If the pond pump could be considered the engine room of the water maintenance system, then the pond filter could be described as the cylinders and the bacteria as the petrol. Basically, the pump and the filter are mechanical components of the system but the actual energy for the cleaning comes from an entirely natural entity, just like the petrol in an engine.
The pond filter is performing two functions, firstly the filter will have a system such as sponges that are designed to sieve the water for physical particles. As the filter requires the pond water to be pumped through it, there will inevitably be quantities of physical debris being continually fed into the filter. If allowed to collect on the surface of the biological element of the filter. It would work less effectively.
Having initially removed some of the physical debris, the real specialist work of the biological filter takes place. The key part of the filter is the bacterial media. This is an environment specifically designed to host the bacteria that effectively clean the pond water.
The bacteria perform the all important function of turning ammonia, which is produced by fish, firstly into nitrates and then into nitrates. These nitrates latterly go on to be the primary food source for the plants in the pond. It is the plants that then produce the oxygen that is ultimately required by all of the organisms in the pond.
The pond pump powering your filter is an important tool for your pond that must run 24/7, 365 days a year. As such, it is an important asset and therefore when choosing your pump it is essential to make a good choice. The well-being of your fish may depend on it. Investing wisely in an appropriate pump may well prove to be more cost effective in the long term.
With the exception of large Koi ponds, most pond pumps are submersible types rather than the large external varieties. In recent years these submersible pumps have become more capable of handling physical muck and debris. One previously common method of protecting pumps from damage was to have a sponge like mesh protecting the pump inlet. Whilst this method was effective, in warmer summer months with algae present, this layer is very quickly clogged up and requires frequent cleaning. Modern solids handling pumps remove this problem.
In choosing a pump, there are many considerations such as the flow rate, the head (how high the water can be pumped), the length of cable, power consumption and the length of guarantee. All of these requirements will be different for each pond situation but whatever you are installing, a pump the runs your filter must work continuously in a demanding environment. If the manufacturer has not offered a guarantee of a minimum of two years, you may need to consider whether the product is reliable enough for your needs.
There are many reasons to install a pump in your pond and these can be for practical or decorative reasons, or quite possibly both simultaneously. Depending on the size of pond and the intended function of the pump, there are a vast array of pumps to choose from and a vast array of pricing to match.
Pumps are, in all but a few circumstances, an essential component of all of the following pond features, filters, UV clarifiers, fountains, waterfalls and aeration systems. Quite simply, unless you have a natural water flow in your garden, any of the above features are redundant without a pump to generate water movement.
The three types of pump are small feature pumps which are small self contained units, ideal for smaller water features, traditional pumps which are just a larger version of the feature pump. These are the most common type of pump as they are ideally suited to the typical garden pond. Lastly, solids handling pumps are designed to provide prolonged, maintenance free service. They are capable of allowing small particles of debris to pass through the mechanism without causing damage. Considering the nature of pond water, this ability to cope with muck is a big advantage in minimising maintenance, it does however, preclude this type of pump from being used to power a fountain. Generally it is undesirable to feed a fountain with debris laden water.
A general summary about pumps is that you cannot overdo the size of pump. If the intention is to run several features that require pumps it may be wise to use a minimum of two pumps. A biological filter requires more or less uninterrupted water flow. Powering a water feature that you may only wish to switch on intermittently with the same pump as the biological filter is simply not compatible. When powering a water feature, it is important to ensure that the water flow rate is sufficient for the job. A dribbling waterfall or a trickling fountain may well be false economy.
Your garden pond is intended to be a source of joy and pleasure for both yourself and hopefully likeminded visitors. In order to ensure that it remains a source of happiness and not of worry or distress, there are some safety aspects of which you should be aware.
Probably the most obvious safety issue surrounding ponds is that of young children and the potential for fatal accidents. Drowning is one of the biggest causes of accidental death in youngsters. These are also accidents that frequently occur away from the child’s own home. In terms of managing this risk the best solution is to securely restrict access or install a rigid pond cover that will support the weight of at least a child.
Beyond the extreme example of fatalities there are other less drastic but equally as real dangers surrounding ponds. A common problem is loose slabs surrounding a pond. These can often lead to people falling into ponds with varying degrees of discomfort accompanied by wet clothes and dented pride.
