How do I know how many fish I can have in my pond? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: How do I know how many fish I can have in my pond?

Lynn – Leitchfield, KY

A: Fish are like potato chips: It’s hard to have just one. When you visit your local pet retailer or water garden center and see those goldfish and koi staring up at you through the water, how can you not take them home!

Too many fish in a pond, however, can create an unhealthy environment for your fish and a breeding ground for algae. The more fish you have, the more waste they produce – and that waste can turn into algae fertilizer unless you have the filtration power to pump it out.

Before you start buying bucket-loads of finned friends, figure out how many you can comfortably keep in your pond. Here’s how in five simple steps.

1. Calculate Pond Size

First, determine the square footage of your pond’s surface area by measuring its length and its width, and multiplying the two numbers. We recommend no more than 1 inch of fish for every square foot of surface area, so if your pond is 250 square feet, that’s a maximum of 250 inches of adult, fully grown fish. If you need help with the math, use our online calculator. You’ll just need to know your pond’s length, width and average depth.

2. Allow Room to Grow

If you’re starting with young or adolescent fish, don’t max out your fish volume right from the start. Remember that those little guys will grow – a 2 inch fry will turn into a 10 inch adult in no time – and they’ll produce more waste as they develop. Skip the guessing game of growing fish by stocking adults, such as those included in our koi packages. You’ll enjoy instant gratification and a pond full of colorful fish!

Whether you’re starting with young fish or adults, add just a handful at a time. Your pond will need time to “season,” or build up its biological filtration system (a.k.a. beneficial bacteria), to handle the new influx of fish waste. Introduce a few fish, and then wait several weeks before adding more. While you’re waiting, give your biological filter a boost with DefensePAC® Pond Care Package. It contains Nature’s Defense®, Clarity Defense® and Muck Defense® – all of which promote the growth of those beneficial microorganisms.

4. Keep Up with Routine Maintenance

Once your fish have moved in, help them feel right at home. Use natural bacteria to break down fish waste, uneaten food and other debris. Provide shade, habitat and safety with floating and submerged aquatic plants. Feed them a healthy diet, like The Pond Guy® Staple Fish Food, which has the right amount of protein to keep them healthy without producing a lot of excess waste. Provide a healthy ecosystem and tasty food, and you’ll have a pond full of happy fish!

A external pressurized filter like the AllClear™ PLUS can handle excess waste, thanks to its powerful combination of biological, mechanical and ultraviolet filters. Its backflush option makes it easy to clean, and it’s easy to install in an existing pond because the plumbing doesn’t need to be run through the liner.

Or if you want to upgrade your entire water feature, check out one of our all-inclusive Pond Kits. Available in several different sizes, they contain a pump, pressurized filter or waterfall filter, pond liner, underlayment, plumbing, foam, hardware and beneficial bacteria to jump-start your biological filtration. All you’ll need to add is fish!

Pond Talk: What’s your most memorable experience with a fish overpopulation problem?

My friend talks about her fish coming up to eat from her hand. How can I get my fish to do the same? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: My friend talks about her fish coming up to eat from her hand. How can I get my fish to do the same?

Donna – Chesterfield, MO

A: Talk about a cool party trick! Feeding by hand is not only a fun way to show your friends how well-trained your fish are, but it also gives you an opportunity to bond with your finned pals.

Teaching your fish how to eat from your hand starts with understanding the temperament of the fish themselves. Are your fish friendly? Do they swim up and say “Glub, glub, hi!” when you visit your pond? Or do they scatter when you approach and your shadow falls on the water?

Friendly fish are easier to train. They already associate you as an approachable face that brings them tasty food every day. Sketchy fish, however, can be more of a challenge. They might be newbies that don’t recognize you or your feeding routine, or they might be spooked from predators visiting your pond.

If you’ve ruled out the possibility of predators (or put up some predator-control measures), follow these steps to help teach your fish to eat from the palm of your hand:

1. Set a Routine: Fish are creatures of habit. They’re more likely to respond to something that happens the same way every day (or frequently, at least). To set a mealtime routine, visit your pond at the same location, at the same time of day, on a regular basis. They’ll get to know your patterns and learn to recognize you – and feeding time.
2. Make Them Work: Throwing a handful of Growth & Vibrance Fish Food into the water and walking away teaches your fish an easy snatch-and-run feeding style. Instead, toss them a few pellets at a time and wait for the fish to eat them. They’ll rush to get the food first! Even the shy koi will get in on the action. This toss-and-wait style reminds them that you are hanging out and something exciting is happening.
3. Get Brave – and Get Wet: Once your fish are used to your feeding routine and race to the pond’s edge to greet you, take the plunge! Hold a few pellets loosely in your hand just at the water surface without making any sudden or quick movements. It takes only one fish to act bravely and let the others know it’ll be OK. Before you know it, they’ll be racing to your hand to be fed!

