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I’ve been told I should encourage weed growth for a good fish population. Won’t that cause an unhealthy pond for the fish? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I’ve been told I should encourage weed growth for a good fish population. Won’t that cause an unhealthy pond for the fish?

Q: I’ve been told I should encourage weed growth for a good fish population. Won’t that cause an unhealthy pond for the fish?

Dave – Gary, IN

A: Fish love weeds. The growing greenery and roots create a healthy ecosystem, help to naturally filter the water, and provide home-grown food for your pond inhabitants. When weed growth isn’t happening, the water tends to get murky and cloudy, and weak invasive plants tend to take root – neither of which benefits your fish. Aquatic weeds, when they’re well managed, are a good thing for your finned pals.

If a thriving fish population is what you’re after, we have some tips and tricks to share. In addition to encouraging some controlled natural weed growth, here are some ways to grow your fish numbers via an artificial fish habitat.

  • Bump Up the Bait Fish: Bait fish, including fathead minnows, golden shiners and threadfin shad, feed your game fish – so you should create a healthy ecosystem for them as well. Natural weeds work, but so do artificial fish habitats like our Pond King Honey Hole Shrub, Tree and Fish Attractor Logs. Thanks to an easy-to-assemble dense-cover dome made from long-lasting polyethylene tubing, these habitats provide ample space for algae and egg attachment, and promote the survival of young fish.
  • Plan Fishing Spots: One of the best features of using an artificial fish habitat is that you can position it wherever you want in your pond or lake and fish through it without snagging – so why not plan some ideal fishing spots while encouraging a healthy bait fish and game fish population? Experts recommend placing three of the same type of fish habitats in triangular clusters about 18 inches apart, near spots that have a sharp contrast in water depth or near a floating dock or pier.
  • Go Deep and Shallow: Because bait fish prefer spawning in shallow habitats and game fish prefer hanging out in deeper areas, use the Honey Hole Shrub or Honey Hole Log in the shallows and the Honey Hole Tree in water more than 6 feet deep. The 32-inches-tall-by-6-feet-wide shrub imitates a natural weed bed, while the 6-feet-tall-by-7-feet-wide tree mimics natural fish cover and attracts game fish like bass and crappie. In areas deeper than 15 feet, you can easily suspend the tree off the lake bottom by attaching a length of rope tied to a weight.
  • Aerate and Circulate: Of course, providing adequate aeration with an Airmax® Aeration System will ensure a healthy ecosystem for your fishes, too. The oxygenated water circulates throughout the water column, delivering that life-sustaining O2 to all of your lake’s inhabitants.

Both game and bait fish need a comfortable environment to thrive, and Fish Habitats make it easy for you to create an ideal ecosystem for them.

Pond Talk: How do you create a healthy sub-surface ecosystem for your game and bait fishes?

Create Habitat for Your Fish - Pond King Honey Hole Fish Attractor Log

Is it time to start feeding the fish? They look hungry. | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Is it time to start feeding the fish? They look hungry.

Q: Is it time to start feeding the fish? They look hungry.

Ruth – Altoona, PA

A: Talk about feeling hungry! If your fish are actively (or anxiously!) swimming around your water garden, nibbling and tasting your budding plants, and gazing at you forlornly as you eat your peanut butter sandwich pondside, it sounds like your finned pals are ready for some grub after their long winter fast.

Signs like these are telling, but to make sure your fish are ready to start eating regular food again, here are some guidelines to follow.

Take Your Pond’s Temperature

Last fall when water temperatures fell below 40 degrees Fahrenheit on the thermometer, your fishes’ metabolisms slowed way down. For the next few months, they rested in a hibernation-type state when they fasted and lived off the fat stores in their body. They needed no food from you – in fact, feeding them when they’re hibernating can make them very sick.

Now that spring has finally arrived and the sun has warmed your pond’s water to 40 to 50 degrees F, your fishes’ metabolism has kicked back into gear. They’re swimming around and searching for food to fuel their increased activity levels. When this happens, they need a wheat germ food that’s easy to digest, like The Pond Guy® Spring & Fall Fish Food. Packed with plant-based nutrients, the diet will satiate their hunger, and stimulate growth and fertility.

Pump Up the Protein

Late spring and summer bring even warmer 50 degree-plus water temperatures, and that’s when you can switch your fishes’ diet to one that will help them develop and build some serious bulk. If growing big koi and goldfish is your goal, feed your scaled friends a high-protein diet, like The Pond Guy® Growth & Vibrance Fish Food. It contains 38 percent protein for maximum growth and includes ingredients that will make their colors pop.

