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WATERGARDENING "101"

By Gail Barnhill
The Tucson Watergardeners

Ponds Styles:
Fish Pond: Features fish (usually Koi and fancy goldfish) and has few plants, thus requiring high degree of mechanical filtration to keep water clear.
Watergarden: Many plants, covering 60-75% of water surface, perhaps a biological filter to keep water clear. Usually contains fish as well.
Pond Liners:
Pots without holes, tubs, buckets or barrels — generally installed above ground. Preformed rigid liners, liner fabrics, concrete, block or brick - generally installed in the ground.
Where to put a watergarden?
Where you will enjoy it the most..... Away from trees/roots/leaf debris..... In full sun.
Electricity
Safe access to run pumps and/or filters, if desired
Depth
Minimum of 18" - deeper (to 24") is better for fish
Filters, Pumps, Aerators
are not absolutely required, but help keep water clear and aerated to benefit fish, especially in the summer evenings when oxygen depletion is greatest in the water.
Filters clean the water — either mechanically or biologically. (Needed with CAP water, or treat water with cloramine remover before adding to pond).
Pumps circulate the water creating sound and aeration of the water. Do NOT use "oil filled" or "oil cooled" pumps — can overheat and foul the water.
Aerators (like aquarium air pumps) add oxygen to the pond, benefiting fish.

Waterplants for Tucson In order to bloom, waterplants generally need 4-6 hrs of sun.
Waterplants multiply rapidly and divide easily. Some favorites are:
Hardy Water Lilies
Tropical Water Lilies (need special winter protection)
Papyrus — Giant, Dwarf, Mini & related Umbrella Grass
Taro — Giant Elephant Ear, variegated, black,red/green, green
Floaters — Water Hyacinth, Water Lettuce, Azolla, Frog Bit, Duck Weed, Water Moss
Iris — Pseudacorus (water flag), variegated and plain; Louisiana Iris (swamp iris)
Water Snowflake (white or yellow fuzzy, star shaped flowers)
Parrots Feather (snaking green "whorls", both under & above water)
Hottunia cordata (pink/white/green variegated leaves)
Rushes — Pickerel Weed, Flowering Rush, Corkscrew…many more
Underwater grasses (important oxygenators)
Water Nasturtium, Water Poppy, Water Clover
Water Cana, Horsetail, Cattail — Giant & mini
Lotus, unfortunately, does NOT perform in Tucson-will leaf out, but not bloom.

Potting up Waterplants
Do NOT use a rich soil. "Desert dirt" works fine…but unscented kitty litter which is just clay is very easy to obtain and work with. Top with pea gravel to contain soil — and a large stone to anchor new plants (such as water lilies) until roots are established.
Fertilize with "pond tabs" monthly…or apply a time release fertilizer such as Osmocote when potting up.
Use black plastic nursery pots or special "webbed" waterplant containers. Gently place pots in ponds by TIPPING them slightly as you submerge them to prevent disturbing soil.
Where to obtain Waterplants & supplies
Most nurseries will sell some — even some hardware and department stores!
Best source of waterplants is other watergardeners .... at The Tucson Watergardeners monthly meetings, members bring excess plants and supplies as doorprizes.

Fish 1" of Fish for each 1 sq. ft water surface - (a rule that is constantly broken!)
Goldfish most common — many beautiful color combinations — breed easily in a pond. There are many types of goldfish/carp — but avoid short bodied ones (difficult for them to compete with other fish or escape predators).
Koi are the "superstars"…with a reputation to match when it comes to Watergardens. They need heavy filtration, crystal clear and balanced water, like to uproot plants, grow to be extremely large — 20" or more.
Feeding: Goldfish can easily live off nutrients, insects, algae in the pond. However most people like to feed them. Can be trained to eat from your hand. Do not feed more than fish can eat in about 5 minutes. Treats are brine shrimp, shredded zucchini!

Algae
The best way to keep water clear is to have 60-75% of the water surface covered with plant material.
Free floating algae make the water appear "pea soup green". Flocculent or coagulants (ie "Crystal Pond" "Clear Pond") will help free-floating algae clump together and fall to the bottom of the pond. (Check label to be sure product safe for fish, plants AND biofilters!!)
String or Hair Algae floats, usually from the side of the pond, and when removed and dry, resembles fine string or green "hair. Barley Straw (available at feed stores) in a nylon stocking, weighted down at the bottom of the pond will help reduce/prevent String Algae.
NEVER empty and refill a pond to "get rid of green water" ... you'll just be starting out with new nutrients for MORE algae! Be patient!!
Do not scrape all algae off pond sides ... it's beneficial and a food source for fish and insects.
Mosquitos
Fish will eat mosquito larvae. If you don't have fish, use "Mosquito Dunks", a BT that kills the larvae before they hatch. "Dunks" look like small 2" "donuts", can be broken into small bits or chunks, and used in the pond, pot saucers, areas where water stands or collects (and if in a piece of nylon stocking and anchored securely, even in swamp cooler pans and toilet tanks!) It is safe for fish, plants, pets, people!
Frogs will also eat lots of mosquitos ... however don't encourage Colorado River Toads to take up residence if you have pets. Bats also eat great quantities of mosquitos.