Once your fish are trained to eat from your hand, you’ll be tempted to keep offering them food. Prevent overfeeding them by measuring out a predetermined amount of food – and stop when it’s all gone. If you can’t help yourself (or you’re sharing this cool new party trick with your friends), at least be sure to have some natural bacteria, like Nature’s Defense®, on hand to help clean up the leftovers after dinner.

Pond Talk: Have you trained your fish to eat from your hand? What tips can you share with this fish keeper?

My mom wants a water feature but needs something easy to maintain. Any suggestions? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: My mom wants a water feature but needs something easy to maintain. Any suggestions?

A: Sounds like mom has been bitten by the water gardening bug! Thanks to all the options available to budding pond hobbyists, she doesn’t need to install a maintenance-heavy feature. She can find a simple-to-use one that’s ideal for a small yard, patio or tabletop.

It’s easy to help her choose the perfect water feature. Simply ask her these questions:

1: Does She Want to Keep Fish?

If so, she’ll need a water feature that has a pond to house fish as well as a filtration system to keep their water clean – and the AllClear™ Ecosystem Pond Kits are designed for hobbyists who want just that. They come in several sizes, but the 6-foot-by-11-foot kit creates a pond that’s about 700 gallons, which is large enough for a few fish and a small waterfall. It includes fish-safe pond liner and underlayment, a pressurized filter, a waterfall filter, pump, tubing, waterfall foam, installation hardware and 12 packets of Nature’s Defense. All she’ll need is a little help digging the hole in her yard!

2: Does She Want a Waterfall but No Fish?

If a waterfall is her main wish, she won’t need to get dirty digging a pond. She can try something self-contained, like the Atlantic™ Colorfalls Basin Kit and Colorfalls Lighted Waterfall Weir. Basin Kits come in three sizes – 12 inches, 24 inches and 36 inches – and includes a Colorfalls Basin reservoir, a TidalWave 2 pump, splash mat, auto fill valve and installation kit. She can add some aquatic plants and choose a waterfall color for nighttime viewing. And talk about low maintenance: There’s no filtration system to worry about. Easy peasy!

3: Does She Just Want the Sound of Bubbling Water?

If she’s simply after the soothing sound of bubbling water, suggest something more decorative, like the Atlantic™ Color Changing Vase Fountain and Basin Kit. Available individually in several sizes or as a set, the polyethylene vases in this water feature come alive with color and light as water bubbles from the top. The kit includes a color-changing vase fountain, fountain basin, a plumbing kit, auto fill valve, pump and remote control to turn on the light display. This simple-to-operate feature becomes quite a show-stopper at night!

These easy-maintenance water features will transform your mom’s yard or patio into a relaxing oasis that she’ll love. But be warned: Once the water gardening bug bites, she’ll be hooked – and asking for a larger pond in no time!

Pond Talk: Do you remember your first water feature? What was it like?

We are thinking about putting in a pond and most seem to be the same shape. Does the shape of the pond matter? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: We are thinking about putting in a pond and most seem to be the same shape. Does the shape of the pond matter?

Beth – Hinesville, GA

A: Round, oblong, square, kidney-shaped, oval or otherwise, ponds come in all shapes and sizes. In most cases, they’re designed to fit into and enhance their environment. But does shape matter? Read on to learn more.

Tried-and-True Standards

Many ponds are curved and centered toward the viewing area – and there’s a good reason for that. An oval- or kidney-shaped pond allows you to see more of your water garden from one place. Imagine sitting on your deck or patio and enjoying a 180-degree view of your natural-looking waterscape. When compared to a perfectly round or square pond in the middle of your yard, you can see why one might have more aesthetic appeal than another.

Oval- or kidney-shaped ponds also allow for optimum circulation, particularly when a RapidFlo™ Ecosystem Pond Kit or AllClear™ Ecosystem Pond Kit is installed. A waterfall located at one end of a slightly curved pond will gently push the water toward your skimmer or pump for circulation and filtration. Round ponds or those with many coves or inlets may have areas of little circulation, which will require extra waterfalls, fountains or pumps to move the water and prevent it from stagnating.

Outside the Oval

Of course, if you want to play with pond shapes and design a waterscape that’s outside the ordinary, have at it! A rectangular pond teeming with colorful koi could be a stunning centerpiece in a modern-themed yard. A haphazardly shaped pond outlined with irises and arrowhead could transform a suburban postage-stamp yard into a natural wonderland. Just be sure you provide adequate aeration to all its corners and coves.

Regardless of its shape or size, a koi pond or water garden will make a valuable addition to your yard. Check out magazines for inspiration. Pin favorites on Pinterest. Sketch out your ideas. When you’re ready, talk to one of our pond design experts – and get ready to start digging!

