Category Archives: Fish pond

Filling the pond

The last layer of concrete has been in the pond two weeks, and the weather has been good, so it seems like time to have a go at filling it up. The pond plants are keen to get in there!

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Pond plants can’t sit in a bucket their whole lives.

We need to test the integrity of the water seal and the efficacy of the pump.

Long ago we brought retic pipe up to the pond from a spot lower in the garden, near the clothes line. There will be a second pond in this spot eventually, and the pipe went in at the same time as the electrical conduit, which will bring power from the solar panel to the pond pump.

Over that time a creeper has grown over the two conduits so they’re no longer visible:

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Look at that blackwood growing right next to the water heater. Cheeky monkey.

We attached a hose connector to the end of the retic pipe so that we could fill the pond from the water tank hose. I’m glad we did, because that pipe is now behind the wood pile. Good thing we can slip the hose through from outside to get them connected.

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Now we’re good to go! We turn on the little green tap to allow water to flow into the retic pipe, and check all the connections in the pump box.

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There were a couple of drips, but nothing major. The pipe clips were tightened to deal with it, but the drips were still a bit of a worry. The pump box is watertight to keep the rain out, but that also means that any water the drips inside has nowhere to go. Over time it could fill up. So we drilled a hole in the bottom and the little puddle of water that had collected in there drained away.

As predicted, most of the water went through the pump and out the screen at the bottom of the pond. A little bit was able to overcome the pressure of going up the hill, and came out at the top of the waterfall. Just a few drips.

I wasn’t sure that the water tank pump would have the head to get up there, but it’s doing OK. While the pond slowly filled, I went and fetched the solar panel.

It’s been sitting under the house for three years, so a bit of dust had to get cleaned off. The panel had been given to me many years ago when I worked in solar pumping. It was the only panel that had ever been returned under warranty, and no-one could be bothered sending it back to the manufacturer. One of the cells had burnt out, so I removed the cell and bridged the gap with wire. It works a treat, and the panel gets a 42V open circuit voltage.

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I cut the back of the panel out and removed the cell. They’re thin, and glued in, so it’s more like scraping away until it’s gone as opposed to how I thought it was going to go (was expecting it to come away with the backing).

I carted the panel up the hill, with the maximum power point tracker, the multimeter and some bits of wire and connectors.

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… and it didn’t work. I could run the pump straight off the panel, but the voltage is too high. The pump was ramping up, with a satisfying rush of water through the tubes, and then cutting out, probably under instructions from its little power box. When a cloud came over the sun, the pump actually worked fine for a few moments. In full sun and with the pump at full pelt, the panel’s voltage is 39V. It should be around 24V.

The maximum power point tracker is there to regulate everything and protect all the bits. With 42V on the panel terminals it shows 20V on the battery terminals and -1V on the load terminals. Huh, it looks like it has to have a battery attached to work. Maybe the battery sets the system voltage, who knows. I don’t have a battery, so we’ll have to pack all the electrics up for the day.

I went inside and had some lunch, and when I came out again all the water was gone from the pond! I’d only filled it about 15cm; nevertheless that water should have stayed right where it was. All the valves were closed, and there was no sign of a leak anywhere.

The water level had dropped to the level of the screen at the bottom of the pond, so my guess is that it had gone out that way. I refilled the pond and put a plastic bag over the screen so the water couldn’t get out that way. Bad luck, the level is still falling. Looks like I’m going to have to seal all the pipe exit points with silicone or something. Sigh.

That fish pond

Back in October a concerted effort was made to complete the fish pond up the hill. The hole was cleaned out, concrete was mixed, fixings were obtained for the pump.

But I took a break from hard work over November, and then once December came around the orchard level was  underway and the fish pond fell off the priority list again.

It had filled up with a bit of detritus over the intervening months, so that had to be cleaned out.

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The bidgee-widgee is in full swing and had to be cut back, along with the Westringia on the left. Also pointy grasses. Much picking of seeds from one’s shirt, hat and hair was undertaken.

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That’s better, now we can see what we’re doing.

All that is required is a rendering of brown concrete so that it looks a bit nicer. We used builder’s oxide to colour the concrete and a 4:1 sand:cement mix.

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The brown oxide has a distinct purple tinge that we hope goes away as it dries. It’s probably not a biggie anyway, since there’ll be plants and rocks and dirt and pond scum covering most of it.

It only took a couple of hours in the end. We’ll wait a couple of weeks for it to properly dry out, then throw some dirt and rocks in there, and put plants on the ledge (in pots, to keep the soil together).

Pond concreting almost done

The weather’s been very wet all week, so the concreting of the pond had to go on hold again.

About three quarters done now. The drain is already working like a charm.

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The darker green leaves near the stick belong to bidgee widgee, a local ground cover that’s actually pretty great, except for the incredibly spiky flower heads. The little bobbles explode into a mess of spikes that are really sharp and really hard to pick out of clothes. Must get this pond done before the weather dries out too much and those seed heads go all killer on me.

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Pond wall and plumbing

Concreting the pond wall has begun! We have a little overflow channel on the north wall, that will set the height of the water. We use that to determine how high the concrete needs to be around the edge.

The first stage is plain concrete; we’ll put a brown render over the top later to make it look more natural. Rocks along the edge at the back will let us build up a little wall there and stop the dirt from slowly eroding.

The bricks are forming a shelf to put plants on. They’ll get covered up too. We’ll also put a bunch of rocks in the bottom to give the fishies somewhere to hide from the kookaburras.

