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How can I keep leaves out of my pond? – Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

How can I keep leaves out of my pond?

How can I keep leaves out of my pond? Rick – Birds, IL

This Tent’s Not for Camping

You may not want to admit it yet, but the summer season is coming to a close. While we love the mild weather and the changing colors of the trees, us water garden owners have to turn our attention to the falling leaves. No worries however, we have one simple tool that you can use to avoid having to deal with leaves falling into your water garden.

We are of course talking about pond netting. If you dealt with Herons in the summer you may already have a pond net on hand. While they are great for keeping unwanted predators out of your pond they are more commonly used for keeping leaves and other blowing debris from falling in. There are two basic styles of pond netting you can purchase. The most simplistic version of this being a pre cut piece of mesh netting. This netting is available in an Economy Grade which is ideal for single season use or a Heavy Duty version. You can pull this mesh tight across the surface of your pond and secure it using stakes or rocks. This application works well for water gardens that may receive minimal amounts of debris. If you are in a heavily wooded area or are prone to massive amounts of debris you will be better off utilizing a Pond Protector Net Kit that implements a domed design to better protect your pond. The netting included with the kit extends beyond the tent-style frame allowing you to pull netting along the contours of your pond so there are no gaps left open for debris to enter.

Keeping leaves out of your pond in the fall will help keep the pond clean and manageable going into the colder seasons and will ensure a faster, easier cleanout and start up next season. Leaves left in the pond to decompose tend to create “tea-colored” water due to the tannins they release in the decomposition process. You can fill Media Bags with Activated Carbon and place them in your filter boxes to help clear the water if this happens to you. Also continue to use Nature’s Defense and Muck Defense to manage the muck left behind by decomposing leaves and fish waste. As water temperatures fall below 50 degrees Fahrenheit you can switch from Nature’s Defense and Muck Defense to Seasonal Defense. Seasonal Defense is a cool water natural bacteria that will continue the decomposition process throughout the fall and winter.

POND TALK: Do you fight to keep leaves out of your pond in the Fall? Has a pond net helped make your end of season ponding easier and more enjoyable?

Keep the leaves out!

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?

Do I Need To Fertilize My Plants And If I Do Will It Encourage Algae Growth? – Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Do I need to fertilize my plants and if I do will it encourage algae growth?

Do I need to fertilize my plants and if I do will it encourage algae growth? Ben – Shelley, ID

Here We Grow Again

Behind the scenes your Aquatic Plants are working hard to filter nutrients from the water in your pond, provide shelter for its residents, and keep algae blooms to a minimum. While this may seem impressive to some, it is hard for most pond owner to get excited about aquatic plants unless they can do all of this work while looking good. Whoever coined the phrase “Looks aren’t everything” obviously never owned a water garden.

If your aquatic plants are failing to impress you can use some plant fertilizer to give them the boost they need to ensure your pond has more buds and less duds this season. The type of fertilizer you use will depend on the type of plants in your pond and how they are implemented.

Liquid fertilizers like Microbe-Lift Bloom & Grow are mixed directly into your pond water, providing a readily available food source throughout the entire pond. This type of application is great for ponds with an abundance of scattered plants, Floating Plants, and plants that are in areas lacking Planting Media.

Concentrated fertilizers like TetraPond LilyGro Tablets and Laguna Fertilizer Pond Spikes are used for potted plants or plants with roots planted in media. Simply push these fertilizers into the planting media and they will gradually release nutrients that your plants. When you are using concentrated fertilizers in your pond, carefully read the directions for each individual product for specific application instructions and warnings. For example, when using LilyGro tablets you will want to place them about 3” away from the crown of the plant to ensure the fertilizer does not burn the roots or stem.

The amount of fertilizer you need and intervals at which you re-apply them will depend on which type you are using and variable factors such as average water temperatures and how many plants are in the pond. Applications can range from once a season to ever 2-4 weeks. Whichever type or brand of fertilizer you use in your pond make sure it is low in or completely free of phosphates which can encourage algae growth. Microbe-Lift Bloom & Grow is an entirely phosphate free product.

