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Way to Kill a Pond


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.

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.


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