Ponds Archives

Spring Pond maintenance

As with any garden features, the garden pond and its inhabitants need regular attention if they’re to look their best. Pond maintenance needn’t be an intimidating task. It is generally quite minimal but must be carried out regularly if major problems are to be avoided.

First let me state that it is a fallacy to believe that a pond must be cleaned out every spring. In fact, if disturbed too often a healthy balanced pond with clear water may not be achieved. A thorough spring clean should only be necessary every five years or so. Otherwise it should be merely a case of lifting and dividing any overgrown plants and replanting them in fresh compost. Fishing out any visible leaves with a net will help as well.

When it is necessary to completely clean out your pond, this will be made obvious by a large build up of organic debris on the floor or the pond and you will probably be finding it more difficult than usual to keep the water clear. An oily scum may even be seen on the surface. Plants will quite likely be looking overcrowded and merely lifting and subdividing would not be sufficient to put things right.

Emptying a pond.
Before spring cleaning can begin the pool must be emptied of course. This will probably mean siphoning or bailing out the water. Siphoning presents no problem if some of the surrounding ground is lower than the pond. A length of hose is filled with water and with one end submerged in the pond with your thumb over it   the other end is simultaneously removed to a lower area. As long as this is done in sequence and the end of the hosepipe outside the pool is lower than that in the pond, gravity will do the rest. Of course if you have a pump in the pond, then you may be able to use this to pump the water straight into a nearby drain. Always make sure that no small fish or other wildlife can be sucked into the hose. I usually tie a piece of onion or garlic netting over the end.

If the pond has been constructed in the lower part of the garden and this is impossible, then I’m afraid the water will have to be bailed out with a bucket. Great care must be taken to ensure that no fish or other wildlife is removed and discarded. Most fish will linger in the mud and debris on the pond floor and are then easily captured. Whilst emptying, always have a couple of buckets of water ready to accommodate fish.

Fish that have been removed should be placed in as cool a place as possible while spring cleaning takes place. Do not leave the bucket standing in the sun. If a spring clean is likely to take more than just the day then more suitable accommodation will have to be found. A paddling pool is useful here but again keep it in the shade and aerate it if possible. Whichever method you use, do not put fish in clean tap water. There is too much chlorine in it which can kill your fish. If possible use some of te old pond water. Also remember to feed your fish during this time as there will be no natural food source available to them.

Aquatic plants also need to be looked after during the clean especially submerged types. These dry out very quickly when exposed to air. Keep the best plants in buckets of water in a cool light place. When ready for replanting they can be bunched up as cuttings fastened together with the weight or a short piece of wire. Water lilies will last for several days merely wrapped in a generous sheet of polythene whilst marginal plants are mostly happy for a week or so if kept in the call light place. Some submerged foliage might shrivel however the plants will not really suffer.

Dividing plants

On years where a full spring clean is unnecessary, merely tidy up and split the plants where needed. There may be replacements to be made for losses sustained during winter and of course some plants will need lifting and dividing if they are to retain their vigour. As a rule marginal plants should be lifted and divided every two or three years but I wouldn’t try to lift large numbers of plants at one time. This can lead to “fat” and “lean” years as newly replanted aquatics always look rather sparse early on, but conversely if they all need dividing together, by the time this is necessary the whole pond looks overcrowded. The policy of lifting certain groups of plants each year is the most sensible and ensures an acceptable appearance throughout.

Water lilies do not need attention so often. The third year after planting is the best time to divide rigorous varieties, while some of the more restrained kinds will last for four or five years without attention. The need for division should be apparent in any case as the plants will make a preponderance of small leafy growths in the centre of the clump often accompanied by diminishing flower size.

