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I am seeing quite a few tracks near my pond. Who do they belong to? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I am seeing quite a few tracks near my pond. Who do they belong to?

Q: I am seeing quite a few tracks near my pond. Who do they belong to?

Shawn – New Hudson, MI

A: Water attracts all sorts of critters. From bugs, birds and deer to reptiles, raccoons and muskrats—and even an occasional coyote or bear—wildlife of all shapes and sizes frequent ponds and lakes. If you’re experiencing visitors like these near your pond, that’s great! You should be excited that the animals are using it as a natural resource!

To help you decipher what’s leaving behind those tracks, here’s a quick rundown of the most common critters we find near ponds and lakes:

Muskrats: Measuring about 2 feet long and covered in thick dark brown or black fur, these medium-size semiaquatic rodents are often found in wetlands and near the water’s edge. They have long, vertically flat tails covered with scales, which help them to swim. When looking at muskrat tracks, the hind feet will be larger than the front feet, and you’ll see a distinct mark from their tail that drags along the ground.

Raccoons: These little masked bandits, which will sometimes make a meal of your game fish, are very intelligent and have extremely dexterous front paws. They walk with their feet flat on the ground and can stand on their hind legs to examine objects with their front paws. When examining raccoon tracks, you’ll see the flat-footed footprints with claws on all the toes. Their front foot and opposite hind foot tracks will be side by side or close together.

Deer: Widely distributed across the country, deer—which are pretty good swimmers, by the way—prefer to live between forests (for cover) and grassy fields (for food), though you’ll find deer tracks anywhere around your pond. Unlike raccoons, deer walk on their hooves, or their toe tips that are strengthened by a thick horny covering. When looking at deer tracks, you’ll see the outline of their hooves, which will look like upside-down hearts.

Turtles: Terrestrial and amphibious turtles have short, round, sturdy feet to bear the weight of their heavy shells. They also have long claws that they use to help them clamber onto rocky shorelines and floating logs. You’ll most likely see turtle tracks near the water. The marks will look almost oval with toes or claw marks on one side of the oval. You may see a tail or shell drag mark, too.

In most cases, these critters will do little or no harm to your pond or lake. They do leave waste behind, but we can keep that in check with aeration and bacteria usage. So have fun identifying your little visitors!

Pond Talk: What’s the strangest animal track you’ve identified near your pond or lake?

Bind Phosphates and Enhance Natural Bacteria - Pond Logic(r) EcoBoost(tm)

When should I remove my fountain? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: When should I remove my fountain?

Q: When should I remove my fountain?

Ray – McDermott, OH

A: Among your fall-preparation chores is removing the fountain and storing it for winter, particularly if you live in an area that endures freezing temperatures. Why? When ice forms, the cold stuff might damage the float. Or it could create a barrier that prevents water from passing through the spray nozzle, causing your fountain run dry and destroying your motor.

Your best bet: Remove the fountain before the ice begins to form. Sure, you could wait until a thin layer develops and then remove it—but that means you have to get wet and messy when it’s freezing. Not fun. Get a jump-start now before temperatures get too frigid.

Here are four easy steps to pulling out and storing your fountain for the winter:

  • Pull the Plug: Turn off the power to the fountain and pull it ashore. Most units have a quick disconnect at the motor that allows you separate the fountain from the main power cord.
  • Scrub Down: Wash down the fountain and float assembly to remove any algae or debris that has accumulated over the season. If you have a pressure washer, use it. It’ll make short work of even the dirtiest fountain.
  • Electrical Check: Inspect wiring and electrical cables for signs of wear or damage. If your fountain has lights, check for burned out or damaged bulbs and lenses.
  • Safe Storage: Once your fountain is cleaned and inspected, store it in an upright position in a climate-controlled location, like a heated pole barn or garage, until spring.

Now that it’s out and cleaned, you might want to consider sending your fountain to a licensed repair facility for routine maintenance tasks, including oil changes and/or seal replacements. Be sure to read through your user’s manual for special instructions and maintenance plans to keep your fountain running at its very best.

If you don’t plan on using the pond for ice skating or other winter recreation, now is a great time to install an Airmax® Aeration System to keep your pond oxygenated and healthy through the winter months. The aerator will circulate the water while keeping a hole in the ice surface, which will bring oxygen in and allow toxic gases to escape.

Pond Talk: How often do you have your fountain serviced by a licensed repair facility?

Aerate Your Pond in All Seasons - Airmax® Pond Series™ Aeration

I know a net won’t fit on my pond, so how do I keep the leaves out? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I know a net won’t fit on my pond, so how do I keep the leaves out?

Q: I know a net won’t fit on my pond, so how do I keep the leaves out?

Jack – Fairport, NY

A: Big lake? Blowing leaves? No problem! Though it might seem an impossible task to keep those drifting fall leaves from landing in your pond or lake, it is possible to manage them with this three-step solution. Here’s what we recommend.

