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Pondering Balance

Most of you water gardening enthusiasts will probably already understand the importance of balance, but even if you do, it’s worth hearing it again.  And for those of you new to the lifestyle, Make sure that you read carefully and take this to heart.  It will make a huge difference to you and your pond.

Your natural eco-system pond must contain a balance of certain elements to make it work correctly, the way nature intended it to.  Remember, it works in the natural world and it will work in our backyards if we allow it to.  The only messed up ponds, rivers and lakes that I’ve seen in nature are the ones that we humans have been trying our best to mess up for years.

The colorful fish in your pond are there not only to entertain us; they also serve a functional purpose.  The fish will spend most of their day eating almost anything in your pond, including mosquitoes and any other insects that find themselves in the pond. They eat algae from the rocks, debris from the pond bottom, and they will even nibble on the aquatic plants if they get really hungry.  We always say hungry fish make for a clean pond.

After the fish eat, they metabolize the food, creating both energy and waste. The waste falls to the bottom of your pond, along with other debris such as leaves and twigs.  With the help of the billions and billions of aerobic bacteria that have colonized on the rocks at the bottom of your pond, the waste and debris are transformed into nutrients.  These nutrients, along with the available sunlight entering the pond are what plants and algae need to grow.  The aquatic plants that we plant in our ponds compete directly with the algae for the available nutrients and sunlight.  So, more plants will equal less algae.

As the plants and algae grow large and plentiful, the fish begin to nibble, create energy and waste, which falls to the bottom of your pond, etc., etc., etc.  This is an endless cycle that continues infinitely, over and over and over in your pond, presuming that you have everything in balance. If you do, the problems that you will have to deal with will be minimal. Yours will be a relaxing, and very low maintenance pond.

On the other hand, if you do things that are contrary to nature and your pond falls out of balance, you will be penalized. In the water gardening world, it’s a huge mistake to mess with Mother Nature. She’s been playing this game for an awfully long time and if you give her a hard time…you’ll lose.  Often times it’s a lack of patience that sends a pond and its owner off of the deep end.  The story usually goes something like this. “Well, I saw some of that green stuff on the rocks in my pond so while I was at the hardware store this guy sold me some stuff that he said would kill it.  I went home, dumped it in my pond and it looked fine for a couple of days, but then….”  I think that you know the rest of the story.  First of all, there probably isn’t anything at the hardware store that you would want to put in your pond, so don’t even ask.  Second, if the product kills algae, then it probably kills other things as well.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard homeowners tell stories of some sort of fix it quick product that was supposed to fix the pond up instantly.  Usually these fix it quick products contain chemicals similar to swimming pool shock.  The label can even say safe for plants and fish, but that just means there isn’t enough chemical to kill plants and fish.  The chemical will surely kill the algae, but it also kills bacteria and all other minute organisms in the pond leaving you with a pond full of dead algae and water that is now void of any of the beneficial organisms that could break down the dead algae.  So, in about a week you get even more algae than you had before.  Patience is the key.  The most well-balanced ponds that I know of are the ones with a good number of fish, many beautiful plants, and owners that don’t mess around with them.  My pond at home, while certainly not pristine, is quite well-balanced.  Being in the pond business, I really don’t put any effort into my own pond.  I sit next to it, look at it, listen to it, enjoy it, catch frogs with the kids and feed the fish several times over the summer, but that is about it.  I really don’t do more than scoop out some leaves in the fall and dump in some bacteria in the spring.

We want these ponds to be fun, not work.  Try to relax and let nature take its course.  I know that it is not always perfect and that it is not always easy to not have a quick fix for things, but trust me nature knows best.  I sincerely hope that we can all be blessed with enough patience and perseverance to let Mother Nature do her thing, because left on her own, she does beautiful work.

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