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Do I really need a pond deicer? It costs a small fortune to run it. Are there any other options? – Water Garden & Features Q & A

The price of running a deicer can cost more then $75 per month!

Water Garden & Features Q & A

Q: Do I really need a pond deicer? It costs a small fortune to run it. Are there any other options? – Mary in Indiana

A: You’re right! Some pond deicers do cost a lot of money to run – but there is an alternative. Unless you’re lucky enough to live in a climate that doesn’t freeze, your going to need some type of device to keep a hole open in the pond during winter months. When a pond develops a layer of ice, a deicer is used to melt a small hole in the ice allowing toxic gases to escape and oxygen to enter the pond. For years, this has been accomplished by just using a deicer.

Unfortunately, the deicer can also melt a hole in your wallet. Pond heaters use anywhere from 100 watts (for ponds up to 600 gallons) to 1,500 watts (for ponds up to1,000 gallons) of electricity. When you consider utilities charge from 8 to 15 cents per kilowatt hour (1,000 watts of electricity used in one hour) depending on the location, the price of running a deicer can cost more then $75 per month!

The good news is that an aeration system can also keep a hole in the ice – and do so for a lot less money. For instance, Water Garden Aeration Kits use a high-efficiency air compressor that operates with as little 12 watts (that’s 88–99% electricity savings!) of electricity to push air to the diffuser. The action created by the air causes the ice to weaken, eventually creating a hole. This aerator also helps to add oxygen and circulate the water below the surface.

To install an aeration kit in your decorative pond, place the compressor near your power source. Make sure the compressor is covered – a faux rock cover is perfect for this application. Attach one end of airline tubing to the compressor and the other end to the diffuser. Place the diffuser away from the deepest point of your pond and no more than 4 feet below the surface. Plug it in and you’re ready for the cold weather!

Another benefit to an aeration system is that they can be used all year long. Aeration works great in the summer, providing oxygen for your fish and keeping your pond free of muck and debris.

If you already have a pond deicer and plan to run it this winter, save money with the ThermoCube – it can cut your electrical cost in half!

POND TALK: What are some other ways to keep a hole in the ice?

Should I leave my bubble aeration system running in my farm pond all winter long? – Pond & Lake Q & A

To keep your unit working properly, you should plan to inspect it several times per year.

Pond & Lake Q & A

Q: What do I need to do to maintain my fountain over the winter? – Roy in Texas

A: Display fountains provide outstanding pond and lake displays – not to mention helping to circulate the top layers of your water column. To keep your unit working properly, you should plan to inspect it several times per year, and what better time to do it when you’re doing your winterizing chores?

Your to-do list will vary depending on where you live and what your fountain’s manufacturer recommends, but here are some basic maintenance tasks to plan for as the cold weather approaches:

1. Remove your fountain – including the motor, floats and hardware components – and wipe off the algae and muck from all the exposed surfaces. If you see algae collecting in the nozzles, clean those out, too, as well as your motor’s intake screen, if necessary.2. Check all your gaskets, seals and fittings that normally break down over time. If any of these show signs of wear, take your fountain in for service or call us for service parts.3. If your fountain includes lights, inspect those as well to make sure they’re working properly. Replace any bulbs or fixtures that may have burned out.4. Check your power cord for nicks or kinks that may have developed over the season.

If you live in an area that doesn’t freeze, you can put the unit back in the water once you’ve scrubbed it down and checked it over. If your pond does freeze over, plan to store your fountain components inside, away from the winter elements. Be sure not to cover your fountain. This will ensure your fountain and power cord are protected against any rodents that would otherwise consider it a cozy home.

Most manufacturers recommend replacing the oil (on oil cooled units) every 2-3 years of operation. This can prevent costly repairs in the future. For more information on fountain maintenance, call The Pond Guy® (Service Department: Monday—Friday: 8:30am—4pm | Phone: 586-336-7663) or visit the manufacturer’s website.

Doing these simple tasks can extend the life of your decorative display fountain and allow you to enjoy them for years to come!

