When to Clean Your Pond

by Kerri Bailey, The Pond Pad

It’s that time of the year again, when our ponds wake up from the warmth of spring with active fish and budding plants. Now is a great time to take a look and decide what condition your pond is in & what you need to do about it.

Your pond or water feature needs to be cleaned when:

  • There is an inch or more of sludge build up on the bottom and shelves.
  • Excessive algae blooms and filamentous(string) algae problems.
  • Your water is turbid, cloudy and mucky or slimy looking.
  • It’s been more than 3 years since the last complete clean-out.

How often you clean your pond:

  • Typically once a year, or every 2-3 years depending upon your fish load & filtration – heavier the fish load (yearly), smaller fish load & better  filtration (2-3 years).
  • There are always exceptions, healthy water = healthy fish & plants.  Using beneficial bacteria products like Autumn Leaves Digester by Strata, will help maintain the balance by digesting the fish waste & debris that accumulate over time.  Having a veggie filter, bog garden or just a lot of plant coverage will also enhance water quality.  Most algae blooms are a result of excess pond waste, so decrease your waste, decreases the algae.

When to clean your pond:

  • Water features, ponds, etc. with no fish- clean just about anytime of the year.  If there are plants, protect them from the hot sun or cold winds.
  • Typically, ponds with fish, are cleaned in late spring through early to mid summer, weather dependent (around 60 – 80 deg F). Avoid cold days, extremely hot days or when fish are dormant. Fish can die from stress, so be careful with them!

To learn more about cleaning your pond, see my blog on How to Clean your Pond  and attend one of my classes at The Pond Pad on Sat. April 7th and April 14th at 10am or Sun. April 8th and April 15th at 11am.   www.alpinegrows.com/pages/pondpad.asp

Kerri Bailey is the owner of The Pond Pad water garden store located inside of Alpine Nursery in Puyallup, WA.  Kerri has been working with aquatic plants and herbs since 1989 and has been in the horticulture and water garden industry since 1998.  She holds a BS in Biology and is a Certified Herbalist.





How to Clean Your Pond




What supplies you need to clean your pond:

  1. A Pump with pipe to evacuate (remove) the pond water
  2. A Skimmer net to filter debris
  3. Hose, running water and a strong nozzle (pressure wash with caution)
  4. Scrub brush and /or scrub pads
  5. An algaecide like Quick Fix (or several bottles of peroxide)
  6. Container for fish with a cover (net) and aeration (pump or air stone)
  7. Fish nets and/or tubs to remove fish from pond water
  8. Rubber boots (shoes) and gloves are optional (I usually don’t wear gloves)
  9. Beneficial bacteria, plant fertilizer tablets, water conditioner

Step One:  Turn off all pumps, filters, etc.  Place your clean out pump in the deepest part of your pond; plug it in and start to remove the pond water (drain into a garden or lawn area).  If you have fish, they need to be removed and kept in a tub or large container (keep out of direct sun) .  Fill it 2/3 with the pond water you are removing, before pond is empty. Continue to drain the pond,  leave little water, just enough to catch your fish. Clean filter pads while you wait.

Step Two: Catch your fish, carefully!  Use a  net to catch small fish and place them in the container with pond water. Larger fish should be caught with a tub or fish bag / sock as they can flop around inside of nets and could be injured.    Keep the water with the fish aerated with a small pump or air stone and cover with a net- koi love to jump.  Check your fish often for signs of stress. Treat any fish that may be “sick” or have parasites with an appropriate medication.

Step Three: Remove any potted plants and any plants that need to be divided.  Store them in tub with water away from the direct sun.  Cut back any plants that remain in the pond and any other maintenance that needs to be done-clean skimmer and debris net/basket. Divide plants and re-pot those that are pot bound.


Step Four:  Use your hose and a strong stream of water and spray down the stream and waterfall area, washing the debris into the pond.  Continue to remove the water with your pump.  Then work your way to the pond and spray down the side walls and shelves.  This may take up  a while- hours for a large pond. Sprinkle some Quick Fix powder on the falls and any other area where there is an algae or green build up.

Use your skimmer net to scoop out debris, leaves and muck.  Use your scrub brush to remove scum from rocks. When the water your pump out is almost clear, then you can stop “cleaning” and start to fill back up again.  You don’t have to get rid of every speck and have sparkling clean rocks.  The brown film on the rocks is beneficial bacteria and is a good thing.  If you remove it all, then you may have “green” water in the summer.  it takes time for the bacterial colonies to grow keeping the pond balanced.

Step Five:  Put your pond plants back into the pond, fertilize any that may need it- water lilies are heavy feeders.  Now is the time to fix any rocks or rearrange as needed.  Remove clean out pump and start to fill your pond.  This may take several hours.  Put the clean filter pads and filter media back in the filter; put debris net/basket back in the skimmer. Once the water is half to 3/4 full, add water conditioner (unless you have untreated well water) and beneficial bacteria.

Step Six:  Time to put your fish back into the pond, very carefully…..releasing them gingerly. Continue to fill the pond with water until it is at it’s normal level. Your fish may hide for a few days and may not want to be fed right away.  Monitor them closely for the next several days.  Add beneficial bacteria like Organic Digester by Strata on a regular basis to help keep your ecosystem clean, clear and healthy.  Enjoy!

If you want to learn more about cleaning ponds, see my blog on When to Clean Your Pond. We also provide pond cleaning services, call for a bid in the greater Tacoma area.

Kerri Bailey is the owner of The Pond Pad water garden online store and maintenance service.   Kerri has been working with aquatic plants and herbs since 1989 and has been in the horticulture and water garden industry since 1998.  She holds a BS in Biology and is a Certified Herbalist.