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The pond cycle and how it relates to clean outs

Discussion in 'Water Features' started by jp14, Feb 19, 2011.


How did you develop your spring cleaning/maintenance methodology and procedures?

  1. Trial and error

    0 vote(s)
  2. Using procedures learned from another contractor

    1 vote(s)
  3. Taught my current procedures at a pond seminar/certification program

    0 vote(s)
  4. The result of independent research and education

    2 vote(s)
  5. Hired by a customer to perform specific cleaning operations

    0 vote(s)
  1. jp14

    jp14 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 24

    I had to do some digging but I got lucky and found a link to the article I referenced in a previous post. Here it is: http://koiclubsandiego.org/library/green_water.php

    It is a thought provoking article and by testing some of the theories, I have observed results consistent with the theories. Again, no concrete proof and even the author concludes more work is needed but it does offer a viable alternative to the notion that green water/single cell algae is controlled by starving it of nutrients or light.

    To continue the discussion on the other topics, first let me say that my use of the word "silt" highlights another problem we face in our industry. We each use words and phrases that mean one thing to us and may mean altogether another thing to someone else. What you call a pond I might call a water garden and the next guy calls it a water feature. We need a standard terminology we all use so that our communications are more clear and concise. To make a point here, go ask a landscaper the difference between "dirt" and "soil". On this matter, there is some action being taken to address our lack of a standardized terminology.

    So when I used the word "silt", I did so as my own slang for the "crud" (should I define that word now? lol) that clogs the filter pads. This organic buildup and decomposing debris can and does clog the filter pads and also has the ability to coat and clog some media types such as lava rock, ceramic media, etc... if a condition exists where it is not agitated/cleaned (like the backwashing process in a bead filter). Again, all I am proposing is that some media types work at less than full capacity if they become debris covered. (there is a reference to this in the above article in regards to the algae killing process).

    Finally I am in total agreement on the point made on sizing filters, flow rates, etc... Who is responsible for creating these parameters? More importantly, who is responsible for verify the claims that are made? We have no way to compare apples to apples when it comes to most of the equipment we use since each manufacturer can create their own criteria used to justify filter sizing, flow rates, etc... Even a set of temporary standards that companies and contractors could follow voluntarily until a more formal set of standards was established would greatly improve our industry and lead to better installations across the board.
  2. tadpole

    tadpole LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,221

    Norm Meck's series of article on Pond Chemistry should be required reading for anyone involved in the construction, maintenance or ownership of a Pond. Although his writings are focused on Koi ponds, much, but not all, of what he says is applicable to any type of eco-system pond. There is a caveat to what I just said. That is that these articles have not, that I can determined, been updated in over 5 years. A lot has been learned in this intervening time period about the various complex interactions that take place in an aquatic environment, be it marine or fresh water. I still feel that they are important enough that links to these articles are posted both on my website and Facebook page.

    Although this particular article is thought provoking. I still have the same misgivings today about his theories on this subject as I did over 5 years ago. He applying his ideas to only established Koi Ponds, as he states in this article, he is limiting the validity of his assumptions to only established Koi Ponds. I have yet to have a 'Green Water' problem with any eco-system pond that I have installed or maintained over a period of time. I have never had a 'Greening' during the initial 4 -6 week run-in period with a new install, whether 'seed bacteria' was added or not. So there has to be another answer to the "Green Water" event.

    In the 'Crud' department, I strongly recommend to my customers that the skimmer filter mat be cleaned at least once a month and more frequently when seasonal demand dictates. I also recommend that the filter mats in the bioconverter be cleaned at least twice a year again based on seasonal demands but also total biomass (fish, plants etc.) in the Pond. This usually will moderate, if not eliminate any, clogging of the filter media.

    A uniform set of standards for this niche industry would be, I am sure, universally welcomed. The question is: Who is going to write them? The manufacturers will claim that they are already doing this.
  3. jp14

    jp14 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 24

    I clearly understand Mr. Meck's articles are just one piece of the puzzle and not proof of anything. I do think his work points out that we still have a long way to go in understanding what exactly is at work in a water garden, koi pond, etc... As to why you have not experienced a green period, I cannot comment. I know of many ponds built in the same manner as you have described that experience green periods in my region every spring. Again this points out what works for you may not always work for me and that the same processes at work in your region may not work in the same way or to the same level of effectiveness in my area.

    To give you an idea of how things differ here, most of my customers must clean their filter pads on a monthly basis and some even on a weekly basis, depending on factors such as fish load, pond location, etc...

    To your point about standards being universally accepted....I will make the argument that we have no standards because the status quo of a "wild west" industry mentality is agreeable to most everyone involved. I could start producing a filter or skimmer tomorrow and say it works and do some slick marketing and a week later I would have guys installing them. If contractors are making money on the installs and the producers are making money on selling units then everything is good...right? Oh...we forgot the consumer who is at a disadvantage in the knowledge department and depending on a "trusted" contractor to treat them fairly.

    Manufacturers may claim they are essentially creating the standards through certification and training classes but they seem to be forgetting to consult one important group of people in the process...the contractors out in the field experiementing, trying things and learning that most of the stuff we take out of the box needs to be tweaked, improved, modified or installed in a better manner than which is recommended in the instructions.

    So who should write standards? Everyone in the industry. It should be a group effort between manufacturers, contractors, suppliers (koi breeders, aquatic plant growers), specialists (excavators, engineers, plumbers, electricians, etc...), experts (vets, biologists) and end users (our customers). There are those of us out there that feel contractors need to band together and write a set of standards that we can all agree to follow voluntarily. We don't advocate trying to make the rules for the industry but rather to set an example of how finding common ground among contractors will demonstrate to the rest of the industry we all need to work together to secure the future for everyone involved.
  4. rlitman

    rlitman LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,743

    People are still using lava rock as a biofilter media? Yeah, it looks like it has a large surface area when new, but that stuff cruds up so fast, its quickly as bad as ping pong balls.

    I would have used springflow except for the cost. I used instead regular plastic strapping, placed in a coarse mesh bag with a few rocks (for negative buoyancy), with a few thousand plastic forks (hey, it's what I had). Its been 15 years since I even plugged in the UV filter I have inline.

    The trick to cleaning it, is to do it when the water is cold. When the fish and bacteria are still dormant in the spring, and the cold water has a high dissolved oxygen level.
    I reach in and vigorously shake the bag after I start the pump for the season, and use a plastic sheet to divert the first nasty water that emerges from the biofilter to the ground, until it runs clean. That ends up being my 20% water change. Nothing else needed.

    Every few years I do a thorough bottom cleaning to remove crud and leaf remains, but it is much more important to get leaves BEFORE they settle to the bottom. When stirring up that bottom crud with the fish and water still all there, I've added a -small- amount of potassium permanganate to react with any hydrogen sulfide that may have accumulated in anaerobic pockets, but that stuff requires VERY careful dosing to get right.

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