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Maintaining a Pond for Aesthetics and Swimming

By Samuel Scott
looking out over pond managed for aesthetics

Whether your idea of the ideal pond is one you can use for cooling off during the hot Texas summers or a stunning landscape feature to enjoy year-round, we can develop a plan to keep your pond clean and healthy.

Pond Management Plans for a Variety of Uses

When we manage our customers' pond, we always keep their goals in mind. Some people want a fishery that produces trophy-sized bass, while some people want a pond where they can just catch a lot of fish, no matter the size or species. Then some of our customers just want a pond that they can swim in to cool off during the hot Texas summers or one that they can sit on their porch and admire its beauty. While managing a pond for aesthetic or swimming purposes can be a bit challenging in our particular geography, you can do it with the proper management plan. 

little-girl-swimming-in-pond

Maintainance Plans for Pond Aesthetics and Swimming

Whenever you think of a pond that is pleasing to the eye, you don't typically think of a muddy one. Usually, when you think of a pond you'd want to swim in, it's one with water so clear you can see several feet down that you'll picture. For many clients, a summer swimming hole for the grandkids or a lake-side retreat for coffee or cocktails is more important than catch rate or catch weight of the bass. For these folks, we've developed management plans that focus on pond aesthetics and water quality.

When a pond looks dirty or muddy, it's because there are particles of dirt suspended in the pond's water column. These particles usually get stirred up from the pond's bottom and become suspended in the water, resulting in what we refer to as "turbidity." Possible causes of turbidity include a rain event that produced a lot of runoff into your pond, or certain fish species - such as bullheads or common carp - may be to blame. 

Preventing Floating Particles of Dirt 

Runoff occurs whenever a heavy rain event causes soil from the area around your pond to wash in and become suspended in the water column. There are a few different methods to help combat runoff:

  • Maintain terrestrial vegetation around the edges of your pond,
  • Keep emergent aquatic vegetation near the mouths of feeder creeks or streams that enter your pond,
  • Place rocks around the edges of your pond or lake. 

Each of these practices will help trap the particles of soil before they enter your pond, which will help tremendously with keeping the water clear. 

Runoff isn't the only culprit here. In high densities, certain fish species, such as common carp or bullheads, can also cause your pond to become muddy. These fish species are both bottom-dwellers that stir up the mud and silt whenever they swim through your pond. If these fish have high enough densities, they'll keep the bottom disturbed, constantly putting soil particles into the water column. Removing these species from your pond is critical if they are overabundant and you want to have a clear pond.

There are two ways to remove the excess population from your pond:  

  1. Remove individual fish each time you catch one while fishing, or, 
  2. Have Pond King's biologist conduct an electrofishing harvest targeting select species for removal. 
Removing the Floating Particles

The method we use most to help clear up the water in a pond is spreading gypsum. Gypsum binds to the suspended particles in your pond and causes them to sink to the bottom. Gypsum application is not only an effective method for clearing up a pond; it is also the best option for fast results. Typically, 1 ton of gypsum treats a 1/2 acre pond, depending on the overall depth. When you schedule a gypsum treatment with Pond King, one of our biologists will come out with the gypsum and a series of pumps. Then, he'll pump water from your pond to mix with the gypsum and then pump that mixture back into your pond. When the treatment is complete, you can expect to see a difference in the water clarity within a few days. We recommend having a water sample tested prior to treatment to ensure that gypsum is the best course of action. 

Managing Aquatic Vegetation 

water-that-is-too-clearOne of the most challenging battles to fight when the water in your pond is clear is controlling aquatic vegetation. Clear water allows sunlight to reach the pond's floor, promoting vegetative growth throughout the entire water column. Nobody wants to swim in a pond where your feet are touching vegetation anymore than you'd like to be looking at matted vegetation while trying to enjoy the beauty of the pond. Luckily, you have a few different options when it comes to vegetation control. To manage pond weeds, you can: 

  1. Use chemical treatments,
  2. Apply dye to the pond,
  3. Stock grass carp and tilapia in your pond. 
Chemical Treatments

Chemical treatments can be a very effective method for vegetation control when done correctly. The chemical treatment we'll recommend (or perform) depends on the type of vegetation that needs managing. We use endothall salt chemicals for most submerged vegetation, a copper sulfate complex for filamentous algae, and aquatic-rated glyphosate for emergent vegetation, such as cattails. If you are unsure about which type of vegetation you have in your pond, the best thing you can do is bring a sample to our office so one of our biologists can look at it or send us a few pictures via email. As far as actually treating the vegetation, you can either purchase the chemical and treat the pond yourself or talk to us about getting on a maintenance contract, and we'll come out there and treat it for you. If you decide to treat your pond yourself, we can help you identify the weed, the appropriate chemical, and how to apply it. Correct application is vital in keeping your pond and the fish in it safe and healthy. You can read more about the use of chemicals in our blog, "Will Controlling Aquatic Vegetation with Herbicides Kill My Fish?"

