Believe it or not, winter can be a beautiful time for ponds and other water features! The weather may be frightful, but the sight of a pond or bubbling water feature is surely delightful. Ponds and their aquatic cousins require minimal care during winter, but there are a few things you’ll need to do to ensure the continued health and beauty not only of the features themselves but of the critters that may overwinter there.
These are a few of the challenges you may encounter during the coldest months and the products that will help you navigate them. With a little bit of TLC, you can enjoy a safe, healthy winter season with all the beauty that water – even frozen! – can bring.
The Cold Snap
Freezing temperatures mean different things for different types of water features. A decorative water bubbler, for example, will perform just fine. In fact, as it gets colder and the water begins to crystallize into ice, a bubbler will just be starting to show off! You can enjoy some spectacular ice formations during freezing spells that may have you wishing for more sub-zero temperatures.
A fish pond, on the other hand, should never freeze over. If the surface of your pond freezes over, it will prevent oxygen from circulating in, and will trap harmful gases so they can’t circulate out. That can be dangerous – even fatal – for goldfish and koi.
You can prevent catastrophe with the simple implementation of an aerator. During warmer months, your waterfall, fountain or bubbler can act as an aerator, but during cold months when even moving water might freeze over, it’s important to have measures in place to keep the surface of your pond from doing the same.
Aerators are quiet, easy to use, and cost effective in terms of energy usage. They’ll keep water moving enough to bring oxygen in, let harmful gases out, and keep an open hole free from ice. You can use aerators year-round to keep water circulating and healthy, but they become even more important during winter.
The Deep Freeze
Sometimes a cold spell may be particularly long and frigid, and even aerators may have trouble keeping up. When that happens, it’s time to bring in the de-icer. A de-icer is essentially a floating heater, and its job is to warm the water directly around it, keeping a hole open big enough to let air circulate.
These units typically can be set to operate only when the temperature reaches a certain threshold so you don’t need to run it continuously. While you can certainly keep it running, de-icers tend to use more energy than aerators, so you’d be better served employing them on an as-needed basis.
Using a de-icer alone can keep the surface from freezing, but it won’t do anything about the circulation of oxygen in and gases out. So if you’re expecting some downright chilly temperatures this year, your best bet is to use both of these pieces of equipment in conjunction with one another. When your fish and koi emerge again in spring, you’ll be glad you did.
A pond is a living, breathing, organic being. Whether you have fish or not, water contains bacteria and organisms, plants grow in and around your pond, and other natural debris makes its way into your pond, from grass clippings to fallen leaves and whatever gets blown over in that wintery gale.
Over the winter, organic matter begins to decay, releasing phosphorous and nitrogen. These nutrients can build up, causing and imbalance and leading to algae blooms through spring.
The way to combat winter gunk buildup is with cold water bacteria. Don’t panic – not all bacteria are harmful. In fact, many kinds are beneficial, including the kind that should be added to your pond to protect it during winter.
Cold water beneficial bacteria is essential for pond health once the water temperature drops below 50° F, and before it freezes. Simply add it into your skimmer, or directly into the pond where it gets the most circulation.
This type of bacteria is perfectly safe for fish, plants and other pond wildlife. And it will go to work “eating” all the excess nutrients and organic gunk that would otherwise throw your pond health out of balance.
The “But When Should I Do All This?” Dilemma
When it comes to pond health, here’s some good advice: don’t guess! Don’t guess when it’s time to stop feeding your fish for winter, or when to start feeding them again in spring. Don’t guess whether it’s time for an aerator, or if you should be adding cold water bacteria.
The solution to all this guessing and possibly making destructive mistakes is rather simple: a pond thermometer.
Fish or not, every pond needs a thermometer. There are just too many things that depend on water temperature for guessing to make sense.
For instance, when and how much you feed your fish will depend on water temperature. The type of food you feed your fish will depend on water temperature. Get it wrong and you could be risking their health and longevity. And it’s too easy to get it right for this to become a worry.
When to add different types of beneficial bacteria, algae treatments, clarifiers, and other treatments will also depend on water temperature. It’s no surprise that a water thermometer isn’t just for winter – it’s a year-round necessity.
There are different types of thermometers available, from standard submersible thermometers to smart thermometers that are designed to be monitored and read from an app on your smart phone or tablet. One of the nifty things about a smart thermometer is that you can set triggers to interact with other smart devices, so you can schedule lights to go on and off, adjust the flow of pumps, and more.
You can monitor energy usage of your other devices through the app, and of course keep tabs on temperature so you know when to turn on the de-icer, or whether it’s time to start adding cold water bacteria.
Winter pond maintenance isn’t difficult, but it does require some attention. With a few key products, your job will be a lot easier, and you can look forward to all the beauty the season has to offer – and a great start next spring!
If you need help choosing the right pond products, or if you need to purchase any for your pond before a winter crisis emerges, let us know. Call us at (732) 566-1600 or contact us online. Our pond shop is closed until spring but our pond pros are available to help, and we are also available to meet you at the shop in an emergency.