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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.

25 Responses

  1. From Canada, lost the power to the pump. The pump creates a water fall, and thus keeps the pond open to prevent toxic problems for fish. The pump is below the ice. After I lost the power, the pump will not start again. The power is not the problem. Any suggestions? Would it be likely that the water froze in the hose?

    • Hi Rod – I would pull the pump out of the water and check to see that nothing is stuck in the intake or discharge pipe. I would also plug the pump into another outlet to verify the power source is not the issue. Depending on how cold it was, you may have some water frozen in the hose. You can also check your pump owner’s manual for additional troubleshooting.

  2. Is there no way to leave the pump in the pond during winter and protect it in some fashion? Reason for ask is my pump cable which runs directly to the outlet (25ft) is buried underground. To extract the wire is probably simple enough, but then re-installing would require digging out the trench again, disturbing the grass and so forth, repeated each year. This seems rather cumbersome. This is my first year having a pond. Is it normal for people with pumps as above to unearth and rebury the cable each year?

    • If your pond is deeper than the freeze level in your area (example, my pond is 4’ deep and the ice only forms to 6”) you can leave your pump submerged underwater over the winter. If it is located in an area where the ice would freeze over your pump you would want to store it (submerged in a bucket or plastic container) in a temperature controlled area. It should be stored submerged to keep the seals from drying out and rotting.

    • I live in the Northern part of the Twin Cities and I am wondering how did your pond turn out? I am thinking about doing the same thing. Any suggestions?

      • First, I bought a pump online with a proper cord, 25ft. It is absurd that they don’t sell these in the stores or at least not commonly. Second, I did remove the pump for winter, but reinstalled in spring and it works wonderfully. I don’t leave it running 24/7, just turn it on occasionally and the pond is fine. Don’t buy all the hype! Ponds are not difficult, or at least they don’t have to be!

  3. I live in Calgary, Alberta and have a pond in my back yard. Last winter I had fish in the pond so leaving it operational was a no brainer. I no longer have fish in it but I do have a tall reedy plant I left in last winter which also thrived, do I need to keep the pump/filter running for the plant to survive the winter?

    • Hi Cindy,

      As long as the plant is considered “hardy” for your area all you need to do it cut off the dead foilage and leave the roots in the pond. There is no need to keep the pump running as the plant will be dormant and return the following year. If the plant is not considered “hardy” for your area you would need to bring the plant inside for the winter.

  4. OKAY…we are brand new in the pond/fish world this year and this is the first winter for us. (Winchester, VA) From what I’m reading, I should put my bio-filter inside, and I’m okay to leave my pump in 4-5 feet of water this winter and it won’t hurt it? Also, I should leave the pump running and keep the hoses in the water to keep the circulation and the surface from freezing…Can anyone confirm my thoughts on this? In addition, is there a special way to clean my bio-filter for storage? It’s actually a GORGEOUS day outside today, so we are winterizing now…hopefully its not too early for our ginnea pig gold fish : ) (Hope the poor things survive the winter at the hands of an amateur!)

    • Hi Kandi,

      If your pump is located directly in the pond and not in a skimmer, make sure that it is located in at least 24″ of water. Do not place the pump on the very bottom of the pond (your fish go to the bottom to hibernate during the winter). You want to leave this water undisturbed and warmer for your fish.

      You can remove your pump, immerse it in a 5 gallon bucket of water and store it a heated garage or basement. Take the filter mats out of your bio filter, clean and store them in your garage. Drain all water out of the waterfall / bio-filter box, plumbing and skimmer (if you have one) to protect them from damage caused by freezing temperatures.

      An aeration unit will keep a hole on the surface of your water and add oxygen to your pond during the winter months. This is the most energy efficient way to winterize your pond. Pond de-icers will also keep a hole open on the surface of your pond to let the toxic gases escape during the winter months. They can be used with or without an aeration unit.

      If using an aeration unit, place the air stones of the aeration kit in a shallower part of your pond, leaving the deeper part of your pond undisturbed.

      • This is also the first winter for my pond as well, I have a small 3 x 3 pond that is 21 inches deep, my 3 fish, frogs, plants, and snails have all survived thus far. I am like you, worried that they will make it through the winter. I have an aerator and a de-icer with a sensor ready to use when the time is right. I was instructed by the guy at noahs ark, to take the pump out and replace with the aerator for the winter. I cant remember exactly when he sad o do this. I am looking for help on this blog, when it is a good time. Also plan on expanding the size of pond in the spring. Any advice for an amatuer in Strasburg VA would be great!

      • Hi Christine,

        Replacing the pump with an aerator is a way to keep the pond circulating for the fish without the danger of damaging your pump and filter system. Since the pond is less active this time of year the main function is to keep a hole in the ice to allow toxic gases to esacpe from the water and allow fresh oxygen in.

