How To Clean A Pond Without Draining It

Regular maintenence is part and parcel of being a pond keeper and with cleaning your pond playing such an important role in providing a healthy and well-balanced ecosystem it is vital that you get this part of pondkeeping right.

Many people often believe that the best way to clean a murky pond is to to simply drain the dirty water and replace it with some fresh clean water straight from the tap, this is not the case.

Doing this will more than likely do more harm than good to the overall health of your pond as well as leading to a number of potential problems in the future.

The reason for this is because over a period of time the water in a pond becomes full of micro-organisms and bacteria that play a beneficial role in maintaining your ponds ecosystem. The problem with removing water during the cleaning process is that you are also removing millions of the beneficial bacteria as well.

One of the main purposes of this beneficial bacteria is to help break down the harmful ammonia and nitrogen produced by fish waste.

If you do decide to add fresh water to your pond you should always make sure that you remove the chlorine and chloramine first due to the adverse affects on fish and other aquatic life.

The best way to clean a pond is without draining it, this allows the good bacteria to continue providing the natural filtration that helps in maintaining a healthy pond.

When Should You Drain Your Pond?

There are only two instances that I can think of to use as an excuse for draining your fish pond. The first is when people decide to make their pond bigger or if they are redesigning it to the point where it has to be emptied as there literally is no other option.

The second is in the unfortunate set of circumstances that the pond liner becomes punctured at the very bottom. If this happens you will again have no choice but to drain your pond water.

When Is The Best Time To Clean Your Pond?

Most pondkeepers will clean their pond out twice a year and this is what we recommend. The first clean is usually done in early spring and is just a general tidy up. This mainly consists of removing any debris and thinning out of any pond plants. Due to water temperatures increasing during spring it leads to fish becoming more active and a good spring clean ensures they have a clean pond to roam around and possibly reproduce.

The second clean is performed in late autumn and is far more intensive than the earlier light spring clean. The reason for an autumn clean is because this is when the majority of trees will have lost their leaves. Leaving your major clean until the end of autumn ensures your fish have minimal waste in their habitat heading towards their winter hibernation period.

How To Clean A Pond Without Draining It In 4 Easy Steps


Skim The Surface For Debris

The first step is one you should already be familiar with as a pondkeeper as part of your regular pond maintenence. This is to remove any floating debris from the surface. If you aren’t already doing this then you should make it part of your regular routine. In addition to making your pond more pleasing to the eye the main reason for removing floating debris is to catch it before it sinks to the bottom and breaks down adding to your sludge problem.

There are a few different methods of removing sticks, leaves, twigs and anything else that happens to float on the surface. These are with a simple pond net or pond rake and for the the serious pondkeeper there are pond skimmers. The deciding factor when it comes to choosing which method is best depends on the size of your pond.

Removing Debris From Small Ponds

If you have a relatively small pond then you will probably only need a simple pond net or rake to complete the first step to a cleaner pond. There are many pond nets and rakes to choose from with them all performing the same job. A tip for when choosing a pond net is to make sure it has a good size net for removing debris and that it is at least half the width of your pond at its widest point.

Removing Debris From Large Ponds

Those with large ponds would be better off investing in a pond skimmer to remove any floating debris. Pond skimmers cost considerably more than a pond net but have the advantage of working constantly to remove any falling debris. Overall they help to maintain a healthy pond and help to reduce the material that sinks to the bottom and eventually turns to sludge.

Once all floating debris has been removed you can then move on to the next step.


Clean The Pond Bottom With A Pond Vacuum

The second step to a cleaner pond is to remove the debris that has sunk to the bottom and turned to sludge on your pond liner.

If you have a wildlife pond then you may not want to remove all of the sludge if any at all, as it plays a vital role in the ecosystem of a wildlife pond.

On the other hand if you have a fish pond it isn’t essential that you remove all of the bottom sludge, but it is a good idea to remove as much as you can. The main benefit of keeping sludge levels to a minimum is that it will help to keep the nitrate levels down. In turn this will reduce algae as well as providing a safer hibernation for fish in the lower depths.

There are two ways to remove sludge from your pond and again the method you use depends on the size of your garden pond.

Sludge Control Treatment For Small Ponds

For small ponds an effective way to eliminate the build-up of sludge is to use a sludge control treatment. These products are very affordable and are very effective when used on small ponds. They work by introducing beneficial bacteria to the water that basically digests the organic matter that rests on the bottom of your pond. This method is perfectly safe and doesn’t harm fish or other aquatic life.

Pond Vacuum For Removing Sludge From Large Ponds

If you have a medium to large pond then there really is only one option and that is to invest in a pond vacuum. A pond vac works in the same way as a traditional household vacuum but with air and dirt being replaced with pond water and debris/sludge.

Pond vacuum’s come in a variety of shapes and sizes as well as working in a number of different ways. The most common type remove both the pond water and sludge straight down the drain. Other models allow you to catch the sludge in a bag/container for emptying later.

If you are a keen gardener you may want to add this sludge to your compost heap or flower beds it has amazing fertilising qualities.

Then there are models that allow you to reintroduce the water back in to the pond. This allows you to retain plenty of the good bacteria and as you might have guessed this type of pond vacuum is the least affordable.

One thing that all pond vacuum cleaners have in common is the many attachments they come with. These make the whole process of cleaning your pond liner far easier to deal with.

Be sure to check out our full guide on pond vacuum cleaners to learn more about them and which are the best models.


Control Algae Growth

The next stage to a clean and healthy pond is to control the growth of algae. Algae is naturally occuring in healthy ponds and although it isn’t technically pond waste it can cause major problems if left unchecked.

On the plus side algae provides shelter for all sorts of pond life as well as being a source of food for some fish. At the other end of the spectrum it can drastically affect water quality, reduce oxygen levels and smother other plants. In a worse case scenario algae will take over your pond and completely smother your pond plants. These will eventually die and sink creating more sludge, reducing oxygen levels further to the point of your fish been at risk of dying.

There are a handful of ways to reduce the algae in your pond and even if your pond has been taken over you can still restore the water quality without actually draining the water.

The two types of algae to be worried about are string algae and free swimming algae. It is recommended that you install a UV clarifier to tackle free swimming algae. A UV clarifier will destroy algae on a cellular level and drastically reduce the amount of dead algae that eventually contributes to pond sludge. When tackling string algae a pond vac will do the trick nicely.

A more long term approach to tackling algae is to introduce oxygenating plants to your pond. These compete with algae for nutrients and although they take a while to have an affect they do reduce the growth of algae.

In Summary

Maintaining a clean pond can be a chore and a task at times but with the correct pond equipment it doesn’t have to be hard. The key to a healthy pond boils down to a combination of both equipment and regular pond maintenence. Once you have

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