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I’ve heard a lot about barley, some good and some bad. What do you think? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q&A

I’ve heard a lot about barley, some good and some bad. What do you think?

I’ve heard a lot about barley, some good and some bad. What do you think?
Jessica – Jackson, MI

Pond owners are intrigued by the prospect of being able to ditch chemical treatments for a natural means of algae control. While it is true that barley straw is capable of helping your pond fend off algae it still comes with advantages and disadvantages.

Studies have shown that as barley straw decomposes it releases agents that inhibit algae growth with no adverse effects on your water garden plants or decorative pond fish. Originally customers would place bales of Barley Straw in their waterfall filter boxes, skimmers or waterfall areas where they would decompose over time. As barley straw treatments continue to grow in popularity new types of barley products have been made available. Barley Straw Pellets are available for a cleaner and easier way to implement barley treatments into your pond or for even faster results, Barley Straw Extract. Barley Straw Extract is basically barley straw already broken down into its beneficial byproducts.

While barley straw can help keep your pond less green this season it is not 100% effective on all algae that may form in your pond. One of the biggest issues with using barley straw and pellets is that you have to put them in your pond early in the season as they will need time to start decomposing before providing any benefits. Some may also argue that you are also adding muck and nutrients to your pond in the process. You will gain some speed by using barley straw extract but it then becomes less convenient because you will have to continuously add it to the pond. Barley also does not directly kill algae so chemical treatments may still eventually be required.

Your best defense against algae has always been a good offense. Keeping your pond clean and balanced with adequate filtration, bacteria treatments, minimal fish loads and sun exposure you will reduce your dependence and need for algae treatments in general. It is when your pond is balanced and just needs a little extra kick to keep algae at bay that your barley treatments really begin to shine as their gradual release of anti-algae agents will help maintain clear water throughout the season with minimal or no additional chemical treatment.

Pond Talk: Do you use barley straw as a part of your pond maintenance? Have you noticed a cleaner pond while using barley straw?

All the benefits of barley straw without the mess!

I shut my aerator off for the winter, will I have to introduce it slowly again in the spring? | Pond & Lakes Q&A

I shut my aerator off for the winter, will I have to introduce it slowly again in the spring?

I shut my aerator off for the winter, will I have to introduce it slowly again in the spring?

George – Albany, NY

As pond owners we buy aeration systems for our water bodies with the intentions of creating a cleaner and healthier environment for both ourselves and our fish. While aeration systems are great at eliminating water stratification and promoting the ideal environment for a healthy pond, the key to proper use is proper installation.

The surface of your pond reacts to the ambient air temperature and warmth from the sun considerably faster than deeper regions. As we head into spring the temperature will begin to rise as the sun shines down on your pond. The top layer of water in your pond will begin to warm up quickly while the bottom of your pond stays dark and cold. Furthermore, the surface of your pond is exposed to oxygen which is naturally wicked into the water column but remains only in the upper layers. This formation of warmer and cooler layers of water is known as stratification. Stratification can become a potential hazard as the two different layers of water will sometimes flip or “turnover” and mix together causing a sudden change in water temperature and dissolved oxygen levels which, depending on its severity, can make it difficult for your fish to adapt to the quickly changing environment.

Airmax Aeration Systems are designed to infuse oxygen into your water column from the bottom of the pond while continuously circulating the water. This constant action aids to prevent water stratification for occurring. However, when aeration is introduced suddenly and continuous to your pond you are, in essence, creating a man-made turnover by forcing all of the water at the bottom of your pond to the surface.

When installing an aeration system in your pond, or upon reintroduction of your system after winter removal, you will want to run your system in small increments that grow in duration over the course of a week. Think of this process as the same way you acclimate new fish to your pond. You wouldn’t just grab a new fish by the tail and toss them in your pond, you float their holding container in your pond and slowly mix some of the water together to give them time to adjust to the variations in each environment. By running your aeration system for only an hour the first day you install it and doubling the run time each day after, your aeration system will be running continuously by the end of the week while keeping your fish safe from pond turnovers.

