As you are preparing your retail space for the upcoming pond season, your customers are busy planning the space for their ponds and its inhabitants. This is the perfect time of year to talk about what the pond will look like in terms of plants and fish. Adding both takes time and a well thought out plan. It is important to educate your customers on the benefits of aquatic plants, as well as the different varieties. Additionally, fish need to be chosen with careful consideration. One of the biggest mistakes a pondkeeper can make is adding too many plants and fish too fast. To help your customers become experts, explain how they can follow these guidelines to a successful pond season.
**Aquatic Plants: Benefits, Types and Care**
*Benefits of Aquatic Plants*
Aquatic plants are a beautiful addition to a pond. Their foliage and flowers add a new dimension to a pond. Without plants, a pond can seem dull and unattractive. However, adding plants is not just important for aesthetics; there are also important benefits plants add to the overall health of the pond. Aquatic plants provide important shade, which reduces algae growth, and natural filtration, which helps clean the water and keep oxygen at healthy levels. After the bacteria in the pond’s filtration system breaks down harmful pollutants, aquatic plants absorb the pollutants in the form of nitrates, which would otherwise remain in the water and provide food for unwanted algae. Aquatic plants also provide breeding grounds for fish and other inhabitants, and they create shelter from predators and severe weather.
*Types of Aquatic Plants*
Choosing a plant to accentuate a pond can be confusing to the new pondkeeper. Many realize the importance and benefits of adding plants, but selecting the right amount and the type of plant can get cumbersome. Additionally, when selecting aquatic plants, pondkeepers should also take into account its anticipated size once it is fully mature. Taller, fuller aquatic plants and grasses should be placed toward the back or far side of the pond, leaving the smaller plants and flowers unobstructed in front. This way plants will compliment one another without overcrowding.
Aquatic plants can generally be placed in four different categories: bog plants, marginals, floating plants and submerged plants.
Bog plants grow in wet ground along the perimeter of the pond, extending the waterscape and acting as a visual anchor to the surrounding garden. Bog plants thrive when grown in moist, damp soil that is rich in organic matter; however, some bog plants spread rapidly and can become invasive. To prevent unwieldy plants, suggest keeping these plants in containers to limit their root spread. Using plastic containers or fabric planters will also allow pondkeepers to easily remove and rearrange the plants. Some of the most common bog plants found in water gardens are: Sweet Flag, Taro, Horsetail, Hostas and Rush.
Marginals are also used along the pond perimeter for a natural, relaxed design. They grow best in shallow water and should be submerged to a depth of ten inches. Usually marginals are placed in fabric or plastic planters along a shallow shelf within the pond’s edge. Common examples of marginals are: Water Hawthorn, Umbrella Grass, Canna Hybrids, Irises, Lizard’s Tail, lotus and Cattails/Reed Mace.
Submerged plants, or “oxygenators,” are valuable to pond health because they act as natural filters and remove excess nutrients from the pond, keeping the water clear. Many varieties produce small flowers above the pond surface, where miniscule oxygen bubbles attach to the plant. Recommend one bundle of submerged plants for every square foot of the pond’s surface area. Some popular varieties are: Anacharis, Eelgrass, Pondweed and Parrots Feather.
Floating plants act like ground cover on the water’s surface, providing fish the benefits of shade, protection and breeding areas. Ideally about 60 percent of the water’s surface should be covered, keeping water temperatures stable from morning to night. For optimal growth, remind customers to keep the moving water or the commotion of water features and fountains at a reasonable distance from their water lilies and Lotus.
Other common floating plants are: Water Hyacinth, Water Lettuce and Water Fern, which have roots that are suspended in the water.
*Caring for Aquatic Plants*
Your pondkeepers should also see themselves as water gardeners. Caring for a pond is much more than feeding the fish. The plant life should be pruned and cared for regularly. Such care consists of removing dead blossoms and leaves and keeping the pond free of debris. It is a good idea to grow aquatic plants in containers that can be rearranged and removed when cleaning the pond.
Another important step in caring for aquatic plants is fertilizing. Suggest to your pondkeepers the use of a fertilizer tablet or small package designed for the gradual release of the fertilizer to the roots. By using this type of fertilizer, it won’t increase the nutrient level of the water, which can increase the presence of algae.
