Spring pond care

Spring is so nearly upon us. The days are getting lighter, daffodils are pushing up and the birds are singing. Now is the time to make your pond ready for spring and summer. 

Inspect

The first thing to do is go out and look at the pond, and inspect it. Is the filter still running? Can you see any dead fish floating? Is the cover net still covering the pond or is it sagging in the water? 

Its been an awful winter for storms so marginal pond plants may have blown over, there may be foreign objects in the pond like pieces of fence panel, litter – old fireworks have even been found in ponds before now. 

What is the water level of the pond like? With all this rainfall the pond will be right at the rim, so the first thing to do is to remove some water.

If you have a backwash facility on your filter, use it, cleaning the filter and removing pond water at the same time. Bring the water level down to around 4” from the top of the pond. There’s still plenty more rainfall to come. 

Maintain your filter

When your filter is cleaning have a look inside it. It may need a double backwash to remove the worst of the mulm and debris. Smell it. If it stinks it may have anaerobic areas within it where leaves are breaking down and rotting. These need to be removed. 

If your filter has sponges get them out and clean them in old pond water. The water will feel freezing but its necessary. If the sponges don’t spring back to shape or are smaller than they used to be, its time for a change.

If a sponge is your filter’s only filter media, don’t change it all at once and you will remove that valuable bacteria. If you have separate, plastic biological media then leave that where it is and it’s ok to remove and replace the sponge part of the filter entirely. Check sealing rings on pressurised filters, firstly that they are there, and they are in one piece and not perished. Replace if necessary.

Change the UV bulb

March is the time to replace the bulb in your Ultraviolet clarifier. Most UV bulbs are only fully effective for six months of continuous use, so buy a new one in March and it will be fully effective through to September.

UV tubes sit within a glass case called a quartz sleeve. Gently remove the quartz and clean it. It should be clean, clear and free of limescale if it’s going to be effective. If you can’t clean it to a state like new, its time for a replacement.

Check the rubber O rings that hold the quartz sleeve in place. These are essential for waterproofing. And be careful when handling the quartz sleeve as they are very brittle and prone to breaking.

UV bulbs shouldn’t be handled with bare skin as oily fingerprints affect performance, so use a rubber glove, hold the bulb by the metal element, or hold using a paper towel. 

Never maintain a UV bulb while it is plugged in and running. The UV light it emits is dangerous to look at.      

Inspect your fish

Count and inspect the fish if you can. How are they looking? Are they plump or do they look like they need a feed? Are they swimming ok or do they look lethargic? Do they have any while lumps like candle wax (carp pox) or does their skin look like its covered in thick, opaque mucus?

Carp pox is seasonal and will go. Its nothing to worry about, but if the fish have clamped fins, mucous and look ill, its probably parasites. Treat the pond with an anti-parasite treatment that treats flukes, as its when fish come out of a prolonged cold period that their immune systems are lowered and parasites will take advantage.

Feed Wheatgerm food until the water temperature gets to 10C. Once it stays above 10C for a few weeks move back onto a staple. 

Maintain your pond pump

Again this will mean freezing cold hands, but you need to get that pond pump out to inspect it. A tip is to tie a cord to the pump cage for easy retrieval. Brush the pump cage to remove algae and dead leaves and if you can see debris inside around the pump intake, open the cage, unscrew the impeller cover and clean the impeller. Replacement impellers are available.

A filter clean, pump clean and new UV bulb should mean increased flow, increased filtration capacity and your water will start to clear. Inspect the filter over the next few days and clean again if necessary, as increased performance should see more dirt being removed from the pond. 

Net it out

Use a pond net to trawl the bottom of the pond for leaves. A skimmer net can be used for light work and floating leaves. Now is a good time to use a pond vacuum. Hoover the pond bottom removing any dead, organic material. Anything up to a 50% water change is fine at this time of year. Fill up with a hose and dechlorinator, and your Spring maintenance is done. 

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Jeremy Gay is an author and freelance aquatic specialist. A former editor of Practical Fishkeeping magazine, he offers a wealth of experience on all things aquarium and pond.


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