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Pond Videos

Pretty New Pond

New Pondless Waterfall

Double Waterfall on a Big Hill

Double Pond and Waterfall

A Pretty Pond With a Bridge

Fresh spring clean out

Brand new pond, waterfall, bridge, slab stone patio and steps

A gentle forest stream

A Fresh Clean Pond

Hurth Waterscapes Spring Pond Clean Out

Spring Pond Updates – Keep it Simple

This time of year I get a lot of people calling me who want to simplify their pond system and make this a summer of cleaner water and less maintenance.  The difficulty with answering the question of “how do I make my pond better or easier” isn’t that a beautiful, natural, easy pond is hard to build.  The difficulty is that most of the people calling me have a pond that has some problems in design or execution from the beginning.

Execution

Many of the people who are struggling with their ponds don’t really understand that the only “magic” solution to keeping a clean and healthy pond is balance.  In nature, everything balances out.  We need to treat our ponds the same way if we want clean, easy and beautiful.  Balance isn’t an easy concept for most people to grasp.  People want to go to the local big box store and buy a quick solution to their problem.  They want some new fail-safe gadget or water additive that is going to change their pond into a thing of beauty.  The hard to understand fact about ponds is that there is no magic, quick solution.  There is mother nature’s way or no way.  People are constantly coming up with the next quick fix to give you some hope and to line their pockets with  your money, but these new products are all expensive and short-lived.  Nature is easy, cheap and forever.  You don’t need a new gadget, you need a new outlook, a new theory and a new approach.

Design

Many of the ponds that were built and are still being built are stuck in the filter and skimmer world of gadgetry.  Don’t get me wrong, I installed plenty of these ponds before I “saw the light”.  The entire “Let’s put a small lined pond and waterfall in our backyard” industry started with the idea of having a box for your pump and a box for your waterfall.  Connect the two with rubber and you have a pond or a waterfall or both.  This system provides some filtration, some pump protection, pump serviceability, and something to keep the client busy.  The system works and has provided an easy to understand starting point for the backyard pond industry.  People can understand and see how this system works and they feel like they are accomplishing something by cleaning filters and nets and unclogging pumps.

The problem is that this system of boxes is limited by it’s own design and it becomes a bit tedious after years of cleaning filters and nets.  The size and location of the intake for the skimmer box will limit the water intake, your pump choices and how much water your pond can lose before it needs you to fill it.  To be able to skim debris, the box has a floating hinged door just like a swimming pool and it skims the surface of the water, effectively filling the net with handfuls or bucketfuls of debris depending on the season.  Because it must skim the surface to function it is very susceptible to water height fluctuations and oftentimes a drop of one or two inches of water height in the pond will result in the pump being starved of water which causes that chugging and sucking sound that skimmer box owners know so well.  This lack of water will also cause the pump to wear out more quickly.  Even if the water level in the pond doesn’t drop, you can still have the same result by having the skimmer net or basket fill so full of leaves and debris that it starves the pump of water.  Either way, the skimming stops and the pond needs your attention.  By the way, this usually seems to happen when you are headed to work in the morning or maybe all dressed up and headed out for the evening.  So then you are faced with the frustrating decision to just let that pump chug along for the next day or so, shut the pond down until you have time to deal with it or you could bite the bullet, get your hands and potentially your clothes covered in a bit of pond yuck while you clean the skimmer basket or filters.  This system also helps to filter some of the water and it provides some area for helpful bacteria and enzymes to colonize in the waterfall filter.  The waterfall filters are meant to be cleaned once per season and then just let go so that the bacteria and enzymes can grow.  The problem here is that many people continually clean these filters assuming that the more they can wash dark junk out of the filters the cleaner the pond will be.  To an extent, they are correct, but clean doesn’t mean balanced and often times they are causing more problems from over cleaning.  The other limitation of the waterfall boxes is they are only small boxes in comparison to most of the ponds that they are installed on and they are just that, boxes.  There are no plants growing in them.  So now we have a pond that makes sense to the average homeowner or contractor, creates some solutions, creates some problems and creates more work for the homeowner.

Don’t get me wrong, these box and filter systems started this wonderful revolution and set me on the path to creating fabulous, custom water features of all types.  They have their place in history as the ones that started it all and they are great because they can be sold in a simple to understand kit that the average person can purchase to build their own first pond.  Many people have gotten into the pond hobby and have had years of enjoyment from their backyard pond thanks to this system.  This system also allowed many landscape contractors such as myself to delve into the pond industry.  So, overall, the box systems have their place and many, many systems are still working today and many more are being installed every day.

