Those of you familiar with my writing are accustomed to raves and rants about doing things in cooperation with nature instead of fighting against her; many years of trying it both ways have convinced me that the natural way is less costly to install and maintain, is easier on our fragile natural resources – and more fun!
So when I began pondering ponds (researching water features) several years ago, I was concerned with the most natural, low maintenance systems. My research unearthed numerous horror stories of thick, “pea soup” green ponds which had become nightmares to their owners. Drastic measures were taken to rid the ponds of the algae problem – extensive, sand-based filter systems and extremely expensive ultraviolet light sterilizers were used in an attempt to solve the problem.
As I continued pondering ponds for several years I finally found a system based on cooperation with natural systems – one that was inherently low maintenance; following are several of the basic principles of this system, principles that contribute to a healthy, low maintenance water feature.
Pondering Ponds Basic Principle #1: Use Rock and GravelOne of the most important conditions to provide in the pond is a rock and gravel floor…the millions of tiny spaces created are colonized by beneficial microorganisms which break down organic waste deposited by fish and decomposing plant parts. Using rocks and gravel creates a huge biological filter, reducing maintenance for the separate filter and creating a clean, healthy environment.
Rocks and gravel also: (1). provide a home for helpful aquatic insects and snails (2). protects the liner from sun and damage from larger animals (3). is more natural looking than a smooth surface (4). is not slippery like smooth surfaces (5). will hold the liner securely in place.
Pondering Ponds Basic Principle #2: Use Aquatic PlantsIncluding aquatic plants in your pond also contributes to a healthy ecosystem; plants use the carbon dioxide and nutrients that are produced by the beneficial organisms in the gravel and in the biological filter. Without plants, there would be a nutrient overload in the pond, resulting in toxic conditions for other pond life. And yes, algae is plant life – a small amount of algae is normal, and even beneficial, to the pond ecosystem… we just don’t want the algae to get out of control.
Aquatic plants also provide: (1). beauty for the pond (2). oxygen for pond animals (3). shade from intense sunlight (4). food for insects and fish (5). shelter for small pond creatures.
Pondering Ponds Basic Principle #3: Get some Fish
Other factors contribute to the beauty and health of the low maintenance pond ecosystem. Colorful fish provide hours of relaxing entertainment, as well as feasting on algae, mosquito larvae and other insects. Though most pond owners feed a small amount of food to their fish, in a well-balanced pond, fish can feed themselves.
Pondering Ponds Basic Principle #4: Filtration
It’s also important to provide an efficient skimmer to catch the larger surface debris, and a biological filter, through which the pond water is pumped.
In conclusion, a healthy, clean and beautiful pond ecosystem relies on the interrelationship of all parts. Each link is important for the survival of the whole.
My time spent pondering ponds turned up a multitude of systems and options – along with a lot of conflicting ideas and advice. Fortunately, several quality manufacturers provide user-friendly, low maintenance pond kits that are compatible with nature…we’ve been providing these systems to satisfied clients for over five years.
We recently completed our own water garden installation here at our home – to say we’re satisfied is a major understatement! Enjoying the beauty and tranquility of our new pond and waterfall has become a relaxing daily ritual.
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About Dan Eskelson
Dan has had his hands in the soil for most of his adult life as a gardener, landscaping contractor, golf course superintendent and landscape designer. When the ground freezes, he builds websites, produces video and plays the hammered dulcimer. Full bio here.