Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

 I have always had ponds about me. My childhood was always spent in cooee of water life.

It's not that I'm into fish and  aquariums in a big way -- but I like small bodies of water:  billabongs, dams,  waterholes, lagoons....
I've used water filled plastic buckets, terra-cotta pots, laundry sinks, baths, old tires, and gar bags to sustain my  obsession with pond-hood.
A house without a pond -- a water feature -- is missing something.

It's unnatural. Not a home.

In the sub tropics where I  exist you live and learn and my absolute primary rule is that it is better to have  many small ponds rather than one big one. 

Big ones I've had. (I've turned a swimming pool into pond). But big bodies of water are a management headache.
Aside from the problem of keeping water up to them -- not easy if your water supply is chlorinated and chlorine kills fish -- ponds are, regrettably, cane toad magnets and the first law of pond management is:
It is easier to cull toads from puddles than not.
That's the trick. Indulge yourself with water  by all means, but do it in small doses. If you have ever hunted toads by torch light at night and fear the infestation of your cherished waters with their poisonous eggs and tadpoles, you soon learn to keep your search and destroy patches small.
At present I have four ponds in various locations in my garden. One is formed by a plastic pot, the rest are old car tires with plastic gar bag inserts.
 Car tires make great little reservoirs. I  remove one side of the rim  with a Stanley knife and pad the shape with some strong gar bag material before throwing in some potted water plants and adding H2O.
While I grow edible plants in these ponds --Watercress Nasturtium officinale and Water Spinach / Kangkong Ipomoea aquatica -- I value the life aquatic  as an enrichment of  garden ecology. 
Our Birdbath
Ponds promote a busy lifestyle. You get many more exotic creatures come to visit like dragon flies and hornets.(Ponds are worth it if only for dragon fly visits) . If you don't want mosquitoes (who does?) just add small fish or wait for the frogs to move in and tadpoles to turn your pond into a nursery. 
Note on 'small fish': the complication is that they may/will eat frog's eggs. There is less chance of that with small native fish species but I haven't had much success  keeping Rainbowfish.
However, when locating your smallish ponds remember that frogs do what frogs do and a night time croak can be cause for insomnia. Much as I love Striped Marsh Frogs  their staccato 'dup!' drives me crazy after 2 am. So don't put ponds near bedroom windows. In  fact put them a long way away from the house.

When designing your pond, also make a point of adding sticks or branches as hardware so that the frog can get out of the water. They need their pathways. 

Also consider that many local species prefer  shallow water  to deep ponds  and appreciate vegetative cover. While you wait for that to grow, throw in some Azolla (although goldfish will eat this water fern gluttonously).

Ponds also cool down the locale and give you the chance to  plant out the bank with grasses and explore stunning florals like the Louisiana Iris and water lilies. 

Where I now live I have tank water and that makes water level  top ups so easy to do. Chlorination of water supplies is a major handicap to pond management and for a serious pond habit you need rainwater ... on tap. 

I used to try to force my ponds to attract more than amphibians and insects, but while the dogs will drink out of the ponds (despite my discouragement of the practice) they don't suit birds  despite the sticks I may run along the water's edge. If you want to hydrate the local  avifauna use a bird bath. Birds prefer to drink above ground -- as it is safer/away from predators --  from an easy to land on lip --  and like the wheel, there's no reason to stress out and try to re-invent the bird bath.
Make a bird bath: upturn  one longish terracotta pot  and place a flat terracotta dish on top. Voila! Instant bird bath. 
Our bird bath is so muti species popular that I make it a practice to change the water every day as it serves as  both a drinking and a bathing station. Compared to putting wild bird seed out, bird baths attract a better class of personnel...

Ponds are preferred Cane Toad  habitats. To combat this, you could raise your pond up -- I think at least 50 cm high -- above the surrounding ground  as Cane Toads cannot jump like native frogs. But that means that your pond will lose a verge option and your water may evaporate more quickly as it will heat up faster in Summer. Another option is to fence your pond...a fence of verge grasses is effective against Toads but then you won't be able to see the water. 

Rainbowfish: If you do put Rainbowfish in your pond make sure the species you select is indigenous to your catchment. Just in case. There are enough feral stock in our waterways and you don't want to upset the struggling Rainbows any more than they are challenged. If your local creeks have guppies in profusion -- and most Brisbane water ways do -- I reckon you can use those as your mosquito control preference. They aren't as effective as Rainbows but they are already occupying the neighborhood. To protect your frogs harvest from the fish, remove any eggs to an isolation trough. 

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Comment by Dave Riley on November 26, 2019 at 18:59

Pondlife moves on...and up. Them cane toads aren't wanted!

So any exposed water source is elevated. Birds prefer it that way too.

