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I heard you can lose fish during the winter. How do I prevent a winter fish kill? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I heard you can lose fish during the winter. How do I prevent a winter fish kill?

Q: I heard you can lose fish during the winter. How do I prevent a winter fish kill?

Jon – Little Suamico, WI

A: Imagine being cooped up all winter long in a room with no ventilation and no fresh air. Pretty claustrophobic, right? Now add the stench of decaying garbage and other waste buildup … it’s likely you wouldn’t last until spring.

It’s a similar situation with your fish.

In colder climates that freeze over the winter, decomposing vegetation and waste beneath the ice layer releases toxic gases that build up, displacing the oxygen that the fish need to survive. When that O2 is replaced with ammonia and other harmful gases, the result can be a winter fish kill.

So how to do you prevent this from happening? Aeration with an Airmax® Aeration System.

Open a Window!

An Airmax® Aeration System sized for your lake or pond moves the water below the frozen surface, which keeps an air hole open in the ice. This ventilation allows the harmful gases to escape while bringing in fresh oxygen for your fish. The aeration also injects oxygen into the water via the bubbles that come out of the diffuser or air stones.

Provide Year-Round Oxygen

For the health of your fish, we recommend you run an aeration system year-round—unless you plan to use the pond for winter activities, like ice skating or hockey, that require a solid and safe sheet of ice. In that case, follow the instructions in your product manual to safely turn off your system.

Create a Warm Zone

If you plan to run your system year-round, move the diffuser plates into shallower water during the winter months. This will allow your fish to hunker down in your pond’s warmer depth for the winter. It will also prevent the rare “super cooling” effect, in which the water temperature dips below freezing and over chills your fish.

Pond Talk: Have you ever experienced a winter fish kill? What changes did you make to prevent it from happening again?

Aerate Your Pond in All Seasons - Airmax® Pond Series™ Aeration

If I’m going to shut my aerator down for the winter, when should I do it? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: If I’m going to shut my aerator down for the winter, when should I do it?

Q: If I’m going to shut my aerator down for the winter, when should I do it?

Syd – Jackson, WY

A: Ice skating, hockey, curling, broomball, ice fishing—part of the joy of having your own pond or lake is all the wintertime sports that can be played on the ice. These frosty, fun activities are the main reason why folks shut down their aerator for the winter, as keeping one running will create a hole in the ice and make the ice sheet unstable.

If you plan to turn your lake into an ice rink this year, turn off, pull out and store your aerator before the ice begins to form. Why? Because if ice that forms on the water surface has been moving for even a short time, it 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.

Here’s the shutdown process we recommend:

  1. Unplug and 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 the cabinet and compressor away. Your airline and plate may stay in the pond, but the system’s cabinet and compressor should be stored indoors to keep dry and prevent condensation and rusting.
  3. Cover flex tube and airlines ends. Doing so will prevent debris from entering and plugging up the airlines.
  4. 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.

If you’re not using your pond for winter activities, keep your Airmax® Aeration System operating all season long so your fish will survive a winter fish kill caused by lack of oxygen. Don’t forget to move your diffuser plates out of the deepest water. This will give your finned friends a safe zone and prevent the super-cooling effect that happens in the chilled winter water.

Pond Talk: What are your favorite wintertime sports?

Be Prepared for any Pond Scenario - Taylor Made Life Rings

I am seeing quite a few tracks near my pond. Who do they belong to? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I am seeing quite a few tracks near my pond. Who do they belong to?

Q: I am seeing quite a few tracks near my pond. Who do they belong to?

Shawn – New Hudson, MI

A: Water attracts all sorts of critters. From bugs, birds and deer to reptiles, raccoons and muskrats—and even an occasional coyote or bear—wildlife of all shapes and sizes frequent ponds and lakes. If you’re experiencing visitors like these near your pond, that’s great! You should be excited that the animals are using it as a natural resource!

To help you decipher what’s leaving behind those tracks, here’s a quick rundown of the most common critters we find near ponds and lakes:

Muskrats: Measuring about 2 feet long and covered in thick dark brown or black fur, these medium-size semiaquatic rodents are often found in wetlands and near the water’s edge. They have long, vertically flat tails covered with scales, which help them to swim. When looking at muskrat tracks, the hind feet will be larger than the front feet, and you’ll see a distinct mark from their tail that drags along the ground.

Raccoons: These little masked bandits, which will sometimes make a meal of your game fish, are very intelligent and have extremely dexterous front paws. They walk with their feet flat on the ground and can stand on their hind legs to examine objects with their front paws. When examining raccoon tracks, you’ll see the flat-footed footprints with claws on all the toes. Their front foot and opposite hind foot tracks will be side by side or close together.

