Last Updated on December 31, 2019 by Cooper Fulton

Best pond keeping advice & tips

Here, you’ll learn the best pond keeping advice throughout all my years of building ponds.Best pond keeping advice & tips

Let’s begin! It is not enough to populate an artificial pond with plants, snails, frogs, and fish.

It is important to know how to care for the pond so that it is appealing and safe for the aquatic animals.

 

Seasonal Maintenance

With expert pond care and pond cleaning alone, in most cases it will not be possible to prevent the garden pond from becoming algae-free in the long term – the prerequisites for this are already being created when the garden pond is created.

We have summarized our tips for you on how to care for your pond right from the start, how to clean it, and how to keep the workload under control by looking ahead.

You will be amazed at how much less you need to cleanse and care for your pond if you consider a few points when creating it.

  • Spring – The main attention should be paid to thinning and activating plant growth. 
  • FallIn fall, it is important to properly prepare the reservoir for winter in order to protect it from freezing
  • SummerIn the summer,  make sure that the planned pond is at least partially shaded so that it does not overheat.
  • WinterTry to keep all leaves out of the pond, don’t feed fish as much, and maybe even consider shutting off your pond pump completely.

 

To care for the pond, it is also important to keep an eye on underwater plants such as elodea and the watermilfoil throughout the season and, if they have spread too much, thinned out. 

A reduction of the near-surface plant mass before the first frosts makes sense because this often dies in winter anyway and then leads to unnecessary accumulation of dead organic matter at the bottom of the pond.

I have gone into further detail about seasonal maintenance on this post.

Seasonal Maintenance

Building the pond

Here is the best pond keeping advice when building your first pond. Firstly you will want to make sure you don’t make the pond too deep nor too shallow, as this can lead to problems in the future. 

If your pond is too deep, it would end up being unusable for your fish as it would have low amounts of oxygen. 

But if the pond is too shallow, it has a very high chance of evaporating in warmer weather and freezing in the winter.

I’ve written an article dedicated to filling pond for the first time if you’re curious.

As a general rule of thumb: The garden pond should be at least 10 to 15 square meters (100-160 square feet) and at least 60, better 80 centimeters (2-2.5 feet) deep. 

A water volume of 5,000 liters (1,300 gallons) is considered a good size.

Pond cleaning will be made much easier if you put the garden pond in such a way that the rain does not wash in garden soil. 

You can prevent this, for example, by sticking the edges of the pond liner a few inches out of the ground.

 If you hide them with stones, they still remain invisible. 

Moreover, do not lay your pond at the lowest point in the garden, even if that looks best in terms of design. 

The shallow water zone with marsh plants should not be planned too small, because it acts as a natural wastewater treatment plant for the pond.

All subsequent pond care and pond cleaning measures should be designed to continuously extract nutrients from the garden pond while at the same time preventing too many nutrients from entering the garden pond.

Pond care and pond cleaning are important key aspects of a pond to stay healthy. Here are some easy ideas;

  • Pond nets
  • Cut back plants regularly 
  • Remove sludge 
  • Remove thread algae
  • Clean filter systems regularly

 

Pond Nets

Pond Nets

The annual fall of leaves in autumn causes algae blooms no matter how clean it is. 

The autumn leaves are blown onto the water surface, slowly sinking to the ground and turning into sludge, which continuously releases nutrients and harmful gases to the pond water.

A pond net significantly reduces the effort that one has with the care and cleaning of the pond by preventing the foliage and leaf entry. 

Cover the entire water surface of your garden pond at the beginning of September at the latest. 

Best pond keeping advice & tips

 

Cut plants regularly

One of the most important measures in pond maintenance and pond cleaning is the regular pruning of the plants in and around the pond. 

I recommend purchasing some pond clippers, they make work around the pond much easier.

The green pond inhabitants continuously extract nitrogen, phosphate and other nutrients from the water, which potentially also promotes algae growth. 

For example, cut all yellow leaves from the water lilies in autumn and remove them from the water before they sink to the bottom. 

