pond fish

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Caring for Ponds/Pond Fish in Fall

 

Peak fall foliage is upon us here on Long Island. And while it’s a glorious sight, for those with ponds, it’s also a reminder to do a little maintenance.

Netting Ponds in Fall.

Netting Ponds in Fall.

Our blog a few weeks ago suggested netting your pond before the leaves fall. It’s worth doing in the next few days if you haven’t done it yet.

Once all the leaves have fallen and been captured by the net, you can simply pull it out and once again enjoy your pond unobstructed.

Note: If netting isn’t your thing, a long-handle pond net allows you to scoop down to the bottom and pull out leaves and other debris. It’s a bit more work, but effective. Also, since ponds tend to lose significant water by evaporation during the summer, clearing out debris keeps the pond from getting too shallow and requiring extra water to keep it topped off and healthy. 

 

Aquatic Plants Maintenance

Deck and Patio Ponds

Deck and Patio Ponds

“It’s a good idea to trim back and remove any dead foliage from aquatic plants this time of year,” says Deck and Patio’s Dave Stockwell. “This helps remove excessive organic material that would otherwise decompose in the water feature. Such decaying material can cause excess gasses and undesirable algae.”

Pond lilies, for example, which are idyllic water plants, tend to need a little maintenance in fall. It’s a good idea to cut them back to just about the base of the plant; also trim back any marginal plants that might eventually droop over into the water.

 

Chemical Pond Treatments

Leaves In Backyard Stream 

Leaves In Backyard Stream

 

Some debris will make it into your pond no matter how careful you are.

Dave Kelly of Aquasacpe Inc. recommends adding a cold water bacteria treatment, which has concentrated strains of beneficial bacteria that works well below 50 degrees (F).

Kelly recommends adding it routinely to help maintain water clarity and quality.  Photo: Aquascape Inc.

 

 

 

Caring for Pond Fish 

You can — and should — plump up your koi darlings to survive winter hibernation. As temperatures start to drop, gradually increase how much you feed them. When your pond’s water gets below 59 degrees, we recommend using fish food made for cold water. 

Note: As the temperature continues to drop, gradually reduce the amount you feed them.   Once water temperatures go below 55 degrees, says Kelly, the metabolisms of pond fish slow way down. And when pond water gets down to 50 degrees, do not feed the fish any more. Their systems shut down in the colder water, and food sits inside them and rots. They get very sick and diseased from this.

 

Pond Fish in Fall:

Pond Fish in Fall:

There is nothing cuter than your koi coming to you for more food. However, once the water gets to 50 degrees, experts say stop feeding them entirely.

 

Healthy Ponds:

Healthy Ponds:

Once Spring arrives, and your pond and fish are healthy and thriving, you’ll be glad you took such good care of your pond in the Fall.

There! That’s not so bad, is it. Just remember: a little fall maintenance makes all the difference.

 

Benefits of Water Gardens: Raising Independent, Confident Kids

There is much debate today whether ‘helicopter’ parenting, i.e., hovering closely around children as they grow up, is better than the more old-fashioned ‘free range’ way,  or more limited parental supervision.

The goal of both sides, of course, is raising confident, independent and safe kids. 

But it was the free-range side of this discussion that caught our eye this week. A recent NPR article focused on how some parents believe that to raise confident and independent children, they need to “let grow.”

The ‘let grow’ is a terrific play on words — especially since what’s behind it emphases the advantages children experience by exploring, on their own, a beautiful outdoor natural environment. 

This does not surprise us at Deck and Patio. We’ve been hearing for many years how much the children of our clients gain by being able to explore Nature close up in a backyard water feature like a pond.

“Not everyone lives near a large park with streams, or a pond, abundant with flora and fauna,” says our own Dave Stockwell. “And not every parent is comfortable with letting children stray too far away from home in order to experience this.”

But on answer is certainly adding a wildlife refuge (small wildlife that is) in one’s own property.

As this wonderful video (below) from Aquascape Inc.’s Facebook page shows, when done well, these features can attract lots of interesting and friendly creatures that children love:  birds, frogs, salamanders, butterflies.

Not to mention by adding koi and lovely aquatic plants, depending on their age, children can be entertained as well as educated — on their own — for hours at a time.

