Your New Ecosystem Pond: Everything You Need to Know

Keeping pond healthy in summer, high temperatures

Congratulations on your new Ecosystem Pond!

Life as a pond owner means hours of rest and relaxation in your own backyard oasis. We’ve designed your Splash pond to require as little maintenance as possible – so you can just sit back and enjoy it.

This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about your new water feature. Don’t feel obligated to read everything at once – but know that you have all the information you need here (and throughout the rest of our Learning Center) at your fingertips whenever you have a question.

If we’ve just finished installing your pond, we recommend checking out the following sections first: Your First Days as a Pond Owner and Pond Care 101.

We hope you find this guide helpful as you start your pond ownership journey. We’re always available by call, text or email too to answer any questions.

Welcome to the Splash Family!

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Understanding Your New Ecosystem Pond

Understanding Your New Ecosystem Pond

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How does a pond ecosystem work?

The Design

Your Splash Ecosystem Pond is simply a water feature that uses some clever man-made tricks to replicate processes that happen in nature, creating a super low-maintenance environment where you can enjoy crystal-clear water and happy, healthy fish in a beautiful, natural-looking environment.

You can read our full guide on Ecosystem Ponds here, but here’s a quick summary of how a properly designed and installed ecosystem works:

  • Fish-safe EPDM liner keeps water where it’s supposed to be: in your pond.  Heavy-duty underlayment protects the liner.
  • Pond Skimmer: A properly designed pond will include a skimmer capable of removing 80 to 90% of the debris that gets into your pond. The skimmer pulls leaves, twigs, pollen, and fish waste into the basket you can easily empty. Your skimmer pulls and your waterfall pushes this debris. On larger systems we’ll even use underwater jets to push debris from every corner of the pond. No need to go diving to the bottom of your pond to muck out debris and unclog your pump. Your pump, the heart of the pond’s circulation system, is housed out of sight in the skimmer.

  • The job of your Biofilter is to keep your water crystal clear and your fish happy and healthy. After large physical debris is removed in the skimmer, the water flows up through the nooks and crannies in your biolfilter where beneficial bacteria lives in dense colonies. Beneficial Bacteria and enzymes naturally remove ammonia and nitrites. Without nitrites, single cell algae starves so you never have to deal with green water. Our biofilters are efficient and require very little maintenance. The waterfall adds a vital dose of oxygen back into the ecosystem.  

  • We incorporate Plant Shelves and pockets adjust the right perfect depth design to look naturally beautiful just like you would find in nature. Shallow water plants love the 6-8″ deep perimeter shelf. You water lilies and lotus will love the 18″ deep shelf.

  • A thin layer of Gravel naturalizes the bottom of the pond, protects your liner from harmful sunlight, and gives beneficial bacteria another place to colonize.

  • stepped-shelf design gives your family and pets a way to safely enter and exit the pond.
  • Fish caves give your fish a place to relax in the winter and get away from predators.

Learn More

The Biology

nitrogen cycle low-res

1. Ammonia

Fish waste, along with leaves and other debris that sink to the bottom of your pond, break down and produce ammonia. Ammonia build-up will kill your fish if left alone. Luckily, nature has a solution …

2. Bacteria

Bacteria and enzymes are tiny, but they control so, so much of your pond’s ecosystem.

One of the most important roles they play is to break down ammonia and convert it into nitrites.

3. Nitrites - and More Bacteria

Your fish can generally live with a reasonable level of nitrites in the water. But there’s somebody else in your pond that absolutely love nitrites: single-cell algae.

Single-cell algae will make your lovely, crystal-clear pond green and mucky. The best way to regain control is usually not by dumping in algaecides – although those do sometimes have a role to play – but rather by starving the algae.

That’s where more bacteria comes into play. Different types will eat the nitrites – thus taking away the single-cell algae’s food source – and convert them into nitrates.