The reeds and other plantings of the marsh and shallow water zone should be cut off in the autumn or spring just above the water surface. 

Do not put the clippings on the compost immediately, but store them in a sheltered spot in the garden until spring. 

Specifically, the hollow stems of reeds and Rohrglanzgras are used by various insects as winter quarters.

Best pond keeping advice & tips

Remove sludge

Despite careful pond care, sludge formation on the river bottom can hardly be prevented.

I like to use Pond-Zyme, as it is very effective in removing all sludge in my pond.

Among other things, the sludge is produced from fine inputs such as dust, pollen, and plant seeds and is not problematic in smaller quantities. 

However, if the layer becomes so powerful that the digester gases blow to the surface from time to time, an extensive pond cleaning is urgently required: 

With Pond-Zyme, you can remove the nutrient-rich layer from the bottom of the water without draining the water. 

The electrical devices work basically like vacuum cleaners: 

The sludge is sucked through a pipe together with the pond water from the ground and settles in a bag in the sump. 

The water is filtered through the bag and returns to the pond through a hose at the bottom of the sump.

 

Fish out thread algae

When the garden pond warms up in the summer, a few filamentous algae often form even with a healthy pond. 

These should be skimmed and left out to dry up so they cannot cause more problems

There are specialized nets and algae brushes which makes pond cleaning so much easier and faster. 

 

Clean filter systems regularly

For pond maintenance, it is also important to keep the filter system clean. 

It is especially important if you want to keep pond fish. The waste of the fish sink to the bottom of the water and release the nutrients contained in the decomposition to the pond water, this will also help your plants grow.

The amount of fish depends on how much you feed because especially goldfish multiply very strongly with regular feeding. 

Therefore, it is usually better to put only a few fish in the pond and to refrain from overfeeding.

If the amount of fish and waste becomes too great the filter will not be able to properly clear the water and result in a harmful environment.

A garden pond with well-grown plants usually gives enough food to a few goldfish.

Some filter models have a special display that shows when they need to be cleaned, which is very helpful if you don’t know when you should clean your filter.

The filter chamber usually contains several inserts with filter sponges that gradually free the pond water from coarse dirt particles which also binds the nutrients and toxins contained. 

A very important part of the filter system is the bacteria that live in the filter sponges. Therefore, it is important that you do not rinse the sponges with clear water, but wring only by hand. 

The suspended solids that collect at the bottom of the filter chamber can be drained via a valve, depending on the model.

 

How to grow pond plants correctly

How to grow pond plants correctly

If you use fertilizers for your pond and aquatic plants, you should only use phosphate-free or low-phosphate care products. 

Do not use plastic baskets, but sturdy and tear-resistant plant bags. 

The plastic baskets become porous and brittle over time and then you will have small plastic pieces lying around in the pond. 

The plant bags should have very fine tissue. Use plant bags it is also hardly possible for fish to nibble on the roots of the plants. 

Even after a long time, these bags remain tear-resistant. In addition, no soil is flushed out.

Do not use nutrient-rich soil, this would only unnecessarily affect the quality of the water. At least not with the water plants and in the bank area. 

If you plant bamboo near the pond, you should definitely install a rhizome barrier. 

This is very good with a rain barrel where the soil is cut off. Otherwise, the roots, which are very sharp and hard, would grow laterally to the pond liner.

Immediately after the winter before spring sets in, you should cut back the bank plants in the pond. 

You can cut the plants down to their stems. During this time, the stems of the plants are dried out by the cold in winter and you can remove them quickly and easily. 

Thus, the new shoots of plants can grow back unhindered in the spring.

Old and dead plant remains, you should always immediately remove from the pond water, as the decay process contaminates the water.

 

Iron 

First, you should get a test of the iron content (Fe) in the water. What I recommend every pond owner purchase is a water testing kit, whether you’re a total beginner or have been building/maintaining pond for years.

Do a water test for iron. If the content of iron is in order, the pond plants can grow optimally and the flowers shine in glorious colors. 

