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Running a pond heater is expensive. Do I have any other options? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Running a pond heater is expensive. Do I have any other options?

Q: Running a pond heater is expensive. Do I have any other options?

Vicki – Pawtucket, RI

A:  Yes, those pond heaters are expensive to run! But guess what? You don’t need one in the first place!

Heaters are more frequently used in aquariums, particularly those that house warm-water fish like tetras, danios or angelfish.

In your pond, the fish will overwinter just fine without a heater—even if temperatures drop below freezing. Pond fishes like koi and goldfish naturally go into wintertime hibernation when temperatures fall. They’ll stop eating, their metabolisms will slow way down and they’ll snooze through the winter without worrying about how warm their water is.

However, if you live in areas that experience freezing temperatures that cause your pond to ice over, you do need to worry about keeping a hole in the ice. The hole allows toxic gases like ammonia to escape while allowing oxygen in, and your fish will need that fresh O2.

So how do you create that hole? Not with a pond heater! Check out these much cheaper alternatives:

  • De-Icer: A de-icer floats on the water surface and melts a hole in the ice. Unlike a heater that actually warms the entire pond, a de-icer simply melts an opening in the ice sheet, thereby allowing for gas exchange.
  • Aerator: Rather than create a hole in the ice from above, an aerator like the PondAir™ (for smaller ponds) or KoiAir™ (for larger ponds) circulates the water below the ice sheet. In areas with mild winters, that subsurface water movement will keep a hole in the ice—but when temps really dip, an aerator may not be enough to maintain a vent hole.
  • De-Icer, Aerator Combo: An excellent and convenient option to consider is the PondAir™ & Thermo-Pond Combo. It combines both the Thermo-Pond de-icer and PondAir™ Aeration Kit, providing your water feature the one-two punch it needs to stay well-vented throughout the winter. Watch the video below for benefits and installation.

If you live in an area with temperatures that hover around the freezing mark, consider picking up a Thermo Cube®. It’s a thermostatically controlled outlet that turns on when air temperatures drop below 35°F and turns off when air temps rise above 45°F.

So put that pond heater on Craigslist and invest in a de-icer, aerator and thermostatically controlled outlet. It’ll save you money in the long run!

Pond Talk: What method do you use to keep a hole in the ice in your pond?

The Ultimate in Winter Protection - PondAir™ & Thermo-Pond Combo

Should I treat my pond weeds now, or will they die on their own now that it’s getting colder? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: Should I treat my pond weeds now, or will they die on their own now that it’s getting colder?

Q: Should I treat my pond weeds now, or will they die on their own now that it’s getting colder?

Ed – Norton, OH

A: This time of year, many aquatic plants—including weeds—seem to be no longer actively growing. Triggered by dropping temperatures and fewer hours of sunlight, the cold-weather slowdown sends perennial plants into dormancy, and it can be hard to tell if they’re dead or just holing up for the winter.

Because you’ll see little or no greenery, treating those weeds can be a challenge. Plus, most chemical treatments, like herbicides and algaecides, don’t work well in colder temperatures. Algae Defense®, for example, stops working when the water is below 60°F, and the beneficial bacteria in PondClear™ almost slow down completely when temps fall below 50°F.

So what options do you have for treating weeds in the winter?

  1. Rake Out Dead Vegetation: First, pull on your muck boots and gloves, and manually pull weeds and dead foliage from the water with a weed rake or other weed removal tool. This will take out growing plants and cut down on decaying organics, which means fewer weeds and fertilizer for them next spring.
  2. Dose with Pond Dye: Next, add some Pond Dye to the water. Available in convenient liquid quarts, gallons and water-soluble packets, it will shade the water blue or black and reduce the amount of sunlight that reaches the bottom of your lake. Pond Dye can also be used regardless of the temperature or time of year.
  3. Aerate the Water: Unless you plan to use your lake for winter recreation, make sure your Airmax® Aeration System is up and running. It’ll keep your water circulated, which will reduce the muck buildup throughout the winter, and it’ll keep a hole open in the ice, which will allow for gas exchange. Your fish will thank you for it.

If you’re concerned about weeds as fall and winter approach, give these three tricks a try. By removing existing weeds and reducing the decaying buildup (i.e. weed fertilizer) now, you’ll have less work to do next spring—and won’t that be a treat!

Pond Talk: What kinds of aquatic weeds grow year-round in your area?

Protect Your Pond Year Round - Pond Logic® Pond Dye

Is there any maintenance I should do when I pull out my fountain for the year? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: Is there any maintenance I should do when I pull out my fountain for the year?

Q: Is there any maintenance I should do when I pull out my fountain for the year?

