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Should I add gravel to my pond?… even if it is preformed? | Decorative Ponds & Watergardens Q&A

I took my fish out for the winter…when it is best to put them back?

Should I add gravel to my pond?… even if it is preformed?
Kandy – Racine, WI

Adding gravel to the bottom of your water garden can help create a more natural appearance than the plain black plastic or rubber liner you are looking at now. The small stones create an excellent source of surface area for beneficial bacteria such as Pond Logic® Muck Defense™ to colonize and filter your pond water. Aquatic plants can also benefit from the gravel base by anchoring themselves within the gravel and establish a root system beneath the rocks, safe from curious or hungry decorative pond fish.

A common question customers ask is if added gravel will actually cause more maintenance. This is not really the case. Adding gravel in your pond actually hides muck so it is not always visible, creates additional surface area for bacteria to accumulate in order to keep your pond muck free and provides a more natural landscape look actually brightening your pond’s bottom and helping to make your fish more visible.

Addition of gravel to your pond is a quick and easy transition. Ideally you will want to add a layer of stones that is 1-2 inches deep. Making the gravel any deeper will allow muck and debris to settle between the stones and out of reach from the natural bacteria. Choose stones that are smooth and rounded so there are no added risks of sharp edges which could puncture the liner. Also make sure the stones you add are not too small such as pea gravel which would get packed together trapping in debris or be picked up by pond vacuums or other maintenance tools. Ideally you will be looking for stones around 1” in diameter. Proper planning and installation will the key to successfully having gravel in your pond, and following the guidelines above will ensure your success.

Pond Talk: Do you have gravel in your pond? Why or why not?

Pond Logic Muck Defense

I took my fish out for the winter… when it is best to put them back? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q&A

I took my fish out for the winter…when it is best to put them back?

I took my fish out for the winter… when it is best to put them back?
Kathie – St. Cloud, MN

It is about time to get your pond up and running for the season. Your decorative pond fish may be even more excited than you are if they’ve been stuck inside for the winter. Before you re-introduce them to their pond you will want to give it thorough once-over to make sure the pond is healthy, clean and ready for spring.

You may choose to perform a complete pond cleanout and start from scratch, or if you prefer you can leave the pond in tack and just do some minor preparations. If this is the case, start by removing debris and algae from the water column, stream, rocks and pond bottom. Dusting Pond Logic® Oxy-Lift™ Defense® on your rocks and waterfall will lift hard to remove debris and save you the time and energy of having to scrub them clean. You can don a pair of Aquatic Gloves or use a Pond Vaccum and go to work removing the muck and debris that have sunk to the bottom of your pond.

Once you have removed as much solid debris as possible you can perform a partial water change of around 25%. Include a dose of Pond Logic® Stress Reducer Plus or Water Conditioner to neutralize harmful water contaminates. Inspect your filter media for signs of wear and tear and replace as necessary. Thoroughly rinse off soiled filters and seed them with PL Gel Bacteria so they are ready to work as soon as you reinstall them in your filters. If you brought your Pressurized Filters, UV Clarifiers and Water Pumps inside for the winter you begin to bring them out and install them now. With your pond cleaned out and filtration system in place you are ready to fire up your pumps and circulate the water in your pond. Add your seasonal cool-weather bacteria like Pond Logic® Seasonal Defense to further establish beneficial bacteria in your filtration media and pond.
Let the pond circulate over the course of a few weeks if possible before adding your fish. This will ensure your fish don’t suffer from peaks in pH or ammonia while your water finds a happy balance. Ideally temperatures over 50 degrees are more easily adaptable for your fish but be sure you acclimate them to the pond slowly following the same process you would to introduce a few fish. Using Pond Logic® Stress Reducer Plus will aid in this process.

A good spring clean out will set the pace for your ponding season and prevent future headaches and stressed fish. Be patient and thorough using the proper tools so you can make your pond even more enjoyable this coming season.

Pond Talk: Have you performed your spring clean up yet? Any new ideas for your pond this season?