Submerged plants can often be left for a number of years without attention, although the stringy winter growth of semi evergreen kinds like the curled pond weed should be removed each spring to allow fresh growth to break from the bottom. If a new basket of submerged plants is not prospering it is a good idea to shake out the soil and replant healthy young cuttings in fresh compost

When dividing marginal plants treat them rather like herbaceous perennials. Separate tough roots by inserting a couple of hand forks back-to-back. Now lever them apart. Always replant material from the outer edge of the clump as this is young and vigorous.

Water lilies can be treated similarly, except that most will need to be separated with a knife and therefore care should be taken to see that any wounds are dressed with powdered charcoal to prevent infection. The crown of a healthy mature water lily consists of one fleshy root, which was the one originally planted, together with a number of side branches. It is these side growths that should be retained as they are young and vigorous. The original crown is discarded and each severed branch will produce a plant provided it is a healthy terminal shoot.

When you have completed all of the cleaning out, refill the pond. Remember, fresh tap water is not good for your fish. It contains chlorine. This will attack and maybe rot the fish’s gills and may well kill them. Always allow a couple of days at least for the water to settle. Chlorine will evaporate off of the water in time. This can be accelerated by aeration and movement of the water so turn on any pumps and waterfalls. Another reason not to re-stock straight away is that the temperature may be very different from that in which your fish are in. Tap water is usually very cold yet the temporary home holding your fish will have had time to warm up. A sudden change in temperature like this will not do your fish any favours and again could even kill them.

Pond Filters – Which One Is Right For You?

pond filterIf you want to keep your pond clean and healthy, then a pond filter is the answer. There are a lot of different types from which to choose and choosing the right one all depends on what you expect out of your filter. Firstly, a word of warning. Pond fountains often state that they have a built in filter. This usually comprises a small piece of sponge. Its purpose is to stop small bits of debris entering the fountain head and blocking it up. That is all it does. It will not keep your pond clean and will not eliminate green water. This requires a different type of filter. Let’s look at what is available and what would be the best buy for your pond and your budget.

A pond filter usually comprises either a submerged all in one pump and filter, an external pressure filter or a ‘black box’ external filter.

See Pond Filters for sale at www.pondkeeper.co.uk

Hozelock Easy Clear2

Hozelock Easy Clear2

For smaller garden ponds, a submerged in pond pump and filter will suffice. These all in one pump, filter and Ultra Violet combination units are ideal for the smaller garden pond or water features as they are so easy to install and maintain and easily hidden. The Hozelock EasyClear and Oase Filtral are good examples of this type of filter which contain a pump, UVC and filter in one unit.

For many larger garden ponds, the traditional ‘black box’ filter is ideal. The black box is just that, a box containing filter medium, an inlet hose into which water is drawn by a pond pump and an outlet hose through which water is passed back into the pond. They will also often contain a UVC to help clear green water.

Ecopower 4500 Combi Filter

Ecopower 4500 Combi Filter

They are usually sited slightly away from the pond so that they can be hidden behind plants or a low wall. They can often be partially buried into the ground. To do this, look for models with a top inlet and outlet. Water is pumped in at one end from a pump situated on the floor of the pond. It then passes through a UVC (ultra violet clarifier) which causes green algae to clump together into larger lumps. From there it passes via a spray bar over the first filter medium, often coarse sponge, which traps these green clumps of algae and any other water-borne sediment. Often 3 different grades of sponge are used to trap different sized particles.

The water will then pass through another chamber containing large pieces of filter medium or bio media such as flocor, in which friendly bacteria will consume harmful bacteria and pollutants, further clarifying the water. It then passes out through the outlet hose and back to the pond. In some more advanced versions, water will pass through brushes before the foam to remove larger particles.

Oase Filtoclear

Oase Filtoclear

Pressurised filters are a lot smaller and so are extremely popular for small to medium sized ponds. As they can be partially buried, they are a lot easier to hide than traditional box filters. Not only can they be situated almost anywhere around your pond, they can also be easily covered up with plants or a cover making them easily disguised. Pressurised pond filters usually have a built in UVC (ultra violet clarifier) which helps to eliminate green water. Pressure filters are also easy to maintain, many having a built in self-cleaning device. The Oase Filtoclear is a good example.

