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If I run my waterfall pump for a few hours a day during winter, will my fish be OK?| Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: If I run my waterfall pump for a few hours a day during winter, will my fish be OK?

Q: If I run my waterfall pump for a few hours a day during winter, will my fish be OK?

Lenny – Waggoner, IL

A: While it may be beautiful to run your waterfall during winter, it is not always recommended. A waterfall pump moves and circulates oxygenated water through the water column, but if you run it for just a few hours each day, your fish – and your pocketbook – may suffer. Here’s why.

  • Oxygen Starved: First of all, your fish need plenty of fresh oxygen, even when they’re semi-dormant in the wintertime. A few hours of circulation from a waterfall pump won’t keep a hole in the ice or infuse enough oxygen into the water, so the lack of fresh air will stress out your finned pals and put them at risk for disease.
  • Ice Dams: If you run your waterfall pump in northern climates during near- or sub-freezing temperatures, ice dams can develop and grow in size, diverting water from the pond. For this reason, you’d need to keep an eye on your water level – particularly if you have a longer stream. When the water level gets too low, your pump could become damaged, which means you’ll need to fork out some cash to replace it.
  • Overstressed Pump: Speaking of replacing a pump, take a look at your pump’s manual. Does it say that your pump is it designed for use in freezing temperatures? Generally speaking, pumps should be at least 2,000 GPH to operate in the winter.
  • Big Energy Bill: The cost of running a waterfall pump can easily top $100 a month. The cost of running a de-icer alone to keep a hole in the ice for gas exchange can cost up to $75 a month. Those aren’t cheap options! An aerator; however, is a cost-effective solution that’ll only cost you around $1.70 a month. In addition, you can use aerators throughout the year.

Because of the risk of damaging the waterfall pump and not providing enough oxygen to your fish – along with the high cost of running it all the time – we recommend removing the pump this winter and replacing it with an aerator.

Stowing the Pump

When you remove your pump, submerge it in a 5-gallon bucket of water to keep all its seals lubricated and store it indoors in a place that won’t freeze. Blow out the water and debris in your tubing with an air compressor and cap it off. Drain the skimmer boxes below the weir door. And spray your filter media off with a hose, pump out any water in the filter box and give it a good scrubbing.

Installing Aeration

Once your pump is removed and stored for the season, install an aeration system that’s sized right for your pond. KoiAir™ Aeration Kits, are designed for ponds up to four feet deep and 16,000 gallons, includes a compressor, airline and a diffuser plate. PondAir™ Aeration Kits are suited for ponds up to two feet deep and 2,000 gallons, includes a compressor, airline, check valves and air stones. Simply connect the diffuser plate or air stones to the compressor, submerge the plate/stones and plug it in, and you’re good to go!

You’ll be delivering oxygen to your fish, keeping a hole in the ice and preserving your waterfall pump – and saving a bunch of your hard-earned money.

Pond Talk: What tricks do you have to save money on pond expenses?

Save On Energy This Winter - Airmax (r) KoiAir(t) Aeration Kits

There are so many de-icers to choose from. What size do I need? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: There are so many de-icers to choose from. What size do I need?

Q: There are so many de-icers to choose from. What size do I need?

Pia – Spokane, WA

A: A de-icer is an important piece of equipment in areas where water features freeze over during the winter. This little device maintains a small opening in the ice, which allows harmful gas to escape into the air allowing for efficient air exchange. It can be the difference between life and death for the fish and other inhabitants in your pond.

Which de-icer is best for your situation? It will depend on how many gallons your pond holds, and if you’re using it alone or with an aeration system.

First, here’s what we recommend for de-icers based on the size of your pond:

  • Up to 250 gallons: 100 to 250 watt de-icer
  • 250 to 500 gallons: 300 watt de-icer
  • 500 to 1,000 gallons: 750 watt de-icer
  • 1,000 to 1,500 gallons: 1,250 watt de-icer
  • 1,500 to 2,000 gallons: 1,500 watt de-icer

K&H™ Perfect Climate™ Pond De-Icer comes in 250-, 750- and 1,500 watt options. The thermostatically controlled de-icer is designed for floating or submersible use. Farm Innovator’s Floating Pond De-Icer, pumps out 1,250 watts of ice-melting power. It’s also thermostatically controlled and turns on when water temperature drops below 35°F.

These de-icers do a great job, but keep in mind that they can be expensive to run non-stop during the cold months. A 1,500 watt de-icer can cost up to $75.00 to operate. That’s a big bill for a small hole!

That’s where an aeration system comes into play.

