Thursday, March 10, 2011

Caring For Your Pre-Formed Fish Pond

I am writing this entry for the Googlers out there that are looking for specific information about ponds that they/you are not finding elsewhere.  I went through this process earlier last year, trying to find information and not finding what I was looking for.  It is not intrinsic knowledge, learning how to set up and care for a small pond is not that difficult, but if you don't know what you are doing, you will probably waste some money in that learning experience.

I am not really going to go into digging out the hole to place your pond - this is pretty simple stuff.  Set your pond where you are going to place it, get a can of spray paint, spray around the bottom perimeter of the pond, start digging.  Once the bottom is in the ground but the shelves are at ground level, spray paint around that, more digging of the entire hole until it is deep enough.

But let me emphasize here that you do not have to bury the pond in the ground.  I have 2 ponds up and running.  One is above ground, the other is in-ground.  I like them both.  The one above ground is on a slab of cement next to a side door on my house.  Because that door leads to "nowhere", no one uses it.  I have the shelves of the pond propped up with pavers so that it doesn't collapse. It has been sitting there like that for - quite a long time now with out any problems.

That's my short bit about ponds and placement.  As for finding pre-formed ponds for sale, Home Depot and Lowe's carries them.  However, I found all of mine on Craigslist.  One of them was brand new that I got for a steal from some people that decided that pre-formed wasn't for them, they were going to build a much larger, in-ground affair. I would suggest that if you have never owned a pond before, start with the small pre-formed pond first.  Get your feet wet with the small version, you will have a MUCH better idea of what you want in a bigger pond.  It is prudent to do much research into in-ground, liner type ponds first before buying anything or even deciding where to put it.

Okay, you have this pond.  Maybe you rented a house with a preformed pond that still has live fish in it.  I am going out tomorrow to help a person that rented a house that yes, has a preformed pond, this lady has absolutely no clue, whatsoever, how to clean it or keep it functioning.  I am happy to help when I can, it's a great hobby and it's peaceful to sit and watch your fish swimming around doing the things that they do.

Maybe you are going to put one on your apartment patio - some apartments DO allow this, you have to ask your landlord, obviously.  The point is, preformed ponds aren't just for homeowners.  It's great fun, once you get it set up there isn't much maintenance.

Now for some specifics.  Namely, the pump and the filter setup.  I searched the high heavens for good information on this, I only found generic stuff.  I went to people's homes with ponds.  I joined a pond society for info.  After I got my first pond set up and wanted fish, I went to people's homes to get the fish and asked a lot of questions.  To no avail, I might add. Those ponds were all HUGE, built-in ponds up to 5,000 gallons.

So, I had my first pond.  I decided to buy a small pump to get water circulating, but didn't put in any fish or plants.  It was a 75 GPH (gallons per hour) pump.  I thought that since the pond was only 120 gallons, that size pump was adequate.  I then went to a 125GPH pump, finding that the 75 thing was not even close to enough.  No, that wasn't enough, either.  I then went to a 300 GPH pump.  I then found a waterfall type of filtering system. It's a large, plastic affair that has water pumped in from the bottom, goes through the filtering agents and then pours out into your pond like a waterfall.  They are very cool, I like those kinds of filters.

So, let's mesh these two together.  The waterfall filter has a bag of bio-balls that goes into the bottom.  You MUST have bio-balls if you are going to have fish in the pond, period.  Usually, the waterfall filters come with them, if they don't, you can buy them on eBay or you can find them at pet stores (MUCH cheaper on eBay).  The more, the merrier.  I don't know how anyone else does their's, I just know how I set mine up.  I found filter media on eBay - I buy it a couple of rolls at a at time. And yes, that's what it's called: filter media.

I put a layer of that above the bio-balls.  I then put that thick, porous filtering agent - don't remember what it's called but the waterfall filter should come with it anyway - on top of that.  That's it.  That's the waterfall filter.  I have them on both of my ponds.  Both of them are good for up to 1,000 gallon ponds.  That's right, think bigger is better with these small ponds if you want lots of fish in them.  My small pond is only 120 gallons and yes, I have a waterfall filter that is good up to 1,000 gallons filtering the water on it.

