Spring pond openings take a little time and energy; however, it will get your pond ready for an enjoyable, fun summer of relaxation. Maintenance of your backyard pond during the late spring, summer and early fall should not take a lot of work unless you want to spend some therapy time playing with and in the water.
When water temperatures are between 40° F and 50° F, and expected to continue to rise, you’ll want to get your pond started. At this time your koi and other pond fish need more oxygen, good bacteria will start to grow, and plants will soon sprout.
Follow this helpful Spring Pond Opening Guide to start up and “open” that pond properly and ensure a healthy pond season.
1. Make sure your pond filters are clean.
Clean filters start the season off right without worry of damaging debris or bad bacteria getting into your pond water.
a. Mechanical pond filtration, like the pump cover, skimmer, in-pond prefilter, or lava rock filter, protects your pump from sucking in leaves, mulch, and other debris. Debris can lead to clogging or break your pump. A clogged mechanical filter can cause your pump to run dry which may damage or burn your pump up. Make sure mechanical filters are cleaned regularly during the season; at least once a week.
b. Biological filtration is where a colony of good bacteria that consumes or breaks down toxic substances; such as fish waste (primarily ammonia which is extremely toxic to fish), ammonia from decomposing organic matter, and nitrites (also toxic to fish), can colonize.
Examples of biological filters are filter falls, pressurized filters, lava rock filters, gravity feed filters, bog filters, etc. Most biological filters should only be cleaned once per year.
2. Skim leaves and debris from your pond, paying attention to the bottom.
a. Can you see at least 50% of the gravel or liner on the bottom of your pond?
If not, turn on your pump and use a well-built net such as the ‘Pond Shark’ to stir up the water and remove leaves and debris. The pump and mechanical filter will assist you. Be sure to clean it as it fills up.
Decaying leaves and debris release carbons and funguses which can be harmful to your pond fish. Sludge and muck can harbor parasites and contributes to green water algae - as well as string algae and / or hair algae in your pond.
b. After letting the water settle, if there are still too many leaves and debris, or if there is too much sludge and muck (more than ½ an inch) on the bottom, you will want to do a complete pond cleaning. I recommend moving some of the gravel around in the bottom to see how deep the gravel is and if it is filled with muck.
(read a Complete Pond Cleaning Guide)
3. Check your Aquatic Pond Plants.
a. Submerged Aquatic Pond Plants (seaweed or under water plants) such as hornwort, clean the nutrients and toxins that are heavier that water, out from the bottom of your pond – helping keep your pond water crystal clear.
Put hornwort in your pond late March or April. Stock hornwort at one bundle per 2 to 5 sq. ft.
b. Floating Aquatic Pond Plants, such as water hyacinth and water lettuce, do a fantastic job of filtering out nutrients and toxins in the water with their dangling bare root system. They also provide shelter for your fish and help control water temperature fluctuations.
Once water temperatures are 65˚F or more and expected to continue to rise, start with one floating plant per 10 to 15 sq. ft. *They will reproduce and add more coverage.
c. Marginal Aquatic Pond Plants (those plants that grow naturally along the bank of streams and lakes in the water or just above the water level) contribute to the removal of nutrients and toxins from the pond water especially when bare rooted or planted in a bog.
Aquatic plants in stream beds and around the pond will also soften the stone look and add to the beauty and serenity of your garden pond.
There are hardy marginals such as creeping jenny, arrow head, pickerel rush, cattails and many, many more. Examples of tropical marginal are cannas, umbrella palms, taro or elephant ears, and many, many more.
As a general guideline, we recommend one marginal pond plant per every 3 to 4 linear feet of circumference of the pond.
d. Water Lilies / Lotus are the beauties of the pond. No pond is complete without a water lily. They do not do too much filtering, but they add shade to the pond and help protect fish from predators.
Do you have enough pond plants of the right varieties located in the right area of your water garden to keep water clear, clean and healthy? If you have had cloudy water, green water, or have a high fish population; use the higher recommended rate per sq. ft.
4. Test your pond water and add water treatments as needed.
**We recommend keeping a record of your test results and what water treatments you are using.
a. Ammonia should be tested periodically, but especially if your fish start acting differently - if they are lethargic, hanging out under the waterfall, at the surface sucking air, or flashing (swimming erratically), there is cause for concern. Ammonia becomes toxic at .5 ppm. Nitrifying bacteria and ammonia neutralizer should be used.
b. Check the pH, which indicates if the water is acidic - 0 to 6.9, or if it is alkaline – 7.1 to 16, or neutral – 7. If your pH is between 6.8 and 8.2, it should be fine for fish and most plants. pH does change throughout the day. Test daily if a number seems out of place and compare each day before adding any treatments. Knee jerk reactions can cause more harm than good.
c. Salt improves the slime coat of fish which helps protect them against many diseases and some parasites. It also helps their immune system and reduces stress. Non-iodized salt may be added as 1C per 100 gals. to reach ideal salt levels of 0.08% to 0.1% for the health of the fish.
d. Nitrites generally are not bad unless you have had trouble with ammonia; however, nitrites become toxic at 80 ppm. Be sure you are adding beneficial bacteria and pH is stable. Salt will help protect the fish.
e. Carbonate hardness should be between 80 and 200 ppm. Carbonates stabilize the pH. Crushed oyster shells will help buffer the water and stabilize the pH.
f. Chlorine and chloramines are toxic to fish. A good water conditioner with de-chlorinator and ammonia neutralizer should be used every time water is added.
Learn more about the chemistry of your pond with this blog; This is a Test…The Chemistry of your Pond Water.
5. Check your Pond Aeration System
Aeration adds oxygen to the pond water and gets more oxygen to the bottom of the pond - where it is desperately needed, during the warmer summer months.
a. Clean or replace the air intake filter (if it has one).
b. We recommend running your pond aeration 24/7/365.
6. Make sure your pond pump is clean and operational.
a. Check your pump before you hook it up in your water feature. I have hooked up the pump, before checking to make sure it was running correctly, and then had to take it back out of the pond and repair it before its’ operation could begin.
b. Once water temperatures are above 50˚F, depending on the number of koi or other fish in your backyard pond, you should start up your pump - even if you are not done with all of your spring start-up tasks. If water temperature is cooler, wait until your filters are clean and ready to operate - then turn your pump on.
7. Don’t forget to check the edges of the pond and waterfall.
Look for areas where rocks and gravel may have moved or settled from winter freezing and thawing. Pond liner may often times be pushed down into the dirt from winter weather, which can cause a leak or leaks in your water feature.
We hope our Spring Pond Opening Guide gives you all the necessary information and know-how you need in order to get your pond going for the new season healthily and properly!
If you have questions, concerns, or if you feel you need some assistance either consultative or hands-on, Hoffman’s Water X Scapes is here and ready to help with trained personnel and decades of experience in the design, installation, and maintenance of ponds, water gardens and beautiful lakes. Please contact us and we’ll see how to be of best service to you and your water feature needs.
Thanks for reading, and for visiting our website. Spring is here!