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Adding a pond can create a beautiful new mini-ecosystem to your garden, filled with wildlife pond plants, fish and insects, whilst also visited by animals and birds.
Whilst there are quite a lot of considerations to make when setting up your pond to ensure it does not get overloaded with algae and keeps looking beautiful, oftentimes common sense, trusting your horticultural instincts and simple rules-of-thumb will be enough.
Check Water PH Levels
If you are keeping fish in your pond, you need to make sure the water they swim around in is at the right level to sustain life. The way in which this is measured is using the pH scale, which measures liquids on a scale from acid to alkali.
The blood pH of fish is around 7.4, which is very close to the centre of the scale, with acids at the lower end and lye at the higher end, and the closer you can keep your pond water pH to this, the happier and healthier your fish will be.
Pick up a pond water testing kit, and be sure to regularly check the pond’s pH level to see how close it is to the magic number of 7.4. Typically, so long as it is between the slightly acidic 6.5 and the saltwater-esque 8.5 it is fine.
If the pH level is too acidic, one way to raise it is to mix a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda for every eight gallons of water.
Check And Limit Fish Levels
There are plenty of factors that can affect pH levels, but one factor that is somewhat underestimated is the number of fish in a pond. When fish breathe they breathe in oxygen and excrete carbon dioxide, which decreases the pH level in the pond.
As a result, the more fish you have in a body of water, the more acidic the water gets, to the point that it can make the pond uninhabitable.
The best way to avoid this becoming a problem is to carefully manage the population of fish in the water, with a rule-of-thumb to follow is to have one fish for every ten gallons of pond water.
This gives them enough room and oxygen to thrive.
A Question Of Algae
Algae is an often misunderstood part of a pond ecosystem and many of the more radical methods to get rid of it can do more harm than good.
The main cause of algae in a pond is an excess of nutrients in the water which can be contributed to by: fish; water run off from areas surrounding the pond (especially if fertilisers are present); lack of surface cover plants; using nutrient rich planting mediums such as compost or topsoil; direct use of fertilisers in the pond that aren’t slow release; sparse planting; and lack of pond maintenance allowing leaves and decaying plant material to rot into the pond.
Algae is often not desirable because it changes the colour of the water and can clog up the pond and interfere with the growth of pond plants, however it can support microscopic plankton which themselves become food for fish. This means that if the intention of your pond is to raise fish some level of algae is not necessarily a bad thing as it will help boost plankton levels.
However, algae can sometimes run amok in a pond and become a major detriment not only aesthetically but to the overall ecosystem.
To help deal with this, scrape away any excess algae you see using a pond skimmer or in the case of blanket weed remove with a stick or by hand, and try to remove obvious sources of nutrients such as fertilisers. Use pond plants to create surface cover of at least 50%, plenty of oxygenators to compete with the algae for nutrients, a good density of marginal planting and remove leaves and decaying plant material before they have a chance to rot down into the pond. Some pond products, such as our wildlife friendly range of Ecopond products or barley straw bales can also help to control excess algae.