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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

How does ice form on a pond?

How does ice form on a pond?

How does ice form on a pond?
Jonathan – Denver, CO

You look forward to and enjoy the ice formations that appear on your pond each winter but have you ever wondered how it begins? Why is it that the ice in your pond expands when it freezes instead of shrinking and why does ice float?

Unlike those horror flashbacks of falling asleep in science class we’ll keep this as simple and interesting as possible. As the air cools off outside your water looses heat and becomes heavier. This cool and heavy water sinks to the bottom of the pond as the lighter warmer water rises to the top to cool. This process continues until the pond water reaches about 4 degrees Celsius or 39 degrees Fahrenheit and the water cools enough to freeze. Water is unique in the fact that as is it freezes its molecules form crystals that are spaced farther apart causing ice to expand and take up more space. Once the water in your pond begins to form these crystals and expand it actually becomes lighter than warmer unfrozen water and once again begins to rise to the surface of your pond where it begins to form a sheet of ice. If this all seems a bit too wordy or confusing to you visualize a glass of water with ice cubes in it. The spaced out, crystallized, water molecules of the ice cubes make them lighter than the water in the glass and cause them to float at the surface of the water. The water in the glass that is cooled by the ice cube (but not cold enough to freeze) becomes more dense and sinks to the bottom of the glass and the warmest water rises to the top where it is cooled by the floating ice cubes.

The layer of ice formed by this crystallized frozen water can become fairly strong as it becomes thicker. An inch of ice can be strong enough to hold a small animal without cracking. 3 inches of ice typically is enough to bear the weight of the average person and once a pond freezes to 6 to 8 inches thick it is ready to play host to a hockey game or hold up a snowmobile. Some have even taken their cars out on the ice! While we don’t recommend you give it a try, 8 to 12 inches of ice can support a slowly moving vehicle.

Pond Talk: What do you use your pond for in the winter? Do you skate? Ice fish?

Can my snails stay in my pond for the winter? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

When should I remove the fountain from my pond?

Can my snails stay in my pond for the winter?
Cody – Falling Spring, VA

While your fish and some of your aquatic plants remain safe and sound during their winter dormancy you may wonder if your snails will be as successful. Your pond snails are amazingly resilient in cold weather and will do just fine given their habitat is suitable.

Your pond depth will play a major role in the success of all of the living creatures in your pond. Your plants, fish and snails can survive in cold water but they won’t fair too well if frozen into a solid block of ice. The ice that forms on the top of your pond varies in thickness depending on where you live but the general rule of thumb is to build your pond to be around 20”-30” in depth. This ensures there is an ample layer of water at the bottom of the pond that is left unexposed to the elements which will provide a safe haven for all of your pets and plants.

You won’t have to worry too much about your snails finding a safe place to hide over the winter as they come equipped with a strong shell which provides adequate shelter. They can hide amongst the rocks and plant remains in the pond as well during the winter but as your fish are in dormancy there is not an overwhelming need for additional habitat. As water temperatures drop and bacteria begin to dwindle a lot of pond owners tend to rely on algaecides to keep their ponds free from algae. If you are using an algaecide in your water garden review the product label thoroughly to ensure it is safe to use with your snails. When your pond comes back to life in the spring your snails will flourish amongst the new plant growth.

Pond Talk: Do you do anything special to provide safety for your snails in the winter?

If I have a spring running into my pond do I still need aeration? – Ponds & Lakes Q & A

If I have a spring running into my pond do I still need aeration?

If I have a spring running into my pond do I still need aeration?
Scott – Ripon, WI

Natural springs are an excellent source of water to fill and maintain a farm pond or lake. The volume of water and the rate at which it flows into your pond varies depending on the magnitude of the spring. While a higher magnitude spring can provide a great deal of water exchange they do not do much to help boost the oxygen level in your pond.

Great deals of pond owners believe their water body is spring-fed because the pond water is cold in the deeper areas of the pond. Pockets of cold water are more often caused by a lack of adequate water circulation which leads to water stratification in the water body. This allows a top layer of water which is heated and oxygenated by the surrounding atmosphere to stay at the top of the pond while the water at the bottom of the pond stays trapped, cold and devoid of oxygen. A couple great indicators that your pond is spring fed are that the water level tends to stay the same regardless of rainfall or lack thereof in your area, or if your pond has an outlet and is constantly flowing. Since spring water tends to be colder you will notice that spring fed ponds are cooler even when properly aerated but the entire water body will be cool, not just random pockets of water.

