Pond Design II: 3 Pro Tips to Make Your Pond the Best It Can Be.

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BEHOLD! THESE TO COULD BE YOURS!

   

Or maybe watergardens are your thing…..

 

In a previous article, I discussed the basics of pond design (please refer to Pond Design).  During this episode, this intrepid blogger will discuss some finer points of pond design.

Large Ponds:

1. Create habitat using relief and structure:

In my article about basic pond design, I lean heavy on the concept of maximum water volume.  More water=better water. This remains true, but adding a bit of irregularity to the pond’s bottom will both give fish a place to gather and allow for diversity of habitat.  Creating humps and irregular shoreline areas allows the plants, animals, insects, and other biota to find their preferred niche.  These design features do not have to be drastic.  Humps that change elevation 1-2ft create a subtle change in habitat.   Small changes in slope of the shoreline, or shallow areas designed for plantings at different depths are fantastic for different species of fish and forage.  The more diverse your habitat, the better overall health of your system.

Drop in some structure for gold star habitat.  Rock piles, big rooty stumps, sunken pallets, and Christmas trees are all examples of excellent habitat augmentation for your pond.  Placed at different depths, these management tools will hold different species at different times of the day/year.  Once again, this abundant choice of living quarters for the critters that reside within your pond will lead to healthy, large fish that are sustainable for a very long time.

2. Stock the right fish in appropriate sizes and quantities for a balanced fishery:

Adding too many fish – or the wrong fish – when you first start off your pond can lead to problems and/or disappointing fish sizes in short order.  For example, if you have a 1/3 acre pond that has a maximum depth of 12ft and an average depth of 6-8ft and you stock walleyes…… you will have unhappy, unhealthy fish that grow slowly.  Most will be dead before they reach any desirable size.

Research fish species (or ask me) before you stock fish.  Find out which fish will do best in your system, or if you want a certain species of fish to thrive, design the pond according to their needs.  There are too many scenarios to go into here, but the above 1/3 acre pond would be a great Largemouth / Bluegill system.  Stock 30-40 Bass and 200 Bluegill (or so…depending on the sizes available), and the two populations will grow together.  The Bass will control the Bluegill abundance, and you (and Mother Nature) will control the Bass population through harvest.

Be sure to stock a forage species!  If you ever want to have a solid fish population, they will have to have abundant food.  The above pond will need 50lbs of minnows (Fathead, Bluntnose, Shiners, Redtails…whichever is plentiful in your area) at LEAST every other season to maintain good growth in your predator species.  Unless your pond is perfectly designed and balanced, it is too small to maintain a reproducing forage species for a long period of time.  There just isn’t enough space.  Too many predators in too small an area means that the vast majority of the minnows stocked will not live long enough to reproduce.

3.  Aeration, aeration, aeration:

This is a must!  The single best tool to maintain healthy aquatic systems is a good aeration system.  The benefits of aeration are abundant.  Not only does it benefit fish, but every living organism that lives or frequents the pond will directly benefit from the enhanced water quality that a good aerator brings.

Pond aerator        Aerating fountain

Different Pond aerator

Watergardens:

The design aspects for the backyard koi pond/watergarden are legion.  These small features allow for maximum creative expression.  The very best part of owning a watergarden is: It’s 100% yours.  You designed it.  You maintain it. You made it AWESOME!

Name your koi, adjust the water flow across your various waterfalls by adding a single strategically placed stone….. The nuance of the spectacular is in your hands, so be creative, be brave and bold…… Create a resource that is the envy of the neighborhood and a feature of your home that you can be truly proud of.

1.  Vary your water depth to encourage diversity:

I covered planting shelves in my first article on this subject (pond design). The attention to detail on the elevation of your planting shelves not only will determine which plants can thrive there, but what other organisms will frequent the area.  These other creatures include but are not limited to your fish.  These areas will attract amphibians, insects, and visiting creatures from the neighborhood to come and take a drink.  Water on these shelves will be slightly warmer than the bulk of the rest of the water volume, so during the spring and fall days when the water is cooling down, your fish will spend as much time as they can in these areas that are easily warmed on sunny days.  Put some habitat on the shelves that’ll make the scaly critters feel at home.  This means aquatic plants, boulders, gravel, a piece of driftwood, a cantilevered piece of outcropping stone which creates a shallow water haven.  Once again… get creative.

When you’re digging your pond, use a string-line and a yardstick/tape-measure to set your elevations.  This is tricky, but you will thank me when the project is done.  It is a rare event when all things work out as planned if you do not measure early and often.

2. Use a variety of materials in your construction:

Let’s do a thought experiment…. Picture in your mind a pristine alpine brook with a small pool teeming with fish. What else is in that picture besides water and rocks?

In my vision, there are abundant plants and some shrubs and stuff that approach this bucolic scene.  In the stream, there’s an old moss-covered log laying across it…… OOOOOOOH…. AWWWWWW… or maybe a hollow log with water running through it, wait…what…. THAT IS SOOO COOL!  OK, before I get too carried away, you get the idea.  Use materials that are handy to create a truly unique pond/stream.

You don’t have to be limited to wood either.  I’ve seen pottery, statuary and old milk cans used beautifully.  For more formal pools, the colorfalls and other engineered block elements look pretty cool.

Colorfalls Wier 

3. Light it up like a Polish church!

Lights bring a fantastic element to the pond atmosphere.  I go into some detail in a different article (pond lights) so I’ll give some more tips here.

The LED systems that are on the market now are fantabulous! There are an infinite amount of combinations that you can come up with.  Bonus: they use next to no electricity to illuminate your pond/stream to the point of signaling in the mothership.  Furthermore, if you feel like you want to add more…. go nuts!  The ease of install and power flexibility allow for you to be as luminary as you’d like.

Use lighting both below the waterline and above.  This will expose two environments to your eyes.  I personally like using a submerged light to project a rippling water image on the wall of a building, or through a window into your bedroom, you know, in case that image will help improve the atmosphere in there….ahem.

Formal features must have the color-changing LED system pictured above. You can control it with your phone, or set it to change with music….SUPER COOL!

 

Hey, thanks so much for taking the time to read this article.  As always, please ask questions in the comments section or contact me through the website if you want to talk things over.

Have a spectacular day, everybody.

 

JOE CADIEUX
Senior Biologist
Midwestponds.com

 

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