Now, guess what size pump I have on that filter?  No, it's not a 300 GPH pump.  I found the water flow to be far too low.  No, the submersible (yes, you want a submersible pump) I have on that baby is 700GPH.  Too much circulation isn't a problem, too little IS.  It looks quite normal in the flow coming off the waterfall, it is not overkill.  I would suggest you not make the mistake I did and start out buying ridiculously small pumps that you are going to find is not going to do the job.

Up until last weekend, I had 16 medium to large sized goldfish in that pond.  That's 5 to 9 inches.  They had been in there quite a while, too.  I got rid of some of them - gave them away to a guy that has a much larger pond - because they were obviously cramped in there.  I have 8 of them in there now, looks about perfect.  All the small fish are gone right now but breeding season should be starting up soon enough and then there will be little fishies in there again.  The point is, again, if you want fish, especially if you wanter larger fish, you must have overkill on the filtering system.  If you just want plants in there, well, a much smaller filtering system will suffice.  I'm gearing this piece towards those that want fish, it's much more interesting than having just a water feature with some plants and no fish.

If you don't want the larger waterfall filter, try something like the FishMate Bio Pond Filter.  Make SURE that you get a bio-type of filter.  However, I must point out that the waterfall filter IS a waterfall effect and has the sound of water pouring into water, it is quite the soothing effect.  The FishMate filter is much smaller, though, and does a good job - BUT - I haven't tried it on my ponds with large fish, I have only used it on a pond with much smaller fish.  The FishMate filter is also much easier to clean out.  I don't really care how much effort it is, though, to clean out the waterfall filter since it's doing it's job swimmingly.

BTW, my smaller pond is 6 feet long at it's longest point and 4-1/2 feet wide at it's widest point.  My other pond is a bit larger.  It's 8 feet long by 6 feet wide and is close to 300 gallons.  I have an 800 GPH pump on that one that I acquired through eBay. If you want to do this kind of thing on a budget, I STRONGLY suggest eBay.  I found a dealer on there that sells a quality pump and also gives a 2 year warranty on it for MUCH less money than I could ever find it in a store.  I also got my FishMate filter on eBay.  I ended up getting that one for free - but that's another story entirely.  Ebay is a good buying venue now that they have buyer protection on it - whereas it used to be buyer-beware: look at their feedback rating, but if you get screwed, don't come running to us.

I would definitely suggest buying the pump new, but the filter?  I see them here and there, the waterfall filter, on Craigslist.  Much better price, it's plastic so unless it's already broken, you shouldn't have a problem with it.  The waterline from the pump to the filter can be found at Home Depot - it's specifically made for ponds and is in the Garden section.  Get the 3/4 inch size, NOT the half inch size, btw.

Okay, well, the most critical components of your ponding system have been covered: the filtration/circulation system.  Let's go into a bit more, shall we?

I noticed that my fish were at the surface, attempting to gulp air, apparently.  Well, I had aquariums as a kid, I instantly knew that there is not enough aeration in the water.  If you are doing this stuff on a budget, then I would suggest to you that WalMart and Ebay are going to become your best friends if you want to find the best prices (at least, the best prices I could find).  Walmart sells aerators for less than $10.00.  I bought 2 of them, plus the long aeration stones and tubing.  I have one air pump for each pond - each of the pumps have 2 outlets so I have 2 air stones in each pond, problem solved and no, they don't use much electricity.

Green water.  Yup, you might encounter that.  When that happened on my larger pond, I went to WalMart and bought the algae removing liquid for ponds.  I bought a couple of bottles and it didn't work, AT ALL.  It did absolutely nothing to clear it up.  I did some research and it didn't take long to come up with a UV Sterilizer.  I read a lot of conflicting information.  Some people think they are harmful to your fish and plants, but science, at least what I read, says otherwise.  It just uses a ultraviolet light to kill off the algae.  That's it, seriously.  It's a tubular looking thing with a large UV light in it.  It has an inlet and an outlet.  You hook your pump-side hose to the inlet and you hook your filter-side hose to the outlet, clamp the hose onto it, start the pump up, plug in the sterilizer, walaah.  It took about 5 days if I remember correctly to completely clear up the water.

