As winter weather begins its annual migration to our region, it’s important to prepare your home and landscape for cold and freezing. At the very least, all mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems need inspection. This includes water features and garden ponds. While a backyard garden fish pond is an enjoyable addition to your landscape that needs little care for most of the year, there are a few guidelines to follow and maintenance tasks needed before freezing weather sets in.
Clean Your Pond and Balance the Water
As winter nears, clean extra leaves and organic matter out of your pond. This will help to keep oxygen and pH levels balanced during the winter. Cut back some of the fastest growing aquatic plants. Make sure all pumps, filters and tubing are clean and operating correctly. You don’t want to be outside taking care of your pond on a regular basis during the winter; make sure everything is in good shape before the first freeze.
Add Beneficial Bacteria
As a living, functioning ecosystem, the pond’s metabolism slows down during cold weather. Adding cold water bacteria to your pond will help to keep it clean during winter months. Beneficial bacteria continue to metabolize waste, decreasing nitrates and ammonia and keeping fish healthy, even when the weather and water are cold. These beneficial bacteria are available in liquid concentrates from pond product suppliers.
Use Leaf Nets
Having a leaf net in place during fall weather will keep excess leaves from accumulating in your pond. Be sure to put the net in place before leaves start to fall! The net needs to be cleaned and emptied frequently. Once early winter arrives and the leaves have all fallen, it is safe to remove the net for the rest of the winter unless you are also using it to keep birds away.
An Open Pond Surface
Your pond’s surface is where the exchange of oxygen, carbon dioxide and other gases takes place. It is important for the health of your fish that this continue during the winter. An iced pond surface traps harmful gases in the water. Using an aerator in your pond will keep the surface from freezing during mild winter weather. When more extreme conditions and hard freezes arrive, you will want to have a de-icing heater in place. This will keep the pond from completely freezing over.
Feeding Fish in Winter
As the water gets colder in your pond and natural processes slow down, the metabolism of your fish also slows. Begin to reduce the amount of food you give your fish; consider switching to a special cold water fish food that is easier to digest. When the water becomes consistently cold, stop feeding the fish. Excess food will only throw the water out of balance. Talk to your fish supplier or garden pond experts about when to stop feeding based on water temperature, the type of fish you have and local weather patterns.
Taking care of your garden pond and preparing your fish for freezing weather will reduce your stress and worries during winter. Your fish will be less stressed, too!
If this sounds like too many steps for you, contact us to learn about our winterization service
A small amount of weekly maintenance is usually all that is needed to keep your garden fish pond clear and clean. Every now and then, it is possible that pond conditions will go bad for no obvious reason. One of the more alarming changes that can happen in your pond is for the water to turn green. If it does, don’t panic. A few steps will typically put everything back on track. Let’s take a look at what turns garden pond water green and what you can do about it.
The most common cause of green pond water is algae bloom. This usually occurs in spring when water gets warmer and the amount of daylight increases. Single-celled algae reproduce very quickly. When conditions are right, they can take over your pond before you know it. The result looks like pea soup in your pond.
Algae needs nutrients to grow. If single-celled algae have taken hold in your pond, too many nutrients are present. Fortunately, there a few easy ways to reduce excess nutrient levels in your garden pond water.
1. Aerate Your Pond
Use aeration devices to increase the amount of oxygen in your pond water. This will help bacteria to break down organic waste materials; the decrease in carbon dioxide levels also means less food for algae. During spring, it is best to have the aerators located close to the pond surface, not deep in the water.
2. Are You Overfeeding Your Fish?
Overfeeding fish is one of the most common causes of excess pond nutrients. Reduce the amount of food you give your fish and switch to a cold water food as weather cools. Stop feeding all together once the temperature stays consistently in the low 40s. In warmer conditions, don’t feed any more than your fish will eat in a few minutes. Once the food sinks, it turns into waste products.
