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How to Make an Ice Rink on Your Pond – Part 1 | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

How to Make an Ice Rink on Your Pond - Part 1

How to Make an Ice Rink on Your Pond

Part 1: Understanding How Ice Forms

One of the joys of having a pond on your property is being able to create a winter-sports wonderland. Whether you’re an ice skater or a hockey player, curling competitor or broomball aficionado, it’s sure nice to simply walk out to your ice rink, slip on your skates and play.

But before you groom your pond for ice sports, it’s important to understand how to safely create a sturdy ice sheet and what red flags to look for while the ice is forming. In this first part of our three-part series on how to make a rink on your pond, we begin with the basics.

From a Liquid to a Solid

Ever wonder exactly how ice forms? Here’s a quick lesson for you.

When the air temperature cools in the late fall and early winter, the water on the surface of your lake or pond loses its heat and becomes heavier. This cold, heavy water sinks to the bottom while the warmer water from the bottom rises to the top and cools. The cycling process continues until the overall water temperature reaches 39º Fahrenheit (or about 4º Celsius).

Before long, the water on top cools enough to freeze. As it does so, the liquid molecules transform into solid ice crystals—and those things expand and space themselves out when they form, which is why ice floats and why it takes up more room than liquid. When given enough time to form, the ice layer created by this crystallized frozen water thickens to the point where it is strong enough to support animals, humans and even vehicles.

Creating Good Ice

Since your goal is to create an ice rink, you’ll need to grow a sheet of ice that’s thick, solid, strong and dense. Water movement affects the integrity of the forming ice – in fact, just a little bit of movement on the water surface can create uneven, porous ice that’s not suitable for walking or skating. So it’s important to turn off and remove your water-moving Aeration System from the lake before the ice starts to build on your lake’s surface.

The winterizing process starts with unplugging your aeration system and shutting it down completely. Leave the airline and diffuser plates in the pond, but cover the airline ends to prevent debris from entering. Finally, store the compressor and cabinet indoors to keep them dry and rust-free.

The only movement your lake water should experience now will be from wind and waves – both of which are in Mother Nature’s control.

Beware of Red Flags

As the ice is forming, keep an eye on it. Do you see any weak or soft spots? Are there any areas with running or pooling water? These could be signs telling you to abandon your ice rink plans. Here are some more red flags to watch for:

  • Flowing water near or at the edges of the ice can cause soft spots that appear gray, dark or porous.
  • Flowing springs under the ice in spring-fed ponds and lakes can cause areas to not freeze.
  • Water flows in and/or out of the iced-over water body. Stream inlets and outlets can erode ice, making it highly variable in thickness.
  • Areas with cracks, breaks or holes are obivous danger zones.
  • Ice that appears to have thawed and refrozen. These fluctuations can cause weak spots in the ice.
  • Abnormal surfaces that you have not seen before, like pressure ridges caused by currents or winds.

Ice is generally strongest where it is hard and blue or clear. If you’re unsure of whether your ice is forming well, check with your local government officials (like your department of natural resources) about safety suggestions.

Next week, we’ll discuss how to make sure your newly formed ice is thick and safe enough for winter sports, and how to create a pristine winter wonderland with ice primed for fun.

Always Promote Pond Safety

Will my fountain be enough to keep my fish safe this winter?| Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q:Will my fountain be enough to keep my fish safe this winter?

Q: Will my fountain be enough to keep my fish safe this winter?

Holly – Gorham, ME

A: If your pond freezes over in the winter, a fountain won’t do you or your fish much good. It’s not designed to be run or left in the pond during icy conditions. The ice can damage the float or create a barrier that prevents water from passing through the spray nozzle. That could cause the motor to run dry and stop working. And that’s not good.

Instead, we recommend completely removing your fountain and a run a bottom diffused aeration system instead.

Before the Ice Forms

Autumn is the perfect time to remove the fountain from your pond before the ice forms. When unplugging the motor and pulling it ashore; inspect the cords, motor and lights for any damage. After sitting in a pond all summer, chances are you will have to clean the fountain and lenses from any algae, build up or debris. Once your fountain is ready to be stored, place it in doors until spring.

Below the Surface

Now that you have removed the fountain from the pond, it is a good idea to protect both your fish and boating dock from ice damage by adding an aeration system. Aeration keeps the oxygen levels up and the water circulating. Depending on how close the diffuser plates are to the surface or dock, aeration can also keep a hole open for gas exchange, and provide a place for ducks to gather when everything else is frozen over.

Keep your fish safe and happy this winter by giving them surface and subsurface aeration. They’ll appreciate it more than just your fountain!

Pond Talk: How much aeration do you have in your pond or lake during the winter?

Shade & Prevent Damage From Winter Ice - Airmax (r) Shallow Series (t) Aeration Systems

What do I do with my leftover pond supplies this winter? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: What do I do with my leftover pond supplies this winter?

Q: What do I do with my leftover pond supplies this winter?

