In the winter, frogs might seek refuge in your pond. Being ectothermic or cold-blooded, frogs regulate their body temperature by exchanging heat with their surroundings. These surroundings can be mud in a deep plant pocket or a potted plant located in a deep area of the pond, preferably below the frost line. The soil in the pocket or pot provides the needed warmth to assure a warm overwintering for your amphibious friends.
As with fish, it is equally important to keep an opening in the ice for frogs. This allows for the release of harmful gases and the replenishment of fresh oxygen.
There are several options to accomplish the opening in the ice:
- One popular option is a floating pond de-icer. De-icers are designed to maintain a small hole in the pond ice. Most are thermostatically controlled to insure a worry-free solution for your pond fish.
- Another option is to move your existing pond pump close to the water surface to create water movement. There are pumps that are marketed towards this versatile option. Aquascape markets their AquaForce® for this very solution. Depending on the extremity of the weather, this option might be successful.
- Another option is pond aeration. You may already have aeration located at the bottom of your pond. However, winter applications for pond aerators are not recommended to be placed on the bottom of the pond as this can disrupt the natural thermocline of the deeper portions of the pond. Most successful winter applications involve placing the aeration discs 1 to 1-1/2 feet below the water level. Always consult your owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommendation of winter applications.
Pond water quality is usually at its best in the fall because of fewer water battles with algae. Fall is also the one time of year where your pond may need daily maintenance.
Prepare the pond for the autumnal leaf fall by purchasing a fine-meshed pond net. Remove leaves before they have a chance to break down and pollute the water. If large quantities are left in your pond, they will decompose and rob your pond of oxygen. Don’t sweat if a few leaves get left behind in the pond. They can help provide overwintering places for frogs and insects. If you have a skimmer, you may need to empty the debris net daily. If you don’t have time for daily skimmer maintenance, consider purchasing a pond net to cover your pond entirely.
Plants will start to shed leaves quite dramatically as the temperature drops. Be attentive about removing any decaying leaf matter before it becomes detached and sinks to the pond bottom. Stop fertilizing your plants as well. Their nutritional requirements will be less as cooler weather begins. Hardy bog and marginal plants should be cut within 2 inches of the base of the water level. Water lilies should be trimmed back within 2-3 inches of the base of the plant. Tropical plants should be removed and brought indoors to over-winter, otherwise, they can be treated as annuals and replaced next year.
As the weather gets cooler, you will notice your fish spending more time at the bottom of the pond. Because pond fish are cold-blooded, their metabolism and appetite are dependent on the pond’s temperature.
As the water temperature drops to 65°F, start offering a lower-protein food. Marketed as cold water fish food or spring and autumn food, they offer low-protein and high wheat germ combinations. Wheat germ is a highly digestible protein. Higher-protein food should not be offered this time of year as they can only digest a limited amount of protein. The remaining protein is excreted as toxic ammonia, leading to water quality problems.
Stop feeding your fish when the temperature has reached 50°F. If you don’t have a pond thermometer, it’s a wise investment.
Winter Fish Care
In northern climates with extreme cold conditions, your pond can freeze over so it is important to maintain an opening in the pond so that fresh air and gas exchanges can occur. Decomposing organic matter can be exchanged with fresh oxygen. There are several ways that you can eliminate pond freeze-over.
A popular option is a floating pond de-icer. De-icers are designed to maintain a small hole in the pond ice. Most are thermostatically controlled to insure a worry-free solution for your pond fish.
Another option is to move your existing pond pump close to the water surface to create water movement. There are pumps that are marketed towards this very option. Aquascape markets their AquaForce® for this solution. Depending on the extremity of the weather, this option might be successful.
An overstocked pond can benefit from pond aeration. You may already have one located at the bottom of your pond. However, winter applications for pond aerators are not recommended to be placed on the bottom of the pond as this can disrupt the natural thermocline of the deeper portions of the pond. Most successful winter applications involve placing the aeration discs 1 to 1-1/2 feet below the water level. Always consult your owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommendation of winter applications.