Step 1: Continue to Aerate

No, your aerator won’t blow away debris like your leaf blower, but it will help to circulate oxygen throughout the water column. An Airmax® Pond Series™ Aeration System will keep your pond or lake healthy by removing dangerous gases like ammonia while delivering O2 to your fish and muck-eating beneficial bacteria. Speaking of which …

Step 2: Put Bacteria to Work

Continual use of some beneficial bacteria like those found in Pond Logic® MuckAway™ throughout the fall will help decompose the leaves that have landed in your lake or pond. The bacteria-packed pellets sink below the water’s surface and instantly begin to digest muck, gobbling through leaves and improving water clarity.

Step 3: Manually Remove Debris

Because a net won’t fit over your lake, you should plan to manually remove fallen leaves and debris in addition to aerating and adding bacteria. Doing so will lessen the workload—and give you some good stuff to add to your compost pile. Tools that will make the job easy include:

    • Pond Rake: Perfect for mechanical control of weeds, algae, muck and debris, this 3-foot-wide aluminum rake comes with an 11-foot two-piece rust-proof powder-coated aluminum handle, detachable polyethylene float and a 20 feet length of polypropylene rope.
    • 2-in-1 Pond Net: This heavy-duty handheld net includes a 4-foot aluminum neoprene-grip handle that extends to more than 11 feet. It also comes with a 14-inch interchangeable net frame that supports both a durable ¼-inch mesh fish net and ultra-fine skimmer net.
    • PondSkim™: Remove floating debris quickly by dragging this skimmer across the surface of the water. It measures 5 feet wide and is constructed with a tough collection screen, a buoyant float, a sturdy abrasion-resistant lower crossbar and a 24-foot pull line.

It can be a challenge to prevent leaves from settling in a large pond or lake, but with a little planning and hard work, it can be done. Good luck!

Pond Talk: If you have a large pond or lake, what do you do to prevent copious amounts of leaves from landing in it and turning into muck?

Remove Leaves, Debris & Weeds - The Pond Guy® Pond & Beach Rake

I think my aerator is undersized but how do I know? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I think my aerator is undersized but how do I know?

Q: I think my aerator is undersized but how do I know?

Mitch – Roseburg, OR

A: As you probably know, proper aeration with a deep water or shallow water aeration system is key to a healthy pond or lake. When water circulates and moves, oxygen flows throughout the water column, the water temperature is even, and the fish and wildlife thrive. You’ll see no stagnant areas or catch whiffs of bad odors. Instead, you’ll have a welcoming, enjoyable body of water, perfect for play and recreation.

If you think your aerator isn’t doing its job, it’s easy to diagnose: Just take your pond’s temperature!

The Tools

To begin, you’ll need a non-floating pond thermometer, a long string, a tape measure, a waterproof marker, a stopwatch, and a pad of paper and pencil. Tie the string to your thermometer, and measure and mark every 24 inches down the length of the string with your waterproof marker.

The Technique

Once your tools are set up, gather them together, hop in your boat and motor to various locations in your pond.

At each spot, noting where you are, drop the thermometer into the water and take the water’s temperature readings 24 inches down at a time, from the top to the bottom. Let the thermometer rest long enough (5 to 10 minutes) to get the true temperature reading at your desired depth.

Repeat this process in different areas (particularly if your lake is unevenly shaped), taking notes all along the way.

The Results

Once you’re done taking your lake’s temperature, look at your notes. Is there more than a few degrees difference in any of your temperature readings? If so, you’re more than likely under-aerating your pond.

The good news is that The Pond Guy® offers a free aerial mapping service. We’ll measure your pond and tell you where the diffusers should be placed so that you’re getting even aeration throughout the body of water. Take advantage of this free service! Your fish will thank you for it!

Pond Talk: Do you have any tips for taking your lake’s temperature?

Let Us Map It & We’ll Guarantee It! - Airmax(r) Aeration Systems

I bought an aeration system this year. What maintenance should I be doing? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I bought an aeration system this year. What maintenance should I be doing?

Q: I bought an aeration system this year. What maintenance should I be doing?

Gary – Saginaw, MI

A: Congratulations on your purchase of an Airmax® Aeration System—and good for you for thinking about regular maintenance, which will keep it operating well for years to come. Here are some things to inspect on a routine basis:

  • Check Your Cooling Fan and Pre-Filter: Regularly clean out your pre-filter and check to see that the fan is indeed operating. Hot air should be blowing out, not air being pulled in. An easy way to remember to do this is to always check your fan and shake off your pre-filter when you cut your lawn.
  • Check Your Air Pressure: Check to see that your air pressure has not risen or dropped significantly. Normal operation will range between 5 and 10 psi. Also be sure to check your pressure relief valve to make sure no air is escaping.
  • Check Your Air Filter: Clean and replace your air filter every three to six months, depending on your environment, and do not place a wet air filter back into the unit. For deep-water units, use the Airmax® SilentAir™ Piston Compressor Air Filter; for shallow-water units, use the Airmax® SilentAir™ LR Series Air Filter.
  • Purge Your Membrane Sticks: Once per year, purge your membrane diffuser sticks. See the product manual for additional instructions.
  • Use the Maintenance Kit: Finally, be sure to use your maintenance kit for the system you have installed. For shallow-water systems, use the Airmax® SilentAir™ Diaphragm Compressor Maintenance Kit every 12 months to keep your diaphragm compressor running its best. For deep-water systems, use the Pond Logic® SilentAir™ Piston Compressor Maintenance Kit every 24 months to keep your piston compressor humming.

