Life in Your New Pond for Dummies

Our Team of Experts

Life in Your New Pond for Dummies...and useful hints for the rest of us.

SKIPPY SEZ: We are not going to try and go into all the aspects of what you can and can not do in order to have life flourish in your pond.

We will give you a broad overview of some of the most common forms of life which people introduce to their ponds and/or are put there by Mom. Here is something we keep harping on, but we need to always keep it in mind. Mom, (Mother Nature) does a pretty good job of adding life to the pond. It is her job and she has been doing it for sometime now. Right from the start she began putting life into your pond even before the water was shutoff. She tossed in a few bugs, a dash of micro organism, a little plant life and such...this batch of life gets mixed in the big bowl you call your pond and a cycle starts. Life breeds, lives and dies. Life forms eat other life forms, new life comes to the pond, in fact the longer the pond is in operation the more life comes to it. That is Mom's way and we got to deal with it. Which is not all that bad, as long as we follow her rule and example. Mom takes care of her own. When we add a life form to the pond we need to think about what that life form does to the other life that is already there. Also keep in mind that food and oxygen needs to be supplied for life to exist. The food can come naturally to the pond as long as there is not an overcrowding problem or supplied by you. Oxygen that is used up by the life in the pond can be replenished by some type of aeration, waterfall, fountain etc.. But the balance of life must be maintained or death is the result. Understanding this concept is the first step in urging Mom to let us have the type of life we want. To best illustrate this point we will again discuss the dreaded "green water" problem.

So, let's talk algae. Algae is one of the first forms of life that comes to a new pond. For those of you who do not know what algae is, it is microscopic plant life and after you have a pond for awhile you will get to know it as "green water." Most of us who want a pond like to have the water bright and clear. We want to see the fish and plants all the way to the bottom. So, we got to deal with this green water problem. There has been a ton of stuff written about green water and we will not attempt to discuss all the ins and outs and solutions to it here, but to just give an overview. Mom puts algae in the pond for a good reason. Algae is way down on the food chain, almost everything in your pond eats algae, including bacteria and the higher forms of animal life. If you take that into consideration then you will get a hint on how to overcome the green water problem.

Let us spell it out, if you want a clear water pond with life in it, then put or grow enough other forms of life that will eat the algae. When you get to that point, were the water is clear and life is doing well, you will have achieved what most people call a "balanced pond." Please do not get us wrong here, we are not saying that a murky pond or a over abundance of algae is an unhealthy pond for that might not be the case, what we are saying is that one way to get a clear pond is to balance the effect of algae growth with life that eats algae. A good starting point is the filter. A pond filter is different from a pool filter in the respect that a good pond filter in our opinion is a place were the biological effect that Mom set up from the beginning can take place. Where beneficial bacterial can do it's job of eating algae and decompose waste matter. Also by adding other plant life you tell Mom what form of life you want. If you kill off all her algae without replacing it with another form of life she will get upset and just put the algae back. That in a nutshell is what we mean when we say you have to work with Mom to get what you want.

If you want a more detailed explanation of the biological effect of filtration Click here for the "FM Cure for Green Water".

If you want a rule of thumb as far as what higher forms of life you can and can not put into your pond? How about this... put whatever you want! That is as long as you are willing and able to take care of it and can accept the consequences.

Let's talk food chain. If you put some life form in your pond it has to eat. That is the way it works. Now, it does not take a marine biologist to know that some fish eat other fish, and big fish normally eat smaller fish. So when you stock your pond take that into account. If you put in a northern pike and a few small goldfish, soon you will have a fat pike and no goldfish. Now, we are not saying you can not have a northern pike, that is up to you, but you are going to have to provide for that pike and the consequences of having it. Any fish or other life you put in your pond has to become compatible with the other forms of life there.

Also climate and water conditions effect the life that will live in your pond. Example: You will have a hard time trying to get a salt water ropical electric eel to flourish in an out door pond in Manitoba Canada. There are of course other considerations, like breeding habits etc., the best recommendation we can make is to investigate the life form you want to put into your pond before you actually do it.

SKIPPY SEZ: Here are a few recommendations as to compatible life for the average pond...

KOI, we like koi, they are beautiful, lively and relatively easy to care for in both warm and cold climates. If you want to find out about koi, take your search engine and put in the word "koi" or "nishikigoi" (Japanese word) and you will soon have a whole wealth of information on this subject. Some call them just "colorful carp" and that is somewhat the case, but calling a world class "kohaku" or "showa" (types of koi) a carp is like calling the ceiling of the Sistine chapel just a paint job. Take a long hard look at koi keeping and we think you will find them rewarding in ways you never dreamed of.

Goldfish, yes they make nice pond fish and they have some redeeming value, but in our opinion why have a goldfish when you can have a koi? It seems that a lot of people start off with a few goldfish and then add koi later, which is fine, but why not just start with koi? We think the main reason is cost. Goldfish are cheap, but quality koi are not that much more. The main thing to keep in mind when buying goldfish or any other fish for that matter is be careful. Buy only fish you can be relatively sure are free of disease. Stay away from the so called "feeder fish", for that is what they are, fish to feed to other fish.

Golden Orfe, neat fish, hard to find and in some states, illegal to keep. If you can find them and are allowed to keep them, a few of these guys can be fun. They dart around like they have someplace to go all the time. It is best to have a few Orfes together for they seem to like to be in schools, which must mean they like to learn. (sorry, could not help it) In England they are a very common pond fish.

Catfish, suckers, bottom feeders, etc. Again just be careful and remember the food chain. A channel cat can grow very large and does not always feed on the bottom. Algae eaters in the aquarium are fine, but in the pond they seem to disappear and really do not do much to limit the algae growth. Keep in mind your climate and requirements for keeping fish in cold weather.

Trout, bluegills, pike, bass and other game fish. Well, it is up to you, but keep in mind the upkeep, the food chain and also any local, state or national governmental requirements, like permits and such. (hint... a few small bluegills really help to keep down a goldfish over-breeding problem, but they grow so be careful) Fish sold as "sketter-eaters" are most likely just minnows which need fresh high oxygenated water to live.

Snails, tadpoles, turtles and such, we like them. They are fun to watch. The problem with them is that they have the habit of not staying were you put them. Tadpoles become frogs, frogs have legs, frogs use those legs to hop. Bye, bye frog. We hope you get the point. Snails will usually stay in the pond and they have some beneficial effect on algae growth, but consideration should be given to climate and breeding habits (some are very proliferate breeders and can become a problem in themselves). Turtles are interesting and seem to go hand in hand with a pond, but they do have legs and some like to eat fish. With this type of pond life we can only say the best you can do is roll the dice, some do well, some do not. Get as much information as you can before spending money on them.

The Great White Shark: not recommended for backyard ponds!

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Last updated November 21, 1999
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