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:
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:
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
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!
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?
OTHER POSTS YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
ECOSYSTEM PONDS NEED FILTRATION
SHOULD I PUT MY POND IN THE SUN OR THE SHADE?
IT'S ALL ABOUT BALANCE!
How Much Maintenance Does a Pond Need?
Ecosystem ponds, like everything else, need maintenance. If you're interested in the least maintenance possible, then be sure you install both biological and mechanical filtration on your pond. The biological filtration will tend to your water quality, while the mechanical filtration will do the skimming for you. Remember, if you don't HAVE a skimmer, then you ARE the skimmer. Emptying skimmer basket or net will take only a couple of minutes a week.
During the summer, pond maintenance in Phoenix mostly consists of keeping the aquatic plants from eating the pond! You will need to garden a bit during the summer -- and what better place to garden than standing in a pond! If your pond is well-built, getting in and out of it should not be a problem.
Aquatic plants need to be trimmed and thinned regularly or they will overtake the pond. Depending on the size of the pond and the amount of plant life, this could take as little as 10 minutes a week. If you let things get out of hand, well, that's another story (see photo for cautionary tale -- yes, there's a pond there).
Pond maintenance is not a herculean task. However, if you happen to want a "no maintenance" pond, we can do that, too!
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.
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:
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!
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!
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.
Have you ever noticed that your pond water is clearer in the Fall? This is typically due to cooler temperatures and full, lush plants. To keep your pond looking its best throughout the Fall season, follow our helpful, easy-to-follow pond maintenance tips.
Prune yellowing leaves off your plants. Your lilies, both tropical and hardy, should still be going strong, and some may even send up the occasional bloom all winter long here in the Sonoran Desert. Once the plants go into dormancy, leave them alone and don’t prune them back at all until after the last danger of frost has passed (late February, according to the Farmer’s Almanac).
Stop fertilizing plants, if you’re doing so, when the weather becomes cooler. This lets the plants know the season is coming to an end.
When the water temperature is around 50 degrees F, stop feeding your fish. If you continue to feed them commercial fish food, you might create health problems for your finned friends, since their digestive systems are beginning to slow down for the winter. Remember that the water temperature follows nighttime temps.
As leaves fall from nearby deciduous trees, you'll need to empty your skimmer’s debris net every day to keep up with the influx of leaves. Some leaves will undoubtedly sink to the bottom of the pond; try to remove as many as you can. However, a few left in the pond will give insects and frogs a place to over-winter. This is also true for the string algae that we get here in the desert instead of freezing over.
And speaking of string algae, this is something that you might experience during our “winter” months. If it becomes too unsightly, you can remove it by hand or use a product like Ecoblast. Personally, we prefer to leave some of it in our pond to act as a winter blanket for the aquatic life.
If you leave too much organic matter in your pond, the water may turn brown. If this happens, remove the excess debris and add activated carbon to clear the water.
The most important thing is to enjoy your water feature all year long. Keep some of these key maintenance issues in mind, and it will be smooth sailing. And, if you need any help or advice, we're as close as your phone or email!
My Water is Cloudy.
The most common causes of this situation in our neck of the woods are either genesis is occurring in a new pond or a storm (or other windy situation) has introduced dust into the water. If it's the genesis phase, add AquaClearer beneficial bacteria. Follow the instructions on the package, and back off gradually as long as the water remains clear. If it's dust, then simply wait until the biofilter has done it's work and cleared up the water.
My Water is Pea-Green.
Again, this could be due to Genesis occurring in a new pond. It can also be caused by adding fertilizer to plants, or simply over-feeding your fish. For most causes, adding AquaClearer beneficial bacteria, as described above, will take care of things. If this situation persists, your pond may need to be drained and checked for foreign material. This could mean anything from a dead plant or animal that's decaying somewhere within the pond, or simply that the lily you bought and planted came with too much fertilizer for the pond to filter out on its own.
My Water is Dark Brown or Tea-Colored.
