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How can you tell if your pond is safe to walk on? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: How can you tell if a pond is safe to walk on?

Q: How can you tell if a pond is safe to walk on?

Beth – Franklin, PA

A: Ice is fun—but it can be dangerous business.

Winter brings cold weather and snow to your pond or lake, as well as a perfect layer of ice for skating, ice fishing, snowmobiling and more. You may want to get out there and play, but it’s important to know whether your ice is safe and strong or a potential hazard.

Here’s how to determine whether the ice on your pond is thick enough and safe for wintertime fun.

1. Check Its Temperature, Formation

After about two to three weeks of freezing temperatures, a solid sheet of ice will begin to form on your pond or lake. But low temps aren’t the only thing that influence ice formation. Water currents, wind and snow coverage will also make a difference in the integrity of the frozen surface. So once the weather and temperatures stabilize after several weeks, you can venture onto the ice and inspect its thickness.

2. Check Surface for Quality

Ice quality matters. When you inspect the ice, you can visually gauge its quality by looking for bubbles, trapped snow and cracks. You can also determine its quality by color, as a solid blue ice sheet is much stronger than a white brittle layer, which is caused by air pockets and other flaws. Of course, new ice is stronger than old ice, too, as temperature fluctuations haven’t thawed and refrozen the ice, which can weaken its integrity.

In addition, if you’ve left your aeration system running while the ice has been forming, the ice layer will have air pockets—and be unsafe for winter recreation.

3. Verify Its Thickness

You’ve given the water time to freeze and the ice time to form, and you’ve ensured the quality of the ice sheet’s surface. The next step is to verify its thickness. You can either drill or cut samples—but make sure you do so in multiple locations as you work your way toward the center of the pond as the water won’t necessarily freeze evenly.

In general, a layer of ice less than 3 inches is too thin for most people to walk out on. It may be able to hold up lighter people or small animals but can easily crack. So if you plan to have a group of people on the pond or want to take your snowmobile out on your lake, an ice formation of 6 to 8 inches minimum is ideal.

4. Be Patient, Stay Safe

Winter recreation on an ice-covered pond is fun—but be patient and use extreme caution when venturing on the ice. Take time to inspect the ice quality and take samples because doing so can make all the difference between a blast and a disaster.

Always make sure you have a life ring or floatation device within reach in case someone accidentally falls through the ice. And always use common sense when venturing out—better to be safe than sorry!

Pond Talk: What is your favorite wintertime activity on your frozen lake or pond?

Promote Pond Safety - Taylor Made Life Rings

 

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Should I use just one type of filter media or are multiple types better? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Should I use just one type of filter media or are multiple types better?

Q: Should I use just one type of filter media or are multiple types better?

Christine – Mt. Clemens, MI

A:  Filter media—or the stuff in your filter that holds beneficial bacteria—come in a range of shapes, sizes and densities. Some are plastic balls; some are fibrous mats and blocks; some are plastic spiral-shaped things that more resemble fusilli than pond products. With all the different types, it’s tough to decide which is best.

Well, we’ll make it easy for you: Try a little of each type. Just like plants, different filtration media provide different amounts of water filtration, so we recommend a healthy mix of media pads, like Matala® Filter Media Pads, and Filter Media Pads pre-cut and by-the-foot; ridged plastic balls, like The Pond Guy® BioBalls™; and curly plastic strips, like Bacti-Twist® Biological/Mechanical Filter Media.

When choosing the filter media, regardless of type, look for these defining characteristics:

  • Durability: Your media should be able to withstand wear and tear. The Pond Guy® BioBalls™ are more durable and longer lasting compared to similar products.
  • Density: Your media should be the right density for your specific needs. Matala® Filter Media Pads come in 4 densities to suit your particular pond.
  • Surface area: Your media should also have a lot of surface area, which will result in more places for beneficial bacteria to grow.

Your filter media’s density and surface area are particularly important because they determine how much beneficial bacteria grows and the rate at which water flows through the material. Dense material allows for more bacteria colonization, while less-dense material allows for more water flow. By using all different types of filter media, you’re encouraging optimal biological and mechanical filtration—and that’s always a good thing in an enclosed system.

Already have filter media in your system? You may be able to use it for another season or two, but first give it a visual inspection. Is it beginning to wear on the edges? Has it compacted over the last few seasons? Worn or compressed material should be replaced to give your pond top-quality filtration, but fresh, fluffy material can be reused.

Pond Talk: What’s your preferred filter media type—and why?

Keep Your Water Crystal Clear - Matala® Filter Media Pads

 

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I have an aeration system but the pond is frozen over, am I still getting aeration? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I have an aeration system but the pond is frozen over, am I still getting aeration?

Q: I have an aeration system but the pond is frozen over, am I still getting aeration?

