How to Clean Garden Ponds

A lush garden pond with a waterfall. image by Nowis\


With or without fish, a pond is a delightful addition to your garden and an enticing habitat for wild birds, amphibians and insects. The sound of trickling water is relaxing and water plants add an interesting element to the garden. There is a trade-off for such beauty, however. Garden ponds need to be cleaned out at least twice a year, usually in the spring and fall. Cleaning a garden pond is heavy work, and the accumulated muck at the bottom of the pond smells pretty bad. Regular garden pond maintenance keeps the water clear, healthy and fresh-smelling.

Step 1

Put the fish and plant holding tank in the shade. Place the submersible pump in the pond at the deepest point, and pump pond water into the holding tank. If you have fish, leave about a foot at the top of the tank so the fish can't jump out. For large ponds that take a long time to clean, put an aerator pump in the holding tank, so the fish will have enough oxygen while you're working.

Step 2

Turn off and take out the pond's filter material, pumps and aeration units. Wash filter material like lava rocks with the power sprayer. Take apart any mechanical filters, pumps, and aerators to check for damage and wear, and wash the parts thoroughly with the power sprayer. Replace any damaged or worn parts.

Step 3

Drain the water from the pond with the submersible pump. Use the pond water to water other parts of your garden. If you have fish, drain as much water as you can to trap all the fish in a small area so that they're easier to net.

Step 4

Take all the plants out of the pond. Put water lilies or other plants that wilt outside of the water into the container with the fish. Remove all dead and dying plant material from the plants, and gently rinse off any algae. If you need to divide any plants, this is a good time to do it.

Step 5

Use the power sprayer to wash algae and muck off all the rocks and the pond's liner. Spray towards the area of the pond where the pump is so that it accumulates in one place. Remove any stubborn algae by hand. When the pond is clean, pump out as much of the remaining water as you can.

Step 6

Vacuum out the mud, slime and debris with a wet vacuum or shop vacuum. This material can also be used to fertilize other garden plants. Work it into the soil with a digging fork if it's really smelly.

Step 7

Empty out all the baskets on your skimmers and external pumps.

Step 8

Start refilling the pond. Be sure to de-chlorinate the water if you're using city water. As the pond is refilling, use a bucket to bail some water from the fish tank, and replace the bailed water with fresh, de-chlorinated water. Do this several times as the pond is refilling to help the fish acclimate to the new temperature.

Step 9

Replace the fish and plants when the pond is full. After you've put the plants back in place, drain most of the water from the container with the fish; then catch the fish and put them back in the pond.

Things You'll Need

  • Large container to hold fish and water plants
  • Submersible pump with hose
  • Aerator or pump for holding tank
  • Garden hose with pressure-spray attachment
  • Replacement parts for the pond's filters, pumps, and aeration units
  • Fish net
  • Wet vacuum or shop vacuum
  • Digging fork
  • Water de-chlorinator
  • Bucket


  • Clean Your Garden Pond
Keywords: clean garden pond, garden pond maintenance, garden pond cleaning

About this Author

Sarah Metzker Erdemir is an expat writer and ESL teacher living in Istanbul since 2002. A fiction writer for more than 25 years, she began freelance writing and editing in 2000. Ms. Metzker Erdemir holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in Romance languages and linguistics as well as a TESOL Master of Arts degree. She has written articles for eHow, Garden Guides, and ConnectEd.

Photo by: Nowis\