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Let’s be honest, backyard ponds look beautiful with all vegetation and aquatic life swirling in circles gracefully. But it’s the pond maintenance that demands arduous hours of labor.
Most pond hobbyists are aware of the fact that an unhealthy pond means an unhealthy ecosystem that is dangerous and detrimental to you and the environment. Therefore, it’s imperative that you do your research and homework before creating your own, beautiful garden ponds.
In this article, I’m putting my years of experience to use and demonstrating seasonal pond maintenance and the recommended steps to follow during each season.
Happy pond keeping!
Seasonal Pond Maintenance
Nature behaves differently in all seasons, and so does your pond. Therefore, you cannot follow the same tips throughout the year. Pond keeping demands in-depth knowledge and research about seasonal pond maintenance and its effects on your aquatic life.
Usually, the type of pond determines its maintenance. However, this article will highlight popular seasonal pond maintenance tips that are particularly apt for spring start-ups to summer pond maintenance.
Videos are always helpful, so for those that prefer to learn through video, here is a great video by anypond below. He’s a UK pond maintenance contractor.
So if you’re new to water gardening, stay tuned to learn the essentials of pond care and maintenance.
During the spring season, your pond demands to be cleaned and un-winterized.
Or if I may say so, spring pond maintenance is just the opposite of winter preparations. While in winter, you winterize your equipment for the cold, dry days, spring brings joy and life to your ponds and brings your aquatic life back from its long hibernation period.
Here are the ideal easy steps for spring pond maintenance.
1. Check Your Equipment
Check your equipment and make sure they are running properly. Winter is the best time to replace UV bulbs and clean your equipment. Spring is the time to double check to ensure everything is in working order.
2. Feeding Your Fish
Start feeding your pond fish as soon as the temperature hits a steady 50 degrees. I recommend feeding a cold temperature feed until the temperature rises to 60 degrees. After reaching a normal temperature of 60 degrees and above, you can start with the regular feeding program for your pond fish.
3. Remove Accumulated Debris
During the winterization process, your pond accumulates debris and organic waste, including leaves, twigs, fish waste, and grass clippings. Even though the filtration system takes care of the debris, some waste turns into muck and sludge, which are a breeding ground for algae and cause water clarity issues. Therefore, I recommend spooning away the leaves, twigs, and other debris with a net.
Deep cleaning involves draining the pond and washing the surface and rocks. This is more of a common routine in ponds that have gravel. Personally, I prefer bare bottom systems for Koi tanks. On a high end install, a bottom drain and bare bottom mitigates the need to drain clean the pond.
During the cleaning process, you can transfer your fish and aquatic plants in a large tub with proper aeration to avoid inconvenience. As soon as your pond is free of debris and scum, refill it with water and return the fish, plants back.
Fertilizing the aquatic plants
When you put the plants back in the water, don’t forget to fertilize them according to their recommended dosage and needs, i.e., full fertilizing for new plants and maintenance fertilizing for the existing ones.
Adding (nitrifying) beneficial bacteria and cleaning the filters
It is imperative to clean the filters to remove accumulated sediments. Also, to keep your ponds properly maintained, add beneficial bacteria for bacterial colony stimulation.
The most favorable season for your water garden to thrive is summer.
Summer season begins when the water hits up to 80 degrees and higher. Your fish should be fed generously during this time. However, there are a few things that should be taken into consideration while maintaining ponds in summer.
Stock your pond water with Minnows or other small fish
The reason I emphasize adding Minnows in ponds is mosquitoes.
Mosquitoes can ruin the summer vacations that you’ve been longing for. Therefore, it is recommended to stock your pond with Minnows or other small fish to control the mosquito population. Also, consider larvicides and proper aeration to eliminate potential big problems.
Keep your water source free of grass clippings and other debris
Algae blooms happen the most in summers. Therefore, keep grass clippings, fish waste, and other accumulated debris out of the pond water.
