND?
7 TIPS TO KEEP POND WATER CLEAN
TREES NEXT TO A POND
Concern about bees is something that we hear A LOT when it comes to backyard pond management. With the Africanized bees and the Honey bees inter-breeding, there have been a lot of scary incidents on the news. Most of those, however, are due to someone interfering with the bees in some way, whether intentional or not. That being said, it's always a good idea to use some caution when dealing with a potentially dangerous situation. Don't scream or use any loud equipment around a known hive. And always use a professional beekeeper for removals.
Why are the bees in my pond?
Can I make the bees leave my pond?
Most bee hives simply want to be left alone to do their thing. When it comes to bees around a backyard pond, remember that the bees are there to collect water, one drop at a time, to take back to the hive to cool it. And what better water than a living, all-natural backyard pond? Can you blame them for wanting the best they can get?
A bee is programed to do a specific job for the "collective," and no more. Guard bees do their job within 100 feet of the hive, so those are not the ones collecting water from your yard. The bees at your pond are specifically genetically programmed to get water to the hive, post haste, without detour. The only way they sting is in self-defense. And when they sting you, they die, so it's really not their first choice!
If bees are fetching water from your pond, you can talk to them (we think they like it), or even pet them (Paul does, but most people think he's nuts, go figure). But don't scream at them, they don't understand. And never molest them or hold them up -- they have blackbelts in beejitsu! ;-)
If they are collecting from a spot that is inconvenient for you, such as right next to your sitting area, you can discourage this pretty easily. Another bonus of having a ecosystem backyard pond with natural rock & stone! Wait until there are no bees around (typically after dusk). Wash the rocks down in the area to remove the pheromone left behind by the bees to guide others to that particular spot. Then re-arrange the rocks to make it a less attractive landing space. If this doesn't work the first time, try again until you get it right. They will get the hint and find another spot, preferably further away from where you want to sit and enjoy your water feature.
Bees are an integral part of our global ecosystem, and we recommend living in harmony with them whenever possible. In fact, without bees pollinating our food plants, we would have no food. No bees = no people.
However, if you have a hive on your property, or your neighbor's property, have it removed by a professional.
A QUICK VIDEO ABOUT INTERACTING WITH BEES:
Most water gardeners are aware of the importance that good quality water plays in a pond habitat. Not knowing how to get or keep water quality can sometimes prove challenging. Your water may be clear, but your fish might be acting differently, which can signify that something might be a little off in your pond’s water.
With a little education and experience, you’ll become better equipped to solve whatever pond water issues you might have. For starters, follow our 7 tips below to help keep your pond water clean!
1. Maintain a healthy fish population
If you have more than 10” of fish for every 100 gallons of water, your pond is likely over-populated. Excessive fish waste can cause an imbalance in pond water. Consider finding some of them a new home. In the alternative, you can increase the size of your pond, or upgrade your filtration.
2. Don’t over-feed your fish
When you feed fish more than they can eat, the uneaten food is left to decay in the pond. Be careful not to feed your fish more than once per day, and no more than they can eat in 2 to 3 minutes. Choose a quality fish food – preferably one that floats as opposed to sinking to the bottom of the pond if left uneaten.
3. Create a proper balance of plants
At season’s peak, you should have 40% to 60% of the surface area of your pond either covered or shaded by plants. Too many plants can cause oxygen deficiencies at night due to the photosynthetic process, when the plants take in oxygen and give off carbon dioxide. Your fish need the oxygen to survive.
4. Choose the right size pump for your ponD
You should be circulating the entire pond’s water volume a minimum of once every hour. Make sure your pump’s flow isn’t restricted by debris in the skimmer or biological filter, and be careful not to pump water higher than it was intended. Every pump has its flow limitations.
5. Clean debris from pond before it has a chance to decay
Your pond skimmer will remove most of the debris from the surface of your pond, but you can also use a pond net to skim leaves and small sticks before they have a chance to descend to the pond’s bottom where they’ll decay, as well as directly from the bottom of the pond. Decaying debris, combined with fish waste and leftover fish food, can cause ammonia levels to spike in your pond.
Ammonia can be harmful to your fish and should be addressed right away. If you see your fish jumping out of the water, you likely have an ammonia spike which can happen after adding an algae treatment. You can purchase an ammonia test kit at your local pet and aquarium store and if you find the levels are high, simply treat your pond water with Ammonia Neutralizer. Beneficial microbes such as Aquascape Beneficial Bacteria helps keep your pond water healthy and clean for your finned friends.