Pond Talk: Have you ever experienced turnover in your pond? Share your stories with potential aeration newcomers and pond veterans alike.

Keep your pond healthy all year long!

What is the difference between adding bacteria and adding enzymes? | Pond & Lakes Q & A

What is the difference between adding bacteria and adding enzymes?

What is the difference between adding bacteria and adding enzymes?
Mario – Albany, NY

When searching for natural water treatments for your pond and lake you may have noticed products advertising beneficial bacteria and some labeled as enzymes, both claiming to produce the same results, a reduction in muck! So just what is the difference between adding bacteria and adding an enzyme?

Bacteria are commonly associated with illness or filth and many people wonder why pond owners are crazy enough to want to add bacteria to our ponds. Bacteria come in a wide variety of flavors and they each have their own unique agenda. Aerobic bacteria used in natural pond treatments like Pond Logic PondClearand MuckAway are the powerhouses behind digesting and removing the organic debris that muck up your pond. While they have little interest in you or your pets, they thrive on material like decomposing plant matter and fish waste, breaking it down into nothing but a natural odorless gas byproduct.

There is always a trace of beneficial bacteria in a natural pond ecosystem. However, there are typically more types of organic waste being introduced to your pond via plants, fish, wildlife and runoff than there are bacteria to digest it. It is this imbalance that causes organic waste to accumulate over time. Applying beneficial bacteria treatments to your pond is a natural way to keep your pond balanced and clean. Enzymes are the catalyst which allows bacteria to break down and digest the debris in your pond. While they don’t actually eradicate waste material from your pond on their own, they take some of the work load off of your bacteria’s proverbial shoulders by saving them the time of having to “prepare” their meal. As beneficial aerobic bacteria are actually capable of creating these enzymes on their own, products that consist of only enzymes can be considered a support tool to help enhance pre-existing pond bacteria, however they will not directly decompose the accumulated muck in your pond.

Adding natural water treatments that contain beneficial aerobic bacteria can keep your pond healthy, balanced and clean throughout the season. Running an aeration system in tandem with your bacteria treatments infuses your pond with oxygen, which is prized by your fish and aerobic bacteria. Maintaining your pond with aeration and natural water treatments that contain natural bacteria is considered a proactive treatment that will provide a quicker path to desired results of a clean and healthy pond.

Pond Talk: Have you used an enzyme product as part of your pond maintenance? Did you notice a difference?

Get clear water naturally with PondClear™ Natural Bacteria!

What benefits are there to having a water feature and what types of features are there? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

What benefits are there to having a water feature and what types of features are there?

What benefits are there to having a water feature and what types of features are there?
Peter, Savannah, GA

There are as many reasons to create a water feature, as there are people to create them. Whether you enjoy design and creation, are intrigued by Koi, or just love the sounds and sights of flowing water, there is a water feature available for you. Just as the saying goes for snowflakes, your uniqueness and the plethora of available options ensures that no two water features are alike.

Understanding the options that are available to you is the first step to falling in love with the type of feature that best fits your location and lifestyle. Water features can be as simple as a small fountain or as complex as a multi-level water garden with fish, waterfalls and plants. The three biggest factors that come into play when you choose the type of water feature you would like to install are: 1) how quickly you would like the feature constructed, 2) how much space do you have to accommodate your water feature, 3) how much you are willing to invest to construct your water feature.

Small water features like Aquascape Mini Fountain Kits or container type water features are great for people who are on the go, don’t have much time to invest in construction and pond maintenance but are looking to get their feet wet in the ponding field. These types of water features take up a very small area while providing the sights and sounds of flowing water. Container type water features can be created with any type of water-holding basin and can contain plants, water spitters and even a small fish or two. Creative pond owners have used old wash basins, sealed wood barrels and other materials for their container type feature.

