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Will I need to top off my pond this winter? If so, how do I stop my hose from freezing? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Will I need to top off my pond this winter? If so, how do I stop my hose from freezing?

Q: Will I need to top off my pond this winter? If so, how do I stop my hose from freezing?

Kirsten – Kalispell, MT

A: Though water fluctuations seem more pronounced in the summertime, winter water loss in your pond will happen. When it does, you’ll need to top it off – but access to liquid water can be a challenge in northern climates where landscapes freeze over.

Reasons for Winter Water Loss

Before we get into how to turn up the heat in your water garden, let’s take a look at why water loss happens during the cold season. It can be caused by the following:

  • Low humidity: When the air contains little moisture, evaporation rates increase as the dry air will absorb the water (frozen or not) from your pond.
  • Windy conditions: Wind can also escalate evaporation in your pond. A 5-mile-per-hour wind at your pond’s surface, for instance, results in roughly three times the rate of evaporation on a still day.
  • Ice expansion, formation: Because frozen water takes up more space than liquid water, it will appear that the volume dissipates in your pond as ice forms and expands.

A small amount of water level fluctuation is OK – but if your pond is very shallow (18 to 24 inches or less) and stocked with fish, keep a very close eye on your water level. A few inches of water loss could leave your fish in ice!

Topping It Off

If your pond’s water level drops more than an inch, you’ll need to top it off. But how do you do that if the pond is covered in a sheet of ice, or if the water in your hose freezes solid as soon as you turn on the spigot?

First, you’ll have to break through the ice. To crack through it, remember to never use a drill, hammer or other blunt object, as the subsurface vibrations could harm your fish. Instead, fill a bucket with hot water and pour it on one area of the pond to melt open a hole in the ice, preferably near the edge.

Next, use the heated K&H™ PVC Thermo-Hose™ to fill up your pond through the hole. The thermostatically controlled hose prevents ice from forming in your faucet or hose. The unit’s built-in heating elements turn on automatically when temperatures dip below freezing so you’ll have liquid water coming out of your hose.

You can use the Thermo-Hose™ two ways: either keep it plugged into a power source all winter, or use it as-needed by plugging it in 30 minutes before use. Either way, hook it up to the spigot or water source only when in use and unhook it when you’re done.

Pond Talk: How much water loss do you experience in your pond over the winter?

Keep Your Water Flowing - K&H (t) PVC Thermo-Hose(t)

Do I need to do anything to my aquatic plants this time of year?| Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Do I need to do anything to my aquatic plants this time of year?

Q: Do I need to do anything to my aquatic plants this time of year?

Jaclyn – Tomahawk, WI

A: Shorter days and swaths of fall colors mean one thing: winter is on its way, and your aquatic plants will need some attention before the big chill sets in. 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 take care of some winter-prep pond plant chores!

Tropical Plants: Tropical water lilies, water hyacinth, water lettuce and other tropical plants prefer warm temperatures all year long. If you live in USDA Hardiness Zone nine or lower, you’ll need to completely remove these plants from your pond and relocate them to a protected indoor space for the winter, like an aquarium or large bucket inside a heated garage or workshop.

Tropical water lilies will need some extra care. When you pull the plants from your pond, remove any dead foliage, rinse the plant well, keep the tuber moist in distilled water and place it under a grow light until spring.

Keep in mind that despite these winterizing measures, your tropical aquatic plants might not survive the winter. They are from the tropics, after all …

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. Remove the plants from the pond, trim the foliage back to one to two inches above the root ball, and submerge them as low as they’ll go for the winter. Come spring, the greenery will reemerge healthy as ever from the plants’ crowns.

Bog Plants: Your bog plants’ leaves and stems will begin to die off as winter arrives, so you’ll need to trim them back to just above the soil with pond scissors. If they are in containers, sink them lower into the deepest parts of your pond where the water remains unfrozen during the wintertime. If they are planted directly into the ground, leave them alone for the winter.

