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My son wanted to know if crayfish can live in our pond. I think they can, right? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: My son wanted to know if crayfish can live in our pond. I think they can, right?

Q: My son wanted to know if crayfish can live in our pond. I think they can, right?

Mike – Little Rock, AR

A: Yes, those little freshwater crustaceans can indeed live in your pond – as long as you provide the living conditions they need to thrive. Here’s what you need to know about growing a healthy crayfish population.

Home Sweet Home

Also known as crawdads and crawfish, North American crayfish belong to the family Cambaridae. More than 300 species live in rivers, brooks, ponds and even special “crayfish farms” across the country. Most types prefer fresh flowing water that doesn’t freeze in the winter, but some thrive in swamps and ditches.

During the day, crayfish hunker down underneath rocks to hide from predators like fish, birds and alligators. But at night, they slowly cruise the river bottom in search of food. Their preferred meals are anything decaying, including dead insects, worms, algae and fish, but they’ll also snap up small, live fish that are swimming by if they’re feeling too lazy to forage. They’ll also get their greens by gobbling through algae and aquatic plants.

These decapod crustaceans can grow up to 6 inches in length. They’re related to lobsters, crabs and shrimps, and they’re prized cuisine among foodies (etouffees anyone?) and larger fish, like bass and bluegill. Crayfish and dwarf crayfish are also kept as colorful pets in aquariums.

Welcome Residents

Crayfish can make a fun addition to your pond. They nibble on aquatic plants, so they help control weed growth. They eat decaying material, so they – along with Pond Logic® MuckAway™ – will help keep pond muck to a minimum. They’ll entertain your son (and his friends) for hours as they turn over rocks and hunt for crayfish. And they make for some delicious eating for you and your resident fish!

These guys will dig to create burrows in the bottom of your pond – but don’t worry. They won’t likely cause any leaks. It’s important, though, to control their population. Crayfish reproduction is tied to fluctuating water levels, so manage their population growth by stabilizing the water level in your pond, and use basket traps or lift nets baited with meat to remove large numbers.

Create a comfortable environment for crayfish by providing clean, aerated water and some rocks for burrowing. They’ll find their own food – or become food if they venture too close to your Fish Attractor Spheres!

Pond Talk: Have you ever hunted for crayfish?

Increase Fish Survival Rates  -Porcupine® Fish Attractor Spheres

We just purchased a house and it has a backyard swimming pond. How do we measure it? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: We just purchased a house and it has a backyard swimming pond. How do we measure it?

Q: We just purchased a house and it has a backyard swimming pond. How do we measure it?

Rob – Hawthorne, FL

A: Surface area and pond depth are important measurements to know. They’ll help you determine dosage rates with chemicals like algaecide. They’ll help you calculate the right-size aeration system for your pond. And they’ll help you figure out how many and what types of fish to stock.

Finding those magic numbers isn’t difficult – but it does require some tools, the right equation and a little bit of work. Before you head out to your pond, grab a rope marked at 1-foot increments, a weight that’s heavy enough to sink to the bottom, and something for notetaking.

Calculating Surface Area

The easiest ponds to measure are those that resemble a rectangle, but you can figure out the surface area of a circular, triangular or odd-shaped pond, too. First, you’ll need to measure (with your marked rope) or pace off (one step is about 3 feet) some specific distances, depending on the shape of your pond. Then, plug those numbers into one of these formulas:

  • Square/rectangle: Calculate length and width; L x W = Surface Area
  • Circle: Calculate radius; Pi x R2 , or 3.14 x R x R = Surface Area
  • Triangle: Calculate base and height; (0.5 x B) x H = Surface Area
  • Odd-shaped: Use a handy online tool like Bing Maps to measure the pond. Online tools may be easiest, especially for irregularly shaped ponds.

To determine how many acres your pond is, you’ll then divide that surface area figure by 43,560 (one acre).

Calculating Depth

Figuring out your pond’s depth is a bit trickier, particularly if you have plant shelves or if the pond has a slope. Grab your marked string, the weight, something to write with, and a boat or canoe. Then, head out to the pond and follow these directions:

  1. Securely attach the weight to one end of your string.
  2. Climb aboard your boat or canoe with your weighted string and note-taking materials in hand.
  3. Travel to at least five points in various areas your pond, more if your pond is particularly large.
  4. Drop the weight into the water and note where you feel it hit the bottom. Repeat until you’ve gone to all the different spots and gathered a good sampling of your pond’s depth.

Why They’re Important

Now that you know your pond’s size, why are those calculations important?

You’ll need the numbers to determine dosage rates on chemical products like those found in Pond Logic® ClearPAC® PLUS. If the pond has been around more than three to five years, chances are good that you’ll need to address problems like muck accumulation and string algae growth in the spring.

