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I recently installed a small pondless water feature. How do I maintain it? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I recently installed a small pondless water feature. How do I maintain it?

Q: I recently installed a small pondless water feature. How do I maintain it?

Paul- Moab, UT

A: I recently installed a small pondless water feature. How do I maintain it?

As you’ve likely discovered, a pondless water feature makes a fantastic addition to a landscape. Whether it’s a bubbling fountain, a colorful birdbath or a disappearing waterfall, pondless features deliver the tranquil sound of running water without the hassle.

Small water features are easy to keep, but you will need to do some simple chores. Here’s a quick checklist to follow:

  1. Remove the Debris: Dust will dirty the water feature, and debris may collect and start to break down, leaving behind a slimy mess. As needed, manually remove large debris and then add a dose of FeatureFix™ to the water as a cleaner. The highly concentrated product will safely eliminate accumulated debris and clear unsightly discoloration and stuck-on organic materials, often within 48 hours. (FeatureFix™ is not safe for use in features with fish, invertebrates or crustaceans, so use with caution.)
  2. Clear the Water: To keep your fountain flowing with clean, clear water, treat it regularly with FeatureClear™. The bacteria in this all-natural clarifier will digest organic debris to keep water crystal clear. Use every two weeks when water temperatures are above 50°F. Simply add one ounce for every 100 gallons of water for sparkling clean water without harmful chemicals. (FeatureClear™ is safe for use around fish, plants, pets and wildlife.)
  3. Top Off As Needed: In addition to keeping things clean and clear, also keep an eye on the water level in your pondless feature’s basin and top it off as needed.
  4. Inspect Mechanics, Connections: Periodically inspect your feature’s pump, tubing and connections to ensure that they are sound and functioning correctly.

With winter approaching, be cautious about running your pondless fountain. It will sure look cool, flowing or bubbling away in the frosty air, but freezing temperatures and ice formations can do some serious damage. If you decide to shut it down until spring, remove the pump from the basin, place it in a bucket with water and store it in a place that will not freeze. Be sure to leave water in the basin so the ground won’t shift.

Pond Talk: How do you winterize your pondless water feature?

Keep Water Features Clean - Pond Logic(r) FeatureClear(t) & FeatureFix(t) Combo

What is supercooling? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: What is supercooling??

Q: What is supercooling?

Aloma, Warroad, MN

A: Supercooling is uncommon, but it can occur in lakes and ponds, particularly in the northern states. Here’s what you need to know about it and how to prevent it from happening.

In the winter time water stratifies in pond and lakes without proper aeration when surface temperatures are extremely cold, creating what’s called a thermocline. A thermocline happens as warmer water about 39°F or so – sinks to the bottom, while colder water about 32°F or so – rises to the top. Very little mixing of the layers occurs, particularly in calm weather.

Supercooling could become an issue if you’re running a surface aeration system in shallow ponds with fish. The fish prefer to stay on the bottom of the pond in the warmer pockets of water during the winter. They’re in winter-hibernation mode, and all they want to do is be in a stress-free spot until spring.

As the aerator circulates the warmer water with the cooler water at the surface, the overall temperature could drop. In extreme cases when the temperatures are well below 0°F, the water temperature can actually drop below its freezing point without becoming a solid – a rare process known as supercooling.

If the water gets too cold, your fish have nowhere warm to go. Living without their warm hangout spot could compromise their oxygen supply and immune systems, making them vulnerable to parasites and diseases.

The best way to deliver oxygen to your fish is with a bottom diffused aerator, like an Airmax® Aeration System. You can keep it running without creating an inhospitable environment for your finned friends by simply moving your diffuser plates closer to the surface or turning half of them off.

If you relocate the diffuser plates to a spot that’s about half the depth of your pond or run only 50 percent of them, a pocket of warm water will remain for your fish at the bottom. You’ll continue pumping oxygen into the water and keeping a hole in the ice for gas exchange without having to worry about freezing your fish.

