Q & A
Are there any benefits of adding aquatic plants to my pond?
Besides adding beauty to the pond, aquatic plants also provide welcome shade, which reduces algae growth, and natural filtration, which helps clean the water. After the bacteria in your filter break down harmful pollutants, plants are able to absorb and remove them from your pond. For optimal growth, remember to choose plants suited to your climate and to keep plants a reasonable distance away from moving water.
Can I put a timer on my pump and just have the pump on during the day and off at night?
IF your pond has fish and IF and you have other sources of adequate aeration such as an aerator, then you can have the pump turned off at night. If your pump provides the ONLY source of aeration for your pond and you have fish, then you cannot. At night aquatic plants consume a lot of oxygen and which will result in low oxygen levels which can cause death to fish or other live animals. As a general rule, we recommend pumps being on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you have a water garden (without fish) you can try turning off your pump at night but the water can get stagnant and cause the pH to increase, etc. Again, it's really best for the pump to run 24/7. Always check the amperage when purchasing a new pump. There are some very effecient pumps currently on the market.
Do I have to leave the waterfall on all the time?
If your waterfall is the only source of water circulation and oxygenation and if you have fish, then the answer is yes. If you have fish and your fish get enough oxygen from another source of circulation, then you do not need to have your waterfall on all the time. If you do not have fish or other wildlife in your pond then you do not need to have the waterfall on all the time. If it is your only source for water circulation you may end up having stagnant water which can attract insects, mosquitoes and algae.
Do I need special soil for pond plants?
Yes you do! You cannot use typical garden soil as it will cloud your pond water and if there are any chemicals or fertilizers in your soil, you will be adding them to your pond. Special pots may not be totally necessary but pots that are designed for ponds and water gardens have "slotted" sides that allow for water passing through. If water did not pass through it could create an anaerobic (without oxygen) environment and spur the growth of bad bacteria, which you definitely don't want.
Do I really need to use a net over my pond?
No, you don't but nets help keep out blue herons, kingfishers, egrets and other birds who love to eat fish as well as racoons, etc. who want to go for a swim and have lunch at the same time. If you don't have fish, nets can keep you from skimming out debris that may end up in your pond. In Fall nets can be especially helpful if you have leaves falling from trees.
How many fish can I add to my new pond?
Make sure you don't overload your pond's ecosystem with too many fish. For a new pond, a good rule of thumb is one inch of fish per square foot of surface area or 1 inch for every 8-10 gallons of water. A mature pond can support up to two or three inches of fish per square foot. Once your pond is built, add the fish a few at a time over the course of 30 days to ensure that the pond and filter are biologically ready to support aquatic life. Simple precautions, such as testing water quality, neutralizing chlorine when adding water and protecting against common diseases, can assure your pond fish remain in optimum health.
How often should I test my pond water?
It is a good idea to get in the habit of testing your pond water weekly. For small ponds it may be more often and for large ponds it may be less frequent. For new ponds, test it every few days for the first few weeks in order to get a good basis of where you're pond is at chemically. After that, you should be able to check it weekly providing you don't add a large number of fish, change a pump or filter, etc. Try to test your water at the same time each day. pH is lowest in the morning and highest in the evening. Ponds containing cement, limestone etc. can leech lime causing high pH readings. Ponds overstocked with new fish usually have higher Ammonia readings. Both of these situations need to be resolved with pond additives.
I need to purchase a pump. What size do I need?
The pump is one of the most important equipment purchases you will make for your water garden. It is the heart of the pond, circulating water to the filter and keeping the ecosystem healthy. Because it runs constantly, it must be both dependable and energy efficient. The pump you choose is based on the size of your pond and the pumping capacity in gallons per hour (gph). The pump should circulate the entire volume of the pond at least every hour. So, if you have a 1000-gallon pond, you need a pump that handles at least 1000 gph. When in doubt, you should purchase a slightly more powerful pump. You can always slow or divert the flow of a pump, but you can't increase it. With the recent increases in utility prices be sure to look for a pump that is economical to operate as it must operate 24/7 to maintain quality pond filtration.
I'd like to get some underwater lights for my pond. Do I have to get some special electrical wiring for that?
All 110v electrical wiring should be done by a qualified electrician. Everything must be GFI protected. There are possible electricution hazards when it comes to water and electricity and an electrician who is familiar with local codes should be able to assist you.
Most pond lights are 12v (low voltage) and therefore do not pose any hazards to fish or humans and are easier to install and maintain. They come in a variety of wattages, both halogen and LED lights.
