Animals, Megan, Ponds, Wildlife

Whether you have a pond, or you’re thinking of building a pond in your garden, you may be wondering about the wildlife ponds attract. Pond are rich habitats for all sorts of wildlife. To find out more about the pond wildlife you may spot in your garden, read on.

Pond Wildlife

Frogs

The common frog is one of the most recognisable types of pond wildlife you will find taking a dip in your pond. Long, striped legs and smooth, moist skin characterise the common frog, which are found throughout the UK in damp habitats. They are active throughout most of the year, only hibernating during the colder winter months. Frogs are carnivores and their diet consists of insects including flies, mosquitoes and dragonflies.

Pond Wildlife - Frogs

Toads

Toads are distinguishable from frogs by their skin, which is dry and warty in appearance. They travel by crawling rather than hopping and are larger than the common frog. Although especially found in wet locations, toads can also inhabit open countryside and other dry areas well away from standing water. Toads are nocturnal, so you are unlikely to see them until dusk, when they venture out often travelling great distances to hunt. A toad’s diet consists of insects and they have even been known to consume small mice.

Pond Wildlife - Toads

Newts

There are three species of newt that are native to the UK: the great crested newt, the palmate newt and the smooth newt.

The great crested newt is the largest, measuring up to 16 cm in length. Appearing almost black, they are actually dark grey-brown and covered in darker-coloured spots. You are most likely to spot them during the spring breeding season, as they spend the rest of the year in woodland and grassland. Great crested newts are the least widespread of newt species in the British Isles, and are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Pond Wildlife - Newts

In contrast, the palmate newt is the smallest of UK newt species. Olive-brown in colour, they prefer shallow ponds and are active during the daylight hours. Fascinatingly, the females lay their eggs individually and wrap them in leaves of aquatic plants to protect them.

Very similar in appearance to the palmate newt, smooth newts are species you are most likely to spot in and around your garden pond as they are the most common newt in the British Isles.

Invertebrates

Harder to spot because of their size, garden ponds can be home to a wide variety of invertebrates including:

  • Dragonflies
  • Mayflies
  • Snails
  • Water fleas
  • Pond Skaters
  • Water beetles

Pond Wildlife - Dragonflies

All of these species are important parts of the ecosystem, playing roles as both prey and predators. Many feed on algae and aquatic plants and others, such as dragonflies, are carnivorous and feed on smaller insects.

Birds

Most smaller garden ponds are too small for wetland birds such as ducks, swan and geese. However, you may spot wild birds using your pond to bathe in or take a drink from. You can introduce sloping sides and logs to your pond to make it a safer environment for these birds. Adding pond plants and keeping up with general pond maintenance will also make sure there’s bountiful amounts of insects for insect-eating birds.

Wild Birds

One feathered visitor that may not be welcome to your pond is the heron. They mainly feed on fish, and often visit garden ponds looking for an easy meal. If you want to deter herons from your pond, you can take a look at our post on how to heron proof a pond.

Ponds are home to a wide variety of wildlife. If you are particularly fond of observing wildlife in your garden installing a pond is a no-brainer.

 

Megan at PrimroseMegan works in the Primrose marketing team. When she is not at her desk you will find her half way up a hill in the Chilterns
or enjoying the latest thriller series on Netflix. Megan also enjoys cooking vegetarian feasts with veggies from her auntie’s vegetable garden.

See all of Megan’s posts.

Gary, How To, Ponds

For the life in your pond, autumn is a period of winding down after a busy summer. By the end of September, animal activity will have started to slow down and your plants will have completed their flowering and seeding. All this activity leaves a lot of detritus behind and now is the time to get started on the cleanup and get ready for the rest of the year.

Early – Late September: Protecting Your Pond

Leaves are a big problem for your pond as they start to fall from the trees and into the water. Too big a build up on the surface can cause oxygenation problems, and an overabundance of decomposing organic matter can throw off the ecological balance of the water (in extreme cases acidifying the water)  making it dangerous for the life in your pond. Prevention is better than cure in cases like this and your first line of defence should always be a net  or cover guard . In the case of a net, you will find that some leaves always get through, a few leaves won’t be a problem but be sure to keep on top of it by skimming your pond with a net or a surface skimmer.     

Late September – mid-October: Cleaning Your Pond

During spring and summer, your pond care regime should be focused on curbing the growth of microbes and algae in your pond, in Autumn,  the focus moves to the cleaning of silt and debris that build up in the water as leaves, seeds and insects fall into the water.

You should be cleaning your pond regularly as a matter of course, but a thorough clean around mid-October ( with a complete clean every 5 years)  is essential for an easy start to spring. Not cleaning out your pond will result in a springtime mess of silt and debris that result in a bog rather than a pond, you are also risking a blanket weed and algae problem once the days start getting longer.

