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The water level in my pond keeps dropping below my skimmer opening. What should I do? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: The water level in my pond keeps dropping below my skimmer opening. What should I do?

Q: The water level in my pond keeps dropping below my skimmer opening. What should I do?

Charles – Bellingham, MA

A: That’s a problem, for sure! Let’s take a look at some reasons why your water level is dropping below your skimmer opening in the first place. One of them could point to your solution.

 

Reason #1: Wrong Pump Size
Skimmers are rated for maximum water flow. If your pump exceeds this rating, the water will leave the skimmer faster than it enters—and you’ll be left with a low water level. Check your pump to be sure it’s sized correctly for your skimmer.

Reason #2: Accumulated Debris
Is your skimmer’s filter mat plugged? Nets and media pads catch a majority of debris as the water passes through your skimmer (which you then clean out several times a year), but some of it may fall to the bottom. That debris could then plug your filter mat and prevent water from getting to your pump. It could also cause a water backup, allowing water to escape from other areas of your pond. When you pull out your filter pad, check for debris buildup in the skimmer bottom.

Reason #3: Skimmer Height
If your skimmer is set at the wrong height, that could cause problems, too. It should be set so that the natural water line of the pond when filled is about an inch below the top of the skimmer opening. If it’s set where the water level is lower, small fluctuations in the water level can make a big difference. Check your skimmer height and adjust as needed.

Reason #4: Too-Low Overflows
If you installed an overflow in your skimmer, make sure the overflow’s bottom is not lower than where the water level should be. Otherwise, you will have issues when you have small fluctuations in your pond’s water level. Check to be sure any built-in overflows are positioned at the right height to allow water to drain from the skimmer.

Reason #5: A Leak
Dropping water levels could indicate a leak, so check around your pond for pooling water. Here, we outline in detail how to find and repair a leak.

Reason #6: Evaporation
The sun’s evaporation power can play a role in your waning water levels, too. If this becomes a problem over time, you can install an auto-fill valve to refill your pond when it gets low. At the very least, install an automatic shutoff switch; if water depletes to a certain point, the pump will switch off automatically.

Good luck figuring out this mystery!

Pond Talk: Have you ever been stumped by the cause of falling water levels in your pond?

Protect Pumps From Low Water - ProPlumber™ Pump Shut-Off Switch

 

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Do I need to hire someone to install lighting in my pond, or is that something I can do? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Do I need to hire someone to install lighting in my pond, or is that something I can do?

Q: Do I need to hire someone to install lighting in my pond, or is that something I can do?

Tiffany – Savannah, TN

A: Unless you’re planning a Bellagio-esque display in your backyard, you can most certainly install some show-stopping lighting. It’s perfect for the do-it-yourselfer: A simple transformer and some quick connections allow any homeowner to take their water feature to the next level.

Layout Lighting Goals

Before you dive in, however, brainstorm what you’d like the lighting to do. What are your goals?

  • If you’d like a few lights to mark the pond at night, check out our Floating Solar Lights. They’re a great way to add nighttime illumination to any pond or water garden. The LED lights, which shift between pink, yellow and blue, are solar-powered and maintenance-free – making them an energy-efficient choice that will last for years.
  • If you’d like to illuminate a waterfall or accent a small water feature, take a look at our waterfall lights and three-pack halogen mini lights. The Pond Guy® Waterfall Light highlights waterfalls via its submersible 10-watt halogen light. It’s waterproof and includes a low-voltage transformer. Rock Lights feature a realistic stone finish, allowing them the blend naturally with your landscape.
  • If you’d like to light up your entire pond, try LEDPro™ Lights. They can be used in or out of water and shine with the same intensity as a halogen bulb, but with a longer life span and lower energy cost.

Easy Installation

Installing these lighting systems is easy. If you’re considering the LEDPro Rock Lights or High Output lights, there’s virtually no work at all. They contain a photocell, so the light will automatically turn on when it’s dark and turn off when the sun rises.

Most other pond lights we offer have standard plugs, so there’s no need for additional control panels or wiring. Before installing them, check out these pro tips:

  • To give you better access, partially drain the pond when installing the lights.
  • Leave extra power cord wrapped around the light so you can easily access it for maintenance or cleaning without draining the pond.
  • Position the lights so they shine out into the pond rather than facing you.

Pond Talk: What kinds of lights do you have illuminating your pond?

Great For Small Ponds & Gardens - The Pond Guy® 3 Watt, LEDPro™ Lights

 

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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 The Pond Guy® 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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This is my first winter with a pond. Do I need to bring in my plants? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: This is my first winter with a pond. Do I need to bring in my plants?

Q: This is my first winter with a pond. Do I need to bring in my plants?

