Nutrient overload is a major concern for pond owners during the fall. High nutrient loads can upset the pond's balance in any season, but fall leaves can quickly overload a pond when not scooped out. Keeping your pond clean and clear during the fall is vital for your fish's well-being and transition into winter.
The Problem with High Nutrient Loads
When your pond has a balanced ecosystem, the good bacteria in the pond can break down light debris that naturally occurs, like fish waste. The bacteria turn the debris into food for the aquatic plants or into harmless gases that escape the water when it aerates. When there's more debris than the bacteria can break down, it starts to settle to the bottom of the pond and decay, where the harmful bacteria turn it into nitrogen and phosphates. These high nutrient loads harm water quality, fish health, and decrease the oxygen level in the pond.
Once fall becomes winter and it's time to close down your pond, it must be as clean and debris-free as possible. The bacteria are less active in the winter and do not break down debris as efficiently. The poor water quality makes it easier for fish to get sick, as their immune systems are already weakened. When you reopen your pond, high nutrient loads in fall create the perfect conditions for spring algae blooms.
The layer of muck and debris at the bottom of a pond is called sludge. This sediment creates murky water when stirred by rain or fish movement. Sludge remover is a favorite water treatment for the fall season, as it helps to break down the debris that settles at the bottom of the pond. Aeration is essential in the fall for breaking down the sludge and other debris in the water because it promotes the colonization of the beneficial bacteria.
Sources of Nutrients in the Fall
The biggest cause of high nutrient loads in fall is leaves. As the leaves fall off your trees, they magically find their way into your pond. The leaves are too big for the bacteria to break down. The best way to remove the leaves is by using a pond net to scoop them out before they sink to the bottom of the pond.
Fish require less food as the pond water gets colder. Uneaten food also contributes to nutrient overload. Follow your fall feeding schedule to make sure you don't give your fish too much food. Overfeeding your fish in the fall and winter is also dangerous to their health as they cannot digest the food once water temperatures drop below 50°F.
Lawn and Plant Clippings
When preparing plants for fall and winter, it's a good idea to trim back most of your greenery so the leaves and flowers do not end up in the pond as the weather changes. Other yard sources of nutrients are grass from mowing and fertilizer runoff.
During the fall, it can seem like there's a never-ending battle between you and the beautiful fall leaves. The leaves signal that fall is here and are lovely, except when they end up in your pond. Your pond can handle small amounts of debris, but the big fall leaves quickly cause high nutrient loads in the fall. The nutrient loads are harmful to your pond fish and create algae blooms in the spring. Prevent the leaves from wreaking havoc on your pond by scooping out leaves daily from your pond's surface or installing a pond net.