Install aeration system
An effective and cost-efficient aeration system help maintain your pond and keep it clean throughout the year. It also increases oxygen supply by keeping the cooler water on the bottom of the pond, keeping the aquatic life healthy and happy all year long.
Fall is the season when you need to put extra effort into your pond because it prepares you mentally and physically for the worst season of a garden pond, i.e., winter.
Winter puts most of the life to sleep and therefore, it is recommended to remove the things that winters can damage, including the pond filters, pumps, aerators, and fallible plants. If there are fish in your garden ponds during winter, you can install the pond equipment momentarily to de-ice the water.
Here are some things you can do to maintain your water garden during fall.
Install leaf netting
Fall means lots of leaf shedding, and the accumulated leaves are just unwanted debris for your pond.
Therefore, it’s important to install lead netting to prevent the leaves from falling into the pond. Also, I recommend trimming and pruning the dead foliage of your aquatic plants just above the soil.
Clean excess debris
Accumulated leaves and fish waste affects your pond’s oxygen level and stresses the aquatic life. Therefore, always clean and remove excess debris using a hand net. If the accumulated debris is hard to reach, I recommend using a pond vacuum.
Switch to fall-friendly Fish food
It’s best if you switch your fish to the fall-friendly pond fish food that easily digests in cooler temperatures and sustains your fish in the dormancy period.
When the water temperature drops below 50 degrees, I recommend Wheatgerm food three times a week, that too, only if your fish consume it in a 5 minute period. However, when the temperatures fall below 40 degrees, stop feeding your fish until spring time.
Install de-icer and proper aeration kit
In freezing temperatures, de-icing prevents harmful gases to accumulate under the ice and maintains healthy oxygen levels. De-icers allow oxygen levels to remain healthy and saturated in the pond by keeping a hole open in the ice.
Quality construction and backed by a 3 year warranty. The go to for a pond de-icer
Therefore, de-icers and aeration kits are a must-have for your pond during fall and winter.
Winter is the season that adversely affects your pond fish and clearly, it’s the worst season for your water gardens.
In such hard times, only two tips keep the pond game going. The first and foremost tip is to stop feeding your aquatic life once the water temperature drops below 50 degrees. The second life-saving tip is to install a floating pond de-icer to allow toxic gases from organic decomposition to escape without causing any harm to your pond. De-icers are vital for maintaining your pond in winter because breaking the ice would potentially kill the pond fish.
Here are some other tips you can follow for winter pond maintenance.
Prepare Submersible Pond Pumps
First of all, check the submersible pond pumps if they are in good working condition.
The pond pump should not be lower than 1 foot — this ensures the circulation of surface water solely throughout the garden pond. The pond pump also helps in marinating warmer temperatures at the bottom of the pond where the pond fish hibernates1.
I recommend running the submersible pump continuously until the temperature drops to 10 C or 50 F
Reduced fish feeding
Like I said before, reduced feeding does wonder as it doesn’t allow debris and waste to accumulate at the bottom of the tank. Also, during winters, fancy goldfish should be kept indoors for their survival and distribution of food.
Reduce the feeding when the water drops down to 44 F to 50 F as fish can only digest low protein foods, such as wheat germ. As soon the water drops to 40 degrees Fahrenheit, the fish start to hibernate and so you will need to stop feeding your fish entirely.
Therefore, it is recommended to monitor the pond water temperature so you know when to stop feeding the fish.
Protect Aquatic Plants
Aquatic plants such as pond lilies cannot tolerate harsh weather during winter. Therefore, some preventive measures should be taken for their protection.
- It’s recommended to remove Canna lilies from your pond. You can replant them in the green house instead for protection.
- In the case of small ponds, be sure to cut the heads of any marsh reeds before they shed their seeds in the pond.
- Install biological filters in your pond to keep the fish healthy during winter.
Floating ball to prevent freezing
One low cost way to maintain a pond during winter is to use the floating ball. The floating ball prevents pond freezing and maintains the gaseous exchange by movement.
