Ornamental gardening, "stay-cations," and "backyard Living" are at an all-time high in popularity. It seems that, in our high-tech society, everyone wants to get "outside," reconnect with nature, and enjoy the simpler low-tech pleasures. Nothing is better than sitting in a backyard by a water garden and watching the birds and butterflies at play. Many different types of birds visit our garden on any given day and in the summertime the butterflies abound! They eat, play, nest and bathe. And in the process we (and neighbors that walk by our front-yard stream), get to enjoy the gifts of nature.
Backyard Ponds & Gardens Should Work with Mother Nature
Like ALL living things, these beneficial creatures need certain basic things to live and prosper: food, water, shelter, and places to raise young. If you provide these things, you will see your new friends moving in almost overnight.
Want to increase the number of birds and butterflies in your landscape? Here are some brief hints:
Plant some native trees, shrubs and flowers. Using the right plants will provide places for shelter, nesting and food & will add beauty to your landscape. The great thing is that many of the plants that shelter and feed the birds and butterflies are native plants. Most of these natives are long-lived, drought hardy, and insect and disease resistant.
Put in a living water feature. We must ALL have water to live. Your water feature can be as simple as a bird bath or as large as a custom re-circulating waterfall, water garden, or rainwater harvesting system. The main thing to remember is that birds like shallow water for bathing and drinking (2″ to 4″) butterflies like a “seep.” Think about your overall landscape design and get some water in the mix! As a bonus, your kids/grandkids will really engage with a water garden.
Put up some Feeders. Putting up a few feeders will almost immediately draw in some new visitors. Platform feeder are great for black oil sunflower seeds, fruit, bread, nuts, and more. Tube feeders and socks are great for black thistle (a Finch favorite). A large hopper-type feeder is great for general feeding and can be filled every few days with an inexpensive song bird mix. Suet feeders are great and you can hang or mount them almost anywhere. AND don’t forget the Hummingbirds! There are even Butterfly feeders that you can put nectar and fresh fruit in to attract and feed butterflies. Spread your feeders out a bit around your outdoor living/viewing area. It will give you multiple viewing opportunities and it will give the birds a bit of room to move around.
Put up some bird and butterfly houses. Some birds require housing to get their attention! Some birds are particular on the placement, color and construction of these houses, so do some research on the birds in the area and what they like. If you get it right, you will be blessed with some AWESOME birds that will eat their weight in insects and will thrill you daily with their beauty and grace. And don’t forget the butterflies! A butterfly house makes for a great conversation piece and is a really unique addition to your garden.
Want to help your environment and make your little critters healthier and happier? Think organic! Pesticides and other garden chemicals are VERY harmful to birds and beneficial Insects! It’s not easy being green, BUT it’s not that hard either. Try to use organic alternatives like neem oil, insecticidal soap, dormant oil and non-chemical fertilizers (or, better yet, compost). You will notice a difference in the quality of your garden AND in the quality of your life!
Enjoying the abundance of nature is awesome and it’s not all that difficult! In fact, if you do some of these things, you will see an immediate increase in the number of birds, butterflies and beneficial insects in your landscape. These beneficial creatures will make your flowers more beautiful, your vegetables more productive, and your Life more abundant!
The beauty of a pond is something everyone can appreciate and enjoy. Yes, even in Phoenix, AZ! A flash of colorful fish swimming in clean, clear water beneath the pads of waterlilies is a sight to behold and enjoy. Add the sound of a running waterfall or babbling brook stream and you have a dream come true in your backyard.
Keeping pond water clean and clear is the basis for a healthy pond that requires little to no maintenance. Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to create a proper pond environment that benefits your fish and plants. Follow our not-so-secret steps to ensure a naturally-balanced, low maintenance pond throughout the year! Remember: it's SO much easier to work WITH Mother Nature than AGAINST Her.
Make sure your pond pump is the correct size for your pond and waterfall. A pump provides valuable aeration to the water. Several variables need to be considered when choosing a pump, such as the size of your pond and the height of your waterfall. Most pumps will give you the specifications you need for water flow, head pressure, etc.
More often than not, when answering questions about pond water quality, we find that people don’t have proper filtration installed on their pond. If you don't have a filter, you ARE the filter, and this makes for more maintenance. For the lowest maintenance possible, you want to make sure your pond has both a biological filter and a mechanical skimmer. The biological filter is typically the apex of your waterfall and adds beneficial bacteria to your pond. The mechanical skimmer is similar to a pool skimmer, removing surface debris such as leaves and sticks. Ideally, you want to position the biological filter and skimmer at opposite ends of the pond. This ensures movement throughout the entire pond so you don’t end up with stagnant areas.
Rocks & Gravel in a Pond
Ponds can be built in various ways. Some are created with concrete, others with a simple pond liner. We believe in an ecosystem approach to the pondering lifestyle and use rocks and gravels in our ponds, after installing underlayment and liner. Gravel provides much-needed surface area for beneficial bacteria to grow. Your fish will graze on these bacteria, as well. The gravel won’t be a breeding ground for muck and debris if you ensure that your low maintenance pond has the proper pump and filtration system. The ecosystem works together, like a circle of life, so it’s important not to eliminate any of the elements.
