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What does filter media do for my water garden? – Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Savio Skimmer

Q. What does filter media do for my water garden? – Debbie in Illinois

Keep It Clean
With all of the pads, balls and nets in this blog you might think The Pond Guy has hung up his waders and opened a sporting goods store. Not to worry pond guys and gals, we are of course talking about filter media in your water garden.

Hey! Nice Pad!
When you look inside your filter, whether it’s a waterfall filter or pressurized filter, you may notice there are assortments of pads, balls, etc. These are called filter media. This filter media serves a vital purpose in any water garden.

Bio Blox Filter MediaFilter media are specifically designed to help colonize a ton of natural bacteria in a small area. As fish excrete waste, ammonia levels began to rise. Without enough natural bacteria, ammonia levels can become so high your fish will become stressed which can eventually to death. Natural bacteria will grow in a water garden without filter media, but unfortunately it is very minimal and never enough to keep up with high ammonia levels.

Less IS More
Many pond owners often think that a clean filter pad will lead to a cleaner pond. This is not the case. As it takes several weeks for nitrifying bacteria to colonize, many pond owners often clean their filter media as soon as it gets dirty. This unfortunately defeats the purpose of the biological functions of the filter media. Some of our readers have written in telling us that this buildup is even blocking or restricting water flow. It is most likely debris or algae being picked up from the water, not the bacteria causing this issue. If necessary, to clean filter media we highly suggest removing the filter media from the filter and placing into a bucket of “pond water” and gently swish the media back and forth. Do not scrub, or use tap water to clean the filter pads. Again, this will cause a loss in natural bacteria. If you accidentally do clean your filter pads, you can use PL Gel on your filter pads to colonize the bacteria faster. It is known throughout the pond industry to reduce colonization by up to 80%!

To prevent blockages to your biological filters use a pump pre filter or a skimmer which includes a net or debris basket along with its own filter pad. This will prevent large debris from getting to your filter. Vacuuming will pick up debris and muck from the pond floor also preventing clogs. Placing these “pre-filters” as buffers will ensure a shorter, easier cleaning time as well as make certain that your beneficial bacteria are left alone to flourish and protect your water garden.

POND TALK: How have you tackled filtration in your water garden? How often do you find yourself cleaning your filters?

Filter media is a must for healthy ponds!

7 Responses

  1. […] unsure on How To Create A Balanced Environment for your water feature, or need to brush up on your Filtration Basics you can learn tons of tricks and tips on our Blog […]

  2. i have a problem with string algae. i have tried alot different things, need help.

    • Hi Johanna,

      There could be several reasons to be stuggling with string algae. Remember though that some algae is good and healthy for a pond. Here is another article that addresses the string algae topic for water gardens. Algae Control in Water Gardens

  3. I have a 350 gal Pond in South Carolina. I tried to keep Koi, but every animal around eats them. So, I keep other pond fish such as Goldies, Shubumpkins etc. I have 1 Koi Left. I have a water fall filter I placed in the pond in April after fighting all last summer with 2 small box type filters and pumps that sit in the middle of the pond. I find that just using the water fall cleans the floating debris and dirt particles out leaving the water crystal clear as well as the fact that I only have to clean the filters 1 every 2 or 3 days as opposed to every day with the submersible filter boxes. What a joy, I can access the filter media in the water fall easily from the outside of the pond, rather than risking a good soaking of my cloths and shoes by way of fishing the filter box out of the middle of the pond! I have large Elephant ears growing in the pond as well as some Palm type rush looking plants and always trying to grow lotus’ too. Now I have a new problem. Now that the water is so clear, even though I have rock “houses” fo the fish as shelter under water – for the fish to hide and escape the sun and predators, I hyave an increase in bird predators in my yard. I’m curious if this is due to the fact that the water is so clear now that you can see the bottom? Thoughts? Lastly, When I started my pond, I was under the impression that one didn’t need to clear cloggerd pumps but 1 time a month or so, I found it happeneing everyday even with UV Filters and algacide? Is hair like green algae growing on the sides and rocks in a clear pond okay?

    • Every pond will have some amount of algae growing in it. If your pond had none I’d be concerned about something out of the ordinary happening. The trick really is just to not let it get out of hand. When you clean your filter be sure you are only removing large debris that is preventing the filter from flowing. If you continuously wash out the filter pads you are removing the beneficial bacteria that are actually the science behind the filtration system. If your filter is plugged I would suggest taking a bucket of pond water and sloshing the filters around to remove large debris and putting them right back in the filter. Never wash out with a garden hose. Algae is also great at extracting nutrients and debris from the water which is why is grows so efficiently and UVs can not remove this type of algae. As for the predators due to water clarity I would suggest lots of plants that provide cover for the pond. If there are plants and places to hide that make them less visable to nearby predators then they will have a better survival rate. The plants you have are great for the pond but do not provide much cover. I woul suggest lilies and other floating plants such as hyacinth and floating lettuce. I’m sure your fish would prefer the water clarity and quality with some algae and lots of plants over a cloudy murky pond that didn’t have algae.

  4. Is it ok to run a bead filter without having filter media in the skimmer box?. Only using a net to catch debis.

    • Hi Claudette,

      Bead filters are not able to handle as much large debris but if you are actively skimming your pond then you will probably be ok. I would also suggest the use of natural bacteria in our Defense Pac to help remove anything that settles in the pond’s bottom.

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