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What Is A Winter Fish Kill & Why Do They Happen? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

What Is A Winter Fish Kill & Why Do They Happen?I’ve heard the term “winter fish kill.” What is it and why does it happen?

Linda – Stockbridge, MI

A winter fish kill occurs when your pond or lake becomes uninhabitable for aquatic life and a large number of fish pass away. Winter is the most common time for a fish kill because the long, harsh conditions of the season deplete the oxygen content of the water.

Prolonged ice cover on your pond or lake seals off the water from the air and prevents oxygenation of the water. Ice and snow cover also prevent sunlight from reaching your pond plants. Pond plants normally produce extra oxygen for your pond via photosynthesis. Finally, decomposing organic matter in your pond releases toxic gases that can’t escape from under the ice.

Eventually the competition for the limited supply of oxygen in the pond becomes too great. The fish suffocate and a winter fish kill occurs.

The good news is that winter fish kills are preventable. There are many things you can do as a pond and lake owner to maintain proper oxygen levels in your pond. First and foremost, invest in a good Aeration System. Aeration is the process of circulating air through water and it’s critical for overall pond health.  A second option is to add beneficial bacteria products like MuckAway™ or PondClear™ to your pond or lake before the winter season. Beneficial bacteria digest accumulated decomposing organic matter in your pond and convert it to a harmless, odorless gas.

Pond Talk: What fish behavior may indicate low oxygen levels in your pond?

Airmax® Aeration Systems

Happy Holidays From The Pond Guy®

If I chose to bring my fish indoors for the winter what should I do?

Happy Holidays From The Pond Guy®

Happy Holidays fellow pond owners! We are finally settling into our new building and eagerly preparing our catalog for the coming spring.

A special thanks to you, our customers, for being patient during our transition. Our larger warehouse will allow us to have more product on hand and our new call center will soon be filled with more friendly pond techs ready to answer all your pond questions this coming season. Stay posted for updates regarding our Service Department and new Retail Store.

Also, please note our new contact information:

Orders and Tech Support
Toll Free: 866-PONDHELP (866-766-3435)pondhelp@thepondguy.com
Monday-Friday 8am-6pm eastern standard time

We will be closed on Monday December 26th and Monday January 2nd

All of us at The Pond Guy® want to thank you for another great ponding season and can’t wait to hear from you in the New Year!

Will snails survive the winter in my pond? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

When should I remove the fountain from my pond?

Will snails survive the winter in my pond?
Cody – Falling Spring, VA

While your fish and some of your aquatic plants remain safe and sound during their winter dormancy you may wonder if your snails will be as successful. Your pond snails are amazingly resilient in cold weather and will do just fine given their habitat is suitable.

Your pond depth will play a major role in the success of all of the living creatures in your pond. Your plants, fish and snails can survive in cold water but they won’t fair too well if frozen into a solid block of ice. The ice that forms on the top of your pond varies in thickness depending on where you live but the general rule of thumb is to build your pond to be around 20”-30” in depth. This ensures there is an ample layer of water at the bottom of the pond that is left unexposed to the elements which will provide a safe haven for all of your pets and plants.

You won’t have to worry too much about your snails finding a safe place to hide over the winter as they come equipped with a strong shell which provides adequate shelter. They can hide amongst the rocks and plant remains in the pond as well during the winter but as your fish are in dormancy there is not an overwhelming need for additional habitat. As water temperatures drop and bacteria begin to dwindle a lot of pond owners tend to rely on algaecides to keep their ponds free from algae. If you are using an algaecide in your water garden review the product label thoroughly to ensure it is safe to use with your snails. When your pond comes back to life in the spring your snails will flourish amongst the new plant growth.

Pond Talk: Do you do anything special to provide safety for your snails in the winter?

How does ice form on a pond? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

How does ice form on a pond?

How does ice form on a pond?
Jonathan – Denver, CO

You look forward to and enjoy the ice formations that appear on your pond each winter but have you ever wondered how it begins? Why is it that the ice in your pond expands when it freezes instead of shrinking and why does ice float?

Unlike those horror flashbacks of falling asleep in science class we’ll keep this as simple and interesting as possible. As the air cools off outside your water looses heat and becomes heavier. This cool and heavy water sinks to the bottom of the pond as the lighter warmer water rises to the top to cool. This process continues until the pond water reaches about 4 degrees Celsius or 39 degrees Fahrenheit and the water cools enough to freeze. Water is unique in the fact that as is it freezes its molecules form crystals that are spaced farther apart causing ice to expand and take up more space. Once the water in your pond begins to form these crystals and expand it actually becomes lighter than warmer unfrozen water and once again begins to rise to the surface of your pond where it begins to form a sheet of ice. If this all seems a bit too wordy or confusing to you visualize a glass of water with ice cubes in it. The spaced out, crystallized, water molecules of the ice cubes make them lighter than the water in the glass and cause them to float at the surface of the water. The water in the glass that is cooled by the ice cube (but not cold enough to freeze) becomes more dense and sinks to the bottom of the glass and the warmest water rises to the top where it is cooled by the floating ice cubes.

