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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

16 Responses

  1. I’ve lost all 5 of my 7 year old Koi. They were about 18 inches long and beautiful. Ih ad the heater and 4 aerators going and checked the pond almost daily. Im heatbroken and thinking I may buy feeder fish next time 😦 I did use hot water often to keep the hole open around the aerator lines so they didn’t freeze into the ice.

  2. You are right about the hot water, but do not pour it on top of the ice.
    Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil. Then set the pot on
    top of the ice and cover the pot to keep the heat in the water as long
    as possible. If it does not melt enough to go completely through the ice, repeat the process until it does. My pond was completely frozen
    over also this year, so I had to do the hot pot thing a couple of times.
    The ice was about 5 – 6 inches thick. Good Luck.

    Vivian Cantello

  3. I live in NW Illinois, and we have been colder than usual for longer than usual since late November. I’m finding that my pond water is evaporating out from the extremes, and I’m needing to add water every few days!

  4. My fish are fine DON”T POKE A HOLR IN THE ICE you will kill your fish.it is really cool to see them swimming under the ice. It helps keep
    them warm and they are happy.. remember don’t break the ice..

    • Hi Kris,
      You should not break a hole in the ice by pounding on it because it will shock the fish, but they do need an opening in the ice for an exchange of gases. Dead leaves and their excrement produces nitrogen that could kill them if they don’t have any oxygen that will enter through the open hole. That is why it is important that you give them an opening like putting the covered pot with boiling water on top of the ice and let it melt a hole in the ice.
      I also keep my falls going all winter which helps circulate the water,
      and also helps keep it open around the falls.

  5. I found your article very helpful.
    Last fall I purchased one of your heaters. It has kept a hole in the ice of about 18′ diameter. My question is, how big of an opening do you need for a 1/10 acre pond? In addition I do have a run off that feeds the pond and an overflow that keeps the pond from overflowing. When it gets extreemly cold the run off freezes over but some water keeps flowing under the ice. Does this water that feeds the pond add oxygen to the pond? Are gases escaping under the ice through the overflow?

    Thanks for your responce.


    • Hi Otto – You do not need a large hole for gas exchange to occur. Cold water holds more oxygen in the water so with a small opening, your pond’s gas exchange is happening. Overflow typically does not add much oxygen to the pond. It depends on how fast the water is moving. Faster movement means more oxygen.

  6. Leaving the aeration system on,is not a bad idea…it may help the ice to reopen.

  7. So far so good! The deicer has worked great! However, the water in the bog area was starting to freeze and we put hot water in their so the goldfish in the bog area would be able to breathe. We have koi in the 2000 gallon pond area, they seem content at the bottom of their home with the water fountain going, a spitter which we have to ck to keep from freezing and a waterfall that we keep going. The most it has gotten down to has been 7 degrees. However, it was consistently below freezing for several weeks. We just ck on it every morning and evening. It is still worth it to keep it going in the winter! Peaceful and serene.

  8. Buffalo NY here, I use the Farm Innovators 1500 watt tank heater on the zero’ish days and never lost my water zone. On normal days I use the 100 watt Thermopond heater with the airstones too.

  9. I run my pump all winter so even during the coldest temps the water keeps circulating, over the waterfall and through the creek (which during the coldest temps was also ice-covered), and at the other end of the pond the skimmer box and the spillway into it has never frozen. I’ve operated this way through every winter since the pond was installed in 2008 with no problems.

    • Good to hear Joseph! For our readers, running your waterfall during the winter can be beautiful. Just make sure you keep an eye on the falls to make sure no water is being routed out of the pond due to ice buildup.

      • Yes, I’ve been vigilant about this possibility but apparently the design of my waterfall and creek is such that it has never been an issue – even though I can get a buildup of ice around and even over the falls in the coldest temperatures. It’s really quite beautiful at these times!

  10. How would a birdbath heater work for a frozen pond?

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