Deer: Widely distributed across the country, deer—which are pretty good swimmers, by the way—prefer to live between forests (for cover) and grassy fields (for food), though you’ll find deer tracks anywhere around your pond. Unlike raccoons, deer walk on their hooves, or their toe tips that are strengthened by a thick horny covering. When looking at deer tracks, you’ll see the outline of their hooves, which will look like upside-down hearts.

Turtles: Terrestrial and amphibious turtles have short, round, sturdy feet to bear the weight of their heavy shells. They also have long claws that they use to help them clamber onto rocky shorelines and floating logs. You’ll most likely see turtle tracks near the water. The marks will look almost oval with toes or claw marks on one side of the oval. You may see a tail or shell drag mark, too.

In most cases, these critters will do little or no harm to your pond or lake. They do leave waste behind, but we can keep that in check with aeration and bacteria usage. So have fun identifying your little visitors!

Pond Talk: What’s the strangest animal track you’ve identified near your pond or lake?

Bind Phosphates and Enhance Natural Bacteria - Pond Logic(r) EcoBoost(tm)

When should I remove my fountain? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: When should I remove my fountain?

Q: When should I remove my fountain?

Ray – McDermott, OH

A: Among your fall-preparation chores is removing the fountain and storing it for winter, particularly if you live in an area that endures freezing temperatures. Why? When ice forms, the cold stuff might damage the float. Or it could create a barrier that prevents water from passing through the spray nozzle, causing your fountain run dry and destroying your motor.

Your best bet: Remove the fountain before the ice begins to form. Sure, you could wait until a thin layer develops and then remove it—but that means you have to get wet and messy when it’s freezing. Not fun. Get a jump-start now before temperatures get too frigid.

Here are four easy steps to pulling out and storing your fountain for the winter:

  • Pull the Plug: Turn off the power to the fountain and pull it ashore. Most units have a quick disconnect at the motor that allows you separate the fountain from the main power cord.
  • Scrub Down: Wash down the fountain and float assembly to remove any algae or debris that has accumulated over the season. If you have a pressure washer, use it. It’ll make short work of even the dirtiest fountain.
  • Electrical Check: Inspect wiring and electrical cables for signs of wear or damage. If your fountain has lights, check for burned out or damaged bulbs and lenses.
  • Safe Storage: 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, until spring.

Now that it’s out and cleaned, you might want to consider sending your fountain to a licensed repair facility for routine maintenance tasks, including oil changes and/or seal replacements. Be sure to read through your user’s manual for special instructions and maintenance plans to keep your fountain running at its very best.

If you don’t plan on using the pond for ice skating or other winter recreation, now is a great time to install an Airmax® Aeration System to keep your pond oxygenated and healthy through the winter months. The aerator will circulate the water while keeping a hole in the ice surface, which will bring oxygen in and allow toxic gases to escape.

Pond Talk: How often do you have your fountain serviced by a licensed repair facility?

Aerate Your Pond in All Seasons - Airmax® Pond Series™ Aeration

I know a net won’t fit on my pond, so how do I keep the leaves out? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I know a net won’t fit on my pond, so how do I keep the leaves out?

Q: I know a net won’t fit on my pond, so how do I keep the leaves out?

Jack – Fairport, NY

A: Big lake? Blowing leaves? No problem! Though it might seem an impossible task to keep those drifting fall leaves from landing in your pond or lake, it is possible to manage them with this three-step solution. Here’s what we recommend.

Step 1: Continue to Aerate

No, your aerator won’t blow away debris like your leaf blower, but it will help to circulate oxygen throughout the water column. An Airmax® Pond Series™ Aeration System will keep your pond or lake healthy by removing dangerous gases like ammonia while delivering O2 to your fish and muck-eating beneficial bacteria. Speaking of which …

Step 2: Put Bacteria to Work

Continual use of some beneficial bacteria like those found in Pond Logic® MuckAway™ throughout the fall will help decompose the leaves that have landed in your lake or pond. The bacteria-packed pellets sink below the water’s surface and instantly begin to digest muck, gobbling through leaves and improving water clarity.

Step 3: Manually Remove Debris

Because a net won’t fit over your lake, you should plan to manually remove fallen leaves and debris in addition to aerating and adding bacteria. Doing so will lessen the workload—and give you some good stuff to add to your compost pile. Tools that will make the job easy include:

    • Pond Rake: Perfect for mechanical control of weeds, algae, muck and debris, this 3-foot-wide aluminum rake comes with an 11-foot two-piece rust-proof powder-coated aluminum handle, detachable polyethylene float and a 20 feet length of polypropylene rope.
    • 2-in-1 Pond Net: This heavy-duty handheld net includes a 4-foot aluminum neoprene-grip handle that extends to more than 11 feet. It also comes with a 14-inch interchangeable net frame that supports both a durable ¼-inch mesh fish net and ultra-fine skimmer net.
    • PondSkim™: Remove floating debris quickly by dragging this skimmer across the surface of the water. It measures 5 feet wide and is constructed with a tough collection screen, a buoyant float, a sturdy abrasion-resistant lower crossbar and a 24-foot pull line.

