Ponds and beneficial bacteria

Ponds and Beneficial Bacteria

What is the deal with ponds and beneficial bacteria?

Beautiful ponds and beneficial bacteria go together!   Beneficial bacteria helps keep algae at bay.  This bacteria is very important to have in a pond.  We recommend 3/4" gravel in the bottom of ponds to provide a place for beneficial bacteria to colonize.  While bacteria occurs naturally in a pond, it is difficult for it to keep up with an enclosed eco system.  Things like fish load, uneaten fish food and organic debris disrupt the balance of the ecosystem and can cause unwanted algae.   The regular addition of beneficial bacteria on a regular basis helps prevent this.

You may have purchased a variety of pond treatments and aren't sure what is what.  Beneficial bacteria is completely safe for fish and animals.

CFU - (Colony Forming Unit)

There are countless strains of bacteria and there are different strains in different products.  Some products have a higher concentration of bacteria than others.  For instance, the dry beneficial bacteria from Aquscape has a 3.0 billion CFU per ounce potency.  The cold water strains have about 1.5 billion CFU.

Dry or Liquid?

Liquid bacteria jump starts the ecosystem as it works more quickly.  However, dry bacteria offers different strains of bacteria which provides a diversity to increase overall stability of the whole system.  Good bacteria along with aeration, fish and plants create the balanced eco system that is a beautiful pond.

Temperature Matters!

There are strains of beneficial bacteria that will die once the water goes below a certain temperature. Cold water bacteria can be added down to the water temperatures at 35 degrees. Regular bacteria can only be used down to about 55 degrees.  Temperature is a big reason why we see algae blooms in the springtime.  Just as different trees and flowers bloom at different times, the various biological elements of the pond "wake up" at separate times too. The plant life and the bacteria come to life just slightly after the algae.  This is why we see algae blooms in the early spring - the other plant hasn't gotten to work yet and gives the algae a head start.

Algaecide

It is the algaecide that you want to be careful with!  Algaecide can harm fish and animals if not used correctly.  It also kills beneficial bacteria- disrupting the eco system we are trying to balance!   Read more about click HERE.

 Want a beautiful pond that is easy to maintain?

Ponds and beneficial bacteria go together! Add bacteria:

  • Once a week (from April to November)
  • The day after it rains (extra dose)
  • Twice a week in hot temperatures
  • More often if you are having a green water issue  (try adding different types of bacteria to get a better variety of strains in).

To read more about pond ecosystems and how to keep them healthy, check out more articles by clicking HERE. 

 

Pressure filters

Pond Pressure Filter – Right for your pond?

Pond Pressure filter

Pressure filters clean water by pushing the water through a mechanical filter.  Mechanical filters may be foam filters, small rocks, and other material that will physically remove debris form the water. Some pressure filters (but not all) have a UV light inside them. As the water passes by the UV light, the rays penetrate living micro organisms and kill them.  This will clear up green cloudy water. Keep in mind that this UV light is sterilizing the water.  This is how it cleans up the green cloudy water (microbial algae).  Keep in mind, it kills the algae AND the good bacteria too! Beneficial bacteria is essential for a balanced pond eco system. 

A skimmer box that contains a basket, net, brushes and/or filter pad are a form of mechanical filtration as well.  Pressure filters can be used in addition to a skimmer box. 

If your pond is missing essential elements to a balanced pond, a pressure filter may be a good idea. For instance,  if you really can't put in a skimmer box, biofall or plants, a pressure filter could be the way to go. 

Upkeep of pressure filters:

Most pressure filters need to be shut down in the winter time because if they freeze there is a risk of the UV light breaking or a crack occurring in the pipe.

Pressure filters  need to be back-washed on a regular basis.  If you are having to do this as often as once a week, your pressure filter may be too small for your pond. 

What about a pool pressure filter?

It is important to note that swimming pool pressure filters are not the same as pond pressure filters. Pool pressure filters have sand in them which is too fine a filter for a pond.  They will clog up way too quickly!  This results in having to clean it too often and low water flow.  In some cases, sand can be replaced with a different filter media.