Aeration systems – can help maintain a hole in the ice while adding oxygen and are infinitely more energy-efficient than pond de-icers. When used in tandem, aeration can significantly reduce the wattage requirements of your pond de-icer, allowing the use of a smaller 100 watt de-icer. It’ll cut energy costs and save you money all season long. For example a 2,000 gallon pond using the PondAir™ 4 and 100 Watt Thermo-Pond De-Icer will cost $5.40 per month instead of $75.00 using a de-icer alone. Not a bad deal!

If you decide to go this route – and why wouldn’t you? – Select the Airmax® PondAir™ and Thermo-Pond 3.0 De-Icer Combo. The combo comes with either the Airmax® PondAir™ 2 (for ponds 1,000 gallons or less) or the Airmax® PondAir™ 4 (for ponds 2,000 gallons or less). Both the PondAir™ 2 and PondAir™ 4 includes: air stones, check valves, black vinyl air tubing and the 100 Watt Thermo-Pond De-Icer. For an additional charge, you can also throw in a Mini Boulder TrueRock™ Cover to protect the air compressor.

De-icers are important, but they don’t have to break the bank. Invest in an aerator-de-icer combo and save your money for something you really want – like some new koi!

Pond Talk:What parts of your winter landscape do you most look forward to?

Safeguard Your Fish This Winter - PondAir (t) 2 & Thermo-Pond De-Icer Combo

I heard fish can get swim bladder disease this time of year, but what is it? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I heard fish can get swim bladder disease this time of year, but what is it?

Q: I heard fish can get swim bladder disease this time of year, but what is it?

Becky- Trumbell, CT

A: Many bony fish, like the fancy goldfish found in ornamental ponds, have an organ called a swim bladder. This gas-filled sack has two main purposes: It helps the fish control its buoyancy and remain at a particular depth without having to waste energy on swimming, and it keeps the fish in an upright position. When a fish is unable to control its depth, or starts swimming sideways, upside side down, or head or tail down, it may have “swim bladder disease.”

A fish with swim bladder disease can be a troubling sight to see, but it can be treated. Here’s what you need to know about what causes it and how to get your fish swimming the right way again.

Your Gluttonous Goldfish

Although intestinal parasites and microorganisms can cause swim bladder disease, it mainly stems from overeating, eating too quickly or gulping too much air during feeding time. The fish gobbles mouthfuls of pellets, which expand like sponges as they soak up water in the mouth and digestive tract leading to constipation. Enough pressure on the swim bladder will cause the fish to swim any which way but up.

Time for a Diet Change

Water temperatures dip – sometimes precipitously – in the fall, and that change can slow your fishes’ digestive processes. They have a harder time digesting protein when it’s cold, and it can build up in their gut and result in an enlarged intestine.

To prevent this from happening, switch your fish food during the fall (and spring). Using a pond thermometer, periodically check your water temperature. Once temperatures are consistently between 40°F and 50°F, change over to a lower-protein, higher-carbohydrate diet like Pond Logic® Spring and Fall Fish Food, which is packed with easier-to-digest wheat germ. Feed them two to three times a week and only give them an amount that they will eat within 5 minutes. When temperatures drop below 40°F, stop feeding them entirely.

Peas to the Rescue

The best treatment for swim bladder disease is found in your refrigerator or freezer. Frozen or cooked peas, will blast through the impaction and reduce the pressure on the fish’s swim bladder. If your fish starts floating sideways, we recommend you stop feeding them for a few days and then hand feed peas to help clear up any blockages.

Medicating fish in outdoor ponds with cooler temperatures really is not an option, as the medications won’t work – so stick with the fasting-plus-peas remedy.

If one of your fish is really stressed, a salt bath could help – but you will need to dissolve the salt in an indoor holding tank filled with warm 78 to 80ºF water. Keep in mind that when you transfer your fish from the cooler 40°-50°F outdoor water to the warmer treatment tank, that temperature change can easily shock the fish. It should be avoided.

Pond Talk: Have you ever had to treat one of your pond fish for swim bladder disease? If so, what did you do?

Easy To Digest In Low Temperatures  - Pond Logic (r) Spring & Fall Fish Food

I recently installed a small pondless water feature. How do I maintain it? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I recently installed a small pondless water feature. How do I maintain it?

Q: I recently installed a small pondless water feature. How do I maintain it?

Paul- Moab, UT

A: I recently installed a small pondless water feature. How do I maintain it?

As you’ve likely discovered, a pondless water feature makes a fantastic addition to a landscape. Whether it’s a bubbling fountain, a colorful birdbath or a disappearing waterfall, pondless features deliver the tranquil sound of running water without the hassle.

