Laurel Hills

Fall 2013 pre pond maintenance

Fall 2013 pre pond maintenance

When we took a look at this pond in the fall of 2013 the pond was cover in algae and we really didn’t see the extent of the coontail coverage but did know something was near the surface of the pond for the algae to grow. The plant/weed at the surface of the pond allows the sun something to heat up creating a great incubator for the algae to grow. Among the Coontail were other type of pond weeds but didn’t seem they had a real foot hold as there was only a few spots they were located.

The option to stay non chemical I believe was made the same day we talked about working on the pond due to a previous conversation with Fish and Boat saying no chemicals would be a loud due to the pond water exit going right into a branch of Walnut Creek.

With the years and seasons of plant/weeds growing and dyeing off in winter plus the leaf loading in fall the pond is charged with excess nutrients. This was very apparent when we started removing weeds and the black goo coming up when we scraped the bottom of the pond this black goo is muck and carbon dioxide build up from the decaying organic debris, this layer of muck and debris seems to be about 2’ deep.

Coontail seem to start with one rooted plant growing to the surface and branching out as it grows, becoming very bushy as it reaches the surface. With the surface covered with coontail the nutrient rich water was able to grow algae easily once the water got up to around 55 degrees and the photosynthesis from the sun.

The first step is to get the weeds below the surface of the pond and we started with hand removal using a weed cutter and rake to pull in cut weeds. This did thin out the coontail but was not sufficient enough as they grew and spread to cover the pond again. We then went in with a 4’ wide cycle bar mover called the Lake Mower to cut the coontail down to 4’ of depth. Followed by an 8’ rake mount on the boat pushing the cut weeds to the side of the pond where they can be pulled out and disposed of. This would be the dump trailer and we pulled four trailer loads out in 2014.

Additional to the weed cutting we installed two 10 x 50’ Lake Blankets to start killing areas of the coontail. The original design of the blanket was for milfoil which is a more delicate plant and the weight blanket could squish them down as it sank. However the coontail is more rigid and buoyant which add a lot more time for the Lake Blanket to do its job. We are seeing one season in one spot to knock down the target plant and have not had enough time to see results of a permanent kill. Time will tell and the blanket can always be moved to a new location. These Lake Blankets are used for many forms of weeds including cattails and are designed to not suffocate the bottom of the pond allowing the wanted tiny creatures a place to live while the blanket does its job of smothering the targeted plant (s)

With the nutrient problem we use Beneficial Pond Bacteria, at first we started using the powdered version to help attack the free floating suspended organics and it also works on the bottom muck as well. We changed to our Muck and Sludge Remover in 2015 treating along the edge of the pond using 2 lbs per treatment every week using a total of 50 pounds for the season. The results can be seen in the video but once we started the season the pond was rather full of leaves, which happens every year and accumulates, all the way around. Some spots more concentrated due to which way the wind was blowing them. I didn’t notice at what point but part way through the summer I saw the bottom of the pond, small stone and large stone. The bacteria is doing its job, it does take time but once the enzymes work to break own the leaf it is consumed by the bacteria. Treating the shoreline allows the bacteria to start in warmer water and works its way to the depths of the pond. Each year we will have more leaves but know they will be consumed with the treatments. The goal is to continue the treatments and over time we will continue to work at the bottom muck and debris that has accumulated over the years. I would stick with the same treatment of bacteria over the next few years and watch the depth of the pond to see how debris and muck diminish. Once we feel the bottom muck is under control the bacteria treatments could be backed off a bit, maybe every other week, to see how the pond reacts, meaning if we start seeing algae coming back we may need to go back to the weekly doses.

Another topic was brought up about the grass carp that had been add a few years ago and if they were still in the pond. We finally did see them in 2015, four of them schooled together and appeared to be 24-32” long. These are now adults and do not eat very much in their old age. One article says they eat duck weed and watermeal being older but I have not seen the results as of yet. However we did purchase another permit and added 6 more carp to the pond to control the coontail. Now that the coontail is below the surface the carp ay have a chance to keep up with the growth since they feed from top down they couldn’t really start at the top since the weed was at the surface. The older fish at some point may need to be taken out and disposed of or let nature take its course and let them go naturally.

Moving back to weed problems in the pond. Even though it seems we have the coontail under control or managed, the open water opened up room for the watermeal to prosper. This circumstance could be most anything either having no weeds replacing the open water to a host of any other weed that has had seeds or roots lying dormant for years until the conditions were right for it to grow. Now I understand the first thought about using chemicals to kill the watermeal but we need to remember chemicals can be somewhat targeted but to kill the watermeal we may also kill the coontail. Doesn’t sound bad but now the carp will not have anything to eat and they will end up rooting around the bottom looking for food which will cause the pond to become cloudy or they’ll chew on the roots along the shoreline creating an erosion problem. Watermeal is a tough plant to beat, it double in size, coverage, every 24 hours. Our goal to maintain the plant this year is to skim the surface of the pond using a large trash pump and pumping out through a filter and starting the year with skimming manually as soon a s we see it develop.

