Pond Winterization

The pond is going into hibernation!

October is typically the time to prepare the pond for winter once the water temperature in the pond falls below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Taking the time in the fall to properly winterize the pond will pay big dividends next spring with healthier water and fish.

Filling up the pond repeatedly to replace water lost due to evaporation during the summer causes an accumulation of minerals in the pond. It is a good idea to change 1/3 of the water in late fall to dilute this concentration of minerals. Caution: Instant ‘de-chlorinator’ must be added if chlorinated water from city tap is used. Chlorine and chloramines are vary toxic to fish.

A sturdy skimmer net without sharp edges should be used to fish large organic debris such as leaves off the bottom of the pond. This debris will otherwise continue to decompose and use up valuable oxygen. Sludge and/or smaller debris that is still in the bottom of the pond can be taken care of with specially formulated beneficial bacteria which will consume the debris and leave the pond bottom much cleaner. Special formulas for fall/winter are available.

Testing the quality of the water before the pond goes dormant for the winter is important to prevent problems during the cold months when they are extremely difficult to deal with. The important values to test are:
1. pH- the natural cycle in the pond will function much better if the pH is within the range of 7.0 – 8.0.
2. Nitrite and Ammonia- these values measure the level of poisonous fish waste in the water. Both nitrite and ammonia will bring disease and heath to fish.
3. Salt level- the right amount of salt (pond or Pure salt- no not use table salt) will help fish re-generate their slime coat, helps maintain healthy gills and discourages parasites.

A pond thermometer becomes important during the transitional period when the water temperatures start sliding downward. The nutritional needs of the pond fish changes as temperatures lower. The metabolism of fish is regulated by their environment, and as the water cools down their defective system slows down. Once the temperatures fall below 65 degrees they can no longer digest the high protein, high growth foods formulated for the warm, active summer months and their diet should be switched to a fall/winter formula. When the water temperature falls below 48 degrees they should no long be fed at all.

Pond equipment such as submersible pumps and filters should be cleaned and stored in a frost fee area, or at least be protected from freezing. Ponds with large fish populations or those with large Koi will probably require filtration and aeration all winter.

Tropical pond plants must be disposed of or moved out of the pond and stored in a frost free area before the water temperature dip below 60 degrees. They can be used as houseplants until spring if kept constantly moist.

It is a good idea to cover the pond in the fall with protective netting. The net keeps leaves and debris from being blown into the water and spoiling the water quality and it protects the fish from easily being seen and attacked by predators such as owls and hawks.

In areas where the pond will ice over it is best and easiest to install a pond de-icer. These energy efficient appliances turn on when the pond start to freeze over and keep a hole in the ice for carbon monoxide to escape and oxygen to enter so the fish can breathe. Never beat on the ice to try and make an opening, the sound waves from this can injure or even kill the fish.

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