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I’m shutting down my waterfall for the winter and installing an aeration system. Do you have any tips on running aeration? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I’m shutting down my waterfall for the winter and installing an aeration system. Do you have any tips on running aeration?

Q: I’m shutting down my waterfall for the winter and installing an aeration system. Do you have any tips on running aeration?

David – Greenfield, IN

A:  Shutting down the waterfall for the winter makes a lot of sense for water garden hobbyists. Not only will it save on operating costs, but it will also prolong the life of your equipment, prevent ice dams from forming and potentially draining your pond, and save on a lot of hassle and worry.

With the waterfall off, the pond will need another source of oxygen – and that’s where an aeration system comes into play. It pumps O2 into the water and maintains a gas exchange hole in the ice, ensuring any finned friends are safe and healthy through the cold season.

We’ve got some expert tips on aeration for you. Here’s what we recommend for making the most of your system.

  • Size It Right: Install an aeration system that’s large enough to properly ventilate your pond volume. An “a little is better than nothing” approach might not be enough to keep your fish safe. If your pond is less than 4,000 gallons, consider The Pond Guy Water Garden Aeration Kit. If it’s between 4,000 and 16,000 gallons, try the KoiAir Aeration Kit.
  • Pair with a De-icer: Though the water movement created by aeration can prevent most surface ice formation, add a de-icer just in case nighttime temperatures turn frigid. The PondAir & Thermo-Pond Combo – a combination kit containing an aerator and de-icer – is perfect for this. On particularly windy nights, you might see ice form even with a de-icer, but don’t worry. The aeration system is still adding oxygen to the pond, and the combination of the two will eventually reopen the hole.
  • Position in Shallows: Rather than place your diffusers in the deepest areas of your pond where your fish hang out in the winter, put them in the shallows or near the surface. Doing so will provide more water movement and better keep a hole in the ice.
  • Watch the Ice: If ice does form, don’t panic! Keep an eye on the ice. If a ventilation hole doesn’t reopen on its own within a few days, pour a bucket of hot water on the ice to help melt it open. Don’t – we repeat – don’t pound on the ice to break it apart. Your fish won’t like it. In fact, the sound waves will stress your fish, compromise their immune systems and could kill them.
  • Maintain for Best Results: Mechanical pieces and parts need to be maintained, and so if you’ve been using your aeration system for the summer or it has been dormant since last winter, it’ll need some attention. Check to make sure the airstones/diffusers are working properly, and install a maintenance kit to ensure it’s working to its full potential.

Pond Talk: What wintertime aeration tips can you share?

Vent Harmful Gases All Winter Long - The Pond Guy(r) Water Garden Aeration Kit

We’ve decided to shut down the pond this winter. Do we just need to take out the pump? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: We’ve decided to shut down the pond this winter. Do we just need to take out the pump?

Q: We’ve decided to shut down the pond this winter. Do we just need to take out the pump?

Tina – DuBois, PA

A:  Oh, if it were only that easy. Even though you plan to shut down the pond for the season, you still need to complete some winterizing chores. Put on your Aqua Gloves and hip waders. Here is your step-by-step guide for closing down shop and storing your pond equipment for the winter.

Step 1: Remove Pond Netting

Do you have a leaf-collecting net covering your pond? Once the colorful foliage has stopped falling, remove the net, shake off the leaves and store it until next fall. If you leave it on the pond, heavy snowfall and ice could collect on it and weigh it down—possibly endangering your fish.

Step 2: Disconnect Filters and Pumps, Lower Water Level

Next, protect your pumps, filters and hardware from the freezing temperatures. Disconnect the plumbing and drain the water from the tubing to prevent them from freezing, expanding and cracking. If your filtration system has built-in ultraviolet filter or if you have a UV clarifier, disconnect it and take it indoors to prevent ice damage. Remove your pump and store it in a bucket of water to keep the seals moist so they don’t dry out and crack. And lower your water level below the opening of skimmers to protect it from expanding and cracking during freezing temperatures.

Step 3: Clean Filters and Media

Natural bacteria that have been thriving in your pond will become dormant and die through the winter, so you can remove your filter media and store it indoors for safe keeping. Be sure to wash the pads or BioBalls with a strong stream of water while they’re still wet; it’s much easier to clean UVs and media when they’re wet versus trying to scrub off dried debris in the spring.

