Your spring pond opening will take some time and work. However, it will get your pond ready for an enjoyable, fun summer of relaxation - watching the fish cruise around while you listen to the soothing sounds of your waterfall. Maintenance of your pond during the late spring, summer and early fall on the other hand should not take a lot of time unless you want to spend some therapy time playing with and in it.
When water temperatures are between 40 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit and expected to continue to rise, you’ll want to get your pond started. Fish need more oxygen, good bacteria will start to grow, plants will soon sprout - it’s time to get your pond up and running!
Follow this helpful Spring Pond Opening Checklist to “open” your pond healthfully for 2019. We’ve attached website links to these main areas of products and supplies we carry so that readers can see more of what we are referring to in each section of the Checklist.
1. Are your pond filters clean?
a. Mechanical pond filtration protects your pump from sucking leaves, mulch and other debris. This debris can clog or break your pump. Examples of mechanical filters are the pump cover, skimmers, in-pond prefilters, lava rock filters, etc. Make sure the mechanical filter is cleaned regularly. A clogged mechanical filter can cause your pump to run dry which may damage or burn your pump up.
b. Biological filtration is a colony of good bacteria that consumes or breaks down toxic substances such as fish waste (primarily ammonia which is extremely toxic to fish), ammonia from decomposing organic matter, and nitrites (also extremely toxic to fish). Examples of biological filters are filter falls, pressurized filters, lava rock filters, gravity feed filters, bog filters, etc. Most biological filters should only be cleaned once per year.
2. How clean is the bottom of your pond/any stream or waterfall area?
a. Can you see at least 50% of the gravel or liner on the bottom of your pond? If not, turn on your pump and use a well-built net such as the ‘Pond Shark’ to skim the leaves off the bottom. After letting the water settle, if there still are too many leaves and debris, or if there is too much sludge and muck (more than ½”) on the bottom, you will want to do a complete pond cleaning. I recommend moving some of the gravel around in the bottom to see how deep the gravel is and if it is filled with muck.
b. Decaying leaves can release carbons and funguses which can be harmful to your fish.
c. Muck can harbor parasites and it contributes to green water algae as well as string or hair algae.
d. I will discuss a complete pond cleaning in another article.
3. Check your aquatic pond plants.
Do you have enough of the right varieties located in the right area of your pond to keep the pond water clear, clean and healthy? Aquatic plants in stream beds and around the pond will also soften the stone look and add to the beauty and serenity.
Let's look at aquatic pond plants in four groups – Floating, submerged, marginals and lilies/lotus. If you have had cloudy/green water or you have a high fish population, use the higher rate per sq. ft.
a. Floating aquatic pond plants such as water hyacinth and water lettuce do a fantastic job of filtering out fish waste and other nutrients and toxins. I recommend starting out the season, once water temperatures are 65˚F or more and expected to continue to rise, with one plant per 10 to 15 sq. ft.
b. Submerged aquatic pond plants (seaweed) such as hornwort clean the nutrients and toxins out of the bottom of your pond - keeping the water crystal clear. Stock hornwort at one bundle per 2 to 5 sq. ft. Put into your pond in late March or April.
c. Marginal aquatic pond plants (those plants that grow naturally along the bank of streams and lakes in the water or just above the water level) also contribute to the removal of nutrients and toxins from the pond water. There are hardy marginals such as creeping jenny, arrow head, pickerel rush, cattails and many, many more. Examples of tropical marginal are cannas, umbrella palms, taro or elephant ears, and many, many more. As a general guideline, I recommend one plant per every 3 to 4 linear feet of circumference of the pond.
d. Water lilies/lotus are the beauties of the pond. No pond is complete without a water lily. They don’t do too much filtering, but they add shade to the pond and help protect the fish from predators.
4.Test your pond water and add pond water treatments as needed.
I recommend keeping a record of your results.
a. Ammonia should be tested periodically, but especially if your fish start to act differently - if they are lethargic, hanging out under the waterfall, at the surface sucking air, or flashing (swimming erratically).
b. Check the pH, which indicates if the water is acidic - 0 to 6.9, or if it is alkaline – 7.1 to 16, or neutral – 7. If your pH is between 6.8 and 8.2, it should be fine for fish and most plants. pH does change during the day.
c. Ideally, salt should be 0.08% to 0.1% for the health of the fish. Salt improves the slime coat of fish which helps to protect them against many diseases and some parasites. It also helps their immune system and reduces stress.
d. Nitrites generally aren’t back unless you’ve had trouble with ammonia.
e. Carbonate hardness should be between 80 and 200 ppm. Carbonates stabilized the pH.
f. Chlorine and chloramines are toxic to fish. A good chloramine breaker, de-chlorinator and ammonia neutralizer should be used every time water is added.
5. Check your pond aeration system and make sure it is in good working order. Clean or replace the air intake filter if it has one. Aeration adds oxygen to the pond water and gets more oxygen to the bottom of the pond where it is desperately needed. I recommend running it 24/7/365.
6. Is your pond pump in good shape, clean and operational?
a. Make sure before you hook it up. I have hooked up the pump before checking to make sure it was running correctly, and then had to take it back out of the pond and repair it before its’ operation could begin.
b. Once water temperatures are above 50˚F, depending on the number of fish in your pond, you should start up your pump even if you are not done with all of your spring start-up tasks. If the water temperature is cooler, wait until your filters are clean and ready to operate - then turn your pump on.
7. Let’s not forget to check the edges of the pond and waterfall for areas where rocks and gravel may have moved or settled from winter freezing and thawing. Pond liners are often pushed down into the dirt from winter weather, which can cause a leak or leaks.
We hope our Spring Pond Opening Checklist gives you all the necessary information and know-how you need in order to get your pond going for the new season healthily and properly! If you have questions, concerns, or if you feel you need some assistance either consultative or hands-on, Hoffman’s Water X Scapes is here and ready to help with trained personnel and decades of experience in the design, installation and maintenance of ponds, water gardens and beautiful lakes. Please contact us and we’ll see how to be of best service to you and your water feature needs.
Also, don’t forget to check-out our free seminars on water features held throughout the season on all manner of pond and water-gardening topics. Learn new techniques for pond care and water-gardens while meeting other enthusiasts. Our seminars are always free but space is limited so we encourage you to sign-up ahead of time to ensure a seat!
Thanks for reading, and for visiting our website. Spring is here!