Frequently asked questions about ponds

I already have a garden pond - what can I do to make it more wildlife friendly?

Formal ponds are not designed for wildlife. They tend to have steep sides without extensive shallow areas. Concrete fish ponds can be difficult for animals to escape from and few have extensive vegetation cover. To help wildlife, first ensure that frogs and hedgehogs can leave the pond, using rocks, stones or paving slabs as a ramp. Then, create more shallow habitat. Use sandbags, recycled bricks or building blocks to make a retaining wall near the pond edge, and backfill to near the water surface, using stones, gravel or subsoil (NOTtopsoil). This will produce shallow water habitat in which plants can get established. Remember that a complicated underwater 'architecture' will support more animal species. Finally, do you really want those fish? If you can bear to give them away (don't release them into the wild!), or just not replace them when

House Martins Nest
House martins collecting mud for nests. Bob Gibbons

the heron has breakfasted, you'll enjoy many more species of animals in your pond.

Should I put in a fountain and filter to keep the water clear and oxygenated?

These aren't needed for a wildlife pond. Pond filters take out suspended particles - but also the plankton essential to a healthy pond. They are only needed in over-stocked fish ponds. Fountains help maintain oxygen levels in fishponds, but oxygen isn't a problem in a balanced wildlife pond. For all that, fountains and waterfalls can make attractive features and they do no harm at all to wildlife.

Should I put a net over the pond to keep leaves out in autumn?

It is difficult to net larger ponds, and it isn't necessary unless the pond is right under a large tree. Sometimes frogs, grass snakes or birds can get tangled in, or trapped under nets. A moderate input of leaves does no harm. Leaves have little fertilising ability, but are food for many small organisms. It is best to use a rake to remove excessive leaves, and put them into the compost heap.

I'm finding dead frogs in and around my pond - what is the problem?

Although most frogs hibernate under cover on land, a few over-winter in the bottom of ponds. If the water is frozen for a long period, some frogs may be killed by a build up of toxic decay gases. Bodies may float to the surface in spring. Occasionally, female frogs are drowned during the mating period by over-attentive males. The most serious cause of death is the newly imported Red Leg Disease, a viral complaint that causes starvation, unpleasant ulceration and eventually death. If your frogs look unwell, look up the Froglife website

Garden Pond Frozen

The grass snake is the largest British snake. Harmless to humans, it can spend much of its time in water, often feeding on frogs. Andy Sands

The linnet is one of many bird species that may drop in for a quick drink. Chris Gomersall

The grass snake is the largest British snake. Harmless to humans, it can spend much of its time in water, often feeding on frogs. Andy Sands

The linnet is one of many bird species that may drop in for a quick drink. Chris Gomersall r22j

Both photos Bob Gibbons. However much frogspawn you have in your pond, only a tiny number of eggs will develop into adult frogs.

Both photos Bob Gibbons. However much frogspawn you have in your pond, only a tiny number of eggs will develop into adult frogs.

at www.froglife.org, where you will find photographs of diseased animals, and a reporting sheet to help track the spread of the disease.

There are no frogs or newts in my pond. Where can I go to get some?

If the conditions are right in the pond and the garden and if there is another pond within half a kilometre or so from which they could migrate, amphibians will find their own way. The process can take up to a year although it is normally much quicker. Alternatively, bring in a couple of masses of frogspawn, collected from other gardens. Ideally, get spawn from more than one source to avoid inbreeding - but never from the wild. Check with the owner that the "parent" pond doesn't have a frog disease problem. Newts are best introduced as adults but great crested newts are specially protected and it is illegal to move them at any stage of their lifecycle.

I have too much frogspawn in my pond, where should I put it?

You will have frogspawn according to the number of frogs surviving in and around your pond, so there won't be 'too much'. Nearly all tadpoles die and are eaten each year, the huge numbers in early spring dwindling to only a few young froglets by the summer. Don't move frogspawn from your pond to the wild as you may inadvertently spread diseases. You will also increase the survival chances of the remaining eggs and so may finish up with more, rather than fewer frogs!

My pond develops a thick layer of green weed or duckweed. What is wrong?

Blanket weed and duckweed are natural components of pond communities, and both in moderation are excellent habitat. However, duckweed can spoil the appearance of a pond and is almost impossible to

English Garden Small Reflection Ponds

Foxes occasionally visit garden ponds but you may need to be an early riser to see one. Mike Lane

The larvae of dragonflies are fearsome predators, taking tadpoles and even small fish. Roger Key/English Nature

Foxes occasionally visit garden ponds but you may need to be an early riser to see one. Mike Lane

The larvae of dragonflies are fearsome predators, taking tadpoles and even small fish. Roger Key/English Nature eradicate. A heavy build-up of blanket weed or duckweed usually means there is too much fertility in the water. The likely reason is nutrients in the water supply. Using tap water is often a cause. Another may be run-off from a fertilised lawn or flowerbed. If you can't improve the water supply, there are other ways to reduce the problem. Remove all blanket weed with a lawn rake as it builds up, and compost it. Duckweed can be skimmed away. Remove dying vegetation each autumn, and cut back the plants hard so they have plenty of opportunity for new growth next year. Removing vegetation will limit nutrient build up, and fast growing plants next year will compete for nutrients with the algae. Immersing small bags of barley straw is an effective natural control for blanket weed, although it won't provide more than a temporary fix.

My old pond dries out in the summer. Does it need digging out?

Drying out is common in older ponds with a build-up of silt and organic matter, but these old temporary ponds can be extremely good for wildlife. They usually hold water for long enough in spring for successful amphibian breeding, and acquire a special set of species which tolerate partial drying out. Why not dig a small new pond next to the old one, to restart the succession process? If there isn't space for this, and you want standing water all year, dig out only part of the old pond, to preserve some of the valuable drying habitat.

How can I stop my pond freezing over in winter?

Frozen water isn't really a problem unless you are keeping fish, or if there are a lot of over-wintering frogs. Even then, you only need a small hole to allow gases to escape. Float a large ball on the surface to keep a vent open. Alternatively, make a hole by resting a saucepan of hot water on the ice to melt through. Never hit the ice with a hammer to break it as the vibrations can kill sensitive animals throughout the pond.

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Responses

  • Susan
    Hello,My pond water is gold???? I have never seen<br />this color,what do I need to balance.No fish,no plants. Thanks!
    8 years ago
  • evelyn
    How to kill tadpoles in a pond?
    8 years ago
  • jenni sihvonen
    How difficult is to keep a pond fish?
    8 years ago
  • alfonsina marchesi
    How to keep pond water clear the natural way?
    8 years ago

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