A further challenge is that of electrics. It is well understood that electricity and water don’t mix well; and yet the modern pond is often equipped with an array of electrical appliances from lighting, to pumps and filters, to UV clarifiers. These units themselves will almost certainly be constructed to very high safety standards and pose little threat in themselves if properly installed. Probably the biggest challenge is in ensuring proper fitting. A qualified electrician should always be used for any bespoke wiring whilst any plug in appliance should be connected to the mains through a Residual Current Device (RCD). RCD’s are readily available in DIY stores and ensure that, in the event of electrical mishaps, the power supply is immediately isolated. This should be coupled with the use of purpose built electrical fittings that are designed for external use and/or water features.
In simple terms, having a large hole in the garden subsequently filed with water and electrical componentry does sound like a recipe for disaster. As with all aspects of pond keeping though, some simple planning steps can ensure that the pond is a source of joy with very little worry.
Most water gardeners will avoid trees near their ponds despite the fact that trees can offer one very important benefit to a pond in providing shade. Shade is important to your pond as it will help to reduce the temperature increasing significantly on sunny summer days and will also restrict sunlight reaching the pond. Direct sunlight is a significant contributor to algal growth. Preferably a pond should only receive direct sunlight for half of the day and remain in shade for the rest.
The objection of many water gardeners to trees is that they do have a number of downsides for water, which in many people’s opinion, far outweigh the benefits that shade can offer.
So what are the down sides of trees?
Some trees, such as laburnum are poisonous. Tree roots can cause problems with pond liners; in addition, particularly deep roots potentially affect the soil structure. However, the primary problem that trees cause is quite simply leaf-fall. All of the fallen leaves can be visually displeasing and a pain in the proverbial to clear. The real issue are the leaves that do not remain on the surface and cannot easily be cleared. These fallen leaves will effectively act as compost in the pond. Whilst the effects of this ‘compost’ will not be realised over the cold winter months immediately following the Autumn leaf fall, come spring, this will fuel algal and weed growth on a potentially troublesome scale.
Whether or not you are able to control the source of problem leaf fall, it is important that you tackle the symptoms and either cover the pond with netting or actively remove leaves from the pond with a rake, or similar, on a regular basis. If you are planning to create a pond within your garden and wish to incorporate trees into your garden design then smaller species such as silver birch or willow tend to be more suited to the pond environment.
Pond filters are an important tool for enhancing the processes that naturally take place in fish inhabited water. The reason that these natural processes need enhancing is that a typical fish pond contains a considerably higher concentration of fish than would naturally occur.
As a result of this overstocking, the natural breakdown of fish waste products that is normally done by plants and other water borne micro-organisms is not sufficient enough to maintain water suitable for fish to live in. Without filters, more heavily stocked ponds can quickly become toxic to your fish. This will typically exhibit itself through gasping fish swimming near the surface and other visible health issues such as listless fish or sores on the fish scales.
Fish produce ammonia as a natural waste product which is very toxic to them in any concentration above a slight trace. Ammonia breaks down in two processes; the ammonia is transformed into nitrites which are then subsequently broken down into nitrates. Nitrates are an important food source for plants which naturally provide much of the dissolved oxygen that fish need to survive.
The description of a filter may imply that the ammonia is effectively sieved out of the water by a mechanical action. This is however not the case. The full description of a pond filter is a biological filter. The way these work is by having water passed through a bacterial culture which will perform the breakdown of ammonia into nitrites and nitrates.
The other necessary component of a filtration system is a pond pump. It is necessary to ensure that the water is regularly passed through the filter mechanism and this is done by a pump.
One of the most versatile types of water feature is the waterfall. The versatility of a waterfall feature is that they can be made on either a small or grand scale. They can also, easily be made to replicate a natural feature or they can be entirely artistic and contemporary in design with no concession to appearing natural.
A waterfall design is fundamentally very simple. There are a minimum of two collecting ponds, typically the lower pond will be the main pond. Water is pumped to the higher collecting pond from the lower one and the water then flows from the top pool down the water course eventually returning to the lower pool.
Constructing the water course offers the same choices as creating the pond itself. Concrete, preformed or flexible liners are all available materials. One consideration when designing your waterfall is the reverse of excavating your pond. Rather than needing somewhere to home all the excavated soil, it is quite likely you will need to identify a source of building materials to build up the surrounds for the water course. Needless to say, if you are designing both a pond installation and a watercourse at the same time, there is a beneficial relationship here. Perhaps even, the waterfall could be an idea borne out of this need to identify a use for the excess soil.
When using a flexible liner or concrete to create a bespoke design it is wise to ensure that any pools along the water course slope backwards against the direction of flow. This will ensure that the pool does collect water. A poorly constructed pool may result in continuous flow rather than collection point.
