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Pond Maintenance

We offer fall pond shut-down and spring start-up services for our customers. Please do not hesitate to call us if you have any questions.

Preparing Your Pond for Winter

Most of our ponds are designed to run and over winter fish. Goldfish and Koi can winter outside in the pond if your water is at least 24 inches deep. However, smaller ponds may not have enough water volume, depth, or flow to successfully over winter fish. Ponds should be checked regularly in winter to make sure they are still flowing and that there no ice dams. However, ponds must be prepared for the winter in fall.

  1. Avoid accumulations of fallen leaves in your pond. The skimmer basket should be emptied daily during heavy leaf falls. Leaves should be skimmed or netted out of the pond several times weekly. Pond netting is available to prevent leaves from falling in. Many types of leaves, such as maple and pine needles, will produce tannic acid, which in turn can produce brown pond water and also be toxic to fish. This excess organic matter will overwhelm your pond’s eco-system and foul the water come spring.

  2. Microbe-Lift SA is formulated specifically for the removal of organic bottom solids that are slow to degrade. This naturally cleans your pond bottom of the built up sludge and muck. Microbe-Lift SA works best at warm water temperatures; however, it can be used at any temperature year round. We recommend spring and fall treatments.

  3. Microbe-Lift Autumn-Winter Prep helps accelerate the decomposition of leaves, sediment and other organic matter during the fall and winter months. It will also jump start your pond to a healthier environment in the spring. MICROBE-LIFT/AWP is a two part is a two-part system of liquid bacteria and dry, water soluble packets containing a blend of cellulase enzymes, cellulase-producing bacteria and a cold weather bacteria. The cellulase enzymes, along with the cellulase-producing bacteria, are the key to accelerating the breakdown of leaves, organic sediment and sludge all winter long. The cold weather bacteria and liquid bacteria take care of the initial breakdown by-products. We recommend Autumn-Winter Prep for winter use.

  4. Tropical plants should be removed before the first frost and moved indoors, or discarded as annuals. Many tropical plants are difficult to winter indoors, so don’t be discouraged if you’re not successful. Dying leaves and yellow foliage should be trimmed and removed from the pond, as the accumulation of rotting foliage may also foul your water. Cut the hardy water lilies back to about 4-inches from the bottom. Similarly, cut back any potted hardy water lilies and then lower them to deeper water below the ice level. Many hardy marginal plants can be left up on shelves to winter. Cattails, Irises, Reeds and Horsetails have all successfully wintered in shallow water. These plants may also add winter interest to your pond, as their dying foliage and interesting flower heads continue to stand above the pond’s surface through the winter. In spring, when new growth begins to appear, simply prune away browned foliage. If you do sink your marginal plants, remember than hollow-stemmed plants (such as some reeds and horsetails) will rot if water gets inside cut stems. Hardy plants may also be wintered indoors in tubs of water.

  5. We design most of our ponds to over winter fish. Goldfish and Koi can winter outside in the pond if your water is at least 24 inches deep. However, smaller ponds may not have enough water volume, depth, or flow to successfully over winter fish. Oxygen levels may drop in a pond over winter, and large Koi will be the first to succumb. Do not over populate your pond with fish.

  6. We do not recommend feeding your fish except in late spring. There should be enough natural food in a properly functioning pond for them. Feeding your fish just adds additional nutrients to the water that the pond’s eco-system must convert. But if you do feed your fish, stop feeding them when the water temperature drops below 60 degrees. Fish can not digest food below this temperature.

  7. A hole in the ice must be kept open so that gases that accumulate under the ice can escape. A build up of these gases is toxic to fish. Oxygen will also pass through the hole and oxygenate the water. There are several pond de-icers available and they are usually thermostatically controlled. We have found the Becket pond di-icer to be reliable and efficient. They are available at Lurvey’s Garden Center or on-line. If the pond ices over completely for more than 3-5 days, your fish may suffocate or succumb to the toxic gases. The amount of time the pond can be frozen over depends on the fish load and size of the pond. Larger ponds with less fish can be frozen over for longer periods. Do not over populate your pond with fish.

  8. Most of our ponds are larger and designed to run all winter. Smaller ponds, or ponds with long shallow streams may freeze up in prolonged cold temperatures. The pump may be left on as long as there is not a sustained period of temperatures below 10 degrees. Once the pond freezes over, water is still flowing under the ice and re-circulating. As long as temperatures aren’t too cold, a hole in the ice may be kept open with just your pump. We still recommend that a pond deicer be placed in front of the skimmer to help keep a hole in the ice open. This also warms the water as it enters the skimmer, pump, and stream.

    1. Waterfalls may freeze up quickly and should be checked each morning. As long as the water can flow under the ice, the pond is okay. Watch for ice dams in the stream. This can cause water to breach the stream and can partially drain the pond, starving the pump for water. When this occurs, either free the dam or shut down the waterfall. Replenish the lost water if you can.

