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I am bringing my fish inside for the winter. What do I need? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I am bringing my fish inside for the winter. What do I need?

Q: I am bringing my fish inside for the winter. What do I need?

Carol – Afton, MN

A: In last week’s blog, we talked about how deep your pond needs to be to overwinter your fish outdoors. As promised, this week we’ll talk about what to do if your pond is less than 18 inches deep or you think your temperatures are too cold outside for your finned friends.

Bring ‘m Inside!
Do you have a pole barn? A garage? A basement? An unused outbuilding? These places make perfect indoor places to overwinter your fish. Koi and goldfish begin their wintertime dormancy at about 45 degrees Fahrenheit, so it’s best to choose a space that hovers at about this temperature or below.

The Gear
To prepare your fishes’ winter home, you’ll need some special supplies, including:

  • Stock Tank or Holding Tank: This will be your indoor pond area. Because your fish will be dormant they won’t need a huge pond to live in, so you can get away with smaller quarters. Choose a tank that’s sized appropriately for the number and size of your fish. To make the transition easier, use a siphon to fill the holding tank with water from your pond.
  • Pond Netting: The close quarters might surprise your fish and they could try to make a jump for it, so make sure you cover the tank with The Pond Guy® Premium Pond Netting and secure it with bungee cords or other tie-downs. That will keep them safe and secure.
  • Aeration System: Just as you aerate your water garden, you’ll need to aerate your holding tank to keep the water oxygenated. An energy-efficient PondAir™ Aeration Kit will work in setups up to 2,000 gallons; a KoiAir™ Aeration System will work in larger setups with more fish.
  • Filter: If your region is warmer, you might consider adding a ClearSolution™ Filtration System (for setups less than 1,200 gallons) or AllClear™ Pressurized Filter (for larger setups) to keep your water clear and your fish healthy.

Wintertime Chores
Caring for your fish in their indoor digs is similar to what you do when they’re outside. Because the living quarters are cramped, check your water parameters with a test kit once a week or so to ensure the water quality is safe. Also, check you water levels and add water as needed, and keep an eye on the equipment to make sure it’s working properly.

Other than that, your fish should be just fine through the winter. Once spring rolls around and water temperatures warm up, they’ll be ready to stretch their fins!

Pond Talk: If you overwinter your fish indoors, what kind of setup do you have?

Keep Your Pond Oxygenated All Winter - Airmax® PondAir™ Aeration Kit

My pond is 18 inches deep. Can I overwinter my fish in my water garden? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: My pond is 18 inches deep. Can I overwinter my fish in my water garden?

Q: My pond is 18 inches deep. Can I overwinter my fish in my water garden?

Jessica – Hope Valley, RI

A: Great news! Unless you live in an extremely frigid climate, your pond is at the minimum depth required for overwintering fish in a pond. Though 24 inches or deeper is better, 18 inches should give your finned friends enough room to ride out the cold temperatures—as long as you keep a hole open in the ice.

Freezing winter temperatures will create a solid layer of ice on your pond’s surface. Below the ice sheet, decaying vegetation and organic matter release harmful gases, like ammonia, which can build up and kill your fish. A hole in the ice will allow for gas exchange. The oxygen will enter the pond, the gases will escape, and your fish will stay happy and healthy while they’re hibernating.

To keep that hole open, here’s what you’ll need based on your zone:

  • Occasional Below-Freezing Temps: For temperature zones that get the occasional below-freezing day or low nighttime temperatures, use an adjustable air stone aerator, like the Airmax® PondAir™ (up to 2,000 gallons) or Airmax® KoiAir™ (up to 16,000 gallons). One of these units will infuse your pond with oxygen while remaining quiet and cost-effective.
  • Long Stretches of Freezing Temps: For temperature zones that see long stretches of freezing temperatures, we recommend these options, below, based on how many gallons your pond holds. The aerator-deicer combo will give your smaller water garden the one-two punch it needs to vent harmful gases and keep your fish safe, while the more powerful KoiAir will sufficiently aerate larger ponds:

Is your pond not quite 18 inches deep? Be sure to check back next week for an article on bringing your pond fish inside for the winter!

Pond Talk: What do you do to ensure your finned pals stay happy through the winter?

Keep Your Fish Safe This Winter - Airmax® PondAir™ and Thermo-Pond Combos

Can I overwinter my tropical water lilies? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Can I overwinter my tropical water lilies?

Q: Can I overwinter my tropical water lilies?

Jill – Kingsport, TN

A: Unlike other aquatic plants that will happily overwinter in the deeper regions of your pond, tropical water lilies need special care.

Here are six steps to follow when putting your blooming beauties to bed for the season.

1. Slow the Growth: First, when the air temperatures start to cool (like right about now …), slow down or stop fertilizing the lilies to slow the plant’s growth. This allows the plant to naturally slow its metabolic processes and more easily transition into winter. If you abruptly stop fertilizing and remove the plant from the pond, you could shock the lily and damage it.

2. Deadhead and Remove Foliage: Next, using your Coralife® Aqua Gloves™ and Pond Scissors and Pliers, snip off all lily pads and blooms from the lily tuber once your pond’s water temperatures start to dip below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Besides looking unsightly, the spent flowers and foliage will start to wilt and should be removed to reduce waste material.

