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spring pond cleanup

Wouldn’t it be best if you used Natural Pond Maintenance to get your pond back looking its best for the upcoming season.  It’s almost time for spring cleaning.  A chance to go through all of your mechanical and electrical systems and make sure everything will be running smoothly in the days ahead. Get your pond looking as good as the day you first started your waterfall.

If your pond looks like an old cup of tea, caused by leaves and other debris that have accumulated over the winter months. Now is the time to hit the reset button and bring everything back to its original luster.

Spring Pond Clean Up – Made Easy

autumnWhen the last of the snow melts and you start to get the itch to get out of the house and start breathing in that fresh air, you know it’s a good time to bring your water garden back to life.

My biggest problem is the climate where I live. Winter comes in quickly. It’s usually snowing before all the trees have lost their leaves. Because of this I am not able to complete a fall cleaning. I place a net over the pond in the fall to reduce the amount of leaves and debris that fall in. This works fairly well, however for me the spring is when the majority of my cleaning is done.

There is a lot of misinformation out there about pond cleaning in the spring. The fact is the most aggressive cleaning should be done in the fall before winter sets in. The reason for this is that removing dead leaves and sludge from the bottom is essential for your fishes’ survival during the winter season. If the pond freezes over, it caps it off and the gasses that naturally escape and evaporate into the air are trapped in the water. This increases the level of nitrogen, and the amount of oxygen in the water decreases.

Don’t Take Advise From Just Anyone

frog and butterflySome major brands that manufacture pond supplies recommend draining your pond completely to clean it for the season. This should almost never be done. In fact, it should be a last case scenario. Your pond should never be fully drained.

Test your pond water to see how “dirty” it truly is. Reasons to test your pond water are as follows:

  • The pond water looks like a cup of tea from leaves and other debris
  • The water is black
  • The water is green
  • There is an overabundance of sticks leaves and other debris settled on the bottom

Keep in mind that a spring cleaning isn’t one hundred percent necessary every year. If the fall cleaning was performed properly, it may only require minimal effort. Some people do every two years or so. It all depends on your personal preference, and how “bad” your pond needs to be cleaned. If you have minimal debris in your pond that can be easily cleaned out with a net and your water is still fairly clear, then by all means, just do some minimal cleanup and be done.

Spring Cleaning DON’TS

Your pond is filled with millions of microorganisms all trying to break down the sludge and other material in your pond. When you “spring-clean” your pond, its imperative that you don’t drain it completely. Even though your water may “look” dirty, you will be doing your pond a disservice if you drain it, and refill it. Doing this, resets the nitrogen cycle and takes that much longer for the bacteria to reestablish itself and do its job, maintaining a balanced ecosystem.

Do not drain your pondThe water in your pond should never be completely drained. Even draining half of the water will cause a reduction in the amount of beneficial bacteria, causing a reduction in the ability of your biological filter to work at its optimum potential. The ideal situation is natural pond maintenance taking place on its own.

If you have a pond that is heavily stocked with fish, frequent, smaller water changes may be your only option to maintain the water and to keep the harmful ammonia levels at bay. Fish produce considerable waste, mainly in the summer when their metabolism is at its peak. If your pond is over run with fish, small water changes are a necessary evil. The water used to refill the pond will most likely be from a public water facility which is loaded with chlorine. This will further eliminate the bacteria, and is harmful to fish. Just be sure to use a water conditioner that will remove the chlorine.

Spring Pond Clean Up – What to do

oase pondovac 4 pond vacuum cleanerUsing a net, remove as much debris as possible from the bottom of your pond. If you have considerable buildup of sludge on the bottom, you may need to use a pond vacuum like the Oase Pondavac to clean more thoroughly. This is a helpful tool and comes with various attachments to get into hard to reach places. This allows you to clean your pond with the water still in it. Once all the sludge and debris is removed, go ahead and check the water quality with a pond test kit. These are similar to the same kind of kits used for checking the quality of pool water, but instead they check for pH., ammonia, nitrate, and phosphate. Click here for products related to pond maintenance.

Make Pond Water Clear – And Keep It That Way

Pond skimmer boxThere are a few tools that will help keep your pond looking its best after you have completed your spring cleaning. The first is your skimmer box. This is your first line of defense against unwanted debris in your pond. It works continuously to remove material from the water’s surface before it gets a chance to settle to the bottom. Be mindful that the filter media in your skimmer box should rarely be cleaned. The beneficial bacteria that reside there, are doing their job and should be disturbed as little as possible. Cleaning out the net is necessary on a regular basis.

