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The ice is finally melting and there are dead cattails and phragmites everywhere. Do I need to rake them out? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: The ice is finally melting and there are dead cattails and phragmites everywhere. Do I need to rake them out?

Q: The ice is finally melting and there are dead cattails and phragmites everywhere. Do I need to rake them out?

Dave – Gary, IN

A: What an eyesore. As the snow and ice melt, those brown, dried-up cattails and phragmites do little to enhance a landscape. They can, in fact, cause water quality and weed management problems, especially as spring approaches and those green shoots emerge from the dead growth. You need to do something about them, and here’s what we recommend.

Frosty Water

With water temperatures still on the chilly side, it’s likely too early to start treating your pond or lake with beneficial bacteria, like those found in Pond Logic® MuckAway™. Those little detritus-destroyers prefer water that’s at least 50 degrees Fahrenheit – and chances are good that it’s well below that mark (unless you’re in sunny Florida or California …). Besides, even with some oxygen-infusing aeration, it would take a long time before they would be able to decompose large cattail or phragmite stalks.

Winter Management

One option is to leave those dead weeds in the water until spring. They may attract wildlife and create an ideal home for insects, amphibians and birds – as well as small rodents and other possibly unwanted visitors that will hide out in the shoreline brush.

Right now, your best bet is to pull out your weed whacking tools and get to work.

We offer a range of cutters and rakes that’ll make the job easy. From a double-sided cutter with an 11-foot reach to a V-shaped cutter that sinks to the bottom and slices weeds at their base, these tools help you cut down those dead plants. And a rake, like one of our weed rakers, will help gather the cut stalks for easy pickup and removal.

Spring Solutions

In the spring when the water temperatures rise and the weeds start to grow again, treat them with an herbicide formulated to tackle the toughest weeds. Remember: those chemicals only work when they’re absorbed by a growing plant, so there’s no sense in using them when the cattails and phragmites are dried up and dormant.

Happy winter weeding!

Pond Talk: What features do you prefer in a weed cutter?

Cut Through Tough Weeds - The Pond Guy® 28 Inch Weed Cutter

 

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How can I tell if I have male or female koi? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: How can I tell if I have male or female koi?

Q: How can I tell if I have male or female koi?

Ann Marie – Casselberry, FL

A: If only koi were as easy to sex as a pair of peacocks! Like those fanciful birds, koi are sexually dimorphic – meaning the males and females look and behave differently – but it’s not an easy distinction to discern. They grow to roughly the same size and they both have colorful scales, yet there are subtle differences if you know where to look. With these clues, you’ll know whether to name your finned friends Fred or Frieda.

Clue #1: Age

Koi are easier to tell apart when they’re mature, and so your first clue will be age – which is related to their length. They’re considered mature (3 years old) when they’re about 10 inches long. If they’re between 3 and 10 inches, they’re still juveniles and may be difficult to sex.

Clue #2: Body Shape

Immobilize your koi by capturing it in your pond net and take a look at it from above. A mature male koi will have a slender looking body, while a female koi will have a rounded body, particularly when it’s spawning season and she’s carrying a nest full of eggs!

Clue #3: Fin Shape

Next, examine your koi’s fins. A male koi’s pectoral fins, the ones near his head, will appear pointed and solid in color. In addition, the first ray of his pectoral fin may be more substantial when compared to his female counterpart, which will display rounder fins.

Clue #4: Tubercles

During breeding season, you may see little white growths, called tubercles, on male koi’s heads and pectoral fins. They’re perfectly natural and will disappear once the fish have finished getting frisky. Females don’t develop these protrusions.

Clue #5: Behavior

One final – and obvious! – clue: amorous behavior. When they’re not mating, they behave very similarly, but during mating season, the male koi will chase the female, encouraging her (sometimes enthusiastically) to release her eggs so he can fertilize them. After all that frolicking, the happy pair will benefit from some The Pond Guy® Stress Reducer Plus, which will help heal any damaged tissue.

It’s not easy to distinguish the male and female koi, but with these tips and clues, you’ll know your Freds from your Friedas in no time!

Pond Talk: Have you ever tried to determine the sex of your koi?

Safely Catch Your Fish - The Pond Guy® Heavy-Duty Pond Net Combo

 

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How are algae able to grow in the winter when everything else is dormant? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: How are algae able to grow in the winter when everything else is dormant?

Q: How are algae able to grow in the winter when everything else is dormant?

