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Koi Pond Cleaning in Spring

Pond Cleaning is a time you will come to love. You won’t think of it as work or as a chore. Yard Maintenance will be something you look forward to.

Spring time is when you pond comes back to life, a time of awaking, of beauty, and freshness. Your Koi Fish pond changes through the seasons, so will your challenges in keeping it healthy. If you do your Fall cleaning and Winter preparation, Spring cleaning will be a breeze. A healthy, thriving pond is a living entity in balance with nature. It is essential to appreciate why a natural pond is the perfect model for you own backyard pond, and what is likely to happen if you deviate from that ideal, that is what makes Koi pond cleaning so important.

If you took care of your pond through the winter season then the transition to the summer season should go smoothly and easily. The first thing you need to do for koi pond cleaning is test your water levels before your fish start eating. If the reading is not where it is supposed to be make the necessary steps to get it ready for your fish. It is imperative to go into the beginning of spring and through the summer months with a clean pond.

As your pond water starts to rise in temperature toward 50ºF you will want to clean your pump (your fish will start eating soon, and will soon need to turn the pump on) check out all the moving parts to ensure they are clean and in working order. It will not be long before your fish will need this so go ahead (after it is clean) and turn your pump on, check to see that the flow is good through the pond filters.

Important: do not wash out all of your good bacteria, remember you do not want your water Sterile.

Try and remove most of the algae by hand, then add a natural scum treatment to kill the rest. You may need to repot some of your plants or add gravel to the tops.

Use a pond vacuum to clean away any silt and leaf matter that settled in your pond over winter, doing this will also reduce the risk of your pump getting blocked. If you have an ultraviolet clarifier system you will need to turn it on now during spring maintenance. Make sure and clean you sleeve and replace the bulb.

Replace last year’s fish food with fresh food. Old food is just asking for trouble. The nutritional value will be depleted.

When your Koi Fish pond water is warming up, the climate is subject to fluctuations that can prove stressful to your fish, whose immune systems are not fully working yet.

Checking your ponds ammonia and nitrite is very important during spring maintenance. The increase in fish metabolism coupled with regular feeding can lead to a rapid increase in these toxins. In addition, plant matter that has died during the winter will decompose as the water temperature increases. This is one of the reasons why Koi pond cleaning is so important.

Koi pond filters take time to establish again after the winter and are thus less effective at dealing with increased biological activity. If you detect ammonia or nitrite levels, carry out a partial water change. Remember to add a dechlorinator to your water.

To ensure healthy Koi in the spring, you must carry out good preparation for winter and spring during the preceding summer. Make sure that water quality is satisfactory, including dissolved oxygen, and feed with a good quality diet. Koi entering the winter months in a healthy condition do not experience disease outbreaks in spring.

Print out our Water Quality Care Record for Help in Keeping Your Pond In Great Condition

Fall Cleaning

Fall is a busy time of year for pond owners. You can't afford to sit back and let nature take its course. If you do, decaying vegetation can transform the water quality of your pond from good bad. In the autumn, plants in the pond and in the flower garden begin to die back, meaning that more vegetation starts to decompose and affect your pond's water quality.

Decaying leaves are extremely rich in nutrients. These rich nutrients are what turn your good water into bad water. Decaying leaves add organic matter to a pond, and this organic matter adds nutrients to the water. These nutrients in turn cause water clarity issues in the fall. These nutrients lead to a reproduction of microscopic algae called diatoms, which give the water a tea colored appearance. This tea color intensifies as tannic acid is leached from the leaves into the water. Another problem with leaves piling up in your pond if they are not removed, is they will end up at the bottom of your pond leaving a thick layer of black gunk, this will turn your water a brownish color. As your water warms up the sludge will decompress and lead to toxin build up, an algae bloom and a depletion of oxygen in your pond.

As the leaves decay, they cause an increase in the ammonia level of the pond water. Even low levels of ammonia harm fish and can cause stress, parasite infestations, gill damage, skin and eye problems, respiratory failure and internal organ damage. At higher levels, ammonia can quickly kill your fish. If you are having a unseasonably warm fall or if you live in a country where it is warm all year round, just a few fallen leaves can cause an ammonia spike in your pond. Even in a less warm area with cooler water and a slower decay process, you could have problems with ammonia spikes if you let lots of leaves accumulate in your pond.

You will need to test your water levels to see if you are having an ammonia spike. You usually can't detect elevated ammonia levels by looking or smelling the water. Ammonia is often called the "silent killer". Elevated ammonia levels mean elevated nitrite levels. Nitrites can also harm or kill your fish.

Prevention is the best cure for clean water. Stretch a net over your pond to catch the falling leaves.

