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What’s Happening to My New Pond?!

What is Happening to My New Pond?

You’ve just created the back yard of your dreams, complete with an amazing new pond full of beautiful Koi fish, and it appears as though it’s all gone horribly wrong. Fear not! This is actually quite common. New Pond Syndrome, or NPS is characterized primarily by uninhabitable or discoloured water, diseased fish, and ammonia spikes. The most common cause of NPS is a premature addition of too many fish, resulting in a breakdown of your bio filtration.

It’s important not to confuse NPS with green pond water, which in many cases is a healthy part of the natural water cycling process. The key difference between these two phenomena is the effect on the fish – monitoring your fish health and water quality will prevent any misdiagnosis of NPS.

What Should I Do About It?

First, the pond has to cycle and to do that successfully can take anywhere from four to eight weeks. If everything is going right, your pH level will begin to stabilize and drop ever closer to the optimal 7.5.

Start adding water plants with a minimum of 60% surface coverage. The plants will decay and release other agents in to the pond, thus creating a beneficial environment for fish after 2-6 weeks while the pond stabilizes further. Once the pH is around 8-8.2 and no higher 8.5 you can start considering the addition of fish. The proper pH of a mature pond should be around 6.5 to 8.5, with constant but little fluctuation.

The pH will continue to reduce as the days go on. When you are ready to add fish, do it gradually. Maybe just six fish to start and then test your pH again… if everything looks good then you can add more. You may also want to start with more inexpensive fish and graduate to larger koi in year two once the pond has established itself.

  • Due to the chlorine and chloramine in city water you should use a dechlorinator of some sort. Letting your pond sit will not rid it of chloramine. Always keep a dechlorinator on hand and remember anytime you add water to your pond you must add it as well.
  • Also be sure to have a floating thermometer on hand as it’s helpful to know the temperature of your pond water through the seasons. Bacterias (present in most water treatments) need a water temperature of at least 15 C to proliferate.
  • Feed your fish less. Most people like to interact with their fish which inevitably means feeding them… and feeding them and feeding them. Find a high quality fish food that can be easily digestible and “used” by the fish as opposed to lower quality foods that result in more waste. Look for foods that have quality ingredients, contain multivitamins and stabilized vitamin C. Once per day during the summer should be fine, once every couple days with a low temp food in Fall/Spring and not at all during the winter months.

“In nature, fish stocking levels are much lower than in our artificial environments. When stocking levels become too high, fish populations are brought under control by predation, diseases, stunted growth or other mass die-offs. In our artificial environments, we often forget that stocking levels are important, and just as in nature, there will be a tendency for equilibrium to become established over time. Unfortunately for our pet fish, “equilibrium” usually means disease or death. Eliminating excess fish stock brings the environment into a state of equilibrium. A minimum of 100 to 200 gallons per fish is adequate” – Ponds and Water Gardens

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.

3 Small Water Feature Options

Small Water Features

Water features come in many different shapes and sizes and can fit any budget or location. Here are three ideas for small water features that will provide the peace and tranquility of larger ones, without the space requirement.

Spillway Bowls

A Spillway Bowl and basin can be installed as a standalone disappearing water feature, or several can be linked together for an amazing display. They can also be added to an existing pond or pondless waterfall. Water is stored beneath the lowest bowl in a small underground basin where the pump is housed. Lights and terrestrial plants (as well as some water varieties) can be added to ‘naturalize’ the feature . Spillway Bowls are very popular and have been featured recently on Houzz and Pinterest.

Bubbling RocksSmall Water Feature - Bubbling Rocks

These small water features are similar to the Spillway Bowls in that water is recirculated and stored through the use of an Aquabasin. This natural stone feature looks best when utilizing odd numbers with different heights. Bubbling rocks are very low maintenance and will maintain their beauty throughout the winter, especially as icicles begin to form. Adding lights is a must, as well, as lit bubbling rocks look amazing at night!

Stacked UrnsSmall Water Feature - Stacked Urns

Another small water feature worth exploring is the stacked urn. Stacked urns look great as a single unit, or in odd numbers at different heights (similar to the bubbling rocks). Stacked urns are most commonly set on Aquabasins, as with the two previous features, but can also be used in a pond or set on top of a pondless basin. LED’s (or even a fire fountain add on kit) can be utilized to light up the feature with amazing results.

All of the above small water features are low maintenance, and with the addition of a fill valve can be literally NO maintenance. Any one of these three options is sure to become the focal point of your yard, the envy of your neighbours, and a source of peace, tranquility, and beauty in your life.


Landscaping your pond isn’t much different than landscaping your backyard. Similar factors should be considered, with the same design principles applied in both. Follow these 5 tips for planting your pond to maximize beauty and minimize maintenance.

