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The water level in my pond keeps dropping below my skimmer opening. What should I do? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: The water level in my pond keeps dropping below my skimmer opening. What should I do?

Q: The water level in my pond keeps dropping below my skimmer opening. What should I do?

Charles – Bellingham, MA

A:  That’s a problem, for sure! Let’s take a look at some reasons why your water level is dropping below your skimmer opening in the first place. One of them could point to your solution.

 

Reason #1: Wrong Pump Size
Skimmers are rated for maximum water flow. If your pump exceeds this rating, the water will leave the skimmer faster than it enters—and you’ll be left with a low water level. Check your pump to be sure it’s sized correctly for your skimmer.

Reason #2: Accumulated Debris
Is your skimmer’s filter mat plugged? Nets and media pads catch a majority of debris as the water passes through your skimmer (which you then clean out several times a year), but some of it may fall to the bottom. That debris could then plug your filter mat and prevent water from getting to your pump. It could also cause a water backup, allowing water to escape from other areas of your pond. When you pull out your filter pad, check for debris buildup in the skimmer bottom.

Reason #3: Skimmer Height
If your skimmer is set at the wrong height, that could cause problems, too. It should be set so that the natural water line of the pond when filled is about an inch below the top of the skimmer opening. If it’s set where the water level is lower, small fluctuations in the water level can make a big difference. Check your skimmer height and adjust as needed.

Reason #4: Too-Low Overflows
If you installed an overflow in your skimmer, make sure the overflow’s bottom is not lower than where the water level should be. Otherwise, you will have issues when you have small fluctuations in your pond’s water level. Check to be sure any built-in overflows are positioned at the right height to allow water to drain from the skimmer.

Reason #5: A Leak
Dropping water levels could indicate a leak, so check around your pond for pooling water. Here, we outline in detail how to find and repair a leak.

Reason #6: Evaporation
The sun’s evaporation power can play a role in your waning water levels, too. If this becomes a problem over time, you can install an auto-fill valve to refill your pond when it gets low. At the very least, install an automatic shutoff switch; if water depletes to a certain point, the pump will switch off automatically.

Good luck figuring out this mystery!

Pond Talk: Have you ever been stumped by the cause of falling water levels in your pond?

Protect Pumps From Low Water - ProPlumber™ Pump Shut-Off Switch

If I treat my pond for weeds and it rains, will the treatment still work? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: If I treat my pond for weeds and it rains, will the treatment still work?

Q: If I treat my pond for weeds and it rains, will the treatment still work?

Amy – Linn Grove, IN

A: That all depends! Because you’re applying chemicals to water, you’d think that rain would have no affect on the herbicide—but it actually might. How long it rains, how heavily it rains and how soon it rained after you applied the treatment could impact its quality and effectiveness.

If wet stuff from the sky is a threat and you’re thinking about spraying algaecides or herbicides to control nuisance plants in your pond or lake, here are four general guidelines to follow:

  1. Check the Weather: Is steady rain forecast for the day? If so, postpone any treatment of emergent weeds. Many treatments need to be absorbed by the plant’s leaves to be effective. A day-long stint of rain will rinse the chemical off the weed before it can be fully absorbed.
  2. Check the Weather, Part II: If you’re expecting heavy precipitation, definitely put off treatment to another day. The applied chemical could rinse off the plants and overflow from the pond before being taken up by the target weed.
  3. Reapply If Necessary: A light sprinkle will generally not affect the chemical’s potency in a pond that’s already been treated. If a downpour occurs within a few hours of application, however, plan to reapply the herbicide in a few days to fully control that target plant.
  4. Make Your Treatment Count: Use a pond sprayer to apply the chemical as close to target weeds as possible, and use a sticky surfactant to help the chemical absorb into the plant like Treatment Booster™ PLUS. Treatment Booster™ PLUS breaks down the surface of the weed or algae and allows the active ingredient to penetrate.

Even though you’re treating aquatic weeds, wet weather can still impact the chemical’s effectiveness. Check the short- and long-term forecast and plan accordingly – because you don’t want all that hard work (and costly treatments) to be for nothing!

Pond Talk: How has the weather affected your pond or lake so far this summer?

Kill Persistent Weeds & Grasses - Shoreline Defense® & Treatment Booster™ PLUS

My pond is about a quarter acre, and I have ducks so I don’t want to use chemicals. Can I use barley straw? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: My pond is about a quarter acre, and I have ducks so I don’t want to use chemicals. Can I use barley straw?

Q: My pond is about a quarter acre, and I have ducks so I don’t want to use chemicals. Can I use barley straw?

Katie – Johnson, VT

A: More and more people are using barley straw as an all-natural (and duck friendly) way to control pond scum—and for good reason. Barley straw is a safe, natural alternative to manufactured chemicals and one of the compounds produced by submerged, decomposing barley straw may actually help keep your pond clear.

You need a lot of it to be effective.