This is most often caused by tannins in the water from the leaves or flowers of a near-by plant, or by the quality of the water filling the pond. Relax, it's an easy fix. This is a naturally-occurring phenomenon that is not hazardous to the health of either fish or plants. However, if this is unsightly for you, you can purchase activated charcoal and add it to the media net found in the Biofalls. This may need to be replenished occasionally to continue to clean the tannins out of the water.
I Have A LOT of String Algae
If the water is just warming up in the Spring, the beneficial bacteria is still in hibernation. It's also possible that you do not have enough diversity in plant life, are over-feeding the fish, or you are adding fertilizer to plants, etc. As you can see, several things can be at the root of this problem. You may hand-weed the algae out of the pond, using it as mulch for your land plants, or in your composting operation, as it's a very nutrient-rich material. Or you can use String Algae Buster (SAB) to help combat it. Remember to use POND water when mixing up the dry SAB, and NOT TAP WATER, as tap water contains chlorine, which will kill the beneficial bacterial content.
Need more help? We're at the end of your phone line at 623-572-5607, or write to us.
Do I need to drain & clean my Phoenix pond?
Once a year, we recommend a clean-out of the pond, especially the biological filter (and this includes the “pondless” waterfalls).
How do I know what kind of cleaning to do on my Phoenix pond?
The extent of the annual pond cleaning depends on the age of the pond and fish load, as well as other factors that are fairly easy to assess visually.
Ask yourself these questions as you gaze into your pond:
Can I clean the pond myself?
Absolutely! This is definitely something that can be done yourself. If you're doing a filter cleaning, it's a couple of hours on a weekend. If you're doing a drain & clean, you'll need a little more preparation, but it can be done on one weekend day.
First of all, you should wait at least two weeks after the aquatic plants have been installed before introducing Koi or decorative goldfish to your backyard pond. The longer you wait for your plants to mature and become well-rooted, the better off you’ll be. But we understand that a new backyard pond is exciting, and that you’re anxious to put all the pieces together.
Remember that a Koi’s mission in life is to forage and uproot the lovely aquatic plants that you’ve grown fond of. It’s how they entertain themselves – fish humor, if you will. This is especially true if you’re not feeding them other types of food regularly, which you don’t need to do in a well-built and well-balanced backyard pond. They can certainly live off foraging, and this makes them about the lowest-maintenance pet possible!
Secondly, we recommend purchasing small fish (3-5” in length). This is a much less expensive option than buying larger fish, and it’s less stressful on the smaller fish to change environments – typically from a glass bowl/tank to a backyard pond. The smaller fish do less damage to aquatic plants, as well. The drawback, however, is that you may not be able to see exactly what the fish will look like when it “grows up.” Be sure to follow the Fish Introduction Guidelines when adding fish to your pond.
Stocking density is an important part of keeping your backyard pond healthy and low maintenance. Having fish in your backyard pond is an essential part of the ecosystem, but if your fish are crowded, they are more likely to have problems with parasites and disease. If one fish is sick in a crowded pond situation, the illness will spread more quickly than in a less crowded pond.
There are different guidelines for stocking density, depending on how low maintenance you want your backyard pond to be, and how many fish it was designed to support (filtration, predator protection, etc.):
These are general rules of thumb to follow for a living ecosystem backyard pond. Make sure you ask your contractor their recommendations based on how they designed and built your pond.
If you're ready to have a gorgeous living backyard pond installed, let us know!
Over the years, Phoenix backyard ponds have been constructed with a variety of materials. Many are made out of concrete, while others use preformed plastic tubs or various types of flexible liner. One of the main reasons we advocate the use of gravel is that it plays a vital role by providing a natural habitat for beneficial microorganisms. It’s also a cost-effective way to cover the liner and enhance the ecosystem, making your Phoenix backyard pond a lot lower maintenance!