Those numbers will also help you select the right-size Aquastream™ Fountain and Airmax® Aeration System. For instance, if your pond is less than 6 feet deep, our Shallow Water Series™ Aeration System is a good choice; if your pond is greater than 6 feet deep, our Pond Series™ Aeration System is the one for you.

Since you’ll be able to calculate how many acres your pond is, you’ll also be able to determine what types of fish you can have and how many of them you can keep. Finally, because you’ll know the various depths of your pond, you’ll be able to stake out safe swimming areas for children – but don’t forget to put out your life ring!

Pond Talk: What swimming pond maintenance tips can you offer to this new homeowner?

Reduce Pond Muck - Airmax® Pond Series™ Aeration

Setting Pond Resolutions for 2015 | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q&A

Setting Pond Resolutions for 2015

Setting Pond Resolutions for 2015

If you were one of the many pond owners plagued by algae, muck, excessive weeds or green water last year one of your 2015 New Year resolutions may revolve around your pond or water garden.

Evaluate

The beginning of the new pond season is the perfect time to evaluate and tweak your pond maintenance practices and take inventory of leftover pond supplies from last year. Since pond maintenance begins once the ice thaws from your pond, there is no better time to start planning for the upcoming season than now.

First, before you buy new pond maintenance products, recall your pond issues from last season. Were you continuously fighting algae? Unsure the last time you applied your beneficial bacteria? Do you have out of control cattail growth? After you identify your issues, pick one or two items to tackle in 2015.

One great product for any pond (earth bottom pond or water garden) is aeration. Aeration is always a great way to keep your pond water balanced and healthy. Installing an aeration system in your pond will circulate the entire water column and keep oxygen plentiful. Aeration systems help reduce pond muck formation and weed growth while keeping your fish safe and comfortable.

If your pond receives constant sunlight, consider shading the water with pond dye. To keep your pond water clear and remove accumulated pond muck treat your pond with beneficial bacteria. Airmax® can help you eliminate the guesswork when choosing the appropriate pond maintenance products by providing the most effective pond care products in one kit. Use the ClearPAC® to treat earth bottom ponds and lakes or the DefensePAC® for water gardens.

Make a Plan

Next, make a plan. Check over any unused pond products from last season. Create a list of any supplies you are low on or anything you are out of. If you are having trouble calculating how much product you will need for season long treatment or have any questions on a particular product you can always call a Pond Guy or Gal toll free at 866-766-3435.

If you don’t have a pond, water garden or water feature yet you can start researching and designing the pond of your dreams now. There is a wide variety of information available on our blog that explain the differences between various water features and ponds. Pond kits are available for purchases that contain all of the items you need to build a water garden. If you prefer something less time consuming, maybe you would like to consider a pondless waterfall. Whichever the case early planning will help make your pond project a success.

Pond Talk: Are you planning to change how you maintain your pond this season? What would you do differently?

Happy New Year from The Pond Guy(r)

Top Blog Posts of 2014

2014 brought lots of unusual weather, which caused some unique challenges and inquiries for pond owners. Thank you for all your questions and comments. Here are the top blogs for 2014, read by you! As always, if you have questions or comments, please feel free to send them our way! 

We wish you a safe and happy 2015.
From The Pond Guy® Staff

Top 5 Blog Posts in Pond & Lake

Top Blog Posts of 2014 - Pond & Lake

Q: We always have snakes around my pond, except in the winter. Where do they go?

Q: I added too much pond dye. What do I do?
Q: My pond is full of floating algae. How do I get rid of it?
Q: Do I need to cut the cattails before I spray them?
Q: When should I stock my pond?

Top 5 Blog Posts in Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens

Top Blog Posts of 2014 - Water Garden

Q: I bought bullfrog tadpoles for my pond. What do I need to know about them?

Q: Someone told me I need to do the Jar Test. What is that?

Q: I’m looking to cut back on energy costs. Can I shut off my waterfall at night?

Q: How do I know if it’s a leak or evaporation loss?

Q: If I run my waterfall pump for a few hours a day during winter, will my fish be ok?

Happy New Year from The Pond Guy(r)

Can Aquatic Weeds Go Dormant? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q:Will my fountain be enough to keep my fish safe this winter?

Q: Can Aquatic Weeds Go Dormant?

Jackie – Kalamazoo, MI

A: Yes, those insidious aquatic weeds can go dormant in the cold season, lying in wait in your lake’s muck and sediment, until spring when the hours of sunlight and temperatures increase. The good news is that you can battle them – even in their overwintering state. Here’s how.