Step 4: Trim Back Aquatic Plants and Remove Excess Debris

Do you have plants in your pond? Tropical varieties—like tropical lilies—must be removed and stored inside if you hope to keep them thriving until spring. Check out this blog post that details how to remove and store them. Hardy varieties can stay in the pond; take some time to trim away dead or dying foliage after the first frost. While you’re at it, pull out your ClearVac pond vacuum and suck up as much detritus as possible. The less rotting debris in the pond, the more available oxygen for fish.

Step 5: Install De-Icer and Aeration
Your fish will take a winter nap through the cold season, but they’ll still need oxygen to survive. If you live in an area that freezes, be sure to install a de-icer, aeration or both (as we feature in our PondAir & Thermo-Pond De-Icer Combo) to help maintain a hole in the ice. That will allow the toxic gases to vent and oxygen to enter while circulating the water.

Step 6: Switch to Wheatgerm Fish Food
If you haven’t already switched to wheatgerm fish food, do so now. Our Spring and Fall Fish Food is easier for your finned pals to digest—which is what they need when temperatures start to fall. As the water reaches 40 to 50 degrees F, slow down and stop feeding them for winter. Remember that with no filtration system running, any waste they produce won’t be sufficiently removed.

Step 7: Add Seasonal Defense
Finally, if temperatures still permit, continue to add natural bacteria designed for cooler temperatures, like Seasonal Defense. The little microbes will continue to break down organic waste that wasn’t easily cleaned from the pond.

As you prepare to shut your pond down for the winter, take time to check off these chores. It’ll make next year’s spring pond season one to look forward to!

Pond Talk: Do you have a dedicated spot in your garage or basement for pond supplies and equipment?

Make Your Fall Cleanout Quick & Easy - The Pond Guy(r) ClearVac(rm) Pond Vacuum

The water level in my pond keeps dropping below my skimmer opening. What should I do? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: The water level in my pond keeps dropping below my skimmer opening. What should I do?

Q: The water level in my pond keeps dropping below my skimmer opening. What should I do?

Charles – Bellingham, MA

A:  That’s a problem, for sure! Let’s take a look at some reasons why your water level is dropping below your skimmer opening in the first place. One of them could point to your solution.


Reason #1: Wrong Pump Size
Skimmers are rated for maximum water flow. If your pump exceeds this rating, the water will leave the skimmer faster than it enters—and you’ll be left with a low water level. Check your pump to be sure it’s sized correctly for your skimmer.

Reason #2: Accumulated Debris
Is your skimmer’s filter mat plugged? Nets and media pads catch a majority of debris as the water passes through your skimmer (which you then clean out several times a year), but some of it may fall to the bottom. That debris could then plug your filter mat and prevent water from getting to your pump. It could also cause a water backup, allowing water to escape from other areas of your pond. When you pull out your filter pad, check for debris buildup in the skimmer bottom.

Reason #3: Skimmer Height
If your skimmer is set at the wrong height, that could cause problems, too. It should be set so that the natural water line of the pond when filled is about an inch below the top of the skimmer opening. If it’s set where the water level is lower, small fluctuations in the water level can make a big difference. Check your skimmer height and adjust as needed.

Reason #4: Too-Low Overflows
If you installed an overflow in your skimmer, make sure the overflow’s bottom is not lower than where the water level should be. Otherwise, you will have issues when you have small fluctuations in your pond’s water level. Check to be sure any built-in overflows are positioned at the right height to allow water to drain from the skimmer.

Reason #5: A Leak
Dropping water levels could indicate a leak, so check around your pond for pooling water. Here, we outline in detail how to find and repair a leak.

Reason #6: Evaporation
The sun’s evaporation power can play a role in your waning water levels, too. If this becomes a problem over time, you can install an auto-fill valve to refill your pond when it gets low. At the very least, install an automatic shutoff switch; if water depletes to a certain point, the pump will switch off automatically.

Good luck figuring out this mystery!

Pond Talk: Have you ever been stumped by the cause of falling water levels in your pond?

Protect Pumps From Low Water - ProPlumber™ Pump Shut-Off Switch

My filter has multiple size connections. How do I know which size I should use? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: My filter has multiple size connections. How do I know which size I should use?

