Discover all you need to know about adding aquatic plants to your pond

A colourfully landscaped garden is only as enchanting as the amount of effort that has gone into designing it. The same applies to garden ponds and the addition of aquatic plants to create a bespoke water feature. There are a wide range of pond plants available on the market. Plant varieties all have their own specific requirements such as amount of light, substrate type and growing conditions. Maximum size is also an important feature worth noting. The three basic aquatic plant types: submerged (also known as oxygenators), marginal and floating. It is a good idea to incorporate planting shelves into your pond design if you plan on adding marginal and submerged plants.

Colour, height, texture and planting conditions all need to be well researched to create great visual interest. How you combine plant attributes will give you the aquatic landscape you envisage.

Pond plants and planting shelves

To incorporate a range of aquatic plants you need to add planting shelves at various depths. Submerged and marginal plants will need planting in a special pond basket before securing in place on a planting shelf. Use washed gravel to plant in rather than soil.

Pond plants are able to have their nutritional needs met from decomposing fish food and fish waste. If fish aren’t present and nutrient are levels low, add in a liquid fertiliser designed specifically for pond plants.

Pond plants added to a garden water feature

When choosing planting pots, avoid choosing those with a bottom drainage hole. Soil will leach out of the pot adding nutrients to the water, which will then lead to an increase in algae growth. The same applies to the use of plastic mesh baskets unless you line them with cut-offs of Geotextile underlay or hessian. Both materials will stop soil leaching out while allowing continuous water, gas and air movement to pass over the plant roots.

Planting pots without a drainage hole work well provided the water level of the pond is kept above the surface of the pot. Add a gravel top layer to stop soil leaching out.

Fabric pond baskets are gaining popularity as they can easily be moulded into tight spaces. The height can be adjusted by folding the sides down. They also;

  • allow roots to be aerated for healthy growth
  • rot resistant
  • easy to move around and conform readily to the shape of the pond
  • blends in with the pond contents
  • no risk of cracking

To plant, add aquatic soil to your chosen pot. This will help to anchor your plant in place and holds nutrients for healthy growth. Pots stop plants getting too big and invasive.

Aquatic plants provide shade and use up nutrients in the water to help maintain a healthy, well oxygenated, clean pond and they control levels of algae growth. Add aquatic plants to your pond between mid-spring to early summer.

This entry was posted on October 19, 2018, in Garden ponds.

How to maintain a healthy pond with or without a pond pump

A pond pump is the heart of a man-made pond. A pond pump circulates and aerates the water which helps to maintain a healthy pond environment. There are two basic types, a submersible and an external pump. But, not all ponds need a pond pump as we will go on to explain.

The closed ecosystem of a garden pond needs to be carefully managed. A pump creates water movement and splashing sounds most people associate with having a pond. But, there are ponds that can thrive without a pump and still be healthy.

How natural ponds thrive without a pond pump

Wildlife and natural ponds can be home to amphibians, insects and micro-organisms (invertebrates) all living together harmoniously. With life they all excrete waste into the water adding nutrients to the system. High nutrient levels along with sunlight encourage algae growth. The presence of algae in a pond can start to choke out pond inhabitants affecting the natural ecosystem. It is therefore in the interest of a pond owner to ensure such conditions don’t happen. In a wildlife pond clean, oxygenated water is possible without the presence of a pond pump. It’s own environment becomes the filter. In a man-made pond, particularly those home to Koi, it is almost impossible to prevent algae from flourishing without the presence of a pond pump and filter system.

In a garden pond – whether a preformed mould or pond liner is used in the build, there aren’t the natural substrates for micro-organisms to thrive on and so a filter system is needed. It provides a type of surface for micro-organisms to attach to and eat plant and animal matter floating around in the water.

Filter and pump system are only really essential if you want to keep Koi fish. They work to control algae levels.

A solar fountain can be enough to keep the water moving and sufficiently oxygenated on hot days.

Pond maintenance without a pond pump

In a natural pond micro-organisms are present in high abundance. They exist in the soil and on plants. They function as a ponds ‘vacuum cleaner’ living off plant and animal organic matter found in the water and turn it into nutrients that aquatic plants need to thrive. Micro-organisms play a vital role in keeping the system in healthy equilibrium.

In garden ponds built using a protective underlay and pond liner the presence of micro-organisms is greatly reduced. Pond liners are necessary for the containment of water but intervention needs to be put in place to ensure that the quality of water is maintained in the absence of those microbes. Dead animal and plant matter is removed from the water by a pond filter and pump before it decomposes.  Decaying matter will increase the nutrient levels beyond what is needed.

