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What’s the Difference Between a Decorative Pond and a Large Pond or Lake? – Water Garden & Feature Q & A

The Difference: Decorative Ponds • Water Gardens • Water Features • Ponds • Lakes:

Water Gardens & Features Q & A

Q: What’s the difference between a decorative pond and a large pond or lake? – Laura in Maryland

A: A pond is a pond, right? Maybe not. Decorative ponds and large ponds or lakes do share several similarities. They’re both bodies of water, habitats for fish and wildlife, and they both require upkeep to maintain their pristine beauty. But that’s where their similarities end. Upon closer look, decorative ponds and large ponds or lakes differ quite a bit.

Size Matters

A decorative pond fits nicely in a back yard – a suburban back yard, that is. Rarely larger than a 1/8th acre, the decorative pond provides homeowners with a tranquil retreat where they can tend their aquatic plants, care for their fish and relax with a cold drink in hand. They are also usually no more than a few feet in depth.

A large pond or lake, on the other hand, typically takes up an acre or more of space. Rather than decorating a back yard, a lake is often part of a larger landscape and serves some sort of function, whether it be a water element on a golf course, a holding pond for a watershed or a stocked fishing spot. Depths can be 10’ or deeper.

Planned Inhabitants

Though wildlife is drawn to decorative ponds, the majority of the critters living there are introduced into the environment. Pond owners fill their features with koi, goldfish, shubunkin and oranda – fish not typically found in the wild in the United States – and they care for them as they would a pet, feeding them and keeping them healthy.

Many decorative ponds also feature potted and planted aquatic plants, like water lilies, bog plants or lotus. Pond owners sculpt and develop their waterscapes with plants, décor and fountains just as they would develop their landscapes.

A large pond or lake is a different story. It’s typically stocked with game fish like bass, catfish or trout, and although lake owners can feed the fish and provide habitats for them, the fish can fend for themselves. Plants and landscaping surrounding a large pond or lake also tend to require minimal human intervention – other than controlling invasive weeds or rampant algae blooms.

Clean, Oxygenated Water

Because they’re closed systems, decorative ponds require filtration systems to keep the water clean. As biological pollutants, like plant matter and fish waste break down, the mechanical and biological filtration systems remove the pollutants to create an ideal environment for aquatic life.

Many lakes or large ponds, however, are open systems fed by steams or springs that continually refresh the water. The water quality self-regulates, thanks to wild aquatic plants that naturally remove pollutants. Plus, the large bodies of water can be too large (and expensive) to mechanically filter.

Both decorative ponds and large ponds or lakes can benefit from aeration systems that pump oxygen into the water, but the methods differ. Decorative ponds can be aerated with air stones or small diffusers, like the KoiAir Aeration System. Larger ponds or lakes can be aerated with fountain aerators, high volume surface aerators, or larger underwater diffuser systems like the Airmax Aeration System.

POND TALK: What are some other differences between decorative ponds and lakes?

Why Are the Catfish in My Lake Changing Color? Pond & Lake Q & A

Catfish: Changing Color

Pond & Lake Q & A

Q: Why are the catfish in my lake changing color? – Carlos in Texas

A: When summer sun causes water temperatures to rise in your pond or lake, you may notice color changes in your catfish. Sometimes, the changes are caused by natural reasons like age, spawning and temperature fluctuations. Other times, their coloring lightens from environmental causes like stress and disease.

Your pond fish likely looked darker in the spring or fall – for good reason! The cooler water holds more oxygen, which your fish need to thrive and look their best. In warmer water, oxygen levels tend to drop off. The lack of sufficient oxygen, coupled with poor water quality, can cause your pond fish to stress. When stressed, they’re more prone to disease and health problems, which can cause their color to lighten.

In worst-case situations, stressed fish can succumb to disease. One that commonly affects stressed and oxygen-deprived catfish is Columnaris (Flexibacter columnaris), also known as cotton-wool, cotton-mouth, flexibacter or mouth fungus. It is a highly contagious bacterial infection that appears as white spots on the edges of the fish’s scales, fins and mouth area. When one fish is affected, the bacteria causes death within days; when an entire lake population is affected, it will wipe out an entire population within hours.

As the saying goes, “Prevention is worth a pound of cure,” so the best way to keep your catfish healthy and deeply colored is by making sure they’re getting enough oxygen and proper nutrition. Pond Logic Game Fish Food helps by strengthening immune systems while promoting good health and longevity. An aerator, like the Airmax Aerator, breathes life-giving oxygen into ponds and lakes, ensuring a clean water column, even water temperatures and reduced sediment.

