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10 Springtime Start-Up Tips for Your Water Feature – Water Feature Q & A

Picture of a Pond O Matic XL Pond Vacuum.

Water Feature Q & A Q: I have a water garden that I built last year. Is there anything I should be doing in the Springtime to get it ready? – Maggie of IndianaA: Great question Maggie!

With the onset of warm weather, now is the time to get outside and begin enjoying the water feature season. Your pond has been dormant all winter and needs a little care to make it beautiful. Follow these ten simple steps to prepare your water feature for success.

1. Inspect your pond. Check to see what affect the winter weather has had on the pond liner, skimmer or biological filter. Make repairs as needed.

2. Make a water change and clean-up winter waste build-up. Use the 3 in 1 Interchangeable Pond Tool or Pond Vacuum to remove dead leaves, debris and muck that have accumulated in the bottom of the pond over the winter. Oxy-Lift™ Defense® works great for lifting debris off rocks and bringing debris to the surface for easy removal. Water changes are also helpful in eliminating dissolved organics that have built up over the winter. You should make a 15 to 25 percent water change over several consecutive days to reduce stress to your fish.

3. Condition your tap water. When doing a spring start-up water change, don’t forget that you need to eliminate chorine and chloramines found in municipal water. Even small traces of chlorine will irritate fish and damage their gill tissue, and large amounts can be lethal. Use a Water Conditioner to accomplish this.

4. Start the biological filter. Clean or replace filter pads, seed them quickly with PL Gel and begin adding Seasonal Defense® Natural Bacteria to boost biological activity. For longer life span filter pads, try using Matala® Filter Pads.

5. Test pond water. It is not possible to know the condition of your pond water without testing. Using the Master Test Kit offers a quick and accurate way to evaluate pond water quality and stop problems before they occur.

6. Inspect your fish. If you see torn fins, blood streaks and/or ulcers, Pond Fish Treatment is a great all-in-one product for both koi and goldfish treating bacterial infections and parasites.

7. Feed your fish a low-protein food. As the temperature of your pond water approaches 40° F, your fish will start looking for food. Spring & Fall Fish Food is recommended as a good low protein, high carbohydrate, vitamin-enriched diet, specially formulated for all pond fish when water temperatures are between 40-50° F.

8. Provide your fish with essential electrolytes. Pond Salt provides all the essential electrolytes fish need to stay healthy and vibrant. Pond Salt can also help to reduce algae blooms.

9. Care for pond plants. Root bound plants should be divided and re-potted. Fertilize plants with Lily Tabs to provide the essential nutrients for strong growth and early spring blooms. Adding floating plants such as Water Hyacinths or Water Lettuce will provide your pond with shade and remove excess nutrients reducing algae growth. It is also a great time to add Pond Snails to begin consuming algae keeping your pond clean. Don’t have any plants yet? Consider one of our Complete Plant Packages.

10. Keep your water feature clean, clear and healthy all season. Digest sludge, reduce dissolved organics and keep you pond filter working its best with the all-in-one awarding winning package, the Pond Logic® DefensePAC®.

Controlling Pondweeds: Duckweed – Pond & Lake Q & A – Week Ending March 28th

Picture of Duckweed Floating in a Pond.

Pond & Lake Q & A

Q: Last year I had an uncontrollable case of duckweed in my pond. It covered my entire 1/2 acre pond! I’ve heard of your product called WhiteCap and wanted to use it this spring. I don’t see any signs of duckweed yet, but was wondering if it is too early to treat.
– Cameron of Michigan

A: Duckweed can take over a pond. This prolific grower can come from many sources although most commonly brought in on the feet of waterfowl such as ducks, geese or even herons. The small plant can stick to the feet or the feathers of such birds and be carried for miles. Duckweed can start out slow and in some cases take several seasons to become a problem, although I would recommend treating for it as early as possible.

There are a few options when treating duckweed. You can use a fast-acting aquatic herbicide such as Ultra PondWeed Defense® although this will only give you temporary relief and require multiple applications of spraying the duckweed directly. These are not usually suggested unless your treatment areas are not contained or you have heavy water turnover. When possible I always suggest Sonar™ A.S. since it is the least expensive method of treating an entire pond, is easy to apply and lasts an entire season.

We recommend to use 32 oz or 1 quart per surface acre (4-6′ deep) when treating for duckweed. This means Cameron’s 1/2 acre pond can be treated with just 16 oz of Sonar™ A.S.!

To answer the question above, treat with Sonar™ A.S. in the early spring before the duckweed even appears. This will allow you to get ahead of it before it reaches the surface. Although you don’t generally see it Duckweed is actually growing at the bottom of your pond long before you see it at the surface.

There are also other nice benefits to Sonar™ A.S. such as: It works very slowly so there is no chance of oxygen loss that could harm your fish or other aquatic life. Sonar™ A.S. is also very effective at controlling most other nuisance aquatic plants. So when your treat for your duckweed you will be controlling most other species as well.

