rec.ponds.moderated FAQ

Click one of the following categories to go to the questions:

General (Construction, Green Water, Filters, Liners, Maintenance, etc.)

1: Who helped in answering these questions?
2: What questions should you ask before building a pond?
3: Can I learn everything I need to know about ponding from this FAQ?
4: Where do I put my pond?
5: How big should my pond be?
6: How deep should my pond be?
7: How do I build a very big pond?
8: What precautions should I take with electricity?
9: Should I put plants and fish in my pond?
10: How do I test my pond water?
11: Does a koi pond differ from a goldfish pond?
12: Can I use a flexible liner in my pond?
13: Does the sun hurt pond liners?
14: How do I hide my liner?
15: Can I create a concrete pond?
16: Is roofing liner okay for a pond liner?
17: My water is green. What do I do?
18: Are there laws concerning the building of a pond?
19: How do chlorine and chloramine affect the pond?
20: How much sun and/or shade do I need?
21: Do I have to have a pump/filter?
22: Do I need a filter?
23: Does a swimming pool filter work?
24: What is a vegetable (veggie) filter?
25: What’s a USDA Zone? Which zone am I in?
26: What are the red/black worms in my filter?
27: Why did my pump burn out?
28: What type of silicone cement is safe to use on my pond?
29: Why is there foam at the base of my waterfall?
30: How often should I change my pond water?
31: How do I change my pH?
32: What type of rocks can I use around my pond?
33: How and how often should I clean the pond?
34: I just cleaned my pond and my water turned brown. What’s wrong?
35: I haven’t cleaned the pond in months and the water is brown. What’s wrong?
36: Will salt reduce the ice on my frozen pond?
37: What is “porg”?


(Varieties, Types, Potting, Nitrogen Cycle, etc.)

1: Where do I find pond plants?
2: Are non-native plants safe for my pond?
3: How should I pot my plants?
4: How much light do plants need when moved indoors for the winter?
5: Should I fertilize my water plants?
6: How many plants should I have and what kind?
7: Will my plants survive the winter?
8: When is it safe to put plants in the pond?
9: What do I do about pond plant pests?
10: Can I just toss my extra plants into the nearby lake or stream?
11: Can I over-winter my tropical plants?
12: What pH do my plants prefer?
13: What are water lilies (nymphaea)?
14: What about hardy water lilies?
15: How do I over-winter my lilies?
16: What about tropical water lilies?
17: How do I plant/repot my lilies?
18: What is lotus (nelumbo)?
19: How do I plant/repot my lotus?
20: What are floating water plants?
21: What is water hyacinth (eichornia crassipes)?
22: What is duckweed (lemma)?
23: What is water lettuce (pistia stratiotes)?
24: What are marginal (or bog) plants?
25: What is water poppy (nymphoides)?
26: What is parrot’s feather (myriophyllum prosperpinacoides)?
27: What is golden club (orontium aqauticum)?
28: What is iris (iridaceae)?
29: What is arrowhead/duck potato (Sagittaria)?
30: What is pickerel weed (pontederia cordata)?
31: What is cattail (typha)?
32: What is papyrus (cyperus)?
33: What is marsh marigold (caltha palustris)?
34: What are oxygenators?
35: What is anacharis (elodea canadensis)?
36: What is hornwort (ceratophyllum)?
37: What is cabomba/fanwort (cabomba caroliniana)?
38: What is the nitrogen cycle?

Aquatic Animals

(Koi, Goldfish, Turtles, Breeding, Food, Predators, etc.)

1: What do I do with my new fish after purchase?
2: How much do I feed my fish?
3: Will my fish breed?
4: When will my fish start to breed?
5: Will my fry survive if I leave them alone in the pond?
6: What do I do if I have too many fish?
7: What about mosquito fish?
8: What about orfe fish?
9: What can salt do for stressed or ill fish?
10: What about adding fish to an already established pond?
11: One of my fish died for no reason. What’s wrong?
12: How soon can I add fish after creating my pond?
13: What animals are potential predators to my fish?
14: How do I deter raccoons?
15: How do I deter herons?
16: How do I get my koi to eat from my hands?
17: Does clear water equal healthy fish?
18: How do I keep a turtle in my pond?
19: Should I add frogs to my pond?
20: My pond is full of toads. Is this a problem?
21: What is the difference between frogs and toads?
22: Are frog and toad eggs okay in my pond?
23: What about bullfrogs and green frogs?

1: Who helped in answering these questions? Top

Many thanks to the previous creators of rec.ponds FAQs and new authors including Derek Broughton, Chuck Rush, K30a, Kellie Snider, the Internet Pond Society (IPS), Andy Keeble, Ken Roser, Richard Renshaw, Andy Burgess, Adam Goldberg, Andy Hill, Debbie Nelson, Sherry Bailey, Charlie Brett, Diane DeMers Chen, David J. Bell, Justin Morgan, Robert Frederick Enenkel, Larry Fogelquist, Nancy Hannaford, Jack Honeycutt, Roger Zutt, Jan Isley, John Hess, Jim Bishop, Mark Crafts, Michael Burr, Curt Onstott, Pete Orelup, Rick Hoffman, Rich Braun, sjs, Joseph J. de Rosa, Steve Miller, Steve Weber, Tim Gornet, Kirby Vaughan, Lance R. Bailey, Shawn McCurdy, Jim McCurdy and many others who have contributed over the years. A big round of applause goes out to the many people who have generated hundreds of thousands of helpful and kind words for other ponders throughout the world at rec.ponds. Your generosity is truly appreciated. If your name is not included and you believe that you deserve some of the credit, please e-mail me at this link to make your claim.

This new rec.ponds FAQ was compiled by Justin in May 2002. Many of the questions and answers were written by Justin.

For comments, errors and questions for this FAQ, please visit this link.

If you would like to add a question and answer, please do so by posting your Q & A to this link.

Please visit Justin’s Pond and sign the guestbook. Also visit Pondkeepers, A Yahoo! Group.

2: What questions should you ask before building a pond? Top

How deep? How many gallons? Where in the yard? Fish? Plants? Fish and plants? Koi? Goldfish? Koi and goldfish? Liner? Concrete? Above ground? Below ground? Filtration? Waterfall? Stream? Fountain? UV sterilizer? Pump? Where does the excess dirt go? How am I going to afford this? Next pond?

Be sure you know what you are getting into before you begin. You will save yourself time, money, effort, and you’ll end up with a finer finished product.

3: Can I learn everything I need to know about ponding from this FAQ? Top

No! A ponder never “knows all.” By sharing knowledge and experimenting in their own ponds, the most seasoned ponder still acquires new knowledge on a regular basis. This FAQ is only a portion of the total knowledge you will need to be a successful ponder. Check out newsgroups such as rec.ponds, go to pond building seminars, check with your local pond society, and look to the web for other pond sites and links. Collect information and don’t just take someone’s word for it. Ask around! Ponders are always willing to share their secrets and will willingly help you out. Visit the library. They may have some pond books. Get on mail order pond suppliers’ mailing lists.

While the information contained in this FAQ was carefully collected and compiled to be as accurate as possible, there are no expressed or implied warranties that the information contained herein is correct, of any value, or suitable for any purpose. If you use this information in any way, you assume full responsibility for the results of your actions. In no event will the author or others be liable for any results or the lack thereof.

Some information may have been gleaned from rec.ponds threads, web sites, articles, books, or personal contacts.

4: Where do I put my pond? Top

Great question. Definitely do not put the pond in the low spot of your yard. You will have great difficulty making your water level look right and you will collect all kinds of nasty things in the runoff your pond collects when it rains. Speaking of level, make sure you put your pond in a very level part of your yard. You will get a lot of dirt from the hole you dig for backfilling, but you do not want to run out of dirt! Above all, PUT YOUR POND WHERE YOU WANT IT MOST! It’s going to be something you enjoy and you don’t want to walk around the house, around the bend, and through the chicken wire to find your pond. Most plants require a considerable amount of sunlight each day. However some plants like the shade. Make sure you can provide water and electricity to your pond.

Always include Ground Fault Interrupter (GFI) electrical service via underground conduit to the pump. Take safety into consideration when building your pond.

5: How big should my pond be? Top

Ah, the age old big as you can get it. Time after time, ponders have made their ponds and later wished they’d made them bigger. Some will tell you to make the biggest pond you can afford. One thing people often do not realize is that the bigger the pond, the less maintenance required. Many suggest that the volume (in cubic feet) should be at least twice the surface area. They are easier to care for and will generally provide you with better results.

One person once said, “Plan for the largest you can build, then double the size of it. You’ll wish you had after it’s all over with.”

6: How deep should my pond be? Top

Depth is more for preference. People who complain of green ponds often regret their deep ponds because they can never seem to see their fish. Water lilies generally require at least 18 inches. Koi need at least 24 inches. You generally can never go wrong making your pond too deep, unless of course your fish never rise from the bottom. The only thing you’ll need is a slightly bigger liner. Many suggest that the volume (in cubic feet) should be at least twice the surface area. Extensive shallows in a pond will greatly increase the likelihood of algae, no matter the volume to area ratio. The water will circulate continuously through shallow areas and produce the perfect environment for high levels of algae to grow throughout the pond. Deeper ponds are a necessity if you desire to overwinter your fish in the pond. Warmer tropical areas must have deeper pools in order to keep the fish from overheating. Many pondowners created multiple levels to accomodate for the various types of plants they enjoy.

7: How do I build a very big pond? Top

The method depends on how big you want your pond. If your water table is very high, you may need underdrains on a liner pond to prevent the walls from collapsing when empty. If your pond is going to be very deep, you may need steel reinforcing in a concrete pond and/or sloped walls.

Punctures in the liner of a big pond are extremely difficult to find. Use an appropriate underliner. Make sure that lawn runoff can not enter the pond. Fertilizer or compost runoff may alter the pond’s balance.

