Springtime is when we start spending more time outdoors, and for water feature owners, this means you are probably looking at dark water full of the past season's leaves and muck. This is the best time for a little maintenance on your pond or waterfall. An annual spring cleaning not only beautifies your water feature, it can also prevent problems from arising later in the season. For those of you who are the hands-on type, read on for tips on a successful pond clean-out.
If you're in the South Jersey area and would like to leave it to the professionals, pick up the phone, and call the preferred team of local pond experts: Landvista Aquascapes at 856-768-9404.
If you don't live in SJ, but still want a professional to take of your pond, click here to find your local Certified Aquascape Contractor.
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1. Clean the pond
It only takes a second to write that, but actually doing the cleaning can be an all-day event. Nearly all of the ponds we see in the forested towns of SJ accumulate enough leaves and debris to deserve a complete clean-out each spring. You'll know it's time for a cleaning when the water is dark, full of leaves, and there's a layer of muck on the bottom. To learn more about performing a spring clean-out, read these Spring clean-out instructions.
2. Inspect the pump
The pump is what keeps your water ecosystem alive. It keeps the water flowing and drives the skimmer and filter. It is critical that your pump works properly, so here's a few ways to check it and make sure.
First, check the water levels. The water should be about 3/4" below the opening of the skimmer. Next, empty the skimmer basket and check the filter pads underneath. If they're heavy and loaded with gunk, take a hose and flush them out. As long as they are in one piece and aren't falling apart, they can be reused for another season. If you hear your pump gurgling when cleaning the skimmer and the pond isn't low on water, then it could be a debris build-up blocking the water from getting to the pump.
If you've cleaned the skimmer basket and the filter mats and the pump is still gurgling, then you need to unplug it and remove it for inspection. To do that, unscrew the PVC fitting on the at the top and pull the pump out. Once you have the pump out, rinse off any slime to inspect it visually. If it has a cage or screen, remove it and clean off any muck that may have accumulated on it; sometimes this muck build-up around the pump's intake is the reason for poor performance. Next, you want to make sure there is nothing lodged inside the pump that could be restricting the impeller from spinning freely. A screwdriver works well for this; insert it thru the intake and use it to test whether the impeller spins free and smooth. If it does not, there may be a piece of mulch or a stick lodged inside that is jamming the pump mechanism and needs removal.
If your pump is completely not working, you're going to need to go check the GFI where it is plugged in. (If you are not using a GFI outlet for your pump, we strongly advise that you contact an electrician to set one up. It ensures your exterior electrical connections are safe, and it cuts the power in case there is ever problem in the circuit.) Open the hood of the GFI box and press the reset button. If the circuit is fine, the button will remain depressed and power will be restored. If it clicks right back out after you press it in, then there is a problem in the circuit; most likely some water got in and you'll have to wait for it to dry before it'll reset. To test if your pump is making it trip, try resetting the outlet with nothing plugged in. If it holds on its own and trips when you plug the pump back in, then you know there is an electrical problem with the pump. If that is the case, it is best to send it back to the manufacturer to have it repaired or replaced.
Sometimes the problem with a pump is just a broken part. Aquascape sells replacements for the most commonly worn parts in their pumps; and if you're not sure what you're doing, we can help you with the replacement process and guarantee it is done correctly.
3. No Leaks!
Adding water every day to make up for a leak is not just a hassle, it can contribute to excess algae growth from nutrients that are naturally in the water. Part of our Exploratory Cleanout Service is to identify any leaks in your water feature and to prescribe a solution for them when they are discovered. Click here to read our blog post on leaks if you think you may have a leak in your pond.
4. Beneficial Bacteria
Add beneficial bacteria to populate your pond with the building blocks of a healthy ecosystem. It is important to do this after a cleanout, because if you cleaned it well then you have likely removed much of the bacterial colonies that were there last year. Continue to supplement with bacteria regularly throughout the season. It competes with the algae for nutrients, starving the algae of its food source. We use the Aquascape’s Automatic Dosing System to do this automatically, ensuring the correct dosage for your pond and eliminating the need to dose it by hand.
5. Aquatic Plants
Plants will utilize nutrients in the pond that otherwise would feed algae growth. We consider plants to be an essential component to the pond ecosystem. Using a variety of plants that are adapted to your region will not only add color and make your pond look more natural, it will also keep your water cleaner via the reduction in algae.
6. Don't Overfeed
Give your fish small amounts of food at a time. You want to see that they are eating all the food you are providing; give them no more than can be consumed in a few minutes. Any food that the fish do not eat will sink to the bottom and become food for algae. It can be difficult to estimate exactly how much food to give your fish, so err on the lower side. In an ecosystem pond, koi and goldfish are able to forage for much of their diet, and they may want to eat more on one day than the next. If they beg for more, you can always feed them another small amount. The goal is to starve the algae, not the fish!
For more information on feeding your koi, see: How much should I be feeding my koi?
7. Have it your way, and have fun!
You can customize your water feature with new plants and landscaping, lighting, or by moving around some of the smaller rocks. Get creative because after all, your water feature is your masterpiece to enjoy and show off to others.
Need more information on getting your water feature ready for the warm season? Check out this short video we made showing what to expect when Landvista Aquascapes performs your spring pond clean-out...
Landvista Aquascapes provides Pond & Water Feature Design, Installation & Maintenance -Repair services for South New Jersey Homeowners