Springtime is the first period after the winter freeze, that you will be able to get your pond ready for the warm weather. Time and effort put in now will pay dividends through the summer.
You should be looking to clean out your pond thoroughly, to remove as much of the build up of waste from the pond as possible from Winter. If you have fish, these will probably still be in hibernation either buried partial, hiding or otherwise lolling around the bottom in the deepest (and warmest) part of the pond. You should be careful to work around them as they generally swim off but some may get caught napping!
If you have a filter pump, this should have been put back on as soon as the last threat of the pond icing over had passed, to introduce much needed oxygen into the pond.
If you have plants in the pond, this is a good time to take them out, inspect them and repot/divide them, should they have propagated.
Water lillies in particular could do with some fresh pond approved soil for nutrients and their pot changed or divided if they have become too big; this will give them the maximum chance of flowering in summer. Lillies usually “sprout” another root which can be carefully snapped or cut and repotted.
Check underneath the leaves of plants to inspect for any pests/eghs and dispose of accordingly. It is also a good time of year to introduce plants but they should all be disinfected prior to adding them in an appropriate substance (One part household bleach, 5 parts water – quick dip and shake!). Only buy or source plants from a reliable vendor. Introducing harmful organisms to the pond at this time of year, can be catastrophic; at the very least you may introduce more algae into the pond (and you have enough algae already!).
If you have fish in your pond they will begin to become more active after the last early spring frost has passed. Do not worry if there is no immediate sign of them, as they tend to stay submerged in the warmest part of the pond hiding inbetween mud and plants, until things begin to heat up.
Once they come alive, you should attempt to feed them (at 5c or higher) and do your best to inspect each fish thoroughly for signs of disease, examine the body of the fish and the fins. The offer of food should bring them to the surface for an inspecrion.
Do not try and catch fish unless you are intending to remove one – or all, as this will stress them out at this delicate stage in the season. The best method is to switch off the filter pump and let the water settle and view them on a clear day. If one fish appears to be ill than it is likely all will end up ill, so the whole pond should be treated with a recommended treatment such as a general disease tonic.
Once the last of the Spring frosts have passed in the UK, (late Marsh/early April) you can now restock your pond if you wish; especially if you have lost any fish over winter.
If you intend to restock, it is good practice to quarantine new fish in a seperate tank for two weeks. I don’t do this but you take a chance when introducing new fish that you may introduce possible contagions so it makes sense – if possible. If you are restocking an empty pond, the fish can be added directly into the pond and monitored from there.
There are many easy to use products on the market which inform the buyer of the different fish complaints, but a good place to start is check the body and scales, fins, head and mouth area for any signs of something out of the ordinary. If in doubt, consult a local pond expert. I always use an early start tonic which is a general bacteria control, to keep the harmful bacteria at bay and give the waking fish a better start.
As fish come alive they will be weak after the long months fasting and hibernation, unfortunately, bacteria good and bad tends to wake just before the fish and their coats may not be up to 100% yet, to protect them.
The water over winter may have appeared to be crystal clear but the algae is always there waiting for the first rays of sunlight and prevention with algae/green water/pondwees is always better than trying to treat it once it gets hold.
A pack of barley straw hung or suspended under running water, is a good way to keep algae blooms at bay.
Also, pond plants of various types compete with the algae by using the nutrients in the pond first and fish love to hide behind plants.
Do not use any chemicals or algaecides yet until your fish have surfaced apart from a good “spring start” type product mentioned earlier.
Every pond suffers a green cloud algae explosion as the waters heat up. A combination of treatments will resolve this plants, algaecide treatments, UV treatment, manual removal with a net and over time, will keep the algae problem at bay.
Do test your water regularly using an approved pond water testing kit to monitor for water changes. This will help you ascertain if the water is high in any harmful chemicals such as ammonia. After the ravages of winter your pond is bound to have more detritus (waste) at the bottom so testing the water is paramount to identifying problems before they overwhelm your pond eco system.
Cleaning out the pond
Once the fish have all resurfaced and you have fed them it is time to begin your spring clean. I installed some rain butts in the garden and I use the water from these to top up the pond, bathe my pond plants, filter parts and wash my equipment. Tap water can be used on equipment but should be left out in the air to dry as much as possible before replacing or treat first with a conditioning product to remove harmful chloramines. I only top up the pond with tapwater as an absolute last resort.
Begin by removing the pond filter and all of the plants (if they are potted). Move the plants into a bowl of water to stop them drying out. Next take a good soft brush – a plastic one which can be bought from any hardware store would be appropriate – and brush down the sides of the pond to remove algae and slime. The water may turn green so you may need to leave it for a while to resettle.
Next take a fine net and scour the bottom of the pond and remove as much of the mud and detritus as possible. You could add this to your regular garden plants as it is usually full of nutrients/nitrogen and garden plants love it. You may be rich and have one of those fancy pond vacs and if you do, good on you. I have never used one and can’t comment on there usability.
Next, clean out the filter thoroughly and remove and wash the components removing any buildup of leaves and/or mud in the filter. If you have water statues that shoot jets of water take these and run some water through the lines to remove any buildup and ensure they are clear.
If your water is still cloudy it will now be time to look into using a natural product such as an algaecide but I find that by putting things in place before such as barley straw, regular manual cleaning and plants; the majority of green water is kept at bay – after the initial green explosion.
Next replace the filter and plants back into the pond and turn your filter back on. Well done, you have prepared your pond for Spring; sit back and enjoy.