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

When should I remove the fountain from my pond?

If I chose to bring my fish indoors for the winter what should I do?
Lisa – Livonia, MI

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 All-In-One 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 Fist 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 Blog that 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?

9 Responses

  1. I am just digging my small backyard pond. I had a hard time deciding where to put it. Dug up an old flower bed against the house. I have power a few feet away on my deck. I will have it ready for Spring. Used to big farm ponds,but this will have to do now. I will only be keeping very small fish and water plants. A neighbor kept her koi in a plastic swimming pool in her basement for the winters. They did fine. I will either get a small aquarium or a larger container for the basement.

  2. I have 8 koi fish that are approximately 12″ in length. Every year I bring them in the basement of my house for the winter as I live in Pennsylvania and my pond is not deep enough (approx. 30″). I have 1000 gallon tank in the basement built and I was wondering if I should have a UV light in there to imitate natural sunlight. Any thoughts?

    • Hi Jody – If there is no natural light getting to their indoor habitat a UV light would be helpful to keep balance and for the health of the fish.

  3. […] doesn’t take a break just because the weather cools down so why should your pond? Our blog on Bringing Your Fish and Plants Indoors may be the catalyst you need to start your first ever indoor pond. So what should you bring indoors […]

  4. Recieved two small goldfish a few years ago after I built a pond. As I did not want to keep the pond running during our Wisconsin winter, I moved them to their Winter quarters; a 50 gallon aquarium in our basement. They live there from November to late May. (I could move them in April, but we have 3 migratory ducks that use our pond for a private retreat for a few weeks in Spring). The pond fish are now quite large and a challenge to net both in the Fall and in the Spring. Next year, May try a large tub as suggested in article.

  5. I live along the Gulf Coast of MS and, altho it can get cold here, the water does NOT freeze. I have 80 Koi in a 4,000 gal outdoor pond, isn’t there some sort of heater that can be used to help keep the water above 50 degrees?

    • Hi Mary Ellen,

      Heaters for the pond industry and meant to keep a hole in the ice. There are aquarium heaters that would heat the water but not on the scale as large as your pond. If you really want to heat your pond water you may have to search online for a heater system that would be able to work with you pond as I’m sure there are out there for other types of uses. Good Luck!

  6. Our ponds in SE Michigan are dug down to about 34-38 inches and we actually do okay leaving our fish to over-winter. We’ve lost a few, but usually due to decaying plants when the ponds don’t have an ice-hole to allow gases to escape. We do have a mature red-eared slider turtle though, who lives in a 75 gallon tank inside from late October through early May. If you take fish inside, please use proper filtration!

  7. For smaller fish, larger sized “storage totes” can make a temporary winter home in the garage or basement. For larger fish, Rubbermaid stock tankes work really well. Stock tanks come in sizes from 50 gallons up to 300 gallons…….. most times 100 gallon size works just fine to keep fish in. We always try to fill at least part way with water that the fish have been in already. Less shock that way, plus it helps bring some of the good bacterias into the new tank. We put some of the tropical plants in the tanks too. Helps keep the plants from one year to the next, gives the fish a place to hide, and helps absorb excess nuetrients out of the water. I even have one friend that breeds koi and fancy gold fish, and he uses all stock tanks to breed and grow out his fish in.

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