FOLLOW UP TO: Keeping duck pond water clean... With minimal to no effort

Discussion in 'Ducks' started by helicalduck, Aug 26, 2016.

  1. helicalduck

    helicalduck Out Of The Brooder

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    This is a follow up to my post found here: https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/1118478/keeping-duck-pond-water-clean-with-minimal-to-no-effort

    Ok, so it has been almost 3 months of the filter running. The water in the pond/pool has remained clear the entire time. Just have had to maintain topping it off and occasionally using a pool skimmer to collect larger debris (not absolutely necessary, but I do it anyway, not often, mostly to get feathers and leafs out).

    However, I have noticed 2.5 issues that will need to be addressed. These issues have not shown to prevent the system from working.


    Issue 1: MOSQUITOES!!!!

    The first issue is one I should have foreseen from the start. The water surface of the filter tank remains relatively stagnant, just enough to where mosquitoes can lay their eggs.

    The solution to this can be done in a cadre of ways. One is to increase the turbulence of the surface water. Another is to introduce fish that feed on the mosquitoes (not practical in the filter as the filter tank would be at "toxic" levels, the ducks keep the pond/pool water disturbed enough). Another is to screen the top of the filter so that sun light can get in but mosquitoes can't (this may prevent including plants in the system). And then there is Mosquito Dunks.

    I have chosen to get Mosquito Dunks. These are pretty cheap, about $1 - 1.5 a piece (come in packs of 6 at home depot, got 20 for $21 on Amazon). Simple to use, just drop the dunk in the tank and call it good. Should only take 2-3 dunks per season.


    Issue 2: Build up

    Out of curiosity, I decided to clean out the filter, especially since this design is not specifically designed to accommodate ducks, it was made for fish. So, I didn't do a thorough clean out, just a simple, basic one. Drained everything, sprayed things down without 100% disassembly, etc. To say the least there was a massive amount of buildup. However, I couldn't tell how much was the duck waste and how much was the bacteria and algae. In either case, it really didn't do anything to the performance as the water was still clean.

    To solve this, I am looking to introduce a pre-filter to the system. This pre-filter will be a mechanical filter, put in between the pump and the main filter tank (the current filter). I am thinking of 2 5-gallon buckets connected to the pump with a pvc T joint with 2 valves and then another T to the filter with 2 valves, somehow making it quick disconnect. This way, when one of the 5 gallon buckets fills up, then switch to the other and empty the waste out of that one.

    Another option to solve this is actually what I need to do anyway: enlarge the pond and include fish, plants, and other mechanisms of waste disposal. A larger pond would also afford the biofilter to be incorporated into the pond itself as it truly is in nature, which eliminates the need for a pump except to create water movement.

    I also currently have some ribbed tubing that I believe I should replace with something smooth as to provide less surface area for things to grow in the pipes and less places for waste to get stuck in the pipes. The trick will be finding something flexible, yet smooth of the correct size.

    A benefit that comes from the bucket system or the occasional cleaning of the filter: you get excellent fertilizer for your garden.

    Again the build-up has not shown to cause any problems as of yet.


    Issue 0.5: hyacinths

    As I stated in the other thread...hyacinths may not be the best plant for the biofilter. They grow so rapidly, I find they block the sun from penetrating into the filter. Not to mention how many I have had to throw out just to clear some room (though the ducks love to eat them, they go crazy for them). So again, I would recommend using a different plant, one that is less invasive.




    NOTE ON WINTER:

    As for what I will do for the winter, I have not figured that out yet. Though, this winter I believe I will be draining the system and restarting it in the spring. Especially since the only thing I can think of requires a 100% disassembly of the filter to install the heating element and then I have no idea how the waste will impact the heating element (I suspect nothing good, so I am not sure that is the best way to go).

    To make sure the ducks have water, I will be getting one of those heated pans and once or twice a day filling it up.
     
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2016
    1 person likes this.
  2. Ren2014

    Ren2014 Blessed Beyond Hope Premium Member

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    Thanks for the update! Glad to hear it is doing well. Did you mention what kind of plants in the other thread?
     
  3. helicalduck

    helicalduck Out Of The Brooder

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    I did not go into detail on the plants...that is a topic unto itself.