Pond Logic Stress Reducer Plus

I’ve heard a lot about barley, some good and some bad. What do you think? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q&A

I’ve heard a lot about barley, some good and some bad. What do you think?

I’ve heard a lot about barley, some good and some bad. What do you think?
Jessica – Jackson, MI

Pond owners are intrigued by the prospect of being able to ditch chemical treatments for a natural means of algae control. While it is true that barley straw is capable of helping your pond fend off algae it still comes with advantages and disadvantages.

Studies have shown that as barley straw decomposes it releases agents that inhibit algae growth with no adverse effects on your water garden plants or decorative pond fish. Originally customers would place bales of Barley Straw in their waterfall filter boxes, skimmers or waterfall areas where they would decompose over time. As barley straw treatments continue to grow in popularity new types of barley products have been made available. Barley Straw Pellets are available for a cleaner and easier way to implement barley treatments into your pond or for even faster results, Barley Straw Extract. Barley Straw Extract is basically barley straw already broken down into its beneficial byproducts.

While barley straw can help keep your pond less green this season it is not 100% effective on all algae that may form in your pond. One of the biggest issues with using barley straw and pellets is that you have to put them in your pond early in the season as they will need time to start decomposing before providing any benefits. Some may also argue that you are also adding muck and nutrients to your pond in the process. You will gain some speed by using barley straw extract but it then becomes less convenient because you will have to continuously add it to the pond. Barley also does not directly kill algae so chemical treatments may still eventually be required.

Your best defense against algae has always been a good offense. Keeping your pond clean and balanced with adequate filtration, bacteria treatments, minimal fish loads and sun exposure you will reduce your dependence and need for algae treatments in general. It is when your pond is balanced and just needs a little extra kick to keep algae at bay that your barley treatments really begin to shine as their gradual release of anti-algae agents will help maintain clear water throughout the season with minimal or no additional chemical treatment.

Pond Talk: Do you use barley straw as a part of your pond maintenance? Have you noticed a cleaner pond while using barley straw?

All the benefits of barley straw without the mess!

Do I need to replace my filter media? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

If I Order My Plants Now Can I Keep Them Inside Until It’s Warm Enough To Move Them Outside?
Do I need to replace my filter media?
Alvin – Canton, OH

The filters in your water garden are one the best lines of defense against dirty pond water, algae blooms and poor fish health. Since they play such a big role in keeping your pond healthy, you will want to make sure your filter media is up to snuff for the season.

If you’ve stored your existing pond filters over the winter and want to reuse them this season, you will want to start by cleaning and inspecting the filtration media. Check the filter media pads in your waterfall box, skimmer and pressurized filters for frayed edges, deposits of solid debris, holes and other signs of damage. Replace pads that are a bit worse for wear with a new filter media pad. A wide array of filter media pads are available starting with the cost effective “cut your own” rolls to special coated Matala Filter Pads for extended life and performance. The foam media that comes in your pressurized or in-pond filter is usually unique to your particular make and model and can be purchased specifically for your unit. Regardless of whether your filter media pads are new or old you should seed them with PL Gel beneficial bacteria so that your filters are ready and able to biologically filter your pond from the moment you install them.

Secondary filtration media such as filter media blocks or bio-ribbon should be inspected and replaced as necessary as well. An advantage to using bio-balls is that they only require a thorough rinse before you reuse them for the season, as they virtually do not wear or degrade. Don’t forget to also inspect or replace filter media bags for your secondary filtration media if needed.

Keeping your filter media in working order can save you time, hassle and money by getting your pond off to a good start, so you can avoid dealing with insufficient filtration later in the season. Inspect your filter media with this in mind and purchase replacement media accordingly.

Pond Talk: What types of filtration media do you use in your water garden? Which types perform the best for you?

keep your pond clean with matala filer pads

Do you store plants indoors until your zone is ready? | Decorative Ponds & Watergardens Q & A

If I Order My Plants Now Can I Keep Them Inside Until It’s Warm Enough To Move Them Outside?

