Looking after a pond is less work than you might expect. Once the aquatic ecosystem is functioning properly, very little maintenance is necessary – you can just sit back and enjoy your pond.
Of course, you must keep an eye on the condition of the pond and, depending on this, you will sometimes need to take action. First, make sure that there is sufficient water in the pond all year round. Pond water can evaporate, particularly in warm weather. You also need to test the water quality, for example, the pH value (acidity) and the GH value (hardness). It is wise to check the acidity and take action if necessary, especially after persistent rain. Read more about natural pond maintenance products here.
The pond is coming back to life. The plants and animals are gradually coming out of hibernation. The first green shoots are appearing in the water and on the banks. Remove any winter covering from sensitive marginal plants as soon as the temperature is high enough. You can now cut away all of the old, dead plant material. As you are doing this, make sure that you do not damage the new buds – do not cut too deeply! Of course, you will also remove any dead material that is hanging in the water, such as yellow iris leaves.
Doing this maintenance work on your pond will clean up all of the plant life in and around the pond. You can also split perennials now and replant the young cuttings in good, fertile, refreshed pond soil. Do you want to set out pond plants in new soil? First, wet the soil thoroughly. This will prevent the baskets from floating to the top and the soil from washing away. Also consider using Bio Granulate. Bio Granulate is the basis of health and fertility at the bottom of your pond. Use of these porous pellets prevents the roots of completely submerged oxygen plants rotting in the pond, promoting their growth instead. Bio Granulate also removes phosphates from the water, benefitting root and plant growth. They maintain an ideal microbiological equilibrium in the pond, whereby the plants absorb nutrients, with oxygen-rich water as a result.
Waterlilies, which have been taken out of the pond during the winter, can be replaced in the water and sensitive plants, which you placed in deeper water for the winter, can also be put back in their usual spot. At the same time, check the pond for damage and clear up any debris that is lying on the pond floor. Don’t do this too early – if the water is still cold, there is a chance that some animals are still hibernating at the bottom.
You can also put the pump back in the water. Clean the biological filter and restart, if necessary. In early spring, the oxygen plants are not yet fully active even though there are plenty of nutrients in the water. Floating and other algae now have an opportunity to cause a lot of sudden problems. The equilibrium usually restores itself quickly, but take action if you think it is taking too long. You should pull thread algae out of the pond and floating algae can be removed with your UV filters.
Test the water quality once again during this period. The most important aspect is the GH value. This will indicated the total volume of minerals that have dissolved in the water. Throughout the year, this value should be about 12, but it can often be too low. You can raise it by using a natural pond maintenance product, such as GH Plus. It is also time to add bacteria every week to maintain a good biological equilibrium.
When the water temperature is higher than 12o C you can carefully start feeding the fish again. Also check if they are healthy and if they are damaged or behaving abnormally.
Make sure that the pond does not become overgrown. There should be enough open water to allow the whole ecosystem to function properly. Two-thirds of the pond is usually a good rule of thumb. During this period, floating algae can be the main nuisance in the pond. Do you want to clean up the pond? Don’t use chemical products for pond maintenance, even though these products are on the market. They will quickly disturb the biological equilibrium of the water. Simply fish these algae out of the water by wrapping them round a stick and pulling them out of the pond. Thread algae can become entangled in oxygen plants. You may not be able to avoid pulling some bits of the oxygen plants out at the same time.
Incidentally, the presence of thread algae in the pond means that the water quality is quite good, but there are temporarily too many nutrients. The cause is often a shortage of minerals, or a disruption of the equilibrium. This can happen, for example, when pollen from nearby flowering plants has blown into the pond. That is another reason why you should test the GH, KH and pH values of the pond water now and adjust, if necessary. When you do this in conjunction with adding beneficial bacteria, the biological equilibrium recovers and maintains the pond naturally.
In warm weather, it is advisable to use an air pump with a bubble stone, or a waterfall or fountain to introduce extra oxygen to the water.
Fast-growing plants should now be kept under control otherwise they will overrun everything. Waterlilies may suffer from water lily beetles which eat the leaves. As soon as you notice any damage, remove the affected leaves and destroy them. Also check the fish for disease or damage.
When leaves fall into the pond, remove as many as possible. Keeping a net over your pond is not very pretty, so it is better to fish out leaves from the surface of the water every couple of days. Most leaves will float for a day or two. If leaves do fall to the bottom they will be digested by soil organisms during the winter. The nutrients that are then released can cause rotting if the conditions are poor – and this situation must be avoided.
It can result in the formation of gases that are harmful to fish and other living creatures. This is most likely to happen when there is ice on the water which prevents the gases from escaping The rotting process extracts a great deal of oxygen from the pond water. It is best to leave dying marsh and pond-side plants alone. Their leaves can provide winter protection. Remove any bits that are hanging in the water because they can rot. You can place frost-sensitive waterside plants in deeper water after the stems above ground level have died to prevent them from freezing. Do the same for sensitive water lilies. You can give less hardy marsh plants some extra protection by covering them with a few spruce branches, for example. Only do this if a heavy frost is expected and remove the branches again as soon as the weather permits.
Oxygen plants are also less active during this period and you can see this because the algae, which continue to be active when temperatures are lower, now have the chance to propagate green slime. That is another reason why you should test the GH, KH and pH values of the pond water now and adjust them, if necessary. The GH value is the one that is most likely to need regular adjustment, in combination with adding beneficial bacteria to maintain the biological equilibrium. This is how you should maintain the water quality.
Place non-hardy plants indoors in a suitable, frost-free spot with plenty of light. If the temperature drops below 12o C do not feed the fish. They will have to make do with the reserves that they have built up in their bodies.
Take the pump out of the pond, clean it and put it away for the winter. You can also check and clean the biological filter. Install a small air pump with a bubble stone in the water to provide extra oxygen under the ice in the winter period. Do not place the stone too deep in the water, as this will have an adverse effect. In this season, you should also check the fish for disease or damage.
All is quiet in the pond. If you have installed an oxygenating or bubble stone you can provide the pond with extra oxygen when it freezes. An ice preventer is very handy for maintaining a good gaseous exchange between the pond water and the outside air. If you have a fish pond, it can be useful to install a pond water heater. Hollow plant stems stimulate good gaseous exchange.
That is why a bunch of reeds are sometimes set into the pond before it freezes over. During this period, the pond does not require a lot of maintenance apart from checking the GH value and adjusting it to 12 when necessary. The GH value drops considerably during the winter because of the regular rainfall.
If the pond freezes over you should never cut a hole in the ice to provide extra oxygen. This will cause huge tremors in the water; your fish will suffer stress and possibly die.