Spring pond care and pond fish are not your typical December banter but at our monthly rotating dinner party this past weekend the conversation turned from to how beautiful the light snowfall was to how we were already sick of winter and pining for spring. We discussed lawn care, native plant landscaping, outdoor garden decor,  battling the deer eating all of our flowers and eventually we started talking about backyard ponds.

My wife and I hosted the dinner party this past summer and pre-dinner cocktails gravitated to our backyard water garden pond. It was in the height of the season and our pond was in perfect shape that evening; Firecrest Lilies in bloom, Horsetail Rush full and lush, water clear as rain and fish active and happy to eat a few extra meals.

One couple, recalling that summer evening, said they had the perfect spot picked out in their yard and were looking for a few pointers for next spring on installing and general set up and care for a new pond.

We determined that in fact the location they had picked out was perfect, it received afternoon shade that would keep the water temperature cooler on those blistering hot July days. The shade would also help limit algae blooms. Their location was not directly under any trees that would spew debris into the pond.

They thought the size of the pond would be approximately 10’ long and 8’ wide and would use a pond liner as opposed to a pre-formed pond. I suggested they make it about 3’ deep to keep it below the frost line in our area. The dimensions would give them a nice size pond of about 1800 gallons.

After discussing filtration options they quickly agreed a small pond skimmer box attached to a water fall filter would work best. I explained that the skimmer box, which is placed at one end of the pond with its entry door slightly below the water level would filter out most of the floating debris before it had a chance to fall and decay on the floor of the pond. A submersible pond pump in the bottom of the skimmer would push the water up to the waterfall filter, creating the calming and functional effect as the water cascaded back to the pond. The waterfall would also add more oxygen when the temperatures spike in the summer and oxygen levels are reduced.

Seeing they were hooked I offered my technical expertise,  shovel,  pick and 15 year old sons strong back for the project. I suppose it was an attempt to bypass the next 3 ½ months of winter.

I quickly ran through the steps they needed after we had the pond set up:

  • They would need to add a pond water conditioner before they introduced fish. This would neutralize the chlorine and chloramine added by municipal water districts that are extremely toxic to fish.
  • Ammonia levels would be a concern the first month that the pond was set up so they should be conservative with the number of fish that they would initially add. They would also need to use a bacterial starter to accelerate the neutralizing process of ammonia.
  • The importance of not over feeding, as it can cause ammonia, algae and pond clarity problems.
  • Once the weather had turned warmer and the ammonia levels were in check they should add some plants. Not only will they add to the beauty of the pond but they will offer a cool hiding place for their fish in hot summer afternoons. They also aid in  algae control by competing for the same nutrients  algae need to survive.
  • How Ultra Violet Sterilizers and pond barley can be used to stay ahead of algae problems. Also what pond algae treatment options  if they do experience an algae bloom.
  • The importance of keeping the sludge off of the bottom of their pond by dropping in a periodic pond sludge remover or using a pond vacuum.

We then discussed the fun part of the types of pond fish and plants they were thinking of, daydreaming of summer evenings sitting by their pond with a nice tall glass of ice tea.

The conversation finally turned back to the 28 degree weather with snow flurries shimmering in the Christmas lights, I quickly added that they’ll want to add a small pond heater next winter.

About The Author Jim Curran

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