Fish tanks grace homes and offices all over the world, but, clearly, fish don’t just live in tanks. If you’re looking for something more unique or a little more natural, ponds are a cute and fun way to have aquatic pets. Whether man-made or naturally occurring, they can add visual interest to your property while also helping you develop a relationship with wildlife.
Taking care of a pond isn’t too complicated, but there are a few important things you should be aware of. One of these is pond filtration.
What is Filtration?
Because pond water is stagnant (there’s no water flowing in and out) it quickly becomes dirty and contaminated. Having a filter in your pond keeps the water clean, not just so it looks clear for your enjoyment, but also to protect the fish that live there from toxins, bacteria, and other harmful or annoying particles that can find their way into your pond. If you’re serious about keeping the fish on your property safe, healthy, and happy, then it’s time to get serious about filtration.
There are two different types of filtration, mechanical and biological, and each does a slightly different job. A mechanical filtration system is similar to the kind you would find in a swimming pool. Some are more automated than others, but they all work by physically separating the debris and filth from the water to make it cleaner. Biological filtration is a little different, and much less familiar if you’ve never used a pond filtration system before. It uses bacteria (good bacteria, don’t worry) to physically change the chemistry of your water and make it safer for your fish. Instead of removing the big things, the physical waste that you can actually see, it removes harmful particles that have dissolved into the water. Both of these types of filtration are important for your pond’s overall health, so finding a good combination of both is the best, and really the only, way to go.
Nitrogen Cycle: The Base of Biological Filtration
If the description of biological filtration above made you feel a little nervous, that’s okay. It’s a little bit complicated, especially for beginners, but once you understand how it works and why it’s necessary, you’ll see that it isn’t as scary as it sounds. A biological filtration system simply utilizes the nitrogen cycle to rid your pond of toxins. When fish produce waste, they release ammonia into the water, and too much ammonia isn’t good for the fish. That’s where biological filtration comes in. Nitrifying bacteria turn the ammonia into nitrite and the nitrite into nitrate, which will be used as food by the plants in your pond. By the end of the cycle, the water will be cleaner, making you and the fish happy, and the plants will have food, making them happy. So everybody’s happy! Just make sure your pond is being constantly aerated (by a pump or a waterfall or something like that) so that the bacteria have the oxygen they need to do their job.
How to Select and Install a Biological Filter for your Pond
Once you understand how a filtration system works, you need to know how to actually use one and, more importantly, which one you should use. There are many different choices, and which one is best for you depends on a lot of factors, like the size of your pond, what animals you are planning to keep, how much work you’re willing to dedicate to its maintenance, and how easy you want the installation to be.
For example, filter brushes aren’t too difficult to install (although they have to be placed in the correct position, so be careful) but they can be messy and difficult to clean. A big, more automated filter requires less maintenance and often works better, but installing them can be complicated. And, of course, money is also part of the process. The size of your budget often determines whether you’ll be using a fancy electric filter or cleaning your pond with a pool skimmer. Again, if you are planning to keep messy fishes like Koi or turtles then you need to choose a filter good enough for koi.
Mechanical and biological components always work together, but how closely connected they are depend on the system. As you’re looking at different choices, it’s important to remember the job of each type. Mechanical filtration is all about getting the big stuff out, so as long as that’s happening, your filter is doing its job (even if it really is just you with a pool skimmer). As for biological filters, the bacteria do most of the work. Your job is giving them a good place to live, so you need to have something called a filter media. Like all creatures, bacteria like wide open spaces, so you want something with a large surface area. The classic filter media (classic meaning outdated) is gravel, but nowadays there are countless other choices and most work better than their predecessor. You can get bio balls or bio mats, various kinds of plastic media, and much, much more. In fact, it’s impossible to list all the choices out there, so if you’re still unsure what you want after reading this (and you probably are, it’s a big decision!), feel free to do more research on your own.
Finding the right filtration system for your pond can be a difficult and overwhelming process, but there’s no reason to worry. There are plenty of resources for you to use so that you can find the right filtration system for you. It’s so important for the health of your pond and your fish that you not only find the right system, but that you install it correctly and understand how to maintain it. Don’t use a system if you don’t totally understand how it works because you can endanger the health of your fish and you’ll likely end up with a big mess. Also remember to take it slow! A brand new filter system will not be equipped to handle a pond full of fish, so start small and you can gradually build up your pond’s ecosystem. Maintaining a pond may seem like a lot of work, but having a beautiful and healthy habitat for your fish is worth the work. Wait until you see how happy they are!