Pond Fountain versus Aerator
Why Aeration is Needed
Bacteria are all around us. They are necessary and good but can also be unhealthy and detrimental. When it comes to ponds, it is important to think about the differences between aerobic and anaerobic bacteria.
Anaerobic bacteria live in the unoxygenated parts of the pond. These bacteria digest unwanted organic debris but release a stinky gas. They also digest the unwanted debris more slowly than aerobic bacteria. Thus, plant material and fish wastes build up at the bottom of the pond and accumulate into muck. Your pond can soon become unhealthy.
Aerobic bacteria thrive in the oxygenated parts of the pond. These bacteria digest the unwanted organic debris faster than anaerobic bacteria and make for a much healthier pond. The pathway to a healthy pond and to keep it clearer is to circulate the layers of the pond and spread aerobic bacteria throughout.
An aerated pond is healthier
Aeration is important to prevent your pond from going into an anaerobic state. Proper aeration means that aerobic bacteria thrive, which create a harmless gas as they eat away at unwanted pond debris. You don’t get the rotten egg smell and a large buildup of bottom muck, which, over time, shallows out your pond. In addition, aeration mixes the warmer surface water with the colder, deeper water. As the water is churned, the temperature of the pond will be more consistent throughout. Algae will be decreased. Fish will thrive. Your pond will be healthy.
Should I Use a Fountain or an Aerator?
First things, first. A fountain IS an aerator. It is just not aerating as much as a pure aerator.
A pond fountain is a surface aerator. That is, a pump is attached underneath a float and a nozzle is on top of the float, connected by plumbing to the submersible pump. The nozzle creates the display pattern. It can be an intricate pattern with several output holes in it; it can be a simple, V-shaped display with one very large hole for the water to go through. The smaller the holes, the more the flow is restricted. To get the water up high and wide, small holes need to be used. When holes are very small, the nozzle creates a sprinkler effect, that is, a mist. When holes are large, the water droplets are large, too, and more water can be drawn from the pond and sent into the air around the float.
Surface pond fountain aerators are typically categorized two ways: decorative fountains and aerating fountains. Decorative fountains use the multi-holed nozzles and often come with many nozzles so you can change the pattern when desired. However, the fountains do not aerate as well as aerating fountains. Instead of an impeller, typically used with decorative fountains, aerating fountains normally use a more effective propeller. Aerating fountains usually provide the classic V-shape pattern, which is formed by one large hole. Water flow is far less restricted.
Yet even aerating fountains are less efficient aerators than pure aerators, whose sole purpose is aeration. Aesthetics are not a goal. Pure aerators can be of two kinds. Surface aerators, which like pond fountains float on the surface of the water, and bottom aerators, which aerate your pond from the bottom up.
A surface aerator is merely a pump underneath a float bubbling water at the surface. Water is drawn from fairly deep into the pond and brought to the surface. There is considerable agitation and mixing, reducing stratification in the pond. Yet these are most likely not to work well in ponds with an average depth of more than seven or eight feet. For these deeper ponds, it is best to use a bottom aerator.
A bottom aerator emits air bubbles from the bottom of the pond to the top, mixing and oxygenating the water that way. A diffuser or multiple diffusers are placed at the bottom of the pond (they typically sink to the bottom once dropped into the pond) and connected to tubing, which runs along the bottom of the pond to somewhere on the shoreline, where a compressor is placed. Many compressors are now much quieter than they used to be as technology is more advanced, plus they need to be housed to protect from the environment. You can buy such housing from manufacturers or design your own if you have the skill set. Or perhaps you have a boathouse or storage shed of some kind on your property already. Usually, the compressors do not need to be very big to provide sufficient air bubbles to aerate a large pond, thus reducing electrical bills for aeration and also reducing compressor noise. They are intended to be run 24 hours a day.
Combining Surface Aeration and Bottom Aeration
But what to do if you have a deep pond that requires bottom aeration but still want to have the aesthetics of a fountain? The solution is to combine a fountain with a bottom aerator.
This combination means that your fountain can place its focus on aesthetics. The addition of a fountain might cost as little as six or seven hundred dollars, for the less expensive models, to thousands of dollars. You can also add LED lights, which attach to the float and highlight your fountain’s spray patterns at night. Again, the cost of LED lights varies greatly, and make sure to purchase lights that will fit your particular float.
Solar versus the Grid
Finally, many ponds are located great distances from the nearest electrical outlet. When this occurs, you might want to install a solar system. But remember, solar aeration units for other than the small backyard pond are still expensive to purchase, as the panels needed to run these units are expensive, and you don’t really want to “rinky dink” your aerating system. Also, most do not include battery storage, so hours of operation will be limited by sunlight available.
Aeration of whatever kind greatly improves pond health, mixing the layers of water so that the pond temperatures don’t differ significantly from one part of the pond to another. Aeration will decrease unwanted algae and muck at the bottom of the pond. Fish will get enough much needed oxygen to grow healthily in your pond. Still, even with aeration, be careful not to overstock.