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Are other fish like my plecostomus as hardy over the winter as my koi? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Are other fish like my plecostomus as hardy over the winter as my koi?

Are other fish like my plecostomus as hardy over the winter as my koi?
Chris – Cedar Rapids, IA

With all of our talk about koi and goldfish in our pond blogs you may feel that your fish are not being properly represented. That being said, we will speak less in generalities today and focus on some other, more specific, types of fish that need a little more wintertime TLC.

It has been mentioned in past blogs that your koi and goldfish fare surprisingly well over the winter. With a little help from wheat-germ based fish food like Pond Logic Spring and Fall and an aeration system or deicer, your fish will have a successful and trouble free winter rest and be ready for action come springtime. Common goldfish like Sarassa and Shubunkins are types of winter hardy fish that can be left outside with your koi.

Other types of fish like Plecostomus, Oranda, Telescope Goldfish and Black Moors do not fare as well and will most likely benefit from being over-wintered indoors. Refer to our past blog on how to bring your water garden inside for the winter, and for pointers on indoor ponding and relocating your pond hardware.

Depending on the layout of your pond and the average winter temperatures where you live, you may have to bring all of your fish in, or you may be spared from having to relocate them at all. Your pond should ideally be around 24” deep to protect your fish from exposure to the elements outside of their pond environment in cases of both extreme heat and cold. If you experience extremely cold winters in your area there is still a chance of the pond freezing through or the remaining water being too cold. Always keep a pond thermometer on hand and keep track of water temperatures when deciding to switch fish foods or to verify if it is time to bring your fish indoors. If you live in a warmer climate you may never experience ice on your pond or even frost and therefore have no need to worry about your fish becoming potential ice cubes.

Pond Talk: Do you keep fish in your pond that need special attention during the winter months?

Manage your pond's water temperature easlily

What causes fog to form on the pond during the fall? | Ponds & Lakes Q & A

Are other fish like my plecostomus as hardy over the winter as my koi?What causes fog to form on the pond during the fall?
Bella – Forks, WA

There are few better moments than when you look out at your pond early in the morning to be greeted by a shimmering frost covered landscape accented by that light silvery veil of mist floating just over the surface of your pond. While it may be getting too cold to go out and physically enjoy the water now, your pond has seemingly endless ways to keep you entertained and inspired. So, how is it that this fog comes to rest over your water body and is it a precursor to potential problems or is it all just smoke and mirrors?

As we all know, the air that surrounds us holds moisture in the form of water vapor. While it is not normally visible to the human eye you can definitely feel it on those sticky humid days. If you have ever left a cold drink out on one of those particular days you have seen how this water vapor gathers on the outside of the glass giving the appearance that the beverage is sweating. This gathering, or condensation, of water vapor creates the appearance of fog over your pond in colder temperatures. In the morning, while the ambient air is cold, the evaporated water wicked from the warmer surface your pond condenses in that cool pocket of air to the point that you can see it. As time progresses the sun rises and the ambient air temperatures begin to rise essentially eliminating the cold air above your pond and the fog it creates. Rest assured that the presence of fog above the surface of your pond is not an omen of bad pond health or trouble to come. Enjoy the beautiful scenery created by this mysterious looking mist and take comfort in the fact that even in the cold seasons your pond never fails to perform.

Pond Talk: Have you captured any breathtaking pond pictures involving fog? Share them with other bloggers or on our Facebook page.

Can my snails stay in my pond for the winter? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

When should I remove the fountain from my pond?

Can my snails stay in my pond for the winter?
Cody – Falling Spring, VA

While your fish and some of your aquatic plants remain safe and sound during their winter dormancy you may wonder if your snails will be as successful. Your pond snails are amazingly resilient in cold weather and will do just fine given their habitat is suitable.

Your pond depth will play a major role in the success of all of the living creatures in your pond. Your plants, fish and snails can survive in cold water but they won’t fair too well if frozen into a solid block of ice. The ice that forms on the top of your pond varies in thickness depending on where you live but the general rule of thumb is to build your pond to be around 20”-30” in depth. This ensures there is an ample layer of water at the bottom of the pond that is left unexposed to the elements which will provide a safe haven for all of your pets and plants.

You won’t have to worry too much about your snails finding a safe place to hide over the winter as they come equipped with a strong shell which provides adequate shelter. They can hide amongst the rocks and plant remains in the pond as well during the winter but as your fish are in dormancy there is not an overwhelming need for additional habitat. As water temperatures drop and bacteria begin to dwindle a lot of pond owners tend to rely on algaecides to keep their ponds free from algae. If you are using an algaecide in your water garden review the product label thoroughly to ensure it is safe to use with your snails. When your pond comes back to life in the spring your snails will flourish amongst the new plant growth.

