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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

One of my fish isn’t swimming upright. What’s wrong?| Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: One of my fish isn’t swimming upright. What’s wrong?

Q: One of my fish isn’t swimming upright. What’s wrong?

Cherie – Englewood, CO

A: Unless you’ve taught your pond fish some pretty cool party tricks, it’s possible that they’re not getting enough oxygen due to a lack of aeration.

Fish will display some odd behaviors when they’re not getting enough oxygen, including gasping for air at the surface, hanging vertically in the water, and spending a lot of time around the waterfall or stream where oxygen levels are at their highest – at least for the few hours each day when the pump is running.

Some other telltale signs of insufficient aeration are:

  • The water in your pond appears to be stagnant in certain areas
  • You’ve noticed a growing mosquito problem
  • Algae growth always seems to be a battle you can’t win
  • Muck has accumulated at the bottom of the pond

Medical issues, like swim bladder problems, could be causing your fish to swim sideways, too. But, before you take your finned pal to the veterinarian, try adding or adjusting the aeration in your water feature. You can also check your ammonia and nitrite levels using a water test kit.

If your pond has a lot of fish for its size, or is a medium or large water garden or koi pond up to 16,000 gallons in size, consider adding an Airmax® KoiAir™ Aeration Kit. Its energy-efficient design includes a dual diaphragm pump that infuses oxygen into the pond while being virtually maintenance free.

If you have a handful of fish in a smaller pond that’s up to 2,000 gallons in size, check out the Airmax® PondAir™ Aeration Kits. It’s designed for decorative ponds and water gardens, and features an airflow control valve that allows you to adjust the aeration output with the turn of a dial.

Aeration should help your fish swim upright again. But if it’s still acting strange after you’ve pumped up the oxygen, you may want to check in with your veterinarian for medical advice. Good luck!

Pond Talk: What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen your pond fish do?

Water Testing System For Ponds - PondCare(r) Master Test Kit

Isn’t the Waterfall Enough? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Isn’t the Waterfall Enough?

Q: Isn’t the Waterfall Enough?

Staci – Bethel, VT

A: As your waterfall gurgles and churns gallons of water, it would certainly appear that your pond is getting plenty of aeration. All that action does, in fact, help with gas exchange and infuse oxygen into the water. But it isn’t always enough, especially if you run your waterfall pump for a short time during the day.

If a pond isn’t aerated enough, expect to see these telltale signs:

  • Algae Battles: Algae thrive in calm water that’s devoid of – and in need of – oxygen and beneficial bacteria. If you regularly fight algae blooms, that means your pond is out of balance and could use some additional oxygen and movement throughout the entire water column.
  • Oxygen-Starved Fish: Fish that need more O2 will hang out beneath your waterfall, where oxygen supplies are the densest. They may also be coming to the water surface, gulping and gasping for breaths of air because there’s not enough in their environment.
  • Too Many Fish: The general rule for a fish population in a pond is to allow 1 inch of adult fish per square foot of surface area. If you have too many fish, or your existing population has outgrown their space, aeration is critical to their health and well being.
  • Stagnant Water, Mosquito Boom: Is the water stagnant in certain areas of your pond? Are you suffering through a mosquito boom in your backyard? These little pests prefer to lay their eggs and raise their young in still water – so you might have created a perfect mosquito habitat!
  • Muck Accumulation: Decomposing plant matter and fish waste build up when the water is still and your biological filtration system – beneficial bacteria – breaks down. That muck feeds the algae blooms, which create more muck. It’s a vicious cycle that can be remedied with aeration.

Do any of these ring true? If so, your waterfall or stream is not providing enough aeration for your pond. One of our aeration systems can help. The Airmax® KoiAir™ Water Garden Aeration Kit is designed for medium and large water gardens and koi ponds that are up to 16,000 gallons. The Airmax® PondAir™ Water Garden Aeration Kit is designed for smaller water gardens up to 2,000 gallons. Both whisper-quiet systems can be run 24 hours a day, seven days a week, providing your finned pals and beneficial bacteria plenty of oxygen and water movement.

Pond Talk: When did you know it was time to upgrade your pond’s aeration system?

Breathe Life Into Your Water Garden - Airmax(r) KoiAir(t) Water Garden Aeration Kit

Will the snails I added last year still be in my pond? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Will the snails I added last year still be in my pond?

Q: Will the snails I added last year still be in my pond?

Phoebe – Amherst, NH

A: Snails are a pond keeper’s best friend – especially when it comes to gobbling through algae.

The type that you probably have in your backyard water garden is the Japanese Trapdoor Snail. They get their name from their fancy shells, which have a hinged fingernail-like plate that allows them to seal the shell’s opening, providing protection from drought and predators.

Cold-Weather Friendly
These little guys are hardy enough to weather cold temperatures, like the ones we had all winter. Unlike other aquatic snails, Japanese Trapdoor Snails lack a lung, which means they don’t need to surface to suck in frigid (and potentially deadly) oxygen in the winter. They’re ideal for harsher northern climates.

Hiding Places
When the spring and summer sunshine warms the water, you might not see your snails. They like to hang out on the bottom of ponds, and they blend in incredibly well with rocks, gravel and plants. But they’re hard at work doing what they do best – eating algae and the detritus that feeds it. They also do a great job grooming plants and keeping your rocks and plant pots algae-free.

