Summer Pond Care & Maintenance:
Summer is a stressful time for pond owners and managers – especially when it comes to pond care and maintenance. Warmer weather brings algae, scum and other annoyances. But many of them will still wait far too long to prepare their pond for the onslaught. In this post, we’ll examine the challenges your pond will face and how you can save it before it’s too late.
Why You Shouldn’t Wait to Get Started
If you have a pond, the next 2-3 weeks are critical. Why is that? Because the buildup has already started.
During the summer months, waste, milkweed, algae, unwanted plants, and agricultural runoff will flood your pond. All of this waste and the increasingly strong summer sunlight will threaten the balance of the pond’s ecosystem. The key to managing this is to help the pond eco-system break down the nutrients and organic matter, preventing oversaturation. But more on that later. First, let’s take a look at what ponds are up against.
Summer Threats to Ponds
Maintaining a pond during the summer without a system in place is challenging. A number of seasonal factors unique to the summer months place a strain on the pond’s ecosystem. Here are a few of the most impactful.
The strong sun and longer days place a heavy toll on ponds during summer.
Shallow ponds will receive light from the surface to the bottom, heating the entire body of water. The excess light and heat create a breeding ground where algae and aquatic weeds can thrive.
This allows algae and other aquatic plants to grow at their maximum rate, which can quickly cover ponds in a layer of green film. Higher water temperatures also make it difficult to maintain the high oxygen levels needed to support the bacteria that help the pond function.
During the summer, increased rainfall floods fields that are used for agriculture, introducing excess fertilizer and other waste into the water way. Fertilizer’s job is to make things grow – that doesn’t stop in the water. Fertilizer runoff in ponds can create huge blooms of algae and other unwanted plants.
Additionally, the warmer temperatures speed up the metabolism and lifecycle of plant and animal life. This means there’s huge quantities of leaves, decaying plants – both aquatic and land-based – and fish waste accumulating in the pond.
If this isn’t dealt with, the waste and organic matter will build to dangerous levels. This renders the pond less able to support aquatic life. It also hurts aesthetic value.
To combat this nutrient overload, there needs to be something to consume it. Luckily, aerobic bacteria thrive in this environment and are able to breakdown the excess nutrients.
However, in order to consume organic matter at a high rate, bacteria need more oxygen. Therefore, the key to protecting a pond during the summer is to increase the oxygen levels of the pond.
Waterfowl, such as geese and ducks, can add a sense of life and energy to a pond. But they can also wreak havoc on a pond’s ecosystem and surrounding area.
The increased presence of waterfowl during the warmer months can tax a pond. When there are more birds per acre than the pond can support, the waterfowl will consume too much.
This means they devour huge portions of the grass and plants that surround the pond – stuff that would otherwise absorb the fertilizer runoff. This allows even more runoff to enter the pond, making the problem worse.
Waterfowl also deposit large amounts of waste, which increases algae and weed growth. In addition, their feeding patterns make the pond water muddy and cloudy. This makes it difficult for light to enter, and also looks gross.
The most obvious method of reducing waterfowl damage is getting rid of the waterfowl to begin with. This can be done by adding deterrents like predator decoys and noise-making devices, and making sure no one feeds them.
However, managing the effects of waterfowl is similar to managing nutrient overload: lots of oxygen and bacteria are needed to break down the material buildup caused by their presence.
Another danger to ponds during the summer months is stratification. This is when pond water segments into layers due to changes in water temperature. The warmer and oxygen rich layers congregate towards the surface while the bottom layers become colder and less oxygen-rich. These layers form when there is little or no natural movement in the water. This is especially likely for deeper ponds with areas that sunlight can’t reach.
While this process can occur in every season, it is especially dangerous during summer months. Heavy rains and summer storms can provide an excess of movement that suddenly breaks the stratification of the layers, turning the pond into one temperature. The sudden change causes massive fish kills where huge portions of the pond’s population die in a single storm.
Stratification also makes it difficult for aerobic bacteria to do their job of breaking down nutrient rich material. This is because the bacteria live at the bottom of the pond, which contains little oxygen when the pond is stratified.
The best way to handle stratification is by breaking up the layers. This is done by increasing the amount of gradual motion in the pond.
So, what happens if you wait to address these issues?
If you keep waiting, buildup will keep accruing every week. The organic matter, animal waste, dead plants, fertilizer runoff, and algae will accumulate into huge quantities and get more unmanageable every week.
Eventually, the pond will be filled with unwanted plants, dying fish, breeding mosquitoes, and algae that spread and grow like a virus. Even worse, the low oxygen levels at the bottom of the pond will make it impossible for the bacteria to fight back.
If enough buildup accrues, it will be too late to save your pond (and its inhabitants). The amount of waste and matter that the bacteria need to break down will become so great that it will be impossible to supply them with enough oxygen to get the job done.
What happens next? Eutrophication: the slow and painful death of a pond and all animal life in it.
So, you've got 2-3 weeks to ensure the summer apocalypse doesn’t destroy your pond. What do you need to do?
To prepare your pond for summer and prevent disaster, you need to do two things: (1) increase the oxygen levels in the water, and (2) create water movement.
How do you achieve this? Better yet, how do you do it naturally, without chemicals?
Some ways to increase oxygen levels are adding plants (not the infectious kind), adding devices that move the water by simulating wind and wave motions, and adding purified oxygen solutions.
However, the additions of plants and artificial motion are often not enough for large or high-maintenance ponds. And using purified oxygen solutions to fix low oxygen levels can easily lead to supersaturation – which is bad because excess oxygen is toxic to animal life in the pond.
Some landscaping methods, such as connecting the pond to nearby streams and other water sources, can create natural water movement that can combat stratification. But the water movement isn’t always consistent, as changes in weather can cause stream levels to vary.
The best solution is a comprehensive one. Pond aerators offer a natural way to clean up your pond without harming fish or aquatic life. Aerators are the best solution for summer pond care because they do both of the things you need to do: increase water oxygen levels and create water movement.
In one system, aerators are able to provide aerobic bacteria with enough oxygen to break down the excess nutrients in the ecosystem, and break up water stratification. Plus, they add aesthetic value.
Need to get your pond cleaned in time for summer? We can help. Contact us today to discuss your options.
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