Farm Pond Maintenance

Caring for your farm ponds properly will ensure they remain a healthy, well-balanced water source. Learn how to prevent and troubleshoot some common pond problems to keep your ponds in good shape for years to come.

| July/August 2018

Ponds are a water source for livestock, a place to gather with friends and family, a relaxing addition to an already scenic view, and a potentially endless source of recreation and food.

Ponds aren't just passive bodies of water. They are living, breathing ecosystems that change not just as the seasons change, but as they age. Young or old, every pond is different, and each one needs to be tended like a garden. The plant communities, the fish, the frogs and turtles and bugs, even the water itself are all in a constant state of change. Left alone, that change could result in a gradual decline in health.

"It's a rare pond that doesn't need some sort of care, especially older ponds," says Penn State Extension Water Resources Coordinator Bryan Swistock.

Choked with weeds

One of the most common problems is an overabundance of vegetation, either in the water or around the edge of the pond itself. Submerged or emergent aquatic vegetation by itself isn't necessarily bad. In fact, not only can aquatic plants add to the beauty of the water, they can benefit a variety of fish and wildlife and even the water quality itself. Shoreline vegetation, like cattails, catches sediment before it makes it into the water. Submerged vegetation, like pondweed and elodea, helps remove excess nutrients, resulting in clearer water.

The problem, says Swistock, is that many aquatic plants never stop spreading, and eventually swallow the shoreline or the entire body of water itself. Cattails can grow so thick they actually block easy access to the pond. Hydrilla, a non-native, highly invasive plant, can grow a foot or more per day. Left unchecked, it forms a dense, unsightly mat on the surface, making boating and fishing nearly impossible.

"The first thing you need to do is positively identify what's growing in or around your pond," says Swistock. "There are a number of good resources on the internet to help identify aquatic plants. You can also send a picture to your local extension office. If they don't have an expert on hand, they'll certainly know who to contact to get answers."

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