Spring Pond Startup
SPRING POND STARTUP
SPRING CLEANING: Spring is an ideal time to clean your pond. You can clean out leaves and debris that have accumulated over the winter, and limit and/or avoid the dreaded spring algae bloom. Some experts recommend removing up to 50% of the water, using a pump or a pool vacuum to remove water and debris from the bottom. If you cleaned your pond in fall, a smaller water change will be sufficient (20%). Don’t forget to add the dechlorinator and chloramine remover. DO NOT completely drain your pond to clean it. This will destroy the beneficial bacteria, which is necessary for a healthy, clear pond.
The Nitrogen Cycle – keep nitrites and ammonia under control.
Beneficial Bacteria – Two Types
* Aerobic – need lots of oxygen; thrive in ponds
* Anaerobic – need little oxygen; reduce sludge in ponds
Most bacteria in the pond are aerobic, so they need oxygen
Also need pH 6.5 – 9.0 and temp over 50 degrees F.
Aerobic bacteria adhere to hard surfaces; materials with high surface area, like biomedia.
Bacteria will eventually appear naturally in the pond but takes six to eight weeks.
For optimal results, we recommend adding beneficial bacteria in spring, summer and fall on a weekly basis.
HOW BACTERIA CONTROLS ALGAE:
* Both bacteria and algae consume the same nutrients in pond
* Bacteria is faster at growing.
* So algae die from lack of nutrition, thus helping to clear the
Beneficial Bacteria comes in liquid or freeze dried powder.
EcoFix – Microbe Lift – Pond-Zyme – Aqua-One – SuperBugs
THE NITROGEN CYCLE
Proteins contain nitrogen and are a part of the food and tissues of all living creatures. They and their breakdown products are continually being released into the pond from uneaten food, decaying algae, the tissues and feces of fishes and the waste products of invertebrates. These compounds are for the most part unwanted and act as poisons if allowed to accumulate. In an established pond, various bacteria break them down to simple substances, the most important of which is ammonium hydroxide.
Dissolved gaseous ammonia is highly toxic to almost every animal, fish or invertebrate, and must not be allowed to rise above a fraction of a part per million in the pond. Unfortunately, the higher the pH, the more toxic a given amount of ammonium hydroxide becomes. The toxicity is also increased as temperature rises, but not so strongly. At pH7 (neutral) and 60 degrees F only 0.28% of the ammonium hydroxide is present as free ammonia, while at 80 degrees F the percent is 0.60%. At pH8, however, and at 60 degrees F it rises to 2.75%, and at 80 degrees F it rises to 5.4% – nearly 10 times as much as at pH7.
The cycle involves the transformation by bacteria of ammoniacal compounds to nitrates, a process called nitrification. The first step is the oxidation of ammonium hydroxide by bacteria of the genus Nitrosomonas to nitrites, less toxic than ammonia but still toxic, and then further oxidation by bacteria of the genus Nitrobacter to nitrates. Nitrates are readily absorbed by plants and so the proteinaceous compounds are rebuilt and start the cycle over again. Under certain conditions nitrates can be broken down to free nitrogen gas, but this is mainly an anaerobic process that needs the absence of oxygen and different bacteria.
THE BIOLOGICAL FILTER
The bacteria just discussed need somewhere to accumulate. They will coat any available surface that isn’t cleaned too often, but the interior of an ordinary pond doesn’t offer enough to help very much. Filter mats and such additives as activated carbon will offer an effective surface but are usually changed frequently and replaced with inactive new material, as far as nitrification is concerned. It was discovered that an undergravel filter works wonders in the aquarium. The undergravel filter uses the base of the aquarium to filter the water through a thick layer of gravel at least 3” deep and return it by air lift tubes to the top of the water. This of course offers a very large surface for the bacteria to settle onto and acts as an efficient biological filter as long as it is left undisturbed or at least only partially replaced at any one time.
Although an undergravel filter is very effective, particularly if seeded with the right kind of bacteria and fed ammonia from the start, it consumes oxygen and thus competes with the pond inhabitants unless the outflowing water is adequately reoxygenated. This is usually done by aeration of one kind or another, by returning the filtered water over a waterfall or across the surface of the pond so as to cause ripples and good water movement, and by adding air stones. The filter can also be a nuisance since if any trouble (such as blockage) occurs, you have to reach down into the pond and disturb everything, a particularly undesirable process in a nicely set up pond. So why not put it outside the tank?
That is exactly what can be done. Not only can the filter be attended to much easier, but it can be elaborated and made larger than the undergravel one. It can also be aerated so that the aerobic, oxygen-consuming bacteria work more efficiently and yet do not deplete the water of its oxygen to the same extent. To get more oxygen to the bacteria a trickle system can be used, so that a mixture of air and water passes over the bacteria. It is believed that given the same volume of media for bacteria to grow on, the efficiency is increased nearly threefold.
FILTRATION SYSTEM FUNCTIONS:
*Mechanical filtration – capture debris for manual removal
*Biological filtration – colonization of beneficial bacteria to break down ammonia and provide other health-promoting functions.