6. Choose proper filtration for your pond
Just like your pond pump, your pond’s filter system should match the size of your water garden. Most pond filters are based on ideal circumstances, and if you exceed those, your filter becomes less effective. Always up-size your filter so that it can handle more than the capacity of your pond and remember to clean your filter according to instructions.
There are two types of filters in an Aquascape ecosystem pond. A mechanical filter, also known as the skimmer, removes surface debris from your pond water such as leaves and small sticks. The biological filter, or BioFalls filter, is positioned to create the beginning of the waterfall in your pond. This filter uses bacteria to break down pond wastes, converting them into less harmful compounds that can be absorbed as fertilizer by your aquatic plants.
7. Keep your pond AERATED
When pond water exceeds 75º Fahrenheit, it has a difficult time retaining acceptable levels of dissolved oxygen, which is critical for the health of your fish. This is why it’s important to have the surface of your pond shaded by aquatic plants to help keep pond water cool. Fish need oxygen to survive. If you see them at the pond’s surface gasping for air, you might want to add an aerator to help them during times of extreme heat in our Phoenix summers. The Pond Gnome designs their ponds to handle our Sonoran Desert environment right from the get-go.
OTHER POSTS YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
10 COMMON POND MYTHS
POND WATER TREATMENT CHEAT SHEET
KEEPING IT SIMPLE, NOT STUPID
We’ve heard a variety of reasons why people might not want a pond, and most of them happen to be common pond myths that simply are not true. Rather than a maintenance nightmare, a properly designed and installed pond provides more beauty and relaxation than any other outdoor home improvement element. Flowers don’t create soothing sounds, and patios don’t help reduce stress and blood pressure. So, if you’re apprehensive about owning a pond, read through the most common pond myths and rest assured that Living the Aquascape Lifestyle® is a true pleasure you don’t want to miss!
1: Ponds are breeding grounds for mosquitoes
Mosquitoes breed in still, standing water. A well-designed pond has lots of water movement. In fact, we recommend turning the water over once every hour. Also, ponds support fish, frogs, toads, and other wildlife that are natural predators of mosquitoes. Did you know that a dragonfly (a pond-loving creature, for sure!) actually eats hundreds of mosquitoes each day?
2: Maintaining a pond is constant work
A properly installed ecosystem pond takes less work than the expanse of grass it replaces. A balance of five key factors creates the basis for a truly low-maintenance pond, including filtration, circulation, plants, fish, and rocks and gravel. Will you need to perform a bit of maintenance from time to time? Of course, but you’ll spend less time maintaining a healthy pond than you will a mowing, fertilizing, and watering the lawn. And how much fun is it to watch that grass grow?
3: Ponds need daily water testing and corrective treatment
If your pond isn’t chemically-dependent, there’s nothing to test! Rivers, lakes, and oceans aren’t tested and plenty of wildlife thrive in their waters. Stick to a philosophy of a balanced pond with minimal maintenance and your water should remain healthy throughout the year. Granted, there might be outside forces (such as a big ol' dust storm) that can temporarily alter water chemistry. But as a rule, you won’t need to test your pond water. If you do need some help from time to time, there are natural water treatment products available.
4: You should never have algae in your pond
A proper proportion of algae is considered beneficial and an integral part of a healthy ecosystem. Pristine, over-treated water isn’t natural, nor is it good for your fish who enjoy snacking on algae that cling to rocks. An abundance of algae has a simple cause – too much sunlight and plenty of nutrient-rich water. That’s why a well-designed pond includes proper filtration to diminish the nutrients that contribute to the growth of algae. In addition, aquatic plants compete for the same food source as algae and can help control its growth.
5: Any contractor or landscaper can install a pond
Building a pond, and building it right, are often two very different things. This is one of the pond myths that can prove costly. A good landscaper might be talented with hardscapes and softscapes, but that doesn’t mean they are knowledgeable in the concept, design, or construction that makes a naturally balanced pond function properly. Be sure to hire a trained, certified installer like a Certified Aquascape Contractor. Hiring the landscaper with the cheapest bid often becomes the most expensive option when you realize you need the pond completely renovated when it doesn’t work right.
