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Is there any maintenance I should do when I pull out my fountain for the year? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: Is there any maintenance I should do when I pull out my fountain for the year?

Q: Is there any maintenance I should do when I pull out my fountain for the year?

John – Epping, NH

A: Decorative fountains add beauty to your waterscape while pumping some extra oxygen to your pond or lake, but they are designed to be used in the warmer months – not winter. So when you’re ready to pull out your fountain for the year, follow these six steps to ensure it’ll be ready for use again in the spring:

  1. Pull Unit from the Pond: To remove your fountain from the water, simply release it from its mooring line and gently reel it in. Leave the mooring line stakes in place to make it easy to reinstall it in the spring. You’ll save time from having to place the fountain in position.
  2. Clean Your Fountain and Lights: As your fountain runs through the spring, summer and fall, algae and other debris accumulate on the motor, lights and float. This unsightly debris acts as an insulator that traps heat around the motor, which could cause overheating when you reinstall it in the spring. Get out your scrubber and polish your surfaces while they’re still wet. Some expert advice: It’s best to clean that gunk off before it dries on.
  3. Inspect for Damages: Normal wear-and-tear and curious critters can cause nicks and chew marks in the cord that will need to be repaired, so check it for damages. Also, if you haven’t performed routine maintenance on your unit, like changing oil and seals, winter is the perfect time to do so while your fountain is out of the water and in your workshop.
  4. Cover the Cord Ends: Once your fountain is cleaned and repaired, cover your power cord ends by covering them with a vented plastic bag to keep dust and debris out while it’s in storage.
  5. Store in Safe Spot: Find a safe, frost-free place to store your fountain over the winter. Ideally, stash it in your garage, basement or other place that won’t freeze.
  6. Keep Aeration Running: Unless you plan to use your pond for recreation, like hockey or ice skating, your pond will need oxygen through the winter. Continue to use your diffused aeration system to maintain a hole in the ice for ventilation and gas exchange.

Follow these simple maintenance steps and you’ll be ready to reinstall your fountain in the spring – once the ice melts, that is!

Pond Talk: Where do you store your fountain in the winter?

Protect Your Fish With Winter Aeration - Airmax® Shallow Water Series™ Aeration Systems

I occasionally feed my game fish pellet food, but they don’t seem as interested any more. Is something wrong? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I occasionally feed my game fish pellet food, but they don’t seem as interested any more. Is something wrong?

Q: I occasionally feed my game fish pellet food, but they don’t seem as interested any more. Is something wrong?

Scott – Fairfield, IA

A: Fish can be finicky eaters sometimes – particularly when something changes their routine. If your fish aren’t eating their Game Fish Grower Fish Food, it’s likely due to one of these three reasons:

  1. Spooked By Predators
    Have you noticed signs of predators prowling around your pond? Have you seen tiny footprints, disturbed areas around the perimeter or unfamiliar droppings? Raccoons, herons and other fish foes can spook fish and cause them to stay far below the water surface. When they do come up, they pop to the top, check for food and dive quickly back to their safe zone. If this sounds familiar, look more closely for tracks or telltale clues and find yourself a deterrent (or live trap).
  2. Under the Weather
    Sickness, injuries or an inhospitable environment can also change your fish’s eating habits. Check your fish when they come to the surface: Do you notice any sores, red spots or torn fins on your fish? If so, you may need to determine the cause of the illness and treat it accordingly. Have they been gasping at the surface instead of showing interest in pellets? This could be a sign that your water needs more oxygen. Crank on your aeration system (or add one if you don’t have one). Changing temperatures could be causing the cooler and warmer waters to stratify, and an aeration system will keep the water column mixed.
  3. Wintertime Blues
    With the changing season comes a decrease in fish’s metabolisms – and appetite. Remember that fish go into hibernation and stop eating during the winter. If they appear to act normal but just shy away from their favorite diet or eat less of it, they’re most likely responding to the changing water temperature and preparing for the cold weather. Check your pond’s water temperature with a pond thermometer, and cut back feeding and stop entirely when the water temp dips to 45 to 50 degrees F.

Pond Talk: How have your game fish started preparing for winter?

Provide Balanced Nutrition - The Pond Guy(r) Game Fish Grower Fish Food

I know my fish will go to the bottom of the pond for the winter, but do I need to do anything for turtles? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I know my fish will go to the bottom of the pond for the winter, but do I need to do anything for turtles?

Q: I know my fish will go to the bottom of the pond for the winter, but do I need to do anything for turtles?

Virginia – Brillion, WI

A: Turtles are smart critters. Unless your terrapins are terrarium-dwellers that aren’t accustomed to the great outdoors, they instinctively know what to do to prepare for winter. They take their cues from Mother Nature—so you can simply let them do their thing!

And what is that thing? Read on to learn more.

