Maintaining Your Pond
The better set up your pond is initially, the less you should have to do to maintain it. However, there are certain basics for all ponds, no pond is “maintenance-free”
That said, here are our recommendations for a properly built and set up pond.
Feed your fish regularly. How much and how often will depend on time of year, temperature, number and size of fish and type of food, but establishing a regular feeding pattern will train your fish on when to expect food and make watching your pond more enjoyable.
Check your skimmer regularly. Ours need to be emptied daily in the spring, about twice weekly in summer and fall, though if you have a lot of trees, count on near daily in the fall, and once every week or two in the winter. Regular checking here will make your pump live much longer.
Add your beneficial bacteria monthly, year-round. Yes, it really makes a difference, even in the winter, and then you aren’t trying to play catch-up in the spring. Adding bacteria to your system just once at start-up helps, but your beneficial bacteria culture in the filters degenerates over time and refreshing it monthly keeps your filter at top efficiency.
Keep an eye on your filter, but don’t try to keep it pristine or clean it too often. Dirty looking is good, it means it’s doing its job. Every time you clean a filter completely you destroy the beneficial bacteria culture and it takes weeks to get back up to speed. This is why we recommend doing filter cleaning in early spring or late fall when your pond is near dormancy and can handle a filter slow down.
Be sure to keep your water level up. It is perfectly normal to lose ½” or so of water a day to evaporation. The more water movement, the more waterfall, fountain or spitter splash and the more plants you have, the more water loss you will see. A cold dry windy day will suck as much water out of your pond as a hot summer day. You don’t need to replace the water daily, but once each week or ten days is probably going to be normal. When adding water, if it is not from a well, be SURE to add dechlorinator to your pond first. I don’t care what your brother-in-law said, he’s wrong, it will too injure your fish! Even a small amount of chlorine / chloramine in the water will chemically burn your fish’s gills and affect their long-term health. Always add the dechlorinator first, before you add the water. Removal is virtually instant, so you can put the hose directly into the pond after the dechlorinator has been added.
Test your water monthly. The pH is the most important test to do regularly. We frequently hear “I haven’t tested mine in years and it’s been fine.” Used to be, but in the last several years the acid rain has gotten so bad that on average we now get at least one customer each WEEK coming in with sick, dying or dead fish and when we check the pH it has crashed from the acid rain. It’s simple to keep an eye on it. Test your salt level at least three or four times a year also. Ammonia testing is important mostly with a new pond, one that has just been cleaned or had its filter cleaned, or one that is overcrowded in hot weather.
Trim your plants as needed. Most pond plants are constantly sending out new leaves during the growing season as old leaves die off. Removing the old leaves helps the skimmer, the filter and the general appearance of the pond. Don’t panic or go overboard on this one though. Your pond can handle some dead leaves without it becoming a crisis.
Twice a year, early spring and late fall you should dose your pond with a broad spectrum disease treatment for the general health of your fish and pond.
Be sure to change your ultraviolet bulb EVERY year, early spring is the best time for this.
If your pond is set up properly with lots of water flow, lots of filtration and aeration and you take care to keep leaves out in the fall, it should not need to be cleaned every year. Every third or fourth year is fine, and we go ten years or more. The key deciding factor will be debris build up on the bottom. If you have debris build up, clean your pond. Then redesign the pond so it doesn’t happen again.