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This is my first winter with a pond. Do I need to bring in my plants? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: This is my first winter with a pond. Do I need to bring in my plants?

Q: This is my first winter with a pond. Do I need to bring in my plants?

Bonnie – Dover, NJ

A: You’ve been watching your aquatic plants flourish all year. Your water lilies and hyacinth put off big blooms, your irises and cattails became homes for frogs and dragonflies, and your submerged plants provided a home for your fish and snails.

With the cold weather on its way, now what do you do with them? Well, it all depends on where you live and what types of plants you have.

In the Zone

What’s your hardiness zone? The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map will help you determine which plants will thrive in a particular location. The map is based on the average annual minimum winter temperature, divided into 10-degree Fahrenheit zones.

In general, if you live in a hardiness zone that’s frost-free, congratulations! All you need to do is trim off dead foliage with your Scissors & Pliers, fertilize the plants as necessary and enjoy them all year round.

If you live in an area that freezes, however, you have some work to do.

Like terrestrial plants, aquatic plants – whether floating, marginal or submerged – are sensitive in varying degrees to freezing temperatures. Some species will overwinter just fine in frostier hardiness zones, while others will wilt and die at the slightest hint of ice.

So before you do anything, get to know your plants and identify which ones are in your zone and which ones aren’t.

Overwintering Your Plants

Winter care of water lilies, marginal/bog plants and submerged plants will depend on if they’re tropical (anything that likes temperatures above your hardiness zone) or hardy (anything geared for temperatures in your hardiness zone or lower).

  • Tropical Plants: These sensitive beauties, including tropical water lilies and canna, will need to be removed from the pond and replaced next season, or removed and relocated to a warm indoor space for winter. Read about how to overwinter tropical water lilies in this blog post.
  • Hardy Plants: These easy-care troopers, including hardy water lilies and submerged plants, only need to have dead foliage removed after the first hard frost. Simply use your AquaGloves™ and Scissors & Pliers to trim away any spent leaves, lily pads or flowers. Once trimmed, sink the plants to the deepest part of your pond. Hardy plants will go dormant for the winter and regrow in the spring.

Floating plants, like hyacinth and water lettuce, can be treated like an annual; they will die over the winter, so remove them from your pond once they begin to yellow. Luckily, they’re inexpensive to replace and will grow quickly once re-added. Please note: hyacinth and water lettuce can be invasive so be sure to dispose of them properly and never release into public water.

Good luck caring for your first winter pond!

Pond Talk: What advice about overwintering can you share with this new pond owner?

Quickly Trim Away Dormant Plants - Pond Scissors & Pliers


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Do I need to hire someone to install lighting in my pond, or is that something I can do? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Do I need to hire someone to install lighting in my pond, or is that something I can do?

Q: Do I need to hire someone to install lighting in my pond, or is that something I can do?

Tiffany – Savannah, TN

A: Unless you’re planning a Bellagio-esque display in your backyard, you can most certainly install some show-stopping lighting. It’s perfect for the do-it-yourselfer: A simple transformer and some quick connections allow any homeowner to take their water feature to the next level.

Layout Lighting Goals

Before you dive in, however, brainstorm what you’d like the lighting to do. What are your goals?

  • If you’d like a few lights to mark the pond at night, check out our Floating Solar Lights. They’re a great way to add nighttime illumination to any pond or water garden. The LED lights, which shift between pink, yellow and blue, are solar-powered and maintenance-free – making them an energy-efficient choice that will last for years.
  • If you’d like to illuminate a waterfall or accent a small water feature, take a look at our waterfall lights and three-pack halogen mini lights. The Pond Guy® Waterfall Light highlights waterfalls via its submersible 10-watt halogen light. It’s waterproof and includes a low-voltage transformer. Rock Lights feature a realistic stone finish, allowing them the blend naturally with your landscape.
  • If you’d like to light up your entire pond, try LEDPro™ Lights. They can be used in or out of water and shine with the same intensity as a halogen bulb, but with a longer life span and lower energy cost.

Easy Installation

Installing these lighting systems is easy. If you’re considering the LEDPro Rock Lights or High Output lights, there’s virtually no work at all. They contain a photocell, so the light will automatically turn on when it’s dark and turn off when the sun rises.

Most other pond lights we offer have standard plugs, so there’s no need for additional control panels or wiring. Before installing them, check out these pro tips:

  • To give you better access, partially drain the pond when installing the lights.
  • Leave extra power cord wrapped around the light so you can easily access it for maintenance or cleaning without draining the pond.
  • Position the lights so they shine out into the pond rather than facing you.

Pond Talk: What kinds of lights do you have illuminating your pond?