Small water features are easy to keep, but you will need to do some simple chores. Here’s a quick checklist to follow:

  1. Remove the Debris: Dust will dirty the water feature, and debris may collect and start to break down, leaving behind a slimy mess. As needed, manually remove large debris and then add a dose of FeatureFix™ to the water as a cleaner. The highly concentrated product will safely eliminate accumulated debris and clear unsightly discoloration and stuck-on organic materials, often within 48 hours. (FeatureFix™ is not safe for use in features with fish, invertebrates or crustaceans, so use with caution.)
  2. Clear the Water: To keep your fountain flowing with clean, clear water, treat it regularly with FeatureClear™. The bacteria in this all-natural clarifier will digest organic debris to keep water crystal clear. Use every two weeks when water temperatures are above 50°F. Simply add one ounce for every 100 gallons of water for sparkling clean water without harmful chemicals. (FeatureClear™ is safe for use around fish, plants, pets and wildlife.)
  3. Top Off As Needed: In addition to keeping things clean and clear, also keep an eye on the water level in your pondless feature’s basin and top it off as needed.
  4. Inspect Mechanics, Connections: Periodically inspect your feature’s pump, tubing and connections to ensure that they are sound and functioning correctly.

With winter approaching, be cautious about running your pondless fountain. It will sure look cool, flowing or bubbling away in the frosty air, but freezing temperatures and ice formations can do some serious damage. If you decide to shut it down until spring, remove the pump from the basin, place it in a bucket with water and store it in a place that will not freeze. Be sure to leave water in the basin so the ground won’t shift.

Pond Talk: How do you winterize your pondless water feature?

Keep Water Features Clean - Pond Logic(r) FeatureClear(t) & FeatureFix(t) Combo

Will I need to top off my pond this winter? If so, how do I stop my hose from freezing? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Will I need to top off my pond this winter? If so, how do I stop my hose from freezing?

Q: Will I need to top off my pond this winter? If so, how do I stop my hose from freezing?

Kirsten – Kalispell, MT

A: Though water fluctuations seem more pronounced in the summertime, winter water loss in your pond will happen. When it does, you’ll need to top it off – but access to liquid water can be a challenge in northern climates where landscapes freeze over.

Reasons for Winter Water Loss

Before we get into how to turn up the heat in your water garden, let’s take a look at why water loss happens during the cold season. It can be caused by the following:

  • Low humidity: When the air contains little moisture, evaporation rates increase as the dry air will absorb the water (frozen or not) from your pond.
  • Windy conditions: Wind can also escalate evaporation in your pond. A 5-mile-per-hour wind at your pond’s surface, for instance, results in roughly three times the rate of evaporation on a still day.
  • Ice expansion, formation: Because frozen water takes up more space than liquid water, it will appear that the volume dissipates in your pond as ice forms and expands.

A small amount of water level fluctuation is OK – but if your pond is very shallow (18 to 24 inches or less) and stocked with fish, keep a very close eye on your water level. A few inches of water loss could leave your fish in ice!

Topping It Off

If your pond’s water level drops more than an inch, you’ll need to top it off. But how do you do that if the pond is covered in a sheet of ice, or if the water in your hose freezes solid as soon as you turn on the spigot?

First, you’ll have to break through the ice. To crack through it, remember to never use a drill, hammer or other blunt object, as the subsurface vibrations could harm your fish. Instead, fill a bucket with hot water and pour it on one area of the pond to melt open a hole in the ice, preferably near the edge.

Next, use the heated K&H™ PVC Thermo-Hose™ to fill up your pond through the hole. The thermostatically controlled hose prevents ice from forming in your faucet or hose. The unit’s built-in heating elements turn on automatically when temperatures dip below freezing so you’ll have liquid water coming out of your hose.

You can use the Thermo-Hose™ two ways: either keep it plugged into a power source all winter, or use it as-needed by plugging it in 30 minutes before use. Either way, hook it up to the spigot or water source only when in use and unhook it when you’re done.

Pond Talk: How much water loss do you experience in your pond over the winter?

Keep Your Water Flowing - K&H (t) PVC Thermo-Hose(t)

Do I need to do anything to my aquatic plants this time of year?| Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Do I need to do anything to my aquatic plants this time of year?

Q: Do I need to do anything to my aquatic plants this time of year?

Jaclyn – Tomahawk, WI

A: Shorter days and swaths of fall colors mean one thing: winter is on its way, and your aquatic plants will need some attention before the big chill sets in. So bundle up, pull on your hip waders and Aqua Gloves™ to keep dry and warm, dig out your easy-to-use Pond Scissors and Pliers – and let’s take care of some winter-prep pond plant chores!

