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Can I water garden indoors for the winter? – Decorative Water Gardens Q & A

Can I water garden indoors for the winter?

Can I water garden indoors for the winter?
Tony – Chicago, IL

Your pond can be an outlet to be creative, a way to relax and a nice break from your day to day routine. Your life doesn’t take a break just because the weather cools down so why should your pond? Our blog on Bringing Your Fish and Plants Indoors may be the catalyst you need to start your first ever indoor pond. So what should you bring indoors with your plants and fish and what else can you do with your pond to beat the winter blues?

Some types of water features are easier to implement indoors than others. Water features like container type fountains or pot style water features can easily be carried inside and used to foster your plants and fish over the winter. Larger pre-formed ponds or rubber liner based ponds are more permanent but can be duplicated indoors using a plastic-preformed pond liner or large Rubbermaid tanks. If your outdoor water feature is over 18” deep and doesn’t freeze solid you can leave the bulk of your fish and plants outdoors to over winter and bring just a few inside to create an indoor feature that is sized to fit your home.

Use your ponds Outdoor Décor to compliment your indoor feature. Not only can you accent your indoor water feature with existing outdoor statues and ornaments but you will also be protecting them from harsh winter elements keeping them safe and intact for use next season.

Also, use this opportunity to experiment, learn and grow as a pond owner. Don’t be afraid to try new designs, plants and products to achieve the exact look and feel you want from your water feature. There is a wealth of knowledge available to you in both Pond Books and Blogs that can help you on your journey for the perfect pond. Furthermore, now is the time to take inventory of your consumable products such as Filter Media Pad, Bacteria and Fish Food. Inspect materials for signs of wear and replace them as necessary and make sure you have the products you need on hand for your spring start up. Take the time now to prepare for spring and make your water feature start up a breeze.

Pond Talk: Have you created an indoor water feature? What type did you build? What challenges did you encounter?

Get inspiration for your water garden from Water Gardening for Hobbyists Book!

What benefits are there for aeration during the winter? – Ponds & Lakes Q & A

What benefits are there for aeration during the winter?

What benefits are there for aerating during the winter?
Drew – Galata, MT

One of the best features of an aeration system is its ability to perform all season long. Your aeration system will play a major role in breaking down the leaves and debris that made its way into the pond during the fall which will promote a healthier pond throughout the winter and easier maintenance come spring. You’ve seen the benefits of aeration all summer long but what does your aeration system have to offer in the winter?

Even in cooler temperatures an aeration system will continue to circulate the contents of your pond and infuse oxygen into the water column. The cooler water will be able to hold more oxygen which is great for the overall health of the pond and its inhabitants. As the surface water cools in the pond it will start to sink towards the ponds bottom. This shift in water can potentially break the thermocline in your pond and force harmful water from the bottom of the pond to mix into the water column trapping your fish. This is referred to as a turnover and they can happen both in warm and cold temperatures in ponds that are not being aerated. You’ve also learned from our previous blogs that running your aeration system in the winter will keep holes open in the ice that allow an escape for toxic gasses and a hole for fresh air to enter the pond. You can also move your plates closer to the shoreline of your pond to keep water open and available for wildlife to drink and birds to swim. Encouraging wildlife to visit your yard is always nice in a season where your yard can sometimes seem bland and uneventful.

Although aeration is a simple and effective way to maintain your pond throughout the winter there are a couple scenarios that warrant a winter break. If you use your pond to skate or ice fish you will not want to run your aeration system as the constant friction not only opens holes in the ice above the plates but will also thin the ice in other areas.

If you do not yet have an aeration system installed in your pond, but would like to install one before the winter, it is best to have your aerator introduced before the ice begins to form. If your pond is not already aerated it is important that you run the system in short increments at first to prevent your own man-made turnover. Start by running it for about 30 minutes the day you install it and double the run time each day after. If you follow this method you should be running your aerator 1 hour the 2nd day, 2 hours the next, 4 hours on the 4th day and should be running the aeration system continuously by the end of the week. Browse over to our Airmax Aeration page for help selecting an aeration system that fits your pond. If you need additional help or have questions you can also feel free to contact one of our Pond Guys or Gals or post a comment on our blog page.

Pond Talk: Do you notice a healthier pond in the spring as a result of running your aeration system in the winter?

Keep your pond healthy all winter long!

What happens to the frogs and toads during the winter? – Ponds & Lakes Q & A

When should I remove the fountain from my pond?

