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1. General ((Construction, Green Water, Filters, Liners, Maintenance,
1.1. Who helped in answering these questions?
1.2. What questions should you ask before building a pond?
1.3. What are some other websites worth seeing?
1.4. Can I learn everything I need to know about ponding from this FAQ?
1.5. Where do I put my pond?
1.6. How big should my pond be?
1.7. How deep should my pond be?
1.8. How do I build a very big pond?
1.9. What precautions should I take with electricity?
1.10. Should I put plants and fish in my pond?
1.11. How do I test my pond water?
1.12. Does a koi pond differ from a goldfish pond?
1.13. Can I use a flexible liner in my pond?
1.14. Does the sun hurt pond liners?
1.15. How do I hide my liner?
1.16. Can I create a concrete pond?
1.17. Is roofing liner okay for a pond liner?
1.18. My water is green. What do I do?
1.19. Are there laws concerning the building of a pond?
1.20. How do chlorine and chloramine affect the pond?
1.21. How much sun and/or shade do I need?
1.22. Do I have to have a pump/filter?
1.23. Do I need a filter?
1.24. Does a swimming pool filter work?
1.25. What is a vegetable (veggie) filter?
1.26. What's a USDA Zone? Which zone am I in?
1.27. What are the red/black worms in my filter?
1.28. Why did my pump burn out?
1.29. What type of silicone cement is safe to use on my
1.30. Why is there foam at the base of my waterfall?
1.31. How often should I change my pond water?
1.32. How do I change my pH?
1.33. What type of rocks can I use around my pond?
1.34. How and how often should I clean the pond?
1.35. I just cleaned my pond and my water turned brown.
1.36. I haven't cleaned the pond in months and the water
is brown. What's wrong?
1.37. Will salt reduce the ice on my frozen pond?
1.38. What is "porg"?
2. Plants (Varieties, Types, Potting, Nitrogen Cycle, etc.)
2.1. Where do I find pond plants?
2.2. Are non-native plants safe for my pond?
2.3. How should I pot my plants?
2.4. How much light do plants need when moved indoors for the winter?
2.5. Should I fertilize my water plants?
2.6. How many plants should I have and what kind?
2.7. Will my plants survive the winter?
2.8. When is it safe to put plants in the pond?
2.9. What do I do about pond plant pests?
2.10. Can I just toss my extra plants into the nearby
lake or stream?
2.11. Can I over-winter my tropical plants?
2.12. What pH do my plants prefer?
2.13. What are water lilies (nymphaea)?
2.14. What about hardy water lilies?
2.15. How do I over-winter my lilies?
2.16. What about tropical water lilies?
2.17. How do I plant/repot my lilies?
2.18. What is lotus (nelumbo)?
2.19. How do I plant/repot my lotus?
2.20. What are floating water plants?
2.21. What is water hyacinth (eichornia crassipes)?
2.22. What is duckweed (lemma)?
2.23. What is water lettuce (pistia stratiotes)?
2.24. What are marginal (or bog) plants?
2.25. What is water poppy (nymphoides)?
2.26. What is parrot's feather (myriophyllum
2.27. What is golden club (orontium aqauticum)?
2.28. What is iris (iridaceae)?
2.29. What is arrowhead/duck potato (Sagittaria)?
2.30. What is pickerel weed (pontederia cordata)?
2.31. What is cattail (typha)?
2.32. What is papyrus (cyperus)?
2.33. What is marsh marigold (caltha palustris)?
2.34. What are oxygenators?
2.35. What is anacharis (elodea canadensis)?
2.36. What is hornwort (ceratophyllum)?
2.37. What is cabomba/fanwort (cabomba caroliniana)?
2.38. What is the nitrogen cycle?
3. Aquatic Animals (Koi, Goldfish, Turtles, Breeding, Food, Predators,
3.1. What do I do with my new fish after purchase?
3.2. How much do I feed my fish?
3.3. Will my fish breed?
3.4. When will my fish start to breed?
3.5. Will my fry survive if I leave them alone in the pond?
3.6. What do I do if I have too many fish?
3.7. What about mosquito fish?
3.8. What about orfe fish?
3.9. What can salt do for stressed or ill fish?
3.10. What about adding fish to an already established
3.11. One of my fish died for no reason. What's wrong?
3.12. How soon can I add fish after creating my pond?
3.13. What animals are potential predators to my fish?
3.14. How do I deter raccoons?
3.15. How do I deter herons?
3.16. How do I get my koi to eat from my hands?
3.17. Does clear water equal healthy fish?
3.18. How do I keep a turtle in my pond?
3.19. Should I add frogs to my pond?
3.20. My pond is full of toads. Is this a problem?
3.21. What is the difference between frogs and toads?
3.22. Are frog and toad eggs okay in my pond?
3.23. What about bullfrogs and green frogs?
1: Who helped in answering these questions?
Many thanks to the previous creators of rec.ponds FAQs and new authors
including Derek Broughton, Chuck Rush, K30a, Kellie Snider, the Internet
Pond Society (IPS), Andy Keeble, Ken Roser, Richard Renshaw, Andy Burgess,
Adam Goldberg, Andy Hill, Debbie Nelson, Sherry Bailey, Charlie Brett, Diane
DeMers Chen, David J. Bell, Justin Morgan, Robert Frederick Enenkel, Larry
Fogelquist, Nancy Hannaford, Jack Honeycutt, Roger Zutt, Jan Isley, John
Hess, Jim Bishop, Mark Crafts, Michael Burr, Curt Onstott, Pete Orelup, Rick
Hoffman, Rich Braun, sjs, Joseph J. de Rosa, Steve Miller, Steve Weber, Tim
Gornet, Kirby Vaughan, Lance R. Bailey, Shawn McCurdy, Jim McCurdy and many
others who have contributed over the years. A big round of applause goes out
to the many people who have generated hundreds of thousands of helpful and
kind words for other ponders throughout the world at rec.ponds. Your
generosity is truly appreciated. If your name is not included and you
believe that you deserve some of the credit, please e-mail me at this link
to make your claim.
This new rec.ponds FAQ was compiled by Justin in May 2002. Many of the
questions and answers were written by Justin. As of April 2005, Justin hasn't
been seen in rec.ponds for several years, so I have assumed responsibility
of maintaining this FAQ, and Sameer has taken over the maintenance of this
For comments, corrections, additions and questions for this FAQ, please
email or post to news:rec.ponds
Also visit Pondkeepers, A Yahoo! Group at
2: What questions should you ask before building a pond?
How deep? How many gallons? Where in the yard? Fish? Plants? Fish and
plants? Koi? Goldfish? Koi and goldfish? Liner? Concrete? Above ground?
Below ground? Filtration? Waterfall? Stream? Fountain? UV sterilizer? Pump?
Where does the excess dirt go? How am I going to afford this? Next pond?
Be sure you know what you are getting into before you begin. You will save
yourself time, money, effort, and you'll end up with a finer finished
3: Can I learn everything I need to know about ponding from this FAQ?
No! A ponder never "knows all." By sharing knowledge and experimenting in
their own ponds, the most seasoned ponder still acquires new knowledge on a
regular basis. This FAQ is only a portion of the total knowledge you will
need to be a successful ponder. Check out newsgroups such as rec.ponds, go
to pond building seminars, check with your local pond society, and look to
the web for other pond sites and links. Collect information and don't just
take someone's word for it. Ask around! Ponders are always willing to share
their secrets and will willingly help you out. Visit the library. They may
have some pond books. Get on mail order pond suppliers' mailing lists.
While the information contained in this FAQ was carefully collected and
compiled to be as accurate as possible, there are no expressed or implied
warranties that the information contained herein is correct, of any value,
or suitable for any purpose. If you use this information in any way, you
assume full responsibility for the results of your actions. In no event will
the author or others be liable for any results or the lack thereof.
Some information may have been gleaned from rec.ponds threads, web sites,
articles, books, or personal contacts.
4: Where do I put my pond?
Great question. Definitely do not put the pond in the low spot of your yard.
You will have great difficulty making your water level look right and you
will collect all kinds of nasty things in the runoff your pond collects when
it rains. Speaking of level, make sure you put your pond in a very level
part of your yard. You will get a lot of dirt from the hole you dig for
backfilling, but you do not want to run out of dirt! Above all, PUT YOUR
POND WHERE YOU WANT IT MOST! It's going to be something you enjoy and you
don't want to walk around the house, around the bend, and through the
chicken wire to find your pond. Most plants require a considerable amount of
sunlight each day. However some plants like the shade. Make sure you can
provide water and electricity to your pond.
Always include Ground Fault Interrupter (GFI) electrical service via
underground conduit to the pump. Take safety into consideration when
building your pond.
5: How big should my pond be?
Ah, the age old question...as big as you can get it. Time after time,
ponders have made their ponds and later wished they'd made them bigger. Some
will tell you to make the biggest pond you can afford. One thing people
often do not realize is that the bigger the pond, the less maintenance
required. Many suggest that the volume (in cubic feet) should be at least
twice the surface area. They are easier to care for and will generally
provide you with better results. A seasoned ponder once said, "Plan for the
largest you can build, then double the size of it. You'll wish you had after
it's all over with."
6: How deep should my pond be?
Depth is more for preference. People who complain of green ponds often
regret their deep ponds because they can never seem to see their fish. Water
lilies generally require at least 18 inches. Koi need at least 24 inches.
You generally can never go wrong making your pond too deep, unless of course
your fish never rise from the bottom. The only thing you'll need is a
slightly bigger liner. Many suggest that the volume (in cubic feet) should
be at least twice the surface area. Extensive shallows in a pond will
greatly increase the likelihood of algae, no matter the volume to area
ratio. The water will circulate continuously through shallow areas and
produce the perfect environment for high levels of algae to grow throughout
the pond. Deeper ponds are a necessity if you desire to overwinter your fish
in the pond. Warmer tropical areas must have deeper pools in order to keep
the fish from overheating. Many pond owners created multiple levels to
accommodate for the various types of plants they enjoy.
7: How do I build a very big pond?
