Water gardens and fish ponds offer an outlet for homeowners to design and create features unique to themselves. Adding plants is another way to customize your feature, challenge your green thumb with new types of plants, and balance your pond ecosystem. When planning a water garden, there are 5 key components to consider and aquatic plants are one of them. Here are just a few reasons why plants are such an intricate part of any pond ecosystem.
- Algae Control: Fish waste and other organic material acts like a fertilizer for vegetation in your pond. Add in some sun and the algae blooms will begin. Because algae and plants are using the nutrients, adding desired plants to your water garden will reduce what is available for algae. Plants also shade your pond from excess sunlight to further reduce the likelihood of algae blooms. Aim to cover 40-60% your pond's surface area, especially if it is direct sunlight for most of the day.
- Better than Sunblock: Just like you, fish can suffer from a sunburn. Since they don't make a sunscreen for fish, use plants with their vegetation at the pond's surface, such as lilies or water lettuce, to give your fish the relief they need on a sunny summer day.
- Can't Touch This: Herons and other predators use their sight to hunt. Plants provide hiding spaces so your fish can outsmart those pesky birds.
- Improved Water Quality: Aquatic plants are like nature's water filter. Not only are they removing excess nutrients from the pond, but they also release oxygen during photosynthesis. If your water garden has issues with algae growth or cloudy water, consider incorporating more plants to help clean it up.
- Home Sweet Home: Plants create a prefect habitat for your aquatic life above and below the waterline offering food and shelter. Fish and snails can hang out around the leaves and stems, while frogs hunt for bugs or hide in the shade. The leaves, stems and root systems of underwater plants give your pond life safe places to spawn and lay their eggs. And when those tiny fry hatch, the plants provide protection, food and a comfy place to call home.
- Aesthetics: Add some color and dimension to your backyard that you can enjoy all season. Plants are also great options to help camouflage elements in your pond, such as waterfall boxes.
Types of Aquatic Plants
A good mix of aquatic plants does more than beautify your water garden. The marginal, floating and submerged plants also absorb excess nutrients in the water and shade the pond's surface, which can help prevent algae attacks and protect your fish from hungry herons and raccoons. Here are the various types of aquatic plants:
- Floating Plants: Water Hyacinth, Frogbit, and other floating plants are excellent options for filtering the nutrients that cause excessive algae growth. They also provide shade and cover for fish and other aquatic organisms.
- Submerged Plants: These are fantastic oxygenators. Submerged plants are also able to absorb excess nutrients, so there is no need to fertilize them.
- Bog Plants: Bog plants are planted around the perimeter of your pond or in shallow areas. There is a lot of variety in the color, size, and shape of these plants, so they are sure to attract everyone's attention. Bog plants are perennial, so you will be seeing them year after year depending on your zone.
- Water Lilies: Available in hardy, cold weather tolerant and tropical varieties, lilies are sure to please. Hardy water lilies are perennials and they will bloom all summer long on the pond's surface. They have smooth waxy leaves that are rounded at the edges. Tropical lilies have very fragrant blossoms and will have several blooms at a time. These lilies bloom either in the daytime or nighttime and the leaves will be jagged or pointed around the edges.
- Water Lotus: These plants are larger than life, standing 2'-5' out of the water depending on the variety. Water Lotus have large blooms and leaves to help keep your pond protected from the sun. These may take up to two years to become fully established in your water garden.
During the growing season, plan to fertilize your water lilies and marginal plants once per month. Floating and submerged plants should have plenty of nutrients in the water to feed them.