3. Remove and Rinse: Once you’ve cleaned up the plant, gently remove the lily tuber from pond and rinse it off in a bucket or with your garden hose. Trim off any straggling foliage with your pond scissors.

4a. Bury Tuber in Moist Sand: To keep the tuber moist and healthy during the winter, fill a sealable container with moist (but not too wet!) sand and bury it, covering it lightly with sand. Moist sand will hold moisture to keep tuber from completely drying—but if the sand is too wet, the tuber may rot.

4b. Submerge Tuber, Place Under Grow Light: Another overwintering option is to fill a container with distilled water and place the tuber under a grow light in a room that’s a comfortable 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The lily will continue to grow slowly through the winter months.

5. Safely Store and Inspect Often: If you choose the sand-storage option, store the container in a cool, dark place like a basement—but make sure it’s not too warm or too cold. If it’s too warm, the tuber may start to grow or rot; if it’s too cold, the tuber may freeze. Check on the tuber often to make sure the sand is still moist and the tuber is not rotting.

6. Replant in the Spring: Once pond water temperatures return to 70 degrees Fahrenheit in the spring, haul your container to the pond, pull out the tuber and replant it in the pond. Don’t forget to add a dose of fertilizer to jump-start the growing season!

Pond Talk: What do you do with your tropical water lilies in the wintertime?

Coralife® Aqua Gloves™ - Keep your hands clean & day

Are other fish like my plecostomus as hardy over the winter as my koi? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Are other fish like my plecostomus as hardy over the winter as my koi?

Q: Are other fish like my plecostomus as hardy over the winter as my koi?

Dale – Paoli, PA

A: Last week, we talked about how koi and certain types of goldfish, like Sarassa and Shubunkins, can overwinter in your pond or water garden even when water temperatures dip to near-freezing levels.

But what about other common pond fishes?

Well, it depends on your USDA hardiness zone, which divides the country into zones based on how cold the temperatures get. Just as with plants, some fish species can be “hardy” in some climates and not in others. An Oranda, for instance, might do just fine overwintering in a pond in Orlando, Fla., but up in Fargo, N.D., that same fish would turn into a popsicle—even with an aeration system and de-icer.

When the temperatures begin to fall in colder zones, here’s what you do:

1. Keep a close eye on your pond’s water temperature using a thermometer, like the Pond Logic® Floating Pond Thermometer. When the mercury hits 68 degrees or so, it’s time to bring those less hardy fishes—including Plecostomus, Oranda, Telescope goldfish and Black Moors—inside.

2. Carefully scoop those snowbird fishes out of the pond with a net, like The Pond Guy® 3-in-1 Interchangeable Pond Tool, and place them in a bucket pre-filled with some of your pond’s water.

3. Re-home the fishes in a properly sized indoor fish tank or aquarium outfitted with the right mechanical and biological filtration system for the job. Be sure to condition the water and pre-treat it with some beneficial bacteria to kick start the system’s biological filtration, too.

As soon as sun thaws your pond water—or at least heats it back up to room temperature—it’s safe to return those fishes to their “summer” home.

Pond Talk: What kind of overwintering setup do you have for your less hardy fishes?

How can I prepare my aquatic plants for the fall and winter? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

How can I prepare my aquatic plants for the fall and winter?

Q: How can I prepare my aquatic plants for the fall and winter?

Sandy – Holly, MI

A: This topic—what to do with your aquatic plants—tops the to-do list of many pond owners and water gardeners at this time of year. No matter the climate where you live, you will need to do some plant clean-up and relocate them to ensure they survive the winter frost and freeze.

What you need to do depends on the type of plant. So pull on your 28-inch, PVC Coralife® Aqua Gloves™ to protect your hands and arms and keep them dry, grab your handy-dandy Pond Scissors and Pliers, and let’s get to work! Here, we’ve outlined some basics:

Hardy Water Lilies

They may be “hardy,” but that doesn’t mean they’re indestructible! When the first frost hits in your area and the lily’s foliage begins to die back, trim the plant material back with your pond scissors to just above the root and toss it in your compost pile. Don’t worry: Come spring, the greenery will reemerge healthy as ever from the plant’s crown. Because water lilies are typically planted in frost-proof deep water, they will overwinter just fine.

Tropical Water Lilies

Tropical water lilies prefer warm temperatures all year long, so these colorful and fragrant beauties will need to be completely removed from your pond and relocated to a protected indoor space for the winter. We’ll talk more about how to overwinter these aquatic plants in future blogs.

Marginals and Bog Plants

As with hardy water lilies, your marginals’ and bog plants’ foliage will need to trimmed back with pond scissors and removed after Jack Frost first arrives. And if your iris, arrowhead, canna and other marginals are at or above water level, sink them lower into the pond where the water remains unfrozen during the wintertime.

Floating Plants

Unless you’re lucky enough to live in a climate that doesn’t freeze, floating plants like hyacinth and water lettuce won’t survive the winter. Plan to remove them from your pond to prevent the dead plants from decomposing and causing water quality issues through the wintertime.

Pond Talk: How do you prepare your aquatic plants for winter?

Coralife® Aqua Gloves™ - Keep your hands clean & dry

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