Where did I buy mine?  3 guesses, first 2 don't count. Yes, Ebay.  I found the cheapest one on there, I think it was $30 plus cheap shipping.  I did a search on the net for any info about it- some dude gave it a negative review, but, he said it worked.  I just bought the thing. I ran it for a month on that pond, but really only needed to run it for maybe a week.  I took it off and - I am using it again, 8 months later.  That's right, the water cleared up after the first time and stayed clear for a long time.  It clouded up again recently, so I put it back on there.  It's clear again and this weekend I'm taking it back off. I only need on of these sterilizers for my ponds since I can just move it around.  It's a good investment if you want clear ponds, which I do.  BTW,  UV STERILIZER, not UV Clarifier.  Trust me, your fish are not going to be sterilized and your plants are not going to disappear into outer-space.  

Algae on pond walls.  Think Plecostomus.  They are fastidious algae eaters.  The first one I put in the small pond had the walls cleaned off in a couple of days.  The only drawback is they can't tolerate winter-cold water.  Even with heaters, 3 of mine died off this winter.  I am going to get another one - I don't know what I am going to do with him next winter, maybe just sell him to someone with an aquarium and then buy yet another one the next spring.

Aging and cycling water.  Well, probably should do that in large ponds, yes.  In small ponds?  Go to Walmart, buy a bottle of "Pond Start", pour the recommended amount into the freshly poured water, walaah, your fish are ready to go in.  This is what the water cycling is for, fishies, it doesn't matter otherwise.  I have had NO problems with putting fish into a totally fresh pond full of water that has not aged or cycled at all as long as I used the Pond Start.  In fact, the only problem I have had with fish dying, other than the Plecos this winter, is a couple that have jumped out of the pond.

Water replacement.  I don't do it.  That is, the practice of half emptying a pond - or even more - and putting fresh water back in.  As long as you have a good filtering system, this is completely unecessary.  Water evaporates out of them anyway, so a small amount of water replacement is forced because of that fact, other than that?  Forget it.  If your water is cloudy with other than algae, you have a filtering problem. It's dirty and needs cleaned or it's not sufficient size for the pond.

What kind of fish?  I have Koi, Goldfish and other kinds of fish in my ponds.  I like the Koi the best.  I have several of them, but I have 2 18 inchers in there.  They are all yellow and totally cool looking.  I have a jet black Koi in there as well, he is very hard to see in that black pond, lol.  I have smaller Koi, all sizes of goldfish, some mosquito eaters and other fish I don't know what they are that I acquired from other people.

You can also have frogs and turtles, but, I tried the turtles, they tear down my vegetation so I don't do turtles anymore.

Where to get all this?  I have acquired 99% of my fish through Craigslist.  People shutting down ponds.  People thinning out their ponds.  People who bought a short-saled home and got a pond they don't want and are getting rid of everything.  I have acquired almost all of my goldfish for FREE and my Koi?  Very cheap prices.  I scoured Craigslist daily and called the instant I found Koi going cheap.  I scored enough times that I have enough now.  You can buy small Koi at places like PetSmart.  There are breeders - at least in my area - that advertise on Craigslist as well.  I don't use them, I haven't needed to.

Water plants.  Very cool stuff here.   Everyone loves the floating plants - water lilies the most popular.  I'm on a budget, so I look around for stuff until I find what I'm looking for.  My trips to get plants and fish have not been few, but thankfully, they are pretty much over now.  I don't need any more fish OR plants.  I got almost all of my plants for free.  I bought some of the lilies, yes, but other than that?  Again, Craigslist.  Pond owners will advertise that they are going to be thinning down their plants on a certain day and on that day, the clippings will be available for free.  Yes, free.  You do NOT need a green thumb to be able to grow water plants, they pretty much grow like weeds.

They will just break chunks of a plant off a larger plant.  They give them to you.  You go to the dollar store and buy the cheap plastic containers - these plants will grow in ANY container you might have.  People tell me they buy organic cat litter at Walmart to plant them.  Who wants to spend money when dirt is free?  Put a small layer of small rocks - available throughout the world for free, I have plenty of landscaping rock so I use that - on the bottom of the container.  Put a layer of dirt over the rocks.  Stick your plant and it's roots in there.  Put more dirt in until the container is almost full.  Cover the top layer of soil with more rocks - helps keep the dirt out of your pond, done.  Water lilies should be placed at the bottom of your pond regardless of how small it might be.

I have no problem with a bit of dirt at the bottom of my pond, but there isn't any (from plant containers) or if there is, it is not noticable.  There is some sand down there - where that came from I have no idea, but it doesn't look bad so I don't care.