The rocky bottom of a Phoenix backyard pond is alive and brimming with activity, covered in algae, microscopic invertebrates, and bacteria. This section of the pond is basically a compost pile. When organic debris falls to the pond’s bottom, it’s broken down by the benthic (bottom) inhabitants. These organic recyclers live off of uneaten fish food, decaying plant matter, and nitrogenous fish wastes. If this substrate wasn’t present, the pond would quickly die, effectively being suffocated by toxic fish waste and organic build-up. If you don’t have this substrate, draining & cleanings must be done often to eliminate that build-up.
Fortunately, nature has given us a way to solve this problem with your Phoenix backyard pond. And it’s SO much easier to work with Mother Nature, than against her! Organisms have evolved to use practically every bit of available food. Fish, crustaceans, and aquatic insects will feed on these minute organisms, including bacteria and algae that live on the rocky pond floor.
In addition, gravel lends structural stability to the Phoenix backyard pond. To achieve this, gravel is placed in between and behind the boulders. This eliminates spaces between them, which keeps them from shifting around, giving you a stable substrate. The gravel becomes a free-floating mortar, naturally locking the boulders into place. Again, Mother Nature does this as a matter of course in the naturally-occurring ponds and streams.
When adding gravel to your Phoenix backyard pond and waterfall projects, be sure to vary the size of the gravel in order to provide a more natural appearance, as well as stability. You can have your gravel mixed at the stone yard, incorporating a blend of 3/8” to 3” gravel. The larger pieces give mass to the gravel bed, and act as a nice transition to the larger boulders. The smaller sizes provide lots of surface area, which is key for the pond’s biological activity.
Why is there foam in my pond?
The most common reason for foam in a pond this time of year is that your fish are doing the Spring thing. Yep, even the fish are gettin' busy in the Spring. The wise old owl told Bambi that every living creature gets "twitterpated" in the Spring. Well, your fish are living creatures! If you've noticed a foaming in your pond that comes and goes, don't panic. It's simply your fish responding to Spring's siren call. Love is in the water, and so are excess proteins. If the foam in the pond is a bit fishy smelling, then that is what's going on and it should be gone in a couple of days, and there's no need to treat it. You might also notice that the fish are quite active, tearing around the pond and even jumping. This type of thing can also happen in the Fall.
There are a few potential causes of foam in your pond.
Over-application of pond bacteria can create foam in the pond temporarily, in which case there would be no odor accompanying the foam and it will dissipate in a few days.
Another cause of foam in a pond could be a dead animal in the pond and you will need to locate and remove it immediately.
Soap being thrown in the water can obviously cause foam in a pond. This typically doesn't happen to backyard ponds, but if you have a front yard pond or it's in a commercial location, it's a possibility. In this case, the pond will have to be drained, cleaned, and re-started. This would also kill the fish. If this has happened to you, you have our sincere condolences. And may the bad karma of whoever did it be swift!
So, if it's just your fish being twitterpated, no worries, all will settle down again shortly. If it's something else that you need help with, don't hesitate to call us at 623-572-5607.
Keeping a pond healthy is critical to its success. To maintain a functioning ecosystem, a backyard water feature requires occasional plant thinning or dividing, which should initially be done just as the water warms up after winter. This particular backyard water feature maintenance should continue as needed throughout the entire growing season: as long as the water is above 60°F.
Pond plants rooted in rocks on the bottom of an organic backyard water feature spread more vigorously than those confined in containers set on concrete pond bottoms. Once established, pond plants may cover the entire water surface within several years. Such abundant greenery, although lush to look at, inhibits water circulation. This, in turn, reduces the effectiveness of the pond's biological filtration and skimmer system that maintains the clear water in your backyard water feature.
When more than 50-70% of your backyard water feature’s surface is covered by pond plants —whether the plant roots have spread naturally or are restricted by pots—it is time to thin or divide them.
Mid to late March is prime time to perform this task initially for the year, because pond plants are beginning their growth cycle and will recover quickly. AND, the pond water has warmed sufficiently to be comfortable to step into, but hasn't become so warm that maintenance threatens fish health.
