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Do turtles burrow in the ground for winter? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Do turtles burrow in the ground for winter?

Q: Do turtles burrow in the ground for winter?

Lewis – Lincoln, VT

A: One of the oldest reptile groups on planet earth, cold-blooded turtles are distinguished by a bony shell that acts like a super-powerful shield to protect them from predators. Like birds and reptiles, turtles lay their eggs on land and breathe air—but they can spend long periods of time underwater, surfacing at regular intervals to fill their lungs with oxygen.

These terrapins do a great job taking care of themselves (and have been for the past 200 million years!), but if you have turtles in your pond or lake, you can be a gracious host by understanding some basic facts about them.

Wintertime Signs

They don’t use a calendar, but turtles know when it’s time to cozy down for the winter. They use the air and water temperature as a gauge, which triggers their instinctual behavioral and physiological hibernation. Typically, this happens when temperatures reach 50 degrees Fahrenheit or so.

Holing Up for the Season

Though they carry a home-sweet-home on their backs, certain types of turtles do hole up for the winter season—literally. Depending on the turtle type, some species, like box turtles, will burrow in the sediment in the bottom of your pond and hibernate for the winter, while others will swim to lower pond levels to escape ice cover. This innate behavior keeps them safe, in most cases, until temperatures warm again.

Slowed Metabolism, No Appetite

Like fishes and other cold-blooded critters, turtles’ metabolisms slow when temperatures get cold. This physiological change means that they require very little oxygen and food. In fact, their hearts will slow to just a few beats every few minutes! They are also able to take in miniscule amounts of oxygen through specialized skin cells.

Privacy, Please

To keep your turtles under cover and safe from predators during the long winter, you can add some pond dye, like Pond Logic® Pond Dye, to your pond. The blue or black coloring not only camouflages the turtles, but it also shades the pond, eliminates cloudy water, and cuts down on excess nutrients and odor.

Pond Talk: What do you do to support the turtle population in your lake or pond?

Shade & Protect Your Pond - Pond Logic® Pond Dye

Do I need to provide indoor shelter for my pond snails? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Do I need to provide indoor shelter for my pond snails?

Q: Do I need to provide indoor shelter for my pond snails?

Jerry – Kernersville, NC

A: Scientists have identified an estimated 4,000 species of freshwater snails, but one that you might find inhabiting your backyard pond or water garden is the Japanese Trapdoor Pond Snail, also known by its scientific name Viviparis malleatus.

These algae-eating gastropods have extra-special shells with a hinged fingernail-like plate that allows them to seal the shell’s opening, providing protection from drought and predation—hence their “Trapdoor Snail” nickname.

Though these hearty snails overwinter well in harsher northern climates, they do require some attention when temperatures dip. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Cool with Cold-Temperatures: These snails really do well in colder temperatures—in fact, some experts say they’ll do fine in sub-freezing weather, even down to 0 degrees Fahrenheit. When it gets really frigid, they’ll dive to the bottom of the pond, where the water is warmer.
  • Adequate Pond Depth Required: In order for them to be happy and healthy through those chilly winter spells, the snails need the water in your pond’s depth to ideally be 20 to 30 inches. Down there, they’ll happily groom the bottom of your pond, gobbling all the decaying matter like leaves, excess fish food and fish waste.
  • No Habitat Required: Because these little guys carry their homes on their back, you don’t need to provide shelter or food for them. If they feel endangered, they’ll disappear into their shells; if they’re hungry, they’ll nibble on algae that’s on your plants, underwater pots, rocks and walls.
  • Aeration Appreciated: Like any aquatic critter, Trapdoor Snails appreciate oxygen-rich water, and that’s where a subsurface aeration system, like the Pond Logic® PondAir™ Aeration Kit, will help. An adjustable unit like this will infuse your pond with oxygen while remaining whisper quiet.

If you have other types of snails in your pond or water garden, these rules may not apply—so be sure to learn their care requirements as they may need more attention than these hearty Trapdoor Snails.

Pond Talk: Do you have other types of snails in your pond? If so, what kind of care do they require?

Eliminate Harmful Gases - Pond Logic® PondAir™ Aeration Kits

Is it too cold to treat my pond with the ClearPAC®? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Is it too cold to treat my pond with the ClearPAC®?

Q: Is it too cold to treat my pond with the ClearPAC®?

Karen – Goshen, IN

A: Pond Logic® ClearPAC® combines PondClear™, Algae Defense®, EcoBoost™ and Nature’s Blue™ Pond Dye to combat algae and suspended debris in your lake or pond. Some components of this super-pack have temperature limitations while others can be used year-round. Let’s take a closer look at each one.

PondClear™

Beneficial bacteria that break down muck and suspended debris, such as those found in PondClear™ and MuckAway™, can be used until water temperatures drop to 50 degrees Fahrenheit or so. Though that temperature is not a definitive cut-off point, the bacteria will become less effective due to unfavorable conditions. Bottom line: When your thermometer dips below 50 degrees, hold off until the water warms again.

Algae Defense®

This algae-destroyer can be used to treat troublesome floating filamentous algae, bottom growing chara or the planktonic algae as long as it’s green and growing, and the water temperature in your pond or lake is above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. If it’s lower than that, hold off until spring.

