Cleaning a Backyard Pond

Once a year, and I think spring is a good time, I recommend a total cleaning of your garden pond. This means removing all plants, all water, all fish and giving the pond a good cleaning. This will rid the pond of any toxins that have built up over the winter. These toxins can build quickly if the pond ices over. Leaves can fall in the pond in the fall and winter and start to decompose when the weather begins to warm. If there is debris in the pond, now is a good time to get outside and prepare to get dirty. If you live where the weather is warmer and some trees do not shed their leaves until spring, wait until after the leaves are gone or you will be scooping dead leaves out of your clean pond. If you do live in warmer climes where your water does not freeze, a partial water change might be all you need.

Cleaning your pond is much easier with two people. See if you can find a helper, even if you have to bribe one. Both of you should wear very old clothes that you will use again only to clean your pond. Pond cleaning is not for the faint of heart. Pond scum is as awful as it sounds.

Tools you need:

  • Solids handling pump with very long hose attached
  • Wet/dry vacuum cleaner
  • Fish net
  • Large bucket or box to hold fish in while cleaning
  • Trash bags
  • Boots or waders
  • 2 milk crates

Steps in order:

  1. Put some pond water in the large bucket or box.
  2. Put the pump in the water. If you have a sump in your pond, put it there. I put the pump inside a milk crate to keep the worst of the bottom debris from clogging up the pump.
  3. Stretch the hose out to where you want the water to go; if you have a veggie bed or garden bed or just lawn you want fertilized, place the hose end there.
  4. Plug in the pump. Make sure you are using a GFI outlet. If not, use a GFI extension so you will be protected against unknown electrical problems. Keep the ends of the cords out of the water.
  5. While the water is pumping out, remove the plants. Yes, you have to get in your pond to do that, so put your waders on first.
  6. If you are dividing plants, do it now. If not, clean the sides of the pots off, cut all dead growth off, remove all live growth that has leapt from the pot. You can repot the extra plants and share with friends and neighbors. Please do not throw them into any public waterways because they can be invasive and become a public nuisance.
  7. Remove your anacharis. Put the clean anacharis in one pile, the dirty anacharis in another. Make your helper remove debris from the dirty anacharis and rinse it off. Your pond should be almost empty now.
  8. Net your fish and put them in their temporary home.
  9. Wet vacuum the bottom of the pond. Rinse it with a strong hose stream, wet vacuum again. Continue until the water is clear. Don't forget the waterfall, the pond sides and between the rocks. This is the hardest part of pond cleaning. When you are finished with this, the rest is easy.
  10. Put the debris, fish poop and pond scum you have removed in the other milk crate. When the dirty water drains out, it is not so heavy to carry. It is the best fertilizer you can find, so put it under trees, plants, in garden beds and veggie beds. I know it stinks, but that goes away in a few hours. If you cannot put it in your yard or compost pile, put it in trash bags.
  11. Put the larger debris, e.g., sticks, limbs, old shoes, golf balls, in the trash bags.
  12. Put the clean plantsback in the pond where you want them to be.
  13. Start running new water in the pond.
  14. Put the dechlorinator in now.
  15. When the pond is about half full, put the fish in plastic bags, tie the top closed and float them in the pond for a few minutes so the old water temperature and new water temperature equalize. Release your fish within 15 minutes. Continue to fill the pond until full.
  16. Plug in the waterfall again. The fish will play in it.

Whew, that's done for another year.

You can also probably find someone in your area who cleans ponds. I used to clean about 200 ponds a year and charged from $245.00 up. That should help you choose someone.

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