Patrick – Vandalia, IL

A: Algae can be tough little buggers. An estimated 72,500 algal species exist worldwide, and some of them can thrive in inhospitable conditions, including areas with ice and snow. With a handful of nutrients and a little bit of light, they’re able to grow – even in the 39 degree water under the ice in your lake.

But if your lake’s water is clean and clear during the spring and summer, how can it explode with algae in the winter?

Food Aplenty

Algae feed on byproducts of decomposing organic debris, like phosphorous and nitrogen, in the water. During the warmer months, natural bacteria would typically break down these nutrients, leaving little food for the organisms. But in the cooler months, those bacteria go dormant. That means the algae enjoy a feast – and a population explosion.

If you keep a hole in your lake’s ice, you can help control the nutrient density with a product like Pond Logic® EcoBoost™. This bacteria enhancer, which has no temperature restrictions, binds suspended organics while providing trace minerals to fish. Simply mix it with water and pour it into the lake.

Let There Be Light

Algae also require sunlight to thrive – but not much. Even through a clear, solid sheet of ice, algae can get enough light to use for photosynthesis. When that light is impeded, however, the algae won’t grow as quickly.

A layer of thick snow cover is Mother Nature’s way of preventing light from penetrating the water, but you can also use pond dye, to block those rays. Pond dye is available as a liquid or in water-soluble packets that you can toss into your pond.

Algae’s Benefits

Believe it or not, algae growth in the winter does have its benefits. It helps to filter the water, and on warmer days it’s a great snack for your fish. Plus, when the algae photosynthesize, they give off oxygen as a byproduct – which is then available for your fish (and other aquatic critters) to breathe.

Don’t worry: The algae won’t take over your pond like it does in the summer. It can grow, but the cold temperatures aren’t ideal for explosive outbreaks.

Pond Talk: Have you seen algae growing beneath the ice in your pond or lake?

Shade & Protect Your Pond - Pond Logic® Pond Dye Packets

 

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We just purchased a house and it has a backyard swimming pond. How do we measure it? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: We just purchased a house and it has a backyard swimming pond. How do we measure it?

Q: We just purchased a house and it has a backyard swimming pond. How do we measure it?

Rob – Hawthorne, FL

A: Surface area and pond depth are important measurements to know. They’ll help you determine dosage rates with chemicals like algaecide. They’ll help you calculate the right-size aeration system for your pond. And they’ll help you figure out how many and what types of fish to stock.

Finding those magic numbers isn’t difficult – but it does require some tools, the right equation and a little bit of work. Before you head out to your pond, grab a rope marked at 1-foot increments, a weight that’s heavy enough to sink to the bottom, and something for notetaking.

Calculating Surface Area

The easiest ponds to measure are those that resemble a rectangle, but you can figure out the surface area of a circular, triangular or odd-shaped pond, too. First, you’ll need to measure (with your marked rope) or pace off (one step is about 3 feet) some specific distances, depending on the shape of your pond. Then, plug those numbers into one of these formulas:

  • Square/rectangle: Calculate length and width; L x W = Surface Area
  • Circle: Calculate radius; Pi x R2 , or 3.14 x R x R = Surface Area
  • Triangle: Calculate base and height; (0.5 x B) x H = Surface Area
  • Odd-shaped: Use a handy online tool like Bing Maps to measure the pond. Online tools may be easiest, especially for irregularly shaped ponds.

To determine how many acres your pond is, you’ll then divide that surface area figure by 43,560 (one acre).

Calculating Depth

Figuring out your pond’s depth is a bit trickier, particularly if you have plant shelves or if the pond has a slope. Grab your marked string, the weight, something to write with, and a boat or canoe. Then, head out to the pond and follow these directions:

  1. Securely attach the weight to one end of your string.
  2. Climb aboard your boat or canoe with your weighted string and note-taking materials in hand.
  3. Travel to at least five points in various areas your pond, more if your pond is particularly large.
  4. Drop the weight into the water and note where you feel it hit the bottom. Repeat until you’ve gone to all the different spots and gathered a good sampling of your pond’s depth.

If math isn’t one of your favorite subjects, just take your measurements and plug them into our pond calculator. Simply select your pond type and shape, enter your measurements and let the calculator do the math!

Why They’re Important

Now that you know your pond’s size, why are those calculations important?

You’ll need the numbers to determine dosage rates on chemical products like those found in Pond Logic® ClearPAC® PLUS. If the pond has been around more than three to five years, chances are good that you’ll need to address problems like muck accumulation and string algae growth in the spring.

