September is STILL part of the peak of pond season: waterlilies are blooming, fish are happy, frogs are chilling in the water, and birds are stopping by for a refreshing dip or quick drink. As a lucky pond owner, you know your outdoor living experience is enhanced tenfold when you have a water feature in your yard. To maximize the enjoyment of your water garden, you want to make sure you create a healthy pond environment for your fish and plants. When your pond is a balanced ecosystem, you’ll have less maintenance to perform. Not only that, but your pond water will be clean and clear allowing you to see your fish swim about.
The more you understand how your pond works, the easier it will be to create a balanced system that requires very little effort on your part. Go through the following checklist to see if your pond has what it needs to be a truly low-maintenance water garden.
Proper Pond Filtration
Filtration is a critical component for your pond. If your water is murky, there’s probably something lacking in the filtration department. First and foremost, your pond should have a mechanical skimmer. This skimmer removes surface debris from the pond before it can sink to the bottom and decay. Once this happens, sludge can build up on the bottom of the pond and wreak havoc with the ecosystem.
Aquascape pond skimmers include a basket or net inside making it easy for you to remove leaves, sticks, and other debris that might have floated into the water. A filter pad inside the skimmer helps remove smaller particles that may have gotten through the basket, providing a secondary layer of protection.
A biological filter works in conjunction with the mechanical skimmer to keep your pond water clean and clear. The biological filter is used to create the waterfall that cascades into the pond. Aquascape BioFalls Filters contain filtration pads and BioBalls Biological Filter Media. The biological filter uses bacteria to break down pond wastes, converting them into less harmful compounds that can be absorbed as fertilizer by your aquatic plants.
If you don’t have a mechanical skimmer and biological filter on your existing pond, you might want to consider add-on filtration options such as a Pond Waterfall Filter, or an attractive Pond Filter Urn. All three can be retrofitted onto an existing non-concrete pond.
Adequate Water Circulation
Water circulation is another critical component for creating a balanced ecosystem. Your pond pump should be properly sized to circulate the entire pond’s water volume a minimum of once every hour. Aquascape ecosystem ponds incorporate a mechanical skimmer that’s large enough to house a pump. The pump is protected within the skimmer and the filter eliminates debris before it has a chance to reach the pump. Water is then pushed through the pump to the biological filter before cascading over the waterfall back into the pond. The agitation of the water hitting the surface of the pond creates oxygen, which is necessary for the health of your fish.
If you don’t have a mechanical skimmer, Aquascape also offers pumps that can be placed directly into your pond. In-pond pumps include a pre-filter cage to prevent debris from clogging the motor.
If you’re not sure what size pump you need for your pond, use this handy online pump calculator.
Pond Fish Population
Fish are fun to watch, and it can sometimes be hard not to add more of them every year. Their colors and personalities add plenty of interest to your healthy pond. Keep in mind that your finned friends produce waste, which can upset the natural balance of the pond if you overstock the pond. A good rule of thumb to follow is to have no more than 10” of fish for every 100 gallons of water.
If you simply must have a lot of fish, add a wetland filter to your pond. The additional filtration from a constructed wetland will keep the ecosystem in check.
When you feed fish more than they can eat, the uneaten food is left to decay in the pond. In the spring and fall, limit feedings to once per day. During summer when fish are more active, you can feed them twice per day. Only feed your fish what they can eat in two to three minutes. Be sure to choose a quality fish food – preferably one that floats as opposed to sinking to the bottom of the pond if left uneaten.
Ideally, you should have 40% to 60% of the surface area of your pond either covered or shaded by plants. The large pads of water lilies are perfect for accomplishing this and provide a place for your fish to hide from predators. On hot sunny days, you’ll often find your fish congregated beneath this shady cover.
Marginal plants that grow at the edges of the pond add interest and color, but they also absorb excess nutrients from the pond and compete with algae for this food source. Floating plants such as water lettuce will also absorb nutrients.
When you see fading flowers and leaves on your aquatic plants, remove them before they have a chance to decay inside the pond. Likewise, pluck floating leaves and other debris from the edges of the pond that might not be reaching the skimmer. It’s always best to remove this material before it has a chance to sink to the bottom of the pond and decay.
Water has a difficult time retaining appropriate levels of oxygen when its temperature reaches over 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Fish need oxygen to survive and if you seem them “gasping” at the surface of the pond for air, you’ll want to add additional oxygen with an aerator or even another waterfall (bonus: more view for you!).
To ensure a healthy pond throughout the season, it’s a good idea to add Beneficial Bacteria to the pond. Beneficial Bacteria effectively reduces fish waste, organic plant material, sludge, and excess nutrients in your pond.
Now that you know the secrets to a clear and clean pond, you, too, can elevate your outdoor living space from mundane to magical!