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What does it mean when you say a pond must “cycle” before adding fish? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: What does it mean when you say a pond must “cycle” before adding fish?

Q: What does it mean when you say a pond must “cycle” before adding fish?

Sherry – Raleigh, NC

A: The term “cycle” refers to the nitrogen cycle – and it’s an important process to understand if you plan to keep fish in your pond. The nitrogen cycle provides the biological filtration in the water, which keeps the water free from toxic compounds created by decaying organic matter. The process is a complicated one, so here are the basics.

Nitrogen Cycle 101

Before we discuss cycling a new pond, let’s dive into how the nitrogen cycle looks in an established, mature pond. As organic material – like uneaten food, dead plant matter and fish waste – decay, the bacteria that break it down release ammonia, which is toxic to living organisms. One particular microorganism called nitrosomonas, however, loves ammonia. It feeds on ammonia and oxygen, and releases a chemical called nitrite.

Nitrites are also dangerous to fish and aquatic critters, and so another group of microorganisms – nitrobacter – enters the nitrogen cycle picture. These bacteria transform nitrites into relatively harmless nitrates, which are then absorbed by algae and plants or reduced by water changes.

New Pond, New Bacteria

A new pond doesn’t have healthy populations of nitrosomonas and nitrobacter yet, and so the pond must be “cycled.” This refers to establishing and maturing your pond’s biological filtration system so that it’s able to turn ammonia into nitrates. To do so, you need to start the process with an ammonia source (a few hardy fish) and seed the pond with these beneficial bacteria, which can be found in Pond Logic® Seasonal Defense® and in Microbe-Lift® PL Gel.

Nurturing Nitrosomonas

In the early spring when established ponds are waking up after a long winter, a similar cycling process will take place. Some nitrosomonas and nitrobacter will survive in your filtration media and gravel and begin to colonize, but it’s a good idea to give them a boost. Pond Logic® Seasonal Defense® is formulated for use in cooler temperatures – making it perfect for early spring applications. Since those microorganisms live in your filtration media, avoid washing it when you’re doing your spring cleaning.

Cycled and Ready for Fish

The cycling process can take four to six weeks, though in the warmer spring and summer this time may be reduced. Keep an eye on your ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels with a test kit, like our PondCare® Master Liquid Test Kit. Once it indicates that nitrates are present, your pond is considered cycled. Add only a few fish at a time to prevent ammonia levels from spiking again.

Keep in mind that this ammonia-nitrite-nitrate cycle is always occurring, so test your pond regularly to ensure the health and wellbeing of your finned friends.

Pond Talk: What has been your experience in “cycling” a pond?

Keep Pond Water Safe for Fish - PondCare® Master Liquid Test Kit

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

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

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

Michelle – Norman, OK

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

The Cycle of Life

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

Survival of the Fittest

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

Too Much of a Good Thing

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

The Right Dose

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

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

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

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

Q: Why are water changes important?

Q: Why are water changes important?

Shirley – Warr Acres, OK

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now that it’s spring, when do I start using my DefensePAC? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Now that it’s spring, when do I start using my DefensePAC(r)?

Q: Now that it’s spring, when do I start using my DefensePAC®?

Jan – Avoca, NY

A: Containing everything you need to jump start your backyard pond or water garden in the spring, your DefensePAC®” package can be cracked open as soon as the ice melts and water temperatures are consistently above 40°F.

The first products in the pack you’ll use are Oxy-Lift™ Defense® and Seasonal Defense®. They’re perfect for cleaning out your pond and prepping it for spring.

  • Oxy-Lift™ Defense® lifts debris from waterfalls, streams, rocks and anywhere else muck collects in your pond. Simply shut down your waterfall and/or streams, sprinkle on the affected areas and watch the foam get to work breaking down that unsightly buildup. Use Oxy-Lift™ Defense® only when needed.
  • Seasonal Defense® contains hungry beneficial bacteria that will immediately get busy gobbling through leaves, scum and settlement that have collected over the winter. Spring applications should begin at pond startup or just after ice melts. Use Seasonal Defense® once a week for four weeks in the spring.

