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New Pond Construction = Free Pond Maintenance

Are you thinking of having a koi pond, water garden or a pondless water feature installed? Now is the time to give us a call and see what we can do for you. For a limited time, So-Cal Ponds, Inc. is offering FREE POND MAINTENANCE with any new pond construction.

rock and gravel in new pond construction

Setting rock during new pond construction

That’s right, if you have So-Cal Ponds, Inc. design and build a new pond you will receive one months (4 visits*) of free pond maintenance. Every new pond owner could use a little help in the first few weeks with their new pond and we want to do just that. Every pond will go through major changes in the first few months, even the first year, changes which can confuse and frustrate a new pond owner. We want to be there to explain what your pond is going through and help you feel confident in knowing that your pond is on the right track. If you have So-Cal Ponds, Inc. design and build your new pond, then you qualify for this great offer.

Pink water lily So-Cal Ponds

Pink water lily

By having So-Cal Ponds, Inc. design your pond we can guarantee that the pond will be constructed correctly, whether it be an ecosystem pond, a hybrid ecosystem pond with an under gravel suction grid or a dedicated koi pond. Having us design and install it from the beginning will allow us to ensure that your pond will have adequate filtration for a healthy aquatic ecosystem. We see so many ponds that have been constructed by other pond or landscape companies with inadequate water flow and insufficient filtration which will lead to a pond with sludge buildup, algae issues, green water and sick fish (and of course, an unhappy pond owner).

Once you schedule your Design Consultation, our lead designer (who is also the president/owner) will meet at your residence to discuss with you your design options and will address any concerns, questions and ideas you may have for your proposed water feature. We will go over the various styles and see what best suites your desires. There are many looks and styles of ponds, selecting the ONE style you are looking for is important to us.

Koi fish eating

Hungry Koi Fish

Whether it be a koi pond stocked full of beautiful koi fish or a simple water garden with exotic aquatic plants, we will go over the design and build process with you. We will explain the various types of filtration and the benefits of each. We ask you to please take a look at our Design Guide to get you thinking of which style of pond you may want recommended you read.

Whichever size or style of water feature you decide on, So-Cal Ponds, Inc. wants to be the company that brings your dream to a reality.

Algae in your pond

So you have string algae in your pond? That is not necessarily a bad thing. Ponds are a delicate ecosystem which rely on a number of factors to remain balanced. If any one of these factors tips too much to one side the entire ecosystem will become unstable and many symptoms will become obvious.

String Algae

Here in So-Cal we get plenty of sunshine and warm weather. These are perfect growing conditions for both “string algae” and “pea soup” algae. Both types of algae can be an indication that there is an imbalance in the pond.  Let’s focus on string algae since it is the most common type of algae we experience and the number one reason we receive a phone call from a concerned client.

 

There are two common types of algae in your pond

  1. Phytoplanktonic (free-floating) algae is known as “pea soup” or more visually when the pond water is completely green. This type of algae is not the most common in So-Cal but we do see it often enough.  This type of algae is common in new ponds when the nitrogen cycle is unstable or during the sunny days of summer.  This is due to the filter being unable to process the ammonia in the pond due to a lack of a healthy colony of beneficial bacteria.
  2. Benthic (attached) which includes “string algae” or “horsehair algae”, “water net” and “blanket weed”. Here in So-Cal this is what we see the most.  Physically removing string algae is the best way to keep this algae under control, however, the action of removing the algae causes reproductive spores to be released into the pond causing the cycle to continue.

This could mean the pond is overpopulated with aquatic life, is under-filtered or the filtration system is not properly being maintained, has a lack of aeration or just has an abundance of organic matter such as leaves and debris leftover from fall and winter.

Algae typically grows when there in an abundance of nutrients in the water, there is a lack of oxygen or an imbalance in the ecosystem. Excessive nutrients could be caused  by many things such as leaf matter, an over population of fish and other aquatic inhabitants, low oxygen levels, poor circulation and/or filtration or lack of regular maintenance . If any one of these is left unchecked the pond may start to grow algae to consume the nutrients and try to balance the ecosystem… think of it as Mother Nature’s filtration system.

Prevention

So how do we prevent algae from taking over the pond? Good question. There are many different products that will slow or reduce algae growth but nothing is better than keeping the pond clean. We, at So-Cal Ponds Inc., prefer to maintain a natural healthy system without the need for harsh chemicals or additives.  Removing organic matter such as leaves, fish waste, uneaten food, dead aquatic life (such as fish and plants) will help limit the amount of “food” or nutrients the algae will have to grow.  If your pond is equipped with a skimmer it should be checked and emptied, removing the leaves as soon as possible. Your ponds pump/s should be checked and regularly maintained to ensure they are maintaining their optimum flow rate. The pond’s filtration system should be cleaned and serviced on a regular basis to remove accumulated waste and maintain proper water flow.