Bonnie – Dover, NJ

A: You’ve been watching your aquatic plants flourish all year. Your water lilies and hyacinth put off big blooms, your irises and cattails became homes for frogs and dragonflies, and your submerged plants provided a home for your fish and snails.

With the cold weather on its way, now what do you do with them? Well, it all depends on where you live and what types of plants you have.

In the Zone

What’s your hardiness zone? The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map will help you determine which plants will thrive in a particular location. The map is based on the average annual minimum winter temperature, divided into 10-degree Fahrenheit zones.

In general, if you live in a hardiness zone that’s frost-free, congratulations! All you need to do is trim off dead foliage with your Scissors & Pliers, fertilize the plants as necessary and enjoy them all year round.

If you live in an area that freezes, however, you have some work to do.

Like terrestrial plants, aquatic plants – whether floating, marginal or submerged – are sensitive in varying degrees to freezing temperatures. Some species will overwinter just fine in frostier hardiness zones, while others will wilt and die at the slightest hint of ice.

So before you do anything, get to know your plants and identify which ones are in your zone and which ones aren’t.

Overwintering Your Plants

Winter care of water lilies, marginal/bog plants and submerged plants will depend on if they’re tropical (anything that likes temperatures above your hardiness zone) or hardy (anything geared for temperatures in your hardiness zone or lower).

  • Tropical Plants: These sensitive beauties, including tropical water lilies and canna, will need to be removed from the pond and replaced next season, or removed and relocated to a warm indoor space for winter. Read about how to overwinter tropical water lilies in this blog post.
  • Hardy Plants: These easy-care troopers, including hardy water lilies and submerged plants, only need to have dead foliage removed after the first hard frost. Simply use your AquaGloves™ and Scissors & Pliers to trim away any spent leaves, lily pads or flowers. Once trimmed, sink the plants to the deepest part of your pond. Hardy plants will go dormant for the winter and regrow in the spring.

Floating plants, like hyacinth and water lettuce, can be treated like an annual; they will die over the winter, so remove them from your pond once they begin to yellow. Luckily, they’re inexpensive to replace and will grow quickly once re-added. Please note: hyacinth and water lettuce can be invasive so be sure to dispose of them properly and never release into public water.

Good luck caring for your first winter pond!

Pond Talk: What advice about overwintering can you share with this new pond owner?

Quickly Trim Away Dormant Plants - Pond Scissors & Pliers

 

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Do I need to hire someone to install lighting in my pond, or is that something I can do? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Do I need to hire someone to install lighting in my pond, or is that something I can do?

Q: Do I need to hire someone to install lighting in my pond, or is that something I can do?

Tiffany – Savannah, TN

A: Unless you’re planning a Bellagio-esque display in your backyard, you can most certainly install some show-stopping lighting. It’s perfect for the do-it-yourselfer: A simple transformer and some quick connections allow any homeowner to take their water feature to the next level.

Layout Lighting Goals

Before you dive in, however, brainstorm what you’d like the lighting to do. What are your goals?

  • If you’d like a few lights to mark the pond at night, check out our Floating Solar Lights. They’re a great way to add nighttime illumination to any pond or water garden. The LED lights, which shift between pink, yellow and blue, are solar-powered and maintenance-free – making them an energy-efficient choice that will last for years.
  • If you’d like to illuminate a waterfall or accent a small water feature, take a look at our waterfall lights and three-pack halogen mini lights. The Pond Guy® Waterfall Light highlights waterfalls via its submersible 10-watt halogen light. It’s waterproof and includes a low-voltage transformer. Rock Lights feature a realistic stone finish, allowing them the blend naturally with your landscape.
  • If you’d like to light up your entire pond, try LEDPro™ Lights. They can be used in or out of water and shine with the same intensity as a halogen bulb, but with a longer life span and lower energy cost.

Easy Installation

Installing these lighting systems is easy. If you’re considering the LEDPro Rock Lights or High Output lights, there’s virtually no work at all. They contain a photocell, so the light will automatically turn on when it’s dark and turn off when the sun rises.

Most other pond lights we offer have standard plugs, so there’s no need for additional control panels or wiring. Before installing them, check out these pro tips:

  • To give you better access, partially drain the pond when installing the lights.
  • Leave extra power cord wrapped around the light so you can easily access it for maintenance or cleaning without draining the pond.
  • Position the lights so they shine out into the pond rather than facing you.

Pond Talk: What kinds of lights do you have illuminating your pond?

Great For Small Ponds & Gardens - The Pond Guy® 3 Watt, LEDPro™ Lights

 

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What is the difference between a waterfall filter and a waterfall spillway? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: What is the difference between a waterfall filter and a waterfall spillway?

Q: What is the difference between a waterfall filter and a waterfall spillway?