You might see now just how important these microscopic bacteria are to your pond’s ecosystem. You can help colonies grow by installing a biofilter, as well as making sure they have lots of gravel in which to settle and thrive (read more about these things below).

4. Nitrates and Pond Plants

Nitrates brings with them their own unwelcome guest to your pond: string algae.

String algae thrives on nitrates in much the same way single-cell algae thrives on nitrites. Like always, though, Mother Nature has a solution: your pond plants.

Different types of plants will eat different kinds of nitrates. An iris will suck up one kind, and a lily will consume another. A blue flower will chow down on one, and a pink flower yet another. A plant that blooms in May will eat a different kind than one that blooms in September.

A large variety of plants will provide your best protection against string algae.

Your First Days as a Pond Owner

Your First Days as a Pond Owner

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Helpful Details to Know about Your Pond

You don’t necessarily need to know all the ins and outs of the nitrogen cycle or the inner-workings of a pond pump, but we do recommend writing down some key details about your pond. This information will help you quickly calculate water treatment dosing, figure out how many fish you can have and find replacement parts for equipment.

  • How big is my pond in gallons? This number is probably the most important detail to know about your new water feature. Ask your pond designer how big your Splash pond is, or calculate it yourself using the following formula: Average Length (in feet) x Average Width (in feet) x Average Depth (in feet) x 7.48. For reference, our small Lilypad pond at Splash is about 800 gallons, the medium Lotus pond is about 1,500 and the large Oasis pond is around 4,500-5,000 gallons.
  • How many – and what kinds – of fish can I have? The rule of thumb for most ponds is to add no more than 1/2″ to 1″ of fish per 10 gallons of water. The exact number that’s right for you will depend on how closely you’re willing to monitor your pond. When making your calculations, don’t forget that koi and goldfish will grow and have babies over the years. (Have you ever heard the myth that fish will only grow to the size of their pond? It’s not true.)  Additionally, keep in mind that koi need a little more space than goldfish and generally aren’t well-suited for ponds under 1,000 gallons. Learn more here.
  • What kinds of plants do I have? We break pond plants into two categories: hardy (perennial) and tropical (annual). We like to include a mix of both kinds in our pond builds, so ask your pond designer which ones will return year-after-year, and which ones you’ll need to replace.
  • What are the model numbers for my equipment? While you might never need this information, it’s never a bad idea to keep a record of model numbers for equipment like your lights, pump and autodoser.

What Supplies Do I Need?

We’ve designed your Splash Ecosystem Pond to give you crystal-clear water and happy, healthy fish, without a lot of work.

Below are a few basic supplies we recommend picking up on your first visit to Splash or our Online Store.

This water treatment removes chlorine, chloramines and other fish-toxic elements often found in hose water. While you don’t need to add it every time you top off the pond, it’s crucial to have on-hand for those days when you forget to turn off the hose (something even the best of us have done …) You’ll also need Pond Detox any time you clean the pond or do major water changes.

Regular doses of Beneficial Bacteria prevent the water from turning green. If your pond has an autodoser, use the Maintain for Ponds Autodoser Pouch, which includes a blend of Beneficial Bacteria. If your pond doesn’t have an autodoser, use Pond Starter Bacteria to start, then switch to regular or cold water Beneficial Bacteria when the bottle’s done. Pond Starter Bacteria can also be used in addition to the Maintain Autodoser Pouch to help prevent green water as the pond’s ecosystem gets established.

Any fish you add to the pond will need to eat. Start them off with Probiotic Fish Food to help ease the transition into their new home.

Feeding your fish when the water temperature is below 50 degrees could cause them serious harm. Use a Pond Thermometer to keep track of when to start and stop feedings for the season. You’ll also need this information to help you pick the most effective fish food and water treatments.

Your built-in skimmer will remove most unwanted debris from the pond, but having a net on-hand is always helpful in case you need to get something your skimmer missed or if you need to move your fish.

