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My water garden doesn’t ice over, but the water gets cold. Can I still use barley extract during the winter? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: My water garden doesn’t ice over, but the water gets cold. Can I still use barley extract during the winter?

Q: My water garden doesn’t ice over, but the water gets cold. Can I still use barley extract during the winter?

Mary – Marietta, GA

A:  Barley straw is effective stuff. It’s an all-natural, chemical-free option for keeping pond water clear. And the best part? The temperature-tolerant natural pond treatment can be used year-round—even if your pond’s water gets cold.

Ever wonder how this seemingly innocuous bale of dried barley straw works? Read on to learn more.

It’s Science!

Though researchers have yet to precisely pinpoint how barley straw works, it’s generally believed that as a barley straw bale breaks down in water, it produces and releases many chemical compounds—and one of them may promote clearer pond water.

It has not been found to harm fish, water fowl or pond inhabitants in any way and, in fact, some studies suggest the straw benefits fish health.

Pond Particulars

When using barley straw in a water garden or backyard pond, forward-thinking hobbyists originally placed bales of it in their waterfall filter boxes, skimmers or waterfall areas where it would decompose. Things have sure changed! Those unwieldy bales have since been replaced by compressed, easy-to-use pellets and barley extract, which is basically the good stuff in a bottle.

If you’re thinking about using barley straw in your water garden, you have more options than ever. Check out these four popular methods:

  • Barley Straw Bales: Typically available loose in a mesh bag, small bales of barley straw can be placed in the pond several months before pond clarity issues are expected to occur (around March or April, depending on your climate) as the straw must start to decompose before it releases it’s special compunds. In a 1,000-gallon pond, 1 pounds of barley straw is needed, but it should be replaced every four to six months. Keep the straw well-aerated, floating it near your waterfall or stream or in shallow water. Don’t leave it in your pond beyond its prime time, however, because it can eventually become a nutrient source for algae.
  • Barley Pellets: Compressed into a compact form, Barley Straw Pellets also contain all the beneficial substances found in barley straw without the unsightly look of bales, pillows or pads. The pellets may also buffer pH and control alkalinity in your pond. A 6-pound bag will treat an 800-gallon pond for up to six months; a 12-pound bag will treat a 1,600-gallon pond for up to six months.
  • Barley Extract: Offering the benefits of barley straw without the mess or unsightly bale floating in your pond, Barley Straw Extract contains those beneficial substances in liquid form. Because you don’t have to wait for the barley straw to decompose, it goes to work on contact. An 8-ounce container treats up to 4,000 gallons for three months; a 16-ounce bottle treats up to 8,000 gallons for three months.
  • Seasonal Defense®: Seasonal Defense® gives you the power of activated barley straw with an additional punch of natural bacteria in one simple treatment. Used when water temperatures drop below 50°F, Seasonal Defense® helps break down muck caused by leaves, scum and sediment.

No matter what form you choose, barley straw extract is a good tool to keep in your water garden tool chest. It’s an effective solution you’ll use all year round.

Pond Talk: Have you used barley straw extract in your pond? Were you satisfied with the results?

Benefits Of Barley Without The Mess - Pond Logic® Barley Extract

In the DefensePAC, there are three products that are all natural bacteria. Are all three really necessary? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: In the DefensePAC, there are three products that are all natural bacteria. Are all three really necessary?

Q: In the DefensePAC, there are three products that are all natural bacteria. Are all three really necessary?

Julie – Sandwood, SC

A: Bacteria is bacteria, right? Well, no, not really. In nature, thousands of bacteria species perform many important jobs. The specific strains used in the DefensePAC® were chosen for their unique ability to break down suspended debris and sunken muck in pond water. And they’re really good at what they do.

The three different aerobic natural bacteria products found in DefensePAC® play different roles in your pond. Here’s a bit more about what they are and how they work to keep your water crystal clear.

Nature’s Defense®

The bacteria in Nature’s Defense® are designed to attack organic debris that’s suspended in the water column, like fish waste, uneaten food and leaves. To use, you simply toss the water-soluble packets in the water. The bacteria will immediately go to work breaking down the excess nutrients like phosphates and nitrogen, and multiply every 20 to 40 minutes. We recommend using Nature’s Defense® in conjunction with Muck Defense® in the summer. The result: crystal clear water.

