Choosing A Pond Skimmer

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Written By Mark Washburn

Mark has 20 years of experience as a professional pond management consultant.

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Bob sent in this pond question recently. “I have been doing some research on pond skimmers.  I see some of these products say they are good for 1000 gallons.  I don’t understand what the gallons of a pond have to do with surface skimming.  I would think size of the pond surface should be the consideration when trying to find the right size of skimmer. Am I missing something?”

Answer: Bob, thanks for the great question.

A pond skimmer, for those that may not know, are devices that are installed in smaller ponds, usually on the opposite side of a water fall that capture and trap unwanted material that enters the pond. They can help keep leaves, paper, or just about anything else from settling into the pond.  Inside the skimmer is a chamber or basin wither a capture and filtering screen.  It can be looked at as something of a prefilter which can help protect a true pond filter from getting a lot of gunk in it.

Pond skimmers are one of those things that not every single small pond owner will need, but they sure can be a time saver when it comes to keeping a pond clean.  A skimmer won’t necessarily capture every bit of material that falls into the pond.  Particularly heavy or poor floating stuff may sink too fast to end up in the device, but for lighter, floating debris, a skimmer can be a great tool to have.

So now on to Bob’s question.

In a nutshell, it makes sense in terms of your point about the surface size being the key issue but let me suggest why other factors are also important to consider.  There are several things I would think about when choosing a skimmer to fit my needs.

First, regardless of the size of the pond (and I say this within reason) if your pond get’s a lot of debris a bit bigger skimmer will handle this load better and you may not have to clean it out as frequently.  The maintenance routine, to me, is important because some folks don’t like to work on their pond every day and some may only have time on the weekends as an example.

Also keep in mind that a pond skimmer, while optional, is a very real part of the overall pond filtration system.  These should always be  best suited to the overall pond size if possible and I would also add that in terms of choosing something like a pond filter set up, fish loading will come into play here too.

Ideally the full pond volume of water should pass through the entire system at a recommended rate for effective filtration.  Normally in ponds with fish you want the full gallon volume to circulate once per hour or so.  So all of the components in this system must be able to handle this degree of volume…whether it’s the pump, biofilter, uv light, or skimmer.

Some skimmers, although not all, may actually hold the pump, and have some additional filtration capability other than a simple mesh screen to catch some of the larger bits of debris. A finer, or tighter screen will capture smaller bits of material and do more of the grunt work for you.  However in doing so, it will also probably require more routine cleaning.

Like all the other components in a pond you primarily need to think about what your needs, wants, and demands will be on the skimmer and choose, as best you can according to that.

Fortunately most pond retailers have a good understanding of what will work best in most situations, so use their knowledge of the components should you need to in order to get the best fit for your pond.

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