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Spring Pond Cleanout: Essential for Aesthetics and Fish Health

by Joe Cadieux on January 12, 2023

Spring pond cleanout:

Hello, welcome to my blog here at Midwestpond.com.  I plan to periodically bring up subjects that are common to the pond industry and maybe delve a little into some less discussed areas that I find interesting and may help out the pond enthusiast too.

Saying that; lets discuss the spring pond cleanout……

Yes, you have to do it.

Yes, it’ll smell bad.

Yes, it should happen every year for ponds less than 20,000 gallons.

This is a horrible job, but it is vital for aesthetics, and fish health.  Small ponds and watergardens just cannot take care of themselves; no matter how much beneficial bacteria you use, these small waterbodies need to be refreshed every so often to make summer maintenance easier and less costly. The biomass that accumulates in the nooks and crannies of the pond are the source of nutrients for nuisance algae growth and potential pathogenic bacteria in ponds.  Therefore if you want a nice pond this year…… you must clean out the goo.

Things you’ll need:

  • Plastic totes or other large containers for your fish to wait out the process.
  • A pressure washer
  • Nets/buckets/ gloves/plastic leaf rake (or any other tools of destructing you think you may need to complete the task).
  • Waders
  • Cold water beneficial bacteria supplement.
  • Flexible hose and fittings compatible with your skimmer pump to drain pond water too someplace safe.
  • A small tarp and buckets

Begin by pulling skimmer pump and attaching hoses of the desired length to dispose of the pond water in the pond. You will be moving this pump around a lot so it doesn’t need to get in the deep spot right away.

As you are draining the pond fill your fish totes with pond water, and begin carefully netting out your fish.  This will get easier as the waterline recedes, but the sooner you get the fish out the less stress they’ll have to deal with.

Once the pond starts to drain proceed power washing the exposed rocks and removing any large debris and leaves that will clog the pump. This is also a good time to pull out and wash off any filter media in your system as coming out of winter, all of the good bacteria is mostly dead.

Once the pond level gets to the point that you are able to fish out all your fish, you may proceed to fill ½ way and empty the pond with a garden hose and pressure washer slowly removing the majority of the goo,

(organic soft sediment), leaves, dead frogs, snapping turtles, giant clods of algae, and unknown objects onto the tarp to be disposed of once they dry out.  This detritus, if you can allow it to dry out, is some of the best fertilizer on the planet.  Spread it on flowerbeds or wherever you want for some excellent jolt to your terrestrial gardens.

Proceed to fill and drain at least three times, or to the point that the pond water is mostly clear.  This is a good time to split (or cut back) any plants, do repairs, or restack/glue rocks and fish caves back together.

**Periodically check on your fish, make sure their water isn’t getting too hot, move then to shade and refresh water from the tap.  Having and aerator for these totes is necessary for large koi.**

Refill the pond for the final time and add pond salt (at about 1ppt), cold-water bacteria to biofalls and pond at double dose and reinstall waterfall pump and bacteria media.  The salt will help the fish develop a good protective slime coat to ward off infection, and the bacteria are needed to jumpstart the ecosystem for the season.

Reintroduce your fish slowly by acclimating them to the new pond water and temperature over about a half an hour.

There…. You did it, it was awful, but take pride in the fact that you will not need to spend so much time and money keeping you pond clean and clear this year.   Know that I am proud of you, and you have my permission to sit down with your favorite adult beverage and relax.

Thanks for reading, I’ll be by to scan the comments for any questions I can help out with and will be posting more in depth articles about pertinent issues soon.


Senior Biologist



📷: https://lifeoffish.com/6-super-important-pond-maintenance-and-cleaning-facts-year-around/