Cleaning a Pond

Don’t be alarmed if you find little red worms in your filter material. They are nothing but harmless blood worms, the larvae of the midge fly. They are a very natural occurrence in the pond and, although they aren’t very attractive, are okay to feed your fish. After all, once freeze-dried, this blood worm becomes what marketers call "Tubifex Worms". They’re packaged and sold in pet supply stores as a fish delicacy.
5-Minute Checkup - Guide to Diagnosing Fish Disease
The thousands of beads in any brand of bead filter, no matter how well it’s constructed, will eventually cake up, especially in ponds that are overloaded with fish and plants. As odd as it seems, plants in a pond add more dirt and debris to the water than fish alone. An overabundance of string algae can literally glue the beads together after a season of use. If your bead filter is needing to be backwashed more than once a week it’s time for maintenance.
Early spring is the perfect time to clean and perform maintenance on your biological filter. During winter the water is too cold for nitrifying bacteria to live and they go dormant. As water temperatures heat up nitrobacter and nitrosomonas, the two “good” bacteria begin to colonize. If you clean your filters with chlorinated water the chlorine can prohibit the growth of these two beneficial bacteria — especially nitrobacter which, of the two, is the slowest to grow.
All bead filters tend to cake in ponds that are overloaded with fish and/or plants. An overabundance of algae can literally glue the beads together after a season of use. If your bead filter is needing to be backwashed more than once a week it’s time for maintenance. During winter many of us turn off the pump and the unit is left with standing water all winter long.
Now that spring is just around the corner it’s time to begin the loving task of opening up the pond. The transition of winter to spring can be tricky for the fish. Parasites and anaerobic (bad) bacteria thrive in cool waters before the fish have had time to build up their immunity. Aerobic (good nitrifying) bacteria take their time to establish in the biological filter so we run the risk of deadly ammonia and nitrite build-up in the pond during this time of year.
Definite noticeable changes occur in koi and goldfish, plants and the pond itself as the temperature of the water begins to drop. Leaves on water plants start to brown and die back. Koi and goldfish become less active and require less food. Leaves fall and cover the surface of the pond. The pond may suddenly clear up after not being clear all year. These are changes we see. The changes we do not see are just as important.
Springtime is the most critical time of the year for fish in the pond. As water temperatures rise it puts our fish in the danger zone also referred to as Aeromonas Alley. The danger zone is water temperatures between 50° and 65°. In many states during the winter the water temperature drops below 50° which kills all the bacteria (good and bad) and most parasites become inactive. Fish do not eat at these temperatures and the pond goes into a period of dormancy. Here in Georgia, however, spring's warmer daytime temperatures starts raising the water temperature but we still have cool nights.
There are two terrific times to give your pond a good, thorough cleaning. One is in Spring and the other is in Fall after the leaves have already fallen. It’s not a task to be taken lightly. It’s wet. It’s dirty. The muck stinks and the bottom of the pond is slippery. Performing a major pond cleaning requires courage to start the ball rolling and a little muscle to get it done.
Cleaning the pond in fall and/or early spring can be quite a chore. Many opt to have a professional do it. There are several factors that determine the price of a professional cleaning, not simply the size of the pond. Before a professional can give an accurate estimate for cleaning a pond, those factors have to be considered.