A User-Friendly Guide to Fixing Leaks
Is there a leak in your pond, or are your frogs drinking all the water?
By Dave Kelly
Leaks are among the most misunderstood and misdiagnosed problems anyone can have in their pond. Understanding the basic principles of leak detection and repair will save you time, money, and headaches in your water gardening adventures … I guarantee it!
What is Evaporation?
First, let’s have a look at what evaporation is and what it isn’t. Evaporation is caused by water turning into a vapor and escaping from your pond. The amount of water loss will vary according to the region of the country and the time of year. Ponds that are located in areas of the country with moderate temperatures and high humidity can expect to see 1 to 1 ½ inches of water loss per week during the spring and summer. Most of this evaporation should be replaced naturally by rain. However, if you live in an area with high temperatures and low humidity, it’s possible to see 3 inches or more of evaporation in a week.
The quantity and size of your waterfall(s) will also affect the amount of water that is lost. Regardless of the climate, a 4′x 6′pond with a 20-foot stream and 5 feet of cascading waterfalls may lose as much as 2 inches or more every day! Why? Splashing and moving water has greater exposure to additional evaporation than does the still water in the pond. If that same pond was 16′ x 21′ pond, you’d probably never even notice the additional evaporation because it’s a larger pond.
What It Isn’t
Evaporation is not filling your pond up all the way one evening, and waking up the next morning to find the water six inches lower. That’s a leak! If your pond is experiencing a loss of water at a more rapid rate, you either have a leak, or your frogs are drinking the water. Seriously, let’s figure that it’s a leak. What do you do then?
Look for any low edges. Settling at the pond’s edge is the most common cause of a leak, especially in a new pond. Typically, the low edges are found around the stream and waterfall where settling may have occurred after a few rainfalls. These areas are usually built up during the construction of the pond using the soil from the excavation, and are prone to some settling.
Your first line of defense is to carefully inspect the edges of not only your stream and waterfall, but also the perimeter of the pond. As the dirt around the stream or waterfall settles, it can create low spots that may cause water to escape over the edge of the liner. Keep your eyes peeled for wet mulch or gravel, or muddy areas around the perimeter of your pond. If you find a spot that’s leaking, all you have to do is lift the liner up and push some soil under it in order to raise the edge. Bingo – leak fixed!
Another possibility is that water is splashing out of your stream. To fix a “splash leak,” all you have to do is adjust a few of the rocks under and around your waterfall. This will contain or redirect the splash and it will stop the splash leak. Once again, you’ve solved the problem the easy and cost-effective way … using common sense.Low edges can be built back up by simply backfilling and compacting soil beneath the liner in order to raise the edge of the liner above the water level.
Obstructions in the Stream and Waterfalls
In addition to checking for low edges, you should also check your stream and waterfall. Rocks and excessive plant or algae growth in the stream or BIOFALLS® filter can restrict the flow of water and divert it over the edge of the liner. Plants and algae should be maintained by trimming them back in order to let the water pass freely. All in all, these leaks are extremely easy to fix.
You’ve spent 15 minutes or so following the suggestions listed above and you still can’t find the leak. What do you do next? It’s time for a little more work, and some drastic measures. You’ll have to shut your pump off for a day. By doing this, you’ll be able to determine the approximate location of the leak.
- Make sure the pond is filled to the appropriate level.
- Unplug the pump.
- Let the pond sit for 24 hours.
- If the water level drops, then you know the leak is in the pond.
When the Water Drops
- To find out where the leak is occurring, allow the water level to continue to drop. The level where the water stops dropping is the level where the leak is located.
- Concentrate your search around the perimeter of the pond at the level that the water has stopped dropping.
Now the fun begins! At this point, you may want to consider calling in a pond professional, but in order to reveal the exact location of the leak, you’ll need to:
- Remove any rocks around the entire perimeter at the level where the water stopped. You can then carefully check for some sort of puncture, or hole in the liner.
- When you find the hole, you simply patch it with a liner patch kit available at pond supply retailers.
- Now you can replace the rocks, fill the pond back to the top, and enjoy!
Steady and Level
If the water level remains the same, then it is safe to assume that that the leak is not in the pond. Now you’ll need to check the pipe, the plumbing fittings, and the pump connections for leaks.
Another possible culprit is the faceplate of your skimmer, if you have one. If the water level stopped dropping above the bottom of the faceplate you should investigate the skimmer. It may not have sealed correctly.
If the Leak Is in the Skimmer
- Investigate the skimmer faceplate without disassembling it.
- Simply move a few rocks around the front of the skimmer and slide your hand behind the liner, feeling for wet soil around the opening of the skimmer. If the soil is saturated, then the faceplate may have not been installed properly and might be the source of the leak.
