All water features and water gardens have some element of maintenance. The amount of maintenance depends on how you prefer your pond or water garden to look and what kind of nutrient load it has to handle.
Nutrient loading comes from within the pond in the form of fish waste, respiration and decaying plant material. Nutrient loading also enters the water garden in the form of fish food, blown in pollen, leaves, grass clippings, mulch run-off and fertilizer. Excess nutrients in ponds and water gardens cause many water quality problems. Keep nutrient loading under control with simple pond maintenance tips.
To maintain a healthy balance in your water garden we recommend performing the following maintenance tasks.
Clean your pond pump once per month. Always unplug the pump before you inspect it. Be familiar with your pond pump user guide to properly inspect and clean your pump. Drying off the pond pump with an old towel will make it easier to handle. Clean off any debris or buildup on the pump. Check that the impellor can spin freely for one full turn. Maintaining your pond pump will extend the life of the pump.
Trim and split your water plants. As plants grow, old leaves and stems die off and new ones grow. Remove brown or yellowing leaves to keep them from decaying in your pond and from attracting pesky bugs like aphids and spider mites. Removing flower buds that are past their bloom will extend the plant’s blossoming period. Split your water plants if they have become overcrowded or root bound to optimize the amount of nutrients they help to remove out of the water.
Clean out your filter material. Most filter material is composed of fibrous mats and is found in skimmer boxes where the pump sits or waterfall boxes where the water garden system starts. Filter material traps suspended particles that were in the pond like fish waste and dead algae. Filter material also provides a lot of surface area for beneficial bacteria to colonize and clean your water garden. To protect that beautiful colony use water from your pond to rinse your filter pads. Tap water will kill bacteria colonies. Replace the filter material when it can easily pull apart.
Perform a 5 to 10 percent water change. This means removing about 5 or 10 percent of the total volume of water and adding fresh clean water. Be sure to use a product that removes chlorine and chloramines from the water when you add fresh water. Water changes help to physically remove pollutants from the water and dilute what remains.
Add beneficial bacteria to your water garden every week or every other week. Pay close attention to what you’re buying. Many products that claim to “clean water and kill algae” do a great job at killing algae but also kill the beneficial bacteria that work on breaking down waste and consuming nutrients. Barley straw products break algae cells apart and then they settle to the bottom. Those dead algae cells are what act as a food source for green water and algae. Adding beneficial bacteria consumes those dead algae cells and other excess nutrients so they are not available for algae to grow.
Performing pond maintenance every other week will provide you with the most benefit and enjoyment of your backyard pond or water garden. If you feel it is too much for you or you just don’t have time, hire a trusted professional such as National Pond Service to help you enjoy your pond.