What is the Nitrogen cycle and how does it affect my pond?
Nitrogen is essential for all living cells. Air is about 78% nitrogen gas however, most plants and animals cannot use nitrogen in gas form. Nitrogen must first be consumed by microorganisms that in return is consumed by plants and animals.
All animals get their nitrogen from plants or animals that have eaten plants.
In a pond the nitrogen cycle begins and ends with the fish. Fish eat either plants or fish food and create waste. This waste is ammonia. Ammonia is also caused by the decay of an organism. These organisms include leaves, branches, and dead animals such as frogs or fish. High levels of ammonia can be deadly to both fish and plants living in the pond. The beneficial bacterium in your pond help break down this organic matter and restore it to the earth so that it is able to be consumed again in nitrite form.
A pond filtration system plays a key role in the nitrogen cycle. Large debris is filtered out of the water and removed when the filter is cleaned. Bacterium live in the filtration system as well. This is why it is important not to remove the bacteria when cleaning certain components of your pond.
Typically, your skimmer (located at the bottom of your pond, opposite of your water fall) houses the majority of your filtration system. First the debris net catches any large debris such as leaves or sticks. This should be cleaned daily. Next your filter pads catch smaller debris which should also be cleaned regularly. Then the water is sucked through the pump and pushed up to the falls box. Here there is some kind of media for the bacteria to colonize on. This comes in many forms from lava rocks, fish floss, bio balls, filter pads, and the list goes on. This media can be cleaned a couple times per year but it is very important not to make it "squeaky clean" because then all the bacteria is gone and cannot do it's job in the pond.
Adding bacteria regularly to the pond is also recommended. We like to use Microbe-Lift. This product helps break down sludge easily, or organism in the pond.
Remember... when introducing new fish to the pond it is important to have a healthy pond. We recommend letting the water cycle for a full 4-6 weeks on a new pond to allow the bacteria to colonize.
Also, ponds that are just starting up from the winter should not introduce new fish until after 1-2 weeks after the pump has been running. Even though there may be fish who stayed in the pond all winter, it is best for new fish to be introduced to the healthiest environment.