Koi ponds will usually require something a little more elaborate than this. These will be dealt with in a separate article.

For more advice and some great deals on pond filters, you may like to see some of the following web sites which we recommend for quality as well as price.

www.pondkeeper.co.uk

www.bradshawsdirect.co.uk

 

 

Choosing a Pond Liner

Pond Liner

A Butyl Liner

There would be nothing more disheartening than to spend a lot of time, effort and money on planning and building a new pond only to look out one morning to find your pond liner had let you down and your pond empty with dead fish at the bottom. This could happen and is the reason to choose the right pond liner at the outset and to install it correctly.

It may seem that there is a huge array of types of pond liners but in actual fact they only fall into a few categories and choosing the right one for you is quite easy. Get it right now and your pond will last you for years, quite likely even your lifetime.

The most common types of liner are PVC, LDPE and Rubber.

PVC liners are best suited to the smaller, ornamental garden pond. They should also be fitted over a pond liner underlay for maximum safety. I would also lay a bed of sand under any liner to protect from sharp stones.

LDPE (Low Density Polyethylene). This is an ultra-tight weave of tough fibres which are then sandwiched between two layers of rot and UV resistant laminated coating. The result of this is that these liners are tough and astrong; however they still remain supple and flexible enough to be moved easily into position when building your pond.

Rubber (often referred to as butyl or EPDM) pond liners are excellent for any pond installations as butyl easily moulds itself to the pond’s contours. It is very flexible and elastic, although its thickness makes it quite heavy. It is also UV stable and so will not deteriorate when exposed to sunshine. Butyl is usually .75mm in thickness. EPDM tends to be a little thicker for the same resilience value, often 1mm, although it is said to be more resilient to puncturing, but not as resilient as butyl to impact. EDPM is also a little cheaper than butyl.

The choice therefore comes down to the size of the pond you are building and of course that dreaded word; budget. Butyl will be the most expensive option, but for a larger project, you will be getting a liner to possibly last a lifetime. All liners should come with a guarantee and this will give you a good idea of how good that liner is. It is better to cut down on the size of the project than the quality of your liner.

For more advice and some great deals on pond liners, you may like to see some of the following web sites which we recommend for quality as well as price.

www.pondkeeper.co.uk

www.bradshaws-direct.co.uk

Choosing a Pond Pump

Pond PumpPond pumps are used alongside water features such as fountains and waterfalls as well as filters in order to recirculate the water. This helps to keep the water well oxygenated and when used with a filter, can help to keep it clear and healthy. There are two types of pond pump; surface and submersible . Surface pumps run above ground and are usually housed whereas submersible pumps run under the water. There is a large selection of pumps available but they mainly fall into two main categories; pumps to run water features such as fountains or waterfalls and pump to shift solid waste material into a filtration system. Of course, the outlet from a filter can be returned to the pond via a waterfall.

One thing to bear in mind though. It takes a considerable amount of pressure to pump water uphill. If you intend to run a waterfall, then think carefully about the height to which you want to pump water before choosing a pump. The more water you want to pass through the waterfall, and the higher you want to make the feature, the bigger the pump you will need.

For waterfalls, you will  need to know the width of the lip feeding back into the pond. A waterfall will need at least 250 litres per hour for every inch of waterfall lip width and so if you  are considering a 6″ waterfall lip, you would need to pump 6 x 250 = 1500 litres per hour.

Most pumps today state in their specifications the amount of water they can pump at a certain head height or head rate. This is the height above water to which they can pass water at the given flow rate. So if you know that you want to pass 1500 litres an hour through a waterfall which is situated at 2 feet above the level of your pond, then you need to look for a pump which states that it can pump at least 1500 litres an hour at 2 feet head height.