While fish keeping is fun, your finned friends also play an important part in the overall ecosystem of your pond. They eat algae, and their waste becomes fertilizer for your pond plants. Too many fish, however, can pose a problem. A good rule of thumb is to limit your fish load to no more than 10” of fish per 100 gallons of water. So if you have a 20 fish at various lengths totaling 300” when combined, then you need a 3,000 gallon pond.
Plants in a Pond
Plants also play a critical role in the pond’s ecosystem due to their filtering capabilities. Plants absorb nutrients from fish waste and help starve algae of its food. During hot summer months, make sure to have at least 40% of your pond’s surface covered with plants. You can accomplish this with waterlilies and various marginals or floating plants.
There you have it! Not so tough, eh? You now know the secret to a truly low maintenance pond. Start with the basics and create a naturally balanced pond with a combination of proper circulation, filtration, fish, plants, and rock and gravel. You’ll be amazed at how easy pond-keeping can be!
How can I tell if I have frog eggs or toad eggs in my Phoenix pond?
To start with, both amphibians make up the order Anura in the animal kingdom, but there are some key differences in the critters themselves. You can tell most toads and frogs apart by the appearance of their skin and legs. Most frogs have long legs and smooth skin covered in mucus. Toads generally have shorter legs and rougher, thicker skins.
As to the eggs you might be seeing in your Phoenix pond, toads generally lay their eggs in very long strands of clear jelly, sort of like small black pearls in a long clear plastic tube (dish on right). Frogs, on the other hand, lay their eggs in a cluster that resembles a bunch of grapes (dish on the left).
Here's a little graphic on what you might see over the next few months after the toad or frog eggs appear:
What kind of filtration do I need for my Phoenix AZ pond?
The type of filtration you need for a Phoenix AZ pond varies wildly by what type of pond you want or have. It also depends on your goals. For example, if your goal is to raise show Koi, that's a decidedly different kind of filtration and circulation system (and entire pond concept, frankly), than if you want a water garden to host pet Koi or goldfish. Fish are an integral part of a pond ecosystem, but a water garden may not be the best choice for raising show Koi.
Basically, you need both mechanical and biological filtration for any living water feature. YOU can be both of these. OR, you can install systems that do the work for you. There are MANY to choose from. Just remember that you tend to get what you pay for in life. You can purchase most equipment online these days, but that rarely comes with good customer service.
We are absolutely familiar with all styles and types of ponds -- and there are literally HUNDREDS of ways to build a "pond."
Here are The Pond Gnome's thoughts on pond filtration for Phoenix AZ for creating beautiful low-maintenance ecosystem water features:
Does a Water FEature Increase Property Values in Phoenix?
This is a question that comes up a lot. And if you ask 5 different realtors their opinion on how water features affect property values, you'll get 5 different answers.
First and foremost, if you're doing a home improvement, it should add to YOUR enjoyment and YOUR quality of life. So, would YOU enjoy a well-built easy-to-maintain living water feature?
Here's our take on the subject of how Phoenix property values might be affected by a pond or water feature:
pH? What's That?
Strictly speaking, pH is a measure of hydrogen ion concentration, a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of a solution.
In layman terms, it's how hard the water is. You're probably already aware that here in Phoenix, our water comes out of the tap pretty darn high, around 8.5 on the pH scale.
So, what's to be done about this where it concerns a pond or water feature in your Phoenix yard?
Check out a quick video on the subject of pH and the Phoenix pond or water feature:
Did you know that 45% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, but only about 8% of them actually keep their resolutions? So, no pressure, but we thought we might give you a bit of inspiration, in case you're having difficulty coming up with your own.
Here are 5 resolutions for you to consider making this year that are sure to improve your pondering experience!
What Aquatic Plants Should I NOT Put in my Phoenix Pond?
There are LOTS of great choices for aquatic plants to put in your Phoenix pond. In fact, many terrestrial plants can be used in Phoenix ponds, as well.
However, there are several plants that you should absolutely avoid adding to your Phoenix backyard pond.
Yellow Iris (Iris pseudacorus) in a PHoenix Pond
This is not your typical Louisiana Iris that stays demure. This guy is a monster! If you're going to use it, you must absolutely stay on top of keeping it thinned. Here's what happens when you don't:
Bamboo in a Phoenix Pond
Although you might think that bamboo and ponds just naturally go together, this one is a huge no-no. It's roots (stolens) are super-sharp, travel underground, and will puncture even concrete, let alone any kind of liner. And it gets pretty darn big!
Cattail (Typha) in a Phoenix Pond
While the dwarf variety is fine, stay away from full-size cattail. Like the Yellow Iris, it can get out of control quickly. It also spreads via it's fluffy seed. Check out a quick video shot at the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale of this aggressive plant and what it takes to remove it:
Illegal Plants for Phoenix Ponds
There are some plants that are flat-out illegal in Arizona. Sadly, one of those is Water Hyacinth because irresponsible people have tossed them into canals and waterways, where they grow unchecked and clog up the systems. There are clubs and private parties that will give you cuttings, but it is absolutely illegal to sell, and the State looks unfavorably at anyone keeping it in their pond.
For a complete list of illegal plants/noxious weeds: POND PLANTS ONLINE
Deluxe 'Catio' Built for Feline Fun
You know those people whom stray animals just seem to find? When it comes to cats, Tom and Liz are those people. At present 16 cats have found their way into their hearts and home. Some are shelter cats once deemed unadoptable, others have wandered onto their property, and a few came from various relatives who could no longer care for them. For this reason we’re withholding their last names and exact location, lest anyone get any ideas about leaving more cats with them. Tom and Liz love to save cats, but they are at their limit.