3. Clean Your Pond
Organic material can build up in your pond over the late fall and winter months. It’s easy to skip pond cleaning when the weather is freezing! If you have an accumulation of leaves in your pond, it’s time to scoop them out. If you don’t have a pond net, think about getting one to put in place for fall and winter. A net is an effective way to keep falling leaves out of your garden pond and will also deter predatory birds during winter when sight lines are clear.If you would rather leave this to a professional, discover our pond service here.
4. Add More Plants
Not having enough plants in your pond will contribute to poor water conditions. Aquatic plants help to break down the nutrients in your pond. There are no set guidelines as to the right number, but submerged plants and floating plants both use pond water nutrients and help to improve water quality. Strangely enough, it is also good to have some algae in your pond. Algae attached to rocks or the bottom of your pond is helping to keep your water clear, so resist the temptation to scrape it away.
5. Use Filtration and Clarifying Systems
Hopefully, your pond already has a biological filtration system. Keep it clean and in good condition to make sure it is filtering free-floating algae and taking care of excess nutrients. An ultraviolet (UV) clarifier will also reduce the potential for green water, essentially working like sunlight to keep water clear. You will want to install a UV clarifier before single-celled algae becomes an issue; early spring is the best time.
It is usually a combination of factors that causes pond water to turn into a green soupy mess; don’t rely on just one method to try and fix the problem. If you are careful and attentive about all the steps listed above, you are likely to have clear, clean garden pond water throughout the year.
One of the most frequently asked questions by garden pond owners is if they need to change the water as part of their pond maintenance routine. Generally speaking, garden pond water does need to be changed, but there are several factors that come into play. Here are some suggestions about how often to change pond water, how much pond water to change and how to change garden pond water.
Why Do I Need to Change the Water In My Garden Pond?
Your backyard pond loses some water every day due to evaporation. When water evaporates, it leaves behind all the other stuff that is in the water – pollutants, organic matter, salts and silt. Though your pond’s filtration system and natural processes will take care of some of these, over time, they will accumulate in higher concentrations. Even if you add water to make up for evaporation, eventually, pollutants will impact the health of your fish and aquatic plants. It becomes much harder to keep your pond water balanced.
How Much Water Should I Change?
There is no single answer as to how much of your pond water should be changed. The size of your pond, number of fish and plants, effectiveness of your filtration system and time of year can all be factors in water quality. It is important not to change too much of your pond water at once. It will be a big shock to your fish and the overall pond ecosystem.
With these considerations in mind, it is usually best to start small. Try changing about 10% of your garden pond water once per week. Use water quality tests to monitor the health of your pond water, checking for pollutants. If there are water quality issues, try changing a little more water, maybe 15 – 20%. After a few weeks, you will find what works best for your pond.
How to Get Old Water Out of Your Pond
The simplest way to take water out of your pond is to scoop it out with a bucket, being careful that no fish come along for the ride. You can also use a shop vac, a pump or a siphon hose. Some ponds have a built in controlled overflow system. Just be sure to monitor the process so you don’t end up taking out too much water.
How to Add New Water to Your Pond
Tap water is generally not good for garden ponds. It contains chlorine or chloramines, which are toxic to your fish. Fortunately, chlorine evaporates fairly quickly. You can fill a large plastic barrel with tap water and let it sit for 24 hours. Of course, this should be done the day before you do the water change. There are also de-chlorination treatments that will speed up the process.
Another option is to use rainwater. If you have a rainwater harvesting system or a cistern, that can be the source of your new pond water. It’s a good idea to test the rainwater now and then to make sure nothing bad is going into the pond. Don’t assume that rainwater is perfectly clean.
While changing part of your pond’s water every week may seem like a lot of work, it is an important part of keeping your fish and your pond’s delicate ecosystem healthy. With a little practice, you will develop a routine and find that it does not take much time. It’s also an opportunity to take a close look at your fish, aquatic plants and other pond features to make sure everything is OK. When you are done, your garden pond will be clean and your fish will be happy!