However, in some areas where the weather is extremely cold and dry, it may be best that you install an inline pond heater to maintain a desirable temperature for the pond. Nevertheless, an inline heater is a costly option. Some Koi Fish enthusiasts will move their prize winning fish indoors for the season to a holding tank. This is another good option in extreme winter climates.
How do you maintain?
Maintaining a pond might sound baffling at first, but as soon as you get the hold of it, things turn out pretty good.
Here are some essential steps to maintain a garden pond during all seasons.
1. Pond aerator
2. Manually clean the debris and pond waste
3. Monitor water temperature and pH balance
4. Avoid overcrowding the pond
5. Add beneficial bacteria
6. Use aquatic plants to naturally maintain the oxygen levels of your pond
Are ponds a lot of maintenance?
I would say, yes! Ponds need regular maintenance and upkeep weekly or monthly. The maintenance of your pond depends on the size, as smaller ponds are more prone to fluctuation in ecology and hence need regular cleaning to prevent debris and waste accumulation.
Large ponds need weekly or monthly maintenance, and at the beginning or end of the growing season.
How do you maintain water quality in a pond?
Maintaining water quality in a pond is not rocket science. You just need to follow the following tips to successfully maintain the water quality.
1. Examine oxygen levels to avoid algae blooms
2. Avoid overfeeding your fish to prevent waste accumulation
3. Add a proper and healthy balance of aquatic plants
4. Choose the right size of pond pump
5. Keep your pond cool during summer
6. Clean the debris before it starts to decay
How do I keep my natural pondsclean and clear?
The natural pond remains clean and clear if you target the root cause of the problem with a sustainable approach.
Natural pond products will transform your pond’s ecosystem, ultimately lowering your costs most effectively. I’m sharing some of the simple, easy, and natural steps to maintain your garden ponds.
1. Use algaecide or herbicide to control algae blooms
2. Control the accumulation of excess nutrients by using natural, beneficial bacteria and enzymes
3. Add aeration methods to treat several pond problems
4. Manage the amount of vegetation entering your pond
5. Maintenance is the key to naturally healthy, clean, and clear ponds
Garden ponds not only make everything look beautiful in your home interiors, but they also turn your home more earth-friendly. Therefore, it’s crucial to keep your ponds clean, healthy, and properly maintained throughout the year.
I’ve given you some great tips on how to keep your garden ponds clean, healthy, and properly maintained. If you have any other helpful pond maintenance tips that we haven’t covered here today, please share them in the comments below!
Mark is the founder of Aquarium Store Depot. He started in the aquarium hobby at the age of 11 and along the way worked at local fish stores. He has kept freshwater tanks, ponds, and reef tanks for over 25 years. His site was created to share his knowledge and unique teaching style on a larger scale. He has worked on making aquarium and pond keeping approachable. Mark has been featured in two books about aquarium keeping – both best sellers on Amazon. Each year, he continues to help his readers and clients with knowledge, professional builds, and troubleshooting.
Thank you for your information, I do have a question, we live in the St.Louis area and I have a 4ft by 7 foot pond it is 2ft in the middle and two shelves around the edge, I have kept aeration all winter and a warming stone, my water is getting to cloudy and green, what can I put in my pond to clear it? We are getting some warm days 50-65 but still cold nights 38-40 or cooler.
Hi There. Green water can be typically solved with a UV sterilizer. I would look into pond scum removers for the cloudy water. I have a good article on pond scum with some product recommendations that can help. Check it out here.
What is a UV sterilizer?
And it is to early to put my pond filter with UV light in, I have liquid barley pond Clarifier?
I just don’t know if the water is to cold yet to use it?
Hi Pam, a UV sterilizer is a piece of equipment that alters the DNA of organisms that pass through its UV light. For your application, it would do wonders for the green water you are dealing with. They can be installed in your pond filter. They would be installed in the return piping of your water pump. Barley pond clarify should be effective against the cloudy water you are dealing with. I’m not familiar with temperature requirements of the product though. I would either check with the manufacturer or contact thepondguy (they carry that product) and double check