Koi Pond AeratorFish need good gas exchange in the pond to keep them happy and healthy. Aerators add an extra boost of oxygen to the pond in summer, when the hot water has a hard time holding oxygen. In winter, they help keep a hole in pond ice, break the surface tension and remove carbon dioxide to keep fish happy. 

Most of your plants will pull all the nutrients they need right out of the water. Waterlilies and lotus, however, need an extra boost to product big, beautiful flowers. Add two tablets per month May-September to each waterlily in your pond if possible, and three tablets per month to each lotus. See our section on plant care to learn more.

Use one of the links below to add all these items to your cart in our Online Store, and enjoy a 10 percent discount as a token of our appreciation. You can choose from Home Delivery or In-store Pickup at checkout.

The Green Phase (aka "Don't Panic!")

Your pond might not look crystal-clear from Day 1 – and that’s normal!

A newly built pond will often look brown and mucky right after construction. This issue will work itself out in a few days as the debris settles and the skimmer does its work.

Ponds often go through an additional green phase, when the growth of single-cell algae outpaces the growth of beneficial bacteria. This phase, too, will work itself out over a few weeks as the bacteria colonies grow. You can help speed this process along by adding Pond Starter Bacteria to the pond two to three times a week.

How to Introduce New Fish

Fish are the jewels of any pond – and some of the easiest pets you’ll ever own.
 
We highly recommend adopting your new finned friends from Splash. While you might save a few bucks buying fish from inexpensive suppliers or people on the internet, you risk spreading highly contagious diseases to your pond that could wipe out your entire fish population.
 
All of our fish at Splash come with a 7-Day Happy & Healthy Guarantee. If you follow all of our recommendations for acclimation and care, we know they’ll make great additions to your pond family.
 
We generally offer fish for sale at Splash from late May until early October, depending on the weather. Fish are extremely sensitive to changes in water temperature and water chemistry, so we recommend using our nine-step process to acclimate new fish to your pond: 
  1. Add Pond Detox to the pond per the instructions on the bottle (only necessary for newly built/newly filled ponds)
  2. Float the bag holding your new fish in the pond for 30 minutes
  3. Add approximately 1 cup of pond water to the bag
  4. Float bag for 10 minutes in pond
  5. Add another 1 cup of pond water to the bag
  6. Float bag for another 10 minutes
  7. Add a final 1 cup of pond water to the bag
  8. Float bag for a final 10 minutes
  9. Individually release fish by hand into the pond

Total acclimation time = 1 hour

Moving to a new home is stressful for anyone – especially your fish. To further ease the transition, you can add a dose of Protect to your pond to help your fish build up their slime coat and fight offer opportunistic infections.

How to Add Plants to Your Pond

Your new Splash Ecosystem Pond already has a hand-picked selection of beautiful plants. But if you want to add more – and we hope you do! – it’s easy to do.

The more plants you add to your pond, and the wider the variety, the more nitrates they’ll pull out of the water. Nitrates also feed string algae, so more plants in the pond means less string algae.

> Check out our Clear Water guide to learn more about algae prevention

Getting to Know Your Plants

You have lots of plants to choose from when it comes to making additions: flowering plants, grassy plants, tropical plants, carnivorous plants, floating plants … What you choose is ultimately a matter of personal preference.

> New to water gardening? Check out our Pond Plants 101 guide

> Ready to browse ideas? Check out our Plant Directory

We grow hundreds of varieties of plants at Splash, which you can find at our retail store at 1298 Toronita St., York. Each plant comes equipped with a tag that shows you everything you need to know, including how deep to plant it and how much sunlight it likes.

The tag will also tell you whether or not the plant will survive the winter here – a blue tag indicates the plant is winter-hardy, while an orange one indicates it’s not. Finally, each tag includes a QR code that you can scan with your phone for access to videos and additional information.

tag 2

Planting Time

You have three options when it comes to putting plants in your pond: keeping them in the pot they come in, replanting them in a fabric plant pot or planting them directly in the pond. We generally recommend planting directly in the pond for a more natural look and to prevent fish from playing football with the pots. See the demonstration video at the bottom of this section for details.

