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Do I need to provide indoor shelter for my pond snails? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Do I need to provide indoor shelter for my pond snails?

Q: Do I need to provide indoor shelter for my pond snails?

Jerry – Kernersville, NC

A: Scientists have identified an estimated 4,000 species of freshwater snails, but one that you might find inhabiting your backyard pond or water garden is the Japanese Trapdoor Pond Snail, also known by its scientific name Viviparis malleatus.

These algae-eating gastropods have extra-special shells with a hinged fingernail-like plate that allows them to seal the shell’s opening, providing protection from drought and predation—hence their “Trapdoor Snail” nickname.

Though these hearty snails overwinter well in harsher northern climates, they do require some attention when temperatures dip. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Cool with Cold-Temperatures: These snails really do well in colder temperatures—in fact, some experts say they’ll do fine in sub-freezing weather, even down to 0 degrees Fahrenheit. When it gets really frigid, they’ll dive to the bottom of the pond, where the water is warmer.
  • Adequate Pond Depth Required: In order for them to be happy and healthy through those chilly winter spells, the snails need the water in your pond’s depth to ideally be 20 to 30 inches. Down there, they’ll happily groom the bottom of your pond, gobbling all the decaying matter like leaves, excess fish food and fish waste.
  • No Habitat Required: Because these little guys carry their homes on their back, you don’t need to provide shelter or food for them. If they feel endangered, they’ll disappear into their shells; if they’re hungry, they’ll nibble on algae that’s on your plants, underwater pots, rocks and walls.
  • Aeration Appreciated: Like any aquatic critter, Trapdoor Snails appreciate oxygen-rich water, and that’s where a subsurface aeration system, like the Pond Logic® PondAir™ Aeration Kit, will help. An adjustable unit like this will infuse your pond with oxygen while remaining whisper quiet.

If you have other types of snails in your pond or water garden, these rules may not apply—so be sure to learn their care requirements as they may need more attention than these hearty Trapdoor Snails.

Pond Talk: Do you have other types of snails in your pond? If so, what kind of care do they require?

Eliminate Harmful Gases - Pond Logic® PondAir™ Aeration Kits

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

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

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

Robert – Reston, VA

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

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

Condition of the Pond

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

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

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

Personal Preference

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

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

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

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

How can I tell if my fish are ready for a lighter diet? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

How can I tell if my fish are ready for a lighter diet?

Q: How can I tell if my fish are ready for a lighter diet?

Steve – Wallingford, PA

A: When feeding your koi and pond fish, a “lighter diet” doesn’t mean that your finned friends need to switch to low-cal, low-fat foods. Instead, it refers to an easy-to-digest wheat germ-based diet that’s formulated for the fishes’ slowed activity and metabolism during the transitional fall and spring months.

Wheat germ-based diets, such as Pond Logic® Spring & Fall Floating Fish Food, TetraPond® Floating Spring & Fall Fish Food and PondCare® Spring & Autumn Fish Food, are packed with vegetable protein, amino acids and digestive enzymes. These diets, which help them ease into and out of winter, are gentle on their digestive systems while keeping their constitutions strong to fight off disease.

How do you know when it’s time to switch diets? Here are three clues:

  • Temperature: When your water temperature is 50 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, you should feed your active, hungry fish protein- and carbohydrate-balanced foods, like Pond Logic® Growth & Color Fish Food. But when water temperatures dip to between 40 to 50 degrees, they require the lighter, wheat germ-based foods. Use your Pond Logic® Floating Pond Thermometer to keep an eye on the water temperature as the days and nights get cooler.
  • Fish Mobility: Are your koi and goldfish moving a bit more slowly than they normally do? That’s another clue that it’s time to switch to a lighter food. Fish will naturally begin to slow down their activity in cooler water as their bodies begin to prepare for their annual “hibernation.”
  • Feeding Interest: As the fish slow their activity and require less food to fuel their metabolisms, they won’t be as interested in the tasty morsels as they are in the summer. So if your koi and goldfish seem to have turned into picky eaters, that’s your third clue that it’s time to switch to a lighter diet.

When water temperatures fall to below 40 degrees, that’s when it’s time to stop feeding your fish altogether. Don’t worry: They won’t starve! Their bodies, which need very few nutrients to sustain them during the cold months, have plenty of fat stored—but you can bet they’ll be ready for a nice, big meal when spring arrives.

Pond Talk: What changes do you see in your fishes’ behavior during the fall?

Specialized Cool Weather Diet - Pond Logic® Spring & Fall Fish Food

Can I overwinter my tropical water lilies? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Can I overwinter my tropical water lilies?

Q: Can I overwinter my tropical water lilies?

Jill – Kingsport, TN

A: Unlike other aquatic plants that will happily overwinter in the deeper regions of your pond, tropical water lilies need special care.

