Unfortunately, there is more to a pond than just sitting back and enjoying, no matter who tells you different. Filters need to be cleaned, plants need to be trimmed, fish checked for health, and most of all water changes should be a regular occurrence. Below is a list of duties that should be performed at different times of the year.
- The pond water should be partially changed (30-50%) and the decaying sludge, which has accumulated during the winter, should be siphoned off. It is important that this be done before the water warms significantly to minimize the annual spring algae bloom. Once the nutrient rich water at the bottom of the pond rises, algae will flourish. Water changes performed after this has begun will enhance water quality but will not diminish the temporary green water problem.
- Restart pumps and filters.
- Check filters and pumps, looking for wear or leaks, removing any debris from the intake.
- Wash or replace filter media.
- Clean the U.V. clarifier sleeve, replace the bulb and turn on the clarifier.
- The fish will begin looking for food when the water temperature is consistently above 45 degrees. Feed sparingly at first until it is obvious that they are hungry. Then they can be given as much as they are prepared to take as their resistance to disease following winter’s dormancy will be at its lowest ebb. It is important that the food offered in early spring be of a high carbohydrate, low protein formula to aid digestion.
- Check closely for signs of disease, parasitic, bacterial and/or fungal. Symptoms of parasites will include “flashing” or scratching against the bottom or sides of the pond and/or gasping at the surface of the water. Where there are fish, there will always be parasites. Healthy fish are able to support a small number of parasites without suffering any ill effects. Bacterial infections will be evidenced by hemorrhaging (blood red streaks) particularly in the fins and/or tail. Fungus will appear as white cotton-like patches on the body. Most bacterial fungal infections are secondary infections and are usually related to water quality.
- A treatment against parasites that are already established and multiplying in your pond will help reduce their numbers, giving any fish that have been weakened by the stress of winter a chance to regain their strength.
- Raise water lilies to within 6 inches of the pond surface hastening the development of new growth.
- Algae flourish in mineral laden fresh water, so be prepared for renewed algae growth whenever you clean and refill the pond. In dry summer months when there is continuous water loss through evaporation, it is best to top off the pond every few days rather than top off in large doses so that algae bloom will be minimized. When you top off a pond an inch or less, the standing water dilutes the new water so that you can fill the pond directly from your garden hose without the use of dechlorinator. Whenever fresh water is introduced in large quantities, a dechlorinator must be used. Please do not forget to shut the water off, I heard of an unbelievable number of customers that have forgotten and left the water running the entire night, just to wake up and find all their fish dead from chlorine poisoning. It is best to introduce the new water slowly as it will be a colder temperature than that in the pond. Dropping the water temperature to quickly will cause stress to the fish.
- Check and record water quality values (pH, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate and dissolved oxygen) weekly or whenever the fish exhibit apparent symptoms of stress.
Clean the UV. clarifier sleeve frequently.
- Check and clean pumps and filters regularly.
- Maximize water circulation, breaking the surface tension to increase gaseous exchange. Dissolved oxygen will be at its lowest levels during the summer when the water is at the warmest.
Winter:Water lilies may be divided and should start receiving slow release fertilizer pellets monthly according to manufacturer’s instructions.
- It is important to keep falling leaves from surrounding plants and trees out of the water. The decaying foliage produces gasses, which dissolve in the water and can be harmful to the fish and will add nutrients to the water which will cause spring problems and algae blooms.
- It is safe to heavily trim back most aquatic plants. Remove the spent blooms and leaves of hardy water lilies as they die off, finally trimming the lilies back to the crown and submersing them in the deepest part of the pond. Tropical plants should be taken indoors or disposed of. As an added step of precaution, spread a fine mesh net of plastic over the pond to collect and remove falling leaves.
- As in spring, the food should be of a high carbohydrate, low protein formula. Discontinue feeding when the water temperature is consistently below 45 degrees.
- Change 1/2 to 1/3 of the pond’s water, removing as much accumulated debris as possible
- If all of autumn’s tasks have been completed, winter is a comparative time of rest.
- Disconnect the U.V. clarifier, drain it and take it indoors to prevent the sleeve and/or bulb from being broken by the formation of ice.
- The filter should be left running, but the pump should be raised off the bottom of the pond as warmer water, being more dense, collects there.
- The pond surface must be prevented from freezing over. If frozen over, gaseous exchange cannot occur and toxic gases accumulate in the pond eventually causing death. Freezing can be prevented by the use of thermostatically controlled deicers and/or mild aeration or water current. Should freezing occur, do not pound on the ice to create an opening. The concussion can cause serious injury or death to the fish. An easy solution is to place a metal container on the ice and fill it will boiling water, repeating the process until the ice has been penetrated.