New pond, nervous about winter

Discussion in 'Introductions' started by Spartamets, Dec 8, 2016.

  1. Spartamets

    Spartamets

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    Hi, all--I have only recently joined this forum, but I recognize it from the many times it came up when I conducted searches during the various stages of setting up my water feature. I understand that protocol dictates that I post pictures of my pond, but since it is December I am reluctant to do so. It would be a poor introduction, I fear. I will do so if it is either necessary for help in answering my (many, many, many) questions or if showing pictures of a pond for the first time when it is basically at its worst is normal here. I joined this forum for many reasons, among them that this group blends knowledge and friendliness like no other that I have seen. I appreciate the opportunity to be here.

    I plan to post a stupid amount of questions in the days and weeks to come, but I will spread them out so as not to overwhelm. I think a little background of the pond might provide needed context. To begin, I didn't originally intend to even build a pond; it kind of just happened. I wanted a waterfall, realized I needed a repository for all the water, then learned I needed plants to filter the water to avoid an assortment of potential problems, then learned that I needed fish to eat the mosquitos that would breed in the waterfall pool. This last fact I discovered when, after digging out enough of the pond and following a heavy rain that would not drain (the ground here is pretty much heavy-duty clay), the water in the hole started to wiggle as a single seething mass. And so I ended up with a pond, stream, and waterfall(s). I started digging in July and had things functioning more or less by early September. It took six or so weeks from there to eliminate the water loss that I experienced from various expressions of my ignorance and incompetence--liner holes by the skimmer box (messed up screws), waterfall splash, etc. I added the first of the fish in mid-September and worked up to 14 fish total by the time the pond was working in a "it's not leaking or broken" kind of way in late October.

    Needless to say, this was not the ideal time to get a pond up and running. By the time I was ready to add water plants, the stores had run out of all oxygenators, and other kinds of plants were basically slim pickings. I was able to add a lily and iris (flower-free) from my neighbor who is a landscaper, some of whose clients have ponds with excess growth, along with enough other plants to maintain bare functionality. The pond is about 16x10. Because I was not planning to have fish, I don't think I made it deep enough--correction, I KNOW I didn't make it deep enough. The ridiculous clay, coupled with a very dense web of tree roots from a large maple that had been cut down two years prior about two feet from the pond edge, made me beyond reluctant to go deeper than I did. Also, the property is a slight incline, so I actually dug about a three or 3 1/2 foot pond at its deepest point. But the water level itself is only about 15 inches when the water is just below the weir door of the skimmer. That's another thing I did wrong: the skimmer was set in too low, so that if I want it to actually skim the water surface, the water has to be kept at that too-low level. Final details for now: the pump is 4800 GPH, I have a biofalls, I have a lot of (natural) additives on hand like bacterial start-ups, barley, melafix, etc., and I have cleaned the skimmer filter frequently to this point but the biofilter in the waterfall not at all. Oh and the fish are as follows: 2 shubunkins, 2 comets, 2 fantails, 4 orfes (I love those), and 4 koi.

    I will stop droning on now and just ask this one question to start: Is it OK if I fill my pond over the top of the weir opening in order to add to the depth for the winter? I have netting over the pond and will have completed the leaf cleanup, etc. by the time this coming weekend is over. (The leaves are totally bare at this point, and none overhang the pond proper anyway.) I am able to bring the water level to at least 2 feet if I ignore the weir door. I know that the pump will still work, because we just got enough rain to push the water level up high enough, and everything is still working fine. I plan to run the pump as long as possible this winter but have a de-icer and small aerator on hand for when the time inevitably arises when I have to turn off the pump to avoid an ice jam. I want to keep the level as high as possible for the winter, and I wish I could leave it higher year-round, frankly. I really wish I had put the skimmer in at a better height. So I guess I can broaden my question: would there be any meaningful consequences if I filled my pond about a 8 or 10 inches over the top of the weir door opening, year round? I really don't mind plucking leaves and the like out of the pond manually.

    Thank you all, and I apologize for being so long-winded, especially for my first post.
     
