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Pondering Ponds

by Dan Eskelson on Apr 28, 2012

Those of you familiar with my writing are accustomed to raves and rants about doing things in cooperation with nature instead of fighting against her; many years of trying it both ways have convinced me that the natural way is less costly to install and maintain is easier on our fragile natural resources - and more fun!

My goal is for the most natural, low maintenance systems. My research unearthed numerous horror stories of thick, "pea soup" green ponds which had become nightmares to their owners.

Drastic measures were taken to rid the ponds of the algae problem - extensive, sand-based filter systems and extremely expensive ultraviolet light sterilizers were used in an attempt to solve the problem.

I felt that the above "solutions" were merely treating the symptoms rather than the causes...the UV light did indeed kill the algae, but also killed all the beneficial pond organisms - those that contributed to the reduction of algae - so the problem returned soon with even greater severity.

I finally found a system based on cooperation with natural systems - one that was inherently low maintenance; following are several of the basic principles of this system, principles that soon tribute to a healthy, low maintenance water feature.

One of the most important conditions to provide in the pond is a rock and gravel floor...the millions of tiny spaces created are colonized by beneficial microorganisms that break down organic waste deposited by fish and decomposing plant parts. Using rocks and gravel creates a huge biological filter, reducing maintenance for the separate filter and creating a clean, healthy environment. Rocks and gravel also:

  1. Provide a home for helpful aquatic insects and snails
  2. Protects the liner from sun and damage from larger animals
  3. is more natural-looking than a smooth surface
  4. is not slippery like smooth surfaces
  5. will hold the liner securely in place.

Including aquatic plants in your pond also contributes to a healthy ecosystem; plants use the carbon dioxide and nutrients that are produced by the beneficial organisms in the gravel and the biological filter. Without plants, there would be a nutrient overload in the pond, resulting in toxic conditions for other pond life. and yes, algae is planting life - a small number of algae is normal, and even beneficial, to the pond ecosystem...we just don't want the algae to get out of control. aquatic plants also provide:

  1. beauty for the pond
  2. oxygen for pond animals
  3. shade from intense sunlight
  4. food for insects and fish
  5. shelter for small pond creatures.

Other factors contribute to the beauty and health of the low maintenance pond ecosystem. Colorful fish provide hours of relaxing entertainment, as well as feasting on algae, mosquito larvae and other insects. Though most pond owners feed a small amount of food to their fish, in a well-balanced pond, fish can feed themselves. It's also important to provide an efficient skimmer to catch the larger surface debris, and a biological filter, through which the pond water is pumped. In conclusion, a healthy, clean and beautiful pond ecosystem relies on the interrelationship of all parts. Each link is important for the survival of the whole.

My initial research into water features turned up a multitude of systems and options - along with a lot of conflicting ideas and advice. The system that impressed us as the most user-friendly, lowest maintenance and most compatible with nature is produced by aquascape Designs...we've been providing these systems to satisfied clients for two seasons. We recently completed our water garden installation here at our home - to say we're satisfied is a major understatement! Enjoying the beauty and tranquility of our new pond and waterfall has become a relaxing daily ritual.

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