For a fountain you will need to choose a pump with a fountain head long enough to reach above the surface of the water. These pumps usually have an integral “filter” which stops any debris being drawn up into the fountain head and blocking the spray nozzles. Don’t be fooled into thinking that these sponge filters will clear your water. They are there only to stop blockages and will need clearing out often.

For a filtration system, then you need a large pump capable of handling solids. These pumps usually state that they can pass through solids of up to a certain size such as 5 mm and this debris gets passed right through to your filter system.

For a more detailed discussion on pond pumps and advice on choosing the best pump for your pond, see our web site page on choosing a pond pump.

To see some of the pond pumps available now, see our pond pump shop page.

Buying and Introducing New Pond Fish

So, your new garden pond has been built, filled with water and planted. It has stood for a while to let everything settle down and the plants are becoming a little more established looking. So what’s missing? Well the fish of course. The bit that you have been waiting for all this time. The bit that makes all of your hard work worthwhile.

The best time of year to buy new fish for your pond is either late spring or early summer, ideally when the water temperature is ten degrees or a little over.

So, how do you choose the right fish to stock? You start by asking yourself a few questions. How many fish can I have? What size should they be? What types of fish do I choose? How do I choose healthy fish?
Well to start off with, there is a maximum stocking level that should not be exceeded. This is usually considered to be about 2ins in length of fish, excluding tail fins, for every square foot of surface area. This allows for healthy growth and development of fish. You can stock a little more heavily than this if you have an established pond and have some form of aeration such as a fountain or waterfall, but don’t overdo it, especially at first. Remember that waterfalls and fountains could break down. Also, remember that your fish will grow and may even breed.

Types of fish need to be taken into account. The common goldfish is fairly hardy as are some other varieties such as golden orfe, rudd, tench and shorter finned shubunkins. If you live in an area where cold weather, frost and snow are likely, avoid some of the more delicate long finned varieties such as fantails, veil tails and similar. While these fish do look spectacular, they are not hardy and need to be kept in an aquarium where their beauty can be appreciated. Also avoid koi carp unless you have a large pond, with excellent quality water and know what you are doing. These fish will grow very large and need a bit of specialist knowledge. They may also damage your pond plants.
Remember you want to view your fish from above. Surface feeding fish will be seen more often. For this purpose, goldfish, rudd and orfe are ideal. Tench however, are bottom feeding fish and are olive green in colour and so may not be seen as often. They do however add variety, are relatively hardy and help to clean up any sunken food. Aim for a mix of species which is pleasing to the eye and will also complement your water garden.

One word of warning, do avoid collecting fish from the wild. These may well carry diseases and infect your pond. This also applies to pond plants. Buy from a reputable dealer.

Before you even go to look at fish, think about how you are going to transport your new fish home and introduce them into your pond. Try not to travel too far with new fish in a small bag and always ensure that your pond at home is in a fit state to accept new charges. Check the pH and buy a pH adjuster kit if needed.

So, what else should you consider when buying new fish?

Always look carefully at the fish you are about to buy. Spend a little time looking at all of the fish. Look for specimens which look healthy. Look for any fish that are hiding away in a corner. Look for any signs of fungus or white spots on the fins and nice clear eyes. Look at their fins. They should have upright dorsal (top) fins and their other fins should be well spread out with no obvious splits. They should look lively with clear eyes and have no white fungus or spotted looking marks on their scales. Also don’t be afraid to ask to see a chosen fish in a bag and then reject it if need be. Remember that any infections on the fish you buy could infect your fish at home.
There should be no damaged or missing scales although with larger specimens this is not quite as critical as they are susceptible to some damage with age.

If a healthy fish has some scales missing, then treat it with a proprietary fungus cure when you get it home just in case. It is best to do this anyway before introducing them to other fish in your pond and you should certainly keep some in store just in case.