Muck Defense®

To attack the accumulated organic debris that builds up at the bottom of your pond, Muck Defense® comes in bacteria-packed tablets that sink straight down. Upon application, the tablets release bacteria that instantly begin to break down and digest hard-to-reach muck and sludge from the bottom of gravel and rock pond bottoms. We recommend using Muck Defense® in conjunction with Nature’s Defense® in the summer. The result: reduced muck and no pond odor.

Seasonal Defense®

The bacteria in Seasonal Defense® prefer cooler water temperatures, like those in the spring and fall. While Nature’s Defense® and Muck Defense® can be used when the water is above 50 degrees F, Seasonal Defense® is designed to be used when the water is below 50 degrees F. It accelerates the decomposition of leaves, scum and sediment that create pond muck during the fall and winter months, and jump starts the bacteria population in your pond the in spring.

Though Nature’s Defense®, Muck Defense® and Seasonal Defense® all contain beneficial bacteria, they’re designed to do different things in your pond. Are all three necessary? Yes indeed! When used together, you’ll enjoy clear water, a clean pond and reduced muck and odor all year long.

Pond Talk: How long do you spend cleaning your pond from organic debris?

Improve Your Pond's Water Quality - Pond Logic® DefensePAC®

My pond was a mess, so I drained and refilled it. Now I have algae. What do I do? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: My pond was a mess, so I drained and refilled it. Now I have algae. What do I do?

Q: My pond was a mess, so I drained and refilled it. Now I have algae. What do I do?

Beth – Benton, AR

A: Sometimes it’s just easier to start from scratch – particularly if you have a disaster in your pond.

A complete water change rids your water feature of excess organic waste, clears up murky water (briefly, as you’ve discovered) and gives you a chance to start over with a clean slate. Those are some worthy benefits!

The urge to purge, however, has its drawbacks. If you’ve completely drained the water from your pond and scrubbed everything clean, you’ve also stripped a lot of the beneficial bacteria that was working to help clean the pond in the first place! The algae that’s growing now is most likely due to fish waste and a lack of mature filtration.

To return your pond to its crystal-clear state, here’s what we recommend.

  1. Decide how bad it really is: Believe it or not, some algae in your pond is natural and beneficial as it helps filter the water. Make sure your expectations are in line with the reality of having a pond, and then let the pond take its natural course with a little help from you. But be patient! The Nitrogen Cycle will eventually help clear things up naturally – but it takes time. If your water quality begins to suffer a few weeks in, think about doing a partial water change and/or following these additional suggestions.
  2. Treat if necessary: If the algae is becoming excessive, treat the algae growth with an algaecide in the morning or evening when water temperatures are cooler. In addition, make sure you have adequate aeration to ensure oxygen levels stay high for your finned friends.
  3. Seed Your Filter Media: To kick-start the regrowth and reproduction of beneficial bacteria in your pond, add some DefensePAC® to your pond and filter. The package contains Nature’s Defense®, which instantly begins breaking down dead organics in the pond; Clarity Defense®, which helps clear debris suspended in the water column; and Muck Defense®, which attacks buildup on the liner, rocks and gravel.
  4. Condition the water: When you refill your pond with water, be sure to use Stress Reducer PLUS to condition the water and reduce fish stress. It helps your fish form a beneficial slime coat that’s lost from stress or handling, and it also makes tap water safe by working to remove chlorine, chloramines and heavy metals.
  5. Learn from the situation: Instead of letting your pond fall into its “mess” state again, figure out why it wound up in that situation in the first place. Are there too many fish living in your pond? Is your filter too small for your pond’s volume and fish load? Do you need more plants growing in and filtering the water? Does your pond receive too much sun or rain runoff? Dig down to the root cause of the problem and correct it!

In the future, if you find your pond’s water quality waning, consider doing a partial water change instead of a complete water change. A little fresh water will go far to clear things up without having to start completely over!

Pond Talk: Have you ever had to restart your pond from scratch?

Immediately Remove String Algae - CrystalClear® AlgaeOff®

I’ve used lava rock in my filter for years. Are bioballs really that much better? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I’ve used lava rock in my filter for years. Are bioballs really that much better?

Q: I’ve used lava rock in my filter for years. Are bioballs really that much better?

Dana – Altadena, CA

A: The media you use in your filtration system matters. Just think about its purpose: To house billions of beneficial bacteria and other microorganisms that keep your pond alive, crystal clear and algae-free. Thanks to their ample surface area, both lava rock and bioballs will work, but bioballs have some benefits over the rock. Read on to learn more.

