When is roughing (sports metaphor here) not a foul? When it’s your Phoenix pond! Sometimes you just need to get in there and rough things up. Why? Read on…
ROUGHING THE PLANTS
Aquatic plants LOVE our Arizona heat. During the summer, they can get out of hand VERY fast, causing water displacement leaks. Sometimes a more aggressive plant will actually take over a non-aggressive plant and you forget that other guy is even there.
So, get in there and be vicious! Rough those plants up a bit and show them who’s boss. Sometimes, you just gotta take them out by the roots, not just trim them up. Thinning your aquatic plants will keep them healthy, and keep your waterways open.
ROUGHING THE POND BOTTOM
During the summer months, it should be a pleasure to actually get into your pond. What better place to garden during 110-degree weather? Scuff around in the bottom of the pond and through the stream to stir up some muck. Your fish will love it because it stirs up food for them! And your system will work better if it can skim out some of that stuff as your stir it up. We recommend wearing water shoes for this activity, as well as rinsing off afterwards before the pond water has a chance to dry on your skin. And don’t forget to empty your skimmer basket afterwards.
ROUGHING THE FILTERS
When your water is particularly cloudy (like after our dust storms during monsoon season), rough up those biological filters. Pull them out and whack the heck out of them against a wall or a fence or even the ground to release some of the grime that’s built up. Don’t rinse them, though, because that chlorinated water will kill the beneficial bacteria that’s built up. You can always sprinkle a little more Beneficial Bacteria into the system just to be safe.
Sometimes, your pond needs a little tough love to get back to looking its best. This practice will also alleviate the need for a drain and clean as often.
Need some help? Our Pond Pros can give you a hand!
OTHER ARTICLES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
NOT SO SECRET TIPS FOR A HEALTHY POND
CONTROLLING PLANTS IN A PHOENIX POND
ANNUALS IN A PHOENIX POND OR WATER FEATURE
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!
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. Thinning out plants as needed keeps your circulation system going and prevents water displacement leaks.
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's 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. Don't thin plants much during the cooler 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 or pond muck so that you can clearly 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 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.
OTHER POSTS YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
MONSOON MADNESS: WHY DOES MY POND DRAIN WHEN IT RAINS?
SHADE-TOLERANT LILIES FOR YOUR POND
USING ANNUALS IN YOUR POND OR WATER FEATURE
The Pond Gnome does not use any concrete, mortar or chemicals in any of our work. Why not? We have several reasons above and beyond wanting to work WITH Mother Nature not AGAINST her. Read on...
CONCRETE POND BUILDS ARE RIGID SYSTEMS
Once you pour concrete, you're done. If you ever want to enlarge or change your feature, you will need to completely remove and replace it. You can't add on. You can't change the shape or the size. If a concrete pond cracks (which it eventually will due to the constant expansion and contraction of the earth), it cannot be repaired. Oh, some people will try. They'll fill the cracks with silicone, which will work until the next time the ground shifts. Or they'll paint a black, while, or blue rubber coating over it. That's the best option for functionality, but not very attractive.
With a flexible system, you can expand, change the shape, or add on. And we like options.
CONCRETE PONDS & BIOLOGICAL FILTRATION
Biological filters are often under-designed (or flat-out non-existent) for concrete ponds, especially if they were not built with living ecosystems in mind. Oftentimes, a landscaper will build a "pond" for someone during a time when they're not considering adding life to it. Or the landscaper just doesn't ask about such things, because they're not a pond specialist, or they just don't care. Biological filters are homes for bacteria and zooplankton in which to live and convert poo (algae gold, but harmful to fish if too concentrated) into plant food. When the filter is under-built, it's much too small to house the required quantity of micro-organisms to convert the excrement load. It usually plugs up before it can even begin the conversion process! Every time you clean it, it reboots the conversion processing, starting over something that takes up to a week just to cycle and get started again. Very counterproductive.
CONCRETE PONDS AND WATER TREATMENT
If you've been trying to create an ecosystem in your concrete pond, and have been using bacteria and enzymes, you may forget and leave the living beneficial bacteria product outside, because using it is more convenient if it's right next to the pond, especially considering how often you need to use it for this type of construction. However, in the 100+ temps, that bacteria you are adding is now dead. It needs to be alive to do anything beneficial, which is coming out of dormancy, colonizing your bio media, and beginning the eating and conversion process.