Large garden pond aerated by a stream and waterfall

Steps to managing healthy pond water quality

There are a number of steps pond owners can put in place to reduce nutrient levels.

  • Maintain a healthy balance of fish to pond volume – Koi fish excrete far more waste than goldfish. Too many Koi in an average garden pond will increase nutrient levels
  • Feed fish no more than they actually need and take particular note to the seasons as fish are less active in autumn and winter therefore eat less
  • Include sufficient aquatic plants to cover at least a half to two-thirds of your pond surface. This will reduce the amount of sunlight entering the water and will use-up nutrients in the water leaving less for algae to thrive on. Plants also offer a substrate for micro-organisms to live off. Plants take-up nutrients in the water leaving little for algae to thrive on.
  • Aeration is necessary to prevent an increase in anaerobic bacteria

The correct size pond pump is one that will circulate at least half the volume of water through the filter every hour (gallons/hour). So, a 1500 gallon pond would need a pump that can filter 750 gallons per hour for sufficient oxygen supply to plants and fish. A koi pond needs a pond pump that will cope with the amount of waste excreted daily. Pumps work off mains electricity supply drawing in water and pushing it out again by means of an impeller driven by a motor. A submersible pump is suitable for fountains, waterfalls and filter systems. They require regular maintenance to avoid debris build-up in the filter which could cause the motor to burn-out from over use.


This entry was posted on October 4, 2018, in Garden ponds.

Why fish huddle together at the bottom of a garden pond?

A fish pond is a dynamic environment with sun, wind, rain and vegetation all affecting the quality of water. The health of pond water is a main contributor as to whether fish will thrive or not. Goldfish are the most hardy of pond fish and will tolerate a certain level of algae-filled and muddy conditions. However, a cramped environment (number and size of fish relative to volume of water) causes stress as a result of increasing nitrate levels.

To keep fish happy and thriving in your pond it is important to understand their behaviour at different times of the year. Doing this will help you to know what is normal behaviour versus a reaction to dealing with stress or change.

Over crowding, a lack of oxygen, over-feeding and poor nutrition, are stress factors that may lead fish to huddle together at the bottom of the pond. In this article we explore four factors that adversely affect the well-being of fish.

Factors that lead to a change in fish behaviour

Poor quality food lacking in essential nutrients

Fish have specific nutritional needs for good growth and bone development. Fish will soon recognise poor quality food and stop eating some or all at feeding time. Wasted food will sink to the bottom of the pond and decompose. Oxygen is taken from the water and used in the decomposition process. Noxious gases such as ammonia are then released into the water. The gases are poisonous to fish and result in stress, or in unmanaged situations, death. Feeding fish a food they love and to the correct quantity will keep them happy and pond water healthy.

Change to the health of pond water

The quality of pond water (which must not be confused by water clarity) has a big influence on how well Koi and goldfish will thrive in their environment. The health of fish is directly related to the correct balance of  pH, dissolved oxygen, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels. These need to be carefully regulated – water hardness can also have an effect. Any rapid change will lead to stress. Example, fish seen gasping for air is a sign of a lack of oxygen in the water.

Ammonia, nitrite and nitrate gases are toxic to fish if they are allowed to build up in a pond. Fish excrete ammonia as a by product of metabolism. Fish respiration uses up oxygen and nitrifying bacteria use oxygen to convert ammonia from fish waste. If oxygen levels are too low, the detoxification process slows. The result is a build-up of ammonia in the water.  Dissolved oxygen levels can be maintained by reducing the number of fish (if there are too many per pond size) and installing a fountain, stream or water jet to aerate the water.

Fish metabolism is sensitive to pH changes. They will tolerate a range of values on either side of neutral but not extreme changes. The ideal for a pond is between pH 6.8 and 8.0. Check the pH of the water at least once a week.


Your fish maybe threatened by a visiting heron. If a predator visits in the early hours or at dusk you may not be aware of the threat to your fish and therefore why they are huddled at the bottom of your pond. InstallinKoi fish pond with waterfall to maintain healthy levels of oxygen in waterg deterrents such as a pond net will make your pond less attractive to predators. The sooner you are able to identify and stop predators attacking or threatening your fish, the sooner they will resume normal behaviour again.

Pond water temperature

Koi don’t like rapid change.  For example, a sudden drop in temperature of the water can cause them stress. A wet, cold summer may result in the pond water getting cold leading to fish going into partial hibernation or displaying other behavioural changes. They hover about at the bottom of the pond where the water is warmer, stop eating or rub their bodies on the side of the pond.

Oxygen dissolves naturally in water. The temperature of the water determines how much oxygen will dissolve. The warmer the temperature, the lower the amount of oxygen.