With a healthy diet and oxygen-rich water, your catfish should start to show their true colors again!

POND TALK: What do you do to keep your fish healthy?

Why Are My Fish Hiding? – Water Garden & Feature Q & A

Why Are My Fish Hiding?

Water Gardens & Features Q & A

Q: Why are my fish hiding now when they didn’t before? Is something wrong with them? – Rob in California

A: There’s nothing more frustrating than hiding or skittish fish. Part of the joy of having a water garden is to sit by the pond’s edge, feed your fish and relax while you watch them enjoy their underwater world. When they dash off and hide at the site of anything coming near them, or they hole up and never come out, it almost defeats the purpose of having koi or goldfish in your pond! Here are a few reasons why your fish may be hiding.

New Digs

It’s tough to move into a new pond. If you’ve recently added new koi or goldfish to your water garden, you can expect them to be a bit shy or skittish. They need to check out their new home, get used to having new roommates and adjust to a new way of life. The fish already living in the pond could turn tail and hide, too. The new fish could spook the old fish, causing them to retreat to their favorite hole.

If this is the case in your pond, give the fish time to adjust. As soon as they’re used to their new home and used to one another, they’ll eventually come out of hiding. Encourage them to be social by tossing some floating food, like Pond Logic Floating Ponstix Fish Food, into the pond. That’ll bring them to the surface!

A word of advice: Before adding new fish to your pond, remember to quarantine them for a week or two in a separate tub to be sure they don’t have any parasites or fungal infections that could infect the rest of your population.

Water Changes

Fish can also become skittish and hide after water changes. Any change to their environment – like the water quality, pH level, or oxygen level – can cause them to stress, and when they stress, they may retreat to their favorite hiding spots.

To keep the water quality as even as possible, test your water’s pH, ammonia, nitrite and phosphate levels regularly using a commercial water testing kit. You’ll also want to keep your water well-aerated using a diffuser, like the Water Garden Professional Aeration Kit, to be sure the fish get an ample supply of oxygen. Also, be sure to check your filtration system regularly, cleaning or replacing filter media as needed.

Predators

Imagine looking up and seeing a clawed paw grab for you or a sharp beak slice through the water. Predators, like raccoons and herons, love a good sushi dinner – and that’s how they see your fish! If your pond and its inhabitants have been visited by hungry predators, your fish are hiding for their lives.

To chase off unwanted visitors, you can try a range of deterrents, including motion-activated sprinklers, like the Motion Activated Scarecrow; decoys, like the Great Blue Heron Decoy or 3-D Coyote Decoy; pond netting, like the Atlantic Pond Protector Net Kit; or reflective tape hanging from trees. Having 40-60% surface coverage of aquatic plants such as water lilies, water hyacinth or water lettuce will give your fish a place to shelter themselves from predators.

Under the Weather

Stressed or sick fish will also hide. If they’re not feeling well, it’s normal for them to segregate themselves away from the crowds. If you think your fish may be sick, try taking a closer look at it. Using a net, like the 4 in 1 Interchangeable Pond Net, fish it out and put it in your quarantine tank. After you determine what the problem is, treat the fish and the pond accordingly.

POND TALK: How have you coaxed shy fish out of their hiding places?

Controlling Duckweed – Pond & Lake Q & A

Duckweed

Ponds & Lakes Q & A

Q: Duckweed has taken over my pond! What do I do to eradicate it and prevent future outbreaks? – Sue in Michigan

A: Common duckweed, or Lemna minor, can take over a pond in no time. Growing in dense colonies in quiet, undisturbed water, these tiny free-floating plants, if left unchecked, will blanket a pond or lake over the course of several seasons, depleting the water body of oxygen, destroying fish populations, and killing submerged plants by blocking the sunlight.

Most often, these green invaders are transported to your pond on the feet of waterfowl, such as ducks, geese or even herons. The plants stick to their feet or feathers and can be carried for miles. Though water fowl and some fish eat duckweed, it typically reproduces faster than the animals can consume it.

Short-Term Solution

When controlling duckweed, you can use a fast-acting aquatic herbicide, like PondWeed Defense, to knock down the plant population. The contact herbicide is designed to work best on mature aquatic weeds in a contained environment, and you will need to apply it to the duckweed multiple times for effective short-term control.

