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What do I need to do to perform a spring cleanout? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

What do I need to do to perform a spring cleanout?

Q: What do I need to do to perform a spring cleanout?

Christine – Ballston Spa, NY

A: Like it or not, deep cleaning your pond or water feature is one of those must-do chores in the spring. Though we could write an entire e-book on the subject, we’ve distilled the essentials into this handy step-by-step to-do list.

So pull on your waders and gloves. It’s time to get dirty!

1. Create a holding tank for your fish. First, fill a blue tub, large plastic bin or even a child’s wading pool with existing pond water, install a small aerator in it and turn the air on. Then, use a net to catch your fish and gently move them into the holding tank and cover with a net to prevent them from hopping out. This will be their home away from home while you’re performing your cleanout.

2. Drain the pond. Use a pump and a drain hose to siphon all the water from the pond.

3. Get out the power washer. Once all the water has been drained, power wash your pond’s rocks, decor—anything that has developed a layer of dead algae and/or accumulated debris. Scrub away stubborn debris with an oxygen-based cleaner like Pond Logic® Oxy-Lift™ Defense® Pond Cleaner.

4. Rinse, drain and repeat. As you power-wash off the debris and rinse the rocks and decor, pump the dirty water out of the pond. This may need to be repeated a few times, depending on how much gunk has accumulated.

5. Make rock, decor adjustments. With your rocks and decor sparkling clean, now is the time to adjust them and make sure they’re still solidly in place. This is also a perfect opportunity to add more rocks if your gravel-bottom pond needs them.

6. Check pond lights, thin plants. In addition to adjusting your rocks, you should also take the opportunity to ensure your pond lights are working properly, and your plants are thinned and positioned on shelves as you want them.

7. Clean out and reinstall pump/UV/filter. Once your pond is thoroughly cleaned out, re-install any plumbing that was removed for the winter, such as your pump, aerator, filter and ultraviolet light (it’s a great idea to invest in a new UV bulb at this time, too, as we recommend replacing it once a year).

8. Fill ‘er up. Refill your pond with water and add necessary water treatments. If you have hard water or city water, add a conditioner like Pond Logic® Water Conditioner; if your water is still slightly murky, add some Pond Logic® Clarity Defense®.

9. Re-acclimate the fish. Finally, prepare your fish for their newly cleaned home by adding some of the new water to their holding tank so they can adjust to the new water chemistry. Be sure to slowly acclimate the fish back to the pond just as you would when first adding them. To help them over the hump, consider adding some Pond Logic® Stress Reducer PLUS to make the transition smooth for your finned friends.

Take some time this spring to give your pond a good deep cleaning. It’ll take some work—but your pristine, well-cared-for water feature will be a fantastic reward, particularly when you’re lounging by it this summer!

Pond Talk: Share some spring cleaning tips that have worked well in your pond!

Lift Debris Away In Seconds - Pond Logic® Oxy-Lift™ Defense®

12 Responses

  1. We are doing a spring cleaning on our pond (9×18′) and found tons(!) of worms (night crawlers) on the bottom as well as about 1/4″ mud. How do we keep the worms out? Will either hydrothol 191 or diatomaceous earth help? We have a waterfall and stream on one end of the pond.

    • Hi Sandra – Hydrothol 191 is not intended for use on a pond of your size; it is also not labelled for use to kill worms. Diatomaceous Earth also will not solve your problem long term. Your best bet of removing the worms is to control their habitat, which is the muck at the bottom of your pond. We recommend using Muck Defense to remove the sludge and then keep it clean. You can also use a pond vacuum, like the ClearVac™ to remove the sludge and any debris that has fallen into the pond.

  2. I have noticed the notes do not include those of us that leave our filters, pumps and waterfalls going all winter. The ice cascades are beautiful and the water only freezes around the edges (pond is about 9′ x 11′ with three waterfalls two over 1′ drop and the other about 3′). You do however, have a bit of a problem with the net tearing from the weight of the water spray at the falls when left over pond for the season. Surprising how early herons get going in the Spring! I wish I knew of something better than the statues of a heron and two cranes. They almost need to be moved several times a day to discourage the ravenous “killer” herons. Please advise as to Spring cleaning (partial okay?) and effective method to scare away the herons (and huge toads/frogs). Thank you. Sincerely, Susan

    • Hi Susan – Yes, a partial cleanout is okay. Take a look for signs that a full cleanout may be necessary: excessive debris on the bottom, algae completely covering your rocks. You would follow similar steps as to what’s posted, just on a smaller scale: create a holding tank for your fish, clean off rocks and waterfalls (Oxy-Lift works great for this), make adjustments to lights and other decor, check your plants, top off and re-acclimate your fish.