The method depends on how big you want your pond. If your water table is
very high, you may need underdrains on a liner pond to prevent the walls
from collapsing when empty. If your pond is going to be very deep, you may
need steel reinforcing in a concrete pond and/or sloped walls.
Punctures in the liner of a big pond are extremely difficult to find. Use an
appropriate underliner. Make sure that lawn runoff can not enter the pond.
Fertilizer or compost runoff may alter the pond's balance.
Do not situate your pond near deciduous trees or evergreens. If they are
deciduous, the trees will fill your pond with leaves in the fall. If they
are evergreen, the trees will fill your pond with needles year round.
8: What precautions should I take with electricity?
Water and electricity do not mix. Whenever an electric appliance is used in
a pond environment such as pumps, ultraviolet lights, etc., they should
always be connected to a protection device.
In the United States, these are called GFIs (Ground Fault Interrupters). In
Europe, they are known under several names such as ELCB (Earth Leakage
Circuit Breakers) or RCD (Residual Circuit Device). They should not be
They detect a faulty wiring and cut the electricity of in milliseconds,
virtually eliminating the chance of an electric shock. You can buy just one
breaker and connect all pumps, UVs, etc. to it. This simple device could one
day save your life and house.
If a pump or UV should flood, and the water comes in contact with the
electricity, it will cut the electricity. If you touch a live wire, it will
also cut. You may feel a slight jolt but it will not kill you.
Whenever you remove a pump or clean it, always unplug it from the
Ultraviolet tubes should always be switched off when water is not flowing
through them. If you switch your pump off, make sure you switch your UV off
If you are not confident with electric installations, get a professional to
do it for you. Note: in some areas, it is illegal to do electrical wiring if
you are not an electrician.
If you run electric cables underground, make sure you use armored cable or
protective casing; building codes often specify the use of ridged conduit
outdoors or underground.
Use proper waterproof outdoor connections and switches.
9: Should I put plants and fish in my pond?
Fish and plants are not mandatory for all water gardens. You can have only
fish, or only plants, or both. Plants are often necessary for clear water.
Fish are a pleasure to enjoy because they move about and provide excitement.
It is all personal preference as to the ratio of fish to plants goes.
Pro-fish people say that plants obscure the view of the fish and the
pro-plant people say that fish will damage the plants. Yet most people want
that happy medium, both fish and plants. Here's the news: you can have both.
Fish waste provides a source of nutrients for water plants and the plants'
use of these nutrients helps lessen the need for filtration. Fish provide
movement and interaction that plants cannot. Plus they keep the insect
population, including mosquito larvae and plant pests, in check.
Fish will eat or nibble on many aquatic plants; this is fine if your
intended use of the plant is as a food supplement for your fish, but not so
great if the fish are nibbling on your precious water lilies. Koi are
particularly violent toward pond plants. Their enthusiastic feeding,
breeding, and scavenging behavior can result in significant damage. Having
said this, there are some things you can do to alleviate the problem. Avoid
overstocking your pond with fish. Many suggest that you add a 1 inch layer
of gravel (1/2 inch diameter or more is best) over the surface of all potted
plants. This will help keep the pond from becoming muddy as the fish play
around the plants. It will also keep the fish from uprooting most plants.
Leave enough room when potting so that the gravel is well below the lip of
the pot. The top of pots can also be covered with a large diameter mesh,
such as leaf netting, which discourages fish from rooting in the pot but
allows the leaves and blooms to grow right through. Oxygenators such as
anacharis can be completely enclosed in a mesh bag for protection. Spawning
mats during the spring can be used to capture the eggs although the long
roots of hyacinth and other plants may work just as well.
10: How do I test my pond water?
There are three primary test kits that pond owners should think about
purchasing: pH, ammonia, and nitrite. These tests are most likely used to
diagnose problems in a pond. Nitrate, oxygen, and chlorine are also useful
test kits, but usually not as necessary to test.
New ponds should be tested every few days while existing ponds should be
tested periodically (every few weeks). Instructions are usually printed on
the box for each test kit. Most kits are very easy to use. Test kits
normally advise what to do if you get adverse readings.
11: Does a koi pond differ from a goldfish pond?
Generally, yes. Good koi ponds are designed with koi in mind. They tend to
be more than 500 gallons in volume. Koi require much more volume compared to
goldfish. For koi, size does matter when it comes to how big the pond is.
Koi ponds should be at least 24 inches deep, if not deeper. The walls of a
koi pond should be as vertical as possible to protect the fish from
predators such as raccoons. The more vertical walls also add to the overall
total volume. Most good koi ponds contain at least one bottom drain. This is
to keep the floor of the pond free of debris. This is not just for koi
ponds. All ponds, sensibly, should have a bottom drain. They make cleaning
easier and provide many benefits. The bottom of the pond should slope
towards the drain. Many professional koi keepers also use a surface skimmer.
12: Can I use a flexible liner in my pond?
You have several options with flexible liners:
1.. PVC (poly vinyl chloride). This is a relatively cheap liner, however,
it must be protected from UV exposure from the sun.
2.. EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer). This is used many times for
roofing. It comes in various amounts of thickness. 45 mil is the accepted
3.. Butyl. This is the most expensive option. Butyl is an actual "rubber."
It has been used for many years by koi keepers. It is quoted to have a 25
year lifespan. However, most people no longer use butyl.
4.. Permalon. This liner is new and extremely popular, especially for very
large ponds. It is lightweight and pricing is very comparable to other
liners, often cheaper.
EPDM (and Butyl) are available from roofing companies. Check the Yellow
Pages. The industry leaders are Firestone (who make "Rubbergard") and
Carlisle (who make "Sure-Seal").
Small ponders on a budget usually choose PVC. For medium sized ponds, EPDM
or Permalon are logical choices. Butyl will last longer but will cost more.
Large koi ponds are usually lined with butyl.
13: Does the sun hurt pond liners?
The sun can damage your pond liner. Also, no one wants to see the liner; it
simply is not a natural looking bottom. To avoid the harmful rays of the
sun, a liner can be covered with dirt, stones, or water.
14: How do I hide my liner?
The first step in hiding your liner is to create a pond that is level. The
more level your pond is the less liner will be exposed. Use a level, string,
or transit device to make sure that all sides of your pond will be at the
same "altitude." Hide the exposed liner by placing stones at the edge which
drape over into the water. Some prefer to dig a very shallow "shelf" for
their stones to sit in so that the liner is not exposed at all.
15: Can I create a concrete pond?
Yes, however it is not recommended without professional assistance and
planning. Usually the entire concrete surface must be lined with fiberglass
in order to prevent leaks. Large koi ponds (especially in Great Britain) use
concrete to line the pond. Concrete ponds generally are much more expensive
(thousands of dollars).
16: Is roofing liner okay for a pond liner?
It is said that roofing rubber is the same as most pond liners, but that the
manufacturer is not required to GUARANTEE that no contaminants were
inadvertently incorporated into the batch. The likelihood of contamination
is extremely slim. No toxic chemicals are INTENTIONALLY added to any rubber
liner. On rec.ponds, very few if any have had problems with using roofing
liner. Many times roofing liner is just as expensive as "pond liners."
17: My water is green. What do I do?
Before battling algae, learn as much as you can about the natural balance of
a pond. Realize that new ponds must go through a growth period which usually
means green water before balance occurs.
You probably do not have enough plants or you have too many fish. Plan on 20
gallons of water per goldfish and at least 100 gallons of water per koi and
as many plants as you can afford to buy.
New ponds nearly always go green before they clear up. Overfeeding the fish
causes uneaten food to sink and rot and act as fertilizer that triggers an
algal bloom. The green water which troubles water gardeners is caused by
suspended algae. It is important to remember that the green algae you see is
not bad. It is only a visual nuisance. The green, fuzzy algae on the sides
of the pond is good algae and helps to balance the pond.
Some people claim that a high algae content in the water actually improves
the color of fish. Your best remedy is to add plants of all aquatic types.
Plants such as water lilies which have spreading pads shade the water
depriving the algae of sunlight it needs to survive. Underwater plants and
floating plants with free roots absorb nutrients directly from the water.
Various bog and veggie plants filter some of the excess nutrients that feed
the algae. Since algae is the simplest plant form in your pond it will not
be able to compete with these higher order plants for nutrients and will
If the bottom of your pond is covered with submerged plants you will rarely
have green water. Determine the maximum number of fish your pond can support
and aim for several fewer than that. Do not change your water unless you
know contaminants have entered your pond. To change your water is to begin
again with a new algal problem. Your pond must be established in order to
fight the algae. The best advice is to be patient!
Finally, all ponds naturally get green from time to time. Spring time is a
good example. Before the plants fill out the fish are beginning to resume
their active life styles and the sun is heating up. Algae are delighted by
this, and begin to grow and blossom. There is some degree of algae in your
pond even when it seems clear. You can never totally eliminate your algae.
Algae require three major conditions - Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Light.
Eliminating any one of those prevents the growth of algae. Green water is
particularly annoying as it prevents you from seeing into the pond.
Phosphorus is probably the most difficult element to deal with, as it is
often present in your water supply. You need the light if you have plants,
though shade from outside the pond might be possible if you only have fish.
In a planted pond, lilies and floating plants like water lettuce and water
hyacinth will eventually block light from the algae.
Many algae will preferentially get their nitrogen requirement from ammonia
(fish waste). The best solution to the presence of ammonia is a working
biological filter. However, filters usually only convert ammonia to nitrite
to nitrate. Algae will use nitrates too, but other plants will compete for
Other great tips to reduce the algae:
1.. Install bottom drains and skimmers for ease of removing sludge and
2.. Net the pond during the fall to keep leaves out of the pond.
3.. Trim dead growth from the plants and remove floating tropicals if you
live in colder climates.
4.. Lower your number of fish and do not overfeed the fish.
5.. Add many plants of any type. Marginal plants such as reeds, cattails,
iris, pickerel weed and arrowhead are good. Try floaters such as water
hyacinth and water lettuce. Place underwater plants such as anacharis, which
uses the nutrients that the algae prefer.
6.. Provide plenty of shade. Lilies, floating plants (water hyacinth and
water lettuce), and artificial shade (shade cloth, umbrella, arch or trellis
planted with vines) will prevent the sun from finding the algae.
