I am a huge fan of ponds, we have a 2.4m x 2.4m raised sleeper pond in our garden and if I need a break from work - I love to pop outside and just relax to the sound of running water.
Having always grown up with ponds, my parents at one stage had 2 ponds... and apparently as a child, I was not happy that he beat me in tennis... and pushed him in 🤣
I think this year alone (2020), I have spent at least 10% of my day sat outside watching the fish, seeing all the wildlife and just taking a step out of the technology bubble and be at one with nature.
Our pond currently consists of:
- 2 x Large Filter Boxes
- 1 x Submersible Pump
- 1 x UV Filter
- 1 x Fountain pump
The goal of any pond owner is to ensure the water quality has good levels of oxygen (amongst other things) giving the fish and plant life the best possible chances of survival.
When I first connected everything up (pipes, filters, etc), I had had that shock moment as a father "this thing needs to run 24/7"... the cold sweats started, clammy hands and I dreaded our electric bill.
Solar Power to the rescue?
Not entirely, when checking sites like Amazon / eBay, I started researching ways I could reduce my electricity bill, whilst allowing the pond to function at its current level ensuring the water quality remains the same, the fish are happy and the lilies (don't get me started on lilies) are able to flourish without problems.
The first thing I checked was "Solar Powered Pond Pumps"... yes there are many, but I'm pushing around 5000 litres per hour with my current setup - and I would always worry that a dull day would result in my ponds water quality dropping heavily - affecting the health of my beautiful fish. (not so bothered about the lilies haha).
I even looked for solar powered UV filters... which is ironic really as UV light already comes from the sun - but once again, not enough power and probably be much more beneficial to install a clear pipe and let the sun project it's UV rays through it....nope.
Oxygen Levels in Pond for Sturgeon Fish
This is where I landed first, and let me give you some back story as to why I have 2 separate pond pumps.
This year we purchased some extra fish, 2 of them being Sturgeon - they are stunning prehistoric creatures that not only cost a considerable amount - but require the water to clear in order to see them.
Our pond water was really clean, you can see straight to the bottom... however 1 day after the fish went in, we noticed 1 was upside down at the bottom, and the other was swimming sideways across the top of the water 😲
The first thing I thought... "oxygen". The days were hot, and knowing that sturgeons needed high oxygen levels.. we sprang into action. Luckily, our fish obsession doesn't just stop at outdoor... I have 2 Aquariums inside too (1 x Coldwater & 1 x Tropical).
We captured the Sturgeon and transferred the dying fish to our cold water tank (much to the excitement of the existing fish in there), in an effort to really try and save their lives.
Luckily we did, and within an hour both were quite happily swimming around as normal, however after we did return to the pond... we noticed that we lost an Orfe 😢.
We needed more oxygen in the water - i.e. aeration.
I had an old leaky aquarium pump locked away in the shed that we first used when cycling the water, and set this my very own make-shift rig to churn the water, breaking the surface tension.
The summer months drain your pond of oxygen due to algae sucking it all up, and ensuring your pond is aerated is absolutely key.
Solar Powered Pumps & Aerators
I would never replace my main pump with a solar powered system, but providing your pond is already being cycled, then adding more aeration to your pond is never a bad thing, especially during the hot summer months when the sun is beating down.
To add Oxygen into your pond, you need break the surface tension. If you look at my home-brew design above - the water gets pulled from the pond... then gets put straight back into it merely just disrupting the surface tension allowing oxygen to enter the deeper parts of the water.
The principle is simple, your pond requires more oxygen in the summer months when the sun is beating down. Solar powered pond pumps / aerators are the obvious choice.
Solar powered options for pond aeration
We're looking for items that can work a little through the winter months, but are required heavily during the summer, so I got my requirements down to:
- Solar Pond Bubble Machine (Aerator)
- Solar Pond Fountain
Both options would work great, and I want to point out a general mis-conception about aerators (pond bubble machines). Yes, they make air bubbles in the water, but they don't actually add much oxygen.
The rising bubbles disrupt the surface tension allowing Oxygen to enter your pond.
Solar Aerator (BUBBLES!)
Like normal mains powered aerators, solar powered aerators are small little plastic boxes, rubber tubing and an air stone. The main benefits are:
- Zero Running Costs
- Easy Positioning
Placing the aerator solar panel in an area that gets the most sun will ensure your bubble machine will spit bubbles out throughout the day keeping your pond oxygenated giving very happy fish (and lilies).