Cleaning out your pond.  Another advantage of an 800GPH pump - it draws EVERYTHING to it.  I just pull the cover off here and there, clean off the junk and that's it.  I would rather have the floating material drawn to the pump first instead of floating to the bottom and just laying there.  I'm sure some of that happens, anyway, but the fish kick that stuff up and yes, it goes to the pump.  One way of the other, at least in my ponds, that junk ends up at the pump or sucked into it and into the filtering system - and yes, mostly the filtering system.

When I open up my waterfall filters to clean them out, there is a LOT of "gunk" in there.  Mostly looks like fish stuff.  I clean them out by my trees and plants, that kind of stuff has GOT to be great fertilizer!  I do not reuse  the filter media, I wash it out onto the ground next to a tree, but otherwise it gets thrown in the trash.

Oh, feeding the fishies!  Koi Pellets.  Yup, Walmart sells a large bag of that stuff for - $10 I think?  Lasts a long time.  Smaller fish I use Goldfish Flakes - again, Walmart.  I am actually not the greatest fan of Walmart, but that has to do with pissy customer service issues.  The prices on much of the stuff they have for ponds, however, can't really be beat.

I'm about done here.  I will add to this entry if I think of anything else.  The only other thing I can think of is water temperatures.  I live in a hot region - Phoenix, AZ.  Temperatures in small ponds can rise pretty high if you don't do something to cool the water.  In a place as hot as this, it's called evaporative cooling.  You might not even have to think about that if you are in a cooler locale, instead, you might have to think about what to do in wintertime.  But here?  I take use nature's way to cool the water.  I will take large rocks and stack them up on top of each other until they are sticking well up out of the water.  I take a smaller pump - maybe 500GPH is good - take a piece of tubing and have the water shooting up into the air out of the pump. Aim the water so it comes down on top of the rocks.  The water flows over the rocks and back into the pond.  Walaah, evaporative cooling, and yes, it DOES work. I made that one up on my own!! lol, didn't read it anywhere, it just struck me that this method should work and it does.

In winter conditions in frigid areas?  I don't think your preformed pond is going to do well with fish in them unless you are going to heat the water.  It got cold here this year, but that is my version of cold, the coldest night was 24 degrees.  No, fish don't like it that cold.  They sell these heaters you can put into ponds.  I think the guy I bought them from said they were $30 a piece, I bought mine for $2.  He was shutting down his pond last summer and wanted to get rid of his heaters.  I bought almost all of them thinking that when winter comes, if it gets too cold, I'm going to have an opt out.  Those heaters, though, if you are running a lot of them, are going to affect your electric bill.  At 300 watts a piece, I was running 4 of them, I saw more electric usage.  Just saying.  I did it anyway, I didn't have to run heat in the house hardly at all this year, I have a well insulated house and it stayed warm enough, meaning I didn't have a "heating bill" per se.

Okay, well that's it for now.  If you have any questions that I might be able to help you with, please leave it in the comments section below.  If you believe you are an expert and that I have said something wrong here, you can comment as well, as long as it isn't hostile.  I can say, though, that everything I have stated here I DO and USE in my daily ponding activities.  That speaks for itself.

Friday 3/11/2011


My thought this morning, when I read an email from the ops manager going out to everyone of what his schedule is going to be today and the fact that he was going to spend a couple of hours at our branch this morning - was that he is coming to "deal" with the situation yesterday.

I had no clue if I was correct or not - until after I got back from the first run today.  I asked my manager if the ops manager had showed up.  Yes.  I instantly knew the substance of the appearance with the look on his face.

The thing that clued me in that management knew about this is the apology email from the salesman to my manager (not to me, however, and I was the one he had called an idiot).  He wrote that yesterday and it was WAY too gooey for ever coming from that guy.  Of course, it was by force - he was forced to apologize and make it look good.

So, I guessed what the ops manager said since my manager said he really couldn't talk about it.  The ops manager had actually heard that salesman cussing out my manager from within his office yesterday.  I mean, he would have had to have been talking VERY loudly for his voice to carry that far.  The ops manager went out to find out what was going on.  What happened over there - I will find out eventually from someone done there who might have seen it.  I doubt the ops manager to be too happy about a sales rep cussing and yelling into a phone so loudly that it stops the place.

So, the salesman got a reaming, that's the jist of it.  My manager said he got a taste of it this morning as well, but, honestly, that dude at the main branch undoubtedly got a huge piece of humble pie.