If you want to simply maintain their size while supporting their health, offer them The Pond Guy® Staple Fish Food. Perfect for all pond fish, the summer staple diet contains a balanced diet of vitamins, minerals and amino acids. It’s easily digestible and designed for everyday feeding. Plus, it floats – so it makes mealtime fun for you and your fish!

Check the Forecast

Mother Nature has fun with weather – particularly with temperature fluctuations in the spring – so be sure to check the long-term forecast before you start feeding your fish on a regular schedule. Ideally, the weather should be consistently keeping the water a warm 40 to 50 degrees F. At that point, feed slowly to make sure they’re consuming the food at a steady pace and increase the amount as they’re ready.

Happy feeding!

Pond Talk: What are your fishes’ favorite mealtime treats?

Perfect For Cool Weather Feeding - The Pond Guy® Spring & Fall Fish Food

My skimmer has a rock cover but it looks fake. Is there anything else you can use to cover it? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: My skimmer has a rock cover but it looks fake. Is there anything else you can use to cover it?

Q: My skimmer has a rock cover but it looks fake. Is there anything else you can use to cover it?

Christine – Great Falls, MT

A: Now that spring has finally sprung, water garden aficionados are heading out to their yards to do some wintertime damage control, spruce up the surroundings and enjoy the beginning of pond season. It’s also a time when unnatural eyesores – like your obviously fake-rock skimmer cover, clunky pressure filter and boxy waterfall filter – take center stage.

We suggest you turn to Mother Nature for inspiration. Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

  • Camouflage with Tall Cover: Bushy or taller bog plants, like dwarf bamboo or dwarf umbrella palms, will provide lush, green camouflage around your skimmer in no time at all. These quick-growing species grow up to 2 feet tall, add texture and interest to your landscape, and naturally filter the water. Plus, they make a perfect habitat for dragonflies, frogs and other pond critters.
  • Position Plants in Planters: Another option is to plant some aquatic or terrestrial plants in small, movable planters, and position them on and around your skimmer. Go with blossoming perennials for pops of color or plants with dramatic foliage, like variegated taro or silk stockings arrowhead. Here’s a pro tip for you: Place water hyacinth right in the waterfall filter to hide the hardware and add filtration.
  • Choose Realistic-Looking Synthetic Rock: You can also replace your unrealistic rock cover with a more realistic one, like our TrueRock™ Boulder and Flat Covers. These faux hand-painted rocks, which come in a range of sizes and shapes, are made with fiberglass construction, making them rugged yet lightweight. Whether you use them to hide your skimmer, waterfall or pressure filter, they blend right into your pondscape.

When you’re considering ways to hide your pond equipment, remember that easy access is critical. Make sure you can get to your skimmer and filters for regular cleaning and repair. Other than that, have fun with it! Tap into your inner landscape designer and create a water garden oasis that you’ll enjoy all season long.

Pond Talk: What are your favorite ways to camouflage unsightly pond equipment?

Hide Filters In Your Landscape - Pond Logic® TrueRock™ Covers

Are there any concerns using our pond if I fertilize the lawn? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: Are there any concerns using our pond if I fertilize the lawn?

Q: Are there any concerns using our pond if I fertilize the lawn?

James – Augusta, GA

A: Lawn fertilizers can do beautiful things to your terrestrial landscape. They infuse the soil with nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. They make the grass green and lush. They’re sometimes mixed with pesticides and selective herbicides, creating a bug and weed-free lawn. When used as directed, fertilizers give you an easy way to feed your meadows.

They do, however, have their down side – particularly if they find their way into your pond or lake.

The phosphorous found in lawn fertilizers can help feed algae growth in your pond. That algae growth, when left unchecked, can create pea-soup colored water, deplete its life-sustaining oxygen and harm your fish. That’s not all. Some lawn fertilizers contain other chemicals that may not be friendly to humans and your aquatic environment.

So how can you limit or prevent fertilizers from entering your pond?