    In general, any surface aquatic plant will do. I thought hyacinths would be great because of their resilience...but I guess they are too resilient.

    Lilies won't work, they require rooting in soil, thus not a surface plant...great for in the pond, not sure if ducks eat them though.

    or there is an option of putting in other plants in floating planters. Then you can use virtually any small growth plant.
     
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  4. purslanegarden

    purslanegarden Chillin' With My Peeps

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    What about ...da da dumm.... duckweed?

    Thanks for the update. I think those kinds of custom-made filters like in Youtube videos might allow you to filter through more gph for a cheaper cost. You could even have the water flowing through containers that are planted with various other plants that the ducks can't access.

    I thought I had read somewhere that ducks will eat the mosquitoe larvae, too. Basically just open the mouth and suck them/strain them in in kind of thing.

    You mentioned algae. I wonder if some of the materials used to combat algae would be safe for the ducks (since they would be administered in the water).
     
  5. helicalduck

    helicalduck Out Of The Brooder

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    I think duckweed would have similar issues as the hyacinths as they will multiply and cover the entire surface of the filter. Sunlight is important to the filter process as a way of killing various negative things (bad bacteria, viruses, etc.)

    I'm still researching a slower or more contained growing plant, less sprawling.
     
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  6. smithmal

    smithmal Out Of The Brooder

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    Helicalduck,

    I have a couple of questions about your design:

    1. How long did it take to build your BB up to acceptable levels?
    2. How often did you need to drain your pool while you were building up your beneficial bacteria?
    3. I noticed that skippystuff.com sells BB. I'm assuming if I purchase their "skippybugs" and put it in your modified skippy filter there would be no BB buildup delay?
    4. In terms of reducing the bio-sludge buildup in your filter have you thought of introducing a swirl filter upstream of you modified skippy filter?
    5. Can you tell me what pump you went with for your design?
    6. Any more thoughts about what you would do when enlarging your pond?

    I'm thinking about putting in a pond myself. My thought is that the floor of the pond would be pretty steep (go from 1" to 2'-3'). Gravity would cause a lot of the sediment to fall down the floor of the pond to the steepest part which would be directly attached to a swirl filter. The swirl filter could be easily detached and cleaned out. I thought this guy's design was pretty inexpensive and simplistic.

    In terms of what to do with your system in the winter, I think closing out your pond and giving the ducks a water source that to drink from and dunk their heads is the way to go. I built some insulated water pails that did very well as long as the temp didn't fall below 18F (see here). Even when it got colder, I could easily break apart the top 1/8" of ice by lightly tapping on it. Of course, this does mean you need to fill the buckets on a daily basis, but for me (zone 6b) i needed to do this for about 2 months out of the year.

    Thanks,

    smithmal
     
  7. helicalduck

    helicalduck Out Of The Brooder

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    " How long did it take to build your BB up to acceptable levels?"

    I started with live, active beneficial bacteria (comes as a liquid) I got from an aquarium and pet store. However, when I cleaned out the filter (which kills the colony), I just used powered BB (which I got from amazon for $28 and treats about 104,000 gallons: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0039GEK6C/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o04_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1) .

    As for how long it took, I didn't do any specific tests, but it seems the BB started multiplying almost immediately. But that could be due to the fact we have well water and thus the water doesn't contain negative chemicals and closer to what the BB would naturally thrive in anyway. In either case, the water stays clean.

    "How often did you need to drain your pool while you were building up your beneficial bacteria?"

    Once I installed the filter, I never drained the pool. I only drained when I did the cleaning mentioned above and will again when it starts to freeze here (but I won't be refilling until spring then).

    "I noticed that skippystuff.com sells BB. I'm assuming if I purchase their "skippybugs" and put it in your modified skippy filter there would be no BB buildup delay?"

    I can't comment on that since I didn't use it, though the BB I got seemed to be that way.

    "In terms of reducing the bio-sludge buildup in your filter have you thought of introducing a swirl filter upstream of you modified skippy filter?"

    That is one idea I have been tossing around, but I have not settled on anything yet. I wasn't planning to do any modifications until spring as to make it a bit easier to make the modification.

