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Using Pond Vacuums to Clean Your Water Garden – Water Garden & Feature Q & A

Cleanout Out the Water Garden by Draining and Power Washing.

Water Gardens & Features Q & A

Q: Muck and leaves have built up on the bottom of my water garden and I have been climbing in and out of my water garden trying to remove as much as I can. Is there an easier way to do this without all the hard work and having to get wet? – Rick of South Carolina

A: Cleaning and maintaining a beautiful water garden takes time. We’ve all done it. We’ve all drained the water garden to try and clean out the pond. We’ve all fallen in one time or another to try and get those leaves and muck out. So what can you do? Well, if you haven’t used a Pond Vacuum yet, I highly recommend it.

Cleaning Your Water Garden with Ease with a Pond Vacuum.

“You mean you can actually vacuum your pond”?: I’ve heard that statement many times while talking to some of you on the phone or in person, and fortunately, you can! Having a pond vacuum for your water garden is similar to having a regular vacuum for your home. Think about it. Would you have carpet in your home and NOT have a vacuum? Probably not. This is similar to having a pond vacuum for your water garden. Simply one doesn’t go without the other.

First, lets consider why we need to vacuum our ponds: As time passes by, our ponds accumulate “muck” from leaves, fish waste, uneaten fish food, lily pads, etc. This “muck” is very high in nutrients and a great food source for algae! Although we do suggest a complete cleanout each and every spring, this is sometimes not an option, especially every year. So having the ability to remove waste without removing all the water is a huge advantage. In general, you will only lose about 10-15% of your water after a complete vacuuming, which is just the right amount for a small water change to freshen up the pond.

Which vacuum is right for you?
The real decision when choosing between the Pond-O-Matic XL or the Pond-O-Vac III really only comes down to a couple of questions. How large your pond is and how often you will need to vacuum?

If you have a smaller pond (less then 300 sq. ft) then a Pond-O-Matic XL will be sufficient: The Pond-O-Matic XL features a automatic fill-and-drain system that senses when the vacuum basin is full and automatically shuts off, drains and then turns back on. You will get a good 30-45 seconds of cleaning time between each drain with the drain time approximately the same. So 45 seconds of cleaning could take you up to 90 seconds.

Larger ponds (over 300 sq. ft.) and ponds that receive an excessive amount of debris would be great candidates for the Pond-O-Vac III. The biggest advantage of this “Cadillac” of pond vacuums is its ability to drain a pump at the same time. This is a real time-saving operation because it does not have to stop and drain before continuing.

Other advantages of the Pond-O-Vac III:

  • 5-year warranty compared to the 2-year warranty of the Pond-O-Matic XL.
  • Clear vacuum extension for monitoring operation.
  • Built-in rack for to conveniently store and organize accessories.
  • Built-in wheels for greater mobility.

Can a Fountain Provide My Pond Sufficient Aeration? – Pond & Lake Q & A

Picture of a "V" Patterned Fountain.

Pond & Lake Q & A

Q: I would really like to have a fountain in my pond and I know I need aeration. Will a fountain aerate my pond? – Nathan of Florida

A: Having a fountain in your pond is a great way to add tranquility to your home. To sit out on the deck and see a beautiful fountain

display as well as hear that relaxing sound of water. What more could you ask for? Many people are drawn to a fountain’s show-stopping appeal, but will they aerate a pond as well? The answer to this really depends on a couple factors: the pond’s depth and the type of fountain pattern the fountain is using.

Pond’s Depth: Fountains can be great aerators when the pond is less than 6′ of depth. The reason for this is because the best way to aerate is to circulate the whole body of water at the same time. A fountain will only draw water from the top of the water column, which is water that already contains oxygen from the air to water oxygen transfer. The pond’s bottom will remain untouched if it is deeper than 6′. If your pond is less than 6′ deep, then all you have to worry about is the spray pattern.

Fountain Spray Pattern: The spray pattern of a fountain makes a huge difference in how much aeration is produced. Usually the more decorative the spray pattern, the less likely it is to aerate your pond properly. This is because more energy is spent on creating the decorative pattern than there is moving the water. The best spray pattern to use for a fountain is a “V” patterned fountain like the picture above

If your pond is deeper than 6′ of depth, than the best method of aeration would be an Airmax Aeration System. The Airmax Aeration System diffuser will pump air down to the bottom of the pond, and the resulting column of rising bubbles lifts and aerates the water. By starting from the bottom, up, this will ensure that the whole body of water is properly circulated as well as aerated.

