Weather conditions can be very extreme in many parts of the country. Some years we get lucky and have a mild winter. Yet, we know that the warm weather early can fool you into believing spring is coming, but we can still get some cold weather in February and March and sometimes into April spring will arrive and awake our ponds from their winter rest.
As your pond begins to slowly awaken from its long winter slumber, you will first notice that your fish will begin to move around on a warm day. Do not feed your fish until the water temperature is above 55 degrees. Buy a pond thermometer as you will use it in the spring and fall. When you have warm sunny weather, the fish may swim around and then on a cold day go back to the bottom. Still do not feed them. Always test the water with a pond termometer before adding water treatments or food for the fish. You will find you cannot go without a pond thermometer.
Now is the time to decide when the time is right for a spring clean out. First, if there is a layer of debris and leaves at the bottom of the pond and the water looks like the muddy Mississippi, it would be a good idea to do a full clean out. On the other hand, if there is just a small amount of debris, you can just get into the pond and remove the debris by using your hands or a handled tool to pick it out. But remember most ponds do need a spring clean out and if you do not do a complete clean out at least, clean all debris from bottom of pond, clean all mats and filter material, clean the bottom of the skimmer and BioFalls boxes and do at least a 10% water exchange and use the water conditioner.
Another change in the pond is that you will begin to see algae growing as the temperature rise and the sunlight increases. Normally in the summer with the balance of the plants in your pond, algae does not grow as rapidly but since it is early in the season, you have yet to establish a balance with the good bacteria in your filters and the growth of plants. So you may expect to see algae in your pond in the spring and especially on the rocks of the waterfall.
We do have a solution to the string algae problem! Now is the time to install an IonGen™ electronic clarifier for your pond/pondless. Now registered with the EPA for string algae solutions. While your pond is sparkling clean is the best time to install. You will still need to use the beneficial bacteria especially in the spring to jump start the establishment of the good bacteria colony. This IonGen will keep the streams and waterfalls clean and clear of string algae and it along with the addition of beneficial bacteria will keep your water crystal clear. No more algaecides.
Clean Out Time
The best time to perform your clean out is the early spring, before your pond awakens completely from its winter dormancy. Do this when water temperature is between 45 and 60 degrees. The reason to clean out your pond in the cool weather is that the beneficial bacteria which grows in your filters and rocks has not yet been established for this new season. Cold water does not go green as often as warm water.
NOTE: If you perform this clean out late, after water temperature is over 60 degrees you might throw your ecosystem out of whack and will possibly go through a green phase before your bacteria colonies can re-establish themselves. If this happens, it takes approximately 2 to 4 weeks to clear up the water in your pond. And most importantly, YOU MUST USE A BACTERIA TO CLEAR IT UP!
When considering doing a total pond clean out on your own, keep in mind that it is necessary to have the proper equipment and a complete day to finish the job. It is a messy job and the water is usually cold. Read over this article very carefully and decide if this job is or is not for you. If not, simply call the person who installed your pond and they should offer this service. We offer this service in the tri-state area of Cincinnati.
If you are going to do this yourself, here are the items you will need to do a complete pond clean out:
1. CONTAINER to hold fish and frogs, if you have large fish you need a big container. Use the water from the pond. You also need a lid to keep the fish from jumping out. (Piece of plywood will work or use your fall net to cover)
2. BUBBLER or small pump or pond stone aerators to aerate your water, the risk of death for your fish is severe if your fish are left without oxygen for more than a few hours.
3. Dechlorinator to neutralize the chlorine in the new water. We recommend this because it not only neutralizes the water but adds ingredients that reduce the stress for the fish and instantly ages the water. (Chlorine is deadly to fish) Dechlorinators are located under Water Conditioners.
4. FISH NET
5. Two large BUCKETS to collect leaves and debris.
6. WADING BOOTS or better yet WADERS to keep you completely dry (Can be purchased at any large sporting goods store and are worth the expense, under $50)
7. RUBBER GLOVES
8. RENT a pump with a discharge hose (25 ft) or purchase our CLEAN OUT PUMP.
9. CHICKEN WIRE to cover the pump opening to prevent fish from going into pump.
10. A POWER WASHER with aHIGH PRESSURE NOZZLE for your garden hose.
11. WET VAC to vacuum out the skimmer and BioFalls boxes.
12. GARDEN SHEARS for trimming plants and a KNIFE if you have to divide plants. See article on Plant Division.
13. SOIL (aquatic soil or cat liter or heavy clay) to repot or replant plants into pockets.
14. GRAVEL to cover the replanted area. Always cover with gravel.
15. PLASTIC RACK – A child’s plastic rake will help remove the leaves and debris from the bottom of the pond and allows you to get into tight spots.
16. Replacement parts
REPLACEMENT FILTER MATS for Skimmer (holds 1 to 2 mats) and BioFalls (holds 3 mats) if needed. Be prepared, if you have to replace filters, it’s best to order a few weeks ahead. Filter mats last about 2-3 years for both skimmer and BioFalls. The Signature Series Style last 3 to 5 years. Replace if they are tore or beginning to deteriorate.