Growth Patterns

When temperatures drop and the sun hovers lower in the sky, you’ll start to see those aquatic weeds retreat and hole up for the winter. The duration of their dormancy will depend on where you live (the weed growth patterns in a California pond, for instance, will differ from those in a Minnesota pond!). But, in general, you can expect to see different pond weeds disappear and reappear at different times of year based on environmental temperatures.

If your pond or lake freezes over, the perennial weeds will typically die back in the winter and re-emerge in the spring. Some plants, however, will continue to grow throughout the cold season, though at a much slower rate than you’d see in the warmer summer months.

Controlling Winter Weeds

Because you’ll probably see little to no greenery growing, it will be a challenge to control winter weeds. Methods that work in the spring and summer – like treating with temperature-sensitive herbicides and algaecides – won’t work in the colder temperatures. So what can you do? Here’s what we recommend:

  • Remove Weeds: If there’s no ice on your pond, you can pull on your hip waders and manually remove the weeds with a Weed Raker. This go-to tool efficiently pulls out aquatic weeds by their roots, slowing their regrowth, and also removes decaying matter.
  • Pond Dye: Pond Dye, available in convenient liquid quarts, will shade the water blue or black and reduce the amount of sunlight reaching the weeds and algae growing at the bottom of your lake. Less sunlight means fewer weeds, regardless of the temperature or time of year.
  • Aerate the Water: If you’re not using your lake as an ice rink, crank on your Airmax® Aeration System. The action created by the aerator will circulate the water and reduce the muck buildup throughout the winter.
  • Feeding Fish: Your fish will enter into a semi-dormant state when the water dips below 50 degrees, so there’s no need to feed them. Doing so will add to the lake’s nutrient load (i.e. weed fertilizer …), which is not what you want to do.

If wintertime weeds are taking over your pond, consider trying some of these time-tested tricks. They’ll minimize the nuisance growth during the cold season and reduce the amount of work you’ll need to do in the spring.

Pond Talk: How do you handle aquatic weeds in the wintertime?

Shade & Protect Your Pond - Pond Logic® Pond Dye

How to Make an Ice Rink on Your Pond – Part 3 | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

How to Make an Ice Rink on Your Pond - Part 3

How to Make an Ice Rink on Your Pond

Part 3: Maintaining Your Ice Rink

Congratulations! If you’ve followed our series on how to make an ice rink on your pond, you’re well on your way to creating a winter-sports wonderland for you and your family. Your rink will provide hours of entertainment all season long – as long as you keep it maintained.

How do you keep your rink glassy smooth? You don’t need a Zamboni, but you do need to do some regular scraping, sweeping and flooding to resurface and prime the ice. Here’s our three-step solution for maintaining a perfect surface on your rink.

Step 1: Clear the Surface

First, clear the entire surface of the ice with a broom, a flat head metal shovel and ice scraper. Sweep and shovel off the snow, and scrape down and remove all bits of ice and snow as they will freeze during the flooding process and create imperfections on the surface. Dips and holes are OK because they’ll fill with water, but lumps and bumps are not.

Step 2: Flood the Rink

Next, flood the rink with water. Rather than use a sprayer nozzle, which can cause a pitted and rough ice from all the water droplets hitting the surface, let the water flow directly from the hose and allow it to evenly cover the entire rink.If possible, use warm water to flood the area. Just like in a Zamboni, the warm water melts the surface of ice, correcting imperfections and allowing it to freeze smoothly. You can either fill buckets with warm water from your bathtub and slowly pour the water over the ice, or you can use an outdoor faucet with a thermostatically controlled hose, like a Thermo-Hose™, to keep water flowing out to the pond.

Step 3: Use When Cold.

With your rink resurfaced and smoother than a pane of glass, you want to keep it that way, right? Before you cut into the ice with your blades, consider the temperatures outside. Avoid using the rink during mild weather when your skates do significant damage to the ice. Instead, use the rink when it’s cold enough outside to keep that slick surface intact.

Skate Away!

Now that you’ve learned how to grow good ice rink ice, how to set up and create a winter wonderland, and how to maintain the rink all season long, it’s time to get busy making a rink of your own. Be safe, and enjoy your very own icy paradise!

In case you missed out, check out Part 1: Understanding How Ice Forms and Part 2: Creating Your Winter Wonderland.

Always Promote Pond Safety

How to Make an Ice Rink on Your Pond – Part 2 | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

How to Make an Ice Rink on Your Pond - Part 2

How to Make an Ice Rink on Your Pond

Part 2: Creating Your Winter Wonderland

A thick, solid, strong and dense ice sheet on your pond or lake means you’ll have some cold-weather fun on your skates this winter. But how do you determine if that ice is safe to hold an ice skater, a hockey team or a truck to transport all their gear?