John – Epping, NH

A: Decorative fountains add beauty to your waterscape while pumping some extra oxygen to your pond or lake, but they are designed to be used in the warmer months – not winter. So when you’re ready to pull out your fountain for the year, follow these six steps to ensure it’ll be ready for use again in the spring:

  1. Pull Unit from the Pond: To remove your fountain from the water, simply release it from its mooring line and gently reel it in. Leave the mooring line stakes in place to make it easy to reinstall it in the spring. You’ll save time from having to place the fountain in position.
  2. Clean Your Fountain and Lights: As your fountain runs through the spring, summer and fall, algae and other debris accumulate on the motor, lights and float. This unsightly debris acts as an insulator that traps heat around the motor, which could cause overheating when you reinstall it in the spring. Get out your scrubber and polish your surfaces while they’re still wet. Some expert advice: It’s best to clean that gunk off before it dries on.
  3. Inspect for Damages: Normal wear-and-tear and curious critters can cause nicks and chew marks in the cord that will need to be repaired, so check it for damages. Also, if you haven’t performed routine maintenance on your unit, like changing oil and seals, winter is the perfect time to do so while your fountain is out of the water and in your workshop.
  4. Cover the Cord Ends: Once your fountain is cleaned and repaired, cover your power cord ends by covering them with a vented plastic bag to keep dust and debris out while it’s in storage.
  5. Store in Safe Spot: Find a safe, frost-free place to store your fountain over the winter. Ideally, stash it in your garage, basement or other place that won’t freeze.
  6. Keep Aeration Running: Unless you plan to use your pond for recreation, like hockey or ice skating, your pond will need oxygen through the winter. Continue to use your diffused aeration system to maintain a hole in the ice for ventilation and gas exchange.

Follow these simple maintenance steps and you’ll be ready to reinstall your fountain in the spring – once the ice melts, that is!

Pond Talk: Where do you store your fountain in the winter?

Protect Your Fish With Winter Aeration - Airmax® Shallow Water Series™ Aeration Systems

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

I occasionally feed my game fish pellet food, but they don’t seem as interested any more. Is something wrong? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I occasionally feed my game fish pellet food, but they don’t seem as interested any more. Is something wrong?

Q: I occasionally feed my game fish pellet food, but they don’t seem as interested any more. Is something wrong?

Scott – Fairfield, IA

A: Fish can be finicky eaters sometimes – particularly when something changes their routine. If your fish aren’t eating their Game Fish Grower Fish Food, it’s likely due to one of these three reasons:

  1. Spooked By Predators
    Have you noticed signs of predators prowling around your pond? Have you seen tiny footprints, disturbed areas around the perimeter or unfamiliar droppings? Raccoons, herons and other fish foes can spook fish and cause them to stay far below the water surface. When they do come up, they pop to the top, check for food and dive quickly back to their safe zone. If this sounds familiar, look more closely for tracks or telltale clues and find yourself a deterrent (or live trap).
  2. Under the Weather
    Sickness, injuries or an inhospitable environment can also change your fish’s eating habits. Check your fish when they come to the surface: Do you notice any sores, red spots or torn fins on your fish? If so, you may need to determine the cause of the illness and treat it accordingly. Have they been gasping at the surface instead of showing interest in pellets? This could be a sign that your water needs more oxygen. Crank on your aeration system (or add one if you don’t have one). Changing temperatures could be causing the cooler and warmer waters to stratify, and an aeration system will keep the water column mixed.
  3. Wintertime Blues
    With the changing season comes a decrease in fish’s metabolisms – and appetite. Remember that fish go into hibernation and stop eating during the winter. If they appear to act normal but just shy away from their favorite diet or eat less of it, they’re most likely responding to the changing water temperature and preparing for the cold weather. Check your pond’s water temperature with a pond thermometer, and cut back feeding and stop entirely when the water temp dips to 45 to 50 degrees F.

Pond Talk: How have your game fish started preparing for winter?

Provide Balanced Nutrition - The Pond Guy(r) Game Fish Grower Fish Food

Is it OK to continue feeding my fish summer food and just feed them less of it? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Is it OK to continue feeding my fish summer food and just feed them less of it?

Q: Is it OK to continue feeding my fish summer food and just feed them less of it?

Don – Livingston, TN

A:  Koi have temperamental digestive systems. To stay healthy and happy, they need specific types of food at different times of year—so no, we don’t recommend feeding your fish summer food as we go into fall. Here’s why.

Feeding Less

Giving your fish less food is a good idea; especially as water temperatures start to drop. This will cause them to produce less waste, which will help in maintaining good water quality, and slow down their digestive systems. Fish naturally do this on their own; they will eat less food as temperatures decrease because the cooler water will slow their metabolism.

Macronutrient Shift

As water temperatures cool, fish need a diet that’s easier for them to digest—a wheat germ-based diet like our Spring and Fall Fish Food—that’s carbohydrate-heavy rather than protein-rich. We recommend using a wheat germ based food when water temperatures are between 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. In the summer, fish crave protein to grow and put on muscle weight. But in the fall and spring, they’re in transition between fasting and feasting and lacking some digestive enzymes, so they’ll need something that’ll gently slow down (or wake up) their metabolism.

Up the Veggies

Even though wheat germ is the most common food to feed fish in the fall, you can still give your finned pals a treat in place of high-protein foods, too. Toss them some Cheerios, oatmeal or brown rice. Share some healthy vegetables, like carrots, pumpkin or frozen peas. They’ll provide important nutrients while being gentle on their system.

50-Degree Mark

As soon as water temperatures consistently read below 40 degrees Fahrenheit on your pond thermometer, remember to stop feeding your fish for the winter. Don’t worry: They won’t starve. The fast will give your fish the opportunity to give its digestive system a break and live off its fat reserves it added in the summer. In the spring, they’ll clean up and look fresher and healthier than ever.

Pond Talk: What’s your fish’s favorite fall treat?

Wheatgerm Formula for Cooler Months - The Pond Guy® Spring and Fall Fish Foodt


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