Here are six steps to follow when putting your blooming beauties to bed for the season.

1. Slow the Growth: First, when the air temperatures start to cool (like right about now …), slow down or stop fertilizing the lilies to slow the plant’s growth. This allows the plant to naturally slow its metabolic processes and more easily transition into winter. If you abruptly stop fertilizing and remove the plant from the pond, you could shock the lily and damage it.

2. Deadhead and Remove Foliage: Next, using your Coralife® Aqua Gloves™ and Pond Scissors and Pliers, snip off all lily pads and blooms from the lily tuber once your pond’s water temperatures start to dip below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Besides looking unsightly, the spent flowers and foliage will start to wilt and should be removed to reduce waste material.

3. Remove and Rinse: Once you’ve cleaned up the plant, gently remove the lily tuber from pond and rinse it off in a bucket or with your garden hose. Trim off any straggling foliage with your pond scissors.

4a. Bury Tuber in Moist Sand: To keep the tuber moist and healthy during the winter, fill a sealable container with moist (but not too wet!) sand and bury it, covering it lightly with sand. Moist sand will hold moisture to keep tuber from completely drying—but if the sand is too wet, the tuber may rot.

4b. Submerge Tuber, Place Under Grow Light: Another overwintering option is to fill a container with distilled water and place the tuber under a grow light in a room that’s a comfortable 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The lily will continue to grow slowly through the winter months.

5. Safely Store and Inspect Often: If you choose the sand-storage option, store the container in a cool, dark place like a basement—but make sure it’s not too warm or too cold. If it’s too warm, the tuber may start to grow or rot; if it’s too cold, the tuber may freeze. Check on the tuber often to make sure the sand is still moist and the tuber is not rotting.

6. Replant in the Spring: Once pond water temperatures return to 70 degrees Fahrenheit in the spring, haul your container to the pond, pull out the tuber and replant it in the pond. Don’t forget to add a dose of fertilizer to jump-start the growing season!

Pond Talk: What do you do with your tropical water lilies in the wintertime?

Coralife® Aqua Gloves™ - Keep your hands clean & day

Are other fish like my plecostomus as hardy over the winter as my koi? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Are other fish like my plecostomus as hardy over the winter as my koi?

Q: Are other fish like my plecostomus as hardy over the winter as my koi?

Dale – Paoli, PA

A: Last week, we talked about how koi and certain types of goldfish, like Sarassa and Shubunkins, can overwinter in your pond or water garden even when water temperatures dip to near-freezing levels.

But what about other common pond fishes?

Well, it depends on your USDA hardiness zone, which divides the country into zones based on how cold the temperatures get. Just as with plants, some fish species can be “hardy” in some climates and not in others. An Oranda, for instance, might do just fine overwintering in a pond in Orlando, Fla., but up in Fargo, N.D., that same fish would turn into a popsicle—even with an aeration system and de-icer.

When the temperatures begin to fall in colder zones, here’s what you do:

1. Keep a close eye on your pond’s water temperature using a thermometer, like the Pond Logic® Floating Pond Thermometer. When the mercury hits 68 degrees or so, it’s time to bring those less hardy fishes—including Plecostomus, Oranda, Telescope goldfish and Black Moors—inside.

2. Carefully scoop those snowbird fishes out of the pond with a net, like The Pond Guy® 3-in-1 Combo Net, and place them in a bucket pre-filled with some of your pond’s water.

3. Re-home the fishes in a properly sized indoor fish tank or aquarium outfitted with the right mechanical and biological filtration system for the job. Be sure to condition the water and pre-treat it with some beneficial bacteria to kick start the system’s biological filtration, too.

As soon as sun thaws your pond water—or at least heats it back up to room temperature—it’s safe to return those fishes to their “summer” home.

Pond Talk: What kind of overwintering setup do you have for your less hardy fishes?

Pond Logic® Floating Thermometer - Monitor Water Temperature

Do I need to heat the water in my pond in order for my fish to survive the winter? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Do I need to heat the water in my pond in order for my fish to survive the winter?

Q: Do I need to heat the water in my pond in order for my fish to survive the winter?

Kimberly – Bradford, PA

A: We all love central heating or a roaring fireplace in our homes when winter’s chilly temperatures roll in, but your pond fish—specifically your koi and common goldfish—don’t need those creature comforts to stay happy and content.

Cold Temps and Torpor

During the winter months when the water temperature is 45 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit and below, koi and goldfish enter into a dormant state. The technical term for this is torpor, and it means that the fishes’ metabolism and activity slows, they become very lethargic, and they require little nourishment. In this state, the koi and goldfish will, in fact, be quite comfortable in temperatures as low as 35 degrees.

Demystifying De-icers

If koi and goldfish don’t need the water warmed, what’s the deal with pond heaters and de-icers, like the Thermo-Pond, Farm Innovators, TetraPond® or Perfect Climate™ de-icers?

