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Should I add a de-icer to the aerator in my water garden? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Should I add a de-icer to the aerator in my water garden?

Q: Should I add a de-icer to the aerator in my water garden?

John – Ivoryton, CT

A: Before we broach this hot topic, let’s “break the ice” with a quick look at the differences between a de-icer and an aerator.

De-Icer: A de-icer’s simple purpose is to melt a hole in the ice that has formed on a container of water, whether a koi pond, water garden or livestock trough. Unlike a heater that actually warms the water, a de-icer melts through the ice sheet, thereby allowing harmful below-surface gases to escape and life-sustaining oxygen in.

Aerator: An aerator circulates the water below the sheet of ice that forms on a pond. In areas with relatively mild winters, that subsurface water movement will keep a hole in the ice that allows harmful gases out and oxygen in—but when temps really dip, an aerator may not be enough to maintain a vent hole.

Both a de-icer and an aerator help improve oxygen levels in your pond and, therefore, keep your fish healthy and happy.

If One is Good, are Both Better?

To answer your question: Yes, your aerated pond may appreciate some help from a de-icer, particularly if you live in a region with hard freezes.

Ponds that are already outfitted with an aerator, like one of the Airmax® PondAir™ Aeration Kits, benefit from its water circulation—but in areas with frigid winters, those systems may need a little help keeping a hole open in the inches-thick ice. So a de-icer paired with a nearby air stone will ensure the vent hole will remain open.

The opposite is also true. If you have a de-icer in place to keep a hole open in the ice, like the K&H™ Thermo-Pond 3.0 or K&H™ Perfect Climate Pond De-Icer, it’s a great idea to couple that with aeration system. The circulating action will help to encourage the gases forming under the ice at the bottom of the pond to reach the ventilation hole and escape.

If you’re in the market for a de-icer or aeration system, consider investing in a combo unit, such as the Airmax® PondAir™ and Thermo-Pond 3.0 De-Icer Combo. It’s the one-two punch your pond needs to keep breathing all winter long!

Pond Talk: With the recent arctic temperatures that have plagued folks in the Midwest and northern states, how have you kept a ventilation hole in your pond or water garden?

Eliminate Harmful Gases- Farm Innovators Floating 1250 Watt De-Icer

Can I continue to run my waterfall over the winter? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Can I continue to run my waterfall over the winter?

Q: Can I continue to run my waterfall over the winter?

Constance – Broomfield, CO

A: The short answer to your question: Sure! Many pond and water garden hobbyists keep their waterfalls running all year long—of course, those in warmer climates are probably more successful than those of us further north when the temperatures dip below freezing!

If you live in a colder region that freezes and you’re thinking about keeping your falls flowing through the wintertime, consider these important points:

  • Is your pump in a skimmer? If so, you may want to move it to a deeper area of your pond that doesn’t freeze.
  • Are you home to keep an eye on things? Ideally, someone should be home to periodically check on the waterfall and make sure it’s not freezing. If it does begin to freeze, the water may begin to divert out of the pond—leaving your fish high and dry.

Keeping your waterfall running during the wintertime has some definite benefits. Snow-covered and shimmering with crystals, a partially frozen waterfall can be a stunning attraction in your backyard. But that’s not all. You may also attract thirsty animals to your pond that decided to brave the winter elements!

Pond Talk: If you keep your waterfall running during the winter, why do you do so?

Protect Your Prized Fish - Airmax® KoiAir™ Aeration Kits

What if my pond is aerated but it still freezes over? Will my fish be OK? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

What if my pond is aerated but it still freezes over? Will my fish be OK?

Q: What if my pond is aerated but it still
freezes over? Will my fish be OK?

Kyle – Amelia, VA

A: Cold snaps happen—and when they do, that could mean big trouble for your fish.

When extra-frigid temperatures create a solid sheet of ice over your pond or water garden, your fish could be in danger because toxic gases, like ammonia, become trapped below the sealed surface. That ice also prevents fresh oxygen from mixing with the water, which your finned friends need to survive.

