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I know my fish will go to the bottom of the pond for the winter, but do I need to do anything for turtles? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I know my fish will go to the bottom of the pond for the winter, but do I need to do anything for turtles?

Q: I know my fish will go to the bottom of the pond for the winter, but do I need to do anything for turtles?

Virginia – Brillion, WI

A: Turtles are smart critters. Unless your terrapins are terrarium-dwellers that aren’t accustomed to the great outdoors, they instinctively know what to do to prepare for winter. They take their cues from Mother Nature—so you can simply let them do their thing!

And what is that thing? Read on to learn more.

Winter Home-Sweet-Home

When air and water temperatures start to chill and their food source become scarce, turtles will slow their metabolisms and look for a place to hole up for the winter. Different types of turtles prefer different types of winter homes; water-loving turtles will swim to the bottom of the pond while land-based turtles, like a box turtle, will burrow in the dirt or mud at or near the pond surface, where they’ll stay warm and cozy.

Metabolism Changes

Just like fish, turtles will stop eating as their metabolism naturally slows to a cold-weather crawl. They’ll start to hibernate—or brumate, as termed in herpetology—when they’ll require very little oxygen, their heart rate will slow to just a few beats per minute and they’ll sleep the winter away, only to wake up in the spring when temperatures increase again.

Provide a Welcoming Environment

Though turtles don’t need a lot of oxygen while they’re hibernating, they do appreciate a healthy pond with clean, O2-infused water. Provide that to them by completing your fall-maintenance chores, like cleaning up dead or dying debris, and keeping your aeration system running over the winter. That moving, oxygenated water will ensure your shelled pond pals will get a good winter’s sleep.

Pond Talk: What kinds of turtles do you have around your pond or lake?

Oxygenate Your Pond All Winter Long - Airmax(r) PondSeries(tm) Aeration Systems

I need a net to protect my pond from leaves. Which one works the best? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I need a net to protect my pond from leaves. Which one works the best?

Q: I need a net to protect my pond from leaves. Which one works the best?

Richard – Davenport, IA

A:  Colorful fall leaves are beautiful, but once they start falling, they can be a hassle—especially when you have a backyard pond. When they drop into the water, they turn it into leaf tea, add to the nutrient load, and as they break down, build up as muck on the pond bottom.

A net is your best option for protecting your pond from leaves. The type that will work best for you will depend on how you answer these questions:

  1. What types of leaves are you battling?
    If you have trees with small needles or leaves, like locust or pine, you’ll need a small mesh net — like Fine Mesh Netting — to catch all those tiny needles while still allowing sun to shine through. If you have larger leaves, like maple or oak, go with a stronger net that can handle their weight, like Premium Protective Netting.
  2. How concerned are you about your water garden’s aesthetic appeal?
    If you want something that will shelter your pond while allowing you to enjoy the view, check out some Economy Netting or Premium Pond Netting. They’re both easy to install, and they won’t block your view—but you will have to keep the leaves cleaned off to prevent the net from sagging. If you have a heavier leaf load, however, you might require a stronger net, like one of our Pond Cover Nets. Your view won’t be as naturalistic, but the net will protect your pond and reduce your extra fall chores.
  3. How long to you hope to use the net?
    Sometimes, a quick-fix, inexpensive solution is what you need. In that case, plastic Economy Netting designed for single-season use fits the bill. Cover your pond for the season, and when the snow starts falling, remove it and toss it. If you’re looking for something you can use season after season, however, consider Premium Protective Netting or netting with sturdy framework. It might cost more initially, but its durability will pay for itself in the long run.

With several different netting options there is one to fit just about any pond owner’s needs, choose one that’ll keep your pond leaf free.

Pond Talk: What kind of net do you have on your water garden?

Keep Troublesome Leaves Out - The Pond Guy® PondShelter™ Net Kit

I’ve been trapping leeches with success. Will the rest die this winter or do I need to continue next spring? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I’ve been trapping leeches with success. Will the rest die this winter or do I need to continue next spring?