- Remove the faceplate, clean all of the old silicone off the liner, and refer back to the instruction manual on proper procedures for sealing the skimmer faceplate to the skimmer. Hopefully, you’ve solved the leak.
It’s not fun when your pond is losing water. It can be a time-consuming and frustrating process to locate the leak. Hopefully with these steps and tips, you can quickly locate the source of the leak and get right back to enjoying your water garden.
Learn how to properly maintain your Ultra™ pump and prolong its life well beyond its warranty. Dave Kelly, The Tech Guy, also shares a few do-it-yourself troubleshooting tips.
More information is available at www.aquascapeinc.com
Aquascape’s magnetic driven line of pumps is designed for a variety of water feature applications. The Ultra™ water pump’s small size and wide range of flow rate options make this pump a perfect solution for providing water to just about any type of decorative fountain. It can be used to run ornamental spitters, create a cascading waterfall, or supply water to external filters. The Ultra™ Pump can also be converted into a fountain pump with the optional Ultra™ Pump Fountain Kit. Easy to Install A convenient selection of fittings is provided with the Ultra™ Pump. Each fitting includes a multi-hose style connection that is adaptable to almost any hose or tubing style in the industry. The addition of these fittings help to save you time and eliminate the frustrating process of trying to find the right plumbing fittings at the store.
The convenient 3-way diverter fitting provides you the ability to connect and adjust the flow rates to as many as 3 different pumping locations. Simply adjust the valve located on the fitting and you can easily dial in the perfect water flow. Energy Efficient The Ultra™ Pump is equipped with a magnetic driven motor that makes this pump very energy efficient. For example, the Ultra™ 1100 produces over 1,100 gallons per hour, but costs less to operate than a 100 watt light bulb!
The magnetic driven motor on the Ultra™ Pump consists of only one moving part, the magnetic impeller. This simple design provides you with years of trouble-free performance, as well as makes the pump very easy to maintain. The pump is completely serviceable, allowing you the ability to easily inspect and replace the impeller if it is ever needed.
An outer pre-filter cage, combined with an interior foam pre-filter helps protect the pump from debris and is easy to remove for cleaning. Best Value The Ultra™ Pump’s combination of energy-efficient mag-drive performance, high volume water flow and ease of installation makes the Ultra™ Pump one of the best values in the water garden industry.
WHY RAINWATER HARVESTING?
The earth is known as the Blue Planet for a reason, it’s no surprise that water is a dominant part of our everyday lives. The worlds current challenge is to improve the planet’s water quality and then maintain clean and healthy water that supports all life forms in our diverse environment.
RAINWATER COLLECTION SYSTEMS MAKES DOLLARS AND “SENSE”
- Reduce water bills including city storm sewer charges
- Alleviate demand on municipal systems
- Avoid strict watering schedules
BETTER FOR YOUR LANDSCAPE THAN MUNICIPALLY TREATED WATER
- Rainwater is extremely rich in nutrients
- Using rainwater to irrigate will reduce fertilizer use
- No chemicals have been added to rainwater
THE RAINXCHANGE™ SYSTEM IS REVOLUTIONARY!
The Aquascape RainXchange™ Harvesting Systems are a revolutionary design that combines a recirculating decorative water feature with a sub-surface rainwater harvesting collection system.
- Clean, Filtered Water Collection & Storage - While you enjoy the benefits of a decorative water feature, the RainXchange™ Rainwater Harvesting System filters the stored water to prevent stagnation and growth of unhealthy bacteria.
- The RainXchange™ Rainwater Harvesting System reveals only a beautiful water feature that integrates easily into existing landscape.
- Collecting and storing the water underground maintains the integrity and beauty of your home and landscape.
- Wildlife Habitat - Because the water stored in the RainXchange™ System is constantly moving and being aerated, it becomes a sanctuary for wildlife.
- Water Feature Lifestyle – Enhanced landscaping improves property value and water features provide soothing sights and sounds that help you relax and de-stress in today’s busy world.
- Environmental Conservation – Capturing rainwater to operate the water feature creates true self-sustainability, drastically reducing the need for chemically-treated traditional water sources.
Learn More: http://www.rainxchange.com/
This Pond build consisted of a 8′x 11′ Aquascape Ecosystem Pond in Lancaster, PA. Also included were a few flagstone steppers as well as pine bark mulch surrounding the pond.
An ecosystem pond works with Mother Nature to provide food, shelter, and safety to the wildlife around it. It also provides you with an all-natural, low-maintenance piece of paradise. It’s important to remember, however, that every piece of the ecosystem puzzle must be present in order for a true ecosystem to be in place. Eliminate one of these elements and you’ve got an unbalanced ecosystem that won’t be so low-maintenance anymore.