    Spartamets, Dec 8, 2016
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  2. Spartamets

    Meyer Jordan Tadpole

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    Welcome.
    I see no real problem with maintaining a high water level over the winter.
    What make/model skimmer do you have? When the pond water is at the level that you like, how far, in inches, over the top of the skimmer weir opening is this water level?
     
    Meyer Jordan, Dec 8, 2016
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  3. Spartamets

    Becky Administrator

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    Just wanted to say welcome to the forum :)
     
    Becky, Dec 8, 2016
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  4. Spartamets

    addy1 water gardener / gold fish and shubunkins Moderator

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    Welcome to our group!

    Very informative first post.
    We usually don't freeze that deep in Maryland. I am in a colder zone than you.

    By the size you posted at 2 feet deep the gallons is around 320, to small for koi. You may need to re-home them eventually.
    At 3 feet you have around 480 gallons.
    Ask your question we will all try to help you.
     
    addy1, Dec 8, 2016
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  5. Spartamets

    MitchM

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    Welcome Spartamets!:)
     
    MitchM, Dec 8, 2016
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  6. Spartamets

    sissy sissy

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    Not sure how many gallons you have since you say different levels .That is a lot of fish and they will get bigger and they will have babies .
     
    sissy, Dec 8, 2016
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  7. Spartamets

    EricV

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    16x10x3 (assuming a box, which it is not) is 3600 gallons.

    The concern I'd have about putting in extra water is that eventually it will come into the skimmer box and overflow out of that. In the spring, is there any way you can raise the skimmer? Is there slack in the liner you could use? Can you pull liner over from the other side? This sounds like a really sunken pond to me and I imagine you'll be happier if you get it right, even if it involves pulling out the liner and putting in new. Compared to the work you've already done, that sounds like not so much.
     
    EricV, Dec 8, 2016
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  8. Spartamets

    Spartamets

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    Hi, everyone, thank you for your replies. It is good to be here and I appreciate the warm words of welcome.

    Meyer, I will be able to measure the depth this weekend after I remove the nets for the final cleaning for the season. (I'll put the nets back on afterwards.) I think I will take pictures then to make this discussion less abstract. I can't remember which model number was associated with my skimmer and which for the falls box, but they were compatible. They are Aquascape and one was the 1500 and the other was a 4500. (I think the 4500 was the skimmer.) I am glad to hear that having a higher water level will be OK for the winter. I am hoping it wouldn't be too problematic for the other seasons, either.

    Hi, addy1 and sissy, I'm not sure of the exact size of the pond, since I have a large planting shelf, a ledge around the perimeter, and the bottom is not uniform in any case. My rough calculations had put it into the 1,000-1,600 gallon category, probably around 1,250, and I used that number to guide my fish acquisitions once I resolved to actually get them. I know that I have taken a risk with getting koi, and I have ideas for possibly addressing that concern in a couple of years after I see how much they grow.

    EricV, I have no problem with water getting into the box and overflowing; I located the pond such that this needn't be much of a concern. However, since I had such terrible water loss for the first couple of months (losing only an inch in a day was a rare treat), I hadn't really stopped to worry about too MUCH water. I will perhaps reconsider if circumstances indicate I should. However, I am will definitely not take up the liner and dig further down. That is way more than I would be willing to do. I might add another small adjacent pond for depth that I connect to this one, but that is for another day/year, if it happens at all. I built in a reasonable amount of slack around the skimmer, so raising it up is theoretically possible. I am kind of afraid to do so, though, due to the problems I had in attaching it to the liner last time. Attaching both the skimmer and the falls led to leaks for me, and they were both extremely difficult for me to address. (They were an even bigger struggle for me to do the first time around, for that matter.)

    Also, in putting some large rocks around the skimmer, I created a place where all of the fish hide. Basically 22-23 hours a day, near as I can tell. I'm not sure if it is a good idea to move their "home." I have actually wondered about doing so, because I am not sure if were their home is at a depth equivalent to where I know the pond is deepest. It's probably close, but if I had known they would make that pile of their rocks a hide-out, I would have put it in the (known) deeper area. If I were to raise the skimmer box next year, I'll obviously have to do this. I'm also not sure about HOW to raise the box if it comes to it.