Q: I’ve been trapping leeches with success. Will the rest die this winter or do I need to continue next spring?

Bernie – Muskegon, MI

A: Those little bloodsuckers sure steal the fun, don’t they?

Hitching a ride with waterfowl, amphibians, small mammals—even your muck boots—leeches love living in mucky debris at the bottom of your pond. They settle in and wait for worms, snails, insect larvae, small water-loving animals and even humans to cruise by. When something looks tasty, they’ll use their suction cup-like mouths and teeth to latch on and feed on their blood.

Leeches aren’t necessarily bad for your pond or lake—in fact, they’re an important part of the food web. But they can be a nuisance, particularly if you use it for swimming or water sports.

Death by Winter Frost

During the winter, leeches don’t die. They ball up and burrow in the mud just below the frost line, nice and cozy, where they hibernate through the cold temperatures. In the spring, they’ll return to their bloodsucking ways.

If temperatures fall below freezing where you live, one wintertime leech-control trick is to manipulate the water level in your pond. Drop the water level at least 4 feet after ice has started to form on the pond. This will freeze the leeches that were living in the shallow underwater mud. It’s an effective method, but it could also kill other aquatic life burrowed in the mud.

Controlling Leeches

Sure, they’re part of the ecosystem, but no one likes climbing onto the dock with their legs covered in leeches, right? There are several ways to trap and control those bloodsuckers.

  1. Capture them in tiny traps. Punch leech-size holes in a coffee or aluminum can with a lid, bait it with raw chicken or fish heads, and position it in a shallow area of your pond. When the leeches climb in for a meal, they can’t escape because their full bellies will prevent them from exiting. Remove the can once it’s full and repeat until the leeches are gone.
  2. Control them with leech-grubbing fish. Your finned friends will savor the protein-rich treats. Fall is the perfect time to add more fish to your pond—and leech control is a perfect excuse to boost your game fish population. Red-ear sunfish are particularly fond of leeches.
  3. Destroy their habitat. Because leeches live in the muck and detritus in the shallow areas of your pond or lake, keep up with weed maintenance so you’re not creating a hospitable habitat for them. Remove shoreline vegetation with weed removal tools, cut and rake out dead organic debris from the water and add natural bacteria to break down the muck.

Pond Talk: How do you control leeches in your lake?

Cut Through Tough Pond Weeds - The Pond Guy® 28” Weed Cutter

This is my first winter with a pond. Do I need to bring in my plants? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: This is my first winter with a pond. Do I need to bring in my plants?

Q: This is my first winter with a pond. Do I need to bring in my plants?

Bonnie – Dover, NJ

A:  You’ve been watching your aquatic plants flourish all year. Your water lilies and hyacinth put off big blooms, your irises and cattails became homes for frogs and dragonflies, and your submerged plants provided a home for your fish and snails.

With the cold weather on its way, now what do you do with them? Well, it all depends on where you live and what types of plants you have.

In the Zone

What’s your hardiness zone? The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map will help you determine which plants will thrive in a particular location. The map is based on the average annual minimum winter temperature, divided into 10-degree Fahrenheit zones.

In general, if you live in a hardiness zone that’s frost-free, congratulations! All you need to do is trim off dead foliage with your Scissors & Pliers, fertilize the plants as necessary and enjoy them all year round.

If you live in an area that freezes, however, you have some work to do.

Like terrestrial plants, aquatic plants – whether floating, marginal or submerged – are sensitive in varying degrees to freezing temperatures. Some species will overwinter just fine in frostier hardiness zones, while others will wilt and die at the slightest hint of ice.

So before you do anything, get to know your plants and identify which ones are in your zone and which ones aren’t.

Overwintering Your Plants

Winter care of water lilies, marginal/bog plants and submerged plants will depend on if they’re tropical (anything that likes temperatures above your hardiness zone) or hardy (anything geared for temperatures in your hardiness zone or lower).

