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We just bought a house with a half-acre pond. Where do we start? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: We just bought a house with a half-acre pond. Where do we start?

Q: We just bought a house with a half-acre pond. Where do we start?”

Hans – Brandon, MS

A: Some home buyers look for granite countertops or in-house movie theaters – but a half-acre pond is an amenity that makes us giddy! Because you likely don’t know the history of the pond, how it was built or how it was maintained, it’s best to give that new pond a complete rehab from the bottom up so you can use it to its full potential.

Here’s a five-step process that will make the job easy:

  1. Assess the Pond’s Condition. Before you begin rehabbing your pond, take some time to examine it, including measuring its size and depth, identifying weeds and beneficial aquatic plants, checking for fish, and inspecting pre-existing structures like a dock or an aeration system. These details will help maintain your pond or get it back into shape.
  2. Give It an Oxygen Boost. Your real work begins with installing a bottom-diffused aeration system, like one of the Airmax® Aeration Systems. The units, which include a diffuser, compressor and airline, circulate oxygen throughout the water column so that it’s readily utilized by critters living in your pond, including fish, frogs and beneficial bacteria. It also helps remove harmful gases from the water. If your pond already has an aeration system, thoroughly inspect all its parts and tune them up as necessary.
  3. Control Weed Growth. Treat prolific growth of aquatic weeds and algae. Invasive plants like cattails, chara, phragmites, bulrush, watermilfoil and even out-of-control water lilies can become real problems in a closed ecosystem. Depending on your situation, you may need to use an herbicide and/or algaecide to get them under control before they take over and negatively impact your water quality. For help, check out our Weed Control Guide, which can help you ID and choose the right remedy for the weed.
  4. Remove Unwanted Vegetation. Before and after you treat the weeds and algae, mechanically remove growing and dead vegetation with a Weed Razer™ and Weed Raker™. If you don’t pull that growth out of the water, it will break down into detritus and pond muck, which will actually fertilize the weeds and algae you’re trying to eliminate!
  5. Do Your Maintenance Chores. Now that your pond is on its way to being clean, clear and usable, keep it that way by maintaining it with beneficial bacteria and pond dye. Beneficial bacteria, like those found in ClearPAC® PLUS Pond Care Package, will break down any residual pond muck buildup and keep the water clear. Pond dye will tint the water blue or black, preventing ultraviolet rays from reaching problem plants like algae while adding beauty to your waterscape.

With a little work, you can transform your new pond into a dramatic part of your landscape – particularly if you decide to add a decorative fountain or other feature to it. Have fun with your new aquatic playground!

Pond Talk: What advice can you share with new pond owners?

All-In-One Pond Care Package - Pond Logic(r) ClearPAC(r) Plus

 

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I think I have either milfoil or coontail. How do I tell the difference, and what chemical should I use? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I think I have either milfoil or coontail. How do I tell the difference, and what chemical should I use?

Q: I think I have either milfoil or coontail. How do I tell the difference, and what chemical should I use?

Paul – Greenfield, OH

A: Invasive aquatic plants like milfoil and coontail can cause trouble in your pond or lake. Though they provide food and shelter for birds, insects, fish and other pond critters, they can form dense colonies, reducing access to open water, limiting fishing access, and interfering with boating and swimming.

Milfoil and coontail look similar and – thankfully – can be treated with similar chemicals. Here’s what you need to know about identifying and managing these nuisance plants.

Milfoil Identification

When you think milfoil, think feather-like.

Many different species of milfoil and watermilfoil exist in North America. In general, milfoil is found in water that’s less than 20 feet (6 meters) deep. In water less than 15 feet (4½ meters) deep, it can form dense mats over the surface. The plant is comprised of long stems with air canals and flat, feather-like, whorled leaves that are pinnately divided.

Milfoil is an important food source for waterfowl, but these nuisance plants can aggressively invade lakes, ponds and waterways. Once they’re established, they’re almost impossible to eradicate, and so periodic maintenance is necessary to keep them under control.

