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Does your pond need fertilization?

Does your pond need fertilization?

Photo by Jennifer Bearden

Photo by Jennifer Bearden

These days many ponds are just backyard recreational ponds.  Management goals vary from owner to another.  Some pond owners want very little productivity (very little fish removed).  They want little vegetation with just a few fish.  This pond is just meant for relaxation and aesthetics.  Other pond owners want to fish every once in a while but primarily just want to enjoy the wildlife that’s attracted to it.  And then others want to manage their ponds for great fishing whether it’s trophy bass, trophy bluegill or just a good balance of the two.

Each goal has very different management practices associated with it.  When a pond owner asks about a management practice like fertilization, my first question to them is, “What is your goal for the pond?”

For a pond that is just for aesthetics with maybe a little fishing, I would recommend not fertilizing it.  Once pond fertilization has started abruptly stopping this practice can lead to fish kills and re-establishment of rooted plants across the bottom.

When nutrients are added into a pond, they eventually make their way into fish tissue.  They can be removed from the pond in the form of removing the fish to keep the pond balanced.  Also, fertilization increases the number of microscopic plants, phytoplankton, that are suspended in the water.  This gives the pond a green color and can block sunlight to rooted plants along the bottom of the pond.  Microscopic plants are the bottom of the food pyramid in the pond.  An increase in these plants leads to an increase in the number of fish in the pond.

I would only recommend beginning a fertilization program if a pond is going to receive heavy fishing pressure and the pond owner is willing and able to commit to continuing the fertilization program.

The desirable pond pH for fishing is 6.0-8.0.  Some panhandle soils are acidic and have a lower pH value.  You can raise the pH by adding lime but always test your water pH before adding lime.

Pond owners should monitor the water clarity using a secchi disk.  The secchi depth will tell the pond owner if fertilization is needed or if the pond is in need of aeration.  Each year, the fertilization program should begin when water temperatures exceed 65°F and end the program when they fall below 70°F.  You can read more at Fertilization of Fresh Water Fish Ponds

PG

Author: Jennifer Bearden – bearden@ufl.edu

Agriculture Agent Okaloosa County

Jennifer Bearden

Permanent link to this article: http://okaloosa.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2015/05/01/does-your-pond-need-fertilization/