Pond Owners Handbook
This owner’s manual is designed to answer your questions and concerns regarding the new addition to your property. It will help you maintain and balance your pond so you can achieve a healthy ecosystem. Read through this manual and keep it on hand as a reference guide for your pond.
The skimmer is designed to collect leaves and debris that fall into the pond. It also serves as a pre-filter for the pump in order to minimize clogging. The Skimmer is buried along side your pond and continually skims the surface of the water for debris. The water and debris are drawn though the opening of the skimmer by the pump that is housed at the bottom of the skimmer. The removable debris net collects leaves, sticks and any other objects that have fallen onto your pond. Below the debris net is a filter pad that prevents smaller debris, such as dirt and seeds from reaching the pump.
The bottom-grid filtration system is the heart of the pond. It is the biological filter system that is capable of breaking down fish waste, balancing nutrient levels, and aerating the pond.
What is an Ecosystem?
In biological terms, a community can be defined as plants and animals interacting with on another in the sharing of available resources and restraints in a defined area. An ecosystem encompasses all parts of this environment, including the living plants and animals, and the non-living components, such as water, air, and the sun’s energy. Ponds are ecosystems, in that they play host to a total interrelationship of all organisms in the environment- birds, fish, frogs, plants, and many microscopic organisms. Thus, ponds not only create a natural ecosystem in their defined environment, but they also fit into the community or life cycle of not just one homeowner’s back yard, but of the entire ecological region.
Ponds are a piece of the ecological puzzle
An ecological region is made up of thousands of elements, water being the most basic of these. Each pond is a piece of this puzzle. As wild habitats are depleted due to commercial development and other factors, these pieces are eliminated. This is why it is so important to restore and preserve as many of these as possible. A backyard pond restores one of these pieces back to an ecosystem. So don’t just see a pond as an independent, unrelated element. See it instead, as part of the “big picture,” the regional environment.
A Mini Lesson on pH:
pH stands for potential of hydrogen. The pH scale represents the relation of hydrogen ions to the hudroxyl ions. Higher hydrogen content equals more acidic water, and as hydroxyl ions outnumber hydrogen ions, the water becomes more basic.
pH is measured on a numbered scale of 1 to 14. A pH of 7 is neutral. This means that the hydrogen nad hydroxly ions are in complete balance. Numbers above this are called basic, or mistakenly alkaline, and hard. Numbers below seven are termed acidic.
Typical ponds have a pH range of 6 to 11, which is slightly acidic to strongly basic. For instance, a pond with a pH of 8.2 would be a very acceptable pH level. A pH of 4 is strong enough to dissolve nails, so, needless to say, this is not good for aquatic life.
There are many that influence the pH values in water. Probably the most influential are existing dissolved minerals and metals found in the water. These elements are buffers, typically expressed as alkalinity and hardness.
The higher the alkalinity levels, the more the water becomes “stuck” at a higher pH. Alkalinity is made up of the total of all buffering elements in the water typically expressed in ppm (parts per million).
Hardness is similar but more specific. It refers to the amount of dissolved calcium and magnesium of CACO3 in the water. Water is termed “hard” when levels are around 300ppm or more. The higher the hardness and alkalinity values are, the lower the chances that you will have fluctuations in your pH.
Nutrients, Macro, & Micro:
Other contributors to water quality are macro and micronutrients...the stuff you can’t see that makes the life function. There are 17 elements that are required for life, including three macronutrients and 14 micronutrients. Macronutrients are what are found in commercial fertilizer mixes. When you see a fertilizer that says 20-10-20, these numbers refer to the percent volume of nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P), and potassium (K). These are the nutrients required in the largest quantities for proper plant growth.
In a pond, ammonia and nitrate are forms in which nitrogen is available in water. High levels of ammonia and nitrate are very toxic to most fish. Because of this, and the fact that algae is fueled by nitrogen, it’s best if these levels are undetectable.
Phosphate is the nutrients available form of phosphorus. Again, in a pond situation it is best to have low or non-existent levels of phosphate. Although, phosphate is not a problem for fish, it does cause prolific and unchecked algae growth.
The final macronutrient is potassium. It’s rare to find high levels of potassium in a pond ecosystem. And even if you did, it would’t be a problem, as it is key for plant and fish metabolism.