 

 

Now while there are a few things to consider, like an ideal pond depth for the age of the children, with a little care, koi ponds bring out the child in us all. Even today, when a pond is large enough, many adults can’t resist a swim.

So whether you believe in being a ‘helicopter’ parent, or come down on the side of ‘free range,’ with a backyard koi pond, kids can explore without being far from a watchful eye. They’ll learn independence choosing what to study on any given day: a croaking frog, a bird bathing in the cool water, or jeweled koi eager to be fed.

 

Pond Lessons for Kids

Pond Lessons for Kids

In return for your providing the clean pond water, these little amphibians greatly reduce the amount of pesky insects in your backyard — thereby naturally reducing a need for pesticides.

 

Kids and Backyard Ponds:

Kids and Backyard Ponds:

Any child fortunate enough to grow up with the ability to explore nature never loses love for the outdoors and the beauty of Mother Earth. Photo: Courtesy of Aquascape Inc.

 

Natural Playscape with Pond:

Natural Playscape with Pond (Long Island/NY):

Deck and Patio designed/built this city oasis with a temporary 8” shallow pond for younger children, which can be easily turned into a full-size koi pond when the children get older.

Stepping stones lead from the playhouse across the pond to a patio at the back of the house — where parents, grandparents, neighbors and friends can sit and watch the children play and explore (ahem). 

 

Swimming Ponds (Long Island/NY):

Swimming Ponds (Long Island/NY):

Swimming Ponds (Long Island/NY): Another blog post on Aquascape’s website, titled: “Growing Up Around a Pond,” included this photo of her son encouraging a friend to join him in their pond. Photo: Courtesy of Aquascape Inc.

 

Ponds Offer Multi-Seasonal Enjoyment:

Ponds Offer Multi-Seasonal Enjoyment:

Even when the weather is chilly, kids enjoy studying what’s happening in a pond. And when winter comes, and the koi hibernate, they might be able to skate on it. This is one time, no one argues that helicopter parenting isn’t a good thing. Parents will definitely be the ones checking to know if the pond is truly frozen.

 

 

 

 

Are Koi Carp Difficult to Keep in Backyard Ponds?

 

Koi are delightful ornamental versions of the more common fish known as “carp.” Koi were bred for color by the Japanese for their private ponds or water gardens. But, as some of you may already know, these lovely creatures aren’t just for show. Their presence can help balance the entire pond’s ecosystem and even help to reduce pond maintenance.

Why, then, are so many pond owners anxious about keeping them in their ponds?

“People fear they won’t survive. It is true that koi can be tempting to cats, raccoons, herons, etc., but there is much that can be done to reduce such threats,” says Bill Renter from Deck and Patio.

Renter suggests adding koi castles and tunnels at the bottom of the pond to give fish a safe place to hide from many predators.

Rock overhangs look natural

Rock overhangs look natural

Additionally, including rock overhangs around the outside of the pond, which first and foremost will make any pond appear more natural, help discourage cats and raccoons from reaching into the water after the fish.

“Planning a water feature with sufficient water depth can also dissuade raccoons and cats further, since neither enjoy swimming to get their dinner,” says Renter. “Plus deeper water at the edges — more than 18” deep — discourages heron wading.”

Another helpful idea is adding a waterfall feature. Continuous flowing water into the pond isn’t just beautiful and pleasant sounding, but the ongoing movement from the falls will put off many avian predators and even stop mosquitos from breeding.

Other precautions koi pond owners can take is adding scarecrows, such as owl statues. But with ongoing climate change and continued new construction, changes to their habitat are also causing changes in the behavior of local wildlife. “If all else fails, a netting can be installed over the pond,” says Renter.

Tips for Keeping Koi Safe:

— make your pond as large and deep as possible

— try to locate your pond in an area that you can see from inside your home so you can chase away any predator that isn’t deterred by other means

—  try to include a waterfall to aerate the pond and scare away some predators

— lighting with movement sensors near the pond can frighten away an animal at night

— scarecrows (like owls) discourage many predators — herons and kingfishers in particular; some scarecrows also have moving sprinklers which do double duty to dissuade prey

—  don’t put food for the birds you’re trying to attract near the pond — put it as  far away as possible

—  create hiding places for the koi inside the pond such as castles and tunnels

—  if you still have problems, a pond net will do the trick.