Properly aerating a water body requires not only circulation but the addition of oxygen that can be absorbed into the water column. For this reason, a spring fed pond is not a direct substitute for a proper aeration system. Aeration systems are designed to not only move water around your pond but to boost the dissolved oxygen content of the water column. Bottom plate systems like the Airmax Aeration Systems utilize air compressors and membranes to pump oxygen to the bottom of your pond and then break it down in to small enough bubbles that are absorbed into the water column. This process also forces the water above the plate towards the surface of the pond causing a mushrooming effect that circulates the water body. These type of systems can be used year round. Fountains can also be used to aerate water bodies. Since they draw from the surface of the pond, fountains are usually better suited for ponds 6’ deep and shallower while bottom plates systems work well in deeper ponds. Fountains pump water from the pond and spray it into the air in fine droplets that absorb oxygen and then crash back into the pond. With this principle in mind you might be able to guess that a fountain that sprays a thicker or solid stream of water adds less oxygen to the pond than one that has a finer spray pattern. While effective in shallow water bodies, these systems are best used only for summer aeration.

Almost every pond can benefit from aeration as it not only provides oxygen for fish but also promotes faster muck digestion and an overall cleaner pond. If you have an aeration system in your pond but are unsure if it is properly aerated you can take temperature readings in multiple depths and areas of your pond and record any extreme variations which indicate a lack of circulation from your aeration system.

Pond Talk: Pond owners implement natural springs to create interesting water features in their ponds in the form of artesian wells and water leveling features which you can find online. Have you found a unique way to take advantage of your spring fed pond?

Keep your pond healthy all winter long!

How do pine needles affect my water garden? I’ve heard everything from poor water quality to no change at all. – Decorative Water Gardens Q & A

How do pine needles affect my water garden? I’ve heard everything from poor water quality to no change at all.

How do pine needles affect my water garden? I’ve heard everything from poor water quality to no change at all.
Betsy – Hinesburg, VT

Your evergreens may hold on to their color during the winter but they will have no trouble shedding a few pine needles. If your pond is pine tree adjacent you most likely have been dealing with the presence of pine needles in your water. Your pine trees can provide an excellent source of shade and privacy but do the negative effects of loose pine needles put your pond or fish in harms way?

As you already know, an abundance of organic debris in your pond can lead to algae blooms, turbid water and unbalanced water chemistry. Organic matter like grass clippings or leaves from nearby trees will eventually turn into an intimidating layer of muck if left at the bottom of your pond. Unlike leaves pine needles are not a huge contributor of tea colored water however, pine needles are acidic and can lower the pH of your pond water to an unhealthy level if left to accumulate. Because of their size, shape and density pine needles are a bit trickier to catch and clean out of your pond. They can easily fall through netting with larger openings and they tend to clog up pond vacuum hoses. To better protect your pond from fallen pond needles use Pond Nettinghttp://www.thepondguy.com/category/water-gardens-and-features-pond-netting with smaller mesh holes. As pine needles tend to float for a while make sure your Skimmer is active and running to help catch as much debris as possible. Your skimmer may require more frequent cleaning to prevent loss of water flow. Any needles that venture to the bottom of the pond can be rounded up with a Skimmer Net and your Pond Vac or you can don a pair of Aquatic Gloves and scoop up any large deposits that form. While pine needles decompose a bit slower than leaves beneficial bacteria products like Seasonal Defense will help break them down and remove any strays you might have missed.

To be fair to all of the evergreens out there, pine needles are not any more harmful than leaves; they just come with their own unique set of challenges. At the end of the day you treat them just like you would any other form of unwanted excess organic material. Keep your pond clean and it will keep you happy, whether you have pine trees, oak trees or no trees at all!

Pond Talk: What kinds of trees do you have around your pond? What methods have you found to be effective against debris from leaves and needles.

Keep your water garden healthy all winter long!

Can I water garden indoors for the winter? – Decorative Water Gardens Q & A

Can I water garden indoors for the winter?

Can I water garden indoors for the winter?
Tony – Chicago, IL

Your pond can be an outlet to be creative, a way to relax and a nice break from your day to day routine. Your life doesn’t take a break just because the weather cools down so why should your pond? Our blog on Bringing Your Fish and Plants Indoors may be the catalyst you need to start your first ever indoor pond. So what should you bring indoors with your plants and fish and what else can you do with your pond to beat the winter blues?