Fertilizing your plants will encourage increased growth and color in healthy plants to push them to perform at their best. Fertilizers will not be an effective substitute for gardening know how. If your plants are constantly dieing make sure they are being planted in the right Temperature Zone and are being used in the correct applications. Bog Plants like Dwarf Cattails for example should not be entirely submerged in your pond, tropical plants like Antares should not be planted in cold climates and so on.

Do some homework, read the descriptions and text included with your plants and fertilizers to ensure you select the correct products for you unique water gardening scenario. Once your aquatic plants are established and growing, you can then decide if you need fertilizer to give them a kick in the bud to bloom at their best.

Pond Talk:What aquatic plants do you use in your pond and which types of fertilizers do you use for them?

Fertilizer Pond Spikes

What does filter media do for my water garden? – Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Savio Skimmer

Q. What does filter media do for my water garden? – Debbie in Illinois

Keep It Clean
With all of the pads, balls and nets in this blog you might think The Pond Guy has hung up his waders and opened a sporting goods store. Not to worry pond guys and gals, we are of course talking about filter media in your water garden.

Hey! Nice Pad!
When you look inside your filter, whether it’s a waterfall filter or pressurized filter, you may notice there are assortments of pads, balls, etc. These are called filter media. This filter media serves a vital purpose in any water garden.

Bio Blox Filter MediaFilter media are specifically designed to help colonize a ton of natural bacteria in a small area. As fish excrete waste, ammonia levels began to rise. Without enough natural bacteria, ammonia levels can become so high your fish will become stressed which can eventually to death. Natural bacteria will grow in a water garden without filter media, but unfortunately it is very minimal and never enough to keep up with high ammonia levels.

Less IS More
Many pond owners often think that a clean filter pad will lead to a cleaner pond. This is not the case. As it takes several weeks for nitrifying bacteria to colonize, many pond owners often clean their filter media as soon as it gets dirty. This unfortunately defeats the purpose of the biological functions of the filter media. Some of our readers have written in telling us that this buildup is even blocking or restricting water flow. It is most likely debris or algae being picked up from the water, not the bacteria causing this issue. If necessary, to clean filter media we highly suggest removing the filter media from the filter and placing into a bucket of “pond water” and gently swish the media back and forth. Do not scrub, or use tap water to clean the filter pads. Again, this will cause a loss in natural bacteria. If you accidentally do clean your filter pads, you can use PL Gel on your filter pads to colonize the bacteria faster. It is known throughout the pond industry to reduce colonization by up to 80%!

To prevent blockages to your biological filters use a pump pre filter or a skimmer which includes a net or debris basket along with its own filter pad. This will prevent large debris from getting to your filter. Vacuuming will pick up debris and muck from the pond floor also preventing clogs. Placing these “pre-filters” as buffers will ensure a shorter, easier cleaning time as well as make certain that your beneficial bacteria are left alone to flourish and protect your water garden.

POND TALK: How have you tackled filtration in your water garden? How often do you find yourself cleaning your filters?

Filter media is a must for healthy ponds!

When should I start using my DefensePAC®? – Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Dyed Pond

When should I start using my DefensePAC®? – Sherry in Ohio

Ladies and Gentlemen, Start Your… Barley?
You’ve bought the products; you’ve read the blogs; now it’s time to get your feet wet. Whether you are starting your water garden up for the first time this season or your pond is operating through the Winter/Spring transition, it’s time to break out the barley.

Some Like It Hot, Some Like It Cold
For those of you pond guys and gals who experience freezing temperatures, you are probably waiting for the ice to melt to start up the pumps and filters in your water garden. When that glorious day comes, take some time and install new filter media, vacuum the bottom of the pond, and clean up the rocks and walls with you Oxy-Lift™ Defense®. Now that your water garden is up and running, it is time for some Seasonal Defense®, a natural bacteria that incorporates barley and is designed to work in cooler temperatures. This bacteria will jump start your biological filters and devour organic debris, allowing you to gain control of your pond earlier in the season. As we progress into late spring and the water temperatures begin to rise above 50ºF, you can switch over to your Nature’s Defense®.

Don’t Get Lost In The Mix
So, now we know Nature’s Defense® performs best in warmer temperatures, while Seasonal Defense® goes to work for you when it’s cold. When do you break out the Muck Defense® and Clarity Defense® to really get the party started? Clarity Defense® should be used whenever your water garden is open. It will work in any temperature, locking up suspended nutrients, resulting in clearer water and increasing the effectiveness of all natural bacteria. You can start using your Muck Defense® the same time you begin applications of Nature’s Defense®. While Nature’s Defense® is working on the organics floating in the water column, Muck Defense® will be at the bottom of the pond, eating away at sunken debris.

