Learning about my pond


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Howdy all. I am in SE Michigan. Wife and I purchased a home last fall with a small backyard pond. 17 goldfish initially (I lost one in November so 16 at last count) and according to the prior homeowner they spanned multiple generations. He built the pond 12 years ago as a DIY project. I'm really fond of the pond and the fish but completely clueless as to how to best manage going forward. Thus joined this forum. And apologies for a long introduction.

After purchasing the home we were already headed into cold weather. We netted the pond to keep the fall leaves out. I cleaned whatever large debris I could with a net. I started treating the water with the so-called beneficial cold weather bacteria instead of the chemical algaecide the prior owner used. I switched to a wheat germ fish food and stopped feeding after the water temps hit about 40F. I shut down the pump at beginning of November and stored it in a bucket of water in my basement. I purchased and installed an aerator and inserted a donut once the pond started to freeze. It is 80% frozen over now and I haven't been able to see the fish for awhile so I don't know how many have survived. Last I did see them, after our polar vortex of -13F, they seemed to be alive. The pond is only about 2.5 - 3 feet deep. One thing I didn't do was drain the skimmer (pump station?) so I'm hoping nothing cracked. I don't seem to have lost any water over the winter.

I'll have some questions in the near future as we head into spring. Just in general, I am interested in re-building the pond to make it a bit deeper and to perhaps re-do the waterfall feature. I had one contractor over in January and he gave me an estimate of $8K! Way outside my budget and I thought it excessive given most of the infrastructure is there and it seems it just needs a renovation rather than a complete rebuild. Secondly I'm shopping pond vacuums and trying to decide between a dedicated pond vac or whether I can just use a wet/dry shop vac. I've read through the threads here on vacuums but I might have some questions a bit later.
 

j.w

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@Mich50+ There are those here from very cold pond freezing locations that use what they call Pond Breathers to allow air for the fish. I don't have a skimmer but I think you prolly should have definitely turned it off. It may be toast. If there is no hole in the ice anywhere you can take a hot pot of boiling water and set the pan on the top of the pond to open it up. Don't dump the hot water in tho. Just hang onto it and let it melt. Some use cattle heaters or pond heaters during winter also but too late if your pond is already frozen. I and some others here don't use chemicals in the pond as they can throw everything off and cause bigger issues. Others will soon chime in too and try and help you out w/the fun of ponding! Good idea making the pond bigger. The bigger the better!
 
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welcome and yep seems the northwest is getting hit hard .You will need a few things to start you up for spring .Also be prepared for green water and try not to panic and buyt lots of chemicals when you see it happen .It is natural and will go away as long as you do not feed the fish to much and give the filter time to work .You will need a liquid API test kit to start you off right .You only say how deep ,but how big is it .Liner will will be the most expensive part and you will need epdm 45 mil liner .I don't need a skimmer as not much falls in my pond ,I just use a swimming pool net .So will leave the skimmer to others to tell you about that since I don't know much about them .Just remember that with a pond a vacuum you may suck up small fish and frogs by accident .You can build a pond way cheaper with a shovel and our help .Will you may get a few blisters and we won't help with that part .Do before pics in the construction area on here and we will be glad to get you threw it :)good luck and congrats on your new home
 
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Welcome! Yes, bigger ponds are better! And goldfish multiply like crazy. When you start planning you expansion, think about things like maybe a bog, for filtration, Addy is the master at that, and plant shelves. Water lillies look great, the flowers smell great, and they’ll help pull waste from the water that would otherwise feed algae. Many of us on here will be dividing and offering the divisions up for the cost of shipping. Other plants could help as well, if you don’t mind the fish eating a lot of them. If you do go that route, have an aquarium or kiddie pool for keeping some of the plants in reserve. My Goldie’s love duck weed, I have to grow it in my well seep and in back up aquariums to keep them supplied.
 
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Welcome, I have family in SE Michigan :) I have a Savio skimmer and never do anything special to it over the winter. I think lots of "pond builders " are over priced......we found a reputable one through our local fish hatchery.
 
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...I have a Savio skimmer and never do anything special to it over the winter...
Thanks for the responses. Good to know on the Savio. That is what mine is and the first thing the contractor said was "we have to get that out of there". I asked why and he said they tend to work themselves out of the ground. Seemed fishy to me (no pun intended). After all, isn't really just a plastic bucket? And I'm not sure if I'm using the correct terminology. I'm talking about the plastic bucket that sits in the ground and houses the pump. It has an entry door, an initial chamber and then the pump is in the second chamber with filters in between 1st and 2nd chamber. I don't have a skimmer like in a swimming pool that swims around collecting debris.