An effective and thorough clean should follow these steps:

  • Start by preparing a holding tank for your fish in a shady area. Make sure you use some of the pond water in your tank (unless it is overly cloudy)
  • Drain the pond slowly: a pump is usually the easiest way of doing this, but use whatever method is best and easiest for you.
  • As the water level goes down, remove fish from the pond as they become visible with a dip net and get them quickly into the holding tank.
  • Do the same with any pond plants you come across  – use this opportunity to re-pot plants if you need to. marginal (water’s edge) plants will survive out of the pond as long as they are kept moist and shaded.
  • Skim and leaves and detritus from the pond with a net. Make sure to place decaying plant material on the side of the pond, so any smaller creatures can return to the water before you throw them away.    
  • Scoop up excess silt from the pond and dispose of some of it ( you can use this silt as a good fertilizer for your border plants) keep the rest in a safe place. You don’t have to be overly paranoid about getting everything because you will be returning some of the collected silt anyway to re-establish microorganisms.   
  • Clean the  liner with a scrubbing brush and water, bailing the dirty water out with a bucket (do not use soap)  
  • Return the saved silt and water to the pond. Refill the pond ( preferably with rainwater), positioning plants as you go
  • Carefully return fish and other creatures to the pond.

Prune plants of dead and excess leaves before returning to the water.

Mid-Late October: The Close Down – Preparing for winter

The later seasons of the year are the most shocking for pondlife, and you should use the tail end of autumn to make its life easier during winter. Giving your pond a headstart is pretty easy and you only need to take small actions to have a big effect.

The first changes you make should make are to plant life – start by moving your marginal plants to deeper waters to prevent them from freezing. Non-hardy plants like Water Hyacinths should ideally be removed from the water and kept in warm frost-free conditions until things start warming up.  

The diet of your fish should also change around this time of year, wheat-germ-based foods are ideal for the winter months as they are easier for your fish to digest in colder conditions. Moving to this type food makes your fish produce waste with a reduced ammonia content, meaning it won’t build up as quickly in the water whilst the ammonia eating microbes are dormant.

Your final task in preparing for winter is the closing down of your pond – this means closing down and shutting off all electrical pumps and UV clarifiers. This is an important step as pumps are likely to circulate cold water throughout the pond which can negatively affect the life inside it.  Closing down your pond is a simple process, the basic steps are to:

  • Disconnect the pump, filter and UV clarifier before water freezes
  • Store UV clarifier indoors for protection
  • Store filters indoors (if manufacturer’s directions suggest)
  • Purchase or have the pond de-icer ready for installation

Once done, you are all ready for winter and the unique challenges it presents. But until then there is plenty to be done in preparation. A pond can sometimes seem like a lot of work but come summer when the plants are in bloom and your fish are happily swimming in clear water you will be glad that you put the work in early.

Gary ClarkeGary works in the Primrose product loading team, writing product descriptions and other copy. With seven years as a professional chef under his belt, he can usually be found experimenting in the kitchen or sat reading a book.

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Jorge, Plants, Ponds

how many plants do i need for my pond

To maintain a healthy pond one needs aerated water to prevent the growth of anaerobic bacteria and the death of animal life. Aerated water is usually ensured through the use of a pump or fountain that improves both circulation and a water’s surface area, increasing the exchange of gases. Without such devices, aerated water can only be ensured through open water that is uncovered by plant life. Hence, the number of plants needed for a pond is dependent on whether you have a pump/fountain.

Pond plants are supplied in pots ranging from 9cm all the way to 30L. As a rule, we recommend no more than 9 9cm pots, 7 1L pots and 4 3L pots per sq m. Obviously, you can always repot your plants once they grow so a 9cm could eventually fill a larger pot. Further, some plants are more vigorous than others, hence we recommend only 1-2 lilies per sq m, less if you happen to buy a large pot or a vigorous variety.

It is worth noting that plants covering a pond’s surface can deprive a pond of oxygen, which is essential for both plants and fish. A still pond is only able to exchange gases at the water’s surface, where it absorbs oxygen and releases carbon dioxide and other gases.

You can improve the aeration of your pond through submersible pumps and fountains that act to increase the exchange of gas by increasing the surface area of the water and improving circulation. This is especially important in summer as the temperature of the water is inversely related to the amount of oxygen it can hold.

Oxygenating plants act to starve algae of both nutrients and carbon dioxide, reducing both algae blooms and anaerobic bacteria. Some nurseries recommend two per sq m. It should be noted, despite their name, their effect on aeration is minimal, as while they oxygenate in the day they withdraw oxygen at night. Hence, they are not a substitute for a good pump.

A lack of oxygen will lead to the growth of anaerobic bacteria, which produce gases such as hydrogen sulfide, leading to smelly ponds. It can also be dangerous for fish, who can be spotted gulping air. To remedy this purchase a more powerful pump, or remove fish and plants that both compete for oxygen.

Lastly, some pond plants, such as lilies, prefer still, calm water and are unsuitable for growing near pumps and fountains.

