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Whichever size and type of pond you eventually settle on you will still need to maintain it.  If there's one common feature in all ponds its the fact that they require a lot of work, and I don't just mean building work in their construction.  Its amazing how many Customers actually complain because the filter system we sold them needs cleaning, or that we never seen to stock the special posh Koi which don't go to the toilet in the pond water..!  

Yes, I am being flippant, but sometimes it's not that far from the truth.  I have actually had a Customer complain because the Blanket Weed treatment which he bought, killed the Blanket Weed, but the dead weed clogged his filter, which he then had to clean on a daily basis until the last traces of it had been cleared from the water.   "Would you clean your filter every day?" he demanded.  When I explained that I did.! I checked mine every morning before I came to the shop (30 Seconds), and gave it a quick clean every evening (2 - 3 minutes), he flew into a rage and stormed out of the shop.

I also get the blame for too much Sun making the Blanket Weed grow in the first place, or making the water go green, or simply selling stupid fish that don't know to hide when Mr Heron comes calling and end up getting eaten.  So are there any ponds out there that are bright and clear, easy to maintain and a full of happy fish?, and if so, what's the secret?

Well the answer is "Yes", and it's no secret, just an understanding of how a pond works and the ability to maintain a natural balance.  So lets start with the basics, a pond is exactly the same an aquarium, just a little bigger. It has all the same requirements for light, heat, filtration, stocking levels, food consumption, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, phosphate, PH, oxygenation, water movement and circulation. It even requires routine cleaning and water changes, and this is true if its 50 litres, or 50,000 litres.

One of the problems, and this is only my personal opinion, is that many pond owners are gardeners first, and fish keepers second.  They do not understand the natural processes and reactions which make a pond function.  I am not suggesting that they are stupid, simply that it has never been explained to them.  To illustrate the point I will recount the most common manifestation of the uninformed pond owner.

Winter time in the garden and all is quiet, but come spring and a few days holiday around Easter and everyone is out in the garden getting everything shipshape.  First thing to catch the eye is the pond, looking tired, neglected and murky.   All the marginal plants will have died back over the winter and the bottom  is probably covered in a thick dark sludge of rotten leaves from last Autumn.  Some owners may even have switched off the pump and filter system over the winter.   Disturbing the bottom sludge or even lifting the lid on the filter box produces the most revolting stench and totally clouds the water. For most owners its time to get the power washer out and set to work.  The pond is totally drained and the fish netted in a barrel or tub before the whole surface is hosed down.  The sponges from the filter suffer the same fate in an effort to remove every trace of surface slime or algae.  Job completed the pond is refilled with a garden hose, pump switched on and the fish reinstalled in their newly refurbished accommodation.   Some more enlightened souls may even remember to renew the lamp in the UV unit.

Its usually about 2 weeks after Easter that we get the first customers in the shop complaining that the fish are ill, or already dead.  Those that phone to ask advice are told to bring us a sample of pond water and we will test it free of charge.  9 times out of 10 the Ammonia or Nitrite levels are off the scale. 

Another 3 - 4 weeks go by and the first cases of Blanket Week and Green Water start to appear, followed about a week later by the first reports of Ulcers, torn and infected fins and a general deterioration in the fishes health.   We normally keep a good stock of Blanket Weed and Green Water treatments as well as the full range of UV lamps and medications, but some years we just have to order extra supplies.   Next come the complaints that the treatments were only partially successful and that the weed or green water is returning.  This is also the time we get complaints about filters clogging and requiring cleaning every day.

This is a quick synopsis of a good pond design and maintenance schedule

  • Simple shape and moderate depth.
  • Good water circulation through a 'bigger than actually required' filter system and UV
  • Easy to use waste disposal system.
  • Aeration in the Pond.  (At least during Summer Months)
  • Filter system operating 24Hours / 365 days per year
  • Conservative stocking levels
  • Don't overfeed
  • Small but frequent water changes.  (At least 5% Weekly during Summer Months)
  • Regular filter maintenance.  (At least Weekly during Summer Months)
  • Change UV every year
  • Regular checks and prompt action when required. (At least Daily during Summer Months)
  • So will all this give you the pond that you desire?  The truth is I don't know, I can only say that it works for me.  If you're interested have a look at the 'My Pond' article which details in words and pictures the construction of my own pond.

    Koi and Goldfish in a Garden Pond