Got a battle on my hands, but it's gonna be fun


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Hi!

I'm an old school fish geek, finally bought a house with my husband in the Santa Cruz mountains.

The house has a once-beautiful concrete pond with two pools connected by a pass through, lovely rockwork, what must have been a beautiful waterfall, surrounded by native plants and ferns. I've been working on my garden and been putting off addressing the long-neglected pond, but it's time.

The pond has *years* of muck and has been standing stagnant for probably at *least* four years. Over the winter (our winters are extremely mild, never freezing) it was full of newts doing newty things, which was great. Currently, the newts seem absent, hopefully off in the river somewhere, and I'm sad to say the goldfish that the seller's agent dumped in prior to the sale have been eaten by a local bobcat and the few that remained otherwise perished, I suspect due to either tetraodotoxin from a dead newt or lack of oxygen from the anaerobic mess in the literally six inches of sludge at the bottom. So it's time and past time to adress it.

I'm excitedly awaiting a Metala Power Cyclone vacuum - I decided on it due to its ability to pump water *uphill* and away, as I do not want to discharge this nightmare sludge-water into the creek or river on the property and so must push it up a few feet to our driveway. The dogwood tree will enjoy the effluent, I'm sure.

I await also a debris-handling pump and filter, and am considering my plan of attack.

So:
Drain the entire system, pull the plants into a bucket, fish out any remaining newts, investigate the old plumbing (I strongly suspect a previous owner of pumping from the river into the pond, but who knows right now?), seal the entirety of the pond with... something? Then implement the pump/filter and start filling?

Or:
Vacuum out as much of the gooze as possible, leave plants in place, refill without further investigation, implement pump & filter and hope for the best?

The pond is likely not older than 1996, when the house was built. Is that "recent" enough to assume no major leaks? I'm beginning to be tempted toward a total drain, seal, etc., but it is compelling to consider just doing the minimum necessary for now and see how it goes for a year.

What would you do?
 
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Oh, and as the future of this body of water goes -

I *must* have something in it year-round to consume mosquito larve.

I do not wish to add Gambusia/mosquitofish, as I am on two waterways (a river and a creek that feeds to the river) and Gambusia are a dangerous competitor to our native fishes.

At least two of the native fishes are endangered, and I cannot use them in the pond without potentially getting in trouble. Speckled dace might be an option, as I've seen them in the river and could conceivably find a few for the pond. Local, non-endangered trout are perhaps an option, but I doubt the pond can stay clean and cold enough to sustain them.

I am not 100% opposed to goldfish, as they'd have a very hard time competing in these waterways and get eaten by everything out here, but am hopeful speckled dace are a viable option instead.
 
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Welcome vintage_fish!
How many gallons is the pond? Do you have a filtration system? I would do your first option. Disrupt as little as possible, vacuum and then do a leak test instead of completely emptying. There are a bunch of videos on line showing different ways to leak test. Regarding fish selection, I agree, avoid gambusia especially if there is risk in them being introduced into a local waterway. That would be awful. I would call a local wildlife department and ask them for fish suggestions. They might have a program with a university. Given your bobcat visitor (it's his yard too :) ) I would be very reluctant to get anything bright and inviting like a goldfish or koi. Again, welcome!
 

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@vintage_fish
 
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addy1

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Welcome to the forum!

Post pictures when you can. It helps us "see" what you have to work with.
 
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Welcome vintage_fish!
How many gallons is the pond?

I estimate roughly 1800 to 2000 US gallons.

Do you have a filtration system? I would do your first option.

Not yet, but on its way. I think I have a reasonable plan, by no means perfect, with a pressure filter with integrated UV - not Ideal, but considering the pond is heavily shaded for all but a couple of hours, I'm not super concerned about algae. There are too many water lilies, about 80 tons of duckweed, and many, many vascular plants with their roots creeping in to steal water and nutrients, too.

My biggest concern (after it's mucked out) is circulation. None is what it's currently got, so we'll see how it does with, literally, anything :p

Disrupt as little as possible, vacuum and then do a leak test instead of completely emptying. There are a bunch of videos on line showing different ways to leak test.

I will read up and watch some videos, thanks!

Investigating the old plumbing is the most important part I think; right now it's all 100% mystery.

Regarding fish selection, I agree, avoid gambusia especially if there is risk in them being introduced into a local waterway. That would be awful.

Definitely.

I would call a local wildlife department and ask them for fish suggestions. They might have a program with a university.

Good thought! Will see about who to get in touch with at UC Santa Cruz!

Given your bobcat visitor (it's his yard too :) )

It sure is! He was there first :)

I would be very reluctant to get anything bright and inviting like a goldfish or koi.

Honestly, if I go the carp route, I don't much mind the bobcats getting their snack on. I'd still rather something native.

Again, welcome!

Thank you!
 

addy1

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Rather than the pressure filter, have you read up about bogs. That is all I filter with and no cleaning except yanking plants.
 
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Here are a couple of photos, also labeled to kinda make things a bit more clear.

'Pond 1' is about 15' by 7', vaguely ovoid, and about 1.5' deep.

'Pond 2' is about 7' by 4', kidney to ovoid, about 2' deep.

There is a tunnel connecting the two.

There is a standpipe in the deepest part of Pond 2; this is the most necessary piece of plumbing to investigate. The pipe was probably galvanized, and is rusted and possibly crumbling.

The top of the waterfall in Pond 1 is perhaps 4' above the water surface.

My plan is to place the pump in Pond 2, run it to the pressure filter, from there to the waterfall. If the waterfall needs more oomph, I'll add a second pump, smaller, in the end of Pond 1 most opposite Pond 2. This, hopefully, will have everything circulating adequately.

A bog is probably not in the cards; at least not without some massive landscaping changes & challenges. Definitely not for the next couple of years.
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Well, the battle is on.

I fired up the vacuum and started sucking out muck, and very quickly learned that I'd better rake out the hidden sticks, branches, etc. first.

While raking, discovered that the pond is maybe a foot - a foot! - deeper than I'd thought; it was (is) just THAT FULL of junk. Poor pond hasn't been maintained in *years*.

So. I raked as best I could, which certainly wasn't enough. The amount of anaerobic nastiness is overwhelming; the pond is nearly *effervescent* with hydrogen sulfide and methane.

Then I vacuumed, and found a tiny patch of bottom! Long way to go.

I am certain, at this point, that the only way through this is to drain the pond entirely and muck it out with a coal shovel o.o It's that bad. Truly.

So looks like we're going the route of drain it all and start fresh. I'm excited to investigate (and likely eliminate) the old plumbing!

Oh, crap, did I mention? I'm a plumber, that's why the plumbing's exciting :)
 
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If your pond was stable no issues with ylgaes then why fix whats not broke
 
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If your pond was stable no issues with ylgaes then why fix whats not broke
It was *not* stable, not with a foot of sludge at the bottom. 100% of the fish perished, likely due to hydrogen sulfide and methane from the anaerobic mess in that sludge. I wish I could share the smell with you guys through the 'net - I'm pretty sure it's full of demons
 

addy1

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I wish I could share the smell with you guys through the 'net - I'm pretty sure it's full of demons
I tried to rescue some fish from a forcelosed house. The realtor called us. We went netted the fish out of some very black very smelly water you can never forget that smell. The fish lived for a bit then slowly all died even in our good water. Very pretty good sized fish.
 
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