What happens to the frogs and toads during the winter?
Dustin – Huntsville, UT

As the temperatures continue to drop you will begin to notice that your pond, once full of life, is now starting to look like abandoned arctic tundra. Gone are the cool summer nights spent on your patio and deck watching fireflies tastefully illuminate your lawn while being serenaded by a choir of frogs and crickets.

While you are inside cuddled under blankets for the season where do your web-footed friends spend their winter? The winter retreat of choice will depend on the type of frog you have hanging around your pond. You will commonly find either some variety of frog frequenting the shallow areas or shoreline of your pond and toads farther inland rummaging about your gardens or front lawn. Both are very similar but can usually be identified by a few visual characteristics. Frogs tend to have smooth glossy skin that feels slimy to the touch while toads have dry lumpy skin. The eyes of a frog tend to protrude further from its head than those of a toad. A toad will usually have poison sacks located behind their eyes which help prevent them from becoming a snack for larger predators.

As frogs are cold blooded they will begin to slow down as their body temperatures drop. When winter arrives they will go into a state of dormancy and wait out the cold weather. The hibernation strategy varies between species of frogs. Toads tend to bury themselves in leaves or mud while frogs can pass the winter at the bottom of your pond below the ice. Frogs produce a type of glucose in their bodies that will allow them to freeze solid and still be able to survive. As the temperatures begin to rise in the spring their hearts will begin to beat again and they will begin to thaw. When they are once again mobile they will actively search for a place to mate.

Since frogs have an arsenal of survival skills to get them through the winter there is not much you have to do to help them survive the cooler months. Instead focus on keeping yourself warm and healthy and try your best to enjoy the snow and beautiful landscapes this winter brings

POND TALK: Do frogs frequent your pond? How do they adapt to the changing season in your area?

Should I use a heater or aerator in my water garden? – Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

When should I remove the fountain from my pond?

Should I use a heater or aerator in my water garden?
Lindsay – Pittsfield, ME

So you already know that it is important to keep a hole open in the ice that forms over your water garden during the winter months. This provides an outlet for harmful gases and an inlet for new oxygen-rich air. The question now is which device do you choose to get the job done. The good news is if you have already made your purchase for the season either one will perform excellently. Both a heater and aerator will maintain a hole in the ice but unlike a pond heater, this is only one of many tasks an aeration system performs for your water garden.

When we talk about pond heaters we are referencing units like the Pondmaster Floating Pond De-Icer which does not heat the water in the pond but instead keeps a ring of water open allowing gas to escape through the vent in the top of the unit. Since most ponds deeper than 18” do not freeze solid this is all that is needed to allow oxygen exchange while the fish are dormant. When running a pond heater periodically check in on the pond to make sure ice does not form over the vent hole. To reduce electrical expense most pond heaters are thermostatically controlled to run only during a given temperature range, but they are measuring water temperature instead of air temperature. This means it is unlikely that the water temperature will raise enough to ever shut off the heater. To save some extra money on energy bills use a Thermo Cube in tandem with your pond heater as it will determine when your pond heater should run based on the ambient air temperature.

Aeration keeps a hole in the ice during the winter by producing bubbles and water motion to slow the ice from forming. This allows for the same gas exchange created by a pond heater, however your Aeration System will circulate the entire pond volume and infuse it with dissolved oxygen making it more efficient at oxygen/gas transfer. People will sometimes run pumps beneath the ice trying to create this same effect but it is the tiny air bubbles that boost dissolved oxygen levels and create the friction that prevents ice from forming. Your pond benefits from aeration year round making an aeration system a helpful and highly functional tool regardless of the season. The installation process is simple and straightforward and aeration systems are available in various sizes and shapes allowing you to select a system that best fits your pond. When selecting a system make sure you purchase a unit that is rated for your ponds volume in order to provide enough outlet for proper gas exchange.

The performance of both pond heaters and aeration systems vary depending on how cold it gets in your area. Even when vented properly, layers of ice appear may over when temperatures dip well below freezing. If this only occurs temporarily, and is short in duration while the coldest temperatures and wind are present, there should not be any cause for concern, as a calm or sunny day will give the pond the help it needs to re-open the hole in the ice. If it is necessary to manually reopen the air vent do not try to break through it by hitting it with hammers or heavy objects as this creates vibrations that can harm your fish. If necessary pour a bucket of warm water over the vent hole to melt it back open.

