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If I’m going to shut my aerator down for the winter, when should I do it? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: If I’m going to shut my aerator down for the winter, when should I do it?

Q: If I’m going to shut my aerator down for the winter, when should I do it?

Syd – Jackson, WY

A: Ice skating, hockey, curling, broomball, ice fishing—part of the joy of having your own pond or lake is all the wintertime sports that can be played on the ice. These frosty, fun activities are the main reason why folks shut down their aerator for the winter, as keeping one running will create a hole in the ice and make the ice sheet unstable.

If you plan to turn your lake into an ice rink this year, turn off, pull out and store your aerator before the ice begins to form. Why? Because if ice that forms on the water surface has been moving for even a short time, it can be porous and not suitable for skating. Even movement on one end of the lake and not the other can make the ice at the edges unsafe.

Here’s the shutdown process we recommend:

  1. Unplug and shut your aeration system down completely. It’s critical to do this before the ice starts to build on your pond’s or lake’s surface for the safety of those who will skate on the pond.
  2. Stow the cabinet and compressor away. Your airline and plate may stay in the pond, but the system’s cabinet and compressor should be stored indoors to keep dry and prevent condensation and rusting.
  3. Cover flex tube and airlines ends. Doing so will prevent debris from entering and plugging up the airlines.
  4. Have an emergency plan, just in case. While you’re prepping your lake for ice skating fun, now’s a good time to make sure you have water safety items available, too, like a Taylor Made Life Ring. If the ice breaks, a safety preserver like this can save someone’s life.

If you’re not using your pond for winter activities, keep your Airmax® Aeration System operating all season long so your fish will survive a winter fish kill caused by lack of oxygen. Don’t forget to move your diffuser plates out of the deepest water. This will give your finned friends a safe zone and prevent the super-cooling effect that happens in the chilled winter water.

Pond Talk: What are your favorite wintertime sports?

Be Prepared for any Pond Scenario - Taylor Made Life Rings

The leaves are just starting to fall..I see netting for water gardens to keep the leaves out, do they make anything like this for large ponds? | Pond & Lake Q&A

The leaves are just starting to fall..I see netting for water gardens to keep the leaves out, do they make anything like this for large ponds?

The leaves are just starting to fall..I see netting for water gardens to keep the leaves out, do they make anything like this for large ponds?

Bryan – Traverse City, MI

When fall comes around, leaves and ponds seem to have a magnetic attraction to one another. And while netting is available in essentially any size you might need, it’s a cumbersome solution for larger ponds. Simply spreading the netting over a large pond is a major undertaking – and the impracticality of installing posts throughout your pond to keep leaf-covered netting from sinking makes other solutions look much more attractive.

At The Pond Guy, we strongly recommend aeration and chemical treatments to address inevitable leaf buildup for customers with large ponds. When you browse our web site, you’ll notice a wide range of Airmax® Aeration products. These aeration systems enable the pond to break down leaves quickly and naturally by keeping pond water moving – and the entire pond well oxygenated. When coupled with the beneficial bacteria in Pond Logic® PondClear™ Pond Logic® EcoBoost™ and Pond Logic® MuckAway™, fallen leaves break down in no time to keep water clear, and both fish and plants healthy.

As an added measure in the fight against falling leaves and debris, you should also consider the use of a pond rake. With the regular use of our Airmax® Pond & Beach Rake, you can easily remove excessive leaves and debris in no time flat.

Pond Talk: How do you keep fall leaves from accumulating in your pond?

Airmax Aeration

I shut my aerator off for the winter, will I have to introduce it slowly again in the spring? | Pond & Lakes Q&A

I shut my aerator off for the winter, will I have to introduce it slowly again in the spring?

I shut my aerator off for the winter, will I have to introduce it slowly again in the spring?

George – Albany, NY

As pond owners we buy aeration systems for our water bodies with the intentions of creating a cleaner and healthier environment for both ourselves and our fish. While aeration systems are great at eliminating water stratification and promoting the ideal environment for a healthy pond, the key to proper use is proper installation.