To allow for gas exchange at the water’s surface, you need a hole in the ice. And how do you do that? By cranking up your aeration with air stones.

Stones Near the Surface

An aeration system with air stones, like the Airmax® PondAir™ Aeration Kit, gently and quietly moves the water surface, and the action created by the moving water keeps a hole in the ice while infusing the pond with fresh oxygen for the fish.

You can position the air stones throughout your pond, but here’s a tip for when temps really dip: Suspend the stones closer to the surface to keep the water moving at the top of the pond but calm at the bottom for your fish.

Still Frozen Solid

What if your pond still freezes over? Short-term, your underwater inhabitants should be OK. As long as you’ve been properly maintaining your pond, there should be enough dissolved oxygen in the water to sustain them for a week or so.

Long-term, however, is another matter. If the warming sunshine and your aerators fail to outdo Mother Nature’s cold streak, you will need to create a hole in the ice. Though it’s tempting to bust through the ice with a drill, hammer or other blunt object, restrain yourself. All that smashing could create sub-surface vibrations that are harmful to your fish. Instead, fill a bucket with hot water and pour it on one area of the pond to melt open a hole, preferably near the edge.

If arctic temps continue to dominate the forecast, you may also consider heating things up with a de-icer, which is an electric device that keeps a hole open in the ice. When used in combination with your aerator, you’ll be able to beat the chill—and keep you fish happy and healthy. Purchase as a combo kit for extra savings.

Pond Talk: When your pond or water garden freezes over, what do you to do keep a hole melted in the ice?

Eliminate Harmful Gases - Airmax® PondAir™ & Thermo-Pond Combo

Do I need to heat the water in my pond in order for my fish to survive the winter? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Do I need to heat the water in my pond in order for my fish to survive the winter?

Q: Do I need to heat the water in my pond in order for my fish to survive the winter?

Kimberly – Bradford, PA

A: We all love central heating or a roaring fireplace in our homes when winter’s chilly temperatures roll in, but your pond fish—specifically your koi and common goldfish—don’t need those creature comforts to stay happy and content.

Cold Temps and Torpor

During the winter months when the water temperature is 45 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit and below, koi and goldfish enter into a dormant state. The technical term for this is torpor, and it means that the fishes’ metabolism and activity slows, they become very lethargic, and they require little nourishment. In this state, the koi and goldfish will, in fact, be quite comfortable in temperatures as low as 35 degrees.

Demystifying De-icers

If koi and goldfish don’t need the water warmed, what’s the deal with pond heaters and de-icers, like the Thermo-Pond, Farm Innovators or Perfect Climate™ de-icers?

These tools of the trade aren’t intended to turn up the heat in your pond’s water. They’re designed to simply melt a hole in the ice, which allows dangerous gases to escape while letting fresh and life-sustaining oxygen. When plugged into the Thermo Cube® Thermostatically Controlled Outlet, the de-icers will turn on when temps dip to 35 degrees and off when temps rise to 45 degrees on their own. To save even more on energy costs this winter, consider installing a PondAir™ & Thermo-Pond 3.0 aeration and pond de-icer combo. When used with an aeration system, you can use a lower wattage de-icer which will not need to be ran as often to maintain an open ventilation hole.

De-icer’s Limitations

But the one thing de-icers don’t do: actively circulate or move the water like an aeration system does. That agitating action is necessary to trap and bring oxygen into the pond’s entire water column—including the bottom, where the fishes are snoozing. It also helps to prevent ice from forming a complete sheet on the pond surface.

Though running a pump will help move the water, it doesn’t agitate it enough to get those O2 levels up. A pump also costs more to operate than an aeration system, and, if ice does form, you could do some major damage to the unit from poor water flow. If you do not yet own an aeration system for your water garden, the PondAir™ & Thermo-Pond 3.0 Combo is a surefire way to protect your fish this winter.

Pond Talk: How do you keep a hole in the ice on your pond or water garden during the winter?

PondAir™ & Thermo-Pond 3.0 Combo - Protect Your Fish This Winter

Can I Break A Hole Open In The Ice Over My Pond? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Can sidewalk salt be used to melt the ice off my pond?