Of course all of these things can be difficult to check when you are choosing fish from a tank full of specimens and so ask the seller to put your selections into a plastic bag so that you an examine them more closely and from different angles. Don’t be afraid to point out any defects and ask for a replacement. Introducing an infection to your other fish is just not worth it.

I would also put transparent plastic bags inside another non-transparent dark coloured bag during transit so as not to frighten your new fish too much during the journey. Also be very careful not to bash the bags in transit as the shock could kill the fish.

When you get your fish home, float the bag on the pond surface for a while to let the two water temperatures equalise. Then undo the bag and let your fish swim out of their own accord. They will soon settle into their new home, and hopefully be happy there for a long time.

I hope this article has offered some good advice and hope you enjoy your fish for many years to come.

Water Lily Basics

Whether you are starting out with a new pond or adding plants to an existing pond, every pond should have a water lily. Their spectacular flowers cannot fail to give pleasure right through from May until October.  They come in so many different colours and sizes intended for all types of ponds. Check the depth of your pond and try to buy a water lily which will be happy in that depth.

The water lily has three positives in the pond. Firstly it is a beautiful plant both in leaf and when in flower. There are so many different colours and flowers available. Secondly the roots of the water lily will usually spread well beyond the planting basket and use up some of those nutrients caused by decaying matter and fish waste, which would otherwise help to promote green water and reduce oxygen levels as they decompose. And thirdly, they provide shade and cover for fish, frogs and other wildlife. Lily leaves are great for keeping a little sun off of the water surface which will help to prevent green water.

I usually try to remove any dead leaves or flowers if I can reach them This will help in reducing waste material lying on the bottom. By removing any dead material an elegant display can be maintained all summer long.

If you can’t get to a local supplier then don’t worry. Bradshaws have a good range of water lilies online.

Green Water Blues

It can be so disheartening to see your lovely new pond turn to pea soup. After you spent so much time and money making it all look nice and filled it with your favourite fish and plants, you at least want to be able to see them.

Well, there is an answer. First however, let me tell you what not to do. Never try to “clean it out”. If you empty the water and replace it you will be back with the same problem before you know it. You will also be putting your fish back into chlorinated water, which can harm them if not left to stand for at least a few days.

The first thing is to understand the problem and what causes it. There are actually two types of algae which are the cause of green water. Free-floating and suspended types that are single celled species which hang in the water and give it its green appearance, and the filamentous types often referred to as blanket weed or mermaid’s hair.

Both types are actually harmless to your fish unless blanket weed becomes so thick that they can become tangles in it. However we as fish keepers don’t want to see it. So, what do we do? Well, let’s take them one at a time.

Free floating algae is most common in new ponds in the spring and early summer. This is because the conditions are perfect for them. They need sunlight and nutrients to survive. In a new pond there is little competition from other plants and in an established pond other plants are still starting to grow. The answer therefore is to ensure that there are plenty of other pond plants to use up the nutrients and to block some of that sunlight. Often, earlier in the year,  just having patience will work. As submerged plants begin to grow more actively and water lilies start to cover more of the surface the floating algae will start to subside.

Filamentous algae, usually present in the form of blanket weed, can be prevented using the same methods as it too thrives on nutrients from fish waste and sunlight. It can be physically removed by using a split bamboo cane or similar implement and twirling round in the weed, literally winding onto the stick from where it can be pulled of and disposed of.

Silkweed is a similar to blanket weed but has a more slimy texture and is often found clinging to submerged aquatic plants, pumps and the water lily stems. It is usually a darker green and is harder to pull out.

Mermaid’s hair is mostly harmless. It is a hairy paler green algae that clings to plant baskets and the sides of your pond. It won’t usually do any harm and can be left alone.