Lava Rock’s Limitations

Lava rock – that igneous rock that’s formed as an erupting volcano’s molten lava cools and hardens – is very porous. When chunks of it live in your filtration system, you’re providing a lot of surface area for those beneficial bacteria to colonize and grow. That’s what makes it such a great filter media.

It does, however, have its drawbacks.

  • Clogged Holes: Over time, the porous rock can become easily clogged with muck and debris. Once the holes and pockets are clogged, they can become very difficult to clean out – which ultimately creates less overall surface area.
  • Hard Water: Lava rock naturally contains a variety of minerals, including iron and magnesium, that could affect your water’s pH, making it harder. Hard water could make it more difficult to treat algae that forms.
  • It’s Heavy!: They may be porous chunks of rock, but hefting bags of it takes some strength – particularly when its wet and full of gunk.

Benefits of BioBalls

Bioballs, like The Pond Guy® BioBalls™ filter media, are plastic spheres made up of dozens of thin rods that provide plenty of surface area for beneficial bacteria to thrive. Two hundred of the bioballs in a mesh bag will filter about 1,000 gallons of water in a pond with minimal fish.

Compared to lava rock, bioballs have some definite benefits.

  • Easy to Clean: Bioballs can also become clogged, by they’re easy to clean. Just rinse them off with water from your pond and you’ll be good to go.
  • Indefinite Lifetime: Because they’re made from long-lasting material, bioballs will not degrade and will function equally well year after year.
  • Shape Shifters: The bioballs’ round shape allows them to more easily conform to any filter, no matter its shape.
  • Lightweight, Easy to Handle: Each one of these tiny, 1 1/2-inch plastic spheres weighs a scant 0.3 ounces; 200 of them weigh a whopping 3 1/2 pounds. They’re easy to deposit and remove from your filter thanks to a mesh filter bag.

Consider making the switch from lava rock to bioballs. You’ll see better results and you’ll need to do less maintenance. What’s better than that?

Pond Talk: Why do you prefer bioballs over lava rock?

Lightweight & Easy to Clean - The Pond Guy® BioBalls™

I want to upgrade my filtration system. What are my options? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I want to upgrade my filtration system. What are my options?

Q: I want to upgrade my filtration system. What are my options?

Brock – Baton Rouge, LA

A: In just about every pond keeper’s life, the time comes when they want (or need) to upgrade their filtration system. Whether they’re looking for a filter that will handle a higher fish load, a three-in-one system that has UV light built right in, or one that’ll efficiently skim out leaves falling from that overgrown maple tree, a new filtration system can improve water quality – and give hobbyists a fun new water garden gadget to play with.

Ready to check out some options? Below, we’ve outlined several upgrade choices for your pond filtration system.

  • In-Pond Filtration Systems: The ClearSolution™ 4-in-1 Pond Filtration System is an ideal upgrade for ponds 1,200 gallons or less, particularly if the existing filter is a waterfall filter box. This unit uses mechanical and biological filtration media to remove large debris and dissolved organics, while a powerful ultraviolet clarifier clears discolored water. The system also features a compact energy-efficient mag-drive pump, which circulates water through the filtration system and discharges it through a fountain head attachment or a diverter valve. You can upgrade your filter and add a fountain!
  • External Pressurized Filters: For those with larger ponds up to 4,800 gallons, the AllClear™ PLUS & SolidFlo™ Combo Kits offer mechanical, biological and ultraviolet filtration in an efficient, economical filtration unit – but it also includes a back-flush system that allows you to clean the filter with the turn of a dial and rinse away waste water and debris via a discharge outlet. The AllClear™ PLUS system with SolidFlo™ Solid Handling Pump is great upgrade for existing ponds with high fish populations.
  • Waterfall Filter Boxes: Add a water feature to your pond while stepping up your filtration with a waterfall filter box, like the ClearSpring™ Waterfall Filter. The unit houses Bio-Balls and two filter pads of varying density for maximum filtration. For the waterfall pattern, you can choose between two included weir options – a traditional smooth sheet-like surface and a ribbed pattern. You can even plumb multiple boxes together via FPT inlets located on both sides of the waterfall box.
  • Skimmer Boxes: A skimmer is a practical upgrade in ponds with a lot of leaves. If your pond requires a high-volume pump that you want to hide, or if you want to add some extra mechanical filtration, check out the TetraPond® In-Pond Skimmer. This unit includes a large removable debris basket and an automatically adjustable weir door for maximum surface cleaning. And it’s easy to install: Place the skimmer on the bottom of your pond, weigh it down with gravel, connect it to your pump and let the skimming begin!