Pond Talk: What steps do you take to prevent over cooling or supercooling your pond?

Call (866) POND-HELP - Free Aerial Aeration Mapping Service

Will I need to top off my pond this winter? If so, how do I stop my hose from freezing? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Will I need to top off my pond this winter? If so, how do I stop my hose from freezing?

Q: Will I need to top off my pond this winter? If so, how do I stop my hose from freezing?

Kirsten – Kalispell, MT

A: Though water fluctuations seem more pronounced in the summertime, winter water loss in your pond will happen. When it does, you’ll need to top it off – but access to liquid water can be a challenge in northern climates where landscapes freeze over.

Reasons for Winter Water Loss

Before we get into how to turn up the heat in your water garden, let’s take a look at why water loss happens during the cold season. It can be caused by the following:

  • Low humidity: When the air contains little moisture, evaporation rates increase as the dry air will absorb the water (frozen or not) from your pond.
  • Windy conditions: Wind can also escalate evaporation in your pond. A 5-mile-per-hour wind at your pond’s surface, for instance, results in roughly three times the rate of evaporation on a still day.
  • Ice expansion, formation: Because frozen water takes up more space than liquid water, it will appear that the volume dissipates in your pond as ice forms and expands.

A small amount of water level fluctuation is OK – but if your pond is very shallow (18 to 24 inches or less) and stocked with fish, keep a very close eye on your water level. A few inches of water loss could leave your fish in ice!

Topping It Off

If your pond’s water level drops more than an inch, you’ll need to top it off. But how do you do that if the pond is covered in a sheet of ice, or if the water in your hose freezes solid as soon as you turn on the spigot?

First, you’ll have to break through the ice. To crack through it, remember to never use a drill, hammer or other blunt object, as the subsurface vibrations could harm your fish. Instead, fill a bucket with hot water and pour it on one area of the pond to melt open a hole in the ice, preferably near the edge.

Next, use the heated K&H™ PVC Thermo-Hose™ to fill up your pond through the hole. The thermostatically controlled hose prevents ice from forming in your faucet or hose. The unit’s built-in heating elements turn on automatically when temperatures dip below freezing so you’ll have liquid water coming out of your hose.

You can use the Thermo-Hose™ two ways: either keep it plugged into a power source all winter, or use it as-needed by plugging it in 30 minutes before use. Either way, hook it up to the spigot or water source only when in use and unhook it when you’re done.

Pond Talk: How much water loss do you experience in your pond over the winter?

Keep Your Water Flowing - K&H (t) PVC Thermo-Hose(t)

We always have snakes around my pond, except in the winter. Where do they go?| Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q:We always have snakes around my pond, except in the winter. Where do they go?

Q: We always have snakes around my pond, except in the winter. Where do they go?

Dylan- Garner, IA

A: Ponds and lakes get plenty of visitors – including different species of snakes that linger around water. Some of the more common varieties that call the northern states home include the Black Rat Snake, Corn Snake, Garter Snake and the Northern Water Snake.

Water snakes live wherever there’s water, like near lakes, ponds, marshes, streams, rivers and canals. During the spring, summer and fall, when the weather is warm, you probably see these snakes slithering in and around your pond and in the grassy fields, looking for food and for places to sun themselves. But during the winter, they disappear. Where do they go? They’re holed up and hibernating.

Summer Home, Winter Home

Snakes are ectothermic, which means they use the environment to regulate their body temperature. When it’s warm, they’re warm – and they ensure that by basking on rocks, stumps or brush in the full sunshine. In fair weather, rocks, aquatic plants, muskrat houses and beaver lodges are good places to find water snakes, which like to hide among the sticks and plant stems when they’re not sunning themselves.

But when it’s cold, they go on hiatus. These snakes are unable to generate their own internal body heat, so they rely on outside forces to keep their metabolisms churning. They need to overwinter in areas that will not freeze. The underground becomes their winter home, where they spend their time in temperature-stable burrows below the freezing line, and often share the space with other snakes.