Regardless of how you choose to display your plant, you might see a little bit of soil make its way into your pond. This is normal and will clear up on its own with help from your skimmer.

If you like to keep your pond spotless and don’t want to wait for the dirt to settle, place a Fine Filter Pad (available at Splash) in your skimmer to catch the extra tiny particles of dirt. Simply place the pad anywhere in the skimmer where the water will pass through, then remove the pad as soon as the water is clear.

Add a flocculant like Rapid Clear for even faster results.

The Splash Website: How to Easily Schedule Service & Find Supplies

Hopefully you’ve learned throughout the design process how easy it is to communicate with Splash through phone, email and our website.

Service & Maintenance

When it comes time to schedule maintenance for your pond, including clean-outs, fall netting or repairs, we recommend using one of our easy online contact forms. These forms will get you in touch directly with our service team and ensure they have all the information they need to work on your pond.

Supplies

When it comes time to buy supplies, you have the choice of visiting us in-person or ordering from our Online Store.

If you decide to visit us (we’d love to see you!), you can rest assured knowing we’ll be here for you year-round at 1298 Toronita St., York. Click here for directions and current hours.

We also offer home delivery and in-store pickup through our Online Store. Our Online Store carries all of our most popular products, as well as the option to set up subscriptions to have water treatments delivered right to your door.

Learning

Our online Pond Care Learning Center includes hundreds of articles to guide you in your pond ownership journey, from troubleshooting guides to seasonal care tips.

Our Learning Center also contains digital instruction manuals for our most popular equipment, as well as tons of information about aquatic plant care.

Events & Learning Opportunities

We love sharing our space and our expertise with you! 

Whether you’re looking to learn or looking to relax, we hope you’ll join us for one of the many events we hold throughout the year.

  • Our Coffee with the Pond Guy Seminar Series walks you through all the basics of owning and caring for a low-maintenance Ecosystem Pond. Click here for our class schedule, as well as instructions for viewing recordings of past classes.
  • Our monthly Pond Parties give you an opportunity to enjoy snacks, drinks and local music as you stroll the beautiful ponds and waterfalls in our backyard gardens. Parties begin at 6 p.m. on the third Thursday of the month throughout the summer. Click here to learn more.

Pond Care 101

Pond Care 101

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How to Clean Your Skimmer

FREQUENCY: About Every Other Week, or As Needed

Your skimmer will remove 80 to 90 percent of the debris that enters your pond, pulling leaves, twigs, pollen and fish waste into a basket you can easily empty without diving to the bottom. Your pump, the heart of the pond’s recirculation system, is house out-of-sight in the skimmer.

Cleaning your skimmer only takes a few seconds of your time about every other week.

Signature Series 200 Skimmers (Small Ponds)

Debris Net Maintenance

  • The first thing debris encounters when it enters your skimmer is the Debris Net. The net will collect leaves, twigs, seeds, and other pond debris. Simply remove and empty the Debris Net once every other week to clean, or more often if you find a lit of fallen leaves in your pond.
  • It’s a good habit during your first season with the pond to periodically lift the skimmer lid and check the quantity of debris in the net. This is especially true in the fall. Keep a mental note of how often you need to empty your net. Too much debris can reduce the water flow to the pump. so take care not to let the net get too full.

Optional Brush Cartridge Maintenance

  • The optional Filter Brush Cartridge behind the debris basket is the second stage of the skimmer. The Brush Cartridge is designed to handle any debris that finds its way past the Debris Net. The brush cartridge will not need maintenance as frequently as the net, since the net will remove the majority of debris from the water.
  • Remove and rinse the brushes when you notice excessive debris build-up or reduced flow over the waterfall.

