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My koi are moving really slowly, but scatter when I get close to the pond. Is that normal? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

My koi are moving really slowly, but scatter when I get close to the pond. Is that normal?My koi are moving really slowly, but scatter when I get close to the pond. Is that normal?

Karen – Arlington, VA

When the water gets cold, koi fish get lazy. Okay. Maybe not lazy – but they slow down considerably as their bodies conserve energy to withstand colder temperatures. But despite their natural tendency to slow down in the off season, their survival instincts remain intact. Thus, when they sense motion from the outside world, they get nervous.

As denizens of the deep, it’s only natural for koi fish to assume that everyone out of the water is looking for a quick meal. With that logical perspective, it’s normal for them to demonstrate a brief burst of energy in the interest of self-preservation.

It’s also natural for koi fish to lose their appetite when things get chilly. During the winter months, both their mobility and their metabolism slow down to preserve energy until things warm up in the spring. That’s why we recommend our PondLogic® Spring & Fall Fish Food for the months leading up to winter. This food is designed for easy digestion, and provides healthy nutrition until the water drops below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. After that, koi fish can subsist safely on available organic matter at the bottom of the pond. They’ll eat what they need, and no more, and resume feeding when temperatures climb above 40 degrees again in the spring.

Pond Talk: Are you fish still coming to the pond side to greet you or have they taken cover for the winter?

Pond Logic Spring & Fall Fish Food

During the summer, I run my aeration system all the time. Can I just run it part-time during the winter so the pond will freeze for skating? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

During the summer, I run my aeration system all the time. Can I just run it part-time during the winter so the pond will freeze for skating?During the summer, I run my aeration system all the time. Can I just run it part-time during the winter so the pond will freeze for skating?

Klaus – Columbia, MO

If you’re the least inclined to use your pond for ice skating during the winter months, there’s only one way to go – and it doesn’t involve aeration.

Lots of pond owners choose to keep their aerators up and running during the winter months. It’s a logical choice – particularly when the pond is inhabited year ‘round by fish – because the aerator prevents the pond from freezing fully, allowing potentially gases produced by organic matter decomposition to escape. But for people who put a premium on ice skating, any aeration is a no-no.

Why? Because aerators keep water moving. And when water is moving, ice has a tough time forming. When it does form on an aerated pond, the ice is extremely porous, and nowhere near as strong as the solid ice that forms on still water. As a result, an aerated pond is never safe for skating – even if the aeration is sporadic. That’s the primary reason we recommend the ready availability of our Taylor Made 20” Life Rings to provide an added measure of safety for anyone who ventures onto the weakened ice.

So, if you choose to skate, it’s wise to shut down your aeration system completely. You can leave your airline and plate in the pond, but the cabinet and compressor should be stored indoors to prevent condensation and rusting.

If you love to skate, skate safely. And enjoy your pond with confidence all year long.

Pond Talk: Do you use your pond for skating in the winter?

Taylor Made 20 Inch Life Rings

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

If I chose to bring my fish indoors for the winter what should I do?

If I chose to bring my fish indoors for the winter what should I do?
Ron – Seymour, IN

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 Fish 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 fish acclimation blog, which 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?

Pond Logic Stress Reducer Plus

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?
Fran – Lapeer, MI

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 user’s 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 diffused 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.

Kasco 1/2 HP Surface Aerators

Is it too cold to use bacteria? If so, is there anything else I should continue to use now? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Is it too cold to use bacteria? If so, is there anything else I should continue to use now?

Is it too cold to use bacteria? If so, is there anything else I should continue to use now?
Susan – Cincinnati, OH

Like lots of living creatures, beneficial bacteria appreciate a cozy, comfortable environment. And from their bacterial perspectives, water temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit are no longer cozy at all. That’s why we recommend against the use of bacteria when the water falls below that threshold.

Regardless of the temperature, many pond owners enhance the beauty of their water feature with the use of our Pond Logic® Pond Dyes. These dyes are available in Nature’s Blue™, Twilight Blue™ or Black Dyemond™ colors, and are completely safe for people, pets, and aquatic life. And whether you choose to add them during winter months – or all year ‘round – they add a touch of elegance to any backyard pond.

In addition to our Pond Dyes, it’s wise to consider the use of our Pond Logic® EcoBoost™ Bacteria Enhancer. With its unique, safe formulation, EcoBoost binds with phosphates and other harmful toxins that can be harmful to fish and plants, and introduces more than 80 helpful trace minerals to keep water clear and healthy. While EcoBoost doesn’t contain bacteria, its formulation helps to make pond water safe for beneficial bacteria to thrive. We recommend its continued use until your pond freezes over – which will help to ensure a good head start when the ice goes out, and preparations begin for a new season.

Pond Talk: What maintenance do you continue to do throughout the winter months?