The other ingredients in DefensePAC®—including Nature’s Defense®, Clarity Defense® and Muck Defense®—all work to promote a healthy ecosystem, clean and clear the water column, and break down organics in your pond. They can be used on a routine basis throughout the spring and summer.

  • Nature’s Defense® contains natural bacteria that breaks down organics in your water garden. These organics, if left alone, are a food resource for algae—which is not something you want to feed. Because it works best when temperatures are above 50°F, check you water’s temperature with a Floating Pond Thermometer before dosing. Use Nature’s Defense® every two weeks throughout the season.
  • Clarity Defense® is designed to clarify ponds. It locks up excess nutrients, making them unavailable as a food source for algae, and settles suspended particulates that are in the water column. It also stimulates natural bacteria growth and buffers pH levels.
  • Muck Defense® also contains natural bacteria that accelerate the decomposition of organic matter caused by rotting leaves, algae and fish waste. This is great for water gardens that were constructed with rocks and gravel that are difficult to vacuum. We suggest using Muck Defense® every four weeks throughout the season when water temperatures are above 50°F.

DefensePAC® is a five-step solution to cleaning and clearing your pond—and keeping it that way all season long.

Pond Talk: What kinds of changes are you planning to make to your water garden this spring?

All Natural, Pond Care System - Pond Logic® DefensePAC®

Should I clean my filter media or replace it? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Should I clean my filter media or replace it?

Q: Should I clean my filter media or replace it?

Cindy – Dover, DE

A: Those plastic pads, BioBalls™ and Bacti-Twist® that live in your waterfall box, skimmer box and filter unit play a very important role in your water feature. The filter media’s surface is home to millions of beneficial bacteria, which are the biological filtration system in your pond.

Here’s a quick guide that outlines how to care for your filter media – and those tiny microbes.

  1. Clean Infrequently: Once or twice a year, or when your water flow is significantly reduced, inspect and clean your filter media. Rather than scrubbing it spotless with soap or harsh abrasives, gently spray it down with your garden hose, being careful to maintain as much of the beneficial bacteria as possible while blasting away the gunk.
  2. Replace As Needed: If the filter media looks worn on the edges or has gaping holes in it, replace it with some new media, like Matala® Filter Media Pads for extended life and performance, or with our standard reusable 2-inch filter pads, which are perfect for waterfall filters and skimmer boxes.
  3. Seed Some Bacteria: If you need to replace your media, you’ll need to inoculate it with beneficial bacteria. First, test your pond’s water temperature. If the water temperature is 40-50° F, add Pond Logic® Seasonal Defense® to the pond or dump it right on top of the media in your waterfall box. If it’s more than 50° F, seed the filter media with PL Gel and let it set for one to two hours before putting it in your filter unit.

This spring, it’s a great idea to check your filter media and make sure it’s in good working order. Doing so will save you time, hassle and money by getting your pond off to a strong start so you can avoid dealing with insufficient filtration later in the season.

Pond Talk: How often do you replace your filter media?

Easy to Clean and Extremely Durable = Matala(r) Filter Media Pads

What steps should I do for a spring cleanout? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: What steps should I do for a spring cleanout?

Q: What steps should I do for a spring cleanout?

Carol – Beaverton, OR

A: Ice melting, sun shining, cabin fever driving you batty … yep, spring must be on its way. For water garden hobbyists, that means one thing: It’s time to head outside and prepare the pond for spring. With some basic planning and a handy-dandy cheat sheet (like this one below), you will have your outdoor oasis cleaned up and ready for fun in no time.

Gather your tools, pull on your hip waders and gloves, and let’s get cleaning!

