We are not alarmists at The Deck and Patio Company, but our job requires that we pay attention to credible weather forecasts. And according to Accuweather, the Northeast may be in for an extended snowy winter, stretching into spring of 2017. If you have a backyard pond, there are a few things you can do to get ready for this onslaught.
Pond Fish in Winter
First, let’s deal with the misconception that you can’t leave your fish in the pond during winter months. Actually fish do just fine in winter. They go dormant and hibernate. However, our pond expert, Bill Renter, does add that it’s well to be especially alert to their needs once water starts to freeze. Should ice, for example, completely cover your pond, the fish could become starved for oxygen.
“This can be remedied by ensuring the pond has at least two feet of water for them to swim in,” says Bill. “It’s also key for the water to remain oxygenated by keeping a little hole in the ice with a heater, bubbler, and an aerator. We use products from Aquascapes Inc. — pond experts from St. Charles, Illinois.”
Aquascapes’ designs manager, Gary Gronwick agrees it’s important to use a pond de-icer. “This will keep a little hole in the ice so gases can escape,” he says. “While some recommend boiling water to create an opening in frozen-over ponds, that should be discouraged. It will only ice up again quickly.“
Gronwick also says to avoid chopping or sawing the ice to open a hole. The noise and vibrations will stress out the hibernating fish to a point they could die.
These things done, Mother Nature will do the rest. The fish will spend the entire winter hibernating at the bottom of the pond, or in a cave designed for this, and then will slowly wake up as the water warms in the spring. The fish do not need to eat during this time and, in fact, shouldn’t be fed at all.
We’ve included in our photo captions below more tips on preparing your pond and fish for winter and how to watch over it all. Happy ponding.
Before winter sets in, carefully look over your plants and remove any dying material. These materials rot and build up poisonous gases that can’t escape through ice when it forms. Such conditions might mean the koi are no longer simply hibernating, but are in a dangerous state of torpor.
Keeping any waterfalls running during cold months helps move the water so ice doesn’t form. But if ice builds up, pond aerators can put bubbles back in the water to add oxygen for the fish.
This pond has been cleared of excessive plant material and ice does not cover over the pond so the fish are happily hibernating.
Hardy water lilies (shown here) that float on the water’s surface and have a short blooming period can withstand the cold winter months nicely. Lotuses also can withstand the cold winter months because they bloom in summer and go dormant in winter. Note that frost kills water hyacinths; water lettuce, which fights algae, should be wintered in a warm spot that is well lighted as they will not survive in the pond over winter.
To be on the safe side, take water temperature regularly once it hits 55 or lower. If your pond jewels are hungry and moving about and you haven’t fed them, they will find something in the pond to eat and soon will be dormant anyway.
Ask your pond designer/builder to create a small cave, or caves, where the fish can hide from predators in warm weather, and where they can also lie dormant during the winter months. Caves are easily made from the way rocks are positioned in and around the pond.