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What should I do with my filter media during the winter? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: What should I do with my filter media during the winter?

Q: What should I do with my filter media during the winter?

Barb – Sterling, CO

A: Your pond’s filter media—the Matala® Filter Media Pads, The Pond Guy® BioBalls™ or Bio-Ribbon that house your beneficial bacteria—will need a little attention going into the winter. You won’t need your filter media during the cold months, but you should inspect it, clean it and purchase replacements parts before you start your water feature up again in the spring. Here’s a rundown of what to do:

Filter Media Pads: Pull out your filter media pads from your pond’s filtration system, waterfall box and skimmer, thoroughly rinse off the debris with your garden hose, and look for frayed edges, holes, large deposits of solid debris or other signs of damage. Plan to replace worn pads as necessary in the spring. You can choose from specially coated Matala® Filter Media Pads, which come in four different densities for your unique filtration needs, or cost-effective rolls of filter media that can be cut to fit and are ideal for waterfall boxes and skimmers.

BioBalls and Other Loose Filter Media: If you use secondary filtration, like The Pond Guy® BioBalls™, Bio-Ribbon, blocks or other loose filtration media that’s kept in a mesh bag, remove it all from your filter or waterfall box after you shut down your waterfall, rinse the bag and its contents thoroughly, and check the bag for holes or worn areas. Replace the bag if necessary in the spring.

After your filter media is rinsed and inspected, you can store them for winter in the filter, waterfall box or skimmer. The filter pads, BioBalls™ and other media will survive just fine outside, even in freezing temperatures. If desired, you can also remove them and stow them inside a garage or basement.

Pond Talk: How do you store your filtration media in the winter?

Four Densities for Every Filtration Need - Matala® Filter Media Pads

We just had our first freeze. How do I clean up my plants? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: We just had our first freeze. How do I clean up my plants?

Q: We just had our first freeze. How do I clean up my plants?

Barb – Sterling, CO

A: Brrr! It’s certainly getting cold outside! Your aquatic plants are feeling the chill too, so now is a perfect time to clean them up and put them in a warmer place for winter. So bundle up, pull on your hip waders and Aqua Gloves™ to keep dry and warm, dig out your easy-to-use Pond Scissors and Pliers —and let’s get busy!

Hardy Water Lilies

Hardy water lilies can tolerate cooler temperatures than your tropical varieties, but they need to be kept in a place that won’t freeze, like the deepest areas of your pond. Now that you’ve had your first frost, trim the lilies’ foliage back to just above the root ball and submerge the plants as low as they’ll go for the winter. Come spring, the greenery will reemerge healthy as ever from the plants’ crowns.

Tropical Water Lilies

Tropical water lilies prefer warm temperatures all year-long, so these plants will need to be completely removed from your pond and relocated to a protected indoor space for the winter, like an aquarium or large bucket inside your heated garage or workshop. Check out this article for a step-by-step guide to overwintering tropical plants.

Marginals and Bog Plants

As with hardy water lilies, your marginals’ and bog plants’ foliage will need to trimmed back to just above the soil with pond scissors. Then sink them lower into the deepest parts of your pond where the water remains unfrozen during the wintertime.

Floating Plants

Unless you live in a climate that doesn’t freeze, floating plants like hyacinth and water lettuce won’t survive the winter. Plan to remove them from your pond and toss them in your compost pile. If you leave them in the pond, the dead plants will decompose and cause water quality issues through the wintertime.

Pond Talk: If your aquatic plants are planted in the soil rather than a movable basket or pot, do you do anything special to them to prepare them for winter?

Trim & Remove Plants with Ease - Pond Pliers & Scissors

My pond is mostly clean but should I do a fall cleanout? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: My pond is mostly clean but should I do a fall cleanout?

Q: My pond is mostly clean but should I do a fall cleanout?

Melanie – Ludlow, MA

A: Relax! Unless your pond really (and we mean really) needs it, we don’t recommend doing a total fall cleanout. Doing so would stress your fish out and compromise their health. Any amount of cleanliness you’ll achieve is just not worth the risk.

Instead, here’s a four-step to-do list to prepare your pond for fall:

  1. Get Your Plants in Shape: After the first frost, remove dead foliage from you aquatic plants, trim them back and sink them in the bottom of your pond to protect them from the cold temperatures. If you have tropical water lilies or other temperature-sensitive varieties, make room for them inside your garage or another place that will not freeze.
  2. Remove Algae: If you have a stream or waterfall in your pond, remove any algae or debris with CrystalClear® Algae-Off®, which vaporizes string algae, and Pond Logic® Oxy-Lift™ Defense®, which foams up and lifts debris from surfaces. These oxygen-based products are safe for use around plants and fish.
  3. Clean Up Debris: Using a brush and net, like those included with The Pond Guy® 3-in-1 Pond Tool, scrub down your rocks and liner and net out as much decaying debris as possible. Then use a vacuum, like The Pond Guy® ClearVac™, to suck up whatever’s left. This will minimize the amount of algae-feeding muck decomposing in the pond throughout the winter.
  4. Treat with Beneficial Bacteria: Finally, continue to treat your water garden with muck-munching beneficial bacteria until water temperatures dip to 50° Fahrenheit. Once the water is below 50°F, switch to Seasonal Defense® to continue breaking down any remaining debris. It’s formulated for use during the cooler months.