To spot-treat duckweed, mix 1.5 gallon of PondWeed Defense with at least 1.5 gallons of tap water and spray directly on the pond’s surface using the Airmax Pond Sprayer. One gallon will treat 5,000 square feet. To ensure safe oxygen levels, treat your pond in thirds, waiting 10 to 12 days between treatments.

Long-Term Control

For longer-term control, use WhiteCap, or Fluridone. It’s the least-expensive method of treating an entire pond, easy to apply, safe for aquatic life and lasts an entire season. The herbicide is absorbed by the leaves, roots and stems directly from the water, and it works by inhibiting the weed’s ability to produce carotene, a pigment that protects the plant’s chlorophyll. Without carotene, the sun quickly degrades the green chlorophyll and the weed dies.

To treat one surface acre of duckweed in a 4 to 6-foot deep pond, we recommend you mix in a tank sprayer 32 ounces or 1 quart of WhiteCap with enough water to fill the tank. Place the spray nozzle directly under the water and disperse evenly around the pond. It can be applied in early spring before the weed even appears, which means you can get ahead of it before it becomes a problem. Keep in mind that it needs to stay in your pond for up to 90 days, so it’s not recommended to use in ponds with heavy overflow or during times of heavy rain. Also, WhiteCap will be degraded by the sun so we suggest to add Nature’s Blue Pond Dye or Black DyeMond Pond Dye right after treatment to ensure the longevity of the application.

POND TALK: What kinds of invasive aquatic plants have taken root in your lake or pond? What did you do to control them?

How to split water lilies – Water Garden & Feature Q & A

Picture of a water lily.

Water Gardens & Features Q & A

Q: How do you split water lilies?

A: Whether they’re hardy, tropical, day or night bloomer, water lilies beautify decorative backyard ponds. Their vivid colors add a dash of drama in an otherwise green landscape, which is probably why you added them to the pond in the first place!

In the confines of an aquatic pot or plant basket in a decorative pond, water lilies can quickly run out of space and nutrients.

When those flowers stop blossoming and the leaves grow to excess, it’s a sure sign that it’s time to divide and replant the lilies. With a little know-how, splitting lilies is a chore that can be done in no time. Here’s how to do it:

1. Remove your overgrown plants from the water garden in the spring, sometime around March or April, when the water temperature starts to rise. Put on your waterproof gardening gloves, like the Aqua Gloves, and carefully lift the plant to a work space and remove it from its container. You may need to cut open the basket, depending how pot-bound the plant is.

2. Next, wash off old soil and roots not attached to the plant. Split the crown of the plant with a sharp knife to cut through the creamy white rhizome, saving the youngest parts of the clump, typically around the outside edge, for repotting. Examine the rhizome for damage or signs of disease, like soft patches of rot. Cut those portions off.

3. Trim the long, coarse roots back to 4 to 5 inches. Line your new plant basket with landscape cloth or similar material and position three to five pieces of rhizome in the basket with their growing tips facing outward to help avoid competition as the crowns develop.

4. Fill in around the rhizomes with aquatic soil, like Microbe-Lift Aquatic Plant Media, making sure the roots are spread well into the soil and the crown is sitting just below the soil surface. Gently press the plant in and compact the soil.

5. Finish repotting by applying a layer of gravel. This helps anchor plants, keeps the soil in the pot and deters fish from digging out the plants. Return the lily to the water garden taking care when positioning the
pot not to tip the lily out.

You can expect to divide your water lilies every few years or so, depending on your particular variety and growth rate. To keep you plants healthy and thriving between transplanting, be sure to fertilize regularly
with aquatic plant foods, like Tetra Lily Grow Tablets, Microbe-Lift Bloom & Grow or the convenient Fertilizer Spikes.

POND TALK: How often do you split and repot your water lilies?

Controlling Phragmites – Pond & Lake Q & A

Picture of Phragmites.

Pond & Lake Q & A

Q: How do I control invasive Phragmites in my lake?

A: The common reed, Phragmites australis, may seem innocent enough, but these tall grasses topped with feathery tufts can quickly crowd a farm pond or lake. Native and non-invasive varieties of the plants have thrived in wetlands for centuries throughout the United States, but invasive varieties have taken root on the East Coast, Midwest and Pacific Northwest, and in your lake, creating a nuisance along shorelines.

