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Why did I lose my fish? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: Why did I lose my fish?

Q: Why did I lose my fish?

James – Willmar, MN

A: After a long, roller coaster winter, there’s nothing more disappointing than returning to your pond to find your fish floating and bloated in the water. This winter fish kill, or “winterkill,” can happen when the ice sheet on your pond prevents gas exchange and reduces the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water, ultimately causing your fish to suffocate. Shallow lakes, ponds and streams are particularly vulnerable to winterkill.

What causes it, and how can it be prevented? Read on to learn more.

Starved for Oxygen

Winterkill occurs when ice and snow cover your pond or lake for long periods of time. That solid sheet of cold stuff seals off the water, stopping oxygenation and gas exchange at the surface, but that’s not all it does. The ice and snow cover also prevent sunlight from reaching pond plants, which normally produce sub-surface oxygen via photosynthesis. Add to that a lake full of decomposing organic matter releasing toxic gases that are trapped under the ice, and your poor fish do not have enough oxygen to survive.

The ones that do survive are not finned superheroes, but they are more tolerant of a low-oxygen environment than their dearly departed cousins. The species type and size makes a difference, too, in their ability to deal with less-than-optimal living conditions.

Stayin’ Alive

Unfortunately, you cannot bring your fish back to life, but you can prevent winterkill from happening in the future. We recommend a simple, two-pronged approach:

  1. Aeration: Aerate your pond year-round with an Aeration System to circulate the water, increase dissolved oxygen and keep oxygen levels more consistent throughout the pond. It will also keep a hole open in the ice, allowing for gas exchange.
  2. Muck Removal: Using natural bacteria, like MuckAway™, or a dredge in extreme cases, remove as much muck and decomposing debris as possible before the ice forms. This will prevent the pond from naturally filling in, and it will reduce the amount of gas produced from the decomposition process.

Winterkill is a disappointment, but it can be prevented with some planning and preparation in the fall. In the meantime, restock your pond and enjoy!

Pond Talk: Have you even experienced winterkill in your pond? What did you do to remedy the situation?

Reduce Muck and Organic Debris Build-Up - Pond Logic® MuckAway™

Why is my pond cloudy in the summer and clear in the winter? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: Why is my pond cloudy in the summer and clear in the winter?

Q: Why is my pond cloudy in the summer and clear in the winter?

Mike – Baldwin, WI

A: Frustrating, isn’t it? During the summer when it’s warm and inviting outside by the pond, the water looks cloudy; when it’s too cold to enjoy the outdoor scenery, the water appears crystal clear. What’s the deal? Let’s look below the water’s surface to see what happens during the two seasons.

Murky Summer

A lot happens in your pond during the warmer months. Fish are actively feeding and creating waste. Pond critters, like turtles and frogs, are digging around in the mud and stirring up muck at the bottom of the pond. Rainstorms wash sediment into the pond along with fertilizer residue – which provides fuel to algae and pond weeds growing prolifically in the summer sun. With all that activity, it’s no wonder the water looks cloudy!

Clear Winter

During the winter, however, activity slows. As your fishes’ metabolism decreases, they fast and hibernate through the cold season. Turtles, frogs and other pond residents reduce their movement, too, which allows the muck and sediment to settle at the bottom. Ice and snow cover the pond, limiting water movement and blocking sunlight. Algae still grows, but at a much slower rate. As everything settles and slows down, the water clears.

Extending Winter

If you want that crystal clear water all year long, follow this three-step formula, particularly as the days get longer and spring warmth thaws the ice:

  1. Feed Your Bacteria: First, be sure to add some bacteria enhancer, like EcoBoost™, to the water. It binds suspended organics, provides trace minerals to fish and other pond dwellers, and helps break down fertilizers from rain runoff. It has no temperature restrictions, so you can use it throughout the seasons.
  2. Shield the Sun’s Rays: Next, pour some Pond Dye in the water. The color reduces the amount of rays that into the pond. Like EcoBoost, Pond Dye has no temperature restrictions, so you can use it throughout the season.
  3. Add Oxygen: Aeration is the final – and most important – step in maintaining clean, clear water. By aerating your pond from the bottom up, you will circulate the water, improve the dissolved oxygen levels in your water column, and allow for increased levels of beneficial bacteria to accumulate in your pond.

Pond Talk: How do you keep your pond clean and clear all year long?

Create Clearer Water in any Pond - Pond Logic® EcoBoost™ Bacteria Enhancer

I occasionally have power outages during the snowfall. Will it cause a problem for my aeration system? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I occasionally have power outages during the snowfall. Will it cause a problem for my aeration system?

Q: I occasionally have power outages during the snowfall. Will it cause a problem for my aeration system?

