24 May 2011

Water worries during this warm spring?

Whilst many of us have been enjoying the unusually sunny spring weather we should spare a thought for our amphibian friends. Long spells of dry weather can cause many a problem for pond inhabitants.

If you have a garden pond you will probably have noticed the water level has dropped over the last few months, particularly if you live in south east England. Whilst this isn’t necessarily a problem (pond levels naturally fluctuate and will be topped up again during the winter) it can be an issue for developing tadpoles.

Here are the top 5 tips for keeping your pond and tadpoles happy:

1. If water levels drop worrying low you can top the pond up with tap water but make sure you treat it first. In recent years the chlorine that used to be added to tap water to make it safe for drinking has been replaced by chloramines which, unfortunately, are potentially more harmful for amphibians. It used to be recommended that you leave tap water to stand for at least 24 hours to allow the chlorine to dissipate but chloramines are much more persistent so ideally you will need to treat the water to remove these. Inexpensive products are available.

2. Provide ‘frog ladders’ if a large gap develops between the edge of the pond and the level of the water. Sticks, plants and rocks will all help developing froglets leave the pond when they’re ready.

3. Warm weather can encourage algal blooms which can deoxygenate the water and kill tadpoles. If the water turns green it’s time to take action. Barley straw or barley straw extract can be used to treat the water. Alternatively ‘natural’ or ‘bio active’ products are available but be sure to read the labels carefully so you know what you’re buying. In the long term, think about adding some more plants to help use up excess nutrients and prevent too much algae growing.

4. Once froglets start emerging from the water, try to keep exposed edges of the pond damp to prevent them sticking and drying out.

5. Get a rain butt – collecting rain water is the easiest way to ensure you have an albeit temporary supply of freshwater to top up the pond in these situations.

Hot, dry weather can be a bit of a problem for adult amphibians too as there are fewer opportunities to hunt and fewer prey to be found. During weather like this you are most likely to find frogs, toads and newts hiding out under logs and stones during the hottest part of the day.

On the plus side, the warm weather will mean that the tadpoles will develop more quickly so once they leave the pond there will be even more time for them to feed up before their first winter. It’s also beneficial for amphibians for a pond to dry up every few years as this ensures the pond is kept free of predators like fish.

You can find out more garden pond tips from Froglife in our Just Add Water publication here.
Photo by Jules Howard

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