Pests and disease can easily affect aquatic plants as they do other plants in your garden. It is very important that your pondkeepers do not spray or treat these with chemicals for fear of harming or killing the fish in the pond. Suggest hand removal of pests or spraying with water to remove from foliage. Additionally, recommend ridding the plants of infested foliage to make way for new growth.
**Ornamental Fish: Choosing, Types and Care**
Caring for and choosing beautiful fish can be a wonderful experience for a pondkeeper. When deciding on fish there are many important factors to consider such as size, type and care. Remind pondkeepers to not add too many fish to a pond, too quickly. This can create a crowded pond and an unhealthy ecosystem.
Pondkeepers should avoid purchasing fish that are listless, pale in color, gasping or have fins folded back. A healthy fish is active, bright and has outstretched fins. The pond water must be treated for chlorine and chloramines before adding fish. If it is a new pond, explain to your customers that the pond and filter should run for at least two weeks before adding fish. This allows beneficial bacteria to colonize.
Next, your customers should place the bag with the recently purchased fish into the pond water for at least 30 minutes so that the water in the bag gradually equalizes with the temperature of the pond. Lastly, your pondkeepers should open the bag to allow pond water to mix with the water in the bag for a few minutes. Then they can gently pour the fish into their new home.
As a rule of thumb, to account for all kinds of fish, pondkeepers should keep their fish load under one-inch of fish length (excluding the tail fins) for every one square foot of water surface – about one goldfish per 3 to 4 feet of water surface area. Because Koi grow larger, they should place one Koi to every 10 square feet of surface area. If the stocking levels increase, the consumer should add larger or additional filters.
*Types of Ornamental Fish*
There are several varieties of ornamental fish. The two most popular options are Goldfish and Koi.
**Goldfish:** Goldfish are beautiful fish and known as good swimmers. Purchase fish that are at least two to three inches long; some can grow up to 10 – 12 inches long. There are several varieties of “goldfish” to choose from such as Comets, Shubunkins and Fantails.
**Koi:** Koi, or Cyprinus carpio, are ornate cousins of the carp family and can be easily identified by their whiskers. Their vivid coloration, striking patterns, longevity and impressive size make them popular pets. Standard Koi colors are black, white, yellow, orange, blue or red. Some popular varieties include Kohaku, Sanke, Showa, Utsuri, Ogon and a range of characteristics including metallic and butterfly koi.”
*Caring for Ornamental Fish*
For most pondkeepers, the reason they decided to construct a pond is to have the beautiful fish adorn their landscape. When caring for pond fish, food and water quality are the most important considerations.
For overall pond health, feed Koi and pond fish high quality foods that will produce less waste. “Koi enthusiasts” should treat their fish to the very best in premium Koi food. Recommend your customers choose a food that is developed specifically for the health, condition and color for their exceptional Koi.
Poor water quality can have an adverse affect on pond fish, sometimes leading to death. A rise in pollutant levels (i.e. ammonia and nitrites) and sudden changes (or unsuitable values) of water pH and hardness can contribute to unhealthy fish. Be sure to advise customers to test their pond water regularly and watch their fish. Remind them to seek advice if they notice any visible changes in the fish.
The key to any pond project is a well thought out plan. As a retailer serving the pond enthusiast, equipping your customers with basic information about aquatic plants and ornamental fish will establish you as a trusted resource, while also allowing them to enjoy their hobby to the fullest.
Plants are a very important part of a healthy filtration system. However, many pondkeepers don’t want to overload their pond with plants, yet at the same time, they realize plants are an integral part of their pond health. “Header” ponds solve this dilemma.
A “header” pond is a smaller pond that feeds the waterfall that flows into the primary pond. Usually a “header” pond is constructed above the primary pond and is filled with many plants that have extensive roots. Water hyacinth is a good plant to place in the “header” pond, mainly because their many roots act as a natural filter. Additionally, one water hyacinth floating on the pond surface can become hundreds quickly, overtaking a pond during the summer. Therefore, your customers may want to confine water hyacinths to a “header” pond – and keep them from overtaking the larger, primary pond.
If your customer does not want to overload their pond with plants another option would be to consider a waterfall filter. It is easy to install and functions both as an attractive waterfall feature and an efficient mechanical and biological filter.
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