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Hi everyone.  I’m back and so are the fish and frog after a long and rough winter.

This year was the easiest spring pond clean… all I did was scoop out the leaves, clean and start the waterfall pump.  I also added a barley bag (pictures to follow) and attached it under the waterfall out pour spot.  A few hours later I was amazed at how clear it looked, especially compared to how murky and messy it was when I started.  The following week I cleaned the water filter and will have to do that each week until I’m sure all the winter gunk is out and then I’ll clean it once a month or more as needed.

The fish were so happy and very active after the clean… before that I wasnt sure if they were even still around from the winter.  I was also pleasantly surprised to see that the frog stuck around after the cleaning and waterfall hook up.  I’ve read that frogs dont like the water movement or distractions… but this guy is still there.  Pictures to follow.

Back to enjoying my pond…

 

Wow I can’t believe that fall is here.  Now comes the prepping of the pond for the winter.  First thing is keeping the leaves out of the pond.  I remove any that are floating around on top and take out any sticks or other debris that might be there.  Now that I have a full working ecosystem I find its not as much work as it used to be.  Don’t get me wrong there is still things I have to do to keep the pond clean and clear.  All year long I am diligent about clearing out any debris.  I clean the pond filter at least 2 times a month, and I’m sure others probably do it weekly.  I usually end up with an extra cleaning if it recently rained hard.  Plants are so beneficial to a pond and keeping it clean.  My goldfish love eating the water celery so I let it grow probably more than I should but I know the goldfish will take care of it.  They also love to swim in the plants that are in the water.  The frogs also love the plants.  They use them as a place to rest (that’s all I ever see them do, I don’t ever see them move, unless I startle them. )  The frogs and goldfish got noticeably bigger this year.

Now that the cooler weather is creeping up another thing I have to keep in the back of my head is getting the pond heater ready.  I usually wait until the weather dips down below freezing and if I think ice is going to start to form.  Its better to have the heater already in the pond then to install it after the ice has frozen on the top… much harder work for you and the heater.  You can always install it, just don’t turn it on until you have to.  They have plugs that will turn on a gizmo when it reaches a certain lower temp and then turn off when the air warms up.

Last year I left all my pond plants in the water and almost all came back, but I’m thinking the milder winter might have contributed to that, I am hoping they survive this winter also.  Its just so much work to take the plants in, which I had always done, and I think they fared better when I left them out last year.  Same with the fish, this past winter was the first year I left them outside all winter… but the weather was never really that bad.  This year I’m doing the same thing with them too… I just decrease the food amount that I feed them as the cooler weather starts to set in, you don’t want all the undigested food sitting in their bellies when it gets really cold, not a good thing for them, I think Fred, one of my first pond goldfish died because of that… too much food in his belly when the temperature dropped.

So get out there and start getting your pond ready for the winter that’s creeping up.  Make sure the water is clean, get the pond pump out before it freezes, and keep those leaves and debris out.

Ok,, enough talk for today.  Sorry its been so long between chats.  Enjoy your fish pond, even in the fall.

 

Fish expel carbon dioxide as a by-product of breathing.  They also release waste products (goldfish are very good at this…lol).  Leaves, dirt and other debris including uneaten food also fall into the pond and sink to the bottom and decompose.  This waste produces ammonium compounds which are dangerous to the fish.  The fish can die if this level of poison gets too high.  If a pond has sufficient plant life these chemicals are absorbed by the plants.  The plants might even convert some of these chemicals into food items for their own needs.  I found that my pond stayed so much cleaner once I had established plants in the water making it so much easier to maintain my pond.

Decomposition is caused by anaerobic bacteria (non-oxygen breathing lifeforms).  They release nitrites into the water, which are lethal to fish.  However, they are converted to nitrates by aerobic bacteria (oxygen breathing lifeforms).  The plants absorb the nitrates.  This is known as the nitrogen cycle.  Ammonia is one of the lethal by products of this cycle.  See by chemistry class at college paid off, I remembered something!

