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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

Do I need to put a net over my pond? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Do I need to put a net over my pond?

Q: Do I need to put a net over my pond?

Fred – Chicago, IL

A: With fall approaching, we’ve been talking a lot about why and how you should cover your pond with a net. A net’s purpose—to prevent leaves and debris from landing in your water garden and decomposing into muck—is fairly obvious, but is it a requirement?

Nope. Just because you have a pond doesn’t mean you need to cover it with a net.

When considering whether you should add one to your fall prepping kit, first take a look around. Is your yard (or your neighbor’s) filled with deciduous trees or needle-dropping conifers?

If so, you will need to cover your pond with The Pond Guy® Fine Mesh Pond Netting or a Pond Logic® PondShelter™ to protect it from the falling leaves and needles.

  • Pond Netting: Made with clear, heavy-duty 1/8-inch mesh in a variety of sizes to fit most ponds, the Fine Mesh Pond Netting will keep your water garden protected from small, stubborn debris like pine needles while still allowing for sunlight penetration and aesthetic enjoyment. It comes with plastic stakes to keep it in place.
  • PondShelter: In addition to its 16-foot-by-11-foot swath of ¼-inch mesh netting, the PondShelter™ Kit includes a fully adjustable aluminum frame that easily adjusts to most landscapes, along with 30 metal stakes to keep it securely in place.

If your skies are clear from leaf- and needle-dropping trees, you don’t need pond netting—but you will need to pull out your 3-in-1 Pond Net to manually remove any leaves and debris that do land in your pond. Even if you have no trees in your yard, stragglers will inevitably blow in, and so you should be prepared to fish them out with this handy-dandy telescoping tool.

Whether you need a net to shelter your pond or a handheld net to manually remove debris, make sure you keep yourself covered by using Seasonal Defense®. The beneficial bacteria in this cool-water product will go to work breaking down any muck that does wind up building up.

Pond Talk: What tips do you have for new hobbyists fitting a net onto their pond for the first time?

Keep Leaves & Debris Out - The Pond Guy(r) Fine Mesh Pond Netting

Do I need a heater to overwinter my fish in the pond? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Do I need a heater to overwinter my fish in the pond?

Q: Do I need a heater to overwinter my fish in the pond?

Pat – Far Hills, NJ

A: Unless you house warm-water fish like Plecostomus in your water feature, you won’t need a heater to heat things up. Most pond fishes, including koi and goldfish, will overwinter just fine in their outdoor digs because they go into a pseudo-hibernation state when water temperatures fall. Their metabolisms slow and they’re able to tolerate cooler water—even water that’s frigid enough to freeze.

If you live in a climate that experience those freezing temperatures, what we recommend is a de-icer or aerator (rather than a heater) to keep a hole in the ice. This hole allows for gas exchange, through which necessary gases like oxygen enter and harmful gases like ammonia escape.

Which option is right for you?

  • De-Icer: A de-icer’s purpose is to float on the surface and melt a hole in ice that has formed on a container of water, whether a koi pond or water garden. Unlike a heater that actually warms the entire body of water, a de-icer like the K&H™ Thermo-Pond 3.0 Pond De-Icer simply melts an opening in the ice sheet, thereby allowing for gas exchange.
  • Aerator: Rather than create a hole in the ice from above, an aerator, like the PondAir™ Aeration Kit, circulates the water below the ice sheet. In areas with relatively mild winters, that subsurface water movement will keep a hole in the ice that allows for gas exchange—but when temps really dip, an aerator may not be enough to maintain a vent hole.
  • De-Icer, Aerator Combo: An excellent and convenient option to consider is the PondAir™ & Thermo-Pond Combo. It combines both the Thermo-Pond and PondAir™ Aeration Kit, providing your water feature the one-two punch it needs to stay well-vented throughout the winter.

If temperatures in your area vary between above- and below-freezing, consider installing a ThermoCube®. The thermostatically controlled outlet turns on when air temperatures drop below 35° Fahrenheit and turns off when air temps rise above 45°F. This handy-dandy device will save you money, which is something we can all appreciate!

Pond Talk: What do you do to keep your finned pals comfortable in the winter?

The Ultimate in Winter Pond Protection - View Pond Logic® PondAir™ & Thermo-Pond Combo

Fall is just around the corner. What kind of prep work should I be doing now? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Fall is just around the corner. What kind of prep work should I be doing now?

Q: Fall is just around the corner. What kind of prep work should I be doing now?

Karen – McHenry, IL

A: Though we all wish summer could linger on forever, the reality of fall—and its associated pond chores—is nearly upon us. Cooler temperatures, shorter days and those brightly colored (and falling) leaves means you need to take a break from summer fun and get to work.