Another thing the contractor said is that he needed to bring the pond up to the proper amount of filtration. It surprised me because it is really a small pond and it has two filters. The filters that sit in the pump housing and the filters in the waterfall. Is that sufficient for such a small pond? The filters in the waterfall have the lava stones and under sit the two sponge filters. I was thinking of replacing the lava stones with the bioballs. Not sure which is more effective.

When I did my minimal winterization, I didn't drain the skimmer (pump house?) because I would have had to drop the water level. And I figured the fish needed every possible inch of water for insulation. Also there was a frog inside. I tried to catch it to relocate it but it was already getting cold out and the frog was faster than I was. Anyway, I just pulled out the pump and the connecting portions of pipe and left if full of water. i hope it didn't freeze inside and crack the housing (I read that can happen). I did drain the water fall filter box.

I managed to keep a hole open all winter. I had a couple of close-calls with my aerator ceasing to function when the tubes became trapped under ice. Once I was able to free the tubes with boiling water (outside the pond on the edge), the aerators resumed functioning. I had one placed in center of the donut and the donut seemed to do its job and kept a hole open.

I'm attaching a picture of the pond from late summer before we actually had purchased the home. We didn't get possession of the home until late October so a very short time until it was time to winterize. The pond sits under some huge trees so it will mostly be shaded in summer. And then fall it will receive a ton of leaves if I don't net it. The prior homeowner said that due to the pollen in the spring I need to hose off the filters at least once a week.

119035
 

addy1

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Welcome to our group! That is a nice pond.

I filter only with pea gravel and plants. We call it a bog, mine is big, but sure takes care of the pond. I am sure a professional pond builder would tell me it would never work.

I stuff my skimmer with bubble wrap, displacing most of the water, been doing that for years.
 
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I do think most “pond builders” are more interested in $ than in what really works. Which is why I’m doing my pond myself instead of paying to have it done. I know that I’ll make mistakes, but the folks on here have info on what does and does not work, and can help for free with all the advise I’d ever want!
 
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What a pretty pond! I just leave my pump in the skimmer, I do disconnect it so the lines can drain. Sounds like your filtration is working just fine :)
 
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Greetings ! How many gallons is your pond? There are online calculators for this - its a good no. to know when considering things like pump size, filtration needs, etc.
 
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I stuff my skimmer with bubble wrap, displacing most of the water, been doing that for years.
What a great and obvious solution that I totally did not think of! I should have joined this forum back in November ...
 
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Greetings ! How many gallons is your pond? There are online calculators for this - its a good no. to know when considering things like pump size, filtration needs, etc.
I'm guessing under 1,000 gallons. Contractor's estimate is was to do a small expansion of the existing and dig deeper and he estimated 8x12x3 which is about 1,700. I haven't measured myself and the bottom is far from even with stones and ledges. And it isn't perfectly round so I'll hazard a guess that it all averages out to 7x10x2 for about 800 gallons. Maybe the deepest spot is about 3 feet (I'll measure this spring).
 
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Welcome to the forum @Mich50+
I'm in Michigan too! :)
I run my ponds until the ice buildup starts to starve the pumps, then I shut them down leaving the pumps in the skimmers.

A word of advise watch out for incompetent contractors, there seem to be quite a few around here!
 
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My spring startup has gone fairly well and the fish and 2 resident frogs seemed to be doing well too. The other night the fish were attacked by a predator, I assume raccoons. A week or so ago, my garage security cam recorded a pair of raccoons climbing over my privacy fence. I checked the pond as soon as I saw the video and everything was fine. But a few days after that, I went out to the pond in the morning and very few fish visible. My fish are not known to hide and I didn't even think they had good hiding spots now that the plants died off over winter. Last fall, we anchored a half dozen fake lillies for them. It took a couple of days to get a good count because the fish were extremely skittish whereas prior they had always been very bold. I think I've lost approximately 3 which is a relief given that initially I thought I had lost about 8 (others were just good at hiding) inclusive of my largest/oldest. I found a very large flower pot that was made of concrete and stone which I managed to break in half to form a tunnel. I sank that and they appear to have taken to it and are often hiding inside.
 

addy1

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We have raccoons but I have never noticed a loss of fish to them. But my ponds are deep enough they would need to swim to catch them.
 
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j.w

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I've had raccoons and they can make a real mess, knocking things over trying to get the fish. Had to reinforce my fence w/more wires so they could not get in. So far so good!
They will come back to your pond as they know you have fish now @Mich50+ :(
 

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