You can also choose to run your pump throughout the winter. If you do choose this option, proper care should be taken to monitor your pond during the winter months to monitor water levels. Drops in water level could be due to evaporation or ice build-up. Ice build-up over the waterfall can lead to water being diverted out of the pond, leading to significant water loss. If this happens, consider removing the pump and follow manufacturer’s procedures on over-wintering the pump.
Winter Filter Media
If you choose not to run your pump, consider removing your filter media and, if possible, keep it moist or wet over the winter to retain the essential beneficial bacteria for next year.
What is Calcium Montmorillonite Clay or Calcium Bentonite Clay?
Calcium Montmorillonite Clay or Calcium Bentonite Clay is rich in minerals and trace elements (contains over 60 trace minerals) that are needed to help the overall vitality of our fish. It is believed by many to be the secret to the healthy, vibrant-colored koi found in Japan. The Japanese are said to replenish their mud ponds in the spring before filling with Koi. You can simulate this same activity by gradually adding this clay to your pond on a regular basis all year round. If your local water supply is treated to remove a lot of these minerals and trace elements that our fish thrive on, it can be especially beneficial to add this clay.
“Montmorillonite” is a term used to describe a wide family of clays which are mined all over the world, and is a component of volcanic ash weathering. Most people use clay to improve water clarity, but the main reason to apply clay to your pond is for its unseen actions during ion exchange. The added clay is in an alkaline state retaining its electrically active, negatively charged ion. Once introduced to the pond, the toxins, bacteria and pathogens in the water, which carry a positive electrically charged ion, bind to the negatively charged ions in the clay. These particles are held in a suspended state inside the clay particle until it is filtered out of your pond. This ion exchange aides in toxin removal, while replenishing minerals and trace elements. Some of the trace elements include: calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium and iron.
Suggestions on Usage
There are several ways to introduce clay into your pond besides just the regular maintenance dosage available with your product. Additionally, you can roll your fish food in the clay. After the clay is absorbed into the food, you can feed your fish a more nutritionally complete version of fish food. Once ingested by the fish, the clay binds to the toxins while passing through the digestion system. It’s also stated to strengthen the immune system, enhance the production of enzymes and detoxify the body in general.
When re-potting your plants in the spring, add a few tablespoons of clay to the potting soil along with fertilizer tabs. Many have noticed beautiful results.
There is even plenty of information available on the benefits for humans and animals.
Are All Calcium Montmorillonite/Bentonite Clays Equal?
There are a variety of grades available. Some contain more silica, while some have more impurities than others. The best way to determine the suitability for your pond is to do a simple test. One test is to simply mix it up. If it clumps up, it is an inferior grade. Another quick test is to mix some in a glass of water. After a few minutes, you should not notice a lot of particles floating on the surface of the glass. The more floating particles you notice, the more impurities that are present.
Want to liven up your pond with a new fish this year? You might want to consider the Chinese High Fin Banded Shark to add some interest to your pond. Don’t be fooled by the fact that they resemble sharks in their juvenile state, they still exhibit a peaceful temperament, even a playfully swimming manner. They are even known to change color depending on their mood.
These omnivorous bottom dwellers prefer cooler temperatures with stretches of warmer weather, as they are native to the Yangtze River in China.
Some other considerations for raising these fish:
• Provide well oxygenated water
• Appear to be a schooling fish, so consider buying in groups to mimic their natural habitat
• In their natural habitat, adults grow up to 40 inches.
• Can be fed sinking algae pellets, sinking goldfish food, brine shrimp and blood worms
The International Waterlily and Water Gardening Society (IWGS) recently announced the 2012 Collector’s Aquatic Plant of the Year: Nymphaea ‘Scarlet Flame’. Shown above, this beautiful day-blooming tropical water lily was introduced by Florida Aquatic Nurseries and won 1st place in the IWGS 2011 New Waterlily Competition.
“‘Scarlet Flame’ is truly unique in its appearance and stands in a league of its own,” says Brandon McLane of Florida Aquatic Nurseries. “This free-flowering tropical waterlily produces up to 3 blooms at a time and is accented by bright green pads with red undersides. We’re quite pleased with the results.”