    I will also add that having a debri filter before the pump is necessary, which is actually where I would want the swirl filter, not between the pump and the main filter. I had to recently disassemble my pump since it wasn't pumping much of anything... and I pulled sludge, feathers, twigs, etc out of it.

    Something I have done in the interim is modify a pool debri basket and install it upside down to the drain in the pool. This has helped and catches the bigger stuff.

    " Can you tell me what pump you went with for your design?"

    It is just a continuous run pump, I believe 1700 gallons an hour. Not a pond specific pump, more of a utility pump.

    "Any more thoughts about what you would do when enlarging your pond?"

    Well due to the few issues I have had with the system (remember the filter is designed for fish, not ducks): when enlarging the pond, I would make it deeper and incorporate the filter into the pond itself, which thus eliminates the skippy filter all together. This should get things closer to their natural state, like a pond you would find in the middle woods.

    But sadly, I do not have access to a natural source of flowing water, so I will have to do a cost and benefits analysis to determine whether such a thing is even feasible, since I would have to add a water line specifically for the pond which is quite expensive and may not even be viable (don't want to drain my well).

    If I can't find a way to make the larger more natural pond to work and be cost effective, I will enlarge by getting a larger pool, burying it (so the ducks have a more natural entry, it would also look better), and keeping the skippy filter. The larger pool should help by allowing more time for waste to disolve more. I would also try and figure a way to get a debri filter before the pump to keep the pump from clogging and provide an easier clean out (keeping the debri out of the skippy should make it so one won't have to ever clean out the main filter). And if I go this route, I think maybe put the drain higher up, then use a pool vac to clean up the bottom if necessary.

    "I'm thinking about putting in a pond myself. My thought is that the floor of the pond would be pretty steep (go from 1" to 2'-3'). Gravity would cause a lot of the sediment to fall down the floor of the pond to the steepest part which would be directly attached to a swirl filter. The swirl filter could be easily detached and cleaned out. I thought this guy's design was pretty inexpensive and simplistic."

    The trouble I see there is how are you raising your entire pond and such? If your pin and pond sat on a terrace, thus could gravity feed down to the swirl filter then to the pump and then pump to the skippy filter which gravity feeds back to the pond, it could work. But that would also require a larger, more expensive, more electricity hogging pump due to the increased distance as well as increased height.

    "In terms of what to do with your system in the winter, I think closing out your pond and giving the ducks a water source that to drink from and dunk their heads is the way to go. I built some insulated water pails that did very well as long as the temp didn't fall below 18F (see here). Even when it got colder, I could easily break apart the top 1/8" of ice by lightly tapping on it. Of course, this does mean you need to fill the buckets on a daily basis, but for me (zone 6b) i needed to do this for about 2 months out of the year."

    I picked up a heated, 5 gallon poultry waterer which is somewhat deep and with the amount of dirt in it, it looks like it may be deep enough for their nostrils to get in. Which is daily filling for 3-4 months (they just drink from the pool/pond the rest of the year).

    Though your idea is pretty good, I could do something like that and add a heat coil to it, which would keep the water from freezing even below 0 degrees F. Just need something deep enough to dunk their head all the way in after all.

    I've tried making a gravity fed waterer out of a 5 gallon bucket, but could never get the vacuum effect to work but I couldn't find any leaks, so I think it may have just been too much pressure. So, maybe a gravity fed to a float valve may work and if it did, I could get a 35 or 55 gallon plastic food grade drum to insulate and heat, thus only refill once a week or every other week. Which would flow into the float valve, which fills a pail of some kind (maybe 6 inch deep). Of course I would also need to somehow heat my spigot to keep it from freezing and causing more nightmares.

    Hmm, guess I need to go to the store and see what I can come with.
     
  8. helicalduck

    helicalduck Out Of The Brooder

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    Here is an idea: http://www.homedepot.com/p/Good-Ideas-50-Gal-Black-Rain-Wizard-RW50-BLK/203079128

    Use this to store water, the trick would be to keep it from freezing, which a stock tank de-icer lowered into it could take care of this. Plus, maybe add some reflective insulation under some other insulation wrapped around the barrel and it should keep the water nice and warm all winter.