With these chores completed, your pond will be in good shape going into winter. Until then, relax and enjoy the fall colors and changing season!

Pond Talk: What do you do to prepare your pond for winter?

Make Fall Maintenance Quick and Easy - The Pond Guy(r) ClearVac(tm) Pond Vacuum

My stream is already accumulating algae! Is there anything I can use to help clean it up? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

My stream is already accumulating algae! Is there anything I can use to help clean it up?

Q: My stream is already accumulating algae! Is there anything I can use to help clean it up?

Kate – Grove City, OH

A: Yep: It’s algae time! As the spring sunshine melts away ice and snow, the sun’s warmth and light reach underwater to give algae growth a little nudge along. When combined with all the extra leaves (also known as algae food!) that have blown in on windy days and a filtration system that isn’t up to snuff with bacteria, they create a perfect environment for algae accumulation.

So how do you get rid of it when water temps are too cold for bacteria and traditional algaecides?

Step 1: Spring Cleaning

If you haven’t already, consider doing a spring cleanout and starting fresh. Check out this blog post for step-by-step instructions for preparing for and giving your pond a thorough spring cleaning. If you’ve already gotten dirty this season, however, and have found that the algae is unwilling to give up its happy home, move on to step 2.

Step 2: Oxy-Lift™ Defense® to the Rescue

For controlling stubborn algae, pull out your Oxy-Lift™ Defense® pond cleaner. The product’s ingredients have no temperature restrictions, so you don’t have to wait for warmer weather to treat the green nuisance. Simply turn off your stream and, while the algae-covered rocks are still wet, sprinkle on the Oxy-Lift™ powder. Let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Before long, you’ll see the algae bubble and break free from the rock. Then turn the stream back on, and use a hand net to scoop out the debris or allow your filter to catch it.

Of course, don’t forget to stick to the basics—particularly as pond season kicks off! Keep your filter running and add the natural bacteria once temperatures are suitable to keep algae growth under control.

Pond Talk: What’s your favorite spring cleaning tool to use in the water garden?

Lift Debris Away In Seconds - Pond Logic® Oxy-Lift™ Defense®

How do I know it is OK to put my fish back into the outdoor pond? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

How do I know it is OK to put my fish back into the outdoor pond?

Q: How do I know it is OK to put my fish back into the outdoor pond?

Ronnie – Salt Lake City, UT

A: This time of year, most of us are suffering with some cabin fever—including your pond fish. After being cooped up all winter long in a temporary indoor aquarium or tub, they’re ready to swim back to their spacious outdoor home.

But before you relocate your fish, you have some work to do first. The best time to return them to the pond is several weeks after you’ve done all the necessary chores to prepare for their homecoming. To make things easy, check out our four-step checklist:

    1. Spring Cleaning: First, clean out your dormant pond. Remove any debris that has settled over the past few months, and perform a thorough spring cleanout to remove winter buildup. This will give your finned friends a nice place to come home to—and minimize algae growth in the spring.
    2. Jump Start Filtration: About a month before you plan to return your fish to the pond, start your filtration system and let it run without fish. Turn on your mechanical filter and seed your filter pads with beneficial bacteria, such as Microbe-Lift® PL Gel, to speed the colony’s growth (but first make sure the water temperature is above 55° Fahrenheit with your pond thermometer). Keep in mind that in the spring, a filter can take four to six weeks to become established, so adding fish without adequate filtration established can result in quick algae formation.
    3. Test Your Water: While your pond is cycling, periodically check your water chemistry with a PondCare® Master Test Kit to ensure the pond water is balanced and pH, ammonia and nitrate levels are safe for fish.
    4. Acclimate Fish: The final step before re-homing your fish is to help them get used to the pond’s water temperature, which will likely be colder than their winter housing. Carry your fish out in a bucket and slowly add water from the pond to the bucket at 10- to 15-minute intervals, using your pond thermometer to check the water temperature as you go. This shock-prevention technique will allow them to adjust slowly—and safely—to their outdoor digs.

Your fish may become stressed during the indoor-to-outdoor transition, but you can keep it to a minimum by preparing their home and making sure they’re as healthy as possible in advance of their relocation. Have fun moving!

Pond Talk: Do you notice a change in your fishes’ behavior when they transition from indoors to outdoors?

Protect Your Prized Fish - PondCare® Master Test Kit

What do I need to do to perform a spring cleanout? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

What do I need to do to perform a spring cleanout?

