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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.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLyA3lPKwN4&rel=0
  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

Should I treat my pond weeds now, or will they die on their own now that it’s getting colder? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: Should I treat my pond weeds now, or will they die on their own now that it’s getting colder?

Q: Should I treat my pond weeds now, or will they die on their own now that it’s getting colder?

Ed – Norton, OH

A: This time of year, many aquatic plants—including weeds—seem to be no longer actively growing. Triggered by dropping temperatures and fewer hours of sunlight, the cold-weather slowdown sends perennial plants into dormancy, and it can be hard to tell if they’re dead or just holing up for the winter.

Because you’ll see little or no greenery, treating those weeds can be a challenge. Plus, most chemical treatments, like herbicides and algaecides, don’t work well in colder temperatures. Algae Defense®, for example, stops working when the water is below 60°F, and the beneficial bacteria in PondClear™ almost slow down completely when temps fall below 50°F.

So what options do you have for treating weeds in the winter?

  1. Rake Out Dead Vegetation: First, pull on your muck boots and gloves, and manually pull weeds and dead foliage from the water with a weed rake or other weed removal tool. This will take out growing plants and cut down on decaying organics, which means fewer weeds and fertilizer for them next spring.
  2. Dose with Pond Dye: Next, add some Pond Dye to the water. Available in convenient liquid quarts, gallons and water-soluble packets, it will shade the water blue or black and reduce the amount of sunlight that reaches the bottom of your lake. Pond Dye can also be used regardless of the temperature or time of year.
  3. Aerate the Water: Unless you plan to use your lake for winter recreation, make sure your Airmax® Aeration System is up and running. It’ll keep your water circulated, which will reduce the muck buildup throughout the winter, and it’ll keep a hole open in the ice, which will allow for gas exchange. Your fish will thank you for it.

If you’re concerned about weeds as fall and winter approach, give these three tricks a try. By removing existing weeds and reducing the decaying buildup (i.e. weed fertilizer) now, you’ll have less work to do next spring—and won’t that be a treat!

Pond Talk: What kinds of aquatic weeds grow year-round in your area?

Protect Your Pond Year Round - Pond Logic® Pond Dye

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

Can Aquatic Weeds Go Dormant? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q:Will my fountain be enough to keep my fish safe this winter?

Q: Can Aquatic Weeds Go Dormant?

Jackie – Kalamazoo, MI

A: Yes, those insidious aquatic weeds can go dormant in the cold season, lying in wait in your lake’s muck and sediment, until spring when the hours of sunlight and temperatures increase. The good news is that you can battle them – even in their overwintering state. Here’s how.

Growth Patterns

When temperatures drop and the sun hovers lower in the sky, you’ll start to see those aquatic weeds retreat and hole up for the winter. The duration of their dormancy will depend on where you live (the weed growth patterns in a California pond, for instance, will differ from those in a Minnesota pond!). But, in general, you can expect to see different pond weeds disappear and reappear at different times of year based on environmental temperatures.

If your pond or lake freezes over, the perennial weeds will typically die back in the winter and re-emerge in the spring. Some plants, however, will continue to grow throughout the cold season, though at a much slower rate than you’d see in the warmer summer months.

Controlling Winter Weeds

Because you’ll probably see little to no greenery growing, it will be a challenge to control winter weeds. Methods that work in the spring and summer – like treating with temperature-sensitive herbicides and algaecides – won’t work in the colder temperatures. So what can you do? Here’s what we recommend:

  • Remove Weeds: If there’s no ice on your pond, you can pull on your hip waders and manually remove the weeds with a Weed Raker. This go-to tool efficiently pulls out aquatic weeds by their roots, slowing their regrowth, and also removes decaying matter.
  • Pond Dye: Pond Dye, available in convenient liquid quarts, will shade the water blue or black and reduce the amount of sunlight reaching the weeds and algae growing at the bottom of your lake. Less sunlight means fewer weeds, regardless of the temperature or time of year.
  • Aerate the Water: If you’re not using your lake as an ice rink, crank on your Airmax® Aeration System. The action created by the aerator will circulate the water and reduce the muck buildup throughout the winter.
  • Feeding Fish: Your fish will enter into a semi-dormant state when the water dips below 50 degrees, so there’s no need to feed them. Doing so will add to the lake’s nutrient load (i.e. weed fertilizer …), which is not what you want to do.

If wintertime weeds are taking over your pond, consider trying some of these time-tested tricks. They’ll minimize the nuisance growth during the cold season and reduce the amount of work you’ll need to do in the spring.

Pond Talk: How do you handle aquatic weeds in the wintertime?

Shade & Protect Your Pond - Pond Logic® Pond Dye

How to Make an Ice Rink on Your Pond – Part 3 | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

How to Make an Ice Rink on Your Pond - Part 3

How to Make an Ice Rink on Your Pond

Part 3: Maintaining Your Ice Rink

Congratulations! If you’ve followed our series on how to make an ice rink on your pond, you’re well on your way to creating a winter-sports wonderland for you and your family. Your rink will provide hours of entertainment all season long – as long as you keep it maintained.

How do you keep your rink glassy smooth? You don’t need a Zamboni, but you do need to do some regular scraping, sweeping and flooding to resurface and prime the ice. Here’s our three-step solution for maintaining a perfect surface on your rink.

Step 1: Clear the Surface

First, clear the entire surface of the ice with a broom, a flat head metal shovel and ice scraper. Sweep and shovel off the snow, and scrape down and remove all bits of ice and snow as they will freeze during the flooding process and create imperfections on the surface. Dips and holes are OK because they’ll fill with water, but lumps and bumps are not.

Step 2: Flood the Rink

Next, flood the rink with water. Rather than use a sprayer nozzle, which can cause a pitted and rough ice from all the water droplets hitting the surface, let the water flow directly from the hose and allow it to evenly cover the entire rink.If possible, use warm water to flood the area. Just like in a Zamboni, the warm water melts the surface of ice, correcting imperfections and allowing it to freeze smoothly. You can either fill buckets with warm water from your bathtub and slowly pour the water over the ice, or you can use an outdoor faucet with a thermostatically controlled hose, like a Thermo-Hose™, to keep water flowing out to the pond.

Step 3: Use When Cold.

With your rink resurfaced and smoother than a pane of glass, you want to keep it that way, right? Before you cut into the ice with your blades, consider the temperatures outside. Avoid using the rink during mild weather when your skates do significant damage to the ice. Instead, use the rink when it’s cold enough outside to keep that slick surface intact.

Skate Away!

Now that you’ve learned how to grow good ice rink ice, how to set up and create a winter wonderland, and how to maintain the rink all season long, it’s time to get busy making a rink of your own. Be safe, and enjoy your very own icy paradise!

In case you missed out, check out Part 1: Understanding How Ice Forms and Part 2: Creating Your Winter Wonderland.

Always Promote Pond Safety