7.. Clean the debris from the bottom of the pond. Some people use snails
to chew on the debris. This leaves less decaying matter for the algae to
8.. Reduce or stop fertilizing your plants. Fertilizer may also promote
9.. Plant in fine gravel and top with larger rocks if you have koi.
10.. Use mechanical filtration to remove fish waste. This could be a
settling chamber in your filter or the first row of brushes in your filter
11.. Construct a veggie filter with a surface area ten to twenty percent
of the surface area of your pond. Plant marginal plants. Pump the pond water
through the filter at a turnover rate of one-half to one-fourth of the total
pond volume per hour. Veggie filters use many of the nutrients and provides
a good place for bacteria to grow. Build it with a bottom drain (or two) for
ease of cleaning. This may prevent backups and leaks over the edge. A veggie
filter can also be as simple as floating water hyacinth at the top of your
stock tank filter.
12.. Purchase a sludge-eating product (concentrated bacteria culture).
13.. Many people use an Ultra-Violet clarifier to destroy floating algae.
This is good if you are very sure that you have zero ammonia. This will cost
more than most pond products and you will need to change the bulb every
14.. Add a bale of barley straw to your pond for string algae. Barley
straw has been shown to kill it and corn meal will take it out of suspension
and it will sink to the bottom of the pond. However, in both cases you're
adding even more organic matter to the pond, and you need to remove it when
it has done its job.
15.. Chemically, 5 parts per billion of Copper Sulphate will destroy
16.. A phosphate remover usually found near the aquatic plant fertilizers
in hardware stores and garden centers is an option. Measure the amount
suitable for your pond size, place it in a mesh bag, and soak it in a pail
before placing it in the filter. It needs to soak because it gives off heat
when it first becomes moist.
17.. Most of all, be patient.
18: Are there laws concerning the building of a pond?
You will have to check your local by-laws for liability issues and to know
how deep your pond can be without a fence and locking-gate surround it. Some
cities consider ponds greater then a certain depth to be small pools and
must meet the legal requirements for a pool Always be aware, however, that
young children have a fascination with water and even the shallowest ponds
can prove deadly if you do not supervise children at all times.
19: How do chlorine and chloramine affect the pond?
Chlorine and sometimes chloramine are added to many water supplies. This
does not apply to natural fed water from springs or wells, just water
treated and supplied by water companies.
Water companies provide water for humans to consume, and not for fish and
plants to reside. These chemicals are added as part of the water
purification process. An amount of the water supplied to our homes is
recycled, filtered (in a similar way to our ponds' filtering), and treated
with chemicals to make it safe to drink. Depending on where you live,
different things maybe done to your water before it comes out of the tap or
Water can come from natural springs, reservoirs, underground aquafers, or a
mixture. This can go through a treatment plant (which is like a giant pond
filter), through carbon to remove impurities, and many other treatments. To
ensure there is no bad bacteria in the water we drink, chemicals called
chlorine and chloramine are normally added.
This is normally added at the pumping station, and as it travels through the
pipes it becomes more dilute. If your house is near the pumping station, you
will receive a higher level than somebody at the end of the pipe.
Both these chemicals can and do harm fish, plants and all aquatic life. They
also kill filter bacteria. There are ways of removing these from the water,
and depending on how much you value your fish, there are several ways of
making the water safe.
By spraying the water in as fine of a mist as possible when filling up your
pond, most of the chlorine will be driven off. Chloramine can only be
removed by chemicals, or absorbtion. There are many treatments you can buy
which neutralise these chemicals. They are added at the same time you top
your water off.
The only problem is that other chemicals maybe added to your tap water
infrequently. Old copper and iron pipes in houses can also leach harmful
deposits and these treatments will not protect you. It is possible to get
filters which filter tap water and make it safe for ponds. These normally
consist of a activated carbon filter, which absorbs more than 90% of all
harmful chemicals. If you cannot obtain a proper tap water filter for ponds,
some of the household tap water filters have carbon filters. These will
provide similar protection. These carbon filters have cartridges which
absorb many other chemicals and require replacing after a set time. They are
not too expensive to buy particularly if you often smell chlorine in your
water (smells like a swimming pool), or have old copper or iron pipes.
Symptoms of Chlorine/Chloramine poisoning are as follows:
1) Fish are healthy and lively prior to addition of new water.
2) Within a few hours, fish stay on bottom of pond, and clamp fins.
3) Symptoms after 24 hours include sunken eyes in severe cases.
Unless the water is treated immediately when it goes in, treatment is very
difficult once the fish have been exposed to chlorine and chloramine for
many hours. These chemicals will dissipate after about 48 hours and there is
very little you can do to help affected fish.
Chlorine and chloramine levels tend to be at their highest during peak
demand periods. It is best to avoid topping off ponds during these periods.
If you smell chlorine, and do not have a tapwater filter or do not use
dechlorinating chemicals, do not top off your pond. Only a tapwater filter
will give the best protection.
20: How much sun and/or shade do I need?
Most water plants require sun at least half of the day, but preferably more.
Sun may increases the probability of algae, but the plants in the water will
compete with the algae for nutrients and generally solve this problem.
Sufficient plant coverage on the surface is almost a necessity for clear
water in most garden ponds. Try water lilies, lotus, water lettuce, and
hyacinth to provide shade for your pond. Other plants will tolerate shady
conditions. Check with pond suppliers for additional suggestions.
21: Do I have to have a pump/filter?
No, you do not necessarily need a filter. If you have no fish, a filter is
completely unnecessary. If you do have fish (but not many) you may not need
a filter. If you do not feed your fish very often you may not need a filter.
If you are none of the above cases, chances are you will need a filter. You
must have a pump to run a filter, unless of course you have a natural stream
flowing into and out of your pond.
22: Do I need a filter?
Filters are important in maintaining good water quality, but they are not
needed in all circumstances. If a pond has very few fish, and is full of
plants, there will be a natural balance and filters are unnecessary. If
though, your pond is primarily for fish, and you feed them on a regular
basis, a filter should be installed to maintain the water quality.
It all depends on the size of pond and the number, size, and kind of fish.
If your fish load is not too excessive, the filter could be as simple as an
air-driven sponge filter.
Keep track of you ammonia and algae levels. If your ammonia level gets too
high or you can no longer see your fish, you should consider building a
filter. With large ponds, ammonia usually is not a problem.
The only way to avoid having a filter is to create a natural balance. You
must balance the number of fish with the size of your pond and plant the
pond fairly heavily to absorb waste products. In reality, most garden ponds
with a few goldfish, a water lily and plenty of plants do not need a filter.
Human nature though, means we tend to add more fish than the pond can
naturally support. Very soon, the water quality deteriorates.
23: Does a swimming pool filter work?
Swimming pool filtration generally does not work well for fish ponds.
Swimming pool filters are not designed for the biological filtration you
need for a pond. They are meant to mechanically and chemically filter the
water. They also may not be adequate for 24 hour a day use. In general
swimming pool pumps are expensive to operate, because they consume a lot of
24: What is a vegetable (veggie) filter?
It is a separate area where aquatic plants can be grown with the aim of
removing nitrate and phosphate naturally.
Koi eat plants of all types, and so it is not practical to keep plants in
the same ponds as koi. The vegetable filter is a small pond or tank beside
the main pond, where water is passed from the pond, past the plants and back
to the pond. This does not have to be at a very fast speed, and providing
the water is clean enough, a small aquarium powerhead can be used as a pump.
Most aquatic plants can be kept in here, but reports show that water cress
and mimulus are two of the best plants for removing nitrate.
Plants have one other benefit. They prefer ammonium to nitrate. This means
they reduce the load on a biological filter.
25: What's a USDA Zone? Which zone am I in?
USDA Zones are established by the United States Department of Agriculture.
They are based on how plants will fair in "zones" throughout the country.
Plants you buy should have labels as to which zones for which they are
hardy. To find which zone you are located in, visit:
USDA Hardiness Zone Zone Average Minimum Winter Temperature, in degrees
Zone 1 = -50 and below
Zone 2 = -40 to -50
Zone 3 = -30 to -40
Zone 4 = -20 to -30
Zone 5 = -10 to -20
Zone 6 = 0 to -10
Zone 7 = 10 to 0
Zone 8 = 20 to 10
Zone 9 = 30 to 20
Zone 10 = 40 to 30
Zone 11 = 40 and above.
26: What are the red/black worms in my filter?
They are probably midge fly larva (bloodworms). Dehydrated blood worms are
often sold in pet stores as fish food.
27: Why did my pump burn out?
There are two likely causes of pump burnout: overheating or electrical
short. There is not much you can do about an electrical short (except to
never allow water to get into a pump that is not meant to be submersible).
Protect yourself, your fish, family and pets by always plugging all pond
electrical equipment into a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI, or GFI).
These are usually replacement receptacles that you can purchase at any
hardware store. In many areas they are legally required for all outdoor
Running the pump dry can cause overheating. No pump should ever be allowed
to run dry, particularly submersibles. The other leading cause of
overheating is blockage at the input. Many pumps come with a very small
screen to prevent them from inhaling leaves and other objects, but the
screen is often too small. Place the pump under a plant basket weighted with
a stone, inside a crate filled with lava rock, inside a milk crate covered
with window screen or wire two baskets around it like a clamshell to
increase the surface area of the screen.
Note: Do not place your pump on the bottom of your pond. If by accident,
your pump begins to empty your pond, you will not empty the entire pond.
Instead, you will only run the pump dry instead of the pump and the pond.
Some pumps will also run too hot if they are allowed to run continuously
against too little pressure. Some believe that pond pumps should never be
allowed to run at more than two thirds of their maximum capacities. This may
be excessive, but it's certainly true that it does no harm to restrict the
output flow from most pumps. If you are pumping to a waterfall, you probably
have sufficient back pressure in anyway.
28: What type of silicone cement is safe to use on my pond?
