Pond Keeper’s Ten Commandments

To be complete, the water gardener’s bible should of course have a set of rules to follow. By following these 10 commandments, you will be on the way to a beautiful and successful pond.

1. There isn’t such a thing as an instant pond.

We live in times of instant credit and instant coffee. You can dig and construct very quickly – perhaps even in a weekend, but the pond will take months to become established with healthy plants and fish. There are natural processes that a pond must experience, and if you try to create a pond any faster than that, your pond, plants and fish are likely to encounter problems. These could either be terminal for your fish and will certainly hit you in your pocket.

2. Endeavour to follow nature’s example in all pond work

Your pond will be an artificial creation in your garden. Even so, to be successful, you will need to keep as close to nature’s example to create a successful pond. Follow examples from the natural landscape as to how to make your pond look as though it has always been there – following that through with plant selection and fish (even though you will likely to choose ornamental varieties). The more you choose to deviate from the natural model, the more involved and greater the management will need to be to keep your pond balanced.

3. Bigger is better

Build your pond as large as possible. This is not for pride or vanity, but for an easier life and a healthier, more stable pond. Larger ponds are easier to keep clean, and give you a greater scope for landscaping and planting. If you choose a pre-formed rigid pond, what might seem huge in the garden centre, when sunk into your garden, mysteriously perform a shrinking trick. Many pond keepers regret not having created a larger pond in the first place. It’s worth learning from their experience.

4. Stock the pond gradually

Even though your pond is an artificial creation, stocked with plants artificially and ornamental fish, it will still mature at the same rate as a natural pond would – even when filters and pumps are involved. So when adding fish, do so gradually over several months to avoid causing water quality problems. Experience shows that the first 3 to 6 months of a pond’s life are the most crucial.

5. Test the water regularly

The pond’s water quality is the same as your blood. If it’s healthy, then the pond will be healthy. The water quality has the greatest influence on how the pond will perform. Unfortunately, clear sparkling water can look stunning, but at the same time can be toxic. The only way to find out is to test it periodically – as this will tell you what is happening in your pond – and what to do if the test results are not right.

6. Regular fish watching

You might often see a shepherd ‘resting’ on his crook in the field. In fact, what he is doing is watching his flock – looking out for any tell-tale changes in behaviour. How your fish behave will give you a clue as to the quality of the water in your pond. Spend time just watching your fish, noting any abnormal behaviour and following up accordingly.

7. Children supervised at all times

Ponds are beautiful – but also dangerous, especially for young visitors to your garden. The sights and sounds of a pond can prove irresistible to children, putting them at risk around a pond. Keep them supervised at all times – especially if they are not familiar to your garden.

8. Electricity and water

Unless your pond is a still-water, natural pond, it is likely that most ponds will have electrical equipment in or around the pond. Lights, pumps and even heaters are used safely in ponds around the world, but where electrical equipment does come into contact with water – there are always risks to consider. To prevent serious accidents, install and use all equipment safely with the standard safety devices.

9. Think longterm with plants – give them plenty of space

Pond plants live a spoilt life. They are watered well and tend to thrive very quickly. Give plants plenty of space to expand when adding them to your pond. Choose suitably sized plants – and try to avoid those that have a reputation for getting out of control.

10. Keep your pond plants in the garden

Many pond plants pose a risk to our natural aquatic habitats. Some are ‘alien species’ and if let loose into native ponds and streams, have shown that they can soon become pests that then dominate the local fauna and flora. When trimming plants – always dispose of them in a compost heap or the bin. Once they are in your back garden, keep them there.

Kill blanketweed and string algae.