If you have a pond in your garden are you aware just how important it is to the continued support of Britain’s wildlife? Ponds in the UK have been disappearing rapidly over the last couple of hundred years. And, as mankind has been gradually removing or filling in ponds to create new housing or turning over land for industrial use, it is hard to see how we will ever return to the huge number of pond’s that were once found on Britain’s shores.
The humble garden pond now plays an important part of maintaining Britain’s bio-diversity and providing a suitable habitat to hundreds of different species whose lives would not be supported without the pond.
If you have a pond in your garden a good experiment is to take a record of the different species you see in or around your pond. Identifying these species and logging the species activity over the next few years will give you an idea of how these species are performing with respect to reproduction and it’s also a great way to keep a record of the different types of indigenous British species in your local area. You will be amazed at the number of species you record and thrilled when you find a new visitor to your garden pond.
It can be tough times in winter if you are a warm blooded mammal. However if you are a fish and the temperature drops in your pond, and you are used to these temperature drops, then all that will happen is your metabolism will slow to an almost stop. This slowing of activity does not have any detrimental effect on the fish’s health, it just means that the fish will be less active during cold weather and so will need feeding less.
While we may have to rely on heat sources to keep us warm we can be safe in the knowledge that the fish at the bottom of our pond will be safe and well until the weather warms a little over the next couple of months. As long as your filtration system is working and as long as you make sure that your pond does not completely freeze over, your fish will be back to their usual activity levels come spring. It always worth giving them a check over to make sure that they have come through the cold weather snap unscathed but they are less likely to show as many ill effects as humans would do if exposed to freezing conditions.
Knowing the pH value of your pond is really important. If your pond is too acidic or too alkaline it can have a really detrimental effect on your fish.
You can buy your pH testing kit from an online aquatic retailer, but what is pH?
The pH scale is a measure of acidity or alkalinity. The scale goes from 0 to 14 with 7 being the neutral value. Numbers below 7 represent a scale of increasing acidity and numbers above 7 represent increasing alkalinity.
The water in your pond should be around the 7 or 8 level but may vary as the eco-system in your pond is an ever changing living entity. Because fish produce alkaline waste there is a tendency that your pond pH level will be more towards the higher numbers of the scale. If this happens your fish will show clear signs of distress and may actually gasp for air. This is why having a functioning pond filter system is so important.
If you test your pond and the pH is already at an unacceptable alkaline level, it may even be necessary to change some of the pond water with collected rain water to try to bring the pH level to a more acceptable level.
If you are a koi owner you will already be well aware of this fish’s tendency to rip up or eat any plants that you put in the pond. Having different types of plants in your pond can really make a positive aesthetic difference to how your pond looks, but how can you do this if you keep koi?
The plants that you put in your pond are not just there for aesthetic reasons, they are also there to add much needed oxygen to the pond and to remove excess nitrates. However your koi will take great delight in eating the plants you have in your pond or at the very least uprooting them from the bottom of the pond.
To add pond plants to a koi pond you need to use marginal planting and use plants that work well in this type of environment. Shallow shelves around the edge of your pond, that your fish cannot reach, work perfectly in this situation and can really add that much needed diversity to your koi pond. It’s also worth noting at this point that because your koi pond will not be able to feature much planting you should make sure you have an adequate pump and filtration system in place.
With winter now firmly set in and the first snow falling, many pond owners might be asking the question – What happens to my pond when it snows? We will try to answer this question and come up with some solutions to cold water problems below.
The temperature of your pond has been falling slowly over the last couple of months. And, any inhabitants of the pond will have course already noticed this drop in temperature. Warm blooded mammals may have already bedded down for the winter and fish will have started to slow in their activity. If the temperature in you pond drops below around 6°C your fish will usually sink to the bottom of your pond and may not feed again until the weather warms up a little.
If your pond freezes over, toxic gases can actually build up in the pond and accumulate under the ice surface. In this situation you need to make sure that the ice is melted in at least one location on the pond. Don’t just go ‘gung ho’ with a hammer and smash the ice, melt the ice using the underside of a heated pan. This will mean the water temperature will not change rapidly and your fish will not be affected adversely.
You can use a pond heater to keep the temperature in your pond at a warmer temperature than the ambient surroundings. This will mean your fish will remain active and your pond will be able to cope quite effectively with the snow and ice.