Pressure filters are a good solution to problematic situations.  Check with a pond professional to see if it's right for your pond!

How much electricty does my pond pump use?

Pond Pump and Electricity Usage

Pump and Electricity Usage

Ever wonder about your pond pump electricity usage?  Check out this easy chart to see how much electricity it is using.  Here in the Denver and Front Range area, electricity costs between 6 cents 10 cents a kilowatt hour (kwh).  National average cost of a kwh is about 10 cents.  We have used 10 cents for this chart.  Not all pumps are on here, just some of the most common ones we see.

Pump and Electricity Usage

How is this calculated?

We calculate this by using the watts the pump uses, found on the box it came in or in the instructions.  The watts x 24 hours (how many hours the pump should be on each day) give us the wattage per day used.

The watts used per day divided by 1000 = kilowatt hours per day (kwh).

The kWh per day x 30 days will give us about how many kwhs it is using for a month.

The kWh per month x 10 cents = cost per month.

To read more on other pond topics, click HERE.

Snails in the pond

Pond Snails – Who’s Your Friend?

The Bad News - too many pond snails

Now and then we get a call about pond snails.  They reproduce so quickly that they can become a problem, clogging up the filter basket or getting stuck aroudn the pump.  Once these little buggers are in the pond they are hard to get out. The common snail is invasive.

The Good News: The Japanese Trap Door Snail - He's Your Friend!

This type of snail does not pro-create so readily and even better, it spends its every waking moment EATING ALGAE!  10 snails can cover about 50 square feet.  Now this doesn't let you off the hook for keeping as much debris out of the pond as possible and adding beneficial bacteria in weekly to keep your pond looking great. They are usually about 1/2 inch to an inch in size and can grow a bit bigger if they like their environment.

When and how to add the trap door snail

If you can, get snails that are about and inch in size.  The really tiny ones might be a snack for koi!

Snails can die if not transferred to the pond in a gentle way.  When you first get them they may appear dead.  This is because they are scared.  Just be gentle with them and they will perk up in the pond. Even a cracked shell can mend! Take are not to slosh the around int eh bag on the drive home. Make sure you float them in a bag for 10  minutes taking care that they are not heating up by the sunshine.  After 10 minutes splash some pond water in the bag and let them float for another 10 minutes.  This helps the water in the bag to reach the same temperature as the pond. Gently take them out and set them in the a shallow place in the pond.  At first you may see no sign of life, but after a while they will go snooping about!

What do they eat?

They are scavengers and eat organic material, including algae on the bottom of the pond and covering plants.  They don't eat fish waste so proper biological and mechanical filtration is necessary. If you want to see the snail you can always get a piece of lettuce and put a rock on it in the water.  The next day you may find some snails on it. If you are not feeding your fish daily, bring the snails some lettuce or zucchini once a week.  Algae isn't a rounded diet for them and can make their shells thin. If they aren't getting some quality food to supplement the algae they may nibble on the plants.

For more pond topics click HERE.

Lotus -11 Things to Know

Lotus can be an easy new plant to grow.  What you need to know about lotus before adding them to your pond:

  • They can grow in patio ponds to larger ponds.  Often people like them in  larger ponds, 10 x 10 or larger because they are such a large plant. They can grow 2 to 4 feet tall!
  • Plant them in full sun.  (6 hours of sun or more).  They don't do as well in a shady pond.
  • They come in different sizes and are an excellent natural filter.
  • Plant them in calm water.  They flower through the summer and each bloom will last 3 to 4 days.  Cut them off when they are spent. Put in tablet fertilizer every month.
  • They can be invasive, so never put them in bare root into the pond.  Luckily, they have a hard time growing out of their pots, so just make sure there is a sufficient rim and they won't go anywhere.
  • Pots need to be 16 to 20 inches depending of the variety you get.  Bigger pots yield bigger blooms!
  • When adding a freshly potted lotus to your pond, place it only a couple inches under the water.  Once it starts growing, then move it to just a little deeper.  Depending on the variety, they can go from 4 inches to 18 inches deep.
  • Cared for lotus plants will overwinter in Colorado!  (Yay!  Happy dance!) - just don't let the tuber freeze!
  • When adding new plants make sure the pond water is above 60° or 70°  when adding tropical plants
  • Lotus are tall.  Their leaves do not sit on top of the water, but grow above it.
  • Purchasing your lotus from a local nursery ensures that the tuber is not broken from being shipped in the mail.