Winter Home-Sweet-Home

When air and water temperatures start to chill and their food source become scarce, turtles will slow their metabolisms and look for a place to hole up for the winter. Different types of turtles prefer different types of winter homes; water-loving turtles will swim to the bottom of the pond while land-based turtles, like a box turtle, will burrow in the dirt or mud at or near the pond surface, where they’ll stay warm and cozy.

Metabolism Changes

Just like fish, turtles will stop eating as their metabolism naturally slows to a cold-weather crawl. They’ll start to hibernate—or brumate, as termed in herpetology—when they’ll require very little oxygen, their heart rate will slow to just a few beats per minute and they’ll sleep the winter away, only to wake up in the spring when temperatures increase again.

Provide a Welcoming Environment

Though turtles don’t need a lot of oxygen while they’re hibernating, they do appreciate a healthy pond with clean, O2-infused water. Provide that to them by completing your fall-maintenance chores, like cleaning up dead or dying debris, and keeping your aeration system running over the winter. That moving, oxygenated water will ensure your shelled pond pals will get a good winter’s sleep.

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

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

I have a lot of leaves blowing into my pond. Will the bacteria still work this time of year? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I have a lot of leaves blowing into my pond. Will the bacteria still work this time of year?

Q: I have a lot of leaves blowing into my pond. Will the bacteria still work this time of year?

Austin – Breesport, NY

A: Leaves. There’s really no getting around them. Every fall, those deciduous trees drop their colorful foliage and leave behind a headache for those who have to clean them up.

Natural bacteria will do a great job breaking down the fallen leaves in your pond or lake – but only when water temperatures are above 50° F. Take your pond’s temperature with a pond thermometer; as long as your water is at or above that 50° F mark, keep using MuckAway™ and PondClear™. The microorganisms in those products will continue to work hard to break down organic debris.

Going into winter as temperatures dip below that number, however, the bacteria go on vacation. But there are some things you can do to keep your pond healthy as the cooler weather approaches. Here’s what we recommend.

  1. Rake Up the Leaves: As powerful as natural bacteria are, they will still take a long time to break down fresh leaves that blow into your pond. Help those microorganisms out by raking up and disposing of as many leaves as possible.
  2. Rake Out the Leaves: If they do float into your pond, use a Pond & Beach Rake or Weed Raker to skim and rake those leaves out of your pond. If an abundance of leaves remains in the pond as ice begins to form, this could lead to poor water quality. As the leaves continue to break down, they will release toxic gases that will edge out available oxygen – and if there is ice covering your pond, that’s bad news for your fish.
  3. Aerate All Winter: Unless you plan to use your pond or lake as an ice rink this winter, keep your aeration system running. This will help keep a hole in the ice, circulate the water and keep your oxygen levels higher.
  4. Maintain Your Landscape: In addition to raking up leaves around your pond, keep the foliage around your pond maintained. Prevent that organic debris from getting into the water and turning into algae and pond weed fertilizer.

Bottom line: Yes, bacteria will still work while temperatures are above 50° F, but help them out by removing as much leaf litter and organic debris as possible. There’s no way to fully prevent leaves from falling into your pond – but the fewer that do, the better.

Pond Talk: Have leaves started falling in your neck of the woods yet?

Remove Leaves & Debris - The Pond Guy® Pond & Beach Rake

I changed the air filter on my compressor, but it’s still not pumping much air. Is it time for a maintenance kit? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I changed the air filter on my compressor, but it’s still not pumping much air. Is it time for a maintenance kit?

Q: I changed the air filter on my compressor, but it’s still not pumping much air. Is it time for a maintenance kit?

Doug – Hamilton, KY

A: Regular maintenance will extend the life of your compressor, but an air compressor can lose its pumping power for a number of reasons. To help deduce what the problem could be, start with a quick evaluation:

  • Is your air filter cleaned or replaced? (Check!)
  • Is your intake filter and aeration cabinet clean?
  • Have you checked the diffusers for clean membrane sticks?
  • Have you checked your airline for any loose connections?

If you’ve checked off these chores and your compressor is still low on the air flow, it might be time for a maintenance kit – especially if it’s been a while since you’ve installed one.

Maintenance kits are available for both shallow water (diaphragm) and deep water (piston) compressors. They include replaceable parts like O-rings, seals and hardware that’ll get your compressor humming again. You’ll need some basic tools, like a screw driver and Allen wrench, but they’re fairly easy to install. Simply watch one of our kit installation maintenance videos and follow the included step-by-step instructions.

If you need specific replacement parts, like an air filter, diffuser stick or extra air line, be sure to check our inventory. Chances are good we’ll have just what you need.

Waiting too long to install a maintenance kit could cause the device to become too warm, which will hasten the breakdown of those replaceable parts. Before long, you’ll need to replace the compressor. Save your money: Take the time to maintain your current compressor instead of spending a pretty penny on a new one!

