To Clean or Not To Clean?

This spring, as I take calls for the usual spring clean-outs, I’ve gotten many questions regarding how far a pond owner needs to go for their clean-out.  Do they need to pump it down, remove the fish and pressure wash?  Can they just pump it partially down and partially clean it?  Can they just skim out the debris and start it up?  I guess that I’m getting more questions this spring due to the economic times and peoples’ desire to save a buck.  I can understand that, we all need to tighten the belt a few notches.

Well, the answer is not as simple as they may want to hear, but in short, the answer to all of the above questions is YES!  Any of these spring treatments will work.  Once again I go back to the simple fact that we are talking about natural eco-system ponds, not swimming pools and not fountains.  These are natural ponds, so they can be treated as naturally as you wish to treat them.  Also, I will state again as I have before that when dealing with Mother Nature, there are rarely “sure thing”, cut and dry answers.  The answers are often a bit more interconnected and complicated.

I’ve got many clients who love to see their pond pumped down and completely pressure washed and cleaned each spring.  I liken this to the spring cleaning that many of us do inside our homes.  There is a good feeling that comes along with welcoming the new spring with a fresh clean start.  The same feeling that you may get from a sparkling clean house can also be had from staring into your freshly cleaned water garden.  Each rock as clean and colorful as the day that it was installed and fresh clean water to start the year.  This is the approach that many pond installers and maintainers swear by.  They will tell you in no uncertain terms that you must perform this cleaning every spring.  I profit from clean-outs also, but I’ve got to tell you that this is simply not necessary every year for every pond.  If you like the spring cleaning, then by all means, it is your right to clean out your pond however you see fit.  But, especially in times when many families are trying to reduce expenditures, you shouldn’t feel bad for skipping a year or two.

Take a look at your pond.  If you have an ecosystem pond with rocks, gravel, plants, bacteria, moving water and fish, chances are you don’t need to clean it as often as you might think.  If your pond is not overloaded with fish and it is not heavily burdened with leaves and debris, then you can probably just clean out all of the filter media, manually remove as much debris as you can, start it up and maybe do a twenty percent water change.  Sure, you won’t have that spik n’ span look, but it will most likely be easier on your fish, easier on your pocketbook and easier on the balance of your pond.  When you completely drain and wash a pond, you remove some of the nature.  This thorough spring cleaning puts your pond into a state of relative imbalance.  Personally I fully clean my pond every few years if it looks like it needs it.  Last year and the year before, I simply skimmed out debris with a net, cleaned my skimmer and Biofalls filters, added some barley and bacteria and fired it up.  It wasn’t the cleanest pond on the block and it had some pretty green fuzzy rocks at first, but once the water warmed, it looked like any other year.  The water warms, the plants and fish become more active, the fish eat the algae from the rocks and the plants pull nutrients from the water.  Before you know it I had a nice clean, healthy pond without the extreme clean-out.  This is yet another lesson in the theory that sometimes less is more.  Think nature!


Happy Pondering,

Doug Hurth



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