Please Note: Sonar™ A.S. needs to stay in your pond for up to 90 days. It is not recommended to use it in ponds with a heavy overflow or when during times of heavy rain. If you are unsure of your pond’s turnover (or amount of water that is exchanged) use Nature’s Blue™ Pond Dye to shade the water column and track the time it takes for the color to disappear. You may also use Nature’s Blue™ Pond Dye during a Sonar™ A.S. treatment to track turnover and shade the pond from sunlight which can also reduce the life span of Sonar™ A.S.

How to Acclimate Your Koi & Other Fish – Water Feature Q & A

Picture of a koi in a container.

Water Feature Q & A

Q: When is the water warm enough to add fish in the spring? I have some in a tank in the basement and can’t wait to add them. – Lorrie of Michigan

A: Spring is a great time to add fish to your water feature, but you have to be careful when adding fish not to simply toss them into their new environment. You must acclimate them first. I’ll explain:

Since Lorrie has a tank in the basement and a water feature outside, it’s good to note that these are two different ecosystems altogether. The makeup of the water is different, the temperatures are different, everything about them is different. Thus, moving fish from one environment to another without allowing the fish to become accustom to the new environment (aka acclimate) can put a heavy load of stress or shock on a fish. Here are my recommendations when moving fish:

1.) Fill a water tight container using water from the environment’s they are already used to. Make sure this container is small enough for you to carry if you’re doing this by yourself. I suggest adding some Pond Salt to the container to help keep the stress levels of the fish at bay.

2.) Carefully place the fish into the container filled with water and cover with Netting or Cloth to prevent them from jumping out.

3.) Slowly began to add the new environment’s water to the container. (Take note that if the new environment was just filled with fresh water, you want to add Water Conditioner to remove any chlorine or heavy metals from the water before acclimating.) This process should be done slowly to ensure the fish adjust gradually. It should take between 15 & 20 minutes. After this time has past, release the fish into their new home. At first the fish may be skittish and hide, but in a few days they should adjust just fine.

When adding fish to a water feature I always suggest not to add too many at any one time. You must allow time for your pond and filter to balance the new fish load. Adding too many at one time can cause ammonia to reach lethal levels. Add only a couple at a time and use a Master Test Kit to make sure the water is fine before adding any more. It may take up to 3 to 4 weeks before you can add more.

Controlling Emergent Weeds – Pond & Lake Q & A

Picture of cattails with a pond in the background.

Pond & Lake Q & A

Q: What do I use to kill the emergent weeds on the shoreline? What sprayer should I purchase? NOTE: My kids swim in pond. – James of Wisconsin

A: At first sight or when controlled properly, cattails and other emergent weeds can add natural beauty, structure for fish and act as a buffer to reduce nutrients and sediment caused by runoff. But, beware! Emergent weeds can take over a pond very quickly if left alone for too long. It is best to pick an area of emergent weeds that you are acceptable with and mark it with boulders or other pieces of landscape. This will allow you to control only the emergent weeds that grow outside your acceptable boundary. There are 3 simple steps to control emergent weeds: 1) Spray… 2) Cut… 3) Repeat…

1.) Spray - Select the best product for the job. Shoreline Defense® & Treatment Booster™ PLUS Combo is best at providing long-term control for all types of grasses and cattails. It will also work for phragmites and/or purple loosestrife. Shoreline Defense® & Treatment Booster™ PLUS are mixed together with water and sprayed directly on to the target plant with a tank sprayer (We suggest using the The Pond Guy® Pond Sprayer). This will allow you to control all areas or select areas that you have set aside for this type of growth. Also note: Shoreline Defense® & Treatment Booster™ PLUS have no swimming use restrictions.

2) Cut – Emergent weeds can sometimes have a root base deep within the ground so removing them before they are completely dead will allow them to come back very quickly. Most emergent weeds are best treated when the foliage is around 12″ high. This will allow enough contact for the aquatic herbicide. After a successful treatment, they will turn brown and become limp within 7-14 days. After this occurs, use an Aquatic Weed Cutter to cut the weeds at their base and then simply rake them out with the Pond & Beach Rake.

3) Repeat – Repeat these steps as necessary. In some cases it may take several applications to gain control.

How Do I Combat String Algae in my Water Feature? – Water Feature Q & A

Picture of String Algae

Water Feature Q & A

Q: I have a 1,000 gallon pond and already the string algae is starting. I am sick of constantly cleaning it. Any ideas? – Steve of New York

A: Like Steve many of you find yourselves in this same situation, where it seems like you are battling algae year after year with no end in sight. The thing I want you to know is that in order to fully understand how to control algae, you really have to understand how it develops in the first place.

The Key Ingredient:
One of the key ingredients for algae to grow is a food source (aka Nitrates). And I’ll have to say in almost every water feature that has a bad algae problem, it is the abundant fish load that is causing the issue. So why does an abundant fish load cause algae? When fish eat they over time, like every living creature, will have to excrete the waste (aka ammonia). This ammonia, when filtered properly, will breakdown into nitrates (aka food source). Make sense so far? This food source is then eaten by algae. From there some of the algae will be eaten by the fish and thus the cycle, the nitrogen cycle of life, begins again.

