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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 4-In-1 Pond Filtration 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

6 Responses

  1. We bought pond defrosters for our 2 ponds. As I’ve posted before, it cost us $65 each to protect $3.00 worth of fish! The defrosters have worked fabulously. Our 15-cent fish have made it through 6 or 7 winters, at least. Last winter we had LOTS of snow in the CT. area! We could stand on the drifts and chip the ice out of the gutters. When I dug down through the snow I found the defroster and a puddle of slush around it. It was still doing it’s defrosting job….both of them were. This was snow that, if you fell down, you couldn’t reach the solid ground to push yourself up. The goldfish survived that winter….I guess they can survive anything!

    • HaHaHa Dottie, it sounds strange when you write it down in black and white, but more often than not our pets prove to be priceless. I’m glad to hear that your de-icers did so well and your fish had a relaxing and enjoyable winter, they are very resilient in the winter as long as you provide water for them to live in and a hole for fresh air. Pond De-icers are a great tool for winter air-exchange. Just make sure you check on them once in a while to make sure they are properly positioned and functioning.

  2. I bring my fish into the garage for the winter. I used tap water and some water from the pond. I purchased a 100 gallon stock feed tank. I have a 2 inch layer of pea gravel on the bottom. I purchased some anacharis and amazon sword plants from local pet store and planted into the gravel I also have two small concrete drainige pipes laying on top of my gravel substrate for hiding places for my fish. I m running a small pump attached to the inside rim of the tank to create bubbles just under the surface of the water so that it does not disturb the warmer water in the bottom. I have a shop light fixture hanging two feet above the tank with two daylight 40 watt light bulbs with a color temperature of 6500 K and each bulb produces 3050 lumens. The bulbs were a two pack from Walmart for only 9.00. I then purchased a 9.00 digital outlet timer for the lights to automatically come on at the same time every day and shut off after 11 hours per day. My water is crystal clear and the plants and fish are beautiful.

    • Also when setting up the tank I used back wash from my bio filter and water conditioner to acclimate the water quicker before adding my fish.

  3. A great over winter home for you pond fish is a Rubbermaid Stock Tank. They are fish safe, easy to set up and durable. They come in anything from 50 gallons, to 300 gallons, depending on how much room or how many fish you have to bring inside. More stable then a pre=formed pond liner, which were not designed to be “free standing” on a garage or basement floor. Also too, if you use at least half water from you pond to fill it, or even all pond water, it is less stress on your fish, since that is the water that they are living in, and they are used to the water quality/ conditions. You can always do gradual water changes once they are inside if you need to.

    • Awesome idea Sharon. Many people go this route when over-wintering fish and it works well. Just make sure you wash out any containers you plan on using and rinse it well with water before adding pond water and fish. Great comment!

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