In this second part of our three-part series on how to make an ice rink on your pond, you’ll learn how to identify the perfect spot for your rink, how to measure your ice sheet’s thickness, how to create a glassy smooth skating surface, and how to build your winter wonderland.

Thick and Blue, Tried and True…

You’ve been watching your ice sheet develop over the fall and winter, and you think it’s ready to be fabricated into a fantastic ice rink. The first step is to identify an area on your pond or lake with the best ice. What does that look like? It should be:

  • Thick and strong. By “thick,” we mean inches of solid ice – up to 12 to 15 inches, depending on your plans for the rink. Some general guidelines are outlined below:
    • 3 inches or less: Not safe, so stay off the ice.
    • 4 inches: Suitable for ice fishing, cross-country skiing and walking (about 200 pounds).
    • 5 inches: Safe for a snowmobile or ATV (about 800 pounds).
    • 8 to 12 inches: OK for a car or group of people (about 1,500 to 2,000 pounds).
    • 12 to 15 inches: Suitable for a light pickup truck or a van.
  • Solid, blue to clear. This is high density, very strong and safe ice when thick enough. Areas that appear light gray to black, white to opaque, mottled or slushy are unsafe and should be avoided. Also stay away from areas with cracks or breaks, ice that appears to have thawed and refrozen, and abnormal surfaces you haven’t seen before, like ridges caused by currents or winds.
  • Located away from inlets and outlets. Moving water affects the integrity of the ice, so avoid areas near inlets/outlets and springs.

Before you go out on the ice, follow safety protocols: Tell someone where you’re going, dress accordingly, wear a floatation device, carry a change of clothing and an emergency kit in a waterproof bag. When inspecting the ice, remember this rhyme: “Thick and blue, tried and true; thin and crispy, way too risky.”

Checking the Ice

So how do you check your ice sheet’s thickness and quality? You have three options: an ice chisel, an ice auger and a cordless drill. You’ll use one of these tools – along with a tape measure, of course – to carve a hole in the ice and check on what’s happening below the surface.

An ice chisel is your most basic ice-checking tool. It’s a metal rod with a sharp, flat blade welded onto one end. You drive the chisel into the ice using a stabbing motion until you create a hole. *This option may not be the best if you have fish. Pounding on the ice can cause fish stress.

Augers drill a hole in the ice via a spiraling blade that’s rotated by hand or powered by an electric or gas motor. Hand augers are inexpensive, lightweight and quiet to operate. Electric augers are also quiet, but they require less manual labor to operate. Gas augers blast through the ice fastest, but they’re heavy, noisy and more costly than hand or electric models.

A 7.2-volt cordless drill with a long, five-eighths-inch wood auger bit will drive through 8 inches of ice in less than 30 seconds. It’s the most efficient way to get the job done.

Once you have made a hole in the ice, measure its thickness with a tape measure. Put the tape measure into the hole and hook the bottom edge of the ice before taking a reading. While you’re there, inspect the quality of the ice. It should be dense, blue and thick – at least 4 inches.

Create a Glassy Smooth Surface

Now that you have identified the perfect spot for your rink, it’s time to prep the surface. First, check the weather to make sure below-freezing temperatures are forecasted for the next five nights. Then, gather some gear, including a flat-head shovel, a pickaxe or hatchet, and a bucket or garden hose, head out to the rink site and get to work:

  1. Stake out your skating area. A 50-foot by 100-foot rink is plenty of space to start with, particularly on a smaller pond. The area can be expanded as needed.
  2. Shovel the entire surface Next, using your flat nose shovel, push the snow from side to side in the middle of the ice, and then from the middle out to the ends.
  3. Strategically pile up the snow. Create seating areas, hockey goals and some backstops at either end of the rink.
  4. Access some water. You’ll need water to pour onto the surface of your rink, so break through the ice with your hatchet or pick axe to create an opening large enough for a bucket or garden hose. Build a ring of snow around the hole for future reference.
  5. Ice the surface Fill your bucket with pond water and pour it onto the exposed ice sheet. If you’re using a hose, siphon the water and distribute it evenly on the surface. Repeat until you’ve evenly covered the area with water.
  6. Freeze and repeat.. Let the pond ice freeze overnight. Return to the pond the next day and repeat the process for five nights.

Before long, you’ll have a smooth, solid ice rink that’ll provide hours of fun for you and your friends.

Remember: Safety First

Despite all your careful and diligent rink-building efforts, it’s important to remember that there’s no absolute guarantee that the ice is safe. Accidents can happen. Be proactive by installing a life ring nearby, and providing a first aid kit, blanket and other emergency essentials just in case someone does fall through the ice.

If you missed it, check out Part 1 – Understanding How Ice Forms and Part 3 – Maintaining Your Ice Rink.

Create A Smooth Skating Surface

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