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How to Make an Ice Rink on Your Pond – Part 1 | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

How to Make an Ice Rink on Your Pond - Part 1

How to Make an Ice Rink on Your Pond

Part 1: Understanding How Ice Forms

One of the joys of having a pond on your property is being able to create a winter-sports wonderland. Whether you’re an ice skater or a hockey player, curling competitor or broomball aficionado, it’s sure nice to simply walk out to your ice rink, slip on your skates and play.

But before you groom your pond for ice sports, it’s important to understand how to safely create a sturdy ice sheet and what red flags to look for while the ice is forming. In this first part of our three-part series on how to make a rink on your pond, we begin with the basics.

From a Liquid to a Solid

Ever wonder exactly how ice forms? Here’s a quick lesson for you.

When the air temperature cools in the late fall and early winter, the water on the surface of your lake or pond loses its heat and becomes heavier. This cold, heavy water sinks to the bottom while the warmer water from the bottom rises to the top and cools. The cycling process continues until the overall water temperature reaches 39º Fahrenheit (or about 4º Celsius).

Before long, the water on top cools enough to freeze. As it does so, the liquid molecules transform into solid ice crystals—and those things expand and space themselves out when they form, which is why ice floats and why it takes up more room than liquid. When given enough time to form, the ice layer created by this crystallized frozen water thickens to the point where it is strong enough to support animals, humans and even vehicles.

Creating Good Ice

Since your goal is to create an ice rink, you’ll need to grow a sheet of ice that’s thick, solid, strong and dense. Water movement affects the integrity of the forming ice – in fact, just a little bit of movement on the water surface can create uneven, porous ice that’s not suitable for walking or skating. So it’s important to turn off and remove your water-moving Aeration System from the lake before the ice starts to build on your lake’s surface.

The winterizing process starts with unplugging your aeration system and shutting it down completely. Leave the airline and diffuser plates in the pond, but cover the airline ends to prevent debris from entering. Finally, store the compressor and cabinet indoors to keep them dry and rust-free.

The only movement your lake water should experience now will be from wind and waves – both of which are in Mother Nature’s control.

Beware of Red Flags

As the ice is forming, keep an eye on it. Do you see any weak or soft spots? Are there any areas with running or pooling water? These could be signs telling you to abandon your ice rink plans. Here are some more red flags to watch for:

  • Flowing water near or at the edges of the ice can cause soft spots that appear gray, dark or porous.
  • Flowing springs under the ice in spring-fed ponds and lakes can cause areas to not freeze.
  • Water flows in and/or out of the iced-over water body. Stream inlets and outlets can erode ice, making it highly variable in thickness.
  • Areas with cracks, breaks or holes are obivous danger zones.
  • Ice that appears to have thawed and refrozen. These fluctuations can cause weak spots in the ice.
  • Abnormal surfaces that you have not seen before, like pressure ridges caused by currents or winds.

Ice is generally strongest where it is hard and blue or clear. If you’re unsure of whether your ice is forming well, check with your local government officials (like your department of natural resources) about safety suggestions.

Next week, we’ll discuss how to make sure your newly formed ice is thick and safe enough for winter sports, and how to create a pristine winter wonderland with ice primed for fun.

Always Promote Pond Safety

Will my fountain be enough to keep my fish safe this winter?| Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q:Will my fountain be enough to keep my fish safe this winter?

Q: Will my fountain be enough to keep my fish safe this winter?

Holly – Gorham, ME

A: If your pond freezes over in the winter, a fountain won’t do you or your fish much good. It’s not designed to be run or left in the pond during icy conditions. The ice can damage the float or create a barrier that prevents water from passing through the spray nozzle. That could cause the motor to run dry and stop working. And that’s not good.

Instead, we recommend completely removing your fountain and a run a bottom diffused aeration system instead.

Before the Ice Forms

Autumn is the perfect time to remove the fountain from your pond before the ice forms. When unplugging the motor and pulling it ashore; inspect the cords, motor and lights for any damage. After sitting in a pond all summer, chances are you will have to clean the fountain and lenses from any algae, build up or debris. Once your fountain is ready to be stored, place it in doors until spring.