Good systems include both mechanical and biological filtration.
CONDITIONING: Dealing with special water situations
What is a Special Situation?
New water added to the pond.
Balancing pH in the pond.
Keeping the pond oxygenated.
Keeping the water clear.
City tap water: chlorine and (often) chloramines –
Dangerous for plants & fish
* Add water conditioners
Well or spring water –
Sometimes contain toxic heavy metals
* Can be removed with water conditioners
Some treatments also protect fish with slime coating to prevent sickness.
BALANCING pH: Should be in 6.5 to 8.5 range.
Too alkaline (high pH) –
Sometimes from materials containing lime, like cement and cinder blocks.
Too acid (low pH) –
From decomposing plants and waste.
* Add pH up or down pond treatment to remedy
SEA SALT FOR POND SALT: Salt builds slime coat on fish, reduces stress in fish, controls parasites in fish, and occurs naturally in fish in streams and lakes.
Pond Salt – Dehydrated sea salt
Rock Salt – May have impurities
Benefits of Salt: Helps detoxify nitrite
Hardens scales on fish
Natural Parasite control
Controls String Algae (Blanket Weed)
WHY ADD OXYGEN?
* To help keep pond balanced
* Beneficial bacteria need oxygen
* Fish need oxygen
* Oxygen can be added from
Air pump with air stone
* Cloudy/Dirty Water (Brown)
From pond construction
From windy weather
From hard rain
Usually dirt or dust
Mechanical filtration – Removes debris from pond water after using one of the products below.
RapiClear, Accu-Clear – flocculate inorganic particles for easier removal.
* Green Water
Water is pea green in color
Single cell algae
Pond lacking enough bacteria
Growth of algae promoted by
Sunlight & Nutrients in water
Add flocculant – quick, easy, short-term
UV Clarifier/Sterilizer – easy, long-term
Natural – using bacteria (added weekly)
* Filamentous Algae
Also known as blanket weed or string algae
Appears in clear, healthy ponds
Grows in long strands that attach themselves to objects in the pond.
May surface in daytime; sink at night.
Magnetic treatment – Need 7.0 pH
Aqua-One, SuperBugs, Microbe-Lift (Beneficial Bacteria)
Algae Fix / EcoFix, D-Solv9
Barley Straw or Pellets – Develops plankton colonies (Plant colonies, which helps keep pond clear. End product is hydrogen peroxide, which produces oxygen for bacteria.
Raise Salinity of pond – (Be sure to use test kit and check tolerance level of plants!)
FISH & CRITTERS: As the water temperature begins to rise the fish will become more active. Feed a wheatgerm-based food when water temperature is consistently above 50 degrees. This will be easier for them to digest. This is the most stressful time of year for our fish. DO NOT feed them too soon because their systems cannot digest the food. It will cause them more problems. There is plenty of natural food (Algae & Bugs) for them to eat.
Other critters, such as tadpoles, frogs, turtles and snails seem to find cover, either in pots of plants, safe places in the pond, or in the landscape near the pond, without anything special needed from us.
WATER LILIES & LOTUS:
Spring is the time to place your hardy water lilies and lotus to their summer positions and fertilize each pot. If they need to be divided, now is a good time. Tropical lilies should not be placed in the pond until the water temperature is above 70 degrees. This is usually about mid-June in our area.
MARGINALS & BOG PLANTS:
HARDY – Most hardy marginals and bog plants can be wintered over in the same spot they have been growing all summer. All that is needed in spring is to divide and repot if necessary, fertilize and enjoy. If cattails and reeds were not cut in fall, trim now so new growth can fill in.
TROPICAL – Tropical water plants should not be placed in the pond until there is no threat of frost. In our area this is usually mid May.
GENERAL: Check to see that all pumps and filters are operating as designed. Spring is a good time to replace UV bulbs.
The Water Gardener’s Spring Check List
1) As pond temperatures warm into the upper 50 F, start feeding the fish with high carbohydrate/low protein food. As the water warms gradually work up to the higher protein foods.
2) Early spring is the time to remove pond waste and leaves, if this task was not accomplished last fall. As the pond temperatures begin to rise the pond detritus begins decomposing rapidly and releasing nutrients into the water. Possible effects from this scenario are robbing the pond of oxygen and contributing to an algae bloom.
3) Check over pumps, lines, and filters. Restart filters if they were shut down for the winter. Use an inoculant to get Biofilters re-started.
4) Any aquatic plant pots on the bottom can be raised up to warmer surface water.
5) Begin fertilizing hardy water lilies after they have started to grow. Divide and repot if needed. First leaves appear small and reddish. Look for flowers one month after leaves have appeared.
6) When plants are growing vigorously begin fertilizing, once a month until temperatures reach the eighties; then fertilize twice a month.
7) Remove filamentous algae by hand or using a notched stick. If unicellular algae persists consider a filter system or adding more scavengers and plants.
8) Watch for spawning fish.
HAVE A GREAT SEASON!