If I Order My Plants Now Can I Keep Them Inside Until It’s Warm Enough To Move Them Outside?
Connie – Albany, NY

Spring is almost within reach making pond owners everywhere anxious to begin this seasons water gardening. While you don’t want to be the left in the dust by waiting too long to get your plants, are you going to waste your money by ordering your plants too early and subjecting them to cold weather? It is not uncommon for customers with established green houses to order plants early in the season and keep them indoors, but what about the every-day water gardener who doesn’t have a greenhouse?

The difficulty associated with maintaining your aquatic plants indoors depends on the type of plant. Bog plants can be potted and watered, floating plants would be placed in aquariums or Tupperware containers filled with water, and lilies can be placed in planting media and partially submerged. While plants intended for cooler temperatures or partial shade will do well when left by a window, tropical plants and floating plants intended for warmer zones will require grow lights to provide an abundance of warmth and beneficial light spectrum. The type of plant purchased, and the zone you are located in will determine how long you would need to keep the plant indoors before you can add it to your pond.

Purchasing the plants that are ideal for your area is made fairly simple by using a zone map. Zone maps break down areas of the country into zones based on their climate. Each plant is assigned a zone or range of zones that it can thrive in. By locating yourself on a zone map and assigning yourself a zone you can then select plants that do particularly well in that zone. You can also purchase plants that are intended for zones with warmer climates, but they will need to be added to your pond later in the season when it is warmer, and they may not last as long as plants intended for cooler climates.

To make early plant purchases easy for those of us with less-than-green thumbs we allow customers to order their aquatic plants whenever they like and we will hold them until their zone is past warnings of frost and cold weather. Sending your plants to you when temperatures are ideal in your area will help ensure that your plants will survive and limit the amount of work you have to do to get the plants ready for your pond. Simply choose the ones you would like to see in your water garden and our friendly pond guys and gals will take care of the rest.

Pond Talk: Do you store plants indoors until your zone is ready?

Instantly add beauty to your watergarden with Aquatic Plant Packages

Will sidewalk salt hurt my pond? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

When should I remove the fountain from my pond?

Will sidewalk salt hurt my pond?
Ian – Auburn, KS

Nobody wants to worry about slipping and falling on icy driveways and walkways but is the salt you are using to keep you safe actually hurting your pond?

You have probably heard that salt is great for both your pond and the fish that dwell within. It is true that salt is an important part of maintaining a healthy pond but the type of salt you use and how much of it is in your pond is even more significant.

Quality salt designed for use in ponds like Pond Logic® Pond Salt consist of all-natural evaporated sea salt and are the safest bet for maintaining a balanced pond with healthy fish. Other salts have additives that are not intended to be put in your pond. Table salt for example can contain iodine and anti-caking agents, and common sidewalk salt can include materials such as chloride which can be harmful to your finned friends. An abundance of runoff into your pond from this salt may also be less than ideal. Take caution when using salt around your pond avoiding banks of snow and salt nearby which will eventually melt and drain into your pond. If you suspect this to be happening you may want to consider a partial water change or pond cleanout once your pond has thawed to give your finned friends a more ideal environment.

Pond Talk: Is your pond located near any salted sidewalks? Do you notice any affects of the salt on your pond?

Keep your pond healthy all winter long!

How can I keep leaves out of my pond? – Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

How can I keep leaves out of my pond?

How can I keep leaves out of my pond? Rick – Birds, IL

This Tent’s Not for Camping

You may not want to admit it yet, but the summer season is coming to a close. While we love the mild weather and the changing colors of the trees, us water garden owners have to turn our attention to the falling leaves. No worries however, we have one simple tool that you can use to avoid having to deal with leaves falling into your water garden.

