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I went to clean my filters and found worms! What are they doing there? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I went to clean my filters and found worms! What are they doing there?

Q: I went to clean my filters and found worms! What are they doing there?

Gene – Tehachapi, CA

A: They’re weird looking, they’re tiny, and they’re blood-red – or at least a creamy pink color. What are they? They’re non-biting midge fly larvae, also known as bloodworms. Though they’re an unsettling infestation to see in your filter, they’re actually a sign that your pond is happy and healthy.

What’s In a Name

Midge flies hail from the family Chironomidae, which includes more than 10,000 different species worldwide. Some varieties appear bright red in color thanks to a hemoglobin-type substance that helps them live with oxygen-depleted water, giving them their “bloodworm” nickname.

As adults, midge flies resemble mosquitoes, but they have fluffy antennae and no blood-sucking proboscis. Large numbers of them can be a nuisance as their droppings can cause damage to paint, brick and other surfaces. And when their tiny corpses pile up, they can cause a stink.

Feasting in Your Filter

These insects thrive in freshwater aquatic and semi-aquatic environments. In their larval stages, they live in tree holes, plants, rotting vegetation, soil and artificial containers – including filtration systems, infesting media pads where there’s an abundance of organics from debris and fish waste. They spend their time attached to the container’s solid surface and eat as food floats by.

Midge flies lay their eggs in water, preferring it to be still, clear, dark and safe from critters like fish and frogs that nosh on the larvae when they emerge. To protect themselves, the bloodworms actually create and live in tiny half-inch tubes they build from mud, algae and other naturally occurring resources. Look closely in your filter, and you’ll probably see some of these worm-sized mud huts.

A Tasty Fish Treat

Don’t worry: These little guys won’t harm your pond or your fish. In fact, if one wriggles its way into your pond, it will be a welcome treat for your fish. Goldfish and other smaller fish will gobble them and their little mud homes; koi and other larger fish will treat them as tasty hors d’oeuvres.

Bloodworms are quite nutritious for fish. In fact, the insects are about 55 percent protein – which is a key nutrient fish need to grow, reproduce and maintain their health. So rather than balk at the tiny worms, scoop them out of your filter and give them to your pond dwellers. They’ll thank you for them!

Pond Talk: What kinds of treats do you feed your pond fish?

Four Densities for Every Filtration Need - Matala(r) Filter Media Pads

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

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 BioBalls™ 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

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?

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