What is a Pondless Waterfall? – Water Garden & Feature Q & A

Picture of a Cascading Pondless Waterfall.

Water Gardens & Features Q & A

Q: I really would love to add the sound of water to my backyard but I really don’t have the space for a full fledged water garden. I read a little bit about your pondless waterfall kits. Exactly how do those work? – Abby of California

A: Did you know you could have the sound of water without the pond? Well you can! A Cascading Pondless Waterfall is exactly what it sounds like…a waterfall without the pond.

Illustration of How a Cascading Pondless Waterfall Works.

How a Cascading Pondless Waterfall Works

The way it works is this: A basin is first dug into the ground and the waterfall is sculpted out of the land. The basin and waterfall will be covered with liner and underlayment to hole the water. The basin will hold a vault that contains a pump. Tubing will run from the pump to a waterfall box at the top of the waterfall. A Basin Matrix, rocks and gravel will fill the void in the basin. Once filled with water, the water will travel up from the basin to the waterfall box. The water will then travel back down the waterfall and disappear into the basin.

Benefits of a Cascading Pondless Waterfall

Besides providing the sights and sounds of a natural looking waterfall and stream, a cascading pondless waterfall feature offers many things a pond doesn’t:

Easier to Maintain: Because all of the water is contained in an underground basin, hidden from the sun, green water is never an issue. Also, no filtration (and the cleaning goes along with that) is necessary because there are no fish to care for.

Easier to Install: Since you’re digging a basin (basically a hole in the ground that will be covered with rocks and gravel) instead of a water garden (a well designed hole in the ground

with shelves and detailed stone work), it takes only a fraction of the time to build

Lower Initial Cost & Lower Energy Cost Potential: Cascading Pondless Waterfalls costs less than a full-fledged water garden. They actually start at $499.99 so this is very easy on the budget. Also most Cascading Pondless Waterfall owners choose to run the waterfall only when they are there to enjoy it, minimizing electrical consumption where with a full fledged water garden, the pump must run constantly for the sake of the fish.

Safer: With no standing water, children can safely play in the stream and waterfall – with adult supervision of course.

If you don’t have a water feature yet but have been thinking about getting one, a Cascading Pondless Waterfall is great way to get your feet wet. With all of these benefits and the low cost to build, you simply can’t beat it.

Why Did My Fish Die Over the Winter? – Pond & Lake Q & A

Illustration of No Aeration Versus with Airmax Aeration

Pond & Lake Q & A

Q: I lost all of my fish after the winter. We love to catch fish in the pond and now we have to start over! What happened? And is there anything I can do to prevent this from happening again? – Alfred of Michigan

A: My first thought when I read this question was, “They don’t have an aeration system”. And after speaking with him, come to find out, he didn’t. This is usually always the case during a winter fish kill. Everything seems to be going just fine when all of a sudden one morning you wake up to discover a wave of fish floating on your pond’s surface. This is not a pretty sight, nor is it any fun to clean up. So what causes fish kill and what can you do to prevent it?

What Causes Fish Kill?
During the warmer months of the year a pond with no aeration will contain oxygen towards the surface of the pond. This is because there is an oxygen transfer from air to water at the pond’s surface. The bottom of the pond, however, will contain very little or no oxygen; Certainly not enough to support fish life. Also, the toxins associated with fish waste and other organic biodegradation tend to sink and stay at those lower depths of the pond, polluting the already oxygen-starved water. This unfortunately, condenses your fishes’ habitat area and forces them to live towards the surface of the pond.

There is also a difference in temperature from the bottom of the pond to the surface. The bottom of the pond will be colder than the pond’s surface. The reason for this is because the sun will heat up the surface of the water and since cold water is denser than warmer water, the cold water will fall to the bottom. This difference in temperatures can be quite dramatic at times. Have you ever jumped into a pond and felt the brisk cold water towards your feet? This is the thermocline border. This dramatic change in temperature can cause your fish to stress as they travel from a warm temperature to a cold temperature and back to warm. This stress can lower their immune systems.

During the colder months of the year, the oxygen as well as the thermocline will actually flip. All of a sudden the colder water containing no oxygen will mix with the warmer water with oxygen. As this mixing occurs, the fish are left with few places to go for oxygen and they will eventually suffocate.

