Early fall is the time to begin the process of winterizing your pond.
Efforts made in the fall will pay off in the spring when it is time to start up your pond.
Here are some important steps to consider before the leaves start falling and the temperatures begin to drop:
- If your pond is of a manageable size, place netting over the pond to catch any leaves before they accumulate at the bottom of the pond (and begin to decompose). Decomposing leaves compromises water quality and fish health. Any excess leaves in the bottom of the pond should be removed using a net.
- Before the first frost, remove all tender/tropical marginal plants. Tender (Zone 6+) marginal plants that have been left out during a hard freeze could die. Tender marginal plants can be brought indoors and treated like a houseplant, just keep the pot in a shallow basin with water and place by a sunny window. Borderline (Zone 5) marginals can remain in the pond until a killing frost takes them, and then clip off the foliage. Remove the plant from the pond and plant it in your garden and mulch heavily. Hardy (Zone 4) marginal plants can be left in the pond if they are planted, but cut back the dead foliage 2 inches above the water line. (For more complete information on winter care for marginal water plants and water lilies, refer to our article/handout “Wintering Water Plants”)
- Anytime during the season, remove any rotting or dying leaves on the plants. By doing this, you will help improve the quality and clarity of your pond water.
- A total cleaning of the pond is not recommended in the fall as fish and plants are adapting to the change of season (dormancy). You can do a partial water change (up to 50%). This should be done before the water temperature drops below 50 degrees. Be sure to use dechlorinator when adding water back into the pond.
- It is important to stop feeding the fish once the water temperature drops below 50 degrees. When the water temperature is below 50, the fish will go into a reduced metabolic state and will live off reserved body fat.
- If fish are to be left in the pond for winter, they should have areas such as ledges, rocks, or deep spots where they can hide from predators. The depth of the pond (in the deepest area) should be no less than 3 feet. This will allow an area where the fish can “hibernate” during the winter below where the ice freezes solid.
- If fish are to be left in the pond, once ice starts forming on top of the pond, you will need to keep a hole open on the ice (either by using a “de-icer” with aerator or pond heater.) This is necessary to allow oxygen/gas exchange for the fish during the winter. If the surface of the water freezes over, do not hit or attempt to use a heavy object to break the ice. Instead, place a pot of boiling water on the surface to slowly melt the ice. If there is not an opening in the ice, harmful gasses will build up and kill the fish.
- If you bring your fish indoors, you can use a large tank or aquarium to hold your fish. Use the water from the pond to reduce the potential shock from water extremes (e.g. significant differences in temperatures, pH, hardness, etc.) Quick changes in water characteristics can kill fish.
- If the water temperature in the indoor tank is above 50 degrees, you can feed your fish. Be careful not to over feed your fish. Feed them only what they will consume in 5 minutes. Continue filtering your water to maintain good water quality. Periodically test the water for ammonia spikes or pH changes.
- Once the fish and plants are taken out of the outdoor pond, it is important to remove the pump and any other electrical features such as submersible lighting. Bring the pump and other electrical features indoors. Always keep the pump submerged by placing the pump in a bucket of clean water and store it indoors. You can store the bucket with (the pump) in the garage as long as you do not allow it to freeze solid. If you disconnect the pond filter for winter, drain it to prevent ice damage.
- If you are planning on running the pump in the outdoor pond during the winter, you should raise it within a foot of the pond’s surface. This will keep water moving which helps to keep the surface from freezing over. Be sure to monitor the pump’s functioning closely; do not let the pump freeze up or accidentally pump all the water out of the pond, forming an ice mound on the surface.
By incorporating these steps into your fall pond maintenance,
your spring start up will go more smoothly and successfully.
Posted on October 25, 2012