Building a conservation pond

Conservation / Wildlife Pond

A wildlife pond is best suited to an area of garden set aside as a conservation or ‘back-to-nature’ area. It may be a part of the garden where you choose not to mow the grass, but let it shoot up to provide cover, perhaps even planting a wild flower mix in amongst it. A wildlife pond should be regarded as an electricity and chemical free zone, where through your provision of an aquatic oasis, mother nature’s creative hand will be encouraged to take up residence, seeking out your water hole with her keen sense of smell for aquatic tranquillity. We are to simply act as an aquatic host (or hostess) whereby we set the table for any wildlife guests who take such a shine to our hospitality that they feel inclined to visit and perhaps even take up full time residence and if we’re fortunate, to raise a family.

Fortunately, as a wildlife pond is just that, one full of native wildlife, to be authentic it should not play host to any ornamental fish. Some conservation pond owners may simply stock sticklebacks or other native fish found in aquatic stores. Minnows are quite well suited to a lightly stocked pond, while other pond owners have been know to stretch reality by stocking black or brown goldfish. If fish are intentionally stocked, then they will be found in their lowest numbers in a wildlife pond. This will mean that little (if any) food should be offered to maintain a small population of fish, relying on the natural productivity and diversity of life in a pond to sustain them. The less food added to a wildlife pond, the less likely plant growth will get out of control.

Besides stocking with fish that will help keep mosquito larvae and other unwanted insects at bay, a wildlife pond can also be given a helping hand at the start by stocking other animal life.

Water snails can be added for their scavenging abilities, helping to break down decaying plant matter or reducing the build up of algal films on plants. If a friend or neighbour has a mature pond, even one that is filtered, ask if you could have a helping of any silt or debris from their pond bottom. Besides stirring up their pond momentarily, the silt will contain a real wealth and diversity of aquatic creepy crawlies (mostly microscopic) that will speed up the colonisation and balance of your new pond. These will be the unsung heroes and the life-sustaining bugs of a wildlife pond. In addition, throwing a couple of bags of daphnia (available from aquatic shops) will also add useful invertebrate life into your pond.

Kill blanketweed and string algae.