Spring is an exciting time of year for pond owners. Flowers begin to bloom and plants display new greenery. Koi come back to play after a quiet winter below the ice and frost, and it’s time to get those waterfalls going again to bubble and delight you all season long.
But at the dawn of the spring season, your pond may not be looking its best. A winter of debris has accumulated and the water is not quite ready for the demands of warmer weather and hotter sun.
Before you can truly enjoy your pond, you’ll need to do some spring cleaning. Mother Nature does this with the runoff from snow and rain for large, natural ponds and lakes, but for backyard (or front yard!) pond enthusiasts, a cleanout is your best way to ensure a healthy, enjoyable season.
A thorough cleanout will also help you avoid the bane of many pond owners – the algae bloom that can quickly take over thanks to excessive nutrients and leftover decaying matter. And it will help prepare the environment for healthier fish, and clean and clear the water so your pond will sparkle.
Here are the steps you should take each spring to clean out your pond and get off to the right start.
You’ll need a few supplies, so gather them before you start and avoid costly mistakes!
The following materials serve key purposes as you’ll see when you read through the next steps: a cleanout pump with discharge hose, a container to put your fish in (a kiddie poll works nicely), a pair of waders or boots (to spare your favorite sneakers!), a net with a long handle to catch and remove fish, netting to place over the fish container, a large bucket to collect debris (we recommend a 5 gallon bucket), additional buckets to help during the fish acclimation process, a garden hose with a high pressure nozzle or a power washer, cold water bacteria (or pond starter bacteria), slow release plant fertilizer, rapid clear (pond clarifier) and pond detoxifier.
You’ll see how all of these come into play in a moment.
We also recommend setting aside at least half a day. As an example, an 11×16 pond will take approximately 3-4 hours to clean properly.
Start Early In The Season
Ideally, you want to clean out your pond before the water temperature reaches 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Otherwise, bacteria will begin to colonize on your filter and on rocks and gravel. Performing a cleanout after this happens will throw off the balance of the ecosystem and your pond will go through a green phase before bacteria can re-colonize and establish themselves again.
Remember, not all bacteria are bad! Some will help keep your pond clear and healthy, and these are the ones you don’t want to destroy with a late cleaning.
Another reason to clean your pond early is that the temperature of the water from your outdoor spigot will be similar to the temperature of the water in your pond. This is important because when it’s time to refill your pond, there is less chance of stressing your fish with disparate water temperatures.
Drain The Pond
We mentioned refilling the pond with a spigot, but you may be thinking that your pond is already full. Not for long! A good cleaning involves draining out old, nutrient-rich water so it can be replaced with fresh water.
Start by placing a cleanout pump in the deepest part of the pond. You’ll want to drain the pond into the surrounding landscape, but not all in the same spot. As you drain, relocate the discharge hose two or three times to let the water seep into different parts of the ground and avoid floods.
As you drain, put some of the water into your fish holding container so you can move fish safely into familiar water without shocking or stressing them. Use the long-handled net to catch them once you’ve drained the water enough to be able to gently scoop them out.
Make sure you place the fish container in a shady spot and don’t keep fish there for more than a few hours. Place the netting over the fish container to prevent those rascals from attempting a daring (and dangerous) escape.
Wash The Pond
Sounds strange, but even a pond needs a good washing from time to time. But don’t overdo it! Some algae is actually beneficial and will help establish a healthy ecosystem.
Use the hose or pressure washer to rinse rocks, with a gentler stream from the hose for gravel. Start from the top and work your way to the bottom, periodically turning on the cleanout pump to drain the water. You’ll know you’re done when the water begins to look clear.
Never, ever use soaps or detergents to clean your pond. If you’re concerned that your pressure washer may have soap residue that will get into your pond, either use a separate detergent-free one specifically for your pond or stick to the garden hose.
A good washing for an 11×16 pond should take about 15 minutes.
Clean The Filters
Remove debris from your skimmer, waterfall skimmer, filter mats and any biological filters you may be using. You can do this by hand; then remove and gently rinse filters with the hose before replacing them.
Do not over-clean filters, since some bacteria buildup is good for your pond. And of course, never use any soaps or detergents.
If your filters are looking worse for the wear, now is the time to replace them and save yourself the headache of dealing with it when it becomes a problem.
Refill The Pond And Place Fish In Their Clean Home
When all your filters are in place and the regular pump connected, remove the cleanout pump and begin filling the pond from the garden hose.
If your home uses city or town water, add a pond detoxifier and dechlorinator to make it safe for fish. Prepare your fish to be reintroduced to their new, clean environment by placing them in smaller containers or buckets with their old pond water. Then, when the pond has a few inches of new water in it, float the buckets in the pond to normalize the temperatures. Begin periodically splashing fresh water into the buckets to acclimate the fish. After about 15 minutes you can reintroduce the fish to their new environment.
When you’re done filling, add beneficial bacteria, plant fertilizer, and water clarifier if you’re using it.
Grab A Cup Of Coffee And Enjoy!
With a clean pond you’re ready to enjoy the fruits of your labor. A couple of tips for enthusiastic pond lovers…
Begin feeding your fish again one the water temperature reaches a consistent 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Between 50 and 60 degrees, use a cold water fish food. A pond thermometer is a great investment for this purpose.
Check the pH. Fish health relies in part on proper pH so be sure yours is in the 7.0 to 7.8 range.
Prepare for predators by covering the pond with netting, placing bamboo around pond edges, using motion sprinklers, or even strategically placing a decoy like a heron or floating alligator.
With a little bit of preparation and attention over time, you’ll be able to sit back and enjoy your pond for months to come.
And if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by the process, get in touch with us. Our professional pond experts are ready with white glove service to clean and prepare your pond for the best season of your life.