Here are the most frequently asked questions pond owners have. You can either browse the page, or click on a question in the list below to jump to the answer. Call me if you have more questions at 303.519.8900 or 303.519.1597.My pond has a leak! How do I find and fix it?
Do I have to leave the waterfall on all the time?
How often should I test my pond water?
My koi fish are always around the pump. Is there something wrong?
Do I leave my pump and filter in the pond during the winter?
How often should I feed my fish?
Do I really need to use a net over my pond?
My water lilies and other plants don’t seem to be growing much and never bloom. What’s wrong?
My fish always seem to be at the top of the water. Are they just hungry or is something wrong?
My koi keep digging up my water lilies. How can I protect my plants?
What is a biological filter?
Is it necessary to do spring/fall cleaning?
How do I get rid of algae in my pond?
First, you want to make sure there are no leaks in your outside plumbing. You can do this by feeling around in the soil or digging near where the plumbing is. Check for wet or damp soil. Remember that water travels with gravity, so if you do find damp soil, the leak could be there or anywhere up hill.
If you’re certain the leak is not coming from any of the plumbing, let the water level drop to where it doesn’t drop any more. Make sure that you have adequate water for any fish and that the water level doesn’t go below where you have a pump or anything that could burn out. Once the water level ceases to drop, look at the pond liner all along the edge just above the water level to see where the leak is coming from. If you’ve joined any liners together (typical for large ponds), check where the seams are joined and make sure they are secure.
If you find a tear, we have a Universal Repair Kit that can be used to patch the leak. If your leak is in the plumbing, you may have to cut the hose and reconnect it (and possibly glue it with PVC cement).
If you have leaks around a waterfall area, you can use expandable foam or 100% silicone caulk. Make sure you follow the directions with the caulk, as the fumes are toxic and the caulk has to dry for at least 24 to 72 hours before pond water can go over it. The area must be properly cleaned and dried before applying either the caulk or the expandable foam. return to top of faqs
If your waterfall is the only source of water circulation and oxygenation and if you have fish, then the answer is yes, you have to leave it on all the time.
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 have no fish or other wildlife in your pond, then you do not need to have the waterfall on all the time; however, if it is your only source of water circulation, then you may end up having stagnant water, which can attract bugs and more algae. return to top of faqs
You should test your pond water every week. For small ponds, it may be more frequent, and for large ponds, it may be less frequent.
For new ponds, test every few days for the first few weeks in order to get a good basis of where your pond is, chemically. After that, you may be able to back off a bit, provided that you don’t make a big change to your pond (such as a bunch of fish, eliminating a pump or filter, etc).
Sunlight will affect your pond’s chemistry a lot, too, so you want to have a good idea of how the sunlight and warm temperatures are affecting the pond’s ecosystem. return to top of faqs
Two things come to mind when I hear that fish are “hanging around” the pump. The first thing is whether they have enough oxygen. If the fish are not at the top of the water gasping for air or around an air bubbler, then they are probably just fine. Second, koi fish are pretty playful fish and like to hide in different things in your pond, whether it is between plants or around the pump. They also may be hiding in the only shade your pond has. You can either provide more shade for the fish or give them some “toys” to play with. return to top of faqs
If you have fish in your pond, you will need some source of aeration during the winter, so you will need your pump or an aerator.
Your filter, if attached to your pump in the water, can remain in the water. Outside filters can be cleaned and stored for the winter. These filters should be cleaned and stored because the tube transporting the water from the pump to the filter can freeze, which will end up burning out your pump and ruining it. Submersible pumps or aerators, when used with a pond de-icer, can work fine; however, it’s best to use an aerator with a de-icer. return to top of faqs
This is a pretty broad question, since we don’t know the type of fish you have or the size of your pond. A rule of thumb is to feed a koi fish that is about 6” long about 6-10 pellets in the morning and night.
If you have a large pond that offers other things for your fish to “nibble” on, you may never have to feed your fish. A very important note about feeding fish is not to overfeed them. When you feed them, your fish should come to the surface of the water and gobble up the food within a minute or so. If it’s left there for several minutes or longer, your fish are not hungry.
It is better to have slightly hungry fish than to have fish that are full all the time. It’s kind of like being a “couch potato” and munching all day long versus a person who is active, gets some exercise, and eats moderately. Who do you think is the healthiest? Besides the health of the fish, by overfeeding them, you naturally increase the amount of wastes they excrete, which puts more demand on your biological filter. Your water can stay cloudy, too, and you’ll wonder why.