      As for the herons, you could also consider the Heron Stop. The Heron Stop surrounds the pond, almost like a fence, herons do not like to step over the nylon rope into the pond.

  3. Hi.
    First off thank you for having this forum to be able to ask these questions.This is my first season with a pond, now that the ice has melted on my 9’x11′ oval pond and the fish are waking up, I have noticed that the water is quite clear, I can see to the bottom of the 4′ deep water, there is some mock in the pond but not a lot,Soon I will be turning on the waterfall which overflows in to a stream and then back up to the waterfall. My question is (finally) will the water that I will add for the waterfall change the chemistry to much or do I change all the water?Also the floating plants I had last year,will they come back to life this spring ,thanks

    • Hi Declan – If you are adding city water to the pond (or any type of water that has been treated), you will want to use Water Conditioner. This neutralizes metals & chlorine in the water. You will want to use it anytime you are doing a water change or topping off your pond.

      Many floating plants, such as Water Lettuce and Water Hyacinth, are not hardy in colder climates. You will have to buy these again. If you have hardy water lilies, these should have wintered over and will begin to grow again soon.

  4. I wanted to ask why a totally clear pond in fall grew algae over winter?
    Green & hairy on liner. 2000 gal pond. Will new partial water change, New UV bulb, and Microbe-lift get me back to decent ?

    • Hi Bruce – As you’ve experienced, algae can grow in a lot of conditions. The likely cause is too many nutrients in the water while your filtration systems are shut off. Until your water temperatures hit 50°, Microbe-Lift won’t do much good. We recommend using Seasonal Defense® while water temperatures are below 50°. We recommend replacing your UV bulb once per year but the UV light also rids the pond of planktonic (green water) algae, not the string algae you have now. A partial water change (25-50%), Seasonal Defense® and a bit of scrubbing will help to get your pond back in shape.

  5. I thought if I added Seasonal Defense it wouldn’t be necessary to do a full fledged power washing clean out. What’s your advise?

    • Hi Trish – A lot of depends on how much debris accumulated over the winter months. If your pond made it through winter fairly clean, you may only need to do a water change and a little bit of scrubbing. If your water is fairly murky and a lot of algae and debris is covering your rocks, a full spring cleaning may be necessary to get your pond in tip top shape for the pond season.

  6. 1st, we really appreciated pond talk. helps a lot so, just a different perspective… we live in a rural area, have froggies in the bottom over winter in our 8×10 pond. We added pond soil&sand years back, drain in spring, rinse rocks and refill. Froggies usually come up during this process. Power washing the pond? We take out dead plants, net once a week. We’ve found leaving an algae corner and not “scrubbing” is better for all of us. We use microbe-lift and plants, have clear water all year. Nature does its thing. Froggies eat bugs, snakes eat froggies, birds eat algae/bugs on the edge, etc. Is this a fish/no fish thing? Advice for folks w/no fish but frogs, salamanders, snakes, whoever show up would be good. Like, how to keep them out of the pump/pump box, how to help them overwinter better, the best surrounding area plants, etc. Thanks. ps our pond has liner, water fall, stream to bottom 8×10 pond.

    • Hi Barb – I will add a no-fish pond to our list of things to discuss in future blog posts! How you clean your pond is a personal preference. Many people don’t mind a bit of algae left on rocks and underwater surfaces. Like you mentioned, nature has a way of keeping things in check. Using bacteria products, like Microbe-Lift, and having plants keeps your water naturally clear. Too many nutrients in the pond begins the cycle of needing extra cleaning and extra summer time care.

      You can use the PumpBuddy™ to prevent any wildlife from being sucked into the pump. This also keeps large debris out of the pump. Keeping frogs and other creatures out of your pump box is trickier. Besides checking it daily and removing anyone that got stuck, there’s not much you can do. You need the opening clear to move large debris into the skimmer for removal from the pond. In order to keep frogs or anyone else from taking up residence during the winter, you do not want any debris or sand in the bottom for them to burrow into. When closing your pond for the winter, you will want to pump the winter down below the weir and then remove any water from the box. At this time, you can relocate any frogs that may have started to hibernate.

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