Do not situate your pond near deciduous trees or evergreens. If they are deciduous, the trees will fill your pond with leaves in the fall. If they are evergreen, the trees will fill your pond with needles year round.

8: What precautions should I take with electricity? Top

Water and elctricity do not mix. Whenever an electric appliance is used in a pond environment such as pumps, UVs, lights, etc., they should always be connected to a protection device.

In the United States, these are called GFIs (Ground Fault Interupters). In Europe, they are known under several names such as ELCB (Earth Leakage Circuit Breakers) or RCD (Residual Circuit Device). They should not be considered optional.

They detect a fault and cut the electricity of in milliseconds, virtuallly eliminating the chance of an electric shock. You can buy just one breaker and connect all pumps, UVs, etc. to it. This simple device could one day save your life.

If a pump or UV should flood, and the water comes in contact with the electricity, it will cut the electricity. If you touch a live wire, it will also cut. You may feel a slight jolt but it will not kill you.

Whenever you remove a pump or clean it, always unplug it from the electricity.

Ultraviolet tubes should always be switched off when water is not flowing through them. If you switch your pump off, make sure you switch your UV off as well.

If you are not confident with electric installations, get a professional to do it for you. Note: in some areas, it is illegal to do electrical wiring if you are not an electrician.

If you run electric cables underground, make sure you use armoured cable or protective casing.

Use proper waterproof outdoor connections and switches.

9: Should I put plants and fish in my pond? Top

Fish and plants are not mandatory for all watergardens. You can have fish only, plants only, or both fish and plants. Plants are often necessary for clear water. Fish are a pleasure to enjoy because they move about and provide excitement. It is all personal preference as to the ratio of fish to plants goes.

Pro-fish people say that plants obscure the view of the fish and the pro-plant people say that fish will damage the plants. Yet most people want that happy medium, both fish and plants. Here’s the news: you can have both. Fish waste provides a source of nutrients for water plants and the plants’ use of these nutrients helps lessen the need for filtration. Fish provide movement and interaction that plants cannot. Plus they keep the insect population, including mosquito larvae and plant pests, in check.

Fish will eat or nibble on many aquatic plants; this is fine if your intended use of the plant is as a food supplement for your fish, but not so great if the fish are chowing down on your precious water lilies. Koi are particularly violent toward pond plants. Their enthusiastic feeding, breeding, and scavenging behavior can result in significant damage. Having said this, there are some things you can do to alleviate the problem. Avoid overstocking your pond with fish. Many suggest that you add a 1 inch layer of gravel (1/2 inch diameter or more is best) over the surface of all potted plants. This will help keep the pond from becoming muddy as the fish play around the plants. It will aslo keep the fish from uprooting most plants. Leave enough room when potting so that the gravel is well below the lip of the pot. The top of pots can also be covered with a large diameter mesh, such as leaf netting, which discourages fish from rooting in the pot but allows the leaves and blooms to grow right through. Oxygenators such as anacharis can be completely enclosed in a mesh bag for protection. Spawning mats during the spring can be used to capture the eggs although the long roots of hyacinth and other plants may work just as well.

10: How do I test my pond water? Top

There are three primary test kits that pond owners should think about purchasing: pH, ammonia, and nitrite. These tests are most likely used to diagnose problems in a pond. Nitrate, oxygen, and chlorine are also useful test kits, but usually not as necessary to test.

New ponds should be tested every few days while existing ponds should be tested periodically (every few weeks). Instructions are usually printed on the box for each test kit. Most kits are very easy to use. Test kits normally advise what to do if you get adverse readings.

11: Does a koi pond differ from a goldfish pond? Top

Generally, yes. Good koi ponds are designed with koi in mind. They tend to be more than 500 gallons in volume. Koi require much more volume compared to goldfish. For koi, size does matter when it comes to how big the pond is. Koi ponds should be at least 24 inches deep, if not deeper. The walls of a koi pond should be as vertical as possible to protect the fish from predators such as raccoons. The more vertical walls also add to the overall total volume. Most good koi ponds contain at least one bottom drain. This is to keep the floor of the pond free of debris. This is not just for koi ponds. All ponds, sensibly, should have a bottom drain. They make cleaning easier and provide many benefits. The bottom of the pond should slope towards the drain. Many professional koikeepers also use a surface skimmer.

12: Can I use a flexible liner in my pond? Top

You have several options with flexible liners:

1) PVC (poly vinyl chloride). This is a relatively cheap liner, however, it must be protected from UV exposure from the sun.

2) EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer). This is used many times for roofing. It comes in various amounts of thickness. 45 mil is the accepted pond standard.

3) Butyl. This is the most expensive option. Butyl is an actual “rubber.” It has been used for many years by koi keepers. It is quoted to have a 25 year lifespan. However, most people no longer use butyl.

4) Permalon. This liner is new and extremely popular, especially for very large ponds. It is lightweight and pricing is very comparable to other liners, often cheaper.

EPDM (and Butyl) are available from roofing companies. Check the Yellow Pages. The industry leaders are Firestone (who make “Rubbergard”) and Carlisle (who make “Sure-Seal”).

Small ponders on a budget usually choose PVC. For medium sized ponds, EPDM or Permalon are logical choices. Butyl will last longer but will cost more. Large koi ponds are usually lined with butyl.

13: Does the sun hurt pond liners? Top

The sun can damage your pond liner. Also, no one wants to see the liner; it simply is not a natural looking bottom. To avoid the harmful rays of the sun, a liner can be covered with dirt, stones, or water.

14: How do I hide my liner? Top

The first step in hiding your liner is to create a pond that is level. The more level your pond is the less liner will be exposed. Use a level, string, or transit device to make sure that all sides of your pond will be at the same “altitude.” Hide the exposed liner by placing stones at the edge which drape over into the water. Some prefer to dig a very shallow “shelf” for their stones to sit in so that the liner is not exposed at all.

15: Can I create a concrete pond? Top

Yes, however it is not recommended without professional assistance and planning. Usually the entire concrete surface must be fiberglassed in order to prevent leaks. Large koi ponds (especially in Great Britain) use concrete to line the pond. Concrete ponds generally are much more expensive (thousands of dollars).

16: Is roofing liner okay for a pond liner? Top

It is said that roofing rubber is the same as most pond liners, but that the manufacturer is not required to GUARANTEE that no contaminants were inadvertantly incorporated into the batch. The likelihood of contamination is extremely slim. No toxic chemicals are INTENTIONALLY added to any rubber liner. On rec.ponds, very few if any have had problems with using roofing liner. Many times roofing liner is just as expensive as “pond liners.”

17: My water is green. What do I do? Top

Before battling algae, learn as much as you can about the natural balance of a pond. Realize that new ponds must go through a growth period which usually means green water before balance occurs.

You probably do not have enough plants or you have too many fish. Plan on 20 gallons of water per goldfish and at least 100 gallons of water per koi and as many plants as you can afford to buy.

New ponds nearly always go green before they clear up. You may also be overfeeding your fish and as a result, feeding the algal bloom. The green water which troubles water gardeners is caused by suspended algae. It is important to remember that the green algae you see is not bad. It is only a visual nuisance. The green, fuzzy algae on the sides of the pond is good algae and helps to balance the pond.

Some people claim that a high algae content in the water actually improves the color of fish. Your best remedy is to add plants of all aquatic types. Plants such as water lilies which have spreading pads shade the water depriving the algae of sunlight it needs to survive. Underwater plants and floating plants with free roots absorb nutrients directly from the water. Various bog and veggie plants filter some of the excess nutrients that feed the algae. Since algae is the lowest lifeform in your pond it will not be able to compete with these higher order plants for nutrients and will die.

If the bottom of your pond is covered with submerged plants you will rarely have green water. Determine the maximum number of fish your pond can support and aim for several fewer than that. Do not change your water unless you know contaminants have entered your pond. To change your water is to begin again with a new algal problem. Your pond must be established in order to fight the algae. The best advice is to be patient!

Finally, all ponds naturally get green from time to time. Spring time is a good example. Before the plants fill out the fish are beginning to resume their active life styles and the sun is heating up. Algae are delighted by this, and begin to grow and blossom. There is some degree of algae in your pond even when it seems clear. You can never totally eliminate your algae.

Algae require three major conditions - Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Light. Eliminating any one of those prevents the growth of algae. Green water is particularly annoying as it prevents you from seeing into the pond. Phosphorus is probably the most difficult element to deal with, as it is often present in your water supply. You need the light if you have plants, though shade from outside the pond might be possible if you only have fish. In a planted pond, lilies and floating plants like water lettuce and water hyacinth will eventually block light from the algae.

Many algae will preferentially get their nitrogen requirement from ammonia (fish waste). The best solution to the presence of ammonia is a working biological filter. However, filters usually only convert ammonia to nitrite to nitrate. Algae will use nitrates too, but other plants will compete for it.

Other great tips to keep out the algae:

1) Install bottom drains and skimmers for ease of removing sludge and debris.

2) Net the pond during the fall to keep leaves out of the pond.

3) Trim dead growth from the plants and remove floating tropicals if you live in colder climates.

4) Lower your number of fish and do not overfeed the fish.

5) Add many plants of any type. Marginal plants such as reeds, cattails, iris, pickerel weed and arrowhead are good. Try floaters such as water hyacinth and water lettuce. Place underwater plants such as anacharis, which uses the nutrients that the algae prefer.

6) Provide plenty of shade. Lilies, floating plants (water hyacinth and water lettuce), and artificial shade (shade cloth, umbrella, arch or trellis planted with vines) will prevent the sun from finding the algae.

7) Clean the debris from the bottom of the pond. Some people use snails to chew on the debris. This leaves less decaying matter for the algae to take up.

8) Reduce or stop fertilizing your plants. Fertilizer may also promote algal growth.