Coontail Identification

When coontail comes to mind, think of a Christmas tree.

Also known as hornwort, coontail also thrives in water less than 20 feet deep. The rootless invasive plant grows below the surface, and it has a central hollow stem and dark green leaves that are spiny, forked and bushy near the tip, giving it its “coontail” or Christmas tree appearance.

Like milfoil, coontail provides food for waterfowl and cover for young bluegills, perch, largemouth bass and northern pike, but it needs to be managed to prevent it from taking over your pond or lake.

Keeping Them Under Control

Many of the submerged weed chemicals available treat both milfoil and coontail. Depending how you use your pond, the best choices are:

  • Ultra PondWeed Defense®: This liquid herbicide has short-term drinking (three days for human consumption; one day for animal consumption) and irrigation restrictions (five days).
  • Navigate: A granular herbicide, Navigate is great for spot-treating problem areas. It has longer consumption and irrigation restrictions (21 days) than the others.
  • Fluridone (Sonar™): If your entire pond is infested, try Sonar™. It can kill the invaders down to their roots, but expect slower results (it can take up to 90 days for full protection) and longer irrigation restrictions (30 days). Note: Sonar™ should only be used in ponds with little to no flow.
  • Clipper™: To use Clipper™, you’ll need to mix the quick-dissolve granules with water – but you can start using the water again for irrigation in just five days.

Regardless which one you choose, the best time to apply it is when the weeds are actively growing.

Help from the Experts

If you can’t figure out which aquatic weed is growing in your pond, pull one (or more!) from the pond, snap a picture and email it, or mail us a sample in a dry paper towel. We can help you identify the invader and suggest the best chemical to control it.

Pond Talk: What’s your go-to herbicide to treat invasive aquatic plants?

Broad Spectrum Pondweed Control - Pond Logic® Ultra PondWeed Defense®

 

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Do I need to cut the cattails before I spray them? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: Do I need to cut the cattails before I spray them?

Q: Do I need to cut the cattails before I spray them?

Charlene- Brandon, VT

A: Slashing through cattails would certainly be cathartic, wouldn’t it? Well, we don’t recommend it – at least not yet. The best way to rid your pond or lake of those nuisance plants is to use a systemic herbicide with a surfactant, like Shoreline Defense® and Treatment Booster™ PLUS. Apply the mixture on the plant’s leaves with a sprayer. The herbicide then kills the entire plant, rhizome and all.

Destroying that rhizome is critical to controlling cattails. Along with cottony seeds that explode from their brown, conical flowers, cattails propagate via their rhizomes, or root systems, which produce shoots in the fall that sprout in the spring. When you stop their underground spread, you can manage their footprint in your pond or lake.

If you’re new at removing cattails from your pond, here are some tips to make it hassle free.

  1. Treat the cattails between late July and first frost, when the plant is actively growing.
  2. Use a tank sprayer, like the Specialty Pond Sprayer, to apply the herbicide to the leaves that are growing above the pond or lake’s surface. Make sure they’re at least 12 to 18 inches out of the water.
  3. Completely wet the foliage for maximum results when rain is not in the forecast for 24 hours.
  4. Once the plants have completely died and turned brown, you can get out your Weed Cutter and slash through those dead stalks. Aim for the base of the plants, which will allow for easier removal with your Pond & Beach Rake.

Cattails aren’t all bad. Besides adding to the aesthetic value of your landscape, they also make a good home for a variety of birds, insects, amphibians and underwater inhabitants. Consider leaving a few of the cattails around for those critters – but keep the plant carefully controlled with Shoreline Defense®.

Pond Talk: Various parts of the cattail are edible, including its rhizome, young shoots and green flower spike. Would you ever consider harvesting and eating your cattails?

Treats Shoreline Weeds & Cattails - Pond Logic® Shoreline Defense®

 

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I would love to have ducks at my pond. Is there any harm, and how do I attract them? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I would love to have ducks at my pond. Is there any harm, and how do I attract them?