The tricky part is keeping this all in balance.  The least expensive way to maintain water condition and clarity is to have a 25% water exchange every other week.  This removes a lot of suspended debris and dilutes dissolved gases and chemicals.  It is time consuming though to do this, and usually tap water is chlorinated so it must be left to stand for a day or so for the chlorine to dissipate into the air, or it must be sprayed in a fine jet to achieve the same result (this is the way that I do it, because I can’t think of a way to hold the water for a day or so).

A better way to maintain a healthy pond is to use a pump, filter or aerator to help keep a pond safe from stagnation and pollution.  (My pond always looks very dirty after a day of rain, makes you wonder about acid rain).  So please try to include plants in your ponds layout and plan on adding some type of aeration pump, even if you have a waterfall.

 

The best pond is one that copies as best as possible the natural conditions found in nature. You will want to make sure you have an equilibrium and it takes work to create a suitable balance. Just filling up a pond and expecting to be able to leave it to itself just won’t work. Fish in the wild don’t live in the same water every day without having some kind of continuing moving water. Fish and water plants (and other organisms in the water) need oxygen to keep them alive. Always remember that the warmer the water the less oxygen it contains. I learned this the hard way when I only relied on the waterfall to aerate my pond and when the temperatures went up over 80 degrees I didn’t realize until it was too late that my fish were under distress and were hanging out at the top surface of the pond, where wildlife (I think a raccoon) could easily grab 2 of them. I then found out how important it is to have an aerator in the pond and purchased one right away (I also had to purchase new goldfish). I didn’t realize at the time that the plants at night are taking in oxygen from the water and competing with the fish. Its important though to have these plants in the pond to filter and help clean the water. So learn from my example and don’t make the same mistake I did, have an aerator in the pond to keep your fish happy.

 
Water Celery plant for a pond.

Water Celery plant for a pond.

Koi or Goldfish in a pond do not necessarily co-exist too well, because the fish love to forage on plants.  Therefore the only solution I’ve found is to keep the number of fish low and the number of plants very high.  I hate to see people stock way too many fish in their ponds.  They don’t realize how stressful it is to the pond environment.  I also think that for wildlife passing by a pond that’s overstocked has to be easy pickings for the poor fish that are already overstressed.  Fish need space to move around (and places to hide from predators), and water plants need a chance to be able to survive.  Some pond owners prefer to screen their plants in the pond away from their fish (a strong plastic mesh fencing for example) on a pond shelving.  You might want to think about shelves while your pond is under construction.

I keep water celery in my pond, along with water lilies, irises.  This year I’m trying to grow water punks (not sure what their technical name is), I loved those as a kid.  Water celery is prolific, which I like since the fish will eat it.  Over the spring the water celery that I had grew up through the rocks and made a nice little field (see picture above) that I didn’t really want so I am going to remove that patch and relocate it to the lake I live near as we need some water plants for there and they won’t cost us anything.  I had planned on doing that this morning but its raining like crazy outside so I guess that will have to wait for another day.

I will talk more about water plants another day, enjoy your week, and share some of your pond experiences with us, I’d love to hear them.

 
Pond Landscaping

Pond Landscaping

This is my most asked question:  “How should I start a pond?”

The first thing before doing anything is to research different pond ideas.  I looked at pond books that had lots of pictures and also searched online.  Once you have a pretty good idea of what you want the next step is to plan in detail the entire yard area that you plan on using.   Then draw it all out on paper (I used graph paper) try to get as close to scale as you can.  Add all the elements to this drawing:  rocks, boulders, plantings, where you want the waterfall, etc.  A true landscaper would try to achieve a good variety of shapes and colors to make it interesting all through the year for an all seasons appeal (I learned this after completing my pond, so now I use it when helping others build their ponds).

