• Archives

  • Categories

  • Pages

  • Follow me on Twitter

I don’t have a pond, so I have no fish or filter to worry about. Can I still run my water feature? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I don’t have a pond, so I have no fish or filter to worry about. Can I still run my water feature?

Q: I don’t have a pond, so I have no fish or filter to worry about. Can I still run my water feature?

Julie – Castleton, NY

A: Though we generally recommend folks shut down their pondless features in the winter, you can absolutely run it year-round—as long as you’re prepared to add a few winter chores to your to-do list.

Keep It Running
Because they don’t have filtration systems to fuss with or fish to care for, pondless and other small features really don’t require much winter care. Periodically, however, inspect it and check for the following:

  • Flowing Water: To prevent water from freezing in the feature’s plumbing during cold temperatures, keep water running at all times. The movement will minimize ice buildup.
  • No Ice Dams: Keep an eye on the ice formations around your feature. Make sure ice is not redirecting water out of the water feature. If so, melt it with warm water.
  • Refill as Needed: You’ll need to top off the water level through the cold season, so keep a water supply available to refill your feature as needed. A hose-warming device like our Thermo-Hose™ will keep your water supply flowing for feature refills.

Shut It Down
If you don’t want to mess with these chores, shut your water feature down for the season and store the pieces and parts until next spring. Here’s a quick three-step checklist to follow:

  • Scrub Down: First, give your feature a thorough cleaning. Use Oxy-Lift™ to help break debris from the rocks and waterfall, gently scrub as needed and rinse well.
  • Remove Pump: Next, empty out water basins and remove your pump for winter storage. Drain the tubing and store the pump in a bucket of water to keep the seals moist so they don’t dry out and crack.
  • Store Décor: Finally, disconnect and store any fragile water feature parts, like spitters or decorative vases in your garage or basement. Take temperature-sensitive plants inside for the winter, too.

Yes, sitting beside a gurgling waterfall on a frosty winter’s eve is a splendid way to relax after a long day (especially if you have a hot cup of tea and a patio heater cranked on!). But giving your feature a break for the winter while you stay warm and dry is a nice idea, too. Whatever route you choose, enjoy!

Pond Talk: How do you keep your pondless water feature running through the winter?

Lift Debris Away in Seconds - The Pond Guy® Oxy-Lift™ Defense®

 

Enjoy this article?
Join over 60,000 fellow pond owners and receive our Weekly Pond Talk every Saturday.

 

Now that my plants are gone, how do I protect my fish? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Now that my plants are gone, how do I protect my fish?

Q: Now that my plants are gone, how do I protect my fish?

Vicky – Chatham, NH

A: This time of year, aquatic plants are tough to find in backyard ponds. Cold temperatures and fewer hours of sunlight make all the lush greenery die off or go dormant for the winter — and that leaves your fish high and dry and without any protection from hungry predators, like raccoons, herons and passing coyotes.

The lack of lily pads, hyacinth leaves and other plant cover also means more sunlight will penetrate the water. All those rays can lead to algae blooms and poor water quality, which is not something your hibernating fish will appreciate.

So how do you protect your finned friends from hungry bad guys during the sparse winter months? Here’s what we recommend.

  1. Create fish habitats: Because fish will naturally hide in crevices between rocks and other sunken debris, replicate that environment by creating fish habitats and caves. Prop up some slate slabs to make a fabricated lean-to. Build extra hiding places with clever rock placement. Provide an ecosystem that will encourage them to do what’s natural.
  2. Install fish shelters: In the winter, fish will intuitively head to deeper water where it’s warmer and safe from claws, paws and beaks. But to add another layer of protection — particularly if your pond isn’t that deep — give them plenty of sheltering options. Install a Koi Kastle or two. Lay down some empty flower pots or short lengths of 4-inch PVC pipe. Give your finned pals plenty of options to hide, just in case predators stop by the pond.
  3. Crank on your aeration system: As your aeration system bubbles and infuses oxygen throughout the water, it creates water surface movement that can help camouflage your fish from overhead predators. The aerator will also keep the water churning, and create a hole in the ice for gas exchange. If it’s not running already, now’s the time to crank it on!