Below the Surface

Now that you have removed the fountain from the pond, it is a good idea to protect both your fish and boating dock from ice damage by adding an aeration system. Aeration keeps the oxygen levels up and the water circulating. Depending on how close the diffuser plates are to the surface or dock, aeration can also keep a hole open for gas exchange, and provide a place for ducks to gather when everything else is frozen over.

Keep your fish safe and happy this winter by giving them surface and subsurface aeration. They’ll appreciate it more than just your fountain!

Pond Talk: How much aeration do you have in your pond or lake during the winter?

Shade & Prevent Damage From Winter Ice - Airmax (r) Shallow Series (t) Aeration Systems

If I run my waterfall pump for a few hours a day during winter, will my fish be OK?| Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: If I run my waterfall pump for a few hours a day during winter, will my fish be OK?

Q: If I run my waterfall pump for a few hours a day during winter, will my fish be OK?

Lenny – Waggoner, IL

A: While it may be beautiful to run your waterfall during winter, it is not always recommended. A waterfall pump moves and circulates oxygenated water through the water column, but if you run it for just a few hours each day, your fish – and your pocketbook – may suffer. Here’s why.

  • Oxygen Starved: First of all, your fish need plenty of fresh oxygen, even when they’re semi-dormant in the wintertime. A few hours of circulation from a waterfall pump won’t keep a hole in the ice or infuse enough oxygen into the water, so the lack of fresh air will stress out your finned pals and put them at risk for disease.
  • Ice Dams: If you run your waterfall pump in northern climates during near- or sub-freezing temperatures, ice dams can develop and grow in size, diverting water from the pond. For this reason, you’d need to keep an eye on your water level – particularly if you have a longer stream. When the water level gets too low, your pump could become damaged, which means you’ll need to fork out some cash to replace it.
  • Overstressed Pump: Speaking of replacing a pump, take a look at your pump’s manual. Does it say that your pump is it designed for use in freezing temperatures? Generally speaking, pumps should be at least 2,000 GPH to operate in the winter.
  • Big Energy Bill: The cost of running a waterfall pump can easily top $100 a month. The cost of running a de-icer alone to keep a hole in the ice for gas exchange can cost up to $75 a month. Those aren’t cheap options! An aerator; however, is a cost-effective solution that’ll only cost you around $1.70 a month. In addition, you can use aerators throughout the year.

Because of the risk of damaging the waterfall pump and not providing enough oxygen to your fish – along with the high cost of running it all the time – we recommend removing the pump this winter and replacing it with an aerator.

Stowing the Pump

When you remove your pump, submerge it in a 5-gallon bucket of water to keep all its seals lubricated and store it indoors in a place that won’t freeze. Blow out the water and debris in your tubing with an air compressor and cap it off. Drain the skimmer boxes below the weir door. And spray your filter media off with a hose, pump out any water in the filter box and give it a good scrubbing.

Installing Aeration

Once your pump is removed and stored for the season, install an aeration system that’s sized right for your pond. KoiAir™ Aeration Kits, are designed for ponds up to four feet deep and 16,000 gallons, includes a compressor, airline and a diffuser plate. PondAir™ Aeration Kits are suited for ponds up to two feet deep and 2,000 gallons, includes a compressor, airline, check valves and air stones. Simply connect the diffuser plate or air stones to the compressor, submerge the plate/stones and plug it in, and you’re good to go!

You’ll be delivering oxygen to your fish, keeping a hole in the ice and preserving your waterfall pump – and saving a bunch of your hard-earned money.

Pond Talk: What tricks do you have to save money on pond expenses?

Save On Energy This Winter - Airmax (r) KoiAir(t) Aeration Kits

There are so many de-icers to choose from. What size do I need? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: There are so many de-icers to choose from. What size do I need?

Q: There are so many de-icers to choose from. What size do I need?

Pia – Spokane, WA

A: A de-icer is an important piece of equipment in areas where water features freeze over during the winter. This little device maintains a small opening in the ice, which allows harmful gas to escape into the air allowing for efficient air exchange. It can be the difference between life and death for the fish and other inhabitants in your pond.

Which de-icer is best for your situation? It will depend on how many gallons your pond holds, and if you’re using it alone or with an aeration system.