Avoid any kind of silicone that does not specify being safe for aquarium
use. Do not use white or colored silicone or anything intended for tubs and
tiles. These silicones have additives to prevent mildew. Some clear
silicones will say they are safe for aquarium use but not "for marine use
below the waterline." These are generally safe but are not guaranteed to be
structurally useful. In other words, do not use these products to hold
boulders in place. Sealing holes with these products should be fine.
29: Why is there foam at the base of my waterfall?
Foam in the pond is rarely caused by soap as many would guess, but by the
agitation of water containing dissolved organic compounds (DOC). DOC may be
caused by fish wastes or by decaying plant matter. First clean the bottom of
the pond and ensure that there is no decaying leaf mold. Skim the foam with
a net. If you have eliminated the source, no more foam should appear.
If the source of the DOC is your fish, you can remove it with activated
carbon (sources claim from one to eight pounds of carbon per one thousand
gallons) placed in the filter (or in the base of the waterfall). Put the
carbon in a pantyhose leg so that you can easily remove it later. It should
be removed once the foam disappears.
If you have a continuing problem with DOC, you may consider building a
30: How often should I change my pond water?
You should never do a full water change. When you change your entire pond's
volume of water you are in reality starting from ground zero. Do not do a
total water change unless you know your water has been contaminated with a
toxic chemical. Most koi breeders say that a 10% water change weekly is a
good promoter of koi growth. A slight water change is good for your pond
periodically. If you do change any of the water in your pond, USE
DECHLORINATOR! Tap water usually contains chlorine and chloramines which are
deadly to fish. Use the prescribed dosage of dechlorinator to make sure that
the chlorine is effectively removed from your pond.
Some people prefer to use a carbon filter to remove the chlorine and
chloramines from their water.
31: How do I change my pH?
First determine if it's really necessary to change the pH. Your plants will
survive a wide range of pH, and fish should do well within a range of 7.0 to
8.5. More important than the actual value is the fluctuation of pH. Any
large fluctuation will stress the fish. Because plants release more carbon
dioxide at night during their dark cycle, the water will be more acidic
early in the morning. Check your pH early in the morning and then late in
the afternoon. If the pH changes by more than one full point you need
buffer. This can be accomplished by adding baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
or possibly by adding limestone rocks to your waterfall.
Fish wastes and other wastes will also slowly lower your pH and make the
pond more acidic. This can be controlled by cleaning out the bottom of the
pond periodically, and by doing regular water changes.
Rainwater will usually lower your pH, and tap water will often raise it.
You can reduce your pH (concentration of hydrogen ions) by adding a handful
of oak leaves or floating a bag of peat moss in the water. An alternative is
to mix a cup of vinegar with a gallon of water and sprinkle it around the
edges of the pond every other day until the pH is balanced.
If you need to raise the pH, use baking soda. If you must lower it use
muriatic acid (hydrochloric Acid, HCl). Do this very slowly, and always add
the acid to the water and not the water to the acid. Take a 1-gallon or
larger pail filled with water with a 1/8" ID tube through the base. Suspend
it over the pond, and add 1-cup acid to the contents of the bucket. Let this
slowly drip into the pond. Never change pH by more than 0.2 points in a 24
Do not attempt to change the pH too quickly as you will kill the fish.
32: What type of rocks can I use around my pond?
Generally, stay away from brightly colored rocks, which will contain copper
or other metallic compounds that could be harmful to the fish. Shale will
leach oil into the pond and limestone may raise the pH more than you would
33: How and how often should I clean the pond?
Pond cleaning may depend on many factors. There will be significantly less
detritus if you are not near deciduous trees, have a surface skimmer, or if
you place a net over your pond during the fall and winter.
Frogs must be able to bury themselves in the muck in the bottom of the pond
so do not keep the bottom extremely clean if you plan to keep them.
If you do not have frogs, clean the bottom of the pond in the late fall and
also early spring. If you do have frogs, clean the pond as soon as the frogs
become active in the spring.
You can use a strong net to scoop the muck from the bottom, a common pool
skimmer net for the sides and bottom, or a Shop-Vac for a vacuum of the
entire surface. In a concrete pond, a rake is an option. Many people build
their own vacuum system.
34: I just cleaned my pond and my water turned brown. What's wrong?
More than likely, nothing is wrong. When you messed with the filter
apparatus and adjusted plants and moved rocks you stirred dirt into the
water and moved the algae on the walls. More than likely within a few days
the dirt will settle to the bottom and your water will resume its former
35: I haven't cleaned the pond in months and the water is brown. What's
You may need to get in there and do some cleaning. Your house will be dusty
if you don't clean it periodically. The same is true of your pond. It is an
Sometimes the water clarity will change and this is natural. Check how your
water looks on days with different types of weather. Sometimes the pond will
look brown, sometimes clear, and sometimes green. Remember that this is a
living system and will change. It may be a more serious problem, however. It
may mean your dog has been swimming in it or your fish have been rooting in
the lily pots. If your fish decide to stir up the muck in the bottom the
water will become unclear as well. If the water smells sour or foul, you may
have a more serious problem. Test your water quality or have your pet store
do it for you. Act accordingly once your find out if something is out of
36: Will salt reduce the ice on my frozen pond?
Salt does not melt snow or ice. Instead, salt keeps melted snow from
freezing again, even when it's well below 32 degrees...
The addition of the salt changes the equilibrium (be the water solid,
liquid, or gas). Before the salt was added, the water was freezing and the
ice was melting at the same temperature of 32 ºF (0 ºC). But the salt
destroyed equilibrium, so that the water will not freeze at 32 ºF (0 ºC)
(the freezing point may be -5.8 ºF (-21 ºC)), but the ice continues to melt
at 32 ºF (0 ºC). Without equilibrium, the ice melts but the water does not
freeze: "melting" wins.
Please note that at a certain temperature (usually sub-zero degrees
Fahrenheit), the salt won't even work. The temperature is so low that the
freezing point will not decrease any more. Thus it is useless to even try to
create a hole in your pond when the temps get down in the negative numbers.
If this is the case, find your nearest de-icer.
Please note that adding salt will definitely change your equilibrium. Make
sure that an addition of salt will not harm your plants and/or fish. Adding
salt is not recommended as highly for reducing ice as heaters, de-icers, air
36b: What is "porg"?
The term "porg" is a play-off of the Star Trek Next Generation series. In
the series the evil Borg were half-living creatures, half robots, flying
around the universe assimilating new species into their collective. Their
favorite line, delivered in cold robotic voices, was "Resistance is futile,
you will be assimilated."
We rec.ponders feel the same way about ponding. Watch out you are about to
be assimilated into the Porg collective! All your money and spare time will
be sent to the depths of the pond collective. We will be here to help with
We are _Borg_! Resistance is futile, you WILL be assimilated!
We are _Porg_! Resistance is futile, you WILL be Pond-Elated!
P = Pond
O = Oriented
R = Recreation
G = Group
37: Where do I find pond plants?
The best way to obtain plants for your pond is to purchase them from a
reputable garden center, pond supply store, or mail order source.
Nursery-grown plants are usually of high quality grown from known stock;
there is less chance of introducing unwanted plants or pests into your pond,
and they transplant better than plants collected from the wild.
Here are other tips to finding cheap, quality pond plants:
1.. A lot of ponders will give away or trade extra plants. Post where you
are to rec.ponds and maybe a nearby ponder will respond.
2.. Try asking local watergardeners you know (ex: clubs, neighbors, etc.)
to give you a start of what they already have.
3.. Visit your local grocery store and see if they have any (ex:
watercress and Chinese water chestnuts). Sometimes grocery stores carry
suitable pond plants in the produce section.
4.. Try natural ponds and see if they have any pond plants (ex: lilies).
Be careful with invasive plants, however. Many "pond plants" have
overcrowded and dammed natural waterways and caused tremendous taxdollars to
eradicate. They may take over your pond. Check to make sure the plants are
legal in your state. Collecting native plants from natural streams and
waterways may be restricted or prohibited. Check with the Department of
Natural Resources or the appropriate regulatory agency for your area before
taking plants from natural waterways. If you do obtain permission, do not
place the plants directly into your pond. Isolate them for several weeks in
water that is treated for parasites with a plant-safe product. Observe them
closely for signs of parasites or insects.
5. If all else fails go to the web, try E-bay, or check out your local
hardware stores with garden departments (i.e.: Lowes, Home Depot, etc.) for
plants. At Gardenweb.com, you can trade plants that you have (water or
terrestrial) for pond plants.
6. You can trade plants at websites such as Gardenweb.com for water plants.
Trade seeds for veggie gardens, coreopsis from the yard, cuttings from
honeysuckle, cuttings from rose bushes, etc.
Plants such as water hyacinths obtained from others' ponds may also contain
tiny fish and snail eggs that will grow and mature in your pond. If you have
excess pond plants, add them to your compost heap or give/sell them to
others. Do not attempt to put extra fish and plants in natural waterways as
this act is probably illegal, and invasive plants and animals can destroy
the local ecosystem
38: Are non-native plants safe for my pond?
Many non-native plants threaten the local waterways when they are released
into natural waterways such as lakes, streams, or creeks. Water hyacinths,
anacharis, cabomba, and other exotics have proven to be extremely invasive
in southern waters, making them impassable and eliminating other native
plants. Do not introduce plants from your pond into a local waterway without
first checking with your Department of Natural Resources or the equivalent
39: How should I pot my plants?
Unless you have a natural pond or plan to cover your pond with an earth
bottom, plants should be placed into containers for easy relocation or
removal. Containers also keep invasive, fast-growing plants from taking over
Pond plants are usually planted in soil, although many find equal or better
results using a soil-less material such as crushed rock,gravel, or a stone
that anchors the plant. You should avoid the use of soil mixes containing
vermiculite, perlite, or any other additives that will float out of the
mixture. Do your potting in the shade and ensure that the plant does not dry
out during the process. Roots and tubers are often fragile and should be
handled with care to avoid damage.