Some types of water features are easier to implement indoors than others. Water features like container type fountains or pot style water features can easily be carried inside and used to foster your plants and fish over the winter. Larger pre-formed ponds or rubber liner based ponds are more permanent but can be duplicated indoors using a plastic-preformed pond liner or large Rubbermaid tanks. If your outdoor water feature is over 18” deep and doesn’t freeze solid you can leave the bulk of your fish and plants outdoors to over winter and bring just a few inside to create an indoor feature that is sized to fit your home.

Use your ponds Outdoor Décor to compliment your indoor feature. Not only can you accent your indoor water feature with existing outdoor statues and ornaments but you will also be protecting them from harsh winter elements keeping them safe and intact for use next season.

Also, use this opportunity to experiment, learn and grow as a pond owner. Don’t be afraid to try new designs, plants and products to achieve the exact look and feel you want from your water feature. There is a wealth of knowledge available to you in both Pond Books and Blogs that can help you on your journey for the perfect pond. Furthermore, now is the time to take inventory of your consumable products such as Filter Media Pad, Bacteria and Fish Food. Inspect materials for signs of wear and replace them as necessary and make sure you have the products you need on hand for your spring start up. Take the time now to prepare for spring and make your water feature start up a breeze.

Pond Talk: Have you created an indoor water feature? What type did you build? What challenges did you encounter?

Get inspiration for your water garden from Water Gardening for Hobbyists Book!

Should I use a heater or aerator in my water garden? – Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

When should I remove the fountain from my pond?

Should I use a heater or aerator in my water garden?
Lindsay – Pittsfield, ME

So you already know that it is important to keep a hole open in the ice that forms over your water garden during the winter months. This provides an outlet for harmful gases and an inlet for new oxygen-rich air. The question now is which device do you choose to get the job done. The good news is if you have already made your purchase for the season either one will perform excellently. Both a heater and aerator will maintain a hole in the ice but unlike a pond heater, this is only one of many tasks an aeration system performs for your water garden.

When we talk about pond heaters we are referencing units like the Pondmaster Floating Pond De-Icer which does not heat the water in the pond but instead keeps a ring of water open allowing gas to escape through the vent in the top of the unit. Since most ponds deeper than 18” do not freeze solid this is all that is needed to allow oxygen exchange while the fish are dormant. When running a pond heater periodically check in on the pond to make sure ice does not form over the vent hole. To reduce electrical expense most pond heaters are thermostatically controlled to run only during a given temperature range, but they are measuring water temperature instead of air temperature. This means it is unlikely that the water temperature will raise enough to ever shut off the heater. To save some extra money on energy bills use a Thermo Cube in tandem with your pond heater as it will determine when your pond heater should run based on the ambient air temperature.

Aeration keeps a hole in the ice during the winter by producing bubbles and water motion to slow the ice from forming. This allows for the same gas exchange created by a pond heater, however your Aeration System will circulate the entire pond volume and infuse it with dissolved oxygen making it more efficient at oxygen/gas transfer. People will sometimes run pumps beneath the ice trying to create this same effect but it is the tiny air bubbles that boost dissolved oxygen levels and create the friction that prevents ice from forming. Your pond benefits from aeration year round making an aeration system a helpful and highly functional tool regardless of the season. The installation process is simple and straightforward and aeration systems are available in various sizes and shapes allowing you to select a system that best fits your pond. When selecting a system make sure you purchase a unit that is rated for your ponds volume in order to provide enough outlet for proper gas exchange.

The performance of both pond heaters and aeration systems vary depending on how cold it gets in your area. Even when vented properly, layers of ice appear may over when temperatures dip well below freezing. If this only occurs temporarily, and is short in duration while the coldest temperatures and wind are present, there should not be any cause for concern, as a calm or sunny day will give the pond the help it needs to re-open the hole in the ice. If it is necessary to manually reopen the air vent do not try to break through it by hitting it with hammers or heavy objects as this creates vibrations that can harm your fish. If necessary pour a bucket of warm water over the vent hole to melt it back open.

Whichever unit you choose to use will perform to keep your fish safe for the winter months and ensure that they will be healthy, happy and ready to go in the spring.

POND TALK: Which type of system have you found to work better in your pond? Do you still notice some ice formation?

Keep your pond healthy all winter long!

If I chose to bring my fish indoors for the winter what should I do? – Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

When should I remove the fountain from my pond?

