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Pond Tips and Information for water garden - pond keepers
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 Calculating Pond Liner

Start with the depth of the pond (in feet), double it (to cover sides of pond), then add 2 feet for 1 foot overlap on each side. Add this number to both the width and length of the pond.

Example of a completed pond measuring 12' long x 7' wide x 3' deep:
Take the 3ft. depth and double it = 6', Add 2' overlap = 8'. Then add 8' to your length of 12' = 20. Add the 8' to your 7' width = 15. You would need a 20' x 15' pond liner.

 Calculating Pond Water Volume

If your pond is square or rectangular, multiply the ponds length x width x depth (all in feet) by 7.5. This will give you the volume of water in your pond.

Example: 10' x 5' x 3' deep would be 1,125 gallons (10 x 5 x 3 x 7.5).

For round ponds: multiply top diameter x bottom diameter x average depth of pond (all in feet) by 5.7.
Example: 10' x 10' x 3' deep would be 1,710 gallons (10 x 10 x 3 x 5.7).

 Chemical Levels in Pond Water

Desired Chemical Levels in Your Pond Water
PPM = Parts Per Million 
 Chlorine: less than .05 ppm 
 Oxygen: more than 5 ppm
 Ammonia less than 0.1 ppm (established ponds should always be zero)
 Nitrites less than 0.2 ppm (should always be zero)
 pH 6.5 - 7.6  (5.0 to 6.8 acidic)  (7.2 to 9.0 alkaline)

A pH of 7.0 is considered ideal for plants and fish in the pond.
Some pond plants, such as waterlilies and hyacinths, thrive in slightly acidic water below 7.0.
Therefore, an exceptable pH range is 6.8 to 7.6.

Alkalinity 50 - 170 ppm
Hardness  75 - 150 ppm
Salinity 0.1 - 0.3%
Phosphates 0 (Is ideal)! (The primary reason behind algae blooms (algae growth) is phosphates)
Copper  less than 0.1 ppm


                       Spring Pond Maintenance / Clean-Out
When the water temperature is 40 - 55 degrees Fahrenheit, is an ideal time to check the health of your pond and make plans for the season.
Test water for ammonia, nitrite and pH.

This is also a good time to check your pond and equipment for winter damage. Repair or replace as necessary.
Leaves and other debris can be removed with a skimmer net.

The pond hasn't begun its annual balance and the fish are not as active, so the clean-out won't be as stressful to them.
Every pond is different, some ponds do not need a full annual spring clean-out. If the water looks the same in the spring as it did the previous summer, it's probably okay to skip the clean-out.
If your pond water is in fairly good shape, do a partial clean-out (25% water change).
Remember to add water conditioner to remove chlorine, chloramines and heavy metals found in most tap water.
Also, add beneficial bacteria products to your pond to boost the biological growth in your pond and mature filters and filter media. Reduce and control toxic ammonia, nitrite and organic waste.

                 Full Spring Clean-Out

Spring clean-outs are recommended annually for most Northern ponds because of the debris that can build up over the winter. If your pond is larger than 2,000 square feet, it might only need a clean-out every few years.
And larger ponds may never need a complete clean-out because any impurities present are minimal compared to the volume of water in the pond.
The larger the pond, the easier it is to maintain.

                   Things you may need before starting clean-out:

  • An existing pump, inexpensive pump, or a sump pump (or by siphoning)
  • large tub, wading pool, (or similar, large container to hold fish
  • Net to cover fish container (to prevent them from jumping out)
  • Fish net ( to catch fish before clean-out)
  • Plant food tabs (for lilies)
  • Large container or buckets for collecting debris
  • Pressure washer or a high-pressure nozzle on a garden hose
  • Bacteria and De-chlorinator if you're filling your pond with city water
  • New filter media, mats (if necessary)


  • Start Draining the Pond -  Use some of the pond water to fill the large container (wading pool, the exact size will depend on the number and size of fish that you have) with pond water for the fish.
  • Drain the pond until it is almost empty and the fish are easy to catch.
  • Use a fish net to catch the fish and place them in the container with the water just pumped from the pond.
    Cover the container with netting or something similar to keep the fish from jumping out. Remove plants. Keep them moist and out of direct sun.
  • Remove sludge/debris from the bottom of the pond with a net or a vacuum.
  • Scrub rocks with a bristle brush, pressure washer or a high-pressure nozzle on a garden hose.
  • Once the pond is empty, rinse the pond from top to bottom with a garden hose without the high-pressure nozzle. This will help wash any remaining pond debris from under the rocks. As the dirty water accumulates on the bottom, continuing to pump it out. Rinse any remaining residue and pump or vacuum out.
  • Clean the filters.
  • Remove the clean-out pump and begin re-filling your pond with clean water to appropriate level and de-chlorinate.
  • Transplant and divide any plants that are filling out their pots. Fertilize the plants with aquatic plant food to jump start their growth. Replace the plants.
  • When the water temperature stabilizes, you can return the fish to the pond. There should be no more than three to five degrees difference in temperature between the old and the new water to prevent shock to the fish.
  • Add your beneficial bacteria for the recommended start up treatment.

 Preparing Your Pond and/or Water Feature for Winter

If you have cold winters (as we do here in Virginia), you may want to remove pumps, filtration and UV clarifiers / sterilizers as some pond owners do.