Jorge at PrimroseJorge works in the Primrose marketing team. He is an avid reader, although struggles to stick to one topic!

His ideal afternoon would involve a long walk, before settling down for scones.

Jorge is a journeyman gardener with experience in growing crops.

See all of Jorge’s posts.

Flowers, Gardening, Gardens, How To, Liam, Plants, Ponds, Weeding

Water HyacinthWhat to do with pond plants in winter

Pond plants are categorised as hardy or non-hardy which determines how you prepare them for winter, while for some it may be best to throw them away others can be protected and sprout again come spring. Hardy pond plants such as hardy water lilies can be moved to the deeper areas of the pond (at least 18 inches), pruned to the crown and then submerged in the water which will remain warmer than the outside air. For some non-hardy pond plants such as Water Hyacinth or Water Lettuce it may be worth simply to remove them and then replace them come spring. For more expensive non-hardy plants such as tropical Water Lilies you can place them in a tub or bucket and to move them inside to a greenhouse or garage provided the temperature remains above 12°C.

What pond plants survive winter?

Hardy Water Lilies from the Nymphaeaceae family, hardy oxygenators such as Variegated Pennywort or hardy shelf plants such as aquatic Forget-me-nots will all survive winter but how they should be prepared will differ. Depending on the plants preferred growing habitat (i.e deep water, marginal etc) these plants have different methods of preparation if they are to survive through to spring. If the plant is growing in the water, such as Rushes or Iris then you should cut to roughly 20cm above the water line ensuring that the plant does not become submerged otherwise it could drown. Hardy water Lilies or floating plants should be moved to the deepest parts of the pond as the water will stay warmer than the surrounding air. Hardy marginal or moisture loving Perennials should be cut down to as low as 5-10cm.

Water LilyWhat pond plants are the best?

Water Lilies (Nymphaeaceae) are brilliant for adding colour and a subtle beauty to your aquatic space and are among the best plants for your pond. Water forget-me-nots provide a delicate yet bright shade of blue through the summer months and are a pollinators favourite so will be sure to boost the biodiversity in the pond. Hornwort is an essential native oxygenator that will keep ponds of all sizes healthy and clean supporting aquatic life but preventing the growth of weeds and algae. There are a vast number of truly spectacular pond plants, however, depending on what function you want them to serve or what aesthetic you are trying to create some will be wholly better than others.

What pond plants are good for wildlife?

The right pond plants can make your pond a haven for wildlife; oxygenating plants help support aquatic life while floating plants and marginal plants provide shelter and spaces for animals to climb out of the water and rest. Having around 30% of the surface area of your pond covered with plants provides ample shelter while preventing the growth of weeds. Many flowering pond plants are brilliant for attracting bees including Iris stocks and Pontederia.

Pond ReedsWhat pond plants are oxygenators?

Oxygenating pond plants are those which photosynthesis underwater releasing oxygen into the water which can be incredibly beneficial to your pond supporting aquatic life and preventing the growth of weeds and algae. Varieties include Slender Club Rush Scripus cernuus which is an outstanding oxygenating plant for your pond as it retains its luscious shade of green throughout the year with tiny white flowers emerging in the summer. Common Water Starwort – Callitriche autumnalis floats on the surface growing a thick oxygenating layer providing shade and shelter for aquatic life and preventing the growth of weeds.

How to keep the water clear in a pond

The best way to keep your pond water clear is regular maintenance including removing any twigs, leaves or algae from the surface to prevent decay and regularly checking the health and vitality of your pond plants. In addition to this routinely cleaning the ponds water filter and draining your pond annually to clean the bottom and sides will go a long way to keeping your pond clean and looking great.

Water LilyWhat causes pond plants to die?

There are a number of reasons as to why you pond plant may be dying including lack of sunlight, murky or toxic water, planted at an incorrect depth or an incorrect temperature. It is important to always check the specific plant requirements and upkeep a cleaning routine to ensure the health and vitality of the pond. Make sure there is enough space between the plants and none of them are becoming too deprived of light. Remove dead plant matter and this can decay and encourage the growth of weeds which will add competition for nutrients and light. Additionally it may be necessary to check the pH of your pond water if several plants appear to be dying at the same time and to clean the bottom of any toxic sludge that has developed.

Are water lilies poisonous (to cats/dogs)?

Water lilies are not true lilies and are instead a part of the genus Nymphaea and so are not poisonous to cats but still can be poisonous to dogs if ingested in large amounts. It is, however, essential to check which species as the White Water Lily is not poisonous but the Yellow Water Lilies are poisonous. Symptoms of poisoning in cats or dogs includes lethargy, diarrhea, vomiting and depression.

If you are a fan of pond plants  head over to our website where we have many to choose from.

Liam at PrimroseLiam works in the buying team at Primrose. He is passionate about studying other cultures, especially their history. A lover of sports his favourite pass-time is football, either playing or watching it! In the garden Liam is particularly interested in growing your own food.

See all of Liams posts.