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Fall Maintenance: Preparing Koi Ponds for Winter

With each seasonal change there are things you can do to keep your koi pond heathy and thriving. And fall maintenance is particularly important.

 

Plants and Fallen Leaves

 

Now is the time — before winter sets in — to look over your pond’s plantings and remove any dying plant material.

It’s important to do this before the pond water temperature drops below 50 degrees (F). Above 50 degrees, the fish are still active and are not at risk of being hurt while this is being done.

“Plants can rot out of season and build up poisonous gases that will not be able to escape when ice forms,” says Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio. “This could cause any koi in the pond to go, from simply hibernating, into a dangerous state of torpor. So prune any dead stems and leaves.”

Dave adds that if you use pond netting before the autumn leaves fall, all you need do after fall foliage season is pull it up and get rid of the collected leaves.

If you didn’t put up netting to collect the leaves, use a fine netting to scoop up the debris.

Also, if you suspect that fallen leaves may have gotten lodged in the pond shelves and edges, you can either drain the pond a little yourself to get at them, or contact a pond designer like Deck and Patio for help completing this task.

 

(Pond designed/built by Deck and Patio)

(Pond designed/built by Deck and Patio)

 

 

If calling a pond expert in to help, this is a good time to ask them to create safety pond cave(s) if you haven’t done that already.

Pond caves provide a safe place where the fish can hide and lie dormant during the winter months.

 

 

 

 

 

Pond designed/built by Deck and Patio

Pond designed/built by Deck and Patio

Hardy water lilies 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 because they bloom in summer and go dormant in winter.

Note: Frost kills non-hardy water hyacinths and along with water lettuce, which fights algae, these should be wintered in a warm spot that is well lighted as they will not survive in the pond over winter.

 

 

 

Pond Fish

 

Happy Pond Fish in Winter: (Photo/Aquascape Inc)

Happy Pond Fish in Winter: (Photo/Aquascape Inc)

 

It is a common myth that you can’t leave your pond fish outside once the cold sets in.

Actually, fish do just fine during winter. That said, Dave does caution to be alert. When ice covers the pond, the fish might not be getting enough oxygen.

This can be remedied as long as you give them:

 

 

 

•two feet of water to swim in,

•oxygenate the water,

•and keep a hole in the ice with a heater, bubbler and an aerator.

 

The hole allows the naturally-produced gasses to escape from under the ice.

If the above efforts fail to keep it from freezing, Aquascape Inc. designs manager, Gary Gronwick, suggests using 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.

That 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. In fact, they shouldn’t be fed at all. 

 

Pond Waterfalls in Winter: (Photo/Aquascapes Inc.)

Pond Waterfalls in Winter: (Photo/Aquascapes Inc.)

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Preparing Ponds for Winter

 

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.

 

Prepare Ponds in Fall for Winter:

Prepare Ponds in Fall for Winter:

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.

 

Pond Waterfalls in Winter: (Photo/Aquascapes Inc.)

Pond Waterfalls in Winter: (Photo/Aquascapes Inc.)

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.

 

Contented Pond Fish in Winter: (Photo/Aquascapes Inc)

Contented Pond Fish in Winter: (Photo/Aquascapes Inc)

This pond has been cleared of excessive plant material and ice does not cover over the pond so the fish are happily hibernating.

 

Water Plants in Winter:

Water Plants in Winter:

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.

 

Prepare Pond Fish for Winter:

Prepare Pond Fish for 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.

 

 Pond Caves for Fish:

Pond Caves for Fish:

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.

 

 

Keeping Pond Fish Safe and Healthy in Winter

It is a common myth that you can’t leave your pond fish outside once the cold sets in. Actually, fish do just fine during winter. That said, Deck and Patio’s Outdoor Living Expert, Bill Renter, does caution to be alert. When ice covers the pond, the fish might not be getting enough oxygen.

This can be remedied as long as you give them:

  • two feet of water to swim in,
  • oxygenate the water,
  • and keep a hole in the ice with a heater, bubbler and an aerator. This allows the naturally produced gasses to escape from under the ice.

If the above efforts fail to keep it from freezing, Aquascapes Inc. designs manager, Gary Gronwick suggests using 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.

That 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.  

 

Prepare Ponds in Fall for Winter:

Prepare Ponds in Fall for Winter:

Before winter sets in, carefully look over your plant material and remove dying plant 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.

 

 

Pond Waterfalls in Winter: (Photo/Aquascapes Inc.)

Pond Waterfalls in Winter: (Photo/Aquascapes Inc.)

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.

 

 

 

Contented Pond Fish in Winter: (Photo/Aquascapes Inc)

Contented Pond Fish in Winter: (Photo/Aquascapes Inc)

This pond has been cleared of excessive plant material and ice does not cover over the pond so that the fish are happily hibernating.

 

 

Water Plants in Winter

Water Plants in Winter:

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.

 

Prepare Pond Fish for Winter:

Prepare Pond Fish for 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.

 

 

Pond Caves for Fish

Pond Caves for Fish:

Ask your pond designer/builder to create a small cave, or caves, where the fish can hide and also lay dormant during the winter months. Caves are easily made from the way rocks are positioned in and around the pond.