Remove at first frost, thoroughly clean and store them indoors OR according to manufacturers' instructions. According to manufacturer is always best, because there are some pumps that should be kept in a pail of water (to keep from drying out seals, etc.).

Some of our customers keep their pumps running. Just be sure your pump is deep enough in the water so it does not to freeze in the ice.

During the winter months the pond is active even when the water is frozen. Dead leaves, algae, insects, and fish waste slowly break down. Fish, frogs and other aquatic life are especially sensitive to poor water quality in winter.

Use a net to remove dead leaves and then remove excess sludge.
Vacuum out leaves and debris when you close your pond for the season.
Some water gardeners net out the fish, completely drain the water, scrub the pond and refill it with fresh water.

Cover your pond with netting to prevent leaves and debris from getting into your pond.

You can do a 15-25% water change, your pond is going to sit idle for many months.
Give your fish a good footing by changing out some of that dirty, recycled water.
Make sure to use a dechlorinator to detoxify chlorine from the water.

Koi & Goldfish are very hardy; they can survive water temperatures as low as 0°C, which means they can survive in the pond over the winter as long as it doesn't freeze solid.

The most common reason for fish die off in the winter months is due to poisoning or pH. When the pond freezes over, if you have leaves and debris trapped under the ice, the decomposition of this debris causes noxious gases to form poisoning the water and killing your fish.

The metabolism of Koi and Goldfish is controlled primarily by water temperature.
As the water cools, pond fish require less protein in their diet.
When Koi and Goldfish are fed high protein food in cool water, the excess protein is excreted as ammonia from the gills.

The microscopic organisms that make up the biological filter also slows down in cooler water.
Improper seasonal feeding can lead to a build-up of toxic ammonia, which stresses fish and reduces their survivability in winter.

your fish when water temperature drops to around 43 degrees F.
In harsh winter climates pond owners DO NOT FEED their FISH AT ALL DURING THE WINTER MONTHS.

Pond fish will seek the deepest part of the pond and over-winter there because the warmest part of the pond is near the base.
If your pond is too shallow, the fish may freeze during a harsh winter.
Pond owners with shallow ponds can keep their koi and goldfish in aquariums set up in a cool basement or garage.

Pond life needs oxygen even during hibernation.
If ice covers the surface of the pond, it prevents oxygen from getting in and toxic gases from getting out.
DO NOT break the ice, shock waves can stun or kill fish.
De-Icer Kits are available to keep a small area free of ice. They DO NOT heat a pond, they maintain a hole in the pond ice.   If you have a really large pond, you may need more than one heater.

You may also choose to install an aeration system, this will keep a hole in the ice and provide an area for noxious gases to be released.

                    Pond Winterization Overview

15-25% Water Change and add dechlorinator
Skim/vacuum debris from bottom of pond
Remove and clean skimmer filter pad, vacuum skimmer if present
Remove and clean waterfall filter pads, vacuum filter if present
Backwash and clean bead filter/pressurized filter if present
Cut down any hardy pond plants and remove all floating plants if present
Uninstall pumps,filters and UV for winter storage..
Install Winter Pond Net
Install Aeration System
Cool Season Beneficial bacteria

Vase Fountains: If there’s a chance the water could freeze in your area it is best to drain the vase and remove it from the basin. Be sure the vase is completely drained and place in a garage or shed for the winter. Or you may leave the vase in place and cover it.
Next, remove the pump and place it in a bucket of water somewhere where it will not freeze. The water remaining in the basin should stay there over the winter and be allowed to freeze.

Boulder and Basalt Fountains:
These are even easier as you can leave the boulder in place on the basin for the entire winter regardless of whether it will freeze or not.
Just remove the pump from the basin and place it in a bucket of water where it will not freeze.

Cascading/Pondless Waterfalls:
Everything should be left in place to freeze except the pump. Simply disconnect the pump from the plumbing and place in a bucket of water where it won’t freeze.
Many people run their cascading waterfalls year-round or as long as possible.
Just watch for ice dams creating areas where the water exits the liner.


Trimming Your Plants (winter prep)

Wait too long and the leaves will fall off and rot in the water. Trim bog and marsh plants (such as papyrus, taro and cattails), before frost hits. Trim off ALL the leaves of your water lilies.
Put all the potted plants (that are hardy) into the deepest area of the pond to prevent freeze damage.

Winterizing Pond Plants

  1. HARDY WATER LILIES: Hardy Water Lilies are easily wintered, just cut back the yellowing leaves and submerge the lilies to a depth where they will not freeze, usually 2 feet is sufficient. Lotus can be wintered in the same manner as water lilies. Lotus will survive the winter as long as the tubers do not freeze solid.
  2. HARDY MARGINAL PLANTS: Hardy Marginal Plants can survive even if they freeze solid, as long as they stay in the pond. These plants include irises, sweet flag, rushes, reeds and horsetails. They can be submerged to deeper depths, but they will also do well if left near the surface.
  3. Some marginal plants can survive the winter cold, but will die if their crown becomes frozen. These plants include: pickerel plant, hardy water canna, parrot feather, water clover, water parsley and cardinal flower. To winter these plants submerge them below the ice line.
  4. TROPICAL PLANTS: Tropical Plants will not survive the winter outdoors. But many of these plants will grow easily indoors if brought inside before the first frost, placed in a container of water and given plenty of light. Plants such as Umbrella palm, papyrus, cannas, taro, bog lily, etc. can be brought inside and make great house plants