POND TALK: How do you use your DefensePAC® to kick off the season? Which DefensePAC® products do you feel go to work the best for you?

Do I really need a pond deicer? It costs a small fortune to run it. Are there any other options? – Water Garden & Features Q & A

The price of running a deicer can cost more then $75 per month!

Water Garden & Features Q & A

Q: Do I really need a pond deicer? It costs a small fortune to run it. Are there any other options? – Mary in Indiana

A: You’re right! Some pond deicers do cost a lot of money to run – but there is an alternative. Unless you’re lucky enough to live in a climate that doesn’t freeze, your going to need some type of device to keep a hole open in the pond during winter months. When a pond develops a layer of ice, a deicer is used to melt a small hole in the ice allowing toxic gases to escape and oxygen to enter the pond. For years, this has been accomplished by just using a deicer.

Unfortunately, the deicer can also melt a hole in your wallet. Pond heaters use anywhere from 100 watts (for ponds up to 600 gallons) to 1,500 watts (for ponds up to1,000 gallons) of electricity. When you consider utilities charge from 8 to 15 cents per kilowatt hour (1,000 watts of electricity used in one hour) depending on the location, the price of running a deicer can cost more then $75 per month!

The good news is that an aeration system can also keep a hole in the ice – and do so for a lot less money. For instance, Water Garden Aeration Kits use a high-efficiency air compressor that operates with as little 12 watts (that’s 88–99% electricity savings!) of electricity to push air to the diffuser. The action created by the air causes the ice to weaken, eventually creating a hole. This aerator also helps to add oxygen and circulate the water below the surface.

To install an aeration kit in your decorative pond, place the compressor near your power source. Make sure the compressor is covered – a faux rock cover is perfect for this application. Attach one end of airline tubing to the compressor and the other end to the diffuser. Place the diffuser away from the deepest point of your pond and no more than 4 feet below the surface. Plug it in and you’re ready for the cold weather!

Another benefit to an aeration system is that they can be used all year long. Aeration works great in the summer, providing oxygen for your fish and keeping your pond free of muck and debris.

If you already have a pond deicer and plan to run it this winter, save money with the ThermoCube – it can cut your electrical cost in half!

POND TALK: What are some other ways to keep a hole in the ice?

I want to leave my pond running through the winter. Can I do so without damaging the equipment? – Water Garden & Features Q & A

Picture of a water garden in winter.

Water Garden & Features Q & A

Q: I want to leave my waterfall running through the winter. Can I do so without damaging the equipment? – Karen in New York

UPDATED: A: A majority of water garden owners will shut down their water gardens entirely during the Winter, but there are a few that don’t.

It’s really beautiful to see a waterfall with pieces of ice around it. You’ll actually begin to see sections where the water flows underneath the ice throughout the stream. It really is a beautiful scene.

Here are a few factors to be aware of when running the waterfall and stream throughout the Winter:

Pump Size (Gallons Per Hour): The amount of GPH or gallons per hour of a pump must be greater than 2,000 as the water is coming down the waterfall and stream. If this flow is not obtained, then there is a greater possibility the water could freeze, causing ice dams in the stream and pushing the water over and out the side of the stream. If this happened, your water garden would be drained in no time.

Pump Location: If your pump is located directly in the pond and not in a skimmer, make sure that it is located in at least 24″ of water. Don’t place the pump on the very bottom of the pond. Your fish go to the bottom of the pond to hibernate during the winter.

Long Streams Beware: Even if you have 2,000 GPH of water coming down the stream, if the stream is quite long, longer than 10′ or 15′, then I wouldn’t suggest to run the system throughout the winter. In long streams, there is more opportunity for ice dams to form and thus draining your water garden. If your stream is longer than 10′ to 15′ and you still want to try and run your system I would advise you to use a little bit more flow than 2,000 GPH and to watch it regularly to make sure these ice dams are not created.

Pressurized Filters: If you use a pressurized filter in your pond I would recommend NOT to run the water through it during the winter time. It is best to drain the pressurized filter to prevent any water from freezing and damaging the equipment.