9) Plant in fine gravel and top with larger rocks if you have koi.

10) Use mechanical filtration to remove fish waste. This could be a settling chamber in your filter or the first row of brushs in your filter media.

11) Construct a veggie filter with a surface area ten to twenty percent of the surface area of your pond. Plant marginal plants. Pump the pond water through the filter at a turnover rate of one-half to one-fourth of the total pond volume per hour. Veggie filters use many of the nutrients and provides a good place for bacteria to grow. Build it with a bottom drain (or two) for ease of cleaning. This may prevent backups and leaks over the edge. A veggie filter can also be as simple as floating water hyacinth at the top of your stock tank filter.

12) Purchase a sludge-eating product (concentrated bacteria culture).

13) Many people use an Ultra-Violet clarifier to destroy floating algae. This is good if you are very sure that you have zero ammonia. This will cost more than most pond products and you will need to change the bulb every year.

14) Add a bale of barley straw to your pond for string algae. Barley straw has been shown to kill it and corn meal will take it out of suspension and it will sink to the bottom of the pond. However, in both cases you’re adding even more organic matter to the pond, and you need to remove it when it has done its job.

15) Chemically, 5 parts per billion of Copper Sulphate will destroy algae.

16) A phosphate remover usually found near the aquatic plant fertilizers in hardware stores and garden centers is an option. Measure the amount suitable for your pond size, place it in a mesh bag, and soak it in a pail before placing it in the filter. It needs to soak because it gives off heat when it first becomes moist.

17) Most of all, be patient.

18: Are there laws concerning the building of a pond? Top

You will have to check your local by-laws for liability issues and to know how deep your pond can be without a fence and locking-gate surround it. Always be aware, however, that young children have a fascination with water and even the shallowest ponds can prove deadly if you do not supervise children at all times.

19: How do chlorine and chloramine affect the pond? Top

Chlorine and sometimes chloramine are added to many water supplies. This does not apply to natural fed water from springs or wells, just water treated and supplied by water companies.

Water companies provide water for humans to consume, and not for fish and plants to reside. These chemicals are added as part of the water purification process. An amount of the water supplied to our homes is recycled, filtered (in a similair way to our ponds’ filtering), and treated with chemicals to make it safe to drink. Depending on where you live, different things maybe done to your water before it comes out of the tap or faucet.

Water can come from natural springs, reservoirs, underground aquafers, or a mixture. This can go through a treatment plant (which is like a giant pond filter), through carbon to remove impurities, and many other treatments. To ensure there is no bad bacteria in the water we drink, chemicals called chlorine and chloramine are normally added.

This is normally added at the pumping station, and as it travels through the pipes it becomes more dilute. If your house is near the pumping station, you will receive a higher level than somebody at the end of the pipe.

Both these chemicals can and do harm fish, plants and all aquatic life. They also kill filter bacteria. There are ways of removing these from the water, and depending on how much you value your fish, there are several ways of making the water safe.

By spraying the water in as fine of a mist as possible when filling up your pond, most of the chlorine will be driven off. Chloramine can only be removed by chemicals, or absorbtion. There are many treatments you can buy which neutralise these chemicals. They are added at the same time you top your water off.

The only problem is that other chemicals maybe added to your tap water infrequently. Old copper and iron pipes in houses can also leach harmful deposits and these treatments will not protect you. It is possible to get filters which filter tap water and make it safe for ponds. These normally consist of a carbon filter, which absorbs more than 90% of all harmful chemicals. If you cannot obtain a proper tapwater filter for ponds, some of the household tap water filters have carbon filters. These will provide similar protection. These carbon filters have cartridges which absorb many other chemicals and require replacing after a set time. They are not too expensive to buy particularly if you often smell chlorine in your water (smells like a swimming pool), or have old copper or iron pipes.

Symptoms of Chlorine/Chloramine poisoning are as follows:

1) Fish are healthy and lively prior to addition of new water.
2) Within a few hours, fish stay on bottom of pond, and clamp fins.
3) Symptoms after 24 hours include sunken eyes in severe cases.
Unless the water is treated immediately when it goes in, treatment is very difficult once the fish have been exposed to chlorine and chloramine for many hours. These chemicals will dissipate after about 48 hours and there is very little you can do to help affected fish.

Chlorine and chloramine levels tend to be at their highest during peak demand periods. It is best to avoid topping off ponds during these periods. If you smell chlorine, and do not have a tapwater filter or do not use dechlorinating chemicals, do not top off your pond. Only a tapwater filter will give the best protection.

20: How much sun and/or shade do I need? Top

Most water plants require sun at least half of the day, vut preferably more. Sun may increases the probability of algae, but the plants in the water will compete with the algae for nutrients and generally solve this problem. Sufficient plant coverage on the surface is almost a necessity for clear water in most garden ponds. Try water lilies, lotus, water lettuce, and hyacinth to provide shade for your pond. Other plants will tolerate shady conditions. Check with pond suppliers for additional suggestions.

21: Do I have to have a pump/filter? Top

No, you do not necessarily need a filter. If you have no fish, a filter is completely unnecessary. If you do have fish (but not many) you may not need a filter. If you do not feed your fish very often you may not need a filter. If you are none of the above cases, chances are you will need a filter. You must have a pump to run a filter, unless of course you have a natural stream flowing into and out of your pond.

22: Do I need a filter? Top

Filters are important in maintaining good water quality, but they are not needed in all circumstances. If a pond has very few fish, and is full of plants, there will be a natural balance and filters are unnecessary. If though, your pond is primarily for fish, and you feed them on a regular basis, a filter should be installed to maintain the water quality.

It all depends on the size of pond and the number, size, and kind of fish. If your fish load is not too excessive, the filter could be as simple as an air-driven sponge filter.

Keep track of you ammonia and algae levels. If your ammonia level gets too high or you canno longer see your fish, you should consider building a filter. With large ponds, ammonia usually is not a problem.

The only way to avoid having a filter is to create a natural balance. You must balance the number of fish with the size of your pond and plant the pond fairly heavily to absorb waste products. In reality, most garden ponds with a few goldfish, a water lily and plenty of plants do not need a filter.

Human nature though, means we tend to add more fish than the pond can naturally support. Very soon, the water quality deteriotes.

23: Does a swimming pool filter work? Top

Swimming pool filtration generally does not work well for fish ponds. Swimming pool filters are not designed for the biological filtration you need for a pond. They are meant to mechanically and chemically filter the water. They also may not be adequate for 24 hour a day use. Swimming pool pumps in general are very expensive to run because they create a high electric bill.

24: What is a vegetable (veggie) filter? Top

It is a separate area where aquatic plants can be grown with the aim of removing nitrate and phosphate naturally.

Koi eat plants of all types, and so it is not practical to keep plants in the same ponds as koi. The vegetable filter is a small pond or tank beside the main pond, where water is passed from the pond, past the plants and back to the pond. This does not have to be at a very fast speed, and providing the water is clean enough, a small aquarium powerhead can be used as a pump. Most aquatic plants can be kept in here, but reports show that water cress and mimulus are two of the best plants for removing nitrate.

Plants have one other benefit. They prefer ammonium to nitrate. This means they reduce the load on a biological filter.

25: What’s a USDA Zone? Which zone am I in? Top

USDA Zones are established by the United States Department of Agriculture. They are based on how plants will fair in “zones” throughout the country. Plants you buy should have labels as to which zones for which they are hardy. To find which zone you are located in, visit:

USDA Zone Map.

USDA Hardiness Zone Zone Average Minimum Winter Temperature, in degrees Fahrenheit:

Zone 1 = -50 and below
Zone 2 = -40 to -50
Zone 3 = -30 to -40
Zone 4 = -20 to -30
Zone 5 = -10 to -20
Zone 6 = 0 to -10
Zone 7 = 10 to 0
Zone 8 = 20 to 10
Zone 9 = 30 to 20
Zone 10 = 40 to 30
Zone 11 = 40 and above.

26: What are the red/black worms in my filter? Top

There are probably midge fly larva (bloodworms). They apparently are good fish food.

27: Why did my pump burn out? Top

There are two likely causes of pump burnout: overheating or electrical short. There is not much you can do about an electrical short (except to never allow water to get into a pump that is not meant to be submersible). Protect yourself, your fish, family and pets by always plugginh all pond electrical equipment into a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI, or GFI). These are usually replacement receptacles that you can purchase at any hardware store. In many areas they are legally required for all outdoor applications.

Running the pump dry can cause overheating. No pump should ever be allowed to run dry, particularly submersibles. The other leading cause of overheating is blockage at the input. Many pumps come with a very small screen to prevent them from inhaling leaves and other objects, but the screen is often too small. Place the pump under a plant basket weighted with a stone, inside a crate filled with lava rock, inside a milk crate covered with window screen or wire two baskets around it like a clamshell to increase the surface area of the screen.

Note: Do not place your pump on the bottom of your pond. If by accident, your pump begins to empty your pond, you will not empty the entire pond. Instead, you will only run the pump dry instead of the pump and the pond.

Some pumps will also run too hot if they are allowed to run continuously against too little pressure. Some believe that pond pumps should never be allowed to run at more than two thirds of their maximum capacities. This may be excessive, but it’s certainly true that it does no harm to restrict the output flow from most pumps. If you are pumping to a waterfall, you probably have sufficient back pressure in anyway.

28: What type of silicone cement is safe to use on my pond? Top

Avoid any kind of silicone that does not specify being safe for aquarium use. Do not use white or colored silicone or anything intended for tubs and tiles. These silicones have additives to prevent mildew. Some clear silicones will say they are safe for aquarium use but not “for marine use below the waterline.” These are generally safe but are not guaranteed to be structurally useful. In other words, do not use these products to hold boulders in place. Sealing holes with these products should be fine.