Q: I would love to have ducks at my pond. Is there any harm, and how do I attract them?

Jerry – Cass City, MI

A: Ducks certainly make an entertaining and colorful addition to a pond or lake. Various species of these plumed wetland visitors grace just about every continent and climate on planet earth – including sub-Antarctic islands like South Georgia and the Aucklands to oceanic locales like Hawaii and New Zealand.

Despite their worldwide distribution, getting ducks to call your pond home can be a challenge. But you can attract them if you understand their specific needs.

Pondside Open House

The duck types that frequent ponds include mallards and wood ducks, along with Muscovy ducks, black-bellied and whistling ducks. Ducks are omnivores and like to eat a wide range of foods, from small fish, eggs, snails, worms and bugs to grass, weeds, seeds and berries. In general, they require a lot of space and copious amounts of water in the form of marshes, lakes or large ponds. Aquatic plants, like reeds and water lilies, make them feel at home, as does concealed areas with tall marsh grass and shrubby cover for nesting and hiding.

Attracting the Flock

Providing a duck friendly habit is the best way to convince the feathered visitors to stop by, but here are some expert tricks to make your pond more appealing:

  • Create a Mess Hall: Set up feeding areas by clearing out an area or providing large, low platforms, and toss out some cracked corn, spilled birdseed and kitchen scraps. Don’t feed them by hand, but use goodies to pique their interest.
  • Plant a Duck Garden: Berry bushes can help draw ducks. And if you have a garden area near your pond, use mulch to attract tasty insects and earthworms.
  • Offer a Nest Box: Though ducks will nest in a variety of places, from ground nests in grassy areas near the pond to brush piles and hollow logs, provide them with nest boxes to help attract nesting ducks.
  • Install a Fountain: Ducks flock to the sound of splashing, so consider installing a fountain or waterfall in your pond.
  • Use Natural Décor: Add some half-submerged logs, overhanging shelves, marsh grasses and marginals, aquatic plants and brush piles to your landscape.
  • Add Some Decoys: A duck decoy pair floating quietly on your pond will attract the attention of the real-life things. They’ll swoop down to investigate and (hopefully!) decide to stay for a while.

Duck Dangers

Unlike a Great Blue Heron, ducks will leave your fish alone – but they can trigger other problems. If a lot of them are visiting, they can cause water quality issues (which can be remedied with the beneficial bacteria in Pond Logic® PondClear™). They could bring in unwanted weeds, like duckweed and water milfoil, that weren’t present before. The ducks, ducklings and eggs could also attract feral cats, raccoon, skunks and other predators.

Having these colorful beauties visit your pond, however, is worth the hassle. When they do stop by, observe them from a distance – and enjoy bird watching!

Pond Talk: Do ducks visit your pond regularly?

Help Attract Ducks To Your Pond - Flambeau® Storm Front™ Mallard Decoy Pair

 

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What are some common types of baitfish used in ponds? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: What are some common types of baitfish used in ponds?

Q: What are some common types of baitfish used in ponds?

Steven – Johnstown, OH

A: If you stock game fish in your pond or lake, you better know your baitfish. Used as food for larger predatory game fish, these small swimmers are typically common species that breed rapidly. They’re easy to catch, easy to supply and easy to stock.

Freshwater baitfish include any fish of the minnow or carp family, sucker family, top minnow or killifish family, shad family, and some fish from the sculpin or sunfish family. Some common types that you’ll see in a recreational lake include fathead minnows, golden shiners, creek chub and white suckers. Let’s learn more about these specific types of fish and how to fatten them up for your bass and trout.

Fathead Minnow

The fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas) is a species of temperate freshwater fish whose natural geographic range extends throughout North America. The golden, or xanthic strain known as the rosy-red minnow, is a very common feeder fish sold in the United States. In the wild, the fathead appears dull olive-gray with a dusky stripe extending down its back and side. These guys will eat just about anything, and they prefer a water temperature of 50 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit and a pH range of 7.0 to 7.5. Its main predator is the northern pike.