If I chose to bring my fish indoors for the winter what should I do?
Lisa – Livonia, MI

While we don’t really like to think about it, there are places in the U.S. that get cold enough to freeze decorative water gardens solid. As your fish do not appreciate being turned into popsicles you will probably want to bring them indoors for the winter. Since the majority of you don’t have a beautiful indoor pond just waiting to house our fish in the colder months how do you go about creating a safe environment for your fish to bunker down in?

Your first and foremost priority is to select a location that is climate controlled, safe from disturbances and large enough to facilitate a holding tank. Your basement or heated garage are a couple places you can consider. The container you choose to hold your fish should be made of a fish safe material and should be cleaned thoroughly before use. The size of this container will depend on the size and number of fish you need to relocate. Unless they are Sardines your fish will not do well when packed tightly into a tiny container. Purchasing a small pre-formed pond liner is a great idea for someone who has large Koi or an ample amount of fish that need a winter home. You will also want to purchase some Pond Netting to keep your fish from jumping out of their winter apartment and onto your garage floor.

The new container can be filled with water from your water garden or you can start from scratch and fill it with tap water. If you decide to fill from the tap you will want to add a Water Conditioner to neutralize any chloramines and remove other potentially harmful elements from the water. In addition to pond conditioner you will want to allow a few weeks for the water in the container to cycle and balance. Aeration and filtration will play a major role in the well being of your fish once they are relocated. If you currently use an external Pressurized Filter your water garden this can be used for your inside application as you will have to bring it in for the winter regardless. You will also need a small pump to circulate the water in this container as well which you may also be able to borrow from your outdoor water garden. If you have neither a pump nor pressurized filter on hand you can purchase an All-In-One system to do the job. If you have to use a new filter or you decided to fill the container with tap water seed your filtration pads with PL Gel to ensure an adequate presence of beneficial bacteria and reduce the waters cycle time.

When the time comes, collect your fish using a Fist Net and transfer them to their new home using the same acclimation process you would undergo with new fish. If you are unsure of how to acclimate your fish click over to our Blog that explains the process in greater detail. Do not feel the need to rush through the transporting process as your fish are safe and comfortable in their water garden for the time being. Take your time to make sure your fish are moving into a safe and comfortable environment so you and your fish can enjoy some indoor ponding this winter.

Pond Talk: Do you bring your fish in for the winter? How do you provide an indoor home for them?

Keep your pond healthy all winter long!

I’d like to create a water garden or feature, how do I choose a size to suit me? – Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

I'd like to create a water garden or feature, how do I choose a size to suit me?

I’d like to create a water garden or feature, how do I choose a size to suit me? Maude – Frogsboro, NC

Water Features That Fit

Creating a water feature is a fun and exciting process consisting of endless designs and limited only by your imagination. Many people think they are have to have a large amount of land to create a great water feature. In reality, a beautiful water feature can be constructed in even the smallest yards or even indoors. Before you start purchasing materials for your pond project, sit down with a pen and paper and take some time to research and design the perfect water feature that fits your situation.

One of the more common ways people ease their way into pond building is by using a preformed pond basin. I am sure most of you have seen them when walking through your local home & garden stores. These plastic liners are available in a wide array of shapes, sizes and depths which appeals to customers looking to install a pond in a limited amount of space. These liners are great for people new to ponds as the shape and dimensions are already figured out for you. This does however limit your creative influence on your soon to be pond. It is for this reason that more and more brave newcomers opt to install Rubber EPDM liner instead. Using rubber liner allows you the freedom to create whatever size pond you desire, filled with curves, plant shelves and waterfall streams. The rubber liner is flexible and therefore is not prone to cracking like the harder plastic performed liners. Rubber EPDM liner can also be pieced together using a Seam Kit to accommodate a large array of designs. Pond Kits are packaged with 45Mil EPDM Rubber Liner to create ponds as small as 8’ x 11’ or as large as 21’ x 26’. You can also purchase rubber liner in 5’ increments for smaller or larger applications.

Those of us who enjoy the sounds and sights of flowing water but are not thrilled by the prospects of managing an entire pond, have other means of entertainment. Using a small basin and a pump, you can create a beautiful, streaming waterfall that disappears into a hidden reservoir underground. We call this a pondless waterfall. The great thing about pondless waterfalls is that they can adapt to smaller areas very easily because there is no standing water. For instance, if you don’t have much of a yard and would like to hear the sound of water, a pondless waterfall is for you. There are Pondless Waterfall Kits available that contain all of the parts you need to get started and are available in different sizes.