The surface of your pond reacts to the ambient air temperature and warmth from the sun considerably faster than deeper regions. As we head into spring the temperature will begin to rise as the sun shines down on your pond. The top layer of water in your pond will begin to warm up quickly while the bottom of your pond stays dark and cold. Furthermore, the surface of your pond is exposed to oxygen which is naturally wicked into the water column but remains only in the upper layers. This formation of warmer and cooler layers of water is known as stratification. Stratification can become a potential hazard as the two different layers of water will sometimes flip or “turnover” and mix together causing a sudden change in water temperature and dissolved oxygen levels which, depending on its severity, can make it difficult for your fish to adapt to the quickly changing environment.

Airmax Aeration Systems are designed to infuse oxygen into your water column from the bottom of the pond while continuously circulating the water. This constant action aids to prevent water stratification for occurring. However, when aeration is introduced suddenly and continuous to your pond you are, in essence, creating a man-made turnover by forcing all of the water at the bottom of your pond to the surface.

When installing an aeration system in your pond, or upon reintroduction of your system after winter removal, you will want to run your system in small increments that grow in duration over the course of a week. Think of this process as the same way you acclimate new fish to your pond. You wouldn’t just grab a new fish by the tail and toss them in your pond, you float their holding container in your pond and slowly mix some of the water together to give them time to adjust to the variations in each environment. By running your aeration system for only an hour the first day you install it and doubling the run time each day after, your aeration system will be running continuously by the end of the week while keeping your fish safe from pond turnovers.

Pond Talk: Have you ever experienced turnover in your pond? Share your stories with potential aeration newcomers and pond veterans alike.

Keep your pond healthy all year long!

How do I know if I have proper aeration? – Pond & Lake Q & A

Don’t Under Aerate
How do I know if I have proper aeration? Felipe – Moscow, ID

The bigger the better when it comes to aeration.

When purchasing your aeration system you were told it will promote a clean, healthy pond with less algae and clear water. With more and more customers installing aeration systems in their ponds now may be a good time to discuss some of the assumptions and mistakes made when choosing an aeration system.

An aeration system can make the difference when it comes to your pond’s health, so selecting the right system can be very important.  In the long-run there is no free lunch.  If you try to “Make Do” with a smaller aeration system than what is recommend, it may come back to haunt you.  When an aeration system is sized correctly it will eliminate any thermoclines (thermoclines are a separation of water based on temperature). Have you ever swam in your pond and felt very cold water at your feet? Most pond owners believe this is a spring, when in reality, it’s caused by a thermocline. Proper aeration improves water quality, breaks down organic debris (muck) and improves the overall ecosystem in your pond.  Aeration works by circulating the entire pond’s water column from top to bottom.  The tiny bubbles created by the diffuser forces cool oxygen deprived water from the bottom depths all the way to the pond’s surface. This circulation drives oxygen to the bottom of the pond allowing “good” bacteria to digest muck, reducing nutrients and increase the overall dissolved oxygen in the pond.  If the system is undersized it will not create uniform circulation and simply pump small amounts of the cool nutrient-rich water from the bottom of your pond to the top.  This is the equivalent of adding fertilizer to your pond.  This can result in additional algae growth, odors and even fish kills.  This can all be especially true during the warmer months of the year.

If you currently have an aeration system running and you are not sure if it is sized correctly, there is an easy way to tell with a thermometer and long string.  You will use the string to extend the reach of the thermometer taking temperature readings every 24 inches, letting the thermometer rest long enough to get the true temperature reading at your desired depth.  Take readings every 24 inches until you reach the bottom of your pond. If there is more then a few degrees difference in any of your temperature readings you are more then likely under aerating your pond.

If you haven’t purchased an aeration system yet take advantage of The Pond Guys and Gals, we offer free aeration mapping and technical support.

Don’t Under Aerate

What’s the best way to acclimate new fish to my pond? – Pond & Lake Q & A

Float for 30 minutes.

Pond & Lake Q & A

Q: What’s the best way to acclimate new fish to my pond? – Lafayette in Maryland

A: So, you’ve been to the fish farm, picked out your fingerlings, brought them home, and now they’re sitting in plastic bags or tubs waiting to dive into your farm pond. Unfortunately, you can’t just pour them in. In order for these little fish to survive and thrive, you’ll want to slowly acclimate them to your pond’s water and its temperature.