It then dawned on me: whenever something like this happens over policy, the ops manager changes the policy.  Yup, I was right after I asked.  I am now to ask anyone that I am delivering pipe to if they need lube, regardless of the quantity, even if it's one stick of pipe.  My manager objected to that - we have 7 quarts of the free stuff out there right now.  It isn't enough to cover the LIFTS of pipe in our yard, much less a few sticks here and there.  And believe me, we get these small orders all the time, which is why we don't give out the lube free to someone buying 2, 5, 10 sticks of pipe.  That person can buy the lube instead.

The ops manager said fine, we are to take the "pay" lube- the stuff we sell - and give it out for free and then write it off.  Confused?  We get X amount of lube for free from the pipe manufacturer's when we buy pipe from them.  They used to give it out liberally - until the economy tanked and now they don't give out enough to even cover the amount of pipe we get from them even if used sparingly.  That forced me to severely cut back the amount that I give out at jobsites.  I had brought the subject up when all of this had started: what am I supposed to do out there?  Are we going to give them the pay stuff after we run out of the free stuff and just write it off?

It took an incident like this to get an answer.  I don't actually think it's the right answer, though.  On small orders, the salesmen should be selling the pay stuff, not forcing us to give it away.  On big orders, yes, we should give as much as it takes.  I mean, if you buy PVC Schedule 40 pipe that has to have cement to put it together, do you expect the store to just give you the cement?  

Whatever the case, it certainly doesn't bother me to be instructed to give the pay stuff away.  Especially to large contractors who buy millions of dollars worth of product from us every year. I always give them as much as they want, anyway.  In fact, on small orders, I give it away if they ask for it.  I'm not going to hold up a crew of people working  on laying pipe in the ground if the need  is there.

Hmmmmmm, well there was more.  But it isn't really worth going into all of that.  The point is, even if it took a man going WAY overboard on a "small" issue, the issue has now been addressed.  For whatever reason, managers have not been willing to write off the lube until - now - of course.  Tomorrow, I will be reminding my manager to order more pay stuff, lots of it, because when I start offering it to everyone, that free stuff? .......... will be gone in short order.

Thursday 3/10/2011


5 hours over for this week. I am guessing I will be getting off early today and tomorrow unless, of course, business picks up yet again and I am running around all day long.

Umm, well whatever. Anyway, I find this situation in Wisconsin to be quite entertaining. Walker starts backing down, appears to be willing to talk concessions to get the Democratic lawmakers back to the table.

The next thing you know, there are headlines all over the place about the Senate passing the bill without any democratic senators present. Of course, the opposition to this bill is yelling "cowards" and other such loveliness. I'd have to say that in that kind of political landscape, the term coward hardly comes to mind as a descriptor of the action those senators took or the position that Walker is in.

If anyone is the cowards, it's the democratic senators that fled the state. They had made statements that they were willing to "stay here for 2 years, if necessary", in other words, until the next election, I presume. How does fleeing correct anything? If the people of the state of Wisconsin hate what Walker and the republicans have done enough, then a majority of them can vote them out in the next election and that will be that. If they REALLY think they have enough votes and energy, they can start a recall drive.

I have read that Walker never said anything about stripping unions of collecting bargaining rights during the election, but I heard elsewhere that he did. I dunno. Just a circus, but at least amusing and engaging, lol.

The ops manager is coming over here this morning and then over to Phoenix afterward. I'm rather curious as to whether this has anything to do with what occured with that inside salesman yesterday. Neither of us have made any complaints to management about it, it would have had to have been that salesman saying something - and knowing this guy saying it in a rather tainted light - to management to get any kind of real trouble started.

I can only say that, after having had worked for several "institutions" in my life where management and/or co-workers thought it perfectly acceptable to yell at, demean, berate, belitte and otherwise humiliate other workers, I will not tolerate it and I WILL dish it right back, regardless of the consequences. It's my past that haunts me when it comes to things like that. If a company doesn't like a particular worker, instead of playing mind games with that person and using fear tactics and anger junk, just let that person go.

I don't WANT to lose my job, that's a fact - and frankly, this company I am working for has several policies against abuse of workers.

I might go into that later, work day is here and I must be offa here.



Interesting day. Up early - 4:00, jolted out of deep sleep by the ridiculous phone alarm - annoying as all get out but that's the inten...