Plus, if you plan on running your aeration system this coming winter, do your maintenance now so you don’t have to chip your system out of the ice in the middle of a cold snap.

Pond Talk: How often do you do basic maintenance on your air compressor?

Restore Aeration to Full Potential - Piston Compressor Maintenance Kits

I’ve tried sprays and other types of bug control. Is there anything else I can do to reduce the mosquitoes by my pond? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I’ve tried sprays and other types of bug control. Is there anything else I can do to reduce the mosquitoes by my pond?

Q: I’ve tried sprays and other types of bug control. Is there anything else I can do to reduce the mosquitoes by my pond?

Nancy – Lima, OH

A: Nothing ruins a pondside shindig faster than a swarm of blood-thirsty mosquitoes. The buzzing, biting, irritating bugs are the bane of pond owners. Besides causing itchy welts, these little pests can transmit dangerous and deadly diseases, like malaria, dengue, yellow fever, West Nile virus, dog heartworm and equine encephalitis.

Yep, they’re a nuisance—but their population can be controlled. Here’s what we recommend.

Remove Food Source

Ponds with lots of plant matter and algae are perfect for feeding baby mosquitoes. Those little wigglers and tumblers (technical terms for developing mosquito larvae and pupae) gobble through the greens, but you can minimize their feeding frenzy by maintaining your pond and eliminating their food source.

Move the Water

A female mosquito prefers to lay her eggs in stagnant water that’s full of algae, plankton, fungi and bacteria, so your next plan of attack should be to churn the water with a fountain, like our AquaStream™ Fountain, or an Airmax® Aeration System near the area where you sit. The waves will make her think twice about calling that part of your pond home.

Grasses Be Gone

Because adult mosquitoes live among the debris surrounding your pond, you want to keep those grasses cleared out. Use some herbicide, like Shoreline Defense®, to kill aquatic weeds and grasses. And pull out your weed removal tools, like your weed cutter, rake and debris skimmer, and remove the dead plants, overgrowth and other potential hiding spots – at least in the area where you hang out most often.

Help from Finned Friends

Mosquito-eating pond life, like tadpoles, minnow, bass, bluegill and catfish, love noshing on the little larvae and pupae. If you don’t already have a fish population living in your lake, consider adding some! The American Mosquito Control Association, in fact, recommends adding predacious minnows or native fish to lakes and ponds for biological control of the insects.

Use Mosquito Dunks or Bits

Mosquito dunks or bits are a lifesaver for folks with still ponds and other standing water pools on their property. These handy little disks or bits contain Bt-israelensis (Bt-i), a specially formulated biological pesticide designed to kill mosquito larvae. You simply toss them in your pond or lake and they’ll provide relief for up to 30 days. Plus, they’re safe for use around wildlife, pets and humans.

Unfortunately, mosquitoes are part of life with a lake or pond. With some pond and landscape maintenance, aeration, water movement, biological control and, if necessary, chemical control, however, you can keep the buzzing swarms at bay.

Pond Talk: What are some other ways you’ve tried to control lakeside mosquitos?

Control Mosquitos Up To 30 Days - Summit® Mosquito Bits® & Dunks®

My pond is about a quarter acre, and I have ducks so I don’t want to use chemicals. Can I use barley straw? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: My pond is about a quarter acre, and I have ducks so I don’t want to use chemicals. Can I use barley straw?

Q: My pond is about a quarter acre, and I have ducks so I don’t want to use chemicals. Can I use barley straw?

Katie – Johnson, VT

A: More and more people are using barley straw as an all-natural (and duck friendly) way to control pond scum—and for good reason. Barley straw is a safe, natural alternative to manufactured chemicals and one of the compounds produced by submerged, decomposing barley straw may actually help keep your pond clear.

You need a lot of it to be effective.

In your quarter-acre pond, you’d need between 25 and 50 pounds (1 to 2 standard bales) of barley straw, depending on your pond’s condition. That straw would then need to be broken up, divided among several permeable bags and placed around the perimeter of the pond with weights in water no deeper than 6 feet.

That’s a lot of work!

And if you don’t replace the barley straw as it decomposes, it just turns into more decaying organic debris in the pond.

So what are your options?

Focus on the health of your pond. Reduce the decomposing plant matter, fish waste and other nutrients by adding a stout aeration system and wildlife-safe beneficial bacteria.

Reconsider manufactured chemicals, like Algae Defense®. The algaecide has no water use restrictions, and it’s safe to use around ducks and other wildlife. And because it only needs to be used when algae growth is occurs, you could use it as a one-time algae bomb. Not all chemicals are bad!

But if you want to give barley straw a try, check out this “fact sheet,” provided by The Ohio State University Extension. It details everything you need to know about using barley straw.

Pond Talk: Have you ever used barley straw? How did it work in your pond or lake?

Promote A Healthy Ecosystem - Pond Logic® PondClear™ Natural Bacteria

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