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Do I need a heater to overwinter my fish in the pond? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Do I need a heater to overwinter my fish in the pond?

Q: Do I need a heater to overwinter my fish in the pond?

Pat – Far Hills, NJ

A: Unless you house warm-water fish like Plecostomus in your water feature, you won’t need a heater to heat things up. Most pond fishes, including koi and goldfish, will overwinter just fine in their outdoor digs because they go into a pseudo-hibernation state when water temperatures fall. Their metabolisms slow and they’re able to tolerate cooler water—even water that’s frigid enough to freeze.

If you live in a climate that experience those freezing temperatures, what we recommend is a de-icer or aerator (rather than a heater) to keep a hole in the ice. This hole allows for gas exchange, through which necessary gases like oxygen enter and harmful gases like ammonia escape.

Which option is right for you?

  • De-Icer: A de-icer’s purpose is to float on the surface and melt a hole in ice that has formed on a container of water, whether a koi pond or water garden. Unlike a heater that actually warms the entire body of water, a de-icer like the K&H™ Thermo-Pond 3.0 Pond 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™ Aeration Kit, circulates the water below the ice sheet. In areas with relatively mild winters, that subsurface water movement will keep a hole in the ice that allows for gas exchange—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 and PondAir™ Aeration Kit, providing your water feature the one-two punch it needs to stay well-vented throughout the winter.

If temperatures in your area vary between above- and below-freezing, consider installing a ThermoCube®. The thermostatically controlled outlet turns on when air temperatures drop below 35° Fahrenheit and turns off when air temps rise above 45°F. This handy-dandy device will save you money, which is something we can all appreciate!

Pond Talk: What do you do to keep your finned pals comfortable in the winter?

The Ultimate in Winter Pond Protection - View Pond Logic® PondAir™ & Thermo-Pond Combo

How do I prepare my fish for winter? Do I need to bring them inside? – Water Garden & Features Q & A

Allow harmful gases to escape by adding a diffuser.

Water Garden & Features Q & A

Q: How do I prepare my fish for winter? Do I need to bring them inside? – Liz in Michigan

A: As the temperatures fall, we may be pulling out our winter coats and goulashes, but your fish don’t need them at all! In fact, pond fish, like koi and goldfish, do quite well in a pond over the winter – even if it freezes over – as long as your pond is at least 18 inches deep (though we recommend 24 inches to be certain the fish don’t turn into popsicles). The fish will go into their annual torpor, or dormancy, and will require little more than clean, oxygen-rich water to survive.

To ensure they get that life-sustaining oxygen, you will need to do four things:

1. Remove debris from the pond. In the fall, before ice forms, give your pond or water feature a good cleaning. Rake out debris, trim dead leaves off plants, net floating leaves and remove as much detritus as possible so very little will be decomposing – and releasing harmful gasses – through the cold months.

2. Add some beneficial bacteria. Also in the fall, you may want to add some beneficial bacteria, like Pond Logic®’s Seasonal Defense®. It accelerates the decomposition of leaves, scum and sediment that builds up during the fall and winter months. In the spring, it replenishes winter bacteria loss, jump starts the filter and breaks down unwanted waste, making your pond water ready for a clean spring and summer.

3. Install an aerator or air stone. Colder water holds more oxygen than warmer water, but you’ll still want to inject air into the pond during the winter months, especially if your pond freezes over. One or two air stones or a diffuser placed in a shallow part of your pond will be enough to aerate the water and keep a small hole in the ice, which will allow harmful gasses to escape and oxygen to enter.

4. Hook up a heater. If you live in a frigid area where the ice on your pond builds to an inch or more, you can use a floating heater or de-icer, like the Thermo Pond, that melts through the ice. Again, it’s critical to keep an open hole in the ice to allow for gas exchange.

In most cases, your fish will be just fine through the winter months. When the water warms, you can begin feeding them again and enjoying them for yet another year!

POND TALK: How do you prepare your fish for winter?

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