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I’ve heard a lot about snapping turtles. Are they good for a pond or should just remove them? – Ponds & Lakes Q & A

I’ve heard a lot about snapping turtles. Are they good for a pond or should just remove them?

I’ve heard a lot about snapping turtles. Are they good for a pond or should just remove them? George – Duck, NC

Ponds tend to attract all types of creatures to your yard, some more desirable than others. With their large claws and strong jaws, snapping turtles may make the list of animals you don’t want in your pond. It all really boils down to why you dug your pond in the first place and how you spend your time enjoying it.

The snapping turtle is the largest turtle in the United States, living 30 years on average, their shells growing to around 15 inches, and normally reaching weights of 10 to 35 pounds. The largest common snapping turtle on record being nearly 20 inches long and weighing 86 pounds. It is believed some species of snapping turtles can live up to 150 years with some reports of snappers have been found with musket rounds lodged inside them from the American Civil War.

Snapping turtles tend to inhabit the shallow areas of your pond and will feed off of both plants and animals limited only to what they can fit in their mouths. If you have prized fish or encourage Geese and Ducks to raise hatchlings in your pond you may find snapping turtles to be a major inconvenience. These turtles rarely surface in the pond to bask in the sun and instead are commonly found buried at the bottom of the pond with only their head exposed. Because they are too big to actually hide inside their shell the snapping turtle relies on his sharp beak-like mouth for protection. Their neck is extremely flexible and is able to reach over their shells to protect their hind legs and tail. While their size and power may be intimidating they are not usually aggressive in the water. Rather than attack and bite potential threats they prefer to swim away and hide. That being said, there is no guarantee that you won’t accidentally provoke one of these snappers. If you swim in your pond you may not want to keep the snappers around.

If you have a natural pond and have no intentions of swimming or any special attachment to particular fish or frogs in the water there is no reason why these turtles can’t be a part of the scenery. They can help balance fish populations and are absolutely amazing to look at if you can spot a large one moving around your pond. If you decide that they need to find a new home you can remove them by installing a Turtle Trap. You can bait the trap with fish or meat from your home and place the trap in the shallow areas of your pond. You don’t want the turtle to drown so keep the top of the cage exposed and out of the water. When you catch a turtle be sure to use thick working gloves to protect your hands from potential bites or scratches. Pull the cage from the pond and transport the turtle to another location. As they are known to travel far distances over land you will want to relocate them a few miles away from your pond or they may find their way back. Never try to catch snapping turtles using hooks as they tend to swallow food whole. If they ingest a hook you will be unable to remove it and possibly injure the turtle.

POND TALK: Did you find snapping turtles in your pond? Do you love them or hate them and why?

Keep those fish safe from predators!

Should I vacuum my pond? – Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Should I vacuum my pond?

Should I vacuum my pond? Heather – Landfall, MN

Regular pond maintenance throughout the ponding season ensures clean clear water. An extremely lucky few may find themselves in a scenario where their pond is perfectly balanced with no debris blowing into the pond and no layer of muck developing at the bottom of their water feature. Then there are the rest of us who deal with slimy gravel or decomposing leaves and fish waste yucking up our ponds. Pond vacuums are a handy tool to make pond cleaning manageable and easy by physically removing hard to reach muck and debris from within the pond without bending or scrubbing.

While there are a number of vacuums available for purchase, the best type for you will depend on the size and type of pond you are trying to clean and what you are trying to clean out of it. If you have a small pre-formed pond or a fountain that you need to remove debris from then a small water-driven vacuum may be the perfect fit. An example of this type of vacuum is the Laguna Pond Vacuum Kit which consists of a water-driven vacuum head and hydro brush attachment. Water-driven pond vacuums attach to your garden hose and use the water flow to create suction. A mesh net placed behind the vacuum is used to catch debris.