Pete – Traverse City, MI

A: Power outages during heavy snowfall or ice storms aren’t uncommon – and when they happen, your aeration system will need some attention. Here’s what we recommend to prevent problems from occurring:

  1. Relieve Air Pressure: Built-up air pressure in the air compressor could potentially stop the aerator from turning back on when the power is restored, so it’s important to get rid of that pressure via the release valve.
  2. Check for Moisture, Condensation: If the power is out for an extended period of time, keep an eye on the cabinet for moisture and condensation. It could indicate reduced air flow, and all that wetness could freeze if temperatures are low enough.
  3. Clear Off Snow: To allow for proper air flow and to minimize moisture from melting snow around the unit, shovel or dust accumulating snow from around the cabinet.
  4. Melt Ice Blockages: Long power outages could cause your diffuser’s air lines to freeze. To melt them and open the air flow back up, pour 1 cup of isopropyl alcohol through each line (or the line you believe is blocked or frozen).

As for your fish, they should be just fine if your aerator shuts down for a few hours. Cold water holds more oxygen than warm water, so they’ll have plenty of oxygen during short-term interruptions.

Pond Talk: How do you protect your aeration system from frigid temperatures?

Oxygenate Your Pond All Winter - Airmax(r) Aeration Systems

I think my pond is spring-fed. If I shut down my aeration system, will the pond freeze enough for me to skate? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I think my pond is spring-fed. If I shut down my aeration system, will the pond freeze enough for me to skate?

Q: I think my pond is spring-fed. If I shut down my aeration system, will the pond freeze enough for me to skate?

Timothy – Newton, WI

A: Skating is a winter favorite for many people – and it’s even better when you’re doing it on your own pond or lake. Before we dive into answering your question, however, let’s go through the differences between a spring-fed pond and a catch basin pond.

Catch Basin or Spring Fed?

A catch basin pond is a reservoir filled with precipitation runoff from the surrounding area. The volume rises and falls depending on rainfall and snow melt; in the winter, when conditions are right and temperatures are below freezing, an unaerated pond like this makes a great skating rink.

A spring-fed pond, however, is fed by a spring or ground water. It keeps the pond’s water level fairly consistent, regardless of rainfall, but the moving water created by the spring could cause dangerous conditions – even if the aeration system is shut down for the season.

Stay Safe on the Ice

If you discover your pond is indeed fed by a spring and has constant water movement, follow these Ice Safety Tips before trying to use the ice rink for recreation:

  • Wait for Extended Cold Temps: Spring-fed ponds will take longer to freeze, so be sure temperatures are below freezing for two to three weeks before testing the ice formation. Remember that wind and snow coverage will also affect ice formation and its integrity.
  • Test Ice Thickness: Once you’ve given the water time to freeze and the ice time to form, the next step is to verify the ice sheet’s 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.
  • Stay Far from Moving Water: Water current and movement will also affect ice formation, so steer clear from any inflow and overflow areas where water movement will weaken the ice.
  • Shut Off Aeration: Of course, plan to turn off your aeration system before the ice starts forming on your pond. The aerator will agitate the water, preventing it from forming into a solid, safe sheet of ice.
  • Be Prepared: In case someone accidentally falls through the ice, don’t venture out on your own, and always make sure you have a life ring or floatation device within reach.

Winter recreation – skating, hockey, ice fishing and more! – is one of the joys of owning your own pond or lake, but always use common sense when venturing out. It’s better to be safe than sorry!

Pond Talk: What winter sports do you enjoy on your frozen pond?

Be Prepared For Any Scenario - Taylor Made 20 Inch Life Rings

How can I keep my dock from getting destroyed by ice? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: How can I keep my dock from getting destroyed by ice?

Q: How can I keep my dock from getting destroyed by ice?

Rick – Merriam, IN

A: Ice can certainly do some damage to a dock. As water freezes, it expands. As it melts, it contracts. And all that freezing and melting business can wreak havoc on the wood and materials used to make the mooring.

So what can you do to protect your investment?

If you have a floating or removable dock, it’s easy. Simply remove it from your pond and store it for winter. If you have a permanent dock, you have two options: a circulator with float, or a bubbler system. Here’s what you need to know about them.

Circulator with Float
A circulator, like the Kasco Circulator with Horizontal Float uses a motor and propeller to push water under the dock and up toward the surface. Kasco Water Circulators can be suspended from the horizontal float to create elongated patterns of water movement that discourage ice formation. With 5 angled positioning options, the flotation kit allows for easy adaptability for most situations. It can also be secured directly to your dock using the optional Universal Dock Mount.

Bubbler System
A bubbler system, like the Shallow Water Series™ Aeration System, uses a diffuser to create water movement under the dock and prevent ice formation. Diffuser plates connected to an air compressor pump air below the surface and agitate the water. Multiple diffusers used together can create large areas of open water, particularly when they’re placed evenly across a small area in the shallow part of the pond. Another benefit: They cost less to operate than a motor and prop.