  • Tropical Plants: These sensitive beauties, including tropical water lilies and canna, will need to be removed from the pond and replaced next season, or removed and relocated to a warm indoor space for winter. Read about how to overwinter tropical water lilies in this recent blog post.
  • Hardy Plants: These easy-care troopers, including hardy water lilies and submerged plants, only need to have dead foliage removed after the first hard frost. Simply use your AquaGloves™ and Scissors & Pliers to trim away any spent leaves, lily pads or flowers. Once trimmed, sink the plants to the deepest part of your pond. Hardy plants will go dormant for the winter and regrow in the spring.

Floating plants, like hyacinth and water lettuce, can be treated like an annual; they will die over the winter, so remove them from your pond once they begin to yellow. Luckily, they’re inexpensive to replace and will grow quickly once re-added. Please note: hyacinth and water lettuce can be invasive so be sure to dispose of them properly and never release into public water.

Good luck caring for your first winter pond!

Pond Talk: What advice about overwintering can you share with this new pond owner?

Quickly Trim Away Dormant Plants - Pond Scissors & Pliers

I have a lot of leaves blowing into my pond. Will the bacteria still work this time of year? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I have a lot of leaves blowing into my pond. Will the bacteria still work this time of year?

Q: I have a lot of leaves blowing into my pond. Will the bacteria still work this time of year?

Austin – Breesport, NY

A: Leaves. There’s really no getting around them. Every fall, those deciduous trees drop their colorful foliage and leave behind a headache for those who have to clean them up.

Natural bacteria will do a great job breaking down the fallen leaves in your pond or lake – but only when water temperatures are above 50° F. Take your pond’s temperature with a pond thermometer; as long as your water is at or above that 50° F mark, keep using MuckAway™ and PondClear™. The microorganisms in those products will continue to work hard to break down organic debris.

Going into winter as temperatures dip below that number, however, the bacteria go on vacation. But there are some things you can do to keep your pond healthy as the cooler weather approaches. Here’s what we recommend.

  1. Rake Up the Leaves: As powerful as natural bacteria are, they will still take a long time to break down fresh leaves that blow into your pond. Help those microorganisms out by raking up and disposing of as many leaves as possible.
  2. Rake Out the Leaves: If they do float into your pond, use a Pond & Beach Rake or Weed Raker to skim and rake those leaves out of your pond. If an abundance of leaves remains in the pond as ice begins to form, this could lead to poor water quality. As the leaves continue to break down, they will release toxic gases that will edge out available oxygen – and if there is ice covering your pond, that’s bad news for your fish.
  3. Aerate All Winter: Unless you plan to use your pond or lake as an ice rink this winter, keep your aeration system running. This will help keep a hole in the ice, circulate the water and keep your oxygen levels higher.
  4. Maintain Your Landscape: In addition to raking up leaves around your pond, keep the foliage around your pond maintained. Prevent that organic debris from getting into the water and turning into algae and pond weed fertilizer.

Bottom line: Yes, bacteria will still work while temperatures are above 50° F, but help them out by removing as much leaf litter and organic debris as possible. There’s no way to fully prevent leaves from falling into your pond – but the fewer that do, the better.

Pond Talk: Have leaves started falling in your neck of the woods yet?

Remove Leaves & Debris - The Pond Guy® Pond & Beach Rake

I changed the air filter on my compressor, but it’s still not pumping much air. Is it time for a maintenance kit? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I changed the air filter on my compressor, but it’s still not pumping much air. Is it time for a maintenance kit?

Q: I changed the air filter on my compressor, but it’s still not pumping much air. Is it time for a maintenance kit?

