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I know you aren’t supposed to wash your filter, but how can I stop it from getting plugged? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I know you aren’t supposed to wash your filter, but how can I stop it from getting plugged?

Q: I know you aren’t supposed to wash your filter, but how can I stop it from getting plugged?

Jeannie – Omaha, NE

A:  Your pond filter is home to countless natural, beneficial bacteria that break down toxins in the water. It’s also home to globs of slimy gunk and debris that clog your filtration system. So how do you clean house without evicting those valuable microorganisms? We have a seven-step solution.

1. Clean Your Skimmer
First, keep an eye on your mechanical skimmer filter and clean it out as often as needed. This part of your filter is not intended to remove tiny particulates, so use lower-density filter media that will keep large debris out of your pump. Too-dense media will plug more easily and slow the flow.

2. Empty Debris Baskets
When your mechanical skimmer filter’s debris baskets and nets fill up with leaves and other material, clean them out. If they’re full, the water is forced around the debris dam and potentially carrying larger pieces that could create more plugs elsewhere in your filtration system.

3. Vary Media Densities
Use a variety of filter media densities, like those offered by Matala®, and stack them so that the water flows from lowest to highest densities. By mixing them, you have plenty of surface area for bacteria growth but better water flow with less frequent plugging.

4. Layer Media Wisely
Speaking of media densities, don’t go crazy with too many layers. If you have more than two or three layers of filter mat in addition to BioBalls™ or other media, you may be slowing the flow and leaving lots of places for debris to get stuck. A couple of layers is all you really need.

5. Seed with Bacteria
After you’ve hosed down your filter’s media pads, help the remaining bacteria boost their population levels by seeding the pads with bacteria found in Microbe-Lift® PL Gel. They’ll start reproducing right away and quickly help to better decompose debris.

6. Keep Pond Sludge-Free
Sludge is the enemy, so do what you can to keep it from building up in your pond. Use a pond vacuum to suck up large debris and DefensePAC® to break down fine debris; doing so will help with water quality and remove material that would otherwise need to be handled by your filter.

7. Balance Your Pond
Finally, take a look at your pond’s fish-to-plant ratio. More fish means more waste (and a clogged filter), while more plants means better-filtered water. Don’t overwork your filter by keeping an unbalanced pond. Let plants help do the work – naturally! – and keep your fish load to a minimum.

Pond Talk: What tricks do you have for preventing a plugged filter?

Four Densities for Every Filtration Need - Matala® Filter Media Pads

How do I divide my pond plants? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: How do I divide my pond plants?

Q: How do I divide my pond plants?

Karen – Fort Worth, TX

A: It’s that time of year, isn’t it? After a long winter’s nap, your aquatic plants are a great place to start flexing that green thumb of yours. Potted water lilies and bog plants will need to be divided, but how you do so will depend on the type of plants you have. In general, bog plants will need to be divided every one to two years, and water lilies will need to be divided every two to three years.

Here are simplified, step-by-step instructions for how to divide your aquatic plants. Pull out your waders, pruning tools, extra plant baskets, planting media and garden hose – and let’s get to work!

Divide Bog Plants
Bog plants include species like corkscrew rush, dwarf cattails and irises. Some have clumping roots, some have runners and some have rhizomes. Regardless of the type of root mass, here’s what to do with them:

  1. Lift the pot or container out of the pond and gently remove the root mass.
  2. Use your garden hose to wash the soil off of the root mass and trim any dead leaves and foliage.
  3. Divide the root mass depending on the type of root system.
    • Clumping Roots – Like corkscrew rush, separate the roots into sections, leave some roots intact with each section.
    • Runner Roots – Like dwarf cattails, cut the runner root and leave the root base with each section of the plant.
    • Rhizomes – Like irises, simply divide them into sections.
  4. Replant each section of plant in its own container and dispose of any plant overgrowth.

Divide Water Lilies
Water lilies – both tropical and the hardy variety sold in our Grower’s Choice collection – are also easy to divide. You’ll know it’s time to separate them when you notice fewer lily pads, reduced blooms or splitting pots.

  1. Lift the pot or container out of the pond, locate the tuber and gently remove it.
  2. Rinse off the soil, and trim away root growth and old foliage.
  3. Identify the crowns, or the little buds where a new lily pad group will sprout, and cut between them with a sharp knife. Keep the pieces 3 to 4 inches in length. Each one of these will become a new water lily plant.
  4. Using aquatic planting media, plant each section separately at a 45-degree angle so that the growing tip is still exposed above the soil.
  5. Place your repotted lilies in a shallow area of your pond where only a few inches of water cover the plants.
  6. Once new growth appears, move the lilies to the deeper areas of your pond.

Fertilize and Tend
After you divide and replant your aquatic plants, don’t forget to give them regular doses of fertilizer to ensure they’re getting the nutrients they need to thrive and produce vigorous blooms. Keep your colorful beauties looking good by keeping them trimmed and regularly removing dead foliage throughout the growing season.