So the bottom line here is: If we have control of the food source (aka Nitrates), we have control of the algae. I have mentioned this before in the past, but it bears repeating.

Keep Fish Loads to a Minimum:
I know you love your fish and this is a touchy subject. But if you plan to have sixty 12″ koi in a 1,000 gallon pond, your going to have an algae problem and it won’t be inexpensive to get a hold of. When calculating your fish load think of it in pounds of fish or total inches. For example, one 6” fish can weigh as much as four 4” fish. The number of fish will affect the overall fish load, although 10 small fish may only produce the waste of one large fish. With this said, remember that your fish are growing and in many cases multiplying. Always plan for the future and be careful not to overstock your water feature.

Proper Filtration:
The size and type of your filtration system will depend on your total fish load. If your filter is not properly sized for max potential, your fish will outgrow the filter. When this happens, ammonia levels can reach to lethal levels. In most cases filters on the market are rated for ponds containing no fish or a minimal fish load. It is always best to get a filter that is rated for at least 2x the water volume of your pond.

Aquatic Plants:
Aquatic plants and algae will compete for the same food source in order to grow. I don’t know about you, but I would much rather see a few beautiful water liles then green slime. A simple rule of thumb is to have 60% plant coverage. This should consist of submerged, floating and marginal plants. Floating plants, such as Water Hyacinths & Water Lettuce, are fantastic at pulling nitrates from the water. I recommend putting a few into your waterfall filter box if you have one. Rooted plants, such as water lilies and marginal plants, create a great place for your fish to hide from predators. Please note when aquatic plants are not present, algae will take their place. See our selection of aquatic plants here.

Beneficial Natural Bacteria :
I’m sure you hear this a lot nowadays as to why you should be adding beneficial natural bacteria to your water feature. The reason is because it is another reducer of nitrates. One  product to check out for this is called the DefensePAC®. It is a combination of five products that provide beneficial bacteria, trace minerals, and a fish and plant safe pond cleaner. The DefensePAC® works to breakdown fish waste, leaves or other organics that accumulate in the pond. These are essential to maintain a clean, clear and healthy ecosystem. The best of all, one DefensePAC® lasts up to 6 months for a 2,000 gallon water feature.

Using Pond Dye to Shade Your Pond – Pond & Lake Q & A

Picture of blue pond dye & black pond dye

Pond & Lake Q & A

Q: How do you turn a one acre pond blue in color? My wife has fish in it and wants the blue tint? – Scott of Mississippi

A: Turning your pond a blue color is a great way to not only to provide your pond with a beautiful blue shade, but also will reduce the amount of sunlight that penetrates through the pond. Surprisingly enough, just one quart of Nature’s Blue™ Pond Dye will shade a one acre pond (43,560 sq. ft.) with an average depth of 4′-6′. I would use one quart, wait 24 hours and evaluate. If you would like a deeper color add another 1/2 quart. Also, with Nature’s Blue™ Pond Dye, there are no water use restrictions and it is safe for fish, birds, pets, horses, livestock and wildlife.

If you are more into beautiful reflections and a richer tone instead of the blue shade, I would recommend Black DyeMond™ Pond Dye.

How Do I Deter Herons From My Water Feature? – Water Feature Q & A

Picture of a heron catching a koi

Water Feature Q & A

Q: I have a hungry heron visiting my pond. What can I do besides a net? P.S. Is it legal to shoot a heron in the state of Virginia? – Earl of Virginia

A: A fish lovers nightmare…the heron! Ever wake up in the morning, walk out to your water feature with a cup of coffee (or orange juice for you non-coffee drinkers) and discover a heron eating one of your precious koi (see left)? Your heart begins to race and your not sure what to do, you grab the nearest broom and charge out to the heron like there’s no tomorrow! Are you tired of this? Well here are a couple of options for deterring and protecting your fish.

The Motion Activated Scarecrow: This motion-sensored sprinkler is a great way to deter not only herons but other predators as well. The sprinkler simply hooks up to a garden hose and is triggered by motion. There is a dial on the sprinkler that adjusts the sensitivity. When a heron/predator approaches sensor, it shoots a 3-second burst of water up to 180 degrees.

Pros: Extremely effective throughout the season. Can be easy blended into your water feature.

Cons: The Scarecrow doesn’t know the difference between a heron and a person so be prepared to dodge the spray!

Great Blue Heron Decoy:
Herons are very territory birds. When flying over head, if a heron sees another heron they will deter and go elsewhere. This life-like decoy, when placed next to your water feature, will do just that. We highly recommend to move them every couple of days. This will help prevent the heron from figuring out the decoy.

Pros: Effective when moved around. Adds a nice touch of nature to any water feature.

Cons: Cannot be placed outside during mating season (March-May) for obvious reasons. Once a heron has already established your water feature as its territory it becomes harder for the decoy to be effective.

Can you shoot a heron?:
Although they can be a pest, Great Blue Herons are protected under federal law. It is illegal to shoot them in the US.

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