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Refurbishing A Severely Neglected 4,000 Gallon Pond - Our Story & Progress

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by Joe Link, Jun 19, 2009.

  1. Joe Link

    Joe Link Portland, OR Well-Known Member Staff Member Lifetime Supporter 2015 Volunteer 2016 Volunteer

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    For those of you wondering where I've been, this is just one of many projects sucking up my time this summer!

    Six or seven years ago my friend had this pond built while remodeling his backyard. It was truly a spectacular water feature, I had never seen one so large so close to the city. He stocked it with a few very large, very expensive Koi (many of which fell victim to a Great Blue Heron), cleaned it twice yearly, kept up on the maintenance, and in general was a very good pond owner.

    About three years ago he moved up the hill to a larger house, but the housing market was beginning to decline so he held onto this house as well. During that time I believe he did a couple things here and there, but just didn't have the time to dedicate to it that he once had. Two years ago he rented the house to an employee who I believe was tasked with taking care of the pond, but obviously did nothing with it, leaving it to itself. Four months ago he asked me, my girlfriend, and two others if we'd like to rent the house; we accepted.

    One of the projects we knew we'd be taking on is returning the pond to all its former glory, and then some. We believe this pond has much more to offer than simply a home for Koi; a full fledged 6-tier natural ecosystem bustling with life.

    We knew this wouldn't be an easy job, this thing was full of dirt, muck, compost, overrun plants, leeches, bacteria, and just about everything else you can think of that would be living in a stagnant three-year-old body of water. We estimated that with all the junk in it, it was probably less than half of it's original capacity, and that was all stuff we were going to have to remove. It's been three months of working on it an average of 10 hours per week each, and it seems like we've still got so much to do, but man have we come a long ways. I sure wish I would have taken before pictures!


    • First we used a pump to drain the water the main pool and the pool on the #2 secondary waterfall. We then removed all the large rocks from the pools and vacuumed out all the muck with a wet/dry vacuum until we were left with only clean concrete.



    • We then drained the actual pond using the pump. With the pond now as empty as we could get it, we built a channel down the middle using large rocks for excess water to drain into when it rains or when we're pressure washing. When the channel filled with water and ran to the end of the pond we simply pumped it out, which worked very well.



    • We were now ready to start working on the South end of the pond. The gap between the large channel rocks and the edge of the pond gave us a 'workspace' to dump the dirty rocks full of muck, pressure wash them, then return them clean to the South end. Though we had to make two trips, one from the south end to the workspace then back again, this also worked very well. It was during this time we also removed the Iris that had taken over the south end. I swear, some of those root balls must have weighed 200lbs. with the rock and wet dirt! It was here we learned why it's so important to make sure all pond plants that take root are in proper pots.



    • Once enough of the rocks were in our workspace, the plants were gone, and we had only clean liner, we began to slowly wash the rocks, sort them, and bring them back to be placed. The large rocks were stacked on the edges, while the small and medium are used on the bottom to maximize depth. As we scooped and dumped dirty rocks from one area into the workspace, we replaced them with previously washed clean rocks. It was here that we really started to get motivated because we were able to see our progress, building instead of just cleaning.


    That brings us to where we are now, about 2/5ths of the way done with the cleaning and rebuilding. As you can see in the pics the south end is almost done, aside from the pump housing and the screen that will go over it. This pond was not designed with an actual filter system, though I've seen some interesting DIY setups with garbage cans that we might explore. I forgot to mention, we have a very, very small budget for this.


    Our next step is to pressure wash that huge pile of rock in our workspace and create a pile of clean rock somewhere on the south end for distribution elsewhere in the pond once that area is clean. We're also planning on hauling out a truckload of rock, since we probably won't be using nearly this much (not sure how this much got in here). Once we have a clean pile on the south end and an empty workspace we'll continue taking dirty material from the middle, adding it to the now empty workspace, and distributing the clean material throughout the now empty middle section. Eventually this is going to catch up to our workspace, but we'll figure out how to deal with that when the time comes.

    Once the actual pond is clean, we need to reseal some cracks in the pond (what should we use for this that won't harm the fish, frogs, etc?), patch a few holes in the liner, attach the screen over the pump, clean out the new debris in the waterfall pools, and a few other small things. After that we're ready to fill it up!

    Below are some pictures I took today of the pond in it's current state:

    More to come, stay tuned!
     
  2. Joe Link

    Joe Link Portland, OR Well-Known Member Staff Member Lifetime Supporter 2015 Volunteer 2016 Volunteer

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    Reserved!
     
  3. Joe Link

    Joe Link Portland, OR Well-Known Member Staff Member Lifetime Supporter 2015 Volunteer 2016 Volunteer

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    Before we scooped out the first bucket of muck we began envisioning what we'd like the pond to look like, considering our goals for the project, researching, formulating our game plan, and, of course (the most fun part), thinking of all the fish and other creatures we wanted to see in our pond.

    As I mentioned previously, the pond was originally stocked with Koi. When all of those were eaten my friend who owns the house and lived in it at the time sought a cheaper replacement, and I was able to convince him to get Rainbow Trout ($2 ea. versus $200 ea.). We really didn't know much about them or what it took to keep them in a backyard pond, since there really isn't much information about it on the internet, so we figured we'd just give it a try. We stocked it with about 20 Rainbows and man, was it awesome! I might be bias because I grew up catching trout, but I really can't see how Koi can hold a candle to them in terms of beauty, character, personality, and sheer entertainment. They swam laps from one end of the pond to another all day long, often playing tag with each other, jumping out of the water for bugs, and were all around just tons of fun to watch.

