Garden Ponds and Fish
Once constructed, your garden pond is not complete without its finishing touches. There are many varieties of aquatic plants and ornamental fish available, which will transform your pond - bringing it to life and blending it naturally into your garden. Getting the balance right will allow your pond to become virtually self-sustaining, which means you will only need to give it occasional attention to keep it in peak condition...
First of all you need to look at the different types of aquatic plants, which are on offer and decide which ones would best suit the size and style of your pond - Iris' can grow very tall and are likely to topple over and look out of place in a small pond.
Don't buy too many plants, remember that they will grow and could take over the pond very easily. It is best to start with a few and see how they develop during the first year - you can always add more later on.There are several distinct groups of aquatic plants, which you can use any combination of. They are as follows:
Oxygenating plants - These do exactly as they say - oxygenate the water, by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen as they grow. Most of these plants float in the water, but some are rooted.
They provide a good shelter for spawning fish and their fry and take up mineral salts from the water that would normally encourage the growth of algae. Take care, as these plants grow profusely. Some examples of oxygenating plants are: Curly Pondweed, Water cress, Milfoil and Willow Moss.
Deep water and marginal plants - Deep water plants are best kept in containers for ease of lifting - in the event of treating diseases pruning or feeding. Most marginal plants have their roots just under the water and their flowers and leaves held well above the surface. Again, these are best planted in containers. Examples of these plants are: Sweet Flag, Water Plantain, Water Hawthorn, Iris, Water Mint and Mimulus.
Water Lilies - These come in a variety of species and are available in a variety of sizes to suit all sizes and depths of ponds. These are probably the most well known and popular of all water plants. They come in a range of wonderful colored blooms and their distinctive flat leaves sit on the surface of the water, providing valuable shade and protection for both the pond and the fish. These are once again best planted in containers. Examples of water lilies are: Darwin, Pink Opal, Albatross, Attraction, Livingstone and Firecrest.
Bog plants - These plants have adapted themselves so that their root systems can cope with high moisture levels. Many of them have interesting leaf shapes with brightly colored flowers and are perfect for planting near your pond. Some examples of these are: False Goat's Beard, Quamash, Dropwort, Lobelia, Iris, Day Lily.
Always remember to plant your aquatic plants in suitably prepared soil in pots or baskets with gravel on the top- this prevents the fish from disturbing the soil and clouding the water. Before introducing your fish, you must wait a while until the pond has settle and is able to support fish. You can buy Pond Testing Kits, which allow you to check for PH, Nitrate, Nitrite and Ammonia levels.
Once your pond has settled down, it is time to think about introducing some fish - taking care not to overstock. The addition of fish will really bring your pond to life and is probably the most exciting part. They play an important role in the environment of the pond, as they take in oxygen from the water and expel carbon dioxide, which is required by the plants. There are many ornamental fish available in a variety of colors. Here are just a few ideas:
Common Goldfish - These are probably the cheapest to buy and the most widely available. Although primarily gold, they do vary form yellow-gold to bright orange-red.
Shubunkin - These very hardy fishes were developed from the Common Goldfish and come in a variety of mottled colors.
Comet - This fish has a long tail and is the fastest and most graceful member of the Goldfish family. This hardy fish is usually red in color, but does come in a variety of other colors too.
Golden Orfe - This is an excellent scavenger fish, removing insects and mosquito larvae from the plants and water surface. It is a very lively fish and is, therefore, best kept in a spacious pond.
Green Tench - This extremely hardy fish can live a long time out of water. It prefers still water to running water. Its dark green, slimy skin is reputed to cure various diseases on other fishes in the pond.
Koi Carp - These fish are full of character and can grow to a large size. They have a long lifespan and come in a variety of wonderful colors, some of which are highly prized. Due to their large size they are really only suited to large ponds.
In addition to your deliberate additions to the pond there will be a number of other visitors too, such as, frogs, newts, toads, snails, various beetles and other insects - some of which can be a nuisance, but many just enhance its beauty and interest. As your pond gradually establishes itself and your fish settle down and grow, you will probably find yourself spending many spare hours sitting next to it and enjoying all that it has to offer.
By Jane Grimshaw