Doug – Hamilton, KY

A: Regular maintenance will extend the life of your compressor, but an air compressor can lose its pumping power for a number of reasons. To help deduce what the problem could be, start with a quick evaluation:

  • Is your air filter cleaned or replaced? (Check!)
  • Is your intake filter and aeration cabinet clean?
  • Have you checked the diffusers for clean membrane sticks?
  • Have you checked your airline for any loose connections?

If you’ve checked off these chores and your compressor is still low on the air flow, it might be time for a maintenance kit – especially if it’s been a while since you’ve installed one.

Maintenance kits are available for both shallow water (diaphragm) and deep water (piston) compressors. They include replaceable parts like O-rings, seals and hardware that’ll get your compressor humming again. You’ll need some basic tools, like a screw driver and Allen wrench, but they’re fairly easy to install. Simply watch one of our kit installation maintenance videos and follow the included step-by-step instructions.

If you need specific replacement parts, like an air filter, diffuser stick or extra air line, be sure to check our inventory. Chances are good we’ll have just what you need.

Waiting too long to install a maintenance kit could cause the device to become too warm, which will hasten the breakdown of those replaceable parts. Before long, you’ll need to replace the compressor. Save your money: Take the time to maintain your current compressor instead of spending a pretty penny on a new one!

Plus, if you plan on running your aeration system this coming winter, do your maintenance now so you don’t have to chip your system out of the ice in the middle of a cold snap.

Pond Talk: How often do you do basic maintenance on your air compressor?

Restore Aeration to Full Potential - Piston Compressor Maintenance Kits

How do I winterize my tropical lilies? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: How do I winterize my tropical lilies?

Q: How do I winterize my tropical lilies?

Marilyn – Morton, IL

A:  Vivid and fragrant, tropical water lilies are the floating jewels of a pond. If you live in USDA Hardiness Zone 9 or lower, you’ll need to take extra special care of these warm-weather-loving beauties over the cold season. To overwinter tropical water lilies, you have two choices: send them into dormancy or keep them growing.

Going Dormant for Winter

If you decide to send your water lilies into dormancy for the winter, stop fertilizing them in the fall to slow their growth and help them prepare their tubers for winter. After the first frost, pull out your Aqua Gloves™ and follow these step-by-step instructions:

  1. First, remove the lily and planting basket from the pond. Using your hands, dig around in the soil just below the plant’s crown to feel for the tubers. They normally range in size from an acorn to golf ball, but they can be smaller or larger.
  2. Take out the tubers and rinse each one very well with a strong stream of water. Use your pond scissors to trim off remnants of roots or stems. If small tubers are growing on a larger tuber, remove them and store them—they could turn into new lilies plants next year!
  3. Store the tubers in a plastic bag or glass jar that’s filled with damp (not wet!) peat moss, sphagnum moss or sand. Consider dusting them with a fungicide before sealing them up. Keep the container in a room that stays warmer than 50° F.
  4. Once a month through the winter, check on your tubers to be sure they’re still damp. Spritz them with water if they get dry.
  5. When water temperatures climb back to 60° F in the spring, replant the tubers in a planting basket filled with fresh, fertile soil. Position them just below the surface with the pointy side up and round side down.

Keep Them Growing

If you decide to keep your water lilies growing over the winter, set up a space in your home for a grow light and an aquarium or lined indoor pond. After the first frost, take the lilies and their planting baskets inside and follow these tips:

  1. First, trim off the largest leaves and any dead, dry or damaged leaves with your pond scissors.
  2. Place the planting baskets and plants inside in an aquarium or lined pond filled with water.
  3. Keep the water temperature above 60° F, and use a grow light to keep the lilies growing slowly over the winter.
  4. Once the weather outside warms and your pond’s water temperature climbs back to 60° F, transplant your lilies or add some fertilizer to their existing soil and submerge them.

Overwintering tropical water lilies isn’t hard, but it does require some space and planning. Good luck!

Pond Talk: What tips can you share for overwintering tropical water lilies?

Keep Your Hands & Arms Dry - Coralife® Aqua Gloves™


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