    Which the water can be fed into this http://www.runnings.com/feeders-buc...tomatic-waterer-with-metal-cover-and-hose.htm

    Which can have insulation wrapped around the hose.

    Keep the barrel outside the pen for easier fill.
     
  9. smithmal

    smithmal Out Of The Brooder

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    Hmm... keeping a large reservoir like that from not freezing would be difficult without electricity (i.e. expense). I've been using the insulated 5 gallon bucket technique and have had no issues for the past two winters. Of course, this necessitates me to fill their water pails every day manually, but its only a 30 yard walk to the duck pen so its no biggie.

    How did things go for your pool this winter? It was nice that the past winter was unseasonably warm (at least in the Mid Atlantic region). I think it only dropped below freezing point for my insulated bucket design only a handful of times and I was able to break up the thin coating of ice in the pail using my finger or a short metal rod.

    Any plans for upgrading your pool this spring?

    I think I'm going to go this route:

    1. Elevated pool with ramp (not sure of size yet). I need to figure out whether or not to use a pre-molded pond liner or a flexible one. I'm even kicking around the idea of pouring my own pond mold.

    2. Filters will go in this array:
    A. Swirl filter
    B. Plant bio-filter (maybe three or four)
    C. Skippy filter
    D. Non submersible pond pump

    smithmal
     
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2017
  10. Lil 2 U

    Lil 2 U Out Of The Brooder

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    I experimented with duckweed and also water lettuce with a few cattails last year. For some reason, I couldn't get the duckweed to grow well, it might be too cool here at night, but it would never have been a problem in the filter, if it started to cover the surface, I planned to scoop up hand fulls of it and dump it in the main pond for the ducks to eat (I read 40% protein somewhere, but I might be mis-remembering). I think I would rather have an aggressive water plant that grows out of control 'cause that means its eating up poo faster, you can always trim it back and toss it on your compost heap, or see if the birds will eat it.
    I had very good luck with the water lettuce, it did cover the surface quickly, and although they are edible, they are not nummy, and have a lot of oxalic (sp?) acid (you have to cook them for human consumption, strictly a survival only food) The ducks would eat the water lettuce, so as it covered the surface of the filter I'd fling some into the main pond, and they wouldn't last long there.
    I put the cattails in 1 gallon planters bare root and weighed down with stone to help keep them upright (dug them up from a nearby arroyo that has a spring some years) and most of them did fine, but I had to protect them from my voracious birds, all parts of cattails are edible, ya know. Our kiddie pool was one of those 8' floppy sided ones that holds 500 gallons, buried to about 1" above ground level and we used exactly the same black oval tank helicalduck has for the filter. But with 11 ducks the water would get fairly murky (I'm not sure we had enough or the right filter material, I bought a large roll of that blue swamp cooler pad stuff and instead of cutting it up and tossing it loosely, I put in three layers) so every two or three weeks we'd pump out most of the water to the vineyard and berry patch and refill it with collected rainwater from the many tanks we have under every roof. I also never added any good bacteria which I think I'll try this year.
    Also had trouble with mosquitoes in the filter tank, but I found ducks LOVE them, I'd just dip a yogurt cup in the water near the surface and collect the larvae, and then hold the cup low for the ducks to snuffle through - there would not be one larvae in the cup left after a few seconds! A great way to bond with your ducks and keep them sort of tame-ish. I hand feed them all the time too, so they expect the awkward human to provide treats throughout the day.
    We tried to keep it going all winter - and the moving water did not freeze - although the week we were 10 degrees it built itself a pipe out of ice falling into the frozen over pond. But with the weird warm February weather this year, all thawed and the kiddie pool's sides had cracked, so we couldn't refill it. But I'm itching to find a replacement pond. Maybe go with a big piece of pond liner and make the hole bigger and more slopped, with a deeper spot to collect sludge. I'll add a swirl filter before our skippy filter to get more of the solids out and in a easier to dump form. My husband wants to build some kind of rube goldburg maze to run the water through trays for growing fodder and veggies for us, but that will probably be next year. I will definitely try the duck weed again this year, I kept some alive in the greenhouse to overwinter, as well as the water lettuce.
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2017
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