29: Why is there foam at the base of my waterfall? Top

Foam in the pond is rarely caused by soap as many would guess, but by the agitation of water containing dissolved organic compounds (DOC). DOC may be caused by fish wastes or by decaying plant matter. First clean the bottom of the pond and ensure that there is no decaying leaf mold. Skim the foam with a net. If you have eliminated the source, no more foam should appear.

If the source of the DOC is your fish, you can remove it with activated carbon (sources claim from one to eight pounds of carbon per one thousand gallons) placed in the filter (or in the base of the waterfall). Put the carbon in a pantyhose leg so that you can easily remove it later. It should be removed once the foam disappears.

If you have a continuing problem with DOC, you may consider building a protein skimmer.

30: How often should I change my pond water? Top

You should never do a full water change. When you change your entire pond’s volume of water you are in reality starting from ground zero. Do not do a total water change unless you know your water has been contaminated with a toxic chemical. Most koi breeders say that a 10% water change weekly is a good promoter of koi growth. A slight water change is good for your pond periodically. If you do change any of the water in your pond, USE DECHLORINATOR! Tap water usually contains chlorine and chloramines which are deadly to fish. Use the prescribed dosage of dechlorinator to make sure that the chlorine is effectively removed from your pond.

Some people prefer to use a carbon filter to remove the chlorine and chloramines from their water.

31: How do I change my pH? Top

First determine if it’s really necessary to change the pH. Your plants will survive a wide range of pH, and fish should do well within a range of 7.0 to 8.5. More important than the actual value is the fluctuation of pH. Any large fluctuation will stress the fish. Because plants release more carbon dioxide at night during their dark cycle, the water will be more acidic early in the morning. Check your pH early in the morning and then late in the afternoon. If the pH changes by more than one full point you need buffer. This can be accomplished by adding baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) or possibly by adding limestone rocks to your waterfall.

Fish wastes and other wastes will also slowly lower your pH and make the pond more acidic. This can be controlled by cleaning out the bottom of the pond periodically, and by doing regular water changes.

Rainwater will usually lower your pH, and tap water will often raise it.

You can reduce your pH (concentration of hydrogen ions) by adding a handful of oak leaves or floating a bag of peat moss in the water. An alternative is to mix a cup of vinegar with a gallon of water and sprinkle it around the edges of the pond every other day until the pH is balanced.

If you need to raise the pH, use baking soda. If you must lower it use muriatic acid (hydrochloric Acid, HCl). Do this very slowly, and always add the acid to the water and not the water to the acid. Take a 1-gallon or larger pail filled with water with a 1/8” ID tube through the base. Suspend it over the pond, and add 1-cup acid to the contents of the bucket. Let this slowly drip into the pond. Never change pH by more than 0.2 points in a 24 hour period.

Do not attempt to change the pH too quickly as you will kill the fish.

32: What type of rocks can I use around my pond? Top

Generally, stay away from brightly colored rocks, which will contain copper or other metallic compounds that could be harmful to the fish. Shale will leach oil into the pond and limestone may raise the pH more than you would like.

33: How and how often should I clean the pond? Top

Pond cleaning may depend on many factors. There will be significantly less detritus if you are not near deciduous trees, have a surface skimmer, or if you place a net over your pond during the fall and winter.

Frogs must be able to bury themselves in the muck in the bottom of the pond so do not keep the bottom extremely clean if you plan to keep them.

If you do not have frogs, clean the bottom of the pond in the late fall and also early spring. If you do have frogs, clean the pond as soon as the frogs become active in the spring.

You can use a strong net to scoop the muck from the bottom, a common pool skimmer net for the sides and bottom, or a Shop-Vac for a vacuum of the entire surface. In a concrete pond, a rake is an option. Many people build their own vacuum system.

34: I just cleaned my pond and my water turned brown. What’s wrong? Top

More than likely, nothing is wrong. When you messed with the filter apparatus and adjusted plants and moved rocks you stirred dirt into the water and moved the algae on the walls. More than likely within a few days things will settle and your water will resume its former clarity.

35: I haven’t cleaned the pond in months and the water is brown. What’s wrong? Top

You may need to get in there and do some cleaning. Your house will be dusty if you don’t clean it periodically. The same is true of your pond. It is an unnatural environment.

Sometimes the water clarity will change and this is natural. Check how your water looks on days with different types of weather. Sometimes the pond will look brown, sometimes clear, sometimes green. Remember that this is a living system and will change. It may be a more serious problem, however. It may mean your dog has been swimming in it or your fish have been rooting in the lily pots. If your fish decide to stir up the muck in the bottom the water will become unclear as well. If the water smells sour or foul, you may have a more serious problem. Test your water quality or have your pet store do it for you. Act accordingly once your find out if something is out of balance.

36: Will salt reduce the ice on my frozen pond? Top

Salt does not melt snow or ice. Instead, salt keeps melted snow from freezing again, even when it’s well below 32 degrees...

The addition of the salt changes the equilibrium (be the water solid, liquid, or gas). Before the salt was added, the water was freezing and the ice was melting at the same temperature of 32 °F (0 °C). But the salt destroyed equilibrium, so that the water will not freeze at 32 °F (0 °C) (the freezing point may be -5.8 °F (-21 °C)), but the ice continues to melt at 32 °F (0 °C). Without equilibrium, the ice melts but the water does not freeze: “melting” wins.

Please note that at a certain temperature (usually sub-zero degrees Fahrenheit), the ice won’t even work. The temperature is so low that the freezing point will not decrease any more. Thus it is useless to even try to create a hole in your pond when the temps get down in the negative numbers. If this is the case, find your nearest de-icer.

Please note that adding salt will definitely change your equilibrium. Make sure that an addition of salt will not harm your plants and/or fish. Adding salt is not recommended as highly for reducing ice as heaters, de-icers, air stones, etc.

36b: What is “porg”? Top

The term “porg” is a play-off of the Star Trek Next Generation series. It is used on rec.ponds from time to time especially in reference to “newbies.” The evil Borg were half-living creatures, half robots, flying around the universe assimilating new species into their collective. Their favorite line, delivered in cold robotic voices, was “Resistance is futile, you will be assimilated.” We rec.ponders feel the same way about ponding. Watch out you are about to be assimilated into the Porg collective! We will be here to help with the details.

We are _Borg_! Resistance is futile, you WILL be assimilated!
We are _Porg_! Resistance is futile, you WILL be Pond-Elated!

P = Pond
O = Oriented
R = Recreation
G = Group

37: Where do I find pond plants? Top

The best way to obtain plants for your pond is to purchase them from a reputable garden center, pond supply store, or mail order source. Nursery-grown plants are usually of high quality grown from known stock; there is less chance of introducing unwanted plants or pests into your pond, and they transplant better than plants collected from the wild.

Here are other tips to finding cheap, quality pond plants:

1. A lot of ponders will give away or trade plants. Post where you are to rec.ponds and maybe a nearby ponder will respond.

2. Try asking local watergardeners you know (ex: clubs, neighbors, etc.) to give you a start of what they already have.

3. Visit your local supermarket and see if they have any (ex: watercress). Sometimes supermarkets carry suitable pond plants in the produce section.

4. Try natural ponds and see if they have any pond plants (ex: lilies). Be careful with invasive plants, however. Many “pond plants” have overcrowded and dammed natural waterways and caused tremendous taxdollars to eradicate. They may take over your pond. Check to make sure the plants are legal in your state. Collecting native plants from natural streams and waterways may be restricted or prohibited. Check with the Department of Natural Resources or the appropriate regulatory agency for your area before taking plants from natural waterways. If you do obtain permission, do not place the plants directly into your pond. Isolate them for several weeks in water that is treated for parasites with a plant-safe product. Observe them closely for signs of parasites or insects.

5. If all else fails go to the web, try E-bay, or check out your local hardware stores with garden departments (i.e.: Lowes, Home Depot, etc.) for plants. At, you can trade plants that you have (water or terrestrial) for pond plants.

6. You can trade plants at websites such as for waterplants. Trade seeds for veggie gardens, coreopsis from the yard, cuttings from honeysuckle, cuttings from rose bushes, etc.


Plants such as water hyacinths obtained from others’ ponds may also contain tiny fish eggs that will grow and mature in your pond. If you have excess pond plants, add them to your compost heap or give/sell them to others. Do not attempt to put them into natural waterways as this act is probably illegal!

38: Are non-native plants safe for my pond? Top

Many non-native plants threaten the local waterways when they are released into natural waterways such as lakes, streams, or creeks. Water hyacinths, anacharis, cabomba, and other exotics have proven to be extremely invasive in southern waters, making them impassable and eliminating other native plants. Do not introduce plants from your pond into a local waterway without first checking with your Department of Natural Resources or the equivalent regulatory agency.

39: How should I pot my plants? Top

Unless you have a natural pond or plan to cover your pond with an earth bottom, plants should be placed into containers for easy relocation or removal. Containers also keep invasive, fast-growing plants from taking over the pond.

Pond plants are usually planted in soil, although many find equal or better results using a soil-less material such as crushed rock,gravel, or a stone that anchors the plant. You should avoid the use of soil mixes containing vermiculite, perlite, or any other additives that will float out of the mixture. Do your potting in the shade and ensure that the plant does not dry out during the process. Roots and tubers are often fragile and should be handled with care to avoid damage.

Pots generally should be large enough to accomodate later growth. Pots with no drainage hole are ideal. If you use one with drain holes, cover them (large gravel works well) so that soil will not fall out into the pond. Fill the pot partially up with soil and then position the plant in the pot, fanning out its roots over the soil. Add more soil to within 2 inches of the top of the pot. Put about a 1 inch layer of gravel over the top to deter fish (like koi) from rooting and to keep the soil from clouding the water as you place the plant into the pond. Be sure the growing tip or crown of the plant remains above the surface of the soil and gravel layer. Lower the pot slowly into the pond. After it is barely submerged, hold it at that level until the contents are saturated (the bubbles will stop). Slowly lower it to its final location.