 

Here’s a small sampling of our favorite Deck and Patio pond features. And, yes, even if not picked up in the photos, there are koi in each and every one.

 

 

Pond Koi:

Pond Koi:

Contrary to popular belief, pond fish will actually reduce pond maintenance, as they graze on string algae and bottom feed from the pond floor. (Note: Plants in this pond include bullrush, pink canna lilies, horsetail, and a “rose arey” hybrid water lily.)

 

 

Pond Netting:

Pond Netting:

It’s wise to have pond netting even if you don’t need it to keep away predators. In order not to let a collection of debris into your clean pond water, you’ll want to put a net in place before leaves begin falling in autumn. Then, simply pull it out when they’ve all dropped. You can tent the net so it doesn’t sag into the pond when it gets weighted with leaves, say experts at Aquascape Inc. (Photo/Pond Net: Aquascape Inc)

 

Ponds with Waterfalls:

Ponds with Waterfalls:

The continuous movement of the pond water because of  waterfalls not only oxygenate the water to keep it healthy and free of mosquitos, but the spilling water will put off many avian predators

 

 

Pond Ecosystems:

Pond Ecosystems:

Koi is a healthy part of this pond’s natural ecosystem; this pond also offers koi lots of room to hide as well as swim. There are also plenty of rock overhangs to discourage predators.

 

 

Keeping Koi Safe:

Keeping Koi Safe:

Planning a water feature with sufficient water depth can help dissuade raccoons and cats, since neither enjoy swimming to get their dinner. Plus deeper water at the edges — more than 18” deep — discourages heron wading.

 

 

The Pond Life: Spring Cleaning Is for Ponds, Too

For pond lovers, the advent of spring means more than cleaning away dust bunnies behind the fridge. If you have a backyard pond, and depending on its size and what part of the country it is located, some degree of pond cleaning is an equally important rite of spring.

As certified Aquascape Inc. contractors, many local pond owners prefer that someone from our Deck and Patio team come and prepare their pond come spring. But, avid pondsters (is that a word?) who don’t mind putting on some boots and getting their hands dirty are happy to do it all themselves, or at least part of it.

What’s involved?

In the north, fall brings debris! Photo Aquascape Inc.

In the north, fall brings debris! Photo Aquascape Inc.

If your aquatic plants were not properly cut back in fall, they may very well have fallen back into the pond and decomposed and dirtied the water.

However, even if you did cut them back, some cleaning will probably be required. How much cleaning may depend on your pond’s size. Smaller ponds tend to have more impurities than larger ones.

“It’s not unlike a fish bowl verses a fish tank,” says Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio. “A fish tank is much easier to maintain than a fish bowl, isn’t it? There’s just more water to absorb impurities. However, even larger ponds require basic maintenance, such as cleaning out the filtration systems, fertilizing aquatic plants, adding new filter mats when required, etc.”

Dave adds that depending on the quality of the water, draining of the pond, rinsing it out, and refilling it using a de-chlorinator may be required as well.

Here’s a helpful video by Aquascape Inc. showing spring cleaning:

 

 

“If you’re draining the pond, it’s important to take great care of any pond fish during the process,” says Dave. “Keep them safe in a kiddie pool or the like, and put a net over them so they don’t jump out. Also, be sure to acclimate them during reentry.”

Here’s some tips from Forrest Churchill for how best to integrate your pond fish back into the cleaned pond:

 

 

 

 

 

Pond Maintenance:

Pond Maintenance:

In the north, one of the best things you can do to reduce spring clean up is to use pond netting during fall foliage season. Photo: Aquascape Inc.

 

 Pond-less Waterfalls:

Pond-less Waterfalls:

It will take much less time to clean up a pond-less waterfall (pictured above) than a pond basin. Just dig out any debris in the Pond-less Waterfalls Snorkel Vault and, if it is required, drain the water using a clean-out pump placed into the vault — being careful not to flood any particular area.

 

Spring Pond Cleaning:

Spring Pond Cleaning:

The larger the pond, the better quality the water will be come spring. This beautiful pond project is really two ponds (one shown); in the larger pond pictured here there was even room for adding a large stone island with stepping stones out to it, where two Adirondack chairs were positioned for periods of contemplation and feeding the koi.