Pond Dye

Dying your pond is another effective treatment for controlling aquatic vegetation when water clarity is desirable. We typically use a product called Aqua Shade, a blue-colored dye that we simply pour in the water around the edges of your pond. The dye spreads itself, giving your pond a blue tint. Aquatic vegetation needs lots of sunlight to grow, and the blue tint prevents the sunlight from hitting the pond floor, thereby preventing growth. One gallon of dye will treat a 1-acre pond, and we generally only recommend dying for ponds 2-acres or smaller. Since the dye will break down or get washed out of the pond, you'll need to reapply it throughout the year. 

Fish Stocking

If keeping your water clear and free from vegetation is your goal, another effective method for controlling aquatic vegetation is stocking tilapia and grass carp in your pond. Tilapia eat filamentous algae and can eat their body weight in algae every day. The stocking rate we recommend is 10-15 pounds of tilapia per acre. These fish also reproduce every 4-5 weeks throughout the summer, so their numbers will grow, and they will eat even more algae. A downside to stocking tilapia is that when water temperatures drop below 55 degrees, they'll die. While this helps prevent overpopulation, it means you'll need to restock each spring. But in the fall, you can catch and remove as many tilapia as you can before they begin to die and have yourself a good ol' fashioned fish fry! Before you decide to stock tilapia, you should check to see if the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPW) requires you to have a permit, depending on your pond's location. 

Grass carp are an excellent long-term method of vegetation control. Grass carp will generally live around 7 or 8 years and will help control vegetation throughout their lives. We typically recommend stocking 5-7 grass carp per surface acre. You may not see much difference during their first year in your pond. But after that, you should begin to notice a considerable difference in the vegetation densities in your pond. Once you start seeing a difference, they will keep doing their job and keep your pond looking clean and beautiful. If you live anywhere in Texas, you must have a permit through TPWD to stock grass carp.

If you are interested in stocking your pond with fish, you essentially have two options for getting them. You can come to pick them up at our headquarters just outside of Gainesville, Texas, or we can deliver them, but there is a minimum order of $800 to qualify for delivery. You can read more in our blog, "Transporting Fish for Pond Stocking." 

Using Fountains to Improve Aesthetics

Kasco-VFX-Fountain-5HP-RGB-LightsFountains are an excellent investment to add to any pond, especially if it is a community pond kept primarily for aesthetic reasons. Fountains create a water display that makes any pond prettier, especially when you purchase light kits so you can still see your fountain at night - like a mini Bellagio! We are a dealer for Kasco fountains, and our customers tell us they love them. The aerating fountains are incredibly popular because they are pleasing to look at, aerate your pond, and keep your fish and pond healthy. If you are thinking about purchasing a fountain, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, what size fountain should you buy? We typically recommend a one-horsepower fountain for ponds that are around one acre. If you get a fountain that is too big for your pond, you could potentially cause disturbance to the bottom and cause your pond to become turbid. If your fountain is too small, your display will probably look disproportionate and not provide sufficient aeration to affect your pond. If you are unsure what size fountain you need, give us a call or come to our office to discuss your options. 

Second, you need to address the issue of power. Most fountains run off electricity; some are solar-powered, some wind-powered, but those can be pretty pricey. So, do you have electricity somewhere near the pond? If so, how long of a power cord will you need to get your fountain to its desired location in the pond? You need to be sure that your power cord is long enough to reach from the fountain in your pond to the power outlet with a bit of slack left in the cord. If you live within our service area and purchase your fountain from us, we can install it for you.

Balancing Water Clarity and Vegetation Growth

As you can see, one of the biggest challenges when managing a pond or lake for swimming or aesthetics is that clear water, which is a desirable attribute in this scenario, allows sunlight to penetrate throughout the water column contributing to vegetation growth, which is an undesirable attribute. But, we can help you achieve the desired level of water clarity for your swimming hole or landscape feature. As always, if you have any questions, give us a call at (940) 668-2573, come by our location in Gainesville, Texas, or you can email us at askapro@pondking.com, and we'll be happy to help. 

See y'all down at the pond! 

Tags: Pond Management

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