If you are looking to clean out fine silt-like debris or have a large water feature you would be better suited with a motor driven Pond-O-Vac IV or Pond-O-Matic XL. These pond vacuums plug into a standard 110 volt power outlet and use a motor to create suction. These types of pond vacuums carry water and debris through the vacuum hose and into a reservoir which can then be discharged outside of the pond through a drain hose. Both vacuums come with extension handles and a full arsenal of attachments to clean hard to reach areas of the pond. The Pond-O-Vac IV’s dual chamber system, rugged wheels, and powerful motor make it the ideal vacuum for those of you with large water features as it is easier to maneuver than the Pond-O-Matic. The dual collection chambers cut your cleaning time as the vacuum never has to shut off to discharge. Once one collection chamber fills the vacuum switches to the empty chamber and continues to work, emptying the filled chamber in the process. If you have gravel or stones at the bottom of your water feature using one of the vacuums smaller attachments will keep you from sucking up stones along with your muck. If the bottom of your pond consists of dirt or fine pea gravel you will find yourself spending more time cleaning dirt and gravel from your pond than muck and debris. You may want to consider implementing a different substrate material or just focus on using Muck Defense bacteria to help digest bottom dwelling debris.

POND TALK: Do you use a pond vacuum to maintain your pond? Which one did you decide to use?

Get your water garden ready for winter!

When should I switch my fish food and what should I use? – Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

When should I switch my fish food and what should I use?

When should I switch my fish food and what should I use? Millie – Mayday, GA

Better Pack a Cold Lunch

As the temperatures begin to cool down at the end of the year you will notice a change in the behavior of your Koi and Goldfish. Your fish will start to slow down and become less active as the water gets colder as they prepare for a winter of dormancy. You will still want to feed your fish in these cooler fall temperatures. A change in diet will help maintain happy and healthy fish and prevent potential fish kills going into the winter.

A decrease in activity means that your fish are slowing down and this is not just in regards to the energy level but to their bodily functions as well. Your fish will still be hungry and want to eat but because their digestive system slows down they will require less food and will take longer to digest what you’re feeding them. This can be problematic if you continue feeding your fish heavy high-protein foods in the cooler seasons. Excess food that has not been digested can begin to rot inside the fish before they can excrete it as waste causing illness and even death.

Fish food containing wheat germ like Pond Logic® Spring & Fall Fish Food are designed for colder weather feeding. Your fish have an easier time digesting these types of food at low temperatures which will keep them full and happy without putting them at risk. Knowing what types of food to use in colder temperatures is important but when do you make the switch? When your water temperatures fall between 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit you will want to start feeding with your Spring & Fall food. The best way to monitor the temperature of your pond is to use a Floating Thermometer and watch your fish for decreased activity. If they tend to just stay at the bottom of the pond and are not interested in eating before the water temps dip below 40 degrees then you can stop feeding early. Food that is left to sink to the bottom of the pond will turn into muck and aid in algae blooms come early Spring. If your fish are still active and eating you can feed them Spring & Fall food until the water temps fall below 40 degrees. During the winter your fish will just relax at the bottom of the pond in a state of dormancy until the water temperatures warm back up in the Spring.

POND TALK: What signs do your fish give that tell you they are getting ready for winter?

Get your fish ready for winter!

I know there’s fish in my pond, how can I identify them? – Ponds & Lakes Q & A

I know there’s fish in my pond, how can I identify them?

I know there’s fish in my pond, how can I identify them? Dustin – Vortex, KY

Which Fish?

So you’ve seen some fish swimming beneath the surface of your pond. Maybe they’ve even taken a nibble or two at your toes while you are swimming. Regardless of how you use your pond you would still probably like to know what types of fish are swimming beneath the surface. For all of you curious pond guys and gals out there who want to be better acquainted with their fish we present to you a blog on getting to know your fish. While there are many fish in the sea, there tends to be a slightly small selection in your pond. Let’s review the characteristics of some of the most common:

Bluegill

Bluegill / Hybrid Bluegill – Bluegill are one of the most common types of game fish introduced into lakes and backyard ponds. The body of a Bluegill is deep, robust, and cichlid-like. The mouth is small and the front of the dorsal fin is spiny. Bluegill are typically olive-green in color with five to seven dark vertical bands which fade as they approach the middle of the fish. Their belly is a creamy color and the pectoral and pelvic fins are often pigmented with white. There is a black opercular spot just behind the top of the gill and another on the back of the dorsal fin. The typical Bluegill will grow to a maximum of 10” in length and weigh in at around 1 pound, the largest caught weighing just under 5 pounds. Bluegill are a relatively hardy fish that thrive in water temperatures ranging from 39 to 72 degrees, feeding off of vegetation, insects and worms. Bluegill will spawn in water temperatures between 67 to 80 degrees in saucer shaped nests located in the sandy or gravel covered shallow areas of water. While people enjoy fishing and eating Bluegill they are also great food source for larger predator fish like Bass.