There are additives that can be added to the pond such as Algae Fix,  Algae Off, Barely Straw and salt which will help kill or reduce algae growth. These additives are a quick and effective way of preventing the algae from taking over your pond, however once the algae is killed off it should be removed from the water to prevent it from becoming part of “the circle of life” and aiding in the growth of new algae blooms.  Any product designed to kill algae will also harm most aquatic plants that are in the pond and should be used with caution.

Summary

  1. Algae in your pond is caused by excessive nutrients in the pond such as leaf matter, fish waste, uneaten food, or fertilizer run-off.
  2. Algae in your pond is not a bad thing. Think of it as Mother Nature’s filter.
  3. Algae should be encouraged, just maintained.

If  you still have a question about algae, your pond or the causes of algae, leave a comment or give us a call.

How to Choose the Right Skimmer for your Pond. By Kent Wallace

How to Choose the Right Skimmer for your Pond

Our friend Kent Wallace the Filtration Guru has written many articles for Pond Trade Magazine and this is one of them.  Enjoy!

Right Skimmer for your Pond

Determining the best skimmer for a particular project and how best to use it can be a challenge. Choices for skimmers come from both the water garden industry and the pool industry. The use of a pond skimmer started with water gardening as a way of moving the submersible pump out of the pond and into a protected space, away from the fish and plant debris. This created a form of pre-filtration with leaf nets and Japanese matting to separate out the larger debris ahead of the pump.

Skimmer Basics

The primary job of a skimmer is to pull the large, floating debris off the surface of a pond before it has a chance to saturate and settle to the pond bottom. Ponds also generate a film on the surface created by oils from plant debris, fish, food, dissolved organics, et cetera. Even a pond that is completely protected from the elements can produce this film, creating a dingy look to the water’s surface. A properly functioning skimmer pulls this film off, keeping the surface clear.

Right Pond Skimmer

An example of a weir operation.

A skimmer works with the use of a weir: a floating door that pivots at the bottom with a top edge that is suspended just below the surface of the water. The incoming water is forced over the top edge, creating a high level of tension at the water’s surface. The closer the weir edge is to the surface, the better it will create this surface tension. There are many types of weirs, but they’re all designed around the same goal: removing surface debris.

Many water garden skimmers create poor surface tension and have poor skimming ability due to a weir with little buoyancy or side channels that open up to the skimmer’s interior as the weir opens with water flow. In “skimmer only” ponds that don’t incorporate other water outflow types like bottom grids, bottom drains or mid-water drains, this isn’t a big issue because all of the water exiting the pond goes through the skimmer intake in a high volume. In systems where other outflow sources are in place, however, a better weir is necessary to allow the skimmer to actually do the job of skimming and not just act as an upper water outlet.

Grabbing the Gunk

Skimmers always contain some type of trapping system to catch the debris as it passes through. Water garden skimmers have a net or a basket to catch the large debris and then have a system of pads, matting or brushes to trap the finer particles and do some initial bio-conversion. Water garden skimmers also have a large area to contain a submersible pump and, in general, are not designed for more efficient external pump systems. Pool-type skimmers house just a basket because there is no bioconversion or fines filtration that needs to be done in the skimmer and because swimming pools don’t use submersible pumps. Each has advantages and disadvantages and all can be modified to some degree to meet the needs of a koi pond.

Koi ponds don’t require skimmer water for the entire turnover rate as water garden skimmer systems do. Although submersible pumps can be used, direct suction to an external pump is generally preferred because of external pumps’ increased efficiency. With water garden skimmers, direct suction can be accomplished using the internal filtration of the skimmer as the prefiltration system, protecting the pump from debris. Add a bulkhead for a 2-inch or larger line directly from the back or bottom of the skimmer to the pump and you’re ready to go. The unused space where the submersible pump would have gone can be utilized by adding more media for increased prefiltration.If prefiltration is handled down-line, a plate can be designed to fit the shape of the skimmer housing and inserted in place to hold additional pool-type baskets for a higher flow rate. These can be used in conjunction with the original basket or net or as stand-alone baskets. Modifying water garden skimmers in this fashion allows for much larger debris-trapping ability and longer maintenance intervals between cleaning.

Helix Pond Skimmer.

Helix Pond Skimmer Custom Installation.

Pool skimmers can be plumbed directly to the front of an external pump, but a prefilter between the skimmer and pump is advised to pull out the heavy solids before the pump. Gravity flow to a prefiltration tank is the better method because the prefiltration tank can be larger and more effective. This can be accomplished with the addition of 3-inch or 4-inch bulkheads for larger lines between the skimmer and pre-filter. Pool skimmers are designed for direct suction-to-pump operation and usually have 1.5-inch or 2-inch outlets. These small outlets are highly restrictive and not suitable for gravity-flow systems, which require 3-inch or 4-inch piping. Gravity-flow application can be achieved by cutting off the lower portion of the skimmer body and adding an adaptor for either 3-inch or 4-inch.

