In winter, you will need to keep a small opening free of ice in the water so that oxygen will continue to enter the water. Hibernating frogs will need this. A small bird bath deicer works well, or you can melt the ice with a pan of warm water.
When you need to top off the water in your pond, remember the water needs to be chlorine and chemical free. Therefore, if you are on city or county water where chlorine is added, or if you add chlorine to your well water, you will need to let the water stand for a few days in buckets before adding it to your pond. This is very important if amphibians are present.
Algae need to be present for the tadpoles to eat. When you first set up your pond you may experience an algae bloom. Resist temptations to clean this out. It is a natural phase for the pond. Once the nutrients in the pond become balanced, the algae will reach an acceptable level appropriate for the plants and animals present. Algae thrive on light and excessive nutrients. To decrease light you can add more plants, and the algae will compete for the nutrients and become less pervasive.
Do not include fish in your pond because they eat tadpoles. Filters and pumps will also kill your tadpoles. They will be sucked in and whirled as if in a blender.
Please do not purchase frogs or toads or relocate them from other areas. In both cases, you could be introducing species that are not native to your area. This has had terrible effects on local populations ― especially where bullfrogs have been introduced. They eat native frogs, toads and salamanders and will move into other ponds outside your backyard decimating local populations. You could also be introducing diseases that could impact local populations. The best thing to do is to build the pond and let your native frogs, toads and salamanders find you. If you build your pond in the fall or spring, migrating animals may encounter your pond. It may take a year or two for amphibians to take up residence but be patient, and they will find you!
Video: “A Practical Guide to Water Gardening.” This video provides step-by-step instruction on setting up a pond, as well as tips and ideas for plantings in and around the pond. Tips on using plantings to control algae and instructions for making bog gardens are also provided. Available through the Loudoun County Public Library.
“Ponds and Water Features,” American Horticultural Society. A small book that shows the basics of setting up a pond, including the different levels such as bogs and shores along the pond. Good explanations on both what to do and why. Available through the Loudoun County Public Library.
“ Building Garden Ponds: 10 Step-By-Step Projects,” by Bryan Hirst. This book has some nice examples of natural ponds as well as drawings showing the side views. Available through the Loudoun County Public Library.
Lilypons Water Gardens, Buckeystown MD. Lilypons has all sorts of pond supplies as well as a wide variety of native American plants. They can also be found on the web at: www.lilypons.com.
Please do not buy tadpoles. You can introduce disease to your local native frogs and disrupt the nature balance. Tadpoles sold in stores are typically Bullfrogs, which will eat the frogs that you have occurring naturally in your neighborhood. You may have Bullfrogs show up in your pond naturally anyway - in this case their populations will be in check. When you introduce frogs you disrupt this balance.
After filling your pond, be patient. The frogs will find your pond on their own. We had grey tree frogs find our pond within 2 weeks of filling it and have had 6 species show up so far - all on their own.
Websites: There are numerous websites that provide information on setting up ponds, although many are geared for fish.
More articles pertaining to Loudoun wildlife and our environment as well as activities to explore nature can be found in the Habitat Herald Archives.