When the couple moved to this home in Paradise Valley, Arizona, cat safety and quality of life were priorities. Their property is about an acre, surrounded by desert wilderness. Predators like coyotes, great horned owls and foxes prowl nearby, and even some of the plant life around can injure cats. A secure enclosure was a must. Here’s how they created cat heaven.
The enclosure is about 600 square feet total. Tom began by sketching out his ideas and rendering his plans using 3-D software. While he had a good understanding of construction and framing, he enlisted some help in setting the redwood fence posts in concrete. The rest of the work he completed by himself on nights and weekends. The project took a few months.
“The friends that helped with the fence posts already knew our cats,” Liz says. “It was a labor of love on their part.” The metal you see here is plastic-coated galvanized fencing. The vertical posts are 4- by 4-inch redwood fence posts; the horizontal ones are 2-by-4s. The entire redwood structure has a waterproof stain.
Bird netting overhead protects the cats from winged predators. Shade sails provide relief from the sun. “Unfortunately, they’ve become hammocks and suspension bridges,” Liz says.
Tom installed a system of catwalks, ramps and steps to connect the “catio” to the main house and the guesthouse. Here is Tom working on the steps from the guesthouse to the top of the kitty enclosure:
The guesthouse is now a full-time cat residence, complete with linoleum floor and fiber-reinforced plastic on the walls, which can be easily wiped down.
Along the catwalk system is “the celestial viewing platform,” as the couple calls it. The cats enjoy sitting and taking in some of the best views on the property here.
A ramp leads from a platform along a catwalk to another ramp that goes to the ground level.
The experts at The Pond Gnome installed a pond inside — a habitat for koi, goldfish and mosquitofish. Contrary to popular belief, the cats don’t go after the fish, but they do enjoy watching them.
Liz and Tom are teaching the koi to come when they are called via treats (it’s a koi thing, they swear). “One day when a koi popped up for a treat, he scared the daylights out of Sylvia,” Liz says.
While they planned on lots of quality cat-visit time out in the enclosure, Tom and Liz were surprised to find how much they enjoy just hanging out in here, too. “The sound of the water is so relaxing, and the cats just love it when we’re in there,” Liz says. “Our friends who love and know the kitties also enjoy coming out and having a glass of wine with all of us out here.”
I know what you want to ask but are too polite to. The answer is, they rake out the enclosure once a week, and the cats also have litter boxes indoors. In fact, the couple is even training the cats to use the toilet in the guesthouse. I forgot to ask if they got the idea from Meet the Parents.
The cat enclosure is a work in progress. The to-do list includes adding rain gutters, box planters and cat grass along the perimeter. Some special cat doors that operate via magnets will control which cats can access the main house while barring those with spraying issues.
“Several of our cats were deemed unadoptable, but all it took was someone who knows cats to adopt them,” Liz says. “Now they seem to say, ‘Hug me! Hug me now!’”
Catio Home Update
As of the date of this blog, November 15, 2017, the Guinans have moved out of state, taking their kitty loves with them, of course. The catio has been removed, and only the pond remains, now surrounded by lawn. The house sold for $1.3+M: Zillow Listing. We miss them!
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ready to get one designed just for you?
What's the Best Food to Feed my Pond Fish?
Just like humans, the absolute best food to feed your fish are natural whole foods, like fruits and vegetables, and allowing them to graze on the algae that naturally grows in the pond. Okay, maybe as humans, we don't want to eat the algae, but that's a whole different discussion. Feeding your pond fish lettuce, zucchini, oranges, melons, etc., will not only keep them healthy, but help maintain your water quality.
What's The Best Commercial Food Can I Buy for My Pond FIsh?
If you opt to keep commercial fish food around, be sure it's the best stuff. If you feed your kids a diet comprised of just breakfast cereal, that's not enough to keep them healthy. The same goes for feeding your beloved wet pets. Read labels, like you do when buying food for your dogs and cats. If you consider your pond fish your pets, then you'll want to feed them the good stuff. They'll be healthier, live longer, and look better, too! Here are some commercially-made fish foods that we've personally found are great.
Warm-Weather Pond Fish Foods
When your water temps (which follow nighttime temps) are above 55 degrees, these fish food options are terrific.
Aquascape Premium Staple Fish Food Pellets are formulated for everyday use and provide your pond fish with the nutrition they need to thrive at an affordable price. This food contain probiotics that aid in digestion and reduce fish waste, while the high-quality protein included helps to optimize growth rates. The floating pellets contain stabilized vitamin C and other quality ingredients and are scientifically formulated for all pond fish, including Koi and goldfish. This fish food will not break apart during feeding, helping to maintain clear water conditions.
One step further would be the Premium Color Enhancing pond fish food.
Cold-Weather Pond Fish Food
When your water temps are below 55 degrees, you can switch over to natural treats (fruits & veggies), or this fish food works well.
The Premium Cold Water pond fish food is actually formulated to be fed to pond fish when the water is cold and their systems are not as active.
The bottom line is to read labels and make an informed decision. I guess that's actually good advice for us human, too!
How Can I Tell How Many Gallons of Water are in my Pond?