Pots generally should be large enough to accommodate later growth. Pots with
no drainage hole are ideal. If you use one with drain holes, cover them
(large gravel works well) so that soil will not fall out into the pond. Fill
the pot partially up with soil and then position the plant in the pot,
fanning out its roots over the soil. Add more soil to within 2 inches of the
top of the pot. Put about a 1 inch layer of gravel over the top to deter
fish (like koi) from rooting and to keep the soil from clouding the water as
you place the plant into the pond. Be sure the growing tip or crown of the
plant remains above the surface of the soil and gravel layer. Lower the pot
slowly into the pond. After it is barely submerged, hold it at that level
until the contents are saturated (the bubbles will stop). Slowly lower it to
its final location.
40: How much light do plants need when moved indoors for the winter?
All plants need light for photosynthesis, the creation of food energy
essential to maintaining life processes and growth. In northern latitudes,
we change from long hours of daylight in spring and summer to much shorter
days in fall and winter. Due to the sun's angle, winter light is less
intense; weather is often cloudier, too. Thus take that in to account for
your natural light. In my opinion, you should never give more light to the
plant than it receives in its natural surroundings.
By changing the cycle of day/night for a plant, you may inadvertently cause
a plant to flower too early or not at all. During any dark cycle you should
never try to interrupt the darkness (the daily photoperiod) as this causes
the plants stress and confusion as to what season they are actually growing.
Here's one sure-bet way to determine if your amount of light needs to be
When a plant receives too much light, it will usually develop areas that
look burned or bleached on the leaves, especially on the sunniest side. If a
plant is receiving too little light, it will lean toward the light source,
growth will be lanky and pale. Adjust accordingly to the plant's behavior.
41: Should I fertilize my water plants?
Some pond plants are heavy feeders and will need regular fertilization
during the growing season, while others will need no nutrients beyond what
they get from your pond's water. More specifically, water lilies, lotus, and
marginals will usually need supplemental fertilizer, while oxygenators and
floating plants will generally get what they need from the pond,
particularly if you have fish. There are fertilizers made specially for pond
plants, and some people also report good results using fertilizer for
terrestrial potted plants. Fertilizer comes in liquid, granular, and solid
form, the latter consisting of tablets or spikes. Granular is handy for
adding to potting mixtures. Tablets or spikes are easy to use for periodic
fertilization; they can be pushed down into pots without removing them from
the pond. Don't fertilize your plants when they become dormant during the
42: How many plants should I have and what kind?
Surface coverage of 50-80% (less for larger or shadier ponds, more for
smaller or sunnier ones) helps keep algae growth in check and keeps water
temperature lower in locations with hot summers. Use water lilies, lotus,
floating plants, and marginals with floating leaves to accomplish this. One
water lily or lotus will take up 1 square yard or more of pond surface. One
bunch of oxygenators for each 1-2 sq. ft. of pond surface is recommended to
help keep water clean. Additional marginals are added for contrast and
43: Will my plants survive the winter?
Pond plants vary in the amount of cold they can endure. Zone information, if
known, is given in the plant descriptions. These are the standard USDA
hardiness zones. If you live in a cold climate, plants that aren't hardy
will need to be wintered inside, or else treated as annuals and replenished
with new stock when the weather warms.
44: When is it safe to put plants in the pond?
Hardy plants (hardy lilies, lotus, floating heart, hornwort, etc.) usually
can survive the winter on the bottom of the pond. Plants such as water iris
and most reeds and rushes can be left on the margin of the pond all winter.
Tropical plants such as water hyacinth, water lettuce and umbrella palm can
be placed in the pond once the threat of frost has passed. These plants
typically do better once the temperatures remain above freezing (32 ºF).
Tropical lilies should not be placed in the water until the temperature
remains constantly above 20 ºC (70 ºF).
45: What do I do about pond plant pests?
Never use an insecticide or any other product that is not specified to be
safe for aquatic life if you have fish, snails, or other pond inhabitants.
Many pests can be eradicated or at least controlled by either squirting with
a stream of water or shaking the leaves underwater to knock the bugs into
the water. If you have fish, they will help out by eating the bugs.
For aphid/whiteflies/spider mite control, Lilypons Water Gardens (see
sources) suggests mixing one tablespoon of dishwashing detergent with one
cup of cooking oil. Mix 2 1/2 teaspoons of this mix to one cup of water;
spray on water lilies every 10 days. The detergent emulsifies the oil so it
does not leave a film on top of your pond. Lilypons has successfully tested
the technique on water lilies with aphid infestations.
Another way to deal with some pests is to use a bacteria, bacillus
thurengiensis or Bt, that comes a dust, spray, or in the form of floating
pellets. Strains of Bt that attack many common pests, including caterpillars
and mosquito larvae, are available.
46: Can I just toss my extra plants into the nearby lake or stream?
No! Absolutely under no condition throw your extra plants into natural
waterways. This may be illegal. In the warm nation of Uganda in the spring
of 1996, the port was shut down because the beautiful water hyacinth had
completely blocked it off. It was so thick that ships could not move through
it. When they brought in a special ship to cut through the weeds the engine
blew out within a week. This has caused a terrible problem for their
national economy. The plants are thick enough to stand on. It has also
become a problem in Florida and southern Louisiana at times. It is
controlled by a bacterial agent, but this is a slow process. Water lilies
can do the same kind of damage, filling lakes and closing off waterways.
Water plants can be very aggressive. Be careful and responsible. If you don't
know anyone who needs your divisions, add them to your compost heap. If you
are dividing them you can see that you will not have a shortage of them in
47: Can I over-winter my tropical plants?
Umbrella palm can be kept as a houseplant. Tropical lilies can be stored,
bare-root, in an aquarium. Water hyacinth or water lettuce are purely
annuals for most, however a number of people have had some success keeping
water hyacinth heavily fertilized and in front of bright windows. Others
have found success growing their water lettuce and water hyacinth in a
48: What pH do my plants prefer?
Most pond plants will do well in a range around neutral, say 6.2 to 7.4.
Plants will themselves tend to pull the pH towards neutral. If your water
tests too acid (low pH number) or too alkaline (high pH number), there are
formulations sold specially for pond use that will either raise or lower the
49: What are water lilies (nymphaea)?
Probably the most popular pond plant. Hybridization has produced hundreds of
cultivars; sizes range from dwarf to the giant Victoria lilies whose leaves
can exceed 30" in diameter. Water lilies have round leaves ("pads") in solid
green or variegated with hues of red/pink/bronze that float on the water's
surface. Blooms open during the day and close at night, except for blooms on
the night-blooming tropicals which do the opposite. Blooms last up to 5 days
and generally appear from May or June through October, although the season
can vary quite a bit depending on your weather. Flower colors range from
pinks, reds, oranges, yellows, whites, and for tropicals, lavender and blue.
Some cultivars sport multi-colored blossoms.
All water lilies need plenty of sun for best results (though blooms may slow
during extremely hot weather), and in turn help screen the pond to limit
algae growth. Water lilies do best in large containers in somewhat shallow,
still water. Use supports in deeper ponds to elevate pots to the correct
height (plastic milk crates or flat rocks work well). Spent blossoms and
leaves should be removed, cutting the stem as close to the crown of the
plant as practical. Water lilies are heavy feeders which need to be
fertilized regularly during the growing season.
Water lilies are divided into hardy and tropical, depending on whether they
will winter over in cold climates or not. The characteristics described
below hold true in general, however due to hybridization there are some
"crossover" traits to be found.
50: What about hardy water lilies?
Hardies are cold-hardy to zone 3 as long as the tuber is kept below the ice
line. Hardy lily blooms float on the surface of the water. For best results,
place the top of pot 12-24" below the water's surface. The plants will
become dormant after a killing frost. If you expect ice to contact the
tuber, remove the plant from the pond and store in a dark, cool, moist
location until weather warms in the spring.
51: How do I over-winter my lilies?
If you can not leave your hardy lily below the ice in your winter pond,
remove the dead leaves and either bring the whole container indoors for cold
storage under 10 ºC (50 ºF) or wash all the soil media from the tuber and
trim the roots to approximately three inches. You can keep the bare tuber in
water in a container in your refrigerator.
Bring your tropical lily indoors and wash all the soil media from the roots.
Leave it in a well-lit, heated, aquarium. Do not remove the leaves. Keep the
temperature of the water over 70 ºF.
52: What about tropical water lilies?
Tropical lilies are in general larger, showier, and more free-blooming than
the hardies. Blooms are held above the water's surface. The top of pot is
ideally 6" (dwarf types) - 18" below the water's surface. Tropicals' leaves
are somewhat thin and fragile, making them more susceptible to damage from
fish. Tropicals will not survive a heavy frost, and are treated as annuals
in colder climates, perennial in warmer climates (zones 10-11). If frost is
expected, plants can be temporarily protected overnight with a covering of
plastic or canvas.
53: How do I plant/repot my lilies?
Divide and repot water lilies every 1-4 years, or when leaves and blooms
appear stunted and/or sparse. If you purchase your lily mail-order, it will
come "bare root" and you'll have to pot it up initially.
There are two basic growth habits - a horizontal tuber which grows across
the surface of the pot (hardy), and a tuber that grows vertically or nearly
so (tropical). Both types will produce offshoots which can be cut or broken
off from the main tuber and potted separately.
Use a container that holds about 8 quarts of soil for a single dwarf lily,
16 - 20 quarts for a single tropical lily, and up to 30 quarts for a single
hardy lily, which needs extra room due to its horizontal growth habit.
Containers that are wider than they are deep are preferred. More than one
lily can be planted in a container as long as a large enough size is used.
Use garden soil mixed with fertilizer at the rate of one teaspoon per gallon
of soil and with well-composted manure at the rate of one part to four parts
soil. Manure that is not aged sufficiently will add unwanted nutrients to
your pond which could encourage algae growth.
If repotting, remove the plant and root mass from the pot and gently hose
off tubers and roots. The crown (where the leaves attach to the tuber)
should always be placed above the soil and gravel surface, not buried. If
the lily is one which grows horizontally, plant the tuber as far to one side
of the pot as possible, with the growing crown towards the center of the
pot; if it grows vertically, place it in the center of the pot. If possible,
place newly planted lilies in shallow water until they become established.
Then lower them to their final position.
54: What is lotus (nelumbo)?