Preferred Diet

In the spring, summer and fall, these slithering, mostly harmless critters are active day and night. During the day, water snakes hunt among plants at the water’s edge, looking for small fish, frogs, worms, leeches, crayfish, salamanders, young turtles, and small birds and mammals. At night, they concentrate on minnows and other small fish sleeping in shallow water.

When the cold weather sets in; however, snakes go on a season-long diet. Their metabolism slows way down. Food supplies, like frogs and toads, dwindle. If snakes have undigested food in their bellies when they go into hibernation, they can die.

Friends and Foes

Water snakes have many predators, including birds, raccoons, opossums, foxes, snapping turtles, bullfrogs and other snakes. Humans who mistake the harmless snake varieties for dangerous ones, like Copperheads and Water Moccasins, can affect the population, too.

For the most part, these guys are our friends. They may eat some fish and frogs and hunt some of the indigenous wildlife, but they also do damage to the rodent population – which everyone can appreciate. If you see a snake on your property and you’re not sure if it’s a safe or dangerous variety, contact your local university extension office and describe the snake’s size, color, scale pattern and where you found it. Never kill a snake without good reason, because they are important to our environment.

Pond Talk: What kinds of snakes do you have around your pond or lake?

Shade & Protect Your Pond All Year Long - Pond Logic (r) Pond Dye

Do I need to do anything to my aquatic plants this time of year?| Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Do I need to do anything to my aquatic plants this time of year?

Q: Do I need to do anything to my aquatic plants this time of year?

Jaclyn – Tomahawk, WI

A: Shorter days and swaths of fall colors mean one thing: winter is on its way, and your aquatic plants will need some attention before the big chill sets in. So bundle up, pull on your hip waders and Aqua Gloves™ to keep dry and warm, dig out your easy-to-use Pond Scissors and Pliers – and let’s take care of some winter-prep pond plant chores!

Tropical Plants: Tropical water lilies, water hyacinth, water lettuce and other tropical plants prefer warm temperatures all year long. If you live in USDA Hardiness Zone nine or lower, you’ll need to completely remove these plants from your pond and relocate them to a protected indoor space for the winter, like an aquarium or large bucket inside a heated garage or workshop.

Tropical water lilies will need some extra care. When you pull the plants from your pond, remove any dead foliage, rinse the plant well, keep the tuber moist in distilled water and place it under a grow light until spring.

Keep in mind that despite these winterizing measures, your tropical aquatic plants might not survive the winter. They are from the tropics, after all …

Hardy Water Lilies: Hardy water lilies can tolerate cooler temperatures than your tropical varieties, but they need to be kept in a place that won’t freeze, like the deepest areas of your pond. Remove the plants from the pond, trim the foliage back to one to two inches above the root ball, and submerge them as low as they’ll go for the winter. Come spring, the greenery will reemerge healthy as ever from the plants’ crowns.

Bog Plants: Your bog plants’ leaves and stems will begin to die off as winter arrives, so you’ll need to trim them back to just above the soil with pond scissors. If they are in containers, sink them lower into the deepest parts of your pond where the water remains unfrozen during the wintertime. If they are planted directly into the ground, leave them alone for the winter.

Submerged Plants: The only thing your below-the-surface greenery needs is a quick trim to get rid of decaying and dead foliage. Cut plants in containers back to one inch above the pot and submerge in the center of the pond; any plants living directly in the ground can be left as-is.

Floating Plants: Unless you live in a climate that doesn’t freeze, floating plants like water hyacinth and water lettuce won’t survive the winter. Plan to remove them from your pond after the first hard freeze and toss them in your compost pile. If you leave them in the pond, the dead plants will decompose and cause water quality issues this winter.

While you’re preparing your plants for winter, take some time to do a little clean up around your pond. Remove any dead leaves and foliage, and rake or net out leaves and fallen debris. Water quality matters – even in the winter!

Pond Talk: How long does it take you to prepare your aquatic plants for winter?

