Tools That Don’t Suck – Tirolessa Sprayer

As water feature installers, my sons and I are used to hard, dirty, sometimes dangerous work. We enjoy what we do, whether it’s digging ponds, plumbing pumps, rolling boulders or tweaking waterfalls, but we also value anything that helps make the work easier or more fun. We’re always looking for tools, apps or gadgets that save time & effort, eliminate stress, add to our comfort on the job or are just fun to use. Often a buddy will turn us on to one. I’d like to return the favor by passing our favorite Tools That Don’t Suck along to you.

Tirolessa Sprayer

Every now and then a tool comes along that does a job simply and inexpensively, that otherwise would have required a major investment in time, energy and equipment. Typically, these tools are born of necessity, because someone, somewhere doesn’t have access to the technology – or the money – to get the job done any other way. Today’s entry in the TTDS category is that kind of tool.

I ran across the Tirolessa sprayer online a dozen years ago when I was investigating building a dome home. I had this idea about an ecotourism bed-and-breakfast in the mountains of Michoacan, Mexico, where the Monarch butterflies go on their amazing winter migration. I figured I could create really cool, inexpensive and energy-efficient housing modules by covering an inflatable mold with multiple thin layers of fiber-reinforced concrete, building up the layers successively until the structure was strong enough to resist not only weather, but earthquakes too. The trick is to get a thin, strong first layer of concrete without deforming or collapsing the plastic balloon form. After the layers are self-supporting, the form is deflated and the rest of the concrete dome built up by troweling. The Tirolessa sprayer was recommended as the ideal tool to apply those first thin layers.

 

Well, just about the same time as I was pipe dreaming, I was asked to build caves and huge artificial boulders around a 200-foot-wide pond cover an interior wall with waterfalls. I had just finished plumbing and tweaking a Hawaiian-themed “black lava” waterfall in a restaurant. A Gunite crew had been called in to form the structure out of rebar covered with wire lathe and shot the whole wall with very wet black cement. I bought the Tirolessa thinking it might replace the Gunite crew – and it did. I wasn’t very good at texturing the final product, but there was no doubt about it. This little gadget could really blow some mud.

Yes, blow. The Tirolessa is basically a stainless steel bucket with air holes at the bottom. The handle is a hollow steel tube to which an airhose is attached, with a trigger. Pull the trigger and air blows inside the bucket across the bottom and out the front-facing air holes, carrying a spray of very loose concrete slurry with it. We make a mix of two parts fine sand to one part Portland cement, with enough water to give it a consistency between pea soup and oatmeal. Scoop a bucket of slurry from the wheelbarrow, hold the bucket two feet from the vertical surface to be covered, pull the trigger and spray the slurry. And repeat.

We’ve found the Tirolessa invaluable for getting that first critical layer on difficult vertical surfaces, and that has opened a whole new range of possibilities for us. Now we can easily protect the inside of any EPDM pond without building inner walls. The Tirolessa still can’t make concrete stick to rubber, but it CAN make cement stick to vertical geotextile, no problem at all. We cover our vertical liner walls with a layer of geotextile, well-anchored at the top so it will support the weight of the cement we spray on it until the first layer dries. If needed, we spray another layer on that until the curtain of concrete-covered fabric is stiff enough, then we switch to troweling on additional layers, this time with chopped polypropylene fibers mixed in.

By the time we have 4 to 5 thin layers, around an inch and a half thick, the skin will withstand a blow from a sledge hammer. We often add powdered black dye to the last coat so the finished pond appears bottomless; it also enhances the colors of koi. And it all starts with one of my favorite Tools That Don’t Suck, the Tirolessa sprayer.

Are You Connected to Your Water Feature?

Are you connected to your water feature? Sounds like an odd question? You might think I’m heading in the direction of getting you re-connected to nature. You know what I mean, how in today’s world we have a shortage of nature in our daily lives and having a water feature is a great way to remedy that problem. If you have children, your water feature can be their connection to nature as an outdoor classroom to study the eco-system without them even knowing it. All of that would make a good article however that’s not the direction I was heading.

