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We are thinking about putting in a pond and most seem to be the same shape. Does the shape of the pond matter? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: We are thinking about putting in a pond and most seem to be the same shape. Does the shape of the pond matter?

Q: We are thinking about putting in a pond and most seem to be the same shape. Does the shape of the pond matter?

Beth – Hinesville, GA

A: Round, oblong, square, kidney-shaped, oval or otherwise, ponds come in all shapes and sizes. In most cases, they’re designed to fit into and enhance their environment. But does shape matter? Read on to learn more.

Tried-and-True Standards

Many ponds are curved and centered toward the viewing area – and there’s a good reason for that. An oval- or kidney-shaped pond allows you to see more of your water garden from one place. Imagine sitting on your deck or patio and enjoying a 180-degree view of your natural-looking waterscape. When compared to a perfectly round or square pond in the middle of your yard, you can see why one might have more aesthetic appeal than another.

Oval- or kidney-shaped ponds also allow for optimum circulation, particularly when a RapidFlo™ Ecosystem Pond Kit or AllClear™ Ecosystem Pond Kit is installed. A waterfall located at one end of a slightly curved pond will gently push the water toward your skimmer or pump for circulation and filtration. Round ponds or those with many coves or inlets may have areas of little circulation, which will require extra waterfalls, fountains or pumps to move the water and prevent it from stagnating.

Outside the Oval

Of course, if you want to play with pond shapes and design a waterscape that’s outside the ordinary, have at it! A rectangular pond teeming with colorful koi could be a stunning centerpiece in a modern-themed yard. A haphazardly shaped pond outlined with irises and arrowhead could transform a suburban postage-stamp yard into a natural wonderland. Just be sure you provide adequate aeration to all its corners and coves.

Regardless of its shape or size, a koi pond or water garden will make a valuable addition to your yard. Check out magazines for inspiration. Pin favorites on Pinterest. Sketch out your ideas. When you’re ready, talk to one of our pond design experts – and get ready to start digging!

Pond Talk: What shape is your pond? Is it tried-and-true, or is it outside the ordinary?

Pond Building Made Easy - The Pond Guy® RapidFlo™ Ecosystem Pond Kits

I’ve used lava rock in my filter for years. Are bioballs really that much better? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I’ve used lava rock in my filter for years. Are bioballs really that much better?

Q: I’ve used lava rock in my filter for years. Are bioballs really that much better?

Dana – Altadena, CA

A: The media you use in your filtration system matters. Just think about its purpose: To house billions of beneficial bacteria and other microorganisms that keep your pond alive, crystal clear and algae-free. Thanks to their ample surface area, both lava rock and bioballs will work, but bioballs have some benefits over the rock. Read on to learn more.

Lava Rock’s Limitations

Lava rock – that igneous rock that’s formed as an erupting volcano’s molten lava cools and hardens – is very porous. When chunks of it live in your filtration system, you’re providing a lot of surface area for those beneficial bacteria to colonize and grow. That’s what makes it such a great filter media.

It does, however, have its drawbacks.

  • Clogged Holes: Over time, the porous rock can become easily clogged with muck and debris. Once the holes and pockets are clogged, they can become very difficult to clean out – which ultimately creates less overall surface area.
  • Hard Water: Lava rock naturally contains a variety of minerals, including iron and magnesium, that could affect your water’s pH, making it harder. Hard water could make it more difficult to treat algae that forms.
  • It’s Heavy!: They may be porous chunks of rock, but hefting bags of it takes some strength – particularly when its wet and full of gunk.

Benefits of BioBalls

Bioballs, like The Pond Guy® BioBalls™ filter media, are plastic spheres made up of dozens of thin rods that provide plenty of surface area for beneficial bacteria to thrive. Two hundred of the bioballs in a mesh bag will filter about 1,000 gallons of water in a pond with minimal fish.

Compared to lava rock, bioballs have some definite benefits.