Since I 'grow on' my Vetiver slips in bread trays, covered with waterproof plastic and filled with water-- the Marsh Frogs have also occupied these waterbeds too.

Which got me thinking about mosies  and other possibilities.

So I'm planning on cultivating Azolla to not only share the trays with Vetiver but to also feed my chooks and supply specialty mulch.

It's easy to grow Azolla but to do it as a conscious focus, calls for its own special 'pond'.

If I set aside a bread tray or too and stand the trays above ground  in semi shade-- out of cane toad reach -- I'm in the Azolla business, like this:

Since I'm also growing Vetiver as shade and coolant in water next to my security screen wall, Azolla will be very useful growing in those pots too. 

Just think of it: an exposed water surface growing Vetiver coated with Azolla. Breeze flow around the pot sides (preferably terracotta or ceramic), over the Azolla blanket and between the Vetivers tillers.

More watering holes.

Comment by Scarlett on November 6, 2011 at 22:09
yep - just black plastic, and sand (under the tyre, the liner, the bricks, and in the water on top of the liner as well). yes, i didn't have one in Brisbane, there would be cane toad repercussions as Dave says
Comment by Elaine de Saxe on November 6, 2011 at 15:27
Do you use a pond liner, Scarlett? Those kind of ponds would be a free gift to the Cane Toads :-(.
Comment by Scarlett on November 6, 2011 at 9:05
I like truck tyres for tyre ponds - have had a couple of those. if you set them one brick depth into the earth and radiate some bricks around the edge they are quite pretty and you would never know they are a tyre pond
Comment by Elaine de Saxe on November 3, 2011 at 11:00

Are 'Rainbowfish' and 'Pacific Blue Eyes' the same species? I am talking about a yellow-finned (the White Clouds are red-finned - or is it the other way around?) fish to about 25-30cm long. Each coastal river has an endemic population which differs a little from those in the next river. The ones from the southern rivers take to colder water better but they still prefer it flowing.


I wouldn't know a Guppy if I fell over it, nor Gambusia or any other fish unless it comes with a label on its tank at the aquarium shop. So like eating weeds, identification it the crux of the issue. You can control mosquito larvae and more or less protect frog spawn by introducing a very small fish to the pond. And generally because of their hardiness, the White Cloud is the most used fish.


Removing the spawn is the best solution if there is a pre-prepared box (eg a styrene Broccoli box) ready to take it. However never touch spawn with your hands! Always use a piece of something like a plastic plate or bowl which is clean. It is so easy to contaminate the spawn and kill it. Pre-prepared means sand, chlorine-free water, water weeds for oxygen and once the spawn has hatched, some algae-replacer like steamed Lettuce.

Comment by Dave Riley on November 3, 2011 at 10:16

I'm still at early colonisation stage with frogs as the garden began here as sand on grass with one tree 10 months ago. I've now got Marsh and Green Tree Frogs in my water holes and are expecting an big growth in amphibian numbers so long as  I combat the Cane Toad invasion. Marsh Frogs are, of course, early colonisers.

I didn't know that about Blue Eyes being flowing water specific! Lovely fish. I updated the post with a footnote and I find that if you go with Creek Guppies culling is as easy as feeding netted over stock to the chooks. But then you may as well use goldfish species too. I get mottled, drab feeder stock from pet shops as they are much cheaper and the lack of colour protects the fish from predation. But for very small ponds, goldfish can grow too big to be naturally sustained.

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on November 3, 2011 at 5:33

Good options and good info, Dave! The native Blue eye (several varieties of) prefer running water and are next to impossible to keep in small cold bodies of still water. The Chinese White Cloud Mountain Minnow does very well in these circumstances but since they breed prolifically in the old baths I've had as frog ponds, I guess they will breed just as enthusiastically in local waterways. If there's any risk at all that a backyard pond will get flooded, then don't use the White Clouds. And even though they are quite small, they will munch on the undersides of a frog egg mass.


I suppose Striped Marshes can be a pest with their call, some likened it to a dripping tap, a chorus of dozens of them is quite something! And some of them will 'pop' back to you if you call to them! During the last big wet, there are 5 species of frog close by. Weirdly, each species took a turn of about 3 hours each to hold a mass calling session. So while it was a cacophany up the back (in the adjoining mini-acerage) it was only one species at a time. Truly an amazing few days when it all went off, a record-making machine would have been wonderful. And the bonus has been the juveniles of 5 species hopping about in the yard.

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Vetiver grass helps to stabilise soil and protects it against erosion.  It can protect against pests and weeds. Vetiver is also used as animal feed. (Wiki.)

GrowVetiver is a plant nursery run by Dave & Keir Riley that harvests and grows Vetiver grass for local community applications and use. It is based in Beachmere, just north of Brisbane, Australia.

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