Koi seen jumping out of the water or moving about very rapidly, is a sign of oxygen deficiency in the water. A hot summer will lead to an increase in water temperature and a drop in oxygen levels. Install a fountain, artificial stream or plant oxygenating plants to maintain sufficient oxygen levels.

Pond fish – Koi and goldfish are more active when the weather is warm so make the most of their vibrant personalities by reducing stress as much as possible.

Other related blog articles on pond maintenance and how to help fish and other pond inhabitants thrive:

This is how to measure a pond liner for pond with waterfall


Garden pond maintenance: how to keep your pond healthy during the summer months

My top 5 steps on how to build a pond and fit a pond liner

This entry was posted on August 14, 2018, in Garden ponds.

How garden ponds help local wildlife during a heatwave

Sitting in my office feeling hot and flustered! A visit to our local pool, a cold shower or an ice-cold drink will certainly help cool me down. But what about our local wildlife? – how do they survive this heatwave we are experiencing. The lawns are looking parched, plants wilting and ground is bone-dry. Garden ponds are a stark contrast to the bleakness this heatwave has created. Not only do they add colour and vibrancy, but a pond is extremely helpful to birds, bees, dragonflies, frogs, newts, hedgehogs and many other creatures – attracting them into the garden.

Benefits of a garden pond to wildlife

  • Aquatic plants grown in and around a pond provide a landing place for bees, butterflies and dragonflies so that they can drink the water
  • Aquatic plants provide nectar for pollinators, adds colour to a garden without having to be watered and they offer shelter to many small creatures
  • Provides water to thirsty wildlife and a cool place to escape the heat
  • Attract dragonflies which in turn feed on mosqitoes
  • Ponds use less water than having to nurture flowerbeds and lawn in hot, dry conditions
  • Don’t require fertiliser or pesticides to keep them looking good so are an environmentally favourable addition to any size garden
  • Helps prevent frog and toad population numbers decliningFrog peeping through lily pad on a wildlife garden pond

A garden pond helps local ecosystems so that we can continue enjoying their sounds and sightings. As Dr Daniel Hayhow, RSPB conservation scientist said: “Unfortunately, the sights and sounds of wildlife that were once common to us are sadly becoming more mysterious. Creating a small pond in your garden, or a pool using a washing-up bowl, is so simple to do and could make all the difference.”

How to build a wildlife friendly pond

  • Make your pond as big as possible to create many and varied habitats. The Wildlife Trust suggests a pond 1m wide by 2m long to be an ideal size
  • Ensure some edges are shallow and sloping to allow creatures easy access
  • Add aquatic plants

When you have finished building your pond don’t be tempted to transfer creatures such as frogs and newts from other ponds or take spawn from the wild, which can spread disease. Insects, amphibians and invertebrates will find your pond surprisingly quickly on their own.

Pond liners are an easy way of containing water for wildlife ponds particularly where the ground is porous. The pond liner does not need to detract from the natural look of your pond. Cover it with smooth surfaced pebbles. Rubber pond liners such as Epalyn (EPDM) or Butyl are non-toxic to wildlife and don’t leach chemicals into the water. These pond liners are thick, flexible and resistant to UV rays so will stand up to sunny, hot conditions and the presence of wildlife for more than 25 years.

Useful Articles:

26 Reasons why you should definitely build a pond for wildlife

Steps to planning a garden pond build

Planting aquatic plants

5 Important steps to avoid blanket weed covering your pond

How to attract wildlife with these garden pond ideas

Three Admiral butterflies fluttered past me while pruning back an evergreen indigenous shrub on Sunday. The presence of wildlife to any keen or aspiring gardener offers a great sense of achievement. Besides the positive impact to wildlife, attracting birds, bees, butterflies, small mammals and amphibians into your garden creates a haven of tranquility. As I sit here typing away I am conscious of the humming of bees over our lavender, the chirping of house martin chicks and common blue butterflies. A sign of being an environmentally responsible gardener.

Wildlife enthusiasts all agree that no matter how small a space you have, there are plants you can grow that will welcome wildlife – including aquatic plants!

How to attract wildlife to a small garden or patio

Add water – pond or water feature
Include plants with berries, seeds and nectar rich flowers – honey suckles are perfect for filling vertical space and their berries provide food for birds and buddleia
Add ground cover and shrubs – a place of protection and warmth for birds and mammals

A garden pond is a wonderful way of attracting many other types of wildlife – the wide range of creatures include frogs, newts, dragon flies, water skate and small mammals – bringing so much life and a whole new dimension to any size garden.