Here are some tips to make it easy:

  • Oxygenate: When you pick up your fish, most farms will pack your fish in plastic bags with water and oxygen; the fish will be fine for several hours. But if you transported your fish in barrels, keep in mind that they will quickly run out of oxygen unless supplemented with an air stone or air diffuser, like the Laguna® Mini Aeration Kit.
  • Float for 30 minutes: The most widely used method of acclimating your fish to the pond is to float the unopened bag in the pond for about a half hour. This allows a gradual change in the water temperature until the water inside is the same as the water outside, at which point you can open the bag and release the fish into the pond.
  • Just add water: If you transported your fish in barrels or containers, use a bucket to add water from the pond to the barrel. This will gradually change the temperature and will provide some additional oxygen for the fish. Check your water temperature with a fish-safe thermometer, and once it has stabilized, pour your fish into the lake.
  • Remember, take it slow: Patience is critical when acclimating your fish to the pond’s new water temperature. Rapid changes in temperature may weaken the immune systems of your fish and make them prone to infection or – worst case – cause the fish to die immediately.

    POND TALK: How have you acclimated fish to your farm pond or lake?

    Can a Fountain Provide My Pond Sufficient Aeration? – Pond & Lake Q & A

    Picture of a "V" Patterned Fountain.

    Pond & Lake Q & A

    Q: I would really like to have a fountain in my pond and I know I need aeration. Will a fountain aerate my pond? – Nathan of Florida

    A: Having a fountain in your pond is a great way to add tranquility to your home. To sit out on the deck and see a beautiful fountain

    display as well as hear that relaxing sound of water. What more could you ask for? Many people are drawn to a fountain’s show-stopping appeal, but will they aerate a pond as well? The answer to this really depends on a couple factors: the pond’s depth and the type of fountain pattern the fountain is using.

    Pond’s Depth: Fountains can be great aerators when the pond is less than 6′ of depth. The reason for this is because the best way to aerate is to circulate the whole body of water at the same time. A fountain will only draw water from the top of the water column, which is water that already contains oxygen from the air to water oxygen transfer. The pond’s bottom will remain untouched if it is deeper than 6′. If your pond is less than 6′ deep, then all you have to worry about is the spray pattern.

    Fountain Spray Pattern: The spray pattern of a fountain makes a huge difference in how much aeration is produced. Usually the more decorative the spray pattern, the less likely it is to aerate your pond properly. This is because more energy is spent on creating the decorative pattern than there is moving the water. The best spray pattern to use for a fountain is a “V” patterned fountain like the picture above

    If your pond is deeper than 6′ of depth, than the best method of aeration would be an Airmax Aeration System. The Airmax Aeration System diffuser will pump air down to the bottom of the pond, and the resulting column of rising bubbles lifts and aerates the water. By starting from the bottom, up, this will ensure that the whole body of water is properly circulated as well as aerated.

    Why Did My Fish Die Over the Winter? – Pond & Lake Q & A

    Illustration of No Aeration Versus with Airmax Aeration

    Pond & Lake Q & A

    Q: I lost all of my fish after the winter. We love to catch fish in the pond and now we have to start over! What happened? And is there anything I can do to prevent this from happening again? – Alfred of Michigan

    A: My first thought when I read this question was, “They don’t have an aeration system”. And after speaking with him, come to find out, he didn’t. This is usually always the case during a winter fish kill. Everything seems to be going just fine when all of a sudden one morning you wake up to discover a wave of fish floating on your pond’s surface. This is not a pretty sight, nor is it any fun to clean up. So what causes fish kill and what can you do to prevent it?

    What Causes Fish Kill?
    During the warmer months of the year a pond with no aeration will contain oxygen towards the surface of the pond. This is because there is an oxygen transfer from air to water at the pond’s surface. The bottom of the pond, however, will contain very little or no oxygen; Certainly not enough to support fish life. Also, the toxins associated with fish waste and other organic biodegradation tend to sink and stay at those lower depths of the pond, polluting the already oxygen-starved water. This unfortunately, condenses your fishes’ habitat area and forces them to live towards the surface of the pond.

    There is also a difference in temperature from the bottom of the pond to the surface. The bottom of the pond will be colder than the pond’s surface. The reason for this is because the sun will heat up the surface of the water and since cold water is denser than warmer water, the cold water will fall to the bottom. This difference in temperatures can be quite dramatic at times. Have you ever jumped into a pond and felt the brisk cold water towards your feet? This is the thermocline border. This dramatic change in temperature can cause your fish to stress as they travel from a warm temperature to a cold temperature and back to warm. This stress can lower their immune systems.

