If you’ve reached that stage where the kids are too old to play in the pool and you’re tired of the constant maintenance and application of chemicals, consider turning your pool into a pond for wildlife. Our pool went from being a maintenance headache to a constant source of joy.
Ku-ring-gai Council has led the way with their the Pool to Pond initiative.
If you have a chlorine pool then you simply turn off the pump and filter and wait for nature to take its course. Once you can see wrigglers (mosquito larvae) in the water you know it’s safe to put plants and fish in.
With a salted pool you have to pump the water down the sewer, not into stormwater as that will kill fish, frogs, water bugs and other acquatic animals in your local creeks and streams.
In our project we hired a submersible 2” pump from Kennards for 24 hours and pumped the salt water into the waste water system, it took 5 hours for a 70,000L pool. We then scrubbed the pool surface with a wire brush and hosed it down. We then let it fill up naturally from rainfall, which took over a couple of months.
Many people worry that their pond will be a magnet for mosquitoes but in Sydney there are only a few pest species and they like shallow water.
The pond landscaping requires you to create different heights. You can use plastic trays on besser blocks, milk crates or even old plastic outdoor tables can be sunk under the water to become a raised platform.
Fish are an integral part of the pond’s ecology, ideally you want fish native to your area, that do not eat frog spawn. In Sydney you can use Crimson-Spotted Rainbow fish (Melanotaenia duboulayi) or Australian Bass (Macquaria novemaculeata), Silver Perch (Bidyanus bidyanus) and Firetail Gudgeon (Hypseleotris galii). Native fish are widely available as fingerlings online – or from certified dam and pond restockers found on government agriculture websites.
Once you’ve chosen your fish, there’s lots of scope to get creative with aquatic plants the fish will love. Again try and use native plants to your area as you are attracting native animals that have evolved with the native plants. In Sydney Water Milfoil (Myriophyllum propinquum) is a great habitat plant which covers a big area quite quickly. Frogs spawn in it and fish love to live in it. Australian waterlily Entire Marshwort (Nymphoides geminata) are beautiful. You should plant the lily 20-30cm deep and confine it to a pot to prevent overcolonising.
It’s also important to allow structures like logs to jut out of the water, acting as ramps for wildlife. Remember that these ponds still require their pool fences and gates.
Another idea is to add a diverter to your gutter downpipe and connect it to a pipe so that when it rains it can fill up the pool. You can even connect it to a water feature.
A word of warning, when you attract frogs they can be noisy, so maybe a pond directly outside your bedroom window may be an issue. Occasionally we close our windows but otherwise we have managed to live happily with our local frog population.
Our pool has gone from being a maintenance headache to a constant source of joy. There is always something happening, fish darting around the water lilies, stunning red dragonflies chasing each other and in summer water lilies and lotus’s flowering.