Ponds are particularly important for providing a home for frogs, toads and newts. In turn they offer a natural means of pest control helping to maintain a healthy balance in the garden. Amphibians prefer still water leaving water in Autumn to hibernate in ground cover, log piles or pulses of fallen leaves.

The common frog will eat slugs, caterpillars, flies and mosquitoes. Frog peeping through lily pad on a wildlife garden pond

What is needed for a successful wildlife pond

A fact about ponds is that they support two thirds of our native freshwater species of plants, invertebrates, mammals and amphibians.

There are a few requirements to ensure your pond can support wildlife

  • a beached area to at least a third of the circumference of the pond – do this by either grading the soil under the pond liner or adding stones, pebbles or washed grit above the pond liner. If you are concerned about damaging your pond liner, remember you can add a layer of protective underlay both above and below the pond liner.
  • add a semi submerged rock or feature for birds to perch on while taking a drink
  • include cover for small creatures by allowing for sufficient space around the edge of a pond for planting.  A dense amount of planting around and within the pond as well as a pile of old logs or sticks  offers a place for small creatures to safely hide from predators and extreme weather conditions.

Marginals plants are great for attracting insects but also for providing cover to frogs, newts, birds and even small mammals. Marginals help to merge land with water and will tolerate a rise or fall in water level.

Adding deep water plants will help to keep the water oxygenated and healthy. An example is the well known water lily whose leaves over cover as well as a landing pad for insects and frogs.
Best planted in aquatic baskets.

On land the best cover is from shrubs and hedges.

Create the right environment and wildlife will be drawn into garden.

What is a wildlife pond vs fish pond?

A wildlife pond is one which is likely to have the following visitors in abundance – water boatman, pond skaters, pond snails, hedgehogs, birds of the area,  water is essential for all creatures.

Mini barrel pond – arrange different levels of rocks, pebbles or clay pots placed at different levels around outside of barrel to assist small creatures visiting your barrel pond.

Tip: Don’t keep fish that are likely to eat visiting wildlife. In dry weather top up with water from rain butt.

The perfect wooden barrel water feature lined with a pond liner

Small gardens, balconies and patios can welcome wildlife just as large garden spaces filled with shrubs and sources of water. Building a pond is one of the best ways to attract wildlife. Small spaces need not excluded from having a pond or water feature. A large non-porous planter or an old barrel are ideal for making the perfect pond to add to small spaces.Wooden barrel that can be lined with a PVC pond liner to make a pond

According to Monty Don, ” the container you use to make a pond should have a neck wider than 45cm and a depth greater than 40cm”. The minimum depth is a required feature in order to add aquatic plants.

If you are lucky enough to find an old half barrel the age of the wood is likely to mean it won’t be sufficiently waterproof. The solution is to line with a pond liner – either a PVC liner or rubber pond liner.

When filling a half wooden barrel with aquatic plants, spend some thought on the type of wildlife it is likely to attract. Birds, for instance will appreciate a boulder or brand to perch on when drinking.

Waterproof an old wooden barrel with a pond liner

  • Take measurements of the barrel to determine the square meters of pond liner to order
  • Line the barrel and secure the pond liner in place with heavy duty staples at the rim of the barrel. The water will also help keep the pond liner in place
  • Trim-off any excess pond liner

Wooden barrel pond visited by a frogOnce the liner is in place, cover the bottom of the barrel with a layer of aquatic compost. Then add a fine layer of grit above that. Aquatic plants can be planted directly into the layer of compost or you can plant in an aquatic basket.

With the average garden in the U.K. getting smaller and smaller, landscapers and environmentalists and researching different approaches to fill any amount of outdoor space with wildlife friendly plants and water features.

Garden pond maintenance: how to keep your pond healthy during the summer months

The UK is renowned for it’s distinctive four seasons. With that pond owners should be well aware of the steps we need to take during each season to keep our ponds and their inhabitants healthy.  The top concern for pond owners during warm summer months is the growth of green algae, which is a symptom of high nutrient levels.

Garden ponds are intended to be enjoyed and not to be a burden on your time cleaning and maintaining them. There are a few basic rules to follow when building a pond and adding in aquatic plants and fish. These will help avoid time spent agonising over green water, fish parasites or a carpet of algae suffocating your pond. A fish pond sited in partial shade with the correct size pump and filter to volume of water is a great start to keeping a pond healthy and happy!

