Most Common Pond Water Quality Issues (and how to fix them)
When you have a beautiful pond in your backyard, you want it to be clear so you can sit by the water and enjoy the peace and calm. Clear water lets you admire your fish as they swim and is important for their health. Water quality issues can quickly pop up. If you catch them early, you can use water treatments and help prevent the problem from getting worse. Regular pond maintenance can help keep your pond healthy. Learn more about the most common water quality issues and how to treat them.
Too Much Debris
When the pond has more debris than the filtration system can handle, and the beneficial bacteria can break down, it causes a variety of water quality issues. Debris can also clog the pond pump, causing the water features and filtration systems to not run as well as normal.
If the debris settles to the bottom of the pond, it slowly breaks down and becomes sludge.
The bottom of the pond has the least amount of oxygen and can be a difficult place for the beneficial bacteria to survive. The "bad bacteria" are anaerobic, they don't need oxygen to function, but they work much more slowly and release harmful gases in the process.
This buildup of nutrients can fuel an algae bloom. It can also cause the water to be cloudy, especially if a fish or water feature disrupts the sediment at the bottom.
What you can do
The best way to prevent debris from building up in your pond is to regularly scoop it out before it sinks to the bottom. Use a pond net and make removing leaves, grass, and other organic debris from the surface of your pond part of your daily pond maintenance. Make a habit of skimming for debris after landscaping or mowing to catch any grass or leaves. If the debris comes from the plants in and around your pond, try to regularly prune any dead leaves before they fall off.
During the fall, especially if your pond is near a tree that sheds its leaves, you can use a pond net to catch the leaves before they can enter the water. There may be too many leave to reasonably scoop out, and a pond net can make the job easier.
Too much waste
If you have fish in your pond, they will naturally produce waste. Your filtration system in the pond can break down what the fish excrete in small amounts. It becomes a problem if you feed your fish more than they can eat. This uneaten food is packed with nutrients and sinks to the bottom of the pond.
Having too many fish leads to overcrowding. Ideally, you need a gallon of water for every inch of adult fish you have in your pond. When you have too many fish, they don't have enough room to swim and explore and produce more waste than the pond can handle. Fish also need oxygen and absorb it through their gills. When you have too many fish, they can quickly deplete the pond of oxygen.
Overcrowding can happen by accident if your fish reproduce or grow larger than expected. If your pond is overcrowded, learn what you can do.
Not enough oxygen
The water in the pond needs to have enough oxygen for your fish, plants, and the beneficial bacteria that help break down debris and waste. When the pond is completely still, the water isn't circulating, which means it cannot release carbon dioxide and absorb oxygen from the air.
If there is not enough circulation, only the pond's surface oxygenates. The very bottom of the pond has the least amount of oxygen, so your fish will stay closer to the surface. The higher up you go, the more oxygen there is. If the pond is quickly stirred, like from a storm, this water mixes, and the overall water levels can drop too quickly--killing off your pond life.
What you can do
The best way to keep your pond oxygenated is to use water features. Water oxygenates as it is sprayed or poured through a fountain, waterfall, spitter, or other features. Pumps take water from the pond (ideally the deeper parts) and push it through the filtration system and then the feature or back into the pond.
Make sure you choose the right-sized pump for your pond. If it's not strong enough, it won't be able to keep the pond oxygenated, and if it's too strong, it can agitate the water and make it cloudy.
If your pond smells like rotten eggs, it's likely because there is too much sludge at the bottom of the pond. The bad (anaerobic) bacteria release C02 and hydrogen sulfide when they break down waste and debris in the water. Hydrogen sulfide smells like rotten eggs. Making sure your pond is oxygenated and using the right water treatments can help.
The smell could also come from algae or other dead plants. If the algae bloom but then die off, they can produce an unpleasant odor. Poor water quality and low oxygen levels can also cause your aquatic plants to die, and as they decay, it can make your pond smelly.
Tip: Use smartpond Sludge Remover to help boost the beneficial bacteria in your pond and break up the sludge at reduce odors.
You can prevent many common water quality issues with regular pond maintenance. When your pond's ecosystem is balanced, there's enough oxygen for the beneficial bacteria to break down organic material. Sometimes leaves, lawn clippings, and other debris find their way into the pond, and it's more than the filtration system and pond can handle. You can add water features to help oxygenate the water. Scooping out this larger debris and making sure you don't overfeed or overcrowd your fish is also helpful.