“Given the choice between playing in our pond, playing a video game, or watching the TV, the pond wins every time”.
This project consisted of removal of a problematic existing pond as well as some shrubbery and landscaping, and installing a new Aquascape Ecosystem Pond. The pond included two waterfalls consisting of a biofalls and a spillway as well as a generation 2 iongen copper ionizer to aid in the control of algae.
Below is a time-lapse video we shot with our GoPro camera through the duration of the project. Enjoy!
Spring Pond Awakening
Now that spring is here, you’re probably noticing some changes in your pond – your fish are coming back to life and you may even be able to see some plant growth. Some changes that are taking place, however, aren’t so desirable, like that excess algae growth that you’re noticing. Understanding the transition that your pond makes from winter into spring and summer is essential in maintaining a healthy pond ecosystem. You may have just spent your weekend cleaning your pond – or having your pond contractor do it for you. A couple of days … weeks pass, and you notice an incredible growth of string algae. “Not again,” you screech to yourself. “I thought my pond was clean!” Cleanliness does not necessarily mean algae-free, especially in the cool water of the early spring.
Some simple, important steps can be the difference between a balanced pond with minimal maintenance and a pond that requires unnecessary maintenance. Although bacteria and plants don’t start growing properly until water temperature reaches 55°F, there are still some simple steps you can take to maintain a crystal clear, trouble-free pond.
Aquascape SAB™ Stream and Pond Clean contains bacteria along with a powerful phosphate binder that will help prevent unsightly water conditions. This is extremely important when plants are not growing and utilizing phosphate. Excess phosphate is one of the leading causes of unsightly water conditions.
Fertilizing pond plants is also an important step toward balancing your pond. Strong healthy plants quickly utilize excess nutrients. Aquascape has two fertilizers, one short-term and one long-term. For optimal results use both fertilizers. The short-term fertilizer will jumpstart your plants in the spring and the long-term fertilizer will continue to feed your plants for one full year. Not only will you have beautiful vibrant lush plants, you will also have crystal clear water quality without the need to use potentially harmful algaecides that will not only disrupt the balance of your pond, but can also have harmful effects on fish, plants, and invertebrates. This short-term gain certainly comes with long-term pain.
Algae don’t mind cool water, but for the rest of your pond’s ecosystem, 55 °F is kind of the magic number. The plants and bacteria don’t jump into action, in the battle of the green monster, until the water temperature reaches, and consistently stays around 50° to 55°F. At this time they start growing and are then able to use up the excess nutrients that the algae would otherwise be feasting on. This is the reason for the feared spring algae bloom.
While growing, aquatic plants absorb a lot of the nutrients in the water, and this helps combat algae growth. Until they are actively growing, they have no use for the natural fertilizer lurking in the pond. But as they begin growing, they will naturally start to out-compete the algae for nutrients, the algae will be starved, and the pond water will become clearer. Another benefit that plants provide, particularly water lilies, is that they shade the surface of the water helping to keep the water cool all while cutting down on the growth of string algae as well as green water.
Bacteria also need warmer water to begin growing and colonizing, helping to provide crystal clear water quality as well as reducing maintenance. You can help jumpstart the pond in the spring by adding supplemental bacteria such as Aquascape Beneficial Bacteria for Ponds, and providing it with a place to colonize. Since bacteria like lots of nooks and crannies, having rocks and gravel in the bottom of your pond will help provide surface area for bacteria to grow. If you can’t, or don’t want to add rocks and gravel to the bottom of your pond, you’ll have less surface area for bacteria to colonize. A biological filter containing a filtration media like Aquascape BioBalls® with lots of surface area, provides optimum conditions for biological filtration in the smallest space possible. The more surface area available for bacteria to grow, the more efficient your biological filter. Providing crystal clear water quality creates less problems, thereby lessening maintenance, which leaves more time to enjoy the pond and less time spent maintaining it.
Fish are also sensitive to water temperature, and as it warms up, you will see more activity, and be tempted to feed them. You’ve missed your fish all winter, but until the water temperature is consistently at 55° F, don’t feed them. Their metabolism is still in slow motion and they are unable to digest the food properly. If you do feed them and food cannot be digested, this can result in food starting to decay in the body of the fish causing fish to become sick and possibly resulting in their death. When you do start feeding them, begin with small amounts of a quality fish food formulated for colder water temperature, such as Aquascape Premium Coldwater Fish Food Pellets for all pond fish.
You gotta have patience. If you’ve stocked your pond with plenty of plants, the temperature’s just right, and you’ve started supplementing with Aquascape Beneficial Bacteria for Ponds, your pond will quickly balance. Beneficial bacteria need to be added to a consistent maintenance routine to obtain optimal results. Resist the urge to add traditional algaecides as your pond will never become truly balanced, and often ponds become dependent on their use. Help support Mother Nature with use of natural products from Aquascape, your pond and the environment will thank you!