Steps to keeping your pond healthy this summer

  • Rake-out blanket weed from the surface of your pond. The algae will rob your pond of nutrients. Use a rake to gently drag the algae over the edge of your pond. There are likely to be insects and maybe tadpoles caught up in it so  leave the blanket-weed to the side of the pond for a few hours to allow them to wriggle back into the pond. Then dispose of the blanket weed on the compost heapKoi swimming about in a garden pond
  • Allow the pond level to fluctuate naturally as much as possible. If you do need to top it up during a hot, dry period then it is best to use rainwater collected in a water butt. A significant drop in the water level will affect the amount of oxygen available for fish. Tap water is full of nutrients and will stimulate algae growth therefore should only be used when filtered rainwater isn’t available. If you lined your pond with a rubber pond liner, they are UV resistant. This means that if the water level drops and the pond liner becomes exposed, it won’t go brittle and crack
  • Remove yellowing leaves from aquatic plants – don’t wait until they drop into your pond as they may find their way to the bottom of your pond where they will decompose affecting the health of your pond
  • Depending on the type of system you have in your pond, will affect how often you need to clean the filter and pump.  If you have a skimmer or biological filters, you will need to empty the debris nets or clean and rinse the filter pads in the skimmer. This won’t take much of your time but how often it needs doing depends on the amount of debris that falls into your pond. Mechanical filter pads also need cleaning and rinsing
  • If you have fish then feed them regularly with a high protein food to encourage growth. Warm water temperatures stimulate metabolism but don’t be tempted to feed them more than they can consume within 3 to 4 minutes. Koi fish are omnivorous eating both plant and animal matter such as algae, aquatic plants, worms, larvae and crustaceans – therefore you can supplement their diet with what is available in your pond

Your pond is there to be enjoyed while sitting outdoors during those long summer evenings. By following these few summer maintenance tips and those of the previous 3 seasons, your pond should be a scene of tranquility and relaxation.

Useful Articles:

Steps to planning a garden pond build

Planting aquatic plants

5 Important steps to avoid blanket weed covering your pond

Gardens ponds: the value they add to our local environment

Garden ponds provide many benefits to wildlife. Research has also proven that blue space is beneficial to our health too. The intensively farmed country-side, use of agricultural sprays, draining of wetland habitats and expansion of towns and cities has resulted in the decline of many wild life species including the common frog – despite it’s name it is actually in rapid decline. All this has a devastating environment impact.

Benefits of building a garden pond

  • Provides a breeding habitat for amphibians
  • Offers a temporary home for amphibians and reptiles – frogs and newts find their way to water sources – newts favour ponds without fish.
  • Holds a diversity of species
  • Ecosystems are linked by water
  • They recirculate water unlike lawns and flowerbeds which require constant watering during warm, dry weather
  • The sludge collected by a ponds filter is rich in nutrients from fish faeces, uneaten fish food and decaying plant matter. It makes a natural fertilizer that can be dug into flower beds.

Ponds offer wildlife a home, breeding habitat and a source of food. However, it is not just the water feature, it is also about the landscape surrounding a garden pond that is of great value. For example, newts leave hibernation between February and March, returning to ponds for breeding with pond plants providing egg-laying locations. They also need an undisturbed habitat around the pond, providing refuge and good feeding sites. By not paving all of the green space in your garden and being less of a perfectionist when it comes to tidying flower beds, are valued by wildlife. Piles of dried leaves are home to frogs, newts and many other small creatures. Gardens and ponds work in harmony to help the environment – plants, shrubs and trees haver air purifying properties reducing the toxic effect of air pollution.

A pond that is in good health won’t require a lot of on going maintenance. As long as the ecosystem remains balanced, a pond can be left to self-manage. Seasonal pond maintenance is required to rid it of sludge build-up and to cut back the over-growth of aquatic plants.

Ponds offer a sanctuary – a place to go to relax and shut yourself off from the rest of the world – listening to the tranquil sound of water while watching nature at it’s happiest!

Garden ponds with or without the addition of a small fountain are likely to also add to the value of your property. According to The Telegraph May 2016 – “Running water can help mask background noise in areas near busy roads or schools. Small fountains or water features can help create a more peaceful environment – making it more attractive to potential buyers.”

P.S. Butyl and Epalyn pond liners are environmentally friendly products and don’t leach toxic chemicals into the water.

7 Important steps to avoid blanket weed covering your pond

There are over 20 000 different species of algae of which Blanket weed is one type.With so many species it can be quite a challenge to differentiate between them. Blanket weed, however is the most common type found in garden ponds and is easily identified by its long filamentous threads. It has the potential to grow more than 2 meters in a day. With such a rapid growth rate, if not treated quickly enough it has the potential to cover your pond and block the filtration system. Prevention is certainly better than having to deal with the potentially fatal consequences of blanket weed by depriving fish and other aquatic inhabitants of oxygen.

Why is blanket weed common to garden ponds?