  • Easy to Clean: Bioballs can also become clogged, by they’re easy to clean. Just rinse them off with water from your pond and you’ll be good to go.
  • Indefinite Lifetime: Because they’re made from long-lasting material, bioballs will not degrade and will function equally well year after year.
  • Shape Shifters: The bioballs’ round shape allows them to more easily conform to any filter, no matter its shape.
  • Lightweight, Easy to Handle: Each one of these tiny, 1 1/2-inch plastic spheres weighs a scant 0.3 ounces; 200 of them weigh a whopping 3 1/2 pounds. They’re easy to deposit and remove from your filter thanks to a mesh filter bag.

Consider making the switch from lava rock to bioballs. You’ll see better results and you’ll need to do less maintenance. What’s better than that?

Pond Talk: Why do you prefer bioballs over lava rock?

Lightweight & Easy to Clean - The Pond Guy® BioBalls™

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

I want to upgrade my filtration system. What are my options? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I want to upgrade my filtration system. What are my options?

Q: I want to upgrade my filtration system. What are my options?

Brock – Baton Rouge, LA

A: In just about every pond keeper’s life, the time comes when they want (or need) to upgrade their filtration system. Whether they’re looking for a filter that will handle a higher fish load, a three-in-one system that has UV light built right in, or one that’ll efficiently skim out leaves falling from that overgrown maple tree, a new filtration system can improve water quality – and give hobbyists a fun new water garden gadget to play with.

Ready to check out some options? Below, we’ve outlined several upgrade choices for your pond filtration system.

  • In-Pond Filtration Systems: The ClearSolution™ 4-in-1 Pond Filtration System is an ideal upgrade for ponds 1,200 gallons or less, particularly if the existing filter is a waterfall filter box. This unit uses mechanical and biological filtration media to remove large debris and dissolved organics, while a powerful ultraviolet clarifier clears discolored water. The system also features a compact energy-efficient mag-drive pump, which circulates water through the filtration system and discharges it through a fountain head attachment or a diverter valve. You can upgrade your filter and add a fountain!
  • External Pressurized Filters: For those with larger ponds up to 4,800 gallons, the AllClear™ PLUS & SolidFlo™ Combo Kits offer mechanical, biological and ultraviolet filtration in an efficient, economical filtration unit – but it also includes a back-flush system that allows you to clean the filter with the turn of a dial and rinse away waste water and debris via a discharge outlet. The AllClear™ PLUS system with SolidFlo™ Solid Handling Pump is great upgrade for existing ponds with high fish populations.
  • Waterfall Filter Boxes: Add a water feature to your pond while stepping up your filtration with a waterfall filter box, like the ClearSpring™ Waterfall Filter. The unit houses Bio-Balls and two filter pads of varying density for maximum filtration. For the waterfall pattern, you can choose between two included weir options – a traditional smooth sheet-like surface and a ribbed pattern. You can even plumb multiple boxes together via FPT inlets located on both sides of the waterfall box.
  • Skimmer Boxes: A skimmer is a practical upgrade in ponds with a lot of leaves. If your pond requires a high-volume pump that you want to hide, or if you want to add some extra mechanical filtration, check out the TetraPond® In-Pond Skimmer. This unit includes a large removable debris basket and an automatically adjustable weir door for maximum surface cleaning. And it’s easy to install: Place the skimmer on the bottom of your pond, weigh it down with gravel, connect it to your pump and let the skimming begin!

A new filtration system is a great investment in your hobby. Whichever you choose, have fun and enjoy the upgrade!

Pond Talk: What kinds of upgrades have you done to your filtration system?

Create a Beautiful Waterfall - The Pond Guy (r) ClearSpring(t) Waterfall Filter

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)

Someone told me I need to do the Jar Test. What is that? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Someone told me I need to do the Jar Test. What is that?

Q: Someone told me I need to do the Jar Test. What is that?

Margie – Clinton, ME

A: Let me guess: You have discolored or cloudy water, right?

Your friend gave some good advice. If you have green- or tea-colored water, or murky water in your pond, a jar test is an easy way to diagnose just what’s causing those clarity issues.