Ashley – Forest Grove, OR

A:  Waterfall filters and waterfall spillways both generate a flowing waterfall in your pond or water feature – but they have different designs and purposes. Here’s what you need to know about including them in your waterscape.

 

A Waterfall Filter

A waterfall filter, like The Pond Guy® ClearSpring™ Waterfall Filters, serves two purposes: it generates a waterfall, and it houses your biological filtration system. The waterfall filter provides a starting point for the waterfall itself as the water fills its deep basin and pours evenly over the spillway. That basin is also spacious enough to hold filter media, which houses countless beneficial bacteria – a.k.a. your biological filtration system.

These two-in-one units work well for hobbyists who are building a new pond or are in need of additional filtration. Once you install one, be sure to seed the filter media with PL Gel, a bacterial inoculant that contains beneficial microorganisms and naturally occurring biopolymers that reduce filter startup time.

A Waterfall Spillway

A waterfall spillway, like the PondBuilder™ Elite Cascade Spillways, also provides a starting point for an evenly pouring waterfall, but the basin itself is smaller and provides no room for filter media.

But because it creates the environment-enhancing movement and sound of flowing water, a waterfall spillway makes an excellent addition to a pond that’s already filtered. It also works well for pondless waterfalls and in ponds in areas with little room to work.

Customizing Your Flow

Whether you install a waterfall filter or waterfall spillway, they can both be used in conjunction with a skimmer. You can also easily blend them into your landscape with rock covers or aquatic plants while still allowing you to access the unit. Some models even offer a planting shelf or basket to house additional aquatic plants. Check out our entire selection of Waterfall Filters & Waterfall Spillways.

Pond Talk: What type of waterfall does your pond or water feature have?

Create a Waterfall & Filter Your Pond - The Pond Guy® ClearSpring™ Mini Waterfall Filter

Some of my waterfall rocks shifted over the winter, and I think I may have a leak. How do I find and fix it? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Some of my rocks and stream shifted over the winter, and I think I may have a leak. What is the easiest way to fix it?

Q: Some of my waterfall rocks shifted over the winter, and I think I may have a leak. How do I find and fix it?

Vicky – Roslyn, PA

A: With a winter of ice, snow, and thaw on repeat, your pond landscape likely took a hit. Periods of ice, snow and even heavy bouts of rain can shift rocks and soil, cause erosion and move or puncture your liner, resulting in leaks.

So how to find and fix that possible leak? You’ll need to do some investigating to determine where the problem is and then get busy making repairs. Here’s what we suggest.

Steady the Rocks

Because the rocks shifted over the winter, the first thing to do is return them to their original position them and lock them into place. As you move the rocks back, check to see if they tore the liner or shifted it out of place. If so, patch the hole and tuck the liner back in. Use PondBuild ‘N Foam to fill in gaps between the rocks, support them and prevent them from moving again next winter.

Rule Out Evaporation

What has the weather been like? When the humidity levels are low and the air contains little moisture, the dry atmosphere will act like a sponge, increasing evaporation rates and absorbing the water from your pond. It can cause your pond to lose up to an inch of water a day. To rule out evaporation, fill the pond back up and keep an eye on the water level. Any more than an inch or so of water loss could indicate a leak.

Check for Damp Spots

If more than an inch or so of water is disappearing daily, one clear clue that could lead to your leak is a damp area around the pond’s perimeter. That water has to go somewhere, and a low-lying patch of wet ground is a great place to start looking for its source. Walk around the pond and carefully inspect the soil for signs of unexplained moisture.

Rule Out the Liner

If you’ve ruled out evaporation and found no damp areas, there are two more possible leak culprits: your waterfall or your liner. Shut down waterfall pump and wait for several hours. If the pond’s water level stays the same, then you’ll know the leak is not in the liner itself. It’s likely in the waterfall or plumbing. Check your waterfall box and skimmer for cracks or if the liner isn’t attached, and inspect your plumbing for loose connections.

Track, Repair Liner Leak

At this point, the bad news is that you probably have a hole in your liner, and finding it won’t be easy. But the good news is that it is possible to track it down and repair it. To find it you can let the water slowly go down. (Depending how low it goes, you may need to temporarily relocate your fish.) The water level should stabilize, which will allow you to visually inspect the first few inches of liner above the water surface for the hole.

Once you’ve found the hole, patch it up with an EPDM Liner Patch Kit or use some Gold Label Pond Sealer. The 6-inch liner patch is easy to use on small punctures: Just peel off the protective film and press onto the liner. The sealer can be used in wet or dry conditions and will seal completely in 48 hours.

Good luck tracking down that leak and repairing it!

Pond Talk: Tell us about your most mysterious pond leak. How did you find it and repair it?

Quickly Repair Winter Damage - Tite Seal™ EPDM Pond Liner Patch Kit