40: How much light do plants need when moved indoors for the winter? Top

All plants need light for photosynthesis, the creation of food energy essential to maintaining life processes and growth. In northern latitudes, we change from long hours of daylight in spring and summer to much shorter days in fall and winter. Due to the sun’s angle, winter light is less intense; weather is often cloudier, too. Thus take that in to account for your natural light. In my opinion, you should never give more light to the plant than it receives in its natural surroundings.

By changing the cycle of day/night for a plant, you may inadvertently cause a plant to flower too early or not at all. During any dark cycle you should never try to interrupt the darkness (the daily photoperiod) as this causes the plants stress and confusion as to what season they are actually growing.

Here’s one sure-bet way to determine if your amount of light needs to be adjusted:

When a plant receives too much light, it will usually develop areas that look burned or bleached on the leaves, especially on the sunniest side. If a plant is receiving too little light, it will lean toward the light source, growth will be lanky and pale. Adjust accordingly to the plant’s behavior.

41: Should I fertilize my water plants? Top

Some pond plants are heavy feeders and will need regular fertilization during the growing season, while others will need no nutrients beyond what they get from your pond’s water. More specifically, water lilies, lotus, and marginals will usually need supplemental fertilizer, while oxygenators and floating plants will generally get what they need from the pond, particularly if you have fish. There are fertilizers made specially for pond plants, and some people also report good results using fertilizer for terrestrial potted plants. Fertilizer comes in liquid, granular, and solid form, the latter consisting of tablets or spikes. Granular is handy for adding to potting mixtures. Tablets or spikes are easy to use for periodic fertilization; they can be pushed down into pots without removing them from the pond. Don’t fertilize your plants when they become dormant during the winter.

42: How many plants should I have and what kind? Top

Surface coverage of 50-80% (less for larger or shadier ponds, more for smaller or sunnier ones) helps keep algae growth in check and keeps water temperature lower in locations with hot summers. Use water lilies, lotus, floating plants, and marginals with floating leaves to accomplish this. One water lily or lotus will take up 1 square yard or more of pond surface. One bunch of oxygenators for each 1-2 sq. ft. of pond surface is recommended to help keep water clean. Additional marginals are added for contrast and interest.

43: Will my plants survive the winter? Top

Pond plants vary in the amount of cold they can endure. Zone information, if known, is given in the plant descriptions. These are the standard USDA hardiness zones. If you live in a cold climate, plants that aren’t hardy will need to be wintered inside, or else treated as annuals and replenished with new stock when the weather warms.

44: When is it safe to put plants in the pond? Top

Hardy plants (hardy lilies, lotus, floating heart, hornwort, etc.) usually can survive the winter on the bottom of the pond. Plants such as water iris and most reeds and rushes can be left on the margin of the pond all winter.

Tropical plants such as water hyacinth, water lettuce and umbrella palm can be placed in the pond once the threat of frost has passed. These plants typically do better once the temperatures remain above freezing (32 °F). Tropical lilies should not be placed in the water until the temperature remains constantly above 20 °C (70 °F).

45: What do I do about pond plant pests? Top

Never use an insecticide or any other product that is not specified to be safe for aquatic life if you have fish, snails, or other pond inhabitants. Many pests can be eradicated or at least controlled by either squirting with a stream of water or shaking the leaves underwater to knock the bugs into the water. If you have fish, they will help out by eating the bugs.

For aphid/whiteflies/spider mite control, Lilypons Water Gardens (see sources) suggests mixing one tablespoon of dishwashing detergent with one cup of cooking oil. Mix 2 1/2 teaspoons of this mix to one cup of water; spray on water lilies every 10 days. The detergent emulsifies the oil so it does not leave a film on top of your pond. Lilypons has successfully tested the technique on water lilies with aphid infestations.

Another way to deal with some pests is to use a bacteria, bacillus thurengiensis or Bt, that comes a dust, spray, or in the form of floating pellets. Strains of Bt that attack many common pests, including caterpillars and mosquito larvae, are available.

46: Can I just toss my extra plants into the nearby lake or stream? Top

No! Absolutely under no condition throw your extra plants into natural waterways. This may be illegal. In the warm nation of Uganda in the spring of 1996, the port was shut down because the beautiful water hyacinth had completely blocked it off. It was so thick that ships could not move through it. When they brought in a special ship to cut through the weeds the engine blew out within a week. This has caused a terrible problem for their national economy. The plants are thick enough to stand on. It has also become a problem in Florida and southern Louisiana at times. It is controlled by a bacterial agent, but this is a slow process. Water lilies can do the same kind of damage, filling lakes and closing off waterways. Water plants can be very aggressive. Be careful and responsible. If you don’t know anyone who needs your divisions, add them to your compost heap. If you are dividing them you can see that you will not have a shortage of them in the future.

47: Can I over-winter my tropical plants? Top

Umbrella palm can be kept as a houseplant. Tropical lilies can be stored, bare-root, in an aquarium. Water hyacinth or water lettuce are purely annuals for most, however a number of people have had some success keeping water hyacinth heavily fertilized and in front of bright windows. Others have found success growing their water lettuce and water hyacinth in a greenhouse.

48: What pH do my plants prefer? Top

Most pond plants will do well in a range around neutral, say 6.2 to 7.4. Plants will themselves tend to pull the pH towards neutral. If your water tests too acid (low pH number) or too alkaline (high pH number), there are formulations sold specially for pond use that will either raise or lower the pH.

49: What are water lilies (nymphaea)? Top

Probably the most popular pond plant. Hybridization has produced hundreds of cultivars; sizes range from dwarf to the giant Victoria lilies whose leaves can exceed 30” in diameter. Water lilies have round leaves (“pads”) in solid green or variegated with hues of red/pink/bronze that float on the water’s surface. Blooms open during the day and close at night, except for blooms on the night-blooming tropicals which do the opposite. Blooms last up to 5 days and generally appear from May or June through October, although the season can vary quite a bit depending on your weather. Flower colors range from pinks, reds, oranges, yellows, whites, and for tropicals, lavender and blue. Some cultivars sport multi-colored blossoms.

All water lilies need plenty of sun for best results (though blooms may slow during extremely hot weather), and in turn help screen the pond to limit algae growth. Water lilies do best in large containers in somewhat shallow, still water. Use supports in deeper ponds to elevate pots to the correct height (plastic milk crates or flat rocks work well). Spent blossoms and leaves should be removed, cutting the stem as close to the crown of the plant as practical. Water lilies are heavy feeders which need to be fertilized regularly during the growing season.

Water lilies are divided into hardy and tropical, depending on whether they will winter over in cold climates or not. The characteristics described below hold true in general, however due to hybridization there are some “crossover” traits to be found.

50: What about hardy water lilies? Top

Hardies are cold-hardy to zone 3 as long as the tuber is kept below the ice line. Hardy lily blooms float on the surface of the water. For best results, place the top of pot 12-24” below the water’s surface. The plants will become dormant after a killing frost. If you expect ice to contact the tuber, remove the plant from the pond and store in a dark, cool, moist location until weather warms in the spring.

51: How do I over-winter my lilies? Top

If you can not leave your hardy lily below the ice in your winter pond, remove the dead leaves and either bring the whole container indoors for cold storage under 10 °C (50 °F) or wash all the soil media from the tuber and trim the roots to approximately three inches. You can keep the bare tuber in water in a container in your refrigerator.

Bring your tropical lily indoors and wash all the soil media from the roots. Leave it in a well-lit, heated, aquarium. Do not remove the leaves. Keep the temperature of the water over 70 °F.

52: What about tropical water lilies? Top

Tropical lilies are in general larger, showier, and more free-blooming than the hardies. Blooms are held above the water’s surface. The top of pot is ideally 6” (dwarf types) - 18” below the water’s surface. Tropicals’ leaves are somewhat thin and fragile, making them more susceptible to damage from fish. Tropicals will not survive a heavy frost, and are treated as annuals in colder climates, perennial in warmer climates (zones 10-11). If frost is expected, plants can be temporarily protected overnight with a covering of plastic or canvas.

53: How do I plant/repot my lilies? Top

Divide and repot water lilies every 1-4 years, or when leaves and blooms appear stunted and/or sparse. If you purchase your lily mail-order, it will come “bare root” and you’ll have to pot it up initially.

There are two basic growth habits - a horizontal tuber which grows across the surface of the pot (hardy), and a tuber that grows vertically or nearly so (tropical). Both types will produce offshoots which can be cut or broken off from the main tuber and potted separately.

Use a container that holds about 8 quarts of soil for a single dwarf lily, 16 - 20 quarts for a single tropical lily, and up to 30 quarts for a single hardy lily, which needs extra room due to its horizontal growth habit. Containers that are wider than they are deep are preferred. More than one lily can be planted in a container as long as a large enough size is used. Use garden soil mixed with fertilizer at the rate of one teaspoon per gallon of soil and with well-composted manure at the rate of one part to four parts soil. Manure that is not aged sufficiently will add unwanted nutrients to your pond which could encourage algae growth.

If repotting, remove the plant and root mass from the pot and gently hose off tubers and roots. The crown (where the leaves attach to the tuber) should always be placed above the soil and gravel surface, not buried. If the lily is one which grows horizontally, plant the tuber as far to one side of the pot as possible, with the growing crown towards the center of the pot; if it grows vertically, place it in the center of the pot. If possible, place newly planted lilies in shallow water until they become established. Then lower them to their final position.

