Recommended Routine Pond Practices

Recommended Routine Pond Practices
Practical Garden Ponds Recommended Annual Maintenance
We offer these services for a fee, but we’re happy to give professional “how to” advice to DIY clients that shop with us.
  • Spring Openings: If you winterize your pond, perform the following services to your pond each spring when you feel confident the weather has turned:
    • Standard spring opening for ponds that don’t collect excessive debris over the winter:
      • Clean out the skimmer/sump and reinstall the pump (if applicable), cleaning or replacing the skimmer mats, basket, etc.
      • Clean, reinstall, and start existing filtration systems.
      • Reinstall the UV clarifier (if any) and install a fresh UV bulb (If you purchased the unit with us, we can help you select the correct replacement parts).
      • Check the pond pH and treat if needed to bring the pH between 6.8 and 9.0.
      • Treat the pond with beneficial bacteria for a healthy spring restart of biological pond activities.
      • Observe the fish and resolve any fish health issues that are observed.
      • When adding water use dechlorinator (if you have municipal water) and beneficial bacteria as needed for the pond size.
      • In ponds where fish health is questionable (but not severe) and/or where there is a history of spring fish health problems, consider keeping a mild salt content in the pond. Doses are recommended on our listings for pond salt.
    • An extreme clean should be performed in ponds with excessive organic buildup. Extreme cleaning includes all the above standard opening procedures, plus a complete pond clean out.
      • Remove the fish to a filtered or aerated container.
      • Drain and clean the pond with a pump or pond vacuum.
      • Reposition the rocks, cords and lights that are out of place.
      • Trim or thin back existing pond plants as needed.
      • Begin refilling with water. Use dechlorinator as needed.
      • Treat the water with appropriate treatments (see notes under maintenance) and reintroduce the fish.
      • Follow the recommendations under “standard spring opening” above.
  • Fall Closings (Winterization):
    • Remove your pump, empty and disconnect your filter system and UV clarifiers, if applicable. UV clarifiers should not be left outside over winter.
    • Add an empty milk jug with a few stones inside (to weight it down) to your skimmer so that when ice forms, the jug gives way (instead of your skimmer).
    • Reinstall your winter aeration or deicer if you have one. We recommend aeration be put halfway to the bottom of the pond. This keeps a hole open at the surface and pushes out methane gas without making it colder at the bottom of the pond.
    • If desired, a leaf net can be installed to prevent excessive debris from building up in the pond over the winter. This net should not be laying on the water, but should be tented and pulled tight so that leaves blow off the pond.
Practical Garden Ponds Recommended Regular Maintenance
We offer maintenance packages (Silver, Gold & Platinum options) for a fee, but we gladly support and educate our DIY clients with their pond maintenance needs. At least monthly, but as frequently as needed, do the following:
  • Perform skimmer & filter maintenance: Empty the leaf basket, rinse the heavy muck out of the skimmer mat with pond-temperature water (don’t sterilize), backflush pressure filters or similar applicable maintenance required by your filtration system.
  • Check the pH levels and adjust as needed to keep the pH between 6.8 and 9.0.
  • Monitor ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels if needed. These are not usually a problem in established ponds unless there have been significant changes, like an extreme clean.
  • Check that all equipment is working, observing the pump, UV (if any), aeration and filtration. Respond to any problems that you see.
  • Physically remove large debris from the pond, brush off major algae strings from the falls and trim plants that are blocking the water flow, etc.
  • Top off the water level of your pond as needed (adding dechlorinator if needed).
  • Monitor your stock of fish food and other supplies. We will be happy to serve you when product needs arise.
  • Feeding your fish is not a chore, but a pleasure. Regular feeding makes your fish friendly and accessible, but overfeeding increases pond problems. Unless you are trying to accelerate growth, feed the fish sparingly, once or twice a day, never feed more than what they completely consume in a couple of minutes.
  • Algae Control:
    • The best thing you can do to fight algae is to have an “active bog”. This is an area or container (preferably about 10% the size of the pond) where pond water is pumped up from the bottom through a dispersal area (like a French drain, but the opposite) or under a false floor that allows the water to disperse evenly throughout the pond. Above this area use gravel (pea-sized to ¾”) and plant live plants directly in the stones (no dirt). The pond water forced through the stones will be exposed to the roots of the plants. This will feed the plants while robbing the water of nitrate. It is also important to remove nitrate to complete the ammonia cycle (ammonia becomes nitrite, nitrite becomes nitrate, and the plants remove nitrate). Nitrate acts as a natural fertilizer, and if it is not removed by plants it will nourish algae.
    • Sunlight and warmth also aid algae. Therefore, ponds should be deep enough to stay cooler & to dilute the penetration of the sun. Shade also helps.
    • Finally, there is the nutrition that feeds the ammonia cycle and produces the nutrients algae needs to accelerate growth. Overfeeding or overpopulating the pond, or allowing excess organic matter to collect in the pond, leads to a buildup of nutrients in the pond, facilitating algae growth. Clean out filters often so that the trapped dirt doesn’t leach nutrients back into the water, and remove dead organic matter from the water system.
    • Removing organic matter is greatly aided by the regular use of beneficial bacteria. A healthy bacteria colony cycles through dead organic matter quickly, so we recommend using beneficial bacteria regularly. We use Helix Beneficial Bacteria every time we service a pond. This ranges from monthly to weekly (depending on the customer’s maintenance plan).
    • Other water treatment, including those that help deter algae growth, are discussed in the next section.
Practical Garden Ponds Recommended Maintenance Products
Here is a synopsis of the products we recommend and carry in our trucks to use on our maintenance routes:
  • Helix Dry Dechlorinator — dry is much more economical than liquid. The 8-ounce dry container treats 46,000 gallons of water, making it a great value compared to liquid, which treats 8000 gallons. Use dechlorinator whenever adding new city water (chlorinated water) to the pond. Note: use the amount of water added (not the total volume of the pond) to calculate the amount of dechlorinator needed.
  • Helix Beneficial Bacteria Liquid — this fast-acting beneficial bacteria blend includes some strains that cannot live in the dry form. We use this in new starts and urgent situation where ammonia is rising and bacteria is needed instantly.
  • Helix Beneficial Bacteria Dry — this slow-release formula is more cost effective and sustains new bacteria release over a longer period of time. This makes it is ideal for ongoing maintenance. I recommend regular use at least monthly. It may be used much more often and would have benefit being used weekly or even daily in difficult situations.
  • Helix Barley Straw Extract — this extract aids in the retardation of algae growth. It is a preventative more than a cure, so use it as a prophylactic. We use it every time we service a pond. Using it up to once per week is appropriate.
  • Helix Clarifying Minerals  this contains some of the same active ingredient as AlgaeFix (an effective algae control treatment), along with a coagulant or “binder” to make small particles cling together into clumps that can be removed by a filter or can be allowed to sink to the bottom. I have had very good success with this product and have customers who have used it for all kinds of ugly pond issues. Use as needed for clarity problems but do not exceed the listed dosage.
  • Algaecide — use your favorite Algaecide as needed for major algae issues. The downside of any algaecide is that it leaves behind dead organic matter in the pond. Therefore, using beneficial bacteria regularly will enhance the results.
  • Helix Rock and Waterfall Scrubber  we turn off the waterfalls and apply this granular product directly onto algae. Let it sit for 20 minutes, then scrub or rinse off for easy and effective removal. Use when needed.
There is also equipment designed to eliminate specific problems, like UV clarifiers for green water (planktonic algae), but these steps are useful for string algae. If you have specific pond care questions, don’t hesitate to call or email me!
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