There are a few times you might need to know how many gallons of water are in your pond, such as when figuring out how much of a certain water treatment product to use.
It's also handy to know how many gallons of water are in your pond so that you don't overstock your pond with fish.
Some people will go through the process of actually metering the water going into their pond when they first fill it up. You didn't do that? No problem! There's a simple calculation that will get you pretty darn close:
Length x Width x Average Depth x 7.25
No, it's not an exact number. For that, you'll need a more scientific process, like taking the time to meter the water going in. However, if you're keeping your pond organically, using bacteria and enzymes to control the water quality, this calculation will get you close enough. It will also give you an approximation for how many fish you can keep happy and healthy.
One of the many joys of water gardening is all the cool critters that visit. Included in that mix are gorgeous butterflies. You can enhance this visitation with appropriate plantings, like Aquatic Butterfly Bush or Milkweed.
We have so many in our front yard sometimes that it would be considered an infestation if they weren't so pretty! The neighborhood kids are all fascinated by our butterfly bush in our front yard stream. Check it out:
Can you tell the difference between Monarch and Queen caterpillars? They look the same unless you know what to look for. Test your skill below:
Can you tell the difference between the Monarch and Queen butterflies? The Queen butterfly has white spots on its hindwings, distinguishing it from the Monarch. It is also a darker color orange than monarchs. When the wings of a queen butterfly are open, it's a bit easier to tell the two species apart, not to mention if they happen to be sitting side by side. They're not usually that cooperative, though.
So now you know how to tell the difference. Can you count how many of each you see in your yard each day? They certainly don't sit still for long!
If you're not seeing any, then you might need to add the right plants and organic water that they need to be attracted to your yard.
For more great information on these butterflies, visit: http://www.arizonensis.org/sonoran/fieldguide/arthropoda/danaus.html.
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Watching your fish glide gracefully and happily through the pond is a sight for sore eyes after a long day and/or week at work. But do you have a pond that promotes the health of your fish? Several factors influence whether a pond is habitable by fish, so before you stock your new pond or choose a few new finned friends at your local pet store, take a few minutes to assess your fish’s dwelling space as it relates to pond fish health.
Healthy Goldfish and Koi in an Ecosystem Pond
It all starts with the size of your pond. You need to make sure that it is large enough to support the type of fish you want (whether that’s Koi or goldfish) and their growth potential. Pond fish generally need 10 gallons of water for every inch of their length, and you have to be ready for them to grow larger, so be careful not to overstock, no matter how tempting this may be! Some pond experts go so far as to recommend only ½ inch of fish per 10 gallons of water as a maximum stocking density.
You’ve probably seen ponds crowded with two or even three inches of fish per 10 gallons of water and the fish seem to be fine. However, the density and ecological strain of this kind of fish load turn these ponds into fragile systems. The fish tend to grow more slowly and disease can become a too-common occurrence. Too many rats in a cage, so to speak.
You won’t be able to salvage sick fish in a pond that’s overcrowded. Eventually, Mother Nature will pick off some of your fish (mostly likely your favorites) to achieve her ideal stocking density based on the environment the fish are in, and then the remainder will recover as if by magical intervention. Reduce the number of fish if your pond is over-stocked before Mother Nature handles this crucial step for you in a manner you may not appreciate.
Good Morning, Sunshine
Some aquatic plants that tolerate shade include Taro, Papyrus, Horsetail, Cardinal Flower, and Lizard’s Tail.Ponds that have at least some sunlight are also beneficial to pond fish. Valuable vitamins are contained in sunlight. Sunlight also helps the plants in your pond grow, thereby reducing nitrates in the water. Unfortunately, you can’t just up and move your pond, so if you have a shady-place pond, add shade-loving plants to help balance the water. Aquatic plants play a critical role when it comes to enhancing pond fish health.
When it comes to pond depth, Koi and goldfish aren’t really very picky. Just be sure that the pond is deep enough (generally about 2 to 2 ½ feet) to give the fish a chance to get out of the way of predators. Or you can opt for a cave network within the pond to allow them to hide when need be.
A Balancing Act
The quality of your water is critical to pond fish health and you want to make sure your water garden is balanced. The proper mix of fish, plants, filtration, circulation, and rocks and gravel all provide an important role in your pond’s ecosystem. Work with Mother Nature, not against her, and you’ll find you spend more time enjoying your pond and less time maintaining it. Now, doesn’t THAT sound like a dream come true?
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Modern. Contemporary. Current. Present-day. State-of-the-art. Stylish. Cutting-edge. You might not automatically associate these words with a water feature or pond. But a modern pond is exactly that.
The Old Ways
The old way of building a pond was often just a wok-shaped hole in the ground covered in cheap plastic liner or slathered in concrete (sometimes both). Neither process provides you with a life-long water feature, but it’s pretty cheap to do.
Sometimes a stack of rocks would be set on the side of it, mortared together, and called a waterfall. This would mean that the plumbing was then encased in concrete within that structure, so if it cracked, the whole thing needed to be destroyed and rebuilt.
A pond? “That’s just a hole in the ground with water.” “Sure, you can throw plants & fish in it!” The next thing you know, you have a bowl of pea-green soup, the plants look like crap, and you can’t even see the fish anymore. Not really an enjoyable experience for most people.
