Summer is waning, and as August comes to a close and September begins, changes are likely to come to your pond. Depending on what Mother Nature throws at us, you may see sunny dry spells or fierce rainstorms, hot days or chilly evenings.
Late summer is also prime season for algae blooms, and early fall may bring brand new predators.
But none of that is going to be a challenge for you, because you’re going to know exactly how to care for your pond! These quick tips are just what you need to ensure that your pond is a healthy, beautiful place right through the end of the season.
1. Check Fish Behavior
Late summer usually comes with pretty high temperatures, which can change the conditions in your pond. Warmer water holds less oxygen that cooler water, which can become unhealthy for fish if not mitigated.
In addition, the algaecides you use to thwart those unwanted green blooms can cause decaying matter that uses up even more oxygen, further depleting stores.
One surefire way to tell whether your pond is oxygenated properly is to watch your fish. If you notice them breathing rapidly, or worse, coming to the surface to breathe, that means they’re not getting the oxygen they need from the water.
If that happens, take action immediately or you risk losing fish. Better yet, prevent problems altogether with this next tip…
2. Increase Oxygen
There’s no question that your pond will require more oxygen during hot months, since warm water naturally holds less oxygen than cool. So you don’t have to wait to find out that oxygen levels are a problem to take a few simple steps to keep your pond healthy.
Start by beautifying your pond with oxygenating plants. Floaters like water lettuce and hyacinth do double duty as shade to keep water temperature down and ward off algae, as well as add oxygen to water. Other good choices are submerged plants like hornwort and arrowhead.
But you can’t rely on plants alone. You’ll also need good aeration to keep water moving and oxygen circulating in. Luckily, aeration can also be beautiful. Fountains and waterfalls are two excellent and aesthetic ways to keep water flowing.
You can also add electronic aerators, which are typically small, quiet and easy to install.
Using one or more of these aeration and circulation techniques will keep water moving so oxygen is constantly being refreshed. And aeration will also prevent the stagnant water that mosquitoes are attracted to.
3. Freshen Up Plants
It’s a great time of year to add new plants to your pond, now that many summer blooms have faded. New plants will not only add fresh beauty but they perform an important late-summer function: preventing algae.
The intense August sun creates ideal conditions for algae blooms, so keeping your pond properly shaded will make it much harder for this summertime pest to thrive.
Water lettuce, lilies and hyacinth are all lovely, effective ways to freshen up a summer pond and keep your ecosystem in balance.
4. Change Fish Feeding Habits
Your fish are wide awake and active at this time of year, so it may be tempting to feed them a bit extra to help them keep up their energy. But this is the time of year you least want to overfeed, because leftover food will quickly decay in warm water, using up precious oxygen and releasing unhealthy gases as it does.
It’s a good idea at any time of year to feed fish at a regular time. They will quickly get used to your schedule and be ready to eat when you arrive.
Feed only as much as they can eat within five minutes. Any more and you risk leaving excess food to decay.
And while it’s true that fish are more active and will eat more in summer, it is also true that they will actually eat _less_ during periods of very high temperatures. Heat waves can be as stressful for fish as for their humans, so follow the tips above and adjust accordingly.
5. Remove Debris
With summer blooms fading and autumn setting in, there’s likely to be more debris floating in your water – or just waiting to fall in. That can include everything from leaves and twigs, to flower stems and petals, lawn clippings, and whatever the latest rainstorm has washed in.
All of this debris can wreck havoc with your ecosystem. For starters, it can clog your skimmer and filters – all that lawnmower spray is notorious for that. And anything left to sink to the bottom – along with any excess fish food – will ultimately rot and lead to everything from oxygen deprivation to algae.
Your best bet is to start by removing anything that _may_ end up in your pond. Deadhead spent blooms, and remove lawn care remnants before they end up in your pond. Skim the rest with a simple hand-held net. Your pond filter should take care of some of it, but won’t catch it all. You are the best line of defense for keeping unwanted junk out of your pond, and all it takes is a brief moment of your time.
6. Add Beneficial Bacteria
It’s inevitable that some of that “junk” is going to end up in your pond. At a minimum, you’ve got to contend with fish waste and a dying plant or two. You’re not going to stand outside with a fine strainer to catch it all, and there’s no need to stress about it when you’ve got beneficial bacteria on your side.
By its very definition, this bacteria will benefit your pond by breaking down organic matter and keeping water clear and healthy. These bacteria remove excess nutrients, making them unavailable to algae and keeping blooms at bay.
Unlike their chemical counterparts, bacteria are inherently part of the natural environment, which means they pose less risk to disrupting your ecosystem and the surrounding area.
7. Thwart Predators
Predators don’t take summer vacation, so it’s wise to have some protection from them all season, but late summer and early fall can be an especially risky time for fish. As temperatures begin to cool into fall, fish slow down, making them easier prey for hovering herons and other hungry hunters.
Even if you’ve had no trouble from them so far, you may see that change, so before you lose your precious koi in one bite, consider adding a deterrent now.
Animal decoys can help. If there’s one thing a predator doesn’t like, it’s another predator, so try a heron, owl, or alligator decoy. These aren’t foolproof, and smart hunters may soon recognize these phonies for what they are, so try moving them around to create the illusion of an active animal, or better yet, employ a second method.
Motion sensing water deterrents are another good choice. They’ll scare off predators without harming them, and are unobtrusive beside your pond.
Other options include bamboo edging, which can make it difficult for predators to find footing near your pond, or netting if you’ve got particularly persistent hunters.
Summer may be coming to a close, but that doesn’t mean pond season is over! In fact, pond season is every season, and with some smart care practices you can enjoy yours day and night, all year long. If you need help caring for yours, have questions, or are thinking ahead to fall maintenance, contact us and let us know. Our pond pros are here to help.