If you’re feeding your fish too much, your filter may not be able to compensate, and your ammonia levels will go up and your fish may die. You may also have continuously green water, as the nutrients from the fish wastes are providing nutrition to the algae. So either way, don’t overfeed your fish and test your pond water about once a week to check its ammonia levels. return to top of faqs
No, you don’t, but there are several reasons why people do use a net.
Nets keep out blue herons, kingfishers, egrets, and other birds who love to eat fish, as well as raccoons, cats, etc. who want to go for a swim and have lunch at the same time. If you don’t have fish, then I wouldn’t worry about getting a net, but know that you’re going to be skimming out debris that may fly into your pond.
It’s really nice to have a net covering your pond in the fall, especially if you have leaves falling off the trees and blowing into your pond. Either way, it’s up to you if you want a net, but it’s not something you absolutely have to have. return to top of faqs
Either your plants don’t have enough sunlight (they usually need at least 4 to 6 hours of sunlight a day) or they are in need of fertilizer.
We carry plant fertilizers that can be used continuously (some plants require fertilizers every 3 to 4 weeks, especially during the hot summer). These fertilizers are specially designed to be used in ponds and water gardens, and won’t harm your fish or other wildlife (including your pets).
The fertilizers come in tablet form and are pushed down into the aquatic plant’s soil about 1” deep and covered over. Small pots take about 2 tablets, while large pots can use 3 to 5 tablets every few weeks. return to top of faqs
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 dire need of oxygen and you need to get some to them immediately or they will not survive. If they just casually swim about the surface of the water, they may be looking for food so offer them some food and see what they do. If they don’t eat it, they’re not hungry. If they are mosquito fish and other fish that get their food primarily from the surface of the water, then they are most likely looking for food. You just don’t want them gasping for air and if they are, you have to act quickly in order to save them. return to top of faqs
Koi are pretty notorious for digging up water lilies and other plants. It can be a never-ending battle depending on how aggressive your koi are, but to offer some suggestions you can put your water lilies in a Submerged Plant and Pump Protector Net or a Floating Plant Protector Net. In short, these nets go around the pot and encapsulate the base of the plant in the pot while creating a “screen wall” that keeps the fish from digging them up. return to top of faqs
A biological filter is a filter or a living environment where beneficial bacteria live. This can be a filter, lava rocks, or other fish safe media.
The purpose of a biological filter is to provide an oxygenated environment where beneficial bacteria can live and thrive. These bacteria are responsible for breaking down and converting toxic ammonia from fish wastes into nitrites and then into harmless nitrates. The beneficial bacteria are essential to any pond.
You can add live beneficial bacteria (Microbe Lift) in a liquid form to your pond to “jump start” the biological filtration system so your pond is equipped to handle fish. An important note to consider regarding biological filters is that chlorine kills the beneficial bacteria living there. So, if you have to add tap water to your pond, it is best to de-chlorinate the water first before adding it to the pond.
You do this by simply letting the water sit for about 3 days. Another method is to spray the water up in the air from the garden hose and let it spray down into the pond. This helps to evaporate the chlorine in the water before the water hits the pond. Another idea is to run the tap water through some Super Activated Filter Carbon, which will help to dechlorinate the water before it enters the pond. You can cut out a hole in a bucket and put the Super Activated Filter Carbon in a media filter bag and tie the end so the Super Activated Filter Carbon doesn’t float out into your pond. Next, put the garden hose into the bucket and the water will pass through the bucket and exit out the bottom and into your pond. Make sure that the flow of water going into the bucket doesn’t exceed the flow exiting. If so, adjust the flow of water from the garden hose or make the hole in the bucket larger.
One other idea that I personally find as a “must” to have around the house is having Ammo Lock 2. When added to your pond, this product will instantly neutralize the chlorine and chloramines in the tap water (as well as lock the ammonia if your ammonia levels are high) so it is not absorbed by the fish. Once the water is filtered through your biological filter, the beneficial bacteria living there will break down the ammonia into useful nitrates and break down the ammonia in the water. Ammo Lock 2 is good to have around as it can really bail you out of a situation in case you’ve been too busy or have forgot to check your ammonia levels and all of a sudden one day your ammonia is high and your fish are dying or acting funny.
