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Preparing your Pond for Winter
Koi, goldfish, hardy fish and non-tropical plants are all accustom to the change in season. Hardy fish will survive the winter in most cold climate regions in a little as 18” pf water. A few simple steps should be taken in order to protect the health of the fish.
Leave them in the pond. Hardy lilies deeper than 12” will winter over in the pond with no difficulty. Simply cut the dead lily leaves and stalks, leaving 2” to 3” or tuber at the base of the plant. Hardy bog and marginal plants will need all of the dead leaves and plant material trimmed down just above the water level.
Tropical lilies and floating plants can be brought inside for the winter with some success, or treated as an annual and replaced each season. Remove the tropical lily after the first frost. Cut the lily leaves and keep only the tubers. Store the tubers in a green house or cool basement.
One of the most common reasons fish die during the winter is improper gas exchange (not enough oxygen). There are two ways to assure that there is enough oxygen for the fish to survive. First, use a net to remove the leaves and debris that have fallen at the bottom of the pond. Large quantities of leaves and debris left in the pond will begin to decompose and produce harmful gases throughout the winter. Second, provide a hole in the ice for oxygen to enter the pond.
You have three options to keep a hole in the ice open during the winter.
OPTION 1: Keep Your Waterfall Running
- Keep your waterfalls running. It’s that simple. Most ponds depending on the design, that have a pump greater than 2000 gallons per hour can be run throughout the winter providing it is run continuously. The moving water will keep the area around the waterfall and skimmer open. Be careful ponds with long or slow moving steams may form ice dams that will diver water off the liner. It is recommended observing your pond the first season during extremely cold days in older to assure that everything is running smoothly. Waterfalls operated through the winter will experience some evaporation. Periodically check your water level and add water if necessary.
- If you decide to shut your waterfall down for the winter, you will need to remove your pump. Store the pump in a frost-free location, submersed in a bucket of water. The water around the pump housing will help prevent the seal on the pump from drying and cracking. Next, remove the bags of biological media and filter mats from the biological filter. Wash them down and store in the garage or shed. Removing the biological media bags and filter mats during your winter shutdown will make your clean-out easier in the spring.
OPTION 2: Use an Aerator or Submersible Pump
- Use a 1,000 gallon per hour or larger submersible pump placed below the water surface. The water should not bubble more than 1” above the surface. The agitation from the pump will prevent freezing and allow gas exchange. We recommend placing the pump in basket or bucket. Surround the intake of the pump with gravel to prevent clogging.
- Use a pond aerator to keep an opening in the ice. Both options also allow for dissolved oxygen become present in the pond. Using a pond aerator is more energy efficient. See the image below.
OPTION 3: Floating Heater
- Use a floating heater in combination with a small submersible pump. Floating heaters are the most common method of keeping a hole open in the ice. Unfortunately, they are expensive to operate (1000 watts) Operating a small 150 gallon per hour or slightly larger submersible pump laced below the waters surface , a smaller versions of option #2 will keep a hole open until the air temperature drops to about 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the temperature drops below10 degrees it is time to switch on the heater. Place the pump and heater far enough apart to prevent the pump from moving heated water away from the heater.
- Note: Using a floating heater alone can be deadly to your fish. Larger fish or heavily stocked ponds require re-circulating water for fish to breathe. Fish gasping at the surface is a sign of lack of oxygen.
Top 3 Winterizing Products for Ponds
300 Watt Pond Heater
Pro Air 60 Pond Aerator
Cold Water Fish Food