6: Small ponds are less work
Actually, the larger the water feature, the easier the maintenance. Aquarium hobbyists know it’s much easier to achieve a healthy, stable tank with more water, not less. The same is true for ponds. Small water features don’t have the flow or capacity necessary for long-term stability. However, regardless of size, a properly designed pond is better able to achieve ecological balance. Ponds become more stable with each passing year as plants, bacteria colonies, and other vital life becomes established. The most often expressed regret is: "I wish I had made it bigger."
7: Predators will eat all the fish
While it’s true there are predators that would like to snack on your fish, you can do things to deter them from visiting your pond. Built-in fish caves are a great option to create a safe retreat for fish to hide from herons, raccoons, etc. Decoys such as a floating alligator or blue heron can also deter predators from your pond, as well as a motion-activated "scarecrow." Some pond owners choose to put netting over their pond to keep predators out. Fishing line can also be crisscrossed over the pond to keep herons from wading in the waters. And some people simply choose to stock their pond with cheap feeder goldfish and enjoy the birds.
8: To keep fish, ponds need to be deep
Pond fish, including koi, go dormant in ponds just two feet deep through winters as cold as Minnesota’s bone-chilling temperatures. A small circulating in-pond pump and pond de-Icer are all you need to keep a hole in the ice for the exchange of gases.
In our Phoenix, Arizona, environment, we deal more with the heat issue. With a pond that circulates 24/7/365 and some plants in and around the pond for shade, fish do just fine! We've been building ponds in Arizona since 2000, and we haven't boiled any Koi yet.
9: Ponds are expensive
Professional installations for a small pond is about the same price you’d pay for a paver patio (but you’ll enjoy the pond so much more!). At the most affordable end of the spectrum, DIY pond kits begin at roughly $1,000, plus another $700 for items that don’t come in the kit such as rock, fish, and plants. If you have a smaller budget, consider an AquaGarden Mini Pond Kit that retails for approximately $200. It comes complete with a waterfall, filter, and waterfall light. All you do is add water, plants, and even a few small fish if you’d like. Lots of our clients start out with a small DIY model, and then come to us when they're ready for an upgrade.
10: Water gardening involves a lot of hard work
This is the last of the common pond myths that we’ll debunk! Well-designed, ecologically balanced ponds need only an occasional treatment of beneficial bacteria or algae inhibitor. In addition, the pond skimmer basket should be checked once a week for debris. A pond cleaning in the winter (in Phoenix; Spring in other parts of the country) might be in order but isn’t always necessary. Maintaining a pond is less time-consuming than pulling weeds and watering annuals and perennials. In fact, you don’t have to water aquatic plants at all!
And, for your convenience, we offer several different pond management programs to help you out!
Trees really naturalize the look of a pond. They help provide shade for the fish and plants, giving them respite from our brutal Phoenix summer sun. They add to the general cooling effect of having a pond or water feature in your yard. They provide areas for native and migratory birds to hang and between drinks and baths and to serenade you with their pretty songs. And they provide shade for you to enjoy sitting next to your pond.
But not all trees are appropriate for next to a water feature! Some have invasive roots that will seek out and destroy your pond. Some drop copious amounts of litter into your pond (which, if you have a skimmer basket isn't fatal, but can be a pain in the butt). Some grow in a manner that will heave your pond or water feature -- and maybe even your patio and walkways. And, no, the plant nursery won't always tell you these things. So, which ones are good, and which ones not so much?
Trees That Work Great Next to a Pond or Water Feature
All trees drop debris. Having a skimmer on your pond is the easier way to deal with that, and you may have to empty it more often during some times of the year. And, frankly, most trees really should be planted 10' or so from the pond's edge to avoid issues. You can absolutely have it closer, and many people do; you may just need to be prepared to deal with a partial rebuild from time to time, depending on the tree's growth.
If you want a tree next to your pond, here are some good choices:
Trees to Avoid Next to a Pond or Water Feature
You'll want to avoid planting any riprian tree within 20' of your pond because they tend to seek water. However, these trees are great in your landscape for attracting native birds to your yard, and tend to discourage the pesty birds like pigeons.
Some examples of trees to avoid within 20' of your pond are:
So, choose wisely, and enjoy having a personal backyard haven to decompress, de-stress, and simply enjoy!
OTHER POSTS YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
WHY BACKYARD PONDS HAVE HEALING POWER
BACKYARD LIGHTING IDEAS
HOME SCHOOLING WITH PONDS
HAVE A POND WITH ISSUES?