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I have a deicer but my pond totally froze over. Help! What do I do? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I have a de-icer but my pond totally froze over. Help! What do I do?

Q: I have a de-icer but my pond totally froze over. Help! What do I do?

Maggie – Carlisle, PA

A: Sounds like your pond fell victim to the 2014 Polar Vortex! When frigid weather persists for days on end – like those way-below-zero temperatures endured by a large swath of the country earlier this month – a pond can completely freeze over, even if a higher-watt de-icer and aerator are used. The ice-melting combination works great in most scenarios, but it just can’t keep up in extreme conditions.

If your pond has been totally frozen over for a day or so, your fish will be fine. But if it has been more than a few days, your pond pals could be at risk of oxygen deprivation or overexposure to dangerous gases trapped beneath the ice.

So what do you do?

Let’s start with what not to do – and that’s to try to smash the ice with a chisel or blunt object. The sound and vibration of that pounding on the ice amplify underwater, which can stress out your fish. They’re already unhappy, and so you certainly don’t want to make them endure more trauma!

Instead, use a pot of hot water to melt away the ice. If it’s particularly thick, you might need to repeat the process several times to open a complete hole in the frozen stuff. While the temperatures remain frigid, check on the pond every few days to make sure the hole is still open; if it freezes over again, use hot water to open the hole back up.

With another two-plus months of winter ahead of us, it’s not too late to add a de-icer to your pond if you don’t already have one. Simply place a unit, like the K&H Thermo-Pond De-Icer, on the ice and turn it on. It will heat up and melt through the ice – as long as temperatures aren’t too extreme!

Pond Talk: How did your pond fare during these extreme frigid January temperatures?

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

What should I do with my filter media during the winter? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: What should I do with my filter media during the winter?

Q: What should I do with my filter media during the winter?

Barb – Sterling, CO

A: Your pond’s filter media—the Matala Filter Media Pads, Pond Logic® BioBalls™ or Bio-Ribbon that house your beneficial bacteria—will need a little attention going into the winter. You won’t need your filter media during the cold months, but you should inspect it, clean it and purchase replacements parts before you start your water feature up again in the spring. Here’s a rundown of what to do:

Filter Media Pads: Pull out your filter media pads from your pond’s filtration system, waterfall box and skimmer, thoroughly rinse off the debris with your garden hose, and look for frayed edges, holes, large deposits of solid debris or other signs of damage. Plan to replace worn pads as necessary in the spring. You can choose from specially coated Matala Filter Media Pads, which come in four different densities for your unique filtration needs, or cost-effective rolls of filter media that can be cut to fit and are ideal for waterfall boxes and skimmers.

BioBalls and Other Loose Filter Media: If you use secondary filtration, like Pond Logic® BioBalls™, Bio-Ribbon, blocks or other loose filtration media that’s kept in a mesh bag, remove it all from your filter or waterfall box after you shut down your waterfall, rinse the bag and its contents thoroughly, and check the bag for holes or worn areas. Replace the bag if necessary in the spring.

After your filter media is rinsed and inspected, you can store them for winter in the filter, waterfall box or skimmer. The filter pads, BioBalls and other media will survive just fine outside, even in freezing temperatures. If desired, you can also remove them and stow them inside a garage or basement.

Pond Talk: How do you store your filtration media in the winter?

Four Densities for Every Filtration Need - Matala Filter Media Pads

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

Is it too cold to add dye to my pond? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Is it too cold to add dye to my pond?

Q: Is it too cold to add dye to my pond?

Michele – Woodville, OH

A: Yes, you can add dye to your pond—even at this time of year. Most types of pond dye, including Pond Logic® Nature’s Blue™, Twilight Blue™ and Black DyeMond™ Pond Dye, have no temperature restrictions associated with them, so they can be used year round to shade the pond, color the water and beautify your property.

