With the arrival of fall and winter lurking right around the corner, the time is here for most pond owners to start thinking about winterizing their ponds and water features. Whether you are a seasoned professional or a beginner, there are a few important facts you need to be aware of in order to winterize your pond properly.
When it comes to preparing your pond for winter, timing is everything. Because weather patterns vary greatly from place to place and day to day, there is not a specific date each year that pond owners should have their ponds winterized by. Instead, pond owners should rely on pond temperature as the standard for determining when to ready their ponds for winter. While air temperature can fluctuate greatly over the course of a day, ponds retain heat more easily, preventing rapid temperature changes. Here is a general pond winterizing timeline based on water temperature.
Trim and remove all dying plant material in order to help prevent a buildup of debris in your pond. Debris left in your pond over winter can decompose and release toxic gasses that can harm your plants and fish.
Repot pond plants and divide those that have outgrown their pots. The cooler temperatures of fall help plants heal their root systems before winter strikes.
All of the plant maintenance in your pond will most likely stir up a lot of debris. It is a good idea to drain 50% of your pond water and replace with fresh water to prevent your pond from becoming murky.
Add a wheat germ fish food to your regular fish food. As the water’s temperature drops, the metabolism of your fish slows, therefore slowing their digestive system. Wheat germ food is easier for fish to digest and will help make the transition from fall to winter easier for them.
Bring tropical plants indoors to prevent them from being damaged by the cooler weather. Trim lilies and bog plants while disposing of or submerging surface plants if your pond is at least 18′ deep. Ponds any shallower than this run the risk of freezing solid killing your plants and fish.
Cover your pond with a pond net when leaves begin to fall in order to control pond debris. Excess pond debris can deplete your pond’s oxygen and produce toxic hydrogen sulfide gas, which can easily kill fish.
Once the water temperature is has fallen to 50° F stop feeding fish and do not feed again until spring, even if the water temperature rises about 50° F again before spring. Because the metabolism of fish slows during colder weather they are unable to digest food properly once the water temperature has reached 50° F and any food they ingest after this point can kill them.
In the spring, once the water temperature rises above 50-55° F and stays stable there for at least 1-2 weeks can you slowly begin to feed your fish again. Don’t worry about your fish going hungry during this time. They can feed on algae and other natural delights to sustain them, which are easier for your fish to digest while its digestive system returns to normal.
Smaller fish can survive the winter in ponds as long as the water is a minimum of 18′ deep.
Larger Koi fish require a minimum of 24′ of water in order to survive the winter.
Trim dead leaves and blossoms on hardy water lilies and move them to the deepest section of the pond. If the pond is less than 18′ deep they will need to be brought indoors to prevent freezing.
As the water temperature nears the freezing point it is important to remove your pond pump if your pond is less than 18′ deep. This prevents the pump from being damaged should the pond freeze over.
If your pond is deeper than 18′ and you use a submersible pump, turn the pump off and move it to the deepest part of the pond. If the pump is left on over the winter it can lower the water temperature too low for your fish to survive.
Install a pond de-icer to allow toxic gasses to be released and oxygen to enter should the surface of your pond freeze over during the winter.
For more information on winterizing your pond it is recommended you contact your local pond supply store. They will have all the information and resources you need to ensure your pond, plants and fish make it through winter safe and sound.