Golden Shiner

The golden shiner (Notemigonus crysoleucas) is a cyprinid native to eastern North America. In the wild, these bait fish grow to 3 to 5 inches long and have dark green to olive body with a silvery white belly. They prefer quiet, weedy waters and are fairly tolerant of pollution, turbidity and low oxygen levels. They can tolerate temperatures as high as 104 degrees F – which is unusually high for a North American minnow – and they nosh on zooplankton, insects, plants and algae. Predators include trout and bass.

Creek Chub

The creek chub (Semotilus atromaculatus) is another type of minnow that’s found in the eastern United States and Canada. Growing up to 6 inches, they typically have a dark brown body, sometimes with brown spots, with a white lateral line. These hardy bait fish, which prefer water temperatures between 35 and 90 degrees F, gravitate toward weedy areas and prefer stream or river environments rather than lakes. They’ll gobble just about anything – including fish, insects, larvae and vegetation. Predators include trout and northern pike.

White Suckerfish

White suckerfish (Catostomus commersonii) are found in small streams, rivers and lakes in the Midwest and east coast of the United States. Reaching lengths between 12 and 20 inches, the white sucker has a dark green, gray, copper, brown or black-brown body with a light underbelly. They’re bottom feeders, and they’ll use their fleshy lips to suck up bottom sediment and other organisms that live there, including small invertebrates, algae and plant matter. Predators include walleye, trout, bass, northern pike and catfish.

Using Baitfish

When it comes to using bait fish, you have two options: stock your pond with them and keep a separate supply on hand to use when you do some fishing.

To stock your pond with bait fish, purchase a supply from your local sports shop or pet store and introduce them to your pond or lake after acclimating them. Be sure to provide a fish habitat for them, like one of the Honey Hole Attractor Logs, Shrubs or Trees, so they can safely reproduce (and fatten up!) and keep the population thriving.

In addition, grow bait fish in a separate tub or tank for use when you’re fishing. Be sure to keep the water cool and fresh to reduce stress, and keep the oxygen levels high with a bubbler. They might be able to tolerate less-than-ideal conditions, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be without their O2!

Pond Talk: How do you stock your pond with baitfish?

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

 

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We have a lot of mosquitoes, especially near the pond. With the recent concern over the Zika virus, what can I do to fix this? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: We have a lot of mosquitoes, especially near the pond. With the recent concern over the Zika virus, what can I do to fix this?

Q: We have a lot of mosquitoes, especially near the pond. With the recent concern over the Zika virus, what can I do to fix this?

Kym – Lake Butler, FL

A: Your concern is justified. According to the CDC, mosquitoes – specifically the Aedes species (Ae. Aegypti and Ae. Albopictus) – are one of the main transmitters of the Zika virus. The bite of an infected mosquito can cause fever, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis and other unpleasant side effects.

Mosquitoes should be eradicated from your property – and here are six ways to decimate their population.