Submerged Plants: The only thing your below-the-surface greenery needs is a quick trim to get rid of decaying and dead foliage. Cut plants in containers back to one inch above the pot and submerge in the center of the pond; any plants living directly in the ground can be left as-is.

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

While you’re preparing your plants for winter, take some time to do a little clean up around your pond. Remove any dead leaves and foliage, and rake or net out leaves and fallen debris. Water quality matters – even in the winter!

Pond Talk: How long does it take you to prepare your aquatic plants for winter?

Keep Your Hands Clean & Dry- Coralife(r) AquaGloves(t)

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)

The string algae seems to grow in just a few hours in my stream. What can I do? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: The string algae seems to grow in just a few hours in my stream. What can I do?

Q: The string algae seems to grow in just a few hours in my stream. What can I do?

Edith – Marion, IN

A: String algae. It seems to just grow and grow, leaving a tangled mess of green slimy stuff in your stream and water garden. Like other types of algae, string algae thrives on sunlight and excess nutrients like fish waste and decomposing organic matter in the water. If you want to get rid of it, check out this five-step plan designed to get your string algae problem under control.

  • Add Plants: Water lilies, water hyacinth, water lettuce and other floating aquatic plants look much nicer than algae, right? These ornamental plants will compete for the food source algae uses for growth, so plant away! A simple rule of thumb is to have 60 percent of your pond covered with submerged, floating and marginal plants.
  • Ration Fish Food: Those pellets and sticks are necessary to feed your finned friends, but keep in mind that fish food adds nutrients to the water in two ways: as wasted food that the fish don’t eat, and as waste after the fish digest it. Monitor how much your fish actually eat and cut back if possible.
  • Pump Up Filtration: If your filtration system isn’t powerful enough to handle your pond’s total fish load, you’ll wind up with burgeoning algae growth and, in worst-case scenarios, lethal levels of ammonia – neither of which you want. Many filters on the market are rated for ponds containing no fish or minimal fish, so get a filter that is rated for at least two times the water volume of your pond.
  • Turn Up Aeration: Beneficial bacteria, like those found in the DefensePAC®, naturally break down fish waste, but they need oxygen to thrive and reproduce. By adding a PondAir™ Aeration System, you’ll boost the oxygen in the water, increase your bacteria levels and reduce the nutrient load, thereby reducing algae growth.
  • Use Oxy-Lift™ Defense®: As needed throughout the season, use Oxy-Lift™ Defense® to lift string algae from waterfalls, streams and rocks. Simply shut down your waterfall, sprinkle the powder directly onto debris-covered areas and watch it instantly start foaming. In 24 hours, it will have removed the algae. Be sure to pull out any debris with a pond net.

String algae may seem like a never-ending battle, but you can manage it with these tried-and-true methods. Good luck!

Pond Talk: How often do you need to scrub string algae from your waterfall or stream?

Lift Debris From Waterfalls Instantly - Pond Logic (r) Oxy-Lift(t) Defense (r)

I just bought a plant package. What should I do now? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I just bought a plant package. What should I do now?

Q: I just bought a plant package. What should I do now?

Rick – Winchester, NH

A: Congratulations! For water garden enthusiasts like us, opening an aquatic plant package is like celebrating Christmas in spring. A box of colorful flower tubers, oxygenating plants and algae-eating snails arrives at your doorstep, and you get to look forward to a season of fun in your backyard playground.

Depending on the package size (small, medium or large) you received, you’ll get:

  • Water lilies
  • Floating plants, like water hyacinth, water lettuce and parrot’s feather
  • Bog plants, like blue flag iris and dwarf cattail
  • Pond snails

These pond plants work together to shade the pond, aerate and filtrate the water, provide habitat for wildlife and insects (and your snails), and beatify your landscape.

Ready to get growing? Here’s how to care for – and play with – your Christmas-in-spring present.