Water Quality: A Mini Lesson
A pressing goal of any DIY pond builder should be to create a system that delivers top-notch water quality. Unfortunately, some pond owners become more concerned with the physical design and beauty of their pond as opposed to the principles of water chemistry needed to keep the system in tip-top shape.
Water chemistry can be a daunting topic that you prefer to relegate to a high school or college science class. Indeed, fully understanding and mastering its intricacies can be a lifetime pursuit – and is currently becoming a popular career choice. In the case of installing and maintaining a backyard water garden, however, you don’t need a chemistry degree to achieve excellent pond water quality if you’re familiar with a just few key constituents in water — including pH and nutrients — that support plant and animal life.
Hydrogen Power You’ve probably heard about pH at some point in your life, but have you really stopped to learn what this common chemical term is all about and how it applies to your pond?
In essence, pH (which stands for “potential of hydrogen”) describes the relation of hydrogen ions to hydroxyl ions on a 14-point scale. In simple terms, the higher the hydrogen content and the lower the hydroxyl content, the more acidic the water. Conversely, the higher the hydroxyl content and the lower the hydrogen content, the more basic the water becomes.
On that scale, a pH of 7 is neutral. This means that the hydrogen and hydroxyl ions are in complete balance. Numbers higher than 7 are called basic (or, mistakenly, “alkaline” or “hard”), while numbers below 7 are termed acidic.
Typical ponds exist in a pH range from 6 to 11, which covers ground from the slightly acidic to the strongly basic. A pH of 8.2, for example, is highly acceptable for pond water, while a pH of 4 (which is acidic enough to dissolve nails) would be unacceptable if your aim is to sustain aquatic life.
Many factors influence the pH values found in water, with the presence of dissolved materials and metals being perhaps the most influential. These substances are commonly called buffers, and we typically talk about them in terms of alkalinity and hardness.
Alkalinity: When present at high levels, alkaline materials tend to hold the water’s pH at higher levels. The concentration of these buffers is expressed as parts per million (ppm).
Hardness: This is a specific form of alkalinity and refers to the amount of dissolved calcium, calcium carbonate and magnesium in the water. Water is termed “hard” when levels of these materials reach 300 ppm or higher.
When present at higher levels, these buffering factors tend to stabilize pH. In fact, when hardness and alkalinity values are high, it is less likely a pond will experience significant fluctuations in pH.
Aquatic Nutrition Beyond pH, there are other contributors to water quality that must be considered right up front, namely, the macronutrients and micronutrients that help sustain life in aquatic systems. In all, 17 of these essential ingredients — three macronutrients and 14 micronutrients — need to be included in ponds and streams.
The macronutrients are what we find in commercial fertilizer mixes. When you see a fertilizer that says 20-10-20, for example, these numbers refer to the percentage (by volume) of nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P), and potassium (K) in the mix. These are the nutrients required in the largest quantities for proper plant growth.
Nitrogen: In a pond, ammonia and nitrate are the most common forms of available nitrogen. High levels of either of those substances are good for plants (especially algae) but are toxic to most fish, so it’s best if they are undetectable or held at very low levels.
Phosphorus: Again, in a pond situation it is best to have low or non-existent levels of phosphorus, which appears in the water in the form of phosphates. Although in the case of a pond, these substances are not problematic for fish, they do invite prolific algae growth and therefore should be held at minimal levels.
Potassium: It’s rare to find high levels of potassium in pond ecosystems, but it wouldn’t be a problem in any event, because potassium is a key to both plant and fish metabolisms.
The other category you need to consider features the micronutrients. Fourteen of them are required for life: boron (B), carbon (C), calcium (Ca), chlorine (Cl), copper (Cu), iron (Fe), hydrogen (H), magnesium (Mg), manganese (Mn), molybdenum (Mo), nickel (Ni), oxygen (O), sodium (Na), sulfur (S) and zinc (Z). Each is required in different ratios for different members of a pond-based ecosystem, and each plays a highly specialized role on the cellular level for all forms of life.
A well-designed system will often produce water that is balanced in terms of pH and nutrient content. When algal blooms or other water-quality issues arise, don’t hesitate to seek help in determining treatment regimens that can correct the situation.
Aquascape offers a variety of water treatments to make pond maintenance easy and affordable. Click here for more information on water treatments.
Stop by our Creative Center today for your water gardening needs!
We feature numerous outdoor displays, as well as some of the most knowledgeable staff in the industry. We are happy to answer questions, and help to solve any issues you may have. We carry Aquascape products, which are the top of the line in the water garden industry. If you can’t make it out to see us, we’re happy to send the parts you need and a service tech to your house to install them for you!