Is there any difference between bargain fish food and premium food.
Because Koi and goldfish do not have teeth or stomachs, easy digestibility is of prime importance. Highly digestible foods minimize waste, enabling filtration systems to operate more efficiently and keeping the pond ecosystem healthier. The vivid oranges, reds and whites of Koi and Goldfish are the result of a complete, balanced diet. The right nutrients ensure vibrant colors and proper body shape. Avoid bargain and unknown brands as they may not contain the necessary levels of protein, vitamins and minerals. Keep your fish food fresh by only purchasing what you can use in a single season and keeping it in a resealable container.
My fish always seem to be up at the top of the water. Are they just hungry or is something wrong?
Depending on the type of fish you have, your fish may be in need of oxygen. If you see them gasping at the top, they are in immediate need of oxygen. This is often due to water being to warm. You can add cool water from your garden hose but be sure to dechlorinate it. If you have access to an aerator or air pump start using it at once.
Sometimes fish will appear at the top in search of food. This is of course normal, especially with Koi which are natural foragers.
What kind of filter should I install in my pond. What are the benefits?
Filtration is an essential part of a healthy water garden. Filtration removes impurities from the water and helps to preserve both the pump and aquatic life. There are two basic filtration methods: mechanical and biological. With mechanical filtration it physically traps dirt and debris.
The second type is Biological Filtration. It uses natural biochemical processes to improve the water. These types of filters create an environment for beneficial bacteria to colonize. This bacteria converts harmful ammonia from waste products into nitrates, which are relatively harmless to fish and beneficial to plants. The best pond filters offer a combination of mechanical and biological filtration. Generally, external filters are preferable to submerged filters because they allow more oxygen to benefit nitrifying bacteria.
What should I feed my fish and how often should I feed them?
Pond fish need the proper combination of protein, fats, fiber, minerals and vitamins. Too much or too little of any particular nutrient can have an adverse effect on both the health of the fish and the quality of the water. Fish should be fed one to two times daily. Only feed as much as they will consume within five minutes. Some fish foods now contain probiotics which makes it easier for the fish to digest and easier to remove the waste from the pond because of the beneficial bacteria it contains.
What should I feed my Koi in Winter?
When the pond water temperature drops, fish require a highly digestible cool-water diet. The cold water diet contains wheat germ which is more easily digested and contains higher level of fats. It is recommeded that you begin feeding them wheat germ food when the water temperature is below 60 degrees and that you discontinue feeding them altogether when the water temperature drops below 50 degrees. By then your fish will be in a semi hibernation state and will not require feeding again until Spring when the temperature rises above 50 degrees. Keep feeding them a wheat germ diet until the water approaches 60 degrees, at which time you can switch to your normal fish food.
What size pump should I use for a waterfall.
To choose the proper pump for a waterfall, you first need to understand pump head height. This is the water pressure generated by a pump. The maximum pumping height is the height a pump will raise water straight up resulting in zero gph of water flow at the top. As the height of any pump discharge increases, the flow will decrease. For example, a 1000 gph pump may pump 850 gph at a height of two feet, but only 500 gph at a height of ten feet. To calculate the pump size for your waterfall, decide the width of the spillover you want and determine the vertical distance from the top of the waterfall to the pond surface. Every inch of spillover width requires between 100-200 gph of water flow at the height of the waterfall. For example, if you want an eight-inch wide stream over a waterfall that is four feet above the pond, you need a pump with a flow rate of at least 800 gph at a height of four feet. Again, when in doubt always purchase a slightly more powerful pump. You can always slow or divert the flow of a pump, but you can't increase it.
For a light flow, you can figure 50 gph times the width of your waterfall (in inches), 100 gph for a average flow and 200+ gph for a strong flow.
Why is my pond water green? Will a UV filter help?
The most common complaint of new and experienced pond enthusiasts alike is green water. Green water is caused by blooms of single-celled algae, which not only cloud the water and obscure fish viewing, but also rob the water of valuable oxygen and release harmful pollutants. These organisms are so tiny, they pass through even the finest filter and grow quickly when fed by excessive sunlight. Over feeding your fish can result in high concentrations of waste and nutrients which can lead to algae problems as well. It is recommended that at least 60% of your pond surface is covered by floating plants which provide shade for your fish and helps control algae. One solution for controlling such algae is a UV clarifier. Clarifiers use ultraviolet light to kill the algae and cause them to clump together into particles large enough to be removed by filtration, leaving the pond cleaner and clearer. Many new pond filters now include a built-in UV, along with both mechanical and biological filtration.