Carnivorous Pitcher Plant

Carnivorous Pitcher Plant
one of the first plants in our swim pond

Sunday, 21 October 2012

First Swim for the season! At last!

Well at last we have had a few hot days and the pool is warm enough for swimming! I have been anxious to get in there and see if I can spot the cause of the ongoing algae problem.

A few months ago we added 4 large pots with water lillies from another pond
We over filled them, leaving not enough room for the sand layer. We did put sand on but when this algae problem persisted I wondered whether the pots were the problem.

Yesterday when I had my first look underwater - right enough - the tops of the pots looked like pure mud. There was definitely too little sand to seal them. So I spent a happy couple of hours with a bucket of sand and a cup, and mask and snorkel, filling them with sand.

Today I snorkelled again with a siphon hose and removed the algae around the pots and plants. It all looks much neater now.

I have also started my aqua scraping of the underwater landscape. I have finally got my main log to sink. I have it standing upright so from underwater it looks like a tree trunk. I have planted 2 "epiphytes" on it and I'm quite pleased with its potential. From above water the log stands above the surface and I like its look there too.

With my siphon hose I was able to uncover the aquarium plants I put in at the end of last summer. Some have survived, some have thrived, but some are lost.

The submerged plants which thrived are elodea (no surprise there!), lilaeopsis which is covering the surface of two Lilly pots, and moneywort (both submerged and floating). At least I think it is moneywort. You can see a large mass of it with purple flowers floating in the attached photos. (Please let me know if you can confirm its identity.)

Unfortunately the hair grass did not survive even where I planted it in shallow water. I'll probably try that again though.

The valniseria became covered in the hair algae and has survived but not thrived. Maybe now I have uncovered it it will do better.

The big tadpoles have left the pool, now about 8 months from when they started. Our native blue eyes have multiplied and have long fins. They are lovely to see while snorkelling.

Once again the natural pool is providing hours of exercise and interest. Love it!

Friday, 7 September 2012

Submerged swimming-pool garden.

As the weather warms up I am looking forward to getting wet again. Some of the pool plants are responding by putting up their first leaves. Little blue dragon flies are zipping about. Charles, our big male water dragon, has come out of hibernation and is looking more handsome than ever!

I have resumed my underwater aquascaping project. The first stage was begun last year, late in the season, by planting a number of aquarium plants in various depths to see what works. I can see that some of them have thrived, but I won't know the full story until I can snorkel again. The water is 19 degreesC at present, so it won't be long until I brave it - perhaps with my wet suit on..…

However I can see that I need larger plants than the usual aquarium species, to be in scale with the size of the pond/"aquarium". I am trialling some garden plants to see what might survive and thrive underwater. However if any of my readers can make some suggestions I would be grateful. The plants need to be able to do well in water that is crystal clear but up to 1 meter deep. I need grass-like and foliage plants.

I have gotten some logs in the shapes I like and am now trying to get them water logged enough to sink. A couple of them have sunk nicely but most are still floating (less than 24 hours later though).

I have taken my inspiration for the underwater garden from the aquarium hobby of planted aquariums which is very popular world wide. The best known "father " of the hobby is Takashi Amano. Amano has published some beautiful books on the subject. If you google Amano or "planted aquarium" you will find some of the most beautiful aquariums you have ever seen.
Here is a web page showing some examples of the art.

As far as I know I am the first to try this in a swimming pool! I am calling it my "submerged swimming-pool garden" to distinguish it from the landscaping above water.

There are some challenges though, and differences from doing this in an aquarium. The aquarium hobbyists use artificial light (of course), fertilizer, heaters, and CO2 injections. I will have an advantage with sunlight, but will be trying to grow plants in a low nutrient environment, and through the seasons. I may or may-not succeed, but I will have fun trying. Do follow this blog if you are interested in the idea. And do give me some advice if you can help.

Saturday, 25 August 2012


The weather is warming up at last. The water temperature in the pool is now just above 18 degrees C. The frogs are calling again and we have seen a few water dragons. Dragon flies are starting to dart about.

However the pool does not look it's best! The water lilies and lotus have been dormant for winter and this leaves the filter exposed to view. A number of the plants are looking ragged. And the hair algae continues, although I don't think it is growing much now.

Just to get the algae into perspective though - I have spent a total of about 3 hours pulling the algae out of the pool with a rake. This is not too onerous. And the water remains crystal clear. We could certainly swim happily in it if it was warm enough. The photo shows the algae at it's worst, before I got to work with the rake.

It is interesting that the tadpoles that were there at the beginning of winter have not grown nor left the pool. They seem to be waiting for the warmer weather. This is a new phenomenon to me- tadpoles surviving through winter and delaying their development until
more favorable conditions occur.

The fish (red eyes) have bred and we have lots of juveniles. I am now looking into getting small red shrimp for the pool. These are native Australian shrimps and they are algae eaters. I think they will add to the biodiversity in the pool.

My underwater plants, mostly aquarium plants have had various success over the winter. I can see at least 5 species that have survived and a few of them have flourished and spread. I don't think that is too bad for plants that usually live in good lighting and shallow water. I will see how well I can propagate them in the warmer weather that is coming. I still plan on underwater gardening my pool.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

string algae

We have a problem - not insurmountable but annoying. When we flushed the filters ( see last entry) this was the first time we had operated the valves. There were a couple of problems (a rock in one valve preventing it turning, and one valve back to front). This resulted in flushing of nutrients back into the pool instead of to waste. We rectified this as quickly as we could but I think a significant amount of nutrient went back into the pool. So instead of decreasing the total nutrient content on the pool we increased it.

