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I don’t have a pond, so I have no fish or filter to worry about. Can I still run my water feature? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I don’t have a pond, so I have no fish or filter to worry about. Can I still run my water feature?

Q: I don’t have a pond, so I have no fish or filter to worry about. Can I still run my water feature?

Julie – Castleton, NY

A:  Though we generally recommend folks shut down their pondless features in the winter, you can absolutely run it year-round—as long as you’re prepared to add a few winter chores to your to-do list.

Keep It Running
Because they don’t have filtration systems to fuss with or fish to care for, pondless and other small features really don’t require much winter care. Periodically, however, inspect it and check for the following:

  • Flowing Water: To prevent water from freezing in the feature’s plumbing during cold temperatures, keep water running at all times. The movement will minimize ice buildup.
  • No Ice Dams: Keep an eye on the ice formations around your feature. Make sure ice is not redirecting water out of the water feature. If so, melt it with warm water.
  • Refill as Needed: You’ll need to top off the water level through the cold season, so keep a water supply available to refill your feature as needed. A hose-warming device like our Thermo-Hose™ will keep your water supply flowing for feature refills.

Shut It Down
If you don’t want to mess with these chores, shut your water feature down for the season and store the pieces and parts until next spring. Here’s a quick three-step checklist to follow:

  • Scrub Down: First, give your feature a thorough cleaning. Use Oxy-Lift™ to help break debris from the rocks and waterfall, gently scrub as needed and rinse well.
  • Remove Pump: Next, empty out water basins and remove your pump for winter storage. Drain the tubing and store the pump in a bucket of water to keep the seals moist so they don’t dry out and crack.
  • Store Décor: Finally, disconnect and store any fragile water feature parts, like spitters or decorative vases in your garage or basement. Take temperature-sensitive plants inside for the winter, too.

Yes, sitting beside a gurgling waterfall on a frosty winter’s eve is a splendid way to relax after a long day (especially if you have a hot cup of tea and a patio heater cranked on!). But giving your feature a break for the winter while you stay warm and dry is a nice idea, too. Whatever route you choose, enjoy!

Pond Talk: How do you keep your pondless water feature running through the winter?

Quickly Lift Debris From Waterfalls - Pond Logic® Oxy-Lift™ Defense®

How large of a hole will an aeration system keep open in the ice? I like to keep open water for ducks. | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: How large of a hole will an aeration system keep open in the ice? I like to keep open water for ducks.

Q: How large of a hole will an aeration system keep open in the ice? I like to keep open water for ducks.

Mark – Concord, VT

A: No doubt those ducks will appreciate some open water in the winter, and an aerator is the best way to keep that hole open for them. Many factors will affect the hole’s size and how long it will remain open, but here are three important points to consider:

  1. Size of the System: Larger aeration systems will move more water, and all that water movement will create a larger hole that will stay open longer. If you want a bigger open area, consider a beefier aeration system.
  2. Depth of Water: Water depth matters, too. An ice-free open area in deep water is more difficult to maintain than one in shallow water, where there will be more water movement at the surface. If possible, plan your open water in the shallow areas of your pond.
  3. Weather: Mother Nature has her say, too. When it’s cold and windy, it’ll be more difficult to keep that opening ice-free. In fact, frigid temperatures can restrict the hole down to a couple of feet or less! But when the weather warms up, the hole can open to areas of 10 feet or more.

Ideally an aeration system should be matched to your pond’s size and shape, and run all season. Diffusers can then be moved to shallow water for the ducks during winter. Simply place the diffusers evenly across a small area in the shallow part of your pond so they can work together to keep a larger area open. Watch the video below for tips on installing Airmax® Aeration Systems:

This winter, those lucky ducks will have a place to float!

Pond Talk: What kinds of birds visit your pond in the winter?

Maximum Shallow Water Circulation - Airmax® Shallow Water Series™ Aeration Systems

How do I get my aeration system ready for winter? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: How do I get my aeration system ready for winter?

Q: How do I get my aeration system ready for winter?

Lonnie – Aspera, PA

A: Operating your aerator year-round delivers a boatload of benefits to your pond or lake. The water movement created by the aerator forms a hole in frozen winter ice, allowing for gas exchange and keeping water open and available for visiting wildlife. Below the surface, it helps to break down leaves and debris, which means less cleaning and easier maintenance come spring. Aeration also circulates the water column, infusing it with oxygen for your fish and plants.

Unless you plan on doing winter activities on your pond, like figure skating, ice fishing or playing ice hockey, we highly recommend running your Airmax® Aeration System all year long. Here are five winter tasks to add to your to-do list:

  1. Move your diffuser plates to shallower water. Following your aerator manual’s recommendations, move the plates from the deepest areas of your pond to shallower areas. This will give your hibernating fish a warmer place to hunker down when the water temperatures get especially chilly. When the plates are closer to the surface, they will also help to keep a hole open in the ice. If you have a larger system, plan to completely shut down some of the valves.
  2. Clean filters and inspect your compressor. Have you cleaned your air filter in the past three to six months? Have you checked your intake pre-filter? If not, they likely need some attention—and possible replacement if it’s been too long. Also consider installing a maintenance kit to keep your compressor running in top condition. The video below demonstrates compressor maintenance for PondSeries™ Aeration Systems.