Disturbing a backyard water feature stresses your fish, and parasitic activity increases as water temperatures climb. The combination of those two things are dangerous to larger Koi. Smaller Koi and goldfish handle the stress much better. Finally, don't thin plants during the cooler fall and winter months, when they are dormant, as this could cause them to die back and rot, in turn causing major water quality issues with your backyard water feature.
Thinning Plants in a Phoenix Pond
Many species of pond plants can be thinned by pulling or digging out the excess, root and all. Wear a sturdy pair of neoprene gloves to protect your hands. You may replant the excess in other areas of your backyard water feature, compost them, give them away or trade them with other pond owners, or simply discard them. Such plants that you might find in an Arizona backyard water feature include Pennywort (Hydrocotyle verticillata), Rush (Juncus sp.), Water Clover (Marsilea sp.), Yerba mansa (Anemopsis californica) and Taro, also known as elephant's ear (Colocasia escutenta). Any of these can become quite prolific if left unchecked.
Dividing Plants in a Phoenix Pond
Other species of pond plants need to be lifted and divided, similar to perennials. These backyard water feature plants might include Taro's black varieties ('Black Beauty', 'Black Magic', 'Black Ruffles') and 'Illustris.’ To divide a pond plant, carefully dig up the entire root ball (or lift it from its container, if applicable). Remove any excess soil so that you can see the rhizomes: horizontally growing underground stems from which new shoots and roots will sprout.
Cut and divide the clump with bypass pruners so that each new section is left with at least 3” of healthy rhizome with growing tips. Healthy pond plant tissue will be firm and bright white. Trim and discard any mushy or brown material, which are signs of rot. In addition to the Black Taro varieties, pond plants in your backyard water feature that require division include Canna, Iris, Pickerel (Pontederia cordata) and Water Lily.
Re-Planting Plants in a Phoenix Pond
Replant rhizome sections in the backyard water feature’s rock bottom, and then anchor them with a handful of pea gravel to prevent your voracious fish from uprooting them, or replant in the dirt containers. For heavy feeders, such as Iris, Taro and Water Lily, you can tuck a slow-release fertilizer tablet next to the roots. Only use tablets formulated for pond plants and follow package instructions. Nutrient overload encourages algae bloom, so don't be tempted to over-fertilize!
Not comfortable with doing it yourself? We can help! Contact us at 623-572-5607, via Email, or simply fill out an Annual Cleaning Request Form, or sign up for one of our No Worries Maintenance Programs.
The video below is an excerpt from our Annual Cleaning Clinic on how to transplant an aquatic plant in a Phoenix pond.
Water gardening and ponds have become popular trends in home yard design over the last few years. The backyard pond has become the favorite space outside the house for relaxing alone, with the family or entertaining friends. Similar to having a swimming pool in your backyard, there’s more to having a pond than simply digging a hole, filling it with water, dropping in a few fish and surrounding it with some greenery. Some basic pond maintenance is essential to the longevity of your water garden. Regular pond care and the installation of pond filtration systems will keep your backyard oasis thriving and beautiful for many years of enjoyment.
Pond maintenance can be low once you understand the basics. The main concept for maintaining a healthy pond is the understanding that caring for your pond requires managing animal and plant waste, such as fish excrement and the growth of algae. Rivers and streams naturally renew themselves with nutrients and fresh water; however, a man-made pond is considered a closed system. This means that nothing is organically added in or taken out by natural outside forces. For successful pond maintenance, manual intervention is necessary to take care of what nature isn’t and to keep the ecosystem of the pond in balance.
In a closed pond system, as opposed to an open, natural ecosystem, waste and algae needs to be equalized, and for this reason a proper biological and mechanical pond filtration system is needed. By caring for your pond, filtering out organic materials and not letting them break down and decay in the water, a healthy balance will be maintained in the pond. The best way to ensure a healthy pond is by installing a pond filtration system. A professional pond designer/builder will install a filtration system that is adequate for the size of the pond you have and add appropriate water plants to help with the filtration process.