Blanket weed is a thread-like, filamentous algae that floats on the water. It forms a dense hair-like green mat attaching itself to rocks or to the side of the pond. If it attaches itself to oxygenating plants the algae will smother the plants preventing them from releasing oxygen into the water.

Blanket weed lifted out from a ponds surface

Blanket weed thrives on sunlight and nutrients in the water. The higher the levels of organic matter the greater the chances of having to deal with this green filamentous algae.

  1. Pond over populated with fish – this will lead high levels fish faeces increasing the organic nutrients levels in the water
  2. Incorrect pond pump and filter capacity for pond size
  3. Dead leaves and plant matter falling into the pond and left to turn to nutrient-rich sludge at the bottom of the pond
  4. Pond exposed to fully daily sun light
  5. Fertilizer leached into the pond via rainwater run-off from surrounding landscape

Any one of these five will increase the nutrient content in your pond. Blanket weed thrives on nutrients so it you want to reduce the risk of blanket weed then avoid nutrients entering the water.

How to reduce the risk of blanket weed

  • Remove plant debris before it sinks to the bottom (particularly during the autumn months) by securing a net over your pond to catch the leaves or regularly skimming-off fallen debris
  • Avoid the use of fertilizers on your lawn
  • Top-up pond water levels with rainwater rather than tap water as the former is believed to have less nutrients such as calcium
  • Pot plants in low nutrient aquatic soil only
  • Add water lilies to your pond. They add shade and protection for fish and other aquatic inhabitants. They also use-up nutrients leaving little for blanket weed to thrive off
  • Avoid over feeding fish. Uneaten food will turn to sludge and increase water nutrient levels
  • Remove sludge from the bottom of your pond – the result of decaying plants, fallen leaves and fish waste left to rot. This can be done by vacuuming the bottom of your pond

There are various treatments available from aquatic stores to treat blanket weed. For garden ponds home to gold fish or aquatic plants only then the introduction of pond snails is a wise choice. Snails will eat pond algae such as blanket weed, uneaten fish food and decaying matter. They are recognised as an ecologically safe way to control algae without the use of chemicals. For Koi ponds, use barley straw logs to rid your pond of algae.

The positive effects of blanket weed

While high levels of blanket weed can be disastrous to your pond, in small concentrations they actually have the ability to cleanse and purify the water by using up organic nutrients present in the water. A pond completely free of algae may not be possible but keeping the nutrient levels low by following the above mentioned 7 points will go along way to a happy, healthy and well balanced pond.

How to keep heron away from garden fish ponds

Heron are notorious for searching out fish ponds for easy pickings during the nesting season. Not only do they have the determination to deplete an entire fish stock from a pond but there is also the potential risk of them damaging the pond liner.

Observing these birds habits and actions has helped to find ways of preventing them from feeding on the fish in garden ponds. Heron are tall (90-100cm), with a long neck, long legs to allow them to wade in water and a dagger-like beak evolved for snapping up fish. When in search of food it stands completely motionless in the water, waiting for a fish to swim close enough for it to swiftly seize it.

The grey heron wades into water and fishes in the water from a standing position. There are various products available from aquatic stockists or you can make your own ‘Heron proofing’.

  • Netting – Persuading herons not to raid fish ponds is very difficult. Netting is considered by many fish pond owners to be the only effective protection. The downside, however is that marginal plants are likely to get caught-up in the netting. A sheet of black mesh pulled taut above the water is also a good option because plants can grow through. Mesh secured at a height of about 30cm above the water will still allow small birds to access the pond from the edges.
  • Stakes – If netting detracts from the beauty of your pond or gets in the way when cutting back plants etc, then another option is to dig wooden posts into the ground around the periphery. Attach a length of rope to each of the posts to stop herons wading into your pond. This method has been tested by pond owners with positive outcomes.
  • Suspended line – Less glamorous than rope but also less intrusive is the use of fishing gut attached to and held in place by cane, plastic or metal supports at a height 15 to 30cm’s above the ground. This will disturb herons when they walk towards the pond where there isn’t ample shallow beached areas to allow them to land straight into the water.
  • Shelter – Floating plants such as the waterlily offer shelter from predators as do overhanging boulders.
  • Vertical sided ponds – Herons prefer to fish in shallow water, so vertically sided ponds with depths of 1.2 meters or more are less attractive. Fish in steep-sided ponds are therefore less likely to get frightened off unless one at the surface is stabbed by a heron swooping over the pond.
  • Dog – Pets left to run around freely in the garden can make it a less attractive place for heron to visit.

Gray heron visiting a pond to fish for food

While these protective measures offer some resistance to unwanted heron visits, pond fish are only really safe when they hide at the bottom depths of a pond.