54: What is lotus (nelumbo)? Top

Although hardy to zone 4, lotus will perform better in warm climates where it gets a longer growing season. Lotus prefer full sun, with the top of pot 2-12” below the water’s surface. Sizes range from dwarf to plants with large leaves up to 2’ across. Blossoms and most leaves are held several inches to several feet above the surface on prickly stems, while other leaves float on the surface like a water lily. The leaves have a velvety rather than shiny appearance and are extremely water repellent. Since they tend to be slightly cupped, rain drops will collect on them in large jewel-like droplets. Blooms open during the day, close at night, and last about three days. Lotus take awhile to get established; don’t expect blooms the first year, although there are exceptions! Colors range from white, cream, yellow, pink, to red. After the petals fall, the central seed pod can be cut and used in dried arrangements. Lotus are tough plants that are less susceptible than water lilies to koi damage.

55: How do I plant/repot my lotus? Top

Planting/Repotting Lotus grow from runners consisting of long slender tubers attached end-to-end. These runners can get quite long and can be divided during repotting for additional plants. Lotus need large containers (18 quarts for small, 20-48 quarts for large), and a round shape is best to keep the growing tuber from bunching up in one corner of the pot.

Use a good rich garden soil with no manure mixed in. Granular fertilizer at the rate of one tablespoon per gallon of soil is recommended. Position the tuber horizontally, with the end away from the growing tip buried shallowly and the growing tip above the surface.

56: What are floating water plants? Top

These plants can help reduce the algae in your pond by limiting the amount of sun reaching the water and absorbing nutrients from the water. Some of them reproduce rapidly; it’s best to limit their use to small ponds as you may end up having to dip out excess stock.

57: What is water hyacinth (eichornia crassipes)? Top

Shiny green leaves grow from a bulbous stem which provides flotation for the whole plant. Dangling roots provide a favorite spawning and snacking material. Showy clusters of flowers are pale lavender with yellow centers. Water hyacinth needs warm weather and lots of sunlight for best effect. It can be extremely invasive in natural waterways and may be illegal to use in some areas. Water hyacinths propagate by sending out runners which develop new plants. It is an excellent plant for extracting nutrients from the water. Water hyacinth is not hardy.

58: What is duckweed (lemma)? Top

Duckweek can look like a green carpet totally covering the water’s surface; upon close inspection, the carpet is made up of tiny floating plants, each with rootlets extending down from a cluster of tiny leaves. Reproduces very rapidly. Many fish like to eat duckweed. To provide a salad for your fish without a maintenance headache in your pond, keep your duckweed in a separate container and introduce into your pond only as much as your fish will readily consume.

59: What is water lettuce (pistia stratiotes)? Top

An attractive floater with velvety pale green leaves which, as its name implies, look somewhat like a head of leaf lettuce. A somewhat finicky plant which does best in shallow, still water, warm temperatures, and broken sun. Roots provide good spawning ground. Water lettuce is not hardy.

60: What are marginal (or bog) plants? Top

Marginal (bog) plants, so called because they grow at the margins of bodies of water, provide the water garden with great variety in texture, size, and form. Included in this group are plants which rise above the water as well as plants that rest on its surface. Marginals should be placed in water 1-6” over the top of the pot. Tall marginals need large containers in order to keep them from becoming top-heavy and tipping in wind. They all absorb nutrients; iris and reeds are so good at this that they are sometimes used in filtration troughs or beds in lieu of more traditional forms of filtration.

61: What is water poppy (nymphoides)? Top

Water poppy has round glossy 2” leaves with yellow poppy-like flowers. Along with the golden club, the spawning plant of choice for my koi. Hardy to zone 9.

62: What is parrot’s feather (myriophyllum prosperpinacoides)? Top

Parrot’s feather has a feathery light-green foliage which lifts up out of the water on arching stems. It spreads readily. It is hardy to zone 6.

63: What is golden club (orontium aqauticum)? Top

Golden club has some leaves above the water; some float at its surface. It produces an unusual bloom stalk colored bright yellow, hence its name. It is hardy to zone 6.

64: What is iris (iridaceae)? Top

Iris has strap-like foliage and flowers ranging from white to yellow to deep purple. It grows in clumps that can be divided often. Iris has excellent water cleaning properties and grows 3’-4’ tall. Some forms are hardy to zone 4.

65: What is arrowhead/duck potato (Sagittaria)? Top

Arrowhead has spade-shaped leaves with a graceful flower stalk of multiple white blooms. Various forms range from 3’-5’ in height. Sagittaria’s edible tubers give rise to one of its common names, Duck Potato. Some forms hardy to zone 5.

66: What is pickerel weed (pontederia cordata)? Top

Pickerel weed has narrow leaves with a purple (or white, variant) flower stalk. Pickerel weed is 2-3’ in height and forms clumps which can be divided often. Long blooming season. It is hardy to zone 3.

67: What is cattail (typha)? Top

Cattails have tall, strap-like leaves with the familiar brown bloom stalk. Cattail can be invasive if not kept containerized. There are various sizes from dwarf (3’) to full size (7’). They are hardy to zone 2 or 3.

68: What is papyrus (cyperus)? Top

Papyrus comes in a variety of sizes from giant (6-10’) to dwarf (30”). All forms have spiky growth with a bushy head at the end of each stalk. Forms tight clumps that can be divided frequently. It is hardy to zone 9.

69: What is marsh marigold (caltha palustris)? Top

Marsh marigold has single or double flowers in various shades of yellow with green, glossy foliage. Marsh marigold ranges in size from diminutive forms 6” tall to 3’ or more. Prefers cooler climates and partial shade, especially during summer.

70: What are oxygenators? Top

Oxygenators are submerged plants which, in the presence of sunlight, absorb nutrients and carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. Be aware, however, that at night they give off carbon dioxide. If you have fish it’s important to provide a form of oxygenation, such as a waterfall or fountain, that runs all night.

Oxygenators can usually be placed directly into the pond without the benefit of soil; simply weight a plant or rootless stems with special lead plant weights or strips cut from an empty toothpaste tube and drop them in. Most can also be planted in soil. Oxygenators provide excellent protection for newly hatched fish. Many oxygenators have somewhat fragile stems and leaves which need protection from koi. The entire plant can be contained in a bag of loose mesh, such as leaf netting, to help protect it.

Examples include anacharis (elodea canadensis), hornwort (ceratophyllum), and cabomba/fanwort (cabomba caroliniana).

71: What is anacharis (elodea canadensis)? Top

Although one of the most popular oxygenators, this plant can be invasive both in your pond and in your local waterways. Small whorls of leaves grow on long, flexible stems. Excess anacharis makes good fertilizer or can be added to your compost heap. Hardy to zone 5.

72: What is hornwort (ceratophyllum)? Top

Hornwort has bristly, dark, feathery foliage. Hornwort is unique in that it has no roots and can simply be dropped into the pond. Produces small red and yellow flowers in the summer. It is hardy to zone 4.

73: What is cabomba/fanwort (cabomba caroliniana)? Top

Cabomba has fan shaped feathery foliage. Produces small white flowers which appear at the surface of the water. Extremely invasive in local waterways. Hardy to zone 6.

74: What is the nitrogen cycle? Top

Everything we place in a pond produces toxic waste products from its own metabolism. Nature’s way of dealing with this problem is to provide bacteria that convert these compounds to relatively harmless nitrogen compounds. This conversion process is known as the “nitrogen cycle.” A understanding of the nitrogen cycle is essential to maintain good water quality in artificial aquatic habitats.

A major source of new nitrogen is the fish food that we feed our fish. One of the primary components of fish food is protein. Protein is a nitrogen-containing compound that is used by fish both to build other proteins and as an energy source. Any food not consumed by the fish (as in overfeeding) is used by the small organisms that are within the pond. The proteins in dead plants and animals, if not removed, are also sources of nitrogen. Finally, nitrogen is produced as a by-product of fish respiration, so that even without feeding the fish, toxic substances are being added to the water.

A simplified cycle follows:-

1. Fish eat food.

2. Fish excrete ammonia (which is highly toxic to fish in quantity).

3. Bacteria break down ammonia to nitrite (which is toxic to fish in quantity).

4. Bacteria break down nitrite to nitrate (which is fairly harmless to fish).

5. Plants consume nitrate.

6. Fish eat plants

7. The cycle begins again.

The above is a simplification of the cycle, and is basically how it works in nature, and how we should mimic it.

When protein is used by a fish for energy, it undergoes a series of conversions. First, each large protein molecule is broken down (digested) in the gut of the fish to form small amino acid molecules. The amino acids are eventually absorbed into the tissues of the fish and are broken apart to yield energy. A by-product of this metabolic conversion is ammonia. Since ammonia is highly toxic to tissues, it is quickly excreted from the fish’s body through the urinary system into the pond water.

In water, ammonia is found in two forms: as the ion (charged molecule) ammonium and as the uncharged ammonia molecule. Ammonia is much more toxic than ammonium. Molecules of these compounds continually change back and forth, in a state referred to as equilibrium. At pH 7.0 (neutral), there are always about as many ammonia molecules as there are ammonium ions. Above pH 7.0 (alkaline), there is always more ammonia than ammonium. The higher the pH, the higher the ratio of toxic ammonia.

The ammonia in pond water must be removed if the fish are to survive. One way to do this is to have a constant inflow of new water and outflow of old water. This is simply impractical for most people. With the nitrogen cycle, ammonia can be removed in another manner: through a process know as “nitrification”, or what most people know as adding a filter to their pond.

In nitrification, ammonia is converted by nitrifying organisms to the less toxic molecule nitrite, and then to even less toxic nitrate. “Nitrosomonas” bacteria convert ammonia to nitrite and “Nitrobacter” bacteria convert the nitrite to nitrate.

The nitrification process is “aerobic”, meaning that it occurs only in the presence of oxygen. Therefore, it is important that oxygen be present in sufficient quantities for nitrification to take place.

Nitrifying bacteria are found on any surface in the pond or filter that is exposed to oxygen-containing water. The more surface area, the more room there is for nitrifying bacteria. Most pond keepers try to encourage bacterial growth in an aerobic filter, which is simply an area with a high surface area and a rapid flow of oxygenated water. Undergravel filters, box filters, trickle filters, and wet/dry filters are all aerobic filters that work via the action of nitrifying bacteria.

