Essential Elements of a Low Maintenance Pond

This pond has lots of aquatic plants, proper circulation, the fish
are rarely fed,  and has always had crystal clear water and no string algae!

It's All in the Initial Set Up!

A low maintenance feature really starts with the initial installation. There are essential elements needed to keep a feature functioning with mother nature ... that means less work for you! The essential elements are filtration, circulation, rocks, aquatic plants, and fish. You may think you have all these, but do you really? Read on...

Just having a "filter" in your pond may not be enough. It depends on the type of filter. You need two types of filtration -- mechanical and biological. Mechanical filtration removes debris from your pond. Biological filtration breaks down and consumes the bi-products of waste in your pond. (Waste consists of decaying plant material, fish waste, dead algae, uneaten fish food, etc.)  Ask yourself, does your filter physically remove debris from your pond? Is there filter media (filter mats, bioballs, etc) where beneficial bacteria can grow? How often do you clean that media? That's actually a trick question! When you clean the media, all the biological  activity is killed. A filter that needs to be cleaned regularly is not providing the biological filtration needed. For all ponds, we also recommend adding a beneficial bacterial treatment every week to keep your biological filtration at its best.

Let's start with the pump. Its purpose is to provide some type of decorative waterfall or fountain and it fuels the filter. Ideally, a pond should be completely circulated once every hour... generally our ponds circulate twice every hour. So a 3000 gallon pond should have at least a 3000 gallon per hour pump. This circulation also puts some oxygen into the water. But sometimes the pump alone is not enough for that. We recommend that every pond have supplemental oxygen from an aerator as well. Not only is it good for your fish to have extra oxygen in the heat of summer, but it also helps the beneficial bacteria (aerobic bacteria) do its job.

Oh, there's been so much debate in the pond world over rocks in the pond. Most are coming around to understand the benefits of rock in the pond. Beneficial bacteria colonize on all the surfaces in the pond. When you add rock, you increase the surface area in your pond exponentially. More bacteria equals less sludge in the pond bottom and clearer water. The pond should have a 2" layer of river rock on the bottom. Don't add more, don't add less. And don't use pea gravel or other types of rock.

Aquatic Plants
When someone asks about curing green water, we always ask "do you have plants in your pond." Aquatic plants compete with algae for food, essentially starving the algae. Unfortunately most people answer that they have only water lilies. Although water lilies do provide shade, they do little for competition. To compete with algae, you should have both hardy and tropical marginal plants, and floating plants like water hyacinth and water lettuce.

It seems like fish might increase the maintenance of a pond, but they don't have to! Not only will fish nibble on the algae that grows in your pond, but their waste (when kept under control) will fertilize your aquatic plants.The key is to not overstock your pond or overfeed. No more than 1" of fish for every 10 gallons of water. And feed them sparingly with a high quality fish food. Please remember, most regular pet stores, big box stores, and hardware stores do not sell high quality fish food. Also keep in mind that goldfish tend to overpopulate easily and seem to produce more waste than koi.

So do a quick review of your pond. Are there changes you can make to lessen the maintenance of your pond? Think about it.... we'll be happy to help.

Written by
Cool Ponds Co-Owner


Andrea said…
Why not pea gravel?
Pea gravel compacts. Compacted gravel leaves no room for circulation or oxygen in the pond bottom. No oxygen allows anaerobic bacteria to grow which is unhealthy and can kill your fish. A little pea gravel mixed in with river rock for aesthetic purposes is okay. A pond bottom filled with pea gravel is really unhealthy.

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