The layer of ice formed by this crystallized frozen water can become fairly strong as it becomes thicker. An inch of ice can be strong enough to hold a small animal without cracking. 3 inches of ice typically is enough to bear the weight of the average person and once a pond freezes to 6 to 8 inches thick it is ready to play host to a hockey game or hold up a snowmobile. Some have even taken their cars out on the ice! While we don’t recommend you give it a try, 8 to 12 inches of ice can support a slowly moving vehicle.

Pond Talk: What do you use your pond for in the winter? Do you skate? Ice fish?

My pond isn’t frozen yet, but I can’t see my fish. Are they okay? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

My pond isn’t frozen yet, but I can’t see my fish. Are they okay?

My pond isn’t frozen yet, but I can’t see my fish. Are they okay?
Stephanie – Harpursville, NY

Fish are survivors. And when the water starts getting cold, they head for deeper waters, where the chilling effects of winter air are less pronounced. Provided there’s adequate aeration, your fish will likely linger at the bottom throughout the colder months. As a result, they’ll be much less visible – but the odds are extremely good they’re doing just fine.

In order to ensure there’s sufficient oxygen for the winter, some people opt to keep their aeration systems active all year ‘round. At the very least, though, it’s important to maintain a vent hole when – or if – your pond ices over. The vent hole allows harmful decomposition gases to escape, allowing fish to winter safely. And because their metabolism slows during the winter months, a properly vented pond will likely have sufficient oxygen to ensure the survival of your fish until springtime.

Fish, it turns out, are extremely resilient. After wintering in the lower reaches of your pond, your fish will gradually return to the upper levels once water temperatures start to rise. In general, it’s probably a good sign when fish become less visible. If they’re struggling, it’s far more likely you’d see them at the edges of your pond. So while you might miss them, your invisible fish are probably doing just fine.

Pond Talk: Have you noticed less fish movement in your pond recently?

If I chose to bring my fish indoors for the winter what should I do? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

If I chose to bring my fish indoors for the winter what should I do?

If I chose to bring my fish indoors for the winter what should I do?
Ron – Seymour, IN

While we don’t really like to think about it, there are places in the U.S. that get cold enough to freeze decorative water gardens solid. As your fish do not appreciate being turned into popsicles you will probably want to bring them indoors for the winter. Since the majority of you don’t have a beautiful indoor pond just waiting to house our fish in the colder months how do you go about creating a safe environment for your fish to bunker down in?

Your first and foremost priority is to select a location that is climate controlled, safe from disturbances and large enough to facilitate a holding tank. Your basement or heated garage are a couple places you can consider. The container you choose to hold your fish should be made of a fish safe material and should be cleaned thoroughly before use. The size of this container will depend on the size and number of fish you need to relocate. Unless they are Sardines your fish will not do well when packed tightly into a tiny container. Purchasing a small pre-formed pond liner is a great idea for someone who has large Koi or an ample amount of fish that need a winter home. You will also want to purchase some Pond Netting to keep your fish from jumping out of their winter apartment and onto your garage floor.

The new container can be filled with water from your water garden or you can start from scratch and fill it with tap water. If you decide to fill from the tap you will want to add a Water Conditioner to neutralize any chloramines and remove other potentially harmful elements from the water. In addition to pond conditioner you will want to allow a few weeks for the water in the container to cycle and balance. Aeration and filtration will play a major role in the well being of your fish once they are relocated. If you currently use an external Pressurized Filter your water garden this can be used for your inside application as you will have to bring it in for the winter regardless. You will also need a small pump to circulate the water in this container as well which you may also be able to borrow from your outdoor water garden. If you have neither a pump nor pressurized filter on hand you can purchase an 4-In-1 Pond Filtration System to do the job. If you have to use a new filter or you decided to fill the container with tap water seed your filtration pads with PL Gel to ensure an adequate presence of beneficial bacteria and reduce the waters cycle time.

When the time comes, collect your fish using a Fish Net and transfer them to their new home using the same acclimation process you would undergo with new fish. If you are unsure of how to acclimate your fish click over to our fish acclimation blog, which explains the process in greater detail. Do not feel the need to rush through the transporting process as your fish are safe and comfortable in their water garden for the time being. Take your time to make sure your fish are moving into a safe and comfortable environment so you and your fish can enjoy some indoor ponding this winter.

Pond Talk: Do you bring your fish in for the winter? How do you provide an indoor home for them?

Pond Logic® Stress Reducer PLUS

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