If you have ever walked through the garden center of a DIY home or builder’s supply store you have surely come across those big plastic molds we call preformed ponds. These preformed basins provide the layout of your pond allowing you to simply dig a hole in your yard accordingly and landscape around the installed basin. These types of ponds require a little more homework on your part as you will have to install a filtration system like the All-In-One. These are a great starting point for people who are interested in starting their first in ground pond but aren’t ready to invest in large-scale construction.

For those of you who are looking to upgrade to a bigger pond or would like a more creative design, installing a pond using 45 mil rubber pond liner allows you the freedom to create virtually any size and shape pond you can imagine. Waterfalls and streams can also be created using rubber liner adding even more character to your water feature. Along with designing an entire pond from scratch comes the knowledge required to select and properly locate skimmer boxes, waterfall boxes, rocks and pumps necessary to sustain a balanced pond. Pond kits are available to save you the time of having to select the proper parts for your project. Your pond will also require natural water treatments to keep it healthy and clean. If you want to enjoy a large scale stream or waterfall but are concerned about pond maintenance or have small kids, consider a pondless waterfall kit which retains pond water underground.

When constructed properly a water feature will blend perfectly into both your lifestyle and your home, allowing you to enjoy the tranquility and beauty these ponds provide, while boosting the value and appeal of your home. Take your time when looking at the different types of water features and choose what’s best for you, it will be well worth your investment.

Pond Talk: Share some of your feature construction experiences and reasons why you love your back yard retreats.

Everything you need to build the perfect pond!

Do I need to replace my filter media? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

If I Order My Plants Now Can I Keep Them Inside Until It’s Warm Enough To Move Them Outside?
Do I need to replace my filter media?
Alvin – Canton, OH

The filters in your water garden are one the best lines of defense against dirty pond water, algae blooms and poor fish health. Since they play such a big role in keeping your pond healthy, you will want to make sure your filter media is up to snuff for the season.

If you’ve stored your existing pond filters over the winter and want to reuse them this season, you will want to start by cleaning and inspecting the filtration media. Check the filter media pads in your waterfall box, skimmer and pressurized filters for frayed edges, deposits of solid debris, holes and other signs of damage. Replace pads that are a bit worse for wear with a new filter media pad. A wide array of filter media pads are available starting with the cost effective “cut your own” rolls to special coated Matala Filter Pads for extended life and performance. The foam media that comes in your pressurized or in-pond filter is usually unique to your particular make and model and can be purchased specifically for your unit. Regardless of whether your filter media pads are new or old you should seed them with PL Gel beneficial bacteria so that your filters are ready and able to biologically filter your pond from the moment you install them.

Secondary filtration media such as filter media blocks or bio-ribbon should be inspected and replaced as necessary as well. An advantage to using bio-balls is that they only require a thorough rinse before you reuse them for the season, as they virtually do not wear or degrade. Don’t forget to also inspect or replace filter media bags for your secondary filtration media if needed.

Keeping your filter media in working order can save you time, hassle and money by getting your pond off to a good start, so you can avoid dealing with insufficient filtration later in the season. Inspect your filter media with this in mind and purchase replacement media accordingly.

Pond Talk: What types of filtration media do you use in your water garden? Which types perform the best for you?

keep your pond clean with matala filer pads

Should I still be doing maintenance on my aeration system this time of year? | Pond & Lakes Q & A

Should I still be doing maintenance on my aeration system this time of year?

Should I still be doing maintenance on my aeration system this time of year?
Sharon – Farmington, MI

Your aeration system is a very important tool in keeping your pond clean and healthy throughout the entire year. Whether your are just starting your system up for the first time this season or have been aerating your pond all winter long there is never a bad time to do a quick maintenance check on your aeration equipment.

