Maintaining a garden pond ensures your garden stays healthy and provides the suitable environment for fish and plants to survive. It is important to practice regular maintenance routines which can involve inspecting and repairing the structure of the pond or simply cleaning the water and clearing away any dead foliage. A garden pond is a carefully balanced eco-system which will function adequately in the right conditions. A weekly maintenance routine will involve checking the pond for external damage and looking out for rips and tears in the liner. Any splits should be patched with a pond repair kit. Inspect the structure for cracks or signs of rot and remedy any problems immediately. If you have a sunken pond check the stability of the bank and remove any sharp rocks and stones. Monitor the quality of the water with a home testing kit, checking for a build up of ammonia and chlorine which may harm the fish in excessive amounts. Your pump should be tested and filters cleaned to ensure the water is being oxygenated, removing any clogs and blockages. Check the water level and top up if necessary, compensating for any loss due to evaporation, particularly in hot weather. Add water in small amounts or trickle from the bottom of the pond to avoid drastically upsetting the salt and mineral balance. Using rainwater is recommended to prevent the build-up of algae. Skim the surface to remove leaves or other deposits which will prevent light and oxygen penetrating the water. If silt deposits at the bottom of the pond are more than 25mm it is best to drain the pond and clean it out. Ponds should be drained and cleaned periodically as part of a more substantial overhaul; normally this would be every five years for smaller ponds and ten years for the larger types. Trim marginal plants and remove any dead leaves or flowers, divide and replant any overgrown plants and cut back anything that appears to be casting too much shade. Inspect the submerged plants and remove any that are dead, dying or beginning to rot. Check for algae or disease and clean or treat the affected areas. Fertilize any plants in pots. This is a good opportunity to rethink and rearrange any planting you have around the pond and maybe consider adding oxygenating aquatic plants to improve water quality. In harsher winter conditions be sure to create a hole in any ice that forms in order to provide an oxygen source for fish, many pond owners have a float or ball laying on the surface to prevent a total ice-sheet forming. If you are draining and cleaning the pond retain some of the silt and replace it back in the pond when you refill. This sludge contains beneficial organisms which will help re-establish your aquatic eco-system. The remaining silt can be spread on your garden borders or added to your compost. Checks and maintenance of the pond will depend on the season and weather conditions, taking into account the growth patterns and particular needs of any planting. With regular maintenance checks and periodic overhauls a garden pond can provide a beautiful garden feature or a suburban wildlife sanctuary for many years and by nurturing a balanced environment you can create a natural fusion of water, flora and pondlife.