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How to Maintain and Care for a Backyard Fish Pond

Updated on April 24, 2017
Jan Saints profile image

Januaris is a miniature garden designer and author of landscaping guides. He loves to write about garden flowers, ponds, lawn and hedges.

From my own experience, maintaining a backyard fish pond is more challenging than constructing it. When I finally completed installing my pond, I thought the hard work was over and I could just sit back and relax as I enjoy the benefits of my water feature. I was wrong! I didn't know it was the beginning of endless hard maintenance work.

garden slough
garden slough | Source

Fish pond maintenance is supposed to start immediately after the construction work is over. This is one of the most important things I came to learn later. There are many factors that can negatively affect your reservoir, and you have to take care of them if you are serious about owning a healthy garden. Your garden pond may turn out to be an ugly and unhealthy structure that is not suitable for nurturing aquatic life, if you don’t take good care of it.

Regular fish pond maintenance is good for both the aquatic life and landscape. You can enjoy a wonderful ecosystem by just taking proper care of your garden tarn. Talk about beautiful koi & goldfish or healthy tilapia and stunning aquatic plants!

Whether you own a small or large garden pool, you can effectively maintain it with the help of some guidelines. In this article, I will show you how to clean and maintain your fish pond through the seasons. So read on.

In brief, how to clean and maintain your backyard/garden fish pond

1. Maintain the right water level.

2. Maintain the right temperature.

3. Make it well-aerated.

4. Keep the water chemistry optimum.

5. Clean it regularly.

6. Manage the nearby plants.

7. Grow aquatics.

8. Control ice in the winter.

9. Control algae growth.

10. Maintain pump, filter, lines & fountains.

11. Troubleshoot & repair any leaks.

Maintain the Right Water Level- Important Fish Pond Maintenance Task

The water level of a garden tarn drops in summer or just in hot weather, and this can make fish and other aquatic organisms lack enough oxygen. If you notice water level reduction in your pool, top up it with safe water. You should avoid using tap water as it contains a lot of solutes and encourages excessive algae growth.

Use a garden hose to top up, but you can also install a water supply system consisting of a fill valve. Keep three-quarters of the slough full throughout the year. In a very hot weather, you can refill on a weekly basis.

Maintain the Right Temperature

During the winter season, ice can form on the surface of the water lowering its temperature. Use a heating system to create an optimum temperature during the cold months.

Pond water heats up in summer, something which negatively effect some fish. Sprinkle or spray cold water to bring the temperature to the optimum levels.

Make Your Fish Pond Well-Aerated

Aeration provides a lot of benefits to the aquatic life, and is a task that you should do regularly. It reduces algae growth & odor formation and boosts healthier water plants & fish.

Introduce oxygenating aquatic plants to improve oxygen levels. You can also use waterfalls, bubblers or fountains for aeration purposes. Use an air pump to maximize aeration in summer which is associated with diminished air levels in water.

Keep the Water Chemistry Optimum

A number of things can alter the water chemistry. Tap water can bring in chlorine and other chemicals that can kill fish and other beneficial organisms. Decaying plant remains can release harmful products in the reservoir. So carry out tests every now and then to detect for any changes in the chemistry.

Use alkaline solutions and detoxifiers to control acidic and toxic conditions respectively. Also, keep your pool clean to prevent the build-up of waste, and do not supply your fish with excess food to avoid cases of decaying food remains. In addition, edge your backyard slough to control run-off water which can bring in harmful chemicals.

Clean the Water Regularly- Important Fish Pond Cleaning Task.

Your garden pond will accumulate dirt and debris with time. Leaves are a major threat as they can release toxic gases when decaying and consequently destroy the ecological balance. Use a skimmer net to collect and remove leaves and other light debris from the reservoir.

Many skimmers have been manufactured, but most of them are ineffective - they break in the first day of use. If you are looking for a durable skimmer, I would recommend that you go for the Swimline Professional Heavy Duty Leaf Skimmer. I have been using this tool for close to 3 years, and it has never shown any signs of breaking. The super-strong skimmer has a sturdy plastic frame, fine-mesh basket and a tapered front edge to help scoop debris easily.

Sludge is another thing that you need to clean. Use a pond vacuum to scoop sludge from the bottom, but ensure you leave some to support the growth of algae.

If you want to do a thorough cleaning, drain all the water first using a pump or container then secure your fish and plants in another reservoir. Scoop up the sludge and clean the bottom completely. Also, clean the liner and edging materials using a brush. After you are done with cleaning, return some silt and refill the pond with fresh water. Finally, return your aquatic animals and plants safely to the reservoir. It is advisable to drain the pool in early spring.

Manage the Nearby Plants

If you have trees in your garden, you will definitely have a problem of leaves falling in the water. You can prevent this problem by using a trap net. Install the net over the structure and use a filter mat below the net to trap any smaller debris. Secure the net and mat with rocks or bricks. If there is a heavy leaf fall, ensure you empty the net regularly. The net and mat have another benefit of protecting your fish from predators.

effects of trees
effects of trees | Source

If you have trees hanging over the tarn, prune them using a garden shear or any other suitable tool. The shading trees prevent light from reaching the aquatic plants & algae and therefore inhibiting them from photosynthesizing fully.

Grow Water Plants- Fish Pond Plants

The best time to introduce new plants is in early summer when the water is warm and capable of supporting rapid plant growth. Some categories of plants to consider bringing in include; oxygenators, lilies, marginals, floaters and marsh.