  Lotus Flower Lotus

Lotus Flower

Water Lilies

Hardy Water Lilies are a Must in Colorado Ponds!

Water Lilies

Hardy water lilies do well in a sunny Colorado pond.  Benefits of lilies in the pond are many. The shade they provide gives shelter to fish from predators (you can't eat what you can't see!).  They shade they provide keeps the pond cool and stabilizes the water temperature from fluctuations.  Ponds in sunny locations with little or no plant life may experience more algae.  Lilies help keep the pond in balance by  providing oxygen and using up nutrients in the water that feed algae as well as blocking some of the sun.

Things to know when first getting lilies:

  • Plant in loam garden soil - not regular potting soil!
  • Use a fabric aquatic plant pot or a plastic pot with no holes.  14 to 16 inches is ideal.
    • They will grow directly in the gravel, but will float up if not anchored down and it can make cleaning out the pond or separating the plants later more difficult.
  • These plants grow as a "rhizome" and the crown should not be covered by the soil.
  • Put 2 or 3 fertilizer tabs into the soil for optimal flower color (Lilies come in a variety of colors!)
  • When first introducing a lily to the pond, put in in at about 6 inches depth, if possible.  Then, as the plant grows, lower it to 12 to 18 inches below the surface. One way to do this is to put a plastic pot under the lily pot to raise it up if you need to.

Things to know about caring for lilies:

Dividing and re-potting
  • Every 2 or 3 years the lilies will need to be divided.  A plastic container will begin to bulge - giving you this reminder to this.  If they are not divided and re-potted, they will grow right out of the pot, or be root bound and produce less flowers.
  • Take the pot out of the pond and hose off the soil.  You will be able to see that there are different rhizomes.  You'll need to cut these into separate pieces, keeping the most healthy looking ones and discarding the others.
  • Re-pot the ones you are keeping, putting some gravel on top of the soil to weigh it down and put it back in the pond.
Fertilizing
  • Lilies do well with fertilizer
  • Add fertilizer tabs every 4 to 6 weeks
  • Push them down in the soil so they are near the bottom of the roots.
  • Make sure to remove leaves when they die or turn yellow.
Fish
  • Sometimes koi will burrow into the gravel and soil of a lily and uproot them.  Try putting some larger cobble over the soil to deter fish.
  • If koi are eating your lilies you may need to offer them other plants to nibble on like floating hyacinth.
  • If you need to protect the lily plant from the fish, there are these specialized nets that float at the top to protect lilies. They are floating plant protectors by Nycon.
Winter

Lilies will go dormant during the winter.  Cut them back to about 6 inches above the root ball.  They can stay in the pond all winter and will come back in the spring.

Net your pond

Net your Pond for Fall

Have you spent a lot of time trying to get leaves out of your pond?  Net your pond for fall to keep organic material out of your pond!  Leaves and other material that blow in decompose all winter and when that spring time sun hits, will feed an algae bloom.  Help keep your pond looking great by netting it now.  Protecting your pump from additional material will also help keep the pump running and your fish healthy.

Domed Works Better

Colorado Pond Pros has put nets on ponds stretched taught across. But what we've found is that the weight of the leaves pushes down the net and the leaves get soaked in the water, adding tannins.  Pulling off a net with soaked leaves isn't easy either!  This year we have build domes over ponds to hold up the net.

This method is working well.  We recommend netting ponds and removing them once the leaves have all fallen and have been removed from your yard .

Want to read about more pond topics?  Click HERE.

industry event

Colorado Pond Pros Attends Aquascape Industry Event

Mike attended an industry event at Aquascape in Chicago last week.  He met with top pond companies in the United States to share secrets to building and servicing beautiful ponds. They built the beautiful pondless waterfall in the picture here. I put in an arrow so you can see Mike!

Pond De-Icer – Why you need one!