Instead, I was just curious if your current water feature has a Wi-Fi connection? Now I bet I have your attention, you didn’t think your water feature needed a Wi-Fi connection did you?  Well in today’s world who would expect anything else?

With the addition of two new Atlantic Water Garden products your water feature can join the high tech world. Atlantic’s Triton Ionizer and pump variable speed control both have their own Wi-Fi connection making your life that much easier and your water feature more interactive.

The Triton Ionizer ionizer is designed to mineralize the water helping keep water features clean and clear without the use of harsh chemicals and is safe for fish.  The unit can be controlled manually from the front panel or by the use of the ionizer mobile Application for iPhone or Android devices.

The TidalWave VSC allows you to vary the output of Tidal Wave TT & TW-Series Asynchronous pumps wirelessly by remote control or mobile app! The VSC allows you to set both on and off times as well as drop to 25% of the total flow in 10 levels of adjustment giving you the ultimate control over water flow.

Both of these products make life with a water feature more enjoyable. Previously the downfall has always been the effort to disguise them into the landscape during installation usually ending up in a location that is tough to access. With the new connect ability, you can hang out on the patio and play with your pond from your lounge chair. You see some debris in the waterfall, open the ionizer app and increase the level. Or the reverse can be true, you don’t see any debris in the water feature, open the app and lower the level of activity.

The variable speed control is even a little more interactive, as your mood changes so can the desired flow of your waterfall. If you are having a party and want the waterfall to really put on a show, open the VSC app and turn up the volume or it could be a quiet afternoon on the patio, open the app and lower the volume a little. The VSC can also be programmed to control your feature with its on/off programmable timer. This is a nice little feature that helps you to save electricity and water by having it turn off when you are not around to enjoy it.

So sit back in that lounge chair and visit www.atlanticwatergardens.com and learn how you can get better connected to your water feature!

 

About the Author:
Sean is the Regional Sales Manager for the Southeast for Atlantic Water Gardens. Fish Geek and water feature enthusiast, Sean has managed one of the largest aquarium stores in the Southeast while running his own pond maintenance company.SEAN BELL

Sean is the Regional Sales Manager for the Southeast for Atlantic Water Gardens. Fish Geek and water feature enthusiast, Sean has managed one of the largest aquarium stores in the Southeast while running his own pond maintenance company. When it comes to water features, Sean is your guy!

What Happens to My Fish in the Winter?

Probably the number one question a prospective pond owner will ask is “what happens to to my fish in the winter? The quick answer is “not much”, but there is a little more to it than that. Truth is they really just slow down, some will say they hibernate, others will say that they go dormant, but it is more of a torpid state. Their body temperature is regulated by their surroundings, so as temperatures drop, so does their activity. On the coldest of days you will see them sitting on the bottom of the pond with their fins tucked in. If they could talk they would simply say they are waiting on spring.

“Should I do anything for my fish?”,absolutely, but it’s probably not what you are thinking. Your fish are tough and can handle the elements on their own very well. But they do need you to help out in a minimal way.

Feeding FishFirst thing is to feed them a good quality high fiber fall/spring fish food. Your fish do not handle food the way we do. They continually graze and eat to fill the pipeline. When temperatures drop, that food is stuck there to decay and cause issues in your fish. They can not empty their digestive tract after temperatures have dropped. Feeding should be stopped when water temperatures reach 55 degrees. Keep an eye on the weather, quit feeding at the 60 degree mark to be safe. If you live areas of the country that get big swings in temperature as fall approches, use your best judgement erroring on the side of caution.

