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Maintenance

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Prevent Algae Growth This Summer

As the temperature rises, your water feature begins to wake up and come to life. Fish become more active and water plants begin to grow. But not all plant growth is welcome – with the sunshine and warmer weather comes algae. Algae represents excess nutrients in the water and can appear unsightly and foul up your pumps.

What is algae?

Two common types of occur: 1) Small single celled algae that remains suspended, turns your water green, and is too fine to be caught with a net, and 2) string algae, long and seaweed like, that attaches itself to underwater surfaces such as rocks and the liner. No matter the type, it is important to deal with algae before it becomes a real problem.

Adequate circulation and filtration, appropriate for your pond size, should help to prevent algal growth in the first place, but nature provides the best solution.

What to do about it?

Water plants are TERRIFIC for naturally removing excess nutrients from your water feature and form the backbone of any wetland filtration system. Happy, healthy plants will ‘out-compete’ the algae and result in clearer water.

Lilies are good, as they shade the water with their big leaves to prevent algae growth. Water hyacinths are also great. These pond scrubbing powerhouses feed hydroponically, with their roots dangling in the water, and take nitrogen out of water like no other plant (they have a very high capacity for uptake of heavy metals, as well). Be warned, they reproduce and expand quickly, you may have to “cull” the population once or twice over the summer!

In addition to plants, and proper circulation & filtration, there are a few other measures you can take to ensure water quality. Beneficial bacteria, essentially a preventative vitamin for your water, can be added throughout the Spring and Summer months, and mechanical options, like UV lights and Ion Gens, can be installed to maintain the balance.

Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us, too, if you need help any keeping your water feature beautiful this summer.

Pond Water Quality

The importance of good pond water quality is not lost on most pond owners. However, understanding how to achieve and maintain water quality can prove to be a challenge for even the most avid water gardeners. The water may be perfectly clear, but several factors may indicate that conditions may not be ideal. Before you decide on a treatment plan for your pond’s water, consider the following questions:

Are there too many fish in the pond?

10 fish for every 100 gallons of water is the absolute maximum. If there are too many fish, consider finding some of them a new home. Better yet, build a second pond for the overflow.

Are the fish overfed?

Excess, or leftover food can affect water quality. Feed the fish no more than once per day, and no more than they can eat in 2 to 3 minutes – then remove all remaining food from the water.

Are there too many plants?

Too many plants can cause oxygen deficiencies at night due to the photosynthetic process, where the plants take in oxygen and give off carbon dioxide. Ensure that no more than 40% to 60% of the surface area of the pond is either covered or shaded by plants.

Is the pump size affecting water quality?

The entire pond’s volume should be circulated, or turned over a minimum of once every hour. Ensure that the pump’s flow isn’t restricted by any debris, or that it isn’t exceeding its flow limitations. Refer to the side of the original packaging for specifications.

Is the correct filter in place?

Most manufacturers rate their filters based on the amount of water in the water feature. If the filter is too small, it will be less effective at removing debris and fish waste. Always use a filter rated higher than necessary in order to guarantee effectiveness, and be sure to clean it at least once per year, as well.

Is the temperature too high?

Direct sunlight, or inadequate circulation of pond water can lead to higher temperatures. Water exceeding 75º F has a more difficult time retaining acceptable levels of dissolved oxygen, and can promote algal blooms. Again, ensure that no more than 40% to 60% of the surface area is shaded, though.

Contact Streamworks Designs for all of your water feature maintenance needs.

Spring Cleaning

Spring is in the air!

Well maybe not quite, but soon! Soon enough that it’s time to start thinking about waking that water feature up from its winter slumber with some spring cleaning. Spring is one of the most exciting times of the year for pond owners, and there are a few things you should do to ensure your water feature starts the season off on the right foot!

First off you will want to assess the situation. Is your pond water quite dark and is there a thick layer of debris on the bottom? If so you will want to think about a full clean out. However, if the water looks decent and there’s minimal debris, you maybe be able to simply stir it up and clean out the debris with a net. The other determining factor will be the water temperature. Ideally you will want to do your clean out BEFORE the water temperature reaches 55F or about 13 degrees Celsius. This will ensure that you are not disturbing the delicate bacteria colonies that create your ecosystem once your feature kicks into gear.

