Everyone remembers their first pool: the playful splashing, the pristine clear water, and the stench of chlorine burning your nostrils while simultaneously reminding you of the pool’s cleanliness.

But a lot has changed since the first swimming pool as people are beginning to fully understand the risks of chemicals used to treat traditional pools. Reflections Water Gardens believes in the power of natural swimming pools.

One of the first questions every new natural swimming pool owner asks is, how do I clean my new pool? Below we lay out everything you need to know about how to clean a natural swimming pool, including winterization, materials you’ll need, and what plants work best for your system.

 

Slow Start, Long-Term Gains

When cleaning and maintaining a traditional pool, the physical labor and financial costs tend to be steady throughout. You’ll need to purchase chlorine, algaecide, cyanuric acid, pH and alkalinity adjusters, and possibly pool shock; these chemicals are necessary to maintain the traditional pool’s dead water (i.e., nothing should grow in a conventional pool).

With natural swimming pools, we want the water to be alive since a lot of the cleaning results from the plants, microbes, and algae doing the work for you.

Since natural pools rely on plants and beneficial bacteria for cleaning, much of the heavy lifting regarding maintenance comes at the early stages of the pool’s existence. You’re creating an entirely new ecosystem, so patience is critical.

During those first few weeks of your natural swimming pool, these plants need to grow and be taken care of, and the beneficial bacteria need time to establish themselves in the biological filter.

But as the plants and ecosystem develop, the maintenance for your natural swimming pool lessens as they will work to keep your pool clean and healthy for swimming.

No Chemicals Necessary

We use “one pot” or “two pot” designs to avoid chemicals in a natural swimming pool.

A “one pot” pool is simple: half of the pool is a constructed wetland known as the regeneration zone, and the other half is your swimming area. We use a similar concept for “two pot” pools, except the swimming and regeneration zones are separated by a dividing wall, and sometimes the regeneration zone can be completely separated from the swimming zone with the use of filters, pumps, and plumbing to move the water around.

Without chemicals, natural swimming pools use biological filters to promote the growth of biofilm and “good” bacteria, which reduce phosphates and out-compete the “bad” bacteria for available resources. The water circulates in and out of the regeneration zone, preventing unwanted materials from dirtying up the swimming area.

Since the constant motion of the water helps with filtration, natural pool owners do not need to worry about needing to use any harmful chemicals in the swimming area.

 

How To Take Care of Plants

For natural swimming pools, you need three types of plants: floating plants (such as water lilies), emergent plants (such as sedges and rushes), and submerged plants (such as hornwort, which adds oxygen to the water).

Like gardening, plants need to be cared for to survive and maximize their cleaning efficiency. That includes trimming, replacing, and ensuring they stay healthy.

How well you take care of your plants affects your bio-filters efficiency.

 

Floating Plants

There are several different types of floating plants: submersed, free-floating, and trailing floating.

According to Clemson’s College of Agriculture, submersed floating plants “are anchored by roots to the bottom of the pond, but their leaves and flowers grow to and float on the water surface.” Free-floating plants are “suspended on the water, allowing the plant to be moved around the pond by wind and water currents.”

Free-floating plants can overgrow and overrun your natural swimming pool without proper care.

Some floating plants include Water Hyacinth, Water Lettuce, and dozens of different flowering plants.

 

Emergent Plants

A key element to any natural swimming pool, emergent plants are “rooted in the bottom [of your pool], but their leaves and stems extend out of the water.”

Because of their hard stems, emergent plants stand upright in the water and provide another great source of biodiversity for your regeneration zone.

The best examples of emergent plants include Lotus, Arrowhead, Pickerelweed, Iris, Sweetflag, Carex, and Juncus.

 

Submerged Plants

Underwater plants, sometimes called submerged plants, are entirely underwater and are rooted at the bottom, and the water physically supports the underwater plant’s structure.

Like other natural swimming pool plants, underwater plants require maintenance to maintain their aesthetic appeal.

A couple of examples of submerged plants for your natural swimming pool include Hornwort and Potamogeton. 

 

What Materials Do I Need?

While you won’t need chemicals to clean your natural swimming pool, you still need to purchase these other essential items.

That includes a pool or pond vacuum to clean off the bottom of your pool. Despite what the natural swimming pool looks like, the bottom requires regular vacuuming to clean up any of the algae that grows in the swimming area of your pool or debris that settles to the bottom.

There are also options for built-in floor cleaners to reduce maintenance time with your pool.

Also, every pool owner needs to have a skimmer. Like any body of water, leaves, debris, and other unwanted materials fall into your pool, making your pH levels go all over the place and contributing unwanted phosphates to the water, thus ruining the ecosystem you’ve worked so hard to build.

Even with these two cleaning tools, the physical labor is much less with a natural swimming pool as the plants and microbes continue to do a lot of the work that chemicals would do in a traditional pool

 

Winter Maintenance

Whereas a traditional pool needs to be drained and closed for the winter, your natural swimming pool remains flexible and functional no matter how cold the weather gets.

Like any type of natural pond or swimming area, a natural pool freezes during winter and doubles up as an ice skating rink. You will have to drain the pump and blow out the plumbing before the temperature gets extra cold. The same goes for any pressurized filters you may be using.

As for plant life, every plant in your natural swimming pool has different winterizing instructions. Water lilies and hardy plants can survive freezing temperatures, while marginally hardy and tropical plants cannot.

Reflections also suggest shutting down any waterfalls before freezing temperatures because they can inadvertently drain the water out of the pond.

Even with these small tasks, winterizing your natural swimming pool is a simple and easy process that allows you to protect your pool from winter damage and get ready to use your space no matter how cold it is outside.

 

Need assistance with natural swimming pool maintenance? Reflections Water Gardens is here to help.

Building the natural swimming pool oasis of your dreams is just step one. Leave the yearly natural swimming pool maintenance to the professionals as Reflections Water Gardens offers a full range of maintenance services, including aquatic planting, seasonal startups/shutdowns, and water quality improvement services.

Call Reflections Water Gardens today if you want more information about natural swimming pools or require maintenance.

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Author

Larry Carnes

Owner of Reflections Water Gardens

(815) 955-4911