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    Thread: help me understand why no rocks?

    1. #1
      twd000 is offline Junior Member
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      help me understand why no rocks?

      I found this forum in the course of searching for construction details on the Aquascape Eco System ponds.

      I love the naturalistic and informal look of some of the Aquascape projects, it would totally blend in with our wooded and rocky suburban site here in New Hampshire.

      I see the Aquascape contractors setting medium to large boulders all around the pond shelves, then filling the gaps with pea gravel. Makes sense to me, protect the liner from UV rays, create a habitat for critters for the bottom-feeding carp to eat etc.

      Then I saw pricing for "spring pond cleanouts" and realized they're draining the entire pond and power-washing the rocks! No way I'm going to do that every spring

      Came here and read the warnings against rocks, explaining they create a trap for anaerobic much and parasites that degrade water quality. Water can't circulate under the rocks no matter how strong your pump etc.

      Is there is mismatch between "koi ponds" and "eco system ponds"? Differences in stocking density, bog filter ratio, pump turnover rate?

      I'm very much NOT a koi enthusiast; I'd be happy with a dozen medium-sized koi in a 20'x30'x3' pond, very low stocking density. I might just get some goldfish to start. I'd like them to forage as much as possible and not overfeed them.

      Would that still cause a buildup of dangerous parasites under the rocks on the bottom?

      Would it make sense to just do the medium boulders around the planting shelf, and skip the pea gravel on the pond bottom?

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    2. #2
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      I like bare bottom ponds. Fish donít forage in the bottom much. Thatís where the poop and rotted food and leaves and bugs go until clean out time. Boulders are just something for the fish to scrape themselves on. Shelves give the predators easy access. You are wooded? Gonna need a net. My only plants are hyacinth and lettuce, they float and my pond stays netted year round.

      Glad you see the catch on aquascape ponds. We have a free education 101 course. Www.Koiorganisationinternational.org check us out

      Koi and goldfish poop a lot. Your pond will have to have filters, bio and mechanical. Decide if you want a water feature or a fish pond. Goldfish multiply like rabbits. More fish, more
      Poop and more ammonia.

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      KOI are bottom feeders. They love to sift through the muck at the bottom, stirring and seiving through their gillls to aquire food.

      So a bare bottom pond makes for easy pond maintenance and cleaning but will produce turbid murky water unless your mechanical filtraion is sufficient.

      Having gravel and rocks on the bottom actually provides good water clarity if the KOI are unable to reach it. Unfortunately the dirt load will slowly accumulate until the pond crashes or a significant pond tear down is necessary.

      Having less KOI will slow the process and that may be sufficient for your situation. Its hard to stop KOI getting bigger and bigger over time. Also hard to prevent breeding.

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      twd000 is offline Junior Member
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      can anyone share some photos of bare-bottom ponds that still look natural and freeform? I'm not interested in a formal linear shape.

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      From the waterline down the pond will eventually be covered with carpet algae and any details will be lost. The smoother those surfaces the less problems you will have. Above the waterline you can incorporate many of the effects Aquascape uses. The areas around the pond are what a visitor notices, not the rocks under the water.

      I recommend you look at examples where the liner above the waterline is hidden by the rocks that protrude over the water. This makes netting fish a real headache, but will provide a more natural effect.

      Name:  20180211_093715.jpg
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      This effect can be done with a cantilever concrete slab supporting natural rocks.

    6. #6
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      I have been wondering the same thing as twd000. I'm leaning towards 'rocks' in my pond, at least on the bottom.

      But, by rocks I mean something akin to aquarium gravel. That is, quite small, around 3/16" inch or so (5mm). My Koi are currently in an aquarium, with that type of gravel. I do find they are often rooting around in the gravel. I find the gravel does not get overly mucked up. That is without a bottom drain, but with two filter inlets tha are a few inches above the gravel. With intake sponges I clean at least once a week (often once very two days).

      I'm sure part of the reason the koi sift my gravel is I do feed both floating and sinking food. (I also have tropical fish in the tank... the theory was the koi were just visiting for the winter).

      So I'm considering doing the same for my pond, at about 1 to 1/2 inch deep Which is small enough I can vacuum the gravel clean if I have to (or even fairly easily remove it). Any thoughts on that would be appreciated.

      For twd000 there is a youtube short video at the following link, on putting gravel in a pond. https://www.youtube.com/shorts/kaCHSypBiTM. This would be gravel the fish could not sift through.

    7. #7
      *Ci*'s Avatar
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      An outdoor pond cannot be compared to an aquarium. Think of it this way. I have some koi that weigh more than my little dogs. If I never cleaned up the yard after my dogs, the waste would build up into disgusting levels. Yes, some of it will compost or be broken down by insect and microbial activity, but the yard would harbour disease and parasites - an unhealthy environment for the dogs

      Large koi (and they will get large!) produced a lot of waste. Combine that with debris and leaves blown into the pond along with algae (and there will be algae!) and you will have a mess that will not be solved by occasional gravel vacuuming. The pond can survive with once or twice yearly cleanouts as Aquascape designs require, but the fish will not thrive as they do in a bare pond with continuous cleanout via bottom drains. With no bdís and relying on fish and water movement to stir debris for the filters to suck up, it is even more imperative to have the bottom be unobstructed.

