You could become easily discouraged with your pond when you first start creating one since the clear, clean water can quickly turn into a smelly, algae-filled cesspool unless you take precautions to ensure you keep the water healthy. You must remember a well-designed pond must take into consideration the requirement to find the balance for self-maintenace – meaning, you don’t have to take emergency measures to regulate the water quality yourself.
It is vital to comprehend how nature ensures this balance in natural settings so that we may recreate the effective balance in our own garden pond.
Recall that a pond is a closed environement and everything that goes in must be addressed in some form. It is usually insufficient to simply clear debris like falling leaves or small branches. A properly balanced pond includes a combination of the right amounts of essential bacteria to counteract the levels of waste produced by your fish and the natural decay of vegetation.
Your fish provide a part of this balance by eating the algae and plants that grow in and around your pond. The waste produced by your pets along with rotting vegetation is then converted by bacteria into harmless products or fertilizer that in turn is available as food for the plants in your pond hence completing the cycle.
The Good Bacteria
There are two essential types of bacteria needed to maintain a healthy micro-environment. The first bacteria, Nitrosomonas, converts the ammonia (NH3) produced as a product of the decomposition of fish waste and dead plants into a form of nitrogen called nitrite (NO2). Both ammonia and nitrites are toxic to fish. The second bacteria, Nitrobacter, convert the nitrite into a nitrate (NO3). Nitrate is a chemical form of nitrogen that can be used as food by plants. The fertilizers you use on your gardens and lawns are nitrates.
Debris in your pond can be managed by a mechanical filter that will need to be emptied and cleaned periodically. You should also consider purchasing a biological filter. The biological filter provides the means to introduce and maintain the beneficial bacteria we have discussed.
There also may be times when you may wish to add additional bacteria to your pond in bulk form commonly found at your supply store as pond clarifiers (when first establishing your pond, in the spring or when an algae bloom indicates that the nitrate level is too high). These bulk biologicals are commonly labeled in your supply store as pond clarifiers.
A properly balanced pond can be indeed very easy to maintain. Prepare the pond in the spring when temperatures warm up above 50 degrees by cleaning out any excess vegetation, cleaning and testing your mechanical filter, and changing out your biological filter. A thorough cleaning of the pond should be done initially.
The next step is to establish a healthy population of bacteria, necessary to ‘cycle’ the pond. Then throughout the summer months the primary task will generally be the use of a biological pond clarifier to maintain your pond’s beauty and clarity. This is the most common and important use of this type of product. Following a summer maintenance program will prevent most common problems. At the end of the season when the pond reverts to a more dormant state, treatment can stop.
Keep mindful of nature’s cycle and look to balance the number of fish with the food supply and the biological filters and the peaceful, soothing pleasure of a clean pond can be yours.