Ammo Lock 2 will instantly neutralize the ammonia and you most likely will be able to save your fish. Another thing that improves the function of a biological filter is barley straw bales. They help reduce algae, especially the long, unsightly string algae in the heat of the summer. It lasts for months and is totally organic and chemical free. return to top of faqs
Spring cleaning…. oh how wonderful it is! We, who hibernate during the winter, are all anxious to start cleaning out our pond once the weather turns warm and we’re disgusted when the water is so darn green that you can’t see your fish or anything else. Sometimes there’s a “fishy” or nasty smell, too. Well, put on your gloves and let’s get to work!
The first thing you can do to clean your pond is get out the nasty debris that fell in it during the fall and winter. All the mucky leaves and things you don’t even recognize! (Naturally if you had a skimmer or a net, you wouldn’t have all this debris in there, but you can’t say I didn’t tell you so! )
It’s best to empty the pond and clean it good with plain ol’ tap water. (You can put your fish in a container with a small aerator while cleaning.) Be sure to get out the leaves and muck that seemed to have its way to your pond. If you can’t clean it out all the way (the more you clean it out the better off the pond will be) do at least a 50% water change. This gets rid of some of the nutrients and any other junk that’s in your pond. Stir things up a bit while you’re emptying it to get out as much debris as you can. Be sure that your pump will handle the muck and debris and check often for the pump getting clogged up. If you decide to do the partial water change you won’t necessarily need to take your fish out to do this, but if you can, that would be great so you can see how your fish have survived and if they have any wounds or anchor worm or anything else that need to be treated. If you really need to, you can do another partial water change in another week.
Be sure to run the tap water through some Super Activated Filter Carbon, which neutralizes the toxic chlorine and chloramines in the tap water. You can also use Ammo Lock 2 instead. If you have a bad case of string algae, you can clean the entire pond as I described above and then “start over” by refilling your pond.
One thing I want to mention is that EVERY pond in the spring has a big algae bloom. This is only natural and I know that it is so discouraging and disgusting to most of you. After a long winter we’re so eager to see our fish and we can’t because the water is like pea soup! Part of this is due to the change in temperature outside. The water is cooler than the air and the combination of the two creates a big algae bloom. This also happens because the beneficial bacteria haven’t started to grow yet and the pond is FULL of nutrients from dead, decaying leaves and debris from the winter.
What you need to do is add some of the Microbe Lift/Autumn Prep (it works with water temperatures below 55 degrees Fahrenheit, too!) and be PATIENT. (If you want to and if your pond is incredibly filthy, you can empty the entire pond out and clean it really well and start over. After 3 to 4 days you can add the Microbe Lift.) It doesn’t happen overnight. Remember, it’s a system—an ecological system—not a quick fix. Whatever you do, don’t get discouraged and periodically empty part of your pond. What you’re doing each time you add tap water to your pond is KILLING THE BENEFICIAL BACTERIA. That is why you just have to leave it alone. Get your pump and filter going. Time and Microbe Lift will take care of it. You will definitely see improvements within 2-3 weeks and continue to see improvements thereafter. Use the Microbe Lift too, as maintenance to reduce the algae and keep your pond clearer.
One other thing that I would like to mention (since we are frequently asked this) is “what can I do about the algae in shallow areas of my pond?” Well, that one is a toughie and nothing is really going to help it much besides trying to increase the circulation to those areas. You see, the water in the shallow areas (around 6” or so) gets really warm and since there is less circulation because it is so shallow, well, that only causes more algae to grow. This is a different kind of algae and is going to pretty much cling to the rocks or anything else you have there. I guess the best thing to “fix” this is to create your pond so it doesn’t have a real shallow edge in order to avoid this. If it’s not avoidable, then increasing the circulation is the next best thing.
Speaking of circulation, I will remind you that in order to have proper circulation in your pond, you want your pump to pump at least 1/2 the total volume of your pond every hour and have a filter that will filter the total volume of your pond at least every 3-4 hours. If you have your pond in full sun, then opt for a larger filter. The filtration system for your pond is probably the most important part of your pond. Always go with a larger filter than what is “recommended.”
A huge portion of people new to ponds and water gardens overpopulate their pond with too many fish, which puts more demand on the filtration system. These same people then have all kinds of problems with green water, etc. Be smart and put your money and thought into the filtration system and you’ll be glad you did. return to top of faqs
There are primarily two types of algae that plague ornamental ponds: string algae and the notorious plankton algae (which makes your pond water green like a “lovely” bowl of split pea soup – yuck). Both types of algae grow by somewhat different methods, so I will explain each one of them to you in turn.