Signature Series 400 & 1000 Skimmers (Medium & Large Ponds)

Debris Basket Maintenance

  • The first thing debris encounters when it enters your skimmer is the Debris Basket. The basket will collect leaves, twigs, seeds, and other pond debris. Simply remove and empty the Debris Basket once every other week to clean, or more often if you find a lit of fallen leaves in your pond.
  • It’s a good habit during your first season with the pond to periodically lift the skimmer lid and check the quantity of debris in the basket. This is especially true in the fall. Keep a mental note of how often you need to empty your basket. Too much debris can reduce the water flow to the pump. so take care not to let the basket get too full.

Filter Mat Maintenance

  • The Filter Mat below the Debris Basket is the second stage of the skimmer. The Filter Mat is designed to handle any debris that finds its way past the Debris Basket. The Filter Mat will not need maintenance as frequently as the basket, since the basket will remove the majority of debris from the water.
  • Remove and rinse the mat when you notice excessive debris build-up on the mat or reduced flow over the waterfall.

How to (Not) Clean Your Biofilter

FREQUENCY: Once a Year

You’re allowed to clean your Biofalls once per year during your spring clean-out. After that, don’t touch them. That might sound terrible if you’re a neat freak, but trust us: your pond will thank you for refraining.

Your biofilter is one of the primary places in your pond that beneficial bacteria call home. All the nooks and crannies on your filter mat, Bioballs or lava rock gives these bacteria a place to grow as they do the important jobs of eating ammonia and nitrites. This process keeps your fish healthy and your water clear. When you clean your Biofalls, you wipe out this delicate ecosystem that your pond has spent so much time building up.

We recommend cleaning it only once per year, usually as part of an annual spring clean-out, before the water temperature in the pond is consistently above 55 degrees. If you perform a clean-out when the water is warmer, after bacteria colonies form, the balance of the ecosystem will again be thrown off, and your pond will go through another “green phase” before the bacteria colonies re-establish themselves again.

The best way to clean your biofilter is to gently rinse the filter mat and Bioballs in pond water. Rinsing them this way will remove any gunk and large debris without killing too much of the ecosystem your pond spent all year creating. If needed, you can replace torn or worn-out filter mats during this time too.

There is one exception to the once-per-year cleaning rule. If you do not have a skimmer in your pond, you may find that your biofilter is doing two jobs: biological and physical filtration. Our first piece of advice would be to install a skimmer, but, until then, only clean your biofilter when absolutely necessary to keep it running, and do so using the process described above.

How to Feed Your Fish

FREQUENCY: About Once a Day in Warm Weather

Relaxing Ecosystem PondMost people feed their fish about once a day during the warm months. Don’t fret if you miss a feeding or two; your fish will stay happy for a few days or even longer by snacking on the bugs and plants in your pond.

Only feed your fish as much food as they’ll eat within about five minutes of you throwing it into the pond, and only feed them when the water temperature is above 55 degrees.

Switch to a cold water food during the late fall and early spring. (Keep reading for more tips for cold-weather pond care.)

How to Fertilize Your Plants

FREQUENCY: Once a Month in Warm Weather for Waterlilies & Lotus

Most plants in your pond will pull all the nutrients they need directly out of the water. Waterlilies and lotus, though, need a little extra help to produce big, beautiful blooms.

Fertilize your lilies and lotus about once per month from May until September. (If you bought your lily from Splash, you can wait until one month after your purchase to fertilize your plant for the first time).

We use two tabs of fertilizer in each of our one-gallon waterlily pots, and three tabs in each of our lotus pots. Simply press the tabs into the soil near the base of the plant.

Looking for more information about specific types of plants in your pond? Scan the QR code on their plant tag, or check out our Plant Library.

Seasonal Pond Care

Seasonal Pond Care

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Spring Pond Care

  • Turn the pump back on if it was turned off for the winter.
  • Clean out your pond if needed. You can do this yourself or hire Splash to do it for you.
  • Feed fish a cold water food or probiotic food to help them transition into warmer weather.

