How To Clean A Neglected Pond

Overgrown pond restoration tips

Have you moved into a new home with an overgrown, neglected pond? Or maybe you installed a backyard pond and haven’t kept up with the maintenance.

Cleaning up a neglected pond can seem daunting, but in this article I’ll show you step by step how to get rid of the sludge, muck and weeds to restore the pond to its former glory.

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neglected pond


Draining the pond

The most common question people ask when they’re confronted with a pond that hasn’t been looked after is “Do I need to drain the pond?”

Draining the pond is the quickest way to clean it, but it also means that you’ll lose the natural ecobalance in the pond and you’ll have to start from scratch to build up the good bacteria.

If you decide to drain the pond you can use a bucket or pump to remove most of the water and then scoop out the thick muck at the bottom of the pond.

If the water is reasonably clear you won’t need to drain it. Just follow the steps below.

Remove any floating debris

The first step to cleaning up a neglected pond is to remove any debris that is floating on the surface of the pond.

Use a long handled net or a garden rake to scoop out as many leaves, dead plants and twigs that you can.

You’ll also need to cut back any plants or weeds that are hanging into the water.

overgrown pond

Cleaning out the sludge

Most backyard ponds have a thin layer of sludge at the bottom, which won’t cause any problems, but when it builds up to become a thick mass of sludge and muck it needs to be removed.

Thick sludge is made up of organic matter like fish droppings, rotting plant matter and other waste.

A thick layer of sludge is bad for the pond because it reduces the oxygen level in the pond which can cause fish and beneficial bacteria in the pond to die off.

If the pond smells like rotten eggs, it’s time to remove the sludge.

There are a few ways to get rid of pond sludge.

You can use a fine pond net to scoop out some of the sludge and muck or use a pond vacuum to suck up the sludge on the bottom of the pond.

If you have a garden, it’s a good idea to compost the sludge. When it breaks down it’ll provide valuable nutrients for your garden.

Hopefully your neighbors won’t complain too much about the smell!

pond sludge

Introduce beneficial bacteria

Natural beneficial bacteria that is found in muck reducer tablets will help to break down the sludge over time and it won’t harm your fish.

Control algae growth

Installing a UV clarifier can help to remove algae blooms in as little as five days.

UV clarifiers use ultraviolet light to destroy algae that is suspended in the water so you’re less likely to have algae blooms in the future.

Install a filter

Using a pond filter will make it much easier to maintain the pond and keep the water clear.

It’s also a good idea to install a fountain or pond spitter in the pond to increase the oxygen level in the pond.

A garden pond that is aerated well will have higher numbers of aerobic bacteria, the good types of bacteria that help to reduce built-up waste in the pond.

Winterizing aquatic plants

So there are my tips for cleaning up an overgrown pond.

After you’ve completed all these steps you can put the fish back in the water, but if you’ve added tap water to the pond, let the water sit for a day or two before putting your fish back in.

Cleaning a neglected pond can be a dirty, disgusting job, but once the pond has been rehabilitated it won’t take much effort to keep it looking nice.

By following these tips for cleaning up an abandoned pond, you’ll be able to enjoy your backyard pond for many years to come.


Are you struggling with a neglected pond in your backyard? Let me know in the comments below.

Are you on Pinterest? I have boards dedicated to Garden Ponds and Pond Tips that you may find interesting.

Don’t forget to pin this post for later.

How to clean a neglected pond

Kelly Martin

Hi, I'm Kelly Martin. I'm passionate about gardening and horticulture, especially water gardens. I've been gardening most of my life and I created this blog to inspire gardeners to create their own water garden at home. Read more

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Ruthanne Hunter

    i moved into a house with two backyard ponds. one is large and has a little stream area that flows to a smaller pond. they are both very neglected and i know i will be cleaning them out soon. my big issue is i have a garden shed that is housing filters and pumps and I’m not sure how to hook them up. i know the previous owner that made them had a water wheel and fountains, but i am just wondering how he configured everything. Is it possible that there is an underwater hose that is at the bottom of the pond that gets connected to the filter in the shed? it is all pretty confusing as i see most people use a filter that goes in the pond to keep it clean. HELP!!!

    1. Kelly Martin

      Hi Ruthanne, that sounds like quite a complex pond set-up! It’s probably best to drain the ponds so you can see if there are any pumps or hoses located at the bottom.

  2. Dene Mayo

    Can you scoop out the mud an muck on the bottom of the pond with the fish still in there? I have a small pond with koi.

  3. Don Davies

    Many thanks for this. I just got my pond set up from a contractor of ponds and pond maintenance service near me here in Colorado and I really need some useful tips on how to maintain it! Thanks for sharing this!

  4. Emmy

    Hello, I’m currently restoring an old pond was hoping for some advice regarding pond liners?
    The lining will be placed over ground which has been occupied by common reed, and was wondering about the best underlay to prevent the lining being pierced by any future growth?
    Any suggestions? Thanks!

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