You should make sure you know which size Skimmer and BioFalls you own. Browse the Skimmers and BioFalls on the Online store. If you do not know the size, measure the mats or the BioFalls and look at the size on the website to match your measurements. Most skimmers are large or standard and the mats are the same size for these two skimmers. The Grande Skimmer is very large. The signature series are rounded or horseshoe shape. If you need to identify your skimmer, call us at 877 780-1174 and we will try to figure out for you.
17. Products you may need to purchase: Pond Detoxifier EcoStarter and Beneficial Bacteria to kick start your ecosystem. Bacteria is supplied in liquid or dry form. A cold water bacteria is available for water temperatures between 45 and 55 degrees.
We have found that the lava rocks should be replaced every two to three years as they become clogged and become ineffective. BioBalls are designed to provide over 30 square inches of surface area per piece for beneficial bacteria to attach. They can be put into media bags. A set contains 100 pieces. Use one set for MicroFalls, two sets for Mini or small Signature Series, three to four sets for Standard BioFalls and 6000 Series.
EcoBlast is a product that helps remove the algae from the rocks of the waterfall. It is a dry application and is safe for fish and plants. If you have an IonGen you will not need this item. Click here on EcoBlast to get more information on sizes of this product.
We recommend the Pond Defense PAC which includes enough for 6 months for a 2000 gallon pond. This includes bacteria Sludge Remover, Spring and Fall Bacteria and bacteria booster or Aquascape’s Spring Starter Set which includes Pond Detoxifier, Cold Water Bacteria 250 ml., Bacteria Bubbler 36 tabs, Sludge and Filter Cleaner 250 ml, Plant Fertilizer Tabs , Pond Thermometer, and EcoBlast 8.8 oz. This is enough to get your pond started for the spring but not enough to get through the season.
For those of you who want to do a spring clean out yourself, look over the list of products and order the items you need. After the first year, the clean out pump will have paid for itself.
1. A screen around your pump will prevent fish from being sucked in while you drain the pond.
Use 1.5 or 2 inch flexible PVC pipe or similar material to discharge the water. First fill up your container for the fish with this water. Again make sure your container is large enough for your fish and frogs and cover with a piece of plywood or a net to keep them from jumping out. Then you can control the discharge of water but directing it into landscaped areas.
It will fertilize as it waters.
2. When the pond water settles down to 9 to 12 inches deep, unplug the pump and net the fish. It is easier to catch the fish when the water is low. Once you have all your fish and frogs in the container, cover it, since Koi and frogs will jump out.
3. If your pond is 3 years or older, you may need to divide your plants now. Read the Plant Division article for instructions for dividing and replanting your plants.
4. Now begin to hose down the rocks and gravel using a high-pressure nozzle or a power washer and let the pump discharge away the debris. Some algae should remain on the rocks to help develop your ecosystem. Average pond 11 x 16 should take 1 1/2 hours to empty.
5. The most time consuming part of your clean out will be washing off and removing debris from your rocks and gravel. Do not power wash your gravel on high, simply use the hose to wash the gravel or lower the pressure on the nozzle of the washer. Keep pump running to pick up sediment trapped in the gravel. Clean the top shelves first, and work your way down to the center of your pond. When water starts to clear you are finished. It should take about 1 to 2 hours.
6. Remove the mats and bags of lava rock from the BIOFALLS
7. Remove skimmer mat, rack, net/debris basket and pump. Clean out the skimmer box by sucking out the water with a wet vacuum and hosing it down. Clean out the net and wash or replace the filter mat if deteriorated. Remove any debris from the skimmer. Put everything back into the skimmer. Make sure pump is connected to the pipe.
8. When the pond is clean to your satisfaction, remove clean out pump and begin filling the pond. Remember it is good to leave a little bit of green algae on the rocks. Once your pond is half full you need to add the de-chlorinator. If you have city water, it is imperative that you add EcoStarter/de-chlorinator to neutralize the chlorine in the water or the chlorine will kill your fish. Fill the pond the rest of the way and then re-introduce your fish to the pond as directed.
Dip 5 gallon buckets in the holding tank and fill with several inches of water. Add your fish into the buckets and float the bucket in the new water.
9. After approximately fifteen minutes, begin splashing pond water into the bucket. By now the temperatures of the pond and the bucket water should be close to the same. You are ready to return your fish to the pond.
NOTE: Clean out in one day. Fish should not be left in holding tank more than a few hours without a bubbler. If you have plant division to do, it would be best to aerate this tank with a small aerator pump or bubbler to safeguard your fish. See article on Plant Division.
ADD BACTERIA ACCORDING TO THE START UP INSTRUCTIONS as long as the water temperature is 55 degrees or above. Then use the bacteria on a regular basis throughout the growing season. If at anytime during the season, you get cloudy water, dose your pond with the bacteria and continue to use until water is clear. This can happen when you have periods of heavy rain. Don’t feed the fish until you are sure the water temperature is going to stay at 55 degrees or above.
Happy pond cleaning