When winter time rolls around, pond owners ask how to best keep their pond running smoothly and keep their fish healthy as the temperature drops. Follow our winter tips to keep your pond functioning throughout the season so you are ready when the snow and ice start to melt in the spring.
1. Feed your fish at the right times: Watch for when the water temperature is steadily between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit to begin a new procedure of feeding once a day. You will need a fish food that is easy to digest and low in protein like Aquascape Premium Cold Water Fish Food Pellets. Stop feeding them entirely when the temperature drops below 50 degrees.
If it warms up for a few days, don’t start feeding them again. Any food that doesn’t get disposed of from the fish’s digestive system before their metabolism slows down will putrefy and possibly kill them. Even if it doesn’t kill them, the dying nitrifying bacteria in the filter won’t be able to handle the amount of waste. This will result in an increased level of ammonia in the water that could be lethal to your fish. There won’t be any outward signs of illness so once spring hits you will wonder what killed your fish.
2. Prepare your pond to protect from parasites: Eventually, the surface of your pond will ice over. No need to worry about your fish freezing as long as your pond is at least two feet deep. They will hibernate at the bottom of the pond where the water won’t freeze. The proximity of the earth to the pond’s surface will keep the pond from freezing any deeper than eight inches.
Your pond health when the cold weather sets in depends on what you did to prepare. If the pond has a large amount of debris on the bottom, it’s likely that there is a moderate level of parasite activity. Even with the cold water, parasites don’t sleep or become inactive; they thrive and multiply to continue growing in the muck on the bottom of your pond.
In time, the parasites will begin feasting on your fish. They are oblivious to this until the temperature begins to warm up. You might see flashing and jumping in the spring as your fish attempt to dislodge the parasites. If the bottom of your pond is kept relatively clean, your fish are likely resting comfortably and peacefully.
3. Keep a hole in the ice: You need to make sure that you keep one hole in the ice for the exchange of gases so the pond doesn’t become toxic to your finned friends. You can use the AquaForce pump, the 300-Watt Pond De-Icer, or both to create this hole. The hole releases all the gases trapped under the ice, while also allowing oxygen to reach your pond fish.
You might notice ice build-up (especially around waterfalls) that prevents your water flow from reaching the surface. This hole in the ice is different from the hole that’s necessary to keep your fish safe. Do not break off this ice and create new holes. The ice formations act as a barrier between the water in your pond running underneath it and the cold air outside. Busting open the ice in multiple areas will expose the running water to freezing temperatures and the exposed water will begin to freeze. This creates even more ice and your water source will be depleted from this build-up of ice.
Do not open other small holes because the water underneath will start to flow on top of the surrounding ice. This prevents your water source from running underneath the ice to reach your pump down below, and then your pond will begin to leak. If this happens, you should carefully open another hole near your pump so all the water running on top of the ice will flow back into this new hole.
4. Watch for ice buildup: You might notice that sometimes an area of ice will have water running over it and out of the pond. This can happen near waterfalls where water tends to splash up and ice builds to create a dam. Water might be diverted outside of the pond when this happens. You need to carefully open a hole where the buildup occurs so water can run freely over the falls and into the pond. An easy way to eliminate this dam is to pour warm water over it to melt the ice. Although creating holes in the surface ice can cause problems, keep in mind you do still need at least one good-sized hole for the exchange of gas and oxygen to keep your koi alive.
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