How to maintain a fish pond throughout the year
An important part of pond keeping is to work out a regular maintenance program to keep your pond looking at its best, and most importantly, keeping your fish healthy and strong. A yearly calendar of events can help you prioritize which maintenance jobs need doing first and which time of the year is the best time to do them.
Much of the maintenance work can seem tedious, but it is necessary to keep your pond on top form.
At the start of the year your pond is in a bit of a dormant state, pumps and filters have been turned off, heaters or de-icers have been running to keep the pond ice free. Spring has arrived, now things will change.
In spring the weather is starting to warm up, frosts and ice should have been a thing of the past; now is the time to turn off the heaters or de-icer and remove them, they should not be required again till the end of the year.
Give your pond filter and feed pump a good clean, ready to start them up again. Once done these can be added back into the pond and started up. I like to do a small water change at this time, just to revitalize the aged water, a partial one will do, normally about 20%. Green water can be a problem now while the filter is catching up speed but it will disappear once the balance is restored. Remove any dead foliage that may have blown into the pond and tidy up the border areas.
Check your pH levels, these can drip now due to rotting vegetation etc. releasing ammonia and other toxins, harmful to the water but beneficial to algal growth. If required add to your water an air supply to enrich it with oxygen. While your water is balancing keep checking your ammonia and nitrate levels. Some pond keepers move their fish inside for the winter, now is the time to re-introduce them into the pond, remembering to re-acclimatize them to the pond water.
As your filter has been stood over the winter you will need to kick start it again with cycle bacteria that are available to buy, don’t wait for the filter to cycle on its own.
Barley straw should be floated now to prevent algal blooms, it is better to be in front with this, rather than wait for them to appear. Your fish will still not be up to eating a full diet until the water temps rise to summer heat, because of this a wheat germ diet should be given, which is easy for them to digest.
Check your plants and trim off any decaying matter; these can foul your water if not removed.
Spring has now turned into summer. The temp has risen, which in turn has increased the water temp of the pond. Higher temps mean less available oxygen, add an air supply if required to keep your fish happy, if not they will be gasping at the surface. Keep checking your filters and pumps for blockages; these are easily spotted if the output decreases at all. Skimmers can be added to help out your filtration system; they will remove a lot of debris before it has the chance to block your filters, making them run a lot more efficiently. Trim your plants as required and make sure your floating plants are providing enough shade to keep down the algae.
Keep topping up your water at regular intervals, it is better to add little and often, rather than leaving it for one big top up.
At this time of year keepers tend to replenish their fish stocks, if you are doing this don’t be tempted to add a lot of fish in one go, introduce them gradually, so that the filters can keep up.
Netting is a good idea at this time of year, not only to prevent your fish from jumping the pond, but also to prevent predators getting in. This is also the best time of year to introduce new plants for the pond, and at the same time new plants for the bordering areas. If you are experiencing any form of algal blooms then I recommend getting a small sweeping brush to sweep at the sides for dislodging it. Also duckweed can be a problem; excess amounts of this can be removed with either a rake or a length of wood with nails attached, to act like a comb.
As autumn approaches the air temperature will start dropping, which in turn will reduce the water temperatures; this will start to slow things down. Frosts could be a danger at this time of year. Reduce the amount of food you are giving to the fish, gradually going back to a wheat germ diet.
The netting you placed over the pond now serves as a catch net for falling leaves from the trees; keep removing them so that there is no chance of them falling into the pond. This will prevent blockages in your filter and reduce the decaying matter in the water. When the trees have finished shedding their leaves, the netting can be removed. This will then give you access to rake out any debris that has fallen through.
The water quality will probably be at a low now that summer is over, so yet another partial water change is beneficial, to refresh the pond and improve water conditions.
The autumn water change should be larger than the spring one to tide the pond over the winter months.
This time of year is also a good time to get out the pond vacuum and clean the gunk from the bottom of the pond. If the water temperatures do drop below 40 degrees then feeding should cease for the fish. Uneaten food will soon break down into toxins. Get ready to add winters heaters, if the pond is allowed to freeze over it will trap harmful gases underneath, these are very toxic to the fish.
Any half hardy plants should be removed from the pond and placed indoors for over wintering, ready to bring back out in the spring. Check your water parameters; make sure you rectify any that are not to standard.
Your pond should now be prepared for the winter shutdown; all of the fish will not require feeding again until the next spring where the whole maintenance program starts all over again.