Whichever unit you choose to use will perform to keep your fish safe for the winter months and ensure that they will be healthy, happy and ready to go in the spring.

POND TALK: Which type of system have you found to work better in your pond? Do you still notice some ice formation?

Keep your pond healthy all winter long!

If I chose to bring my fish indoors for the winter what should I do? – Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

When should I remove the fountain from my pond?

If I chose to bring my fish indoors for the winter what should I do?
Lisa – Livonia, MI

While we don’t really like to think about it, there are places in the U.S. that get cold enough to freeze decorative water gardens solid. As your fish do not appreciate being turned into popsicles you will probably want to bring them indoors for the winter. Since the majority of you don’t have a beautiful indoor pond just waiting to house our fish in the colder months how do you go about creating a safe environment for your fish to bunker down in?

Your first and foremost priority is to select a location that is climate controlled, safe from disturbances and large enough to facilitate a holding tank. Your basement or heated garage are a couple places you can consider. The container you choose to hold your fish should be made of a fish safe material and should be cleaned thoroughly before use. The size of this container will depend on the size and number of fish you need to relocate. Unless they are Sardines your fish will not do well when packed tightly into a tiny container. Purchasing a small pre-formed pond liner is a great idea for someone who has large Koi or an ample amount of fish that need a winter home. You will also want to purchase some Pond Netting to keep your fish from jumping out of their winter apartment and onto your garage floor.

The new container can be filled with water from your water garden or you can start from scratch and fill it with tap water. If you decide to fill from the tap you will want to add a Water Conditioner to neutralize any chloramines and remove other potentially harmful elements from the water. In addition to pond conditioner you will want to allow a few weeks for the water in the container to cycle and balance. Aeration and filtration will play a major role in the well being of your fish once they are relocated. If you currently use an external Pressurized Filter your water garden this can be used for your inside application as you will have to bring it in for the winter regardless. You will also need a small pump to circulate the water in this container as well which you may also be able to borrow from your outdoor water garden. If you have neither a pump nor pressurized filter on hand you can purchase an All-In-One system to do the job. If you have to use a new filter or you decided to fill the container with tap water seed your filtration pads with PL Gel to ensure an adequate presence of beneficial bacteria and reduce the waters cycle time.

When the time comes, collect your fish using a Fist Net and transfer them to their new home using the same acclimation process you would undergo with new fish. If you are unsure of how to acclimate your fish click over to our Blog that explains the process in greater detail. Do not feel the need to rush through the transporting process as your fish are safe and comfortable in their water garden for the time being. Take your time to make sure your fish are moving into a safe and comfortable environment so you and your fish can enjoy some indoor ponding this winter.

Pond Talk: Do you bring your fish in for the winter? How do you provide an indoor home for them?

Keep your pond healthy all winter long!

When should I remove the fountain from my pond? – Ponds & Lakes Q & A

When should I remove the fountain from my pond?

When should I remove the fountain
from my pond?
Cameron – Clarksville, VA

While we’re not particularly anxious for winter to arrive it is in our best interest to start preparing for the cold that will inevitably come. Since you are working not only outdoors but in the water as well you may want to get a jump start on removing your fountain from your pond before you start feeling the full effects of Winter.

Convenience aside, you can leave your fountain in the pond until ice starts to form. Surface forming ice may damage the float or other parts of your fountain and can potentially prevent water passing through the spray nozzle from returning back into the pond. This ice barrier can cause the fountain to run dry destroying your fountain’s motor.

Removing your fountain and preparing it for storage is a fairly simple process. Most fountains have a quick disconnect at the motor that lets you separate the fountain from the main power cord. Make sure you turn off the power to the fountain and pull your fountain ashore. Wash down the fountain and float assembly to remove any algae or debris that may have accumulated over the season, a pressure washer makes short work of even the dirtiest fountains. Inspect electrical cables for signs of wear or damage and, if your fountain has lights, check for burnt out or damaged bulbs and lenses.

Since the fountain is out of the pond and won’t be used for a few months, now is the perfect time to send it to a licensed repair facility for any routine maintenance it my require such as oil changes or seal replacements. Once your fountain is cleaned and inspected store it in an upright position in a climate controlled location like a heated pole barn or garage. Since there are many different types of fountains, it is very important that you read through your users manual for special instructions and maintenance plans to keep your fountain running at its very best.