    During the colder months of the year, the oxygen as well as the thermocline will actually flip. All of a sudden the colder water containing no oxygen will mix with the warmer water with oxygen. As this mixing occurs, the fish are left with few places to go for oxygen and they will eventually suffocate.

    Another issue during the winter are toxic gasses. As bottom organics (grass clippings, leaves, trees, twigs, fish waste, etc.) decay, they will create toxic gasses. When ice covers the pond’s surface, these toxic gasses are trapped underneath the ice and will cause a fish kill.

    Preventing Fish Kills
    Using an Airmax Aeration System is the single most important way to help prevent winter fish kills. The reasons are simple: With an Airmax Aeration System, a compressor sits on shore and pumps air down to a diffuser on the pond’s bottom. This air forces the cold water containing no oxygen to the pond’s surface. This water, because it is denser, will fall back to the pond’s bottom. This cycle will repeat and create a convection or current within the water column. This will fill the whole water body with oxygen as well as maintain the same temperature level throughout the pond (see illustration on left).

    Also, during the winter months, when ice has covered the surface of the pond. An Airmax Aeration System will keep a small hole open in the ice to allow those toxic gases to escape.

    The Bottom Line: Having aeration will help reduce the chances of fish kill. Also, remember that this is one of many benefits of having an aeration system (Refer to this blog post for the other benefits of aeration).

    How Would I Know If My Pond Has Sufficient Aeration? – Pond & Lake Q & A

    Comparing No Aeration, Under Aerating & Sufficient Aeration

    Q: How would I know if my pond has sufficient aeration? What would happen if my pond was “under” aerated?
    - Joe of Michigan

    A: The best way to test to see if your pond is sufficiently aerated is by taking the temperature of the water one foot below the pond’s surface as well as the bottom. If there is a difference of more than 3 degrees Fahrenheit, then the pond is not sufficiently aerated and you may need to add additional diffusers or relocate the diffuser that you have.

    Next, to answer the, “What would happen if my pond was “under” aerated?” question, lets compare a pond with no aeration, a pond that is under aerated and a pond with sufficient aeration.

    A Pond with No Aeration: With no aeration present, the water is stratified (aka has a thermocline). Meaning that the water at the top is warmer and full of oxygen while on the bottom the water is cooler, nutrient rich and contains no oxygen. This causes the fish to habitat towards the surface of the pond. As the seasons change from the hot summer to cold winter, the pond goes through a process known as “turnover”. This is when the cooler water at the bottom of the pond, mixes with the warmer water at the pond’s surface. Since the rising cooler water contains no oxygen, the chances of a fish kill are imminent.

    A Pond that is Under Aerated: When a pond is under aerated, the thermocline is not eliminated, only dropped further down towards the pond’s bottom. This can cause constant problems. As the bottom bubbler aerates, the bottom, nutrient rich water is lifted to the pond’s surface. These nutrients are now constantly available for algae to grow. More importantly, the water that is being lifted by the bubbler also contains no oxygen, thus increasing the possibility of creating turnover and killing the fish.

    A Pond with Sufficient Aeration: You may ask, “Since the nutrients are still being brought to the surface, won’t an algae bloom and turnover still happen even if a pond is properly aerated?”

    When an aeration system is initially installed, it should be started at a slow pace to prevent creating turnover (See blog “When & How to Start Your Aeration System” for more information). As for algae, initially, when the nutrients are pushed towards the surface, algae will have the chance to bloom. As time progresses, however, the thermocline will be eliminated, the nutrients will be flushed out and the fish may now habitat the whole body of water.

    Will a Fountain Aerate My Pond? – Pond & Lake Q & A

    Picture of a Fountain

    Q: Will a fountain aerate my pond? - Several Customers

    A: When it comes to fountains, I always tell customers that they are more for decoration than they are for aeration, but there are exceptions. Since fountains rest on the water’s surface, they tend to only pull water from 6′ of depth or less. Thus, if the pond is no more than 6′ deep at the deepest point, a fountain becomes an option for aeration. If the pond’s depth is greater than 6′ of depth than a bottom bubbler aerator would be our recommendation. The best aeration concept would be the use both. By placing a bottom bubbler underneath a fountain, you create the ideal conditional for total pond aeration.