In your quarter-acre pond, you’d need between 25 and 50 pounds (1 to 2 standard bales) of barley straw, depending on your pond’s condition. That straw would then need to be broken up, divided among several permeable bags and placed around the perimeter of the pond with weights in water no deeper than 6 feet.

That’s a lot of work!

And if you don’t replace the barley straw as it decomposes, it just turns into more decaying organic debris in the pond.

So what are your options?

Focus on the health of your pond. Reduce the decomposing plant matter, fish waste and other nutrients by adding a stout aeration system and wildlife-safe beneficial bacteria.

Reconsider manufactured chemicals, like Algae Defense®. The algaecide has no water use restrictions, and it’s safe to use around ducks and other wildlife. And because it only needs to be used when algae growth is occurs, you could use it as a one-time algae bomb. Not all chemicals are bad!

But if you want to give barley straw a try, check out this “fact sheet,” provided by The Ohio State University Extension. It details everything you need to know about using barley straw.

Pond Talk: Have you ever used barley straw? How did it work in your pond or lake?

Promote A Healthy Ecosystem - Pond Logic® PondClear™ Natural Bacteria

I started off with 4-inch koi and now they’re 8 inches. How big will they get before they stop growing? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I started off with 4-inch koi and now they’re 8 inches. How big will they get before they stop growing?

Q: I started off with 4-inch koi and now they’re 8 inches. How big will they get before they stop growing?

Lauren – Lincoln, NE

A:  In an ideal environment—a supersize space with pristine water conditions at a stable 75 degrees Fahrenheit—an adult koi can reach a whopping 3 feet long. A yard! Nearly a full meter! Yep, that’s a really big fish.

Don’t worry: Chances are slim that your finned pal will grow to that immense length, but you can help it reach its full potential. Koi will keep growing and growing throughout their lives, sometimes faster than others. How fast and large they grow depend on several factors, including:

  • Water quality. Clean water pumped full of oxygen will promote a fish’s health and growth, while poor water quality can stunt its growth. Koi will tolerate a dirty, cloudy environment, but their development and vitality will suffer. Make sure you have an aeration kit in place and are using beneficial bacteria from the DefensePAC® to keep the water crystal clear.
  • Water temperature. A steady 75° F will keep koi in a more active growth state where they’re building muscle and body mass like crazy. Cooler or fluctuating water temperatures trigger a slower growth rate as they slow down their metabolism and activity level. If you live anywhere other than in the tropics, expect to see slower growth in the winter months.
  • Nutrition. Food—and how much of it they eat—matters. Fish food that’s packed with protein and vitamins is formulated to help koi grow and develop. Some also contain ingredients that boost your fish’s vibrant colors.
  • Genetics. Genes play a huge role in how large a koi could grow in the right conditions. Colossal parents often produce colossal offspring, and if those fry live in a spacious pond with clean, aerated water and good food, who knows how big they’ll get!
  • Age. Like most living things, koi develop faster when they’re young and slower as they age. Your 4-inch koi quickly doubled in size because they’re still adolescents; as they get older, their growth rate will slow down.

If you have big plans for your koi, give them an ideal ecosystem and good grub. Your colorful friends may not reach that 3- or 4-foot mark—but you never know!

Pond Talk: What’s the largest koi you’ve ever had—or seen in person?

Energy Efficient Design For 24-7 Use - The Pond Guy® Water Garden Aeration Kit

Is it better to rake out as much of the weeds and algae as I can before treating? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: Is it better to rake out as much of the weeds and algae as I can before treating?

Q: Is it better to rake out as much of the weeds and algae as I can before treating?

Sherry – Casselton, ND

A: It makes sense to want to remove as much of the plant nuisance as possible before spraying them with algaecides and herbicides. But, in general, it’s better to treat and kill the unwanted growth first – and then rake out the dead debris. Why? Let’s take a look at how weed and algae destroying chemicals work.

Contact Chemicals

A contact chemical, like Algae Defense®, needs to make contact with algae in order to kill it. If the chara, filamentous algae or planktonic algae are cut or broken into smaller pieces, it’s harder for the chemicals to make contact. Because algae grows by fragmentation rather than a defined root system, it’ll just keep on growing. So it’s better to leave the algae as-is before treating.

Systemic Chemicals

A systemic chemical, like Shoreline Defense®, works by being absorbed into the growth system of emergent shoreline weeds, like cattails, via their leaves and roots. As it does so, it kills the plants. Cutting the plants down stops the absorption process and prevents the chemical from getting into their system. As with contact chemicals, treat first.

Treat, Then Rake

After you’ve treated and killed the problem plants, then you should pull the dead debris from the pond with a weed cutter and rake. That will prevent all that decaying matter from becoming fertilizer for future algae blooms.

If you miss some of it, your aeration system and natural bacteria can do the work for you. An Airmax® Aeration system keeps the water oxygenated and moving, while the beneficial microorganisms in our natural bacteria products break down the debris.

