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Pond Basics - Part II

Adding life to your pond

By Chris Dahl

Photo courtesy Hydrosphere Water Gardens & Fisheries

A pond is not complete without an extra touch of life. Whether you opt for animals or plants, there are several options available to make your pond a more engaging and attractive addition to your backyard.

Koi and goldfish

Many pond owners love to begin their day sitting by the water with a cup of coffee and a handful of fish food, greeted by hungry koi eagerly awaiting their breakfast. While the many interesting varieties of goldfish are good options for garden ponds, koi are considered by many to be the ultimate pond fish. Not only do koi grow much larger than goldfish, they also come in a wider variety of vivid colours and striking patterns. Koi can also be quite tame, often eating right out of your hand. Even if you don't immediately plan on having fish in your pond, it is still advisable to design it to accommodate fish in the future.

Some people believe koi don't mix well with plants, because they constantly uproot and eat vegetation. While this is sometimes the case, large koi can easily co-exist with lush flowering plants—the key is to keep your koi well fed.

Aquatic plants

Not only do plants enhance a pond's appearance, they also help establish a balanced ecosystem and provide shade and shelter for fish. Introducing an assortment of lush plants into and around the pond will create a more natural look and soften any stark stone borders. There are a wide variety of winter-hardy and tropical plants to choose from, each of which will produce vibrant flowers in the spring, summer and fall.
The biggest benefit of aquatic plant life is its ability to improve water quality and clarity, and reduce algae growth. Fast-growing plants compete directly with algae by consuming the same nutrients the algae needs to grow.
Aquatic plants can be divided into four basic groups:

  • Water lilies produce an abundance of floating leaves and fragrant flowers all season long. They are available in a variety of colours and sizes, including winter-hardy and tropical varieties. Water lilies typically perform best at a depth of about 610 mm (12 in.). While most bloom during the day and close in the afternoon, some varieties bloom at night, allowing them to be enjoyed even after a long day at work.
  • Marginal plants grow in the shallow margins and shelves around the pond's perimeter. They prefer depths ranging from 76 to 457 mm (3 to 18 in.) and range in size from small, creeping plants to towering giants like papyrus, which can grow more than 2 m (7 ft) tall.
  • Oxygenating plants grow completely submerged under the water, providing a place for fish to lay eggs or creating shelter for smaller fish and other aquatic creatures. Common oxygenating plants include hornwort and water thyme.
  • Floating plants, such as water hyacinths, water lettuce or floating fern, simply float on the pond surface. They are tropical and must be replaced each year, but also multiply very quickly, and are by far the best plants for reducing algae.
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