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The Truth About Pond Maintenance

Ponds are easier to care for than you may think…

A pond is a unique feature that adds character and personality to your backyard, setting it apart from others in the neighborhood — but many people are hesitant when it comes to actually owning one. Why?

I believe it comes down to the common misconception that ponds are difficult to care for and you’ll spend your entire summer battling mosquitoes and algae. Nothing could be further from the truth, and I’m here to set the record straight. 

pond with waterfall

You’ll struggle with dirty pond water

Nothing in life is maintenance-free, and ponds do require some upkeep… but not as much as people may think. A pond that is professionally designed includes elements that help filter the water naturally, creating a built-in ecosystem. Here are a few tips to keep pond water clean, clear and healthy with minimal effort.

  • Keep the oxygen flowing — The water at the top of your pond has more oxygen than the water at the bottom, so it needs to be aerated to keep the oxygen levels consistent throughout. Without aeration, algae and pollution can build up, causing your water to turn murky and develop a brackish smell over time.
    A combination of surface aeration — which includes features such as fountains, waterfalls, bubbling rocks and basalt columns — and bottom-diffused aeration work together to circulate and oxygenate the water.
  • Include oxygenating plants — Although they’re quite beautiful and are a stunning addition to any backyard pond, aquatic plants are important for your pond’s health too. They provide oxygen through photosynthesis and absorb nutrients, which limits the growth of algae. 
  • Add ultraviolet lights — Ultraviolet (UV) lights reduce harmful bacteria and destroy single-cell algae that form on the surface of your pond. UV clarifiers can be added to existing filtration systems for additional support, or be integrated into the filtration products themselves.
    Ultraviolet lights are not something we typically use at Vandenberg — we haven’t really needed them yet — but they are an option if your pond suffers from excessive algae blooms.
  • Treat your water — Treat your pond with a bacterial product on a regular basis to keep it clear. Using an autodoser makes this a relatively simple and hands-free process.
  • Use a filtration system — There are three types of pond filtration — mechanical, biological and chemical. You can use one system exclusively or combine two or three of them together.
    • Mechanical filtration systems physically collect and remove debris from the pond. 
    • Biological systems use natural bacteria to break down pond waste, converting them into beneficial compounds.
    • Chemical filtration systems use activated carbon to neutralize pollutants such as tannin, odors, and chlorine.
pond with waterfall

Your pond will be a magnet for mosquitoes

Mosquitoes prefer to breed in still waters, so if you’ve followed the advice above and have installed some form of surface aeration, you shouldn’t have any more than your pondless neighbours. 

Even if your pond does attract a few mosquitoes, it’s not a cause for concern — it also attracts birds, frogs, toads, dragonflies and other wildlife that like to feast on them! 

Your pond will be green with algae

Algae is a natural part of a healthy pond, providing nutrients, oxygen, and nourishment for the pond and the insects, snails, fish and other organisms that call it home. 

Algae only becomes a problem when it becomes excessive — so don’t ignore it. You can easily keep it in check by adding aquatic plants and a filtration system to your pond.

You have to drain and clean your pond every year

While it's true that a pond can benefit from occasional cleaning, draining it completely every year can disrupt the ecosystem and harm the fish and plants living in it. Instead, focus on regular maintenance tasks like removing debris, trimming plants, and checking the water chemistry.

pond with fish

Your fish will be in constant danger

Given the chance, there are a lot of predators that would love nothing more than to swoop down to your pond and grab a nice, tasty fish for dinner — but there are some simple things you can do to protect them.

  • When you’re not outside enjoying your pond, you can cover it with netting or fishing line. If you don’t mind the look of it, you can keep it in place from the time your fish “wake up” in the spring until they go dormant in the winter.
  • Provide a fish cave, water lilies and some other aquatic plants to give your fish a place to hide.
  • Installing motion detectors that emit a sound or spray water when it senses an intruder is nearby keeps your fish — and any small humans that wander close to the pond — safe.  
pond with waterfall

Maintaining a pond is hard work

It can be a lot of hard work… but it doesn’t have to be if you follow a regular maintenance schedule and avoid making these common mistakes.

  • Neglecting to test the water — Pond water needs to be tested regularly so you can check for imbalances in pH levels, nutrient levels, and oxygen levels. Water that isn’t balanced can harm the fish and plants living in the pond.
  • Allowing debris to build up — Debris such as leaves, twigs, and dead plants can accumulate at the bottom of the pond, leading to poor water quality and an increase in algae growth. 
  • Not fixing leaks — Ignoring leaks can lead to a decrease in water levels and harm the fish and plants living in the pond. It's essential to fix leaks as soon as they're discovered to maintain a healthy pond ecosystem.
  • Too many fish in the pond — Overstocking the pond with too many fish can lead to poor water quality, a decrease in oxygen levels, and an increase in algae growth. It's essential to maintain a balance between the number of fish in the pond and the size of the pond — and make sure to allow room for fish to grow!
  • Overfeeding the fish — Feeding the fish is one of the joys of owning a pond… but don’t overfeed them. The uneaten food, plus the extra waste produced by the overstuffed fish, raises nitrogen levels and encourages algae growth.
  • Choosing the wrong plants — Some aquatic plants are invasive and can take over the pond, leading to a decrease in oxygen levels and an increase in algae growth. You need a good mix of floaters, oxygenators and marginal plants to keep your pond healthy.

There are tools and products available that can simplify pond maintenance. For example, automatic fish feeders can help to regulate the amount of food your fish receive, while pond vacuums can make cleaning the pond easier and more efficient.

By taking the time to properly plan and maintain your pond, you can enjoy the benefits of a beautiful and tranquil outdoor space without the stress and hassle of difficult maintenance. 

Adding a pond to your landscape is a big decision… If you have some lingering questions that need to be answered, reach out so we can chat about your concerns. We’re always happy to help!

Written by  Matt Vandenberg