Phragmites Explained
Growing along streams and ponds, phragmites is a perennial wetland grass that can grow to 6 to 15 feet high. The stems, which are erect, smooth and hollow, may be nearly 1 inch in diameter and are topped with 12-inch-long dense panicles, or purple-brown pyramid-shaped plumes of flowers, that emerge between July and September. Leaves arise from the stem are 10 to 20 inches long and up to 2 inches wide.

The plants propagate mainly via an extensive network of underground rhizomes, or horizontal stems, that produce roots and shoots that grow as deep as 39 inches, with their root systems growing down another 3 feet. Dense above ground and below, stands of these plants crowd out native plants and animals; block shorelines, reducing access for swimming, hunting and fishing; and create fire hazards from dry plant material. But they can be controlled.

Controlling the Common Reed
Once phragmites has invaded your lake or pond, you’ll need to develop a long-term management plan to control the plant. Unfortunately, because the plants spread through their rhizomes, they could be difficult to eradicate entirely. That’s where chemical and mechanical control can help.

Herbicidal Control: First, you can spray an EPA-registered herbicide and surfactant product, like Kraken & Cide-Kick Combo, in the late summer or early fall. Mix 4 ounces of Kraken and 2 ounces of Cide-Kick with 1.5 gallons of water. Pour into pond sprayer (like the Airmax Pond Sprayer) and spray on the plants to completely wet the surface of the leaves. Allow the mixture to absorb into the plant and the root system, the most difficult part of the plant to kill, for one to two weeks.

Mechanical Control: Once the herbicide has had a chance to soak into the phragmites’ root system, you can use a weed cutter to cut at the base of the plants, allowing for easier removal with a pond rake. If
you can control your pond’s or lake’s water line, you can also cut the phragmites 2 to 3 inches below the water surface to cut off the plant’s supply of oxygen and drown the plant. To prevent the accidental
spread of the plant, collect the cut material and bag it before disposing of it.

Plan to repeat this routine several years in a row. Patches may emerge even after regular treatments, but once you’ve wiped out the majority of the phragmites, the plant will be much easier to control. Good luck!

POND TALK: How do you control phragmites in your pond or lake?

Why it’s so special to own a decorative pond or water garden – Water Garden & Feature Q & A

Picture of a decorative pond or water garden

Water Gardens & Features Q & A

Why its so special to have your own decorative water garden.

A: Perhaps you encountered your first water garden while on a local home and garden tour. Maybe your neighbor installed a koi pond, or your best friend put in one of those disappearing fountains. They’re everywhere and for good reason! Water features and decorative ponds bring so many benefits to your outdoor living space. Here are just a few:

The peaceful sound of flowing water: There’s nothing like the whisper of water down a stream or pondless water feature, the gentle splash from fountain spray or spitter, or thunder of water flowing over a waterfall. Moving water masks road noise and gives you the sense of privacy, whether you’re in an urban courtyard or a suburban neighborhood.

An investment in your home: Given the current economy, many of us today are trading vacations for “staycations,” and we’re looking at ways to build on our biggest investment, our homes. Landscaping with decorative water features and creating functional outdoor living areas adds value to a home. Plus, it’s fun to add personalized décor,
like stone frog spitters, turtle statues and Japanese towers, to turn the space into your own oasis.

A wildlife magnet: Other living things are drawn toward water. Wild birds, dragonflies, turtles, squirrels, butterflies, and frogs will congregate around your pond. In fact, if you provide water, food and shelter for critters, you can create a wildlife habitat in your yard that will both entertain and build into the overall ecosystem.

It’s a hobby that’ll grow with you: Keeping a decorative pond will definitely be a learning experience, and as you learn more about the technical aspects of maintaining water quality, keeping koi or aquatic plants, and managing the pump and filter, your pond will look better and better, and bring you more satisfaction as a hobbyist.

Cheaper than therapy: More than one decorative pond owner has told us about how therapeutic their water features are! After a long day at the office, there’s nothing more relaxing than sitting alongside your pond with a cold drink in hand, feeding the koi and pond fish, or appreciating the water lilies in bloom.

Of course, these examples only scratch the surface of the benefits that a decorative pond or water feature can bring to your yard. You don’t have to start out with a big in-ground pond; you can begin with a simple plug-and-play water feature on your deck or patio. But once you hear the sound of the water, see the wildlife it brings and feel your stress melt away, you’ll be hooked!

POND TALK: What’s your favorite thing about your decorative pond or water garden?

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