Record high temperatures across the nation can create a number of challenges for people, pets, plants, and yes, even your pond. You’ll want to keep a close eye on your water garden, especially when the water temperature reaches 80 degrees or higher. When it stays hot outside for a while,  you are at risk for an overheated pond

You may notice stressed out fish, struggling for air. Your plants may look a bit droopy as well.  What exactly is happening and how can you help your pond and fish?

The Science of an Overheated Pond

Warm water has a low capacity for holding oxygen, meaning the hotter it gets, the less oxygen available to your fish and plants. In this heat, you may start to see your fish gasping for air close to the water’s surface, or particularly close to a fountain or waterfall.

In addition, warm pond water leads to increased activity as enzymes become more active, meaning your fish too are more active. As a result, more oxygen is needed at a time when it’s least available.

As your fish struggle for oxygen, they’ll become increasingly stressed. And stressed fish are more likely to develop diseases…a scenario you want to avoid.

Your fish health is important, so it’s crucial to that they have the best pond environment to flourish in, which all starts with a well-designed water feature. Depth, plant coverage, shade, and circulation should all be considered when building a pond. A minimum depth of two feet is suggested so the bottom can remain cooler, giving the fish a much needed retreat from the heat.

An Overheated Pond Likes Cool Plants

Your pond plants might start to show the effects of extreme heat, so it’s important to look for warning signs. Water lettuce and water hyacinth can turn yellow and burn. The pads of your waterlily might also begin to turn a brownish color and start to decay.

Since the leaves of a waterlily help shade the pond and keep it cooler, maintaining the plant’s health is a priority. Fortunately, it takes a long time for pond water to reach 80 degrees, and you have some solutions available to assist with cooling.

You’ll want to stock your pond with a lot of plants to maximize shade for the fish. A good rule of thumb is to provide plant coverage of approximately 1/3 to 1/2 of the pond’s surface area. Waterlily pads provide great coverage, but if your pond lacks the proper amount, you can easily add floating plants such as water lettuce until the waterlilies fill in.

Plants also absorb excess nutrients and help filter the pond water, just another way they help maintain a healthy space.

Pond Design and Circulation is Key

One of the most important parts of pond design is circulation. If possible, you’ll want to place your biological filter and mechanical filter across the pond from each other, so that all areas of the pond are skimmed and the water is evenly circulated. And keep in mind that waterfalls, streams, and even fountains play a huge part in the oxygenation of the water in your pond. If you don’t already have a waterfall cascading into your pond, you might want to invest in a fountain that can be added without any construction to the pond. Not only will it help your pond’s health, but it will improve the aesthetic of the area too.

During these hot, dog days of summer, try some of these tips to keep your pond performing optimally:

  • Add oxygen to your pond by placing an aerator in your pond. You can also install a fountain with a pump if your pond doesn’t have a waterfall or stream built in. This will relieve the stress for your fish.
  • If you feed your fish, feed them in the morning and be careful not to overfeed (only once a day and no more than they can eat in in two to three minutes). Uneaten food decays faster in warmer water and can pollute the pond.
  • Be sure to remove dying leaves and flowers before they have a chance to decay in the warmer water.

Be alert! The bottom line is that you need to keep an eye on your pond and let your fish and plants do the talking. If you have a balanced ecosystem, you don’t need to be checking your pond out everyday, but you do need to check it out every once in a while to make sure your aquatic plants and fish are healthy.

More help for your overheated pond

You can use a pond thermometer to check the temperature of your pond water. If you find the water nearing 80 degrees, you can increase oxygen with a pond aerator to prevent any problems. We can provide this aerator for you.

Keep in mind, you don’t need to take your pond’s temperature every day – especially if you have a balance ecosystem with proper circulation and filtration. Simply watch for tell-tale signs like fish gasping for air at the surface of the water or near a waterfall. Contact us for more information.