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Also finished off the waterfall/aerator’s plumbing. The green tap leads down hill to what one day will be the second pond, but for the moment is just a pipe terminating in a hose connector. We plug the hose in from the water tank, open the valve and pump the water up to here. The water will likely go straight through to the pump rather than do a righty and go up the hill, and come out of the screen in the picture above. Once the pond is full we turn the valve off and turn the little pump on and the water should circulate up to the top of the waterfall and back down to the pond.

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Pond

A very long time ago we were very keen to have a little pond set up in the meadow on the hill. It’s a little complicated, though, and other things always seemed more urgent, so it fell to the bottom of the priority list.

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Pretty much the last time S had a shovel in her hand

The pond is to be powered by a pump and a solar panel, which will aerate the water for the little fishies. The water supply is the rainwater tank, a long way down the hill. So after digging the hole we established drainage, dug a hole for the pump, reticulated pipe through the pond wall, built a waterfall to make the water splash and get some air, dug water pipe and electrical conduit up the western boundary and fixed the solar panel, which was a freebie because it had a burnt out cell.

Then it languished for ages, because frankly I’m afraid to go up on the roof and install the solar panel. And I’m not sure how to get the wiring down to ground level from there: I don’t want an ugly conduit stuck to the side of the house, so it means going down inside the wall which is a massive effort.

Anyway it occurred to me that the solar panel could reside at ground level for the time being, so the pond started to get a little more love.

First off the bat was to clean up the hole. Dirt had fallen in there and I’d used it as a kind of weed dump for a while, and last year we had some European wasps make a nest in the wall.

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An unrecognisable weed hole

The drain and water cycling hardware was revealed, and the drain had to be cleared out at the other end.

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Drain screen was down there somewhere

The drain screen needs to be the lowest point in the pond, so that when/if it’s drained it doesn’t leave any puddles behind. So we dug down around it and put in some little stones to make a drain pit.

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Drain pit
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Other end of the drain cleared out so water has somewhere to go

After that, the weather turned bad for a week and we had to wait to start the concrete. That’s a job for our super-fancy concrete mixer.

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This is a step up. When I was a survey hand we used to just dig a hole and mix the concrete in that.

We got special sand this time, and it’s made all the difference to the quality of the concrete. After carting 4 tubs of rocks and sand up the hill, the floor is done. It’s about 7 or 8 cm thick.

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Neat! Now we wait for a week for that to dry, then we’ll get onto the walls.

Waterfall

So fish pond. It’s one of those things with a cascading series of jobs to do, before you can get fish. It’s so tempting to just pump some water in there.

Anyway, getting the little babbling water-aerating waterfall going is one of those things. It wouldn’t work out so well if all the water just seeped into the hillside on its way down, so a bit of concrete artfully smeared between some rocks, plus a lot of testing with the hose, makes sure the water will get back into the pond once it’s done its circuit.

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It doesn’t look like much from the house, but I assure you it’s a feat of hydrological engineering! And, it’s not supposed to look like much. Once the concrete’s properly dry we can pull up all the clover and put some more permanent plants on that spot of hill. They should mostly make the waterfall disappear under greenery if everything turns out as planned. We’ll want to do that before we fill up the fish pond, since any dirt that gets dislodged currently tumbles straight down into the hole.

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Also on the hill we note that those grey strappy plants we never liked turned out to be quite nice bearded irises, with mauve flowers on long stalks. Perhaps they just looked a bit funny up there all alone last year, and we never saw the flowers until now. They die off and disappear in autumn. The red Flanders poppies are coming out, doing a great job making that little patch look meadowy.

And the chestnut, last to get its leaves.

Wiring for the fish pond

The major stumbling block to getting the fish pond finished has been getting the wiring up the hill from the house (it will be 24V DC from the solar panel).

Digging trenches is the worst job ever. Digging them under trees is even worse, trying to get the shovel in the ground while bent over under the branches. I started digging away from the pond months and months ago, and got about three metres before getting a back pain.

Anyway, time to quit my whinging and get on with it.

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Note to self: don’t bury the conduit before trying to pull the wire. Had to dig up the conduit joins buried earlier so that the wire could be pulled through one section at a time.

Finally made it all the way up to the pump housing, and found that the wire was only just long enough.

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I’d like to say that was perfect planning but it was sheer guesswork while standing in the wiring section at Bunnings. So perfect guessing!

I’ll need some more flexible tubing for connecting the water pipe to the pump, but otherwise this end of things is getting pretty close to done and we’ll be ready to put some concrete in the pond hole and seal it up.

Wiring up the fish pond

The poor old fish pond is at the bottom of the priority list, and has been sitting as a plain hole in the ground for months as other needs are seen to. It’s waiting to have its power source and pump set up.

The solar panel needs to go on the roof, and a wire needs to be plumbed up to the pump, which will live next to the pond. We’ll also have another pond where the clothes line is now, which will provide water for the one up the hill. If we’re going to bury the electrical conduit, we might as well also bury the water pipe while we’re at it.

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Pond pump housing

The pond pump is going into a waterproof barrel, which is buried. Water comes out from the pond at left, through the pump and up the slope at top right. 24V DC power comes in from the left, in conduit which will run up the fence line. Also in that trench is water pipe that will connect this pond to the next one down, which will be where the clothesline is now.

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Fish for the pond

A little bit of poking around on the net has thrown up some fish that should do well in the pond. A few of these guys like to eat “crustaceans”, so we probably want to stock it with some kind of invisible shrimp or krill or something first.

fish-list

Southern-pygmy-perch

Murray-River-rainbow-fish

Purple-spotted-gudgeon

Australian-smelt