Here’s a quick rundown of the prep work you should be doing now:

Add Bacteria

When temps start to fall (particularly below 50°F), it’s time to add some cool-water beneficial bacteria to your pond, like the tiny muck-eaters in Pond Logic® Seasonal Defense®. They go to work decomposing leaves, scum and sediment that will inevitably build up over the fall and winter, which will result in better water quality for your finned friends.

Clean Up Your Plants

Cut back and remove any dead plant vegetation that’s inside and around your water garden. Use a handy long-reach tool, like the Pond Scissors and Pliers, to cut back water lilies and clear away dead marginals. As the temperatures cool even more, you’ll need to remove floating plants like hyacinth and water lettuce, sink your hardy water lilies and marginals into the deeper areas of your pond to protect them from freezing, and make plans to overwinter your tropical lilies inside.

Cover Up

Blowing leaves and other debris will drop into your pond during the fall, and if you don’t get them out, they’ll decompose over the winter and create a mucky mess in the spring. Plan to put a net over the pond, like the Pond Logic® PondShelter™ Net Kit, to keep them out, and use a skimmer net to remove any stragglers.

Have Supplies Ready

While you’re thinking about fall, now is a great time to stock up on winter water garden supplies. Purchase a six-month supply of Seasonal Defense®. Buy some Spring & Fall Fish Food, which will help your fish transition from their regular diet to one that’s easier to digest in cooler temperatures. Make sure you have an aerator or deicer ready to keep a hole in the ice. Preparing ahead of time will prevent any last-minute scrambling.

Regular Maintenance

Finally, continue to perform regular maintenance chores, like keeping your filter clean and operating well, doing periodic water changes, and feeding and checking on your fish. Summer is nearly over, but don’t neglect your pond-keeping routine!

Pond Talk: What other fall chores do you do in and around your water garden?

Keep Leaves & Predators Out - Pond Logic(r) PondShelter(tm) Cover Net

My lilies are growing outside the pots! How do I divide my water lilies? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

My lilies are growing outside the pots! How do I divide my water lilies?

Q: My lilies are growing outside the pots! How do I divide my water lilies?

Susan – Centreville, MI

A: Lackluster growth or blooms on your water lilies last season is and indication that it’s time to divide them. Early spring is the best time to divide your water lilies but most varieties of hardy water lilies can be divided anytime during the growing season.

For easiest access, you may want to divide your water lilies during your spring cleanout. Hardy water lilies should be divided every 2-3 years to ensure your lilies are producing beautiful blooms season after season. Dividing lilies may seem complicated, but our step-by-step process will explain exactly what you need to do.

Step 1: Remove lilies from pond or container. Carefully move the plant to a workspace and remove from its container. You may need to cut open the basket depending on how root bound your lily is.

Step 2: Rinse off any old soil and remove roots that are not attached to the plant. Split the crown of the plant with a sharp knife to cut through the creamy white rhizome, saving the youngest parts of the clump, typically around the outside edge, for repotting.

Step 3: Cut the tuber down to size. You can safely cut the tuber down between two to three inches on the growing part with a sharp knife. This can be increased to five to six inches on longer plants. Remember to also cut off new buds and older leaves, so that the new root system has a chance to grow.

Step 4: Use Plant Bags or Plant Baskets to replant your water lilies. Plant each tuber with the growing tip facing outward. Fill in around the tuber with aquatic planting media, such as Microbe-Lift, making sure the roots are spread well and the crown is sitting just below the soil surface.

Step 5: If using a plant basket, place in shallow area of pond to encourage faster growth.

Step 6: Once new leaves have reached the surface, lilies can be moved deeper into the pond.

Don’t forget to fertilize your water lilies monthly during the growing season to keep your plants healthy and gorgeous. Remove spent blooms and old leaves to encourage new growth.

Pond Talk: How often do you divide your water lilies and other aquatic plants?

Flexible Pond Planters For All Your Plant Needs - The Pond Guy® Plant Bags

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

When should I start using the Seasonal Defense® in my DefensePAC®? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

When should I start using the Seasonal Defense® in my DefensePAC®?

Q: When should I start using the Seasonal Defense® in my DefensePAC®?

Chuck – Essex, MD

A: Pond Logic® Seasonal Defense®, which is sold separately and as part of Pond Logic® DefensePAC®, contains aerobic bacteria that’s specially designed for cooler water. In the spring, it replenishes bacteria lost over the winter, jump starts the growth of the waste-gobbling microorganisms and breaks down accumulated waste. It’s a great way to kick off pond season!

Add It At 40 Degrees

Plan to start treating with Seasonal Defense® once your pond is up and running and the water temperature is greater than 40° Fahrenheit. You can expect to use it for about one month, or until the water hits 50°F. Once the thermostat tops 50°F, switch to Nature’s Defense®.

Distribute Evenly

Don’t just pile the Seasonal Defense® packets in one place in your pond. Put a packet in each corner to ensure even spread of the beneficial bacteria and breakdown of accumulated muck. Add some to the filter to concentrate and accelerate new bacteria growth on the filter media. Distribute them evenly—but, of course, follow the package recommendations for dosage rates.