We are of course talking about pond netting. If you dealt with Herons in the summer you may already have a pond net on hand. While they are great for keeping unwanted predators out of your pond they are more commonly used for keeping leaves and other blowing debris from falling in. There are two basic styles of pond netting you can purchase. The most simplistic version of this being a pre cut piece of mesh netting. This netting is available in an Economy Grade which is ideal for single season use or a Heavy Duty version. You can pull this mesh tight across the surface of your pond and secure it using stakes or rocks. This application works well for water gardens that may receive minimal amounts of debris. If you are in a heavily wooded area or are prone to massive amounts of debris you will be better off utilizing a Pond Protector Net Kit that implements a domed design to better protect your pond. The netting included with the kit extends beyond the tent-style frame allowing you to pull netting along the contours of your pond so there are no gaps left open for debris to enter.

Keeping leaves out of your pond in the fall will help keep the pond clean and manageable going into the colder seasons and will ensure a faster, easier cleanout and start up next season. Leaves left in the pond to decompose tend to create “tea-colored” water due to the tannins they release in the decomposition process. You can fill Media Bags with Activated Carbon and place them in your filter boxes to help clear the water if this happens to you. Also continue to use Nature’s Defense and Muck Defense to manage the muck left behind by decomposing leaves and fish waste. As water temperatures fall below 50 degrees Fahrenheit you can switch from Nature’s Defense and Muck Defense to Seasonal Defense. Seasonal Defense is a cool water natural bacteria that will continue the decomposition process throughout the fall and winter.

POND TALK: Do you fight to keep leaves out of your pond in the Fall? Has a pond net helped make your end of season ponding easier and more enjoyable?

Keep the leaves out!

Switching to High-Protein Fish Food – Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Switching to Higher Protein Fish Food

I’ve been feeding my fish a wheat-germ based fish food, when can I switch them to a higher-protein fish food? Jena – Tulsa, OK

At this time of year, as the cold wind of winter gradually begins to soften into the warmer days of early spring, and we anxiously wait for the long, hot, blissful days of summer sunshine, your fish will start to stir and wake from their sullen winter respite at the bottom of your pond, slowly ascending their way up from its murky depths, basking at its gently sun-kissed surface, all the while poking and searching with their little mouths agape, longing for their much anticipated and greatly missed, daily feedings…

Like most active “Ponders” I know, you’ve been cooped up indoors all winter long, spending your time reading every water garden article that you can get your hands on! And when you’re not busy reading, you’re spending your time talking with all of your other pond friends, either locally or online. Many of you have been asking the same question: when is the correct time to begin gradually switching over from a wheat germ-based Spring and Fall Fish Food, to one with a greater protein concentration?

Here is the answer to that question, and a few more important things to keep in mind…

Water Temperature is less than 39 degrees Fahrenheit: DO NOT feed them. When temperatures are this cold, a fish’s digestive system is shut down and anything they eat would not get properly digested. Since fish get their “body heat” from their outside environment, metabolic reactions (like digestion) take more time in colder water, which is why feeding can be dangerous to fish in lower water temperatures.

Water Temperature is between 40 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit: It is important to feed your fish a low-protein, wheat germ-based fish food at this time. As fish begin to wake up from dormancy, you may begin to feed them a whet germ-based fish food, such as Pond Logic® Spring and Fall Fish Food. This type of food is more easily digestible by fish than their regular protein based fish food diet and will gently help reintroduce solid food into your fish’s diet.

Water Temperature is above 55 degrees Fahrenheit: At this point, the fish are readily active and their digestive systems are fully up and running. You can choose between an assortment of balanced diet, protein-based fish foods, such as Pond Logic® Floating Ponstix or higher-protein diets such as Pond Logic® Growth and Color Fish Food.

Hopefully this helpful information should keep things simple for everyone; that way we can all get back to more important things… like spring cleaning the pond!

Pond Talk: What time of year do you normally switch from wheat germ-based fish food to a high-protein fish food?