Although the end product of nitrification, nitrate, is much less toxic than ammonia or nitrite, it too must be removed from the water. If left unchecked, excessive nitrates can cause serious problems for aquatic animals and can spur the growth of harmful types of bacteria. It can also lead to blooms of green water and blanket weed (string algae). One way in which nitrates are removed in nature is through absorption by green plants, which is why it is found in fertilizers and plant foods. Plants convert the nitrates into amino acids and proteins.

Having plants either in the pond, or in the filter also help remove the harmful ammonium. Plants prefer ammonium to Nitrate, which means they are a useful way of maintaining good water quality.

The most common way that nitrate is removed from ponds is through regular partial water changes. Every time a portion of water is replaced with new water, nitrates are diluted. In fact, you can use an increased nitrate level as an indicator for when a partial water change is needed.

Usually, the most critical period for an pond is the first few months after it is set up. It is during this period of time that the nitrifying bacteria established themselves in sufficient numbers to take care of processing the ammonia produced by the inhabitants. The successful aquarist monitors the establishment of the bacteria by testing for levels of ammonia and nitrite, and if one wishes, for nitrate as well. The changing levels of these compounds indicate the process of the growth of the populations of bacteria.

First, the level of ammonia increases. This occurs because the fish are producing ammonia, but there are few “Nitrosomonas” bacteria present to process it. Bacteria can be introduced in greater quantity early on by adding gravel from an established pond or using a packaged bacterial culture. The ammonia level will peak as the bacteria start to increase, and then taper off as the bacteria are able to process more of the ammonia.

The level of nitrite also begins to increase as a result of the “Nitrosomonas” bacteria converting the ammonia to nitrite. Eventually, “Nitrobacter” bacteria begin to increase in number and consume the nitrite. The nitrite levels eventually will also peak and then begin to taper off.

While the nitrite level is dropping, the nitrate level is going up. This is the point at which plants and algae cultures can be added to the tank, because the nitrate will feed them. If plants and algae are not desired, a partial water change should be made to reduce the nitrates. Complete stabilization of the nitrifying bacteria may take more than three months. Changing biological (fish) loads, temperature, food input and other factors cause bacterial populations to fluctuate widely in their early stages of growth. In addition, there is evidence that the initial increase of ammonia may inhibit the “Nitrobacter” bacteria from growing, delaying the processing of nitrite.

Once the bacterial colonies are well established, the aquarist can use his or her knowledge of the nitrogen cycle in planning an effective maintenance program. For example, an adequate flow of oxygenated water through the filter must be maintained if the nitrifying bacteria are to remain active. Filter material should never all be cleaned at the same time and should be rinsed lightly in pond water, so as not to disturb the bacterial colony on the surfaces.

Application of the nitrogen cycle is also important when the fish population in the pond changes. Usually, a decreased fish load simply means that the bacteria will reduce their rate of metabolism, although it is also possible that some of the bacterial colony will die from a lack of nutrients. Any time the fish load is increased, however, either from the growth of the fish or the addition of new fish, the bacteria must increase their level of metabolism and, more importantly, their numbers. This increase in population size can take time. It is better to add only a few fish at a time so as not to increase the levels of toxic nitrogen compounds in the water too rapidly. also, because the bacteria are limited by the amount of surface area available, it may be necessary to add more filter material and even increase the flow of water to maintain the bacterial populations at sufficiently high levels.

Many problems resulting from pond design and maintenance techniques can be solved through the application of the basic concepts of the nitrogen cycle. The most successful ponds are those that come closest to imitating nature. Successful fishkeeping starts with the nitrogen cycle.

75: What do I do with my new fish after purchase? Top

Never just release (or throw) your new fish into the pond. When you come home from the pet store with your fish in their plastic bag, float them for 15 minutes on the surface of your pond, allowing the temperature to equalize. Goldfish tolerate temperature extremes very well, but sudden rapid changes can be fatal. Next add some of your pond’s water to the bag of existing water and fish and let them sit for another five to ten minutes on the pond’s surface. This allows the pH to change gradually to match that in the pond. Sudden changes in pH are far more detrimental to fish health than pH which has gradually become too high or too low. The pH should be treated to gradually return it to normal, however. Finally, open the bag and allow the fish to swim out at their leisure. Make sure the bag does not collapse and smother them. Give the fish enough time to decide they would like to check out the pond on their own.

76: How much do I feed my fish? Top

Some say you shouldn’t. Fish can perfectly exist on the algae growing on the sides of your pond. The more of it they can eat, the less you see. There is plenty of food for the fish with algae, bugs, eggs, larvae, etc. Many people never feed their fish at all.

The general consensus is to feed the fish as much as they can eat within 5 minutes. The best advice is usually on the label of the food. Feed only when the water temperature is steadily above 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Feed one to three times daily depending on the temperature (of the water, not the air!). If the temperature is lower, feed less. If higher, feed more. Try not to feed more than four times a day.

Note: Koi will nearly always appear hungry. Do not mistake this behavior as a call to eat. Overfeeding may cause illness and water quality problems. Koi are omnivorous and cold blooded. They will eat anything and as the water temp goes down so does their metabolism.

77: Will my fish breed? Top

In a healthy pond fish will breed, often prolifically. Females fill with eggs as the water warms above 60 degrees. You may notice that their bodies are thickened, and often lop sided. By the time the temperature hits 70 degrees Fahrenheit the males will be chasing females around in a rather frantic race through the anacharis and roots in your pond. After an extended period of chasing in the morning hours the female will shake her eggs loose in the submerged grasses, even if they are floating at the top of the pond. The male will be right there to fertilize them. Then almost immediately, they and their pond mates will turn and eat many of them. If your underwater grasses are not thick you will not have any survivors. You may add a spawning mat from your pet store,. But this is not always necessary. The tiny eggs will adhere to the leaves and roots of your plants. The lucky ones will hatch into tiny brown “fry”. They will stay hidden. You will probably not see them until they are large enough to fend for themse lves.

78: When will my fish start to breed? Top

Fish start mating when the water warms up to about 68 or 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Females begin to fill with eggs when the water temperature is about 60 degrees. Their mating activities begin around eight o’clock in the morning and continue until noon. The mating consists of the male chasing the female frantically around the pond. There will be quite a bit of splashing and shaking of water grasses. Some fish may even jump on occasion. Sometimes the female is injured in the whole process. The fish will mate throughout the summer months and thousands of eggs will be produced. However, the fish will eat most of the eggs that come from the union.

79: Will my fry survive if I leave them alone in the pond? Top

Some people choose to remove their fry from the pond by transferring strands of anacharis or other plants with eggs on them to an established aquarium or smaller safe pond. This will often result in a larger production of fish, but this is not always desired. Make sure you have “a place” for these fish once they mature. You can let nature take its course by leaving the fry attached to the plants. The mature fish of the pond will probably eat these eggs.

80: What do I do if I have too many fish? Top

If you wait long enough you probably will need to reduce your population of fish in the pond. Many pet stores will take them. Ask around to other pond owners. Someone is always looking for new fish. Check with your local watergarden or koi club and see if they will take them at their next meeting.

81: What about mosquito fish? Top

Some people recommend introducing mosquito fish to eliminate mosquito problems and other pests. Mosquito fish are small, minnow-sized fish that eat bugs. These fish do indeed eat mosquitoes, but so do goldfish, koi, and any other type of fish you introduce to your pond. The drawbacks to mosquito fish are that they are brown, and therefore difficult to see in the pond. You probably would rather have fish that you can see and enjoy.

82: What about orfe fish? Top

Orfe are not your typical pond fish. They eat insects and not plants, and their waste is not particularly excessive. They are more common in Europe than in the United States. They grow to a maximum length of 1.5 to 2.5 feet. They like to swim in schools, so it is not recommended to have fewer than six. They are more shy than goldfish. They are a pale orange color (golden). They use more oxygen than goldfish because they are more active.

83: What can salt do for stressed or ill fish? Top

Stress adversely affects the slime coating on fish. Salt helps restore the slime coating which makes them less susceptible to infection or parasites. Some people add salt as a de-stresser when they add new fish to a pond.

84: What about adding fish to an already established pond? Top

You should be very conservative about adding new fish to your pond. You do not want to risk adversely affecting your current fish. New fish may have been exposed to an infection during transport or at the pet store. The symptoms may not always be noticeable. The stress of transport will make a fish more susceptible to disease. Some fish can be simple carriers of disease and will never show signs of an infection. Your new fish ideally should be quarantined in a “hospital” tank or a holding tank filled with pond water. Some people give precautionary treatments of “Desafin” for the duration of the quarantine period. If the fish does not show signs of illness and appears healthy after one week, release it into the pond. Float the fish in the water as you would normally to equalize the temperature. Follow the directions for “What do I do with my fish after purchase?”

85: One of my fish died for no reason. What’s wrong? Top

Put the fish in a plastic bag and get a water sample. Take both to the local pet store and see if they can identify the problem. If they can not diagnose a problem, the death of the fish may have just been random. Fish sometimes die just like humans. You may want to do a water test to find out the pH, nitrate level, etc. This may be beneficial in the diagnosis. Do not add chemicals or antibiotics without being absolutely sure what the problem is. Never add antibiotics to your entire pond. Only do antibiotic treatments in a quarantine tank or pond. Antibiotics can have bad effects if unnecessary in your water pond.