First, here’s what we recommend for de-icers based on the size of your pond:

  • Up to 250 gallons: 100 to 250 watt de-icer
  • 250 to 500 gallons: 300 watt de-icer
  • 500 to 1,000 gallons: 750 watt de-icer
  • 1,000 to 1,500 gallons: 1,250 watt de-icer
  • 1,500 to 2,000 gallons: 1,500 watt de-icer

K&H™ Perfect Climate™ Pond De-Icer comes in 250-, 750- and 1,500 watt options. The thermostatically controlled de-icer is designed for floating or submersible use. Farm Innovator’s Floating Pond De-Icer, pumps out 1,250 watts of ice-melting power. It’s also thermostatically controlled and turns on when water temperature drops below 35°F.

These de-icers do a great job, but keep in mind that they can be expensive to run non-stop during the cold months. A 1,500 watt de-icer can cost up to $75.00 to operate. That’s a big bill for a small hole!

That’s where an aeration system comes into play.

Aeration systems – can help maintain a hole in the ice while adding oxygen and are infinitely more energy-efficient than pond de-icers. When used in tandem, aeration can significantly reduce the wattage requirements of your pond de-icer, allowing the use of a smaller 100 watt de-icer. It’ll cut energy costs and save you money all season long. For example a 2,000 gallon pond using the PondAir™ 4 and 100 Watt Thermo-Pond De-Icer will cost $5.40 per month instead of $75.00 using a de-icer alone. Not a bad deal!

If you decide to go this route – and why wouldn’t you? – Select the Airmax® PondAir™ and Thermo-Pond 3.0 De-Icer Combo. The combo comes with either the Airmax® PondAir™ 2 (for ponds 1,000 gallons or less) or the Airmax® PondAir™ 4 (for ponds 2,000 gallons or less). Both the PondAir™ 2 and PondAir™ 4 includes: air stones, check valves, black vinyl air tubing and the 100 Watt Thermo-Pond De-Icer. For an additional charge, you can also throw in a Mini Boulder TrueRock™ Cover to protect the air compressor.

De-icers are important, but they don’t have to break the bank. Invest in an aerator-de-icer combo and save your money for something you really want – like some new koi!

Pond Talk:What parts of your winter landscape do you most look forward to?

Safeguard Your Fish This Winter - PondAir (t) 2 & Thermo-Pond De-Icer Combo

What do I do with my leftover pond supplies this winter? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: What do I do with my leftover pond supplies this winter?

Q: What do I do with my leftover pond supplies this winter?

Eugene – Saddle River, NJ

A: Buying in bulk can certainly save you some money, but not everything has a long shelf life. Think of it like shopping at Costco: Yes, you can buy a 30-pound box of mayonnaise for the price of four conventional-sized jars, but will you use it all before it goes bad? If you’re buying it for household use, probably not…

It’s the same idea with pond supplies. Some materials, like dry powders, packets and granular products, will keep up to five years; others, like liquid pond dyes, algaecides and herbicides, have a shelf life of only two years. Invest wisely when buying in bulk – and be sure to store it correctly.

This winter, here’s what we recommend you do with leftover pond supplies:

  1. Keep the products in their original containers. You may need to refer to information found on the product label.
  2. Close the packaging when you’re not using the product. Oxygen and exposure to the elements will shorten the shelf life.
  3. Store the items in a cool, dry place that’s above 32°F, like a heated garage or basement. If liquid products are allowed to freeze and thaw, their performance can be reduced when you go to use them next spring.
  4. For safety, store supplies away from pets and children

Before stowing your pond supplies for winter, check the manufacturers’ labels and note their shelf life and/or expiration dates. If you can’t find one, give the company a call or shoot them an email for more information. There’s no sense in keeping something that will be unusable next pond season, so hold onto only those products that will last.

Pond Talk: What pond supplies do you buy in bulk?

Protect Your Pond All Year Round - Pond Logic(r) Pond Dye Packets

My water quality is good now, but what do I need to do over the winter to keep it that way? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: My water quality is good now, but what do I need to do over the winter to keep it that way?

Q: My water quality is good now, but what do I need to do over the winter to keep it that way?

Quintin – Pine Bluff, AR

A: When it comes to doing chores at the pond, it is easy to let your guard down this fall. Thanks to your hard-working bacteria, the water is clean and clear with minimal algae, and your fish are happy. You have nothing to do but coast into winter and hibernate until spring.

Not so fast.

As water temperatures drop, those bacteria and algaecides stop fighting off excess nutrients and cold-temperature plant growth. They are no longer effective at their jobs, and so you need to step in and help. Here’s what you can do to maintain pristine water quality over the winter.