A lot of potential issues can be resolved just by visually inspecting your aeration unit. Regularly inspecting your aeration system’s pressure gauges, exposed airlines and cooling fans can help locate line blockages and worn or broken parts that could damage your aeration system if left unnoticed. If the airlines are blocked by ice or debris the pressure gauge on your aeration system will begin to climb. Once too much pressure builds up in the compressor a pressure relief valve will open to drain the air causing a loud “hissing” noise. No air is making it into your pond when this happens and your compressor will begin to overwork itself causing rapid wear and tear.
Your aeration system needs air to function properly. A clogged or dirty air filter will restrict the amount of air that enters your aeration system reducing performance. Furthermore, dust and debris that are allowed to pass through your air filter will travel into the compressor and wear out moving parts faster than usual reducing the life of your aerator. Check and clean your air filter regularly and replace the air filter element every 3 to 6 months.
When the ice completely thaws over your pond this spring it is a good idea to raise your aeration plates and inspect them for broken or missing parts. Airstones should be cleaned or replaced with membrane diffusers, and the connection between your airline and aeration plate should be checked and tightened if necessary. Compressor maintenance kits are available for Airmax® Aeration systems and should be installed every 3 to 5 years. These kits contain replacement parts for the wear and tear items in your compressor which break down and diminish performance over time. Each kit comes with instructions and images and is simple to install. If you do not feel up to the challenge or feel more comfortable having a professional install your maintenance kit you can contact a pond guy or gal toll free at 866-766-3710 to send your system in for maintenance.

Like a vehicle, your aeration system requires regular maintenance to keep it performing at its best. Keeping your aeration system clean and well maintained extends the lifespan of the unit and ensures your system is running as efficiently as possible.

Pond Talk: How often do you inspect and maintain your aeration systems. Have your regular inspections caught potential problems?

airmax® silentair™ air filter

Do you store plants indoors until your zone is ready? | Decorative Ponds & Watergardens Q & A

If I Order My Plants Now Can I Keep Them Inside Until It’s Warm Enough To Move Them Outside?

If I Order My Plants Now Can I Keep Them Inside Until It’s Warm Enough To Move Them Outside?
Connie – Albany, NY

Spring is almost within reach making pond owners everywhere anxious to begin this seasons water gardening. While you don’t want to be the left in the dust by waiting too long to get your plants, are you going to waste your money by ordering your plants too early and subjecting them to cold weather? It is not uncommon for customers with established green houses to order plants early in the season and keep them indoors, but what about the every-day water gardener who doesn’t have a greenhouse?

The difficulty associated with maintaining your aquatic plants indoors depends on the type of plant. Bog plants can be potted and watered, floating plants would be placed in aquariums or Tupperware containers filled with water, and lilies can be placed in planting media and partially submerged. While plants intended for cooler temperatures or partial shade will do well when left by a window, tropical plants and floating plants intended for warmer zones will require grow lights to provide an abundance of warmth and beneficial light spectrum. The type of plant purchased, and the zone you are located in will determine how long you would need to keep the plant indoors before you can add it to your pond.

Purchasing the plants that are ideal for your area is made fairly simple by using a zone map. Zone maps break down areas of the country into zones based on their climate. Each plant is assigned a zone or range of zones that it can thrive in. By locating yourself on a zone map and assigning yourself a zone you can then select plants that do particularly well in that zone. You can also purchase plants that are intended for zones with warmer climates, but they will need to be added to your pond later in the season when it is warmer, and they may not last as long as plants intended for cooler climates.

To make early plant purchases easy for those of us with less-than-green thumbs we allow customers to order their aquatic plants whenever they like and we will hold them until their zone is past warnings of frost and cold weather. Sending your plants to you when temperatures are ideal in your area will help ensure that your plants will survive and limit the amount of work you have to do to get the plants ready for your pond. Simply choose the ones you would like to see in your water garden and our friendly pond guys and gals will take care of the rest.

Pond Talk: Do you store plants indoors until your zone is ready?

Instantly add beauty to your watergarden with Aquatic Plant Packages

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