Let Your Pond Breathe!
You’ve waited all winter to spend time enjoying your pond.
Now make the most of it, and help your pond be the healthiest it can be!
When a pond is fresh and new, it’s water is usually at its clearest. As the pond water is used, organic elements in the pond such as bird and fish excrement, plant fragments and dead algae decompose. This process consumes oxygen and over time, diminishes the clarity of your pond water.
Here are a few simple steps you can take to help keep your pond healthy and oxygenated:
- Take a plant inventory: Maintain a sweet-smelling sanctuary by monitoring the types, quantities and locations of plants in and around your pond. Avoid aquatic nuisance species that can literally choke the life out of your pond. The United States Department of Agriculture defines these as nonindigenous species that threaten the diversity or abundance of native species. Avoid plants such as Curly Pondweed, Common Reed, and Water Lettuce (full list here). Instead, choose plants that will act as natural water filters and oxygenators, such as Carolina Fanwort, Lotus flower, or Bulrush.
See your pond through a fisheye lens: You may love that big, beautiful oak tree that shades your pond, but a lack of sunlight can impact pond muckiness, slowing down fish metabolism and keeping pond plants from properly oxygenating the pond.
According to Iowa State University Extensions Fisheries and Agriculture specialist D. Allen Pattillo, 15 - 25% of a ponds total surface area should be covered with some form of vegetation. Prune back overarching branches that could drop too many leaves onto the pond, which will use precious pond oxygen to decompose.
- Turn down the heat: Rising temperatures can lower your ponds oxygen, and the more shallow the pond, the more sensitive it will be to temperature fluctuations. In the summer, pond water should be in the range of 68 to 74 degrees Fahrenheit, and will lose much of its ability to hold oxygen when the temperature is above 85 degrees. If you notice fish coming to the surface to gulp for air, leaving behind a trail of frothy bubbles, add a pump or fountain to keep your pond water oxygenated, and to keep your fish alive! Pond thermometers are cheap and easy to use, and can make all the difference in the health of your pond. Your fish will thank you!
- Turn on the air: When it comes to animal life in your pond, more is not necessarily better. The oxygen in a pond is a limited resource, and there’s a lot of competition for it! Aerate your pond. Use the largest most efficient, fine-bubble aeration system you can afford - your fish will thank you! Also keep an eye on the different species of aquatic animals in your pond, and remove any that are on the USDA Invasive Aquatic Animals list, such as Asian Carp, Rusty Crayfish, or Zebra Mussels.
- Don’t overfeed your fish! Excessive fish food leads to excessive fish excrement, which is a delicious nutrient source for smelly algae! The proper amount to feed your fish depends on the temperature of your pond, and the total poundage of fish in the pond. If water temperature drops below 55 degrees Fahrenheit or exceeds 90 degrees Fahrenheit, fish metabolism slows down enough that you should suspend feeding. Larger pond fish such as Koi and larger goldfish can survive on reserves for a few months, but if extreme temperatures last longer than that, consider temporarily moving your fish to a more stable environment (Garden Ponds: Basic Pond Setup and Maintenance, Dennis Kelsey-Wood, 2012).