Tropical Plants: Tropical water lilies, water hyacinth, water lettuce and other tropical plants prefer warm temperatures all year long. If you live in USDA Hardiness Zone nine or lower, you’ll need to completely remove these plants from your pond and relocate them to a protected indoor space for the winter, like an aquarium or large bucket inside a heated garage or workshop.

Tropical water lilies will need some extra care. When you pull the plants from your pond, remove any dead foliage, rinse the plant well, keep the tuber moist in distilled water and place it under a grow light until spring.

Keep in mind that despite these winterizing measures, your tropical aquatic plants might not survive the winter. They are from the tropics, after all …

Hardy Water Lilies: Hardy water lilies can tolerate cooler temperatures than your tropical varieties, but they need to be kept in a place that won’t freeze, like the deepest areas of your pond. Remove the plants from the pond, trim the foliage back to one to two inches above the root ball, and submerge them as low as they’ll go for the winter. Come spring, the greenery will reemerge healthy as ever from the plants’ crowns.

Bog Plants: Your bog plants’ leaves and stems will begin to die off as winter arrives, so you’ll need to trim them back to just above the soil with pond scissors. If they are in containers, sink them lower into the deepest parts of your pond where the water remains unfrozen during the wintertime. If they are planted directly into the ground, leave them alone for the winter.

Submerged Plants: The only thing your below-the-surface greenery needs is a quick trim to get rid of decaying and dead foliage. Cut plants in containers back to one inch above the pot and submerge in the center of the pond; any plants living directly in the ground can be left as-is.

Floating Plants: Unless you live in a climate that doesn’t freeze, floating plants like water hyacinth and water lettuce won’t survive the winter. Plan to remove them from your pond after the first hard freeze and toss them in your compost pile. If you leave them in the pond, the dead plants will decompose and cause water quality issues this winter.

While you’re preparing your plants for winter, take some time to do a little clean up around your pond. Remove any dead leaves and foliage, and rake or net out leaves and fallen debris. Water quality matters – even in the winter!

Pond Talk: How long does it take you to prepare your aquatic plants for winter?

Keep Your Hands Clean & Dry- Coralife(r) AquaGloves(t)

Do I need to do anything special for my water garden frogs this winter?| Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Do I need to do anything special for my water garden frogs this winter?

Q: Do I need to do anything special for my water garden frogs this winter?

Toni – Philadelphia, PA

A: Despite their innocuous demeanor, frogs are tough little critters. They have evolved ways to survive in some of the harshest climates on the earth, including the Arctic Circle, Mojave Desert and everywhere in between. So don’t worry: The ones living in your pond – likely a type of green aquatic frog or bullfrog – can handle some cold or frozen conditions.

Frogs are so good at the cold life, in fact, that portions of their bodies will partially freeze. Ice crystals form in places like the body cavity, bladder and under the skin, but a high concentration of glucose in the frog’s vital organs prevents them from freezing. A partially frozen frog will stop breathing, its heart will stop beating and it will appear quite dead. But when the outside temperature warms above freezing, the frog’s frozen portions will thaw, and its heart and lungs resume activity.

They can survive those cold temperatures, but you still should provide an optimized environment for your web-footed pals. Here are three things you can do to help them hibernate comfortably this winter.

  1. Mind the Liquid, Gas: For aquatic frogs to survive a freezing winter, ponds should be 18 to 24 inches deep and have an open hole in the ice for gas exchange. The depth ensures the water (and your frog friends) won’t freeze solid, which gives them a place to hibernate. The hole in the ice, kept clear with a bubbler or aerator, allows harmful gases to escape.
  2. Provide Oxygen-Rich Water: Aquatic frogs will spend a good portion of the winter just lying on top of the mud or only partially buried, but they typically hibernate underwater. They need to be near oxygen-rich water at all times, and you can provide that with an aeration system, like the KoiAir™ Water Garden Aeration Kit, which infuses the pond with essential oxygen
  3. Reduce Muck & Debris: These guys like a little mud, but you should keep that muck and debris to a minimum to keep toxic gases tamed and the water quality at its best. The beneficial bacteria in Seasonal Defense® makes the job easy. Bacteria works by breaking down leaves, sediment and scum during the late fall when water temperatures fall below 50° Fahrenheit.

You don’t need to worry about land-loving terrestrial frogs. They will normally hibernate on land, where they’ll burrow deep into the soil beneath the frost line, crawl into cracks and crevices in logs or rocks, or dig down as far as they can in leaf litter.

If you maintain your pond regularly and have it well-prepped for fall and winter, your aquatic frogs will be just fine. They’ll be croaking and playing and eating bugs again come spring!

Pond Talk: As fall and winter approach, do you do anything special for your aquatic frogs?

Accelerate Decomposition This Fall - Pond Logic (r) Seasonal Defense (r)

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