86: How soon can I add fish after creating my pond? Top

Do not add fish before your water has aged for a minimum of two weeks, and preferably a month. This still applies if you use a de-chlorinator and de-chloraminator which says that you can add fish immediately, and even if people you know have done it successfully. In the early days after stocking a pond chemical fluctuations are common and expected. Allow the beneficial bacterial colonies time to establish. The fish need these microbes for their survival. When the fish get in there and start processing food the ammonia level will go up. Without the bacterial colonization and efficient plant life it will kill the fish. If you absolutely cannot wait, buy a bottle of bacterial starter (liquid bacteria) available from your aquarium or pond supplier and pour this in. This gets that bacterial colony in shape prior to adding fish life! Do not add fish to an unfiltered pond which has no plants. There will be no means of neutralizing fish wastes and no places for the fish to hide from predators and weather.

87: What animals are potential predators to my fish? Top

Herons, raccoons, cats, dogs, snakes, some frogs, turtles, even some insect larvae, will snack on your fish. Potentially anything is a threat. Know your threats and know your threats’ weaknesses. You will be able to protect your fish from predators.

88: How do I deter raccoons? Top

What makes Raccoons worse than any other animal in your pond is the apparent joy they take in vandalizing it. Also, they are very intelligent and sneaky. They have been known to disconnect the hose from a pump and drain the pond to make it easier to feed on the fish. Probably they don’t really know what they’re doing when they disconnect the hose, but they definitely know how to take advantage of a situation. The only widely agreed Raccoon deterrents appear to be a dog loose in your yard, or an electric 1-wire fence. Recently people are finding coyote urine at nurseries, which is said to be very effective. You can deter some raccoons (and other animals) by providing hiding places for your fish (like painted concrete blocks, or milk crates) also.

89: How do I deter herons? Top

Herons, when given the opportunity, will feast on your fish.

Here’s some options for deterring herons:

1) An electric fence, try the Fido Fence sold at large pet superstores.

2) Fishing wire strung around the pond a few inches off the ground to causing the heron frustration on where to put his feet.

3) A plastic fish, called a heron scarer, anchored on the bottom and floating below the surface, the heron grabs for it and is scared when the fish fights back. It also gives the resident fish time to hide.

4) Dogs who spend their daylight hours outside. Unfortunately, black capped night herons will feed in the middle of the night.

5) Call your local Fish and Wildlife for other suggestions. Do not attempt to kill, maim or harm a heron without official permission. They are protected under the Migratory Bird Act.

6) Net the pond really well. Some herons (green heron) can wiggle under nets. It is recommend that the net be suspended from it’s middle like a tent. The artificial heron works on the principle that they won’t fish where there’s another heron.

7) Use a Scarecrow motion detector sprinkler. Two units used in a “90 degree crossfire” substantially improves overall efficiency. This is a battery-operated, motion-detecting, sprinkler. It sprays any creature that comes into its view with water.

8) Use a heron decoy. It is a large plastic fake herons that trick the real heron into thinking your pond is occupied. One possible problem is that a heron’s feeding territory in times of abundant food is only a few yards wide. Also, juvenile herons like to feed in groups. Finally, a male heron was once spotted courting a fake heron decoy with offerings of dead goldfish and frogs from the heron decoy owner’s pond.

9) Use fake alligators. This will work unless you have a year-round colony of herons that never flies south and does not know an alligator from a dog.

10) Use a floating plastic snake.

12) Lay mouse traps around on the ground (upside down).

13) Assemble lengths of wire (or rot-proof strong string) stretched from roof height on the house to a high point at the rear of the garden completely over the pond. The wire should be about one meter from the adjacent piece.

14) Thomas Seminazzi created a “heron-scare” to deter a heron. He wired a bathroom vent fan to a motion sensor and set the sensor to TEST mode so it would go off day or night. He used a bundle of colorful mylar streamers that little girls put on their bike handles and attached them to the output of the fan. The fan is hidden under his deck. If something trips the sensor, the streamers flap and fly all over the area like an anemone reaching out for prey.

15) Feed your fish sinking food and they will not be conditioned to come to the surface when something blurry shows up at the edge of the pond.

16) Use steep sides in your pond (or your next pond).

90: How do I get my koi to eat from my hands? Top

So you think your fish can act like your dog, eh? Well they can! Some teach their fish to eat from their hands by using a sinking food held in the hand. Let a few pellets drop through your fingers and then be very patient.

You can get koi accustomed to taking food from your hands by repeatedly offering them small, tasty morsels such as fish pellets or cooked shrimp or brown bread.

Feed them every day at the same time in the same location! Leave your hand in the water as you slowly release the food, making no sudden movements.

Fish do learn from each other when it comes to behaviors. Once they realize it is safe by watching another they will probably do the same.

When you feed them, encourage them to not be afraid by getting as low as possible to the ground. Koi are sometimes afraid of the towering presence that your body has at the edge looking down on them.

91: Does clear water equal healthy fish? Top

Contrary to popular belief, no. Of course you will want to provide a healthy home for your fish. You, the pondowner will want “clear water” so you can see your fish. Always remember that your fish can still be happy in that unsightly green pea soup you hate so much. That green pea soup probably has plenty of nutrients. A crystal clear pond may be oligotrophic, meaning all of the nutrients have been stripped. If this is the case, this is bad news for your fish. A little yellowish tint is probably a good thing for your fish. As long as you can find a reasonable compromise, you’re probably sure to have healthy fish and a great view.

92: How do I keep a turtle in my pond? Top

You must have a large enough pond to supply the turtle with enough plants and fish to keep the turtle from eating everything in sight. Water hyacinths and water lettuce do well in most climates and will keep a turtle content. Feeder goldfish and rosie red minnows breed in abundance and can outlive the feedings of a turtle. Younger turtles eat more fish than plants. Most adult turtles eat more plants than fish. An exception is the painted turtle. They prefer fish to plants in their adult years.

The turtle should have a safe place to bask so it can raise its body temperature. Basking is the only heating mechanism a turtle has. Turtles, in warm and sunny conditions, will spend five to six hours each day basking in the hot sun. Many turtle owners float a water-logged branch or build an island in the pond. It is important that the turtle can climb onto the basking place.

The pond should have a very efficient mechanical and biological filter.

Only native turtles should be kept outside in case they are to escape. A fenced yard or a small fence with buried footing around the pond will help curb wandering from the area. Be advised that turtles can climb and turtles can dig.

In northern climates, turtles will go to the bottom of the pond in the winter and become dormant (or burmate) under some sunken lily leaves for the winter. They may come back to the surface is there is a warm spell. In southern climates, turtles may be active year-round or have only a couple of months of inactivity.

Do not let the pond completely freeze. Keep a hole in the ice by using an air pump with an air stone or by using a de-icer.

You can adopt a turtle from a turtle rehabber in your area and many veterinarians know the names of local rehabbers. Rehabbers usually have many healthy native turtles ready for adoption.

93: Should I add frogs to my pond? Top

Frogs may appear naturally. Some people order bull frogs to eat flying insects around their ponds. Be aware that frogs will also eat small fish. Adding frogs is a matter of preference. Some frogs will not stay if introduced to a pond after the tadpole stage. A frog or two will probably find your pond without you inviting it over.

94: My pond is full of toads. Is this a problem? Top

It depends. Some people enjoy toads and others do not. They come out in the evenings and start their mating calls and keep it up all night. In addition to making a lot of noise, the toads will lay yards of eggs in a ribbon of mucus which will end up wrapped all around your water plants. The toads may tip precariously balanced plants, but usually do not change anything. You can scoop the strands of eggs out, or you can wait a few days and they will turn into thousands of tiny tadpoles. In a month or two these tadpoles become tiny toads and take off across the lawn. You will see the " long toads all over your lawn if you look carefully.

Toads and tadpoles do not seem to affect water quality, deplete oxygen or adversely affect the pond’s balance. They do eat large quantities of insect pests such as mosquitoes. They may also eat small fish. Goldfish reportedly do not eat tadpoles.

95: What is the difference between frogs and toads? Top

Frogs have graceful long legs and leap when they move. Tree frogs and chorus frogs have sticky pads at the end of their toes. Toads are squatty and walk more than leap.

Frogs’ eggs in the pond are laid in masses.
Toads’ eggs in the pond are laid in strings.

96: Are frog and toad eggs okay in my pond? Top

For the most part, they are okay. Fish will eat many of the frogs’ eggs and their tadpoles. Fish will spit out toad eggs and toad tadpoles as they have a foul taste . Sometimes a fish will gulp in toad eggs and toadpoles by mistake and die. If your pond is small and you have found a great number of eggs and tadpoles, you must beware of ammonia spikes. So many new lifeforms may contribute to an ammonia spike and overwhelm your filter.

If you need to remove eggs (easier than tadpoles), net them up and transfer to a larger natural or manmade pond. If you have kids, use a kiddy pool. Fill with pond water, put in pond “slime” and rotting lily pads and a small ramp for the baby frogs/toads to leave the pool. If they eat all the “slime” feed them organic lettuce (lightly boiled). The kids will love to watch them change from eggs to tadpoles to frog/toad. Add new pond water as needed. (Use pond water as the zooplankton, tiny animals, is a part of their natural diet.)

97: What about bullfrogs and green frogs? Top

The only frog who is a real danger to a pond is the bullfrog. Bullfrogs will eat fish, and other frogs, snakes, mice, birds, etc.

Bullfrogs are native east of the Rockies but have been spotted out west also. Originally brought into the west as a food item, bullfrogs were raised in farm ponds from which they quickly escaped.

Bullfrogs are not welcome out west as it is feared they are eating up native species and native tadpoles.

Bullfrogs are large frogs. Green frogs are also large. Green frogs do not eat fish and should be allowed to stay in the pond.

The easiest way to tell bullfrogs from green frogs is that bullfrogs have a fold of skin that goes over their eardrum. A green frog’s fold of skin goes right down both sides of its back.

Bullfrogs can be spotlighted at night (they are most active at night) with a flash light and scooped up with sport fish nets. Turn the frog over on his back, he will become quiet and you can remove him from the net without injuring him. Move to another pond.

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