Most ponds suffer from stratification or “layered water” during the warmer months of the year. Stratification happens when the sun heats up the water at the top of your pond. This warm water is lighter and creates a layer that floats on the cooler water underneath. The point at which these layers separate is known as the thermocline. The thermocline can be observed while you are swimming; as your legs and feet break the thermocline you feel the cool water underneath, which is commonly mistaken as a spring. In the fall and winter months, the cold air will cool the surface of your pond, causing turnover or a mixing of the surface and subsurface water. Turnover can also be caused by sever weather events. If you ever notice a strong sulfurous smell near your pond in the spring, fall, or after a strong storm, it’s a good bet that your pond has just turned over!
Turnover allows toxic water from the bottom of the pond to mix with the healthy water at the surface, which can severely stress or even kill fish. When your pond/lake is deprived of oxygen the natural cleaning process is reversed, causing the ecosystem to shut down and slowly die! Because oxygen is absent, dead vegetation, fish waste and other organics turn into black “muck” because there are no life forms available to feed on it. The “muck” will continue to accumulate if an aeration system is not implemented.
The best way to handle this situation is to use an Aeration System. An Aeration System consists of a continuous-duty compressor which pumps air to a diffuser plate. This diffuser plate is placed on the pond’s bottom and releases small bubbles which circulate and oxygenate the pond. The column of air pushes the cold water at the bottom towards the surface. Since cold water is denser than warm water, the cold water will fall back towards the bottom creating a continuous cycle. This cycle or convection current is the secret to proper pond circulation.
Aeration will reduce, if not eliminate free floating debris, prevent fish kills, reduce sediment buildup, eliminate thermal stratification, create a stronger and more productive fish population, and create a clean, clear and healthy ecosystem.
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What about fountain aeration? Fountain aeration is best used in ponds that are less than 5′ deep. In this case, you will see the benefits of aeration along with a beautiful waterscape. However, the boiling action from an Aeration System, in most cases, will provide better results with less routine maintenance.
We are just starting to enter into the hottest days of summer. Are you and your pond prepared to deal with the scorching heat? The need for aeration in your pond during these temperatures is far greater than any other part of the year. Although most pond owners are aware of this fact, few know the true reasons behind the need.
The Need For Aeration
First, let’s start with the actual need for aeration in your pond. Every pond is a “time bomb” just waiting to go off. A pond that has just been excavated is usually nutrient free, making it easy to take care of. This stage in a ponds life is called Stage 1, and may only last one year depending on nutrient inputs. Man-made ponds and lakes tend to gain large amounts of nutrients in a short period of time, often after only a couple years of existence. When a pond enters this period of excess nutrients, it is called Stage 2. Once a pond enters this stage, you will begin to experience large amounts of algae and weed growth. Also during this stage the pond will develop a large buildup of organic debris at the bottom of the pond called “muck”. The “muck” in your pond will slowly decompose and release nutrients into the water column. These excess nutrients will cause more weed and algae growth. Along with the nutrient spike, the water body will also experience a rise in toxic gas levels. Also, when organic material decomposes, it uses oxygen in the water, causing dangerously low oxygen levels in the depths of your pond.
Because ponds without aeration normally become thermally stratified, the toxic gasses created on the bottom buildup in the cool water underneath. A change in temperature, a heavy rain, or sometimes even high winds can turn the water over allowing the toxic, oxygen-deprived water at the bottom to mix into the top layer leaving your fish without oxygen and causing a fish kill.
Fountains vs. Bottom Bubblers
Many pond owners will turn to fountain aeration or surface aerators to experience some form of aesthetics for their dollar. While fountains are aesthetically pleasing, they will only draw surface waters. This leaves the bottom of the pond uncirculated and does nothing to eliminate toxic gases underneath. A better alternative is to consider a bottom bubbler. The bottom bubbler will circulate the entire water column, and eliminating the thermocline. This allows the organisms present to utilize the entire pond, not just the upper layer. The best option for a bottom bubbler is a diffused Aeration system. In combination with aerobic, “muck” eating bacteria (Pond Vive Bacteria), the system can eliminate up to 5 inches of “muck” per year.
How Diffused Aeration Works
The system consists of a high quality air compressor which is mounted in a cabinet housing unit. The compressor pumps air through a lead free self-weighted air hose and out of the diffuser plate on the pond bottom. The diffuser assembly comes with air stones that inject oxygen into the pond directly and create a column of medium bubbles lift and circulate the entire water body. This keeps the oxygen levels even throughout the pond or lake. Something that is important to keep in mind is how to run the compressor. The aerator is as simple to run as plugging in the cord, and to reduce stress on organisms in the pond you should follow this start-up procedure.
Starting Up Your Pond Aeration System
When an aerator is first installed it is important that you don’t begin running it constantly right away. If the aerator rotates the water column too quickly, it can actually cause a fish kill by moving the toxic gases throughout the pond in one fell swoop. The best route to take is to run the aerator for only 30 minutes on its first day, then shutting it off for the remainder of that day. The second day you should run the aeration system for one full hour then turn it off. The third day double to 2 hours, then to 4 hours the next, 8 the next, until you are running your system all day. This process will take 7 days to accomplish. Not only should this process be followed the first time an aerator is installed, it should be followed every time the aerator is turned on after an extended shutdown.
Now that we’ve covered the different needs and phases of pond aeration, lose the headache, and relax in the heat knowing you’re on your way to a healthy pond ecosystem.