Tree leaves that can be bothersome for your pond:

Below are some types of tree leaves that are markedly acidic:

  • Azalea
  • Birch
  • Bougainvillaea
  • Camellia
  • Holly, oak
  • Pine
  • Red bud
  • Rhododendron
  • Spruce

Below are some types of tree leaves that are markedly more Alkaline. A few of these leaves drifting into your pond won't affect eh pH level, but if those leaves are not cleaned out and allowed to decompose the pH level is likely to plummet or soar. The main culprits are:

  • Elm
  • Hackberry

Resources: Ponds Magazine

Fish Care

It is a good idea to add a general broad-spectrum treatment, or feed medicated food, for Koi and pond fish in early spring to protect them while their immune systems are low.

When your pond temperature is 55º F for a full week then you can start feeding your fish, but sparingly and feed them in the early morning. When you start feeding your fish offer them a low-protein wheat germ-based food that is easy to digest. You fish will also start back developing their immunities.

While feeding your fish check that they are swimming around and feeding normally. Also look and check to see if their fins are intact and look for signs of fungus. Provide shelter for your fish until your plants grow back. Fish will feed more and grow vigorously as soon as the water temperature reaches 57º F. This is the time to wean them off their low temperature food onto a higher-protein growth food.

If you have been thinking about draining your pond, Spring is the only time I recommend you do it. Make sure your fish are not spawning before you start. Fish and plants will cope with a clean out far better in early Spring than at other times of the year. Draining your pond will also give you a good chance to get a "good look" at your fish.

Pond Algae Control

Here are some simple ways to help control algae in your pond.

Filamentous algae is easily raked out of small ponds during Koi pond cleaning.

If you reduce sunlight by shading the pond with trees, shade cloth, arbors, etc., there will be a corresponding reduction in algae. 50% shade is significant, but 70% shade should provide fairly clear water.

When fish are fed, or fertilizer is added to lilies and other plants, there is no scarcity of nutrients for algae. The biological filter has no effect on the nutrient level because a biofilter only converts ammonia to nitrate, which is still nitrogen. Water exchange has a limited effect and is typically not feasible. One nutrient needed by the algae is phosphorus, and it can be removed with a UV water clarifier, when added on a regular basis.

Part of the cycle of water lilies and other aquatic plants includes foliage turning brown and then rotting off. This is normal as long as new foliage is emerging as well. To help reduce the amount of sludge build-up in your pond, remove dying foliage, including spent flowers, from plants before it has a chance to fall into the water and decay.

In the right dosages a Commercial Algacides can selectively kill the algae without harming the other plants or animals.

UV Irradiation—A UV sterilizer will disrupt the reproductive process of planktonic algae and keep your pond clear. Use at least 22,000 µWs/cm2 and flow the entire pond's volume through the unit at least six times per day.

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Facts About Algae

Algae is one of many plants belonging to the subdivision thallophytes found in both salt and fresh water. Algae comes in many forms including both free-floating and anchored, or attached. Algae comes in many colors including green, brown, blue, and red. Algae is carried through the air by spores and may locate in any body of water.

Algae has several basic needs. Understanding them and how to eliminate them are the key to having clean, clear water.

  • FOOD: Algae feeds primarily on nitrates and phosphates in water.
  • LIGHT: Algae needs light to grow and reproduce.
  • TEMPERATURE: Algae growth is faster in warmer water and slows as temperature decreases.
  • WATER QUALITY: There are many varieties of algae that exist under a large range of conditions. However, any water that is of such poor quality that it will not support algae growth will also not support fish life.

The key in algae control is nutrient control.

Nutrient control starts even before a pond is built. Ponds should be designed so that water running off the landscape doesn’t run into them. The organic debris, fertilizers, and yard chemicals present in runoff will support algae growth.

Overstocking a pond with fish and overfeeding fish can also give rise to algal blooms. Fish waste and leftover food are perfect nutrients for algae to feed on.

Adding more oxygen to your water can also help in controlling algae. Aeration provides the oxygen necessary for aerobic digestion of algae, ammonia, and nitrites. Bacteria aid in the decomposition of fish waste, debris, and other organic matter; adding oxygen encourages this process. This protects fish health and helps prevent dead organisms from accumulating as sludge in the lake or pond bottom. It also helps eliminate pond odors.

Note: Algae produces oxygen during the daylight hours but reverses the process and consumes oxygen at night, thus reducing the oxygen level in the water. Fish found gasping early in the morning are a sign of this problem.

Anacharis (Egeria Densa) is a submerged plant. These are excellent for absorbing excess nutrients from the pond, which is a great way to discourage algae blooms. It will keep your pond water crystal clear during the summer months.

You will want to have several bunches of Anacharis, at least 10 per 100 gallons of water. You can either bunch them together or use them separately. Pot them in sand with gravel on top, to weight it down. Under your waterfall is the optimal spot for Anacharis.

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