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My pond froze over. How do I get it open again? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: My pond froze over. How do I get it open again?

Q: My pond froze over. How do I get it open again?

Janet – Minneapolis, MN

A:  Brrrr. Jack Frost, Elsa and the rest of the cold-weather crew sure have been busy lately, haven’t they? Despite the use of a de-icer, aeration system and other ice-prevention tactics, long bouts of frigid temperatures and wind-whipped nights can cause ponds to freeze over. And that’s not good news for your fish.

So what can you do? When considering your hibernating finned pals, time is critical. Too long without an open area in the ice for gas exchange could mean dangerous conditions for your koi, goldfish and other pond fish.

Overnight, No Problem

If the pond has been frozen over since last night, your fish should be just fine. Cold, windy nights often cause extra layers of ice to form on the pond’s surface. If your de-icer and aeration are on and functioning properly, some of the ice should melt on its own. Meanwhile, your fish will have plenty of dissolved oxygen in the water to tide them over.

A Week or More, Get Busy

If it’s been a week or longer with no hole in the ice, it’s time to take some action. Without a hole, ammonia and other noxious gases are unable to escape into the atmosphere, and your fish will have no access to fresh oxygen. Here’s what to do when ice overtakes your pond.

  1. Melt It: First, melt a hole back open in the ice by pouring a bucket of hot water onto the frozen stuff near your de-icer or aerator’s airstones. Do not drill through the ice or bang on it with a hammer as this will stress your fish, which are probably already stressed out.
  2. Systems Check: Once a hole is open, check to be sure your de-icer and aeration systems are still running and functioning properly. If not, repair the damage or replace the unit altogether. The PondAir™ & Thermo-Pond Combo, which is an all-in-one aerator and de-icer, works to keep a vent open in ponds up to 2,000 gallons. See the video below for tips on installing the PondAir™ & Thermo-Pond De-Icer Combo.
  3. Reposition Airstones: Finally, if your airstones are positioned at the bottom of your pond, relocate them. Put them in a shallower area that’s closer to the water surface. This will create more movement – and that means a bigger hole.

Should frigid temperatures and a solid ice sheet persist, take a daily trip to your pond to check on the gas exchange hole. Your aerator and de-icer should do the trick, but be ready to melt through the ice if needed.

Pond Talk: How often does your pond freeze over in the winter?

Vent Ponds Up To 2,000 Gallons - PondAir™ &;amp Thermo-Pond 3.0 De-Icer Combo

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

I’m loosing water even after turning off my waterfall, but I don’t see any evidence of a leak. Help! | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I’m losing water even after turning off my waterfall, but I don’t see any evidence of a leak. Help!

Q: I’m loosing water even after turning off my waterfall, but I don’t see any evidence of a leak. Help!

Paul – Cherry Hill, NJ

A:  Missing water, eh? Well, there are several logical explanations for your “Case of the Disappearing Water” pond mystery. This time of year, a water feature will lose water for all sorts of reasons, including:

  • Humidity Levels: 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.
  • Windy Weather: Breezes are common during autumn, and those winds can also escalate evaporation in your pond. A 5-mile-per-hour wind at your pond’s surface, for example, results in roughly three times the evaporation rate on a still day!
  • Leaky Liner: Leaks can be tricky. Your pond and waterfall may appear to be leak-free, but a slow, inconspicuous one could have formed in your plumbing, or one could have happened after some rocks shifted. Take a look at this article for tips on finding and fixing a leak.
  • Freezing and Thawing: Though freezing temperatures are rare this time of year, ice formation and expansion can happen—and it can cause your pond’s volume to look like it’s changing. As the water freezes, it’ll take up more space than liquid water and appear to be disappearing when it’s really not.

So what can you do about the disappearing water?

First of all, if you haven’t already, shut down fountains, spitters, waterfalls and other extra water features. This will reduce splashing that can lead to water loss. Remember: The more surface area, the more loss from evaporation, so reduce surface area by keeping the surface water still.

Next, keep the pond filled by topping your water levels off with a garden hose—particularly on dry, windy days when evaporation is at its peak. Winter weather will eventually bring icy temperatures and frozen hoses, so keep a thermostatically controlled Thermo-Hose™ handy to ensure the water inside the hose stays liquid. The built-in heating elements turn on when the temperatures dip below freezing, preventing ice from forming. If you are refilling with tap water don’t forget to add Water Conditioner.

Finally, for your pond’s and your fishes’ health, install an aeration system to keep the water circulated below the pond’s surface. An easy-to-install system like the PondAir™ & Thermo-Pond De-Icer Combo will gently aerate and pump oxygen into the water while keeping a hole open in the ice to allow for gas exchange.

Water loss is common, but with these tricks you can minimize the evaporation while maintaining your pond over the fall and winter.

Pond Talk: How much evaporation do you measure in your pond during the fall months?

Top Off Ponds & Water Features - K&H™ Thermo-Hose™

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?

Quickly Lift Debris From Waterfalls - Pond Logic® Oxy-Lift™ Defense®

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, danios 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 KoiAir™ (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

I’m shutting down my waterfall for the winter and installing an aeration system. Do you have any tips on running aeration? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I’m shutting down my waterfall for the winter and installing an aeration system. Do you have any tips on running aeration?

Q: I’m shutting down my waterfall for the winter and installing an aeration system. Do you have any tips on running aeration?

David – Greenfield, IN

A:  Shutting down the waterfall for the winter makes a lot of sense for water garden hobbyists. Not only will it save on operating costs, but it will also prolong the life of your equipment, prevent ice dams from forming and potentially draining your pond, and save on a lot of hassle and worry.

With the waterfall off, the pond will need another source of oxygen – and that’s where an aeration system comes into play. It pumps O2 into the water and maintains a gas exchange hole in the ice, ensuring any finned friends are safe and healthy through the cold season.

We’ve got some expert tips on aeration for you. Here’s what we recommend for making the most of your system.

  • Size It Right: Install an aeration system that’s large enough to properly ventilate your pond volume. An “a little is better than nothing” approach might not be enough to keep your fish safe. If your pond is less than 4,000 gallons, consider The Pond Guy Water Garden Aeration Kit. If it’s between 4,000 and 16,000 gallons, try the KoiAir Aeration Kit.
  • Pair with a De-icer: Though the water movement created by aeration can prevent most surface ice formation, add a de-icer just in case nighttime temperatures turn frigid. The PondAir & Thermo-Pond Combo – a combination kit containing an aerator and de-icer – is perfect for this. On particularly windy nights, you might see ice form even with a de-icer, but don’t worry. The aeration system is still adding oxygen to the pond, and the combination of the two will eventually reopen the hole.
  • Position in Shallows: Rather than place your diffusers in the deepest areas of your pond where your fish hang out in the winter, put them in the shallows or near the surface. Doing so will provide more water movement and better keep a hole in the ice.
  • Watch the Ice: If ice does form, don’t panic! Keep an eye on the ice. If a ventilation hole doesn’t reopen on its own within a few days, pour a bucket of hot water on the ice to help melt it open. Don’t – we repeat – don’t pound on the ice to break it apart. Your fish won’t like it. In fact, the sound waves will stress your fish, compromise their immune systems and could kill them.
  • Maintain for Best Results: Mechanical pieces and parts need to be maintained, and so if you’ve been using your aeration system for the summer or it has been dormant since last winter, it’ll need some attention. Check to make sure the airstones/diffusers are working properly, and install a maintenance kit to ensure it’s working to its full potential.

Pond Talk: What wintertime aeration tips can you share?

Vent Harmful Gases All Winter Long - The Pond Guy(r) Water Garden Aeration Kit

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