    They did great for about a month, then due to an unfortunate incident with algaecide they all died. That single incident made me deeply despise pond chemicals and strive to design and maintain an all natural pond as I've seen many others do. An entire ecosystem was destroyed that day with the contents of a box. Even if used properly and 'fish safe' (though usually not for trout), what else is it killing on the other ecological tiers?

    Anyways, due to our experiences during that month, we decided we definitely want Rainbow Trout again :D

    After thinking of other native Northwest species that might be able to live in a pond, we came across a gentleman in Gresham, OR who raises and sells Sturgeon and Channel Catfish! Wow, Sturgeon?! In a backyard pond? Turns out they do very well, so we're planning on getting a couple. We're thinking both the Sturgeon and Catfish should help with the algae and other organic matter on the bottom of the pond as well. So, our three fish choices are:



    • Rainbow Trout - 15 or so, 8"+



    • Sturgeon - 2-3, around 15"-17"



    • Channel Catfish - 4-6, around 5"-6"


    From what I've read this shouldn't overpopulate the pond, but if so we'll reduce the number of Rainbow Trout.

    Aside from the fish, we're thinking of getting 30 or so Japanese Trap Door Snails. We found a place that sells ones about the size of a golf ball, so hopefully the fish won't be able to eat them, right? I hope not, they're $2 each :D

    For the past three years the pond has been a breeding ground for green frogs. A couple months ago they were so loud we could barely hold a conversation out on our deck without yelling at each other. With the pond drained we haven't seen as many frogs hanging around, but since the rain has filled up the two waterfall pools there's quite a few tadpoles up there. I assume once the fish get in the pond the tadpoles (and likely the adult frogs) won't be able to survive down there. I'm hoping that although the waterfall will be running 24/7 they'll be able to breed in the two waterfall pools where there won't be any fish.

    We've heard varying reports from people who have had put crawdads in their pond. Some say they thrive and do well, even with fish and other creatures. Some say the fish eat them when they molt. Some say they'll eat the snails. I'd love to hear what you guys think about them, cause that'd be a lot of fun.

    We've also heard varying reports of turtles living in backyard ponds. Some say you have to have a fence around the yard or they'll wander off. Some say they've had a couple turtles in their pond for years and they've always stuck around and done well. Some say they'll eat all our plants. Some say they only take an occasional nibble and they're fine. Any input here?

    Again, we're new to this, so any input would be highly appreciated!

    Lastly, it seems plants are always the one thing that gets overlooked in ponds. Many of them that I see don't have more than one or two, and from what I've gathered that's not enough for a healthy ecosystem and an algae-free pond. We've selected four types of plants for our pond, but since we don't know how big they are until we get them we won't know if we've ordered enough. What do you guys think of this list?



    • Anacharis - I've heard it's a must for maintaining water quality and keeping algae growth low. We're thinking of purchasing 20 of these.



    • Water Lilies - What pond is complete without them? The pads will provide shade for the fish and block sunlight on the bottom to prevent algae growth. How big are these when you purchase them? We're thinking of getting two since they're pretty spendy, but we'll try to find the money for more if suggested.



    • Iris - We'll probably plant some of these, since we already have them. Are they in any way beneficial?



    • Water Hyancith - It looks nice and I hear it does a good job at providing shade and extracting nutrients from the water.



    • Duckweed - Maybe. It's rather ugly but we hear it does an excellent job of absorbing nutrients and also provides a natural snack for the fish.


    Any thoughts or suggestions?
     
  4. Joe Link

    Joe Link Portland, OR Well-Known Member Staff Member Lifetime Supporter 2015 Volunteer 2016 Volunteer

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    This is going to take a lot of space
     
  5. Joe Link

    Joe Link Portland, OR Well-Known Member Staff Member Lifetime Supporter 2015 Volunteer 2016 Volunteer

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    Last reservation, I promise

    I just want to make sure all our updates are on the first page with the original post.
     
  6. Weebs

    Weebs Clackamas County Member

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    you're such a post big league chew!

    Sounds like you've got your work cut out for you! can't wait to see the finished product
     
  7. Joe Link

    Joe Link Portland, OR Well-Known Member Staff Member Lifetime Supporter 2015 Volunteer 2016 Volunteer

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    :D

    You'll have to come see it in person once it's all done. Or you're more than welcome to come grab a shovel, I'll introduce you to Marissa :laugh:
     
  8. Weebs

    Weebs Clackamas County Member

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    Ha, how much beer will be involved?
    How about I supervise the process from the deck?
     
  9. Joe Link

    Joe Link Portland, OR Well-Known Member Staff Member Lifetime Supporter 2015 Volunteer 2016 Volunteer

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    You're welcome to as many cans of the Hurricane Ice in the fridge as you can stomach, it's been in there for a month or two :p
     
  10. kevlar

    kevlar Mt.Angel Active Member

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    Hurricane ice ???
    Prolly not gunna get you much assistance?
    People do love to work for beer though!
     
  11. Weebs

    Weebs Clackamas County Member

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    Only if Jenny and Marissa shotgun them with me.
     
  12. ajf1

    ajf1 beaverton Member

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    looks like a really neat project. good job so far, please post more pics
     
  13. GeoMann

    GeoMann PDX Member

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    That's really cool, it sure does look like a lot of work, you all are doing a real fine job though....
     
  14. wichaka

    wichaka Wa State Well-Known Member

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    If you want Trout, I know where to get some...no charge. You just have to haul them.
     
  15. ZeroRing

    ZeroRing 26th District, WA Active Member

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    VERY cool project! Definitely need more pics of the progress. :thumbup:
     
  16. CaughtSteelin

    CaughtSteelin Oregon Member

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    Crawdads will do just fine in there. When growing up I put them in a pond so I could eat them through out the summer. They all survived; the ones I didn't eat. Also the sturgeon will be really cool...wait until there around 32-36in. There real tasty then. Looks good!