So as we have said, a natural cure is often the best one. However, if this is not working for you or you want to speed up the process of alleviating green water, then you should consider one of the following options: –

a chemical cure such as “goodbye green water” a product made by Nishikoi. This and other treatments is available on the main site page pond remedies and treatments.

a pond pump and filter system – see our pond pumps and filters page

introducing more plants – see here for an excellent choice of pond plants

If you do choose a chemical solution, remember that as your algae dies off, it will decompose in the water. You should bear this in mind and consider a pond vacuum for removing silt and sludge from your pond.

Water Feature – Wooden Barrel

half barrel water feature

half barrel water feature

How’s this for a project at a bargain price? You won’t find similar quality at a better price than this. UK Water Features have knocked a massive £50 off of the price of this Half Barrel Water Feature. This is just the perfect one-box water feature and for just £69.00. What’s more it is easy to install and makes a very safe, convenient water feature for the smaller garden or maybe in a secluded corner of a large one!

What To Feed Your Fish

Pond FoodThere are a lot of different types of fish food on the market and the choice can seem confusing. So what should you feed your fish and when?

Firstly, you should only feed your fish when the water temperature rises above 4ºc. Below this temperature, your fish won’t want to eat and their metabolism will be so low that they would not digest any food consumed. Any food offered would probably only remain uneaten and sink to the bottom where it will decompose and contaminate your water.

Once temperatures rise above this point, you need to decide which type of food to use. There are several different types of food available: –

Wheatgerm Food

When your pond water is above 4ºc but below 10ºc you should feed your fish wheatgerm food. This is because in colder weather, your fish have a slower metabolism and wheatgerm food is much easier for them to digest at this time than other types of food. They will be able to extract nearly all of the goodness from the food with the minimum of waste and so reducing pollution.

Pond Sticks

Once the temperature in your pond is over 10ºc then you can feed other types of food. Pond sticks float on the surface of the water and will provide your fish with all the goodness it needs to stay healthy. You can also buy pond sticks which are specially formulated for koi carp.

Sinking Food

This type of food sinks to the bottom of the pond and is designed for bottom-feeding fish such as tench, sterlet and sturgeon.

Pond Flakes

This type of floating food is delicate and breaks down easily. Smaller and more fussy fish can nibble at it.

Growth Food

This is designed to help in boosting the growth of your fish. It is a floating food which should be fed only in summer. It usually contains spirulina to enhance the colour of fish.

See all of the foods available in our pond food page.

Pond Vacuums

What type of pond vacuum should I buy?
With so many pond vacuums available, it can be a daunting task choosing the best one for you and your pond.

We show you what is available and help you to decide.

There are three main types of pond vacuum available:

Pond Monsta Pond Vacuum
In-pond Vacuums
This type of pond vacuum has an extending handle and a head containing a pump that goes in the water.

A constant flow of dirty water is sucked into the head of the vacuum, through a hose and either down a drain (or if you prefer onto your flower beds as it makes a great fertilizer).

The Pond Monsta, shown above, does have a collection basket available should you rather recycle the water.

Also  available in this type of vacuum is the Hozelock Pond Vac and these two cleaners are probably the most popular vacuums.

They are easy to store, lightweight and so easy to manoeuvre and also the most powerful and economical pond vacuums on the market.

Oase Pondovac 3
Pond-Side Vacuums

These vacuum have a pump unit that sits at the side of the pond, connected to the vacuum head by a hose. Dirt is sucked up through the hose into the pump unit. When the unit is full, the dirt is emptied out via another hose.

The cheapest of these pond-side vacuums is the very popular Oase Pondovac Start. This unit will stop for emptying before you can continue to vacuum.

Alternatively the Pondovac 3 has continuous flow.

Tensor Pond Vacuum
Hose Powered Vacuums

Finally we have the economical hose powered vacuums which simply attach onto your garden hose. Turn the hose on and a low pressure area is created in the head of the vacuum which sucks up debris from the pond.

These cheaper vacuums are only really suitable for ponds of 60cm (2ft) deep or less and have the disadvantage athat they will add tap water to your pond.

Click here to read more about pond vacuums

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