Although hardy to zone 4, lotus will perform better in warm climates where
it gets a longer growing season. Lotus prefer full sun, with the top of pot
2-12" below the water's surface. Sizes range from dwarf to plants with large
leaves up to 2' across. Blossoms and most leaves are held several inches to
several feet above the surface on prickly stems, while other leaves float on
the surface like a water lily. The leaves have a velvety rather than shiny
appearance and are extremely water repellent. Since they tend to be slightly
cupped, rain drops will collect on them in large jewel-like droplets. Blooms
open during the day, close at night, and last about three days. Lotus take
awhile to get established; don't expect blooms the first year, although
there are exceptions! Colors range from white, cream, yellow, pink, to red.
After the petals fall, the central seed pod can be cut and used in dried
arrangements. Lotus are tough plants that are less susceptible than water
lilies to koi damage.
55: How do I plant/repot my lotus?
Planting/Repotting Lotus grow from runners consisting of long slender tubers
attached end-to-end. These runners can get quite long and can be divided
during repotting for additional plants. Lotus need large containers (18
quarts for small, 20-48 quarts for large), and a round shape is best to keep
the growing tuber from bunching up in one corner of the pot.
Use a good rich garden soil with no manure mixed in. Granular fertilizer at
the rate of one tablespoon per gallon of soil is recommended. Position the
tuber horizontally, with the end away from the growing tip buried shallowly
and the growing tip above the surface.
56: What are floating water plants?
These plants can help reduce the algae in your pond by limiting the amount
of sun reaching the water and absorbing nutrients from the water. Some of
them reproduce rapidly; it's best to limit their use to small ponds as you
may end up having to dip out excess stock.
57: What is water hyacinth (eichornia crassipes)?
Shiny green leaves grow from a bulbous stem which provides flotation for the
whole plant. Dangling roots provide a favorite spawning and snacking
material. Showy clusters of flowers are pale lavender with yellow centers.
Water hyacinth needs warm weather and lots of sunlight for best effect. It
can be extremely invasive in natural waterways and may be illegal to use in
some areas. Water hyacinths propagate by sending out runners which develop
new plants. It is an excellent plant for extracting nutrients from the
water. Water hyacinth is not hardy.
58: What is duckweed (lemma)?
Duckweek can look like a green carpet totally covering the water's surface;
upon close inspection, the carpet is made up of tiny floating plants, each
with rootlets extending down from a cluster of tiny leaves. Reproduces very
rapidly. Many fish like to eat duckweed. To provide a salad for your fish
without a maintenance headache in your pond, keep your duckweed in a
separate container and introduce into your pond only as much as your fish
will readily consume.
59: What is water lettuce (pistia stratiotes)?
Water lettuce is an attractive floater with velvety pale green leaves which,
as its name implies, look somewhat like a head of leaf lettuce. It is a
somewhat finicky plant which does best in shallow, still water, warm
temperatures, and broken sun. Roots provide good spawning ground. Water
lettuce is not hardy.
60: What are marginal (or bog) plants?
Marginal (bog) plants, so called because they grow at the margins of bodies
of water, provide the water garden with great variety in texture, size, and
form. Included in this group are plants which rise above the water as well
as plants that rest on its surface. Marginals should be placed in water 1-6"
over the top of the pot. Tall marginals need large containers in order to
keep them from becoming top-heavy and tipping in wind. They all absorb
nutrients; iris and reeds are so good at this that they are sometimes used
in filtration troughs or beds in lieu of more traditional forms of
61: What is water poppy (nymphoides)?
Water poppy has round glossy 2" leaves with yellow poppy-like flowers. Along
with the golden club, the spawning plant of choice for my koi. Hardy to zone
62: What is parrot's feather (myriophyllum prosperpinacoides)?
Parrot's feather has feathery light-green foliage which lifts up out of the
water on arching stems. It spreads readily. It is hardy to zone 6.
63: What is golden club (orontium aqauticum)?
Golden club has some leaves above the water; some float at its surface. It
produces an unusual bloom stalk colored bright yellow, hence its name. It is
hardy to zone 6.
64: What is iris (iridaceae)?
Iris has strap-like foliage and flowers ranging from white to yellow to deep
purple. It grows in clumps that can be divided often. Iris has excellent
water cleaning properties and grows 3'-4' tall. Some forms are hardy to zone
65: What is arrowhead/duck potato (Sagittaria)?
Arrowhead has spade-shaped leaves with a graceful flower stalk of multiple
white blooms. Various forms range from 3'-5' in height. Sagittaria's edible
tubers give rise to one of its common names, Duck Potato. Some forms hardy
to zone 5.
66: What is pickerel weed (pontederia cordata)?
Pickerel weed has narrow leaves with a purple (or white, variant) flower
stalk. Pickerel weed is 2-3' in height and forms clumps which can be divided
often. Long blooming season. It is hardy to zone 3.
67: What is cattail (typha)?
Cattails have tall, strap-like leaves with the familiar brown bloom stalk.
Cattail can be invasive if not kept containerized. There are various sizes
from dwarf (3') to full size (7'). They are hardy to zone 2 or 3.
68: What is papyrus (cyperus)?
Papyrus comes in a variety of sizes from giant (6-10') to dwarf (30"). All
forms have spiky growth with a bushy head at the end of each stalk. Forms
tight clumps that can be divided frequently. It is hardy to zone 9.
69: What is marsh marigold (caltha palustris)?
Marsh marigold has single or double flowers in various shades of yellow with
green, glossy foliage. Marsh marigold ranges in size from diminutive forms
6" tall to 3' or more. Prefers cooler climates and partial shade, especially
70: What are oxygenators?
Oxygenators are submerged plants which, in the presence of sunlight, absorb
nutrients and carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. Be aware, however, that at
night they give off carbon dioxide. If you have fish it's important to
provide a form of oxygenation, such as a waterfall or fountain, that runs
Oxygenators can usually be placed directly into the pond without the benefit
of soil; simply weight a plant or rootless stems with special lead plant
weights or strips cut from an empty toothpaste tube and drop them in. Most
can also be planted in soil. Oxygenators provide excellent protection for
newly hatched fish. Many oxygenators have somewhat fragile stems and leaves
which need protection from koi. The entire plant can be contained in a bag
of loose mesh, such as leaf netting, to help protect it.
Examples include anacharis (elodea canadensis), hornwort (ceratophyllum),
and cabomba/fanwort (cabomba caroliniana).
71: What is anacharis (elodea canadensis)?
Although one of the most popular oxygenators, this plant can be invasive
both in your pond and in your local waterways. Small whorls of leaves grow
on long, flexible stems. Excess anacharis makes good fertilizer or can be
added to your compost heap. Hardy to zone 5.
72: What is hornwort (ceratophyllum)?
Hornwort has bristly, dark, feathery foliage. Hornwort is unique in that it
has no roots and can simply be dropped into the pond. Produces small red and
yellow flowers in the summer. It is hardy to zone 4.
73: What is cabomba/fanwort (cabomba caroliniana)?
Cabomba has fan shaped feathery foliage. Produces small white flowers which
appear at the surface of the water. Extremely invasive in local waterways.
Hardy to zone 6.
74: What is the nitrogen cycle?
Everything we place in a pond produces toxic waste products from its own
metabolism. Nature's way of dealing with this problem is to provide bacteria
that convert these compounds to relatively harmless nitrogen compounds. This
conversion process is known as the "nitrogen cycle." A understanding of the
nitrogen cycle is essential to maintain good water quality in artificial
A major source of new nitrogen is the fish food that we feed our fish. One
of the primary components of fish food is protein. Protein is a
nitrogen-containing compound that is used by fish both to build other
proteins and as an energy source. Any food not consumed by the fish (as in
overfeeding) is used by the small organisms that are within the pond. The
proteins in dead plants and animals, if not removed, are also sources of
nitrogen. Finally, nitrogen is produced as a by-product of fish respiration,
so that even without feeding the fish, toxic substances are being added to
A simplified cycle follows:-
1.. Fish eat food.
2.. Fish excrete ammonia (which is highly toxic to fish in quantity).
3.. Bacteria break down ammonia to nitrite (which is toxic to fish in
4.. Bacteria break down nitrite to nitrate (which is fairly harmless to
5.. Plants consume nitrate.
6.. Fish eat plants
7.. The cycle begins again.
The above is a simplification of the cycle, and is basically how it works in
nature, and how we should mimic it.
When protein is used by a fish for energy, it undergoes a series of
conversions. First, each large protein molecule is broken down (digested) in
the gut of the fish to form small amino acid molecules. The amino acids are
eventually absorbed into the tissues of the fish and are broken apart to
yield energy. A by-product of this metabolic conversion is ammonia. Since
ammonia is highly toxic to tissues, it is quickly excreted from the fish's
body through the urinary system into the pond water.
In water, ammonia is found in two forms: as the ion (charged molecule)
ammonium and as the uncharged ammonia molecule. Ammonia is much more toxic
than ammonium. Molecules of these compounds continually change back and
forth, in a state referred to as equilibrium. At pH 7.0 (neutral), there are
always about as many ammonia molecules as there are ammonium ions. Above pH
7.0 (alkaline), there is always more ammonia than ammonium. The higher the
pH, the higher the ratio of toxic ammonia.
The ammonia in pond water must be removed if the fish are to survive. One
way to do this is to have a constant inflow of new water and outflow of old
water. This is simply impractical for most people. With the nitrogen cycle,
ammonia can be removed in another manner: through a process know as
"nitrification", or what most people know as adding a filter to their pond.
In nitrification, ammonia is converted by nitrifying organisms to the less
toxic molecule nitrite, and then to even less toxic nitrate. "Nitrosomonas"
bacteria convert ammonia to nitrite and "Nitrobacter" bacteria convert the
nitrite to nitrate.
The nitrification process is "aerobic", meaning that it occurs only in the
presence of oxygen. Therefore, it is important that oxygen be present in
sufficient quantities for nitrification to take place.
Nitrifying bacteria are found on any surface in the pond or filter that is
exposed to oxygen-containing water. The more surface area, the more room
there is for nitrifying bacteria. Most pond keepers try to encourage
bacterial growth in an aerobic filter, which is simply an area with a high
surface area and a rapid flow of oxygenated water. Undergravel filters, box
filters, trickle filters, and wet/dry filters are all aerobic filters that
work via the action of nitrifying bacteria.