Bass

Bass – The Largemouth Bass is considered to be one of the most prized game fish in North America. Largemouth Bass are similar to the spotted bass and small-mouth bass but can be distinguished by the deep curvature of its dorsal fin and an upper jaw that extends past its eye. They are a rather slender and streamlined fish with colors that range from dark green on top, silvery green to yellow flanks, to a yellowish-white belly. Their sides are commonly accented with a dark and irregular strip. The average Bass will grow to around 16” in length and weigh in at or below 10 pounds with the worlds largest weighing a little over 22 pounds. Largemouth Bass are best suited for temperate or warmer water flourishing in temperatures around 80 degrees. Though tolerant of turbid water, Largemouth Bass favor clear water, sandy shallows, and abundant rooted aquatic weeds or slow moving rivers and streams with soft bottoms. Many species of pondweeds, water lilies, coontail, elodea, cattails, and bulrushes provide excellent cover. It has a widely varied diet that emphasizes on bluegill, minnows and other small fish as well as frogs and smaller animals like birds or young muskrats. Its predatory nature helps to keep bluegill from overpopulating. Bass spawn in early May and into June in firm sandy areas 2’ to 6’ deep when water temps are in the 60 degree range.

Perch

Perch – While they don’t grow large enough to be considered a prize game fish, the Yellow Perch is most sought after for its excellent table fare. Yellow Perch have bright yellow or yellow/green oval shaped bodies with a back ranging from a bright green to a golden brown. They are accented by seven dark, tapering, vertical bars, running from their back down to their grayish belly. Yellow Perch range from 6 to 12 inches in length and weigh in between 6 to 16 ounces with the largest catch weighing 4 pounds 3 ounces. Perch prefer cool clear water and should be stocked in lakes where the water temperatures remain below 80 degrees year-round. Yellow perch feed on zooplankton, insects, snails, and other small fish and are considered a prey fish rather than a predator. Yellow Perch become sexually mature at 5 to 7 inches and spawn in the early Spring when the water temperatures are between 45 to 55 degrees. The yellow perch makes an excellent forage fish for cool-water predators such as walleye, smallmouth bass, and northern pike.

Catfish

Catfish – Channel Catfish are growing in popularity among sport fishermen due to its large size, hard fighting ability, and tasty flesh. Catfish are characterized by scale-less skin and barbells, better known as whiskers, about their mouth. Channel Catfish can be distinguished from other catfish by the presence of dark spots on its body and a deeply forked tail. Channel Catfish have awesome growth potential reaching lengths of 4 feet, the world record catch in South Carolina weighing in at 58 pounds. Channel Catfish prefer clear slow moving water but can also tolerate muddy water. Channel Catfish are scavengers and will eat just about anything it can find including live fish and game fish food. They are sensitive to light and will typically reside at the bottom of ponds and lakes. Channel Catfish usually become sexually mature when they reach at least 11” but do not generally reproduce in ponds due to the absence of an adequate spawning structure. A suitable structure can be installed by placing buckets or drain tile in depths of 3 to 4 feet of water along the pond bottom. They tend to spawn from May to July when water temperatures reach 75 degrees.