  • Add Some EcoBoost™: Formulated to bind organic debris suspended in the water, Pond Logic® EcoBoost™ helps to clear water and enhance beneficial bacteria. It also provides more than 80 trace minerals to fish, keeping them healthy over the winter. EcoBoost™ has no temperature restrictions, so you can use it all year round. Simply mix the powder with some water in a pail and pour it in the pond.
  • Tint with Pond Dye: During the cold temperatures and even iced-over conditions, algae and plants can grow along the bottom since they are still exposed to sunlight. Pond Dye can be used year-round – winter included – to control algae growth by shading the plants from the sun’s UV rays. The dye also imparts a dramatic hue to the water, giving it a great look when it ices over.
  • Aerate and Oxygenate: You can also improve water quality through the winter by keeping the oxygen levels up and water circulating. If you are not going to use the pond for ice-skating or hockey, we recommend you use a subsurface aerator, like the Airmax® Aeration Systems. The system will keep the air bubbles flowing throughout the water column while maintaining a hole in the ice for gas exchange. If you have a fountain running, remove it and store it for the winter. Ice can damage the motor in the pump.

Before you hibernate for the winter, spend a few hours out at the pond to prepare it for winter. When you look out on a crystal clear pond in January, you’ll be happy you did!

Pond Talk: How do you keep your pond clean and clear during the winter months?

Sink Suspended Organic Debris - Pond Logic(r) EcoBoost(t) Bacteria Enhancer

I heard fish can get swim bladder disease this time of year, but what is it? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I heard fish can get swim bladder disease this time of year, but what is it?

Q: I heard fish can get swim bladder disease this time of year, but what is it?

Becky- Trumbell, CT

A: Many bony fish, like the fancy goldfish found in ornamental ponds, have an organ called a swim bladder. This gas-filled sack has two main purposes: It helps the fish control its buoyancy and remain at a particular depth without having to waste energy on swimming, and it keeps the fish in an upright position. When a fish is unable to control its depth, or starts swimming sideways, upside side down, or head or tail down, it may have “swim bladder disease.”

A fish with swim bladder disease can be a troubling sight to see, but it can be treated. Here’s what you need to know about what causes it and how to get your fish swimming the right way again.

Your Gluttonous Goldfish

Although intestinal parasites and microorganisms can cause swim bladder disease, it mainly stems from overeating, eating too quickly or gulping too much air during feeding time. The fish gobbles mouthfuls of pellets, which expand like sponges as they soak up water in the mouth and digestive tract leading to constipation. Enough pressure on the swim bladder will cause the fish to swim any which way but up.

Time for a Diet Change

Water temperatures dip – sometimes precipitously – in the fall, and that change can slow your fishes’ digestive processes. They have a harder time digesting protein when it’s cold, and it can build up in their gut and result in an enlarged intestine.

To prevent this from happening, switch your fish food during the fall (and spring). Using a pond thermometer, periodically check your water temperature. Once temperatures are consistently between 40°F and 50°F, change over to a lower-protein, higher-carbohydrate diet like Pond Logic® Spring and Fall Fish Food, which is packed with easier-to-digest wheat germ. Feed them two to three times a week and only give them an amount that they will eat within 5 minutes. When temperatures drop below 40°F, stop feeding them entirely.

Peas to the Rescue

The best treatment for swim bladder disease is found in your refrigerator or freezer. Frozen or cooked peas, will blast through the impaction and reduce the pressure on the fish’s swim bladder. If your fish starts floating sideways, we recommend you stop feeding them for a few days and then hand feed peas to help clear up any blockages.

Medicating fish in outdoor ponds with cooler temperatures really is not an option, as the medications won’t work – so stick with the fasting-plus-peas remedy.

If one of your fish is really stressed, a salt bath could help – but you will need to dissolve the salt in an indoor holding tank filled with warm 78 to 80ºF water. Keep in mind that when you transfer your fish from the cooler 40°-50°F outdoor water to the warmer treatment tank, that temperature change can easily shock the fish. It should be avoided.

Pond Talk: Have you ever had to treat one of your pond fish for swim bladder disease? If so, what did you do?

Easy To Digest In Low Temperatures  - Pond Logic (r) Spring & Fall Fish Food

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