UPDATE - The First Year

Well, it has been a year since we installed our pond. This is an update on what we have learned about water gardening.

The first fall.
We have a large tree in our back yard near the pond. We put netting over the pond to leaves out. We suspended the middle of the net by tying a string to an overhead wire to keep the net out of the water. We anchored the edges of the net around the pond with rocks. This made a kind of tent over the pond and worked very well.

The first winter
We had about 30 fish in our pond by the end of the first summer including several babies that were born in the fall. We disconnected the main pump and removed our main filter that also supplies the waterfall. We left the small pump/fountain combination in place and left the "bell" fountain running all winter. The moving water immediately surrounding the fountain kept a small circle of water unfrozen all winter. In the spring we found that all of our fish survived and they are doing great. 
Our only problem was when a opossum fell through the ice and drowned.

Maintenance
We found that the pond requires little maintenance. Cleaning the filters every 1-2 weeks and removing floating debris is about all you have to do. 
We do have to add a little water occasionally during the summer to compensate for evaporation. Actually, it recommended to pump out about 20% of your water and replace it occasionally anyway. 

Debris
The biggest problem we have found is keeping the filters clear. We have a number of water Hyacinth and the roots tend to break off and clog the pre-filter mesh on the pumps. During the summer, I found that I needed to clean the fountain filter every few days. I finally removed the pre-filter mesh and it seems to work better. It seems to pass the smaller debris OK with out clogging up the fine-mesh filter as it did before.

I had the same problem with the main pump. The fine-mesh pre-filter material that goes over the pump inlet was constantly getting clogged do I finally just removed it. Later, I learned a neat trick. Put the pump in a large plant basket along with some medium sized gravel. Discard the original pre-filter mesh and cover the basket with a piece of coarse mesh. This keeps out the larger debris but passes the smaller debris on to the main filter for removal.  This arrangement requires much less frequent cleaning.

Algae
This year we have had a very warm summer and since our pond is in full sun, we had a problem with algae and green water. Normally this is not a problem as long as you have a proper balance of plants and nutrients in the pond. The first year we had crystal clear water but this year we could not get the water to clear up. 

I finally bought a UV filter which passes the water from the pump past an ultra-violet light and kills the algae. I have had the UV filter in use for about a week and I can already see a considerable difference in the clarity of the water. It is not crystal clear yet, but I think it will be in a few more days.

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UV filters are fairly expensive (around $125) and many experts say they are not necessary if you have a proper eco balance, but I could not get the water clear this year.

Plants
All of our underwater plants (iris and hardy water lilies) came back strong in the spring. In fact I can't believe how they have grown and multiplied. Most of our surrounding plants returned also. We only replaced the hyacinth,  petunias, and coleus.
The tulips and daffodil bulbs that I planted last fall all came up and bloomed beautifully. However they only bloom for a few days in the spring and I really don't think they are worth the trouble for such a short blooming period. I'll probably plant something else next year.

Other
The 12" square brick pavers that I placed around my pond tend to become uneven over time. Even though I set them in sand, they tend to shift and sink making an uneven walking surface. If I had it to do over I would use larger creek stones or else do a better job of preparing a solid foundation for the stones.
I also found that the granite blocks that I lined the pond with tend to be an anchor for string algae. It only seems to attach itself to porous rocks and since the pond it entirely ringed with the granite blocks at the water line, the string algae needs to be removed occasionally.

Update 2004 - The Leak

We developed a leak in the pond. I noticed the water level dropping and frequently had to refill the pond. I have never had a problem just adding some water from the garden hose in small amounts. I have read that you can replace 10-20% of the water at a time without harming the fish. However, we let it go too long and had to add a lot of water. I guess the chlorine in our city tap water was too much for the fish and about 12 of them died.

I knew I had to drain the pond to find and fix the leak. I bought a cheap plastic kiddie pool at Wal-Mart and filled it with pond water. I then used a net to transfer the fish to the kiddie pool. I pumped the water out of the pond and found that there was a large split in the liner right below the pump at the deepest part of the pond.

Rather than try to patch it, I decided to buy a new liner. I went to a local pond supply store and bought considerably heavier lining material than I had previously used. It was pretty expensive but I didn't want to do this again for a long time. I added some extra padding under the main pump. I don't know if the split in the lining was caused by vibrations from the pump or if it was simply where the most water pressure was on the lining, or both.

We refilled the pond and let the water stabilize for about 3 days. We put the fish back in and everything was fine. I did notice the water became green and murky again pretty quickly. After reading about this problem on the Internet, I ordered an ultraviolet light to pass the water through. This is supposed to kill the microscopic bacteria that makes the water green. After a year of use, it made no difference.

Update 2007 - Bad Winter

For the last couple of years, I let the waterfall pump and the small fountain pump run all winter. The fountain kept a small area unfrozen even when the rest of the pond was frozen over. Even thought the waterfall often had ice on it, the water continued to run behind the ice.

This year, we had a really cold stretch of about 2-3 weeks below freezing and the waterfall pump (or at least the hoses from it) froze. I disconnected the electricity and figured whatever damage was already done so I would wait until things thawed out and hope that it still worked.

Well, when warmer weather finally came around I found that the waterfall pump was OK but the freezing water had slit open the top of my $300 in-ground filter and broken the glass in my ultraviolet light filter. I bought a new in-ground filter and UV light.

When I asked about the light and said that my old one never really kept the water clear I learned that I not only had too small of a light for my 1000 gallon pond but I was also running the water through it too fast. The water was going past the light so fast that it didn't have time to kill the bacteria. When installed the new light, I also installed a ball valve and a "T" in the plumbing so I could slow down the flow of water through the light filter (also called a sterilizer).  I'll let you know how it works.

The fish are doing well. I estimate we have around 30 goldfish, fantails, shubunkins, and comets. Some of the comets and fantails have grown to about 10 or 12 inches.

 

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