    Thanks again, everyone. When I post pictures this weekend, please understand that in addition to being in poor shape for seasonal reasons, the pond is also a little incomplete. In particular, both my back and my budget surrendered after two pallets of rocks. Next year I will need to add at least one more pallet, and maybe even a second. But moving rocks by the ton is both expensive and difficult, especially this past summer, which turned out to have been an especially dumb time to build this pond. It was HOT.
     
    Spartamets, Dec 8, 2016
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  9. Spartamets

    Meyer Jordan Tadpole

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    I calculate about 2400 gallons. 16 x 10 x 2 x 7.48 = 2393.6 gallons.
     
    Meyer Jordan, Dec 8, 2016
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  10. Spartamets

    Spartamets

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    Hi, quick edit: my skimmer is not from Aquascape, it is Atlantic, and it is the 4500 model. The falls are the 1500.
     
    Spartamets, Dec 8, 2016
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  11. Spartamets

    Meyer Jordan Tadpole

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    The skimmer module can be raised. I have had to do this in the past with incorrect installations. It does require a little work, but is doable....leak-free.
    This is where the measurement that I inquired about is important.
     
    Meyer Jordan, Dec 8, 2016
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  12. Spartamets

    EricV

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    Sorry, I'm not suggesting you dig deeper. Rather that you raise the skimmer. It sounds like you have ground level and then the water level is about a foot below that but you have liner coming up to ground level. If all that's true and you can just put dirt under the skimmer you will raise it and also the water level. Making better use of the liner you already have and the big hole you already dug..

    Of course, maybe I've just misunderstood the situation entirely. :)
     
    EricV, Dec 8, 2016
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  13. Spartamets

    EricV

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    Ah, that's good. It shouldn't be too bad, I would think. You should be able to use the same holes and such just removing the silicone/RTV that was used in your initial install. And if you've done it twice already, the third time should be easier. :)

    Please don't worry at all about photos to be posted. Sure, there are some amazing, immaculate ponds featured here. There are lots of others that are constant works in progress. Everyone here is friendly and constructive as far as I can tell.
     
    EricV, Dec 8, 2016
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  14. Spartamets

    Spartamets

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    Hi, Meyer and EricV--It sounds like I will have to raise the skimmer next year. The pond is indeed sunken, and there is liner available to accommodate raising it. The point where the skimmer is located isn't so far below ground; it's the incline of my yard that leads to the wasted liner. But there is definitely room to raise the skimmer. I liked preserving the incline for waterfall purposes and still do, but it clearly caused me to visualize the final outcome incorrectly while I was in the digging stage. When I post pictures in the next couple of days, things will be more velar. I regret now that I failed to follow protocol. I should have posted my pictures with my initial post. I apologize.
     
    Spartamets, Dec 8, 2016
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  15. Spartamets

    EricV

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    No worries!
     
    EricV, Dec 8, 2016
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  16. Spartamets

    addy1 water gardener / gold fish and shubunkins Moderator

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    lol I should have used the pond calculator................it was before coffee and I have a bad cold, kept thinking something was wrong
     
    addy1, Dec 8, 2016
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  17. Spartamets

    addy1 water gardener / gold fish and shubunkins Moderator

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    yep my brain was not working!
     
    addy1, Dec 8, 2016
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  18. Spartamets

    sissy sissy

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    I put a gallon water meter on my hose so I could I could get a somewhat accurate water volume .I did get snow so it came down to a some what guess by size and depth .Last time I had my pond different levels this time I made the bottom totally level ,hard to do but worth it when I net out the pond
     
    sissy, Dec 8, 2016
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  19. Spartamets

    peter hillman Let me think for minute....

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    Welcome, we allow photo's of pond here;);).
    Simply click the 'upload a file'.
     
    peter hillman, Dec 9, 2016
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  20. Spartamets

    snoozer

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    Welcome. Careful with the aerator in winter. The one and only year i used an aerator in winter we had a very harsh weather. I am not sure if it was the air stones to low in the water but I lost count of the fish that I lost. I went back to a small pump in a bucket on the plant shelf and bought pond breathers which have worked very well.
     
    snoozer, Dec 9, 2016
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