Great For Small Ponds & Gardens - The Pond Guy® 3 Watt, LEDPro™ Lights


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What is the difference between a waterfall filter and a waterfall spillway? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: What is the difference between a waterfall filter and a waterfall spillway?

Q: What is the difference between a waterfall filter and a waterfall spillway?

Ashley – Forest Grove, OR

A:  Waterfall filters and waterfall spillways both generate a flowing waterfall in your pond or water feature – but they have different designs and purposes. Here’s what you need to know about including them in your waterscape.


A Waterfall Filter

A waterfall filter, like The Pond Guy® ClearSpring™ Waterfall Filters, serves two purposes: it generates a waterfall, and it houses your biological filtration system. The waterfall filter provides a starting point for the waterfall itself as the water fills its deep basin and pours evenly over the spillway. That basin is also spacious enough to hold filter media, which houses countless beneficial bacteria – a.k.a. your biological filtration system.

These two-in-one units work well for hobbyists who are building a new pond or are in need of additional filtration. Once you install one, be sure to seed the filter media with PL Gel, a bacterial inoculant that contains beneficial microorganisms and naturally occurring biopolymers that reduce filter startup time.

A Waterfall Spillway

A waterfall spillway, like the PondBuilder™ Elite Cascade Spillways, also provides a starting point for an evenly pouring waterfall, but the basin itself is smaller and provides no room for filter media.

But because it creates the environment-enhancing movement and sound of flowing water, a waterfall spillway makes an excellent addition to a pond that’s already filtered. It also works well for pondless waterfalls and in ponds in areas with little room to work.

Customizing Your Flow

Whether you install a waterfall filter or waterfall spillway, they can both be used in conjunction with a skimmer. You can also easily blend them into your landscape with rock covers or aquatic plants while still allowing you to access the unit. Some models even offer a planting shelf or basket to house additional aquatic plants. Check out our entire selection of Waterfall Filters & Waterfall Spillways.

Pond Talk: What type of waterfall does your pond or water feature have?

Create a Waterfall & Filter Your Pond - The Pond Guy® ClearSpring™ Mini Waterfall Filter

Some of my waterfall rocks shifted over the winter, and I think I may have a leak. How do I find and fix it? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Some of my rocks and stream shifted over the winter, and I think I may have a leak. What is the easiest way to fix it?

Q: Some of my waterfall rocks shifted over the winter, and I think I may have a leak. How do I find and fix it?

Vicky – Roslyn, PA

A: With a winter of ice, snow, and thaw on repeat, your pond landscape likely took a hit. Periods of ice, snow and even heavy bouts of rain can shift rocks and soil, cause erosion and move or puncture your liner, resulting in leaks.

So how to find and fix that possible leak? You’ll need to do some investigating to determine where the problem is and then get busy making repairs. Here’s what we suggest.

Steady the Rocks

Because the rocks shifted over the winter, the first thing to do is return them to their original position them and lock them into place. As you move the rocks back, check to see if they tore the liner or shifted it out of place. If so, patch the hole and tuck the liner back in. Use PondBuild ‘N Foam to fill in gaps between the rocks, support them and prevent them from moving again next winter.

Rule Out Evaporation

What has the weather been like? When the humidity levels are low and the air contains little moisture, the dry atmosphere will act like a sponge, increasing evaporation rates and absorbing the water from your pond. It can cause your pond to lose up to an inch of water a day. To rule out evaporation, fill the pond back up and keep an eye on the water level. Any more than an inch or so of water loss could indicate a leak.

Check for Damp Spots

If more than an inch or so of water is disappearing daily, one clear clue that could lead to your leak is a damp area around the pond’s perimeter. That water has to go somewhere, and a low-lying patch of wet ground is a great place to start looking for its source. Walk around the pond and carefully inspect the soil for signs of unexplained moisture.

Rule Out the Liner

If you’ve ruled out evaporation and found no damp areas, there are two more possible leak culprits: your waterfall or your liner. Shut down waterfall pump and wait for several hours. If the pond’s water level stays the same, then you’ll know the leak is not in the liner itself. It’s likely in the waterfall or plumbing. Check your waterfall box and skimmer for cracks or if the liner isn’t attached, and inspect your plumbing for loose connections.

Track, Repair Liner Leak

At this point, the bad news is that you probably have a hole in your liner, and finding it won’t be easy. But the good news is that it is possible to track it down and repair it. To find it, use The Pond Guy® Pond Shade or some milk to visually track the leak. Simply add a few drops on the side and watch it as it finds its way to the leak. This will take some time, a few attempts — and patience. You can also let the water slowly go down. (Depending how low it goes, you may need to temporarily relocate your fish.) The water level should stabilize, which will allow you to visually inspect the first few inches of liner above the water surface for the hole.

