The purpose of this blog is to share general information and is written to the author's best knowledge. It is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. For health concerns, please seek proper veterinary care.
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Having a pond in your backyard can be a beautiful addition to a garden or even the centerpiece to your whole backyard. Ponds are a great source for plants, animals, and even small ecosystems to form that may not otherwise hang out in your area.
However, as with having any other form of decoration in your garden, it is important to make sure that you keep it maintained. A pond that is not well maintained is prone to not being able to sustain the amount of plants or wildlife that it would normally be able to, and may even end up driving animals away.
With that being said, you might be worried about how you should clean out a pond. After all, toads, lizards, and newts all make their home within a pond environment, and cleaning out a pond may disturb that and potentially injure or kill off some of these animals.
Cleaning out a pond is a task that should not be done as an “all at once” type of task, with a large overhaul of the pond’s water. Instead, it should be a gradual process that you take part in every season so that the changes aren’t too disturbing to the ecosystem that your pond supports.
If you want to make sure that your pond remains clean, you should be certain to be careful and only use pond-cleaning materials that are safe for the animals that you want to protect, such as newts.
Cleaning Out the Pond During Spring
As flowers bloom and animals mate, spring is the time that you should begin working with the plants around the yard to maintain their health and cut back on vegetation that is unwelcome before it thrives too much during the summer.
During the spring, you should plant anything that is meant to be planted during this time, but you will also need to be mindful that animals often look for places to lay eggs.
For plants that float or are submerged in the pond, this is going to be the optimal time to cut them back. You should not cut back the plants so much that you remove more than one quarter of all the plant cover, since many animals will be using this time to lay eggs and the newts you want to protect may move elsewhere if there isn’t sufficient plant cover.
You won’t want to mess with the bottom of your pond too much during this time of year, as this is where insects are also going to be laying their eggs.
Many animals in a pond’s ecosystem need insects to feed from, especially when they are young, so disturbing the bottom of the pond may mean that other animals, such as newts, will not be able to get the nutrition that they need to thrive.
For the most part, spring is a delicate time due to animals mating and laying eggs and eating the young of others. If you are going to be cleaning the pond during the spring, it should be kept to simply working with the plants that you don’t want in the water, but you shouldn’t cut away too many of them at a time.
Cleaning Out the Pond During Summer
During the summer, ideally the young of insects and reptiles will have found their place in their ecosystem, already having been hatched so they are slightly less delicate.
This means that you can continue cutting away vegetation that you do not want, though you should never cut away so much vegetation that you remove more than 25% of the plant cover at once, since newts will want that to feel safe and welcome at your pond.
The water level in your pond may naturally decrease during summer due to natural evaporation, but you should never use a hose to refill your pond, as the cold water and different chemistry of the hose water will provide a nasty shock to the animals who use the pond as their home, potentially killing them off.
In theory, you should be using some large containers for rainwater, which you can then use to fill the pond if the levels of water become low again, as the rainwater’s temperature and chemical composition will be far closer to the pond’s than that of tap water.
Cleaning Out the Pond During Fall
During autumn, many of the newts and other animals that call your pond home are going to be working on preparing for hibernation. Most animals will leave the pond’s area, frogs and other hibernating animals will find burrows, and plants will die off.
Autumn is the time when you can do the most work with your pond in terms of clearing it out safely. You will want to cut and clear out dying plants, as their decomposition will release gasses into the air that will not be good for the hibernating animals, and they will take up the oxygen these animals need to hibernate properly.
If there are any invasive plant species that have called your pond home, autumn is the best time to remove them all without causing injury to the newts in the pond’s area, since the newts will have gone to find a place to burrow during the coming winter months.
Invasive plants are also far less likely to spread while you are removing them, making autumn the optimal time for this.
You will still want to be careful not to disturb the environment too much, as you may scare away some of the newts that call your pond home, but autumn is the time you can do the most work.
Cleaning Out the Pond During Winter
Throughout winter, you won’t need to do much for your pond, especially if you live in an area that doesn’t get heavy snowfall.
Ponds will still need a little bit of maintenance during the winter though, so you can keep the underwater plants alive and well so when spring comes around again, newts will have a good place to lay their eggs.
You will want to make sure that snow doesn’t pile into the ice of the pond so that sunlight can still reach those plants underwater.
It is not as important during the winter, since most plants around this time are used to the decrease in sunlight, but it is still something to keep in mind so you don’t have decomposing plants altering the pond water’s chemical composition.
If there is a particularly thick layer of ice on the pond (more than a couple inches thick), you should use some device that will keep the water moving and allow for oxygen to still be present in the water. Any fish or amphibians that are hibernating in the pond will be able to thrive with this.
When you are working with a pond’s ecosystem that you want to keep alive, you always need to make sure to use products that are safe for all of the animals in the pond.
Even if you are only focused on keeping the newts healthy and thriving, the newts will need the insects that call the pond home to feed their young and sustain themselves on, so you shouldn’t chase insects away during any season.