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How Often Should I Clean My Backyard Pond?

Having a backyard pond, or a koi pond, is a great way to beautify your landscape, but it can also be big responsibility. You might be left wondering, how often should you clean your pond?

The best time to clean your pond is in the Spring. This will give you the opportunity to clean any damage or debris that occurred over the winter as well as the ease of not having to work with potentially freezing cold, or even frozen, pond water.

But to take the answer to this question one step further, it’s fair to say that different parts of your pond maintenance routine should be done during different parts of the year. For example, the summer months are a great time to clean our your pond’s pumps, filters and skimmers. On the other hand, clearing your pond of debris such as, leaves and twigs, should be done on a weekly basis for the optimal health of your pond.

Let’s dive into a detailed pond cleaning and maintenance schedule so you can have a beautiful and healthy pond all year-round.

A person cleaning debris from their pond with a skimmer net.

Why Spring Is the Best Time To Deep Clean Your Pond

I like to do an annual deep-cleaning of my pond every Spring. The reason I do this is because cleaning the pond during the winter months is just too difficult and cold. The winter months also very often leaves all kinds of debris and damage that will have to be cleaned out again anyways at the end of the season.

So why not clean your pond before the winter months come? Well, for the same reason as we talked about before. You’re going to have to clean your pond after winter anyways, so don’t waste your time cleaning it twice–once before winter and once after.

Okay, so what does a Spring pond cleaning actually entail? The truth is this deep-cleaning can be as thorough as you want it to be, but keep in mind the better job you do at cleaning the more beautiful your pond will look when you want to enjoy it.

Your Backyard Pond Spring Cleaning To-Do List

The following is a list of things you CAN do to clean your pond during Spring, but you don’t have to do all of them. For example, some people drain their entire pond each year while others simply top up the water periodically. We’ll go over why you might want to do either later on in this article.

  • Completely drain the entirety of your pond’s water if you feel it’s gotten too dirty. Use this an an opportunity to wash and scrub the bottom of the pond.
  • Clean any structures or features inside the pond like waterfalls or rocks. This job is much easier if you end up draining the water first.
  • Check your pond’s pumps and clean them if necessary.
  • Wash and/or replace all pond filters and filter pads if necessary.
  • Remove debris like leaves and twigs from the pond’s surface.
  • Cut or trim any aquatic plants growing from the sides or bottom of your pond.
  • Reconnect your pond pumps and filtration system if you’ve turned them off during the winter months.
  • Once your pond is cleaned and refilled, you can optionally add a dose of water treatment like algae prevention or sludge remover.

Do I Need To Empty The Water From My Pond Each Time?

This pond is being drained and cleaned to prep for winter.

This is a super-common question I get asked all the time. Do I need to refill my entire pond?

No, you don’t need to empty all the water from your pond if it’s been properly taken care of throughout the year. However, having said that, if your pond’s water has gotten too dirty or sludgy for even your filters to handle, you may need to empty the water and start over.

Ideally, you should be replacing small portions of your pond’s water periodically to keep the water from getting stagnant. This will also help oxygenate your water, which is especially useful if you’re not using a waterfall or have your pond connected to a stream. This can be done once a month, or even once a week.

And while you’re at it, take this time to run a skimmer net through the pond as well to remove any debris before you pour clean water back in.

Should I Clean My Pond In The Fall?

Even though Spring is the best time to, the fall is a very important season for your backyard pond’s health as well.

Routine maintenance of your pond during the fall season is essential to prepare your pond for winter. This will make deep cleaning your pond in the Spring much easier and is safer for your fish (if you have them) as they haven’t begun hibernating yet.

Like always, start your Fall pond cleaning by removing debris from the surface of the water.

Next, remove some of the water from your pond to assist you in removing any debris or sludge that has stuck to the outer rim of the pond’s edge. Feel free to use a hose for this as the sludge can be quite tenacious at times.

If you can, reach down to the bottom of the pond to remove any debris or sludge from the pond liner you’re using to keep the water from draining into the soil. This will ensure the liner stays intact and isn’t eaten away by any aquatic life sticking to it.

Feel free to use a brush or glove for this part as any debris loosened will usually float to the surface where it can be easily remove with a skimmer net.

Once complete, replenish whatever water you removed from the pond with fresh water. This has the added benefit of re-oxygenating the water.

Should I Winterize My Pond?

Even though we just discussed the necessity of a good Fall and Spring cleaning for your pond, the winter months are just as important.

Winterizing your pond is necessary to maintain the health of your plants and fish during the freezing cold months between Fall and Spring. Otherwise, your pond’s fish and other aquatic life might not make it to the summer months when you want to enjoy them.

Winterizing your pond mainly comes down to what you plan on doing with your pumps and filters.

Some people like to leave the pump running during the winter months. They do this because it creates a small pocket of warmer water towards the bottom of the pond that fish like to stay in.

However, turning your pump off during the winter is perfectly safe for your fish. This is because cold water holds more oxygen than warm water and fish actually don’t need as much oxygen during their hibernation months anyways.

Another thing to consider is that bacteria and algae do not grow at nearly the same rate during cold months so you can probably turn off your filter as well. But if you do turn off your filter, be sure to remove the filter and all its accessories from the pond for the season. This is because frozen water from the pond can expand within and damage your equipment.

If your pond completely freezes during the winter, be sure to gently drill or cut a hole in the ice to allow the water to oxygenate.

Should I Remove My Pond’s Fish During Winter?

Don’t forget about your pond fish during winter.

It goes without saying that regularly cleaning your pond throughout the year will keep it healthy and beautiful. But if your pond also has fish, you’ll need to care for them during the winter months as well.

You shouldn’t need to remove your fish from your pond during the winter months. Your fish are perfectly fine living in even a frozen pond as long as the pond is clean, deep enough and has little to no circulation.

As I mentioned above, the warm water will settle towards the bottom of your pond. This is where your fish will spend most of the winter and is why it’s essential to make sure your pond is deep enough to begin with. The minimum depth for your fish pond should be about 2 feet deep.

You should also stop feeding your fish during the winter months because they don’t need to eat while hibernating. Instead, your fish will live solely from their stored energy reserves as long as you make sure the pond water is properly oxygenated by carefully drilling a small hole or two in the ice.

How Often To Clean Your Pond – Final Thoughts

Keeping your pond clean throughout the year is a necessary but not overly complicated task. You should be cleaning your pond regularly throughout the year including one annual deep-cleaning at the beginning of Spring.

You really just need to know what maintenance tasks to perform and when.

The end of Fall is when you want to do a quick cleaning of your pond to prepare it for winter.

During winter, you’ll want to turn off your pumps and filters and make sure your fish have all they need to hibernate for the season.

Once winter has gone and the Spring months have arrived, it’s time for your big annual Spring deep-cleaning. Use this opportunity to clean any debris or damage that has accumulated on your pond during winter.

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