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Spring is almost here, and that means it's time to start thinking about opening your pond for another season. Here are a few tips to help you get your pond in tip top shape.

Once your pond has thawed, the first order of business is to give it a thorough cleaning. During autumn, a lot of leaves and debris fall into the pond and slowly decompose over the winter forming a heavy sludge on the bottom. It is necessary to remove as much of this sludge as possible. If you have a small pond with no fish you may want to completely drain the pond and scrub the liner. Remember not to use soap or any harsh chemicals.

In larger ponds containing fish where it is not practical to drain the pond you can use a large, long handled net to remove as much of the debris from the bottom as possible.(Available at Big Al’s) It is also a good idea to perform a partial water change, approximately 25% of the pond volume.

It is a good idea to remove marginal plants and water lilies and clean them up by removing all of the dead growth, and if necessary dividing and re potting them. This is also a great time to fertilize them with a slow release aquatic plant food tablet to give them a boost heading into the growing season. Remember that this should be done in a shady area. Once the plants themselves are cleaned up and the area in the pond is clean, you can put the plants back into the pond at their required depths, and refill the pond to 100% volume. Remember, if you are not on well water, use a de chlorinator (Available at Big Al’s) any time you add water to the pond.

Once the cleaning is completed, it is time to install the pump and filter. Your pump should match the size of the pond, meaning, it should pump the volume of your pond every 2-4 hours to provide adequate circulation. If you are keeping goldfish or koi, a biofilter is essential to maintain good water quality.

Now that the hard work is done you can turn your attention to your fish. If you over wintered the fish in the pond, try to get a good look at them and check for any signs of disease. Signs to watch for are rotting fins and tails, open or red patches of skin, lifted scales etc. Fish are most vulnerable to disease after a long winter of inactivity when the water is still cold and then immune systems are weak.

If you see any signs of disease treat immediately (treatments are more effective if administered in the early stages). The best time to inspect your fish is at feeding time while they eat at the surface, which brings us to a very important point - DO NOT feed your fish until the water temperature reaches 50 degrees fahrenheit. Fish are unable to digest food at lower temperatures. A fishes metabolism is directly related to temperature, which means that when the temperature increases, their metabolic rate increases and they require more food.

At temperatures between 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit, fish should be fed a wheat germ food once a week, as it is easily digested. At temperatures 56-60 degrees you can feed them once a day with wheat germ food and at temperatures above 60 degrees you can feed them a low protein food twice a day. As the summer approaches you may wish to gradually increase the feedings to four times a day to increase growth. Remember that you should not exceed 2-3 inches of fish per square foot of surface area.

Maintaining good water quality is the key to keeping healthy fish, when water quality is poor fish will inevitably get sick. Regular water testing (Available at Big Al’s) is the only way to be sure of the water condition. The three most important parameters to check are ammonia, nitrite and nitrate, especially in the spring. If any of these levels test high then a partial water change should be done.

Adding plants to your pond not only makes it more aesthetically pleasing but plants also serve a functional purpose, by helping to control algae, improve water quality and they are a terrific hiding place for baby fish. By using plants you can achieve a natural balance in the pond. Here are a few tips that will help you achieve that balance.

1) Add one bunch of oxygenating plants for every 2-3 square feet of surface area.
2) Add floating plants and water lilies for surface coverage, you should try to cover about 60% of the ponds surface. But be careful not to add tropical plants until after the threat of frost has past.
Hopefully this information is helpful in achieving and maintaining your thriving backyard pond.

Chris Dahl
Staff member of Big Al’s

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