  1. Divert storm water away from your pond: Some runoff will inevitably flow into your pond but, if possible, fashion trenches and canals that steer that storm water into the sewer system or an unused field.
  2. Find a fertilizer with low or no phosphorous: Fertilizer labels include three numbers that refer to their nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P) and potassium (K) levels. In a 5-3-4 fertilizer analysis, for instance, the “3” represents the amount of phosphorous; the higher the number, the more phosphorous in the mix. When shopping for a lawn fertilizer, choose one with the least amount of phosphorous.
  3. When fertilizing, stay at least 25 feet away from the pond’s edge: This will create a fertilizer-free barrier around your pond, thereby preventing the chemicals from leeching into the water.
  4. Use natural products that help cleanse organics from pond water: If algae blooms do happen in your pond, use natural products that contain nutrient-eating beneficial bacteria. The microorganisms found in products like Pond Logic® PondClear™ will break down the suspended debris and muck, while Pond Logic® EcoBoost™ Bacteria Enhancer binds and eliminates phosphates and other toxins.

If the chemicals found in lawn fertilizers concern you, consider using a more natural approach. You can keep your lawn lush and green with grass clippings, aged compost and organic fertilizers. Treat weeds with vinegar/water/soap mixture or corn gluten. Think “green” when feeding your lawn – your pond and its residents will thank you for it!

Pond Talk: How do you fertilize the grass surrounding your pond or lake?

Bind Phosphates & Other Toxins - Pond Logic® EcoBoost™

We had a snapping turtle around our pond last year. Will he snap at us if we try to go swimming? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: We had a snapping turtle around our pond last year. Will he snap at us if we try to go swimming?

Q: We had a snapping turtle around our pond last year. Will he snap at us if we try to go swimming?

Greg – Chester, VT

A: Snapping turtles (Chelydra serpentina) are large freshwater turtles that make their homes in ponds and streams with plenty of room and food. When encountered in the water, they typically slip quietly away from any disturbance – but because they can have fierce dispositions, it’s a good idea to get to know these shelled reptiles and their habits a little better.

Identification
C. serpentina has a look all its own. Resembling a prehistoric dinosaur, the snapping turtle has a large, muscular build with a ridged carapace (hard shell) that can grow up to 18 inches. They usually weigh between 10 to 35 pounds. Its most defining features, however, are its long, flexible neck and beak-like mouth that it uses to snap prey and defend itself from predators.

On the Menu
The omnivore’s preferred meals include just about anything it can capture and swallow, including aquatic plants, invertebrates, fish, frogs, reptiles, birds and small mammals. It’ll even eat carrion. In a farm or swimming pond, a snapping turtle might snap up some undesirable visitors, like snakes.

Night Life
A snapping turtle is mostly active at night, but it does venture out during the day to bask on fallen logs and scavenge and hunt for food. When C. serpentina is walking the terra firma, it can be aggressive, particularly when it feels threatened – and this is when you should avoid contact at all costs. A snap from a snapping turtle can be painful!

Remove and Relocate
If a snapping turtle is causing problems in your pond, your best bet is to safely and humanely remove it. Grabbing its shell with your hands is a bad idea; it can easily stretch its neck back across its own shell to its hind feet and snap your fingers, and it can scratch you with its sharp claws.

Instead, trap it in a turtle trap, like one of our Tomahawk Live Traps. The 32-by-18-by-9-inch trap made with 12-gauge wire comes pre-assembled and ready to use. Simply place it in the water partially submerged and bait with fish or meat. When you capture the critter, relocate it to a place that has a water body, food and shelter.

Pond Talk: What types of game fish do you have in your pond or lake?

Trap Unwanted Guests - Tomahawk Turtle Trap

Do I need to divide my aquatic plants every year? If so, how do I do it? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Do I need to divide my aquatic plants every year? If so, how do I do it?

Q: Do I need to divide my aquatic plants every year? If so, how do I do it?

Ellen – Kirkwood, SC

A: After a long, cold winter, you’re probably ready to put your green thumb to work in your pond – and digging into your aquatic plants is a great place to start. Your potted bog plants and water lilies will need to be divided, but how you do so will depend on the type of plants you’re dealing with. In general, your bog plants will need to be divided every one to two years, and your water lilies will need to be divided every two to three years.

Below, we’ve included some simplified step-by-step instructions for how to do it. So pull out your waders, pruning tools, extra plant baskets, planting media and garden hose – and let’s get to work!

Dividing Bog Plants
Bog plants include species like corkscrew rush, dwarf cattails and irises. Some have clumping roots, some have runners and some have rhizomes. Regardless of the type of root mass, here’s what to do with them:

  • Step 1: First, lift the pot or container out of the pond and gently remove the root mass.
  • Step 2: Using your garden hose, wash the soil off of the mass and trim away any dead leaves and foliage.
  • Step 3: Divide the root mass depending on the type of root system. For plants with clumping roots like corkscrew rush, separate the roots into sections, leaving some roots intact with each section. For plants that divide by runners like dwarf cattails, cut the runner root and leave the root base with each section of the plant. And for plants that are rhizomes like irises, simply divide them into sections.
  • Step 4: Replant each section of plant in its own container and dispose of any plant overgrowth.

