1. Filtration

So you’ve dug the hole, dropped in the liner, landscaped it with rocks, and filled it up with water. What else do you need and need to do?

A garden pond creates a closed system, and in order to include fish in it, the water must be clean. Large ponds approach natural conditions, but small ponds must be extra clean to support animal life.

A pump and filter, therefore, top the list of essentials. Using the pump and filter to feed a waterfall or fountain provides the most economical route, providing aeration and filtration from one circuit of water. You can accomplish this in a variety of ways – several manufacturers make waterfall filters or a submersible filter with a fountain head built in. If you choose to have a filter outside your pond, you can have the outlet feed a water feature or simply run back into your pond from a height great enough to mix air with the water. If you do not pour or splash the water, you will need to invest in an air stone to dissolve the necessary oxygen in the water.

A pump should be capable of cycling all the water in a pond in 2 hours maximum. A pump capable of turning the pond over twice an hour is ideal. Never buy less pump than you need. Raising water high enough to power a waterfall, fountain, or external filter will require more capacity.

Filtration is crucial to the survival of fish in a small pond. Invest in a good filter with both mechanical and biological media in it. Many pond stores stock reasonably priced filters from Pondmaster, Fish Mate, Laguna, Tetra, and Cyprio which work quite well. The internet provides more choices, but a trustworthy local dealer often knows what has proven effective in your climate. Once again, err on the side of too much filter rather than too little.

A filter must run a couple of weeks in the summer, and up to a month in cooler times before it becomes safe to add fish. During that time, beneficial bacteria grow and gain the ability to break down wastes. I will talk more about the “cycle” under Water Testing. Some ponders use “feeder” goldfish to kick start the cycle without risking losing valuable fish. Others use store bought beneficial bacteria. Many people want to introduce fish as soon as the pond is full, but they are unwisely exposing their fish to stress and disease.

Once a filter is established, the media need to be cleaned periodically of the debris that inevitably collects there. Never, ever use tap water, which contains anti-bacterial chlorine or chloramine. Take a bucket full of pond water and use that to rinse/swish the media about. They do not need to be spotless; in fact that would be a bad thing. Pour the resulting muck on your flowers – they will love you.

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