Pond Talk: When you divide your aquatic plants, what do you do with your extra cuttings?

Add Beauty To Your Pond - Grower's Choice Hardy Water Lilies

What’s the best way to get debris off the rocks when I clean out my pond this spring? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: What’s the best way to get debris off the rocks when I clean out my pond this spring?

Q: What’s the best way to get debris off the rocks when I clean out my pond this spring?

Jake – Grand Junction, CO

A: There’s nothing like spring cleaning – especially when it gives you a chance to remove some of that icky, slimy scum and debris that’s been growing on your waterfall, rocks and gravel all year-long. With the water drained from your pond (after your fish are safe in a temporary tub), you have easy access to those hard-to-clean spots. Here’s our two-step solution to scrub everything clean.

Step 1: Power Wash
Without a doubt, power washing with a pressure washer or high-pressure nozzle is the quickest way to blast debris off larger rocks and features. Once your pond is drained, and you’ve removed large debris and trimmed away dead plant material, start power washing from the top and work your way down, being careful to avoid growing plants and curious frogs. Some of that debris contains viable beneficial bacteria, so it’s OK to leave a little behind.

Because all that stuck-on debris is easier to remove when it’s wet, start power washing as soon as possible after your pond is drained. Believe us: It’s harder to clean off that debris once it’s dried out and crusty!

Step 2: Oxy-Lift
Next, use Oxy-Lift™ Defense® to lift and remove tough debris on larger rocks, waterfalls and streams by pouring it directly on the trouble spots. While you’re at it, sprinkle some on the smaller rocks and hard-to-power-wash gravel, too. You will instantly see it start to foam and remove stuck-on scum. After about 10 minutes or so, hose everything down, drain the dirty water and debris, and repeat as necessary; it might take a few cycles for a thorough clean-out.

After your pond is spick and span, your rocks and gravel are in place, and your plants are repositioned, fill it back up with water and add a chlorine remover or Stress Reducer PLUS to condition the water and make the freshly cleaned aquatic environment safe for your fish. While your filters and pond are being reestablished with beneficial bacteria, keep your finned pals on a light spring diet.

For more tips on how to perform a spring cleanout, check out our video that details what you need to do to prepare your pond for the warmer months.

Pond Talk: When your pond is drained while you’re spring cleaning, what other maintenance chores do you do?

Lift Debris Away from Rocks in Seconds - Pond Logic® Oxy-Lift™ Defense®

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, use The Pond Guy® Pond Shade or some milk to visually track the leak. Simply add a few drops on the side and watch it as it finds its way to the leak. This will take some time, a few attempts — and patience. You can also 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

We will be adding a pond to our backyard and most ponds we’ve seen seem to be the same shape. Is there a reason for this? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: We will be adding a pond to our backyard and most ponds we've seen seem to be the same shape. Is there a reason for this?

Q: We will be adding a pond to our backyard and most ponds we’ve seen seem to be the same shape. Is there a reason for this?

Walter – Audubun, PA

A: Ponds come in all shapes and sizes: round, oblong, square, kidney-shaped, oval or whatever a designer can dream up. In most cases, ponds are designed to fit into and enhance the surrounding landscape. But does pond 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 experts or watch this video– and get ready to start digging!

Pond Talk: What shape is your pond? Or what shape do you wish you had built?

Build Your Dream Backyard Oasis - The Pond Guy® RapidFlo™ Ecosystem Pond Kits

I see unique koi online but I can’t find them at the pet shop. Do they only sell certain ones, or do they change when they get bigger? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I see unique koi online but I can’t find them at the pet shop. Do they only sell certain ones, or do they change when they get bigger?

Q: I see unique koi online but I can’t find them at the pet shop. Do they only sell certain ones, or do they change when they get bigger?

Jeri – Hartsville, SC

A:  It’s easy to spend hours online ogling champion koi. The fishes’ near-perfect silhouettes, vivid color palettes and balanced scale patterns – not to mention their healthy size – inspire hobbyists to go on their own quests for the Holy Grail of pond fish. So they search pet store aquariums. They peruse tanks at their local pond supplier. They even eye their friends’ fishes, finding themselves coveting a golden butterfly or a sparkly gin rin kohaku.

Does this sound familiar?

Unfortunately, championship-quality koi are rare, as are some of the hard-to-find varieties. The good news, however, is that all koi are unique, and each variety has its own distinct color combination, scale pattern and physical characteristics. They’re called “living jewels” for a reason!

Read on to learn more about the different koi varieties – and how to find the exceptional ones.

Colorful, Common Koi

Most pet stores and pond supply shops stock the most popular varieties of koi, including these, below.