These tools of the trade aren’t intended to turn up the heat in your pond’s water. They’re designed to simply melt a hole in the ice, which allows dangerous gases to escape while letting fresh and life-sustaining oxygen. When plugged into the Thermo Cube® Thermostatically Controlled Outlet, the de-icers will turn on when temps dip to 35 degrees and off when temps rise to 45 degrees on their own. To save even more on energy costs this winter, consider installing a PondAir™ & Thermo-Pond 3.0 aeration and pond de-icer combo. When used with an aeration system, you can use a lower wattage de-icer which will not need to be ran as often to maintain an open ventilation hole.

De-icer’s Limitations

But the one thing de-icers don’t do: actively circulate or move the water like an aeration system does. That agitating action is necessary to trap and bring oxygen into the pond’s entire water column—including the bottom, where the fishes are snoozing. It also helps to prevent ice from forming a complete sheet on the pond surface.

Though running a pump will help move the water, it doesn’t agitate it enough to get those O2 levels up. A pump also costs more to operate than an aeration system, and, if ice does form, you could do some major damage to the unit from poor water flow. If you do not yet own an aeration system for your water garden, the PondAir™ & Thermo-Pond 3.0 Combo is a surefire way to protect your fish this winter.

Pond Talk: How do you keep a hole in the ice on your pond or water garden during the winter?

PondAir™ & Thermo-Pond 3.0 Combo - Protect Your Fish This Winter

How can I prepare my aquatic plants for the fall and winter? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

How can I prepare my aquatic plants for the fall and winter?

Q: How can I prepare my aquatic plants for the fall and winter?

Sandy – Holly, MI

A: This topic—what to do with your aquatic plants—tops the to-do list of many pond owners and water gardeners at this time of year. No matter the climate where you live, you will need to do some plant clean-up and relocate them to ensure they survive the winter frost and freeze.

What you need to do depends on the type of plant. So pull on your 28-inch, PVC Coralife® Aqua Gloves™ to protect your hands and arms and keep them dry, grab your handy-dandy Pond Scissors and Pliers, and let’s get to work! Here, we’ve outlined some basics:

Hardy Water Lilies

They may be “hardy,” but that doesn’t mean they’re indestructible! When the first frost hits in your area and the lily’s foliage begins to die back, trim the plant material back with your pond scissors to just above the root and toss it in your compost pile. Don’t worry: Come spring, the greenery will reemerge healthy as ever from the plant’s crown. Because water lilies are typically planted in frost-proof deep water, they will overwinter just fine.

Tropical Water Lilies

Tropical water lilies prefer warm temperatures all year long, so these colorful and fragrant beauties will need to be completely removed from your pond and relocated to a protected indoor space for the winter. We’ll talk more about how to overwinter these aquatic plants in future blogs.

Marginals and Bog Plants

As with hardy water lilies, your marginals’ and bog plants’ foliage will need to trimmed back with pond scissors and removed after Jack Frost first arrives. And if your iris, arrowhead, canna and other marginals are at or above water level, sink them lower into the pond where the water remains unfrozen during the wintertime.

Floating Plants

Unless you’re lucky enough to live in a climate that doesn’t freeze, floating plants like hyacinth and water lettuce won’t survive the winter. Plan to remove them from your pond to prevent the dead plants from decomposing and causing water quality issues through the wintertime.

Pond Talk: How do you prepare your aquatic plants for winter?

Coralife® Aqua Gloves™ - Keep your hands clean & dry

My skimmer keeps clogging with leaves, how can I keep them out of my pond? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

My skimmer keeps clogging with leaves, how can I keep them out of my pond?

Q: My skimmer keeps clogging with leaves, how can I keep them out of my pond?

Joyce – Stewartstown, PA

A: There’s no surer sign of fall than falling leaves. Unfortunately, when those leaves land in your pond or water garden, they can create a water-quality mess. As they break down and decompose, they can turn your water brown and leave behind muck and detritus.

Thank goodness for pond netting.

These temporary covers keep leaves, pine needles and other debris from landing in your water feature. You can purchase several different types—but which one is right for you?

To help you choose, ask yourself these three simple questions:

1. How long do you intend to use the netting?

Many of us are pinching our pennies these days, and so the less-expensive one-season-use net, like DeWitt Pond Netting, is an attractive option. The 3/4-inch black polypropylene mesh, which comes in a range of sizes to fit just about any pond, prevents debris (and predators, too) from getting into your pond without restricting air flow or views.

For a little more money, however, you could purchase a higher-quality net/pond cover system, the Nycon Big Top Pond Cover, which can be used year after year. Also available in a range of sizes, this pond cover features a netting with a hemmed, fray-resistant border; center pole(s); brass stake grommets; and aluminum stakes that can weather years of use. The net is made with 1/4-inch black nylon mesh, which keeps some of the smallest debris from entering your pond.

