Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Some thoughts on constructing and maintaining a natural pool

Nymphaea nouchali
Please take note this is only a brief list of the most important aspects to consider and is not by any means comprehensive 

For a professional fee I will design, give advice and supervise the construction of a natural pool for you.

This is a subject that has fascinated me for much of my life having had my first encounters with fish ponds at my grandparents’ home as far back as I can remember. I used to sit for hours at my grandmother fairly large fish pond fascinated by the wildlife that it attracted in particular the whistling frogs, Hyperolius marmoratus or Painted feed frog, as I now know them. I was also extremely fascinated by the dragon flies, back swimmers and pond skaters that grandmother fishpond attracted. I was not particularly interested in the bright orange gold fish that she kept in it. As a result of this interest I first started constructing small ponds as a school boy. While in Germany way back in time I got to know about the company re-natur in Germany that specialises in the construction and supply of materials for natural pools
Faszination Gartenteich written by Wolfram Franke.

Crinum paludosum
Design and functionality
Most of those who give into the temptation to construct of have a natural pond constructed for them are going to want a pond that is a peasant blend of good design and high functionality, in short it must look good at the same time serving its purpose of attracting the largest variety of wildlife into the garden as possible. This is easy to do if the designer knows his or her subject well and follows a few basic rules
There are things that are desirable to have and some that are necessary, what is desirable is not always necessary. If the pool looks like a dogs breakfast it will probably work but not as well as if it is well planned with open patches of water and all the plants in their own preferred places and it will certainly look a lot better if it is well planned

Size of pool
For a number of reasons the larger the pool the better, however ponds the size of an average bucket can work which can and will attract the odd insect of small frog. Generally the larger the pool the more stable it is the more wildlife it will attract and the easier it is to keep in ecological balance.

 Painted Reed FrogHyperolius marmoratus
Depth of the pool
To be most successful the pool must have both shallow and deep sections, most of the plants will only grow in relatively shallow water leaving the deeper sections to remain free of vegetation which is a desirable and necessary design factor
Shallow areas must be created for the planting of most of the aquatics that are desirable for planting in a natural pool

Movement of the water
It is desirable that there is some movement of the water but this is not necessary for the pond to be successful.
The provision of a small low volume pump that pumps daily during the hours of daylight is a most desirable addition to any pond, the pump could be powered by a solar panel. Directing the flow of water over a pebble or gravel stream or over a waterfall will introduce a considerable of extra oxygen into the water which is of particular benefit on hot humid days with little air movement.

Free access into and out of the pool
The design must allow creatures that fall into the pool in error to have a way to escape without being doomed to drowning

Safety of young children
The pool must be designed in a manner that it is not easy for small children to fall into it and drown. Where this is not possible or for additional safety a suitable fence that allows the unrestricted passage of desirable creatures to reach the pool must be erected

Nymphoides thunbergiana
Construction materials
I am not going to go into any detail on this aspect other than to mention a few materials that can be used.
Where the ground water level is high enough all that is required is to dig out a hole which will soon fill with water.
Natural clay can be used to create a natural pond liner
Various grades of plastic can be used
Bricks and mortar
Fibre glass
These are the materials that are most often used to create ponds and pools

Construction methods
Again I will not go into detail on this aspect of pool construction as there are many methods depending on a number of factors.

Containers can be converted to small ponds
Just about any container that holds water can be made into a micro pond which attract wildlife such as frogs and dragon flies
If anyone needs more information please contact me.

A newly emerged dragonfly busy pumping up its wings
Water supply
Water to keep the pool filled can be obtained from the following sources
Mains water
Rain water capture from roofs
Water capture from air conditioners

Pumps and Filters
Neither pumps nor filters are essential however both can improve the conditions within the pool for a number of creatures.
The running times of pumps will be determined by both the design as well as the preference of the owner of the pool. Solar panels can be used to provide power for the pumps.
Bio filters planted with plants can be constructed that provide both filtration as well as desirable features to add interest to the design.
When using a filter do not forget to use a leaf trap.
Use only energy efficient pumps, most designed for use in Koi ponds are far more efficient than the majority of equivalent capacity pumps supplied for swimming pool use

Snoring Puddle
Phrynobatrachus natalensis 
Décor such as waterfalls, streams, rocks, branches can be added
Plant either directly into the soil provided or into planting containers.
Plastic crates lined with shade cloth hessian or even newspaper is ideal to plant aquatic plants into

Planting medium
Use low nutrient clay, sand or small natural river stones.

