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Can I continue to run my waterfall over the winter? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Can I continue to run my waterfall over the winter?

Q: Can I continue to run my waterfall over the winter?

Constance – Broomfield, CO

A: The short answer to your question: Sure! Many pond and water garden hobbyists keep their waterfalls running all year long—of course, those in warmer climates are probably more successful than those of us further north when the temperatures dip below freezing!

If you live in a colder region that freezes and you’re thinking about keeping your falls flowing through the wintertime, consider these important points:

  • Is your pump in a skimmer? If so, you may want to move it to a deeper area of your pond that doesn’t freeze.
  • Are you home to keep an eye on things? Ideally, someone should be home to periodically check on the waterfall and make sure it’s not freezing. If it does begin to freeze, the water may begin to divert out of the pond—leaving your fish high and dry.

Keeping your waterfall running during the wintertime has some definite benefits. Snow-covered and shimmering with crystals, a partially frozen waterfall can be a stunning attraction in your backyard. But that’s not all. You may also attract thirsty animals to your pond that decided to brave the winter elements!

Pond Talk: If you keep your waterfall running during the winter, why do you do so?

Protect Your Prized Fish - Pond Logic® KoiAir™ Aeration Kits

Can I move my diffuser plates all to the shallow end of the pond so I can skate on the other side? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Can I move my diffuser plates all to the shallow end of the pond so I can skate on the other side?

Q: Can I move my diffuser plates all to the shallow end of the pond so I can skate on the other side?

Adam – Locust Valley, NY

A: Though it would be nice to have the best of both worlds, a pond that’s aerated with diffuser plates is not safe for ice skating. Here’s why:

The reason you run a diffuser through the winter is to aerate the pond and move the water surface to maintain a hole in the ice, allowing for gas exchange. This ensures the water in your lake is well-circulated and your game fish and other underwater inhabitants have enough oxygen to get them through the cold season.

The trouble is that the ice that forms on the surface of water that has been moving for even a short time can be porous and not suitable for skating. Even movement on one end of the lake and not the other can make the ice at the edges unsafe.

If you want to use your pond for skating, plan in advance. Before the ice forms:

  1. Shut your aeration system down completely. It’s critical to do this before the ice starts to build on your pond’s or lake’s surface for the safety of those who will skate on the pond.
  2. Stow components away. Your airline and plate may stay in the pond, but the system’s cabinet and compressor should be stored indoors to prevent condensation and rusting.
  3. Have an emergency plan, just in case. While you’re prepping your lake for ice skating fun, now’s a good time to make sure you have water safety items available, too, like a Taylor Made Life Ring. If the ice breaks, a safety preserver like this can save someone’s life.

Even if ice skating isn’t your thing, it’s still important to follow this all-or-nothing aeration strategy. Running your system “part time” could cause condensation in the unit from the hot compressor cooling, causing rust to form. It could also allow moisture to get into the airline, which could then freeze.

Bottom line: If you plan on skating on your lake or running your aeration system “part time” for whatever reason, it’s best to shut it down completely. Otherwise, keep it running all season to ensure good water quality for your fishes.

Pond Talk: What’s your favorite wintertime activity at your pond or lake?

Promote Pond Safety - Taylor Made Life Rings

Is there anything I can do to prevent animals from chewing my fountain power cord? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Is there anything I can do to prevent animals from chewing my fountain power cord?

Q: Is there anything I can do to prevent animals from chewing my fountain power cord?

Barbara – Little Falls, NJ

A: Surprise, surprise! You’re doing your winter-prep chores and, lo and behold, you discover that a tiny interloper has been gnawing at your fountain’s power cord. Just about aquatic or semi-aquatic animal that can chew or break something open with its mouth could be the culprit—but most likely, your cord chewer is none other than the muskrat.