Walleye

Walleye – One of the most popular game fish in North America, the Walleye is second only to the Largemouth Bass. While it is not the most spectacular fighter, Walleye are quite tasty on the table. Walleye sport an elongated torpedo shaped body with highly variable coloring. Their bodies can range from olive green to brown to yellowish gold often marked with brassy flecks. They have no distinct markings or bars but instead an overall mottling of brown or black and a white belly. Walleye grow to be anywhere from 13” to 25” in length and weigh in between 13 and 22 pounds. The maximum recorded Walleye measured 42 inches in length and weighed 25 pounds. Walleye are considered a cool water fish preferring warmer water than Trout but cooler water than Bass and Bluegill. They enjoy water bodies with sand or gravel bottoms near vegetation though they don’t reside within it. Walleye have a special reflective layer of pigment in their eyes to help increase visibility in their favored dark and turbid waters. Yellow Perch, Whitefish and minnows are the food of choice for Walleye but they will also eat insects, frogs and small mammals. Walleye will spawn in early Spring when water temperatures are around 42 to 50 degrees. They tend to choose locations with rocky or gravel coated substrate in 1’ to 6’ depths where moving water is present. Neither parent cares for their eggs in any way.

Crappie

Crappie – Another popular sunfish behind the Bluegill, the Crappie is considered an excellent game fish when taken on light tackle and its flaky white flesh is considered very tasty. Crappie are similar in body shape to other sunfish but can be differentiated by connected dorsal fins that lack a notch and contain seven or eight spines. They also have a large anal fin consisting of 6 spines that is nearly as large as their dorsal fin. Their bodies range from dark olive or brown to a metallic green with a silver or blue cast with black mottling throughout. Crappie grow close to a foot in length and can weigh between 2 to 4 pounds. The largest Crappie caught weighed in at just over 5 pounds. Crappie prefer clear water with plenty of aquatic vegetation and mucky or sandy bottoms. They are highly intolerant of turbid water. Crappie eat insects and their larva as a primary food source but will also eat small fish and minnows as well. Like Bluegill, Crappie nest in sandy areas or places with fine gravel in depths of 3 to 8 feet of water. They typically spawn in May to June when water temperatures are within the 58 to 64 degree range.

Trout

Trout – One of the largest of the freshwater fish, it is endowed with a flesh of superb eating quality and is eagerly sought by commercial, sport, and subsistence fishermen. Trout typically grow to be around 27” in length and weight between 3 to 9 pounds but are known to grow to lengths exceeding 4’ and weigh over 100 pounds. The largest on record weighs 102 pounds and measures 49.6 inches in length. Lake Trout are the least colorful of all Trout with a light green, grey, brown or blackish torpedo shaped body covered with irregular lighter colored spots. Lake Trout sport a deeply forked tail and reddish-orange pectoral, pelvic and anal fins. Lake Trout are truly a cold water fish preferring water temperatures around 50 degrees. Most anglers fish for Trout in the cooler early seasons via fly or spin fishing and have to resort to long lines and heavy lures in the warmer months as the fish retreat to cooler waters. Lake Trout feed mostly off of other fish, insects and small mammals. It takes around eight years for Lake Trout to sexually mature, meaning heavy fishing demand can dramatically deplete the Trout population. They do not build nests or beds by simply scatter eggs among large cobble or boulder substrates in depths of up to 40’ in late autumn.

You may have a harder time finding Trout or Bass in your pond in comparison to Bluegill as they tend to be a bit less social. You can take inventory of the fish in your pond by trying to fish them out or by using a Fish Trap. When stocking or manipulating your fish population be sure to provide adequate habitat for smaller prey fish to hide from predators and grow. You can achieve this by installing Fish Attractor Spheres or by providing aquatic plants. Take a look at our Pond Stocking Blog and Fish Habitat Blog to learn more about predator/prey ratios and implementing habitat.

POND TALK: Which types of fish are present in your pond? Which do you feel are the best to fish or eat?

Attract tons of gamefish to your pond!

Can I enjoy my plants indoors for the cooler months? – Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Can I enjoy my plants indoors for the cooler months?

Can I enjoy my plants indoors for the cooler months? Josh – Speed, KS

With winter on the way, you are probably starting to wonder how to go about protecting your plants through the colder months. Just as each plant is unique in looks and application, different types of plants require different means of protection to survive winter. You will want to properly identify which types of plants are present in your pond and proceed accordingly. If you are willing to go the extra mile and care for your plants indoors you will be able to enjoy them all season long and dodge the expense of re-buying plants to garnish your pond next Spring.