Pond Talk: How have your algae blooms been this year? Better, worse or the same as last year?

Skim Dead Algae & Vegetation - The Pond Guy® Pond & Beach Rake

How do I calculate what size basin I need for a pondless waterfall? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: How do I calculate what size basin I need for a pondless waterfall?

Q: How do I calculate what size basin I need for a pondless waterfall?

Robert – Waverly, TN

A:  With the help of a few friends, installing a pondless waterfall is an easy way to upgrade your land- or waterscape. If you are planning to design and build your own feature, here’s how to do the math to determine your basin size.

 

Step 1: Calculate total amount of water in your stream

Sound tricky? It’s not. To calculate the water that’s in motion in your stream, first measure your stream’s length, width and depth. Then plug those numbers into this equation: L x W x (0.25 x D of stream, generally 1 to 2 inches) x 7.48.

Here’s an example. If your stream is 25 feet long, 2 feet wide and 1 inch deep, the equation would look like this: 25 x 2 x (0.25 x 1) x 7.48 = 93.5 gallons.

Step 2: Calculate amount of water your basin needs to hold

As a general rule, you will need your basin to hold 2½ times the amount of water in your stream. To find out how much water your basin will need to hold, multiply the gallons of water in your stream by 2.5. In the above example, it would be 93.5 x 2.5 = 233.75 – so your basin would need to hold 233.75 gallons of water.

Step 3: Determine the size basin needed to hold the water

Here’s where things get a little tricky. You’ll likely use boulders, stones and other décor in your design. Well all that rockwork will take up space for water, and so you’ll need to go with a larger vessel.

Try this quick equation that will help you determine what size basin you’ll need with boulders: L x W x D x 2.2 = gallons of water the basin will need to hold. To give you an idea, a 5 foot by 10 foot basin that’s 3 feet deep and contains stone will hold 330 gallons of water.

A space- and cost-saving option is to use a basin matrix in place of some of the boulders. A basin matrix is a strong, 27-by-16-by-17½-inch hollow box that’s perforated with half-inch holes to allow water to collect and pass through. You can stack them together and landscape right over them. Each basin matrix holds 31.5 gallons, adding valuable water volume without increasing the size of the basin. Don’t forget to add a pump vault for easy access to your pump.

Go with a Kit

If you aren’t trying to customize a large waterfall, consider investing in a pond free waterfall kit, like PondBuilder™ Cascading Falls Pondless Kits. They contain all components you’ll need – from underlayment and liner to a waterfall box, pump, basin matrix and plumbing – with predetermined dimensions to help you create your water feature.

Pond Talk: What’s the largest size boulder you’ve installed in your water- or landscape?

Create A Low Maintenance Waterfall - PondBuilder™ Cascading Falls Pondless Kits

What can I do to help out a fish that was attacked by a heron? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: What can I do to help out a fish that was attacked by a heron?

Q: What can I do to help out a fish that was attacked by a heron?

Lori – Glen Forney, PA

A:  Ouch. A heron attack isn’t pretty – and it’s potentially deadly to your fish. Unfortunately, you can’t call 9-1-1 or an emergency fish veterinarian for a pond call, but you can try some things that could save your pet’s life.

 

  1. Examine, Triage: The first thing to do is examine the victim and do some triage. Capture the injured fish in a pond net and take a closer look at its wounds without removing it from the water. How severe is the injury? Are there just a few scrapes, or does the fish have an open wound?
  2. Minimal Injuries: If your fish’s injuries aren’t too severe and it appears to be normal except for a few scrapes, leave it in the pond and add some Stress Reducer PLUS to the water. The liquid formula will help to calm the fish and rebuild its slime coat, which defends it against infection. You might also want to add some soothing salt to the water (read about it here).
  3. Remove and Isolate: If your fish is severely injured, set up a quarantine tank with pond water and an aerator, add some Stress Reducer PLUS, put it in a shaded and protected area, and gently move the fish from the pond to the tank.
  4. Watch for Infection: Keep an eye on your fish while it’s in the quarantine tank. Because damaged tissue becomes a breeding ground for bacterial and fungal pathogens, watch for signs of infection. If you see split or ragged fins, slimy patches or red ulcers on its body, or any other unusual symptoms, use CrystalClear® Wipeout™ or PondCare® MelaFix to heal the wounds and restore damaged tissue.

While your finned friend is recovering, makes some plans for how you’ll guard your pond against future attacks. A Blue Heron Decoy will dissuade the real things from stopping by for a snack. Pond netting will prevent birds from reaching the water. Floating, submerged and marginal aquatic plants give your fish somewhere to hide, as do fish shelters, like the Koi Kastle. Set your fish up for safety – especially since that heron will be back for seconds!

Pond Talk: Have you ever nursed a sick fish back to health?

Reduce Stress & Heal Damages Tissue - Pond Logic® Stress Reducer PLUS

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