Help the Bacteria Work

Don’t forget to aerate the pond and give it an old-fashioned cleaning to make those bacteria’s jobs easier. Along with running your pond’s pump and filtration system, keep your aeration system going to help move the water, add oxygen and disperse the bacteria throughout the pond.

And before you add the packets, clean out any large debris from the pond. Branches, dead foliage, fallen leaves and any other easy-to-remove organic materials that wound up in the water over the fall and winter should be removed so that the bacteria can better spend their time breaking down fine debris and muck.

Pond Talk: What changes do you have planned for your pond this year?

Jump Start Your Pond This Spring - Pond Logic® Seasonal Defense®

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® Fish 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®

Should I add a de-icer to the aerator in my water garden? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Should I add a de-icer to the aerator in my water garden?

Q: Should I add a de-icer to the aerator in my water garden?

John – Ivoryton, CT

A: Before we broach this hot topic, let’s “break the ice” with a quick look at the differences between a de-icer and an aerator.

De-Icer: A de-icer’s simple purpose is to melt a hole in the ice that has formed on a container of water, whether a koi pond, water garden or livestock trough. Unlike a heater that actually warms the water, a de-icer melts through the ice sheet, thereby allowing harmful below-surface gases to escape and life-sustaining oxygen in.

Aerator: An aerator circulates the water below the sheet of ice that forms on a pond. In areas with relatively mild winters, that subsurface water movement will keep a hole in the ice that allows harmful gases out and oxygen in—but when temps really dip, an aerator may not be enough to maintain a vent hole.

Both a de-icer and an aerator help improve oxygen levels in your pond and, therefore, keep your fish healthy and happy.

If One is Good, are Both Better?

To answer your question: Yes, your aerated pond may appreciate some help from a de-icer, particularly if you live in a region with hard freezes.

Ponds that are already outfitted with an aerator, like one of the Pond Logic® PondAir™ Aeration Kits, benefit from its water circulation—but in areas with frigid winters, those systems may need a little help keeping a hole open in the inches-thick ice. So a de-icer paired with a nearby air stone will ensure the vent hole will remain open.

The opposite is also true. If you have a de-icer in place to keep a hole open in the ice, like the K&H™ Thermo-Pond 3.0 or K&H™ Perfect Climate Pond De-Icer, it’s a great idea to couple that with aeration system. The circulating action will help to encourage the gases forming under the ice at the bottom of the pond to reach the ventilation hole and escape.

If you’re in the market for a de-icer or aeration system, consider investing in a combo unit, such as the Pond Logic® PondAir™ and Thermo-Pond 3.0 De-Icer Combo. It’s the one-two punch your pond needs to keep breathing all winter long!

Pond Talk: With the recent arctic temperatures that have plagued folks in the Midwest and northern states, how have you kept a ventilation hole in your pond or water garden?

Eliminate Harmful Gases- Farm Innovators Floating 1250 Watt De-Icer

Do I need to watch the water levels in my pond during the winter? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Do I need to watch the water levels in my pond during the winter?

Q: Do I need to watch the water levels in my pond during the winter?

Paul – Wixom, MI

A: Even when winter’s chilly grip takes hold, your pond’s water level will still fluctuate. It likely won’t be as dramatic as summertime’s evaporation rates, but you should definitely keep an eye on the amount of liquid stuff in your pond throughout the cold months.

Causes of Winter Water Loss

During the summer, the sun’s warming rays heat the water in your pond and cause it to evaporate—and sometimes very quickly, depending on how warm the air and water temperatures get. But during the wintertime, water loss can be caused by:

  • Dry air: Low humidity—which is when the air contains little water vapor—can increase evaporation rates as the dry air will absorb the moisture from your pond.
  • Winds: Windy conditions 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: The liquid water will appear to dissipate in your pond as ice forms and expands.

A small amount of water level fluctuation is OK—but a few inches of water loss could leave your fish in ice, particularly if your pond isn’t that deep to begin with!

Keep It Topped Off

To keep water levels steady (and your fish thawed and happy), you don’t need to warm the water. Instead, you should plan to top off the pond when it dips more than an inch or two, just as you would during the spring and summer.

When you add water to your water garden, make sure it actually goes into the pond—not just on top of the ice. Feed the water through a hole in the ice using a garden hose or a thermostatically controlled hose such as the K&H™ PVC ThermoHose™, which 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.

If you need to put a hole in the ice that’s on your pond, remember to never bust through it with a drill, hammer or other blunt object as the subsurface vibrations could harm your fish. Fill a bucket with hot water and pour it on one area of the pond to melt open a hole, preferably near the edge.

Pond Talk: How often do you need to top off the water in your pond or water garden during the winter?

Keep Your Hose From Freezing - K&H™ PVC ThermoHose™

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