Most ponds are built during the late spring or summer. So you built a pond and now you’re wondering what you should expect. It has looked great since the project’s completion but has not cycled through a year of seasonal effects. You want your pond to look great, but what is your involvement going to be during the seasonal changes to keep it that way?
The seasonal tips here will give an understanding of the pond’s response to seasonal changes. Regardless of the season, if the filtration system is constantly running it is recommended the filtration media be cleaned, at least monthly, using water from the pond.
This article will start with the assumption the pond made it through the summer without a problem before the fall season. However, towards the later part of summer and early fall the pond may have begun to experience some algae issues. If algae is a problem in the pond, go to the correct algae section in Dealing With Algae: Freshwater for tips on what can be done to control this nuisance.
During the fall, cooling temperatures and shortened daylight hours will begin a foliage and plant die off. It is advised to determine the pond’s plant hardiness zone to be aware of whether certain plants may need to be winterized. Refer to the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. Plants in and near the pond can contribute significant amounts of leaf and plant debris into the pond. Maintenance during this time can be intensive, since leaf debris removal is recommended as it is very important to the health of the pond. The decomposition of this leaf debris contributes to an excessive amount of nutrient increase. The heavy influx of all this organic matter can suddenly and drastically drop the oxygen levels in the pond and that can be deadly to your fish.
It is recommended that if water changes have not occurred consistently during the spring and summer, a large water change be performed. This is typically done mid to late fall season, is recommended to be around 50% to 60%, and must involve using a dechlorinating agent as the pond is being refilled.
During this time period, monitoring water temperature is recommended. When the temperature of the pond water begins to drop below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, on a daily basis, it is recommended to feed your fish only fall foods (e.g. wheat germ). Feeding is recommended on a daily basis when temperatures are between 60 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Once water temperatures hit 55 degrees or lower, then feeding should be skipped a day or two in between feedings.
Below is an amazon link to a page full of different types of pond thermometers. I don’t have a specific type or brand in mind. All of them are standard thermometers but some are more decorative than others.
If your pond is surrounded by trees that will dump leaf debris into your pond, here is a link for a variety of pond nets for collecting that leaf debris. The net you will want to choose should be durable and heavy duty, since leaf debris is heavy when it is wet, and give you the ability to reach the bottom of the pond and also reach to the middle of the pond from wherever you may stand along its edge. I like the pool style nets since many of them have a telescoping pole to adjust for the far to reach places.
Also during this time, it would be wise to start feeding your fish something that will be mild on their digestive system since digestion slows down due to the colder water temperatures. I would recommend a wheat germ based food. I am a fan of floating pellets and I find the Hikari or Laguna brands to be a good quality food. However, there is not much difference, formula-wise, between different brands of fish food. Choose a pellet size appropriate for the size of the fish. I like one pellet size smaller than what would be considered a mouth full for that size fish. I would also consider buying a reasonably sized bag rather then having lots of food left over at the end of the season. However, if you do have excess to food at the end of the season, it’s best to store it in a cool dry place like the refrigerator or freezer. This will delay the food from getting stale during the storage period.
Once winter begins to set in, the maintenance falls to almost nothing. In certain areas where temperatures drop to the point of freezing it is highly recommended winterizing the pond. This will involve shutting off the filtration unit and clearing the bulk of the water from the pipes so the freezing temperatures don’t break the plumbing. Here in Humboldt County, CA, coastline pond filtration can continue running year round. It doesn’t get cold enough to freeze the water in the pipes.
Also during this period, certain plants may need to be removed from the pond to winter them over indoors so they do not die off. Wintering these plants means bringing them indoors, providing the necessary light and warmth, and/or refrigerating bulbs or rhizomes until spring begins. Refer again to the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to help determine whether or not you have plants that need this type of care.
Continue to monitor water temperatures closely. When the water begins to drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, on a daily basis, fish no longer have to be fed. However, if on a warm day, water temperature exceeds 50 degrees Fahrenheit for 24 hours and continues to do so, feeding the fish a wheat germ basis food can be done once every 3 days but is not necessary.
With the onset of spring, it is recommended to perform a large water change early in this part of the season. Typically this is around 50% to 60% and will require a dechlorinating agent as you refill the pond. For ponds that continued to run through the winter, cleaning the filter media using pond water is also highly recommended. After which, your filter media will need to be cleaned on a monthly to bi-weekly basis using pond water only. Return winterized plants to the pond. It is recommended any transplanting or thinning of plants occur at this time. Once the water temperature begins to exceed 50 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, begin to feed fish wheat germ or spring oriented foods. You will also begin to notice an increase in additional wildlife to your pond such as frogs and birds.
Summer is here again, and now the total beauty of your pond should continue to show its glorious colors for several months. Early in the summer, during this time when water temperatures hit 60 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, a summer oriented food is recommended. Feeding is recommended on a daily to every other day basis. However, when water temperatures reach 70 degrees Fahrenheit, fish can be fed on a daily basis regularly. The increase in daylight per day and higher water temperatures can lead to visible macro algae blooms such as hair algae, green water and blue-green algae. If you are experiencing these algal blooms, find the algae section in Dealing With Algae: Freshwater to understand how to deal better with this nuisance. Filter media will need to be cleaned, using water from the pond, on a bi-weekly basis. If the filter media is clogging and slowing down the pond’s flow rate, upgrading a portion of the pond filtration system may be necessary. Decreasing the fish population or lowering the quantity of food fed are helpful activities to decrease algae build up, but might not eliminate the problem. Further solutions are to add coarse filter media, increase water flow, increase filtration or try a combination of several solutions.
Now you have an idea as to what a year of seasonal effects will have on your pond.