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How To Keep Water Quality High in Garden Ponds – Part One

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by James Lawrence
(West Islip, NY, USA)

If a pool is built properly and includes a well-balanced variety of plants, the basis for a healthy pool life has been established. However, if you do not want to let Nature simply take her course, the way you would with a natural pond, some maintenance chores are required throughout the year.

During the warm season only a few minor things need be done as a rule, such as thinning plants and checking the water quality. But as soon as it turns colder, it is time to think about getting the pool ready for winter, especially if there are fish in it. Some preparations are necessary for the animals and plants to survive the winter in good shape and lend new life to the pool in the spring.

For many a pool owner the picture of a perfect pool is one of crystal clear water whose mirror-smooth surface sparkles in the sunlight and reflects the blue sky. But pool water that is transparent down to thebottom is not necessarily healthy water. There are many processes that go on in the water and that sometimes change its appearance, and occasionally cloudy water is not necessarily a sign that something has “gone wrong.”

You also have to remember that water looks different under an overcast sky than in bright sunlight or after heavy rains. Water is not just a life-giving substance; it is an element that also has a life of its own with measurable properties that can change.

Water can be hard or soft, acidic or alkaline, and it can contain chemical substances that may be beneficial or harmful to the organisms in it. You therefore have to pay some attention to the water in your pool, so that the life that exists in it can function smoothly.

The Correct Water for a Pool

Tap water can be used for a garden pool without any special treatment in most areas. In some places, though, it may contain too many nitrates. This can be the case if residues from fertilizers used in agriculture have seeped into the ground water.

To be sure, aquatic plants are able to absorb these substances in time, but in the short run excess nitrites and nitrates can give rise to increased algae growth. If the tap water contains too many nitrates, the addition of a water restorative (available from pet or aquarium stores) is recommended.

Rain water can also be used in the pool. If you collect water from your roof, running it in a gutter to a cistern, do not catch the rain after a lengthy dry period until most of the dirt has been washed down off the roof.

Filling the Pool and Changing the Water

Always let the water run in very slowly. If you use tap water, attach a spray nozzle to the hose; the fine spray helps dissipate the chlorine. Too much chlorine can cause burning of the gills in fish.

In an ornamental pool with fish you should change about a third of the water every three weeks, if possible. When you change all the water, as in the fall cleanup, it is a good idea to add a water restorative.

In a natural pond the water needs to be changed only if there is a significant problem (such as extreme algae growth). If the water surface in a small natural pond has dropped dramatically and no rain is likely for some time, you can add some water very slowly.

Important: In order to get water out of a pool you need a water pump that is attached to a long hose. Be sure to cover the suction opening of the pump with a strainer basket (available at aquarium stores); otherwise it will get clogged with plant material and detritus.

When draining the pool or changing the water you can let the water run out into the garden, assuming that the soil will absorb it rapidly enough. If not, it is better to run it through a hose into a storm drain. Never let the water drain onto a neighbor’s property.

In case of water damage it is always the person (property owner or tenant) who installed the water supply and drainage system of a pool who is liable. If, for instance, a leaky pipe or improper drainage causes flooding or washing on a neighbor’s property, the person responsible for the problem has to pay for the damage.

Measuring the Water Properties

Whether or not plants and animals thrive in a pool depends on the quality of the water. The crucial factors are the degree of acidity, the nitrite-nitrate concentration, and the hardness of the water. They can all be measured with simple and inexpensive test kits. The results will tell you if a problematic situation exists that requires correction.

That is why you should have a basic understanding of the most important water properties. Test kits of various kinds are avail¬able at pet and aquarium stores. They make it easy to determine the exact water quality quickly, and they come with precise and easy-to-follow directions.

In ornamental pools periodic water checks and—if called for— quick action are important. In natural ponds with few or no fish these checks are not as crucial but are nevertheless useful from time to time.

Please CLICK HERE to continue to read part two of “How To Keep Water Quality High in Garden Ponds”

Updated: March 25, 2013 — 6:17 pm

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