  3. Check the aerator regularly throughout the winter. After a heavy snow or a storm, head out to the pond and inspect your aeration unit. Remove snow that has accumulated around the unit, particularly any that’s blocking the air discharge vent. If you lost power during a storm, check your GFCI; you may have to reset it.
  4. Keep alcohol on hand. In case condensation causes your airlines to freeze over the cold months, keep some isopropyl alcohol on hand to defrost them. It’s easy: Use 1 cup isopropyl alcohol in the airline running out to each plate. Turn on the compressor to push the alcohol through the line and free any ice blockage.
  5. Be smart and safe. When your aerator is on during the winter, the ice that forms can be thin and uneven. The constant friction created by the aerating water weakens the ice that forms, and that could be downright dangerous. Make sure you post a “Danger—Thin Ice” sign and keep safety equipment out by your pond. A life ring, rope, blankets and a first aid kit are critical items to have on hand.

If you do plan to remove your aeration system for the winter, here’s what we recommend: First, unplug the system. Then disconnect compressor flex-tubes from the airlines and cover the airline ends with winterization caps to prevent debris from entering airline. Move the cabinet and compressor inside to keep it dry.

Pond Talk: What plans do you have for your pond or lake this winter?

Promote Pond Health Year Round - Airmax® PondSeries™ Aeration System

My water garden doesn’t ice over, but the water gets cold. Can I still use barley extract during the winter? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: My water garden doesn’t ice over, but the water gets cold. Can I still use barley extract during the winter?

Q: My water garden doesn’t ice over, but the water gets cold. Can I still use barley extract during the winter?

Mary – Marietta, GA

A:  Barley straw is effective stuff. It’s an all-natural, chemical-free option for keeping pond water clear. And the best part? The temperature-tolerant natural pond treatment can be used year-round—even if your pond’s water gets cold.

Ever wonder how this seemingly innocuous bale of dried barley straw works? Read on to learn more.

It’s Science!

Though researchers have yet to precisely pinpoint how barley straw works, it’s generally believed that as a barley straw bale breaks down in water, it produces and releases many chemical compounds—and one of them may promote clearer pond water.

It has not been found to harm fish, water fowl or pond inhabitants in any way and, in fact, some studies suggest the straw benefits fish health.

Pond Particulars

When using barley straw in a water garden or backyard pond, forward-thinking hobbyists originally placed bales of it in their waterfall filter boxes, skimmers or waterfall areas where it would decompose. Things have sure changed! Those unwieldy bales have since been replaced by compressed, easy-to-use pellets and barley extract, which is basically the good stuff in a bottle.

If you’re thinking about using barley straw in your water garden, you have more options than ever. Check out these four popular methods:

  • Barley Straw Bales: Typically available loose in a mesh bag, small bales of barley straw can be placed in the pond several months before pond clarity issues are expected to occur (around March or April, depending on your climate) as the straw must start to decompose before it releases it’s special compunds. In a 1,000-gallon pond, 1 pounds of barley straw is needed, but it should be replaced every four to six months. Keep the straw well-aerated, floating it near your waterfall or stream or in shallow water. Don’t leave it in your pond beyond its prime time, however, because it can eventually become a nutrient source for algae.
  • Barley Pellets: Compressed into a compact form, Barley Straw Pellets also contain all the beneficial substances found in barley straw without the unsightly look of bales, pillows or pads. The pellets may also buffer pH and control alkalinity in your pond. A 6-pound bag will treat an 800-gallon pond for up to six months; a 12-pound bag will treat a 1,600-gallon pond for up to six months.
  • Barley Extract: Offering the benefits of barley straw without the mess or unsightly bale floating in your pond, Barley Straw Extract contains those beneficial substances in liquid form. Because you don’t have to wait for the barley straw to decompose, it goes to work on contact. An 8-ounce container treats up to 4,000 gallons for three months; a 16-ounce bottle treats up to 8,000 gallons for three months.
  • Seasonal Defense®: Seasonal Defense® gives you the power of activated barley straw with an additional punch of natural bacteria in one simple treatment. Used when water temperatures drop below 50°F, Seasonal Defense® helps break down muck caused by leaves, scum and sediment.

No matter what form you choose, barley straw extract is a good tool to keep in your water garden tool chest. It’s an effective solution you’ll use all year round.

Pond Talk: Have you used barley straw extract in your pond? Were you satisfied with the results?

Benefits Of Barley Without The Mess - Pond Logic® Barley Extract

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

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