If you’re doing a full clean out on an average sized pond (11’x16’), budget for 4-8 hours to do everything properly. If you have a pondless waterfall, a clean out will take much less time. Here are a few items that will make life easier during the clean out:

  • Cleanout pump with 20+’ of hose
  • Garden Hose with Nozzle
  • Pruners (scissors may do the trick)
  • A couple of buckets for leaves and debris
  • A large vessel (children’s pool or similar) to contain fish if you have them
  • A fish net
  • Pond Detoxifier
  • Cold Water Bacteria

Place the cleanout pump at the deepest part of the feature and pump the dirty pond water into your landscape. It’s filled with nutrients so don’t be shy to water your shrubs with it! If you have fish, pump some of the water into the large vessel for storage later. Once the water level is down to 1/3 capacity it will be much easier to catch your fish with the net. Gently transfer them to the vessel filled with pond water and cover in a shady area so they don’t jump out. Make sure not to leave them there for more than a few hours – if you have to leave them for longer make sure to aerate the water.

Now you can take your hose (or pressure washer if you have one) and spend 10-15 minutes rinsing down the inside of the pond. Working your way from top to bottom, try to blast heavy debris from the rocks and stir up what may be left on the bottom. You can periodically turn on the clean out pump to drain the dirty water. Please note that you DON’T have to get every little bit of algae – in fact leaving some behind will be beneficial later on as it will help re-establish your ecosystem.

As far as any filters go, you can manually remove any debris from the skimmers or snorkel vaults and clean any media nets or filter pads that may be present in the biofalls. You can now gently rinse these out in pond water. Again – leaving a little algae on your filter pads etc is a good thing. You don’t need to boil them!

You’re now ready to fill your pond back up but make sure to include Pond Detoxifier to take the chlorine and chloramines out of city water. This is very important for the safety of your fish. Also important is acclimatizing the fish to their new water. Scoop up your fish into a bucket of the old pond water in their holding tank; float the bucket in the pond for about 15 minutes and then splash a little bit of the new pond water into the bucket. By now the temperatures should’ve equalized and you can pour them into their new home!

PRO Tip: While your water feature is drained for spring cleaning, it’s a great time to prune and fertilize any deep water plants (like lilies, for example). It’s also a great time to reposition lights or change bulbs if need be and if you don’t have lights at all….. Well, get them in there now!

Contact Streamworks Designs for all of your water feature maintenance needs.

Winterize Your Pond!

With Hallowe’en in the rearview mirror and the clocks turned back this can only mean one thing: WINTER IS COMING. Luckily here on the west coast all that really means is that it will probably rain a little bit more but nevertheless you should prepare to winterize your pond in the coming weeks. You never know what Mother Nature may bring so here are a few suggestions:

Once the leaves and needles have finished falling from the trees you will want to get in and remove as much of that debris as possible. If you have used pond netting this will be as easy as rolling the net up and discarding the leaves. If you have not used netting then you can scoop them out manually with your hand or a long handled pond net. This is an important step as the less decaying plant material on the bottom of your pond, the easier your life will be next Spring.

For the same reason listed above you will also want to cut back any dead or dying foliage on your water plants. Hardy lilies can be cut back just above the base of the plant. Maginals can also be cut back at this time.

Next you will want to add some cold water bacteria. This will ensure that your water stays clean and clear over the winter months. Cold water bacteria is designed to work in water 10C or cooler and should be applied regularly throughout the winter (read the label for exact dosage and frequency). This bacteria will again reduce Spring maintenance by breaking down any organic debris left in the pond.

STOP FEEDING YOUR FISH. If the water is in the 10-20 degree Celsius range then you can still feed but only with a cold water fish food. Once it’s below 10C you must stop feeding. Your fish are essentially hibernating at that point and they cannot digest food – continuing to feed them at that point can be very detrimental to their health.

