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Do I Have to Take My Koi Out of My Water Garden for Winter? – Water Garden Q & A

Picture of a Water Garden in the Winter with a Bubbler Aeration System.



Q: Do I have to take my koi and goldfish out of my water garden for the winter? – Barbara of Massachusetts

A: No you don’t actually. They are many water garden owners who leave their koi and goldfish in their water garden throughout the winter season with no issues whatsoever. There are really only two things that you need to do to make sure your water garden is fit to allow fish to winter over:

Does your water garden have a depth of at least 18″?:
This is very important. There are places in the US alone where water freezing depths can easily be around 18″ to 24″. I suggest a minimum of 18″ of depth to be safe, but I am more inclined to recommend 24″ just to be double safe. We want to make sure our fish friends don’t become icicles. In either instance, it’s also extremely important to make sure we keep a hole open in the ice during these cold times, which leads me to the second thing.

Keeping an open hole in the ice during the winter:
During the winter, when the ice forms a solid layer across on the surface of your water garden, there are toxic gases, caused by decaying vegetation or organics, that can build up underneath the ice. This build up can become so toxic underneath the ice that it can kill all of the fish in the water garden. The best thing to do in this situation is to keep a hole open in the ice to allow for these gases to escape. This is actually very easy to accomplish. Using a pond heater/de-icer, such as a Pond Saucer or ThermoPond, is a great way to keep a hole open in the ice. Another way to keep a hole open in the ice would be to use a small bubbler aerator. These will not only keep a hole open in the ice, but will also add oxygen as well! Bubbler aerators can be used all year to keep oxygen levels high.

Should I Drain My Water Garden Completely for the Winter? – Water Garden Q & A

Picture of a Pump in a Skimmer.



Q: If I take my fish inside, can I drain my water garden completely for the winter? Someone told me that you shouldn’t do that. Why? – Toni of New York

A: If you plan to shut-down your water garden, you should drain the water down below the skimmer opening and yes you would leave the water in the pond. The reason for this is to help prevent some shifting within the water garden. The ground will shift throughout the winter and if you were to drain the water garden entirely, it could cause certain sections of the water garden to cave in. Having the water in there will keep everything at bay by applying pressure to all sides.

Also, when lowering the water level below the skimmer, make sure to drain the skimmer out entirely. Allowing the water in the skimmer to freeze could cause damage to the skimmer itself. The same goes for the waterfall filter. As for what to do with the pump, here is a link to a previous post.

Is There Anything I Should Be Doing to My Pond During the Winter? – Pond & Lake Q & A

Picture of a pond during the winter.

Q: Is there anything I should be doing to my pond during the winter? – Cindy of Colorado

A: During the winter season there are just a couple things you should be continuing to do help make the following spring a breeze:

Continue to run your aeration system: As I’ve said many time before and will always continue to say it…aeration is important. Continue to run your aeration throughout the winter to help prevent winter fish kills as well as promote an overall healthy pond.

Add pond dye & natural bacteria: Now is a great time to use Pond-Clear 2 in 1 with Nature’s Blue before the ice begins to accumulate. Not only will this continue to shade your pond, it will also add a boost of beneficial bacteria that will go to work to break down fall leaves and debris.

Remove any dead debris from around the pond: Remove dying or dead cattails, tree branches or twigs from around the edges. Allowing these to decay in your pond throughout the winter will add more nutrients for algae and pondweeds to grow during the spring. Doing these few things will help for a great spring!

How Do I Winterize My Aquatic Plants? – Water Garden Q & A

Picture of Water Lily.

Q: I am working to shut down my water garden for Winter, but I’m unsure of what to do with the aquatic plants? Do I pull them out? If I leave them will they come back next year? – Bill of Wisconsin

Aquatic Plant Maintenance: Every type of aquatic plant needs to be taken care of in a different way. The biggest factor to remember is to make sure that the roots of the aquatic plants do not come into contact with the ice. Anything “hardy” will usually come back each year as long as the roots do not come in contact with ice. Anything “tropic” or “non-hardy” will parish during the Winter times. The following are the steps to take for each type of aquatic plant.

Hardy Water Lilies, Marginals & Submerged Aquatic Plants: Simply trim to around 3 inches above the root system. Water lilies & submerged aquatic plants should already be planted 18″ to 24″ deep making it very unlikely for them to be frozen.

Tropical & Floating Aquatic Plants: Any tropical water lilies, tropical lotsus, or tropical marginals should be treated as annuals. They will not survive the harsh Winter conditions. If you would like to try and keep them, you can place them in pots and bring them indoors, but this can be difficult to keep them alive. As for floating aquatic plants such as: Water hyacinth, lettuce, etc., treat these as annuals as well. Most floating plants are realtively inexpensive to replace each year.

Hardy Lotuses: Trim back the foliage after it has died and turned brown. If leaves are cut while still green, the plant is susceptible to diseases entering through the hollow stems. If stem must be cut while still green, make sure to trim above the waterline, so water does not enter the stem and essentially drown the plant. In colder climates, lotus tubers must not be allowed to freeze in the winter, and containers should be moved to a cool but frost-free area, such as the bottom of a pond that is deep enough to keep the tubers from freezing.

Can I Leave My Fountain Running During the Winter? – Pond & Lake Q & A

Picture of Fountain Running in Winter.

Q: I have a decorative fountain in my pond. Can I leave it running for the Winter? – Andy of Minnesota

A: No. Just look at the picture to the left. Although it may look neat, the consequences are great. If you left your fountain running during the Winter, the ice, over time, will freeze around
it. This can cause severe damage to the fountain. The prop could freeze and burn the motor out or the float could crack causing the fountain to sink to the bottom!