2. What types of leaves will be landing in and gathering around your pond?

Look around your yard. What kinds of tress do you (and your neighbors) have? If you have trees with larger leaves, like maple or oak, you can easily rake up the blowing leaves from around your pond, scoop them out of your pond with a portable pond net or skimmer, and prevent them from landing in there with a basic 5/8-inch nylon mesh netting, like The Pond Guy® Pond Cover Net.

If you have pine needles and smaller leaves around, however, you’ll need to cover your pond or water garden with a tighter-weave mesh, such as The Pond Guy® Fine Mesh Cover Net. This clear, heavy-duty, 1/8-inch mesh netting prevents stubbornly small debris from landing in your pond while still allowing light to shine through. It includes plastic stakes to secure the netting.

3. What is your main goal?

Are you a no-muss, no-fuss kind of water gardener who avoids pond chores like the plague? Then you should invest in a tent-type netting system with a center hub, like the Pond Logic® PondShelter™ Net Kit. This fully adjustable unit with an aluminum frame will fit most pond configurations. It supports a swath of durable, black 1/4-inch mesh, which keep debris from entering the pond. And the kit includes 30 metal stakes to ensure the unit stays in place.

If, however, you want to see your fish, and you’re OK with a few scattered leaves and doing a bit of work to remove them, then consider one of the fine, economy or premium surface netting options, like The Pond Guy Fine Mesh Cover Net, the DeWitt Economy Pond Netting or The Pond Guy Pond Cover Net.

Pond Talk: What tricks do you use to keep leaves from landing in your pond or water feature?

Pond Logic® PondShelter™ - Keep Leaves & Predators Out

My water is brown! What should I do? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

My water is brown! What should I do?

Q: My water is brown! What should I do?

Dale – Anselmo, NE

A: In the spring and summer, many pond owners complain of green water caused by algae blooms—but in the late summer and fall, brown water causes headaches. If your pond or water garden has taken on a tea-colored hue, follow these simple steps to get your water back to its crystal-clear self.

An Optical Illusion?

First of all, take a closer look at the water and determine whether it’s really brown or just reflecting dead debris in the pond. Grab a clear glass, dip it in the water and hold it up to the light. Is it clear? Then it’s reflecting pond debris. Is it brown? Then the water has been colored by tannins released by dead leaves, similar to what happens when you steep your breakfast tea.

Clear Water: Add Bacteria

If your water is clear, you can minimize the brown-water optical illusion by using a natural bacteria, like Pond Logic® Seasonal Defense®, to help decompose the muck and accumulated debris on the bottom of your pond. The beneficial microorganisms found in this cooler-weather additive break down the organic materials, leaving your water looking clean and clear.

Brown Water: Add Carbon

If your water is brown, you can use Pond Logic® Activated Carbon to absorb and correct the tea-colored discoloration. To use the carbon, pour the granules in a mesh bag and place it in an area of fast-flowing water, such as in your skimmer or waterfall. Leave it there until the carbon absorbs the dissolved organics. Typically, 4 to 6 pounds will treat 1,000 gallons of water for two to three months.

Remove Dead Debris

In addition to either adding beneficial bacteria or using activated carbon, you should also remove any accumulated dead or decomposing debris in your pond with a vacuum like the Oase Pond-O-Matic XL. If leaves or other blown-in debris continue to be a problem during the fall months, consider covering your water feature with netting, like the Pond Logic® PondShelter™ Net Kit.

Pond Talk: Have you had success using activated carbon in your water feature?

Pond Logic® Activated Carbon - From Brown To Clear Water...FAST!

Can I Break A Hole Open In The Ice Over My Pond? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Can sidewalk salt be used to melt the ice off my pond?

Can I Break A Hole Open In The Ice Over My Pond?

Liz - Carterville, IL

When maintaining a pond during the winter, it is important that the surface of your pond does not freeze over with ice. If you have an aeration kit running in your pond but the resulting hole in the ice is getting smaller, or has closed up altogether, don’t panic. Sporadic short-term ice coverage is not an issue if you’ve done regular maintenance to reduce organic debris throughout the season. If the pond remains iced-over for weeks at a time, consider giving your aeration system a boost.

If your pond has frozen over and you want to reopen the hole, simply rest a pan of hot water on the surface of your pond to melt the ice away. Do not use a blunt object to break the ice open as the shock-waves will stress your fish. Also, refrain from poking holes in the ice as you may accidentally puncture your liner or poke one of your fish.

Another way to maintain an open ventilation hole is by adding a pond heater/de-icer above your aeration diffuser stone. If you have multiple air stones, gather them into one area to make it more difficult for ice to form.

Pond Talk: Do you notice the ventilation hole getting smaller or freezing over for short period of time in the winter?

Pond Heaters

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