    2. To shut down the waterfall and stream for winter, disconnect the pump and turn (point) the discharge out into the pond. The pump should still remain in the skimmer box. A separate piece of 2-inch tubing can be attached to the pump to extend the reach into the pond. This will oxygenate the pond and usually keep a hole open in the ice.

    3. Alternately, a smaller ‘winter’ pump may be put into a sunken five-gallon bucket so that it is pulling water off the top third of the pond. The top lip of the bucket should be about 6-inches below the pond surface. The discharge pipe from the pump should be about 2-inches below the surface of the pond. This allows the deeper, bottom waters to remain calmer and warmer.

    4. If the stream and waterfall are shut down, it is necessary to empty the water out of the pond’s waterfall bio-filter. If water is allowed to freeze in a waterfall bio-filter, it may crack. We have found that replacement filter housings are not available for most filters and a complete new waterfall bio-filter often becomes necessary. This could be quite an expensive mistake. Most of our ponds are designed with waterfall filter drains for this purpose.

    5. If the pond and / or pump freeze up, disconnect the electrical cord of the pump and remove the pump if you can. Store the pump in a bucket of water in the basement for winter. The pump may be left under the water as long as it is deep enough not to freeze solid into ice, as this can crack the pump’s housing. A pond deicer or two will be required to keep a hole in the ice at this point. Water may become stagnate and require some more work to clean and start up again in spring. See Spring Clean-up section.

  9. It is important to remember, never pound on the ice to break open a hole. This can create shock waves that could harm or kill your fish. If necessary, it is best to cut a hole in the ice with a hand saw. Some ‘fresh’ pond de-icers can be placed on the ice and will melt through creating a hole. Boiling water may also melt open a hole. But do not pound on the ice, this may kill fish.

  10. You may also winter fish indoors. If you plan to do this, choose the largest available container that you can. Water must be filtered AND aerated! Move fish indoors when temperatures are the same indoors and out, to prevent shock and stress to your fish. It’s also useful to use pond water to set up your indoor tank, as this water is already balanced. If you plan to do this, it is imperative that you monitor the ammonia and nitrite counts of your water. The good folks at Lurvey’s Garden Center can help you with this. But first you have to catch the fish.


Pond Spring Clean-up and Start up.

Most ponds, especially those that run through the winter, do not require regular ‘mechanical’ spring cleaning. A mature pond, just like in nature, will have an ecological balance and maintain itself. Occasionally, we have to help it along, especially if the is a significant biological load placed on the pond or it becomes unbalanced. Over the winter, most ponds accumulate organic solids that are slow to degrade and settle to the bottom. This is natural and normal. Clean shiny gravel in a pond is not natural and an indication that your pond is not healthy. Occasionally, a pond will build up a significant amount of bottom sludge and organics and may need to be cleaned mechanically. This is especially true of ponds that are shut down for the winter or have a heavy fall leaf load.

Microbe-Lift SA is formulated specifically for the removal of organic bottom solids that are slow to degrade. This naturally cleans your pond bottom of the built up sludge and muck. Microbe-Lift SA works best at warm water temperatures; however, it can be used at any temperature year round. We recommend spring and fall treatments.

Spring cleaning is best done when the day time air and water temperatures begin to average 60°F. We recommend cleaning your biological filters with a garden hose to remove any sludge and solids. Plain water only, do not use any cleaners. Treating your pond with Microbe-Lift SA afterwards will seed the biological filters and begin the natural cleaning process of the pond. Most ponds, up to 2,500 gallons, use approximately 1/3 of a Quart of SA per treatment. We recommend three treatments 7 to 10 days apart. Your pond should balance itself for the season.

To treat your pond:

  1. Add approximately 1/3 of a quart of the SA to 2 gallons of pond water.

  2. Turn off the pond pump.

  3. Spread the SA/ pond water mixture all around the pond. This will discolor the pond for a day or so before it clears. This is normal.

  4. Allow the SA to settle to the bottom of the pond, usually about 5-10 minutes.

  5. Turn the pump back on. The pond will clear in a day or so.

When you are through with the SA treatments, begin monthly treatment with Microbe-Lift PL. Microbe-Lift PL is a warm water bacteria specifically formulated for small gravel bottom ponds with or without fish. PL creates a cleaner environment for your pond, promoting healthier fish and plants. The PL seeds the biological filters which break down the fish and bird waste, dead algae, and other organic matter such a leaves and dead plants. PL helps control string algae by competing for the nutrients which the algae feed on. PL also helps keep the pond clear and odor free.

For more information on Microbe-Lift products, visit their website at Microbe-Lift is made by Ecological Laboratories, Inc. We stock Microbe-Lift PL, SA, and Autumn Winter Prep. These products are also available at Lurvey Landscape Supply located at the corner of Dempster and Potter in Des Plaines. Microbe-Lift is also widely available on line.

Call 847-724-5688 or click for superior Pond Maintenance .

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