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By Lulu33

Gloucestershire, United Kingdom Gb

My pond, HELP! I love my 500litre pond and again this winter it took a hemmering from thick ice. Being small, I can't stop the ice and I have no electrics to it as it's far from the house.
I went to check it out this morning, the water is black and stinky with an oily film on the surface. I removed 10 dead toads and frogs and I know there are still some on the bottom which I can't see.
Having cleared as many dead amphibians and leaf and plant as poss, I'm not sure what to do next. Am tempted to empty it and change the water but I have quite a few crested and other newts living in it. does anyone have any idea what I can do to bring my pond back to full health and what happends if I can't find all the dead things?
One idea is to turn it into a bog garden because I do get so fed up with the herons nicking the fish and having to wire round it which makes the pond so hard to enjoy as I can't easily get to the edge.



sent pm lulu, think it need cleaning to start with if stinky,dont worry to much can be sorted

26 Jan, 2011


I cleaned our pond out a couple of days ago. Having been frozen over most of the time since early November I have not been able to tackle it before and so it was full of dead vegetation and wind blown leaves and looked and smelled just like yours Lulu.
I used our springbock (leaf) rake to scoop out as much rubbish as possible into a barrow. I will repeat the process again in a couple of days after it has settled down again. After filling I turned the wheelbarrow on its side at the edge of the pond to allow any living invertebrates to escape. The pond will then settle down and the water will clear within a few days.

26 Jan, 2011


As Bulbaholic says, it'll get there. 500 litres is quite small, and despite their size, small ponds are more difficult to manage than larger ones because of extremes of temperature, both ways, and for the very reason yours is 'stinky', rotting matter giving off what in effect will be poisonous gases and killing life in the pond by taking oxygen from the water by the rotting process. A larger pond can manage itself better. Still, pray for a good rain, to flush it through, and restore its balance. I've built many over the last few years, all different, one nearly half an acre in size (with great crested newts, golden rudd, myriads of other wildlife, plus regular kingfisher, heron, ducks, and occasional cormorant(!)), most much smaller. The bigger, the easier. Worthy

26 Jan, 2011


Thanks for the info, much appreciated as I am very fond of my wee pond! I do agree that bigger ponds are easier to mange! May really turn this one into a bog garden and start again with a bigger one. We have a digger here at the stud which is a great help but want to get it really right this time. Do you think having electrics to the pond is a bonus? and maybe a pergola giving shade?

26 Jan, 2011


Witha pond that size, it might be an idea to ensure some water flow/movement. Be cautious of a bog garden. One that small could be dry in one day in summer. However, the richest ponds for wildlife are those which are seasonal, filling up through autumn and winter, after which amphibians and many insects take advantage of the water for breeding etc. then slowly drying out through summer which allows for other invertebrates to colonise the area and complete their life cycle. It's a natural process, which can be easily echoed, providing much interest and sound ecological practice. Worthy

26 Jan, 2011


Yes it is small, but something has to be done about it!! Its too far from the house to refill, even with rainwater but I could collect water but thats a pain. Something must be done............

26 Jan, 2011


to help if it freezes Lulu try to find something like a plastic ball or similar then you can remove it to add water and to allow all the bad gases to escape-- replace the ball before evening so the hole doesn't freeze
as to water could you have a water butt nearby or even a rolling water container ( 2nd hand maybe from someone with a caravan)
in the summer the evaporation is quite startling -- covering the surface with plants can help and these days a solar fountain can help with oxygen levels ( charity shop or carboot maybe fr that and the water roller)just a couple of ideas-- hope it helps

27 Jan, 2011


Water roller sounds good. As for the freezing, tried the ball but it froze solid into the pond! And my solar fountain broke! I was furious as it cost a small fortune!

27 Jan, 2011


Try 2 or 3 balls of different materials. I have 2 glass balls--old fishing net floats--and they never freeze in. There's always a tiny edge of water all the way round.

I also invested in a little electric air pump for about £15. It has a perforated ball on the end of a tube which I toss into the pond a few times a week and switch on for about 1/2 hour to aerate the water. I don't use it when the frogs are spawning but use it more in summer when the weather is hot. It does seem to help and the pond doesn't smell.

27 Jan, 2011


No electrics sadly! will let you know what we do with it after this w/end

27 Jan, 2011


Dear Lulu,

Have just come across this query ... A dreadful end for those creatures. In an effort to be helpful, I can only urge you to go out each day of below-freezing weather and attempt to lift the ice.

Alternately, a battery-charged drill and the largest bit possible, will drill air holes with a minimum of vibration, in order to release gas from vegetation ... but amphibious animals MUST be given the chance to escape by breaking or separating the ice when possible.

Sub zero weather lasted for about ten days here, this past winter, and I considered it no hardship to go out to the pond first thing in the morning, last thing at night, and several times throughout the day.

As you have discovered, do not bother with floating balls on the water ... If it is truly cold, there will be NO water exposed, and the ice may well be 6 inches thick. Please take this offered experience from a commercial gardener of forty-plus years working. Similarly, a pergola or shelter will do little to nothing to alter the air temperature once below freezing.

Do not be tempted to use a pump to continually circulate the water and "prevent ice" in the winter!!! The pond develops thermoclines - layers or, pockets, of warmer water ... THIS is where the fish go to survive. Constantly disturbing the water removes any such opportunity for the fish to find any warmer pockets or layers of water.

Truly, it takes ten minutes at a time, to manually attempt to pry the ice up or, if well below freezing, drilling a half-dozen air holes to release gases.

I do understand that "experts" abound who will tell you that any vibration could damage the pond life: I suggest in all sincerity that suffocation and gas-poisoning certainly Will kill them. It is always better to at least try to help relieve distress and prevent death. The ten minutes of crisp, fresh air will do you a world of good as well.

As far as hygiene, I empty and clean our ponds each September; wash down the rocks and gently spray the container plants. There is no reason not to clean if care is taken to net the animals to a temporary holding bucket(s). Do not forget de-chlorinating drops before returning animals to the cleaned out pond.

A photo series appears on my own page, if that will be of any help. The procedure that you see there, happens every year, and sometimes twice. I realise that this is late into the year and well after your query, however, the intent is to help, perhaps, for this coming winter. I remain, then,

Yours very sincerely,
Philip Livingstone

4 Jul, 2011


Hello Dear Philip,
Thank you so much for all your expert advice. The whole experience of loosing all my frogs and toads (except one) was truly horrendous. the ice was about 12" thick and I just didn't know what to do. There is a plant rail around the pond where nothing could escape so I am thinking this year to drop the level of water so they don't become trapped.
There are no electrics to my 500 litre pond and because it is a preformed pond, it's only as deep as it is!
It will be no problem for me to go out several times a day to deal with the ice and I will investigate the longest drill bit on the stud and buy one if necc. I did believe that loud noises may kill the fish but I have already begun to think about how to save as much life as I possibly can.
I think also being a small pond it has no chance, esp with fish in it, to find it's own equilibrium and as you say, an autumn clean will have to take place each year.
Many thanks for you much appreciated advice Philip,
Yours very sincerely also,

4 Jul, 2011

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