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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

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™

How often are you really supposed to wash out your filter? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: How often are you really supposed to wash out your filter?

Q: How often are you really supposed to wash out your filter?

Al – Greenville, RI

A: The filtration system in your pond is made up of two parts: the mechanical filter and the biological filter. They both clean and clarify the water, but they do so in very different ways and require very different cleaning regimens to keep them optimally operating.

The Mechanical Filter

The skimmer or pump sock make up your mechanical filter. Able to function at all temperatures (as long as the water is liquid), their main purpose is to catch larger debris, like chunks of algae, leaves, foliage and other things that blow into your pond and settle on the water surface. These items are collected in a mat or debris net/basket as the water passes through the mechanical filter, which then protects the pump from clogging.

Cleaning the mechanical filter is easy. You simply remove the mat or debris net/basket, dump out the debris and rinse it with a garden hose. This can be done as often as you like or as needed when you see the water flow slow down. In fact, checking it often is a good idea, particularly in spring and fall when debris tends to collect in a pond.

The Biological Filter

Your waterfall box, pressurized filter and in-pond filter filled with beneficial bacteria-covered filter media make up your biological filter. Their main purpose is to break down tiny, suspended debris, resulting in crystal clear water.

Here’s how it works: Unlike a mechanical filter that physically removes debris, a biological filter works at a microscopic level. Aerobic beneficial bacteria colonize and flourish on the surface area of filter media – like BioBalls™, mats and the like. As the water passes through the filter media, the bacteria feed on the debris and remove it from the water. Because the beneficial bacteria are living microorganisms, they function best when water temperatures are near or above 50 degrees Fahrenheit when they’re alive and kicking.

You don’t really “clean” a biological filter at all because you want to retain as much of the beneficial bacteria as possible. In the early spring, perform a cleanout and seed with natural bacteria like Microbe-Lift® PL Gel or Pond Logic® Seasonal Defense® to give your filter a fresh start. Throughout the season, do a mild rinse in a bucket of pond water only when the water flow begins to decline. Each time to clean or rinse your filter media, add a dose of Microbe-lift® PL Gel or bacteria from the Pond Logic® DefensePAC® to re-seed the bacteria and replenish any bacteria loss.

Though it may be tempting, don’t power wash or swap out filter media mats. This strips the beneficial bacteria, which may take weeks to replenish! In the meantime, algae will feed on the unfiltered nutrients in the pond water, and you’ll see your water quality diminish as fish waste accumulates – which is something you don’t want!

Pond Talk: What’s your mechanical and biological filter cleaning routine?

Promote Healthy Filters - Pond Logic® DefensePAC®

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™

I went to clean my filters and found worms! What are they doing there? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I went to clean my filters and found worms! What are they doing there?

Q: I went to clean my filters and found worms! What are they doing there?

Gene – Tehachapi, CA

A: They’re weird looking, they’re tiny, and they’re blood-red – or at least a creamy pink color. What are they? They’re non-biting midge fly larvae, also known as bloodworms. Though they’re an unsettling infestation to see in your filter, they’re actually a sign that your pond is happy and healthy.

What’s In a Name

Midge flies hail from the family Chironomidae, which includes more than 10,000 different species worldwide. Some varieties appear bright red in color thanks to a hemoglobin-type substance that helps them live with oxygen-depleted water, giving them their “bloodworm” nickname.

As adults, midge flies resemble mosquitoes, but they have fluffy antennae and no blood-sucking proboscis. Large numbers of them can be a nuisance as their droppings can cause damage to paint, brick and other surfaces. And when their tiny corpses pile up, they can cause a stink.

Feasting in Your Filter

These insects thrive in freshwater aquatic and semi-aquatic environments. In their larval stages, they live in tree holes, plants, rotting vegetation, soil and artificial containers – including filtration systems, infesting media pads where there’s an abundance of organics from debris and fish waste. They spend their time attached to the container’s solid surface and eat as food floats by.

Midge flies lay their eggs in water, preferring it to be still, clear, dark and safe from critters like fish and frogs that nosh on the larvae when they emerge. To protect themselves, the bloodworms actually create and live in tiny half-inch tubes they build from mud, algae and other naturally occurring resources. Look closely in your filter, and you’ll probably see some of these worm-sized mud huts.

A Tasty Fish Treat

Don’t worry: These little guys won’t harm your pond or your fish. In fact, if one wriggles its way into your pond, it will be a welcome treat for your fish. Goldfish and other smaller fish will gobble them and their little mud homes; koi and other larger fish will treat them as tasty hors d’oeuvres.

Bloodworms are quite nutritious for fish. In fact, the insects are about 55 percent protein – which is a key nutrient fish need to grow, reproduce and maintain their health. So rather than balk at the tiny worms, scoop them out of your filter and give them to your pond dwellers. They’ll thank you for them!

Pond Talk: What kinds of treats do you feed your pond fish?

Four Densities for Every Filtration Need - Matala(r) Filter Media Pads