  • Kohaku: These fish have a solid white body overlaid with large red markings (hi). Top quality Kohaku display a bright, blemish-free white combined with deep, vibrant red patterns that are evenly distributed along the body.
  • Sanke (Taisho Sanke): These koi look similar to Kohaku, but they also have small black markings (sumi) overlaid on its white base. Experts say a high quality Sanke pattern begins with a great Kohaku pattern, to which the black is a welcome complement.
  • Showa (Showa Sanshoku): Commonly known as Showa, these fish have a solid black body that’s topped with red and white (shiroji) markings. Showa can be confused with Sanke; the difference is that in Showa, the black patterns wrap all the way around the body and appear on the fish’s head. The red, white and black should be evenly balanced, with crisp, clean edges between each color.
  • Ogon: Their metallic scales are in one solid color, typically yellow (Yamabuki Ogon) or white (Platinum Ogon). A clean solid-color head and unblemished body are crucial to a high-quality Ogon.

Exceptional Specimens

If you want to add some rarely seen jewels to your pond, check out these varieties below. Though you may find them at your local retailer, you’ll have better luck sourcing them via online vendors and koi auctions.

  • Shusui: Shusui are the scaleless (doitsu) version of Asagi, which are koi that display a blue net-like pattern on the back that’s complemented by red or orange patterns on the body. In Shusui, the blue net pattern is replaced by a single row of scales along the dorsal line at the top of the back.
  • Kumonryu: Another scaleless variety, Kumonryu have patterns of grey or white combined with black. They will completely change their pattern many times throughout their life. They can go anywhere from solid white to solid black, or any conceivable combination in between.
  • Tancho: Tancho is a popular variation of Kohaku, in which the only red pattern appears as a single red dot on the head. The symmetry and placement of the Tancho mark are main factors in determining the quality of any particular koi.

Whether choosing a common or uncommon variety, look for bright colors, crisp edges and interesting patterns. The koi’s color vibrancy and pattern edges will change over time (dramatically, in the case of the Kumonryu!), but its variety will stay the same; a Kohaku, for instance, won’t change into a Showa.

Nutrients in your koi’s food can affect its color display, so be sure to feed them some Growth & Vibrance Fish Food after transitioning them from their wheatgerm-based Spring & Fall Fish Food. It contains spirulina and stabilized vitamin C for show-stopping color.

Pond Talk: What types of koi do you have in your pond? Do you have a showstopper swimming among them?

Promote Growth & Intensify Colors - The Pond Guy® Growth & Vibrance Fish Food

I’ve used lava rock in my filter for years. Are bioballs really that much better? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I’ve used lava rock in my filter for years. Are bioballs really that much better?

Q: I’ve used lava rock in my filter for years. Are bioballs really that much better?

Dana – Altadena, CA

A: The media you use in your filtration system matters. Just think about its purpose: To house billions of beneficial bacteria and other microorganisms that keep your pond alive, crystal clear and algae-free. Thanks to their ample surface area, both lava rock and bioballs will work, but bioballs have some benefits over the rock. Read on to learn more.

Lava Rock’s Limitations

Lava rock – that igneous rock that’s formed as an erupting volcano’s molten lava cools and hardens – is very porous. When chunks of it live in your filtration system, you’re providing a lot of surface area for those beneficial bacteria to colonize and grow. That’s what makes it such a great filter media.

It does, however, have its drawbacks.

  • Clogged Holes: Over time, the porous rock can become easily clogged with muck and debris. Once the holes and pockets are clogged, they can become very difficult to clean out – which ultimately creates less overall surface area.
  • Hard Water: Lava rock naturally contains a variety of minerals, including iron and magnesium, that could affect your water’s pH, making it harder. Hard water could make it more difficult to treat algae that forms.
  • It’s Heavy!: They may be porous chunks of rock, but hefting bags of it takes some strength – particularly when its wet and full of gunk.

Benefits of BioBalls

Bioballs, like The Pond Guy® BioBalls™ filter media, are plastic spheres made up of dozens of thin rods that provide plenty of surface area for beneficial bacteria to thrive. Two hundred of the bioballs in a mesh bag will filter about 1,000 gallons of water in a pond with minimal fish.

Compared to lava rock, bioballs have some definite benefits.

  • Easy to Clean: Bioballs can also become clogged, by they’re easy to clean. Just rinse them off with water from your pond and you’ll be good to go.
  • Indefinite Lifetime: Because they’re made from long-lasting material, bioballs will not degrade and will function equally well year after year.
  • Shape Shifters: The bioballs’ round shape allows them to more easily conform to any filter, no matter its shape.
  • Lightweight, Easy to Handle: Each one of these tiny, 1 1/2-inch plastic spheres weighs a scant 0.3 ounces; 200 of them weigh a whopping 3 1/2 pounds. They’re easy to deposit and remove from your filter thanks to a mesh filter bag.

Consider making the switch from lava rock to bioballs. You’ll see better results and you’ll need to do less maintenance. What’s better than that?

Pond Talk: Why do you prefer bioballs over lava rock?

Lightweight & Easy to Clean - The Pond Guy® BioBalls™