Step 3 - Pond Depth & Safety
Pond depth and safety go hand in hand, especially when children are present. It’s best to go with no more than three feet of depth for most ponds. This is deep enough for most fish to lay dormant over winter yet shallow enough if a child falls in. Nonetheless, always supervise children around water.
Counties and towns usually have certain rules to abide by when it comes to building ponds and water features. The law in my county states that all ponds are within a fenced-in area and no deeper than three feet.
Not a problem. Three feet is enough pond depth for the fish to settle during winter in Florida. Rules up north may differ, so be sure to check your local laws about pond construction and placement. Be sure to direct excess water that spills out of the pond during rainfall away from your neighbor’s property. That is very important because you may incur a fine or worse. Direct the trench so water from the spillway flows into an area that can handle it.
Pond Depth and Children
It should go without saying that children must always be supervised by an adult while visiting the pond. That goes for any standing body of water because accidents happen and they happen quickly. Knowing how to swim is helpful, but not enough when a child’s welfare is at stake. Don’t let them out of your sight when they’re around water. Installing a child-proof fence around the pond is useful in the case of a toddlers safety.
I also recommend that no humans swim in your pond. Brain-eating amoebas and other parasites are found in pond water. They’re not a joke. Pond water gets very warm during summer which creates the perfect habitat for these organisms. Even when swimming in a local lake, one should always use nose plugs. The brain-eating amoeba travels up the nostrils eventually making its way to the brain. Human mortality occurs by way of meningitis.
It’s a horrible way to die and simply not worth the risk. This is why it’s best not to use your pond as a pool. Leeches also dwell within ponds. They’re not nearly as dangerous as brain-eating amoeba but are still nasty. Leeches will freak you out if you find one, (or more) attached to you.
Brain-eating amoeba activity
Brain-eating amoebas are more active during the warmer months. Nonetheless, take proper precautions when entering any body of water at any time of the year. This goes for Florida especially. Avoid warm, shallow stagnate water conditions in general. Be especially wary if the water temperature is 80 degrees Fahrenheit or more. Avoid dunking your head underwater and keep your head above it. If you go water skiing or tubing, do so in the middle of the lake (while wearing a life-vest), not in the still waters around the edge. Although tempting, avoid splashing.
Symptoms of brain-eating amoeba exposure
It’s also important to know the symptoms if you or someone you know contracts a brain-eating amoeba. It takes two to fifteen days for symptoms to appear and they include:
- stiff neck
- loss of appetite
- altered mental state
- loss of taste
- blurred vision
- drooping eyelids
How these organisms find their way into your pond
These organisms get introduced to your pond when adding plants. This is also possible if you buy plants from a dealer. Dealers collect hornwort and anacharis from their local ponds, lakes and freshwater rivers as needed. Other unwanted stowaways can arrive as well. I’ve received some water bugs and more rarely, freshwater shrimp.
There’s no way of telling if these added bonuses are coming in with your plants when they’re still in eggs. Birds flying in from other ponds also bring unwanted extras like duckweed. I try to discourage any birds from visiting my ponds. Duckweed eventually suffocates a pond due to excessive asexual budding. It covers the body of water entirely, eventually blocking out the sun which kills off oxygenating plants. Manually remove duckweed from small to medium-sized ponds. In the case of a larger pond, more effective chemicals are necessary for control.
Some quick points about child safety around lakes and ponds
- Adult supervision is a key principle of swimming or walking the edge of the water. While a lake or ponds might be shallow near the bank, depth may sharply increase further out from shore.
- Be careful of jagged rocks, broken glass and other possible trash.
- Children should definitely wear foot protection. This includes swimming in the water. Water shoes and aqua socks keep them from receiving dangerous cuts.
- Properly clean and sterilize any cuts or lacerations sustained in the pond water.
- Children should always wash their hands with warm water and soap after being exposed to pond water or handling any of its inhabitants.
- Excess weeds and grass easily entangle a leg or arm.
- Be careful with alcohol around public lakes, beaches, and ponds. Alcohol and swimming is never a good combination.
Animals and bugs
- If you live in a state where alligators are found, be wary of them. Do not ever try to feed an alligator. Do not attempt to engage with an alligator in any way. Remember that if you find a baby gator, the mother isn’t far away. Sadly, at least one fatality a year occurs in Florida due to an alligator attack. While some incidents could have been easily avoided, others are freak occurrences. The best way to keep alligators away from humans is not to feed them. When the gator loses fear and looks at humans as a food source is when tragedy happens.
- Beware of the venomous cottonmouth, aka water moccasin if it occurs naturally in your range. Some say the cottonmouth is territorial and the only snake that chases after humans. Sometimes they hang over water on tree limbs.
- Ticks suck, literally. They’re bloodsucking arachnids that are found around ponds when the grass is high. I’ve pulled four or five of them off me since I started digging my own ponds. These bugs reach their peak of activity during the summer months.
They’re not fond of direct sunlight and it’s easiest to come in contact with them in the morning or dusk. When the sun goes down, the bloodsuckers come out. I can usually feel them walking on me although I have not been bitten, yet.
There are several species of tick including deer ticks. They’re well-known for carrying the dreaded Lyme disease. If you’re bitten by a tick and a large bullseye rash appears over the area, get to your primary care doctor immediately. Don’t walk, run! They’ll get you on antibiotics and hopefully kill the bacteria the ticks carry. The best way to avoid ticks around your pond is to keep the grass cut and the weeds low. Sometimes it’s unavoidable so always check for ticks before coming inside.
Conclusion – kids will be kids
Children are curious by nature. They’re not born with an instinctive respect for pond depth. Most kids are curious about ponds and animals. I certainly was. Having a natural pond with a fully functioning ecosystem is both fun and educational. At the same time, children should have a healthy respect for water.
Children and ponds are a safe combination with simple safety rules. Keep this in mind when considering pond depth. Remember that kids need constant supervision around water. If you’re not a swimmer yourself, it’s a good idea to take lessons. Learning how to swim is a life-saving skill.