One hugely important consideration is the size of the pump. Too small and your waterfall may prove to be a paltry trickle. It is suggested that for every centimetre width of a waterfall, a flow of 150 litres per hour is required.
In order to maintain good pond water quality you need to create a balanced environment that consists of a good supply of nutrients for plant life and a healthy level of oxygen for your fish. This balancing act is easier the bigger the pond. In a larger pond, any life introduced to the water will have proportionately less impact on the water quality. The smaller the pond, or the more heavily stocked the pond, the more difficult it becomes to maintain this balance.
Fortunately, for the noughties water gardener, there are modern tools that greatly facilitate this pond water management. If you feel like a purist and wrestle with the notion of using technology to manage this environment, then you probably needn’t be too concerned. The use of modern equipment enables life to flourish in a pleasant and healthy environment.
The key technology tools employed in the water garden are the pond pump, the biological filter and the UV clarifier. The latter two components effectively manage constituents of the water. A biological filter removes harmful pollutants from the water through a natural process of bacterial breakdown of waste products. This is not totally dissimilar to the function of bio-yogurts in your digestive system. A UV clarifier is used to tackle algal growth problems in conjunction with a filter system. The UV clarifier causes microscopic algal growth to form into clumps that can then be filtered.
The engine room of these two processes is the pond pump. Without the water being passed through the biological filters and UV clarifiers they quite simply don’t work. A pumps use is not simply restricted to a supporting role though. Even a pump used in isolation of any other equipment will help maintain a healthy environment. Pumps help to oxygenate the water simply by causing movement. Usually this is done in a visually pleasing manner such as a fountain or a waterfall.
Filters, waterfalls, fountains and aeration all require water movement. To create movement in your pond requires a pump.
The perfect time to plan a pump installation in a pond is at the design stage. In doing this as part of the overall pond design, it is possible to ensure that pipe work to and from the pump is easy to access and maintain. You can ensure access to the pump for both cleaning and servicing is straightforward. Lastly it is possible to plan your wiring in a safe and convenient way.
These considerations should not cause you to abandon a pump installation in an existing pond. What it may do is place certain limitations on selection and arrangement. With careful thought and planning you should be able to customise an arrangement that works for your own situation. It is unlikely that a pump installation that is suitable for your ponds needs will prove impossible to accommodate. Obviously a top of the range pump is not required for a 3 feet diameter pond with 3 or 4 goldfish.
The benefits of a pond pump are many. By powering water filters you will be providing a better quality of water for your fish which should result in improved health. The addition of a filter will also enable you to increase your fish capacity given the same volume of water.
Unless your garden benefits from a natural water flow, water features quite simply don’t exist without pumps. Water features are visually pleasing but they also perform an important function of aerating water.
There are a variety of pumps available and they reflect the broad spectrum of pond designs and functions. Just buying a pump for your pond will not necessarily provide the benefits you hope for, but buying a pump suited to your pond will add to the quality of your pond experience for both yourself and the pond inhabitants.
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Why filter your pond? Let’s face facts, if you stumble upon a natural pond out in the wilds of Scotland, or indeed anywhere, you can be reasonably confident that there will be no filter installed.
So why do we need to install pond filters and pumps? Is it all just a marketing gimmick? Nature manages without them after all.
Much as there are a wealth of lessons and tips we can gain from understanding natures processes, it is fair to say that not all the answers can be found. Whilst many natural ponds may have existed for a very long time, it is also the case that many natural ponds have slowly but surely, ceased to be, without any assistance from mankind. It is worth noting that many more have ceased to be as a direct result of mankind’s actions, but that does not alter the fact that nature isn’t always the perfect example for sustainable pond management.
The functions that your pond filter will perform are to help to maintain good water quality for your fish through removing chemical pollutants such as ammonia excreted by fish. The filter will also remove much of the physical debris from the water which will help to keep the water clear. Whilst keeping the water clear is probably of far more concern to you than the fish, removing physical muck from the water will also reduce silt build up. Silt build up may pose only limited threats to your pond in the short term, but, when going back to the earlier mention of natures shortcomings, it is this silt build up which often causes the eventual demise of untended or natural ponds.
If your desires for you water garden are modest and you are happy to get your hands dirty as and when required, it is perfectly reasonable to manage a pond without the need for a filter. If you wish to stock an interesting or extensive collection of fish, or quite simply wish to simplify pond management, a filter is, at the very least, highly desirable.
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