      Decaying material in a pond is not a harmless 'inert' substance - the process of decay not only contributes extra ammonia, but also can release unwanted minerals, metals, proteins, carbohydrates, skatols, phenols, albumen etc. into the water column. Also, bacteria need large amounts of oxygen to decompose this material, reducing the total oxygen concentration of the system.

      These dissolved organic and inorganic substances contribute to poor water quality above and beyond what we routinely test for, and is the number one reason for stress and immune system breakdowns in fish.

      Anaerobic bacteria utilize fish feces and decaying matter as a food source and produce hydrogen sulfide and methane gas as a byproduct, which can be deadly to koi and goldfish. Aeromonas and psuedomonas can weaken fish and cause ulcers. Mycobacteria can live in mulm and causes all kinds of health problems in fish including organ failure (of which dropsy is a symptom), blood, brain and bone infections, deformities of the spine and ulcers. Mycobacteriosis is potentially infectious to people and can enter through cuts in the skin.

      Some ciliated protazoans like trichodina can thrive in mulm, and the best preventative is to keep the pond and filters clean. There are many links between poor water quality and outbreaks of chilodonella and costia, and the stress of living in poor water subjects fish to invasions of all the more visible parasites as well (which are often present on fish and in their environment but cause no harm to a healthy fish).

      Even the large yearly cleanouts can be problematic. Koi will suffer from released gasses and deteriorated water quality unless removed temporarily. People can get sick as well, if not careful during the process. Here is a thread detailing some of the many regrets with rocked ponds:
      https://www.koiphen.com/forums/showt...ocks-In-Ponds!
      ________________________________________
      Cheers,
      Ci


    8. #8
      coolwon is online now Senior Member
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      Quote Originally Posted by twd000 View Post
      can anyone share some photos of bare-bottom ponds that still look natural and freeform? I'm not interested in a formal linear shape.


      Your swimming pool bottom /floor would be the absolute perfect example.!

      Find more about Weather in Durban, ZA

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      KOI will sift and mouth the bottom as a nervous stress symptom, not only looking for food.

      Someone previously posted about installing a raised grid network to keep rocks off the bottom - to maintain a smooth bottom and keep rocks. But I'm not sure what the outcome was.

      Id say try out what you want. If it fails, keep tweaking. Do let us know how good or bad your results are as this topic comes up regularly.

    10. #10
      BWG's Avatar
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      Been on many pond tours over the years. Seen many beautiful natural landscaped ponds that did not have stone on the bottom or underwater sides. For a natural look bottom rocks not required.

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    11. #11
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      Quote Originally Posted by BWG View Post
      Been on many pond tours over the years. Seen many beautiful natural landscaped ponds that did not have stone on the bottom or underwater sides. For a natural look bottom rocks not required.
      did they have any rocks on the shelf? no shelf at all? just bare liner?

      my goal is to have gin-clear water, so I can see the bottom 3-feet down

    12. #12
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      Quote Originally Posted by *Ci* View Post
      An outdoor pond cannot be compared to an aquarium. Think of it this way. I have some koi that weigh more than my little dogs. If I never cleaned up the yard after my dogs, the waste would build up into disgusting levels. Yes, some of it will compost or be broken down by insect and microbial activity, but the yard would harbour disease and parasites - an unhealthy environment for the dogs
      https://www.koiphen.com/forums/showt...ocks-In-Ponds!
      the dog analogy is valid. I wonder if it all comes down to stocking density. If you had two small dogs on a 3-acre property and they evenly-distributed their waste, it would never build up and you'd never need to clean it.

      I suspect koi enthusiasts and growing many large koi and feeding them a lot, which I don't plan to do. I'm planning a bog filter that is 30% of the volume of the pond.

    13. #13
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      Quote Originally Posted by Grumpy View Post

      This effect can be done with a cantilever concrete slab supporting natural rocks.
      I'm sure the concrete creates a nice pond, but that's definitely not the look I'm going for on my project

    14. #14
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      Concrete can look very nice and real, it just takes time and acid stain. This isn't my work, but one I used attempting to achieve the same results: Name:  good texture, joints, sizes, not plant pots.jpg
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      Most water features you see in zoos and many resorts are all concrete. My original photo was showing how you can overhang the pond so you will never see the liner above the waterline. There have been many folks build natural looking ponds with smooth liners. I have a 6' deep pond that is clear much of the time, and all you see is the carpet of green algae. The "Natural Look" can be real or fabricated above the water. Sadly this photo isn't my work

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      All you have to lose is time, effort and money if this doesn't work out but it's good that you have a clear vision for what you want.