Although the end product of nitrification, nitrate, is much less toxic than
ammonia or nitrite, it too must be removed from the water. If left
unchecked, excessive nitrates can cause serious problems for aquatic animals
and can spur the growth of harmful types of bacteria. It can also lead to
blooms of green water and blanket weed (string algae). One way in which
nitrates are removed in nature is through absorption by green plants, which
is why it is found in fertilizers and plant foods. Plants convert the
nitrates into amino acids and proteins.
Having plants either in the pond, or in the filter also help remove the
harmful ammonium. Plants prefer ammonium to Nitrate, which means they are a
useful way of maintaining good water quality.
The most common way that nitrate is removed from ponds is through regular
partial water changes. Every time a portion of water is replaced with new
water, nitrates are diluted. In fact, you can use an increased nitrate level
as an indicator for when a partial water change is needed.
Usually, the most critical period for an pond is the first few months after
it is set up. It is during this period of time that the nitrifying bacteria
established themselves in sufficient numbers to take care of processing the
ammonia produced by the inhabitants. The successful aquarist monitors the
establishment of the bacteria by testing for levels of ammonia and nitrite,
and if one wishes, for nitrate as well. The changing levels of these
compounds indicate the process of the growth of the populations of bacteria.
First, the level of ammonia increases. This occurs because the fish are
producing ammonia, but there are few "Nitrosomonas" bacteria present to
process it. Bacteria can be introduced in greater quantity early on by
adding gravel from an established pond or using a packaged bacterial
culture. The ammonia level will peak as the bacteria population starts to
increase and then taper off as the bacteria are able to process more of the
The level of nitrite also begins to increase as a result of the
"Nitrosomonas" bacteria converting the ammonia to nitrite. Eventually,
"Nitrobacter" bacteria begin to increase in number and consume the nitrite.
The nitrite levels eventually will also peak and then begin to taper off.
While the nitrite level is dropping, the nitrate level is going up. This is
the point at which plants and algae cultures can be added to the tank,
because the nitrate will feed them. If plants and algae are not desired, a
partial water change should be made to reduce the nitrates. Complete
stabilization of the nitrifying bacteria may take more than three months.
Changing biological (fish) loads, temperature, food input and other factors
cause bacterial populations to fluctuate widely in their early stages of
growth. In addition, there is evidence that the initial increase of ammonia
may inhibit the "Nitrobacter" bacteria from growing, delaying the processing
Once the bacterial colonies are well established, the aquarist can use his
or her knowledge of the nitrogen cycle in planning an effective maintenance
program. For example, an adequate flow of oxygenated water through the
filter must be maintained if the nitrifying bacteria are to remain active.
Filter material should never all be cleaned at the same time and should be
rinsed lightly in pond water, so as not to disturb the bacterial colony on
Application of the nitrogen cycle is also important when the fish population
in the pond changes. Usually, a decreased fish load simply means that the
bacteria will reduce their rate of metabolism, although it is also possible
that some of the bacterial colony will die from a lack of nutrients. Any
time the fish load is increased, however, either from the growth of the fish
or the addition of new fish, the bacteria must increase their level of
metabolism and, more importantly, their numbers. This increase in population
size can take time. It is better to add only a few fish at a time so as not
to increase the levels of toxic nitrogen compounds in the water too rapidly.
also, because the bacteria are limited by the amount of surface area
available, it may be necessary to add more filter material and even increase
the flow of water to maintain the bacterial populations at sufficiently high
Many problems resulting from pond design and maintenance techniques can be
solved through the application of the basic concepts of the nitrogen cycle.
The most successful ponds are those that come closest to imitating nature.
Successful fish keeping starts with the balancing the nitrogen cycle.
75: What do I do with my new fish after purchase?
Never just release (or throw) your new fish into the pond. When you come
home from the pet store with your fish in their plastic bag, float them for
15 minutes on the surface of your pond, allowing the temperature to
equalize. Goldfish tolerate temperature extremes very well, but sudden rapid
changes can be fatal. Next add some of your pond's water to the bag of
existing water and fish and let them sit for another five to ten minutes on
the pond's surface. This allows the pH to change gradually to match that in
the pond. Sudden changes in pH are far more detrimental to fish health than
pH which has gradually become too high or too low. The pH should be treated
to gradually return it to normal, however. Finally, open the bag and allow
the fish to swim out at their leisure. Make sure the bag does not collapse
and smother them. Give the fish enough time to decide they would like to
check out the pond on their own.
76: How much do I feed my fish?
Some say you shouldn't. Fish can perfectly exist on the algae growing on the
sides of your pond. The more of it they can eat, the less you see. There is
plenty of food for the fish with algae, bugs, eggs, larvae, etc. Many people
never feed their fish at all.
The general consensus is to feed the fish as much as they can eat within 5
minutes. The best advice is usually on the label of the food. Feed only when
the water temperature is steadily above 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Feed one to
three times daily depending on the temperature (of the water, not the air!).
If the temperature is lower, feed less. If higher, feed more. Try not to
feed more than four times a day.
Note: Koi will nearly always appear hungry. Do not mistake this behavior as
a call to eat. Overfeeding may cause illness and water quality problems. Koi
are omnivorous and cold blooded. They will eat anything and as the water
temp goes down so does their metabolism.
77: Will my fish breed?
In a healthy pond fish will breed, often prolifically. Females fill with
eggs as the water warms above 60 degrees. You may notice that their bodies
are thickened, and often lop sided. By the time the temperature hits 70
degrees Fahrenheit the males will be chasing females around in a rather
frantic race through the anacharis and roots in your pond. After an extended
period of chasing in the morning hours the female will shake her eggs loose
in the submerged grasses, even if they are floating at the top of the pond.
The male will be right there to fertilize them. Then almost immediately,
they and their pond mates will turn and eat many of them. If your underwater
grasses are not thick you will not have any survivors. You may add a
spawning mat from your pet store,. But this is not always necessary. The
tiny eggs will adhere to the leaves and roots of your plants. The lucky ones
will hatch into tiny brown "fry". They will stay hidden. You will probably
not see them until they are large enough to fend for themse lves.
78: When will my fish start to breed?
Fish start mating when the water warms up to about 68 or 70 degrees
Fahrenheit. Females begin to fill with eggs when the water temperature is
about 60 degrees. Their mating activities begin around eight o'clock in the
morning and continue until noon. The mating consists of the male chasing the
female frantically around the pond. There will be quite a bit of splashing
and shaking of water grasses. Some fish may even jump on occasion. Sometimes
the female is injured in the whole process. The fish will mate throughout
the summer months and thousands of eggs will be produced. However, the fish
will eat most of the eggs that come from the union.
79: Will my fry survive if I leave them alone in the pond?
Some people choose to remove their fry from the pond by transferring strands
of anacharis or other plants with eggs on them to an established aquarium or
smaller safe pond. This will often result in a larger production of fish,
but this is not always desired. Make sure you have "a place" for these fish
once they mature. You can let nature take its course by leaving the fry
attached to the plants. The mature fish of the pond will probably eat these
80: What do I do if I have too many fish?
If you wait long enough you probably will need to reduce your population of
fish in the pond. Many pet stores will take them. Ask around to other pond
owners. Someone is always looking for new fish. Check with your local
watergarden or koi club and see if they will take them at their next
81: What about mosquito fish? (Gambusia affinis)
Some people recommend introducing mosquito fish to eliminate mosquito
problems and other pests. Mosquito fish are small, minnow-sized fish that
eat bugs. These fish do indeed eat mosquitoes, but so do goldfish, koi, and
any other type of fish you introduce to your pond. The drawbacks to mosquito
fish are that they are brown, and therefore difficult to see in the pond.
You probably would rather have fish that you can see and enjoy. Mosquito
fish are also rapid breeders and can quickly take over a pond if their
population is not kept in check by larger predatory fish, such as koi, and
82: What about orfe fish?
Orfe are not your typical pond fish. They eat insects and not plants, and
their waste is not particularly excessive. They are more common in Europe
than in the United States. They grow to a maximum length of 1.5 to 2.5 feet.
They like to swim in schools, so it is not recommended to have fewer than
six. They are more shy than goldfish. They are a pale orange color (golden).
They use more oxygen than goldfish because they are more active.
83: What can salt do for stressed or ill fish?
Stress adversely affects the slime coating on fish. Salt helps restore the
slime coating which makes them less susceptible to infection or parasites.
Some people add salt as a de-stresser when they add new fish to a pond.
84: What about adding fish to an already established pond?
You should be very conservative about adding new fish to your pond. You do
not want to risk adversely affecting your current fish. New fish may have
been exposed to an infection during transport or at the pet store. The
symptoms may not always be noticeable. The stress of transport will make a
fish more susceptible to disease. Some fish can be simple carriers of
disease and will never show signs of an infection. Your new fish ideally
should be quarantined in a "hospital" tank or a holding tank filled with
pond water. Some people give precautionary treatments of "Desafin" for the
duration of the quarantine period. If the fish does not show signs of
illness and appears healthy after one week, release it into the pond. Float
the fish in the water as you would normally to equalize the temperature.
Follow the directions for "What do I do with my fish after purchase?."
85: One of my fish died for no reason. What's wrong?
Put the fish in a plastic bag and get a water sample. Take both to the local
pet store and see if they can identify the problem. If they can not diagnose
a problem, the death of the fish may have just been random. Fish sometimes
die just like humans. You may want to do a water test to find out the pH,
nitrate level, etc. This may be beneficial in the diagnosis. Do not add
chemicals or antibiotics without being absolutely sure what the problem is.
Never add antibiotics to your entire pond. Only do antibiotic treatments in
a quarantine tank or pond. Antibiotics can have bad effects if unnecessary
in your water pond.
86: How soon can I add fish after creating my pond?