Strength in Numbers
For maximum algae-eating benefit, we recommend housing a minimum of 10 snails per 50 square feet of pond. If you have a farm pond or larger water feature, you’ll need at least 200 snails to have any effect at all. Remember that they will reproduce a few times a year, and tiny newborn snails are hungry!

Aerated Water, Happy Snails: Keep those helpful gastropods happy all year-long by providing plenty of oxygen-rich water. The best way to do that is by aerating your pond with a subsurface aeration system, like the PondAir™ Aeration Kit. Featuring two air stones and flexible black vinyl air tubing, an adjustable unit like this will infuse your pond with oxygen while remaining whisper quiet.

Pond Talk: Have you had success controlling algae in your water feature with snails?

Breathe Life Into Your Pond - Airmax® PondAir™ Aeration Kits

I’m not running my waterfall over the winter. How do I shut it down? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I’m not running my waterfall over the winter. How do I shut it down?

Q: I’m not running my waterfall over the winter. How do I shut it down?

Valerie – Smithsburg, MD

A: You want to shut down your waterfall for the season? You’re not alone. When the outdoor temperatures dip, most people don’t spend a lot of time lounging outside by their pond enjoying the sound of running water.

Though a pond with ice formations can create a beautiful scene, shutting down your waterfall or stream when it’s not in use for the winter is a great way to save some money, prolong the life of your equipment, and prevent ice dams from forming and potentially draining your pond.

Putting your waterfall to bed for the winter can be done in just a couple of hours – or less if you have a helper. Here, we’ve outlined four simple steps to make the chore easy:

  1. First, remove the pump from your pond. Store it in a 5-gallon bucket filled with water in a place that will not freeze, like your garage or basement, so the seals do not dry out.
  2. Next, blow out your tubing with an air compressor. Though most tubing will be OK if water freezes in it, it’s still a good idea to blast away all the gunk and debris that could be in there. Don’t forget to cap it off to ensure no water or debris enters the tubing.
  3. If your pump is in a skimmer box, drain the water to slightly below the weir door. You can also place a milk carton or 2-Liter bottle about ¼ filled into the skimmer. This will alleviate some ice pressure on the skimmer walls.
  4. If you have biological filter media in your waterfall box, spray the filter media off with a hose to remove built-up gunk, and pump the water out of waterfall box and scrub it down. The filter media will be fine stored in the waterfall box for the winter.

Because your waterfall will be turned off and not oxygenating the water for your fish, don’t forget to run an aeration system. Airmax® PondAir™ Aeration Kit is ideal for infusing O2 into ponds up to 2,000 gallons; Airmax® KoiAir™ Aeration Kit handles ponds up to 16,000 gallons. Both are energy-efficient and can be run 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Have you ever run your waterfall or stream all winter long? What was your experience?

Keep Your Pond Oxygenated All Winter - Airmax® PondAir™ Aeration Kit

What items need to come out of my pond before winter? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: What items need to come out of my pond before winter?

Q: What items need to come out of my pond before winter?

Charles – Billings, MT

A: You probably spent a pretty penny on your pond equipment, and so there’s no doubt you want to make that gear last as many seasons as possible. Certain components will survive longer if you remove them from your pond during the winter, including:

  • All-In-One Filtration Units: This submersible mechanical, biological and ultraviolet filtration system should be pulled from your water feature and stowed away for the winter. Don’t forget to remove the mag-drive pump from the unit and store it in water in a place that will not freeze.
  • Pressurized Filters: As with the All-In-One Filtration Units, plan to remove your pressurized filter and put it up for the cold-weather season. Doing so will prolong the life of your unit’s gaskets, washers and other temperature-sensitive parts.
  • Pumps: Whether your pump feeds a waterfall, fountain or some other decorative item in your pond, it will need to be removed and stored in water in a spot that won’t freeze, like a heated garage or basement.
  • UV Clarifiers: If your ultraviolet clarifier is separate from your mechanical and biological filtration system, be sure to remove it from your water feature and store it until spring, when you should plan to replace the bulb.
  • Ion Clarifiers: String algae won’t likely be growing in the winter, so you can disconnect your ion clarifier and keep it stashed until the warm weather arrives.

Once all of your gear is removed and stored away, blow out the water lines with your air compressor and cap the ends until spring. You wouldn’t want that water to freeze and crack your pipes!

Add Winter Gear

While you’re doing some winterizing chores, now is the perfect time to add an aerator to your pond to keep the water oxygenated for your finned pals during the winter months.

Airmax® PondAir™ Aeration Kit is designed for water gardens up to 2,000 gallons. It’s powered by an energy-efficient diaphragm compressor and includes an airflow control valve, air stones and flexible black vinyl air tubing.

Airmax® KoiAir™ Aeration Kit is designed to aerate medium and large water gardens and koi ponds up to 16,000 gallons. It’s powered by an energy-efficient dual diaphragm SilentAir™ aeration pump and includes a diffuser plate for maximum oxygen uptake and a weighted airline.

Completing these simple tasks will prolong the life of your pond gear and ensure your fish and other pond critters stay happy and healthy all winter long.

Pond Talk: Where do you stow your pond gear for the winter?

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