Those numbers will also help you select the right-size Aquastream™ Fountain and Airmax® Aeration System. For instance, if your pond is less than 6 feet deep, the Shallow Water Series™ Aeration System is a good choice; if your pond is greater than 6 feet deep, the Shallow Water HP Series™ or PondSeries™ Aeration System is the one for you.

Since you’ll be able to calculate how many acres your pond is, you’ll also be able to determine what types of fish you can have and how many of them you can keep. Finally, because you’ll know the various depths of your pond, you’ll be able to stake out safe swimming areas for children – but don’t forget to put out your life ring!

Pond Talk: What pond maintenance tips can you offer to this new homeowner?

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

 

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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?

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

John – Bradford, OH

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?

Beautiful Color Changing Display - Atlantic™ Color Changing Vase Kits

 

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We had a couple of warm days. Is there anything I should be working on for the spring? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: We had a couple of warm days. Is there anything I should be working on for the spring?

Q: We had a couple of warm days. Is there anything I should be working on for the spring?

Scott – Eureka, IL

A: We may have another month or two of winter ahead of us, but that doesn’t mean you can’t head out to the pond on sunny days and get a jump-start on your spring cleaning and maintenance chores. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Tidy Things Up
    Rain, snow, wind and winter precipitation do a number on landscaping, so take some time to clean up the foliage around your pond. Remove fallen branches, rake leaves and debris, cut down cattails and pull out any pond weeds you can reach. Two great all-purpose tools to use for the task are the Weed Cutter and the  Pond & Beach Rake. The cutter slices through floating debris like aquatic vegetation, weeds, cattails and phragmites; the rake, which works on land and in the water, allows you to mechanically remove those cut weeds, algae, muck and debris.
  2. Inspect Mechanical Parts
    Sunshine is a perfect excuse to tinker with outside toys, like your aeration system. Head out to the pond and check your air filters. Do they need changing? How’s the airflow from the lines? Is it what you expect? Is your air compressor operating properly? If needed, install new air filters, clean out your lines, and tune up your air compressor with a maintenance kit. Keep your system performing optimally – even if it’s still winter.
  3. Add Pond Dye
    Pond Dye can be used all year long. Even though the sun isn’t as strong in the wintertime, some UVs still get through – and they can fuel algae blooms that could affect your water quality. Pond dye shades the water and prevents those blooms from happening.

Pond Talk: What’s the first thing you plan to do with your pond or lake when spring finally arrives?

Remove Leaves and Pond Debris - The Pond Guy(r) Pond and Beach Rake

What can I do to prevent string algae from growing in the winter? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: What can I do to prevent string algae from growing in the winter?

Q: What can I do to prevent string algae from growing in the winter?

Bonnie – Hazelton, PA

A: Even in the cold of winter, string algae can grow in your water garden. All that green nuisance needs to thrive is the right amount of nutrients and sunlight. So what can you do to prevent it? You have three options in your pond management toolbox: Seasonal Defense, barley straw extract, and a three-in-one pond tool.

Boost Your Bacteria

First of all, you’ll need to control the nutrients – or the food that the algae eat – in your pond. Because the beneficial bacteria that break down those nutrients go dormant in the winter, now’s the time to add some Seasonal Defense® (as long as your pond isn’t frozen over, of course). It contains bacteria that prefer cooler temperatures. They’ll accelerate the decomposition of leaves, scum and sediment that feed algae, reducing its growth to a minimum.

Add Barley Straw

If you have a small water garden, like a koi pond that’s less than 10,000 gallons, The Pond Guy® Barley Extract provides an all-natural solution for maintaining clean, clear water throughout the winter. Available in bales, pellets and as an extract, it works by releasing compounds that improve water clarity, leaving you a clean and healthy pond. Read more about how barley extract works here. The extract form is easy to use: Pour directly into the water and repeat every few weeks.

Manually Remove It

Should string algae form, you can manually remove it by wrapping it around an algae brush, like the one included in the The Pond Guy® 3-in-1 Interchangeable Pond Tool, and yanking it out of the water. The telescoping handle will add 5 feet to your reach, allowing you to reach those hard-to-access patches of weeds.

Unfortunately, if ice is covering your pond, there’s not much you can do to remove that string algae. Plan on removing it during your spring clean-out process. The sun will return soon enough!

Pond Talk: How do you prevent string algae from growing in the winter?

Naturally Clear Pond Water - The Pond Guy Barley Extract