 

Spring Cleaning Begins in Winter:

Spring Cleaning Begins in Winter:

Even if you cut back your aquatic plants and water grasses, some will decompose. When doing spring cleaning, be sure it’s before the pond water temperature gets  above 55 degrees. Otherwise, bacteria from the warmer water will have formed — causing another undesirable green phase.  Photo: Aquascape Inc.

 

Natural Swimming Ponds:

Natural Swimming Ponds:

Spring pond cleaning is essential for a pond pristine enough to swim in (even if you don’t wish to). Remember, all bacteria isn’t bad, some good bacteria kill the bad guys. A healthy natural swimming pond is very possible and is worth all the care you give it. The right bog filtration and water plants, along with Biofalls (such as Aquascape Inc.’s) support your seasonal care for a healthy water feature.

 

The goal, of course, is that any pond at a minimum be healthy for fish and aquatic plants. This kind of water feature is a joy to sit by, listen to, and pond-er spring.

 

 

Aquascape Water Gardens: The Appeal of Koi Ponds

Pond lovers are familiar with Aquascape as the leading water garden innovator in North America, so we were more than flattered when, in early May, our own Bill Renter was invited to do a guest blog on koi ponds for their web site. In case you missed it, we’re sharing it today.

Koi Ponds – For the Child in Us All  

By Bill Renter, Outdoor Living Expert

“Growing up, I was what they call today a ‘free-range’ kid. Like most children back then, I was free to explore the outdoors on my own and interact with nature.

Things are different today. Parents and child caretakers are far more cautious about letting children wander on their own. This is one reason, I believe, why koi ponds have skyrocketed in appeal. Through them, Mother Nature’s best experiences are brought right to our own backyards.

For sure, kids love watching and feeding colorful pond fish. Koi are gentle creatures that will swim right up to be fed, accepting food directly from the hand. And since it’s better to feed them in small amounts throughout the day, pretty much any time the kids are free, it’s a good time for the koi, too.

Backyard ponds attract other wildlife that children love: frogs, salamanders — basically any amphibian that lay their eggs in or near water. Plus birds will flock there, including song birds.

However, predatory birds like heron may be attracted to the koi. There are steps you can take to dissuade them, like netting, decoys, and electronic scarecrows with sensors that spray water when they catch movement. Also, thoughtful landscaping can provide protection as herons prefer an unobstructed path to wade into the water. And from the outset, having the right depth of water in the pond (no less than 24″) is key to keeping heron at bay.

My favorite koi ponds are the larger ‘swimming ponds.’ Children can snorkel in these and get up face to face with the fish. For swimming, you want clean water, so I’d recommend not overstocking your pond. You don’t want more fish waste than can be reasonably absorbed by aquatic plants and the pond’s bog filtration system.

Now while there are a few things to consider, with a little care, koi ponds are ideal to bring out the child in us all. Even today, when a pond is large enough, I can’t resist a swim.

So I say … go ahead … be a ‘helicopter’ parent or grandparent, and hover over the kids. With a backyard koi pond, kids aren’t missing out on much at all.”

 

Pond Fish:

Pond Fish:

Koi are gentle creatures that will swim right up to be fed, accepting food directly from the hand.

 

Good Pond Design:

Good Pond Design:

Well designed landscaping can provide protection as herons prefer an unobstructed path to wade into the water.

 

Swimming Ponds:

Swimming Ponds:

Another blog post on Aquascape’s website, titled: “Growing Up Around a Pond,” included this photo of her son encouraging a friend to join him in the pond. Photo: Courtesy of Aquascape Inc.

 

Useful Pond Koi:

Useful Pond Koi:

Koi is a healthy part of this pond’s natural ecosystem; in this Deck and Patio-designed pond, the koi have lots of room to hide as well as swim. There are also plenty of rock overhangs to discourage predators.

 

 

 

Natural Swimming Ponds: Embracing the Pond Life

According to reports, across ‘the pond’ in Europe, natural swimming ponds have grown in appeal for a quarter of a century. Here at home, however, North Americans have not yet joined the craze with equal zeal. While swimming au naturel (chemical free) certainly appeals to health-conscious North Americans, some can’t get over sharing their backyard swimming water with — ewww — bugs, tadpoles, let alone pond fish.

This, however, may be changing. After all, a man-made natural pond is no different from swimming in a lake, swimming hole, or swimming in the ocean. Who hasn’t brushed up against seaweed, or snorkeled to enjoy colorful fish? And, indeed, in recent years, Deck and Patio has been asked to create man-made ponds on Long Island for the pure enjoyment of swimming in them.

