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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)

Do I need to do anything else to prep my pond for winter besides moving my air stones? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Do I need to do anything else to prep my pond for winter besides moving my air stones?

Q: Do I need to do anything else to prep my pond for winter besides moving my air stones?

Melinda – Novi, MI

A: Your to-do list of fall- and winter-prep chores isn’t as extensive as your spring to-do list, but you will need to do some housekeeping items before the cold weather settles in. Here is a checklist to help you complete your chores.

  • Move Your Air Stones: To keep oxygen bubbling in your pond through the freezing temperatures, move your air stones into an area that’s half the depth of the pond. For example, if your pond is two feet deep, position your air stones on a ledge or step that’s one foot deep.
  • Remove Glass: Drain, remove and store anything that has glass inside, such as your ultraviolet clarifier, pressurized filter and all-in-one filter. Keep them in a heated garage, basement or other indoor areas that won’t freeze.
  • Remove Ion Clarifiers: Ion clarifiers release copper, silver and zinc ions into the water to control string algae. Because copper levels are naturally higher in the winter, you can remove the ion clarifier and store it for the winter.
  • Pump Protection: Whether your pump feeds a waterfall, fountain or some other decorative feature, remove it and drain all the water from the tubing. Store your pump submerged in a bucket of water inside to keep the seals lubricated.
  • Nix the Netting: Before the first heavy snowfall of the season, remove your pond netting and store it until next spring.
  • Quick Pick Up: Clean up decomposing debris that can cause excessive toxic gas if your pond freezes over with helpful tools such as the Collapsible Skimmer and Fish Net or ClearVac™ pond vacuum. For smaller particles, rely on Seasonal Defense® which has beneficial bacteria with barley and is designed to work in cooler temperatures.
  • Switch Food: Help your fish transition to cooler temperatures by switching their diet to a wheat germ-based food like Pond Logic’s® Spring & Fall Fish Food. When temperatures reach below 40°F, stop feeding them entirely. Their metabolisms will slow down and they’ll hibernate for the winter
  • Get Your Plants in Shape: After the first frost, remove dead foliage from your aquatic plants. Trim hardy lilies and bog plants back and move them in the bottom of your pond to protect them from the cold temperatures. If you have tropical water lilies or other temperature-sensitive varieties, make room for them inside your home to regulate the required temperature.

Not too bad for a weekend’s worth of work! As soon as these chores are done, your pond will be ready for winter.

Pond Talk: What else do you do to prepare your pond for winter?

Make Fall Clean-Up A Breeze - The Pond Guy (r) ClearVac(t) Pond Vacuum

Is fall a good time to add new fish to the pond?| Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Is fall a good time to add new fish to the pond?

Q: Is fall a good time to add new fish to the pond?

Janice – Woonsocket, RI

A: Fish prefer moving to a new pond during the summertime when temperatures are steady, and they have time to get used to their new digs and mature a bit before the cooler months take hold.

So, in general, we don’t recommend that hobbyists add new fish to their pond right now – unless their water does not dip below 50°Fahrenheit in the fall and winter. That’s the point at which the fish lower their metabolisms and become dormant, and that’s not a very hospitable environment for getting settled in their new home.

If you are one of those lucky warmer-than-50° folks (or if you want to start thinking about next spring already!), follow these recommendations when introducing new fish to your pond.

Test the Water: Have uneven ground around your pond? Before adding your new finned pals, test the water in your pond to make sure it has acceptable pH, ammonia, nitrate, nitrite and phosphate levels with an easy-to-use Master Liquid Test Kit.

Remove Dangerous Chemicals: To ensure the water in your pond is free from dangerous heavy metals, chlorine and chloramines, use a water conditioner, like Pond Logic® Stress Reducer PLUS. A conditioner will also replenish your fishes’ protective slime coating and heal any tissue damaged during the move.

Temper the Temperature: Water temperature changes can stress out the fish, and so it’s not a good idea to toss them in the pond as soon as you bring them home. Instead, you’ll need to help them gradually get used to conditions in the pond. When you’re ready to introduce them to the water, float them in a bag on the surface for 20 minutes and periodically mix some pond water with the water in the bag. The environment inside will start to even out with the pond, and that will make the move easy on the fish.

Introduce the Fish: Just in case there is a problem with your water chemistry, or some of your new arrivals carried a disease or parasite with them, introduce inexpensive fish to the pond first while quarantining your more expensive ones. After waiting a few weeks to verify that everyone is healthy and happy, then add them to the mix.

Once the fish are in the pond, take a few minutes several times throughout the day to check in on them. Active and curious fish are healthy fish, and so keep a close eye on any odd or erratic behavior. In most cases, it’ll be a smooth transition and easy addition to your finned family.

Pond Talk: How many fish did you add to your pond this year? How are they faring?

Reduce Stress & Build A Protective Coat- Pond Logic(r) Stress Reducer PLUS

The leaves are starting to change color here. What are my different pond netting options?| Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: The leaves are starting to change color here. What are my different pond netting options?