Q: My filter has multiple size connections. How do I know which size I should use?

Linda – Toms River, NJ

A: Manufacturers may offer several size connections for a filter or pump. Just take a look at the AllClear™ PLUS Filter & SolidFlo™ Pump Combo or the PowerUV™ & SolidFlo™ Pump Combo tech specs, and you’ll see what we mean.

Deciphering those measurement ranges – a ½ inch fitting to a 1-1/2 inch fitting and everything in between – can be a challenge for DIYers. When figuring out what size to use, keep two things in mind: flow rate and pond aesthetics.

Go with the Flow Rate

Your filter’s flow rate refers to how much water passes through it in one hour’s time. The more water your pond holds, the higher the flow rate will need to be. Generally, you want the flow rate of your system to be fast enough to turn over your pond at least once every two hours.

The flow rate will also determine how your pond looks, meaning how much water channels through the filter and down your waterfall. Whether you have a small pond with a slow meandering stream or a goliath water feature with a gushing 4-foot waterfall, the look of it will be affected by the filter’s flow rate. You’ll also need to factor in your head pressure when determining the amount of flow needed.

Choosing Tubing

The diameter of your tubing will determine the maximum flow it can handle. The greater the diameter, the more water can be moved (as long as your pump can handle it). Think of it like this: If you’re drinking water through a straw, you’ll get a bigger gulp from a standard-size straw than a narrow cocktail straw.

If you’ve determined that you need a pump that will move 2,500 gallons of water per hour, for example, following the recommendations below you would need to use 1-1/4″ tubing.

  • Up to 500 gph: Use 1/2-inch tubing
  • Up to 900 gph: Use 3/4-inch tubing
  • Up to 1,500 gph: Use 1-inch tubing
  • Up to 2,700 gph: Use 1-1/4-inch tubing
  • Up to 3,600 gph: Use 1-1/2-inch tubing

Tubing too small would restrict the flow of water, while tubing too large would not create enough pressure to achieve the desired look. Choose wisely!

Pond Talk: Have you experimented with your tubing sizes? What results have you seen?

Perfect for New or Existing Ponds - The Pond Guy® AllClear™ PLUS & SolidFlo™ Combo Kits

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

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

I’m looking to cut back on energy costs. Can I shut off my waterfall at night? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I’m looking to cut back on energy costs. Can I shut off my waterfall at night?

Q: I’m looking to cut back on energy costs. Can I shut off my waterfall at night?

Gita – San Tan Valley, AZ

A: Energy costs have certainly been on the incline lately, and so it makes perfect sense to search for ways to save some of your hard-earned cash. If you must – though it’s not ideal – you can shut off your waterfall at night as long as you have your aeration system operating. It’ll keep the oxygen flowing overnight.

However, consider the hidden costs that you could be incurring:

Dealing with Poor Fish Health:

Still, quiet water – even just during the overnight hours – means that fewer water molecules are circulating and making contact with oxygen-rich air at the pond’s surface. The stagnant water will be unable to release dangerous gases, like ammonia, and absorb life-giving oxygen. That could cause your fishes’ immune systems to suffer, which could lead to disease or worse.

Replacing Beneficial Bacteria:

For your filtration system to remove contaminants from the water, it needs moving water flowing through it – so if your pump is off, your water’s not moving. If all the water drains out of your filter, you could wind up with a loss of the beneficial bacteria that live on the media inside, which means you’ll need to replace them later.

Managing Algae Blooms:

Moving water helps to keep debris suspended in the water column and pulled through the skimmer and filter for efficient removal. But if the pump is turned off, that debris will settle to the bottom of the pond and build up, creating a dense food source for nuisances like algae. When it starts to bloom, it’ll take your time, energy and some algaecide to clear up – which can equal a pretty penny.

Pond pump manufacturers understand that water gardeners are concerned about operating costs, so many of the designs on the market today, including the RapidFlo™ and MagFlo™ Pump, are energy efficient and consume relatively little electricity. Pumps that used to cost $100 a month or more to run have been replaced by models that cost as little as $12 a month. Now that’s some serious savings!

Pond Talk: Besides shutting down your waterfall pump at night, what are some other ways you’ve cut water garden expenses?

Breathe Life Into Your Pond - Airmax (r) PondAir(t) Aeration Kits


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