In a recent post on Aquascape Inc.’s website entitled: Growing Up Around a Pond, the writer focuses on the ’10 most interesting things’ she has learned from having just such a pond:

          all bacteria is not bad;

          swimming in a pond is more fun than in a pool;

          ponds are wondrous at night;

          ponds are better than TV or video games.

We would have to agree with her. Snorkeling in a regular swimming pool isn’t all that exciting.

Don’t let the bugs bug you:

Unchecked by the chemicals of a regular swimming pool, the odd dragonfly will no doubt flit across your natural pond’s surface. You may spy a salamander at its edge. And frogs (who eat the more undesirable insects around your pond) may parent some tadpoles in any natural pond. And if there’s koi in your pond, you’ll want to keep them healthy and free of disease.

That aside, swimming in a pristine natural pond is very possible and thrilling. Using the right underlayment, liner, Biofalls and skimmers, bog filtration and water plants are part of creating the perfect experience. Detailed information on how to do this can be found on such helpful websites as Aquascape Inc’s, and local pond experts can aid you in keeping your water clean, and your fish healthy.

 

Swimming with the Koi:

Swimming with the Koi:

The homeowner who wrote the Aquascape Inc. blog “Growing Up Around a Pond” included this photo of her son encouraging a friend to join him in the pond. Photo: Courtesy of Aquascape Inc.

 

 

Natural Swimming Pond:

Natural Swimming Pond:

This pond is one of two ponds these clients had us create in their yard which overlooks Long Island Sound. Now you may think that our beautiful model is avoiding the ‘ewwww’ factor by using a floating device. But as you’ll see from the next photo below, she’s not bothered at all by healthy pond life. Indeed, this pond is pure and clean — a joy to swim in.

 

 

Pristine Swimming Ponds (Long Island/NY):

Pristine Swimming Ponds (Long Island/NY):

A key factor in a good natural swimming pond is to build it big and deep enough so that you can snorkel as well as have room to swim.

 

 

Koi Ponds (Long Island/NY):

Koi Ponds (Long Island/NY):

Some ponds, like this one, is intended as a koi pond and not a natural swimming pond. One way to ensure you pond is sufficiently pristine for swimming is not to overload it with koi or other pond fish. This allows the aquatic plants and filtration systems the ability to absorb and “clean” the pond sufficiently for an enjoyable swim.

 

 

Vanishing Edge/Infinity Pond (Long Island/NY):

Vanishing Edge/Infinity Pond (Long Island/NY):

This pond is an infinity pond, one of the first done in North America. The project includes a stream, waterfalls, a second lower pond, and a natural biological filtration system that is continuously maintaining the feature’s crystal-clear water.

 

 

Falling Leaves, Feeding Koi, and Other Pond Tips

Plants and Falling Leaves

“If you want to greatly diminish spring pond maintenance,” says Bill Renter, Deck and Patio’s Outdoor Living Expert, “now is the time to take a few steps to prevent too much debris from accumulating before winter sets in.”

 

Falling Leaves Affect Pond Ecosystems:

Falling Leaves Affect Pond Ecosystems:

To get some tips on how to protect our ponds, pond expert Dave Kelly at Aquascapes Inc. (St. Charles, IL) offers this advice:

“The best idea is to put up pond netting before the leaves fall,” he says. “But if you didn’t do that in time, you can use a long-handle pond net to scoop down to the bottom and pull out leaves and other debris.”

Ideally, put your net in place before leaves begin falling. Then, simply pull it out when they’ve all dropped. You can tent the net so it doesn’t sag into the pond when it gets weighted with leaves, say experts at Aquascape Inc.

 

 

Value of Pond Netting: Photo: Aquascape, Inc.

Value of Pond Netting: (Photo: Aquascape, Inc.)

Pond netting is only needed for a short time and will save you countless hours come spring. Ideally, put your net in place before leaves begin falling. Then, simply pull it out when they’ve all dropped. You can tent the net so it doesn’t sag into the pond when it gets weighted with leaves, say experts at Aquascape Inc.

Kelly also suggests trimming back and removing dead foliage from aquatic plants to help remove excessive organic material that would otherwise decompose in the water feature.