Next thing to consider is your fish really need is consistency. They can handle the lower temps but they really need it to be consistent. Make sure your pond is at the very least 2 feet deep. This will give them a safe zone to be in for the winter. The warmest water is the deepest and should not be disturbed. If you have a waterfall make sure that where it enters the pond is somewhat shallow. If the waterfall drops into the deepest section of the pond it will “mix” cooler water into the “safe” zone your fish are living in. Leaving your waterfall running in winter is fine to do as long as that cooler water is being pulled from the surface zone (using a pond skimmer) and being returned to the surface zone. Big temperature swings in your pond will stress your fish and lead to health issues.

Hole In IceLastly, is to make sure there is an open hole in the surface of the pond. If you live in the colder climates, your ponds surface may freeze over completely. Even though our finned friends are not breathing as much as they normally do, they are still breathing. If the surface is completely covered in ice, harmful gasses can not escape and the pond can not re oxygenate as it normally does. Use a small pump or and air system to keep a hole open in the ice. Place the small pump on the upper shelf of the pond pointed to the surface. It should “bubble” above the surface. If you elect to use an air system (preferred), Place the air stones on the upper shelf of the pond. Both ways will help in keeping a hole in the ice. But do not put either the airstone or pump down in the safe zone. That would mix the warm water your fish are enjoying with the rest of the pond, thus leading to health issues.

If you follow these simple ideas this winter your fish will do great and be ready for spring. As mentioned before, no feeding at 55 degrees and below. As spring starts to show, be sure temperatures are consistent before you start feeding again.

Enjoy your pond this winter!


About the Author:
Sean is the Regional Sales Manager for the Southeast for Atlantic Water Gardens. Fish Geek and water feature enthusiast, Sean has managed one of the largest aquarium stores in the Southeast while running his own pond maintenance company.SEAN BELL

Sean is the Regional Sales Manager for the Southeast for Atlantic Water Gardens. Fish Geek and water feature enthusiast, Sean has managed one of the largest aquarium stores in the Southeast while running his own pond maintenance company. When it comes to water features, Sean is your guy!

The CICY Project – From Orchids to Cenotes

It all started at the IWGS Symposium, in an orchidarium in a salt mine one hundred feet below 20150813_110344-1Kansas City. I was chatting with a lovely couple, Porfi and Beatriz, long time members of the International Waterlily and Water Garden Society, IWGS or I-Dub for short. We chatted as we ogled the 10,000 or so magnificent orchids at Bird’s Botanicals that flourished in the controlled temperature and humidity of the vast underground caverns. (If orchids in salt mines sound pretty cool to you, consider joining – the IWGS and its members are very interesting indeed.)

The subject was the artificial ponds and lakes of the Yucatán Peninsula. I’ve been traveling to Mexico for number of years, trying to help our distributors in Yucatán maintain the many large water features that are built using swimming pool technology. Unfortunately, lakes are not large swimming pools, as my friends Lydia and Nacho Barroso can attest.

As the owners of a very successful pool and spa distributorship that has expanded into every facet of water technology, the Barrosos have found through years of experience that chlorine and sand filters cannot adequately deal with the sun and heat of southeastern Mexico. The large shallow artificial lakes at every golf course, country club, condo complex and resort on the Peninsula require a different strategy. Years of trial and error have proven phytofiltration, cleaning and clearing water with plants, the best course of action. While we strolled through the cavern, I asked Porfi, who lives near the Barrosos, if he could help, and he knew just where to find aquatic plants.

Then he asked if we knew about a pond project coming up at a local botanical garden. That’s CICYhow we found out about the Centro de Investigación Científica de Yucatán, or CICY (pronounced SEE-see). I Googled it as soon as we got back from the tour. According to the webpage, CICY is “a public research institution (whose) mission is to generate scientific and technological knowledge in the areas of plant biochemistry and molecular biology, agricultural biotechnology, natural resources, materials science, water sciences, and renewable energy in order to contribute to sustainable development.” What could we do for el CICY, I wondered?

My next trip down to Merida my friends and I stopped by for a look around. They have some really cool stuff there, including a cloning lab and a huge collection of native plants, and they were about to put in a new Sensory Garden. Porfi knew the architect and the botanist in charge of the gardens, and had heard that the centerpiece of the new 20150713_092457Sensory Garden was to be a pond – would we be interested building it?

