If netting has been placed over the pond, the pond’s owner should remove it and do a walk-around to inspect exposed liner for any signs of damage, especially along the water line.
“We keep a roll of EPDM repair tape behind the counter at all times,” said Mike Hoffer, owner of Tropic Life Pets in Milwaukee. “People love it when we offer them a quick, inexpensive alternative to replacing their entire liner.”
The tape, originally intended for roofing, is adhesive on one side and is easy to install once the damaged area has been properly cleaned and prepped.
Leaves and large debris should be netted off the bottom but hobbyists should be advised not to stir up fine sediment too much as this can cause water quality problems that are harmful to fish. Tetra’s Pond Sludge Reducer helps break down organic material and adds beneficial bacteria to restore the natural biological balance. Heavy sludge should be vacuumed out.
Vacuuming ponds with Python Products’ Pond Ultivac is “less stressful on both fish and owner, making it easier to clean your pond on a regular basis,” said owner Lance Reyniers.
Hobbyists should inspect pumps to make sure intakes are clear and impellers are in good working order. Make sure you have replacement impellers and intake pre-filters on hand for the brands you stock. Pond keepers should check UV sterilizer seals should be checked and bulbs replaced every year.
“We offer a complete overhaul service for pumps, UV sterilizers and other equipment,” said Hoffer. “Many of our customers come back year after year.”
This is a good time to inspect mechanical filter media as well. Filter media should be cleaned in fall when ponds are shut down for winter but if this has not been done, pads and other mechanical media may need to be replaced. Be sure to have replacement media on hand for the filters you sell. Consider also stocking bulk material such as Matala, which comes in a variety of coarseness and can be cut to fit virtually any filter on the market.
Much can happen to water quality over winter and it’s important for hobbyists to test their pond water before introducing fish that have been overwintered indoors. Stock up on water test kits and encourage pond keepers to test for pH, ammonia and nitrite. Make sure your pond customers know that pond water temperature must be within 5 degrees Fahrenheit of indoor water temperature before bringing fish out. The fish will need proper acclimation to the water.
Plants will most likely be sprouting by late winter or early spring depending on locale. Emergent plants that have been overwintered in deep water should be returned to their ledges, and overcrowded lilies can be split and re-potted. All potted plants should be fertilized at this time, so be sure to have a good stock of fertilizer tablets on hand.
Once the water temperature reaches 55° F, pond owners can start feeding fish that have overwintered in the pond.
“Cobalt has an exclusive partnership with the 200 year old JPD koi and goldfish company from Japan,” said Les Wilson of Cobalt Aquatics. “For cooler water temperatures it is recommended to feed the JPD Fuyufuji wheat germ diet.”
As the water warms up, fish can be gradually switched to standard maintenance, growth and color enhancing foods.
Develop a checklist to hand out to pond owners and make sure your staff is well versed in the key points of opening ponds in spring. Ensuring their success and enjoyment will keep your customers coming back again and again.