Consider a back-up plan: If you live in a freezing climate and you keep your pond running, you run the risk of damaging your plumbing and filtration system if the water stops flowing. If your pond design allows the water to flow back into the pond in the event of a power outage, you can avoid the problem.

In freezing climates, certain water features, like spitters or decorative fountains, will need to be shut down until spring. Simply drain the water from the feature and remove the pump. Submerge the pump in a 5-gallon bucket filled with water (or per manufacturer’s recommendations), and store it in a place where the water will not freeze. If you don’t keep the pump submerged in water and it dries out, the seals inside the pump could crack, causing the pump not to work properly.

POND TALK: If you’ve kept your pond running through the winter, what challenges did you face?

How do I prepare my fish for winter? Do I need to bring them inside? – Water Garden & Features Q & A

Allow harmful gases to escape by adding a diffuser.

Water Garden & Features Q & A

Q: How do I prepare my fish for winter? Do I need to bring them inside? – Liz in Michigan

A: As the temperatures fall, we may be pulling out our winter coats and goulashes, but your fish don’t need them at all! In fact, pond fish, like koi and goldfish, do quite well in a pond over the winter – even if it freezes over – as long as your pond is at least 18 inches deep (though we recommend 24 inches to be certain the fish don’t turn into popsicles). The fish will go into their annual torpor, or dormancy, and will require little more than clean, oxygen-rich water to survive.

To ensure they get that life-sustaining oxygen, you will need to do four things:

1. Remove debris from the pond. In the fall, before ice forms, give your pond or water feature a good cleaning. Rake out debris, trim dead leaves off plants, net floating leaves and remove as much detritus as possible so very little will be decomposing – and releasing harmful gasses – through the cold months.

2. Add some beneficial bacteria. Also in the fall, you may want to add some beneficial bacteria, like Pond Logic®’s Seasonal Defense®. It accelerates the decomposition of leaves, scum and sediment that builds up during the fall and winter months. In the spring, it replenishes winter bacteria loss, jump starts the filter and breaks down unwanted waste, making your pond water ready for a clean spring and summer.

3. Install an aerator or air stone. Colder water holds more oxygen than warmer water, but you’ll still want to inject air into the pond during the winter months, especially if your pond freezes over. One or two air stones or a diffuser placed in a shallow part of your pond will be enough to aerate the water and keep a small hole in the ice, which will allow harmful gasses to escape and oxygen to enter.

4. Hook up a heater. If you live in a frigid area where the ice on your pond builds to an inch or more, you can use a floating heater or de-icer, like the Thermo Pond, that melts through the ice. Again, it’s critical to keep an open hole in the ice to allow for gas exchange.

In most cases, your fish will be just fine through the winter months. When the water warms, you can begin feeding them again and enjoying them for yet another year!

POND TALK: How do you prepare your fish for winter?

How do I control algae in my decorative pond, both long term and short term? – Water Garden & Features Q & A

All Rest, No Algae.

Water Garden & Features Q & A

Q: How do I control algae in my decorative pond, both long term and short term?
- Stefanie in Michigan

A: Algae blooms are the bane of most pond owners. All summer, they rear their green heads and turn a beautiful pond or water feature into a soupy or stringy mess. But with some planning, both the floating (pea-soup algae) and filamentous (string algae) species can be controlled in the short term and prevented in the long term. Here’s how:

Short-Term Solution

To get your decorative pond looking clean and clear right away, you’ll need to knock down the algae population by using a chemical herbicide, like AlgaeFix or TetraPond’s Algae Control. These algae-busters are safe for use in ponds with fish, but because they destroy algae so quickly, they can cause a drop in oxygen levels in your pond, especially during the warm summer months. Be sure that your pond is adequately aerated with a fountain, waterfall or underwater air diffuser.

Long-Term Prevention

To prevent that green goo from surfacing again, you need to limit its food source: Nutrients. Algae thrive on nutrients, which are the end product of the nitrogen cycle. The nitrogen cycle begins with ammonia released from fish waste and detritus. Nitrifying bacteria turn the ammonia into nitrites and then into nitrates (nutrients). The algae grow, the fish eat it and excrete it, and the cycle begins again.