UV filterOne more consistent problem is the constant battle against algae blooms. To combat this, the use of a UV clarifier may be required. Follow this link to an article I wrote about UV lights.

This is the safest way to eliminate algae, without using chemicals. The light from the UV filter breaks down the algae on a cellular level, destroying it as it passes through. This device can be placed in line with your water return line. All you need is a few PVC fittings to divert some of your water through the filter, and you are in business.

The other way to control algae blooms is through the use of other plantings. This is the most beautiful way to eliminate algae. By having your pond planted heavily, this will reduce the amount of free floating nutrients, starving the algae, thus leaving your water clear.

Final Thoughts:

well planted pondIf your goal is a low maintenance, beautiful pond full of healthy fish and thriving plants, then be sure not to drain your pond. Do not listen to what the majority of pond equipment manufacturers say. Remember, they are in the business of selling equipment, not pond life biology. The maintenance of your pond should actually be less intensive than caring for the grass that was there before it.  If you have any tips of your own, or have any first- hand experience with spring cleaning your pond, please leave a comment below. Even if you disagree with me, I would be happy to listen to another perspective. I encourage you to leave a comment below and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

About the author


I love being outdoors and hands on DIY. If you share my passion, you are in the right place. If I can help one person surprise themselves with the success of a project, then this website is a success.

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  1. This was a real eye opener because I know that I dread the time of the year to clean. Though I agree that cleaning in the fall before winter is better than afterwards, I never really knew what happens when it freezes over, trapping the gases of the leaves and other plant life at the bottom.

    I do not really have any fish in my pond but it does attract birds and frogs from time to time. When it comes to partially replacing the water, I do not like using public water because of the chlorine. I will, when needed, using super large container barrels to catch rain water for use in the pond. Do you do that too?

    1. Rain barrels are definitely the way to go. The only problem is if your pond is too large then you need a large amount of water for a water change, even a small one. I use a rain barrel when possible, but occasionally city water is the only option. It’s not my first choice but it is a necessary evil. Just be sure to use a chlorine remover to keep everything as healthy as possible.

  2. My wife really wants a pond in the backyard. The biggest hurdle for me, aside from building it, is the maintenance. Sure, she wants to enjoy the peace and tranquility of it, but it will be up to me to keep the darn thing clean. I have been doing some research on building, maintaining, etc, so this article is very timely for me. I really didn’t know that you can do more harm than good by completely draining the pond. Good thing I read that! It makes sense though, keeping the existing biology in tact. I will definitely look around your site, but do you have any information about building a backyard pond?

    1. If you haven’t found it already, there is a how to build a water garden on the home page. It’s a step by step guide. As far as the maintenance goes, there really isn’t much to it. Just add the bacteria once every week or so and feed your fish. Twice per year is all you should have to fuss with it once you have it set up and running. Clean in the fall and take your equipment out. Then in the spring just a minor cleaning, and hook your pump back up. It actually requires less work than maintaining the grass that used to be where it is now!

  3. Jeff,
    Had a pond with a water fall in the last house. We lived in Florida, did not have much of a winter. Cleaning was a big problem all year with the warmer weather. The UV light and filter helped with the water greatly. I do not think I ever drained the water the 6 years we were there. Algae was the biggest problem, did not have any trees that would drop leaves.
    What do you think is the balance of fish in the water, too many the water is dirty all the time, too few the water has too many plants and algae. We had seven big gold fish in an 100 gal pond.

    1. I’m not sure if that was a typo, but a 100 gallon pond is not very large. If that’s the case and you had seven goldfish your pond may have been overstocked. You could have tried barley straw along with the UV light to try and rid your pond of algae.

  4. Thanks for the great advice Jeff. I didn’t really want to empty my entire pond. That would take a while and I see that it is unnecessary.

    I am particularly interested in the two pieces of equipment that you have suggested, the skimmer box and the UV clarifier.

    Are there different sizes of these to match the size of the pond?


    1. Yes, there are different size skimmer boxes. I recommend purchasing a pond kit if you are going to be installing it yourself. This way you can be sure that everything is compatible and is sized right to go together. Pond kits come in all sorts of sizes. The pond kits don’t normally come with a UV light. That will have to be purchased separately. The UV lights come in all sizes based on the volume of your pond.

  5. Nobody likes to clean, but it is a must.
    I never thought about the pond biology side of cleaning a pond. This will be really helpful for my mate who has a pond. He takes a lot of care of it, and funny enough I found this blog so I will definitely share it with him.

    1. That’s the goal. As little effort as possible to free up your time to enjoy your pond. Once you have your pond set up correctly, maintenance should be a breeze.

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