Water gardeners, whether they're amateur hobbyists or seasoned professionals, are often confused between water "circulation" and water "'aeration". Most people think that as long as the water is moving, it creates enough oxygen throughout. They have been lead to believe that proper aeration can be achieved with a waterfall, a skimmer filter, and a pump but in reality, these elements only "circulate" the top few inches of water in your pond. For a healthy ecosystem, all of the water must have contact with the atmosphere at some point.
Aeration has been recently discovered as a key element to any backyard, commercial or large acre pond. It provides a beneficial amount of oxygen that most pond water lacks and also moves waste from the bottom of the pond to the filter. Most pond owners do not realize how important this is. Here at Harper's, we highly recommend setting up one of these aeration systems in your water garden.
While they do provide countless benefits to the pond ecosystem, there are some things that you should know about these natural aerators. At night aquatic plants run a process known as reverse photosynthesis, in which they actually pull oxygen back out of the water! With enough of these plants, the oxygen levels can become dangerously low every night. In the morning, when you think your fish are starving for food, they may actually be starving for oxygen, gasping at the surface for air.
There are many problem areas that can be alleviated with aeration; most importantly, the oxygen levels and circulation of material within the 'water column' (a conceptual column of water from surface to bottom sediments). Harper's incorporates air stones at the bottom of their ponds to allow oxygenated water to rise up through the entire water column, moving organic waste, and allowing pockets of toxic gas that form underneath to release out of the water. The circulation of waste also allows your skimmer filter to catch and clean the water more thoroughly, which reduces the unsightly growth of algae at the surface of your pond. The added surface current also prevents mosquito breeding.
Fully oxygenated water means that beneficial aerobic bacteria can thrive throughout the entire water column and sufficiently decompose all the circulating organic waste. This will give you nice crystal clear water to enjoy even during the hottest summer weeks!
Poorly aerated water can prove detrimental to fish in the winter months because the lower half of the water column will not only be very low in oxygen but also very high in toxic waste and gases. This is the leading cause of the winter fish kill that some experience. Aeration units also prove to be a better alternative to a winter de-icer, as it will keep a portion of your pond from freezing over and leave less chance of oxygen depletion. So, along with proper oxygen levels and reduced waste, your fish will live a longer healthier life.
On top of all the beneficial qualities of proper aeration, another advantage is the low cost and maintenance of an aeration system. Harper's can find a system for most any budget. Most aeration systems will only equal a very small fraction of the costs people put into chemicals and other pond maintenance equipment. On average, a small aeration system can run around 6 watts of electricity, a fraction of a light bulb. Aeration units are easy to install to either new or existing ponds, and they require very little upkeep throughout the season.
Visit the forum labeled "Water Gardening" on our Viette Discussion Board. If you have water gardening or pond questions, please feel free to post them here.