Jenni – Monticello, NY

A: Even if you’ve been running your aeration system diligently throughout the winter to protect your fish, it is still possible for your pond freeze over. It is not uncommon for the cold weather to close up the holes created by your aeration system during a streak of particularly frigid winter days. Your pond is able to hold a substantial amount of oxygen which acts as a buffer for days where your pond is getting less than ideal air exchange. Even when frozen, your aeration system will continue to circulate and add oxygen to the water column. Typically a sunny or warmer day will provide the assistance your aeration system needs to re-establish ventilation holes in the ice and release any harmful gas that accumulated while the pond was frozen over.

If your pond stays frozen over for more than a week or two at a time you may want to consider using an ice auger to drill a couple holes in the ice around the perimeter of your pond. Do not venture out towards the center as your aeration system is constantly bubbling and weakening the ice. Never try to pound, crack or break through the ice to open a hole for air exchange as it will send pressure waves throughout the pond disrupting and possibly killing your fish. Positioning your aeration plates in shallower areas of your pond will make it easier for the surface water above the plate to remain open due to increased water movement reaching the pond’s surface.

If your pond still hasn’t thawed out with the help of warm weather, sunshine and shallow plate placement, inspect your aeration system to make it is properly functioning. If you are using an Airmax® Aeration System, make sure the air filter is clean and is being changed every 3 to 6 months. Check your pressure gauges and airlines for indications that the compressor is still producing adequate air flow. If your system is between 3 to 5 years old consider installing a maintenance kit which replaces all of the seals and wear and tear parts that lead to decreased system performance. If the pressure reads abnormally high it may indicate that your airlines are obstructed by ice or possibly pinched or crushed.

If your pond only stays frozen over for short periods of time there is no need to worry. The holes will open back up on their own and your pond will take care of the rest naturally. Continue to regularly inspect your aeration system for signs of trouble and ALWAYS exercise caution when venturing near the ice. Make sure there is a flotation device present at your pond both in the summer and winter.

Pond Talk: Does your pond freeze over during the winter, even with aeration?

Keep Your Pond Healthy All Winter - Airmax® Aeration System

 

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I would like to build a backyard pond. What do I need to know? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I would like to build a backyard pond. What do I need to know?

Q: I would like to build a backyard pond. What do I need to know?

Carolyn – Jackson, TN

A: Are you dreaming of summertime landscaping projects? Yep, we are too. With the cold season upon us, there’s nothing like some backyard pond planning to warm up those chilly days and get excited about diving in to your favorite hobby.

Whether you plan to build a half-acre pond with a recirculating stream and fish, expand on your existing feature, or install a petite 200-gallon in-ground aquatic water garden, you should consider these points as you design your backyard dream:

Start with a Budget

First of all, consider what kind of money you want to spend and develop a project budget. In most cases, the larger the water feature, the more expensive it will cost—but some of those top-of-the-line accessories for smaller features can cost quite a bit, too. If you need some help, call a pond-building professional in your area who can assess your needs and determine your budget.

Look for Higher Ground

Next, take a close look at your landscape and plan to position your pond on a high spot rather than a low spot. It might seem logical to locate your water feature in a valley, but it’s actually better to situate it on higher ground. This will prevent rainwater from running into your pond, which can cause water clarity and algae growth problems later on.

Size It Right

While you’re inspecting your outdoor space, consider what sized water feature will realistically fit within your existing landscaping. Do you have a large yard and want to go big? Do you have a small space that’s perfect for a preformed pond with a small fountain? Perhaps the area is best suited for a pondless stream or waterfall. Many seasoned pond hobbyists have admitted that, in retrospect, they wish they had gone bigger with their initial designs …

Consider Your Audience

Who will be enjoying your water feature? When planning your backyard pond, keep your audience in mind. Does it need to be kid friendly or a peaceful getaway? Pondless waterfalls are great for people on the go.  If, however, you and your family have a passion for aquatic plants or fish, it would make sense to go with a traditional pond.

Go with a Kit

As you’re planning your backyard dream pond, make the process easier by buying a pond kit, which comes with everything you’ll need. Different kits are designed for different types of ponds. Here are three that we recommend:

  • For a large waterfall with big sound: The RapidFlo™ Ecosystem Pond Kit is ideal for those who want a large waterfall or stream, lots of sound to drown out nearby noise, and a system with the capacity to deal with heavy debris from nearby trees.
  • For fish lovers: The AllClear™ Ecosystem Pond Kit is designed for hobbyists who want their pond to be all about their fish, not a waterfall. It works well in yards with full sun exposure and few falling leaves.
  • For easy maintenance: The Cascading Falls Pondless Pond Kit is perfect for busy people who want to enjoy the sights and sounds of running water but have little time to maintain a traditional water feature. It’s also well suited for small yards or families with children.

Have Fun with It!

The most important thing to know about planning a pond of your dreams is that you should have a great time doing it. You’ll enjoy this backyard feature for years, so do your research, think through these points, and spend time designing something that you’ll love!