Old-style ponds had costly time-consuming filtration units that required constant tinkering to keep them going. Without an ecosystem and proper filtration, old-style “ponds” needed to be drained & cleaned regularly to keep them clear and not stinky. Ain’t nobody got time for that!
The Modern Pond
Remember your parents’ and grandparents’ appliances that lasted so long you got sick of the harvest gold or avocado green color? Now, appliances (no matter how expensive) seem to be disposable after 10 years. Wouldn’t it be nice to buy something once and have it actually last? People work hard for their money. Nowadays, when people are considering a home improvement option, they want to research their decision before jumping in, and they expect quality, service, and a product that’s going to last. And we’re willing to pay appropriately for it – the modern consumer.
A modern pond is one that is built to last a lifetime. Using the latest manufacturing techniques, and quality components, a pond built today is capable of outlasting its owner.
A modern pond is low-maintenance. Properly-designed filtration, and the latest and greatest options, make pond-keeping a snap. And it’s a gardener’s delight, the modern trend being “back to nature.”
A modern pond is environmentally-friendly and responsible. An ecosystem water feature provides a respite for native & migratory birds and other wildlife with biologically-available water. A modern pond doesn’t require man-made chemicals, but utilizes Mother Nature’s good-guys to keep the water crystal clear and aesthetically pleasing.
A modern pond is pet-friendly. Your dog (or cat) will LOVE having fresh, clean drinking water at their disposal. And no more dirty dish to deal with or keep full.
A modern pond looks like nature created it before the home was built. It’s not a contrived-looking sterile environment -- that’s swimming pools, fountains, and spas.
An ecosystem pond requires some kind of filtration - whether that's an installed item, or whether YOU are the filtration.
If you're a do-it-yourselfer, we recommend that you purchase an integrated kit that contains all of the components you plan to install. This will save you much time, effort, and frustration! Whereas no project is truly a project without a couple of trips to the local big-box home improvement store, you might want to limit that activity on this one. If you try to bargain shop, getting each part as cheaply as possible from different stores and manufacturers, you will end up with a nightmare on your hands, without really having saved yourself anything in the long run. Remember, you get what you pay for – and that’s no lie! A great place to start would be to watch some of The Pond Squad videos.
Biological filtration, simply put, is a place for beneficial bacteria to inhabit. This can be done in various ways. Our personal favorite is to incorporate it into the waterfall, where it's hidden from plain sight. Since most everyone wants a waterfall, even if they don’t necessarily want a pond, this seems the most logical and easiest place to put it.
Beneficial bacteria is essential to keeping your water quality crystal clear (but that's a whole other subject). It will adhere to any porous surface, though, so simply having some rock and stone in your pond gives it a fighting chance.
If you don't HAVE a skimmer, you ARE the skimmer. A pond skimmer works similarly to that of a pool. However, a pond skimmer is much larger than that of a pool, and is generally designed to handle larger debris. If your pond includes a skimmer, you can have trees surrounding your pond, providing a more natural-looking complimentary landscape, and still have a clean pond. Really!
A skimmer, combined with a circulation system, will keep the debris from saturating, falling to the bottom, and becoming sludge (you know, that really foul-smelling crap that some people have to muck out of their ponds once a year, causing their neighbors to seriously consider putting out a “For Sale” sign).
A skimmer is not mandatory for a balanced ecosystem, but it does make for a whole lot less maintenance!
In the alternative, you can upgrade to an intake bay, which is just a fancy way of saying "pondless" pump vault addition. This option make cleaning up debris a snap! You just pick it up occasionally.
A gorgeous ecosystem pond DOES NOT have to be high maintenance if it's built properly.
When you want to enjoy your water feature as the sun begins to set, outdoor lighting is a must. And here in Phoenix, nighttime is about the only time we can be outside in the summer! Most people think to add landscape lighting around a deck or patio or pathway, but neglect the water feature for optimal nighttime viewing. Here are some pretty backyard lighting ideas for your pond, waterfall, or fountain.
No matter what type of water feature you have, you can enhance its beauty well into the evening hours with the addition of pond and garden lighting.
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Why would you consider an exploratory pond cleaning in Phoenix, AZ?
An exploratory cleaning is a lot like a traditional pond cleaning, but more detailed – and you get more information at the end. We will map out your pond and its equipment, keep this information in our database for future use, and make sure that you have all the information for your records.
Exploratory pond cleanings are done for quite a few reasons in Phoenix. Perhaps your pond has not been serviced regularly. Or maybe you purchased a house with a pond and don’t know much about it – it’s not as intuitive as taking care of a lawn. There could be a leak in the pond and you’re not sure how to find or repair it. Or possibly you just don’t really know what the previous pond professional did.
Your Phoenix pond has not been serviced regularly
You may have had your pond for quite a few years, or may even have built it yourself. But life gets busy, time flies by, and before you know it your pond has not been cleaned in quite a while, and may be starting to have some issues, like water quality. There could be a lot of sediment at the bottom of the pond at this point, and it’s going to take some serious work to get it all out. Regular pond service is best for optimum pond health, and without it, an exploratory pond cleaning is usually in order.
There’s a leak in your Phoenix pond
It can be challenging and potentially expensive to find & fix a leak. There can even be more than one. Or the leak might be in the plumbing. If we have not seen your pond before, we’ll need to explore it to determine what’s going on. We always try to lead people through the troubleshooting process first, but an exploratory drain & clean is often the end result to repair it.