Do not add fish before your water has aged for a minimum of two weeks, and
preferably a month. This still applies if you use a de-chlorinator and
de-chloraminator which says that you can add fish immediately, and even if
people you know have done it successfully. In the early days after stocking
a pond chemical fluctuations are common and expected. Allow the beneficial
bacterial colonies time to establish. The fish need these microbes for their
survival. When the fish get in there and start processing food the ammonia
level will go up. Without the bacterial colonization and efficient plant
life it will kill the fish. If you absolutely cannot wait, buy a bottle of
bacterial starter (liquid bacteria) available from your aquarium or pond
supplier and pour this in. This gets that bacterial colony in shape prior to
adding fish life! Do not add fish to an unfiltered pond which has no plants.
There will be no means of neutralizing fish wastes and no places for the
fish to hide from predators and weather.
87: What animals are potential predators to my fish?
Herons, raccoons, cats, dogs, snakes, some frogs, turtles, even some insect
larvae, will snack on your fish. Potentially anything is a threat. Know your
threats and know your threats' weaknesses. You will be able to protect your
fish from predators.
88: How do I deter raccoons?
What makes Raccoons worse than any other animal in your pond is the apparent
joy they take in vandalizing it. Also, they are very intelligent and sneaky.
They have been known to disconnect the hose from a pump and drain the pond
to make it easier to feed on the fish. Probably they don't really know what
they're doing when they disconnect the hose, but they definitely know how to
take advantage of a situation. The only widely agreed Raccoon deterrents
appear to be a dog loose in your yard, or an electric 1-wire fence. Recently
people are finding coyote urine at nurseries, which is said to be very
effective. You can deter some raccoons (and other animals) by providing
hiding places for your fish (like painted concrete blocks, or milk crates)
89: How do I deter herons?
Herons, when given the opportunity, will feast on your fish.
Here's some options for deterring herons:
1.. An electric fence, try the Fido Fence sold at large pet superstores.
2.. Fishing wire strung around the pond a few inches off the ground to
causing the heron frustration on where to put his feet.
3.. A plastic fish, called a heron scarer, anchored on the bottom and
floating below the surface, the heron grabs for it and is scared when the
fish fights back. It also gives the resident fish time to hide.
4.. Dogs who spend their daylight hours outside. Unfortunately, black
capped night herons will feed in the middle of the night.
5.. Call your local Fish and Wildlife for other suggestions. Do not
attempt to kill, maim or harm a heron without official permission. In USA
herons are protected under the Migratory Bird Act.
6.. Net the pond really well. Some herons (green heron) can wiggle under
nets. It is recommend that the net be suspended from it's middle like a
tent. The artificial heron works on the principle that they won't fish where
there's another heron.
7.. Use a Scarecrow motion detector sprinkler. Two units used in a "90
degree crossfire" substantially improves overall efficiency. This is a
battery-operated, motion-detecting, sprinkler. It sprays any creature that
comes into its view with water.
8.. Use a heron decoy. It is a large plastic fake herons that trick the
real heron into thinking your pond is occupied. One possible problem is that
a heron's feeding territory in times of abundant food is only a few yards
wide. Also, juvenile herons like to feed in groups. Finally, a male heron
was once spotted courting a fake heron decoy with offerings of dead goldfish
and frogs from the heron decoy owner's pond.
9.. Use fake alligators. This will work unless you have a year-round
colony of herons that never flies south and does not know an alligator from
10.. Use a floating plastic snake.
11.. Lay mouse traps around on the ground (upside down).
12.. Assemble lengths of wire (or rot-proof strong string) stretched from
roof height on the house to a high point at the rear of the garden
completely over the pond. The wire should be about one meter from the
13.. Thomas Seminazzi created a "heron-scare" to deter a heron. He wired a
bathroom vent fan to a motion sensor and set the sensor to TEST mode so it
would go off day or night. He used a bundle of colorful mylar streamers that
little girls put on their bike handles and attached them to the output of
the fan. The fan is hidden under his deck. If something trips the sensor,
the streamers flap and fly all over the area like an anemone reaching out
14.. Feed your fish sinking food and they will not be conditioned to come
to the surface when something blurry shows up at the edge of the pond.
15.. Use steep sides in your pond (or your next pond).
90: How do I get my koi to eat from my hands?
So you think your fish can act like your dog, eh? Well they can! Some teach
their fish to eat from their hands by using a sinking food held in the hand.
Let a few pellets drop through your fingers and then be very patient.
You can get koi accustomed to taking food from your hands by repeatedly
offering them small, tasty morsels such as fish pellets or cooked shrimp or
Feed them every day at the same time in the same location! Leave your hand
in the water as you slowly release the food, making no sudden movements.
Fish do learn from each other when it comes to behaviors. Once they realize
it is safe by watching another they will probably do the same.
When you feed them, encourage them to not be afraid by getting as low as
possible to the ground. Koi are sometimes afraid of the towering presence
that your body has at the edge looking down on them.
91: Does clear water equal healthy fish?
Contrary to popular belief, no. Of course you will want to provide a healthy
home for your fish. You, the pondowner will want "clear water" so you can
see your fish. Always remember that your fish can still be happy in that
unsightly green pea soup you hate so much. That green pea soup probably has
plenty of nutrients. A crystal clear pond may be oligotrophic, meaning all
of the nutrients have been stripped. If this is the case, this is bad news
for your fish. A little yellowish tint is probably a good thing for your
fish. As long as you can find a reasonable compromise, you're probably sure
to have healthy fish and a great view.
92: How do I keep a turtle in my pond?
You must have a large enough pond to supply the turtle with enough plants
and fish to keep the turtle from eating everything in sight. Water hyacinths
and water lettuce do well in most climates and will keep a turtle content.
Feeder goldfish and rosie red minnows breed in abundance and can outlive the
feedings of a turtle. Younger turtles eat more fish than plants. Most adult
turtles eat more plants than fish. An exception is the painted turtle. They
prefer fish to plants in their adult years.
The turtle should have a safe place to bask so it can raise its body
temperature. Basking is the only heating mechanism a turtle has. Turtles, in
warm and sunny conditions, will spend five to six hours each day basking in
the hot sun. Many turtle owners float a water-logged branch or build an
island in the pond. It is important that the turtle can climb onto the
The pond should have a very efficient mechanical and biological filter.
Only native turtles should be kept outside in case they are to escape. A
fenced yard or a small fence with buried footing around the pond will help
curb wandering from the area. Be advised that turtles can climb and turtles
In northern climates, turtles will go to the bottom of the pond in the
winter and become dormant (or burmate) under some sunken lily leaves for the
winter. They may come back to the surface is there is a warm spell. In
southern climates, turtles may be active year-round or have only a couple of
months of inactivity.
Do not let the pond completely freeze. Keep a hole in the ice by using an
air pump with an air stone or by using a de-icer.
You can adopt a turtle from a turtle rehabber in your area and many
veterinarians know the names of local rehabbers. Rehabbers usually have many
healthy native turtles ready for adoption.
93: Should I add frogs to my pond?
Frogs may appear naturally. Some people order bull frogs to eat flying
insects around their ponds. Be aware that bull frogs will also eat small
fish, and have wiped out the native amphibian population in much of the
western US states. Adding frogs is a matter of preference. Some frogs will
not stay if introduced to a pond after the tadpole stage. A frog or two will
probably find your pond without you inviting it over.
94: My pond is full of toads. Is this a problem?
It depends. Some people enjoy toads and others do not. They come out in the
evenings and start their mating calls and keep it up all night. In addition
to making a lot of noise, the toads will lay yards of eggs in a ribbon of
mucus which will end up wrapped all around your water plants. The toads may
tip precariously balanced plants, but usually do not change anything. You
can scoop the strands of eggs out, or you can wait a few days and they will
turn into thousands of tiny tadpoles. In a month or two these tadpoles
become tiny toads and take off across the lawn. You will see the ¼" long
toads all over your lawn if you look carefully.
Toads and tadpoles do not seem to affect water quality, deplete oxygen or
adversely affect the pond's balance. They do eat large quantities of insect
pests such as mosquitoes. They may also eat small fish. Goldfish reportedly
do not eat tadpoles.
95: What is the difference between frogs and toads?
Frogs have graceful long legs and leap when they move. Tree frogs and chorus
frogs have sticky pads at the end of their toes. Toads are squatty and walk
more than leap.
Frogs' eggs in the pond are laid in masses.
Toads' eggs in the pond are laid in strings.
96: Are frog and toad eggs okay in my pond?
For the most part, they are okay. Fish will eat many of the frogs' eggs and
their tadpoles. Fish will spit out toad eggs and toad tadpoles as they have
a foul taste . Sometimes a fish will gulp in toad eggs and toadpoles by
mistake and die. If your pond is small and you have found a great number of
eggs and tadpoles, you must beware of ammonia spikes. So many new lifeforms
may contribute to an ammonia spike and overwhelm your filter.
If you need to remove eggs (easier than tadpoles), net them up and transfer
to a larger natural or manmade pond. If you have kids, use a kiddy pool.
Fill with pond water, put in pond "slime" and rotting lily pads and a small
ramp for the baby frogs/toads to leave the pool. If they eat all the "slime"
feed them organic lettuce (lightly boiled). The kids will love to watch them
change from eggs to tadpoles to frog/toad. Add new pond water as needed.
(Use pond water as the zooplankton, tiny animals, is a part of their natural
97: What about bullfrogs and green frogs?
The only frog who is a real danger to a pond is the bullfrog. Bullfrogs will
eat fish, and other frogs, snakes, mice, birds, etc.
Bullfrogs are native east of the Rockies but have been spotted out west
also. Originally brought into the west as a food item, bullfrogs were raised
in farm ponds from which they quickly escaped.
Bullfrogs are not welcome out west as it is feared they are eating up native
species and native tadpoles.
Bullfrogs are large frogs. Green frogs are also large. Green frogs do not
eat fish and should be allowed to stay in the pond.
The easiest way to tell bullfrogs from green frogs is that bullfrogs have a
fold of skin that goes over their eardrum. A green frog's fold of skin goes
right down both sides of its back.
Bullfrogs can be spotlighted at night (they are most active at night) with a
flash light and scooped up with sport fish nets. Turn the frog over on his
back, he will become quiet and you can remove him from the net without
injuring him. Move to another pond.
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