String algae usually grows along the bottom or edges of your pond where there isn’t a lot of water circulation. It looks like a bunch of green hair and looks pretty awful, too. You can help prevent string algae from growing in your pond by increasing your water circulation and by adding organic barley straw bales. The barley straw acts as an organic algaecide and increases your bio-filtration. It is also fish-friendly (you’ll occasionally see them eating it). If you already have string algae, barley straw is not going to get rid of it, so you will have to follow these instructions to kill the string algae:
- First, remove the water from your pond or waterfall (an ideal time to do that is during Spring Cleaning)
- Next, liberally sprinkle some Kosher Salt in your pond (it must be Kosher Salt or non-iodized salt, NOT table salt).
- Let the salt sit for at least 3 days, then brush off and rinse and clean the pond thoroughly.
Note that there CANNOT be any fish in the pond during this time. Use barley straw bales as a preventative from recurring string algae growth. It takes 3-8 weeks for barley straw to become an active organic algaecide, so start EARLY.
Plankton, our lovely “pea soup” algae, is probably the most common type of algae in ponds and lakes. It’s the stuff that makes the water look green. The best way to explain how to get rid of planktonic algae is to first understand what causes it to grow.
Plankton requires sunlight and nutrition to grow. The sunlight obviously comes from the sun and the nutrition comes from by-products from fish waste, dead and decaying leaves, decomposed fish food (make sure you don’t over feed your fish) and plants. Most ponds I’ve seen have at least some, if not all, of the above nutrients in them.
The way to get rid of or reduce the amount of algae in your pond is by reducing the amount of sunlight and nutrients available to the algae (and of course, having a proper size pump and filter). Sunlight can be reduced by providing shade to your pond or by adding aquatic plants such as water lilies or floating plants. The leaves of these plants help to cover the surface area of your pond (and also make the pond look pretty). You can also use a “sun blocker” chemical such as Aqua Shade for large ponds and lakes, or Black Pond Shade or Algae Blocker Pond Dye for small to medium size backyard ponds.
To reduce the algae-friendly nutrients in your pond, you first need to clean your pond. Get rid of any dead and decaying leaves on the bottom or along the sides, then get a skimmer so you can prevent leaves from accumulating again. If you don’t want to get a skimmer, get a net (you also can keep out predators such as raccoons, blue herons, cats, etc. with a net) or make it a practice to clean the debris off the pond every day or so. If you need help at getting the leaves out of the bottom of your pond, get a pond vacuum.
The next way to get rid of the nutrients in your pond is by adding beneficial bacteria to your pond. You see, there are 2 types of bacteria, the “bad” kind and the good kind. Bad bacteria can cause a lot of problems to your fish’s health and can eat away at their skin and gills, and cause them to be sick and die. Needless to say, you don’t want the “bad” type of bacteria.
The good or “beneficial” bacteria breaks down toxic ammonia from fish wastes into harmless nitrates (referred to as the Nitrogen Cycle) and consumes the same nutrients as the algae. When you add more beneficial bacteria, you starve out the algae, thus resulting in a clearer pond! Beneficial bacteria also breaks down sludge build up, “muck” on the bottom of ponds, and much more. It is absolutely vital to any healthy pond.
To get beneficial bacteria in your pond, provide them a place to grow, such as a biological filter, rocks, plants, and filter media. Establishing a nice colony of beneficial bacteria can take 3-8 weeks but you can actually get a “jump start” on things by adding some beneficial bacteria to you pond. The best product we’ve used is an all natural product called Microbe Lift. It works great (we use it on our own ponds) and it can be used throughout the season as a good maintenance plan and keeping your pond clear.
Beneficial bacteria’s effectiveness is enhanced by the use of an aerator, since beneficial bacteria needs a good source of oxygen. Proper aeration also adds to the overall health of the pond and can get rid of the “bad” types of bacteria growing in deep waters where there is little or no oxygen and where sludge build up is high. As your pond continues to age, fish population and aquatic plant population increases and sludge builds up, a good aeration system is absolutely vital to keeping aquatic life in your pond alive and well.
I do have to mention some other products that are out on the market that claim to “destroy” algae. These products will only work for a short time. They are supposed to work by killing the algae, which is then filtered through your filter. What essentially happens is that the dead algae builds up on the bottom of the pond, creating an organic “compost pile.” This provides tons of nutrients to the pond and causes more algae to bloom in a couple of weeks. People who continually use these products are actually making the algae situation worse. By continually adding these chemicals, you’re changing the pond’s chemistry and ecological system. You need to add beneficial bacteria to the pond to reduce the nutrients available to the algae. This will stop the cycle and result in a clearer, healthier pond. return to top of faqs