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Are other fish like my plecostomus as hardy over the winter as my koi? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Are other fish like my plecostomus as hardy over the winter as my koi?

Q: Are other fish like my plecostomus as hardy over the winter as my koi?

Dale – Paoli, PA

A: Last week, we talked about how koi and certain types of goldfish, like Sarassa and Shubunkins, can overwinter in your pond or water garden even when water temperatures dip to near-freezing levels.

But what about other common pond fishes?

Well, it depends on your USDA hardiness zone, which divides the country into zones based on how cold the temperatures get. Just as with plants, some fish species can be “hardy” in some climates and not in others. An Oranda, for instance, might do just fine overwintering in a pond in Orlando, Fla., but up in Fargo, N.D., that same fish would turn into a popsicle—even with an aeration system and de-icer.

When the temperatures begin to fall in colder zones, here’s what you do:

1. Keep a close eye on your pond’s water temperature using a thermometer, like the Pond Logic® Floating Pond Thermometer. When the mercury hits 68 degrees or so, it’s time to bring those less hardy fishes—including Plecostomus, Oranda, Telescope goldfish and Black Moors—inside.

2. Carefully scoop those snowbird fishes out of the pond with a net, like The Pond Guy® 3-in-1 Combo Net, and place them in a bucket pre-filled with some of your pond’s water.

3. Re-home the fishes in a properly sized indoor fish tank or aquarium outfitted with the right mechanical and biological filtration system for the job. Be sure to condition the water and pre-treat it with some beneficial bacteria to kick start the system’s biological filtration, too.

As soon as sun thaws your pond water—or at least heats it back up to room temperature—it’s safe to return those fishes to their “summer” home.

Pond Talk: What kind of overwintering setup do you have for your less hardy fishes?

Pond Logic® Floating Thermometer - Monitor Water Temperature

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, TetraPond® 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?

Pond Heaters

We’ve had a mild winter so far, does this affect the dormancy of my fish? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

We’ve had a mild winter so far, does this affect the dormancy of my fish?

We’ve had a mild winter so far, does this affect the dormancy of my fish? 

Ivy – Schaumburg, IL

We may be having a mild winter, but a mild winter for humans doesn’t really mean the same for your fish. During the winter months, fish living in outdoor ponds will go “dormant,” slowing down all their systems and responses in order to conserve energy during cold temperatures. Monitoring your pond’s temperature is easy – we recommend this handy Pond Logic® Floating Thermometer.

The signs your fish are ready for dormancy are relatively easy to pick out – colder temperatures will mean less food, to which your fish will react to naturally. Their metabolism and digestion will slow down, as will their movement in general, while they conserve energy. Don’t be alarmed if your fish appear “lazy” or don’t have any appetite – this is all normal. It’s also a good idea to wait until spring, or whenever it is consistently warm, to start feeding your fish again regularly. Do remember that your fish will require a couple days to digest their food and even if they become more active on a warm day you won’t want them returning to a dormant state while still digesting.

However, if Old Man Winter does sneak up on you, don’t wait until the first freeze to make sure your fish have enough oxygen and aeration to keep the water from freezing over. We recommend using these Pond Logic® PondAir™ Aeration Systems to keep your pond, and your fish, in good stable condition for the winter.

Some people like to leave their aeration system running year ‘round, so feel free to do so as well, we’re sure your fish won’t mind!

Pond Logic Floating Pond Thermometer

Happy Holidays From The Pond Guy®

If I chose to bring my fish indoors for the winter what should I do?

Happy Holidays From The Pond Guy®

Happy Holidays fellow pond owners! We are finally settling into our new building and eagerly preparing our catalog for the coming spring.

A special thanks to you, our customers, for being patient during our transition. Our larger warehouse will allow us to have more product on hand and our new call center will soon be filled with more friendly pond techs ready to answer all your pond questions this coming season. Stay posted for updates regarding our Service Department and new Retail Store.

Also, please note our new contact information:

Orders and Tech Support
Toll Free: 866-PONDHELP (866-766-3435)pondhelp@thepondguy.com
Monday-Friday 8am-6pm eastern standard time

We will be closed on Monday December 26th and Monday January 2nd

All of us at The Pond Guy® want to thank you for another great ponding season and can’t wait to hear from you in the New Year!

Will snails survive the winter in my pond? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

When should I remove the fountain from my pond?

Will snails survive the winter in my pond?
Cody – Falling Spring, VA

While your fish and some of your aquatic plants remain safe and sound during their winter dormancy you may wonder if your snails will be as successful. Your pond snails are amazingly resilient in cold weather and will do just fine given their habitat is suitable.

Your pond depth will play a major role in the success of all of the living creatures in your pond. Your plants, fish and snails can survive in cold water but they won’t fair too well if frozen into a solid block of ice. The ice that forms on the top of your pond varies in thickness depending on where you live but the general rule of thumb is to build your pond to be around 20”-30” in depth. This ensures there is an ample layer of water at the bottom of the pond that is left unexposed to the elements which will provide a safe haven for all of your pets and plants.

You won’t have to worry too much about your snails finding a safe place to hide over the winter as they come equipped with a strong shell which provides adequate shelter. They can hide amongst the rocks and plant remains in the pond as well during the winter but as your fish are in dormancy there is not an overwhelming need for additional habitat. As water temperatures drop and bacteria begin to dwindle a lot of pond owners tend to rely on algaecides to keep their ponds free from algae. If you are using an algaecide in your water garden review the product label thoroughly to ensure it is safe to use with your snails. When your pond comes back to life in the spring your snails will flourish amongst the new plant growth.

Pond Talk: Do you do anything special to provide safety for your snails 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 Pond Logic® 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 Pondmaster Floating Pond De-Icer/Heater and our Farm Innovators Floating Pond De-Icer/Heater. 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?

Pond Logic Aeration Kits

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