Pond Snails

After traveling all those agitating miles to your doorstep, the Black Japanese Trapdoor Pond Snails may appear lifeless or even dead, but don’t worry: They’re most likely hiding inside their shells. Wake them up and welcome them to your garden by filling the bag halfway with pond water, and then floating or holding it for a few minutes while the gastropods acclimate to the new environment. Then place the open bag in a shallow area and let them work their way out and into the deeper section of your pond.

Plant Care

Before your plant package arrives, purchase some planting containers (like baskets, bags or pots) and aquatic planting media. Use soil designed for water gardens; avoid using bagged potting mix and other lightweight soils from your local garden center, as they will float and cloud the water in your pond.

  • Water lilies: With your pots and plant media ready, take out your water lily tubers and place one inside a pot with the growing tip facing outward. Fill in around the tuber with the aquatic planting media, making sure the roots are well spread and the crown is sitting just below the soil surface. Place the planted pot in a shallow area of your pond to encourage faster growth. Once leaves have reached the surface, you can move the water lily to a deeper part of your pond.
  • Floating Plants: These plants are easy to propagate. Simply place in the water! They will float freely and take up nutrients from the water through their root systems.
  • Bog Plants: Like the water lilies, these around-the-edge plants require a pot and planting material. Position the tubers in the media so that the cut end of the tuber is against the side of the pot, not in the middle. Why? Because the roots need as much room as possible to spread through the soil and across the container. Once it’s planted, submerge the container on a shelf that’s up to 6 inches below the water surface.

Keep Them Growing

Like the plants growing in your vegetable garden, your aquatic plants will require fertilizer to help them grow healthy and strong. Spikes or tabs, like CrystalClear® Thrive™ tablets, can be pushed into the soil at planting time. They’ll slowly release into the media, feeding your lilies and irises the nutrients they need to thrive. From April through August, continue to feed your plants, following all manufacturers’ recommendations for fertilizer application rates.

Pond Talk: What’s your favorite aquatic plant?

Pot Your Plants with Beneficial Bacteria - Microbe-Lift(r) Aquatic Planting Media

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

How often should I be changing my UV bulb? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: How often should I be changing my UV bulb?

Q: How often should I be changing my UV bulb?

Deborah – Providence Forge, VA

A: Your UV bulb is an important component of your pond’s filtration system. The bulb’s ultraviolet rays destroy the ultra-fine planktonic algae that cause green water by destroying the plant’s cellular walls. The tiny dead algae particles are then removed by your mechanical filtration system, leaving behind clean, clear water.

UV Ready

For maximum effectiveness, you should change your UV bulb at least once a year, such as when you perform your pond’s annual spring cleanout. If you’ve recently changed your bulb and your water is still turning pea soup green, you might need to simply clean off debris that has built up on the bulb itself.

Whether you have a standalone UV clarifier, like the PowerUV™ or one that’s part of a filtration system, like our ClearSolution™, use a soft cloth when cleaning or changing the bulb rather than using your bare hands. The oils on your skin can actually shorten the lifespan of your bulb.

Unfortunately, a UV clarifier does not affect string algae at all, so you’ll need to use AlgaeOff™ or AlgaeFix® to rid your pond of it. But if your pond turns green from planktonic algae every year from full sun exposure or too many fish, a UV clarifier is an excellent solution.

Preventing Algae Growth

Though UV bulbs do a great job with green water, an even better solution is to prevent algae growth in the first place. Planktonic algae flourishes in ponds that have nutrient-rich water—meaning water that has lots of fish waste, leftover fish food, decomposing plant material and even fertilizer from your lawn.

You can tamp that green growth down by reducing the number of fish in your pond, minimizing the amount of food you feed them and cleaning up the waste they produce, as well as regularly removing the built-up detritus.

Consider using the Pond Logic® DefensePAC®, which uses beneficial bacteria to improve water quality throughout your water column, eliminate muck and built-up debris, and enhance fish health. With quick and easy application, you’ll see noticeable results in no time.

Pond Talk: Besides using a UV bulb, what do you do to reduce or eliminate planktonic algae in your pond?

Replace Your UV Bulb Yearly - Replacement UV Bulbs

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