EcoBoost™

EcoBoost™, which is a bacteria booster rather than an actual bacteria, has no temperature restrictions so it can be used year-round to bind phosphates that find their way into your pond or lake. You can use EcoBoost™ throughout the winter to give you a head start on next season.

Pond Dye

The final ingredient in Pond Logic® ClearPAC®, Pond Dye in blue, twilight or black is not temperature-sensitive, so it can be used year-round to give your pond or lake that aesthetic appeal throughout the winter months. And if it’s getting too chilly to stand by your pond pouring in a quart of dye, try Pond Dye Packets—all you do is toss the water-soluble packet into the water and head back to your warm and toasty home!

Pond Talk: Why do you use pond dye in your pond or lake?

Enhance Water Clarity - Pond Logic® EcoBoost™

I did a spring cleanout; do I need to do a fall one too? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

I did a spring cleanout; do I need to do a fall one too?

Q: I did a spring cleanout; do I need to do a fall one too?

Robert – Reston, VA

A: Whether it’s the spring or the fall, cleaning out your pond can be a chore. You have to pull out your gear, pull on your hip waders and gloves, and get dirty and wet. As much as you love your pond or water garden, it’s hard work!

The answer to your question depends on two factors: the condition of your pond, and your personal preference. Let’s take a closer look.

Condition of the Pond

Step outside and examine your pond and the area surrounding it. Have you, um, neglected it this summer? Perhaps the fish or algae have taken over the pond. Maybe leaves and dead plants are bunching up and decomposing along the water’s edge. Hey—don’t worry about it; it’s been a busy summer, right?

If your pond isn’t quite up to snuff, it’s a good idea to break out that pond vacuum and your Laguna Collapsible Pond Skimmer Net and do some cleaning. It’s also a good idea to add some beneficial bacteria, like Pond Logic® Seasonal Defense®, and maybe even do a partial water change to help remove excess debris before winter. Remember that debris left in the pond will continue to decompose and may pose a threat to your finned friends.

If your pond is looking good, however, and you’ve maintained it since the last cleanout, simply toss in some cool-weather bacteria, like Seasonal Defense®, to help remove any minor buildup that occurs until the pond starts to freeze over.

Personal Preference

Of course, personal preference matters, too. If you enjoy spending time pond-side as the trees do their color-changing thing, or if you plan to have some autumn soirees, Halloween haunted houses or other parties in your yard as the weather cools, then a clean-up is in order.

On the other hand, if you don’t really care how your pond looks during the fall and winter months, do a quick cleanout to remove excess debris and add some cool-weather bacteria, like Seasonal Defense®—but definitely plan to do a thorough cleanout come spring.

Pond Talk: Is it more important to you to regularly maintain your pond or do big seasonal cleanouts twice a year?

One Product, Three Seasons! - Pond Logic® Seasonal Defense®

How can I tell if my fish are ready for a lighter diet? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

How can I tell if my fish are ready for a lighter diet?

Q: How can I tell if my fish are ready for a lighter diet?

Steve – Wallingford, PA

A: When feeding your koi and pond fish, a “lighter diet” doesn’t mean that your finned friends need to switch to low-cal, low-fat foods. Instead, it refers to an easy-to-digest wheat germ-based diet that’s formulated for the fishes’ slowed activity and metabolism during the transitional fall and spring months.

Wheat germ-based diets, such as Pond Logic® Spring & Fall Floating Fish Food, TetraPond® Floating Spring & Fall Fish Food and PondCare® Spring & Autumn Fish Food, are packed with vegetable protein, amino acids and digestive enzymes. These diets, which help them ease into and out of winter, are gentle on their digestive systems while keeping their constitutions strong to fight off disease.

How do you know when it’s time to switch diets? Here are three clues:

  • Temperature: When your water temperature is 50 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, you should feed your active, hungry fish protein- and carbohydrate-balanced foods, like Pond Logic® Growth & Color Fish Food. But when water temperatures dip to between 40 to 50 degrees, they require the lighter, wheat germ-based foods. Use your Pond Logic® Floating Pond Thermometer to keep an eye on the water temperature as the days and nights get cooler.
  • Fish Mobility: Are your koi and goldfish moving a bit more slowly than they normally do? That’s another clue that it’s time to switch to a lighter food. Fish will naturally begin to slow down their activity in cooler water as their bodies begin to prepare for their annual “hibernation.”
  • Feeding Interest: As the fish slow their activity and require less food to fuel their metabolisms, they won’t be as interested in the tasty morsels as they are in the summer. So if your koi and goldfish seem to have turned into picky eaters, that’s your third clue that it’s time to switch to a lighter diet.

When water temperatures fall to below 40 degrees, that’s when it’s time to stop feeding your fish altogether. Don’t worry: They won’t starve! Their bodies, which need very few nutrients to sustain them during the cold months, have plenty of fat stored—but you can bet they’ll be ready for a nice, big meal when spring arrives.

Pond Talk: What changes do you see in your fishes’ behavior during the fall?

Specialized Cool Weather Diet - Pond Logic® Spring & Fall Fish Food

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