Pond Talk: What shape is your pond? Is it tried-and-true, or is it outside the ordinary?

I recently installed a small pondless water feature. How do I maintain it? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I recently installed a small pondless water feature. How do I maintain it?

Paul- Moab, UT

A: I recently installed a small pondless water feature. How do I maintain it?

As you’ve likely discovered, a pondless water feature makes a fantastic addition to a landscape. Whether it’s a bubbling fountain, a colorful birdbath or a disappearing waterfall, pondless features deliver the tranquil sound of running water without the hassle.

Small water features are easy to keep, but you will need to do some simple chores. Here’s a quick checklist to follow:

1. Remove the Debris: Dust will dirty the water feature, and debris may collect and start to break down, leaving behind a slimy mess. As needed, manually remove large debris and then add a dose of FeatureFix™ to the water as a cleaner. The highly concentrated product will safely eliminate accumulated debris and clear unsightly discoloration and stuck-on organic materials, often within 48 hours. (FeatureFix™ is not safe for use in features with fish, invertebrates or crustaceans, so use with caution.)
2. Clear the Water: To keep your fountain flowing with clean, clear water, treat it regularly with FeatureClear™. The bacteria in this all-natural clarifier will digest organic debris to keep water crystal clear. Use every two weeks when water temperatures are above 50°F. Simply add one ounce for every 100 gallons of water for sparkling clean water without harmful chemicals. (FeatureClear™ is safe for use around fish, plants, pets and wildlife.)
3. Top Off As Needed: In addition to keeping things clean and clear, also keep an eye on the water level in your pondless feature’s basin and top it off as needed.
4. Inspect Mechanics, Connections: Periodically inspect your feature’s pump, tubing and connections to ensure that they are sound and functioning correctly.

With winter approaching, be cautious about running your pondless fountain. It will sure look cool, flowing or bubbling away in the frosty air, but freezing temperatures and ice formations can do some serious damage. If you decide to shut it down until spring, remove the pump from the basin, place it in a bucket with water and store it in a place that will not freeze. Be sure to leave water in the basin so the ground won’t shift.

Pond Talk: How do you winterize your pondless water feature?

I’m jealous of my friend’s waterfall. Where do I start?| Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I’m jealous of my friend’s waterfall. Where do I start?

Ethan – Kailua-Kona, HI

A: Waterfall envy. We’ve all experienced it. It’s that feeling you get when you see those stunning synchronized fountains at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, some over-the-top displays during your local pond and garden tour, or your pal’s 15-foot 20,000-gallons-per-hour jaw dropper. You think, wow, my waterfall stinks. I want that in my back yard!

Let’s turn that jealousy into motivation.

With some planning, some equipment and a weekend (or two) of hard work, you can create a waterfall that will rival the others in your neighborhood. Here’s how.

Be Budget Mindful

Before you begin, think about how much money you want to spend and then work to develop a project budget. In most cases, the larger the waterfall, 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 suggest a starting point.

Making Space

You’ll also want to consider how much room you have for your waterfall. Do you want to add a new feature to your existing pond? Alternatively, are you planning to build one from the ground up? In either case, how large will it be, and where will it go? Make sure that it’s sized appropriately for your pond and/or yard, and position it in a place where you can enjoy it.

Changing the Look

If you have an existing pond and want to add a waterfall while changing the look of the water’s flow, check out the ClearSpring™ Waterfall Filter. Not only does it provide maximum year-round filtration to your pond, but it also offers two weir options – a smooth surface and a ribbed pattern – to add diversity to your water feature.

Another option is to increase your existing flow rate by bumping up your tubing size and pump size. More water and increased movement can make dramatic impacts in your water feature, and it’s an easy adjustment to make with some plumbing and pump swaps.

Hobby Time

Finally, think about how much time you realistically want to spend maintaining your water feature. Are you a weekend warrior with a full-time job, or do you have a busy family with soccer games every weekend? If so, you may not have a lot of time to spend on weekly and seasonal maintenance chores, like leaf netting and winterizing. A Pondless Waterfall Kit is an excellent solution. It provides the sights and sounds of running water with little maintenance.

If you have more time on your hands, consider adding a self-enclosed pond with pops of color to your landscape. The Colorfalls Basin Kit with Color Changing Waterfall Weirs is an easy-to-install system that includes a reservoir, the plumbing, the pump, all the fittings, double filtration, splash mat and even an automatic fill valve. The color changing weirs feature 16 patterns and 48 color options – which should be enough to make your friend jealous!

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?

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:

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 …

Who will be enjoying your water feature? When planning your backyard pond, keep your audience in mind. If you have young kids running around the yard and safety is an issue, a pondless waterfall with no open body of water might be a good choice. 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?