Removing the fountain: Remove and store the fountain in a cool, dry place. This is also a great time to scrub and clean the fountain. Remove any debris or algae from anywhere around the prop. Once squeaky clean, store until the Spring.

What Do I Do With My Pond Pump During the Winter? – Water Garden Q & A

Picture of a Pump in a Skimmer.

Q: I plan to shut down my water garden in the Winter. What do I do with the pump? Do I just leave it in the water garden or do I remove it? – Don of New York

A: This is one of the top questions I get heading into the Late Fall and Winter months.

Remove the Pump: If you plan to shut down your water garden for the Winter months, I would suggest you remove the pump entirely. If you leave the pump in the water garden it has the potential to freeze, which can cause irreversible damage.

Keep the Pump Submerged When Storing: Remove the pump, submerge it into a 5-gallon bucket filled with water. Store the bucket in a place where the water will not freeze (i.e. basement, heated garage, etc.). If you don’t keep the pump submerged in water and it dries out, there is a possibility that the seals inside the pump could crack causing the pump not to work properly later on.

What Do I Do With My Bubbler Aeration System During the Winter? – Pond & Lake Q & A

Picture of Winter Aeration in a Pond.

Q: I have a bubbler aeration system in my pond. What do I do with it in the Winter? Do I take it out? – Jack of Maine

A: I recommend leaving the bubbler aeration system running throughout the entire Winter. Running the aeration system during the Winter is as important as running the system during the hot Summer months.

Preventing Winter Fish Kills with Aeration: The problem with not running your system during the Winter is the increased probability of have a Winter fish kill come Spring. A Winter fish kill is when toxic gases from dying or rotting vegetation accumulate underneath the ice. With no hole in the ice to allow for these gases to escape, the fish can suffocate.

The Proper Time to Remove the Bubbler Aeration System: If you plan to ice skate on the pond or if you have quite a bit of snowmobile traffic on the pond, then I would strongly recommend not running the bubbler aeration system at all during the Winter.

Removing the aeration system is simple. Disconnect the airline(s) attached  to the cabinet and compessor. Cap the airline(s) or use duct tape to ensure no dirt or water can get into them. Store the cabinet and compressor in a cool, dry place. The diffuser at the bottom of the pond is fine to leave in there throughout the Winter. There is no need to remove it.

Can I Run My Waterfall & Stream Throughout the Winter? – Water Garden Q & A

Picture of a Waterfall in the Winter.

Q: Can I run my waterfall and stream in my water garden throughout the Winter? – Carla of Pennsylvania

A: A majority of water garden owners will shut down their water gardens entirely during the Winter, but there are still quite a few that don’t.

Have you ever seen a waterfall with a stream running during the Winter? Its amazing! Ice begins to build up on the falls and you’ll see sections where the water
flows underneath the ice throughout the stream. It really is a beautiful scene.

Having said that, yes you can run the waterfall and stream throughout the Winter, but it depends on these couple factors:

Pump Size (Gallons Per Hour): Here is the major factor in whether or not you can continue to run your waterfall and stream throughout the Winter. Your GPH or gallons per hour must be greater than 2,000 as the water is coming down the waterfall and stream. If this flow is not obtained, then there is a greater possibility the water could freeze, causing ice dams in the stream and pushing the water over and out the side of the stream. If this happened, your water garden would be drained in no time.

Long Streams Beware: Even if you have 2,000 GPH of water coming down the stream, if the stream is quite long, longer than 10′ or 15′, then it may not be a good idea to run the system throughout the winter. In long streams, there is more opportunity for ice dams to be created and thus draining your water garden. If your stream is longer than 10′ to 15′ and you still want to try and run your system I would advise you to use a little bit more flow than 2,000 GPH and to watch it regularly to make sure these ice dams are not created.

I wish you all the opportunity to enjoy your water garden throughout the Winter. Again, it really is an amazing site.

Getting Your Pond Ready in the Fall for Winter – Pond & Lake Q & A

Picture of a Pond in Fall.

Q: What can I do now to get my pond ready for the Winter? – Linda of Kentucky

A: Get Your Pond Ready for the Winter Months
As our warm summer months come to an end; I receive many questions regarding “pond winterizing”. Winterizing your pond is an important step to ensure a safe and healthy start-up next Spring. Here are a couple easy tips you can use this fall to help you on your way.

1. General Clean Up Tips: Set aside a few hours to do some picking up around your pond. Clean the inlets or outlets of any debris that may have fallen in and rake out sticks or brush that may have fallen into the pond. If debris are left in the pond to decompose, they will contribute to the build up of nutrients and muck. Adding Pond-Clear 2 in 1 Natural Bacteria with Pond Dye is a great way to help to reduce the nutrient load and muck levels in the pond as well as shading your pond a beautiful blue color. Keep applying Pond Clear until the water temperature drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. A Final Pond Treatment: Treat any remaining algae or pondweeds using Algae Defense or PondWeed Defense respectively one more time before winter. This
will make for a much cleaner pond in the Spring. You will also want to use these last few months to get a handle on emergent weeds such as cattails, lilies or grasses; Avocet and Cide-Kick are perfect for this. When vegetation naturally dies off under the icecap – oxygen is depleted from the water column and remember that this will only contribute to a winter fish kill.

Just doing these basic tips will help ensure a cleaner, healthier pond in the Spring.

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