Q. I am having trouble with my pond filter system. The pump screening basket fills with debris too quickly. I have to clean it out once a day. I was considering removing the basket altogether, but a friend told me that this would leave the pump impeller unprotected and I might risk jamming the pump. Is there some way I can have good mechanical filtration that doesn’t require daily maintenance?
A. Given the amount of physical debris you seem to be collecting in the pump strainer basket, it would indeed be risky to operate the pump without it. But I also agree that the daily maintenance routine gets tiring after a while.
Let me offer you a home-built alternative. This is a large-scale mechanical screening basin that only needs cleaning once a month. It traps everything from leaves to small fish to snails to larger algae. Total cost is about $35.
Basically, you go out to your local discount store and purchase a 32-gallon trash pail and two clothes hampers with grilled midsections. Make sure the hamper will fit easily inside the garbage pail. You also need to buy several feet of nylon mesh window screening and some duct tape.
Wrap the outside of one hamper with the window screening, covering the grill area. Use the duct tape to hold it in place. Now insert the wrapped hamper into the second hamper. The result is a giant strainer basket.
In the final setup, the trash pail becomes the outer basin and the combined hampers become the inner basin. Put a standard 1.5-inch bulkhead fitting through the wall of the trash pail about 12 to 15 inches down one side. This will be the outlet for the filtered water that leads to the pump.
There are two ways to set up the inlet, depending on your pond design. In the first way, water from the pond enters over the top of the basin and falls into the inner section (the hampers). The second way is to run a pipe through the outer basin wall and also through the inner basin wall below the water surface. This is more complicated but it may be necessary for some in-ground installations (this is the way I have mine set up).
I have found this setup to do a wonderful job of mechanical filtration. I especially appreciate it in the spring when it catches all the koi fry, and in the fall when it holds 20 gallons of fallen leaves.
Cleaning merely involves pulling out the inner basin and hosing it down. Total maintenance time: 10 minutes a month. Ahh…my kind of pondkeeping!