You purchased a house in Phoenix with a pond
Whether you purchased the house because of the pond, or in spite of it, it’s yours to care for. While you may have been told the pond was “maintenance free,” all water features need some kind of maintenance. Even a bird bath needs to be cleaned our regularly! An exploratory drain & clean will give you all the information we can find on your pond: equipment information, lighting information, plumbing size (if we can get to it), aquatic life count, and whether or not everything is in good working order. We’ll even include our observations and recommendations about filtration, water quality, etc.
You don’t know what services the previous service person performed on your Phoenix pond
Your pond may have been serviced in the past, but there are sketchy records, or no records at all. Without an understanding of what we are getting into, an exploratory cleaning is often needed. It allows us to map out your pond and it’s equipment, and assist you in determining the best course of action going forward.
What is the cost for an exploratory pond service, and how do I order the service?
The cost of the service starts around $1200, and the actual price depends on the size and condition of the pond. The price includes:
The quick answer: nope. Bottom drains aren’t necessary under most conditions, so they can be a waste of money. It’s important to know whether or not you need one because it can make a big difference in the health and look of your pond. Keep reading to find out why or why not.
What exactly is a bottom drain?
A bottom drain is simply a drain in the deep end of the pond. It removes debris from the bottom of the pond to the filters where it can then be removed. Your pond is therefore supposed to be cleaner and clearer from using one. Of course, for it to work properly, it needs to be cleaned regularly (sometimes daily, depending on the amount of debris falling into the pond.
A pipe will need to be run under the liner. This means a pathway must be dug out so a hump doesn’t show. A hole is then cut in the liner and the actual drain is installed.
It’s a technical process, and adds quite a bit of expense to the construction, so is it worth it? Not to mention, it’s almost always a potential leak issue because there’s been a hole cut in the liner.
Pro's & cons of a bottom drain in a pond
What does The Pond Gnome think of bottom drains?
We don’t need them.
The Pond Gnome builds sustainable ecosystem ponds that don’t need bottom drains. The ponds we build are typically less than 4′ deep, which means a bottom drain isn’t needed.
We do, however, often install intake bays in deeper Koi ponds to add to the circulation and ease of maintenance. They’re much easier to install, and don’t require us to cut a hole in the pond liner, which is always a potential leak issue.
To drain or not to drain?
If you have any further questions about your pond, or want to ask us about a service, fill out our contact form or give us a call at 623-572-5607.
My pond is overflowing & flooding the yard!
Don’t panic. There are a couple of reasons this could be happening, and it is likely a pretty easy fix.
First, check the basics.
Is the skimmer basket full? If so, empty it. These ponds are so self-maintaining, that this simple step is sometimes forgotten! We’ve been out on many “emergency” calls only to discover that the basket was just jam-packed with debris. It's an expensive lesson.
Is the biological filter overloaded with plants so that it’s pushing water over the back or sides? If so, remove some of that plant material from in front of the weir.
The auto-level device has come loose, become bent, or is otherwise malfunctioning.
Turn off the water source to the pond temporarily to relieve the overflowing. Once the water has gone down to where it’s supposed to be, adjust and tighten the auto-level device appropriately. We have a video in our Help Library on YouTube demonstrating how to do this.
If the problem persists, the auto-level device probably needs to be replaced.
There may be a leak around the pond or water feature caused by settling or water displacement due to plant growth.
Turn off the water source to the pond and allow the water to subside. You’ll need to wait for things to dry out a bit so that you can determine whether any wet spot is perpetual. This shouldn’t take too long in temperatures over 80F.
Check for leaks along the edge of the waterfall or stream. They will show as a damp area along the outer edge or around the edge of the Biofilter. Most likely, maintenance has been neglected and you have a water displacement issue caused by plants and/or their roots. Is the water flow visible all the way from the source (typically a waterfall) to the pond? It needs to be.
You may also have a settling leak, where the edge of the pond has settled a bit over time. This can happen sometimes. To raise the liner, remove the rock around the low spot, pick up the liner and shove a little dirt under it, lay the liner back down and replace the rocks. You should be good to go.
If, after attempting these adjustments, you still have a problem, don’t hesitate to call for help.
A California colleague of ours tells a very fun story about this issue. He’s a much better story teller, and it’s a bit longer story, but here’s a consolidated version of a conversation he had with an elderly lady that had a fairly new ecosystem pond replacing an old concrete pond.
Client (calling contractor in a bit of a panic): Today, I woke up and there’s a bunch of foam in my pond! What’s going on?
Contractor: Does it smell a bit fishy, like the ocean?
Client: Why, yes, it does.
Contractor: Well, ma’am, that means your fish are happy with their new home.
Contractor: (after a couple of more attempts to be “delicate”) It’s sperm.
[Silence for a few seconds]
Client: What kind of sick son of a b*&ch would do that in my pond?!??
Contractor: (stifling hysterical laughter) No, ma’am, it’s your fish spawning.
Cue light bulb over client’s head
So, the moral of the story is that it’s just your fish “getting’ busy.”
What should I do about it?
Absolutely nothing. It should dissipate in a few days, depending on your filtration system. If you don’t have Gambusia in your pond for vector control, you may have baby fish swimming around in the not too distant future. If you have Gambusia, they will eat the fish eggs before they have a chance to hatch. Caviar is their second favorite food, after mosquito larvae.