Summer Pond Care

low-res june
  • Add an aerator to keep water oxygenated.
  • Provide plenty of shade for fish with floating plants and/or fish caves.
  • Keep up with regular maintenance.

Fall Pond Care

Screenshot Netting
  • Install netting over the pond in early autumn to keep out falling leaves, if desired. Remove later in the season, ideally before first snowfall. You can install netting yourself or hire Splash to do it for you.
  • Switch to cold water fish food when the water temperature is between 55 and 65 degrees to help your fish transition into winter.
  • Switch to Cold Water or Arctic Blend Bacteria.

Winter Pond Care

  • Decide whether to keep your pond running or turn it off for the season – also know as winterizing.
  • Install an aerator.
  • Install a de-icer (optional).
  • If your pond surface ices over completely, carefully cut or melt a hole.
  • Do not feed fish when the water temperature is below 55 degrees.
  • Note: Koi and goldfish go into a semi-dormant state called torpor in winter. They’ll survive the winter in your Ecosystem Pond just fine as long as the pond has adequate aeration.

Troubleshooting Common Pond Problems

Troubleshooting

Owning a pond means hours of relaxation and tranquility as you take in the sights and sound of nature.

We’ve designed your Splash Ecosystem Pond to require little maintenance and provide decades of worry-free enjoyment. Still, nature is unpredictable – and sometimes we need to give our ponds a little help.

This troubleshooting guide will walk you through everything you need to know about dealing with common pond problems, and show you how easy it is to get back on track to enjoying crystal-clear water and happy, healthy fish in your backyard oasis.

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How to Fix Green, Brown or Cloudy Water

Algae, muck and murky water. They’re the most common issues that pond owners encounter. Luckily, your Splash Ecosystem Pond has lots of biological and skimming filtration to prevent most algae issues, most of the time.

We feel so passionately about crystal-clear water that we’ve created an entire guide dedicated to walking you through every possible cause of – and solution to – any water clarity issue. Check it out here. Below is a quick overview:

First, identify the problem

Water clarity issues typically fall into one of five categories: green water, string algae, brown-tinted water, cloudy water or pond sludge.

  • Green water is caused by single-cell algae. This algae is too small to pick up with your hand and can turn the water pea-soup green.
  • String algae is the mucky, stringy green stuff that clings to rocks. You can typically pick it up or scrape it off the rocks with your hands. Most pond owners with string algae still have crystal-clear water.
  • Brown-tinted water is caused by tannins, an organic substance found in some plant compounds (i.e. leaves). Brown-tinted water will be clear but give everything a brown hue.
  • Cloudy water is the result of suspended debris in the pond. We’ll often see cloudy water after heavy rains, pond service or, occasionally, after adding new plants.
  • Pond sludge is the build-up of muck on the bottom of your pond made up of decomposing leaves, fish waste and other organic debris.

Second, don't panic!

Before we talk about how to clear up your water, here are a couple important facts to keep in mind:

First, most algae – including green-water algae and string algae – pose little risk to your fish. The only reason they’re “problems” at all is most people don’t like the way they look. If you don’t mind green-tinted water or fuzzy rocks, you can stop reading here and go on enjoying your pond.

Second, all ponds will always have a little bit of algae and sludge. Your pond is a living ecosystem – that’s what makes it great!

That all being said, keeping your water crystal-clear and algae in-check isn’t hard to do. And you can do it without using potentially dangerous algaecides.

Green Pond Water AlgaeSingle-cell algae thrive on nitrites, a byproduct of ammonia breaking down in the pond. Beneficial Bacteria eat these same nitrites. When you add beneficial bacteria, you remove the algae’s food and starve it – giving you clear water.

Keep up with regular weekly doses of Beneficial Bacteria year-round, switching to Arctic Blend or Cold Water formula in the winter. You can alternatively use the Maintain for Ponds pouch in an Automatic Dosing System when the outside temperature is above 40 degrees.

