Plants and Clear Water - The 10% Solution!
Plants and Clear Water - The 10% Solution
Copyright 2003, Dick Schuck
All rights reserved
Clearing and cleaning a pond not as difficult as many people believe. In fact, the long, complicated formulas and equations you often read in garden and aquarium magazines aren't necessary. Here's how it works.
Construct a plants basin near your pond with size equivalent to 10% or more of the surface of your pond. Fill this basin with water plants and re-circulate your pond's water through it every 2 to 4 hours.
Within a few short weeks you water will be clear and your pond will be clean. This is because your plants basin has simultaneously consumed the "pea soup" causing nutrient in your pond as well as removed the solid waste particles from your water via settling and root filtering. Thus, your plants basin has become a natural filter.
Depending on the size of your pond, this natural filter can be as small as a half whiskey barrel or as large as another small pond.
A pond that is 20 sq. ft. in size would require a 2 sq. ft. filter; a pond 400 sq. ft. in size would require a 40 sq. ft. plants filter. Large filters can be constructed using 2 x 8 or 2 x 10 pressure treated lumber and a rubber or other flexible liner. The filter should be at least 10" deep so it can act as a settling chamber for solid waste pumped from your pond.
The pond water should enter the filter at a point furthest from the overflow to maximize the distance of water flow thereby allowing the greatest settlement of solids in the plant filter.
Almost any water plants will do well but some of my favorite are: Hardy Plants - water iris, water mint, water celery, cattails and lotus; Tropical Plants - water hyacinth, water lettuce, giant or egyptian papyrus and umbrella palm.
Through trial and error I've found all of these to work quite effectively in a natural or plants filter. In late fall, remove plants that have died and strip leaves from hardy and perennial plants.
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Clean your filter in late fall or early spring for the coming year. A mid-summer cleaning may also be necessary for very dirty situations. As with any filter, clogging will drastically reduce its effectiveness.
Besides filtering out solids and clearing green water, your natural filter is an excellent biological filter as the plant roots provide abundant surface area for nitrifying bacteria.
When the plants are dormant (early spring and late fall) your pond water may "green up", but once the dormant spell is broken, rapid clearing will occur. The use of ultraviolet filtration is advised to maintain clear water when the plants are dormant.
One last thing: The plants in your natural or plants filter will generally be healthier and many times larger than the plants in your pond. This is because the plants in your filter get a constant flush of nutrients from the re-circulating pond water.
As you're probably aware, this is the basis of hydroponics gardening. And your plants filter will prove to be a testament to this progressive gardening system.