spring tasks in the pond (8831 bytes)

Spring Pond Care

By Judy Sedbrook, Colorado Master GardenerSM, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, Denver County

Winter is at last behind us. With the change of season comes a need for spring-cleaning.

This yearly ritual extends even to the garden, especially if it contains a pond. With a little effort this spring, you can be assured of having healthy plants and fish to enjoy for the rest of the season.

Here is a list of what needs to be done:

Examine equipment and make sure it is all in good working order.

  • Ponds consisting of a plastic liner or a pre-formed shell should be checked for cracks or punctures that may need to be patched.
  • Check any electrical cords for fraying or cracks. Check the pump. Make sure the housing is intact and that the water intake is not blocked.
  • Rinse off filters and remove all visible debris that may have collected on them. Biological filters should also have all components cleaned and the pads replaced. This will assure that water flows through unrestricted and that algae growth is not promoted by the breakdown of decaying plant material.
  • If the pond includes a fountain or waterfall, make sure that the tubing is not bent or cracked, and that all connections are secure. Kinked or leaking tubing will reduce water flow, resulting in ineffective pumping and possible damage to the pump itself.
  • Remove hardy plants that have been over-wintered in the pond taking care not to let them dry out in the sun.

A general cleaning and a partial water exchange can then be done.

  • First, using a pump or siphon, remove 20--30% of the water in the pond.
  • Clean out debris, dead plant material and "muck" from the bottom of the pond with a pool skimmer and add this to the compost pile.
  • Adding a bacterial/enzyme product will help with the breakdown of any remaining small amounts of debris.
  • Once this procedure has been completed, the pond can be refilled. Using a garden hose, allow water to slowly trickle in over several hours. Filling too rapidly with cold water will decrease the water temperature and this could prove harmful to the fish when they are returned to the pond.
  • Add a dechlorinator, being careful to following the instructions on the label.
  • After the pond has been filled, restart the pump to circulate the water.
  • Leaves and other debris should be skimmed from the pond weekly after the initial cleaning.

Fish, still sluggish from their winter sabbatical, can be easily caught while the pond is partially empty.

  • Remove the fish using a fish net and place them into a bucket or tub of the water that has been emptied from the pond. Cover the container with netting to prevent predators getting in or fish jumping out.
  • Keep the covered container out of the direct sun. 
  • Carefully examine the fish for injury or disease.
  • Once the water has been refilled, the fish can be returned to the pond. A water conditioner should be added at this time to protect the skin and gills of the fish.
  • As the weather becomes warmer and the fish become more active, feeding them can resume.

Hardy plants that were removed during the cleaning should also be inspected before being returned to the pond.

  • Examine plants for signs of new growth. If none is evident, check the roots for possible decay. Also check for evidence of disease or insect infestation. Some disease spores and insects can over-winter on dead plant material.
  • Trim off any dead plant material that may be left from the previous growing season.
  • Divide and repot plants as needed.
  • Add time-release aquatic plant food tablets, being sure to place them deeply into the soil.
  • The plants can then be returned to the pond, letting them sink slowly to prevent the soil from escaping into the water.

Spring algae bloom occurs when the temperature warms and the pond receives increased sunlight. Do not be alarmed. At this time, the nitrogen produced by the fish is merely greater than that being used by the plants. As the plants grow larger, they will use more nitrogen and the green water will begin to subside. Adding floating plants, to reduce the surface of the pond that receives direct sunlight, will aid in controlling algae as well.

Photographs courtesy of Judy Sedbrook.

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Date last revised: 01/05/2010