Apply fertilizer to boost the plant growth, and you can do this every 5 weeks. Since some aquatic animals use the plants as food, keep them as healthy as possible. Don't use toxic fertilizers or pesticides.

aquatics
aquatics | Source

Thin or cull the plants to ensure half of the surface is free from them. You can use a garden rake to remove the excess aquatics.

Some of your aquatics may die as a result of freezing while others after their lifespan comes to end. Remove these dead or dying plants to prevent water chemistry disruption or formation of toxins.

Control Ice in the Winter

Ice is a common problem in winter. Your reservoir may lack enough oxygen or have very low temperatures if it has a frozen surface. So it is important to control ice to keep the aquatic animals and plants out of any danger.

You can prevent freezing by floating a ball or de-icer on the surface. If you already have ice on the surface, use a hot pan to melt it, but don't use force to break it as this can harm your aquatic life. You can install a heater to prevent the occurrence of ice during the season.

Concerning the de-icers, I have found the Allied Precision Pond De-Icer/Heater to be the most useful equipment for controlling pond ice in winter. Before I came across this equipment, I had tried many ice-melters and all proved to be ineffective. The thermostatically-controlled de-icer is designed to float on the water to keep the surface free of ice. It comes with a rugged plastic housing, 1,500-watt motor and 6-foot power cord. It works with the standard 110-volt electric supply and it automatically shut offs when there is no more ice to melt.

A simple way to control the effects of freezing is to float wood on the surface. The wood will absorb ice pressure and therefore protect the structure from damaging. An air hole is made through the ice to improve the effectiveness of the wood.

You can construct a covering above the structure to insulate it. Use PVC materials or lumber to construct the cover which is required only in the freezing weather. It is recommended to use clear cover materials that can allow light into the pool.

Control Algae Growth- Great Fish Pond Algae Maintenance Task

Algae is another big problem in garden sloughs. This non-flowering plant is a good source of food for aquatic animals, so it is recommended not to remove all of it. You can control algae through natural or artificial ways.

Grow a wide variety of other aquatic plants to control algae. Plants compete with algae for nutrients and other resources. Introduce aquatics that use large quantities of nutrients, such as lettuce and hyacinth. Include lilies to shed the structure, something which minimizes the amount of light reaching the algae.

An artificial way to control algae is to physically remove it. Detach the non-flowering plant from the surfaces and dispose it away. Another artificial method is to use algaecides or dye. The latter turns the water surface black, reducing the amount of light reaching the algae. You can also use an ultraviolet water purifier or sterilizer to control it.

Maintain Pump, Filter, Lines and Fountains

These parts are found in large or complex fish ponds, and are prone to clogs which can be caused by debris. During the warm seasons, pumps and filters are made to run for more hours in a day, something which makes them vulnerable to malfunctions.

If you think your pump or mechanical filter is clogged, disconnect it and flush out the debris. Clean your biological filter partially to avoid killing all bacteria which are useful in breaking down ammonia and other compounds.

The lines and fountains suffer from limescale and algae growth. Use cleaning chemicals to remove the limescale and algaecides to kill the algae.

Troubleshoot and Repair Any Leaks

If the water level starts to drop at an alarming rate, you should suspect a leaking problem. Check around to confirm for any leakage. If the areas around are wet and you didn't pour water on them, then it is highly likely that your tarn is leaking.

Drain the pool to repair the leaks. It is important to follow the right draining procedure (see the cleaning sub-topic above). Repair your tarn with the right materials. Some commonly used repair materials are soil, concrete and rocks. If the leakage is happening in the accessories, repair the holes or cracks accordingly. You may have to hire a pond professional to help you with the repair work.

In Conclusion...

This is how to clean and maintain your backyard fish pond. If you have this man-made water body in your garden, use this guide to take proper care of it. Do not let your slough become an eyesore when you can make it attractive. So carry out proper garden pond maintenance in order to enjoy all the benefits of the water feature.

References

  • Avnimelec Y., Kochva M., "Development of Controlled Intensive Aquaculture Systems with a Limited Water Exchange and Adjusted Carbon to Nitrogen Ratio.". Israeli Journal of Aquaculture Bamidgeh. (1994).
  • Chattopadhyay G.N. "Chemical Analysis of Pond Soil and Water.". Daya Publishing House. (1998).
  • Martins C.I.M., Eding E.H., Verdegem M.C.J., Heinsbroek L.T.N., Schneider O., Blancheton J.P., d’Orbcastel E. R., Verreth J.A.J. "New Developments in Recirculating Aquaculture Systems in Europe: A Perspective on Environmental Sustainability.". (PDF). Aquacultural Engineering. (2010).
  • Compton L.V. "Techniques of Fishpond Management.". U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. (1943).
  • F.A.O. Simple methods for aquaculture: "Management for Freshwater Fish Culture: Ponds and Water Practices.". Training Series. No. 21/1, Rome. (1996).
  • Sleezer O. "Small Surface Water Features: Functions, Distributions and Changes.". kgs.ku.edu. Kansas Geological Survey. University of Kansas. (2005).
  • Swanson L. "Wildlife in the Home Pond Garden.". (PDF). pubs.ext.vt.edu. Virginia Tech. (‎2016).
  • Weave D.E. "Design and Operations of Fine Media Fluidized Bed Biofilters for Meeting Oligotrophic Water Requirements.". Sciencedirect.com. Science Direct. Aquacultural Engineering. (2006).

What is the condition of your fish pond right now?

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© 2015 Januaris Saint Fores

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    • thumbi7 profile image

      JR Krishna 20 months ago from India

      Very useful information for those who are having fish pond

      Thanks for sharing

    • Jan Saints profile image
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      Januaris Saint Fores 20 months ago from the Midwest

      Thanks Thumbi7 for the comment.

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