Look at that Escargot!
Okay, yes, it's an old joke! But some people don't think snails in their pond are too funny. Snails that originate in an aquatic environment do not survive in the desert outside the pond. The aquatic snails feed on algae and dead plant material (pond detritus), and are therefore considered a beneficial critter in that environment. There are very few varieties that feed on living aquatic plant material, and we only rarely see these varieties. If you do see them, they will most likely be eating your water lilies.
What should I do about snails in my Phoenix pond?
Don't worry about the pond snails. They are pretty much relegated to life inside the pond. AND it's great fun for young children to hunt for them in the rocks and plants -- it's an activity that can keep them busy for hours!
If you have snails in your garden, on the other hand, the Master Gardeners can help you out here, because those are a nuisance.
Should I put salt in my Phoenix pond?
We often get the question about salting ponds. Salt enhances the slime coat on fish, which aids them in fending off parasites. If your fish are jumping and flashing (scratching up against rocks, or other hard edges), then we highly recommend salt for helping the fish fight the itching that comes with the spring parasite bloom. But there are some rules!
What are the drawbacks to using salt in my Phoenix ecosystem pond?
The main drawback is that your aquatic plants are not keen on a lot of salt in the water, so you have to be careful as to how much you add. Too much salt may affect your plants and cause them to die. Also, when salt is used constantly in a system, even at low levels, various parasites can become resistant and pose an even bigger threat to the overall health of your fish. For this reason, it would be best to use salt as a preventative for disease in the springtime only, allowing the water to return to it's natural level the rest of the year. Massive die-offs of algae due to the addition of salt can also cause a substantial drop in oxygen levels in your pond, causing stress and/or death to your fish.
How much salt should I use in my Phoenix ecosystem pond?
Recommendations range from 1% to 3% solutions in your water. So....if your fish seem fine and your plants are young, you probably shouldn't add anything to the water. If your fish are itchy and your plants are mature, you might want to add a 2-3% solution, but be aware that your plants will start to suffer and burn at a level over 2%, and at over 3% you will kill the more delicate plants.
What kind of salt should I use in my Phoenix ecosystem pond?
You certainly don't want to use table salt! You want pure non-iodized salt. Avoid using any salt with additives such as iodine and other minerals, as well as those with anti-caking agents which can out-right suffocate your fish.
Pond salt can be purchased on-line, or at various pet supply stores.
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 problem with the waterfall. Or it could simply be a malfunctioning autofill device.
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 constantly, 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 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.
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.
Is a high pH bad for my Phoenix pond?
Pretty much everything you read regarding pH for backyard ponds is focused on a perfectly controlled environment for the fish. Here in the Arizona desert, with our hard, alkali water sources, attempting to keep the water in your backyard pond at a neutral pH is impossible. People will drive themselves crazy with this effort, when in fact the fish can handle a wide variety of water conditions. Yes, even Koi. We are not, however, talking about raising show Koi, but merely pet fish.
But I tested the pH!
Just like a blood test is simply a snapshot of a small moment in your life, if you test your pH in the morning, and then again in the evening, you will get two different readings! This phenomenon is due to photosynthesis activity by plants and algae, just like your blood test is dependent on when you last ate, and what you consumed. Obviously, who can spend the time adjusting for that, right?
What's the right pH for a Phoenix pond?
We have seen fish do well in pH values ranging from 7.2 all the way up to the mid 9's. The fish do not like rapid swings in pH; however, they have the ability to acclimate to our high, and naturally fluctuating, pH environment just fine.
Should I try to adjust the pH in a Phoenix pond?
We never recommend attempting to adjust your pond pH with acidifiers, as the rapid pH swing is a potential fish killer. Buffers are a different story. Buffers can help control pH swings and are probably (theoretically) helpful to fish health and happiness, although we have no proof of this. Most of our clients just leave it to Mother Nature and she seems to do OK with it on her own. :-)
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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!