Herons are a protected species so for that reason plus the fact that past winters have been relatively mild has resulted in an increase in heron numbers in the UK. You are likely to see them roosting in rural treetops particularly near rivers and canals. They can, however travel great distances in search of food so visits to urban ponds are not uncommon. An adult heron needs up to half a kilogram of food per day, so can be extremely persistent and determined in their hunt for food which is why fully protecting a fish pond can be such a huge challenge. In spring and early winter fish are sluggish coming out of or going into a period of dormancy, so become easy targets. This really is a time you need to be most vigilant against these unwanted visitors.


How to edge an informal wildlife pond and secure the pond liner?

It is well documented that a garden pond will add an element of peace and tranquility to any outdoor space.  Whether a wildlife pond or one that is home to fish, they are also a source of water that will attract an abundance of creatures without much effort.

We have been called to rescue garden ponds loosing water so we do strongly suggest the use of an underlay and pond liner for all pond builds. Flexible pond liners such as Epalyn and Butyl are the most commonly used, as they will adapt to any size and shape. PVC pond liners are relatively cheap, but they deteriorate when exposed to sunlight, puncture more readily and are short-lived. Butyl and Epalyn rubber are more expensive, but durable and will last 30-50 years.

In this article we offer advice on how to line and edge a wildlife garden pond with a rubber pond liner while still being able to maintain an informal look. The role of a pond liner is to prevent the lose of water while also helping to maintain a healthy pond ecosystem.

Designing your wildlife pond

  • Make your pond as big as possible to create many and varied habitats. The Wildlife Trust suggests a pond 1m wide by 2m long to be an ideal size.
  • The deepest part should be at least 0.5 to 0.8 meters. A pond that is too shallow will heat-up too quickly in summer with the risk of turning green and ice over in winter starving your pond of oxygen.
  • Ensure some edges are shallow and sloping to allow amphibians and small creatures easy access and exit.
  • Include planting shelves. Place boulders intermittently between baskets planted up with plants, merging with the rim of the pond for a natural progression from land into water while also secure the pond liner in place. Aquatic plants provide much needed shelter and protection from predators. This creative mix of plant and boulders meeting with the edge of the pond also hides the visibility of the pond liner.
  • Add native plants from other garden ponds or garden centres. Never take plants from the wild. March is a great time to construct a pond and add plants giving them all season to establish themselves.
  • Include a rim or lip around your pond particularly if you intend using turf for the edging. The lip is there to prevent water and soil from draining from the cut turf into the pond bringing with it unwanted nutrients.

Rim built around the edge of pond to protect from rain runoff flowing into pond

This photo is a of a very big and deep pond in construction. I have shared it as an example of a lip or rim to the edge of a pond and to show the underlay overlay on top of which the pond liner is installed and then edging material or turf is placed to keep both in place.

Wildlife pond and fish pond edge finishing ideas for lasting effects

Pond liner installation

  • Remove as many stones, roots and sharp debris from the bottom of the pond to avoid puncturing the pond liner
  • First install a protective underlay to protect pond liner from puncturing
  • A rubber pond liner such as Butyl or Epalyn is durable, resistant to adverse weather conditions and UV rays. They are both flexible and readily mould into the contours of a pond therefore our preferred choice
  • For the beached area of a wildlife pond we also recommend adding an underlay above the pond liner for added protection when adding sand and gravel. The underlay will also help to stop the material used to create the sloping area from sliding into the deepest area of the pond.

Add a turf, boulders or stone slabs to edge a pond

With wildlife ponds there is a variety of methods used in the edging. In many cases all options are used – buried edge, boulders, stone slabs, turf, planted or gravel edges are all used. A buried edge is when the lip of the pond liner is buried in the sand. The only possible negative feature of this type of edging is that when the water level drops the liner is exposed and takes away the ‘natural-look’ of a wildlife pond so it isn’t one of our favoured choices.

When measuring up your pond liner include an extra 10% for the overlay to secure it in place. You can add the underlay both underneath and on top of the pond liner to help the sand or gravel to stick to it in a gradually sloping shallow beached area of a pond. Or, you can glue the boulders to the pond liner with a waterproof sealant. Then lay sod around the pond.

Edging a pond with paving slabs or boulders is a lot easier than using turf, however turf does offer a far more natural transition from land to water. Unlike stone, turf won’t get hot to the touch so is far kinder to small creatures when visiting your pond. If you prefer to edge your wildlife pond with turf, we recommend growing your own to avoid pesticides leaching into your pond.

Use play sand or well washed gravel to create the beached sloping edge into your pond.