Dividing Water Lilies
Water lilies – both tropical and the hardy variety sold in our Grower’s Choice collection – are also relatively easy to divide. You’ll know it’s time to separate them when you notice fewer pads, reduced blooms or splitting pots.

  • Step 1: First, lift the pot or container out of the pond, locate the tuber and gently remove it.
  • Step 2: Rinse off the soil, and trim away root growth and old foliage.
  • Step 3: Identify the crowns, or the little buds where a new lily pad group will sprout, and cut between them with a sharp knife. Keep the pieces 3 to 4 inches in length. Each one of these will become a new water lily plant.
  • Step 4: Using aquatic planting media, plant each section separately at a 45-degree angle so that the growing tip is still exposed above the soil.
  • Step 5: Place your repotted lilies in a shallow area of your pond where only a few inches of water cover the plants.
  • Step 6: Once new growth appears, move the lilies to the deeper areas of your pond.

Fertilize and Tend
Once you’ve divided and replanted your aquatic plants, don’t forget to give them regular doses of fertilizer to ensure they’re getting the nutrients they need to thrive and produce vigorous blooms. And keep your colorful beauties looking good by keeping them trimmed and regularly removing dead foliage throughout the growing season.

Pond Talk: When you divide your aquatic plants, what do you do with your extra cuttings?

Add Beauty To Your Pond - Grower's Choice Hardy Water Lilies

If I can’t do a big spring cleanout on my pond, what is the best way to get the debris out of the pond? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: If I can’t do a big spring cleanout on my pond, what is the best way to get the debris out of the pond?

Q: If I can’t do a big spring cleanout on my pond, what is the best way to get the debris out of the pond?

Maggie – Amherst, OH

A: An annual spring cleanout is an important chore when you own a backyard pond. It’s when you remove all the decaying organics that collected over the winter, trim back dead foliage, kick on your filtration and aeration systems, and generally spruce things up around your water garden wonderland.

But what if your pond was well-sheltered and protected from leaves and debris, or you live in a temperate climate where a total pond shutdown was unnecessary? Or what if you simply don’t have time to dedicate to all that cleaning and maintenance?

Well we have some shortcuts for you. Though it may be better in the long run to do a thorough cleanout at the start of the season, these five tips will cut down the time it takes to do your spring chores.

  1. Do a Partial Water Change: To help remove some floating and suspended debris, do a partial water change. Let 10 to 20 percent of your water drain from the pond, and add fresh water along with some Pond Logic® Stress Reducer PLUS to remove heavy metals and prevent your fish from getting too stressed.
  2. Add Some Shine: Oxy-Lift™ Defense® will quickly shine up your waterfalls and shoreline rocks. It’s simple to use: As you’re doing your partial water change, sprinkle Oxy-Lift™ Defense® on scum-covered rocks, streams and liner before you refill your pond. In just 24 hours, you’ll see the gunk break free with no scrubbing at all!
  3. Vacuum Debris: Use your ClearVac™ Pond Vacuum to easily suck up gunk, sludge and decaying organics on the pond bottom. It has four different attachments – gravel, string algae, narrow and wide – along with extension tubes, so you can vacuum almost any surface. For debris larger than 3/8 inch, simply pull out your Collapsible Skimmer and Fish Net and scoop it out.
  4. Add Seasonal Defense®: To break down debris that your pond vacuum missed, add some Seasonal Defense® beneficial bacteria to the water. The microorganisms, which are designed to work in cooler temperatures, will break down leaves and sediment that have collected over the winter. It also kick-starts your pond’s biological filtration system, priming it for summer.
  5. Rinse Your Filter Media: Finally, remove your filter media and give it quick rinse with your garden hose to break up and wash away any accumulated gunk. No need to scrub it too thoroughly; the bacteria living in the pads or BioBalls™ will come back to life once temperatures rise.

Of course, for a truly healthy pond, we still recommend a complete cleanout. We’ll describe those chores in depth over the coming weeks. But for now, this quick fix will get the debris out of your pond, giving it a facelift for spring soirees.

Pond Talk: What shortcuts do you use to skirt spring chores?

Reduce Timely Pond Maintenance - The Pond Guy® ClearVac™ Pond Vacuum

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