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DIY Diaries: Garden Pond – II

So, if you were here yesterday, you should have a pond by now (What? You don’t have magical elves working for you in the nights?!), but the rest? Let’s allow the master DIY-ers, Bhumika and Denzil take over and explain how they created a little piece of haven right in their backyard!
We have divided the this into two parts – Part I, deals with getting the pond established and Part II here, deals with the details of how the pond was naturalised.

Resource List – II: Things you’ll need for 6 X 3 [Max. Length X Max. Width] feet pond
Aquatic plants – 200-500/- INR @ your Aquarium hobby store.
– Valisneria
– Hornwort
– Others (ask your local aquarium hobbyist shop)

Semi aquatic plants – 30-100/- INR at your local plant nursery
– Peripheral plants
– Pond lilies

Starter fish stock
– Top feeders
– 6 pairs of guppies – to keep away mosquitoes – 100/- for 6. Do not pay more
– 2 angels (optional) – 100-150/- INR for a pair. Keep them simple
– Swords/mollies/tiger barb/tetras – Under 100/ INR a pair

Bottom feeders
– 4 pairs of loaches – Under 100/- INR a pair
– 2 aquarium catfishes – Under 100/- INR a pair

A medium to large aquarium filter – 800-1000/-INR
Aerator – 100-200/- INR
Aerator stone – 5/- INR
Aquarium plumbing – 90/- INR (depends on length)
Electrical wiring – 150/- INR
Naturalizing your pond:
You will now have the tarpaulin neatly crimped along the edges and the soil heaped along it. Take the boulders/rough hewn granite blocks and place it along the edge of the pond and over the crimped edges.
Aquatic plants
Put aquatic plants like Valisneria and/or Hornwort in small containers filled with garden soil; cover the soil with small pebbles or clean sand and immerse the containers into the pond at the desired location.
The pebbles are important as they prevent the bottom feeders from uprooting the plants. Aquatic plants like to be in deep water so ensure that the leaves are completely submerged. These plants will form the major flora of your pond and generate vital oxygen and filter the water. These plants will also attract some algae and microbes that will become natural food for your fish.
Semi aquatic plants
Repeat the steps above for semi aquatic plants like floating hearts, pond lily, azolla and so on. Place the containers submerged in the shallow areas of the pond such that the leaves are floating or are above the water line.
Garden variety plants
Place natural containers (terracotta/clay) with garden variety plants such as bamboo grass, crotons and other small brush plants around the pond as per your design. Fill some of the gaps between the boulders with some soil and push in grass and fern plants.

All the above steps would have muddied your water a little bit. Don’t fret. At this point in time, though you might be tempted, but the pond is not yet ready for its chief inhabitants.
Tempering the pond
This is the most difficult part! Now that the pond is ready, you might be very tempted to put the fish in straight away. It’s important to wait and let the water breathe out and stabilize. This can take about 2-3 days. After about 3 days you will notice that the water would have cleared out. The plants would have settled in and you will also notice if there are any leaks in the pond.

If you have installed an aerator and filter in the pond, keep it ON for the waiting period to oxygenate the water and filter out any floating debris
Bringing in the fish:
Top feeders like guppies/angels/mollies/swords will ensure that floating food material is eaten up. They will also prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs on the still water and eat any mosquito larvae that manage to hatch
Bottom feeders like scavengers/loaches and small catfish will ensure that food that drops to the depths are cleaned up. They also prevent excessive algae build-up.
It’s important not to overpopulate the pond. If conditions prove to be ideal, the fish will breed and multiply!
Find a few pond snails and introduce them into the pond. They regulate algae and plant growth. Keep a close watch on their population and remove excessive snails. The catfish/loaches tend to keep their population in check.
As your pond settles in, you will begin to discover new creatures magically appear out of thin air and choose your pond for home. Some of them could be
– Water striders
– Pond beetles
– Tiny water spiders
– Dragonfly nymphs
– Tadpoles
– The occasional large resident toad
We prefer our pond to be as wild as possible. These strange denizens make for hours of fun observation. If you are really lucky, you might see the aquatic spider on a hunt. With a scuba bubble on its back it jumps on the unwary guppy and brings it right out of the water for a scrunch. It’s mind blowing!
If you take care you naturalise the pond initially your pond will not need much maintenance, but keep an eye out for the following tasks:
Leaks. If your pond is leaking (and if it’s a bottom leak) then ensure that you rescue the fish, drain out the remaining water and allow it to dry completely dry out. Put another layer of plastic tarpaulin over the existing one and repeat all the steps as above.
Algae growth. To a certain extent, once the algae grows in the water turns to go a little dark. While it reduces your visibility, this is just the pond settling in and welcoming the fish. Allow nature to proceed.
Dying fish. This indicates that the water quality has gone very bad. This is very rare and the water quality can go down only if there is too much of leaf debris or overfeeding or dying aquatic plants. Empty about 2/3rd of the water and replace with fresh water. Attach a temporary aerator and filter and leave it running for 2-3 days 24X7.
Disease. Follow prevalent instructions to treat fish fungi/spots and other common fish diseases. Contact your local aquarium hobbyist or check out the various forums on internet
Jumping fish. Fish seldom jump out of large water bodies. In the event they do, reduce the water level by about two inches or so.
Feeding.The ponds, as it settles down, will provide natural food such as microbes/algae and insect larvae. Add aquarium food such as Taiyo pellets and tortoise food. Do this once in 2-3 days while taking care not to overfeed. A good way to do this is to watch the fish while you feed, don’t let there be too much of leftover food on the surface after the initial feeding frenzy.
Mosquitoes. Not enough guppies, add more.
Water too stagnant. Disturb the water by hosing some water from a reasonable height into the bond. This will agitate the surface and aerate the water at the same time.
Reducing water level.10% water level drop in a week’s time is normal. Expect the same or more especially during dry spells; this is due to evaporation. Fill in fresh water to desired level.
Overflow. Heavy rains can cause overflow. The gradient that you plan and set in the pond will allow the water to overflow from one single point of the pond. Put in a metal mesh at that point, this will allow the water to overflow while retaining the fish in the pond.

A pond made in the above manner will easily last 18 months to 2 years. The tarp might need preventive maintenance after that and might need replacement. Some of the suggested material can be replaced with better material. For instance the blue plastic tarp can be replaced with the expensive pond liner. Wanted to keep my budget under 2000/- INR and did not try to find a liner.

You can experiment by adding a small fountain hacked from a pond filter and a pond sculpture. This will add a healthy flow to your pond water and make strong fish.

A pond makes for hours of nature observation and a quiet place to have the morning/evening tea. It’s meditative and great learning experience for kids and us older folks alike! So do give it a shot and don’t forget to share your experience with us :-).
A kind contribution from Bhumika Chawla and Denzil D’Souza for Housedelic!