I would make a huge recommendation though... if you don't have any stones / weighted items in your pond - purchase some weighted air pipe. The weighted pipe will ensure the air pipe stays fully submerged at the bottom of the pond, plus it will keep your air stone at the bottom of the pond 💡
The prices range from £8.00 - £20.00, with higher priced items usually having multiple outputs, or a slightly higher wattage.
Solar Aerators will not work when there is no sunlight (night time), which is fine 👍
Solar Pond Fountain
Solar powered fountains often get mistaken for ways of cleaning your pond, a lot of mis-conceptions with product listings give the impression that all you will ever need to keep your pond super healthy is a pond fountain. This is not the case, solar powered fountains are not a replacement for your mains powered filtration system, they are just an added benefit.
Solar fountains generally sit on the surface of the water and happily float around the surface sucking up water and spurting it out.
The main benefit for me personally is the sound that fountains make, nothing compares to the sound of running / trickling water, but also have the added benefits:
- Aerates your pond by utilising Solar Energy
- Moves around the ponds surface for better aeration coverage
- Great to look at!
The solar fountain pump is submersed in the upper parts of the water so it will not be pulling up sludge / sediment from the bottom of the pond and is less likely to get clogged.
In saying that, it's quite likely that algae will start to attach itself to the fountains base, so keeping on top of that will be key (take it out, wipe it down pop it back in).
I did notice that quite a few solar pond fountains have an optional battery backup - which means long into the night, the water will still be sprinkling across your pond.
For me personally, I am happy to keep the fountain only working when the sun is out, and only using the battery backup in the summer months when I know my pond will require extra oxygen - so having that choice is good!
Solar Lights for my Pond
Adding lights to your pond is a must, especially for the summer months. Do they add anything to the quality of the water? Nope, Do they look amazing? Yup!
No outdoor pond can be complete without some form of solar lighting, and the choices available are surreal.
I am still working on my own personal favourite list of pond lighting, and battery backup is an absolute must (why would you have a solar pond light if it doesn't work at night?)
You essentially have 2 options when looking for solar pond lights:
- Floating LED Lights (solar powered)
- Submersible / Underwater Solar Lighting
Floating Solar Lights for your pond
Floating / Surface Solar lights are my cup of tea, they are a "throw in to the pond, and let them meander through your lily leaves kind of deal". Very little maintenance, and honestly look so good once the sun starts to dip away.
Each LED light will have it's own battery pack that charges throughout the day, and as dusk hits they turn on.
Most solar pond lights are multi-coloured RGB, meaning they will happily rotate through all the colours of the spectrum.
A lot of the newer floating solar lights now also have remote controls giving you ultimate control in your lighting preference.
I've seen the surface pond light in so many shapes and sizes:
- Sphere Lights
- Insect Shaped Solar Lights
- Lily Pad / Flower Lights
- Star shaped LED pond floating lights
There really is such a huge choice for your floating solar light dreams.
Submersible Solar Lights (Underwater)
When I first started looking into this, I was nearly caught out by the terminology used on a lot of product listings, so please be wary.
Submersible pond lights NEED to be wired, if they are not wired then they are not solar power. A lot of companies are hoping to grab some cheeky sales by offering solar powered submersible lights that sit at the bottom of your pond... without a cable to a solar panel.
Unfortunately for me, the range of under water solar lights is not really what I require (due to the size of the pond), I would love to light my pond up like a 4 star Greek Hotel pool, but the cable between each light is far too short 😥
If my pond had a waterfall, or some sort of raised feature - I would have multiple sets of these lights kicking some light from below to really emphasize the feature.
I recommend using the same checklist I use when looking into solar pond lights:
- How long will they last?
- IP68 (minimum) Waterproof
- Length of cable from the Solar Panel
- Cable length between each LED light
- Automatic Night time sensor (only turn the lights on when it's dark)
- Ability to turn on/off with a switch
- Remote control to change colour
- Battery (for those winter months)
My Solar Pond Conclusion
I've tried to cover as many options as possible for Solar Power for your pond, and obviously if I missed something be sure to let me know in the comments below.
I want to re-iterate, a Solar Pond pump should not be a replacement for your main pond if you care about your fish and plants - they need constant water cycling, or it will start to poison your lovely scaled friends.
I do plan to get some more recent photos of my pond over the next few months, and will write about it again soon :)
Take care everybody