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Pond bio filter bacteria is vital

Using bacteria in your pond

Three very important things when you have finished building a homemade DIY bio-filter:

1. Prime the filter itself with some good quality bacteria. During the first few weeks it won't hurt to re-prime with more fresh bacteria every week or two. Just follow the directions on the packet/bottle. You should also do this at the start of your pond season.

2. I recommend adding a new dose of bacteria on a monthly basis throughout the year. This will boost any natural dying-off of the bacteria, and help renew any culture loss occurring as a result of any maintenance cleaning cycle, topping up the pond with tap water and so on.

3. You MUST be patient. You can expect the water to start to look cleaner due to solids filtration within a couple of days, gradually clearing over a couple of weeks, but the natural biological effect to clear the green water could take considerably longer, anything from 3 to 8 weeks depending on conditions. This would be exactly the same even if you had bought and installed an off-the-shelf unit.

Scroll down for more information on the bacteria and pond conditioning products I recommend.

Jims Pond Blog

To get the latest news on my ponding bio-filter and venturi experiments why not visit Jim's Pond Blog. You can subscribe to my blog's RSS Feed powered by Feedburner to ensure you get the latest updates. It will work with most Atom and RSS 2.0 compatible news reader software, such as Bloglines, Desktop Sidebar, NewsGator, MyYahoo, etc.


For great fish-keeping communities visit my favourite forums at:-

They are very friendly and knowledgeable groups of people who will make you feel very welcome. There is tons of discussion going on about fish of all kinds, problems whether relating to the health of your fish or the state of your pond, and advice on filters, pumps and anything else you can think of!


Mike Bentleys pond page has a very comprehensive ponding links page with some excellent homemade DIY pond bio filter related links showing a wide ranging variety of ideas and experiments.

I highly recommend Bradshaws Direct (UK) for all your ponding supplies:-

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Bradshaws Get Your Filter Going 250ml

Click for products and prices at Bradshaws Direct

Whenever you clean out your pond filter or buy any new fish for your garden pond you should give the filter a boost by adding Bradshaws' Get Your Filter Going. This is basically beneficial bacteria in a bottle and speeds up the replacement of the bacteria in your filter.
¦ Nearly all pond filters are biological in nature and perform much better if maintained properly.
¦ Biological filters only do best if they are regularly fed with a careful blend of nutrients and salts.
¦ 'Get Your Filter Going' will provide the optimum condition for any biological pond filter to perform at its maximum.
¦ Available in two sizes: 250ml (sufficient to treat 1,250 gallons /5,688 litres) or 1 litre (sufficient to treat 5,000 gallons / 22,750 litres).

Click here for Pond Bacteria products and prices at Bradshaws Direct

Ecopure Ecostart 250ml

Click for products and prices at Bradshaws Direct

The Ecopure Eco Start is the easy way to rapidly mature your pond filter, minimising the dangers from ammonia and nitrite when starting up the garden pond or adding new fish.
¦ Matures your pond filter within days.
¦ Reconditions old pond filters in use.
¦ Gives a boost to your pond filter when you increase the number of fish in your pond.
¦ Minimises filter media maintenance.
¦ Available in two sizes: 250ml (sufficient to treat 3625 gallons /16,625 litres) or 1 litre (sufficient to treat 14,500 gallons / 66,500 litres).

Click here for Bacteria Start products and prices at Bradshaws Direct

Ecopure Pond Regulator 250ml

Click for products and prices at Bradshaws Direct

Ecopure Pond Regulator safely cleanses and clarifies the water in your garden pond by digesting the organic sludge and reducing the free inorganic nutrients. This means you'll not need to spend as much time cleaning your pond filter.
¦ Cleanses and clarifies your pond.
¦ Helps reduce the suspended solids in the pond water.
¦ Stabilizes the ecosystem within your pond.
¦ Available in two sizes: 250ml (sufficient to treat 2750 gallons /12,500 litres) or 1 litre (sufficient to treat 11,000 gallons / 50,000 litres).

