Thursday, August 30, 2012

Jewels of the Rift

I decided to take a little different approach to my post this week. I've found a series of videos that comprise a documentary about the great rift valley lakes of Africa. Many of the cichlids commonly found in the aquarium trade come from these lakes. I'm not a big fan of cichlids, but I still found these videos fascinating. Watch and enjoy!

I do not own any of these videos. They were made by National Geographic.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Visitors to the pond

Not only does my pond give my family and me great joy, but a number of wildlife get nourishment from it, too. I've seen deer dart away as I approach and have observed birds bathing and drinking from the waterfall. I've  been lucky enough to have my camera handy now and then to capture these visitors. Some, I have seen many times, and others were just fleeting glimpses.

This leopard frog (Lithobates spp) or at least his relatives have been at my pond for years. On rainy summer nights we can hear them croaking to each other. I've seen them in the upper stream and the main pond. The smaller ones tend to stay above the waterfall. 

Dragonflies are another common sight at my pond. They are a welcome guest as they are ravenous predators of mosquitoes. Very rarely do I see them stop like this. They are usually zooming around and thus I don't often get a chance to ID them. This little beauty is a member of the Libellula genus. Species is really difficult to determine without a closer examination, but I wasn't about to disturb this little guy. 

The eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina) was a pleasant surprise when I went out one morning to feed the koi. Unlike the frogs and dragonflies, this guy sat still for a while and even let me walk back in the house to grab my camera. Turtles are much less common at my pond, but I do see some from time to time. This was actually my second of the year. 

I also have juvenile salamanders that call my pond home. They live in the upper pools as any in the main pond would quickly get eaten. I have never seen the adults that obviously lay the eggs year after year (I have different sizes of juvenile), but come they must because I see the results. 

I'm happy that my pond also serves as a hub for local wildlife. It gives me a chance to observe them up close and it adds to the natural feel of the pond. I wanted the most natural-looking pond I could build, and I got just that. I couldn't be happier. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

What I would do differently with my pond

Not often in life do you get a chance to do things over. Hopefully, in 20 or so years, I will get a chance to build another pond. The construction and maintenance of my pond has taught me many things. Some lessons were learned the hard way, and others have just been slow realizations.

What I will repeat


My pond is roughly 4000 US gal and only has 6 koi in it. There are a lot of different stocking ideas, but even by the most conservative levels, my pond is understocked. As a result of this, I have never dealt with disease. The next time I have a pond, it will most certainly have no more than one koi per 500 gallons.

Canopy cover 

I built my pond on the edge of a forest. Granted, this did make the actual construction a bit of a hassle, but the end result is a wonderful canopy of leaves that cover my pond. Despite the temperatures commonly soaring above 90F at my house, the water never got warmer than 80F. The canopy also shields my pond from herons. I live less than a mile from a river and have never had problems with them. The only problem the canopy does bring is in winter, I must have my pond covered with a leaf net or it gets really clogged. This is a small price to pay for everything the shade does.

What I will change

Contacting a professional 

I started to dig my pond on my own. I planned my pond on my own with rather little knowledge of how these things really work. While digging, we realized that bringing in a professional water feature constructor would be a much better idea. I believe that’s one of the reasons my pond looks like water garden instead of a hole in the ground. Next time, I will bring in a contractor from the start.

Bog system 

I originally designed the pond to be aesthetically pleasing. I wanted it to look like a natural stream with the water flowing in from a waterfall and then out down another channel. It really does have that appearance. But this has also caused some problems for me. The idea behind the bog system is to have it be water storage area. It’s supposed to hold an extra 300 gallons of water and make sure the pump is always submerged. It also provides a shallow bog area to grow plants like rushes, cattails, and others. The main purpose of these plants is to be a nutrient sponge. However, these plants need full sun which my bog doesn’t get. My bog is also not large enough to have a lot of these plants. Next time, I will build a larger bog much closer to the pond and shorten the stream or completely forgo it.   

Changes to the upper stream 

I really like the setup I have with the large waterfall, but I think with the next pond I want to elongate the upper stream and make the first pool much larger. This will also give me more landscaping options, and I would like to put a path and a bridge over the upper stream. A larger pond will also allow more salamanders and frogs to live in my pond. These animals eat insect larvae and are also an indicator of water quality.

More plants 

Right now I only have about 3 species of pond plants. I would like to add more, but there just isn’t the room or the sunlight. More plants will make the water cleaner and out-compete with the algae. Plus, I love the look of floating plants. The way I have the body of the pond set up now, floating plants just don’t work well. And I would also love some lilies, but again not enough sun. I would like to plan my pond so that some parts will get enough sun for lilies. This will also mean having a larger surface area.