1. Keep It Natural

The goal is to mimic Mother nature. When you add aquatic plants to a pond, you’re helping to blend it in with the surrounding landscape. In nature, marginal plants are typically found along the perimeter of ponds, lakes, and streams. In a man-made pond, these plants soften the hard edges of the rocks and provide a smooth transition from the water in the pond to the terrestrial planting area that surrounds it.

2. Ensure the Best View

Just as the signature waterfall faces the house or viewing areas, be sure that the amazing waterlily or lotus is easily seen from the nearby patio or kitchen window for the greatest amount of appreciation.

3. Vary Plant Heights

To maximize a natural look in the ponds you build, place taller plants like reeds, cattails, and cannas toward the back of planting clusters. Then, add medium and shorter plants on the viewing side of the taller plants.

4. Play with Colour

Random placement of plants with different textures and colours will give the pond a natural, unstructured appearance. Choose colours that you like best and let your creativity take care of the rest. Emphasize primary colours with larger plants, and add some daring contrasts of texture and other colours around the edges.

5. Know How They’ll Grow

It’s important to familiarize yourself with the mature size and habit of your plants, how they grow and spread. To create a truly low-maintenance pond, allow sufficient room for future growth.

Plant Your Pond

Employ these tips when designing and planting your pond, and you’ll achieve the pond of your dreams. A pond doesn’t fully mature until about the third year, so don’t be concerned that it may look a little sparse at first. You will love watching your water garden grow!

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.

3 Reasons Why Your Water Garden Needs Plants

Aquatic plants are essential for any natural looking water feature. Water is beautiful in and of itself, but it’s the flora makes your water garden truly special. They’re not just aesthetically pleasing either, plants in your pond are an important part of the overall ecosystem. Here are 3 reasons why plants are so important:

1. Pond Plants Add Natural Beauty

Waterlilies, lotus, and other flowering aquatics provide lots of colour to your water garden.  Impressive plants like taro and horsetail provide structural variety. Floaters, like water lettuce, add whimsy while laying on the pond’s surface. And marginal plants like sweet flag help to soften the edges of the pond.

Aquatic Plants in an Ecosystem Pond

2. Aquatic Plants Provide Shelter and Protection for Fish

Fish gain shade and shelter from pond plants. Consider the waterlily that spreads a multitude of leaves across the pond’s surface. This natural umbrella helps keep the pond cool in warmer months and provides a cover for fish from the dreaded heron. Plants also provide an area for fish to spawn and a safe place for frogs to lay their eggs.

Aquatic Plants and Fish

3. Plants Balance the Ecosystem

Aquatic plants play a critical role in balancing your pond’s ecosystem by providing valuable biological filtration that removes nitrogen, ammonia, nitrates, and other minerals from the water that algae love to feed on!

Plants are essential to the Ecosystem Pond

You’ll find a wide variety of aquatic plants available, either online or at your local garden centre. The options for mixing and matching plants are almost endless. Be sure to follow planting and growing directions for the plants you choose, and you’ll be on your way to creating a true jewel of a water garden.

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.


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.

Pond vs. Pondless

Which Water Feature is Right for Me?

Let’s first start this off with some definitions. For our purposes a POND is defined as a natural balance of fish, plants, aeration, filtration, and rocks/gravel. All components work naturally together to help create and maintain a sustainable low-maintenance ecosystem.

A PONDLESS waterfall on the other hand is defined as a recirculating waterfall or stream without the presence of a visible body of water.

There are pros and cons to each style of feature but it basically boils down to this: Do you want fish? Are water lilies and other aquatic plants the focal point for you? If the answer to either of these is YES then a pond is what you’re after. Even a modest sized pond, say 8’x11’ and approximately 2’ deep will allow you to include modest quantities of fish such as koi, sarassas, and shubunkins as well as water plants like lilies, marigolds, and rushes. A true water GARDEN you will have with all the elements of an ecosystem and this can of course also include a waterfall/stream if your space and budget allow.

A pondless waterfall is ideal for someone who is most interested in the sight and sound of a waterfall and stream but maybe doesn’t want to worry about feeding fish or pruning plants. An even lower maintenance option, the pondless is great for families with small children and safety concerns. The other advantage is that it can tuck neatly into smaller spaces and can add curb appeal to the front of a home. You can still utilize some water plants, particularly maginals that don’t need to be fully submersed and floaters like water hyacinth.

Both water features, pond and pondless, can be lit at night with LED lighting and will bring the added dynamics of movement and sound to your garden! No matter which feature you choose it’s sure to be the centerpiece of your yard and it is only a matter of time before fire pits, lounge chairs, patios, BBQ’s, terrestrial plantings and local wildlife all migrate over to surround your new water feature!