Plants are typically categorized by hardiness which gauges their survivability in specific temperature ranges. Some plants, like Bog Bean are rated from zones 3 to 10 which means they can withstand very cold temperatures but can also thrive in warm weather. Tropical plants like the Antares Lily are hardy only in zones 10 and 11. For help, see our Plant Hardiness Zone Map which breaks down temperature lows in each zone. With this being said you will now understand that some plants may need to be stored earlier and longer than others and may require a little more attention depending on their warmth and light requirements and if you maintaining the entire plant or only storing tubers.

Hardy Lilies and Lotus can be trimmed back to about an inch` away from the top of the planter as they brown. To over winter these plants you simply sink the baskets to a depth in your pond that will not freeze solid, normally at least 12” in water depth. As the temperatures warm back up you can move the basket closer to the surface and let nature take its course. If your lilies aren’t potted, they are more than likely planted into lily pockets that are already 12-18” in depth and simply trimming them back will suffice. Any tropical plant, however, will have to come inside for the winter. These plants can be maintained if placed in a warm and sunny area or under a full spectrum light and the root of the plant is kept submerged.

Submerged Plants that are hardy in colder climates can just be sunk to deeper regions of your pond that will not freeze solid in the winter. If they require warmer temperatures you can bring them in and store them in an aquarium with full spectrum lighting.

Floating Plants like Water Hyacinths and Water Lettuce are sensitive to colder weather and are a little more difficult to over winter. If you choose to bring them in for the winter, they require a warm sunny location or under full spectrum lighting. You will also want to add some liquid fertilizer like Microbe-Lift Bloom & Grow to keep them healthy.

POND TALK: Tell us how you over winter your aquatic plants.

Easily maintain your plants!

I’ve always been curious to know just what really lives down in my pond. – Ponds & Lakes Q & A

I've always been curious to know just what really lives down in my pond.

I’ve always been curious to know just what really lives down in my pond. Holly – Girdler, KY

The Company You Keep

Your pond is a beautiful and enjoyable addition to your back yard and just as it is full of water, it is also full of mysteries. Since we have at one time or another used our ponds for swimming, fishing, or maybe irrigation we can only wonder, “What really lives beneath the surface of my pond?”

While you won’t find any man-eating sharks or lost cities like Atlantis at the bottom of the pond, there is a surprisingly diverse selection of living creatures cozying up in your water. In your average back yard farm pond you can expect to find large creatures such as fish, frogs and turtles, snakes and muskrats. In regards to the smaller inhabitants in your pond you have tadpoles, a variety of insects, and don’t forget your microscopic bacteria in both aerobic and anaerobic flavors. Your pond also plays host to aquatic plants like Cattails, Algae, and submersed weeds like American Pondweed, Hydrilla, and Naiad. It is only natural that since your pond is choc-full of life, it will draw additional wildlife to its shores like birds and deer. The physical location of your pond will directly influence what kinds of creatures you will find frequenting the water as certain animal species are located in select regions in the US.

Now that you are certain you are not alone in your pond, rest assured that the majority of what is living in your pond actually helps create a balanced ecosystem at best and is a minor inconvenience to people at worst. Having a healthy and balanced fish population will help keep your pond clear of insects and leeches. Creating an ideal environment for beneficial aerobic bacteria like those in PondClear and MuckAway to thrive will improve your water clarity and reduce muck accumulation and weed growth. Click over to our Bacteria Blog to learn more about these microscopic maids.

With all of these animals in your pond who is responsible for room assignments? If you are not aerating your pond, then your pond is most likely broken up into layers or thermoclines. You may have experienced this when swimming in your pond. Your chest is nice and warm but the water your feet occupy is cold. Many customers confuse this stratification with their pond being spring fed. Oxygen and light can only travel so far beneath the surface of the pond without assistance. This means that the top layer of your pond is typically a warm, oxygen rich environment which is prime real estate for the ponds inhabitants. The lower layers of the pond are darker, cooler and have considerably less oxygen. Gasses released by decomposing plants and fish waste (thanks to anaerobic bacteria) are trapped in this bottom layer creating a toxic environment that is not a very ideal living space. Installing an Aeration System, you can infuse oxygen and circulate the entire water column allowing your fish and their roommates to utilize the entire pond. Aerating the pond will also cut down on those smelly toxic gases and encourage a cleaner healthier pond which makes it more enjoyable for not only the wildlife but for you as well.