Another issue during the winter are toxic gasses. As bottom organics (grass clippings, leaves, trees, twigs, fish waste, etc.) decay, they will create toxic gasses. When ice covers the pond’s surface, these toxic gasses are trapped underneath the ice and will cause a fish kill.

Preventing Fish Kills
Using an Airmax Aeration System is the single most important way to help prevent winter fish kills. The reasons are simple: With an Airmax Aeration System, a compressor sits on shore and pumps air down to a diffuser on the pond’s bottom. This air forces the cold water containing no oxygen to the pond’s surface. This water, because it is denser, will fall back to the pond’s bottom. This cycle will repeat and create a convection or current within the water column. This will fill the whole water body with oxygen as well as maintain the same temperature level throughout the pond (see illustration on left).

Also, during the winter months, when ice has covered the surface of the pond. An Airmax Aeration System will keep a small hole open in the ice to allow those toxic gases to escape.

The Bottom Line: Having aeration will help reduce the chances of fish kill. Also, remember that this is one of many benefits of having an aeration system (Refer to this blog post for the other benefits of aeration).

Planting Aquatic Plants – Water Garden & Feature Q & A

Picture of a Mayla Water Lily

Water Gardens & Features Q & A

Q: I would like to order plants for my water garden this year, but I don’t know where to begin. What plants should I get and how do I plant them? – Kayla of Florida

A: The simplest and easiest way to select the right variety of aquatic plants is to purchase one of our plant packages. Our plant packages come in multiple sizes with an assortment of beautiful aquatic plants (shipped bare root) that are recommended for great coverage. What kinds of aquatic plants are there? What should I get for my water feature? These are very legitimate questions. There are many different categories of aquatic plants with many species in each category:

Floating - Floating plants such as water hyacinth & water lettuce are best used to absorb excess nutrients that cause excessive algae growth. They also provide shade and cover for the fish.

Submerged - Submerged plants are fantastic oxygenators. They are also used to absorb nutrients, so there is no need to fertilize them.

Bog - You can add a nice touch to your water feature using bog plants. Bog plants are planted around the edges of the pond in shallow water areas. They also act as a visual anchor to the surrounding feature. Bog plants are perennials, meaning that they will grow back every year based on your zone.

Hardy Water Lilies - Hardy water lilies are perennials. They will bloom all summer long on the water surface. Hardy water lilies have smooth waxy leaves that are rounded at the edge.

Tropical Water Lilies - Tropical water lilies have very fragrant blossoms and will have several blooms at a time. These lilies come in daytime and nighttime blooming varieties. Tropical water lilies will be jagged or pointed around the edge of the leaves.

Hardy Water Lotuses - Hardy water lotuses have very large blooms and leaves that can stand out of the water from two to five feet depending on the variety. A hardy water lotus may take up to two years to become fully established.

So why are aquatic plants so important? In a water feature, plants are absolutely vital in balancing the ecosystem, and they offer an aesthetic touch to your landscape. If you ever wonder what causes algae to grow or why your pond isn’t clear, there are really only four factors to consider:

  • Not enough filtration
  • Too many fish
  • Not enough aquatic plants
  • Not using DefensePAC (natural bacteria)

The recommendation for aquatic plant coverage is 60% of your overall water feature surface. This will provide enough absorption of nutrients to help combat algae before it has a chance to grow.

Now that I know aquatic plants are important, how do I plant them? That’s a great question. Here is the rundown:

Floating - Floating plants do not need to be planted. Simply toss plants onto the surface of the water or place inside a Waterfall Filter unit for added filtration and to prevent vigorous spreading. This will also help to hide the Waterfall Filter.

Submerged - Submerged plants may free-float throughout your water feature. If your water feature is equipped with a skimmer, you may want to wrap a weight around the base of the plant before tossing it in to prevent the skimmer from pulling in the plant.

Bog - Simply create pockets and crevices 6-8″ in depth between the gravel and boulders. Remove the marginal plant from its pot, move gravel aside, place the plant and then spread the gravel around the base of the plant for support.

Hardy & Tropical Water Lilies - Prepare lily pockets by making indentations within your first or second shelf (12″ to 18″ in depth). Place the lily tuber in the lily pocket and fill
with aquatic planting media (remember to not cover the crown, a.k.a. growing tip of the lily). Finally, spread loose gravel around the
base of the lily to prevent the soil from being stirred up.