Garden pond design does not just have to be categorised into the standard shape garden pond that is home to a few cold water fish. There are many different types of design you can choose from, each having different positive attributes.
The standard garden pond
This can be a focal point in your garden and be home to many different types of wildlife. From amphibians to fish and even small mammals this will provide a brilliant habitat for lots of different organisms. This type of pond will usually have a filtration system and be home to a few varieties of cold water fish.
A koi pond
Koi ponds have to be a certain size and a certain depth so the fish have enough room to grow and be comfortable with their environment. Keeping koi is a brilliant hobby and many people spend numerous hours each week taking care of their koi and checking for problems. The water environment in this pond needs to be more closely controlled.
The formal pond
This type of pond can double up as a spectacular water feature. Sometimes the owners of these ponds just want to create a statement and the pond may only have crystal clear water and symmetrical planting.
In the last part of this article we are going to discuss pond heaters, aquatic plants and pond lighting.
When the weather gets colder your fish are less active. Some people like to keep their fish a little more active and prevent ice from forming on the surface of the pond in the depths of winter. The best way you can do both these things is by using a pond heater.
There is a wide variety of aquatic plants available and different plants can add different elements to your pond design. Plants of course turn carbon dioxide into oxygen which is essential for any aquatic life-forms in the pond. They also use up the nitrates that are formed as part of the filtration process that removes ammonia from the water. Plants also provide shade for your fish and also the pond surface so the pond temperature will not fluctuate too markedly. This will reduce algae growth in your pond because the sunlight levels reaching your pond will be reduced.
Your garden pond can look brilliant at night when it is illuminated from above or below. Using lighting at different locations around and in your pond can make the difference between your pond being a feature in your garden and not being seen during the winter months.
In part 2 of this article we are going to discuss pond UV lights, feature pumps and pond vacuums.
Pond UV lights
Pond UV lights can stop algal blooms that sometimes happen when the water temperature in your pond increases during the spring or summer months. If you don’t use a UV light your pond can look more like a green pea soup than a suitable living environment for your fish.
Feature or fountain pumps
A pond looks great when you add a feature such as a fountain or a waterfall and these types of pond pumps do a great job at creating the perfect water feature. Whether you choose the trickling sound of water flowing softly down a watercourse or choose to have a spray of water that brings your pond to life, the visual effect can be stunning.
It is inevitable that garden detritus such as leaves will eventually end up in the pond. Excess nutrients in the pond can alter the stability of the eco-system in your pond and hence affect any living organisms that inhabit your pond. If you use a pond vacuum you can remove the toxic waste, silt and dead vegetation from the pond quite easily and quickly.
We will continue with pond heaters in the next article.
If you are new to the world of garden ponds there a few pond essentials that every pond owner should own and indeed a list of items that you will need when setting up a new pond.
The pond filter and pump system
This is perhaps the most important component of your pond. If the filter and pump are not working correctly, your pond will not provide a suitable habitat for your fish. The ammonia levels will rise due to fish waste products and hence your fish will suffer. A correctly working filter system will turn the ammonia into nitrites then nitrates. And in conjunction with the pond pump which passes the water through your filter system, this is one piece of equipment your pond can not do without.
Installing your pond liner correctly can mean the difference between the pond leaking and the liner lasting for the next thirty years. We have written articles before on how to fit a pond liner but if you prepare your groundwork, use a suitable underlay and choose an Epalyn or Butyl liner you won’t go far wrong.
We will continue with Pond UV lights in the next article.
There are many different types of Koi food on the market and most of them do a really good job at keeping your Koi in tip-top condition. There are however a few pointer to follow when feeding your Koi, especially at this time of the year when the weather is a little colder.
Koi will feed all year but will slow in their feeding during the winter months. And, at this time of the year you should adapt their diet to a cold weather feed. Your fish will actually tell you they want to be fed by rising to the surface of the pond.
Throughout the rest of the year you should try to offer only as much food as your fish will eat about 2 to 3 three times a day. The manufactured types of Koi food provide all the vitamins and protein your fish will need throughout the course of their lives. And this type of food will actually help reduce fish waste production and hence help to keep your pond cleaner and clearer.
If you want to give your Koi something a little extra to their standard feed you can give them very small quantities of aquatic worms, fruit and even lettuce as a special treat.