Muskrat Love

Muskrats, semi-aquatic rodents that are native to North America, live in wetlands over a wide range of climates and habitats (including your pond or lake). They measure 16 to 28 inches long—with almost half of that being their flattened, scale-covered tail—and weigh between 1½ to 4½ pounds. They’re double-coated in short, thick, medium to dark brown or black fur that insulates them from chilly water.

These furry little critters love to spend time submerged. Because they are less sensitive to carbon dioxide buildup that other mammals, they can stay under water for 12 to 17 minutes before they need to come up for air—giving them plenty of time to do damage to your power cords.

Born to Chew

As rodents, muskets must chew and gnaw on things to wear down their continuously growing incisors. In wild lakes and water bodies, they grind on cattails and other aquatic vegetation, along with the occasional crayfish, turtle and frog for sustenance.

In human-made lakes and ponds, however, muskrats also chew on cords, preferring the parts near a fountain’s motor or where it exits the pond. No one knows why muskrats like to sink their teeth into electrical cords, but they do. So what do you do?

Wrap It Up

To prevent muskrats and other water-dwelling chewers from damaging your fountain’s power cord, invest in some power cord wrapping (also called rat cord). This woven material limits or prevents animals from chewing through the cord’s plastic sheathing.

Now, while your fountain is pulled out of your lake or pond for the winter season, is the perfect time of year to cover your power cord in this protective material. A little maintenance and prevention will go a long way to stop those interlopers from damaging your equipment.

Pond Talk: What do you do to prevent muskrats and other semi-aquatic critters from moving into your pond or lake?

Remove Unwanted Guests - Tomahawk Live Traps

What if my pond is aerated but it still freezes over? Will my fish be OK? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

What if my pond is aerated but it still freezes over? Will my fish be OK?

Q: What if my pond is aerated but it still
freezes over? Will my fish be OK?

Kyle – Amelia, VA

A: Cold snaps happen—and when they do, that could mean big trouble for your fish.

When extra-frigid temperatures create a solid sheet of ice over your pond or water garden, your fish could be in danger because toxic gases, like ammonia, become trapped below the sealed surface. That ice also prevents fresh oxygen from mixing with the water, which your finned friends need to survive.

To allow for gas exchange at the water’s surface, you need a hole in the ice. And how do you do that? By cranking up your aeration with air stones.

Stones Near the Surface

An aeration system with air stones, like the Pond Logic® PondAir™ Aeration Kit, gently and quietly moves the water surface, and the action created by the moving water keeps a hole in the ice while infusing the pond with fresh oxygen for the fish.

You can position the air stones throughout your pond, but here’s a tip for when temps really dip: Suspend the stones closer to the surface to keep the water moving at the top of the pond but calm at the bottom for your fish.

Still Frozen Solid

What if your pond still freezes over? Short-term, your underwater inhabitants should be OK. As long as you’ve been properly maintaining your pond, there should be enough dissolved oxygen in the water to sustain them for a week or so.

Long-term, however, is another matter. If the warming sunshine and your aerators fail to outdo Mother Nature’s cold streak, you will need to create a hole in the ice. Though it’s tempting to bust through the ice with a drill, hammer or other blunt object, restrain yourself. All that smashing could create sub-surface vibrations that are harmful to your fish. Instead, fill a bucket with hot water and pour it on one area of the pond to melt open a hole, preferably near the edge.

If arctic temps continue to dominate the forecast, you may also consider heating things up with a de-icer, which is an electric device that keeps a hole open in the ice. When used in combination with your aerator, you’ll be able to beat the chill—and keep you fish happy and healthy. Purchase as a combo kit for extra savings.

Pond Talk: When your pond or water garden freezes over, what do you to do keep a hole melted in the ice?

Eliminate Harmful Gases - Pond Logic® PondAir™ & Thermo-Pond Combo

Do turtles burrow in the ground for winter? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Do turtles burrow in the ground for winter?

Q: Do turtles burrow in the ground for winter?

