Opening Your Pond In Spring
If a pond is well installed, it can be the most attractive part of your landscape, however, if not installed properly it can be one of the most difficult items to maintain. When you are ready to open your pond in spring it is important to perform several jobs.
The first job we recommend is to review the pond itself and ensure that all the items involved are working properly. The pond should consist of the following items:
- Pond liner. Fully overlapping in all the area’s where there are different liners connecting. There should also be a full foot of overlap at the ponds edge. If there is not enough overlap it can lead to water loss. This liner can be either a prefab (very small and somewhat limited), or soft rubber liner (epdm rubber is all that should be used, NEVER use roofing membrane as it is toxic to fish and plants). While there are other liner options available we do not recommend anything but 45mil epdm rubber liner.
- Pump. The pump should be enough to recycle the volume of water at least once every two hours, if not once every hour. This is to ensure that there is enough oxygen in the water and proper filtration is taking place within your ecosystem. If you are unsure if the pump is appropriate to the pond that you have, double check the measurements and follow this formula. Length x width x depth x 7.5 = gallons (measurements are all in feet). For example a 10’ x 6’ x 2’ deep pond would hold 900 gallons and ideally this should be pumped through every hour.
- Filter. The filter is also an essential part of your pond. A filter is a true filter system that allows for proper mechanical and biological filtration. An item that does not count as a filter is a piece of foam or plastic strainer that pre-sifts the water before it goes through the pump. This is merely a strainer and is not an actual filter. A true filter properly allows for biological development of beneficial bacteria that will help to break down the organic material in your pond as well as a mechanical component that will allow you to clean out the excess debris that will collect in the pond.
Depending on the state of your pond in the spring, there are certain levels of cleanup that you may not need to do. The best water quality will come from a full cleanup. To do this you will need to drain all of the water out of the pond. Using a submersible pump, drain off the water to the garden or drainage area. Once enough water is cleared out to make removal of the fish easy, remove the fish with a net and put them in a storage tank or bucket large enough to house them for a short period of time. Ensure the bucket is filled with water from the pond.
Keep the pump running until all of the dirty water is out of the pond. Use a pressure washer to clean off the bulk of the algae and dirt from the rocks. Clean out all debris, old leaves, algae and dirt from the bottom of the pond after cleaning off the rocks. You can pump out the water accumulated from the pressure washer. DO NOT USE DETERGENT OR SOAP. At this stage, you can add any gravel or rocks to the bottom of the pond where there may be liner showing.
Your filter should be thoroughly cleaned at this time. If it is a biofalls filter of some sort, the filter medium should be taken out and completely washed so as to remove all matter that has been accumulated over last year and winter if it was running all winter. If the filter medium is starting to degrade now would be the time to replace it. Generally speaking, replacing filter medium happens every 2-3 years with this type of filter, or every year if the filter is a pressurized filter. If you have a skimmer, the skimmer should be thoroughly cleaned as well, take the brushes out and rinse them off using clean water only, as well as cleaning the screen or filter basket. Replace the pieces in the skimmer.
If you are using a pressurized filter system then you should have removed the filter over winter, and at this time, if you did not clean the filters in the fall and if they are still usable, they should be cleaned now. The manufactures of the filters list how often you should change the bulb in these filters. Most manufactures of these filters recommend that you change the light bulb in the UV portion of these filters every year. Whatever the recommendation is for your filter is what you should follow and replace anything that needs to be done. Check the gaskets and if there is any question as to their integrity it is worth while replacing them as well. With UV systems, any leaking at all within the UV chamber will damage the unit likely beyond repair.
While cleaning out the extraneous filters and bio falls you can be filling up the pond with clean water. Once the pond is filled, use a dechlorinator to remove chlorine and chloramine so that the water is safe for fish and plants.
Beneficial bacteria die over winter as they need the warmth to survive. As they are an integral part of your aquaculture, now is the time to add new bacteria. There are many options to choose from and can be either in a liquid form or a powder form. Follow the directions on how much is required for the size of pond you are working with. Ideally, keep enough bacteria on hand so that you can add more on a regular basis. When in doubt you may add extra bacteria as it is a slower acting product and completely safe to use in extra doses. We usually use bacteria every month as a precaution against algae growth.
If you have a biofalls, you may also add at this time barley straw pellets to the top of the bio falls. They will slowly dissolve and over the year will act to help prevent string algae.
At this point you can also re-introduce your fish to the pond. Be sure to acclimatize them slowly by allowing their body temperatures to match that of the new water. Do this by placing the bucket with them in it completely into the pond until the water temperature has become equal. Then slowly pour the old water and fish into the pond. Handle the fish as infrequently as possible as it is not healthy for them to be handled often.
In the cases where your pond does not need a full clean out, such as not having a heavy fish load, or not having a lot of leaves or debris at the bottom of it, you may instead choose to only empty half of the pond. In doing this you would still need to remove the fish so that you can physically remove any debris that is in the pond, including old algae, or leaves, etc.. After this is done continue with the other steps regarding filter cleaning, biofalls and skimmer cleaning, adding the beneficial bacteria and barley straw pellets, de-chlorinating the new water and re-introducing the fish to the environment.
If you have any questions, come in and talk to our professionally trained staff on what to do with your pond and how to keep it as enjoyable and work free as possible. Many ponds may have been made without a skimmer or biofalls system. While they take more work to keep clean, they are still quite serviceable, and there are systems in place so that you can retrofit a skimmer and biofalls to your pond as well. As us if you need any help in figuring out how to make your pond a pleasure instead of a job.