The other category of nutrients is micronutrients. There are 14 micronutrients required for life, and each is required for life, and each is required in different ratios, for different members of our pond based ecosystem. They each have very specialized important functions on the cellular level for all forms of life. These include: boron (B), carbon (C), calcium (Ca), chlorine (Cl), copper (Cu), iron (Fe), hydrogen (H), magnesium (Mg), manganese (Mn), molybdenum (Mo), nickel (Ni), oxygen (O), sodium (Na), sulfur (S), and zinc (Zn).
Tea Colored Water
One byproduct of having small amount of organic matter decomposing at the bottom of the pond, is water discoloration. This is often referred to as tea colored water. The proper name is organic carbons, or more commonly known as DOC’s. These DOC’s make up tannins, which are natural pigments or stains. A cup of tea has its color because of DOC’s. Water that is strongly stained with DOC’s tends to be slightly acidic. This stain in the water is not a bad thing in and of itself. What could be a problem, however, is a possible overload of the organic matter that causes the staining. Activated carbon has the unique ability to pull these stains form the water.
Another problem caused by excess organic matter is the depletion of oxygen. The process of leaves decomposing on the bottom of the pond can quickly consume valuable oxygen. This can be a potentially dangerous situation for the fish, especially if the pump, which provides additional oxygen, shuts off. This can be avoided by using a skimmer in the pond.
Fish are a popular addition to the pond, they help add life, color and personality to your water feature. Not only are they beautiful but can help balance your ecosystem as well. Fish, such as, Koi will eat certain algae and help keep it under control. Fish will also eat mosquito larvae and insects that are out of the reach of the skimmer. With a little luck your fish will spawn and allow you to witness first hand the life cycle of your ecosystem.
There are many types of fish that are suitable for your pond. Ornamental fish such as Koi, Shubunkin, and Comets (goldfish) are beautiful hardy fish that do well with the change of seasons. Some pond owners stock their ponds with native fish or game fish, such as bluegill, bass, northern pike, trout, etc. Ask a local pet store or fish supplier for more information regarding stocking your pond.
The first stem in preparing your new pond for fish is to remove the chlorine from the water. Chlorine in the water can burn fish gills and possibly kill your fish. Operating the filter system for at least 3 days to a week will allow the chlorine to dissipate through the waterfalls. If you are anxious, and wish to add your fish sooner, you can purchase de-chlorinator from your local installer, pet store, or fish supplier and add the indicated amount. De-chlorinator does not need to be used when adding or replacing less than 20% of the ponds total volume. Properties supplied with well water do not need dechlorination treatment.
When placing new fish into the pond, please follow a few guidelines: Float the new fish in a plastic bag or bucket for 20 minutes to half an hour. This will allow the fish to adjust to the temperature difference.
Occasionally fish will find their way into the skimmer. This usually occurs for the first week or two. Simply remove the fish and place them back into the pond. The fish will quickly become adjusted to the current created by the skimmer and will no longer swim into the filter. If you have newborn fish, a temporary screen can be placed in front of the skimmer opening in order to prevent them from entering.
Fish do not have to be fed provided you do not overstock your pond. They will live off of algae, insects and other miscellaneous food that the environment provides. Many pond owners never feed their fish and enjoy very healthy active fish. Don’t worry if the fish are hungry. Mother nature will take care of them.
Feeding your fish however, can be a relaxing break in your daily routine. There are many different fish and Koi foods on the market. Ask your local pet shop of fish supplier what they recommend. Fish can be fed one to three times daily. Be careful not to over feed your fish. Only feed the fish amounts that they consume within a few minutes. STOP feeding if you notice the fish are done eating or food is entering the skimmer. Excess food that is not eaten by the fish will decompose in the pond may cause poor water quality. New fish sometimes take a few weeks to begin eating.
If you live in colder climates, monitor your water temperature during the fall and spring. When the water temperature drops below 50 degrees Fahrenheit STOP FEEDING YOUR FISH!! During this time of the year your fish will become dormant. Their respiration, metabolism, and overall activity slows down as they prepare for their winter hibernation. Feeding your fish this time of year can cause your fish to become sick or even die.