  • Create Water Movement. Ever notice how mosquitoes avoid moving water as much as possible? This is because the movement isn’t conducive to their life cycle. A female mosquito lays her eggs in stagnant water that’s full of nutritious algae, plankton, fungi and bacteria. When the eggs hatch, the larvae and pupae thrive and grow, developing into adult mosquitoes that perpetuate the population. Stop that cycle with aeration. The water movement created by the pumped-in oxygen creates an inhospitable environment for the mosquitoes while promoting your pond’s overall health.
  • Check for Standing Water. An old tire, ceramic flower pot, cracked bucket – mosquitoes aren’t particular about the vessel of standing water they use to lay their eggs. If it holds stagnant water and contains some type of food source, it’s fair game. The CDC recommends a once-a-week check for standing water around your property. Empty containers, scrub them clean, and turn them over or cover them to reduce your overall mosquito population.
  • Eliminate Food Source. Developing larvae and pupae need algae to fuel their rapid growth to adulthood, and so another way to reduce their population is to reduce their food source. In your pond or lake, use algaecide to remove suspended plant matter and muck reducers to break down detritus on the bottom of your pond.
  • Trim Shoreline Vegetation.  Unlike their developing larvae, adult mosquitoes live in the plants and vegetation along the pond’s shoreline. Evict those pests by clearing out and trimming back grasses and aquatic weeds. Use some herbicide to kill aquatic weeds and grasses, and use weed removal tools, like a weed cutter, rake and debris skimmer, and remove the dead plants and overgrowth.
  • Boost Fish Population.  Fish and other mosquito-eating pond life, like tadpoles, minnow, bass, bluegill and catfish, love gobbling those mosquito larvae and pupae. If you don’t already have a fish population living in your lake, consider adding some! The American Mosquito Control Association, in fact, recommends adding predacious minnows or native fish to lakes and ponds for biological control of the insects.
  • Keep Unused Standing Water Bug-Free.  Despite your best efforts, it can be impossible to completely eradicate mosquitoes in places with standing water – like around a pond or lake. Likewise, vessels like stored rainwater, water troughs and even bird feeders can become a breeding ground for mosquitoes. So what can you do? Consider mosquito dunks or bits. These handy little disks or bits contain a specially formulated biological pesticide designed to kill mosquito larvae. You simply toss them in unused bodies of water and let them go to work.

Zika and other mosquito-borne diseases are a real concern. Plus, all that buzzing can be annoying when you’re trying to enjoy your pond or lake during the warm days of summer. Use these tips to keep your yard mosquito-free – and your family and friends happy and healthy.

Pond Talk: Have you stocked your pond with mosquito-eating fish? If so, what types?

Keep Your Pond Water Moving - Airmax(r) Aeration Systems

 

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I thought I did a successful chemical treatment, but why are the weeds coming back? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I thought I did a successful chemical treatment, but why are the weeds coming back?

Q: I thought I did a successful chemical treatment, but why are the weeds coming back?

Barney – Andalusia, AL

A: Treating weeds is a tricky task. Despite dosing them with aquatic herbicides to clear your pond or lake of plant pests, they seem to grow back over and over again. It seems like a never-ending cycle! Why does this happen?

Well, chemical treatments have their benefits and drawbacks: On one hand, they work great as a quick fix to decimate actively growing weeds. But once those plants die, they become a food source for future weeds and algae, acting as a fertilizer for the very things you’re trying to get rid of. The herbicides do nothing to prevent future growth, and so you’re left with yet another growth spurt of pond weeds, which you’ll then treat with chemical herbicides – and around you’ll go again.

So how do you break the cycle? Here is a four-step approach that will help put an end to it.

  1. Remove the Dead Weeds: Once the weeds have browned, use a Pond & Beach Rake or PondSkim™ Debris Skimmer to remove as much dead material from the water as possible. This prevents dead plant material and muck from accumulating and fertilizing future weed growth.
  2. Be Proactive: Debris will still find its way into your pond, so add some beneficial bacteria to the water to manage the excess nutrients before they feed your weeds. The products found in the ClearPAC® PLUS Pond Care Packages – including PondClear™ and EcoBoost™ for suspended debris, and MuckAway™ for accumulated bottom-of-the-pond debris – naturally break down that organic material.
  3. Add Aeration: If you don’t have one already, install a Airmax® Aeration System that’s sized for your pond or lake. By circulating and adding oxygen to the water column, the beneficial bacteria will thrive. In turn, they’ll eat through even more debris and prevent weed and algae growth.
  4. Shade and Color:  Pond Dye is another offensive tactic in your battle against aquatic weeds. Pond dye shades the water, preventing ultraviolet light from reaching the plants.

Throughout the spring and summer, weeds will grow. But with some pond management practices, you can keep those pesky plants to a minimum.

Pond Talk: How often do you treat your pond or lake for weeds?

Skim Dead Algae & Vegetation - The Pond Guy(r) Pond & Beach Rake

 

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