      I tried a very large bog filter on a 40,000 L converted swimming pool but it was a disaster.
      I couldnt keep the flow rate high enough so the pool/pond water was permanently green. I had 4 pond UV's going.

      Now I have all my ponds completely covered.

    16. #16
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      Quote Originally Posted by Grumpy View Post
      Concrete can look very nice and real, it just takes time and acid stain. This isn't my work, but one I used attempting to achieve the same results:

      Most water features you see in zoos and many resorts are all concrete. My original photo was showing how you can overhang the pond so you will never see the liner above the waterline. There have been many folks build natural looking ponds with smooth liners. I have a 6' deep pond that is clear much of the time, and all you see is the carpet of green algae. The "Natural Look" can be real or fabricated above the water. Sadly this photo isn't my work
      I've seen the zoo water features - that's not the look I'm going for.

      I live in the Granite State - there are hundreds of miles of stacked stone walls all through the countryside. There are glacial erratic boulders in the woods.

      I want my pond to look like it grew organically out of the landscape.

      This is the Flume Gorge in the White Mountains - you can't replicate that look with concrete rocks: https://search.app.goo.gl/qTsPc7s

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      Quote Originally Posted by aquaholic View Post
      All you have to lose is time, effort and money if this doesn't work out but it's good that you have a clear vision for what you want.

      I tried a very large bog filter on a 40,000 L converted swimming pool but it was a disaster.
      I couldnt keep the flow rate high enough so the pool/pond water was permanently green. I had 4 pond UV's going.

      Now I have all my ponds completely covered.
      This is the data I'm trying to gather (to avoid losing all the time, effort, and money if I get it wrong!).

      How large was a "very large bog filter"? I'm reading recommendations up 20-30% of the volume of the pond, which would be 8,000-12,000 liter bog

      https://ozponds.com/the-power-of-bog...tenance-ponds/

      and a 6x flow rate would be 48,000-72,000 liters per hour pump flow rate.

      Your solution was to cover the ponds with shade fabric? How much did this reduce the water temperature? Our year-round average ambient temperature is only 50F (7C) so I'm not sure if the shade fabric would be needed here, compared to the hotter climate of Australia.

    18. #18
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      Quote Originally Posted by twd000 View Post
      did they have any rocks on the shelf? no shelf at all? just bare liner?

      my goal is to have gin-clear water, so I can see the bottom 3-feet down
      I've seen some with a small shallow shelf below the water line lined with rocks and others that used flat rock that slightly extended over the edge hiding the liner. No rocks on sides or bottom, only at waters edge. A few had large boulders sticking out of the water in the shallow end. This requires preplanning for support and liner protection.
      Last edited by BWG; 1 Week Ago at 11:33 AM.

    19. #19
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      I had full on aquascape rocks everywhere in two different ponds for maybe 7 years. Eventually I pulled all the rocks off the bottom.

      I then had a pond, with a shelf, and rocks all along the shelf/edge. There are two pics of that. I had two problems with that. The edge (as you see) was very uneven and difficult to walk around. The second problem is that the boulders were resting on fabric (to protect the liner) in the pond. There was no way to clean the debris out from around/under the boulders. So after 12 years I had the pond redone again, with a flat flagstone edge. I love it, but it is a work in progress.

      The boulder version of the pond was very beautiful and had a two-level stream leading into the pond. But the stream constantly leaked and accumulated a truly amazing amount of debris. The picture w/ the dogs is the year after it was revised to that version; the plants had not all grown in. The top picture was with all the plants grown in. The new version was revised in Dec/Jan, so I am still redoing the landscaping.

      I am very happy with my new version of this pond, and it is much easier to maintain.
      .
      I don't have easily accessible pictures of the pond with rocks in the bottom. But in the boulder version I don't think you could really see the liner at all. You can see it now right under the flagstone, and I don't love it, but the tradeoff was worth it to me. Over time the liner under the water line will be covered in algae.

      It is possible to have a beautiful, natural looking pond without rocks in the bottom.

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      this is the kind of first-hand review I'm looking for!

      -when you had the debris problems in the rock-bottom pond, what kind of filtration did you have? Bottom drain or skimmer? Koi stocking rate?
      -any idea why the stream was leaking? Same EPDM liner as the pond? I don't mind cleaning debris from the river rock pebbles in a shallow stream. I just don't want to have to drain the entire pond to clean rocks on the bottom
      -I like the look of the boulder edge better than the flagstone, but preferences are personal. I don't expect to have a smooth walking edge all around (will bring the deck up to one edge for seating)
      -no concerns with UV degrading the EPDM liner now that there are no rocks covering it?
      - landscaping looks great, but I don't see many plants IN the pond - is this intentional? The Aquascape designs are showing a significant amount of water plants absorbing nutrients, both in the bog filter and in the shallow shelves around the pond

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