If your fish are happy and feel safe in their home, this will happen. Spring is typically the season, when every creature seems to be twitterpated, but it may happen again in the Fall, too.
You may also notice that one or two of your fish appear to be “picked on” just before this happens. Those are the females. Unfortunately, they don’t lay eggs easily, and the males kind of beat up on them to help them release the eggs for fertilization. As a friend of ours once said: “Life around a pond is both beautiful and brutal.” It’s all just nature taking its course.
My Pond Pump Died!
The pond pump is the heart of your pond system: pumping water through the circulation system and creating aeration for the aquatic life. A pump down situation can be devastating at certain times of the year.
In the "winter," when nighttime temps stay cool (water temps follow nighttime temps), it's not a big deal. A cold pond can go for several days without circulation, especially if you don't have fish over 12" long.
However, during our Phoenix summers, the days can reach 110+ degrees, and our nights can stay at or above 90+ degrees! This can be a deadly situation to not have circulation and aeration. When in their summer growing season, aquatic plants are actually drawing oxygen FROM the water at night. Your larger (12" and over) fin-babies could suffocate without circulation and aeration at night.
What Can I Do If My Pond Pump Dies?
It's a good idea to have a cheap emergency fountain pump on hand, just to keep the water circulating and aerating until a new pump can be purchased and installed.
Even better: have a battery-operated air stone around. These can be purchased online or at any bait shop. This will work even if you have a power outage, like the brown-outs that occasionally happen during extreme heat and power demands.
How Do I Get My Pond Pump fixed?
You should know what kind of pump(s) are in your pond (as well as the other equipment). If you don't know, make it a priority to find out. Also know the best resource so that if something goes wrong, you have the information at the ready to get it handled.
If you're not able to figure it all out, we can provide you with an Exploratory Drain & Clean, which will then provide you with all of the information you need, as well as have it on file in our database. Just let us know if we can be of help!
What the Heck is an Exploratory Drain & Clean for a Pond?
Well, pretty much just like it sounds: we drain, clean, and explore the pond. For example, if you've purchased a house that came with a pond, this is a great way to get it cleaned up, and to learn all the ins and outs about what you've got there, and how to properly care for it. There are literally hundreds of ways to build a pond, and hundreds of choices for each component. And they all function a bit differently. You could spend hours upon hours doing research online and may never find exactly the right information -- especially since the vast majority of information posted is from the Midwest or East Coast, and not our Sonoran Desert Environment.
If you're a big-time DIY-er, check out our basic pond cleaning instructions. Full disclosure: these instructions are geared toward the type of ponds that we build and that are our specialty, and are not all-inclusive of every pond type. Again: hundreds of ways to build a "pond."
If you're not really into handling stuff covered with fish poo, we can help! We can clean your pond, and educate you about the care and maintenance of it. In the alternative, we can also provide ongoing maintenance help for folks who want to do a little, a little more, or nothing at all! But mostly, an exploratory pond cleaning will give you all the information about your pond that you’ll need to keep it an enjoyable landscape feature and focal point: Does anything need replacing? What needs to be added or taken away? What upgrades can be done?
THe Pond Cleaning Process
First, we set up our handy-dandy portable retention tanks to keep your fish and other aquatic life safe and sound while we play in their pool. We pump the pond water directly into our holding tanks, and then add your fish to that water, so that they're not too stressed going into a different temporary environment. We do our best to take care of your wet pets. This method also allows us to put the healthy water back into the pond upon completion of the cleaning, again stressing the fish as little as possible. We also condition any additional water going into the pond to keep it a safe environment for the aquatic life.
Once the aquatic life is safety ensconced elsewhere, we can complete the draining process and clean the pond. We don't power-wash the rocks, but leave the pond patina in place because that's an integral part of an ecosystem pond -- it helps filter the water. You want your rocks green and fuzzy, but your water gin-clear. We do vacuum the mulm off the floor, though. And we clean the filters. And, of course, we thin & trim the plants appropriately: aquatic gardening.
The Discovery Process
Now that everything is cleaned up, we can begin the exploratory part of the process. We will take note of:
Having a filthy backyard pond takes away from the beauty of your backyard, causing it to lose value. It may also start to stink. Let us help you bring that pond back to its full potential! Contact us today for a free quote!
OTHER POSTS YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
HEALTHY PONDS HAVE FILTRATION
EXPECTATIONS OF AN ECOSYSTEM POND
Yes! Like most things in life, this is a package deal. Both sun and shade have their advantages. If properly designed and built, you can put a pond ANYWHERE and have a lush, gorgeous ecosystem.
What if I put my Pond in the SUn?
If you put your pond in the sun, you will have lots of great color from blooms! Your water lilies will thrive and smile at you in the form of flowers. There are a lot of great sun-loving aquatic plants that will fill your pond with color given enough sunshine.
The downside to putting your pond in the sun is that algae also loves sunshine. So, during the time of year when the aquatic plants are not growing aggressively, you may experience more algae in the pond. Algae is simply the weed in the garden. It has it's purposes, though, but that's another blog.
A few design considerations for ponds in full sun:
What if I put my Pond in the Shade?
If you put your pond in the shade, you will greatly decrease the potential for algae, as well as provide overhead cover against flying predators that would see the pond as a meal source.
