My Spring startup plan - ok?


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Howdy all. I read through the older Spring startup threads and I've watched Youtube and I am leaning towards a plan of only a partial water change, a cleaning of my pump, skimmer (the pump house?) and a change of the filters/media. So I would say it is a 'light touch' startup. In my winter shutdown, I cleaned out all the leaves I could access (had the pond netted), stored the pump in my basement in a bucket of water, installed aerators and a pond donut.

Can you experienced folks let me know if I'm missing anything or should do anything extra? Here is my introductory thread and the basics: purchased a house last Fall with an existing DIY pond. prefer to re-build but too costly at this time so I will run it as-is for at least another season. I think under 1,000 gallons averaging about 8x12x3. it is currently 80% iced over. the 20% that isn't iced is thanks to a pond donut and a dual-head aerator. 16 goldfish although they haven't been seen in quite awhile due to ice. I sincerely hope they are alive.

I'll start with a few questions/points for feedback:
  • when should I perform the cleaning and startup? is it based on water temperature, air temperature+forecast or fish activity level?
    • I removed my pond donut yesterday as our 10 day forecast is 20s at night and 40s during the day. aerators will stay in.
    • I expect/hope maybe most ice will be melted within a couple of weeks
  • I have the existing filter/media left by prior homeowner. there is 1 that sits in front of the pump and 2 that go into the waterfall box. on top of the waterfall filters I have a bag of lava rocks
    • are the plastic bio balls better/worse than the lava rocks?
    • the sponge filters are all of the same material and density - is there a go-to filter material or brand I should replace them with?
  • I'm planning only a partial water change for the following reasons
    • been reading that maybe a full water change and cleaning damages too much of the beneficial bio-film
    • I plan to drain enough that I can get a good look at the condition of the bottom of the pond and better access to clean solids/leaf debris
    • I plan to use a Shop Vac with a built-in water pump to lightly clean debris from the bottom. keeping an eye out for any live critters
    • I will house the fish in a large tote with an aerator with a net covering during the cleaning
  • Other things
    • I'm not sure what plants I have that are perennial - I might need to order/buy some - is there a preferred vendor for pond plants? Most beneficial for water quality for SE Mich? I have no idea in my area where I can purchase aquatic plants
    • I read a little about Japanese Trap Door snails on a pond supply site. Seller says they are not invasive and very good for keeping water clean. Is this a good/bad idea? At what water/air temperature can I introduce them to the pond?
    • I plan to resume my cold water beneficial bacteria treatments soon
    • I bought a de-chlorinator for the partial water change - besides treating the new water introduced and using the beneficial bacteria - any other water treatment I should plan on using at start-up or over the summer? Prior homeowner was using a chemical but I plan to try to stay natural if possible.

Sorry for the long post. Perhaps many of my questions/doubts could be answered by searching all the threads - I did some basic reading but wanted to consolidate my plan and get some feedback before I execute. Thanks for any advice.
 

addy1

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I introduced trap door snails years ago. I have a lot of them, very seldom have any debris on the bottom of the pond. Bought 100 from trickers.
Seller says they are not invasive and very good for keeping water clean. Is this a good/bad idea?
been reading that maybe a full water change and cleaning damages too much of the beneficial bio-film
I personally never drain my pond or do partial water changes. Mine gets good water change overs when it rains.
If and when I feel like cleaning the bottom, which is seldom any more, I found a swimming pool net worked great. I would dump the debris onto a screen so I could pick out the snails, dragon fly larvae and anything else I found alive. Vacs suck up everything including critters.

I used to net the bottom every spring, quit about 5ish years ago, never got enough debris to make it worth the time.

I'm not sure what plants I have that are perennial - I might need to order/buy some - is there a preferred vendor for pond plants?
Watch the forum quite often one of us is purging plants, they grow like weeds. I have bought some on the net, way back when I started the pond. Just check around there are a lot of good vendors. This company sends great plants, might not be the cheapest but the plants are healthy.

 
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addy1

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16 goldfish although they haven't been seen in quite awhile due to ice. I sincerely hope they are alive.
They are very good at hiding over winter. I am just now seeing mine swim around, water temp is 41f

I will be starting up my bog soon, but we are a bit warmer than you. I wait until the night temps stay above 40 or more. With the water surface of our bog it chills the water a lot when running if it is cold.
 