Last but not least…. Out west we always recommend that people leave their water feature running throughout the winter. There really isn’t a reason to shut it down and your fish and plants will be much happier with the ecosystem running year round. You will want to maintain a hole in any ice that may form on colder days to ensure that the debris breaking down on the bottom can gas out. You can achieve this with a pond heater or more commonly by moving your pump closer to the surface of the water and simply have it churn away with no hose attached. This also adds oxygen to the water and will keep your feature a bit warmer as you’re not recirculating the coldest layer at the bottom of the pond.

Make sure to keep an eye on your water level as evaporation is still occurring during the winter. Also watch for ice dams that may form in your stream and divert water out.

Enjoy the Season!

 

Contact Streamworks Designs for all of your water feature maintenance needs.

 

Fall Maintenance

As the days become shorter and the temps lower we’re reminded that Autumn is just around the corner. While you will notice that your water is usually quite clear at this time, this doesn’t mean that your water feature will necessarily be maintenance free. Here are a few things to think about for fall maintenance.

With regards to your water plants, you can prune off any dead or yellow leaves. Your lilies will go strong until the first heavy frost, as will your hyacinths. Remember that hyacinths are essentially an annual so they will need to be tossed into the compost when they start to die off. The same goes for other floaters and oxygenators. You can also stop fertilizing now as your plants transition into their winter cycle.

If you have fish you should stop feeding them once the water temperature is 10C or lower. If you don’t have a pond thermometer I highly recommend one, they’re cheap and invaluable for knowing not only when to feed certain foods but also when to effectively administer treatments. If you must feed your fish through the Fall/Winter then make sure to use a low temp fish food that they can easily digest. Failing to do so can result in health issues and even death once their digestive systems slow down.

Lastly try to remove any leaves and debris that may have fallen into the pond. If you have a skimmer, you’ll have to empty the basket more frequently. If you have a pondless waterfall or bubbling rock type feature then manually remove any leaves and debris that you can see. If you have too much organic matter decomposing in your pond, particularly leaves, it can cause your water to turn brown. If this happens you can add activated carbon to clear the water.

Bonus Tip: If you don’t have lighting in your water feature this is a great time to add it! The days are getting shorter and soon your feature will be dark when you leave for work and when you return home! There’s nothing more magical then a well-lit water feature at night!

Contact Streamworks Designs for all of your water feature maintenance needs.

The Heat is On! Take Care of Your Pond.

With the temperatures rising and a long, dry summer in front of us there are a few things to keep in mind when maintaining your ecosystem pond or pondless waterfall.

First the good news – your water plants will love it! Warm weather means warm water and most of your water plants; particularly the tropical ones like hyacinths will thrive. The optimum growth temperature for a water hyacinth is 25-30 Celsius and in some parts of Southeast Asia they’ve been known to grow in excess of 3 meters per day! This vigorous growth is of course what has landed it on the invasive species list in several countries around the world… but I digress.

The bad news is that these warmer water temps are also prime growing conditions for algae. Without treatment you can expect algae blooms, green water and higher than normal levels of string algae. Luckily there are solutions for both prevention and maintenance regardless of your budget. There are several powdered treatments on the market such as SAB and Ecoblast for string algae as well as many flocculants for green water.

If you’re looking for a more permanent solution we can install a UV Light or a Pressure Filter to eliminate green water situations or an Ion Gen to combat the string algae. The Ion Gen works by slowly releasing a mixture of copper ions into the water which quickly break down the string algae. There are even “auto dosing” systems available now that will automatically apply the correct amount of a given treatment turning low maintenance into virtually no maintenance.

The other thing to watch during a hot summer is evaporation. While water is always evaporating at some rate throughout the year, the summer months can really expedite this process. The factors that contribute to evaporation are: water temperature, air temperature, humidity in the air, and the velocity of the air above the surface. So as you can imagine on a hot, dry, windy day your water feature can be losing quite a bit of water! For reference a typical swimming pool can lose ¼” of water per day under NORMAL conditions.

The solution here can be as simple as sticking a hose in your water feature for a few minutes while you’re watering the terrestrial plants or you can have an auto fill valve installed which will automatically add water to your feature once it drops below a certain level.

Stay cool and happy ponding!

Contact Streamworks Designs for all of your water feature maintenance needs.