It can be a challenge to prevent leaves from settling in a large pond or lake, but with a little planning and hard work, it can be done. Good luck!

Pond Talk: If you have a large pond or lake, what do you do to prevent copious amounts of leaves from landing in it and turning into muck?

Remove Leaves, Debris & Weeds - The Pond Guy® Pond & Beach Rake

I think my aerator is undersized but how do I know? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I think my aerator is undersized but how do I know?

Q: I think my aerator is undersized but how do I know?

Mitch – Roseburg, OR

A: As you probably know, proper aeration with a deep water or shallow water aeration system is key to a healthy pond or lake. When water circulates and moves, oxygen flows throughout the water column, the water temperature is even, and the fish and wildlife thrive. You’ll see no stagnant areas or catch whiffs of bad odors. Instead, you’ll have a welcoming, enjoyable body of water, perfect for play and recreation.

If you think your aerator isn’t doing its job, it’s easy to diagnose: Just take your pond’s temperature!

The Tools

To begin, you’ll need a non-floating pond thermometer, a long string, a tape measure, a waterproof marker, a stopwatch, and a pad of paper and pencil. Tie the string to your thermometer, and measure and mark every 24 inches down the length of the string with your waterproof marker.

The Technique

Once your tools are set up, gather them together, hop in your boat and motor to various locations in your pond.

At each spot, noting where you are, drop the thermometer into the water and take the water’s temperature readings 24 inches down at a time, from the top to the bottom. Let the thermometer rest long enough (5 to 10 minutes) to get the true temperature reading at your desired depth.

Repeat this process in different areas (particularly if your lake is unevenly shaped), taking notes all along the way.

The Results

Once you’re done taking your lake’s temperature, look at your notes. Is there more than a few degrees difference in any of your temperature readings? If so, you’re more than likely under-aerating your pond.

The good news is that The Pond Guy® offers a free aerial mapping service. We’ll measure your pond and tell you where the diffusers should be placed so that you’re getting even aeration throughout the body of water. Take advantage of this free service! Your fish will thank you for it!

Pond Talk: Do you have any tips for taking your lake’s temperature?

Let Us Map It & We’ll Guarantee It! - Airmax(r) Aeration Systems

I bought an aeration system this year. What maintenance should I be doing? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I bought an aeration system this year. What maintenance should I be doing?

Q: I bought an aeration system this year. What maintenance should I be doing?

Gary – Saginaw, MI

A: Congratulations on your purchase of an Airmax® Aeration System—and good for you for thinking about regular maintenance, which will keep it operating well for years to come. Here are some things to inspect on a routine basis:

  • Check Your Cooling Fan and Pre-Filter: Regularly clean out your pre-filter and check to see that the fan is indeed operating. Hot air should be blowing out, not air being pulled in. An easy way to remember to do this is to always check your fan and shake off your pre-filter when you cut your lawn.
  • Check Your Air Pressure: Check to see that your air pressure has not risen or dropped significantly. Normal operation will range between 5 and 10 psi. Also be sure to check your pressure relief valve to make sure no air is escaping.
  • Check Your Air Filter: Clean and replace your air filter every three to six months, depending on your environment, and do not place a wet air filter back into the unit. For deep-water units, use the Airmax® SilentAir™ Piston Compressor Air Filter; for shallow-water units, use the Airmax® SilentAir™ LR Series Air Filter.
  • Purge Your Membrane Sticks: Once per year, purge your membrane diffuser sticks. See the product manual for additional instructions.
  • Use the Maintenance Kit: Finally, be sure to use your maintenance kit for the system you have installed. For shallow-water systems, use the Airmax® SilentAir™ Diaphragm Compressor Maintenance Kit every 12 months to keep your diaphragm compressor running its best. For deep-water systems, use the Pond Logic® SilentAir™ Piston Compressor Maintenance Kit every 24 months to keep your piston compressor humming.

Remember, if you have any questions, need additional information or want to read through some troubleshooting tips, refer to your product manual.

Pond Talk: What is your aerator maintenance routine? Do you have any tips to share?

Maximize System Performance - Airmax® SilentAir™ Piston Compressor Air Filter

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