Pond Talk: Do you do anything special to provide safety for your snails in the winter?

If I can’t use bacteria, how can I defend my pond while the water is cold? | Ponds & Lakes Q & A

When should I remove the fountain from my pond?

If I can’t use bacteria, how can I defend my pond while the water is cold?
Mary – Hudson, CO

It is not uncommon for ponds to get a little out of control as the temperatures begin to drop in the late fall and early spring. As water temperatures decrease, your pond crosses a balancing point where your bacteria and algaecides can no longer remain effective enough to fight off excess nutrients and cold temperature plant growth. Customers tend to let their guard down at the end of the season as they venture indoors for the winter.

Pond dye is an effective year-round treatment that works flawlessly in the winter giving your pond a unique look even as it ices over. Algae and plants can still grow at the bottom of the pond in cold temperatures and they are continually exposed to sunlight even if there is a layer of ice on the pond. There are multiple shades of dye available to pond owners. Pond Logic® offers pond dye in a decorative Nature’s Blue™, natural blue-green Twilight Blue™, or reflective Black DyeMond™, so you can achieve a unique color that fits your particular setting. You can learn more about choosing the best pond color in our Pond Dye Blog.

Organic matter will continue to decay during the winter, and run off from melting snow and rain will contribute to an increase in phosphate levels which encourages algae growth. Using a water conditioner like Pond Logic® EcoBoost™ will continue to bind these phosphates rendering them useless to weeds and algae as well as introduce trace minerals into the water column which promote a healthier fish population. EcoBoost™ also enhances the natural bacteria found in your pond increasing their productivity when they are active.

Both EcoBoost™ and pond dye are considered “proactive” pond care treatments as they are designed to create a balanced ecosystem and prevent problems like algae growth or turbid water. You can save yourself a lot of work and money on difficult spring start ups or late season algae blooms by continuing to use these types of pond care products throughout the year even after your bacteria and herbicides are packed away for the winter.

POND TALK: Pond owners sometimes use pond dye in the winter to create unique ice colorations. Share your winter pond art pictures and stories with other pond guys and gals.

Season Long Pond Care

If I have a spring running into my pond do I still need aeration? – Ponds & Lakes Q & A

If I have a spring running into my pond do I still need aeration?

If I have a spring running into my pond do I still need aeration?
Scott – Ripon, WI

Natural springs are an excellent source of water to fill and maintain a farm pond or lake. The volume of water and the rate at which it flows into your pond varies depending on the magnitude of the spring. While a higher magnitude spring can provide a great deal of water exchange they do not do much to help boost the oxygen level in your pond.

Great deals of pond owners believe their water body is spring-fed because the pond water is cold in the deeper areas of the pond. Pockets of cold water are more often caused by a lack of adequate water circulation which leads to water stratification in the water body. This allows a top layer of water which is heated and oxygenated by the surrounding atmosphere to stay at the top of the pond while the water at the bottom of the pond stays trapped, cold and devoid of oxygen. A couple great indicators that your pond is spring fed are that the water level tends to stay the same regardless of rainfall or lack thereof in your area, or if your pond has an outlet and is constantly flowing. Since spring water tends to be colder you will notice that spring fed ponds are cooler even when properly aerated but the entire water body will be cool, not just random pockets of water.

Properly aerating a water body requires not only circulation but the addition of oxygen that can be absorbed into the water column. For this reason, a spring fed pond is not a direct substitute for a proper aeration system. Aeration systems are designed to not only move water around your pond but to boost the dissolved oxygen content of the water column. Bottom plate systems like the Airmax Aeration Systems utilize air compressors and membranes to pump oxygen to the bottom of your pond and then break it down in to small enough bubbles that are absorbed into the water column. This process also forces the water above the plate towards the surface of the pond causing a mushrooming effect that circulates the water body. These type of systems can be used year round. Fountains can also be used to aerate water bodies. Since they draw from the surface of the pond, fountains are usually better suited for ponds 6’ deep and shallower while bottom plates systems work well in deeper ponds. Fountains pump water from the pond and spray it into the air in fine droplets that absorb oxygen and then crash back into the pond. With this principle in mind you might be able to guess that a fountain that sprays a thicker or solid stream of water adds less oxygen to the pond than one that has a finer spray pattern. While effective in shallow water bodies, these systems are best used only for summer aeration.