The Problem

The problem with these systems is that they overcomplicate a very simple thing.  They are easy to install, but hard to maintain.  Believe me, cleaning filters and baskets is not fun.  They also introduce another man-made material into your landscape.  Sure, most come with decorative plastic rock lids and we can stack rocks or soil around them to try to hide them, but eventually, over the years, they start to raise up out of the ground or the rocks and soil settle down around them which leaves us staring at an ugly plastic box.  They also introduce yet another mechanical item into our lives that we need to fix and maintain.  Due to their unnatural nature, they have bulkhead fittings that can loosen or crack, screws that tend to corrode and break down in water, fill valves that get stuck either on or off, silicone seals that fail and leak, skimmer doors that crack and fall off, nets that bend and tear, baskets that chip and crack, lids that amplify the sound of the pump inside and tend to blow off in a strong wind and the boxes themselves tend to lean and tilt over time.  All of this maintenance and unnaturalness can be avoided with a bit of extra work and creativity in advance.

The Solution

After years of struggling with these systems and hearing how much my clients just loved cleaning their filters, I began to realize that the most important elements of my ponds were all of the natural ones.  To keep a beautiful, clean pond we need water circulation, plants and fish.  The correct balance of these three will solve all of our problems.  So, I took some ideas from nature and from how these early systems worked and I created a system that is virtually maintenance free and simple.  The initial installation of our Hurth Waterscapes custom wetlands and wet-well intakes is a bit more involved that just digging a box into the ground, but it is so easy and problem free in the future that it is worth any extra effort in the beginning.

The beauty of our system is that there are no moving parts other than the pump.

  • No Filters
  • No Nets
  • No Baskets
  • No Doors
  • No Silicone
  • No Screws
  • No Boxes
  • No Fill Valves
  • No Headaches

If you currently have one of the old box and filter systems, the freedom that you will experience once you own one of our systems will astound you.

Not only is our system very, very easy to maintain, it also has the following advantages:

  • Eliminates the need to remove your pump for the winter
  • Eliminates any filter cleaning
  • Eliminate any frogs or debris stuck in your pump
  • Eliminate any ugly boxes in your yard
  • Eliminate the need to monitor your water level
  • Eliminate the sound of your pump vibrating in that plastic box
  • Eliminate any mechanical failures other than the pump itself
  • Never use pond chemicals again
  • More areas for aquatic plants
  • More creative options for your waterfall
  • No more leaves starving your pump of water supply
  • Just let it run and it takes care of itself

If you are thinking about a new pond or thinking about upgrading your old pond, you really don’t need to talk to anyone else.  We’ve got the system that will make you smile.  End your worries and work, go for simple and easy.  Call me anytime, I’d be happy to come out and talk with you.

Happy Pondering,

Doug Hurth

   

Pond Cleanout Tips – Fish Health – How NOT to kill them.

Many of you will choose to clean out your own pond.  If you are planning this, check out our pond cleaning video and our pond cleaning page for full instructions.  This little article is all about the fish.  Your fish have made it through the long winter and they are weak at this time of the year, let’s do our best not to kill them now.

Holding Tank

  • You’ll need a holding tank for the fish.  The bigger the better for the health of your fish.
  • Unless it is really cold outside, you’ll probably want to have an aerator in the holding tank to keep the oxygen levels high in the holding tank.
  • Place the tank on a fairly level surface somewhere near the pond.  If it is a cool cloudy day, location won’t matter much, but if it is hot and sunny, you’ll want the tank in a shaded area so that the water doesn’t heat up too much.

Pumping Down the Pond and Removing the Fish

  • Do not start walking around in your pond stirring up the debris and freaking out the fish.
  • When you first begin to pump the water out of the pond, carefully place your pump on an upper level and pump some of the cleanest water into the tank where you will keep the fish during the clean out.
  • Have a net ready to cover the fish tank so that the fish don’t jump out while you are cleaning the pond.
  • Don’t even try to catch the fish until you have most of the water out of the pond.  You want the fish to remain calm and the more you chase them around, the more energy the use and the more freaked out they get.
  • Once the water level is just deep enough where they can still swim, it is very easy to catch them and transfer them to the holding tank.
  • Keep an eye open while you are pumping down the water.  Usually the fish will instinctively move down to the lowest level as the pond is emptying, but occasionally you’ll have some that get caught up on an upper level in the plants or under the leaves and debris.  You’ll need to get these stranded fish to the holding tank as soon as possible.
  • I usually have a five gallon pail of water that I use to transfer the fish to the tank.  It makes it easy to collect the smaller fish and eliminates a lot of trips back and forth to the tank.
  • Of course the larger fish will need to be transferred immediately to the tank.  When doing so, be sure to move quickly and cover the net so that they don’t jump out of the net on the way to the tank.
  • Never throw fish from the pond to the tank, remember the less stress the better.

