It’s finally here, Spring! The air is fresh and clean, birds fill the air with song, spring flowers start to make their appearance, and with water temperatures consistently above 40°F for a week or more we can start our ponds up for another enjoyable season. Below you will find 10 Steps to lead you through the cleaning and start up process of your pond.
Step 1. Clean up the surrounding area. Rake up all the sticks and leaves from the surrounding area to prevent them from being blown into the pond once the pond has been cleaned. It is also time to remove the pond netting used over the winter to keep leaves out.
Step 2. Remove debris from the pond. Use a skimmer net to remove any floating debris. For debris on the pond bottom use a leaf net and/or a pond vac. String algae can also be plentiful. The amount of string algae found, once the ice melts, is in direct relationship to how much photosynthesis took place over the winter. Snow covered ice restricts sun light penetration and the photosynthesis process, and string algae in the spring may be minimal. If there has been very little snow cover, string algae will be plentiful. A helpful tool for removing string algae is the long handled Algae Witch.
Step 3. Clean and place water plants. Retrieve from the deep the plants you wintered over, clean off any debris, cut back dead stems, being careful not to harm the crown of the plant, and set them in their proper places. Spring is an excellent time to divide and repot, with the exception of early blooming plants such as Iris’s. When dividing, make sure to keep the crown above the soil line, especially with water lilies. We don’t want to lose any of those beauties. Starting in late April, or early May you can use slow release plant tabs to fertilize your plants.
Step 4.When Water changes are needed. If your pond has minimal debris and sludge buildup, perform a 25% water change to refresh the water. With any debris and/or sludge buildup there will be elevated levels of toxins. So, a 25% water change is always a good way to refresh the pond water. When adding new water, always add a beneficial water conditioner to release chlorine and chloramines from city water and neutralize heavy metals from city and well water.
If your pond has significant debris and sludge build up (1˝ or more) after the initial skimming and vacuuming, you should perform a complete water change. Sludge buildup is a symptom of a more serious problem. It is telling us that the pond can’t keep its self-clean, meaning something is out of balance. Either, the pond filtration is under sized, oxygen and/or beneficial bacteria remain low, the fish load has outgrown the filtration system, the plant cover or proper mix of plants is deficient, or the debris has been allowed to build up and decay over a long period of time. Spring is a good time to identify and correct these issues. We can then enjoy the pond instead of spending time and money treating symptoms caused by an out of balance eco-system.
If you need to perform a complete water change, first set up a temporary holding tank for your fish. Use water from the upper half of your pond so as not to disturb the toxic gases from the sludge found near the bottom. The holding tank should be set in a shady area, with an aerator or pump to maintain oxygen levels, and the tank should be covered to prevent the fish from jumping out or predators from sticking their noses in.
When returning your fish to the pond, the water temperature needs to be within 2°F of the temporary tank to prevent the fish from being stressed or going into shock. If the difference is greater than 2°F, the fish need to be placed in plastic bags with water from the temporary tank and floated in the pond for 10 to 30 minutes prior release. If the difference is 5°F or more in temperature difference, replace 25% of the water in the bag with pond water every 10 minutes until the temperature is within 2°F prior to release.
If your pond water appears a tea, brown, or black color, it may be due to tannin released from leaves or maple seeds left in the water, a 50% water change is the quickest solution. We get a lot of calls on this one. Tannin is a substance found in plants and when released in water you will notice a tea to brown or black coloration. Leaves decomposing in the water, or rain water can soak leaves on a leaf net and act as a tea bag dripping water and tannin into the pond, or if a leaf heavy net drags in the water, tannin can also be released. Maple seeds in the spring time can also release tannin in the water. Note: Activated Carbon can also provide some assistance.
Step 5. Check filters and reconnect pumps. If the filter pads or skimmer pads were not cleaned last fall, they should be cleaned prior to starting up the system. Do not over clean the filter pads or use any form of soap, or bleach. This is the best time to inspect and replace old worn out filter pads. Two great choices are the polyester pads or the long lasting Matala filter material. (Note: You may not use the finer mesh pads on a daily basis, but they sure work great to quickly clear the water after treatments for algae or dirty water, and especially when using in combination with a water clarifier.) If you have tubing that was
disconnected over the winter or ball-valves that were opened
up, be sure to reconnect and make adjustments prior to
turning on the pumps.
Step 6.Test your water quality. Pond water quality is extremely important and should be tested on a regular schedule using either a liquid regent style test kit or quick and easy test strips.
If Ammonia and Nitrites levels are higher than zero, an additional 25% water change should be done until the levels are reduced.
If pH is outside the 6.5 to 8.5 range, use either a pH Up or pH down according to directions to bring the pH back into a safe range. The pond water salinity (salt content) for fish should be between .1% and .25%. Starting from a salinity of 0%, add one pound of salt per hundred gallons of water and test with a salinity meter.
Step 7.Add important water treatments. Getting your pond’s beneficial bacteria levels up early in the season means fewer challenges later. Look for a liquid bacteria that works even in cooler temperatures promoting an ecological balance sooner. This is also a great time to add Barley Straw Extract to help keep your pond water clean and clear. And, if the start up process has left your pond a little cloudy from being stirred up, add a water clarifier to clump suspended particles together making them easier for the filtration pads to quickly remove them. Later in the season a water clarifier is also a great product to use in combination with algae control products for a quicker
clearing of the water.
Step 8. Ultraviolet (UV) maintenance. If you have an Ultraviolet light clarifier or sterilizer to help prevent green water, the bulb needs to be replaced yearly and the quartz sleeve that protects the bulb needs to be cleaned. However, do not turn the UV unit on until the bacteria have had 48 hours to colonize on available surfaces within the pond and filter.
Step 9. Prepare for the return of predators. Keeping your fish safe from predators can be a challenge, but here are a couple of ideas that will help. For heron, there is always fish line placed around the pond, or netting to interrupt their flight. But, providing a place for your fish to escape to such as Koi Castles or by building an underwater cave with some boulders and a flat rock are also award winning options. The 24˝ Blue Heron figure and the floating Gator Head work well for heron and raccoons. The Ultrasonic Repeller works well on mammals and boasts an adjustable frequency and detection area sensor, and don’t forget the Motion Activated Sprinkler head.
Step 10. Begin feeding your fish and enjoy. You can begin feeding your fish when water temperatures remain at 50°Fs or higher. With water temperature at 50 to 65°Fs you can feed your fish once a week. With water temperatures 65°Fs or higher your regular feeding schedule can be resumed. Look for a fish food that is a high performance diet designed for growing fish, and fortified with spirulina and other marine ingredients for maximum color. Color food also enhances the vibrant colors and health of your fish. A cold water food is a wheat based diet ideal for feeding during colder periods of the year. Fish foods can contain Vitamin C and brewer’s yeast to promote fish development and natural nutritional supplements designed to improve disease resistance.
The Tech Support Staff at EasyPro Pond Products