    Do I Need Aeration in the Hot Summer Months? – Pond & Lake Q & A

    Picture of Three Diffusers in a Bottom Bubbler Aerator

    Q: Do I need aeration in the hot summer months?
    - Several Customers

    A: We are just starting to enter into the hottest days of summer. Are you and your pond prepared to deal with the scorching heat? The need for aeration in your pond during these temperatures is far greater than any other part of the year. Although most pond owners are aware of this fact, few know the true reasons behind the need.

    The Need For Aeration
    First, let’s start with the actual need for aeration in your pond. Every pond is a “time bomb” just waiting to go off. A pond that has just been excavated is usually nutrient free, making it easy to take care of. This stage in a ponds life is called Stage 1, and may only last one year depending on nutrient inputs. Man-made ponds and lakes tend to gain large amounts of nutrients in a short period of time, often after only a couple years of existence. When a pond enters this period of excess nutrients, it is called Stage 2. Once a pond enters this stage, you will begin to experience large amounts of algae and weed growth. Also during this stage the pond will develop a large buildup of organic debris at the bottom of the pond called “muck”. The “muck” in your pond will slowly decompose and release nutrients into the water column. These excess nutrients will cause more weed and algae growth. Along with the nutrient spike, the water body will also experience a rise in toxic gas levels. Also, when organic material decomposes, it uses oxygen in the water, causing dangerously low oxygen levels in the depths of your pond. Because ponds without aeration normally become thermally stratified, the toxic gasses created on the bottom buildup in the cool water underneath. A change in temperature, a heavy rain, or sometimes even high winds can turn the water over allowing the toxic, oxygen-deprived water at the bottom to mix into the top layer leaving your fish without oxygen and causing a fish kill.

    Fountains vs. Bottom Bubblers
    Many pond owners will turn to fountain aeration or surface aerators to experience some form of aesthetics for their dollar. While fountains are aesthetically pleasing, they will only draw surface waters. This leaves the bottom of the pond uncirculated and does nothing to eliminate toxic gases underneath. A better alternative is to consider a bottom bubbler. The bottom bubbler will circulate the entire water column, and eliminating the thermocline. This allows the organisms present to utilize the entire pond, not just the upper layer. The best option for a bottom bubbler is the Airmax® Aeration system. In combination with aerobic, “muck” eating bacteria (such as Pond Clear Natural Bacteria), the system can eliminate up to 5 inches of “muck” per year.

    How Airmax® Aeration Works
    The system consists of a high quality air compressor which is mounted in a cabinet housing unit. The compressor pumps air through a lead free self-weighted air hose and out of the diffuser plate on the pond bottom. The diffuser assembly comes with air stones that inject oxygen into the pond directly and create a column of medium bubbles lift and circulate the entire water body. This keeps the oxygen levels even throughout the pond or lake. Something that is important to keep in mind is how to run the compressor. The aerator is as simple to run as plugging in the cord, and to reduce stress on organisms in the pond you should follow this start-up procedure.

    Starting Up Your Airmax® Aeration System
    When an aerator is first installed it is important that you don’t begin running it constantly right away. If the aerator rotates the water column too quickly, it can actually cause a fish kill by moving the toxic gases throughout the pond in one fell swoop. The best route to take is to run the aerator for only 30 minutes on its first day, then shutting it off for the remainder of that day. The second day you should run the aeration system for one full hour then turn it off. The third day double to 2 hours, then to 4 hours the next, 8 the next, until you are running your system all day. This process will take 7 days to accomplish. Not only should this process be followed the first time an aerator is installed, it should be followed every time the aerator is turned on after an extended shutdown.

    Relax…
    Now that we’ve covered the different needs and phases of pond aeration, lose the headache, and relax in the heat knowing you’re on your way to a healthy pond ecosystem.

    Additional Information For The Reader
    Airmax® Aeration is the 1st step in the 4-Steps To The Perfect Eco-System and is by far the most important. Steps 2, 3 & 4 are conveniently placed in a combined package called a ClearPAC. The ClearPAC is our all-in-one solution to a clear pond including Pond Clear Bacteria, Nutri-Defense pond clearer, and Natures Blue dye.

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