Pond Talk: When you built your first pond or water feature, what inspired your design?

 Build Your Dream Pond - The Pond Guy® RapidFlo™ Ecosystem Pond Kits

 

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Top Blog Posts of 2017

Here are the Top Blog Posts of 2017, read by you!
Thank you for continuing to follow our blog.
We Wish you a Happy New Year!

 Top Blog Posts for Ponds & Lakes

Top Blog Posts for Ponds & Lakes

Q: After getting out of my swimming pond, I had a leech on my leg! How do I remove leeches from my pond?

Q: Do I need to put enzymes in my pond if I put bacteria in there?

Q: How can I create a good environment for my fish to spawn?

Q: We want to swim in our pond, but as soon as we step in, there is muck and it smells. Help!

Q: How can I control the duckweed growing in my pond?

 Top Blog Posts for Water Gardens

Top Blog Posts for Water Gardens

Q: We have decided to shut down the pond this winter. Do we take out the pump and filter?

Q: I know you aren’t supposed to wash your filter, but how can I stop it from getting plugged?

Q: What can I do to prevent string algae from growing in the winter?

Q: Running a pond heater is expensive. Do I have any other options?

Q: My fish’s fins are starting to look red. Do they have fin rot?

Happy New Year

 

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I have a de-icer but my pond totally froze over. Help! What do I do? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I have a de-icer but my pond totally froze over. Help! What do I do?

Q: I have a de-icer but my pond totally froze over. Help! What do I do?

Maggie – Carlisle, PA

A:  When frigid weather persists for days on end – like those way-below-zero temperatures – a pond can completely freeze over, even if a higher-watt de-icer and aerator are used. The ice-melting combination works great in most scenarios, but it just can’t keep up in extreme conditions.

Do keep in mind that pond de-icers are not meant to thaw the entire pond’s surface or heat the water. Their primary purpose is only to keep a hole in the ice to allow gas to escape. With that said, if your pond has been totally frozen over for a day or so, your fish will be fine. But if it has been more than a few days or weeks, your pond pals could be at risk of oxygen deprivation or overexposure to dangerous gases trapped beneath the ice.

So what do you do?

Let’s start with what not to do – and that’s to try to smash the ice with a chisel or blunt object. The sound and vibration of that pounding on the ice amplify underwater, which can stress out your fish. They’re already unhappy, and so you certainly don’t want to make them endure more trauma!

Instead, use a pot of hot water to melt away the ice. If it’s particularly thick, you might need to repeat the process several times to open a complete hole in the frozen stuff. While the temperatures remain frigid, check on the pond every few days to make sure the hole is still open; if it freezes over again, use hot water to open the hole back up.

With several more months of winter ahead of us, it’s not too late to add a de-icer to your pond if you don’t already have one. Simply place a unit, like the K&H Thermo-Pond De-Icer, on the ice and turn it on. It will heat up and melt through the ice – as long as temperatures aren’t too extreme! For an extra boost, pair your de-icer with an aeration kit. The bubbling action also disrupts ice formation and even if the pond’s surface is covered with ice, an aeration system will still deliver oxygen into the pond.

Pond Talk: How is your pond faring during these extreme frigid temperatures?

The Ultimate in Winter Protection - PondAir™ & Thermo-Pond De-Icer Combo

 

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How large of a hole will an aeration system keep open in the ice? I like to keep open water for ducks. | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: How large of a hole will an aeration system keep open in the ice? I like to keep open water for ducks.

Q: How large of a hole will an aeration system keep open in the ice? I like to keep open water for ducks.

Mark – Concord, VT

A: No doubt those ducks will appreciate some open water in the winter, and an aerator is the best way to keep that hole open for them. Many factors will affect the hole’s size and how long it will remain open, but here are three important points to consider:

  1. Size of the System: Larger aeration systems will move more water, and all that water movement will create a larger hole that will stay open longer. If you want a bigger open area, consider a beefier aeration system.
  2. Depth of Water: Water depth matters, too. An ice-free open area in deep water is more difficult to maintain than one in shallow water, where there will be more water movement at the surface. If possible, plan your open water in the shallow areas of your pond.
  3. Weather: Mother Nature has her say, too. When it’s cold and windy, it’ll be more difficult to keep that opening ice-free. In fact, frigid temperatures can restrict the hole down to a couple of feet or less! But when the weather warms up, the hole can open to areas of 10 feet or more.

Ideally an aeration system should be matched to your pond’s size and shape, and run all season. Diffusers can then be moved to shallow water for the ducks during winter. Simply place the diffusers evenly across a small area in the shallow part of your pond so they can work together to keep a larger area open. Watch the video below for tips on installing Airmax® Aeration Systems:

This winter, those lucky ducks will have a place to float!

Pond Talk: What kinds of birds visit your pond in the winter?

Maximum Shallow Water Circulation - Airmax® Shallow Water Series™ Aeration Systems

 

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