Please Note: The Pond Guy® is an authorized service center for most fountains and aerators. Please feel free to call us at 586-336-7663 for maintenance parts or repair.

POND TALK: What do you do to extend the life of your floating display fountain?

Do great blue herons fly south for the winter? – Water Garden & Features Q & A

Got herons? We have solutions!

Water Garden & Features Q & A

Q: Do great blue herons fly south for the winter? – Derek in Massachusetts

A: The bane of fishpond owners, great blue herons, will make a quick meal out of pricey koi and graceful goldfish. The good news is that those in the northern swath of the United States are about to enjoy their exit – at least for the winter months.

These birds are one of the most widespread wading birds in North America. While herons’ breeding range stretches from the southern Canadian provinces to southern Mexico, their wintering and permanent range extends from southeastern Massachusetts along the coastal states and west across the southern half of the United States, and into Mexico and northern South America. So when the temperatures dip, they prefer to fly south to the warmer climates.

If you live in the northern regions of New England, the Great Lakes, the Northern Plains and regions that freeze during the winter, you will see the herons fly for warmer skies. Experts report the birds migrate south from the northern portions of their breeding range beginning in September and October, with their return in mid-March.

For those who live in great blue herons’ wintering and permanent range, you’ll unfortunately enjoy no wintertime respite from these sushi-eating birds. Here are some ways to keep your fish safe:

Install pond netting: A near-invisible barrier, pond nets, like the Atlantic™ Pond Protector Net Kit, prevent the birds from landing in your water feature and spearing your fish. They also keep fall leaves from turning your pond into an over-sized tea pot.

Put up a decoy: Because herons are territorial, you can place a Heron Decoy near your pond to dissuade others from landing. Be sure to move it periodically to keep up the appearance of a live bird.

Spray the birds away: Motion Activated Scarecrow devices, which shoot a 35-foot blast of water at any animal that breaches its sensor sweep, make excellent deterrents for not only heron, but raccoon and other predators, too.

POND TALK: What do you do to deter herons from landing in your yard?

Should I leave my bubble aeration system running in my farm pond all winter long? – Pond & Lake Q & A

To aerate all winter long or not to aerate, that is the question.

Pond & Lake Q & A

Q: Should I leave my bubble aeration system running in my farm pond all winter long? – Steve in Minnesota

A: The short answer: Yes, you should keep your aeration system running all winter long. No matter the season, for the health of your fish, you want to breathe that life-giving oxygen into your pond or lake. A bubble aeration system, like the Airmax® Aeration System, keeps the oxygen well-dispersed throughout the water column and prevents the water from stratifying; it also keeps a hole in the ice to allow harmful gasses to escape.

Stir Up the Strata

As the summer cools to winter, a shift happens below your pond’s surface. If the water is not circulated, it naturally separates by temperature: In the summer, the warm oxygen-rich water sits on the top while the cool water, thick with toxic gasses, sits at the bottom. As winter approaches, those different pools of water will flip. The cool water – and all the gasses – rises to the top while the warm water sinks. The pools of water mix – and in extreme cases – this stratification, seasonal shift, and toxic gas distribution can cause a winter fish kill.

A bubbler aeration system prevents that. If the water is churned and moved all year long, it will not stratify. The water at the top and bottom will remain the same temperature, oxygen will be saturated throughout the entire water column, and the gasses will not build up. That makes for an ideal environment for the fish.

Keeps a Hole in the Ice

If your pond freezes over completely and there is no hole in the ice, the decaying matter in your pond (all the fish waste and detritus that naturally break down beneath the surface) releases deadly gasses that are trapped underneath the ice. Prolonged, this will cause a winter fish kill. A bubbler aeration system stops this from happening. The moving and cycling water creates a hole in the ice, allowing the harmful gasses to escape while allowing healthy oxygen in.

A word of caution: If you want to ice skate on your pond and you’re not concerned about fish throughout the winter, we recommend you turn off your aeration system completely. That way, the pond will freeze solid and you’ll be safe while you have some winter fun.