Filling the Pond and Returning the Fish

  • Once you finish your pond cleaning, it is time to start filling the pond and return the fish to their home.
  • Here in Wisconsin we are usually cleaning ponds in April or May, so it is usually still fairly cool outside and the water in the holding tank is usually fairly close to the same temperature as the water coming out of the tap that we are using to fill the pond.
  • Your fish can handle very warm and very cold temperatures, but a rapid change in temperature can put them into shock and kill them.
  • As the air temperatures warm up, it becomes more and more critical to match the holding tank water temperature to the temperature in the pond before putting the fish back into the pond.
  • You can use a water thermometer if you’d like, but I have had really good luck just using my hand to test the water.  If the water feels significantly different to you then it is probably too much of a difference for your fish.
  • If the water is more than a few degrees different, you can run tap water into the tank with the fish to slowly cool it down or warm it up.  Since you are re-introducing your fish after the clean out, the new water in the pond has just come out of the tap, so tap water will help to slowly change the temps of the tank water.  Just don’t change it too quickly.
  • Most of the time, in cool temperatures, we can just start to fill the pond and when it gets full enough for the fish to swim we pump the holding tank water back into the pond and re-introduce the fish at the same time.
  • Another way to acclimate the fish is to float their container in the pond water for a period of time until the water temps have equalized.  You can use buckets or plastic bags full of the holding tank water and the fish to do this.  Just float the container in the pond and test it with your hand until the temperatures feel close to you.
  • If you have your doubt about the water temperatures, it is a good idea to introduce one fish to see how it reacts to the new water.  If it looks fine after a few minutes, you should be safe adding the other fish.
  • As you add fish back to the pond, take a minute to look at the fish.  If there are any fish with open sores on their bodies, it is probably better not to put them back into the pond with your other fish.
  • This is also a good time to eliminate any fish that you don’t want.  Oftentimes the goldfish population will just go crazy and overwhelm your pond if you don’t remove a few fish from time to time.  Here in Wisconsin I have not had this problem with Koi.
  • If you are filling the pond with city water you’ll need to add dechlorinator to the water.  The chlorine in city water can burn the gills of your fish.
  • The water in the freshly cleaned pond will contain plenty of oxygen for your fish, but you’ll want to start your pond’s water circulation as soon as you can to keep the aeration levels high.

That’s about it.  If you follow the steps above, you should have very few fish problems.

Have a great summer!

Spring Newsletter

Aquaponics?

So I guess this is the combination of hydroponics and aquaculture. Interesting stuff. I’ve been doing a bit of reading about this lately and it has really got me thinking. Why don’t we grow some vegetables in our ponds? I know, this sounds funny the first time you say it, but hear me out.

Aquaponics

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The Buckthorn Brigade

We just finished a job out in Delafield clearing a rather steep hillside of Buckthorn. The hill is overlooking Nagawicka Lake and is the home to many large and wonderful Oak trees as well as many turkey, deer and squirrel.  We have worked at this site for a few years now and I would

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Spring Enthusiasm?

Well, it seems that Spring is almost upon us once again. This time of the year we here at Hurth Waterscapes are very busy trying to finish up any tasks that are left on our winter to-do lists, meetings with clients to schedule the year’s work and gearing up to begin doing that work. Spring

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Water garden gift suggestions

There’s no need to make a naughty-versus-nice holiday list when it comes to water garden enthusiasts. Those who are drawn to water features seem to have inherited naturally nice DNA!

For those of you who haven’t yet taken the plunge into the world of water gardening, following is my top-ten list of items to make

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Pondering Your Way Through February

So, what have you been pondering during this wintry month of February? Did you check up on Punxsutawney Phil? Is spring on its way? Will you celebrate Lincoln’s birthday or Valentine’s Day? Do you become more and more aware of the longer days and the shorter nights that are naturally part and parcel of this

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Welcome to the Holiday Pond

This article will take us from ghouls, goblins, witches, and jack-o-lanterns, right on through to pilgrims, turkey with all the trimmings, pumpkin pie, and apple cider. Yes indeed the holidays are officially upon us, and that means the pond out in the backyard has taken on a different personality, a different look, a different taste

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Summertime Dreams

Summertime is upon us and life couldn’t be better for pond owners in Wisconsin. In the spring we have pond clean-outs. In the fall we have winter pond prep. In winter, unless your waterfall runs all winter, there is not much to do with your pond. But in the summertime the weather is fabulous, the

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