There are three waterfalls, one on each side of the house with one more is being planned for the front of the house in the new east area.
The largest pond on the east pondside with an upper and lower pond. The top is inside a built up wooden tub, about 900 gallons with a seat and or ledge around the top, perfect for sitting or placing plants. The top pond drops into the lower pond at ground level via three tractor seats or gold mining pans attached to the wooden sides of the upper pond, into the smaller, ground level cement pool that includes a bridge David built, taking you from the front pond side to the corner walnut area. The pump is placed at the bottom, and piping discreetly returns the water to the top where it re-emerges from an old water pump. The entire deck and upper pond is covered now by a trellis that houses wisteria and perennial blue morning glory.
Every spring, Devilfish is the first fish who takes the wild ride from the top tank to the bottom pond via the gold pans. Many a fish has told their grandchildren about the world on the other side of the world despite the screen barriers placed to prevent this.
The pond attracts exquisitely coloured dragonflies, butterflies by the herds and a wide variety of bugs and insects, and frogs! The best story is the day David convinced me he really DID see a real frog in the pond. I regret chasing him away after a month or two, fearful that baby fish were being devoured. We have replaced him with a green plastic bathtub frog bribed off a carnie at the fair, but it simply is not the same.
Both the top and lower ponds have papyrus, pink and yellow flowered water lilies, flowering water hyacinth, water irises and other aquatic plants in them. We are continually being asked if the many pink purple lily flowers are real.
There should be less than 50% of the water surface area taken up by plants and we have to continually toss out lily leaves and hyacinth. We recently pulled out all the plants and divided them, putting approximately one quarter of them back. All the water plants multiply far too fast to keep up. If you are ever in the area, come by for some. The papryrus is always discovered growing all over the yard and it's dried stems are used for birdhouses and other yard decorations.
There are approzimately fifty fish in the upper pond, and we are near the limit. The largest, Big Red, being over four years old and nine inches or so. Dinner plate size. We are truly not sure what kind of fish they are. David remarks how he simply bought "feeder fish" so we might never know. They resemble Koi in their shapes and colours, except that the males have extremely long, delicate, lacy tails which appear when they are several years old.
We also buy dimestore goldfish who 'wibble wobble" around happily with the others. A bug eyed black goldfish named Popeye, another gold fancy tail named Samson, a spotted multi-coloured Koi named Ping and tiny speckled fancy tails (Freckles and Mumps) were added in 2003. We buy a plecostomus every spring and trade them back to the pet stores at Thanksgiving. Last year we bought a four incher and when we pulled him out he was too small to fit in a standard sized bucket. The plecostamus never hurt for food, but we have been known to drop cucumber slices in the water just in case.
The fish have spawned two years in a row now, twice a year. I took out over 500 eggs, by hand or those clinging to the water hyacinth and while over 200 hatched, we have never had them live for long. Can't wait to try again.
Feeding time is a highlight as the fish come when called and perform leaps out of the water, much to the delight of Pooh, our youngest cat who thinks she is a dog. She thrives on fish food and thankfully the fish are past her reach.. Click on the picture below for a better shot.
We have a problem with blanket weed in the lower pond as it gets full sun most the day, but it makes an excellent place for babies to hide in until they grow beyond eating size. Unfortunately, these are mosquito fish babies. Durable little puppies. We give these away freely to people who have new ponds to acclimate their water.
The filter system is simply a swimming pool filter place in the water return line. Instead of the costly standard filters ($28 each) we use a screen combined with linen and fine screening and then a layer of packed straw. Simply replace the linen and straw. Very economical and works extremely well to keep the water clean.
Spring pond cleaning takes about a week. We bring up and divide the plants and clean the ponds out. Mosquito fish go to ponds on our cattle ranch. We hack the papyrus in two and try to find homes for it. Ditto for the lilies, irises and other pond plants that easily double their size in a year.
Empty, scrub, scrub, scrub with plain water and steel brushes. Maybe a little kosher salt if needed. If we let this dry completely for at least a few days, the blanket weed has a much harder time growing back. Refill with upper pond water.
The upper pond is vacuumed once a year as the silt becomes several inches thick. I use a twenty foot 1" clear tubing mounted on a stick, get the suction going (Yucko!) and lean over and start vacumming, ever so slowly, doing about a fourth of the bottom each day as it is quite difficult to not disturb the water and make it very murky. The end of the hose waters the nearby plants with the best fish emulsion ever made. I do this only during the summer or my arm would freeze off. Two silver bracelets have not been found even yet, but I did find the catnip plant and the lantern! A drill showed up this year. Sigh.
David picked up three wine barrels one day, I said, "Ut oh, another waterfall." Now installed, sitting on the back deck, the sounds can soothe the most savage of moods. The barrels are tiered, one flowing into another, with a pump returning the water to the top, which spouts out of a cement frog's mouth. Water lilies, blue and yellow, bloom reliably in late April. Peanut and his family are found drinking from the top barrel while the cats favor the bottom barrel.
The newest waterfall happened when David brought home a few bags of cement and suggested I try my hand at waterfall building. This is when I learned two things: playing in cement is fun, and water goes where it wants to go, not where I want it to go. We have rebuilt this waterfall over four times. The first attempt was a pile of rocks directing water into a pond bowl. The second time included the entire pile of rocks sitting in a much larger bowl. Much better. The back run off still ends up where I want it: in the little bowl that flows down a cement stream and ends up in the larger lower bowl. A japanese maple graces the area, and ferns, bear's breech, false heather, grasses, campanula, and wild strawberry fill the ground. The low ground covers twine their way around the stream while large river rocks lay scattered in the stream, and the sound is delightful.
Some additional ponds tips are here.