Taking Care of Your Pond in the Winter

Backyard Stone Pond With Plants

Even in Southern California, where winters are mild, there’s still steps to be taken to ensure your pond doesn’t suffer. This is especially true if you have fish in your pond, as they will act and need to be taken care of differently in the winter. Take a look at these few simple steps you can take to ensure your pond stays beautiful all throughout the winter and into spring.


Pond Algae – Why You Want it and How to Control it?

Aquatic algae, (thought of by many as pond scum) are microscopic plants that grow in sunlit water that contains phosphates, nitrates, and other nutrients.  Algae, like all aquatic plants, add oxygen to the water and are important in the fish food chain. They share many characteristics with plants, although they lack true stems, roots, and do not flower.  Common algae that forms in ponds include planktonic algae (green water algae) and filamentous algae (string algae).

Algae is actually important and beneficial to a pond or water garden.  It is part of the eco-system we want to establish in the ponds because it helps in maintaining good water quality.  If the pond filtration and circulation system are properly designed, the nutrients and toxins can be controlled, there by controlling algae growth.  The perceived algae problem begins when algae grow in abundance, but this condition is really a symptom or an indicator of excessive nutrients and or toxins in the pond water.

Excess nutrients are typically caused from feeding the fish too much, too often, or both. In addition, leaves, grass, or other organic material find their way into the pond, settle to the bottom and begin decaying and releasing nutrients into the water.

Excess toxins are typically generated directly from fish and decomposing matter. When fish breath they release ammonia into the water form their gills.  If the pond is overstocked, either by too many fish or too large of fish, you may find the water looks like pea soup. In addition, decomposing organic material such as fish waste, leaves, sticks, grass, etc., can generate toxins.

As a general rule, if you are experiencing an algae problem, adding more of the ‘right kind’ of filtration will help you reduce and manage the amount of algae in your pond.

This includes:

  1. Plants, such as lilies, shade the pond and reduce the amount of sunlight available for algae growth.
  2. Fish, especially koi, will eat a tremendous amount of algae.
  3. Rocks and gravel provide surface areas for bacteria to colonize in and between the rocks, which is like having an additional biological filter in the pond.
  4. Skimmers act as a mechanical filter by removing leaves and other debris from the surface of the pond before they can sink to the bottom and decompose and then turn into either nutrients or toxins.
  5. Biological Filters provide an area for bacteria and enzymes to colonize which consume nutrients and help break down organic debris and fish waste that would otherwise contribute to water quality problems.

Algae is a part of nature just like the other parts of the eco-system.  The main goal in keeping clean water is not to attempt to completely rid your pond of algae, but to keep it in balance with nature.

Natural Waterfall and Pond

How Much Sunlight Does a Pond Need?

This is one of the biggest myths surrounding water gardening today. Most books say a pond needs a minimum of 4-6 hours of sunlight a day for aquatic plants to live. They discourage building a pond in a shady area.

The truth is that aquatic plants do bloom more and flourish better in high sunlight conditions. This is not debatable. What is debatable is how well aquatic plants can do in low light conditions.


Aquatic Pond Plants

Aquatic plants, while providing the obvious aesthetic appeal to the water garden also serve the important role of helping to maintain the overall health and appearance of your pond.

Pond plants help purify the water by reducing nutrients, filtering out sediments, breaking down toxic compounds, and digesting unwanted substances.

Planting a diversity of species in the pond will ensure balanced filtration. Plants such as Cattails have short roots extending only 6-12 inches, where as Bulrushes can extend up to 36 inches allowing each to grab nutrients from different regions.

Rooted aquatic plants also help promote healthy bacteria populations. Without beneficial bacteria, nitrogen levels in the pond would become elevated, causing health problems in fish, diminished water quality, and promoting excess algae.

Certain plants, such as water hyacinth, are more capable than others at removing large amounts of algae-causing nutrients. Some waste water treatment facilities in warmer climates have even been designed specifically to use hyacinths.

Aquatic plants’ significance in filtration, their ability to provide better water quality, reduce maintenance and balance the ecosystem, all the while helping to create a more natural looking environment, are all reasons for you to consider the importance of aquatic plants for your pond.