Q: The leaves are starting to change color here. What are my different pond netting options?

Ronny – Duluth, MN

A: The leaves may be changing color, but it’s not too soon to start thinking about how you’ll prevent those colorful autumn reminders from floating into your pond. Here are four popular pond-netting options outlined below.

PondShelter™ Cover Net

Have uneven ground around your pond? The PondShelter™ Cover Net offers the flexibility to provide pond coverage for irregular landscapes, thanks to its fully adjustable aluminum frame. Each of its four legs can be extended and locked to length, and they’re hinged to the center hub to adjust net pitch and discourage debris accumulation. In addition, the PondShelter™ includes a 16-foot-by-11-foot swath of 1/4-inch black mesh netting and 30 metal stakes to keep the structure securely in place.

Pond Protector

Designed for use around a pond built on level ground, the Pond & Water Garden Protector Net Kit keeps both leaves and predators out of your water garden. The structure’s domed shape allows debris to simply fall off while not smashing taller pond plants beneath the net. The 1/2-inch mesh net allows for maximum sunlight and optimum plant ventilation.

Premium Protective Pond Netting

If you’re looking for a net to blend in with your pond while keeping it debris-free, check out the Premium Protective Pond Netting. The flexible 5/8-inch black mesh netting is made from woven nylon for tremendous strength and durability that will last for many seasons. Stakes are included to secure your net over your pond and to the landscape.

Fine Mesh Pond Netting

If your pond tends to collect fine debris like pine needles, the Fine Mesh Pond Netting is the cover for you. Made with clear, heavy-duty 1/8-inch mesh in a variety of sizes to fit most ponds, the netting will keep your water garden protected from small, stubborn debris like pine needles while still allowing for sunlight penetration and aesthetic enjoyment. It comes with plastic stakes to keep it in place.

Remember that pond nets are intended to be used spring, summer and autumn – so be sure to remove it before heavy snow falls in the winter!

Pond Talk: How are you prepping your pond and backyard for the cooler weather?

Keep Leaves and Predators Out- The Pond Guy(r) PondShelter(t) Cover Net

I want to upgrade my filtration system. What are my options? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I want to upgrade my filtration system. What are my options?

Q: I want to upgrade my filtration system. What are my options?

Brock – Baton Rouge, LA

A: In just about every pond keeper’s life, the time comes when they want (or need) to upgrade their filtration system. Whether they’re looking for a filter that will handle a higher fish load, a three-in-one system that has UV light built right in, or one that’ll efficiently skim out leaves falling from that overgrown maple tree, a new filtration system can improve water quality – and give hobbyists a fun new water garden gadget to play with.

Ready to check out some options? Below, we’ve outlined several upgrade choices for your pond filtration system.

  • In-Pond Filtration Systems: The ClearSolution™ 4-in-1 Pond Filtration System is an ideal upgrade for ponds 1,200 gallons or less, particularly if the existing filter is a waterfall filter box. This unit uses mechanical and biological filtration media to remove large debris and dissolved organics, while a powerful ultraviolet clarifier clears discolored water. The system also features a compact energy-efficient mag-drive pump, which circulates water through the filtration system and discharges it through a fountain head attachment or a diverter valve. You can upgrade your filter and add a fountain!
  • External Pressurized Filters: For those with larger ponds up to 4,800 gallons, the AllClear™ PLUS & SolidFlo™ Combo Kits offer mechanical, biological and ultraviolet filtration in an efficient, economical filtration unit – but it also includes a back-flush system that allows you to clean the filter with the turn of a dial and rinse away waste water and debris via a discharge outlet. The AllClear™ PLUS system with SolidFlo™ Solid Handling Pump is great upgrade for existing ponds with high fish populations.
  • Waterfall Filter Boxes: Add a water feature to your pond while stepping up your filtration with a waterfall filter box, like the ClearSpring™ Waterfall Filter. The unit houses Bio-Balls and two filter pads of varying density for maximum filtration. For the waterfall pattern, you can choose between two included weir options – a traditional smooth sheet-like surface and a ribbed pattern. You can even plumb multiple boxes together via FPT inlets located on both sides of the waterfall box.
  • Skimmer Boxes: A skimmer is a practical upgrade in ponds with a lot of leaves. If your pond requires a high-volume pump that you want to hide, or if you want to add some extra mechanical filtration, check out the TetraPond® In-Pond Skimmer. This unit includes a large removable debris basket and an automatically adjustable weir door for maximum surface cleaning. And it’s easy to install: Place the skimmer on the bottom of your pond, weigh it down with gravel, connect it to your pump and let the skimming begin!

A new filtration system is a great investment in your hobby. Whichever you choose, have fun and enjoy the upgrade!

Pond Talk: What kinds of upgrades have you done to your filtration system?

Create a Beautiful Waterfall - The Pond Guy (r) ClearSpring(t) Waterfall Filter

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