Keep Your Hands Clean & Dry- Coralife(r) AquaGloves(t)

For winter, do I need to move my diffusers, or can I just close the valves?| Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: For winter, do I need to move my diffusers, or can I just close the valves?

Q: For winter, do I need to move my diffusers, or can I just close the valves?

Chuck- Tipton, IN

A: Diffusers – and the oxygen they pump into your pond or lake – ensure the health and well being of your fish. Year-round aeration circulates the water column and fills the pond with oxygen. If your pond freezes over during the cold months of the year, an aeration system will can also help maintain a hole in the ice to allow harmful gases to escape.

Move Your Diffusers:

As part of your winter-prep chores, you will need to move the diffuser plates to a shallower spot in your pond or lake. Why? Give your fish a place to safely overwinter in deeper, warmer water. When the plates are closer to the surface, they will also help to keep a hole open in the ice.

Close the Valves:

In addition to relocating your diffuser plates, you can also close about 50 percent of the valves (unless you have the PS10 or LS10 models of Airmax® Aeration Systems, in which case you leave the valve open). You won’t be mixing as much water, but you will be adding enough oxygen to the pond and allowing for gas exchange at the surface.

Stay Safe:

Because you’re aerating your pond over the winter, consider putting up a “Thin Ice” sign near the shoreline. Air pockets form in ice sheets created on aerated ponds, and they make the surface unsound and not safe to walk or skate on. Warn would-be hockey players and figure skaters of the danger before they get into trouble.

While you’re thinking about safety, make sure you have a Life Ring, first aid kit and blanket stowed lakeside in a weatherproof bin just in case someone does fall through the ice.

Pond Talk: How spectacular are the fall colors around your pond or lake right now?

Aerate Your Pond in All Seasons - Airmax (r) Pond Series (t) Aeration Systems

I see pond nets for little ponds, but how do I stop leaves from getting into my 1-acre pond?| Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I see pond nets for little ponds, but how do I stop leaves from getting into my 1-acre pond?

Q: I see pond nets for little ponds, but how do I stop leaves from getting into my 1-acre pond?

Casey- Wichita, KS

A: Pond netting works great to prevent blowing leaves and debris from landing in small water features, but they’re not practical – or possible, really – for large ponds and lakes like yours.

Can you imagine what it would take to install a supersized 1-acre pond net? It would be like you and 20 of your friends trying to cover Fenway Park’s field in rain delay tarp while maneuvering tiny tricycles. Entertaining for those watching, but almost impossible for those installing!

Instead, we suggest a three-pronged approach that involves a little manual labor, some beneficial bacteria and a lot of aeration – but no tricycles.

Shoreline Cleanup

The first step is to manually remove fallen leaves and debris from the shoreline with a tool like a Pond & Beach Rake or PondSkim™ Debris Skimmer. When you rake up or skim all that decomposing material and dump it in your compost pile away from your pond, you’re preventing it from decomposing in the water, where it turns into algae-feeding muck.

Bombard with Bacteria

To break down the organic material that does find its way into your pond, use muck-busting beneficial bacteria like those found in Pond Logic® MuckAway™. The pellets can be used throughout the fall, as long as water temperatures are above 50° Fahrenheit. They’ll sink to the bottom and instantly begin to break down debris and improve water clarity.

Aerate and Oxygenate

An aeration system, like the Airmax® Aeration System, removes dangerous gases like ammonia while delivering oxygen to your fish and muck-eating beneficial bacteria. It churns and turns over the water column, circulating that oxygen and keeping your pond or lake healthy. And if your pond freezes over in the winter, your aeration system can create an air hole in the ice for gas exchange.

They may not make 1-acre nets, but you can keep those blowing leaves managed with these three easy tips. Good luck!

Pond Talk: How do you prevent leaves and debris from landing in your large pond or lake?

Remove Unwanted Leaves This Fall - The Pond Guy (r) Pond & Beach Rake

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