It’s simple to do. Take a clear glass jar, dunk it into your pond, fill it up with the water and let it sit for 24 hours. Overnight, the jar and its contents become a miniature version of your water garden – and it’ll reveal the source of your problem. Here’s how to read your jar:

Green Water

If your jar contains green-tined water or if the water has green particles in it, you most likely have algae. Planktonic algae – the source of algae blooms – are floating, microscopic plants that color pond water green, blue-green, brown or variations in between. Your jar is telling you to treat for algae with an algaecide like AlgaeFix®. It clears up all types of algae blooms fast.

Tea-Colored Water

Discolored or tea-colored water means you have some leaf tea brewing in your pond. As organic debris decomposes in your pond, the tannins and other byproducts mix into the water column, discoloring it. Your first remedy is to add a bag of Activated Carbon to the water. It will clear up the dissolved materials that are causing the problem. While the carbon is working, remove floating and decaying material with Collapsible Skimmer Net and ClearVac™ Pond Vacuum. Keep your pond clean by skimming it regularly and covering it with pond netting or a Pond Shelter™ during the fall months.

Water with Sediment

Does your jar have clear water with a layer of sediment on the bottom? If so, you have an abundance of organics in the pond, and your fish are constantly stirring them up and clouding the water. Your four-step solution: Remove large debris, perform a partial water change, add a Water Conditioner, and double down on the beneficial bacteria from the DefensePAC®.

A jar test can reveal a lot about the water in your pond. If you need some assistance in discerning what your jar is telling you, just email one of The Pond Guy® experts. They’re there to help!

Pond Talk: Have you ever been surprised by the results of a jar test in your pond?

Safely Clear Tea Colored Water - Pond Logic (r) Activated Carbon

Should I turn off my UV light when adding water treatments, like Nature’s Defense®, to my pond? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Should I turn off my UV light when adding water treatments, like Nature’s Defense®, to my pond?

Q: Should I turn off my UV light when adding water treatments, like Nature’s Defense®, to my pond?

Olivia – Blissfield, MI

A: Great question! The answer all depends on the kind of ultraviolet light you’re talking about – so let’s quickly go through the differences between a UV sterilizer and a UV clarifier.

UV Sterilizer: Cleans It All- Good and Bad

A UV sterilizer completely sterilizes the water – which means it kills anything and everything that floats past its path, including beneficial bacteria found in some water treatments. These units are effective at killing floating algae and harmful pathogens like parasites, but they kill the good stuff, too. We don’t recommend adding bacteria to your pond while using a UV sterilizer.

UV Clarifier: Targets the Green Stuff

A UV clarifier is different. It targets just algae and leaves the bacteria alone (as long as the unit is sized right for the pond). The clarifier uses ultraviolet light to destroy the reproductive ability of suspended green stuff. Dead algae then clumps together into particles large enough to be removed by mechanical filtration, leaving the pond cleaner and clearer. If pea soup water is a recurring problem for you, add a UV clarifier to your pond.

Optimize the Flow

If you use a UV clarifier, you can leave the light on while you use bacteria-based treatments, like those found in the DefensePAC® Pond Care Package. But just be sure the bulb and pump are sized correctly.

Bright Enough Bulb: For a UV clarifier to be most effective, the bulb needs to have a high enough wattage for your pond’s volume. All UV clarifiers are rated based on pond size. The larger the wattage, the larger the pond size the UV clarifier can handle.

Power to the Pump: The water needs to flow pass the UV bulb at the just right speed, so the pump size is important. If the water moves too quickly, it won’t kill the algae and it could cause the seals on the unit to malfunction; if it moves too slowly, it will kill the algae and beneficial bacteria. A great rule of thumb is to push the water approximately half of what the UV is rated per hour.

A convenient option is to try out an all-in-one unit, like the AllClear™ & SolidFlo™ Combo Kits. The mechanical and biological filter system comes with a built-in UV clarifier. When used with the SolidFlo pump, you’ll be well on your way to clear water.

One last tip: Keep the water well-circulated by running an aeration system, like one of the Airmax® Aeration Kits. Its diaphragm compressors and air stones keep the beneficial bacteria supplied with oxygen, as well as ensure every drop of water and every algae cell float past that UV bulb.

Pond Talk: When have you used an UV clarifier in your pond?

All-Natural Pond Care System - Pond Logic (r) DefensePAC 9r)

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