Would we ever! This was a golden opportunity to show off just what active bog filtration could do, in a public garden that would receive 150,000 visitors a year. Now to make it happen…To Be Continued.

Subscribe to receive updates on new blog posts, including Demi Fortuna’s next post on the construction of the bog pond.

Read “The CICY Project – Part 2”

 


 About the Author:
Demi is the Direct of Product Information for Atlantic Water GardensDEMI FORTUNA

Demi has been in water garden construction since 1986. As Atlantic’s Director of Product Information, if he’s not building water features, he’s writing or talking about them. If you have a design or construction question, he’s the one to ask.

 

Illuminating your Outdoors

Illuminating your outdoor space can be tricky. How many lights do you need? Where do you place them to get the best lighting during the evening? Where and what are the best aspects to highlight in a water feature?

In a pond or waterfall you need to be very careful with the placement of light. Even in the water, light can be blinding to someone who is looking into your pond. A good rule to follow is always place the light facing away from the viewing area.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In this picture the lights highlight aspects of the pond but are facing away from the main viewing area. These lights are small enough to be placed in the water and to be hidden within the rocks around the edge of the pond.

The amount of lights you use is completely up to yosol_lights_beautyu depending on how bright you want your water feature to be at night. If you have a lot of focal points that you want to highlight, use as many lights as needed to illuminate the area. You should want to focus on the main aspects of the water feature that draw the most interest.

For example, you would not want to place a light into a stream that is flat with not a lot of water movement. By placing the light on the falls of stream beds and waterfalls, you create a more visually interesting feature at night.

The shadows cast on buildings from the movement of water and light will create a very dynamic effect that will make a lasting impression.

Another tip for light placement is to stagger the lights throughout the landscape or area to create balance. The goal is to move the viewers eye through the entire space, using too much light in the foreground will prevent viewers from experiencing the entire water feature.

Do you have  any other tips or questions on light placement? Post them below.


About the Author:
Jim is the National Sales Manager for Atlantic Water Gardens.
JIM CHUBB

Jim is the National Sales Manager for Atlantic Water Gardens. With 26 years of sales experience and 16 years in the water garden industry, Jim is your go-to guy for selling water features.

Bog Filtration, the perfect complement to Biological Filters

Last month my buddy Jim Chubb talked about the importance of biological filtration, why you’d want to use a biological filtration box, and how to hide a FilterFalls. In this post I’m going to talk about a complementary approach to biological filtration, the Bog Filter.

20160322_075127Bog filters are the perfect companion to biological filters, because they help complete the nitrogen cycle that begins with biofilters like the FilterFalls Jim was talking about. Biological filters harbor the bacteria that convert ammonia from fish wastes into nitrates. Bog filters take those nitrates out of the water column and convert them into plant material.

The reason this is so important is, the nitrates that result from a well-functioning biofilter are plant food, and if there are no other plants in the system, or even too few plants, those nitrates are going to feed lots and lots of algae.

That’s right. The better your biological filtration is, the more plant food is going to be created, and the more algae will grow… UNLESS there are other plants to consume those nitrates.

DSC02195Enter the Bog Filter, the perfect way to get those nitrates out of the pond water, and so, to eliminate green water and string algae. Basically, by placing desired ornamental plants in bare gravel, without sufficient soil to feed themselves, the plants take up all the available nutrients in the water and starve out the undesirable algae.

Bog Filtration is a pretty simple concept, so there are plenty of different ways to implement it. The simplest are graveled areas in or adjacent to the pond filled with bog and marginal plantings, called passive bogs because there is no active flow of water through the gravel. Active bogs use the pumping system to force water through the planted beds, and are much more effective because all the nutrients in the pond have to pass through the matted roots of the bog filter, and are removed.