Pond De-icer

Did you know that the most common reason for winter fish loss is gasses getting trapped under the ice?  It's really a lack of a pond de-icer?  Yes!  Often referred to as a "floating pond heater", they are invaluable to a Colorado pond. Many people think it is because it got to cold or the fish froze.....no so.

Trapped Gasses

A de-icer or heater doesn't exactly heat up a pond like a warm swimming pool.  They actually keep one small area from freezing over.  Gases form in the water when decaying organic matter like leaves break down.  Gasses from the fish themselves build up in the water when it is iced over.   These trapped gasses can actually suffocate the fish!   A de-icer produces enough heat to keep the water from freezing around the unit.  This allows these gasses to escape the pond.   If you have lots of plants in your pond or more than 10 fish, you may want to consider using more than one de-icer to make sure there is enough ventilation.

Oxygen

Although fish don't do a lot in the winter, they do need oxygen.   When aerators are used in combination with a de-icer the fish have a good supply of air and a way for off gasses to get out.  This benefits the plants as well as the fish.  To have healthier fish, plants and a thriving eco system use both throughout the winter.

Placement of Aerator

It is important that aerators are not placed at the bottom level of the pond.  There is a thermo-climb temperature gradient with in the pond during the winter.  Simply said, the bottom of the pond is warmer during the winter than the top because the earth is not frozen so far down.  The more shallow the water gets, the colder the water gets.  If an aerator disc is placed at the bottom level of the water, the fresh and very cold air that it brings in will disturb the natural temperature and make is too chilly for the fish.  To avoid this, place aerators on a top shelf in the pond.  No shelves in your pond?  Tie the aerator disc on the side at the level it needs to be. Just use fishing line to attach it to something outside the pond.

Ok to Freeze!

It is actually ok for a pond to freeze over........as long as there is a hole for gases to escape.  When snow accumulates on a pond, it acts as an insulator from the harsh winter wind and dry Colorado air.  It keeps evaporation down and keeps the temperatures from fluctuating too much.  In the picture above, you can see the that waterfall does have snow on it, but that the moving water is still moving under it.  Moving water in pipes doesn't freeze!  The hole with arrow pointing to it is from an aerator bubbling up.  In very cold weather the water bubbbling can freeze over like a dome and may need to be broken up.

Very Big Fish or Very Harsh Weather

If you have very large koi or live in an area where the weather gets extremely cold, creating 8 inches of ice in your pond....you may want to consider adding a submerged water heater.  While this doesn't heat it up like a hot tub, it will keep the temperature more consistent and keep it from freezing all the way over.

Did you know?

Did you know that there are products like the ThermoCube that are Thermostatically Controlled Outlets?  That means they are outlets that you plug your heater into and they turn the outlet off when the air temperatures go above 35 degrees and turn it on when it gets down to 35 degrees.  If your heater doesn't have a temperature controlled on/off feature, this can save you electricity in the winter. 

Be Careful with Outlets!

Typical outlets have circuit breakers of 15 or 20 amps and are 120 volt outlets.  If GIFs are tripped during the winter, heaters, aerators and pumps can get shut off just when you need them to run.  Pipes can freeze int eh middle of the night when pumps suddenly turn off.  Be sure your circuit can handle the volts of equipment you need to plug in for the winter at the pond.  Remember, that the circuit might be carrying load from the house as well. We found a great article to understand how electrical outlets can be overloaded on Blain's Farm & Fleet's website.   Click HERE to check it out.

For more about getting your pond ready for winter, click HERE. 

Getting Your Pond Ready for winter

Getting your Pond Ready for Winter

Getting your pond ready for winter helps to keep it in the best condition possible and will help start the spring off on the right foot!

7 Steps to  Getting Your Pond Ready for winter:

 1. Decide if you will you be running your pond over the winter

  • Running the pond over the winter helps keep the fish healthy.
  • If you have fish, they need to have air!
  • Ponds and waterfalls look beautiful with snow and ice on them.
  • Leaving a pond dry is not always a great idea.  It can expose liner to the freezing, thawing and harsh sun and wind that is so typical here in Colorado.