Can I Break A Hole Open In The Ice Over My Pond?

Liz – Carterville, IL

When maintaining a pond during the winter, it is important that the surface of your pond does not freeze over with ice. If you have an aeration kit running in your pond but the resulting hole in the ice is getting smaller, or has closed up altogether, don’t panic. Sporadic short-term ice coverage is not an issue if you’ve done regular maintenance to reduce organic debris throughout the season. If the pond remains iced-over for weeks at a time, consider giving your aeration system a boost.

If your pond has frozen over and you want to reopen the hole, simply rest a pan of hot water on the surface of your pond to melt the ice away. Do not use a blunt object to break the ice open as the shock-waves will stress your fish. Also, refrain from poking holes in the ice as you may accidentally puncture your liner or poke one of your fish.

Another way to maintain an open ventilation hole is by adding a pond heater/de-icer above your aeration diffuser stone. If you have multiple air stones, gather them into one area to make it more difficult for ice to form.

Pond Talk: Do you notice the ventilation hole getting smaller or freezing over for short period of time in the winter?

Can sidewalk salt be used to melt the ice off my pond? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Can sidewalk salt be used to melt the ice off my pond?

Can sidewalk salt be used to melt the ice off my pond?

Wayne – Independence, OH

Sidewalk salt is made for one simple purpose: to melt ice on your sidewalk. And while it theoretically could be used to melt pond ice, it’s most definitely not the right product for the job. While some sidewalk salt products are made up of pure rock salt, others contain additives like chloride – and neither substance is particularly fish- or plant-friendly. Because of the harm they can do to your aquatic environment, we strongly discourage the use of sidewalk melt products on your pond.

Fortunately, there are several good, chemical-free alternatives. The first – and arguably most effective – is the year-round use of a Airmax® PondAir™ Aeration System. Through the constant flow of air through the water, and the consequent movement of the water, ice can’t form, and a steady supply of life-sustaining oxygen is assured.

For a lower-tech solution, we also recommend our Thermo-Pond 3.0 De-Icer and our Farm Innovators Floating Pond De-Icer. These two products are designed with heating elements that keep a vent hole clear in even the coldest weather, allowing hazardous decomposition gases to escape. Through the use of these elegantly simple devices, fish can weather the winter safely, and emerge from the ice ready to thrive for another season.

Pond Talk: Do you bring your fish in for the winter? How do you provide an indoor home for them?

Airmax® Aeration Kits

The de-icer I purchased says it’s thermostatically-controlled. Why is it always running? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

The de-icer I purchased says it’s thermostatically-controlled. Why is it always running?

The de-icer I purchased says it’s thermostatically-controlled. Why is it always running?
Bill – White Lake, MI

When backyard water features are home to year-round populations of fish, it’s vitally important to prevent long-term ice cover. Without a break in the ice, harmful gases produced by decaying leaves and other organic matter build up, threatening the well-being of wintering fish. To prevent that threat, many pond owners install thermostatically-controlled de-icers, which produce enough concentrated heat to keep a vent hole open during winter’s coldest months.

When a de-icer is thermostatically controlled, it is set to turn both on and off at certain temperatures. In theory, that makes good sense: if the water is cold, the de-icer goes to work, and when the water warms, it switches off – saving on unnecessary electricity costs. The problem, however, is that the water temperature in a frozen pond may not rise above the thermostat’s high-temperature shutoff threshold, leaving the de-icer in full heating mode all the time.

Naturally, we’ve given this issue some thought. And that’s why we strongly recommend the use of our Thermo Cube® Thermostatically Activated Plug. Unlike a thermostatically-controlled de-icer, the Thermo Cube® measures air – not water temperature. Thus, when the sun is shining, and air temperatures warm up, the Thermo Cube® automatically cuts power to the de-icer, and turns it back on when the air temperature drops. The combination works flawlessly – applying heat when it’s required to keep the ice open, and shutting it off when it’s not.

Pond Talk: Do you use a thermocube along with your de-icer?

Thermo Cube® Thermostatically Activated Plug

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