There are two kinds of active bogs that differ in the direction of water flow. Downflow Bogs pull water down into the planted gravel bed, while upflow Bogs reverse the flow, pushing water up through the plant roots and out the top of the gravel bed. Because downflow bogs tend to trap sediments and clog more frequently, we’re going to talk about building upflow bogs instead.

The advantage to active upflow bogs is that they can be placed just about anywhere. Perimeter bogs, waterfall or stream bogs, even bog islands are simple to add to any existing pond, as long as they are built so the pumped water makes its way back into the pond.

One of the most effective bogs I’ve seen was built on an island in the center of an existing koi 101-7apond. A plastic grate set on cinder blocks about 6” below water level was covered with a piece of liner, then ringed with dry stacked stones to the surface. A planted gravel bed covered a 2” perforated pipe attached to a pump below the island. Water pumped into the gravel bed flowed back through the gravel and stones, stripped of all nutrients.

It doesn’t take much flow – usually one quarter of the volume of the pond per hour is sufficient. The size of the bog depends on the fish load. A goldfish pond where the fish are not fed at all might need a bog about 10% of the surface are of the pond in size. On the other hand, a pond where Koi are fed twice a day might need a bog 30% of the size of the pond.

More elaborate bogs use EcoBlox under the gravel bed to form a sediment chamber that also traps suspended solids, but that’s the subject of another post. Regardless of how you choose to install them, Bog Filters keep your pond free of algae using just beautiful plants to clear and clean pond water.

pond-free_bog

 


About the Author:
Demi is the Direct of Product Information for Atlantic Water Gardens
DEMI FORTUNA

Demi has been in water garden construction since 1986. As Atlantic’s Director of Product Information, if he’s not building water features, he’s writing or talking about them. If you have a design or construction question, he’s the one to ask.

The Importance of Biological Filtration

Over the years Pond manufactures have been working hard to give you the pond builders, a solution for the dreaded “Green Pond”. The answer? Biological Filtration! As I travel all over the US, I hear time and time again that pond builders do not use this filtration method because of the difficulties they have when it comes to camouflaging them. I am here to say, there is a way!

Before we get into the best way to disguise these black filtration boxes, let’s first talk about why they are important and why you should be using them.

beneficialbacteriaThese filtration boxes or FilterFalls, were designed to hold filter material to colonize beneficial bacteria and help filter your pond. Beneficial bacteria breaks down organic debris and fish waste, providing food for plants. Multiple pads or mats provide the oxygen rich environment for beneficial bacteria to flourish. The addition of biological media enhances beneficial bacteria growth by providing additional surface area for bacterial colonization. In turn making your pond clean, clear and a healthy eco-system.

The homeowner may still be weary about adding a filtration black box to their beautiful water feature, and educating your customer, is key. Having an up front conversation with the homeowner explaining why you are using the Filterfalls and why it is essential for the health and quality of the pond will help alleviate any concerns.

Another way to alleviate any concerns is to ensure the homeowner that they will not have to see any black box and their feature will look natural as long as it is camouflaged properly.

This will translate into a happy pond owner with fewer callback’s, saving you time and money.

Now that the customer is on board with using the FilterFalls, let’s talk about camouflage.

Line the inside of your Filter box with stone & plantings to help camouflage.

There are many ways to do this. First make sure that the area around the FilterFalls is or has been built up around the edge of the falls. Having higher ground is key to being able to easily camouflage the box. Trees, plants, rocks, logs, driftwood, floating plants are all great things to use for disguise.

Using plantings near and around your filter boxes will create more of a disguise.

Edge the inside of the FilterFalls with stones or rocks, you can also mix in some water plants for a more natural look. Logs or driftwood can be laid over top the FilterFalls for even more of a disguise.

By planting trees and bushes near your FilterFalls you can create even more of an illusion that the FilterFalls are not even there!

Another great trick is to angle the Filter box away from the viewing point so that the homeowner will not be staring directly into the filter box when they go to look at their feature. Remember, that like in nature, you never see where the water source is coming from. The same should go for the feature that you are building.

