Nature’s Pond Vac

I made an amazing discovery this week and am so excited to share it with other water gardeners who may be reading. But first, a little background…

Small koi are more fun. These frisky fish are a trip to watch as they swim laps around and into one another.

On an unusually warm day in late March, Chris told me we needed a pond vac. He regularly maintains our pond with a mix of organic products designed to remove algae and sludge, while keeping our five koi happy and safe. Still, between the koi and the uncooperative wind that keeps blowing leaves and debris into the pond, there’s been an increasingly thicker film of sediment covering the colorful rocks at the bottom of the pond. In March, there was also a layer of leaves; the net we purchased to protect the pond from leaves all autumn long came in just a few inches too short, just short enough it seemed to make a mess of things. Although our skimmer works hard, there’s little it can to do bring this debris to the surface for filtering.

Determined to repair the damage fall had done (despite the fact that the water had barely had time to warm), Chris donned his bathing trunks, took a deep breath, and climbed into the pond to remove the deepest leaves. Upon getting out, teeth chattering and lips turning blue, he turned to me and said, “We need a pond vac.”

This bog-loving grass has come into bloom.

Fast forward two months later, as the pond began truly waking up. The koi have become frisky, knocking one another out of the way to reach the last stick of food floating on the surface while I laugh. The pond plants are doing better than ever – a corkscrew grass set on one of the pond shelves and the tall, straight grass we burrowed into a watery crevice between two boulders both have tufts of light blooms on the ends of their stalks. The water lily has begun to turn green, although its leaves are still quite small. Yesterday I noticed as the fish bobbed around its leaves that a thicker stalk is sending up a bud (this morning it’s the beautiful bloom pictured at the top). The fiber-optic grass that died nearly a week after I planted it on the waterfall has been reborn, this time inside the waterfall, where the water catches on the playful “beads” (seedheads, in fact) at the tips of its blades. One among the five stonecrop we planted last summer has returned as well, and is expanding to a second rock. And then there are the frogs.

The fish and plants are both growing to fill up the pond.

I mentioned the tadpoles in my last post, but even then I didn’t know how much I’d come to appreciate these tiny critters. I was having coffee out by the pond one morning earlier this week when Chris came home, and I invited him over to watch the fish with me. I was admiring their swirling colors as they did laps around their home. “Did you put in the ‘algae fix?'” Chris asked curiously, dropping to his knees for a closer look at the pond.

“No,” I replied, puzzled. Finally I looked past the fish and saw what he had noticed right away.

“They’ve cleaned the whole pond,” Chris said in awe.

Those pesky little tadpoles had eaten virtually all of the sludge at the bottom of the pond. How could I have missed it? The red rocks were crisp again, except for the wiggle of tiny tails, and the blue-gray of the river rock glowed through the water.

These wriggling bottom-feeders are keeping busy keeping this pond clean!

Yes, there are still hundreds of tadpoles swimming in the pond. And at some point here in the near future we’ll have the show of watching those tails turn into legs. We’ll worry then about the hundreds of frogs that we’ll have on hand, but after this discovery I’m ready to trust that our pond is prepared to take care of itself!

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