Eugene – Saddle River, NJ

A: Buying in bulk can certainly save you some money, but not everything has a long shelf life. Think of it like shopping at Costco: Yes, you can buy a 30-pound box of mayonnaise for the price of four conventional-sized jars, but will you use it all before it goes bad? If you’re buying it for household use, probably not…

It’s the same idea with pond supplies. Some materials, like dry powders, packets and granular products, will keep up to five years; others, like liquid pond dyes, algaecides and herbicides, have a shelf life of only two years. Invest wisely when buying in bulk – and be sure to store it correctly.

This winter, here’s what we recommend you do with leftover pond supplies:

  1. Keep the products in their original containers. You may need to refer to information found on the product label.
  2. Close the packaging when you’re not using the product. Oxygen and exposure to the elements will shorten the shelf life.
  3. Store the items in a cool, dry place that’s above 32°F, like a heated garage or basement. If liquid products are allowed to freeze and thaw, their performance can be reduced when you go to use them next spring.
  4. For safety, store supplies away from pets and children

Before stowing your pond supplies for winter, check the manufacturers’ labels and note their shelf life and/or expiration dates. If you can’t find one, give the company a call or shoot them an email for more information. There’s no sense in keeping something that will be unusable next pond season, so hold onto only those products that will last.

Pond Talk: What pond supplies do you buy in bulk?

Protect Your Pond All Year Round - Pond Logic(r) Pond Dye Packets

My water quality is good now, but what do I need to do over the winter to keep it that way? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: My water quality is good now, but what do I need to do over the winter to keep it that way?

Q: My water quality is good now, but what do I need to do over the winter to keep it that way?

Quintin – Pine Bluff, AR

A: When it comes to doing chores at the pond, it is easy to let your guard down this fall. Thanks to your hard-working bacteria, the water is clean and clear with minimal algae, and your fish are happy. You have nothing to do but coast into winter and hibernate until spring.

Not so fast.

As water temperatures drop, those bacteria and algaecides stop fighting off excess nutrients and cold-temperature plant growth. They are no longer effective at their jobs, and so you need to step in and help. Here’s what you can do to maintain pristine water quality over the winter.

  • Add Some EcoBoost™: Formulated to bind organic debris suspended in the water, Pond Logic® EcoBoost™ helps to clear water and enhance beneficial bacteria. It also provides more than 80 trace minerals to fish, keeping them healthy over the winter. EcoBoost™ has no temperature restrictions, so you can use it all year round. Simply mix the powder with some water in a pail and pour it in the pond.
  • Tint with Pond Dye: During the cold temperatures and even iced-over conditions, algae and plants can grow along the bottom since they are still exposed to sunlight. Pond Dye can be used year-round – winter included – to control algae growth by shading the plants from the sun’s UV rays. The dye also imparts a dramatic hue to the water, giving it a great look when it ices over.
  • Aerate and Oxygenate: You can also improve water quality through the winter by keeping the oxygen levels up and water circulating. If you are not going to use the pond for ice-skating or hockey, we recommend you use a subsurface aerator, like the Airmax® Aeration Systems. The system will keep the air bubbles flowing throughout the water column while maintaining a hole in the ice for gas exchange. If you have a fountain running, remove it and store it for the winter. Ice can damage the motor in the pump.

Before you hibernate for the winter, spend a few hours out at the pond to prepare it for winter. When you look out on a crystal clear pond in January, you’ll be happy you did!

Pond Talk: How do you keep your pond clean and clear during the winter months?

Sink Suspended Organic Debris - Pond Logic(r) EcoBoost(t) Bacteria Enhancer

What is supercooling? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: What is supercooling??

Q: What is supercooling?

Aloma, Warroad, MN

A: Supercooling is uncommon, but it can occur in lakes and ponds, particularly in the northern states. Here’s what you need to know about it and how to prevent it from happening.

In the winter time water stratifies in pond and lakes without proper aeration when surface temperatures are extremely cold, creating what’s called a thermocline. A thermocline happens as warmer water about 39°F or so – sinks to the bottom, while colder water about 32°F or so – rises to the top. Very little mixing of the layers occurs, particularly in calm weather.

Supercooling could become an issue if you’re running a surface aeration system in shallow ponds with fish. The fish prefer to stay on the bottom of the pond in the warmer pockets of water during the winter. They’re in winter-hibernation mode, and all they want to do is be in a stress-free spot until spring.

As the aerator circulates the warmer water with the cooler water at the surface, the overall temperature could drop. In extreme cases when the temperatures are well below 0°F, the water temperature can actually drop below its freezing point without becoming a solid – a rare process known as supercooling.

If the water gets too cold, your fish have nowhere warm to go. Living without their warm hangout spot could compromise their oxygen supply and immune systems, making them vulnerable to parasites and diseases.

The best way to deliver oxygen to your fish is with a bottom diffused aerator, like an Airmax® Aeration System. You can keep it running without creating an inhospitable environment for your finned friends by simply moving your diffuser plates closer to the surface or turning half of them off.

