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Key Elements of a Healthy, Low-Maintenance Pond

A low-maintenance pond is one with an ecosystem that works naturally with Mother Nature to keep the pond clean and clear. It is a paradise for families to relax by and study throughout all seasons. It also offers a healthy place for desirable wildlife, such as pond fish, birds, etc. 

Such a delightful backyard feature has several elements that contribute to its overall harmony. As certified Aquascape Inc. contractors, Deck and Patio keeps regularly up-to-date with the latest in pond design, construction and maintenance.

Proper Water Circulation

It is essential that any water pump be adequate to the size of your pond and waterfalls. This ensures the amount of water will be aerated sufficiently and will not stagnate or develop excessive bacteria. Instead, the pond receives adequate oxygenation to remain healthy. 

Biological Filters and Skimmers

Ponds should also include a natural filtration system using the right biological filter and mechanical skimmer. Adding rocks and gravel over pond liners will also allow beneficial bacteria to grow for fish to graze on. 

Pond Fish

Koi, in all their jeweled colors, are not just beautiful to look at. They eat algae, and their own waste turns into fertilizer for pond plants. It’s key, though, not to overstock your pond so the balance of fish waste, verses what is being used up, remains in proper balance.

Aquatic Plants

And you thought plants, too, were just pretty faces. No, they also play a key role in filtering a pond’s ecosystem. Aquatic plants absorb nutrients from the fish waste. “In the heat of summer, for example, it’s ideal that approximately 40% of your pond’s surface be covered with plants. Not only do they take care of the algae they also provide shade for the fish when it’s hot,” says Dave Stockwell of Deck and Patio.

Backyard Pond Is a Paradise

Backyard Pond Is a Paradise

“A backyard pond should be a paradise for relaxation as well as a home for desirable wildlife,” adds Dave Stockwell. “I’m referring to wildlife such as birds, frogs, etc. who eat insects as they enjoy the shelter you’ve created for them. In addition, aquatic plants and pond fish are essential elements in the overall ecosystem.” 

Sometimes, Deck and Patio clients want to go even further when creating a natural healthy pond ecosystem. “That’s the rainwater harvesting comes into play,” says Dave. “This involves capturing rainwater, filtering it, and trapping it below ground to be recirculated to maintain the pond’s water level because of evaporation. Aquascape Inc. of St. Charles, IL, has superb systems that capture and circulate rainwater.” 

This captured water never stagnates, says Brian Helfrich, construction manager at Aquascape, because the water is continuously circulated in the pond via a waterfall, or stream, or pond fountain.

“Rainfall shortages will never be a problem,” says Helfrich. “Plus, with such a system, town or city water is never being used. Those with an underground storage tank — stocked with water they may have collected a month ago, even during a drought, will not only keep their water feature fresh and moving, but excess water reserves can maintain a lawn, and/or a vegetable garden.” 

Easy to Maintain Pond Ecosystem:

Easy to Maintain Pond Ecosystem:

This beautiful award-winning water feature (silver medal from LIPSA) consists of a stream, waterfalls and pond; it’s 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.

Healthy Pond Ecosystems with Wildlife:

Healthy Pond Ecosystems with Wildlife:

Water is the basis of all successful ecosystems. 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.

Low Maintenance Ponds with 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 shown here include bullrush, pink canna lilies, horsetail, and a rose arey hybrid water lily. 

“A healthy pond does require some spring and fall maintenance,” says Dave Stockwell. “However, if you build your pond correctly, Mother Nature will do the rest. Not only will you love it in every season, but frogs, birds and butterflies will thank you for it.”

 

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.

 

 

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.