Until your plants start growing again, keep your fish safe and sound with these simple steps – and do it before the frigid temperatures really kick in.

Pond Talk: Where do your fish hide when your plants die back for the season?

Provide Hiding Places For Fish - Nycon Koi Kastle Fish Shelters

 

Enjoy this article?
Join over 60,000 fellow pond owners and receive our Weekly Pond Talk every Saturday.

 

I heard fish can get swim bladder disease this time of year, what is it? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I heard fish can get swim bladder disease this time of year, what is it?

Q: I heard fish can get swim bladder disease this time of year, what is it?

Becky – Trumbell, CT

A:  Many bony fish, like the fancy goldfish found in ornamental ponds, have an organ called a swim bladder. This gas-filled sack has two main purposes: It helps the fish control its buoyancy and remain at a particular depth without having to waste energy on swimming, and it keeps the fish in an upright position. When a fish is unable to control its depth, or starts swimming sideways, upside side down, or head or tail down, it may have “swim bladder disease.”

A fish with swim bladder disease can be a troubling sight to see, but it can be treated. Here’s what you need to know about what causes it and how to get your fish swimming the right way again.

Your Gluttonous Goldfish

Although intestinal parasites and microorganisms can cause swim bladder disease, it mainly stems from overeating, eating too quickly or gulping too much air during feeding time. The fish gobbles mouthfuls of pellets, which expand like sponges as they soak up water in the mouth and digestive tract leading to constipation. Enough pressure on the swim bladder will cause the fish to swim any which way but up.

Time for a Diet Change

Water temperatures dip – sometimes precipitously – in the fall, and that change can slow your fishes’ digestive processes. They have a harder time digesting protein when it’s cold, and it can build up in their gut and result in an enlarged intestine.

To prevent this from happening, switch your fish food during the fall (and spring). Using a pond thermometer, periodically check your water temperature. Once temperatures are consistently between 40°F and 50°F, change over to a lower-protein, higher-carbohydrate diet like The Pond Guy® Spring and Fall Fish Food, which is packed with easier-to-digest wheat germ. Feed them two to three times a week and only give them an amount that they will eat within 5 minutes. When temperatures drop below 40°F, stop feeding them entirely.

Peas to the Rescue

The best treatment for swim bladder disease is found in your refrigerator or freezer. Frozen or cooked peas, will blast through the impaction and reduce the pressure on the fish’s swim bladder. If your fish starts floating sideways, we recommend you stop feeding them for a few days and then hand feed peas to help clear up any blockages.

Medicating fish in outdoor ponds with cooler temperatures really is not an option, as the medications won’t work – so stick with the fasting-plus-peas remedy.

If one of your fish is really stressed, a salt bath could help – but you will need to dissolve the salt in an indoor holding tank filled with warm 78 to 80ºF water. Keep in mind that when you transfer your fish from the cooler 40°-50°F outdoor water to the warmer treatment tank, that temperature change can easily shock the fish. It should be avoided.

Pond Talk: Have you ever had to treat one of your pond fish for swim bladder disease? If so, what did you do?

Wheatgerm Formula for Cooler Months - The Pond Guy® Spring and Fall Fish Food

 

Enjoy this article?
Join over 60,000 fellow pond owners and receive our Weekly Pond Talk every Saturday.

 

What do you really mean when you say fish are “dormant” for the winter? Do they sleep? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: What do you really mean when you say fish are “dormant” for the winter? Do they sleep?

Q: What do you really mean when you say fish are “dormant” for the winter? Do they sleep?

Diane – Wells, ME

A:  When the days shorten and temperatures drop, koi and other pond fish enter into what’s called torpor, or a period of decreased physiological activity that allows them to save energy. They don’t sleep the winter away, but they do essentially hibernate—their metabolism slows, they require less food, their activity level drops and their body temperatures reduce.

How do they know they need to hibernate, and what can hobbyists do to make their finned friends’ winter torpor restful? Read on to learn more.

Mother Nature’s in Charge
Fish don’t use calendars to decide when to take their winter snooze. Instead, they follow Mother Nature’s lead. Because fish are cold-blooded, their metabolism reacts to the external environment. When the water temperature falls, so does their activity level: Their appetite dwindles, they digest food more slowly, and they expend less energy. In the spring when temperatures warm back up, the fish will naturally come out of their torpor. They’ll start to seek out food as their metabolism increases, and they’ll become active once again.