CONCRETE PONDS AND AQUATIC LIFE
After 22+ years in this business (since 2000), we can tell you we are certain that small concrete bowls of water containing aquatic critters producing ammonia-laden defecation in the water every day, and sporting little to no biological filters, are never, ever guaranteed to produce and maintain a stable, balanced, clear-water aquatic ecosystem. Every time a fish or turtle defecates, the water parameters change measurably. In fact, zoos have staff specifically tasked with complete water change-outs and cleanings, every week, on ponds with a bio-load that is greater than the regeneration zone or biological filtration to compensate.
CONCRETE PONDS FOR BELOVED PETS
We are happy to try and help with these pet tanks, but you'll need to be crystal clear about your expectations for it. If you wish to discuss this further, we would be happy to assess your situation and suggest a pond management program where we help you move forward with your existing pond on a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis (depending on how much work you want to do yourself).
SEE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CONCRETE AND ECOSYSTEM-DESIGNED PONDS
If you love the ponding hobby and are interested in possibly replacing your existing concrete water feature with a beautiful, living, ecosystem pond, we'd love to chat!
If you'd like to see some for yourself first, please feel free to visit any of our public displays, or set an appointment to come by our office/showroom (by appointment) to talk with us.
JUST A FEW EXAMPLES OF CONCRETE PONDS WE'VE REPLACED:
THE ULTIMATE BEFORE & AFTER:
OTHER POSTS YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
BACKYARD POND ENHANCES QUALITY OF LIFE
WHAT IF PEOPLE TREATED RESTAURANTS LIKE THEY DO CONTRACTORS?
TOP 10 REASONS YOU NEED A POND
Our monsoon season here in Arizona can be madness for pond owners. Between the dust storms that can wreak short-term havoc on a pond’s water quality and the heavy rain (water with attitude) causing or adding to a leak situation, ponding can be a bit of a challenge.
The following are the types of issues you might experience during monsoon season, and what to do about them.
Rapid plant growth during this time of year can cause a water diversion leak, typically in waterfalls and streams. Aquatic plants are happiest during our hot and humid monsoon-ridden months. People will trim off excess growth or dead leaves and stems, but often forget about the roots, which are the real offenders when it comes to diverting water. You gotta reach in there and grab that plant by the roots, and remove enough mass to allow the water to flow freely again. Don’t be shy! You can use the excess plant material in other parts of your pond or stream if you’d like.
During a heavy rain, sometimes a pond’s or stream’s edge will settle a bit. This can exacerbate diversion leaks because a small leak causes erosion. If any settling occurs, that small leak will suddenly become a big leak, which could quickly drain your water feature. The good news that this is an easy fix in a liner pond! You just move some rocks out of the way at the leak location, pull the liner back up above the water level, shove some dirt under it to hold it in place, and replace the rocks around the edges, covering the liner. Ta dah!
Storm damage is also prevalent this time of year with the high winds we get, usually before the rain hits. High winds can blow excessive debris, and large debris, into a stream bed, creating a damn, which diverts water over the edge of the liner: a diversion leak, which can cause the water feature to drain.
With the arrival of the monsoon storms, the desert wildlife kicks into foraging and home expansion mode. Ground squirrels, pack rats, and various other critters start digging around rocky areas looking for new home opportunities and places to store away the plethora of seeds and fruit they are harvesting from the desert, which is most productive during this time of year. These critters love digging in between the rocks that surround your waterfall and stream. Do not allow them to dig in between these rocks! If you see signs of rodent activity around your waterfall or pond, pack river cobble into the hole to discourage them from continuing their efforts in these locations.
We hope this information helps you with controlling issues that crop up during this time of year, and you can avoid the Monsoon Madness!
OTHER POSTS YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
AIR STONES NEEDED TO SUPPORT A PHOENIX POND
BACKYARD PONDS ENHANCE YOUR QUALITY OF LIFE
DIY DIGITAL DETOX