Nutrition is very important but be very, very careful not to over nitrify the water apply a little at a time and wait for results. Apply at the point of use if at all possible.

Agricultural grade fertiliser rolled up in a piece of news paper,
Agricultural grade slow release fertiliser rolled up in a piece of news paper,
Grow sticks

are the most suitable sources of nutrients for your natural pond.
One can add liquid fertiliser to the water but be extremely careful.

Running Frog
Kassina senegalensis
Control of duck weed Lemna species is most important because if left it can very rapidly get out of control. Control all fast growing species and those that move out of their allocated zone before they get out of hand and take over the pond.
Sludge may need to be removed from time to time. Bio filters will need cleaning from time to time, plants growing in bio-filters will need cutting back from time to time to remove nutrients from the system.

Control of Mosquitos
Mosquitos could become a temporary problem in a newly constructed natural pool but there is no need to panic whatsoever the problem will resolve it’s self as the pond matures and is colonised by insects that eat mosquito such as Dragonfly larvae, back swimmers of the family Notonectidae and pond skaters of the family Gerridae
Mosquitos can also be controlled by the introduction of suitable small carnivorous indigenous fish such as Barbus viviparus (bowstripe barb). If the mosquitos become a problem they can easily be controlled with Mosquito wise, which is a biopesticide containing the Bacillus thuringiensis subsp. israelensis

Selection of plants
Beware of fast growing fast multiplying plants in particular grasses and sedges because most become dominant taking over the entire pond in time making it a dogs breakfast.

Kniphofia pauciflora below is most worthwhile to plant in your pool because it is very attractive and is almost extinct in the wild

Kniphofia pauciflora
Chlorophytum bowkeri
Crinum paludosum
Cristella dentata
Cyperus dives
Cyperus sexangularis
Cyperus textilis
Eulophia angolensis
Gunnera perpensa
Ipomoea ficifolia
Kniphofia pauciflora
Kniphofia rooperi
Ludwigia stolonifera
Nesaea radicans
Nymphaea nouchali var. caerulea
Nymphoides thunbergiana
Persicaria attenuata
Persicaria serrulata
Phragmites australis
Potamogeton pusilis
Potamogeton schweinfurthii
Ranunculus multifidus
Schoenoplectus scirpoides
Typha capensis
Xyris capensis
Zantedeschia aethiopica

Dragon flies
A variety of colourful dragon flies will quickly make your new natural pool their home

The fresh water shrimp Caridina nilotica is a useful addition to the natural pool because it is a scavenger and algae eater which does very well and multiplies very rapidly in a pool that is free of large fish.

Afrixalus fornasinii                            Greater Leaf-folding frog
Hyperolius marmoratus                      Painted Reed Frog
Hyperolius argus Argus                      Argus Reed Frog
Schismaderma carens                         Red Toad
Phrynobatrachus natalensis                Snoring Puddle Frog
Kassina senegalensis                          Running Frog

Greater leaf folding frog
Afrixalus fornasinnii 
Be extremely careful when deciding to introduce fish into your pond in particular if it is a very small pond as fish can do a lot of damage to the aquatic ecosystem in particular eating plants and or eating desirable insects such as dragonflies, water boatmen and pond skaters.
The introduction of suitable small carnivorous indigenous fish such as Barbus viviparus bowstripe barb

Bowstripe Barb
Barbus viviparus 

.For a professional fee I will design, give advice on and supervise the construction of a natural pool for you

Links to further information

Mosquito wise is a biopesticide containing the Bacillus thuringiensis subsp. israelensis

Indigenous Frogs
Afrixalus fornasinii Greater Leaf-folding Frog

Hyperolius marmoratus Painted Reed Frog

Phrynobatrachus natalensis Snoring Puddle Frog

Water boatmen  Notonectidae

Pond skaters of the family Gerridae


re-natur Germany

Michael Hickman
Landscape Design and Rehabilitation Specialist

Tel: +27 82 061 2593


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