Too much iron in the pond is also not good, because this substance can color the water brownish.

In order for the plants in the pond to grow optimally and to obtain lush green leaves and flowers, the right amount of iron in the pond water is very important. 

If too much iron is in the pond, the water turns brownish and does not smell so good. Always keep the iron content at optimal levels.

If this is the case, we have to make do with a fertilizer for pond plants. Sometimes a long rain helps to dilute the pond water. 

 

Water lilies in a pond

Water lilies in a pond

When planting water lilies in the pond, you should make sure that the leaves are not being splashed with water from waterfalls or fountains. 

The water droplets will cause the lily pads to start to decay and eventually kill the entire plant.

Water lilies are available in many different flower colors. 

When planting water lilies in the pond, you should always pay attention to the depth. Depending on the variety, there are recommended planting depths. 

If the pond is too deep at the place where you want to install the water lilies, you can use a sturdy plastic tub, etc. as a substructure. 

Thus you can adjust the optimal planting depth for water lilies. But always make sure with water lilies that no permanent water splashes on the leaves. This can e.g. be caused by fountains, water features or waterfalls. 

The splashing water is not good for the leaves of water lilies. Water lilies love the calm waters. But do not build too many water lilies, because if they grow well, they multiply abundantly by themselves. 

In addition, the water lilies provide the fish in the pond with a shady spot for shelter. Again, make planting bags instead of baskets. Thus, the fish can not easily nibble on the roots.

In autumn, the water lilies spread over the pond water. 

Thus, the reproduction in the pond is guaranteed. 

If you don’t want the growth of the water lilies, you can remove the seed pods with scissors before they pop open and spread in the pond. 

I’ve written an entire article covering how to grow water lilies from seed if you’re interested.

In the summer the water lily has impressive blooms. After the winter, just before spring, cut off the dry stalks and leaves of the iris so that the new shoots can grow optimally again.

Some aquatic plants are not hardy. These can be lifted out of the pond in the fall and left to hibernate in a stable bucket with water in the cellar. 

In spring, the plant can then be placed back in the pond. You can divide the rootstock with a shovel if it has grown too big.

 

The spring cleaning in the garden pond

After the end of winter, you have to prepare your pond for the spring months of March, April, and May.

You should remove dead plants in the pond and around the edges of the pond. March is also the best time to add new plants to your pond. 

Keep in mind, however, that overplanting is not always the best idea, when trying to maintain correct ecological balance.

As a rule of thumb, ideally, just over half of the water surface should remain free, I recommend at least a third. 

In addition, at the beginning of spring, you will need to cut back dead and withered plants a few inches.

You should free your garden pond from algae growth and mud in the spring. 

Start with the cleaning of the garden pond when the water reaches 12 degrees Celsius (53 degrees Fahrenheit) because then most fish awakes from hibernation and are active again. 

The next thing you’ll have to deal with is removing old autumn leaves, dead plant parts and the digested sludge off the pond floor.

 

The right equipment for pond cleaning

The right equipment for pond cleaning

The actual pond season begins in April. You can then check your pond pumps and filters for function and cleanliness, put them in the designated places and switch them on.

Pond filters with UV pond clarifier, it might be necessary to replace the old UV lamp with a new one. 

Doing so will enrich your garden pond with oxygen in the spring and the pond pump or stream should be constantly running during the day.

Temperatures are rising slowly in May, so you should regularly check the quality of the water in the garden pond and the pH and nitrite and nitrate levels with a water test kit.

 

How to care for your pond in the Summer

Some more pond keeping advice especially during the hot summer months of June, July and August, it is important to prevent excessive algae growth over your garden pond. 

You, therefore, need to skim algae to prevent it from taking over, you can also use algae controlling agents.

Protect your garden pond, especially in hot July, from excessive sunlight by placing water lilies in the water or by placing protective mats over the water. 

Also let the pond pump, streams, and water features run until late in the evening or even into the night so that the pond water is cooled down.