Have some old jugs of dye in the pond shed? Pull them out! Most dye doesn’t go bad over time, so if you have some that’s been stored in a dry, cool (but not freezing) place over the winter, go ahead and use it!

If you’re using a product that contains beneficial bacteria, however, like Pond Logic® Nature’s Blue™ or Twilight Blue&trade Pond Dye PLUS, hold off until water temperatures top 50 degrees Fahrenheit. The product’s bacteria helps break down muck, but they make it temperature-sensitive.

Regardless of the type you choose, the dye can be added to the water every four to six weeks or as needed depending on rain and evaporation. Apply it according to the package’s instructions for the size of your lake or fish pond.

Those new to the task of adding dye to a lake might want to steer clear of the liquid variety as it can be a little messy. Dye packets, like Pond Logic® Nature’s Blue™ and Black DyeMond™ Pond Dye Packets, are a great alternative. These pre-measured water-soluble packets can simply be tossed into the pond without the mess.

Pond Talk: Do you prefer regular pond dye or the dye that includes beneficial bacteria? Why?

Shade & Protect Your Pond - Pond Logic® Pond Dye Packets

Should I add a de-icer to the aerator in my water garden? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Should I add a de-icer to the aerator in my water garden?

Q: Should I add a de-icer to the aerator in my water garden?

John – Ivoryton, CT

A: Before we broach this hot topic, let’s “break the ice” with a quick look at the differences between a de-icer and an aerator.

De-Icer: A de-icer’s simple purpose is to melt a hole in the ice that has formed on a container of water, whether a koi pond, water garden or livestock trough. Unlike a heater that actually warms the water, a de-icer melts through the ice sheet, thereby allowing harmful below-surface gases to escape and life-sustaining oxygen in.

Aerator: An aerator circulates the water below the sheet of ice that forms on a pond. In areas with relatively mild winters, that subsurface water movement will keep a hole in the ice that allows harmful gases out and oxygen in—but when temps really dip, an aerator may not be enough to maintain a vent hole.

Both a de-icer and an aerator help improve oxygen levels in your pond and, therefore, keep your fish healthy and happy.

If One is Good, are Both Better?

To answer your question: Yes, your aerated pond may appreciate some help from a de-icer, particularly if you live in a region with hard freezes.

Ponds that are already outfitted with an aerator, like one of the Pond Logic® PondAir™ Aeration Kits, benefit from its water circulation—but in areas with frigid winters, those systems may need a little help keeping a hole open in the inches-thick ice. So a de-icer paired with a nearby air stone will ensure the vent hole will remain open.

The opposite is also true. If you have a de-icer in place to keep a hole open in the ice, like the K&H™ Thermo-Pond 3.0 or K&H™ Perfect Climate Pond De-Icer, it’s a great idea to couple that with aeration system. The circulating action will help to encourage the gases forming under the ice at the bottom of the pond to reach the ventilation hole and escape.

If you’re in the market for a de-icer or aeration system, consider investing in a combo unit, such as the Pond Logic® PondAir™ and Thermo-Pond 3.0 De-Icer Combo. It’s the one-two punch your pond needs to keep breathing all winter long!

Pond Talk: With the recent arctic temperatures that have plagued folks in the Midwest and northern states, how have you kept a ventilation hole in your pond or water garden?

Eliminate Harmful Gases- Farm Innovators Floating 1250 Watt De-Icer

Ice Formation Demystified | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Ice Formation Demystified

Ice Formation Demystified

Ice is cool. It’s fun to play on. And, to some, it’s a mystery. How in the world does ice form on your pond? Why does it expand when it freezes? Why does it float? And how is it possible that ice can actually support the weight of a vehicle?

Don’t glaze over just yet. Unlike lessons from those boring middle school science classes, this explanation will be simple—and as interesting as possible.

Lesson #1: Cold Water is Heavy Stuff

When the air temperature cools, the water on the surface of your lake or pond loses its heat and becomes heavier. This cold, heavy water sinks to the bottom while the warmer water from the bottom rises to the top and cools. The cycling process continues until the overall water temperature reaches 39 degrees Fahrenheit (or about 4 degrees Celsius). Before long, the water on top cools enough to freeze.