Once you’ve found the hole, patch it up with an EPDM Liner Patch Kit or use some Gold Label Pond Sealer. The 6-inch liner patch is easy to use on small punctures: Just peel off the protective film and press onto the liner. The sealer can be used in wet or dry conditions and will seal completely in 48 hours.

Good luck tracking down that leak and repairing it!

Pond Talk: Tell us about your most mysterious pond leak. How did you find it and repair it?

Quickly Repair Winter Damage - Tite Seal™ EPDM Pond Liner Patch Kit

My UV bulb was still working when I pulled it out for the winter. Do I still need to replace it? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: My UV bulb was still working when I pulled it out for the winter. Do I still need to replace it?

Q: My UV bulb was still working when I pulled it out for the winter. Do I still need to replace it?

Richard – Avon, IN

A:  A UV bulb is one of your best weapons in the battle against discolored water. When those ultra-fine particles are exposed to the bulb’s ultraviolet rays the tiny particles clump together, and those clumps are then removed by your mechanical filtration system.

What’s left behind is clean, clear water – as long as the bulb is working efficiently.

For your UV clarifier to work its best, it will need a new ultraviolet bulb every year. Even though the bulb still illuminates and appears to be working, its effectiveness decreases over time. Your best bet is to replace it when you do your annual spring cleanout, and plan to do so again year after year.

Spring Cleaning

In addition to switching out the bulb, take some time to check the quartz sleeve or glass tube that’s housing the bulb. Does it need a good cleaning? Debris can build up on the glass, preventing those powerful UV rays from penetrating the water as it passes through the filter. Use as soft cloth and a descaler (if needed) to scrub off the buildup.

Filter Check

While you’re at it, check your biological filter media and mechanical filter components, like the skimmer, pump sock and prefilters. Do they need to be cleaned or replaced? Even though your ultraviolet clarifier is tackling most of the discolored water, your filtration system is still responsible for removing the debris. Make sure they’re in good working order before the algae blooms in the spring.

Maintain a Balanced Pond

UV clarifiers do a great job at clearing water, but an even better solution is to maintain a balanced pond the first place. Reduce excessive nutrients by reducing the number of fish in your pond, minimizing the amount of food you feed them and cleaning up the waste they produce, as well as regularly removing the built-up detritus.

Pond Talk: How often do you replace your UV bulb?

Eliminate Discolored Water - The Pond Guy® PowerUV™

I have a small pondless fountain that’s cloudy and slimy. What can I use to clean it? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I have a small pondless fountain that’s cloudy and slimy. What can I use to clean it?

Q: I have a small pondless fountain that’s cloudy and slimy. What can I use to clean it?

Stephanie – Covington, GA

A:  Pondless, fishless water features are known for being low maintenance – but even they get slimy and scummy and in need of some attention. Dust and debris blow into the water, leaves and twigs somehow find their way into the basin, and algae starts to grow on the surfaces. As all that stuff builds up and breaks down, you’re left with a mess.

Good thing it’s an easy problem to manage. Because you have no pond and no resident fish to consider, there’s no need to worry about de-chlorinators, test kits, filtration systems and all that nonsense (although adding a filter always helps, even in a fishless feature). Here’s what you’ll need to do to keep your fountain clean and clear:

  1. Give It a Good Scrub-Down: First, give your feature a thorough cleaning. Shut down the pump, empty the water basin and use a cleaner like Oxy-Lift™ Defense® to break down debris and speed cleaning. Once you’re done scrubbing and rinsing, refill the reservoir with fresh water.
  2. Move It Out of the Sun: Full sunlight will encourage the growth of gunk so, if possible, move your feature to a sun-free spot or shade it from the UV rays with an umbrella or covering. Doing so will keep the fountain cleaner for a longer span of time. Which leads us to No. 3 …
  3. Keep It Clean: Finally, once it’s scrubbed and moved to a protected spot, keep it clean! We recommend our FeatureFix™ & FeatureClear™ Combo. It includes FeatureClear™, which contains concentrated beneficial bacteria that digest organic debris; and FeatureFix™, which eliminates discolored water with a fast-acting formula designed for pondless features. It’s easy to use: Simply remove excess debris from the feature, shake the FeatureFix™ or FeatureClear™ well, and pour into the water. FeatureClear™ works best when temperatures are above 50°F, but FeatureFix™ works no matter the temperature.

Easy-to-maintain pondless water features, birdbaths and fountains allow you to enjoy the aesthetics of flowing water with minimal work, but these simple steps will ensure your water stays clear and your fountain remains slime-free.

Pond Talk: Do you keep your pondless water feature running all year long?

Keep Water Features Crystal Clear - FeatureClear™ & FeatureFix™ Combo

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