Q: What do I need to do to perform a spring cleanout?

Christine – Ballston Spa, NY

A: Like it or not, deep cleaning your pond or water feature is one of those must-do chores in the spring. Though we could write an entire e-book on the subject, we’ve distilled the essentials into this handy step-by-step to-do list.

So pull on your waders and gloves. It’s time to get dirty!

1. Create a holding tank for your fish. First, fill a blue tub, large plastic bin or even a child’s wading pool with existing pond water, install a small aerator in it and turn the air on. Then, use a net to catch your fish and gently move them into the holding tank and cover with a net to prevent them from hopping out. This will be their home away from home while you’re performing your cleanout.

2. Drain the pond. Use a pump and a drain hose to siphon all the water from the pond.

3. Get out the power washer. Once all the water has been drained, power wash your pond’s rocks, decor—anything that has developed a layer of dead algae and/or accumulated debris. Scrub away stubborn debris with an oxygen-based cleaner like Pond Logic® Oxy-Lift™ Defense® Pond Cleaner.

4. Rinse, drain and repeat. As you power-wash off the debris and rinse the rocks and decor, pump the dirty water out of the pond. This may need to be repeated a few times, depending on how much gunk has accumulated.

5. Make rock, decor adjustments. With your rocks and decor sparkling clean, now is the time to adjust them and make sure they’re still solidly in place. This is also a perfect opportunity to add more rocks if your gravel-bottom pond needs them.

6. Check pond lights, thin plants. In addition to adjusting your rocks, you should also take the opportunity to ensure your pond lights are working properly, and your plants are thinned and positioned on shelves as you want them.

7. Clean out and reinstall pump/UV/filter. Once your pond is thoroughly cleaned out, re-install any plumbing that was removed for the winter, such as your pump, aerator, filter and ultraviolet light (it’s a great idea to invest in a new UV bulb at this time, too, as we recommend replacing it once a year).

8. Fill ‘er up. Refill your pond with water and add necessary water treatments. If you have hard water or city water, add a conditioner like Pond Logic® Water Conditioner; if your water is still slightly murky, add some Pond Logic® Clarity Defense®.

9. Re-acclimate the fish. Finally, prepare your fish for their newly cleaned home by adding some of the new water to their holding tank so they can adjust to the new water chemistry. Be sure to slowly acclimate the fish back to the pond just as you would when first adding them. To help them over the hump, consider adding some Pond Logic® Stress Reducer PLUS to make the transition smooth for your finned friends.

Take some time this spring to give your pond a good deep cleaning. It’ll take some work—but your pristine, well-cared-for water feature will be a fantastic reward, particularly when you’re lounging by it this summer!

Pond Talk: Share some spring cleaning tips that have worked well in your pond!

Lift Debris Away In Seconds - Pond Logic® Oxy-Lift™ Defense®

I did a spring cleanout; do I need to do a fall one too? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

I did a spring cleanout; do I need to do a fall one too?

Q: I did a spring cleanout; do I need to do a fall one too?

Robert – Reston, VA

A: Whether it’s the spring or the fall, cleaning out your pond can be a chore. You have to pull out your gear, pull on your hip waders and gloves, and get dirty and wet. As much as you love your pond or water garden, it’s hard work!

The answer to your question depends on two factors: the condition of your pond, and your personal preference. Let’s take a closer look.

Condition of the Pond

Step outside and examine your pond and the area surrounding it. Have you, um, neglected it this summer? Perhaps the fish or algae have taken over the pond. Maybe leaves and dead plants are bunching up and decomposing along the water’s edge. Hey—don’t worry about it; it’s been a busy summer, right?

If your pond isn’t quite up to snuff, it’s a good idea to break out that pond vacuum and your Laguna Collapsible Pond Skimmer Net and do some cleaning. It’s also a good idea to add some beneficial bacteria, like Pond Logic® Seasonal Defense®, and maybe even do a partial water change to help remove excess debris before winter. Remember that debris left in the pond will continue to decompose and may pose a threat to your finned friends.

If your pond is looking good, however, and you’ve maintained it since the last cleanout, simply toss in some cool-weather bacteria, like Seasonal Defense®, to help remove any minor buildup that occurs until the pond starts to freeze over.

Personal Preference

Of course, personal preference matters, too. If you enjoy spending time pond-side as the trees do their color-changing thing, or if you plan to have some autumn soirees, Halloween haunted houses or other parties in your yard as the weather cools, then a clean-up is in order.

On the other hand, if you don’t really care how your pond looks during the fall and winter months, do a quick cleanout to remove excess debris and add some cool-weather bacteria, like Seasonal Defense®—but definitely plan to do a thorough cleanout come spring.

Pond Talk: Is it more important to you to regularly maintain your pond or do big seasonal cleanouts twice a year?

One Product, Three Seasons! - Pond Logic® Seasonal Defense®

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