Suspended Animation
You’ll know when your fish go dormant. They won’t lie down on the pond’s bottom or curl up in their cozy Koi Kastle, but they will float upright, tuck in their fins and remain suspended in the water. As the fish hover there, you may still see some super slow movement, and they may also wind up facing in the same direction as if they were heading somewhere at less than a snail’s speed.

Sweet Dreams, Koi!
Here are four ways to give your koi a peaceful winter rest:

  1. Set up an aeration system to keep the water pumped full of oxygen. Even though they’re hibernating, your fish will still need some fresh O2.
  2. Install a de-icer to keep a hole open in the ice and allow for gas exchange. If the pond freezes over, use warm water to reopen a hole; do not bang on the ice to crack it, as doing so can stress your fish.
  3. Keep as much debris out of the pond as possible to prevent muck buildup over the winter.
  4. Let the fish be. Don’t try to get them to move or swim or wake up from their slumber. Keep an eye on them, but leave them alone until they wake up on their own.

Pond Talk: Have your fish started hibernating yet?

Vent Harmful Gases All Winter - Airmax® PondAir™ & Thermo-Pond De-Icer Combo

 

Enjoy this article?
Join over 60,000 fellow pond owners and receive our Weekly Pond Talk every Saturday.

 

Are other fish like my plecostomus as hardy over the winter as my koi? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Are other fish like my plecostomus as hardy over the winter as my koi?

Q: Are other fish like my plecostomus as hardy over the winter as my koi?

Dale – Paoli, PA

A: We talk about how koi and certain types of goldfish, like Sarassa and Shubunkins, can overwinter in your pond or water garden even when water temperatures dip to near-freezing levels.

But what about other common pond fishes?

Well, it depends on your USDA hardiness zone, which divides the country into zones based on how cold the temperatures get. Just as with plants, some fish species can be “hardy” in some climates and not in others. An Oranda, for instance, might do just fine overwintering in a pond in Orlando, Fla., but up in Fargo, N.D., that same fish would turn into a popsicle—even with an aeration system and de-icer.

When the temperatures begin to fall in colder zones, here’s what you do:

1. Keep a close eye on your pond’s water temperature using a thermometer, like the Floating Pond Thermometer. When the mercury hits 68 degrees or so, it’s time to bring those less hardy fishes—including Plecostomus, Oranda, Telescope goldfish and Black Moors—inside.

2. Carefully scoop those snowbird fishes out of the pond with a net, like The Pond Guy® Collapsible Fish Net, and place them in a bucket pre-filled with some of your pond’s water.

3. Re-home the fishes in a properly sized indoor fish tank or aquarium outfitted with the right mechanical and biological filtration system for the job. Be sure to condition the water and pre-treat it with some beneficial bacteria to kick start the system’s biological filtration, too.

As soon as sun thaws your pond water—or at least heats it back up to room temperature—it’s safe to return those fishes to their “summer” home.

Pond Talk: What kind of overwintering setup do you have for your less hardy fishes?

 Transfer Fish Indoors With Ease - The Pond Guy® Collapsible Fish Net

 

Enjoy this article?
Join over 60,000 fellow pond owners and receive our Weekly Pond Talk every Saturday.

 

How do I overwinter my tropical lilies? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: How do I overwinter my tropical lilies?

Q: How do I overwinter my tropical lilies?

Marilyn – Morton, IL

A:  Vivid and fragrant, tropical water lilies are the floating jewels of a pond. If you live in Hardiness Zone 9 or lower, you’ll need to take extra special care of these warm-weather-loving beauties over the cold season. To overwinter tropical water lilies, you have two choices: send them into dormancy or keep them growing.

