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Properly Cleaning Filter Pads – Water Garden & Feature Q & A

Picture of Matala Filter Pads.

Water Gardens & Features Q & A

Q: I have been cleaning my filter pads once a week with a garden hose because they are filled with gunk all the time. This doesn’t seem normal. How often should I be cleaning my filter pads? – Tonie of Massachusetts

A: There are quite a few customers that I talk with that don’t know why their filter pads build up with “gunk” so fast. I didn’t understand it either when I first stepped foot into water gardens, but filter pads provide a very important role in your water garden’s ecosystem and in reality should not be cleaned very often.

The Purpose of Filter Pads
Filter pads (or other filter media) contain a large amount of surface area. This surface area within time will grow increasing amounts of beneficial bacteria. This beneficial bacteria (also called nitrifying bacteria) will break down ammonia from fish waste into nitrates. Also, some customers mistakenly believe this beneficial bacteria is “gunk” and will unfortunately clean it off having to have the beneficial bacteria start over again!

The Proper Way to Clean Filter Pads
If the “gunk” on your filter pads becomes over abundant and restricts water flow from your pump, only then would it be necessary to clean them. Usually when this is the case, it has a buildup of other debris besides beneficial bacteria. To properly clean the filter pads I suggest to take a bucket of water from your water garden and dip the filter pad into the bucket knocking off any debris and leaving the “gunk”. I DO NOT recommend using tap water from your garden hose to do this because the water contains heavy metals or chlorine that will kill off the beneficial bacteria on your filter pads. After cleaning your filter pads or if you accidentally used tap water to clean them, you can use PL Gel. PL Gel is like injecting beneficial bacteria directly into your filter pad. PL Gel will reduce bacteria start-up time by up to 80%. I have found it to be very successful.

Yearly Maintenance & Replacement
You should really only have to clean your filter pads a couple times a year. Once during spring startup and again during fall shutdown. Most filter pads will last up to a year before you should have to replace them. If you are looking for longer lasting filter pads we highly suggest the Matala Filter Pads. They will last several years.

POND TALK: Tell us how often you clean your filter pads?

Using Pond Vacuums to Clean Your Water Garden – Water Garden & Feature Q & A

Cleanout Out the Water Garden by Draining and Power Washing.

Water Gardens & Features Q & A

Q: Muck and leaves have built up on the bottom of my water garden and I have been climbing in and out of my water garden trying to remove as much as I can. Is there an easier way to do this without all the hard work and having to get wet? – Rick of South Carolina

A: Cleaning and maintaining a beautiful water garden takes time. We’ve all done it. We’ve all drained the water garden to try and clean out the pond. We’ve all fallen in one time or another to try and get those leaves and muck out. So what can you do? Well, if you haven’t used a Pond Vacuum yet, I highly recommend it.

Cleaning Your Water Garden with Ease with a Pond Vacuum.

“You mean you can actually vacuum your pond”?: I’ve heard that statement many times while talking to some of you on the phone or in person, and fortunately, you can! Having a pond vacuum for your water garden is similar to having a regular vacuum for your home. Think about it. Would you have carpet in your home and NOT have a vacuum? Probably not. This is similar to having a pond vacuum for your water garden. Simply one doesn’t go without the other.

First, lets consider why we need to vacuum our ponds: As time passes by, our ponds accumulate “muck” from leaves, fish waste, uneaten fish food, lily pads, etc. This “muck” is very high in nutrients and a great food source for algae! Although we do suggest a complete cleanout each and every spring, this is sometimes not an option, especially every year. So having the ability to remove waste without removing all the water is a huge advantage. In general, you will only lose about 10-15% of your water after a complete vacuuming, which is just the right amount for a small water change to freshen up the pond.

Which vacuum is right for you?
The real decision when choosing between the Pond-O-Matic XL or the Pond-O-Vac III really only comes down to a couple of questions. How large your pond is and how often you will need to vacuum?

If you have a smaller pond (less then 300 sq. ft) then a Pond-O-Matic XL will be sufficient: The Pond-O-Matic XL features a automatic fill-and-drain system that senses when the vacuum basin is full and automatically shuts off, drains and then turns back on. You will get a good 30-45 seconds of cleaning time between each drain with the drain time approximately the same. So 45 seconds of cleaning could take you up to 90 seconds.

Larger ponds (over 300 sq. ft.) and ponds that receive an excessive amount of debris would be great candidates for the Pond-O-Vac III. The biggest advantage of this “Cadillac” of pond vacuums is its ability to drain a pump at the same time. This is a real time-saving operation because it does not have to stop and drain before continuing.

Other advantages of the Pond-O-Vac III:

  • 5-year warranty compared to the 2-year warranty of the Pond-O-Matic XL.
  • Clear vacuum extension for monitoring operation.
  • Built-in rack for to conveniently store and organize accessories.
  • Built-in wheels for greater mobility.

How Do I Properly Transport Koi During Spring Cleanout? – Water Feature Q & A

Picture of Koi in a Pool

Water Feature Q & A

Q: This is our first year with a water garden. I would like really like to clean it out in the spring but I don’t know what to do with all of my koi fish? – Alice of Pennsylvania

A: First, you need to find a water tight container large enough to comfortably hold your koi. Kiddie pools or plastic storage containers work well for this. They not only are water tight, but will float on the surface of the water. It is important to fill the container with water from the water garden and not tap water. Simply use a small mag-drive pump to pump water from the water garden to the container. Use a fish net to carefully transport the koi into their new temporary home.

It is also important to maintain good water quality in the container. Since your container has no filtration I suggest to add an small aeration system to keep the water  circulated as well as to maintain oxygen levels. After moving your koi into the container, they will be under stress. Adding pond salt to the water will also help keep their stress at bay.

You will also want to place a net over the top of the container so the koi do no jump out. If you can, place the container in a shaded area. If no shaded area is present, use a cloth to minimize direct sunlight.

Once completed you may go ahead and complete a spring cleanout. Once completed and filled with new water, we suggest to add water conditioner to remove any chlorine, heavy metals and chloramines in your tap water before transporting your koi back into the water garden.

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