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Fall and Winter Pond Care

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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.

Falling Leaves

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.

Plant Care

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.

Fish Care

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.

Preparing Your Pond for Spring

 

Spring is officially here!  With an unusually warmer than normal winter this year, most ponders have already started getting their pond ready.  Are you one them?  Need some ideas to assure your pond will be ready?  Read on….

Clean Up

This is the time to remove any debris that has accumulated during the winter.  Leaves, twigs and fine sediment should be removed with a net.   A skimmer net is a good choice for removing sediment, as it has a finer mesh than a fish net.  Be sure to the remove pond heater and bubbler that you may have added over the winter to keep a hole in the ice for proper gas exchange.

Assess Your Water

Now is a great time to test your water.  Getting a baseline for your water quality will allow you to understand the current condition of the water.  There are several water testing kits available.  If you need help understanding the importance of what each water testing parameter represents, read this article titled, “Water Quality Parameters for Your Pond”.

In the spring, your water is rich in Dissolved Organic Carbons (DOC’s) because the fish are coming back to life.  While their metabolism increases, the beneficial bacteria that naturally help to remove these organics aren’t fully up to speed because of the water temperature.   This time is also referred to Aeromonas Alley due to the prevalence and rapid growth of the Aeromonas bacteria.  This is potentially a vulnerable time for your fish. 

Partial water changes are a great way to help dilute any excessive toxins in the water, while simultaneously adding fresh oxygen back into your pond.  When refilling your pond, be sure to apply a water detoxifier to remove chlorine and other heavy metals.   The addition of beneficial bacteria can help your pond adjust to the addition of the ammonia and nitrite levels after a long winter.  These products are temperature sensitive but are available in cold water varieties as well.  You can also consider a Spring Starter Kit, which will have all essential products to help your pond off to a great start.

Happy Spring to You All!

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Maintaining Your Pond During the Winter

If you live in a colder winter climate and have chosen to allow your pond to run throughout the winter, then you are probably already aware that this will require maintenance in bitter temperatures.  Whether or not you decide to allow your pond to run all winter long, below are some items to consider.

Water

Just as your water levels need replenished due to evaporation in the warmer weather, the same is true for colder temperatures as well.   Adding water may become more challenging in the winter with normal water sources shut down.  Some options for adding water include:  making multiple trips with a bucket or running a hose from an internal faucet.  There are many pond owners that perform partial water changes on their ponds during the winter to relieve the pond of harmful buildup of ammonia and nitrites.   While adding water is not convenient in the winter, it is an important part of maintaining your pond during these cold temperatures.

Water Circulation

Be aware, that pump size is a critical factor in determining a waterfall’s ability to operate during the winter.  In most situations, a pump size of 2,000 gph or bigger can be operated during the winter safely.  If you are presented with many sub-zero temperature days, your system may not function normally due to ice build-up.  Carefully monitoring your pond during these extreme temperatures is important.  It may become necessary to shut your system down until the ice has melted and normal water flow can be restored.

If you decide to shut your pond down due to these extreme temperatures, be sure to consider a few maintenance steps.  Always be sure to follow your manufacturer’s recommendation for properly storing your pump.  Also remove and rinse the filtration media and place in a frost-free location for ease of replacement in the spring.

Fish

If your pump has been shut down, it is important that some form of aeration be provided to allow for an opening in the ice.  This allows for the escape of harmful gases to be released.

There are several great options when considering alternate forms of aeration.  The Aquascape AquaForce® is a great winterizing pump.  This recirculating bubbler pump is designed to sit in the pond and oxygenate the water.  Simply place the pump in the water, positioning the discharge pipe below the surface of the water.  The bubbling from the pump will maintain a hole in the ice, which will help increase oxygen levels and allow for dangerous gases to escape.

The addition of a floating de-icer in combination with the bubbler pump is recommended for extreme prolonged cold winters to insure there will be a hole open in the ice all winter long.

In Conclusion

Whether you run your pond all winter or shut it down is a decision to have to make based on how much maintenance you want to perform during these extreme temperatures.   The beauty of beautiful ice that is created from the water may be rewarding enough to consider maintaining it all winter long.