If regular maintenance doses of bacteria aren’t enough, try doubling the bacteria dosage and adding it to the pond two to three times a week until water is clear.

Beneficial Bacteria is completely safe for fish and plants. That makes it a much better choice than algaecides, which can kill pond life if not dosed carefully.

Keep in mind that green water isn’t uncommon in newly built or newly cleaned ponds where Beneficial Bacteria colonies are still establishing themselves (this is why we only recommend cleaning your bacteria-rich biofilter once a year). If you have green water because of one of these situations, try using Pond Starter Bacteria to help jump start the biological process.

> Find Bacteria Products at our Online Store

Want to know more about green water, or explore other options for fixing it? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Clear Water.

The easiest way to keep string algae at bay is to add more plants to your pond. String algae eat nitrates – a nutrient that naturally comes into the pond when beneficial bacteria do their work.

Plants also eat nitrates. Each type of plant you add to your pond will take in a different kind of nitrate – i.e. a red leaf will absorb one type, a green leaf another. The more and wider variety of plants you add to your pond, the fewer nutrients are left to feed string algae.

Because plants help starve out string algae, you might see an uptick during times of year when plants are dormant. This is completely normal and will usually go away on its own once plants start blooming again.

If you have an especially stubborn case of string algae, we do have some other options – like contact powders, barley straw extract and ionizers – that will do the trick. Check out our Ultimate Guide to Clear Water to learn more.

Certain kinds of trees, mulch and other organic debris can give your otherwise clear water a brown tint. The tint alone won’t hurt your pond, but, if you don’t like the way it looks, you can use activated pond carbon to help clear things up.

The science behind carbon is a little complicated, but it essentially grabs the brown-color tannins out of the water. It also takes out stuff like chloramines and certain odor-causing compounds.

> Find Activated Pond Carbon at our Online Store

Is your water brown and murky? If you’ve already tried treating for algae (which is typically more green), you might just have a bunch of suspended debris in the pond.

Lots of things can stir up muck in your pond. Some common causes include clean-outs, heavy rain, mating fish and newly-added plants.

You can give the water a few days to clear up on its own, or you can add a pond flocculant like Rapid Clear. For extra help, temporarily add an extra fine filter mat into your skimmer to catch pieces of debris too tiny to be caught by standard mats.

> Find Rapid Clear at our Online Store

> Find a Fine Filter Mat at our Online Store

Sludge is the hodgepodge of stuff that sink to the bottom of your pond or collects on your filter mats – usually some mix of decaying leaves, dead algae, fish waste and anything else that doesn’t make it into the skimmer.

The easiest way to combat sludge is to prevent it. Only feed your fish as much food as they’ll eat within a few minutes of you throwing it in the pond, and do your best to keep up with emptying the skimmer basket and removing most leaves from the pond.

You’ll probably always have a little bit of sludge in the bottom of your pond and in your filters – and that’s OK. Excessive amounts of sludge, though, can create high levels of ammonia in your pond and cause serious harm to your fish.

You have two options for removing sludge from your pond: removing it yourself or letting bacteria do the work for you.

Sludge & Filter Cleaner includes special types of bacteria that specifically break down gunk on the bottom of your pond and in your filters. You can – and should – use it in combination with Maintain or regular Beneficial Bacteria to keep algae in-check at the same time.

> Find Sludge & Filter Cleaner at our Online Store

If your sludge problem is especially bad, you can remove the sludge manually. Use a net or pond vacuum to get most muck out of the bottom of your pond, and gently rinse your skimmer mats if needed (try to avoid rinsing your biofilter – otherwise you risk turning your water green). The best time to remove sludge from your pond this way is during a spring clean-out, before the beneficial bacteria colonies have established themselves for the season.

How to Treat Sick Fish

Everybody gets sick sometimes – including fish. Pond fish sometimes fall ill with fungal infections, bacterial infections or parasites.

