Preparing Your Garden Pond for Winter
Although the real cold weather is a few weeks away, pond owners need to turn their thoughts to winterizing their ponds. Fall is the time of the year when your soon-to-be dormant fish build up fat reserves for their semi-hibernation over the winter. Ponds that contain fish have to be readied for the winter, at the latest when the water temperatures falls below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. In order to prepare for the cold weather ahead, the metabolism of your fish slows down. At this point, the fish are no longer able to digest high protein fish foods. Pond owners should switch to a low protein/ high fiber food (such as a wheat germ based fall fish food) as fall approaches in order to avoid undigested food remaining in their system once the real first cold snap occurs.
Here are some other tips and steps you can take for winterizing your pond: Plants:
Cut back all aquatic plants by 3/4's leaving tender new shoots intact. Inspect plant containers for root bound plants and plan on which plants need to be repotted in the spring. Move all hardy water lilies and lotus to the deeper section of the pond. Some marginal aquatic plants, like cattails, iris and pickerel rush can be left on your plant shelf. Move tropical plants indoors. Store tropical water lilies inside. Remove all water hyacinths and lettuce and discard. Pumps: Remove the pump from the pond to avoid damaging the rubber or plastic seals in the pump. Many manufacturers recommend storing pumps in a bucket of water in a frost free area. Biological filters can remain outside, but ultraviolet lights should be cleaned and taken inside for the winter. Aim the pump at an angle so the flow breaks the surface.
We have seen fish kills in ponds that have had only a de-icer that was able to keep a hole in the ice. In these cases the gases were still concentrated enough despite the hole in the ice to affect the fish. Using an aerator
Pond Netting: Cover your pond with a net to keep the leaves out of your pond. Leaf buildup can crate unsafe conditions for your plants and fish. Keep a Hole in the ice: To safely keep fish in your pond throughout the winter you must keep a hole in the ice. This can be done with a pond de-icer, air bubbler or solids handling winter pump. A build up of gas under the ice can be very toxic to your fish. This gas needs to have a way to escape. Never break the ice that forms on your pond as this can be detrimental to the health of your pond fish.
Thermometer: Get a thermometer! When the POND temperature drops under 55 - 60 degrees, discontinue your normal Bacteria and enzymes and switch to Cold Water Beneficial Bacteria which will be effective to 45 degrees. At 55 degrees, discontinue feeding your fish regular fish food. They may continue to eat but they will be unable to fully digest the food which may be harmful. Switch to a Cold Water Winter/Spring Food (usually containing easily digestible Wheat Germ)
Following these steps will prepare your pond, aquatic plants and fish for the winter months ahead and make for a stress free pond opening when the weather turns warm in the spring.
We recommend that you drain the urn, pump out the basin, and bring the pump inside. With the urn, you can either turn it upside down and put a tarp over it or bring it inside a garage or shed. Aquascape also suggests using a grill cover over the urn.
Question: At what temp (outside) do you suggest turning off the filter (waterfall running) to be safe of freezing? I've never left my waterfall/filter running all winter and this is the first I am trying it.
Answer from Aquascape Tech: There really is no set temp to shut the pump/waterfall down in the winter. It really depends on how frequently you want to add water due to loss by freezing. If it is decided to shut down, they will want to remove the pump with the check valve & store in a frost free area. Then if they have fish, a bottom aerator & floating heater will want to be installed. Keep in mind that the aerator should not be installed at the lowest point of the pond, install on the first or second shelf of the pond. The fish over-winter in the deepest point because of the earth’s heat & if the aerator is installed there it cools the water which could be harmful to the hibernating fish. Hope that helps!