Going Dormant for Winter

If you decide to send your water lilies into dormancy for the winter, stop fertilizing them in the fall to slow their growth and help them prepare their tubers for winter. After the first frost, pull out your Aqua Gloves™ and follow these step-by-step instructions:

  1. First, remove the lily and planting basket from the pond. Using your hands, dig around in the soil just below the plant’s crown to feel for the tubers. They normally range in size from an acorn to golf ball, but they can be smaller or larger.
  2. Take out the tubers and rinse each one very well with a strong stream of water. Use your pond scissors to trim off remnants of roots or stems. If small tubers are growing on a larger tuber, remove them and store them—they could turn into new lilies plants next year!
  3. Store the tubers in a plastic bag or glass jar that’s filled with damp (not wet!) peat moss, sphagnum moss or sand. Consider dusting them with a fungicide before sealing them up. Keep the container in a room that stays warmer than 50° F.
  4. Once a month through the winter, check on your tubers to be sure they’re still damp. Spritz them with water if they get dry.
  5. When water temperatures climb back to 60° F in the spring, replant the tubers in a planting basket filled with fresh, fertile soil. Position them just below the surface with the pointy side up and round side down.

Keep Them Growing

If you decide to keep your water lilies growing over the winter, set up a space in your home for a grow light and an aquarium or lined indoor pond. After the first frost, take the lilies and their planting baskets inside and follow these tips:

  1. First, trim off the largest leaves and any dead, dry or damaged leaves with your pond scissors.
  2. Place the planting baskets and plants inside in an aquarium or lined pond filled with water.
  3. Keep the water temperature above 60° F, and use a grow light to keep the lilies growing slowly over the winter.
  4. Once the weather outside warms and your pond’s water temperature climbs back to 60° F, transplant your lilies or add some fertilizer to their existing soil and submerge them.

Overwintering tropical water lilies isn’t hard, but it does require some space and planning. Good luck!

Pond Talk: What tips can you share for overwintering tropical water lilies?

Keep Your Hands & Arms Dry - Aqua Gloves™

 

Enjoy this article?
Join over 60,000 fellow pond owners and receive our Weekly Pond Talk every Saturday.

 

Running a pond heater is expensive. Do I have any other options? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Running a pond heater is expensive. Do I have any other options?

Q: Running a pond heater is expensive. Do I have any other options?

Vicki – Pawtucket, RI

A: Yes, those pond heaters are expensive to run! But guess what? You don’t need one in the first place!

Heaters are more frequently used in aquariums, particularly those that house warm-water fish like tetras or angelfish.

In your pond, the fish will overwinter just fine without a heater—even if temperatures drop below freezing. Pond fishes like koi and goldfish naturally go into wintertime hibernation when temperatures fall. They’ll stop eating, their metabolisms will slow way down and they’ll snooze through the winter without worrying about how warm their water is.

However, if you live in areas that experience freezing temperatures that cause your pond to ice over, you do need to worry about keeping a hole in the ice. The hole allows toxic gases like ammonia to escape while allowing oxygen in, and your fish will need that fresh O2.

So how do you create that hole? Not with a pond heater! Check out these much cheaper alternatives:

  • De-Icer: A de-icer floats on the water surface and melts a hole in the ice. Unlike a heater that actually warms the entire pond, a de-icer simply melts an opening in the ice sheet, thereby allowing for gas exchange.
  • Aerator: Rather than create a hole in the ice from above, an aerator like the PondAir™ (for smaller ponds) or Water Garden Aeration Kit (for larger ponds) circulates the water below the ice sheet. In areas with mild winters, that subsurface water movement will keep a hole in the ice—but when temps really dip, an aerator may not be enough to maintain a vent hole.
  • De-Icer, Aerator Combo: An excellent and convenient option to consider is the PondAir™ & Thermo-Pond Combo. It combines both the Thermo-Pond de-icer and PondAir™ Aeration Kit, providing your water feature the one-two punch it needs to stay well-vented throughout the winter. Watch the video below for benefits and installation.

If you live in an area with temperatures that hover around the freezing mark, consider picking up a Thermo Cube®. It’s a thermostatically controlled outlet that turns on when air temperatures drop below 35°F and turns off when air temps rise above 45°F.

So put that pond heater on Craigslist and invest in a de-icer, aerator and thermostatically controlled outlet. It’ll save you money in the long run!

Pond Talk: What method do you use to keep a hole in the ice in your pond?

The Ultimate in Winter Protection - PondAir™ & Thermo-Pond Combo

 

Enjoy this article?
Join over 60,000 fellow pond owners and receive our Weekly Pond Talk every Saturday.