  1. Evaluate the Pond. The first step is to take a look at the pond and determine what kind of work needs to be done. Did you do a great job cleaning out the pond last fall? Did you procrastinate too long and let those leaves build up? Is it time to give the water feature a top-to-bottom scrubbing?
  2. Minimal Work Required. If you adequately prepped the pond last fall and, after evaluating it this spring, discovered clear water and minimal debris, you’ll only need to do some light cleaning. Scrub the rocks with Oxy-Lift™ Defense®, replace filter pads in the waterfall filter or skimmer box, and perform a 20 percent water change.
  3. Drain Pond, Relocate Your Fish. If a complete cleanout is necessary, you’ll need to drain the pond. Siphon some of the water into a holding tank for the fish, and transport them safely to their temporary home with a pond net. Add some healthy oxygen to the water by submerging and turning on a bubbler or air stone in the tank.
  4. Check Tubing, Remove Debris. While you’re draining the pond, don’t forget to purge the water from the tubing and remove any large debris, like branches or dead foliage, by hand.
  5. Power Wash Away. To remove tough algae growth on rocks, liner and gravel, treat with Oxy-Lift™ Defense® and use a power washer to scrub away the debris if necessary.
  6. Skimmer, Waterfall Wash. Once the dirty water has been drained from the pond, clean out the skimmer and waterfall boxes using a garden hose, spraying away excess muck and buildup. If the filter media looks worn down, now’s the time to replace it.
  7. Check Lighting, Aerator. With the water drained from the pond, you have a perfect opportunity to inspect any underwater lighting fixtures, check the bulbs and clean the lenses – or, better yet, add some new Pond Lighting for dramatic backyard effect. It’s also a good time to check the aerator and make sure it’s working properly.
  8. Reconnect and Reinstall. If you removed and stowed the filter, pump and ultraviolet clarifier last fall, pull them back out and dust them off. Reconnect the plumbing and filters, and reinstall the pumps and UV clarifiers. While you’re at it, change the UV bulbs, too; they need to be replaced once a year for optimal algae-control effect.
  9. Refill, Prep the Pond. Once you’re done with the spring cleaning chores, refill the pond with some fresh water. In addition, be sure to add some Stress Reducer PLUS , which removes chlorine, chloramines and heavy metal from tap water. Then acclimate the fish to the new water and add them back into the pond.
  10. Boost Your Bacteria. Keep the water clean and clear by adding some beneficial bacteria to the pond. Test the water temperature to be sure it’s above 55 °F and add PL Gel to the filter media and Seasonal Defense® to the pond water to help jump start the growth of good bacteria.
  11. Add Aquatic Plants. Finally, be sure to add a variety of pond plants to the water feature. Bog plants beautify the circumference of the pond; floating plants, lilies and lotus provide shade and pops of color; and submerged plants release extra oxygen to the water. They all provide added all-natural filtration and habitat for all underwater pond dwellers.

A spring cleanout may seem like a daunting task, but the time and effort you put into it will pay off with a tranquil backyard oasis. Happy spring!

Pond Talk: How has this winter’s wacky weather affected your pond or water feature? Will you have major work to do in the spring?

Debris Lifts Away in Seconds - Pond Logic (r) Oxy-Lift™ Defense®

Why does my pond sometimes turn green in the spring? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Why does my pond sometimes turn green in the spring?

Q: Why does my pond sometimes turn green in the spring?

Randy – Huntington, WV

A: After a long, dreary winter, the sight of spring’s green shoots and leaves are a welcome sign – but not in your pond. Green water means algae growth, and that’s not something you want to see flourish. Besides being unsightly, algae degrades your water quality and can actually harm your aquatic pets.

So what can you do to prevent your water garden from turning green?

Add Seasonal Defense®: As long as water temperatures are below 50° F, you can add Seasonal Defense® to your pond. It contains aerobic bacteria that are specially designed for cooler water. When used at this time of year, the waste-gobbling microorganisms will break down dead foliage, fish waste and other sediment that fuel algae growth in your pond.

Keep Up on Your Chores: Make sure you also keep up on your spring cleaning chores because all that decomposing debris feeds algae. Regularly check and clean out your skimmer basket, and remove any leaves or large pieces of debris that blow into the pond with your Collapsible Skimmer & Fish Net. This will encourage the beneficial bacteria in Seasonal Defense® to focus their energy on breaking down fine organic material and muck.

Add Barley Straw Extract: All-natural chemicals found in decomposing barley straw help keep your pond’s water crystal clear. If you add Barley Extract, you don’t have to wait for the straw to decompose. Simply add it to your water according to the label’s instructions and enjoy a clean and healthy water feature. For best results, use Barley Extract in conjunction with Seasonal Defense®.

Pond Talk: What upgrades will you be making to your pond or water garden this year?

Replenish Bacteria Loss This Spring- Pond Logic (r) Seasonal Defense(r)

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