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We always have snakes around my pond, except in the winter. Where do they go?| Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q:We always have snakes around my pond, except in the winter. Where do they go?

Q: We always have snakes around my pond, except in the winter. Where do they go?

Dylan- Garner, IA

A: Ponds and lakes get plenty of visitors – including different species of snakes that linger around water. Some of the more common varieties that call the northern states home include the Black Rat Snake, Corn Snake, Garter Snake and the Northern Water Snake.

Water snakes live wherever there’s water, like near lakes, ponds, marshes, streams, rivers and canals. During the spring, summer and fall, when the weather is warm, you probably see these snakes slithering in and around your pond and in the grassy fields, looking for food and for places to sun themselves. But during the winter, they disappear. Where do they go? They’re holed up and hibernating.

Summer Home, Winter Home

Snakes are ectothermic, which means they use the environment to regulate their body temperature. When it’s warm, they’re warm – and they ensure that by basking on rocks, stumps or brush in the full sunshine. In fair weather, rocks, aquatic plants, muskrat houses and beaver lodges are good places to find water snakes, which like to hide among the sticks and plant stems when they’re not sunning themselves.

But when it’s cold, they go on hiatus. These snakes are unable to generate their own internal body heat, so they rely on outside forces to keep their metabolisms churning. They need to overwinter in areas that will not freeze. The underground becomes their winter home, where they spend their time in temperature-stable burrows below the freezing line, and often share the space with other snakes.

Preferred Diet

In the spring, summer and fall, these slithering, mostly harmless critters are active day and night. During the day, water snakes hunt among plants at the water’s edge, looking for small fish, frogs, worms, leeches, crayfish, salamanders, young turtles, and small birds and mammals. At night, they concentrate on minnows and other small fish sleeping in shallow water.

When the cold weather sets in; however, snakes go on a season-long diet. Their metabolism slows way down. Food supplies, like frogs and toads, dwindle. If snakes have undigested food in their bellies when they go into hibernation, they can die.

Friends and Foes

Water snakes have many predators, including birds, raccoons, opossums, foxes, snapping turtles, bullfrogs and other snakes. Humans who mistake the harmless snake varieties for dangerous ones, like Copperheads and Water Moccasins, can affect the population, too.

For the most part, these guys are our friends. They may eat some fish and frogs and hunt some of the indigenous wildlife, but they also do damage to the rodent population – which everyone can appreciate. If you see a snake on your property and you’re not sure if it’s a safe or dangerous variety, contact your local university extension office and describe the snake’s size, color, scale pattern and where you found it. Never kill a snake without good reason, because they are important to our environment.

Pond Talk: What kinds of snakes do you have around your pond or lake?

Shade & Protect Your Pond All Year Long - Pond Logic (r) Pond Dye

For winter, do I need to move my diffusers, or can I just close the valves?| Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: For winter, do I need to move my diffusers, or can I just close the valves?

Q: For winter, do I need to move my diffusers, or can I just close the valves?

Chuck- Tipton, IN

A: Diffusers – and the oxygen they pump into your pond or lake – ensure the health and well being of your fish. Year-round aeration circulates the water column and fills the pond with oxygen. If your pond freezes over during the cold months of the year, an aeration system will can also help maintain a hole in the ice to allow harmful gases to escape.

Move Your Diffusers:

As part of your winter-prep chores, you will need to move the diffuser plates to a shallower spot in your pond or lake. Why? Give your fish a place to safely overwinter in deeper, warmer water. When the plates are closer to the surface, they will also help to keep a hole open in the ice.

Close the Valves:

In addition to relocating your diffuser plates, you can also close about 50 percent of the valves (unless you have the PS10 or LS10 models of Airmax® Aeration Systems, in which case you leave the valve open). You won’t be mixing as much water, but you will be adding enough oxygen to the pond and allowing for gas exchange at the surface.

Stay Safe:

Because you’re aerating your pond over the winter, consider putting up a “Thin Ice” sign near the shoreline. Air pockets form in ice sheets created on aerated ponds, and they make the surface unsound and not safe to walk or skate on. Warn would-be hockey players and figure skaters of the danger before they get into trouble.

While you’re thinking about safety, make sure you have a Life Ring, first aid kit and blanket stowed lakeside in a weatherproof bin just in case someone does fall through the ice.

Pond Talk: How spectacular are the fall colors around your pond or lake right now?

Aerate Your Pond in All Seasons - Airmax (r) Pond Series (t) Aeration Systems

When should I stop using PondClear™ and MuckAway™?| Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: When should I stop using PondClear™ and MuckAway™?

Q: When should I stop using PondClear™ and MuckAway™?

Alfred- Belmont, NH

A: PondClear™ and MuckAway™ contain colonies of beneficial bacteria that will eat through suspended and bottom-of-the-pond muck – but those microorganisms work best in warmer water temperatures. When the pond thermometer drops below 50° F, stop using the PondClear™ and MuckAway™ as their bacteria lose effectiveness.

Speaking of cooler temperatures, here are some things you can do to prepare your pond for the fall season:

Around-the-Pond-Cleanup:

Take a walk around your pond or lake and clean up any strewn debris like sticks or brush on the shoreline. While you’re at it, rake out the inlets and/or outlets to be sure they’re cleared and ready to handle the coming precipitation.

Treat Algae & Weeds:

To ensure your pond or lake is algae- and weed-free going into the colder season, add a final dose of algaecide and herbicide, like Hydrothol-191 Granular Aquatic Algaecide and Herbicide. Once the foliage turns brown and dies, remove it with your Pond & Beach Rake to prevent muck from accumulating during the winter.

Treat with Beneficial Bacteria:

Treat your pond with muck-devouring bacteria one last time before water temperatures drop to 50° F.

Once spring returns and water temperatures rise above 50° F, start using those microorganisms in PondClear™ and MuckAway™ again! PondClear™ attacks debris suspended in the water column, while MuckAway™ battles built-up debris on the bottom of the pond. They’re sold individually and as part of the Pond Logic® ClearPAC® PLUS Pond Care Package.

Pond Talk: What advice can you share with this new pond owner?

Remove Excess Nutrients & Odor - Pond Logic (r) PondClear (t) Natural Bacteria

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, The Pond Guy® 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 The Pond Guy® 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™ 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

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