A new filtration system is a great investment in your hobby. Whichever you choose, have fun and enjoy the upgrade!

Pond Talk: What kinds of upgrades have you done to your filtration system?

Create a Beautiful Waterfall - The Pond Guy (r) ClearSpring(t) Waterfall Filter

Can you add too much beneficial bacteria to your pond? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Can you add too much beneficial bacteria to your pond?

Q: Can you add too much beneficial bacteria to your pond?

Michelle – Norman, OK

A: They say too much of anything is bad. In this case, too much beneficial bacteria isn’t necessarily bad – but your pocketbook might be getting a little lighter.

The Cycle of Life

Beneficial bacteria, those debris-gobbling microorganisms found in our Nature’s Defense®, Muck Defense® and Seasonal Defense®, lives just like other living things. They’re born (well, most bacteria come into the world via a kind of cellular division called binary fission), they eat food that’s available to them (organic debris in your pond), they divide to perpetuate the population, and they die when their life cycle is complete.

Survival of the Fittest

When too many bacteria live in your water feature, they battle and compete for resources rather than growing big and healthy and reproducing. A la Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection, the weaker organisms ultimately starve and die. The overall bacteria populations drop, and the pond owner then needs to buy more to replace what he or she has lost to keep up on managing the nutrient load. Those repopulation costs could certainly add up over a while!

Too Much of a Good Thing

Having too much beneficial bacteria in your pond is safe for plants and fish in most cases. But if your pond has a lot of organic buildup, a lot of beneficial bacteria and inadequate aeration, could be a recipe for disaster for your fish. As those bacteria launch their full-scale attack against all that detritus, they deplete the water of oxygen – which the fish needs to survive. An aeration system, like the PondAir™ or KoiAir™Aeration Systems, can help in cases like that by supplying the oxygen and circulating the water column.

The Right Dose

Our advice: For routine maintenance, dose your pond according to the instructions on Nature’s Defense®, Muck Defense® and Seasonal Defense® labels. After clean-outs or treatments, you can use a double dose of bacteria to kick-start the repopulation process, but no more than that. And, if you don’t have one installed already, consider adding aeration to your pond. All your pond’s inhabitants – from microorganism to macro organisms – will appreciate it!

Pond Talk: Have you ever added too much beneficial bacteria to your pond? If so, what were the repercussions?

Maintain a Healthy Balanced Pond - Pond Logic (r) Nature's Defense (r)

Why are water changes important? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Why are water changes important?

Q: Why are water changes important?

Shirley – Warr Acres, OK

A: It’s nice to open a window on a warm spring day and let the fresh air flow through your house, right? Well, a partial or complete water change in your koi pond or water garden is the same thing: It freshens your finned pals’ environment, making them happy and healthy.

Here are five reasons why water changes are so important to your fish, plants and other aquatic life:

  1. Nutrient Removal: Muck and debris buildup happens in just about every water feature. A water change manually removes any excess nutrients and chemicals like nitrates, phosphates and ammonia that can be harmful to fish and other underwater critters.
  2. Healthy Fish: Fresh, clean water means improved water quality, which ultimately promotes your fishes’ health. Just as you need oxygen to thrive, your fish need clean water to thrive. Their well being is directly related to the liquid environment in which they live.
  3. Algae Control: Pea soup and string algae feed on all that decomposing waste, which they use as fertilizer. By removing those excess nutrients in the water column with a water change, you can discourage the growth of algae.
  4. Fights Foam: Foam forms when excess organic material has accumulated in your water garden. When this nutrient-laden water pours down your waterfall, the air and water collide, causing the proteins and other organics to be trapped inside bubbles rather than turning into ammonia and nitrites. A water change will quickly reduce that foamy buildup.
  5. Clears Water, Stabilizes pH: A water change will also improve the appearance of cloudy water and maintain pH levels, resulting in a pristine pond filled with healthy fish, lush greenery and clean water.

To keep stress levels down among your fish, we recommend doing partial water changes as soon as water temperatures reach 50° F. In addition, be sure to add some Stress Reducer PLUS and LiquidClear™ to your water. The Stress Reducer PLUS forms a beneficial slime coat on your fish and makes tap water safe for them. The LiquidClear’s™ beneficial bacteria helps to digest dead organics in the water, making it crystal clear.

Pond Talk: How often do you do water changes in your koi pond or water garden?

Builds Protective Slime Coating - Pond Logic (r) Stress Reducer PLUS


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