Almost every pond can benefit from aeration as it not only provides oxygen for fish but also promotes faster muck digestion and an overall cleaner pond. If you have an aeration system in your pond but are unsure if it is properly aerated you can take temperature readings in multiple depths and areas of your pond and record any extreme variations which indicate a lack of circulation from your aeration system.

Pond Talk: Pond owners implement natural springs to create interesting water features in their ponds in the form of artesian wells and water leveling features which you can find online. Have you found a unique way to take advantage of your spring fed pond?

Keep your pond healthy all winter long!

How do pine needles affect my water garden? I’ve heard everything from poor water quality to no change at all. – Decorative Water Gardens Q & A

How do pine needles affect my water garden? I’ve heard everything from poor water quality to no change at all.

How do pine needles affect my water garden? I’ve heard everything from poor water quality to no change at all.
Betsy – Hinesburg, VT

Your evergreens may hold on to their color during the winter but they will have no trouble shedding a few pine needles. If your pond is pine tree adjacent you most likely have been dealing with the presence of pine needles in your water. Your pine trees can provide an excellent source of shade and privacy but do the negative effects of loose pine needles put your pond or fish in harms way?

As you already know, an abundance of organic debris in your pond can lead to algae blooms, turbid water and unbalanced water chemistry. Organic matter like grass clippings or leaves from nearby trees will eventually turn into an intimidating layer of muck if left at the bottom of your pond. Unlike leaves pine needles are not a huge contributor of tea colored water however, pine needles are acidic and can lower the pH of your pond water to an unhealthy level if left to accumulate. Because of their size, shape and density pine needles are a bit trickier to catch and clean out of your pond. They can easily fall through netting with larger openings and they tend to clog up pond vacuum hoses. To better protect your pond from fallen pond needles use Pond Nettinghttp://www.thepondguy.com/category/water-gardens-and-features-pond-netting with smaller mesh holes. As pine needles tend to float for a while make sure your Skimmer is active and running to help catch as much debris as possible. Your skimmer may require more frequent cleaning to prevent loss of water flow. Any needles that venture to the bottom of the pond can be rounded up with a Skimmer Net and your Pond Vac or you can don a pair of Aquatic Gloves and scoop up any large deposits that form. While pine needles decompose a bit slower than leaves beneficial bacteria products like Seasonal Defense will help break them down and remove any strays you might have missed.

To be fair to all of the evergreens out there, pine needles are not any more harmful than leaves; they just come with their own unique set of challenges. At the end of the day you treat them just like you would any other form of unwanted excess organic material. Keep your pond clean and it will keep you happy, whether you have pine trees, oak trees or no trees at all!

Pond Talk: What kinds of trees do you have around your pond? What methods have you found to be effective against debris from leaves and needles.

Keep your water garden healthy all winter long!

How do weeds like Cattails and Phragmites survive the winter? – Ponds & Lakes Q & A

How do weeds like Cattails and Phragmites survive the winter?

How do weeds like Cattails and Phragmites survive the winter?
Bryce – Grand Rapids, MN

Your gamefish and frogs aren’t the only ones hiding from the cold winter weather. Even your emergent weeds have developed a defense mechanism to survive over the winter. Being perennial plants, they may appear to die when the weather cools down but they are really just buying time until the spring thaw when they will return in all of their glory. Whether or not this is good news depends on how you feel about the presence of these particular plants in your pond.

Plants like Cattails tend to disperse their seeds as fall approaches. As the weather continues to cool the leaves and the stalk of the plant wilt and die only to decompose and become fertilizer for the roots, or rhizomes, of the plant come spring. While the exposed areas of the plant are dying off, the roots of the plant begin pulling in nutrients to store before going into dormancy for the winter. As these roots can be considered the heart of the plant, cutting down Cattail and Phragmite reeds will not discourage new plant growth in the spring.

If you like having Cattails or Phragmites around your pond then nothing is needed to help them through the winter as they are naturally prepared to make a comeback. If you are not a fan of these emergent plants you can make it harder for them to grow back by physically removing the plant roots or by using pond care products to remove their food source and kill the plants including the roots. Applying aquatic herbicides like Avocet PLX while Cattails and Phragmites are still active is infinitely easier than trying to pull their extensive root system from the pond. Avocet PLX is absorbed by the plant and carried to its roots effectively killing the entire weed. Since you don’t want to encourage new growth you will want to remove any potential “fertilizers” in the form of plant decay and muck. Once dead cut and drag any dead reeds and leaves away from the pond and burn or compost them. Using a Rake and Weed Cutter will make short work of these shoreline cleanups and give you the advantage for next season.

Pond Talk: How do your emergent plants react to the cold winter weather?

Keep your pond healthy all winter long!

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