Hardy Water Lotuses - Hardy water lotuses are usually potted in wide, shallow containers because of their aggressive behavior. Hard water lotuses should be planted in a round container at least 18″ in diameter with 6″ of depth. It must be round, because square pots can cause lotuses to die when the tuber gets crunched into a corner during heavy growth seasons. Gently place the tuber into at least 3″ of soil. Fill the rest of the container up to the brim with with gravel and place 10-12″ deep within the pond depending on variety.

Installing a Pond Aeration System Away From Your Pond – Pond & Lake Q & A

Illustration of a Pond Aeration System Installed When the Power is Away from the Pond

Pond & Lake Q & A

Q: I know I need an aeration system, but I don’t have power next to my pond. Is a windmill or solar aeration system my only option?
– Jacob of Georgia

A: The short answer is no. There is a common misunderstanding that our (electric) Airmax Aeration Systems require power at the pond or lake’s edge. In reality, however, the Airmax Aeration System can be installed several thousand feet from the edge of a pond or lake. Your Airmax power unit or cabinet may be placed at the nearest or most convenient power source such as your home, barn or other out building. All that is needed with this type of installation is a shallow trench 6-12 inches deep to place the Airmax Direct Burial Airline in. The Direct Burial Airline will then transfer the air to the pond or lake’s edge where it can be connected to Airmax EasySet Self-Weighted Airline and continue on to the diffuser.

Illustration of a Pond Aeration System Installed When the Power is Near the Pond

Alternative aeration systems such as windmills and solar seem like a natural fit for installations where power is not easily accessible, although it is important to understand that you may not receive the same benefits from these types of aeration devices. Windmills only work when there is steady wind (5 mph or more) and solar systems have to run on an on/off cycle. Under optimal light conditions a solar aeration system can run continuously for 15-20 hours before shutting down to allow the batteries to charge. Another disadvantage of alternative aeration devices is their cost. This is especially true of the solar models. With the purchase price being so high the energy consumption of an Airmax Aeration System being so low it is nearly impossible to recuperate any cost savings due to electrical consumption. A typical Airmax Aeration System designed to aerate up to one surface acre will cost less than $18 per month, running 24 hours per day.

To receive the benefits of aeration, your system should run 24 hours per day! The goal of aeration is circulation and the introduction of oxygen to the bottom of your pond or lake. A properly sized aeration system will use the bubbles created by the diffuser to force the cooler water from the bottom of your pond to the surface. The water at the surface is warmer and less dense or lighter. The cooler or heavier water will be pushed up by the diffuser then forced outward where it will naturally sink due to its heavier density. Aeration devices that are under powered, have poorly designed delivery devices (diffusers) or not operated continuously generally will not provide the true benefits of aeration. Do your research and spend your money wisely!

Aeration Benefits:

  • Clean & Clear Water Column
  • Elimination of Thermal Stratification
  • Reduced Sediment
  • Stronger and More Productive
    Fish Population
  • Elimination of Fish Kills and
    Turnover

Fertilizing Aquatic Plants – Water Garden & Feature Q & A

Picture of a Water Lily.

Water Garden & Feature Q & A

Q: I would like to fertilize my aquatic plants but I heard fertilizing can cause algae blooms. Is this true? – Alan of New Jersey

A:Fertilizing your aquatic plants are a great way to ensure healthy and blooming plants all season. Most water garden owners are afraid to fertilize their aquatic plants because they feel that it will cause algae blooms. This isn’t the case when using low-phosphorus fertilizers.

Initial Planting of Aquatic Plants
When planting aquatic plants I suggest using Aquatic Planting Media instead of soil because it is a great way to get your plants off to a good start. Aquatic Planting Media is pre-colonized with beneficial bacteria to help initial growth. Planting media can be used in lily pockets or when plants are
placed in a pot.

Fertilizing Your Aquatic Plants:
Bloom & Grow is a nitrate and phosphate free supplement that is formulated for aquatic plants of all types to promote larger, brighter and faster blooms as well as healthier and stronger roots. Aquatic Plant Fertilizer Spikes are also a great way to fertilize your plants. Just one application will fertilize plants for the entire season.

These above methods will allow you to enjoy those gorgeous blooming aquatic plants without having to worry about excessive algae blooms.

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