POND TALK: Do you keep your aeration system on all winter long?

What do I need to do to overwinter the fish in my farm pond? – Pond & Lake Q & A

Winter is coming, are your fish ready?

Pond & Lake Q & A

Recently, someone asked me a fantastic question regarding winter aeration and if it can “super-cool” your pond in the winter, possibly causing harm to your fish. I had one of our expert Fisheries Biologists, Justin McLeod, answer this question. Below are some easy solutions that he suggests to ensure a fish-safe winter for those of you in the colder climates. – Jason Blake, The Pond Guy®

Winter aeration (bubblers) can be very important in areas where ponds can freeze over. Along the Northern US border and into Canada, mid-winter temperatures dip well below freezing for prolonged amounts of time. This can put your fish into jeopardy if the pond freezes completely over. To answer your question regarding “Super-Cooling your pond, extremely cold surface temperatures cause ponds to stratify in the opposite way of the summer. Because water is most dense at 39 degrees Fahrenheit, the water beneath the winter thermocline stays around that 39 degree mark, while the water above the thermocline drops down near the 32 degree mark. This is a small difference, but it could mean life or death to a fish.

A “super-cooled” condition is created generally when surface aeration (fountains, High Volume Surface aerators, or really anything pump or pushing water into the atmosphere) is used during winter months. “Super-Cooling” happens when the colder water on the top is circulated to the bottom, leaving no warmer water refuge for the fish. Although it is uncommon to see “Super-Cooling” with sub-surface aeration (bottom bubblers), there have been instances when it has happened. With that said, I would never let this stop me from operating my aerator in the winter – my fish are just too important to me!

Here are some tips to make sure you get the most out of your aeration system and possibly avoid the chance of “Super-Cooling”:

    1. If you have multiple diffuser plates, it is ok to run only 50% of your diffusers. Even though the mixing power of your system is decreased, it will still add oxygen to the pond and allow gases to escape out through the hole it creates in the ice. Note: You only need 10% of your water surface open in the winter for gas exchange.
    2. If your pond is extremely small (1/8 acre or less), you may want to move your plate(s) out from the deepest area into a shallower spot. This will leave room for fish to winter in the deeper water.

POND TALK: What do you do to prepare your lake fish for winter?

I want to leave my pond running through the winter. Can I do so without damaging the equipment? – Water Garden & Features Q & A

Picture of a water garden in winter.

Water Garden & Features Q & A

Q: I want to leave my waterfall running through the winter. Can I do so without damaging the equipment? – Karen in New York

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

It’s really beautiful to see a waterfall with pieces of ice around it. You’ll actually begin to see sections where the water flows underneath the ice throughout the stream. It really is a beautiful scene.

Here are a few factors to be aware of when running the waterfall and stream throughout the Winter:

Pump Size (Gallons Per Hour): The amount of GPH or gallons per hour of a pump 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.

Pump Location: 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. Don’t place the pump on the very bottom of the pond. Your fish go to the bottom of the pond to hibernate during the winter.

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 I wouldn’t suggest to run the system throughout the winter. In long streams, there is more opportunity for ice dams to form 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.

Pressurized Filters: If you use a pressurized filter in your pond I would recommend NOT to run the water through it during the winter time. It is best to drain the pressurized filter to prevent any water from freezing and damaging the equipment.

Consider a back-up plan: If you live in a freezing climate and you keep your pond running, you run the risk of damaging your plumbing and filtration system if the water stops flowing. If your pond design allows the water to flow back into the pond in the event of a power outage, you can avoid the problem.

In freezing climates, certain water features, like spitters or decorative fountains, will need to be shut down until spring. Simply drain the water from the feature and remove the pump. Submerge the pump in a 5-gallon bucket filled with water (or per manufacturer’s recommendations), and store it in a place where the water will not freeze. If you don’t keep the pump submerged in water and it dries out, the seals inside the pump could crack, causing the pump not to work properly.

POND TALK: If you’ve kept your pond running through the winter, what challenges did you face?

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