Lewis – Lincoln, VT

A: One of the oldest reptile groups on planet earth, cold-blooded turtles are distinguished by a bony shell that acts like a super-powerful shield to protect them from predators. Like birds and reptiles, turtles lay their eggs on land and breathe air—but they can spend long periods of time underwater, surfacing at regular intervals to fill their lungs with oxygen.

These terrapins do a great job taking care of themselves (and have been for the past 200 million years!), but if you have turtles in your pond or lake, you can be a gracious host by understanding some basic facts about them.

Wintertime Signs

They don’t use a calendar, but turtles know when it’s time to cozy down for the winter. They use the air and water temperature as a gauge, which triggers their instinctual behavioral and physiological hibernation. Typically, this happens when temperatures reach 50 degrees Fahrenheit or so.

Holing Up for the Season

Though they carry a home-sweet-home on their backs, certain types of turtles do hole up for the winter season—literally. Depending on the turtle type, some species, like box turtles, will burrow in the sediment in the bottom of your pond and hibernate for the winter, while others will swim to lower pond levels to escape ice cover. This innate behavior keeps them safe, in most cases, until temperatures warm again.

Slowed Metabolism, No Appetite

Like fishes and other cold-blooded critters, turtles’ metabolisms slow when temperatures get cold. This physiological change means that they require very little oxygen and food. In fact, their hearts will slow to just a few beats every few minutes! They are also able to take in miniscule amounts of oxygen through specialized skin cells.

Privacy, Please

To keep your turtles under cover and safe from predators during the long winter, you can add some pond dye, like Pond Logic® Pond Dye, to your pond. The blue or black coloring not only camouflages the turtles, but it also shades the pond, eliminates cloudy water, and cuts down on excess nutrients and odor.

Pond Talk: What do you do to support the turtle population in your lake or pond?

Shade & Protect Your Pond - Pond Logic® Pond Dye

Do I need to provide indoor shelter for my pond snails? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Do I need to provide indoor shelter for my pond snails?

Q: Do I need to provide indoor shelter for my pond snails?

Jerry – Kernersville, NC

A: Scientists have identified an estimated 4,000 species of freshwater snails, but one that you might find inhabiting your backyard pond or water garden is the Japanese Trapdoor Pond Snail, also known by its scientific name Viviparis malleatus.

These algae-eating gastropods have extra-special shells with a hinged fingernail-like plate that allows them to seal the shell’s opening, providing protection from drought and predation—hence their “Trapdoor Snail” nickname.

Though these hearty snails overwinter well in harsher northern climates, they do require some attention when temperatures dip. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Cool with Cold-Temperatures: These snails really do well in colder temperatures—in fact, some experts say they’ll do fine in sub-freezing weather, even down to 0 degrees Fahrenheit. When it gets really frigid, they’ll dive to the bottom of the pond, where the water is warmer.
  • Adequate Pond Depth Required: In order for them to be happy and healthy through those chilly winter spells, the snails need the water in your pond’s depth to ideally be 20 to 30 inches. Down there, they’ll happily groom the bottom of your pond, gobbling all the decaying matter like leaves, excess fish food and fish waste.
  • No Habitat Required: Because these little guys carry their homes on their back, you don’t need to provide shelter or food for them. If they feel endangered, they’ll disappear into their shells; if they’re hungry, they’ll nibble on algae that’s on your plants, underwater pots, rocks and walls.
  • Aeration Appreciated: Like any aquatic critter, Trapdoor Snails appreciate oxygen-rich water, and that’s where a subsurface aeration system, like the Pond Logic® PondAir™ Aeration Kit, will help. An adjustable unit like this will infuse your pond with oxygen while remaining whisper quiet.

If you have other types of snails in your pond or water garden, these rules may not apply—so be sure to learn their care requirements as they may need more attention than these hearty Trapdoor Snails.

Pond Talk: Do you have other types of snails in your pond? If so, what kind of care do they require?

Eliminate Harmful Gases - Pond Logic® PondAir™ Aeration Kits

Is it too cold to treat my pond with the ClearPAC®? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Is it too cold to treat my pond with the ClearPAC®?