With my drawing plan in hand I go outside to the site I picked out and map it out on the ground using stakes and string to see if all my ideas would actually fit into the spot. Some things might have to be changed during this part.  Also keep in mind that plants grow so make sure you allow for that growth in your plan. Make sure you pick plants that can handle the location (do they prefer sun or shade?) Also remember to avoid invasive species (like weeping willows and if you plan on using any bamboo keep in mind how fast they spread (they are hard to contain but they make a great screening.)  Something you can add if you feel you need more to you final pond is potted plants.   I added potted plants around my pond for a few reasons, to shade the pond a little in the late afternoon sun, to discourage some of the wildlife from hanging around on the side, to soften some of the looks of the rocks around the pond and so that my wife has a place to put more of her potted plants.

So remember to research before you even start to think about digging your pond, it will save on so much aggravation.  And to the next person that asks me this question, now I can refer them to this post.

Oh, and before I forget, here is a book that my wife purchased for me off of Amazon on garden ponds that I would recommend.  It has some nice ideas and good pictures.  For those with smaller ponds (like me) you can always scale down the ideas you like.

 
My Frog the Temperature Gauge

My Frog the Temperature Gauge

I call my frogs my temperature gauges.  They are never around in the cold or even just cooler weather.  As soon as the temperature warms up for more than a day… there they are.  It gets cooler again a day later and they’re gone until it warms up.  I find myself looking for the first siting of the frogs.  And today I found one and grabbed my camera to take the above picture.

Frogs have been around a long time…. at least 190 million years  when dinosaurs were wandering the Earth (during the Jurassic Period) that is a long time time. I’ve heard frogs referred to as living fossils from Earth’s past (sharks, alligators, crocodiles, and my favorite… dragonflies are other creatures that also fit this category.

Let’s see what else I remember about frogs from my college days…  Frogs don’t drink water, they absorb it through their skin… A group of frogs is called an army… some frogs act like possums and play dead to get away from predators… In North America, the Bullfrog is the biggest frog, they can weigh more than a pound and can live up to 30 years… Frogs have teeth only on their upper jaw and the roof of their mouth and they swallow their prey whole…  Frogs can jump more than 20 times the length of their body.  Frogs have round ears on the sides of their heads.

Ok that’s your lesson for today…lol  Thanks for stopping by.

 

 
Fish pond debris

Fish Pond Debris

There are many things that I’m sure any fish pond would hate (if you could ask them…only kidding, I’m not crazy) and this is my way to kill a pond list.

The picture above shows tree debris floating in the water.  Seeds from oak and maple trees are everywhere right now.  I scoop out any debris I see each morning as a matter of habit.  Fall is the worst when the trees lose their leaves.

Tree limbs – Tree limbs are great as long as they’re attached to a tree, but when they fall into a pond they become a problem.  There’s always that chance they may rip the liner.  And some types of tree limbs can be toxic to fish when they sit in the pond water.   I always take out any sticks or limbs right away as soon as I see them.

Little kids skipping rocks off the surface.  The quickest way to kill a pond or any body of water for that matter is to fill it up.  Most people don’t think much about it, but for every rock, stick, or boulder that you throw in, that’s less space in the pond.  A pond is always dying… as debris is always trying to fill it in, so it always needs care to help keep it alive.

Too many fish can present a big problem for the cleanliness of the water and it stresses the fish out.  I’m sure the raccoons love it, easier pickins.  I chose not to have too many fish, just keeps the water cleaner and the pond easier to maintain.

Rocks precariously stacked around the pond (I thought at the time they were stacked just fine, but the wild animals showed me otherwise.).  I’ve had rocks that I’ve arranged around the pond to hold the liner in place and make the pond look pretty fall into the water when stray cats or raccoons go for a drink of water which from at first made loose rocks fall into the pond.  The finally made a nice little landing for themselves to easily reach the water. I ended up leaving this drinking shelf as is, it wasn’t a problem for me and there were no more rocks falling into the pond.

Stagnant water – A pond is at its best when it has a running source of water.  I’m sure the stream fed pond is best, but there’s not many of us who has the luxury of a stream running through their back yard to feed their pond.  That’s where the waterfall or some type of filter comes in to move the water and filter out some of the impurities.

Lack of plants – Ponds need plants to filter and clean the water. Its the most natural way to do it.