        For pond expansion just remember to make sure your filter system is still properly sized for your growing habitat. You will also want to use your aerator in the holding tank for your fish while the new pond is being constructed. Saving some of the water from the old pond to use in the fish holding tank as well as transferring it to the new pond will make for a quicker and easier transition for your fish to their new home.

  5. Stephen Zimmett,

    Fish breathe through their gills by extracting oxygen from the water. As for the winter, usually fish are just fine. The only issue that can arise is when a toxic build-up of gases underneath the ice reach lethal levels. To combat this, we use a de-icer or pond heater to keep a hole open in the ice.

  6. What about the fish, so how do they breathe. I lft mine in all last winter with no problems.

  7. Hey George,

    I usually recommend removing the pump altogether just to make sure it doesn’t freeze during the winter.

    If you have to leave your pump in your water garden all winter long, I would just make sure it is submerged around 24″ underwater and you should be okay.

  8. We have a pump in a pond at the end of our stream that is covered with rocks. Do we have to remove it during the winter?

  9. [...] 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. [...]

  10. Donna Soule,

    The key, when it comes to leaving your bio-filter running during the winter, is to make sure it doesn’t freeze. The pump will probably be alright in the depth of 20″, but its the external bio-filter that you may have an issue with. I would recommend draining, removing and storing the bio-filter for the winter. You won’t need it anyway, do to the fact that the fish will not be excreting much waste during the winter.

    Anyone have any other thoughts on this?

    • WE DISCONNECT THE WATERFALL, UV LIGHT AND BIO FILTER BOX FIRST THING IN OCTOBER. THE WATER HOSES ARE DIRECTED RIGHT INTO THE POND AT EACH END TO HELP KEEP THE WATER CIRCULATING SO IT DOESNT FREEZE UNLESS ITS FRIGID. WE CLEAN AND STORE THE BIO FILTER FOR THE WINTER IN SHED OPEN SO IT DOESNT GET MOLDY AND DRYS OUT. I ALSO LEAVE MY PUMP IN MY SKIMMER GOING ALL WINTER ITS 23″ DOWN BUT IF THE TEMPS ARE GONNA BE FREEZING I PULL THE PUMP OUT USUALLY FOR ABOUT A MONTH IN FEBRUARY AND THEN PUT IT BACK WHEN IT WARMS UP.EVEN IF I USE THE HEATER TO BREAK UP THE ICE. I PUT A NET OVER THE WHOLE POND CHEAP CHERRY TREE NET TO KEEP THE LEAVES FROM GETTING IN POND. YOU CANNOT USE THE CHEAPER NET IF YOU GET ALOT OF DEBRIS. DOING THESE SMALL THINGS MAKE THE SPRING OPENING A SNAP TO DO.

      • Vicky, Thanks for the tip. Pond netting does help keep a lot of debris out of the pond, especially in the fall as the leaves are falling. Many customers do continue to run their pump throughout the winter, however as I’m sure you’ve seen, you do have to keep an eye on it to watch for ice build up. As the water starts to freeze, the available water under the ice surface will drop. This could cause your pump to run dry if it is in a skimmer. Have you considered using an aeration/bubbler system for the winter instead of a heater or pump? You can suspend the air stones just below the water surface to allow oxygen exchange and circulation. In my experience, this also keeps the hole in the ice better than the heater. The other benefit of a bubbler is that you are only pumping air and not water, so you don’t have to worry about the lines freezing.

  11. I leave my small submerged waterfall pump running all winter, and that works out fine. However, I was told to always remove my biofilter pump in the winter. Is it possible to leave this in the pond and keep it running all winter? The pond is 20″ deep and doesn’t freeze solid.

  12. David Paveglio,

    I will agree that it is wise to double check with the manufacturer. Based on the pumps that we sell, we have always suggested, and so has our manufacturers, to keep the pump submerged when removing.

    I also should have been more clear in the post. You don’t want to store an EXTERNAL/CENTRIFUGAL pump underwater…it probably not going to work come spring if you do that. But a SUBMERSIBLE pump, yes….unless the manufacturer says otherwise!

    Thanks for your post, I appreciate it David!

  13. Phillip Scare,
    I apologize for that. I checked with our marketing team and it seems that they is only one e-mail address in our system. I will have to keep an eye on that.

    Thanks for the heads up!

  14. Good Morning, I read what you are saying about Ponds and I am Looking forward to doing Bussiness this Spring. I am asking why I receive 2 e-mails every time. Just Courious.

  15. Sdtoring the pump wet may not be the wisest approach. You should check the manufacturer’s recommendation. I had a Tsunami pump which I stored wet because that is what I was told to do by the installer of my pond. The pump bound up. When I spoke to the manufacturer they told me to store it dry and and I’ve had no problems and a long life with the second pump.

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