Click here for Pond Regulator products and prices at Bradshaws Direct

The bacteria that convert ammonia to nitrate for us are among a class of bacteria that you may have heard of before. They are the so-called, “nitrogen fixing” bacteria. This means that they take nitrogen that is unavailable to plants in its ammoniacal form, and make it available to plants in an oxidized form.

These are the same bacteria that live among the roots of leguminous plants. Without these beneficial bacteria, life as we know it would cease. So be kind to your bacteria. What they need to survive is a large surface area, chemically inert medium and a ready supply of fresh oxygenated water. They depend upon dissolved oxygen in the water to live and to do their job. As soon as the water flow is stopped, the oxygen in the filter becomes finite, and eventually gets used up. The ultimate result is that the bacteria die, and you have to start over.

Also the bio-filter will benefit from a boost of new fresh bacteria on a regular basis, say monthly, to replace any that die-off naturally thus ensuring the process in the bio-filter continues un-interrupted.

To learn more go to my Biological Filtration and the Nitrification Cycle page.

I use generally two kinds of bacteria;

1) In in liquid form which I use for "injecting" into my bio-filter after I have performed any major cleaning cycle, and
2) a powder form which contains various pond conditioning minerals, enzymes and bacteria.

I have tried several different types of bacteria. A good quality and totally natural bacteria culture that I like and recommend (and is also used by koi-keeping professionals) is that from Bio-Claire. Their Bio-Claire® All in One Pond Conditioner can be obtained from most good aquatic supplies stores in the UK (see their web site above for details of stockists).

Bio-Claire Pond Conditioner (powder form), and Blagdon Pondsafe BioStart (liquid form)

In the box of Bio-Claire you are supplied two types of powder. The smaller bag provides a startup or booster powder for use either directly in your bio-filter, or if you don't have one yet (why on earth not!), you can put it in the pond. This is then followed up by sprinkling the required dose of the main bacteria powder (on right) every month into the main pond.

A close-up of the zeolite granules which are impregnated with the natural minerals, bacteria and enzymes.

Bio-Claire® Original Pond Conditioning Granules begin to work as soon as they are added to the water and - if the correct amount has been used, you should begin to see a marked change within 14 days. The granules do not dissolve in the water - they act as carriers for the colonisation of the micro organisms which do all the work for you.

Regular Maintenance

To maintain the clarity of your pond, you will need to add "maintenance doses" which amount to a monthly addition of only 45 grams of Bio-Claire Granules per 220 gallons (1,000 litres). For my 400 gallon pond this single pack of Bio-Claire has lasted me most of the year.

It is also important to keep up the "good maintenance work" all the year round - but only half the dose in October, November and February and one quarter the dosage in December and January. Remember that the livestock and plants in your pond don't die in the winter, and still need SOME attention!

When you need to top up your pond with water due to evaporation, it is advisable to add a further pro rata does of bacteria, depending on the amount of water added.

How (and why) does Bio-Claire® Original Pond Conditioner work?

Only a few minutes after you have introduced the Bio-Claire powder and granules in to your filter and pond, the enzymes 'attack' the fish waste to turn it into food for the bacteria to multiply and allow the ionisation of any ammonia in the water into nitrogen gas. This gas then escapes through the pond's surface, thereby avoiding the further formation of Nitrite and Nitrate - the latter of which being responsible for the survival of blanket weed and other algae.

Each 100 grams of granules contain approximately 200,000,000 bacteria (and there's 10 times as much in the Power Starter sachet). Once activated, these bacteria split every 20 minutes - so - after just 20 minutes (or so) there will be 400,000,000 bacteria - after 40 minutes 800,000,000, and after one hour, there will be 1.6 BILLION bacteria!

The reason for keeping up the regular Maintenance doses is that due to the normal "life-cycle" the bacteria tends to stop splitting (rather than dying off) about 5 weeks after activation. It is proven that if the next maintenance dose is introduced before the end of the cycle (i.e. on a monthly basis) then the natural balance of the pond water is adequately maintained.

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