With cold weather approaching, it’s important to prepare your pond for a safe and healthy season. Fish, plants, and even water health from now through next spring will depend on the steps you take now. We’ve shared resources here before to help you get started, like this quick start guide.
We also offer personalized recommendations when you visit our showroom, and free seminars that will teach you everything you need to know about caring for your pond through fall and winter. Check our events page for more info about pond seminars and to hold your spot!
In the meantime, today we’re sharing five commonly asked questions about fall and winter pond care. Have another that didn’t make the list? Contact us and ask!
1. Should I Feed My Fish Through Winter?
That’s a big fat no! But don’t just arbitrarily skip feeding days – it’s important to know when to feed fish, and just as important to know what to feed them at different times of the year.
When water temperatures drop below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, fish metabolism slows down, which means it’s time to switch up their diet to something that’s more easily digestible. Switch to a cold water fish food when water temps are between 55 and 60 degrees. This type of food typically contains wheat germ and will have the nutrients that fish need to prepare for the cold weather.
Don’t feed your fish more than they can eat within a five minute period, or the food can sink to the bottom where it will decay and cause a buildup of harmful gases.
When temperatures drop below 55 degrees you should stop feeding fish entirely. The lowest temperature you can feed though is 50 degrees, so stick within that range for a safe bet
Don’t worry, your fish will settle down for a long winter’s nap and will one perfectly fine without feedings until spring.
2. Can I Run My Waterfall All Winter?
The short answer is yes, and it can result is some of the most beautiful natural ice sculptures you can imagine!
The longer answer is that it depends on your tolerance for maintenance. If you choose to leave your waterfall running all winter, you’ll need to take some extra steps to ensure your pond’s health.
For example, you may need to replace water due to evaporation. You certainly don’t want your pond levels getting so low that it endangers fish and overall water health.
You’ll also need to be sure that ice dams don’t form, which can divert the flow of water out of the pond, again lowering water levels dangerously.
It takes a few extra precautions but if you’re up for it, your winter waterfall can continue to be a source of beautiful sights and sounds all winter long.
3. What Should I Do With Water Lilies For The Winter?
There are different care options depending on the type of lilies you have. For a detailed explanation, you can read our winter care guide for lilies here.
In general, hardy water lilies can survive cold temperatures as long as their roots don’t freeze. Move lilies to the deepest part of your pond, preferably at least three feet deep. If that’s not possible, you can place them in buckets and bring them into a garage or basement until after the ice thaws.
Don’t try to keep hardy lilies blooming all winter, even indoors. They need a dormancy period if they’re to successfully bloom again in spring.
Tropical water lilies, on the other hand, will die off once the temperature dips below 60 degrees. The easiest way to deal with tropicals is to treat them as annuals and replace them next spring.
But if you’ve got a bit of a green thumb, you can, with a little effort, keep these beauties blooming indoors all winter. Remove them from your pond before the first frost and place them in a bucket of water in a warm, sunny location in your home. You’ll need to keep the water temperature at a consistent 70 degrees and then return them to the pond when the outdoor water temperature matches.
4. What Should I Do With Other Pond Plants?
Again, this depends on the type of plants, but as a general rule of thumb, you’ll want to cut back all dead and dying plants and remove the debris so it doesn’t fall into your pond and decay. Decaying plant material can wreck havoc with the balance of your pond.
Trim marginals to just above the water line. Cut back lilies and lotuses to about an inch above the root stem, and remember to move them to the deepest part of your pond.
Don’t get too aggressive! Remember, your pond is meant for four-season enjoyment so whether you choose to run your waterfall or leave some plants for visual interest, you can continue to enjoy what you pond has to offer all year. Leave some tall grasses, like ribbon grass and sweet flag. They will look lovely and sound delightful in the blowing fall breezes.
5. What Should I Do With My Koi And Other Fish During Winter?
Fish don’t technically hibernate, but their metabolism will slow down sufficiently so that it will almost appear that they do. That’s the long way of saying: let them be! Fish will survive winter just fine as long as you meet a few criteria.
First, as we mentioned, stop feeding them at the appropriate time and be sure you switch to a cold water food before ceasing entirely.
Clean your pond before winter sets in. This is crucial for fish health because excess decaying matter like fallen leaves and other debris will release harmful gases that can kill fish.
Consider installing an aerator and a de-icer. Fish may not need to eat but they do need oxygen. A still, or frozen pond, is a sure way to deny fish this vital nutrient. If you keep your waterfall running, this can help aerate the water. And a de-icer will ensure that there is always an open space on your pond’s surface for the exchange of gases.
Finally, and just for fun, install an underwater camera so that you can keep an eye on them all year long. This nifty bit of equipment can display their underwater antics on your computer monitor or TV screen and can even be used as a screen saver! Plus you’ll have the added benefit of witnessing – and mitigating – any problems that you might not otherwise notice from the surface.
Fall is around the corner, and before you know it, Jack Frost will be nipping at your pond! Prepare now for a safe and healthy season and you’ll be rewarded with an enjoyable experience right through until next spring.