The optimum pH in the garden pond is 6.8 to 8.2, the correct carbon hardness is 8 to 15 dH. This means you must regularly check the functionality of your pond pump in the summer and remove dirt and dead plant parts from the pond bottom. 

Floating algae in your garden pond are best tackled with a UV lamp. Their rays cause the algae to clump together, making them easier to remove from the water. 

When keeping the pond water clean, certain plants such as hornwort or flower bulbs help to oxygenate the water and consume excess nutrients. 

If the oxygen content is too low, a UV clarifier will help against algae. If the water level in your garden pond is too low due to evaporation or the water temperature rises above 22 degrees Celsius( 71 degrees Fahrenheit), you should refill the pond with cold water.

The most problematic filamentous algae for your garden pond can be easily removed with a trick and thus restore the water quality: Wrap the algae with a rough wooden stick.

 

How to care for your pond in the Fall

In the autumn months of September, October, and November, the garden pond slowly returns to its calm. 

Nevertheless, there is still some important maintenance work to do, especially the water that must be properly prepared for the upcoming winter. 

Thoroughly clean your pond again with a net of fallen leaves, dead plant sprouts, and digested sludge. 

In addition, you should cut back the pond and bank plants before the winter. 

By October at the latest, you should remove technical equipment such as pond pumps that are no deeper than 60 centimeters (23 inches) from the water, check for functionality and then store in a frost-proof environment.

It is important that you never store the pump in a dry place, but place it in a bucket of water so that the seals do not dry out and become porous. 

In November you should then remove all plants and fish that can not hibernate in the pond, from the water. 

As soon as the water temperature drops below 12 degrees Celsius (53 degrees Fahrenheit), the fish that remain in the pond fall into a kind of hibernation and may no longer be fed, or in very minimal amounts. 

 

How to care for your pond in Winter

In the winter months of December, January and February, some pond keeping advice I have for you is that it is especially important for you to keep the garden pond at least partially ice-free, because, with a completely closed ice cover, fish can literally suffocate due to gases not being able to escape. 

You can prevent an ice cover on your garden pond in this season with all sorts of technical aids such as pond bubbler or pond de-icer.

A low-priced alternative is a larger piece of wood in the pond, which you simply pour hot water over when it freezes. This creates a hole in the ice cover. 

If your garden pond freezes completely, you must not simply chop up the water – the pressure waves can damage the sensitive swimming bubbles of the fish. For example, pour hot water into a pot and place it on the ice. 

This will slowly melt the ice surface. 

Use a broom to gently remove snow from the frozen ice so that light can fall into your garden pond. 

Once the ice cover on the garden pond has completely defrosted in February, you should check your waters for any fish and plants that may be affected and remove them if necessary. 

Then you can start calmly into the new pond season.

 

How to care for your pond in Spring

How to care for your pond in Spring

Especially after a long winter, it is important to restore the water quality of your garden pond in the spring. I recommend doing weekly water tests to make sure everything is running smoothly in your pond.

The optimum pH value is 6.8 to 8.2, the correct carbon hardness is 8 to 15 dH. 

In addition, the two nutrient sources nitrate and phosphate must not exceed certain values ​​- with nitrate, the optimum value is 25 milligrams per liter; from a phosphate value of 0.05 milligrams per liter. If these levels exceed the recommended amount intensive algae formation can begin. 

In order to keep the nitrate levels low, enough aquatic plants must be present. If this is not possible, you should replace part of the water at regular intervals. In the best case, your pond has a filter system.

In order to keep the water values ​​of your pond permanently stable, you must put the right plants in the water and also provide the right soil. 

This gives the plants the necessary stability and also regulates the acidity. Your garden pond should be thoroughly spread out with Pond-Zyme in the spring for good water quality. 

But make sure that at least a thin layer of mud remains as a nutrient in the pond. Dirt on the water surface is most effectively and easily eliminated by a skimmer. 

While spring and autumn are mostly about cleaning, in the hot summer, you have to pay attention to the biological balance of your pond.

Your pond needs the right care for every season.