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When do koi go dormant? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: When do koi go dormant?

Q: When do koi go dormant?

Helen – Minneapolis, MN

A: With winter officially starting in just one week, the cold weather is settling in across the country. Since your fish don’t have miniature submerged Koi calendars to check, what is it that tells your fish it is time to hibernate?

Koi are cold-blooded creatures, which means their body temperatures and activity levels are directly correlated with the ambient temperature. Koi are active and alert when their environment is warm and will start to slow down as the water temperature decreases. Once the water temperatures start to dip below 46°F your fish tend to stop eating and will retreat to the bottom of the pond. Your fish use the decrease in temperature along with the shortening day lengths as a trigger to prepare for winter.

As the water begins to cool, your fish will become less active as their bodily functions slow down. Less activity means a slower digestive process, less demand for food. It is this decrease in food digestion that warrants the use of wheat germ based foods like Pond Logic® Spring & Fall Fish Food. These types of food are easier to digest that regular food reducing the risk of leaving undigested food to rot inside a dormant fish, which can potentially be fatal.

As the temperatures continue to decline towards 40°F, the blood flow and respiratory rate of the fish will drop to an extremely low rate where their body is hardly functioning. You may hear people say that your Koi are sleeping in the winter and while fish do sleep this goes way beyond the standard drop in bodily functions associated with some much needed shut-eye. This extreme internal slow down ensure survival with even the most limited resources with cases of dormant fish lasting 150 days without food.

The whole over-wintering scenario sounds a little extreme to us but it is truly a natural and normal process for your fish. They do not require much attention in the winter but there are a few things you can do to ensure their winter break is a success. When a layer of ice begins to form over the pond, maintain an opening for gas exchange using an aeration kit or pond de-icer, like the PondAir™ & Thermo-Pond Combo.

Pond Talk: What do you do to help your fish through the winter season?

Vent Harmful Gases All Winter Long - Airmax® PondAir™ & Thermo-Pond 3.0 De-Icer Combo

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

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 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

What steps should I do for a spring cleanout? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: What steps should I do for a spring cleanout?

Q: What steps should I do for a spring cleanout?

Carol – Beaverton, OR

A: Ice melting, sun shining, cabin fever driving you batty … yep, spring must be on its way. For water garden hobbyists, that means one thing: It’s time to head outside and prepare the pond for spring. With some basic planning and a handy-dandy cheat sheet (like this one below), you will have your outdoor oasis cleaned up and ready for fun in no time.

Gather your tools, pull on your hip waders and gloves, and let’s get cleaning!

  1. Evaluate the Pond. The first step is to take a look at the pond and determine what kind of work needs to be done. Did you do a great job cleaning out the pond last fall? Did you procrastinate too long and let those leaves build up? Is it time to give the water feature a top-to-bottom scrubbing?
  2. Minimal Work Required. If you adequately prepped the pond last fall and, after evaluating it this spring, discovered clear water and minimal debris, you’ll only need to do some light cleaning. Scrub the rocks with Oxy-Lift™ Defense®, replace filter pads in the waterfall filter or skimmer box, and perform a 20 percent water change.
  3. Drain Pond, Relocate Your Fish. If a complete cleanout is necessary, you’ll need to drain the pond. Siphon some of the water into a holding tank for the fish, and transport them safely to their temporary home with a pond net. Add some healthy oxygen to the water by submerging and turning on a bubbler or air stone in the tank.
  4. Check Tubing, Remove Debris. While you’re draining the pond, don’t forget to purge the water from the tubing and remove any large debris, like branches or dead foliage, by hand.
  5. Power Wash Away. To remove tough algae growth on rocks, liner and gravel, treat with Oxy-Lift™ Defense® and use a power washer to scrub away the debris if necessary.
  6. Skimmer, Waterfall Wash. Once the dirty water has been drained from the pond, clean out the skimmer and waterfall boxes using a garden hose, spraying away excess muck and buildup. If the filter media looks worn down, now’s the time to replace it.
  7. Check Lighting, Aerator. With the water drained from the pond, you have a perfect opportunity to inspect any underwater lighting fixtures, check the bulbs and clean the lenses – or, better yet, add some new Pond Lighting for dramatic backyard effect. It’s also a good time to check the aerator and make sure it’s working properly.
  8. Reconnect and Reinstall. If you removed and stowed the filter, pump and ultraviolet clarifier last fall, pull them back out and dust them off. Reconnect the plumbing and filters, and reinstall the pumps and UV clarifiers. While you’re at it, change the UV bulbs, too; they need to be replaced once a year for optimal algae-control effect.
  9. Refill, Prep the Pond. Once you’re done with the spring cleaning chores, refill the pond with some fresh water. In addition, be sure to add some Stress Reducer PLUS , which removes chlorine, chloramines and heavy metal from tap water. Then acclimate the fish to the new water and add them back into the pond.
  10. Boost Your Bacteria. Keep the water clean and clear by adding some beneficial bacteria to the pond. Test the water temperature to be sure it’s above 55 °F and add PL Gel to the filter media and Seasonal Defense® to the pond water to help jump start the growth of good bacteria.
  11. Add Aquatic Plants. Finally, be sure to add a variety of pond plants to the water feature. Bog plants beautify the circumference of the pond; floating plants, lilies and lotus provide shade and pops of color; and submerged plants release extra oxygen to the water. They all provide added all-natural filtration and habitat for all underwater pond dwellers.

A spring cleanout may seem like a daunting task, but the time and effort you put into it will pay off with a tranquil backyard oasis. Happy spring!

Pond Talk: How has this winter’s wacky weather affected your pond or water feature? Will you have major work to do in the spring?

Debris Lifts Away in Seconds - Pond Logic (r) Oxy-Lift™ Defense®

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