The first treatment we recommend for almost any fish illness is a combination of non-iodized pond salt and probiotic fish food. Salt builds up your fish’s slime coat and helps its gills work better under stress, while probiotic food boosts the fish’s immune system. Microbe-Lift’s Broad Spectrum Disease Treatment also helps with many common issues.

> Find Pond Salt at our Online Store

> Find Broad Spectrum Disease Treatment at our Online Store

> Find Probiotic Fish Food at our Online Store

Don’t hesitate to call, text or email us if you have any questions about your fish’s health. Many problems are treatable if caught early.

Should I Move My Sick Fish?

No matter what treatment you use, we recommend against removing sick fish from your pond in most situations. Fish often heal better when they’re around their friends and tend to decline more quickly when they’re on their own.

If possible, take some pictures and/or video of your fish’s issues to show to one of our experts. This lets us see what’s going on without having to remove the fish from the pond. Do not bring sick fish to the store for examination. Fish get very stressed when moved, so transporting your fish will likely worsen its condition.

Treating Specific Issues

If you know what’s wrong with your fish, you can buy ailment-specific products to treat everything from fungus to ulcers. Just make sure to follow all instructions on the label of anything you add to your pond, and keep in mind that scaleless fish – i.e. catfish – require much lower doses of medication than pondmates like koi and goldfish.

> Learn more about specific fish ailments and treatments

Checking Water Quality

You have the option of testing your water if something seems off with your fish. While we rarely test the water in our ponds – there’s just no reason to do so if everyone seems healthy – we often test customers’ water for pH, nitrite, nitrate and ammonia levels when they have problems with their fish.

If you want us to check out your water, simply bring a container of water to Splash during our open hours for a free test (empty plastic water bottles work great for transporting the sample). The process generally takes about five minutes.

How to Protect Fish from Predators

Koi and goldfish aren’t exactly bred for camouflage.

Herons, hawks, minks, raccoons and other predators sometimes try to make a snack of pond fish. You can take a few simple steps to prevent that from happening:

  • Include fish caves in your pond design so your finned friends have a place to hide.
  • Install a ScareCrow or similar motion-activated device that spritzes approaching animals with water and deters them from approaching your pond.
  • Add a floating alligator to your pond. The alligator moves with the flow of the water, making it more intimidating than stationary decoys.

If all else fails, consult a professional for a custom solution. We can build structures that keep away some of the smarter and more determined critters while still letting you look at and enjoy your fish.

You might notice our list of predator deterrents doesn’t include fishing line or decoy heron. Here’s the truth: They don’t work. Heron have no problem stepping over fishing line, and they quickly learn that a decoy that doesn’t move doesn’t pose much of a threat.

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How to Fix a Clogged Pump

The pump in your Ecosystem Pond should rarely, if ever, clog. That’s because the skimmer pulls out most of the physical debris before it has a chance to cause a problem.

If a piece of mulch or other debris does manage to sneak past the skimmer and into the pump, you can fix the problem pretty easily:

  • Remove the check valve from the top of the pump.
  • Remove the volute cover (depending on the pump, you might need a flat-head screwdriver to pry it off).
  • Clean any debris off the volute cover.
  • If your pump has an interior baffle, remove and clean it.
  • Clean the top and inside of the volute chamber with your finger or a screwdriver.
  • Reassemble the pump and check valve.


Need more help? Read our detailed instructions for unclogging a pond pump

Replacement Parts, Warranties & Instruction Manuals

Replacement Parts, Warranties & Instruction Manuals

Wondering about winter care for your autodoser? Curious about the warranty on your lights? Need to replace worn parts in your aerator?

Each piece of equipment in your pond has an online Instruction Manual detailing everything you need to know, as well as a list of replacement parts and links to buy them at our Online Store.

Visit the “Equipment Instructions” portion of our Learning Center to find your manual, or use the search bar below.