Everyone with a pond knows the dilemma of "should I open my pond, or is it still too cold". Cleaning and opening your pond for the season is an important process, especially if you have fish. The water temperature should be roughly 50 degrees Fahrenheit. It is best to measure the temperature with a thermometer first thing in the morning rather than the afternoon, this will yield a more accurate reading of the overnight water temperature. It is also important to note that beneficial bacteria that help clean your pond grow best over 60 degrees, even though you have likely started up your pumps and filters, it usually takes a few weeks for them to start working. Using an added bacteria bio booster will help this process tremendously. Unfortunately, if you experience another cold snap, it is possible that the bacteria may die, prompting the process to be repeated.
Before you decide to get started on your pond this season, make sure you get all debris away from the edges of your pond. There is nothing more frustrating then to have spent time cleaning your pond just to find a bunch of twigs and leaves were blown into it. After clearing the surrounding area, this would be a great time to remove any netting that you may have used during the winter.
Once the edge of your pond looking clean, it’s time to break out the skimmer to remove any floating debris that may have gone through the net. If you're finding a lot of debris on the bottom of your pond you can use a leaf net and/or a pond vac.
Worried about the amount of algae you’re seeing? Don’t be! The amount of algae is directly related to how severe the winter was. If you saw a lot of snow you will most likely be seeing a large amount of algae.
Now let's check up on those plants. Take out all of the plants you wintered over and clean off any debris, remove any dead parts while being careful not to harm the crown of the plant, and set them in their proper places. This is also a great time to divide and re-pot any plants, with the exception of early blooming plants such as Iris’s. When dividing, make sure to keep the crown above the soil line, especially with water lilies. We don’t want to lose any of those beauties. Starting later in April, or early May you can use slow release plant tabs to fertilize the plants and ensure that they are happy and healthy.
A very important and often overlooked step is to change out some of your water. If your pond has survived the winter with only minimal algae and debris build up, you would still want to change out about 25% of the water. Regardless of how clean your pond was after the Winter, there will always be elevated levels of toxins. So, a 25% water change is always a good way to refresh the pond water. When adding new water, always add a beneficial water conditioner to release chlorine and chloramines and to neutralize heavy metals from your water source.
If you are seeing that skimming and vacuuming aren't getting the proper results, you should change out the water in your pond. Seeing this amount of buildup is a clear sign that the pond is having trouble keeping it's self clean. One or a combination of the following could be the culprit; the pond filtration is undersized, oxygen and/or beneficial bacteria are 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. Now is the best time to identify and correct these issues.
Quick note: 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 2°F of the temporary tank to prevent the fish from being stressed or going into shock. If the difference is greater than 2°F, 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 5°F 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°F prior to release.
Now that our water is debris free and clean, let's make sure we keep it that way. If you have tubing that was disconnected during the winter, or valves that were left open, be sure to reconnect and make adjustments prior to turning on the pumps. If you didn’t clean your filter pads or skimmer pads before the Winter, you should do this now before starting up the system. However, do not over clean the filter pads or use any form of soap, or cleaning products. Feeling that the filter pad is looking a little tired and worn out? Replace it.
As we all know, the quality of the water in your pond is extremely important and should be tested on a regular basis. A good test kit is an essential tool to keeping your ponds ecosystem in top condition. 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. The pond water salinity (salt content) for fish should be between .1% and .25%. Starting from a salinity of 0%, add one pound of salt per hundred gallons of water and test with a salinity meter. As we’ve stated before, getting your pond’s different levels steady now means fewer challenges later.
Ultraviolet (UV) maintenance. If you have an Ultraviolet light clarifier or sterilizer to help prevent green water, the bulb needs to be replaced yearly and the quartz sleeve that protects the bulb needs to be cleaned.
We’re done! You can begin feeding your fish when water temperatures remain at 50°Fs or higher. With the water temperature at 50 to 65°Fs, you can feed your fish once a week. With water temperatures, 65°Fs 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 color.
And as always if you need any pond replacement parts or need help choosing the right items for you, feel free to give us a call and we’d be happy to help you!