So, how do you control the algae’s food source?
Try these approaches:

  • Keep your fish load to a minimum. Most pond owners love their fish, but if they plan to have 60 12-inch koi in a 1,000-gallon pond, they’re going to have an algae problem – which can be expensive to manage. So, when calculating your fish load, think of it in pounds of fish or total inches per gallon. Remember that your fish are growing and possibly multiplying, so plan for the future and remember: Less is best. Be careful not to overstock your decorative pond.
  • Increase the number of aquatic plants. Whether they’re submerged plants like hornwort, marginals like dwarf bamboo, or floating plants like water lilies and water hyacinth, aquatic plants consume the same food that algae does – nutrients. The more plants, the more the algae have to compete for those nutrients. Floating plants also shade the pond, which filters the sunlight and can slow the growth of sun-loving algae. You should try to cover 40 to 60 percent of your pond’s surface with floaters.
  • Check the filtration. The size and type of filtration system on a pond will depend on the fish load. If the filter is not properly sized for maximum potential, the fish will outgrow the filter and produce unhealthy amounts of ammonia, which could prove lethal to the fish. An inappropriately sized filter can also cause an algae bloom from the copious amounts of nutrients in the water. In most cases, filters on the market are rated for ponds containing no fish or a minimal fish load, so you should consider a filter that is rated for at least two times the water volume of your pond.
  • Toss in some beneficial bacteria. In addition to ensuring the proper mechanical filtration, you may also consider adding some additional biological filtration – beneficial bacteria – to your pond. These hungry creatures gobble through nutrients, breaking down fish waste, leaves and other organics that accumulate in the pond. One product to try is called DefensePAC® by Pond Logic®. It’s a combination of five products that provide beneficial bacteria, trace minerals, and a fish and plant-safe pond cleaner.
  • No pond will ever be completely algae-free, but the key to keeping the green stuff under control is to limit its food supply. Like any other living thing, if it can’t eat, it can’t survive!

    POND TALK: When was your worst algae bloom, and how did you correct it?

    Why do people put dye in their decorative ponds? – Water Garden & Features Q & A

    Pond Dye

    Water Garden & Features Q & A

    A: If you’re new to the hobby, the thought of adding dye to your pond may seem like a foreign concept! Why would you want to add color to the water that you’re working so hard to keep clear? Well, there are aesthetic reasons – and some practical reasons, too.

    Understanding Dye

    First, let’s discuss the dyes themselves. Pond dye typically comes in two colors: black and blue. Black pond dye, like Pond Logic Black Pearl Pond Dye, gives shaded ponds a rich look and turns a brown or gray water feature into a stunning pool that reflects the trees and landscape. Blue pond dye, like Pond Logic Blue Sapphire Pond Dye, gives ponds a natural-looking blue color and looks best in features surrounded by manicured or open landscapes. You’ll find these pond dyes in concentrated form. When you add the recommended amount, the coloring will diffuse throughout the pond within several hours. They’re safe for people, pets, fish and water fowl.

    Why Dye?

    Adding dye to your decorative pond does more than give your water feature a unique and appealing look. The dye actually serves several purposes, from controlling algae and simulating depth to protecting fish and masking a murky pond.

    Simulate depth: Some people use dye in their ponds to make a shallow pond seem deeper. If you have a 14-inch-deep pond, adding black dye can make it seem 5 feet deep. The optical illusion creates a mirroring effect that appeals to many pond owners.

    Fish safety: When predators fly overhead or lurk alongside the pond, a little pond dye – along with some predator control – will go a long way in protecting your fish. Koi and goldfish will dart to your pond’s dark depths when a heron or raccoon threatens them. The pond dye serves a similar purpose.

    Aesthetics: Of course, aesthetics remain an important reason why folks use dye in their ponds. A crystal blue pond or a rich reflective pond mimics what you’d find in nature. Couple that with a tranquil landscape, and you have an attractive water feature that draws oohs and ahhs!

    Algae control: The top reason why people add dye to their ponds is that it is widely known throughout the industry that it may inhibit algae growth. Algae thrives in sunlight and pond dyes filter those rays, preventing them from reaching below the surface, thereby preventing algae from growing.

    POND TALK: Why do you use pond dye in your decorative pond or water garden? If you don’t use pond dye, why not?

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