The secret to maintenance-free ponds is in developing a healthy, balanced
ecosystem that virtually takes care of itself.
Ponds, like aquariums, need a little help to get started. Unlike aquariums,
it is easier to develop the care-free ecosystem in a large volume of water than
in a small tank.
Begin by understanding the cycling process. (See the nitrogen cycle image
Filling the pond with water (or even topping it off as it evaporates) introduces
dangerous chemicals into the water. Chlorine and Chloramines are toxic to fish
and not healthful for plant growth. Some water even contains heavy metals.
Always treat new water with toxin-neutralizing products.
Now that you have clean, toxin-free water, you need to start some beneficial
bacteria growing in the pond and in the filter. Anaerobic (oxygen loving)
bacteria literally eat and digest organic waste products, turning them into
nitrates and fertilizers for plants.
There will be plenty of waste to de-toxify. Fish eliminate in the water and
plant material and excess fish food fall to the bottom and decompose. If not
properly turned into beneficial products, your pond will putrify and die.
Several products contain beneficial bacteria with which to seed the pond as
well as enzymes to speed the decomposition process. (enzyme and sludge-removing
products will be used regularly to enhance the natural cleaning of your pond)
|Bacteria cling to rocks, stones, fixtures and to your filter media. They
need a large surface area over which the water (carrying its pollutants) can
pass. Your filter contains a pre-filter pad that traps large particulates
and debris (which you should clean frequently). The filter also contains
other materials on which the bacteria grow. Do NOT clean this portion of the
filter unless absolutely necessary, and never clean it with chlorinated
water, use pond water. Tap water kills the bacteria you have worked so hard to establish.
|Now that you have introduced bacteria, you must give the bacteria
something to eat so that they can "live long and prosper". Begin
to add small fish and plants.|
|The water may be cloudy at first because of already-present bacteria
death. The particulates and bacteria that make your water cloudy can be
removed by adding water clarifiers that will "clump" the cloudy
molecules together and allow them to sink to the bottom or get trapped in
the pre-filter. Beneficial bacteria feed on the decomposing molecules of
cloudy water and turn them into beneficial products.|
|During the first few weeks, before the bacteria has become settled and
multiplied, you'll need to test your pond's water quality frequently. Too
much organic decay and too little bacteria can lead to a high ammonia level
which is very toxic to fish. A good all-around water test kit for ponds or
aquariums will be needed. (do not use a swimming pool or hot tub kit)
Ammonia "burn" damages fish gills and scales. Several products
may be added to the water during the "cycling" process (or any
time you suspect high ammonia or stress) to help prevent damage to the fish
from ammonia build-up. They are a good maintenance treatment any time you
are adding water or otherwise adjusting your pond's water quality.
|Adjusting the pH of the water is also important. Pond fish generally
thrive in neutral to soft water - water whose pH is at 7. Your test kit will
allow you to see the pH.
|Fish also need electrolytes - especially when they are under stress as
when being introduced into a new pond or waking from a long winter's
hybernation. Adding Pond Salt will give them a Springtime boost. (If you
have water plants, you may skip the salt as some plants do not do well in
|If the water begins to turn green, algae may be blooming in your new
ecosystem. Too much sunlight, too much fertilizer, too few plants. Adjust
these factors or add a UV filter to the system.
|As your pond settles into its cycle, it will become more and more stable
and care-free. The most important maintenance procedure that should be
preformed routinely is cleaning the pre-filter and dragging any debris or
sludge from the bottom. Plant materials, leaves, lawn clipings etc blow into
a pond over time. Use sludge-removers to speed the decomposition, and
manually dredge the pond once or twice a year to remove the majority of the