Water Gardening in Florida
By Arlette Roberge, Guest Contributor
I have learned a lot in four months. I started to write this blog entry about water gardening last May, but at the time I had more questions than answers. Since then, I have learned a lot about how to keep a water garden beautiful and clean.
Water gardening has become a big trend in home landscaping. It usually consists of a pond with fish, aquatic plants and some sort of filtration system. A lot of people also like to add rocks, waterfalls and special lighting. Water gardening actually encompasses two Florida agriculture industries: horticulture – one of Florida’s top agriculture commodities (almost $2 billion in 2008) – and tropical fish farming, a multimillion dollar Florida agriculture industry.
When it came to my own water garden, most of my questions pertained to the growth of algae. Our pond looked like pea soup and our goldfish were just fuzzy orange ovoids floating around. That wasn’t exactly what I had in mind when I started. Algae can be a problem for beginning water gardeners, but luckily we followed some water gardening recommendations and our water is now relatively clear. A good filtration system is a must. These can take up to several months to noticeably improve the water quality, so be patient. The summer rains help. The rain also induces tadpole breeding, which eat algae and will assist your eradication efforts for four to six weeks as they grow to maturity. Snails also consume algae, but they will eat your precious water lilies (a must-have aquatic plant). However, I tolerate their behavior and sacrifice a few lily pads to their voracious appetites.
Aquatic plants help eradicate algae as they consume nitrogen, which algae need to thrive. According to a variety of sources, 70% of your water surface should be covered with plants for fish protection and algae eradication. Water lilies are among the many aquatic plants available in Florida. There are hundreds of varieties that you can raise in your own water garden. Just keep in mind that they need full sun to bloom properly. Tape grass and eel grass are both native Florida plants. They prefer to have all leaves below the water, which classifies them as submerged aquatic plants.
Did you know that many of the fish from your local pet stores can be purchased from Florida tropical fish farms? Most farms are located near Tampa or Miami. In Tampa, the ponds can be larger and placed directly in the ground due to the rich mineral content in the land. Because of Miami’s coral rock ground base, aboveground concrete vats must be used. You can learn more about this industry at http://www.ftffa.com.