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I've never done water changes. To be honest, my startup plan is basically just hooking the hoses back up to the pump and turning it on. It has been a couple years since I've scooped any debris at the very bottom. I won't do that until it's warmer, though. I'll wait until the frogs start sitting out before I do that. I always have some leaves to scoop on the shelves. I usually do that as soon as I start it up.
 
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You might be overthinking this juuuuuuuust a tad. Like @JBtheExplorer , I have never done a water change. Not in the spring, summer, fall... never. Just not a big believer. The whole concept comes from the aquarium world, which is similar to pond keeping but just not the same. There are those who do believe in them and do them on a regular basis and honestly - the results appear to be the same. So being that I'm a relatively lazy pond keeper, I opt for the "less work" style of management.

Bottom cleaning - again. I'm not a big believer in keeping the pond bottom pristinely clean. As you noted, lots of little critters live there and many are microscopic. If you have a heavy load of leaves or organic material in the pond bottom, get a good net (I prefer a pool style over the ones the pond stores sell) and scoop as much as you can. Good enough is good enough in this case.

I also don't add any bacteria. A pond that's been established for 12 years has plenty of it. Just don't do anything to kill it, and your pond will be fine. Save yourself some $$$ and ditch the bacteria. (If you already have it, go ahead and use it up - it won't hurt anything.)

As for filter media - personal choice again. Some people swear by lava rocks. Others love bio balls. Give yourself a little time to see what's working for you and your pond and then you can make that decision for yourself.

And remember to keep separate in your mind the advice you read about KOI pond keeping vs GARDEN pond keeping - they are also very different things. You have a garden pond which requires much less tinkering on your part.

Plants - none are "better" than any others. The important thing is to find things that will grow in your pond. What's growing in it now? If you're not sure share some photos and we can help ID. As for where to buy them - many nurseries sell plants that aren't advertised as aquatic, but will grow in a pond. Or they may be willing to get you some things if you have something in particular in mind.

Hope this helps!
 
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Where are you, Mich50? I'm in the south, so more plants make it through the winter here. But I am really enjoying my water celery. It has come back for 2 years running and spreads eagerly (just shy of being nutty and annoying.) It makes low clumps of variegated light green and pink lacy leaves. It spreads with "fingers" and comes up through some of the rocks onto the dry side. I like the way it is helping naturalize the edges of the pond. If it gets in spots where I don't want it, I just grab a bunch and cut it or tear it. When I do, it smells so fresh and nice! I got it at Lowe's - a little bitty plant for very cheap!
The first picture shows it in the lower right quadrant of the picture. That was when it got growing like gangbusters and before I yanked a bunch out. (Doing so stirs up a ton of debris and the fish LOVE it! They are obnoxious and get all in my business when I'm working!). The second picture shows a little finger that has crept out and grown in front of the little fairy house.
 

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Oh wait -- I re read and see you are in Michigan. I don't know if the celery would make it, but if you like it, I'd give it a try. It is cheap enough to experiment with.
 

JBtheExplorer

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You might be overthinking this juuuuuuuust a tad.
I remember doing the same when I first started. I was terrified that I was going to mess something up. After a year or two, I started to realize that the simpler you do things, the better the pond seems to be, but I'll always give credit to @addy1's bog building thread for the success of my pond. I have no doubt that my bog is entirely why I've had no serious problems with my pond. Other than a few basic things, I don't do much to my pond and it's been working for five years. To be honest, it's gone so well that when something does go wrong, I'll have no idea what to do. :LOL:
 
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I have no doubt that my bog is entirely why I've had no serious problems with my pond.
Same here @JBtheExplorer - I bless the day I first heard the concept on a pond walk. A guy just offhandedly mentioned "and that's my upflow bog" and I was like "say that again now". The more I heard, the more sense it made. We were literally in the process of putting together our purchase list and scratched the biofalls off the list, re-drew a few things, added some plumbing pieces and AquaBlox and have never regretted it!
 
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addy1

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I love my bog, built the entire system with just it for filtration. I have had no issues since the first fill up, well except acidic well water.
Almost zero care pond. I can turn it on and ignore the pond for the entire summer and it does just fine. Basically did that last summer, it was a rough year. Poor pond was ignored, the fish and critters did fine without my help.
 