Turf growing close to a pond will maintain relatively damp conditions for frogs to hide in move they move from pond to dry land. Turf will need to be maintained by hand to avoid the chance of grass clippings ending up in the water when mowing

Old logs offer a great form of cover and protection to wildlife so add a few around your pond. Add water snails to keep your pond water relatively clean.

When you have finished building your pond insects, amphibians and invertebrates will find your pond surprisingly quickly on their own.

Pond liners are an easy way of containing water for wildlife ponds particularly where the ground is porous. The pond liner does not need to detract from the natural look of your pond. Cover it with smooth surfaced pebbles. Don’t skimp on lining your pond – a high quality material will last for years with a reduced chance of puncturing. Any repair work will upset a well balanced pond with an established ecosystem. Rubber pond liners such as Epalyn (EPDM) or Butyl are non-toxic to wildlife and don’t leach chemicals into the water. These pond liners are durable, flexible and resistant to UV rays so will stand up to sunny conditions and the presence of wildlife for more than 30 years.

7 essential Spring pond maintenance steps to a healthy ecosystem

“Ponds are a lovely addition to any garden and can provide a rich habitat for a range of wildlife. However, without care ponds can soon become an eyesore with overgrown plants, weeds and water that is unhealthy for fish and other wildlife. Occasional cleaning and regular maintenance are required.” as quoted by the Royal Horticultural Society. With that in mind, here are 7 spring pond maintenance steps to get your pond ready for the months of warm summer weather.

A pond that is well maintained during the Autumn are less likely to require a lot of work at the start of Spring versus those where leaves and dead plant matter have been left to sink to the bottom, and aquatic plants haven’t been cut-back ready for the next growing season. Just as gardens need regular attention, so too does your pond!

Spring pond maintenance checklist

Spring pond maintenance tips

  1. Give your pond pump and mechanical filter a good cleaning. If you have a bio-filter, then return it to your pond. For more of pond filters, please refer to the next paragraph, which discusses the two filter options and seasonal maintenance requirements.
  2. Remove leaves or other debris that may have sunk to the bottom of your pond – as the water warms up, any debris left in your pond will start to decompose and affect the health of fish.
  3. Check your fish for any illnesses or wounds.
  4. Divide and repot pond plants. Avoid re-potting with soil full of organic matter. Most water plants grow well in sand and don’t require fertiliser. Water lilies are, however, an exception and do require fertiliser for a healthy growth. Water plants get their nutrients from fish waste. If you have extra plants after you have divided them, you may want to consider growing them in low, damp spaces in your garden.
  5. For fish ponds, make sure that up to half of the surface of your pond is covered with floating plants as it gives the fish a place to hide from predators and keeps them cool in the heat of the summer. It also keeps the sun from encouraging algae growth.
  6. If your pond is lined with a pond liner check that the material you have used for the edging is still in place, sufficiently covering the pond line to prevent any possible damage from claws or the UV rays – rubber pond liners are UV stable and will withstand long periods of UV exposure – but, a bare edging exposing a pond liner can detract from the beauty of the pond.
  7. Start feeding your fish small amounts initially but a good guide is to feed enough that will be consumed within 5 minutes

Pond filter options for your garden pond

A mechanical filter works by filtering out dirt, solid waste and algae from the pond water drawn in via a submersible pond pump. Water passes through foam, coarse sand, and filter granules to remove waste matter. This type of filter is inexpensive and usually installed in the pond. It is effective as soon as the system is switched on and can be run intermittently.

A bio-filter or biological filter, works by creating a suitable living environment for certain types of bacteria which ‘clean-up’ the waste material that fish produce – breaking down the waste and recycling it. Fish waste is excreted in the form of ammonia (which is toxic to fish). The naturally occurring bacteria in a pond, known as nitrosomonas breaks down ammonia into nitrite using oxygen to do so. Nitrite is then converted by the bacteria, nitrobacter into nitrate – an important plant food .  An essential spring pond maintenance step for a bio-filter is to return it to the pond and give it a boost of a bacteria/enzyme product to ensure the good bacteria colony starts to grow quickly. Bio-filters efficiency is affected by oxygen supply, temperature and water flow.

If you keep fish then it is advisable to run both a pump and filter (either a bio or mechanical filter) to keep the water clean and simplify pond maintenance. For ponds with aquatic plants only, you should be able to get away with little or no filtration. You can refer to this website for detailed information about the mechanics of pond filters – Pond Filtration Basics

Spring pond maintenance should be seen as a time to step outdoors and relish this amazing time of the year when nature awakens from her winter slumber.

This entry was posted on January 10, 2018, in Garden ponds.