Q: Is it too cold to treat my pond with the ClearPAC®?

Karen – Goshen, IN

A: Pond Logic® ClearPAC® combines PondClear™, Algae Defense®, EcoBoost™ and Nature’s Blue™ Pond Dye to combat algae and suspended debris in your lake or pond. Some components of this super-pack have temperature limitations while others can be used year-round. Let’s take a closer look at each one.

PondClear™

Beneficial bacteria that break down muck and suspended debris, such as those found in PondClear™ and MuckAway™, can be used until water temperatures drop to 50 degrees Fahrenheit or so. Though that temperature is not a definitive cut-off point, the bacteria will become less effective due to unfavorable conditions. Bottom line: When your thermometer dips below 50 degrees, hold off until the water warms again.

Algae Defense®

This algae-destroyer can be used to treat troublesome floating filamentous algae, bottom growing chara or the planktonic algae as long as it’s green and growing, and the water temperature in your pond or lake is above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. If it’s lower than that, hold off until spring.

EcoBoost™

EcoBoost™, which is a bacteria booster rather than an actual bacteria, has no temperature restrictions so it can be used year-round to bind phosphates that find their way into your pond or lake. You can use EcoBoost™ throughout the winter to give you a head start on next season.

Pond Dye

The final ingredient in Pond Logic® ClearPAC®, Pond Dye in blue, twilight or black is not temperature-sensitive, so it can be used year-round to give your pond or lake that aesthetic appeal throughout the winter months. And if it’s getting too chilly to stand by your pond pouring in a quart of dye, try Pond Dye Packets—all you do is toss the water-soluble packet into the water and head back to your warm and toasty home!

Pond Talk: Why do you use pond dye in your pond or lake?

Enhance Water Clarity - Pond Logic® EcoBoost™

I did a spring cleanout; do I need to do a fall one too? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

I did a spring cleanout; do I need to do a fall one too?

Q: I did a spring cleanout; do I need to do a fall one too?

Robert – Reston, VA

A: Whether it’s the spring or the fall, cleaning out your pond can be a chore. You have to pull out your gear, pull on your hip waders and gloves, and get dirty and wet. As much as you love your pond or water garden, it’s hard work!

The answer to your question depends on two factors: the condition of your pond, and your personal preference. Let’s take a closer look.

Condition of the Pond

Step outside and examine your pond and the area surrounding it. Have you, um, neglected it this summer? Perhaps the fish or algae have taken over the pond. Maybe leaves and dead plants are bunching up and decomposing along the water’s edge. Hey—don’t worry about it; it’s been a busy summer, right?

If your pond isn’t quite up to snuff, it’s a good idea to break out that pond vacuum and your Laguna Collapsible Pond Skimmer Net and do some cleaning. It’s also a good idea to add some beneficial bacteria, like Pond Logic® Seasonal Defense®, and maybe even do a partial water change to help remove excess debris before winter. Remember that debris left in the pond will continue to decompose and may pose a threat to your finned friends.

If your pond is looking good, however, and you’ve maintained it since the last cleanout, simply toss in some cool-weather bacteria, like Seasonal Defense®, to help remove any minor buildup that occurs until the pond starts to freeze over.

Personal Preference

Of course, personal preference matters, too. If you enjoy spending time pond-side as the trees do their color-changing thing, or if you plan to have some autumn soirees, Halloween haunted houses or other parties in your yard as the weather cools, then a clean-up is in order.

On the other hand, if you don’t really care how your pond looks during the fall and winter months, do a quick cleanout to remove excess debris and add some cool-weather bacteria, like Seasonal Defense®—but definitely plan to do a thorough cleanout come spring.

Pond Talk: Is it more important to you to regularly maintain your pond or do big seasonal cleanouts twice a year?

One Product, Three Seasons! - Pond Logic® Seasonal Defense®

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