Cleaning Your Pond to be the Perfect Water Feature

Just like snowflakes, each pond is unique. Not every pond needs a good spring clean-out: 2,000 square feet and over do well with a cleaning every few years. Ponds even larger than that might never need to be cleaned; the impurities are minimal compare to the amount of water present. Smaller ponds more than likely need a spring cleaning. An easy way to decide is this: does your pond look the same now as it did last summer? If yes, forget the cleaning and go straight to enjoying it. However, if it doesn’t look so good, read on to find out the best way for cleaning your pond.

 Supplies needed:

  • A container to hold aquatic life (fish, frogs)
  • A Clean-out pump
  • 25’ of 1.5” – 2” discharge piping
  • A high-pressure hose nozzle or a pressure washer
  • Plant trimming shears
  • A bucket for collected debris
  • Rubber gloves
  • A beneficial bacteria treatment
  • A de-chlorinator
  • Extra gravel or rocks
  • New filter mats
  • Aquatic plant fertilizer
  • Black waterfall foam
  • A fish net
  • The below-recommended products (carried by your local Hydro-Scape)

 Twelve Steps to Cleaning Your Pond

  1. Power down the system. Turn off automatic water fill valves and unplug the waterfall pump. Make sure the check valve is disconnected from the return line and drain the pipe and waterfall box.
  2. Drain your pond. Depending on the size of your pond, you’ll use either a clean-out pump (large ponds) or a small, screened pump (small ponds). Make sure you have a container filled with pond water for your fish and place it out of direct sunlight. This will prevent the water temperature from changing too much and shocking the fish.
  3. Go fishing! No, not for dinner. When the pond is down to about 8” of water, net the fish and put them in the temporary storage container. Cover it with net or screening to keep the fish from jumping out. Koi and goldfish will jump more as water temp changes in the storage container. Aerate the container with a small pump to prevent de-oxygenation and fish death.
  4. Clean up debris. The whole point of the venture is to get a clean pond. Trim plants near your pond that may drop leaf debris into it. Wearing rubber gloves pull out twigs and leaves. Prune any aquatic plants that have died back; this encourages new growth. If you have overgrown plants, split them and share the leftovers with a friend or your local water gardening club. Use a shop vac or pond vacuum to suck up the accumulated sludge at the bottom of your pond.
  5. Wash your pond. Use a 1,500 psi pressure washer or put a high-pressure nozzle on your garden hose. Be careful not to over-clean, though; some of the algae is helpful in creating your pond’s ecosystem. Don’t use soaps or detergents, even bio-degradable products.
  6. Rinse. Don’t worry “repeat” isn’t step 7. Getting rid of the debris around rocks and gravel takes time and patience. The power washer or high-pressure nozzle isn’t needed for this step and in fact, may make more work for you by displacing the gravel along with the debris. Keep the clean-out pump running so as to remove the sediment you’re rinsing out. You may want a helper to shut off and turn on the pump if it’s removing water faster than you’re replacing it with the hose. Keep rinsing from top to bottom until the water is clear.
  7. Filter cleaning. Get the water out of the skimmer and pull out all debris. Hose out the waterfall filter box and let that water go into the skimmer. Then re-clean the skimmer box. Next, hose down the filter mat and clean the net. The waterfall filter box mats must be cleaned too, as must the bio-filter media bags. Just hose them down until the water runs clean. You may need to replace natural media such a lava rock as it clogs after about two years of use. We recommend putting Matala mats in the box as they are lightweight. Only replace half of the biological media at a time or else you risk removing all of the helpful bacteria. Don’t clean the waterfall box more than once a year because it holds a lot of the beneficial bacteria too, just like the rocks and gravel in your pond. A lack of bacteria can cause toxic ammonia and nitrite increase.
  8. Refill, please. Remove the clean-out pump and turn on the garden hose. If you don’t already know, you can use this chance to determine how much water your pond holds. There are two different methods:hook up a water meter to your hose or use your home’s water meter. Double-check your water bill to find out if your meter measures by gallons or cubic feet. One cubic foot = 7.48 gallons.
  9. De-chlorinate. Before you can put the fish back in the pond, you’ll need to add a de-chlorinator since most city water has chloramines and chlorine. The good news is that these products work almost immediately so this is a short step before moving your fish back home.
  10. Acclimate your fish. All this action can stress out your fish, which can cause illness or death. You can reduce this stress via proper acclimation. Start by moving the fish to smaller buckets of old pond water once the pond has about 1” of new water. Place the buckets in the new pond water so the fish can get used to the new temperature; this takes about fifteen minutes. You can further lower stress by adding pond salt which helps the fish build up and keep a slime-coat; this coat is often damaged by repeat transfers.
  11. Toss in some beneficial bacteria. Since you’ve just removed most of the helpful bacteria, it’s vital that you get on a replacement schedule. We recommend Bio-Max+® products; just follow the container instructions. You should also use an algae preventative like barley straw or ClarityMax+®.
  12. Enjoy the beauty of your freshly-cleaned pond! Get a tall glass of something delicious, grab a good book and put your feet up in your chaise lounge, it’s time to relax after all that work!