Pond Logic® Growth & Color Fish Food

What’s a Nitrogen Cycle? – Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

PondCare Master Test Kit - Complete System

Explaining the Nitrogen Cycle

We’ve Got Good Chemistry
Today we trade in our waders for lab coats as we discuss your pond’s nitrogen cycle. While many of us find it hard to stay awake for science lectures, we promise this one will save you time and money and give you the upper hand in the fight against algae and fish kills. The nitrogen cycle is present in all water gardens and is truly a great thing when in balance. As plant matter decays and fish produce waste, ammonia is released into the water. The bacteria in your pond naturally break this ammonia down into nitrites and then down into nitrates. Plants, including algae, feed off of these nitrates, which in turn die and decompose or are eaten by fish and the process repeats itself. Having too many fish in your water garden or an abundance of decomposing organic debris can dramatically increase the amount of ammonia in your pond and, in turn, can harm your fish or turn the water body into an all you can eat buffet for unwanted algae.

Put Your Water Garden to the Test
Different types of test kits are available for purchase that will allow you to measure nitrite levels and ammonia levels. Kits like our Pond Care Master Test Kit let you measure nitrites and ammonia and pH all in one package. Regularly testing the water quality of your pond will give you the ability to locate potential problems and adjust accordingly before they become a danger to your plants or fish. Your ammonia and nitrite levels should ideally be at 0 with a pH level between 6.5 and 8.5.

Are You Unbalanced!?
So you know why it is important to achieve balance in your pond, you know how to test for it, but how do you go about achieving balance? A great, natural way to combat high nitrate levels in your pond is by incorporating some aquatic plants. Plants like Water Hyacinth filter the contents of the water, helping to create a clean, clear pond. Furthermore, providing adequate filtration is key in maintaining a balanced water body. Pay attention to your fish load. The more fish available to produce waste, the more filtration will be needed to break down the resulting ammonia. A good rule of thumb is to figure one fish per ten square feet of water surface. Adding beneficial bacteria such as Nature’s Defense will further help to break down organic debris and fish waste. Using natural products and methods like those listed above will reduce your dependency on algaecides and other chemicals to fight algae blooms.

POND TALK: What products do you use to control your water gardens nitrate levels?

PondCare Master Test Kit - Complete System

What are winter fish kills and how can I prevent them? – Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Dyed Pond


Q: What are winter fish kills and how can I prevent them? – Alison in Illinois

Winter Fish Kills, They Don’t Float With Us!
You’ve waited all Winter long for the ice to melt over your water garden so you can run your waterfalls and enjoy your finned friends. Instead, you find your fish floating at the ponds surface, victims of a winter fish kill. What is this phenomenon and how can you prevent it?

Make Some Holes
When a layer of ice forms over the surface of you water garden, it essentially eliminates any transfer of air to or from your pond’s water. What this means to you is that, as debris decompose and your fish consume oxygen, byproducts are produced in the form of gasses that are toxic to your pond’s inhabitants. These gases are trapped under the ice and cannot escape; fresh air from outside the pond cannot reach the water either and so begins the process of the winter fish kill. Keeping a hole in the ice will allow the bad air in the pond to be replenished with good air. Some pond guys and gals use pond De-Icers to maintain an open hole, but many more rely on their aeration systems to do the job.

Pass The Bubbly
We’ve discussed in our past blogs the many benefits of aeration in your water garden. It circulates the water in your pond, infusing it with oxygen which is beneficial to your bacteria and fish. The constant bubbling produced by an aeration system will also keep a hole open in your water garden in the winter months, ensuring the release of those harmful gasses.

Being Supercool is SO Uncool
You have all heard concerns expressed in our past blogs in regards to “supercooling”. While this is a rare occurrence, there are a couple steps you can take to ensure you don’t overdo your winter aeration. When the cold weather comes, move your aeration plates to a shallower part of your pond. This will maintain a warmer layer of water for your fish to retreat to if the water does get a little too chilly. Furthermore, if you have a multiple plate system, you can run your water garden on just one plate for the winter. This will ensure that you have an open hole in your ice and should provide sufficient air supply to your fish as they require less oxygen during these times of decreased activity.

POND TALK: What type of aeration do you use in your pond? How have your fish fared over the past winters?

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