The downside to putting your pond in the shade is that you will have fewer colorful blooms on your water lilies and other aquatic plants.
A few design considerations for putting a pond in the shade:
Paul and I just started taking dance lessons a few months ago. We started out as complete bungling idiots, self-conscious and absolutely off-beat. We're now at least stepping to the rhythm and not on each other.
Last week, our instructor sat us down to chat about what exactly we're getting out of it, and what we hope to get out of it. She was, of course, setting us up for buying the next round of lessons. However, this discussion ended up being quite enlightening -- and produced some unexpected results.
There were the usual benefits. We're spending time together away from the business. We're learning something we can use at all kinds of social events. We're getting exercise. It's good for our mental health. It improves memory. It reduces stress. You know, all the logical benefits that you hear about from health professionals and dance instructors.
Then there were a couple of surprises that came out of our mouths, totally unbidden. We were spending time focusing on each other and on the task at hand, and not on discussing or thinking about our business (sorry, clients). In addition, I was enjoying having Paul lead for a change, and getting to spend 40 minutes not having to make any decisions. Paul was enjoying me just following him, and not trying to tell him what to do next (apparently, I can be a bit of a slave-driver and am an anti-procrastinator). But our roles were reversed there in the dance studio for just a little while. It's called balance! Who knew?
As we sat by our back yard pond later that evening with a cold drink (shameless plug) talking about the discussion we'd had with our dance coach, it dawned on us that our ponds and water features provide balance for our clients. Especially people who work in tech jobs, office cubicles, and any other high-pressure or stressful scenario. The ponds and water features are nature-based and low-tech. AND if people have a maintenance contract with us, they are completely no-worry and no maintenance. Folks just get to come home and decompress at the end of their work day and/or the weekends. Gee, we're kinda proud of that. :-)
So, what are you doing to provide balance in your life?
Who doesn’t love Koi fish in their pond? They’re beautiful and friendly, providing glimmers of color as they weave their way beneath the lily pads, and in and out of the light rays at night. Certainly they deserve their rightful place in a tranquil water garden. But what about other options? An assortment of pond fish is just waiting to call your pond their home.
Goldfish in Your Backyard Pond
Goldfish are perfect for your pond: resilient and able to handle all different kinds of water. For the newbie pond owner, and smaller ponds in general, goldfish are a great choice for getting started with fish-keeping. Several varieties of goldfish are available, from comets (plain orange and white) to the exotics like ranchus and bubble-eyes.
Exotic varieties include lionheads, telescopes, black moors, orandas, ranchus, and ryukins. The single most distinguishing characteristic of this group as a whole are their round, bulbous abdomens. Note that these fish are not the great swimmers of the fish world. Ponds with great circulation, and strong skimmer currents are probably not the best environments for these fish as they will struggle to stay out of the skimmers and have difficulty thriving in environments with strong currents. Use these fish in ponds with minimal water movement, like reflecting ponds.
Shubunkins in Your Backyard Pond
Shubunkins are a type of single-tailed, long-bodied goldfish that originated in China. There are two different types of shubunkins. One has a long tail fin, with broad tail fin lobes that are rounded on the end. The other one looks more like a common goldfish, with a short tail fin. Bred mainly for their coloring, shubunkins often have a red, black, and sky blue coloring, sort of like a calico.
The most valuable of the shubunkins are mostly blue with strong accents of white and red, and the overall pattern sparingly flecked with black. In fact, when blessed with a white, black, and orange pattern, some may resemble baby koi but are far from it. They are different in size and markings. Most notably, they lack barbells (whiskers of sorts) that are found on koi. Shubunkins are hardy fish that can survive sweltering summers and severe winters, and can grow up to 14 inches in a minimum 180-gallon pond.
Sarassas in Your backyard Pond
Sarassas are very similar to shubunkins in that they both have a similar body shape; however, they do not quite reach the same size as their larger shubunkins counterparts. The sarassa features a white base color and brilliant red highlights. It is believed that they came from a cross between the red cap oranda and the comet goldfish, and are sometimes referred to as the “poor man’s Koi.”
Amazingly, the brilliant red of the true sarassa is a lifelong proposition and the fish are very enjoyable. Uncontrolled breeding of the sarassa will yield more and more brown fish until the pond population has returned to unselected comet and brown goldfish ancestry.
Catfish in Your Backyard Pond
Catfish are another popular fish seen in the water garden. They are commonly sold as scavengers to help clean up the pond, but they really don’t do that much of it. Caution should be taken with these fish because they can become quite large in a short period of time. When they become large, they can cause trouble because they may start eating whatever they can fit in their mouth -- including other fish!
Learning about Fish in Your Backyard Pond
Getting to know the background of the pond fish you plan to keep as pets is vital to their survival and your sanity. By knowing their defining characteristics, you will have a thorough understanding of how the fish will interact in your pond with other fish, plants, and aquatic life.
Other Fish to Consider for Your Backyard Pond:
Before building a pond, careful consideration should be given to the type of fish you’d like to collect. Different fish require different filtration and pond sizes. For example, we don’t recommend putting Koi in a pond that’s less than 10’ x15’ x 3’ deep in size. For ponds smaller than that, we recommend the homeowner stick to various types of goldfish. And then there is game fish, which is a whole different conversation!
So, which one is YOUR favorite?
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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!