Spring is when your pond comes alive.
Plants bloom, fish start swimming and you get more excited to hang out and enjoy the scenery in the warming weather.
Because ponds are closed ecosystems, they need a little help getting ready for the season of life ahead.
Here’s what you need to know about making your pond look great – and keeping your fish and plants happy and healthy – during this exciting season:
(And, by the way, we can do all this work for you if you’d rather sit back and relax. Fill out a Spring Pond Clean-Out Request Form to get on our schedule).
At a Glance: How to Get Your Pond Ready for Spring
- Clean out your pond every one to three years in springtime.
- Bring out tropical plants after Mother’s Day.
- Clean up any overgrown plants.
- Fertilize waterlilies.
- Replace lights and shift rocks as needed.
- Put in any add-ons you want to introduce, like skimmers or fish caves.
- Feed fish with a probiotic or cold-water food when the water temperature is consistently above 55 degrees.
Spring Plant Care
Hardy plants – including lotus, hardy waterlilies and many marginals – can stay outside all season. If you brought your hardy plants in for the winter, go ahead and bring them back out.
Check our Splash Plants library if you’re not sure if your plant is winter-hardy in your area. (Southeast Pennsylvania is in Zone 6, so anything listed as Zone 6 or lower will generally survive the winter here.)
Tropical plants – like cannas and taros – don’t tolerate the frost, so wait to bring them back out until there’s no more risk of freezing. That risk usually disappears around Mother’s Day in the Pennsylvania/Maryland area.
Divide any plants that have outgrown their plant pocket or pot. Use garden shears or scissors to prune anything that died over the winter.
You can also use this time to fertilize your waterlilies. Simply take two fertilizer tablets and press them into the base of the plant.
Most marginal pond plants don’t need fertilizer. They’ll take their nutrients right out of the water.
Spring Fish Care
Use a submersible pond thermometer to determine when your water is consistently above 55 to 60 degrees. That’s when you can start feeding the fish again.
Start with low-protein Cold Water Fish Food. This food will move through your fish’s systems more quickly than nutrient-rich summer foods, giving their metabolisms a chance to wake up for the season.
If you’d like, you can use Probiotic Fish Food instead of regular Cold Water Food (this is what we use with our fish at Splash). The probiotics will help your fish fight off the pathogens that are waking up around this time of year.
Cheerios and Koi Krunchies also make good springtime snacks.
Spring Pond Clean-Outs: How, Why and How Often
In nature, spring rains fill streams and rivers, which, in turn, flush out the lakes and ponds.
This is nature’s way of preparing for a new season of life.
As much as we try to mimic nature in our pond design, we can’t escape the fact that manmade ponds are closed ecosystems. That means we need to get in there and flush out the ponds ourselves.
A regular spring clean-out helps your pond start off the season clear and beautiful. You can either hire a professional (schedule your spring pond clean-out here) or do it yourself.
How Often Should I Clean Out My Pond?
We recommend doing a full clean-out every one to three years. Whether you’re an annual cleaner or a once-every-three-years type of person depends on how much debris you let into your pond.
If you meticulously remove every leaf as soon as it drops into the pond, you can probably get away with only doing a clean-out every three years.
The average pond owner, however, can benefit from a clean-out every spring.
Even if you keep up with regular maintenance, wintertime is rough on your pond. Fall leaves blow around and inevitably find a way into the water. If you winterize your pond – i.e. turn off the skimmer – you’ll have even more gunk sitting on the bottom.
Does your pond look kind of gross right now, or has it been more than three years since your last cleaning? If so, then you probably need a clean-out.
Pond Clean-Out Supplies
Here are the supplies you’ll need to clean out your pond:
- A clean-out pump (if you don’t want to use your regular pond pump)
- Discharge hose
- Garden hose
- Garden shears
- A large container to safely hold fish
- A net or something similar to place over the fish container to keep them from jumping out
- An aerator
- Large buckets or similar containers for collecting leaves and other large debris
- A net for catching and moving fish
- Pond Detoxifier
- Cold Water Beneficial Bacteria
- Waterproof gloves (optional)
- Waterlily fertilizer
- Replacement light bulbs and any other equipment needed for making repairs
How to Clean Out Your Pond
Step 1: Prep Your Fish
Pond clean-outs are stressful for your fish, so follow these steps to make the experience as gentle as possible:
- Set up a temporary fish tank (do this in shade if the weather’s warm).
- Use the pump and discharge hose to drain about half (or less, if you have a big pond) of the pond’s water into the fish tank.
- Gently catch the fish and move them into the tank.
- Place an aerator in the tank.
- Cover the tank with a net to keep fish from jumping out.
- Don’t keep the fish in their temporary tank for more than a few hours.
Step 2: Drain and Gently Clean the Pond
During a pond clean-out, you want to remove large debris from the pond while maintaining as much of the existing microscopic ecosystem as possible.
Use your existing pond water for as much of the clean-out as possible, and break out a regular garden hose for the rest.
Don’t use a pressure washer or any other harsh cleaning methods.
- Using the pump and discharge hose, rinse the stream and upper areas of the pond with the water that you haven’t drained out yet. You’re only removing large debris here, so don’t go too crazy.
- Remove extra thick debris by hand into your buckets.
- Once you’ve rinsed the upper rocks and stream, drain the mucky water into the surrounding landscape (your plants will love it!).
- Use a garden hose to rinse the bottom of the pond, and drain the pond again. Repeat as needed.
Step 3: Clean the Filters
- Empty the skimmer basket and rinse the skimmer mats, preferably with water from the pond.
- Rinse your bioballs, filter mats or whatever other media you have in your biofilter.
- Once the biofilter is clean, don’t touch it again until next season. You should only clean your biofilter once a year.
- Put everything back together.
Step 4: Perform Any Necessary Maintenance
Now’s your chance to replace burned-out bulbs, add a skimmer or make other improvements to your pond.
You can also use this opportunity to prune and fertilize your plants (more on that later).
Step 5: Refill the Pond and Put Back the Fish
The most important step when refilling your pond is making sure any new water you add is safe for your fish. You can do this by adding Pond Detoxifier.
Fish are extremely sensitive to the chlorine and chloramines in muncipal water sources. Pond Detoxifier removes both of these harmful compounds.
- Pump water out of the temporary fish tank back into the pond. Keeping this water will reduce the stress on your fish.
- Put the fish back into the pond.
- Fill the rest of the pond with your garden hose.
- Read the back of your Pond Detoxifier bottle and determine the recommended dosage for your pond. Then double that number. That’s how much Pond Detox you need to add to keep your fish safe. (Don’t worry about adding too much; Pond Detox is completely fish-safe).
- Add Beneficial Bacteria to help jumpstart your newly cleaned ecosystem.