 

Caring for Pond Lilies in Fall:

Caring for Pond Lilies in Fall:

Pond lilies are idyllic water plants. However, during early Fall, it’s a good idea to cut them back to just about the base of the plant; also trim back any marginal plants that might eventually droop over into the water.

 

 

Unwanted Pond Debris: (Photo: Aquascape, Inc.)

Unwanted Pond Debris: (Photo: Aquascape, Inc.)

Since some debris will make it into your pond no matter how hard you work, Aquascape recommends adding a cold water bacteria treatment, which has concentrated strains of beneficial bacteria that works well below 50 degrees (F).  Dave Kelly recommends adding it routinely to help maintain water clarity and quality.

Caring for Pond Fish in Fall

You can — and should — plump up your darlings to survive winter hibernation, by gradually increasing how much you feed the as temperatures start to drop. When pond water gets below 59 degrees, use fish food made for cold water. As the temperature continues to drop, gradually reduce the amount you feed them.

Once temperatures go below 55 degrees, says Dave Kelly, the metabolisms of pond fish slow way down. And when pond water gets down to 50 degrees, do not feed the fish any more. Their systems shut down in the colder water, and food sits inside them and rots. They get very sick and diseased from this.

 

 

Pond Fish in Fall

Pond Fish in Fall:

There is nothing cuter than your koi coming to you for more food. However, once the water gets to 50 degrees, experts say stop feeding them entirely.

 

 

Healthy Ponds Come Spring:

Healthy Ponds Come Spring:

Once Spring arrives, and your pond and fish are healthy and thriving, you’ll be glad you took such good care of your pond in the Fall.

Putting the ‘Eco’ in Pond ‘Ecosystems’

Just what constitutes a healthy pond ‘ecosystem’? Basically, such a pond works with Mother Nature to provide food, shelter, and safety to the wildlife around it, while it creates a low-maintenance piece of paradise for nature lovers.

To attract desirable wildlife (frogs, birds, etc.), and even the insects they eat, requires the right circulation system (pumps and plumbing), proper filtration, aquatic plants, and, of course, fish, which are an integral part of it all.

In addition, Deck and Patio’s Outdoor Living Expert, Bill Renter, frequently introduces clients concerned about water conservation to the option of ‘rainwater harvesting’ — a system which collects water from roofs, and other areas of a client’s property, and stores it in an underground tank to be recirculated. These systems are RainXchange Harvesting Systems, produced by Aquascapes Inc., St. Charles, IL which we sell and install.

Brian Helfrich, construction manager at Aquascapes, explains that this reserved tank water never stagnates because it is continuously circulated in the pond via a waterfall, or stream, or pond fountain.

“You don’t have to worry about rainfall shortages,” says Helfrich. “With such a system, City water is never being used. Even during draughts, those with an underground storage tank — stocked with water they may have collected a month ago — can not only keep their water feature fresh and moving, but can use some of the reserve to maintain their lawn, or even a vegetable garden.”

 

Pond Ecosystem:

Pond Ecosystem:

This beautiful award-winning water feature system consists of a stream, waterfalls and pond, and is the perfect spot for letting the day’s cares melt away. Enchanting Echinacea (coneflowers) and magenta Lythrum are some of the plants brightening this pondscape.

 

 

 

Beautiful Pondscape:

Beautiful Pondscape:

Along with waterfalls, stream and pond, for a healthy ecosystem, it is essential to choose the right stones and gravel (which provide the correct ph value for the fish and plants). A beautiful Japanese maple shades the pondscape’s bridge; bright red geraniums add a strong burst of color (bottom right).

 

 

 

Pond Koi:

Pond Koi:

Contrary to popular belief, fish will actually reduce pond maintenance, as they graze on string algae and bottom feed from the pond floor. Plants include bullrush, pink canna lilies, horsetail, and a rose arey hybrid water lily.

 

 

 

Pond and Patios:

Pond and Patios:

Installing a multi-faceted water feature that includes stream, waterfalls and pond, nestled in between multi-level patios, creates a restful and functional backyard oasis.

 

 

 

Pond Wildlife:

Pond Wildlife:

Water is the basis of all successful eco-systems. The second you put in a water feature you attract all kinds of wildlife — birds who want to bathe, frogs, salamanders, and insects that the birds feed on.