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Article - Winterizing the Pond

Winterizing the Pond

Tips for winterizing your pond

Some tips for winterizing your pond:

  • Clean up - Clean up any debris in the bottom, in the filter, or around the pond which could be blown into the pond. This debris is fertile ground for the bad-guy bacteria and parasites over-wintering in the pond. And remember, they "spring to life" before your koi and goldfish will. Remover all dead or dying vegetation in and around the pond, as well as any annual flowers.

  • Protect - Use wind protection and/or leaf netting to safeguard your fish. Stray objects can be tossed into the pond in high winds and not noticed until the spring. A fish can be speared or a liner torn. Leaf netting can be removed after the trees are bare. Some pond owners construct PVC frames and strong nets to protect their ponds throughout the winter. Some use plastic covering and PVC frames to create a greenhouse and conserve heat which can be very effective.

  • Prevent - Know when to stop feeding- when the water temperature is steady between 55-60F, feed only once a day, wheat germ foods. Between 50-55F feed once a week. Do not feed anymore after the temperature drops below 50 degrees. Even if it warms up for a few days, don't do it- it takes a fish, under normal temperatures, four days to eliminate the food you give it today, so anything which is left in its system doesn't get digested or eliminated. It putrefies in there and will kill the fish. (If that doesn't get them, the dying nitrifying bacteria in the filter won't be able to handle the load and the resulting ammonia spikes will.) That is the fish you will look at, dead, in the spring and wonder what happened because you can't see "any marks or signs of illness" on it. These fish are like Pavlov's dogs- when they see you at the edge of the pond, they react by opening their mouths and are ready to eat. It's not hunger, it's a learned reflex. It's too cold and they don't know better. Let them eat algae on the sides of the pond. Discard any left-over food from this year. Next year buy new food. The nutrients quickly dissipate in open packages.

  • Check up - make sure all your filters, pumps and nets are in good working order. You never know when an emergency will arise. Winter is no time to find these things in the garden shops. Buy new water test kits. Stock up on De-chlor and any medications you might need. Oil of Cloves is something I keep on hand as an anesthetic, winter and summer. Strong iodine, from the veterinary supply center, is good for injuries. Microbe-Lift bacteria will remain viable below 55 degrees and become active again when the temperatures rise.

  • Turn off any above-ground water sources - waterfalls, streams, and fountains should be turned off to prevent super-cooling the water in the pond. Koi can withstand temperatures to 39F, and have been known to tolerate much lower for brief periods, but anything above ground will be colder than the pond and will be bringing cold water into the pond on a steady basis. Also, these systems can freeze and cause major water losses at a time you may not want to stand outside to fix them.

  • Prepare - have a working floating de-icer handy. There are several types available and can be home made as well. I choose the 1,000 watt as it heats the quarantine tank nicely while keeping the top ice-free. The 100-watt variety is cost effective, however has been known to "sink" and become ineffective by being then stuck in the ice. It is not strong enough to defrost ice, just strong enough to keep a small spot open for gas exchange. This gas exchange is extremely important- otherwise the gas quickly builds up beneath the ice and becomes lethal. Prepare an emergency tank inside should it be needed, and hopefully it won't.