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Well you all definitely have me rethinking the idea of a water change. Exactly why I came here. I just figured "a lot of rotting stuff on the bottom - better get it out" ... After reading some posts on the bogs I did some reading and video watching. Glad I'm learning of this before I set out to rebuild the pond. Definitely a bog will be in the plans. I like the idea of an upflow bog much better than a waterfall. Actually mine isn't truely a waterfall now. Instead of a fall, it is a meandering stream that runs around one side of the pond and empties back into the pond almost at water level. Wonder if there is some way I can build it up a little, add extra stones and get some plants to root and thus provide more filtration? The streambed is mostly full of larger stones now. If I brush a few aside I can see the liner underneath.

Funny the contractor that quoted me $8K to rebuild my small pond never mentioned a bog. And I don't see it in his estimate. He did price a lot of extra filtration into the estimate.

I spotted one of my larger goldfish today. It was peeking out from under the ice and disappeared as I approached the pond. A good sign.

I also removed the lid to the skimmer box and found that it is frozen inside. Hope it hasn't cracked. Looks like it would be a major pain to pull that out of the ground and fit in another. The contractor basically told me the Savio skimmer box had to go anyway. Is Savio a bad brand? I noticed my pump is also Savio.
 

addy1

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The contractor basically told me the Savio skimmer box had to go anyway. Is Savio a bad brand? I noticed my pump is also Savio.
The more they remove the more they can charge you for replacing it. One of the members uses savio brand equipment and loves it.

You can build the bog and have it water fall into the pond. Mine waterfalls back in.
I also removed the lid to the skimmer box and found that it is frozen inside.
Next year stuff it with bubble wrap, displaces some of the water, can't freeze solid.
 
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Make sure if you're hiring someone to do this job that you get someone who really knows how to build ponds. Many landscapers add "pond builder" to their list of services when they really have no clue. It's far more than just digging and lining a hole with liner. For example, many don't have a clue about proper filtration or the differences between the types. We had a member a few months back with some big time problems with their pond - turns out it had no filtration AT ALL. Professionally built nightmare.

Have you posted pictures of your pond? We could maybe answer your question about your stream if we could see what you currently have.
 
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I would also suggest watching The Pond Digger's How to Build a Fish Pond videos on YouTube. They are extremely entertaining (to pond folks) and very educational. Even if you don't need or want every snippet of info, you are bound to pick up some good tips. If you are wanting to add a little bit of height to your water drop, I think you will get some good info on this. He talks a lot about avoiding the "volcano" of rocks look - and how to do that. If nothing else, you will probably have fun watching them as you wait for Spring to get here!
 
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To be fair to pond contractors...they are in business to stay in business. If they built the perfect pond every time, they would not be in business for very long.
I think the best use of a pond contractor is to get them to construct the basics of a pond and then the pond owner decides if they would like to have someone else regularly maintain it or they would like to have an ecosystem that looks after itself for the most part.
A self sustaining ecosystem is not something a pond contractor will sell you.
Everyone has their own preferences.
 
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I just wanted to report back on my pond startup. I did about a 1/3rd water replacement as I skimmed a bunch of stuff off the bottom. The ShopVac wasn't that great at sucking up the bigger leaves or sticks off the bottom. I found that once the water got stirred up, stuff kind of floated up and I could get it with the vacuum or my skimmer net for larger debris. The latter has proved to be very effective. Then, over a few days, after the water was more clear, I could spot debris that I missed and then grab it with the skimmer net. I've been treating once per week with the so-called beneficial bacteria. The pond is looking pretty good right now and some of the plants are coming back. We have at least 2 resident frogs and the fish seem healthy. I guess the prior homeowner had the plants rooted in pots at the bottom - I'm surprised at their return. We're planning a trip soon to the PondGuy (they are in our area) to pick up some more plants and some snails. Got the pump working and waterfall working. I have a bit of leakage around the waterfall that I'm not too sure the source of. Once our rains slow I might try to dry it for a couple of days and spray some of the waterfall sealant in the rocks.

As far as filter cleaning. I've pulled the skimmer/pump filter out once per week to hose it down. But the waterfall filters and bioballs we treated with the bacteria starter stuff. So is it correct that generally we should leave these alone and not clean them very often? Every time we've had rain or strong wind we're getting a bunch of tree buds in the pond. The filter in the skimmer box gets gunked up pretty quickly but I haven't touched the waterfall filters.
 

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