Tuesday, February 12, 2008

How to Clean Up a Nasty Water Garden - and Keep it That Way!

In my previous post I dove into the myth about water gardens not needing filters. Many people subscribe to the theory that mother nature will take care of their backyard ornamental manmade water garden or koi pond or goldfish pond but I have proven in my last post that these types of ponds are nowhere near being natural bodies of water.

I think many ponders now are convinced that a koi pond or goldfish pond requires a filter because extra biological filtration is needed to keep the water free of ammonia and nitrites and healthy for the pond fish. What very few people consider is that a water garden void of fish would be a lot cleaner and prettier with a filter system tough enough to filter out all the junk a water garden creates.

Like I said earlier: There's nothing uglier than a dirty, neglected water garden. I'll add to that. There's nothing smellier either! Everyone takes for granted that ponds with fish in them are dirtier and harder to keep clean than a pond filled with only plants. It's really quite the opposite. A water garden is, by nature, dirtier. What do you have the plants planted in most of the time? Dirt. What happens when plants die back? They shed leaves and these old and moldy leaves tend to fall to the bottom of the pond and, over time, become part of the muck that ponds collect. Fish only leave their poop behind but that doesn't mount up to the dirts and organics left by plants. It is truer to state that water gardens are dirtier than koi ponds and a combination pond that has both plants and fish is bound to be even dirtier.

The facts are that leaves, spent blooms and dirt all fall to the bottom of the water garden and collect. To make things worse, the floor of many water gardens and combination ponds are lined with rocks and that gives lots of cracks and crevices where this muck can hide. After about a year of muck collecting between those rocks, turn one over and take a big whiff. It could knock you out! You have successfully cultivated a cess pool. Now, isn't that a wonderful place for grandkids to dangle their feet into? And think of the animals who drink from it. Read my article, "Turn Your Pond Into a Cess Pool in One Easy Lesson" for more rantings from me about the use of rocks on the bottom of the pond.

So to combat this collection of crap on the bottom of the pond manufacturers have come up with ingenious ways of making you feel you are doing what you can to keep that water garden clean -- short of correctly filtering it. They invent sludge eating bacteria that will help but alone will NOT DO IT. They invent complete pond construction kits that feature side-skimmers with biological waterfalls. They'll instruct you to line the bottom with rocks to "hide the liner", putting you on the road to building a beautiful, natural-looking cess pool. They'll tell you that those two thin pads in the bio-falls will filter your water and keep it clean and healthy...

NOT! For one thing, the side-skimmer rakes the water that is going to be filtered off the top of the pond. It doesn't even start to tackle the muck on the bottom -- you know -- the dirty part. The two little flimsy pads in the waterfall box, therefore, do very little filtering and, by the way, will be "low-maintenance" because of it! You never have to clean pads that trap no dirt, do you? Read my article, "Landscaper's Dream, Homeowner's Nightmare!" if you want to hear more of my rantings about the terrible side-skimmer system.

So - what WILL work to keep that water garden or pond clean? A for-real filter (external !!) that is fed water from the lowest spot on the floor of the pond. Oh - and don't put those stupid rocks on the bottom! What they do to "hide" the liner they make up for with breeding disease.

It's that simple.

First you need place your submersible pump or bottom drain water pick-up (for external pumps) in the deepest part of the pond. That way you pull all the dirt and debris that has fallen into the pond out where the filter can filter it.

The type filter you use will make all the difference. If the filter does its job it will require some attention about once a week during pond season. If it never needs cleaning it is not doing the job of filtering. There are filters that require more maintenance than others so you can have filters that work but don't work you - well, at least not too hard. The bead filter is the best one for lowest maintenance because it backwashes the filter media with only a turn of a handle. If your pond or water garden is smaller than 600 gallons you really can't put one on your pond without being accused of "overkill". In that case, you can't get by without washing some sort of filter pads or media.

The bead filter I like best is, of course, the ProBead Biological Pond Filter. I designed the ProBead myself and the what makes it better than all the other true bead filters out there is because it utilizes the Anti-Clogging Multi-Bead Feature - simply put - it uses four different sizes and styles of beads to keep them from clogging. I'm not going to go into it here but if you want to know more about the ProBead, here is an article to read: http://www.ponddoc.com/WhatsUpDoc/Equipment/BreedBead.htm

For a small pond that a big bead filter might swallow whole there are smaller filters that do a very nice job of filtering the water such as the BioForce or the PondMaster Filter. The BioForce is an external filter so it brings the dirt out of the water and cleans much better than a submersible one like the PondMaster so that would be my choice if not a bead filter.

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