Pond Skimmer vs. Filter: What Do You Really Need? - Backyard Boss
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Pond Skimmer vs. Filter: What Do You Really Need?

For any backyard pond, one of your biggest concerns is going to be keeping the water clean and free of contaminants. Things like algae and debris can make the water not only unsightly but also unsafe for humans and wildlife.

If you want to get rid of algae and keep your pond water crisp and clear, you are going to need a pond filter, skimmer, or some combination of both to clean and pump the water back. In this article, we will go in-depth on these two products so you can figure out which one will be best for your particular pond.

How Pond Skimmers Work

Pond Skimmer
Image credits: Atlantic Water Gardens via Amazon

Skimmers are a first level of defense when it comes to removing unwanted material from a backyard pond. They utilize a net or basket that can catch some of the larger debris like leaves and twigs that fall from surrounding vegetation. This debris is especially important to keep out of the pond since it can be a breeding ground for things like bugs, bacteria, and algae.

Pond skimmers usually have a pump that is mounted outside of the pond itself. This pump will have something called a floating weir that feeds into the skimmer. Floating weirs raise and lower with the motion of the water, making them a great choice if you have a particularly large pond that needs filtration across a wide surface area.

Most pond skimmers are only designed to catch the larger debris, therefore preventing the growth of algae and bacteria. They will not be able to treat the water with a chemical the way a filter can. If you want to ensure that no harmful blooms pop up in your pond, you are going to want to chemically treat the water on top of using the filter.

Who Should Use a Pond Skimmer?

If your backyard pond is surrounded by a lot of vegetation that is difficult to keep trimmed and at bay, a pond skimmer would definitely be a good idea. While it is possible to skim the pond manually with a net, this can be difficult to keep up with and won’t always be as effective as it should be. The major benefit of using a mechanical skimmer is that it works on its own automatically and you don’t have to even think about it.

A pond skimmer is also a good idea if you have an exceptionally large pond. Since there is a lot of surface area to consider, having the automatic function of the skimmer can make keeping a big pond clean much easier. All you have to do is turn it on and let it get to work.

Pros and Cons of Pond Skimmers

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Pond Filter

How Pond Filters Work

A pond filter works in a similar way to a skimmer, but with a few key differences. Pond filters are designed to catch smaller particles and can even chemically treat the water. This makes them a good choice if you want the water in the pond itself to be clean and safe for both people and animals.

Pond filters work by using a chemical like carbon in a filter media that the water is pumped through and then pumped back out into the pond. The chemical on the filter media encourages the growth of healthy bacteria that can kill off things like toxic algae blooms. Any harmful particles are trapped on the filter itself and don’t get expelled into the pond.

Because of their design, most pond filters are not good to use if you expect to have a lot of large debris floating in the pond. Debris like leaves and twigs can clog the filter media quickly and will require cleaning in order for it to stay effective. This is one of the reasons a combination of both a skimmer and a filter is ideal for keeping your backyard pond clean and safe.

Who Should Use a Pond Filter?

If you have a small pond that is in an area free from molting vegetation, a pond filter is a great way to ensure that it stays clean. If you don’t want to treat the water with a chemical additive such as a phosphate remover, the carbon filter media is an effective, non-toxic method.

A pond filter is also a good idea if you want to keep fish or other wildlife in your pond. Skimmers could potentially harm animals, whereas a filter will only pull in water. They also remove the necessity of chemically treating the water with an additive, which may not be ideal for keeping fish healthy.

Pros and Cons of Pond Filters

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Our Verdict on Pond Skimmers vs. Filters

Depending on your needs, either one of these options could work for you. If you have a large pond that generally catches a lot of debris, a skimmer is a good idea along with a water treatment additive. If you have a small pond where fish live, a filter along with regular manual skimming will be a good choice.

However, the best overall choice is going to be a combination of both. Having both a skimmer and a filter working to keep your water clean will ensure that both large and small particles are removed and that you can enjoy your backyard pond knowing it is clean and safe.

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