Remember, if you have any questions, need additional information or want to read through some troubleshooting tips, refer to your product manual.

Pond Talk: What is your aerator maintenance routine? Do you have any tips to share?

Maximize System Performance - Airmax® SilentAir™ Piston Compressor Air Filter

What is the thermocline? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: What is the thermocline?

Q: What is the thermocline?

Walt – Cedar City, UT

A: Have you ever swum in a pond without a bottom aerator and felt colder water near your toes and warmer water on top?

You’ve experienced the thermocline.

Simply put, the thermocline is a layer of water between the warmer, surface zone and the colder, deep-water zone.

In ponds and lakes in the summertime, a natural phenomenon called stratification occurs when warm, less-dense, oxygen-rich water sits on top of colder, denser, oxygen depleted water. The thermocline separates the warm layer—the epilimnion —and the cold layer—the hypolimnion. In this stable system very little mixing of the layers occurs, particularly in calm weather.

Fish and other underwater critters (including beneficial bacteria) have trouble with this stratification. As summer marches on, your finned pals have less and less oxygen available below the thermocline, so they have to come closer to the surface to get their needed O2 supply. That means less room for them to swim. It also means your beneficial bacteria below the thermocline become oxygen-starved, which could result in algae growth and odor.

Thank goodness for aeration.

Bottom diffuser aeration, like Airmax® Aeration systems, prevents your pond or lake from stratifying by churning and mixing the temperature layers. The tiny bubbles created by the diffuser force the cooler oxygen-starved water to the pond’s surface where it becomes pumped up with O2. The warmer, oxygen-rich water then drops down, fueling the beneficial bacteria.

The result is an eliminated thermocline and higher oxygen levels throughout the water column.

It’s critical, however, that your system be sized correctly for your pond so the aeration is uniform throughout. If you currently have an aeration system running and you’re not sure if it’s doing its job, take your pond’s temperature. Using a thermometer and string, measure the temperature of the water every 24 inches down in various locations in your lake. If you find that you have more than a few degrees difference in your vertical readings, you’re probably under-aerating your pond.

But once you get your aeration system dialed in, your fish will once again have full access to the entire body of water, and your beneficial bacteria will have the opportunity to grow and thrive.

Call us if you need help mapping the aeration system in your lake. We’re happy to help!

Pond Talk: Have you experience stratification in your pond or lake?

Create The Perfect Pond - Airmax® Aeration Systems

My pond is spring fed. Does aeration do anything more for my pond than what the fresh water does? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: My pond is spring fed. Does aeration do anything more for my pond than what the fresh water does?

Q: My pond is spring fed. Does aeration do anything more for my pond than what the fresh water does?

Tom – Eden Prairie, MN

A: You gotta love a spring-fed pond. Rather than being volume-fluctuating catch basin for precipitation runoff (and pollution in some cases), it’s filled by a spring or ground water. That means the water level stays fairly consistent regardless of rainfall—and that’s a definite plus if you’re using the lake for recreation or watering livestock.

As great as they are, spring-fed ponds do have their challenges. They’re prone to thermocline, which is when water forms layers or stratifies depending on the water temperature. And even though spring water flows into the lake or pond from the underground aquifer and provides good water exchange, it is typically low in dissolved oxygen and not moving enough to circulate the water column.

Just about every pond or lake can benefit from aeration—including those that are spring fed. Here’s how an Airmax® Pond Series™ Aeration System can help your pond:

  • Circulates the Water: Rather than develop pockets of cold, oxygen-depleted water, a pond with an aeration system moves the water both horizontally and vertically.
  • Prevents Thermocline: During the summer in a pond that’s not properly aerated, the water at the top is warmer and full of oxygen while the deeper water remains cooler and nutrient-rich. Aeration churns the water, allowing the shallow and deep water to mix.
  • Infuses Oxygen into the Water: Your lake and its underwater inhabitants need oxygen to survive, and aeration pumps that O2 into the water while releasing dangerous gases, like ammonia, at the surface.
  • Promotes Muck Digestion: Beneficial bacteria thrive on oxygen, too, and those tiny microorganisms eat through muck and debris that has collected in your lake—ultimately creating a cleaner pond.

For those readers who have an aeration system in place but are unsure if the water is properly aerated, we suggest taking temperature readings at multiple depths and in different areas of your pond and recording any extreme variations, which indicate a lack of circulation from your aeration system.

Pond Talk: Some pond owners transform their natural springs into interesting water features, like artesian wells. Have you found a unique way to take creative advantage of the spring that feeds your pond?

Create The Perfect Pond - Airmax® Pond Series™ Aeration Systems

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