Preparing for spring pond cleaning.
As your garden starts to come alive after the dormant months of winter, now is the time to prepare your pond for the warmer weather to come. Here are some useful tips for Spring Pond Maintenance.
Step 1.Remove leaves and winter debris from the surrounding area to prevent them from being blown into the pond. Remove the netting you`ve left over the pond for the winter to keep the leaves out.
Step 2. Remove any dead vegetation or leaves from the pond. A pond vacuum will prove helpful for this task. Remove as much Blanket Weed as you can.
Step 3. Clip back dead foliage from your aquatic plants. If you keep them in their aquatic baskets like we do, trim back their roots too. Any re-potting or dividing of plants should be done now, but take care not to disturb early flowering aquatics such as skunk cabbage.
Step 4.If your pond has been frozen for along time, a partial water change will be beneficial.
If your pond has significant debris and sludge build up (25mm or more) after the initial skimming and vacuuming, you should perform a complete water change. Sludge build up is a symptom of a more serious problem. It is telling us that the pond can’t keep its` self clean, meaning something is out of balance. Either, the pond filtration is under sized, oxygen and/or beneficial bacteria remain low, the fish load has outgrown the filtration system, the plant cover or proper mix of plants is deficient, or the debris has been allowed to build up and decay over a long period of time. Spring is a good time to identify and correct these issues. We can then enjoy the pond instead of spending time and money treating symptoms caused by an out of balance eco-system.
If you need to perform a complete water change, first set up a temporary holding tank for your fish. Use water from the upper half of your pond so as not to disturb the toxic gases from the sludge found near the bottom. The holding tank should be set in a shady area, with an aerator or pump to maintain oxygen levels, and the tank should be covered to prevent the fish from jumping out or predators from sticking their noses in.
When returning your fish to the pond, the water temperature needs to be within 1 degree centigrade of the temporary tank to prevent the fish from being stressed or going into shock. If the difference is greater than 2°C, the fish need to be placed in plastic bags with water from the temporary tank and floated in the pond for 10 to 30 minutes prior release. If the difference is 3°C or more in temperature difference, replace 25% of the water in the bag with pond water every 10 minutes until the temperature is within 2°C prior to release.
If your pond water appears a tea, brown, or black colour, it may be due to tannin released from leaves or sycamore seeds left in the water, a 50% water change is the quickest solution. Tannin is a substance found in plants and when released in water you will notice a tea to brown or black coloration. Leaves decomposing in the water, or rain water can soak leaves on a leaf net and act as a tea bag dripping water and tannin into the pond, or if a leaf heavy net drags in the water, tannin can also be released. Sycamore seeds in the spring time can also release tannin in the water.
Step 5. Check filters and reconnect pumps. If the filter media was not cleaned last autumn, they should be cleaned prior to starting up the system. Do not over clean the filter or use any form of soap, or bleach. This is the best time to inspect and replace old worn out filter material. If you have pipework that was disconnected over the winter or valves that were opened up, be sure to reconnect and make adjustments prior to turning on the pumps.
Step 6.Test your water quality. Pond water quality is extremely important and should be tested on a regular schedule using either a liquid reagent style test kit or quick and easy test strips. If Ammonia and Nitrites levels are higher than zero, an additional 25% water change should be done until the levels are reduced. If pH is outside the 6.5 to 8.5 range, use either a pH Up or pH down according to directions to bring the pH back into a safe range.
Step 7.Add important water treatments. Getting your pond’s beneficial bacteria levels up early in the season means fewer challenges later. Look for a liquid bacteria that works even in cooler temperatures promoting an ecological balance sooner. Later in the season a water clarifier is also a great product to use in combination with algal control products for a quicker clearing of the water.
Step 8. Ultraviolet (UV) maintenance. If you have an Ultraviolet light clarifier or filter to help prevent green water, the bulb needs to be replaced yearly and the quartz sleeve that protects the bulb needs to be cleaned. However, do not turn the UV unit on until the bacteria have had 48 hours to colonize on available surfaces within the pond and filter.
Step 9. Prepare for the return of the heron! Keeping your fish safe from Herons can be a challenge, but here are a couple of ideas that will help. There is always the fish line placed around the pond, or netting to interrupt their flight. But, providing a place for your fish to escape by building an underwater cave with some boulders and a flat rock are also award winning options. And don`t forget the Motion Activated Sprinklers that are available.
Step 10. Fish feeding. You can begin feeding your fish when water temperatures remain at 10°C or higher. With water temperature at 10 to 18°C you can feed your fish once a week. With water temperatures 18°C or higher your regular feeding schedule can be resumed. Look for a fish food that is a high performance diet designed for growing fish, and fortified with spirulina and other marine ingredients for maximum colour. Colour food also enhances the vibrant colours and health of your fish. A cold water food is a wheat based diet ideal for feeding during colder periods
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