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What should I do if I have a power outage over the winter and my aeration stops? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

What should I do if I have a power outage over the winter and my aeration stops?

Q: What should I do if I have a power outage over the winter and my aeration stops?

Johnny – Point Marion, PA

A: Power outages happen. Whether they’re caused by Mother Nature, like hurricane Sandy, or the result of an accident or a blown transformer, chances are pretty good that you’ll contend with at least one lights-out experience this winter—but your chandelier won’t be the only thing not electrified.

Out in your lake or water garden, your aeration system will also shut down when the electricity stops. No aeration for an extended period of time means your pond’s water quality could suffer and your fishes’ health could be compromised.

Don’t worry: If you’re prepared, a power outage won’t be a big deal at all. Here’s what you need to know.

Your Fish will be Fine …

As long as the water temperature remains cold and your pond is relatively free of dead or decomposing debris, your fish will survive the power outage without even blinking an eye.

Thanks to one of the many unique properties of water, cold water retains more dissolved oxygen than warm water. “Think about how much bubblier a cold soda is compared to a warm one,” describes the United States Geological Survey. “The cold soda can keep more of the carbon dioxide bubbles dissolved in the liquid than the warm one can, which makes it seem fizzier when you drink it.”

It’s the same thing with oxygen. Colder water molecules are more densely packed and can therefore hold more oxygen, which your fish and other pond inhabitants need to survive.

In addition, the pond should not have a lot of dead or decomposing materials, like leaves and plant matter. All that breaking-down vegetation depletes the water of oxygen while imbuing it with harmful toxic gases like ammonia.

Bottom line: If your water is cold and your pond is clean when the power goes out, your finned friends will be just fine, short-term.

Service & Protect Your Aerator

After the power is restored and the candles are blown out, plan to head out to your aeration system and assess the situation. Any built-up air pressure could prevent the aerator from turning back on, so you’ll need to relieve the air pressure by pulling the relief valve or disconnecting the airline before you turn the system back on again. In addition, condensation could form on the motor, which will need to be wiped down to prevent rust from forming.

To protect your aerator from the elements—which could cause an isolated power outage in your pond or lake—make sure it’s protected. Larger units, such as those for ponds and lakes, should be in a cabinet; smaller units, such as those for water gardens, should be hidden within a faux rock, like the Pond Logic® TruRock™ Small Boulder Cover. It’s designed to blend into the landscape while protecting pond equipment.

Pond Talk: In case of long-term power outage, would you ever use a generator to power your aerator? Why or why not?

Protect Your Aeration Units - Airmax® PondAir™ & TrueRock™ Combo

5 Responses

  1. My aeration pump and pond heater are on a GFI outlet outside. During the winter sometimes the GFI will trip and because it it not a power outage to the entire house I do not know there was no power to the pond. One year the power to my pond was out for months without my knowledge.

    Because the pond was snow covered and to be honest during the winter I just don’t look at the pond that much I missed it. I lost some of my fish.

    I thought of an easy way to prevent this again. On the same GFI line I plugged in a small LED light set, I can tell at a glance if the power is still on. The last two winters it worked like a charm, a couple of times I had to reset the GFI Outlet, each season but ALL of my fish were fine.

    This is a simple and inexpensive way to tell at a glance if the power to the pond is OK.

    Wisconsin Pond Lover

  2. I have lost power several times here inNew Hampshire, and I run a 100 foot outdoor chord from my pond to my generator, and all is fine.

  3. Oxygen saturation is higher for cold water, but the effect isn’t huge: between 50F and 32F max O2 increases 7.5 to 10.2 ml/l. In other words, there is less than a 25% increase in your pond’s oxygen capacity over that temperature range. Your fish’s demand for oxygen will drop by a factor of about 2 over that same interval (2.3 from what I read). In other words: yes, there is less to worry about when water is cold, but decreased metabolism is much more important than the increase in oxygen content.

    Of course, all this is beside the point. How long will our fish survive if O2 isn’t replenished? I had no idea so I did some reading. Experts can correct the following, but here’s what I based on published literature and a little arithmetic:

    Ideally we’d keep the O2 at 5 ppm or higher, but evidently carp can live down to 1ppm (1.43 mg/l). At 32F a 1000 gallon pond has 14.6 (mg/l) x 3785 (l) = 55265mg of O2. If we want to keep O2 at 1ppm, there is 49857 mg O2 available. At 32F a 500g carp consumes about 45 mg O2 per hour. So if you had say, 5kg of carp in that 1000 gal pond, you’d be good for 9.2 days. At 5C (41F) there is 13% less oxygen available and it is withdrawn 41% faster: you’d be safe for 5.6 days. Obviously, this ignores all other O2 consumption (microbe respiration, etc.). I didn’t look into that.

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