In a prior post we answered five of the most commonly asked questions about preparing a pond for fall and winter. From fish to plant care, we’ve got you covered! But those questions are just the tip of the iceberg. Today we’ve got five more questions and answers for you, all about equipment, general care and more.
There’s a lot to know about pond care, so if you’re a DIYer and want the inside scoop, read on! If you want a professional touch, contact us and let us know. Our pond pros are always available to answer questions, provide advice and schedule white-glove cleaning and prep services for any season.
1. Is It Ok If The Pond Freezes Over?
If you have fish in your pond then you never want the pond surface to freeze over. As we mentioned, this can quickly deprive fish of vital oxygen and result in serious injury or death. The simple addition of a de-icer will solve this problem before it starts.
If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of forgetting the de-icer and suddenly realizing your pond is frozen, then get to work with a pot of warm water and pour it slowly and carefully over a small portion of the surface until it begins to thaw. While it’s ok if parts of the surface freeze, you must have a sufficiently open spot to allow oxygen in and harmful gases out. Be careful with hot-hot water or you risk raising the temperate too quickly and compounding the problem.
And never – we mean never! – try to smash ice with a shovel or other sharp tool. Fish will be dormant and they won’t expect such a disturbance, Smashing ice can send shockwaves through the water that will actually harm fish.
Freezing water also risks cracking and damaging equipment left in the pond, so when it comes to ice, a bit of prevention will go a long way.
2. What Should I Do About All Those Falling Leaves?
Few things will throw off the balance of your pond like decaying leaves and debris. If it seems like there are about four billion of them just waiting to sink into your pond and wreck havoc, don’t despair. The solution is quite simple: netting!
Some colorful fallen leaves can look quite nice scattered through your flowerbeds and collected in planters, but you most certainly want to keep them out of your pond – and pond netting was designed for exactly this purpose.
Start by cleaning out your pond to remove any already-fallen leaves or other decaying debris that has collected throughout the summer. Then, before the leaves start falling in earnest, cover your pond with this specially designed netting to keep leaves out.
Be mindful of how you do this. While it’s possible to simply stretch netting across your pond and secure it with stakes or stone, this can make it easy for leaves to collect and weigh it down. Wet leaves can pull the net into the water and make it tougher to clean them off. Netting placed over arced tubing can be an easier bet, as some leaves will slide off, others can be easily collected and removed, and the net will not become entangled in plant material or submerged in water.
When the leaves are done falling, you can remove the net, leaves and all, and continue to enjoy your pond.
3. Will Algae Finally Die Off In Winter?
Algae is a tough little bugger. Summer is usually the time of algae blooms so you might be surprised to learn that algae can continue to thrive even in the mid-30s, under the ice and all. In fact, algae may even thrive *more* during winter. Yikes!
Algae needs light to survive, but not very much. The light filtering through a sheet of ice on the surface of your pond is enough to allow algae to grow. A layer of snow is one solution, but until the day you can turn the weather on and off, you’ll need another. In this case, you can use a pond dye to block rays and thwart algae. This is a water- and fish-safe option that is available for lakes and ponds alike.
Algae also needs nutrients, and interestingly enough, they can get *more* nutrients in winter water. During summer months, active bacteria break down decaying organic matter, depriving algae of necessary nutrients and controlling its growth. But when those bacteria go dormant during winter, nutrients are plenty, and algae consumes them quite happily.
Fortunately, there’s a solution here as well: cold water bacteria. Added at the right time, this beneficial bacteria will break down nutrients and control algae growth.
Algae may not grow quickly or prolifically during winter, but ti won’t die off, either. It’s important to take the right steps to control it now as well as the appropriate steps next spring to prevent its resurgence.
4. Do I Need To Drain My Pond?
Definitely not! Even if you don’t have fish, you do not want to drain your pond completely. If you’re planning to shut your pond and waterfall down for winter, then you can simply drain the water to just below the skimmer opening. The skimmer basket should be cleaned out, as well as any nets and filters.
You should, however, drain all equipment, like your pipes and pumps. Otherwise, ice can freeze inside and crack essential equipment.
In fact, drinking your pond completely can actually be detrimental to its integrity. The ground will shift naturally throughout the winter, so draining it could case sections to slide or cave in.
If you have koi or other fish, you’ll want to maintain a water depth of at least 18 inches all winter. The water at the bottom will be naturally warmer and will provide enough shelter for fish to survive until spring.
5. What Should I Do With Equipment During Winter?
It takes more than a few pipes and tubes and motors and wires to keep a pond running and healthy! And this vital equipment needs care, too.
If you don’t plan to run your waterfall then you’ll need to turn off, remove and clean the pump, then store it in a bucket of water in a garage or basement where it won’t freeze. This will help prolong the life of the seals.
If your pump is running, it can serve as an aerator. Otherwise, you should install a small recirculating pump just beneath the surface, Don’t place it too deep where it will circulate cold water down. The water is warmer down there, and fish need that warmth to survive the winter.
As we mentioned, you should clean all debris baskets, drain plumbing, and remove filters and store them someplace where they won’t freeze.
If you’re using an electronic water clarifier (like Aquascape’s Iongen), shut it down for the winter. Otherwise, copper released from the system during cold months can kill fish.
Remember to add your de-icer or heater if you have fish.
And finally, this may sound obvious, but invest in a good water thermometer. They’re simple and inexpensive but invaluable when it comes to making important decisions like when and what to feed fish, what to do with plants and much more.
We hope you’re feeling more confident in understanding what it takes to keep your pond safe and healthy throughout fall and winter. Remember, we’re here if you have more questions and we’re available to take care of your pond from top to bottom if you choose. Just get in touch for a pond closing and we’ll get right back to you to let you know exactly what to expect.