Why a Pool Skimmer?

One advantage of a pool skimmer is the smaller footprint and lid. Pool-type skimmers are a good option when space at the pond’s edge is limited, such as in the side of a raised pond or in a corner. Pool skimmers are much easier to work with aesthetically, and the vinyl liner versions have a mechanical clamping faceplate for use with pond liner or spray-applied coatings such as polyurea. Wide-mouth versions are also available, but aren’t necessary because it is the actual throat size that is important and not the tapered inlet shape to the face.

Series | Best Pond Practices: This is an installment of an ongoing, multi-part series. Read last month’s installment, Bitofiltration | Let Bacterial do the Work

Never leave the basket out of a skimmer. This can be dangerous for fish, and the floating debris must still be removed by hand from the pre-filter tank.

Skimmer Options

Three pool skimmers on the market have a large basket and are very suitable for pond application. The one with the largest basket and the largest throat size (9.5 inches) of any pool-type skimmer is made by Waterco. This skimmer also comes with a beige lid assembly, which makes a pleasing blend with landscape or top cap easier. The Waterway Renegade series also has a large basket version, and the Pentair Bermuda skimmer has a large basket and also comes in black. The larger basket and gravity flow to prefiltration make these good choices for more formal applications.

pool skimmer

This pool skimmer was modified for gravity flow with 3-inch outlets.

Another skimmer option is the “Aqua Niche” skimmer. This is a free-mounting skimmer that is supported by a pipe directly in the pond and incorporates a floating, circular weir. A floating, circular weir is the most “fish-safe” design currently on the market. The circular weir’s shape actually has a weir lip approximately 15 inches in circumference and floats extremely close to the surface. This creates a very high level of surface tension because of the thin water line it pulls from the surface. The circular weir is also fish-safe because it floats up and down vertically and doesn’t pivot like a conventional weir that can trap a fish. This is safe for even small koi or goldfish when the water flow is kept at a reasonable rate. The Aqua Niche uses a large, B-37 basket and comes with a 1.5-inch side outlet or a 2-inch, 3-inch or 4-inch bottom outlet.

The newest skimmer on the market is the Helix skimmer, which uses the circular weir technology in an external housing. The circular weir can be adapted to other pool-type skimmers, and eliminating the conventional weir door by the use of a retrofit kit makes them more fish-safe.

Many conventional weir skimmers have been modified to accept horizontal bars just below the water level as “fish guards.” Fish-guard bars should be mounted horizontally and not vertically to allow debris to flow under and over the bars without getting caught. Most of the skimmers I have replaced over the years have been crushed in by the surrounding soil over time. A concrete collar around the surface perimeter can prevent this and is a good practice to put in place when possible. Many pond skimmers get distorted by soil movement created by landscape growth and human traffic.

Fasteners for skimmer faces, as in all pond-related devices, should be stainless steel or plastic. Some popular commercial pond skimmers come with fasteners that are not stainless steel and begin to rust in a matter of days after installation. Be cautious with these fasteners and replace them when you come across them. Stainless steel nuts and bolts are readily available and will prevent fastener failure and the necessary replacement later on. The practice of installing a bottom drain line into a skimmer has become popular recently. This is largely an unsuccessful marketing ploy—and a waste of time unless done properly.

Proper Bottom Drain Requirements

A bottom drain line into a skimmer is a gravity-flow concept. A 2-inch line will gravity-flow approximately 900 gph with a 1-inch difference between the pond surface level and the water level in the container to which it flows. A 3-inch line will flow approximately 1,800 gph with a 1-inch difference. It is virtually impossible to create a 1-inch difference in a skimmer, although a smaller level of difference can be achieved if done properly. The internal water level drop requires a restriction at the skimmer face and a relatively high flow rate from the pump. The skimmer weir opening must be kept small to restrict the flow and the weir must be very buoyant.

Right Pond SkimmerOne of the best weirs for this is the old-school bellows weir, thanks to its stiffness. The drain line should be at least 3-inch in any but the smallest of pond systems. While a 1-inch drop is difficult to achieve, a half-inch to quarter-inch drop is achievable. A half-inch drop will allow a flow rate of approximately 900 gph through a 3-inch line. The drain line inlet should be in front of the pads or matting in the skimmer to protect the pump from pond bottom debris, and the line should have a cleanout plumbed into it for regular maintenance. The skimmer door can also be closed for a few seconds each week, forcing all the water possible through the drain line in an effort to flush the line and keep it flowing.

Choosing the right skimmer starts with proper placement and flow. Then considerations are made for fish safety, debris volume, ease of maintenance and aesthetics. Knowing your options makes the skimmer installation fit your pond’s particular needs.