Tips on preparing your pond for the winter season.
Proper winterization of your pond begins in the fall.
The temperature of the water, rather than the temperature of the air, is an important indicator of when it's best to prepare your fish pond or water garden for colder weather. All your efforts will pay off in the spring with a healthier pond and healthier fish.
It is a good rule of thumb to always trim and remove any dying plant material as it appears. Fall is a great time to divide and repot plants as the milder temperatures will allow the plant time to heal its root system before cold temperatures arrive, and will most likely provide more blooms the following summer. In northern climates when temperatures get below 60°F, tropical plants should be brought inside or disposed of, along with surface and submersed plants, as required by zone. Trim the bog plants back and pull lilies out to trim them before frost. Set all plants in the bottom of the pond, provided it is deep enough to keep from freezing in the winter.
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As the temperatures cools, it is harder for fish to digest food properly. Even though your fish need to bulk up for winter, be careful not to overfeed. You can feed 2-3 times a day what they'll eat in 5 minutes or less, then remove any excess food. When the water temperature reaches the lower 70°F, it's a good time to switch your fish food to a wheat germ base that is more easily digested. Once the water temperature falls to 50°F, it is best to stop feeding. The bacteria in a fish's digestive system are no longer able to process food when the temperature gets this low.
When the first leaves begin to fall is the time to cover the entire pond with netting. Proper pond netting is barely visible and is stretched and anchored over both sides of the pond. It is very important to make sure the netting is above the surface of the water. As leaves gather onto the net, periodically remove the anchors and flip off the leaves. Once all danger of leaves accumulating in the water has past, remove the net.
Alternately, if you prefer to use a skimmer, ensure that you clean it and check for excess debris daily.
Rid The Pond Of Debris
It is a good idea to remove some of the excess debris at the bottom of the pond, or it will continue to decompose, using up oxygen and producing hydrogen sulfide, a toxic gas. A fine weave aquarium net works well to sift out excess muck. There is no need to completely drain and remove every bit of mud and debris as a small amount is very helpful to the inhabitants of your water garden.
Change The Water
With all this activity in the pond, fall is a good time to change the water. Start by replacing half of the water, if a 50% water change still leaves the water murky the next day, try replacing another half.
Remember to use de chlorinator if your tap water contains chlorine.
Is A Heater Necessary?
A pond heater does not actually heat the pond but instead creates an opening in the ice. This allows for toxic gasses to be released and oxygen to enter the pond. Pond heaters or deicers are only necessary in areas where the threat of long term freezing is common.
Alternatly, pond breathers use far less energy than de-icers and heaters. They are designed to freeze into ice and circulate water above ice layer to exchange gas. Each day, Pond Breather exposes 4000 times the water surface area to the atmosphere than other pond breathers, yet requires only 40 Watts.
In warmer climates where ponds don't freeze over, pumps and aerators should continue to run year round.
Is A Pond De-icer Necessary For Backyard Ponds?
Caring For Your Pump
When the temperature gets below 40°F, the main pump can be removed, and the filters should be thoroughly cleaned. Do not allowing the pump to run on the bottom of the pond will lower the overall temperature of the pond. In addition to thetemperature being too low for the fish to survive, the movement of the water will cause the fish to use more energy trying to remain still.
Just because the pond will be "sleeping" for a while, doesn't mean it will look ugly. A frozen pond can be very beautiful, especially if you installed underwater lighting. The effect is spectacular!