28 May 2009

Pond Saga, Part 1

A little more than two years ago we got a pond. It was pretty close to being a spur of the moment decision.  My daughter saw a neighbor's koi pond and wanted one, and I said, "we'll see". Soon after I was talking with my co-worker Billy about his pond and he offered us a 100 gallon preformed pond he had sitting in his garage. So begins the pond saga.

To start with, I dug a hole and put the pond in the ground and filled it with water. I bought a pump, but I didn't by a filter yet, because Billy said we could build one and save money. He's a real do-it-yourselfer which I like. It fits in well with the fact that we have no money! While we were waiting on Billy to be free, we went ahead and got about a dozen little goldfish. I figured they would be fine without filtration for the moment and they were. Eventually we got the filtration system going with a little waterfall and we started adding plants. That's when it dawned on me - the pond opened the door to a whole new world of plants.

Billy gave us some papyrus and we got some water lettuce and water hyacinth and eventually we got a waterlily. Within six months I decided that what I liked most about the pond was the plants I could grow in it. I began designing our next pond. I planned to dig it in early Spring when the weather was still cool, hopefully, and I had several months to plan it. My designs changed a lot over the months, but I a couple of parameters - It had to have room for plants and it couldn't be larger than the flexible pond liner that Billy gave us. After reading and article about pea gravel bogs, I decided that sounded like a really good idea. It would be seperate from the pond, but water would circulate through both and I could get away with using Billy's liner for just the pond and I would get another for the bog. It also allowed me to take a break after digging the pond, before I dug the bog.

I took four days off from work and began deconstructing the old pond. I borrowed a kiddie pool and set it up as a temporary pond and transferred the fish. I pulled the preformed pond out of the ground and dug a bigger hole. Then I laid the liner in the hole, filled it back up and transferred the fish - all in four days! Technically it was a working pond, but I had a lot more to do.

During that first year of having a pond, I learned so much about water quality and biological filtration. I also had a little bad luck with my filter. In hind sight, it was probably too small. During the height of the summer, I was cleaning it more than once a week and once I became more knowledgeable about all of this pond stuff, I realized it didn't have any biological filtration, so I started researching DIY pond filters. The best thing I found was called a "skippy" filter. I'm not sure where the name came from, but it seems to be a great filter. You can build it in any size from a 20 gallon barrel liner, which is what I have, to huge stock tanks that are hundreds of gallons. You start out with the container. a pvc pipe runs down the center and makes a "T" at the bottom. Water will flow through the pipe and to the bottom of the filter, creating cyclonic motion. The rest of the container is filled with nylon pot scrubbers. These have a large surface area for the beneficial bacteria to colonize. As the water flows through the filter, the bacteria pull nutrients from the water, hopefully starving things you don't want like algae. The water flows back into the pond via a spillway, waterfall or pipe, however you have it set up. In my case, it's a waterfall. I've attempted to hide the skippy filter with plants, but I haven't had much success. I'll be doing more landscaping this year, so we'll see.

This has really been a saga. I thought I would post what I've written so far. I should finish the last part in the next few days hopefully, so stay tuned!

Pond Saga, Part 2

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