If you relocate the diffuser plates to a spot that’s about half the depth of your pond or run only 50 percent of them, a pocket of warm water will remain for your fish at the bottom. You’ll continue pumping oxygen into the water and keeping a hole in the ice for gas exchange without having to worry about freezing your fish.

Pond Talk: What steps do you take to prevent over cooling or supercooling your pond?

Call (866) POND-HELP - Free Aerial Aeration Mapping Service

We always have snakes around my pond, except in the winter. Where do they go?| Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q:We always have snakes around my pond, except in the winter. Where do they go?

Q: We always have snakes around my pond, except in the winter. Where do they go?

Dylan- Garner, IA

A: Ponds and lakes get plenty of visitors – including different species of snakes that linger around water. Some of the more common varieties that call the northern states home include the Black Rat Snake, Corn Snake, Garter Snake and the Northern Water Snake.

Water snakes live wherever there’s water, like near lakes, ponds, marshes, streams, rivers and canals. During the spring, summer and fall, when the weather is warm, you probably see these snakes slithering in and around your pond and in the grassy fields, looking for food and for places to sun themselves. But during the winter, they disappear. Where do they go? They’re holed up and hibernating.

Summer Home, Winter Home

Snakes are ectothermic, which means they use the environment to regulate their body temperature. When it’s warm, they’re warm – and they ensure that by basking on rocks, stumps or brush in the full sunshine. In fair weather, rocks, aquatic plants, muskrat houses and beaver lodges are good places to find water snakes, which like to hide among the sticks and plant stems when they’re not sunning themselves.

But when it’s cold, they go on hiatus. These snakes are unable to generate their own internal body heat, so they rely on outside forces to keep their metabolisms churning. They need to overwinter in areas that will not freeze. The underground becomes their winter home, where they spend their time in temperature-stable burrows below the freezing line, and often share the space with other snakes.

Preferred Diet

In the spring, summer and fall, these slithering, mostly harmless critters are active day and night. During the day, water snakes hunt among plants at the water’s edge, looking for small fish, frogs, worms, leeches, crayfish, salamanders, young turtles, and small birds and mammals. At night, they concentrate on minnows and other small fish sleeping in shallow water.

When the cold weather sets in; however, snakes go on a season-long diet. Their metabolism slows way down. Food supplies, like frogs and toads, dwindle. If snakes have undigested food in their bellies when they go into hibernation, they can die.

Friends and Foes

Water snakes have many predators, including birds, raccoons, opossums, foxes, snapping turtles, bullfrogs and other snakes. Humans who mistake the harmless snake varieties for dangerous ones, like Copperheads and Water Moccasins, can affect the population, too.

For the most part, these guys are our friends. They may eat some fish and frogs and hunt some of the indigenous wildlife, but they also do damage to the rodent population – which everyone can appreciate. If you see a snake on your property and you’re not sure if it’s a safe or dangerous variety, contact your local university extension office and describe the snake’s size, color, scale pattern and where you found it. Never kill a snake without good reason, because they are important to our environment.

Pond Talk: What kinds of snakes do you have around your pond or lake?

Shade & Protect Your Pond All Year Long - Pond Logic (r) Pond Dye

For winter, do I need to move my diffusers, or can I just close the valves?| Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: For winter, do I need to move my diffusers, or can I just close the valves?

Q: For winter, do I need to move my diffusers, or can I just close the valves?

Chuck- Tipton, IN

A: Diffusers – and the oxygen they pump into your pond or lake – ensure the health and well being of your fish. Year-round aeration circulates the water column and fills the pond with oxygen. If your pond freezes over during the cold months of the year, an aeration system will can also help maintain a hole in the ice to allow harmful gases to escape.

Move Your Diffusers:

As part of your winter-prep chores, you will need to move the diffuser plates to a shallower spot in your pond or lake. Why? Give your fish a place to safely overwinter in deeper, warmer water. When the plates are closer to the surface, they will also help to keep a hole open in the ice.

Close the Valves:

In addition to relocating your diffuser plates, you can also close about 50 percent of the valves (unless you have the PS10 or LS10 models of Airmax® Aeration Systems, in which case you leave the valve open). You won’t be mixing as much water, but you will be adding enough oxygen to the pond and allowing for gas exchange at the surface.

Stay Safe:

Because you’re aerating your pond over the winter, consider putting up a “Thin Ice” sign near the shoreline. Air pockets form in ice sheets created on aerated ponds, and they make the surface unsound and not safe to walk or skate on. Warn would-be hockey players and figure skaters of the danger before they get into trouble.

While you’re thinking about safety, make sure you have a Life Ring, first aid kit and blanket stowed lakeside in a weatherproof bin just in case someone does fall through the ice.

Pond Talk: How spectacular are the fall colors around your pond or lake right now?

Aerate Your Pond in All Seasons - Airmax (r) Pond Series (t) Aeration Systems

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