Yes, we DO have a Fall season in Phoenix, albeit not very darn long. And there are some things you should and should not do to prepare your pond for the "winter" ahead.
Decaying leaves and foliage produce toxic gases that can harm your fish so you want to remove this debris before they can get saturated and sink to the bottom. If you have a skimmer on your pond, this helps tremendously. If you have any deciduous trees around, our Fall winds can blow them right into your pond. You don’t need to remove every single last leaf, but try to remove the majority. If you have a skimmer, check it weekly.
DO NOT Trim & Thin Your Plants Too Much
It's tempting to get everything "cleaned up" to prepare for winter. This is actually the worst thing you can do for your aquatic plants. We typically don't get any hard frosts in Phoenix; however, we can get a freeze or two. If you've trimmed and thin your aquatic plants too much, they will have no protection, and a frost could kill them. After the last danger of frost has passed (around the end of February), THEN you can go after any dead stuff and reveal the new lush growth getting ready to "spring" forward.
Aside from protecting the plant, if you have any amphibious life in your pond, they need the protection from the cold, too. They'll snuggle down into the heart of the plants and hibernate for the winter.
Use Cold Water-Formulated Bacteria
Add Cold Water Beneficial Bacteria to the pond once the temperature drops below 50 degrees, if you need to use any at all. You may not need it, especially if your pond is mature.
Stop Feeding Your Pond FIsh
Once temperatures drop to 50 degrees at night (remember, pond water more closely follows nighttime temps rather than daytime temps), stop feeding your fish. They need to get ready to hibernate and you’ll want to avoid any metabolic complications. You can feed them Cold Water Fish Food, or give them natural treats like melon, oranges, lettuce, and even Cheerios.
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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:
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Even the most well cared for pond can go south under certain conditions: big ol' dust storm, introduction of a foreign substance via a visiting bird or duck, accidental over-fertilization, etc. The proper water treatment product can help get things back on track.
WHICH TREATMENT DO I USE FOR WHAT ISSUE?
Below is a helpful cheat sheet that should get you going in the right direction for which water treatment product to use for what issue:
HOW DO I STORE THE WATER TREATMENT PRODUCTS?
Most water treatment products contain live bacteria and enzymes in either dry or liquid form. These must be stored properly for them to remain effective. THESE PRODUCTS NEED TO BE KEPT BETWEEN 50 AND 90 DEGREES AT ALL TIMES OR THEY BECOME INERT! Therefore, the best course of action is to store them inside, not on your patio or in your storage shed.
WHERE CAN I GET WATER TREATMENT PRODUCTS?
For in-person purchases, check with your closest Ewing Irrigation store. Otherwise, you can buy the products online. For best results, make sure you're getting genuine Aquascape water treatment products. If you choose to order online, make sure that you are getting them shipped quickly during the summer months, so they don't get overheated, as this causes them to become inert (see below).
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How do I find a leak in my Ecosystem Pond?
Many times what people think is a leak in their backyard pond is actually a water displacement issue with the waterfall or stream. Or it could simply be a malfunctioning autofill device. OR, in May and June, which are our hottest, driest months, it could very well be evaporation at its finest.
When a leak really isn't a leak:
Remember that water wicks up the side of the rocks in your pond, so be sure you are actually seeing a drop in water, and not just wicking action. If the autofill device is not running at more than a drip, then you don't have a leak.
Phoenix pond leak troubleshooting steps
Before spending money for someone else to find the problem, here are some simple things you can do to troubleshoot the issue. Heck, you may even be able to fix it yourself and save some money!
Turn off the water supply to the pond and unplug the pump, monitoring the water loss overnight. If the water level does not drop any further, you know the "leak" is in the waterfall or stream, and is more likely than not the result of plants needing to be thinned, or another displacement issue like shifting rocks on the edge of your liner due to some settling.
Aquatic plants need thinning in a Phoenix pond or stream!
This is an easy fix with a living ecosystem pond built using EPDM rubber. Use an appraising eye to evaluate whether or not your stream is packed full of plant roots. If you've just been trimming off the dead leaves and not actually thinning the root material, chances are, you've located your issue. Sometimes you have to be brutal and thin those babies good! Just don't do this during winter when there's a chance that an upcoming frost will kill what's left of the plants.