When planning to build your water feature, plan for a weekend, one preferably without rain of course. Most smaller Pond Kits and Pondless Kit usually need only a weekend to complete and right now is usually the most popular time to build. Just remember it is far easier (and cheaper) to work with your pen and paper in the planning stages than it is once you start building your water feature. Planning ahead helps prevent any unwanted surprises.

POND TALK: What type of water feature do you have?

Everything you need to build the perfect pond!

How do I calculate my pond size? – Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

How do I calculate my pond size?

How do I calculate my pond size? Pete – Steele, AL

If someone were to ask you how big your water garden is, how would you respond? Most pond owners have an idea of how many gallons their pond my hold or how many square feet their water feature occupies, but have you ever really measured to see how close your guesstimates comes to the actual numbers?

Knowing how large your pond is down to the square foot or the nearest gallon is not realistic nor is it, by any means, necessary. You will just want to verify that what you “think” is a 15’ x 20’ is not actually 30’ x 40’. People tend to associate size with common everyday items they see around their home. It is not uncommon to hear someone tell us that their pond is about “half of a horse trailer long” or “up to my knees deep”. This may seem like a reasonable answer at the time, but when trying to break down how many gallons are in your pond, or how many square feet of surface area we are dealing with, we, unfortunately, aren’t sure how long your trailer is or how tall you are. =) To keep everyone on the same page and make sure we are all dealing with the same units of measure, we suggest you break out a tape measure and break the pond down into feet and inches.

You may be wondering to yourself why you even need to really know how much water your pond holds or what it matters if you don’t know its surface area. Bacteria products like Nature’s Defense or Liquid Clear are added to the pond based on the number of gallons you are treating. The same holds true with algae killing products like Tetra Algae Control and even Barley Straw Extract. Other products require an estimate of the pond’s surface area for proper application. Aquatic Plant Packages and Pond Netting are examples of such products. Knowing the size of your pond can also help you determine how many fish your pond should typically hold or what size Pond Vacuum is best suited for your particular application.

Now that you know the whys of sizing your pond, let’s get down to business and measure your pond out. The easiest ponds to measure are those that are shaped as simple circles and rectangles, the more irregular the shape, the less accurate our measurements become.

Length x Width x Height

This is the formula used to find the volume of a rectangular shape. It can still be used to get you in the neighborhood if you are measuring a kidney shaped pond, the numbers you get on paper however will be slightly higher than what your pond actually consists of. Measure your pond at its longest point and then its widest point. To demonstrate, lets say the length came to 15 feet and the width 10 feet. You can then measure the depth of the pond. If it is the same depth throughout use this number in our formula. If you have a plant shelf or the depth varies, measure the maximum depth and cut it in half to create an average depth. Let’s say the pond is 4 feet at its deepest but has some shallow areas for plants. We will use half of that depth, 2 feet, for our formula. If you are just looking for surface area, multiply the length and width (15 x 10) to get 150 square feet. If you are looking to find how many gallons the pond holds then multiply the length by width by height (15 x 10 x 2) to get 300 cubic feet. A cubic foot can hold 7.48 gallons of water so to find out how much 300 cubic feet can hold just multiply the two (300 x 7.48) to get 2,244 gallons. If you are also running a waterfall take into account that there is also some water being held in the stream, use the length and width of the stream to calculate a rough volume on it as well. Just like that you now have the volume of your pond.

Easy As Pi

If your pond is round in shape we will use the formula Surface Area = Pi x R² or in other words Surface Area = 3.14 times radius times radius. The radius of your pond is simply half of the distance across. If the pond is a 10 foot circle then the radius is 5 feet. Multiply 3.14 by 5 and then multiply by 5 once more (3.14x5x5) to get 78.5 square feet of surface area. To find your volume you multiply this number by the depth and convert to gallons just like we did with the rectangular pond.

If you want to know exactly how many gallons are in your pond you can use a meter to physically measure the amount of water it takes to fill their pond using a garden hose. If you are constructing a new water garden or pondless waterfall don’t forget to take into account that some of the water from your pond will be held in the stream bed. Give yourself a little wiggle room when digging the basin pond to hold the extra water if you have to shut off the waterfall for any reason.

We have a few helpful Calculators on our site that can help you find your recommended fish capacity, select the proper pump, and if anything, play with your new found pond dimensions.

POND TALK: Now that you have a better understanding of how to measure your pond compare your results with what you originally estimated. Were you close?

How do I calculate my pond size?

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