Duck weed and Watermeal are plants that usually show up in pond that are high in nutrients, dark ponds with lots of muck and decaying debris. Same as we see in the current pond. The other hope is by reducing the nutrient level the plant will have less to feed from. Nutrients are such things like cut grass, leaves and debris that can be blown or washed into the pond. Fertilizers and even from the flying manure spreader’s the Canadian geese. I believe it is said that the waste from 3 geese equal one cow a day in waste, so that is a lot of nutrients that enter the pond. All of these nutrients will continue to enter the pond for years to come.

The plan is to reduce the major load of nutrients that have built up over the years and then maintain a level of beneficial pond bacteria that keeps ahead of the nutrient load. The aeration will provide the oxygen required for fish and oxygen to the floor of the pond for the beneficial bacteria’s to consume the debris and muck on the bottom. As for a fountain, they are nice to look at and provide surface aeration along with water movement. A good source of water movement to deter watermeal from covering the entire pond which is the same for the aeration boils that keep an open area from the watermeal. The past couple years of working in the pond and trying to keep the fountain clear from debris has been a chore and understand the work involved for the fellow who kept it clean the past years. Not only does the fountain pull in floating plants and get clogged but the spring seeds from the various trees around the pond become a clogging factor as well. I’m thinking we don’t put the fountain in until we see the seeds have all fallen. And believe this year we should not have the amount of floating weeds, coontail, as we have had in the past.

Another quick note on the coontail and the aeration boils. The diffusers are at the bottom of the pond, they emit tiny little bubbles, those bubbles race to the surface of the pond creating water movement. This water movement a) pushes out the bad gasses from the bottom, hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide allowing oxygen to replace them. This water movement has enough movement to pull in the coontail and surround the boils. It seems the coontail get entangled at the bottom and collects around the diffuser. 2015 was a good year for this and each week we checked on the pond we could pull a wheel barrow or two from each diffuser. More of a note about the water movement the diffusers have than any real revelation of pond maintenance. Just made it easier to collect weeds and can gage this to determine when to place the fountain. We can loan out our small fountain again if you wish.

The fish in the pond. As far as we’ve seen there are the four adult grass carp and place 6 new younger carp mid last summer. There are approx. 6 Koi, white, orange and yellow as the main colors. Blue Gill are the predominate fish ranging from fry to adults, not too much to worry about them yet, just keeping an eye on how many appear to be in the pond. With the weed cover being thinned out the fish can have more room to grow with enough plants to hide from predators and plant to ambush from. As we have seen in our pond the Koi do help to maintain the Blue Gill population by consuming their eggs and visa versa with the Blue Gill going after the Koi fry. For now I feel the pond is balanced with the current fish load and will make a note if things get out of hand one way or the other.

Fall 2015 after natural pond treatments

Fall 2015 after natural pond treatments

Fall of 2015 we installed second small aeration system with a single diffuser. This is to keep a hole in the ice to allow any toxic gas build to escape from under the ice. Typically this is why we have fish kills due to the gas build up and no place for the fish to go. This year was a mild winter allowing the ponds to thaw a bit, at least around the edges so we shouldn’t see too many fish kills across the area unless the when the pond flips and the pond has already been saturated with nutrients and toxic gasses that there will be now oxygen for the fish to follow.

If you made it this far you’ll see there is a lot that goes on in ponds and managing them. When a pond gets in bad shape or just out of control it takes time and patience to get them back in a healthy state. Starting with a new pond the best approach is to install the correct sized aeration system and bacteria treatments to keep ahead of the nutrient load. Pond Dye is more of a way to see a pleasant color in the pond instead of the brown or green color water. Some even say they kill weeds but I have not seen this happen. The Dye may hold back some spring or fall algae blooms but not plant growth. Even in a new pond we could still acquire unwanted plants/weeds from our feathered friends transporting them to blown by the wind or tracked in from another pond. Sometimes invasive weed species can get into ponds from folks thinking they are helping there aquarium friend have a life in a big pond. This is not the case. As most of the aquarium plants could be invasive or fast spreaders that will choke out a pond. As for the releasing of the little fish the most likely will become food for the larger fish in the pond. So if you have an aquarium that you are getting rid of please dispose of the fish and allow the plants to dry and toss them in the garbage as well. Never put plants into a pond.
Click the play button and Please give the video tie to load. Use the pause button when wording appears on the video. Timing was a little quick for the amount of words, sorry about that. If you wish the video can be downloaded with the link below the video.

About the author: Darrell Rhoades is the founder of Whatpond.com and has great expertise in building ponds. It all started when he built his own pond for the family. He writes about pond management and sell pond management products at Whatpond.com.