Hiding your FilterFalls

Angle the Filter box away from the viewing point so that the homeowner will not be staring directly into the filter box when they go to look at their feature.

 

If FilterFalls still aren’t your thing, Bog filtration can be used as an alternative. Check back for our next blog post on Bog Filtration by bog expert, Demi Fortuna.

 

 

 


About the Author:
Jim is the National Sales Manager for Atlantic Water Gardens.
JIM CHUBB

Jim is the National Sales Manager for Atlantic Water Gardens. With 26 years of sales experience and 16 years in the water garden industry, Jim is your go-to guy for selling water features.

How Does My Pond Work Anyway?

This is the number one question I hear as I travel around the country helping people with their water features. Usually there is a problem that brought me to the pond in the first place, but after a few minutes of talking, that question comes up. It is also accompanied with, “I thought this thing was supposed to be low maintenance!” Very quickly I can see that expectations have not been met and a little education is in order.

To many times, during the sales process of a water feature, too much time is spent going over flashy marketing brochures instead of just having an honest conversation about what to expect over the first three years of owning a water feature. Many installers shy away from what the maintenance will be due to a fear of scaring off the potential owner. The truth is, there is maintenance to be done, but it’s not any more than anything else in your back yard.

balanced ecosystemSo how does your pond work? Your pond works the same way any body of water works whether it’s a 1 gallon goldfish bowl or a seven acre lake. All bodies of water work off of the same basic biology, waste products are created, and bacteria consumes these waste products and converts them into nutrients for plants to consume. With a little maintenance everything will stay in balance and look like a perfect slice of nature. If it is out of balance you will have issues that need addressing.

Pond with plants and fishFirst and foremost Plants are the answer. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. If you have things growing in your water feature that are green and you didn’t plant them and you don’t like them. It’s because you didn’t plant enough green things you do like. Your grass is the same way, if you don’t re seed the yard, “other” green species will start to grow year after year. So the first thing to remember is plants, plants, plants.

Secondly, how many fish do you have? What size are they now compared to when you bought them? Fish grow and as they do their new size creates issues in the water feature. If your fish load doubles in size after the first two years but your plant base stays the same, you are out of balance and will have more maintenance to correct the issue.

Last of all, water flow and filter size. When your feature was created what fish load was use to size the bio filter, do you have enough water flow to filter the feature at least every hour, preferably much more if you have a heavy fish load.

Any of the above can create an out of balance situation for your water feature. There are a multitude of manufactured solutions on the market to aid in this as well. Water clarifiers, automatic dispensers for bacteria, and copper dosing units. Each have their place, and all of them are band aids and not real solutions except for one. Clarifiers only mask the issue, they do clear water, but string algae uses the nutrients and clear water to run out of control. Automatic bacteria dispensers simply take away the need to add bacteria once a week. Truthfully, once the system is in balance this need is reduced as well (more on that in a future blog post).

Then there is the copper system (triton ionizer), it works very good, but is a solution for a specific problem and not for every water feature. Some systems have water issues coming out of the tap and are going to be prone to issues not matter how many plants we add. Others are in an area of the yard where sunlight is great for algae but not plants. So it is a great addition if you find yourself dealing with buckets of algae.

Atlantic Water Gardens University

This is just a quick overview of how your water feature works, for a more detailed look please visit Atlantic Water Gardens University.


About the Author:
Sean is the Regional Sales Manager for the Southeast for Atlantic Water Gardens. Fish Geek and water feature enthusiast, Sean has managed one of the largest aquarium stores in the Southeast while running his own pond maintenance company.SEAN BELL

Sean is the Regional Sales Manager for the Southeast for Atlantic Water Gardens. Fish Geek and water feature enthusiast, Sean has managed one of the largest aquarium stores in the Southeast while running his own pond maintenance company. When it comes to water features, Sean is your guy!