Pond Logic EcoBoost

The de-icer I purchased says it’s thermostatically-controlled. Why is it always running? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

The de-icer I purchased says it’s thermostatically-controlled. Why is it always running?

The de-icer I purchased says it’s thermostatically-controlled. Why is it always running?
Bill – White Lake, MI

When backyard water features are home to year-round populations of fish, it’s vitally important to prevent long-term ice cover. Without a break in the ice, harmful gases produced by decaying leaves and other organic matter build up, threatening the well-being of wintering fish. To prevent that threat, many pond owners install thermostatically-controlled de-icers, which produce enough concentrated heat to keep a vent hole open during winter’s coldest months.

When a de-icer is thermostatically controlled, it is set to turn both on and off at certain temperatures. In theory, that makes good sense: if the water is cold, the de-icer goes to work, and when the water warms, it switches off – saving on unnecessary electricity costs. The problem, however, is that the water temperature in a frozen pond may not rise above the thermostat’s high-temperature shutoff threshold, leaving the de-icer in full heating mode all the time.

Naturally, we’ve given this issue some thought. And that’s why we strongly recommend the use of our Thermo Cube Thermostatically Activated Plug. Unlike a thermostatically-controlled de-icer, the Thermo Cube measures air – not water temperature. Thus, when the sun is shining, and air temperatures warm up, the Thermo Cube automatically cuts power to the de-icer, and turns it back on when the air temperature drops. The combination works flawlessly – applying heat when it’s required to keep the ice open, and shutting it off when it’s not.

Pond Talk: Do you use a thermocube along with your de-icer?

Pond Logic FeatureFix

What if my pond has aeration and it still freezes over? Will my fish be okay? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q&A

What if my pond has aeration and it still freezes over? Will my fish be okay?

What if my pond has aeration and it still freezes over? Will my fish be okay?
Sue – Boston, MA

The reasons for aeration during the winter months are largely the same as they are during warmer weather. The oxygen provided by aeration is vital to the health of fish – all year ‘round. In the winter, aeration does double duty, both by introducing sufficient oxygen to the water, and by preventing the formation of ice that could contain harmful gases produced by leaves and other decaying material on the pond’s bottom. As long as the aerators keep some of the water from freezing, the fish in the pond will have sufficient oxygen to weather the cold.

If your aerator can’t keep up with the impact of a long cold snap, and the pond freezes entirely for a short time, your fish should be fine. Short term freezes shouldn’t pose a threat to a well maintained pond – and fish will have sufficient oxygen to survive the temporary freeze. During longer cold snaps, however, harmful gases can accumulate, and you may need to take measures to open the ice. To accomplish that task, it’s important to avoid the use of hammers, drills or other percussive tools. The effects of violent vibration can be harmful to fish. Instead, try applying buckets of hot water to melt vent holes.

To prevent freezing, we recommend the use of our Pond Logic® Water Garden Aeration Systems. With the system installed, it’s wise to prepare for winter by situating stones throughout the pond. For an added measure of assurance, you may also want to suspend some stones closer to the surface to generate more surface-level water movement, while leaving the bottom of the pond still for fish.

Pond Talk: Have you had your pond freeze over even with the help of an aerator?

Pond Logic FeatureFix

Do herons fly south for the winter? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Do herons fly south for the winter?

Do herons fly south for the winter?
Bobby – Milwaukee, WI

Herons are migratory birds, and they have no appreciation for cold weather. So if you’re located in the cooler northern climes – particularly where ponds tend to freeze during the winter months – you’ll usually notice their absence when temperatures start to drop. Like many of us would like to do during winter, herons that choose to migrate will head for Central America and northern South America to warm up and fill up on fish. If you live in warmer portions of the United States, however, you may see herons all year ‘round, provided there’s enough open water and food to keep them happy.

While they’re beautiful to watch, herons are often unpopular with pond keepers – particularly those who have stocked their pond well. Herons consider fish as their favorite snack, and a single bird will happily devour every available fish, leaving the pond empty, and the pond’s owner grumpy. Herons aren’t picky eaters, though, and they’ll also snack on feeder fish, frogs, salamanders, lizards, snakes, grasshoppers and even dragonflies.

Fortunately, herons don’t hunt in flocks. When they spot a pond that’s already been claimed by another enterprising heron, they’ll typically fly elsewhere. That’s why we strongly recommend our Airmax® Blue Heron Decoy as a simple way to discourage hungry herons from settling in for an uninvited visit.

Without preventative measures – like a well-placed and regularly relocated decoy – a heron will settle in as long as food is available. Otherwise, only cold temperatures, which send fish to the warmer water layers at the bottom of the pond and other food sources to their winter lairs, will encourage a heron to move on.

Pond Talk: Do herons continue to visit your pond throughout the fall and winter or more on?

Lake Rake Weed Cutter Combo

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!

What happens to the frogs and toads during the winter? | Pond & Lake 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?

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