Surface skimmers for fish ponds

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Last updated 2nd June 2014
Bored of scooping out leaves and debris from the surface of your pond? Here’s the hassle-free solution.

Why deal with floating debris on a garden pond?
What surface skimming options are there for fish ponds?
Ten top tips for skimming fish ponds

Why deal with floating debris on a garden pond?

Petals, twigs, leaves and other debris must be removed from fish keeper’s ponds in order to see the fish swimming beneath. So it’s a case of netting to prevent fallout in the first place, or skimming it off later.

The surface of the pond should be skimmed regularly to prevent various debris from becoming water-logged and sinking to the bottom, because then it will clog filter and inlet pipes. As it decomposes, it adds to the cocktail of undesirable chemicals that Koi keepers strive to remove.

If not removed, this decomposing debris also builds up a layer of sediment in the bottom of the pond that makes the water murky if disturbed by frogs and bottom-feeding fish.

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What surface skimming options are there for fish ponds?

It’s only once you have a pond that you realise how much debris falls out of the air, so you may not have thought about how to cope with it all at the planning stage. Netting keeps out leaves and other large debris, but cannot prevent small pieces of vegetation, or soil particles and so on, being blown in.

Fortunately there are automatic surface skimmers that can be fitted after building a pond, but like most pond equipment, it’s better to install skimmers from the outset. This will give you a wider choice of design and an unobtrusive result.

Automatic skimmers can be fitted in the pond edge, or in the pond. They draw in water and debris through a mesh filter basket; you can choose whether to return the water straight back to the pond, to your filter system, or to waste.

Weir-type skimmers are similar to those used in swimming pools, where the inlet of the filter basket is set at water level. Overfilling the pond simply sends water and surface debris into the basket (but hopefully not any fish). Because the skimmer is set into the pond’s edge these units are best installed at the construction stage. A pump is optional with this design.

See a range of skimmers at Pondkeeper.

As an alternative to ready-made options, DIYers can build in pipework from the pond to a settlement chamber, and then connect an upright telescopic extension to reach the water’s surface. Gravity will do the rest, as it does for bottom drains.

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10 top tips for skimming fish ponds

  • Plan for a skimmer when designing your pond because some skimmers are best installed at the construction stage.
  • Returning water to another part of the pond ensures that the skimmer won’t short-circuit treatments.
  • Sending skimmed water straight to a filter system means the finer particles are then removed too.
  • Run the skimmer off its own pump. Keeping the system self-contained makes maintenance simpler.
  • Look at the size of the inlets and pipework. Will large leaves block the system?
  • Check that no fish can be drawn into the skimmer or get trapped in the inlet pipe.
  • Look out for easy removal of the debris baskets as well as the ease of cleaning.
  • Check that the skimmer basket is large enough for the debris to be collected. A small basket means that you’ll have to clear it more frequently.
  • A skimmer with a self-adjusting inlet to follow water levels means the skimmer will work for most of the time.
  • If you are on a budget, try creating your own skimmer by constructing your own pipework, a settlement chamber and a telescopic extension.

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