If you are feeling adventurous and want to run your fountain throughout the winter you can minimize the risk of damaging your equipment by selecting a more suitable spray nozzle and regularly monitoring the environment. Choose a spray nozzle that throws heavier streams of water instead of a misty pattern. Water moving at a higher volume in a dense pattern is less likely to freeze than water sprayed in a finer pattern. Periodically check the fountain to make sure the spray nozzle is unobstructed and that the water can return back into the pond. If you are going to run your fountain in temperatures below freezing you will have to run it continuously or the water in the fountain head will freeze when switched off. Keep in mind that parts damaged by winter operation may not be covered under your manufacturer’s warranty.

If your fountain is your primary source of aeration you have a few alternatives to get you through the winter. Try to keep a hole open through the surface ice in your pond. This will allow toxic gasses formed by decomposing organic debris to exit the pond and let fresh air in. Since cold water holds oxygen easier and your fish are less active in cold water you may not need additional aeration. If you are concerned however, you can install a bottom plate aeration system which can be run year round even when ice forms on the pond.

POND TALK: Do you run your fountain in the winter? Send us some pictures of your fountain in action.

Keep your pond healthy all winter long!

How can I identify my koi? – Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

How can I identify my koi?

How can I identify my koi?
Timothy, Lancaster, PA

Koi can be found with almost infinite color patterns which can make it hard to identify which type inhabit your pond and when studying the different Koi varieties it almost feels like they are speaking a foreign language. Actually, you are. The Koi phenomenon developed in Asia as Japanese villagers gathered and bred the colorful carp sometimes found amongst the masses of common carp they raised as food. Over time collecting and breeding these ornamental fish grew in popularity spreading around the globe. Competitions are held regularly where Koi are judged on color, shape, pattern and size with particular traits ranking more “desirable” than others. Show quality Koi need to be bilaterally symmetrical in body shape, with no irregular bulges. Their body should be proportional and consist of an inferior mouth with barbels arranged on a head that slopes into the body of the fish. Their pectoral fins should be well rounded and sturdy with spines that show little to now signs of warping or twisting as they maneuver in the water.

Unless you purchased Koi that were bred and selected specifically for their coloration or markings the chances are your fish have random patterns that will fall into a general category but lack the flare to be considered show quality. There are multitudes of color categories and variations within each category. The Kohaku tends to be the most popular amongst breeders and judges alike. The Kohaku is a white Koi on which hi (red patches) appear in varying patterns. The markings on the body should not spread down past the lateral line and there should be no hi (red) in the fins or tail. Another common color variation, Sanke, resembles a Kohaku with sumi (black patches) mixed in as well. It can be difficult to identify which type of Koi you have as some of the patterns appear strikingly similar. The Showa for example is a black Koi with hi (red patches) and white patches along its body. The Showa can look extremely similar to a Sanke as they consist of the same colors but the Showa should have a predominantly black head. A Koi with a singular spot of color centralized on its head is known as a Tancho which is borrowed from the Tancho crane which similarly has a single colored dot on its head. The Ochiba Shigure Koi which translates to “Leaves in the Water” is a grey Koi with brown patches which can sometimes appear as a blue and orange pattern. Beyond colors and patterns there are also Koi that have plain scales (Wagoi), scales that sparkle (Ginrin), or have no scales at all (Doitsu).

Another concern voiced by Koi owners is that they can not differentiate between male and female Koi. This can be rather hard to do and might take some practice. Young Koi can be near impossible to tell apart but differences emerge as they grow and mature sexually. Male Koi tend to have sleek torpedo shaped bodies while females are rounder and develop bulges as eggs form in their ovaries. Female Koi also tend to grow longer and weigh more than male Koi. Males sport breeding tubercles on their head, flanks and tail that will turn their usually smooth texture to one that can be described to feel as rough as sandpaper during spawning season. You can also tell the males apart from the females by their demeanor. Male Koi tend to swim faster and turn sharper than female Koi, they are also less trusting and usually the last to approach the surface of the pond when being fed.

While it is nice to be able to correctly name your Koi, the best part of owning these fish is the fact that they are all truly unique. What may be considered a show Koi to some is not that attractive to others and having the ability to select from such a large variety of options plays an overwhelming role in why these fish are so desirable to pond owners everywhere. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder so make sure you choose colors that intrigue you and fit well in your water garden as you are the only judge that matters in your back yard. If you would like to learn more about your koi check out some informational books like Water in the Garden and other great books about ponds.

POND TALK: What methods do you use to identify your koi?

Get rid of tea colored water fast!

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