Salt and lawn chemicals – Be careful what you spread around your pond, it could leach into it.  Lawn chemicals, weed killers, or salt spread on the sidewalk nearby could all end up in the water, especially after a good soaking rain.

Keeping a pond away from a septic tank is good to insure that no runoff leaches into the pond.

Dogs – Certain breeds of dogs love to swim, and ponds have to be inviting.  But they can really do a lot of damage to the liner, plants and freak out the fish.  My youngest dog, Georgia, would love to get near the pond (she’s part lab) luckily she can’t reach it.

I had a lot longer way to kill a pond list in my head before I started typing this, and I’m sure I’ll think of them as soon as I post this.  I’ll add them at another time if they kick in my mind.

 

 

I just wanted to share a video with you of the pond.  I filmed this a week or so ago, and yes the pond needs some spring cleaning but I was just enjoying the moment and decided to video tape it so I could share it with you.  I want you to get an idea of why I enjoy my pond so much.  This is the second year that I’ve noticed 2 frogs that have moved in, which I enjoy and I can’t wait to hear their chirps at dusk (I can hear the ones down the street).  The goldfish are also enjoying the arrival of spring which has been slow to get here.  I hope you enjoy the video of Dons Fish Pond as much as I do.

 

The right spot for a pond site  is so important.  You want to really look over your backyard BEFORE you start to dig. I can’t emphasize that enough, learn from other people’s (and my own) fish pond mistakes. Here are several things to consider:

How is the slope of your backyard?  This is important because you don’t want to finish up and then discover that a heavy downpour of rain will ruin your pond site.  A few years ago I had a neighbor that was so proud of the goldfish pond he put in, until the first heavy downpour washed all the dirt from above the pond into the garden, and his wife wasn’t too happy seeing some of her newly planted flowers floating in the water.

Are there any underground pipes or wires that you might accidentally hit when digging the hole? This could be very costly if you hit an underground water or gas line. Or as I mentioned previously, the first spot I picked uncovered a hidden water run off container?, or as I like to call it my bomb shelter  that I didn’t know existed.  This is another example of a pond site gone bad …I often wonder what else is underneath our yard.

Will the spot you pick afford you the best view of your finished pond?  You want the best spot to be able to really enjoy your pond.  A friend of mine put his pond spot in the back corner of his lot.  He picked this spot because he had planned on adding a picnic area next to it, but then realized the ground was too damp for days after a good rain (it was a low lying area) so he changed the picnic area and he’s also considering changing the pond spot and filling in the old one which will be a lot of work for him (and me too as I know him he’ll ask me to help). Bad pond site selection… watch out for those wetland areas.  In nature, ponds are found at the lowest level of a terrain.  If your garden is sloping down away from your home, you can create an artificial situation by building up rocks around the pool.  The pond will appear to be in a low point of the garden.  Excavated dirt from the pond can be used to help with this effect.

Is there some shade and not direct sunlight all day long?   I found this out the hard way, as my pond does get a lot of sun, which will encourage the algae growth. This might not have been my best pond site selection choice, but in my case I picked the location just off the deck so we could enjoy our morning coffee watching the goldfish swim, I was also limited in my choices by a small yard. Both the fish and the pond benefit from direct sunlight, but some shade must be available.  Tree branches that overhang the pond shed leaves into it but they also provide shade.  I have trees next to my pond, which I enjoy because of the shade and because I love trees so I just keep a net nearby to scoop out any leaves or branches that fall in.  Some branches might be toxic so you’ll want to get them out of your pond when they do fall in.

Do you have enough room to fit everything?  Pond site selection also should take into consideration the total finished pond, not just the hole.  Will you have plants around the pond?  Plants will need the space to breathe and grow.  You will need room around the pond for these extras to make it look natural as though it has always been there.

So now you’ve seen some examples of why pond site selection is so important.  You should study the movements of the sun and the shadows created at different times of the day before siting the pond.  I know, this is a lot to think about, but I just want you to be aware that its more than just picking a spot that you want, it has to be the right spot too.  Just want to save you some aggravation.

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