Having a garden fish pond is awesome, but cleaning pond water can be a huge struggle! Well guess what… maintaining a pond doesn’t have to be difficult. In this post, I will share my detailed fish pond cleaning instructions, and give you tips for keeping your pond clean.
When I tell people that I have a fish pond in my garden, one of the first questions I get asked is “How do you clean a fish pond?”. A common question indeed.
I’ve struggled with how to keep my pond clean in the past, and I’m here to tell you that the struggle is real! My pond got so bad one year that I was ready to pull it out and fill in the hole. But once I learned how to take care of a pond, and why the water got so gross in the first place, cleaning it became much easier.
Why Is My Pond Water Green (Or Brown)?
Green pond water is usually caused by the overgrowth of algae in pond water. Fish pond water turns brown when leaves and other plant materials, as well as fish waste, are left in the pond too long and start to decompose.
It’s normal for pond water to have a green or brown tint to it. However, it’s not healthy when the water becomes thick and mucky or starts to smell bad. So it’s very important to control algae growth and keep plant materials from breaking down in the water. If algae is taking over your fish pond, learn how to get rid of green algae in a fish pond naturally.
Fish Pond Cleaning And Maintenance
Before we get started with the details of how to clean a fish pond (and keep it clean!), I wanted to mention a few things. First, you don’t necessarily need to drain the water to clean your pond. In fact, if you maintain the pond regularly, you shouldn’t have to drain it very often, if ever.
However, if the pond water is really dirty or muddy, or has never been cleaned before, then draining it will make cleaning it much faster and easier.
Also, you don’t necessarily need to remove the fish from the pond in order to clean it. You’ll find this as an optional step in my fish pond cleaning instructions below. Depending on how dirty the water is, you may want to remove the fish before you clean the pond so they won’t be shocked or harmed.
I would recommend removing them if the water is thick or muddy, or if there’s a huge pile of muck on the bottom of the pond. Of course, you will definitely need to remove the fish if you plan on draining the pond.
Fish Pond Cleaning Equipment
In order to clean your pond, you’ll need a few fish pond cleaning tools…
- Pond cleaning net
- 5 gallon bucket
- Rubber gloves (optional)
- Large container or bucket (if removing the fish)
How To Clean A Pond Step-By-Step
Here are the steps I take for cleaning my fish pond…
Step 1: Skim the water surface – Use your pond cleaning net to skim the top of the water, removing any floating leaves and other debris from the top of the water.
Step 2: Remove the pump, plants and decorations – Removing the pump (be sure to unplug it first!) as well as any plants and decorations from the pond will make it much easier to clean the sides and bottom. At this time it’s also a good idea to remove any dead leaves from your pond plants.
Keeping the plants well maintained will help the pond stay cleaner longer. Simply prune off any dead leaves, stems and roots. You can also rinse the plants with water to get rid of any muck or debris that came out of the pond with them.
Step 3: Remove the fish (optional) – Again, this is a totally optional step. If the water is really dirty, smells bad, or if there’s a lot of muck on the bottom, then I would recommend removing the fish before you start the next step. For light pond cleaning, you can just leave the fish in the pond and safely skip this step.
If you plan to remove the fish, fill up a container that’s deep enough to hold them with water from the pond. Only use the water from the pond to fill the container, do not use water from the hose or tap water because the chlorine will kill the fish. Transfer the fish into the container, and cover it with netting or lightweight mesh so they can’t jump out (don’t seal the container though!). Keep your fish out of the sun until you’re done cleaning the pond.
Step 4: Clean the bottom of the pond – To clean the bottom of my pond, I use my pond net. I simply drudge the bottom of the pond, and scoop out all of the leaves and muck that I can. Be sure to get into all the corners and clean off all any plant shelves too. You could also try using a small pond vacuum cleaner or pool skimmer if you have one available to you.
Step 5: Remove overgrowth of algae – You don’t want to remove all of the algae from the sides of your pond. Most pond water algae is beneficial to the fish and the pond ecosystem. But, if there is an overgrowth of algae, then you’ll want to clean some of that out. I find a basic toilet brush works great to clean the sides of my pond when algae overgrowth becomes a problem.
Step 6: Clean the pond pump and filter – Clean all of the debris out of the pond pump and filter. It’s a good idea to fill a 5 gallon bucket with pond water (or use rainwater) to rinse the pump and filter rather than chlorinated water from the garden hose. Otherwise the chlorine will kill the beneficial bacteria. You can simply fill up a small bucket with pond water and use it to rinse the pump and filter. But, many times I’m in a hurry, so I’ll just use the hose to give my pond filter a quick rinse.
By the way, if you don’t have a pond pump and filter yet, I highly recommend getting one. It’s much, much harder to maintain a healthy and clean fish pond without a pump and filter. I bought a basic submersible pond water pump for my small pond and waterfall, and the filter I use is a universal pond pump filter box.
Step 7: Put everything back in the pond – Now that you’re done cleaning the pond, you can put the pump, plants, decorations and fish back into the water. If you drained the pond to clean it, and filled it back up with chlorinated water, be sure to let it sit for at least 24 hours before putting the fish back into it. Chlorinated water will kill your fish, and you don’t want that to happen!
How To Keep A Fish Pond Clean
Once you do the work to clean your pond, you want to keep it clean as long as possible, right? The key to keeping it clean is to maintain it on a regular basis. A well maintained pond will stay much cleaner than a neglected pond.
It’s crazy how fast muck build up or algae can take over a small garden pond. So, keeping it maintained regularly is very important – especially if you don’t enjoy cleaning out a pond that’s mucky and stinky. And who enjoys that?!
Here are a few tips for keeping a pond clean…
- If you don’t already have it, buy a pond pump and filter to keep the water aerated and cleaner longer.
- Rinse the filter every other week (or weekly if your pond tends to get dirty faster).
- Add a barley straw bale in early spring to prevent algae growth in the pond.
- Remove leaves and debris on a regular basis. This is especially important in the fall when the leaves are dropping, and in the spring when tree seeds are dropping (like those dreaded maple tree helicopters!!).
- Put bird netting or pond netting over the top of your pond in the fall to help keep the leaves out.
- Be certain to clean out as many leaves as you can in the fall before the pond freezes to prevent the water from going bad over the winter.
Helpful Pond Cleaning Products
There are tons of products on the market these days specifically made for cleaning fish pond water. It’s always a good idea to pick up a pond water test kit to test the water before treating it. Testing the water will tell you exactly what you need to add to your pond water.
One product that I use and highly recommend is barley straw. Barley straw is a pond clarifier that kills invasive algae, and also works to prevent algae overgrowth. You can buy barley straw bales, pellets or as a liquid extract.
Another great all natural pond cleaner that I recommend using is an enzyme pond cleaner. It contains a naturally occurring bacteria that consumes pond sludge and muck to help keep the water clean.
Just be careful when using any type of synthetic fish pond cleaning chemicals, even if they say they’re safe for fish. I personally prefer to use the natural and organic pond water treatment methods I recommended, they work great!
Cleaning fish ponds isn’t the funnest job, and sometimes it can be downright disgusting. Proper maintenance is the key to keeping your pond clean. If you follow these fish pond cleaning and maintenance tips, you’ll be able to enjoy your pond again in no time!
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Share your fish pond cleaning tips and advice in the comments section below.