2.  Leaves - Keeping them out of the pond

If your yard ends up with leaves in it, it is safe to say that your pond will too!  Leaves that blow into the pond could cause several problems.  They can muck up the skimmer basket or net, causing a blockage that could keep water from getting to your pump, and could even burn out your pump!  They also begin to decay in your pond.  Here in Colorado we have plenty of sunny days smack in the middle of the winter.  Leaving organic material in the pond over the winter will cause algae.

  • Rake up leaves and remove them from the yard - if not, they will end up in the pond!
  • Put a net over your pond to keep them out.  In our experience, a raised net that is over a sort of cage does much better than putting a net flat over the pond.  The weight of the leaves causes it to sink into the water, allowing those tannins to get in.
  • You can leave the net on until all the leaves have dropped.  Make sure to remove all leaves from your yard before removing net
  • Blow off leaves from your net every couple of days with a leaf blower.

3. Fish During the Winter

  • Many people wonder if fish can over winter in Colorado.  They certainly can!  Gold fish need only 18 inches of water to overwinter and Koi need a bit more than that.  24 to 36 inches is plenty.
  • When the water temperature reaches 50° you need to stop feeding the fish.  Their metabolisms slow down and they can no longer metabolize the food.
  • The fish will be fine if the pond freezes over....mostly.  There needs to be at least one hole in the ice for the fish gases to escape.  The running water from the waterfall keeps oxygen flowing and usually keeps the pond from freezing over 100%.  Many people add a floating de-icer to make sure.  It keeps a small area from freezing.
  • Refrain from breaking the ice by hitting it.  Imagine if you were underwater....basically taking a nap and someone broke ice over your head with a shove!  That would be a very loud noise and it can put added stress on your fish.
  • Snow on top of the pond - you don't need to remove the snow off a pond.  But you do need to make sure a hole is left open for the fish gases to escape.

4.  Pond Equipment

Some equipment needs to be removed for the winter, while other equipment will need to be removed.

  • UV lights need to be pulled out for the winter and stored in a place that they will not freeze.  Leaving them in will cause them to break.
  • Pumps - moving water does not freeze.  If you have fish it is ok to leave the pump in for the winter and run it.  Do not turn it off and leave it sitting or it can freeze, as well as the pipes attached to it.  If you choose to pull out your pump for the winter, store it in a place where it won't freeze.  Putting it in a bucket of water helps it from drying out and getting cracked seals.
  • IonGens - they can stay in over the winter, however, the IonGen control panel is a piece of computer equipment.  Taking it out and storing it in the garage will  keep it in better condition.
  • Autodose - These need to come out for the winter.  Their small tubes will likely freeze as well as the beneficial bacteria pouches.  Frozen bacteria is dead bacteria!  If you want to add beneficial bacteria specifically for 50 degrees and lower, you can add it weekly by hand.
  • Aerator - a great thing to add to the pond for the winter.  Helps ensure adequate oxygen.  Keep in mind that the air stone should be on the top shelf of the pond - putting it in the very bottom will disturb the temperature of the water as the air is coming in from the very cold.

5. Ice

  • Never crack or bang on the ice of the pond, it can stress out the fish.
  • Keep an eye on the waterfall or stream – remove ice that may form across it because it can divert water out of the system.

6. Plants

  • Hardy Lilies will come back in the spring.  If you have a lily pot on an upper step, it is a good idea to move the lily to the lowest part of the pond. This keeps it at a better temperature.
  • Marginal plants, the ones with their feet in the water will come back as long as they are hardy to zone 5.
  • Floaters like water hyacinth,

7. Evaporation

Colorado is very dry in the winter!  You will need to add water if it begins to get low to make sure your pump as enough to keep on pumping.  If you are adding small amounts of water (less than 20% of the total pond volume) then you don't need to worry about adding a de-chlorinator.  If you are adding a large amount at one time you will need to add de-chlorinator if you have fish.  Chlorine in the water can burn their gills!

Would you like to read about more pond topics?  Click HERE!

Would you like us to come winterize your pond or install a pond net?  Give us a call today at 303-775-0224 or click CONTACT US.