POND TALK: What types of creatures have you found in your pond?

Get clear water naturally!

How can I control leeches in my pond? – Pond & Lake Q & A

How can I control leeches in my pond?

How can I control leeches in my pond? Allison – Empire, CO

Don’t Leech the Fun from Your Summer

Have you ever climbed out of your pond and found one of those blackish-brown creatures on you? Well it’s a sure fire way to scare the rest of your friends out of the water. So why do leeches decide to call your pond home and what can you do to make your pond leech free?

Leeches tend to use the accumulation of muck and debris at the bottom of your pond as a type of abode. Not only do they find food sources in the debris they also hide from predators that are passing by overhead. The best way to banish leeches from your pond is to remove this habitat. This can be accomplished by pulling out the debris you can reach using a Lake Rake and then adding MuckAway bacteria to digest whatever muck remains. With nowhere to hide the leeches will be picked off by your fish population.

Being the good neighbor that you are, you can help the leeches pack up and move out even faster by trapping and physically removing them. A fairly simple way to trap them is to poke a series of small holes or slits into a milk jug or coffee can. Line the bottom of the can with rocks to keep it weighted down and stable and bait the can with raw meat or fish heads. The leeches can enter the can via the holes you added, but the jagged edges prevent them from exiting. Some trappers utilize accordion folded plastic or thin metal with similar bait to pull up any leeches that find their way into the folds. Check your traps and refresh bait often! Also, keep in mind that leeches become less active as the water temperature drops so you may have better luck trapping them in shallower areas of than in the depths.

Take a look at our past Blog about leeches for some additional information and feedback from our followers. There is a helpful link that explains how to remove leeches safely as well as some user submitted tips and tricks on how to trap them.

POND TALK: If you have found a great way to trap leeches or maybe tried a method that didn’t work out too well please feel free to share it with everyone reading this blog.

Eliminate up to 5 inches of muck per year!

How can I keep leaves out of my pond? – Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

How can I keep leaves out of my pond?

How can I keep leaves out of my pond? Rick – Birds, IL

This Tent’s Not for Camping

You may not want to admit it yet, but the summer season is coming to a close. While we love the mild weather and the changing colors of the trees, us water garden owners have to turn our attention to the falling leaves. No worries however, we have one simple tool that you can use to avoid having to deal with leaves falling into your water garden.

We are of course talking about pond netting. If you dealt with Herons in the summer you may already have a pond net on hand. While they are great for keeping unwanted predators out of your pond they are more commonly used for keeping leaves and other blowing debris from falling in. There are two basic styles of pond netting you can purchase. The most simplistic version of this being a pre cut piece of mesh netting. This netting is available in an Economy Grade which is ideal for single season use or a Heavy Duty version. You can pull this mesh tight across the surface of your pond and secure it using stakes or rocks. This application works well for water gardens that may receive minimal amounts of debris. If you are in a heavily wooded area or are prone to massive amounts of debris you will be better off utilizing a Pond Protector Net Kit that implements a domed design to better protect your pond. The netting included with the kit extends beyond the tent-style frame allowing you to pull netting along the contours of your pond so there are no gaps left open for debris to enter.

Keeping leaves out of your pond in the fall will help keep the pond clean and manageable going into the colder seasons and will ensure a faster, easier cleanout and start up next season. Leaves left in the pond to decompose tend to create “tea-colored” water due to the tannins they release in the decomposition process. You can fill Media Bags with Activated Carbon and place them in your filter boxes to help clear the water if this happens to you. Also continue to use Nature’s Defense and Muck Defense to manage the muck left behind by decomposing leaves and fish waste. As water temperatures fall below 50 degrees Fahrenheit you can switch from Nature’s Defense and Muck Defense to Seasonal Defense. Seasonal Defense is a cool water natural bacteria that will continue the decomposition process throughout the fall and winter.

POND TALK: Do you fight to keep leaves out of your pond in the Fall? Has a pond net helped make your end of season ponding easier and more enjoyable?

Keep the leaves out!

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