Tips to maintaining a natural pond:
Ecosystem ponds generally require very little maintenance. The ecosystem is built using 4 main pieces. First are the aquatic plants that naturally filter the water by absorbing the suspended nutrients and nitrates. Next are the natural rocks and gravel that harbor the beneficial bacteria which breaks down any waste in the water. Then comes the skimmer and bio-filter which mechanical filter the debris in the water and also harbor more beneficial bacteria. The final piece is the fish that eat up any organic material in the water and create the waste in the form of ammonia to complete the ecosystem cycle. Below are 5 tips to make sure the pond ecosystem stays in balance.
Tip#1 Plant the right quantity of aquatic plants
It is important that the right quantity of plants is added in the pond to make sure the ecosystem is properly maintained. The plants have a very significant role in naturally filtering the water and keeping it clean. A pond with not so many aquatic plants will develop algea and the levels of ammonia and nitrites will likely increase. Plants generate oxygen during the day however they consume the oxygen during the night. This would mean that a pond overcrowded with plants will cause the oxygen levels to drop at night and this may kill the fish. As a rule of thumb, 40% of the pond should be either shaded or covered by aquatic plants.
Tip#2 Maintain the right fish population
Fish produce ammonia which is toxic at high levels. A pond over populated with fish will create an imbalance within the pond. As a rule of thumb every 25 cm long fish can be accommodated by 100 gallons of water. For example, a 1000 gallon pond can hold 10 fish that are each 25 cm long.
Tip#3 Don’t overfeed the fish
Overfeeding is the major cause of fish loss. Over feeding increases the fish waste and raises the ammonia levels in the water (see tip 1). In addition, the uneaten fish food will sink to the bottom of your pond and eventually decay. As a rule of thumb, the fish should eat all the fish food within 1 minute. If you still see fish food after a minute period then you are over-feeding the fish.
Tip#4 Keep your pond cool during the hot summer days
Water temperature has a direct effect on the oxygen levels inside the water. Water has less capability to retain oxygen at high temperature levels. The water temperature should not exceed 26 deg Celsius since that will dramatically reduce the oxygen levels in your water and may suffocate the fish. It is also highly recommended that an aerator is installed to increase the oxygen levels in the pond.
The most effective solution to reduce water temperature is to block the sun rays hitting the pond. This can be done by installing a sun shade or by planting a tree. (Make sure the tree you are planting does not shed too many leaves).
Natural shading can also be created by using floating plant such as water hyacinth and water lilies or water lotus. Water lilies are beautiful flowering plants that thrive in direct sun. Their leaves can cover large areas in the pond.
Tip#5 Remove debris from your pond
The pond skimmer designed into a natural pond will do a great job at removing debris such as dead leaves from the water surface. The skimmer is usually accessed and the leaves collected in it are usually removed every 2-3 weeks. A pond net can also be used to skim the leaves and dead plants from the pond. This action will reduce the chance of debris sinking into the bottom of the pond where it will eventually decay.