Up to that point the pool was looking great as you can see from these two photos . There is very little algae showing on the walls or other surfaces.

After the flushing we left the pumps off since we didn't expect any problem during winter. Then we went away for a couple of weeks. When we came back we saw the hair algae.

So I immediately turned the pumps on again. I also decided that the bottom of the pool should be vacuumed and the sides brushed down to give the filters a chance. But the algae has continued to grow. Of course there would be very little biomass in the filters after first being turned off for 4 days, flushed and then left off for another 2 weeks. So now we are waiting for the biofilm in the filters to re-establish and then to lower the nutrient levels again. The pumps were turned on again 2 weeks ago.

 You can see from this photo that there is algae on the bottom of the pool and on the step. This algae did not want to be swept away- it is firmly attached to the surfaces. By the way the black spots on the bottom are large tadpoles! Even at this time of year we still have tadpoles. However they don"t seem anxious to crawl out of the pool. I don't think they are developing during winter. They are native frogs and definately NOT toads.

And in the next photo you can see the green rocks. you can also see that the water itself is sparkling clear. I don't really mind the appearance of the algae and I'm confident it will clear up as the filters kick in again. Luckily is winter here and algae is not too vigorous. If this happened in summer it might be a different story!

However it is a reminder that this is a living system, and so it is not static. And therein lies the interest!

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Flushed out.

We have had the pumps turned off for the last 4 days in order to kill the biomass in the filters. Today we flushed out to waste the dead biomass and it's contained nutrients. This should reduce the phosphate level in the pool along with other nutrients accumulated by the algae in the filter. The water has remained clear while the pump was turned off. In fact the water remained clear during winter last year as well when the pump was not on - that was before we had the natural filter. But as soon as the weather warmed up the pool went very green. Ralf says we can leave the pump turned off now for the winter! If there is any problem we can always turn it on again. This of course reduces the cost of running this pool even further! We have baby fish - I have counted at least 11 and they are three different sizes- so three successful batches. They are so small -like mosquito wrigglers- that there may well be more that I haven't seen. So come summer we should have quite a display of fish in there. I can't wait for snorkeling weather! There are aphids on the water lilies and lotus. I have been washing them off by submerging the leaves and giving them a bit of a rub, but they then float on the water tension and I suspect spread around the pool. I haven't seen the fish eating them yet but hopefully they will discover the aphids soon. There is a Surphid fly hanging around the leaves and I hope it is predating on the aphids. There have also been a wasp and a spider on the leaves so maybe we will breed up some predators. If anyone has any other control they can tell me about please do so. Of course insecticides are out of the question because of the frogs and fish. There are new froglets emerging now too. That makes three different species we have seen emerging from the water. And judging by the feathers floating on the water we have had guests there before we are up in the mornings. How many chlorinated swimming pools give this much interest and pleasure in winter time?!

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Such clear water!

The water is SO clear it almost looks as though the plants are floating in air.

I have taken a few pics to illustrate this since we are about to do the first flushing of the filters.

 Can you see the water in this pic? Unless you realised that the water lily leaves are floating I don't think you would realise this is a water garden because of the clarity of the water.

 This pot looks as though it is floating in air! The whole thing is underwater and the new water lilly leaves are about 18 inches (sorry to those who prefer metric) underwater.

And the water lilly below is in the deep end of the pool. you can see the pebbles at about a meter depth and the bottom of the pool with old leaves on it is about 2 meters depth.

We are still struggling with duck weed which I am determined to eradicate. You can see the tiny green leaves caught on a floating leaf. At least I can see them now I have removed most of the floating plants.

The life in the pool continues in spite of the cool weather. The water lilies and lotus and the water chestnuts are dying back for winter and the plants are not growing so quickly. Surprisingly there are fresh frog egg masses and new tadpoles. There are also water dragon nymph cases on the plants - a different species which is much smaller than the ones we have seen before. Maybe it is the thinner, lighter, blue species we have seen flying about.

And thankfully the toads have stopped challenging our barrier.

There is barely any biofilm visible on the pool walls and on the rocks. However you can feel the slipperyness on the surfaces, so we know it is there.

The flushing of the filters involves turning the pumps off for a few days and then flushing them to waste. This kills the biofilm in the filters so the organisms let go and can be flushed out of the pool. The purpose is to clean the filters and also reduce the phosphates and other nutrients contained in the organisms. This reduces the nutrient load in the pool over all. The biofilm will start up again as soon as the pumps resume pushing the water through the filters. The biofilm elsewhere in the pool will repopulate the filters very quickly. I'll let you know how it goes. Ralf tells me that the water should remain clear.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Duck weed

We are back from our trip. The pool is as clear as ever. The lotus is dying back for winter, but the waterlillies are flourishing. One has a flower bud at the surface so we'll see what colour it is tomorrow. But we have duck weed! That is that tiny three leaved plant (is it a fern?) that covers the surface of some ponds like a lawn. It is quite attractive in a pond but I think it would be disastrous in a swimming pond. I think it would stick to your skin and clothes and be quite unpleasant. We must have introduced it with plants from another pond. So my daughter and I spent some time removing the floating plants and picking the duckweed out from among the remaining plants where ever we could find it. I don't like our chances of eradicating it- it is so tiny and even a single leaf can grow and multiply.