Weather Watch
Whether you use a circulator or a bubbler system, remember that the weather will be the most influential variable in protecting your dock. The warmer the weather, the easier it will be to keep the ice melted; a warm, sunny day can open up a hole 10ft. or more. Cold, windy weather, however, can cause that hole to shrink to a couple of feet or less.

Good luck preventing that dock from being destroyed by ice!

Pond Talk: Do you prefer a dock-mounted system or a bubbler?

Prevent Ice Damage With Aeration - Airmax® Shallow Water Series™ Aeration System

How large of a hole will an aeration system keep open in the ice? I like to keep open water for ducks. | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: How large of a hole will an aeration system keep open in the ice? I like to keep open water for ducks.

Q: How large of a hole will an aeration system keep open in the ice? I like to keep open water for ducks.

Mark – Concord, VT

A: No doubt those ducks will appreciate some open water in the winter, and an aerator is the best way to keep that hole open for them. Many factors will affect the hole’s size and how long it will remain open, but here are three important points to consider:

  1. Size of the System: Larger aeration systems will move more water, and all that water movement will create a larger hole that will stay open longer. If you want a bigger open area, consider a beefier aeration system.
  2. Depth of Water: Water depth matters, too. An ice-free open area in deep water is more difficult to maintain than one in shallow water, where there will be more water movement at the surface. If possible, plan your open water in the shallow areas of your pond.
  3. Weather: Mother Nature has her say, too. When it’s cold and windy, it’ll be more difficult to keep that opening ice-free. In fact, frigid temperatures can restrict the hole down to a couple of feet or less! But when the weather warms up, the hole can open to areas of 10 feet or more.

Ideally an aeration system should be matched to your pond’s size and shape, and run all season. Diffusers can then be moved to shallow water for the ducks during winter. Simply place the diffusers evenly across a small area in the shallow part of your pond so they can work together to keep a larger area open. Watch the video below for tips on installing Airmax® Aeration Systems:

This winter, those lucky ducks will have a place to float!

Pond Talk: What kinds of birds visit your pond in the winter?

Maximum Shallow Water Circulation - Airmax® Shallow Water Series™ Aeration Systems

How do I get my aeration system ready for winter? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: How do I get my aeration system ready for winter?

Q: How do I get my aeration system ready for winter?

Lonnie – Aspera, PA

A: Operating your aerator year-round delivers a boatload of benefits to your pond or lake. The water movement created by the aerator forms a hole in frozen winter ice, allowing for gas exchange and keeping water open and available for visiting wildlife. Below the surface, it helps to break down leaves and debris, which means less cleaning and easier maintenance come spring. Aeration also circulates the water column, infusing it with oxygen for your fish and plants.

Unless you plan on doing winter activities on your pond, like figure skating, ice fishing or playing ice hockey, we highly recommend running your Airmax® Aeration System all year long. Here are five winter tasks to add to your to-do list:

  1. Move your diffuser plates to shallower water. Following your aerator manual’s recommendations, move the plates from the deepest areas of your pond to shallower areas. This will give your hibernating fish a warmer place to hunker down when the water temperatures get especially chilly. When the plates are closer to the surface, they will also help to keep a hole open in the ice. If you have a larger system, plan to completely shut down some of the valves.
  2. Clean filters and inspect your compressor. Have you cleaned your air filter in the past three to six months? Have you checked your intake pre-filter? If not, they likely need some attention—and possible replacement if it’s been too long. Also consider installing a maintenance kit to keep your compressor running in top condition. The video below demonstrates compressor maintenance for PondSeries™ Aeration Systems.

  3. Check the aerator regularly throughout the winter. After a heavy snow or a storm, head out to the pond and inspect your aeration unit. Remove snow that has accumulated around the unit, particularly any that’s blocking the air discharge vent. If you lost power during a storm, check your GFCI; you may have to reset it.
  4. Keep alcohol on hand. In case condensation causes your airlines to freeze over the cold months, keep some isopropyl alcohol on hand to defrost them. It’s easy: Use 1 cup isopropyl alcohol in the airline running out to each plate. Turn on the compressor to push the alcohol through the line and free any ice blockage.
  5. Be smart and safe. When your aerator is on during the winter, the ice that forms can be thin and uneven. The constant friction created by the aerating water weakens the ice that forms, and that could be downright dangerous. Make sure you post a “Danger—Thin Ice” sign and keep safety equipment out by your pond. A life ring, rope, blankets and a first aid kit are critical items to have on hand.

If you do plan to remove your aeration system for the winter, here’s what we recommend: First, unplug the system. Then disconnect compressor flex-tubes from the airlines and cover the airline ends with winterization caps to prevent debris from entering airline. Move the cabinet and compressor inside to keep it dry.

Pond Talk: What plans do you have for your pond or lake this winter?

Promote Pond Health Year Round - Airmax® PondSeries™ Aeration System

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