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Fish pond vacuums - A detailed guide

As every fish pond keeper knows there are plenty of maintenance tasks to perform throughout the year to keep our fish ponds in the best condition and keeping the water quality high so that our fish have long and happy lives. Some of these tasks are very trivial such as rinsing out the sponges from filters on an occasional basis right through to getting our waders out and cleaning the bottom of the fish pond, a nightmare especially with the deeper ponds. Thanks to modern innovation a lot of these tasks have been made a lot easier and no exception to the rule is the invention of the fish pond vacuum, reducing the cleaning time by hours and also removing a lot of the back breaking work involved. With smaller ponds this may not seem such a godsend but with the larger fish ponds it was a definite blessing.

But why do we need to clean out the bottom of the fish ponds, after all the bottom of the pond is hidden underneath the water so whatever it looks like any observers will not see it. If only this was the case, allowing debris and detritus to accumulate at the bottom of the fish pond will invariably lead to future problems with the water quality and also be detrimental to the health of the fish.

So where does the detritus or sludge as it is better known come from?

Some of it probably is a result of aquatic compost falling from the baskets as plants are added to the fish pond but the bulk of it can arise from decaying matter such as leaves that have fallen onto the water surface and sunk below decaying over a period of time. Uneaten fish food can also accumulate and decay, in the worst scenario there could even be carcasses from dead fish down there which will also decay but hopefully not!

Allowing this mixture to stay at the bottom of the fish pond also allows toxins to leach into the water from the decaying process, decaying matter can produce ammonia, it will definitely produce toxic gases such as hydrogen sulphide that becomes trapped in the layers of sludge until it has built enough pressure up or the sludge gets disturbed by the fish rooting, when this occurs the gases are released into the water column where they can be absorbed as they rise to the water surface. Ever wondered why stagnant water smells, it is the toxic gases and sludge that produces this smell so the problem needs dealing with on a regular basis. There is no reason why any fish pond keeper even needs to go into the water to clean the bottom and sides of the fish pond, most of the fish pond vacuums are operated from the side of the pond and with the use of telescopic pipes they can reach right into the depths.

Fish pond vacuums can also be referred to as pond vacs or pond hoovers but they are all the same piece of equipment and do a great job. Gone are the days when the fish pond had to be completely emptied to give it a thorough clean.

So now we know why we need to keep the bottom of our fish ponds clean and free from the sludge but how do the fish pond vacuums actually work?

They work exactly in the same way that household vacuum cleaners work removing dirt and grit from the carpets and flooring but instead of the suction being created from the air flow, the water is pulled through the vacuum sucking up the debris as well. Dependant on which model that you are using they can create the suction by means of a pump that works in the same manner as the water pump connected to your fish pond filter but on a much smaller scale, smaller models designed for shallow fish ponds may create the suction by means of a hosepipe being attached and as the water flows through the vacuum it also sucks up the debris as well.

In all cases the water is returned straight back into the fish pond while the debris and sludge remains trapped in either a muslin bag or a specialised container, yet again dependant on which type of fish pond vacuum that you are using. The bag or container are easy to empty and then the debris can be disposed of leaving your fish pond clear and helping to maintain the water quality at the same time.

When you browse around the internet or visit suppliers with the intention of purchasing your fish pond vacuum there are several choices that you can make. It will soon become obvious which models are best suited for the depth and size of your tank, many of the internet suppliers will even have reviews and advice for you to look at on their websites helping you even further with your choice.

For the smaller fish ponds and even for cleaning waterfalls and alone standing water features, the hose powered models are ideal. They are light and easy to use plus the added bonus is the cheapness compared to the pump powered models. With the hose powered models the debris is normally caught in a muslin bag, the telescopic pole can clean down to 2-3 feet and the cleaning head is usually small, these can even be used for awkward corners in larger fish ponds. As these are so simple I have yet to hear any bad reports about them as there is very little to them meaning less things that can go wrong. It is wise to clean the muslin bag thoroughly after each use so that the gravel vacuum is already to go the next time that you need it.

For the larger and deeper fish ponds there are a couple of styles of pond vacuums that you can choose from. In pond vacuums have the pump situated on the end of the telescopic pole, directly behind the cleaning head, with some models the cleaning head will also house blades that can break down the larger particles of debris allowing them to pass through the vacuum easier. Some models are also supplied with a large cleaning head plus a smaller one for the awkward areas and the debris is captured in a container while the water flows back into the fish pond. The prices for the in pond vacuums can reach up to £200 for each model but they do have more power and features than the hosepipe driven models so are well worth considering.

For a similar sort of price you can also look at investing in the pond side vacuums. The pump is housed in a container that sits at the side of the fish pond making the pole lighter but still getting the same power as with the in pond models. An extra feature with some of these is the split chambers where one container can be emptied while the other is filling, this makes the job a lot quicker and easier. A drain hose empties away the sludge and debris so there is no mess there!

It does pay to clean the containers out after use and check that there are no blockages around the pump so that it runs efficiently at all times.

But how do you dispose of the sludge?

The answer to this is very simple, use it as a fertiliser for your garden, it is full of nitrogen based compounds and the plants will love it. If you decided on the pond side model, the drain hose can be placed directly towards the flowerbeds so not only is the vacuum cleaning your fish pond but it is feeding your plants at the same time.

As expected by using these machines some water will be lost from your fish pond in the process. Always check the water levels in your fish pond once the cleaning has been completed and top up as necessary!