Settling leak around the edges of a Phoenix pond
Once that is done, check around the edges to make sure that water is still not going over the side of the liner. If it is, then you may have a settling leak. Again, this is an easy fix. Move some rocks out of the way, lift the liner up, shove some dirt under it, and replace the rock. Viola! Problem solved.
The leak is in the waterfall
If the previous two steps didn't solve the problem, then the leak is somewhere in the waterfall, and you should call your contractor to come deal with it, unless you're really handy and know what you're doing. Make sure that the flow over the falls is not being impeded by plants that have shifted into position. This sometimes causes a dam, causing water to flow off the back of the waterfall instead of the front.
The leak is in the pond
If the water continued to drop despite the waterfall being turned off, go ahead and turn the system back on to keep it oxygenated for your fish if it's summertime, and call your contractor for help. You may be advised to turn the waterfall back off and let it drop until it stops so that the hole or tear can be quickly addressed.
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NEED MORE HELP?
If you’ve never owned a pond, or you know next to nothing about keeping koi and pond fish, three basic rules will help you create and maintain a healthy habitat for your new finned friends. We want fish to be happy, and your pond experience to be as enjoyable as possible. Once you become familiar with your fish and their basic needs, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying the full benefits of living the pond life!
1. Fish Need Clean Water
Your pond water should always be clean-smelling and have good clarity. On occasion, the water might be green due to suspended algae, or slightly brown due to tannins, or even a bit cloudy after one of our famous dust stroms.
Algae is typically expected in the winter and spring when the plants are not growing aggressively. Once the plants grow, they consume more nutrients from the water, thereby starving algae of food to survive. Ponds in sunny locations experience higher algae growth, but this can be alleviated by shading the pond surface with waterlilies or floating plants like water lettuce.
Keep in mind, algae isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Your pond fish will eat algae off the rocks in your pond so it’s good to have a little of the green stuff. Too much algae can become unsightly, but can be controlled with various water treatments.
If you’re going to keep fish, it’s imperative that your pond have proper filtration. A mechanical skimmer is your first line of defense for removing unwanted debris such as leaves and twigs from the surface of the water. If left to decay in the pond, organic material can cause a host of water issues that could make your fish sick. The skimmer also houses the pump, which circulates the water and helps to aerate the pond. A biological filter is positioned opposite the skimmer to create the beginning of a waterfall. This filter uses bacteria to break down pond waste, converting it into less harmful compounds that can act as aquatic plant fertilizers.
2. Maintain a Healthy Population
One secret to making sure your pond water remains balanced and healthy, is to control your fish population. Sure, it’s tempting to add lots of colorful koi and pond fish to your water garden, but you want to avoid over-crowding. Too many fish creates excess waste in the pond water, which in turn can cause water quality issues. As a general rule of thumb, pond fish need 10 gallons of water for every inch of their length. So a 10-inch long fish needs 100 gallons. If you have five 10-inch long fish, your water garden should have at least 500 gallons of water. Keep in mind that your fish are going to grow so be sure to under-stock your pond in the beginning.
3. Feed Your Fish Appropriately
Koi and other pond fish will feed on natural sources such as algae and wayward insects, but they’ll benefit from a prepared, quality fish food such as Aquascape Premium Fish Food Pellets. Just like other pet foods, not all fish food is created equal. You want to look for food that contains a high-quality protein along with stabilized multivitamins and probiotics. Only feed your fish what they can consume in about three to five minutes, at the most. In the summer, you can feed them twice per day, but in spring and fall you should only feed them once per day. Be sure not to feed the fish at all after your pond water temperature is below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, although you can give them natural treats like oranges, melons, zucchini, and even Cheerios!
Following these three basic rules for keeping koi and pond fish will help ensure that your finned friends have a solid foundation to grow and thrive. You’ll enjoy hours of watching your colorful koi and goldfish swim around the pond, gliding here and there beneath the waterlily pads. It’s a great stress reliever and a perfect activity to enjoy a bit of nature in your own backyard with the family.