Lesson #2: Water Crystals Need Their Space

As the water in your pond freezes, the liquid molecules transform into solid ice crystals—and those things expand and space themselves out when they form, which is why ice takes up more room than liquid. Think of how freezing water can cause a pipe to burst when temperatures dip below freezing, or how expanding ice can crack a rock in two.

Lesson #3: Ice Floats

The spaced-out ice crystals are also less dense than liquid, which is why ice floats. As mentioned in Lesson #1, cold water is heavier than warmer water—but ice is lighter than them both. Confusing? Consider the ice cubes in your glass of lemonade: The crystallized water molecules float on the surface, the lemonade that’s cooled by the ice becomes more dense and sinks to the bottom, and the warmest liquid in the glass rises to the top where it’s cooled by the cubes.

Lesson #4: It’s Strong Stuff

When given enough time to form, the ice layer formed by this crystallized frozen water thickens—and becomes strong enough to support critters, humans and even vehicles! An inch of ice can hold a small animal without cracking, 3 inches of ice can bear the weight of an average person, and 6 to 8 inches of ice can host a hockey team or even a snowmobile. Once the ice layer grows to 8 to 12 inches, it can support a slow-moving vehicle—but we don’t recommend it!

Pond Talk: What burning questions do you have about ice formation and safety?

Taylor Made Life Rings - Promote Pond Safety

Ice Safety 101 | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Ice Safety 101

Ice Safety 101

Ice is fun—but it can be dangerous business.

Winter brings cold weather and snow to your pond or lake, as well as a perfect layer of ice for skating, ice fishing, snowmobiling and more. You may want to get out there and play, but it’s important to know whether your ice is safe and strong or a potential hazard.

Here’s how to determine whether the ice on your pond is thick enough and safe for wintertime fun.

1. Check Its Temperature, Formation

After about two to three weeks of freezing temperatures, a solid sheet of ice will begin to form on your pond or lake. But low temps aren’t the only thing that influence ice formation. Water currents, wind and snow coverage will also make a difference in the integrity of the frozen surface. So once the weather and temperatures stabilize after several weeks, you can venture onto the ice and inspect its thickness.

2. Check Surface for Quality

Ice quality matters. When you inspect the ice, you can visually gauge its quality by looking for bubbles, trapped snow and cracks. You can also determine its quality by color, as a solid blue ice sheet is much stronger than a white brittle layer, which is caused by air pockets and other flaws. Of course, new ice is stronger than old ice, too, as temperature fluctuations haven’t thawed and refrozen the ice, which can weaken its integrity.

In addition, if you’ve left your aeration system running while the ice has been forming, the ice layer will have air pockets—and be unsafe for winter recreation.

3. Verify Its Thickness

You’ve given the water time to freeze and the ice time to form, and you’ve ensured the quality of the ice sheet’s surface. The next step is to verify its thickness. You can either drill or cut samples—but make sure you do so in multiple locations as you work your way toward the center of the pond as the water won’t necessarily freeze evenly.

In general, a layer of ice less than 3 inches is too thin for most people to walk out on. It may be able to hold up lighter people or small animals but can easily crack. So if you plan to have a group of people on the pond or want to take your snowmobile out on your lake, an ice formation of 6 to 8 inches minimum is ideal.

4. Be Patient, Stay Safe

Winter recreation on an ice-covered pond is fun—but be patient and use extreme caution when venturing on the ice. Take time to inspect the ice quality and take samples because doing so can make all the difference between a blast and a disaster.

Always make sure you have a life ring or floatation device within reach in case someone accidentally falls through the ice. And always use common sense when venturing out—better to be safe than sorry!

Pond Talk: What is your favorite wintertime activity on your frozen lake or pond?

Promote Pond Safety

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