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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

 

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Can I move my diffuser plates all to the shallow end of the pond so I can skate on the other side? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: Can I move my diffuser plates all to the shallow end of the pond so I can skate on the other side?

Q: Can I move my diffuser plates all to the shallow end of the pond so I can skate on the other side?

Adam – Locust Valley, NY

A: Though it would be nice to have the best of both worlds, a pond that’s aerated with diffuser plates is not safe for ice skating. Here’s why:

The reason you run a diffuser through the winter is to aerate the pond and move the water surface to maintain a hole in the ice, allowing for gas exchange. This ensures the water in your pond is well-circulated and your game fish and other underwater inhabitants have enough oxygen to get them through the cold season.

The trouble is that the ice that forms on the surface of water that has been moving for even a short time can be porous and not suitable for skating. Even movement on one end of the pond and not the other can make the ice at the edges unsafe.

If you want to use your pond for skating, plan in advance. Before the ice forms:

  1. Shut your aeration system down completely. It’s critical to do this before the ice starts to build on your pond’s or lake’s surface for the safety of those who will skate on the pond.
  2. Stow components away. Your airline and plate may stay in the pond, but the system’s cabinet and compressor should be stored indoors to prevent condensation and rusting.
  3. Have an emergency plan, just in case. While you’re prepping your lake for ice skating fun, now’s a good time to make sure you have water safety items available, too, like a Taylor Made Life Ring. If the ice breaks, a safety preserver like this can save someone’s life.

Even if ice skating isn’t your thing, it’s still important to follow this all-or-nothing aeration strategy. Running your system “part time” could cause condensation in the unit from the hot compressor cooling, causing rust to form. It could also allow moisture to get into the airline, which could then freeze.

Bottom line: If you plan on skating on your pond or running your aeration system “part time” for whatever reason, it’s best to shut it down completely. Otherwise, keep it running all season to ensure good water quality for your fishes.

Pond Talk: What’s your favorite wintertime activity at your pond or lake?

Be Prepared for Any Scenario - Taylor Made Life Rings

 

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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

 

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

 

Why did I lose my fish? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: Why did I lose my fish?

Q: Why did I lose my fish?

James – Willmar, MN

A: After a long, roller coaster winter, there’s nothing more disappointing than returning to your pond to find your fish floating and bloated in the water. This winter fish kill, or “winterkill,” can happen when the ice sheet on your pond prevents gas exchange and reduces the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water, ultimately causing your fish to suffocate. Shallow lakes, ponds and streams are particularly vulnerable to winterkill.

What causes it, and how can it be prevented? Read on to learn more.

Starved for Oxygen

Winterkill occurs when ice and snow cover your pond or lake for long periods of time. That solid sheet of cold stuff seals off the water, stopping oxygenation and gas exchange at the surface, but that’s not all it does. The ice and snow cover also prevent sunlight from reaching pond plants, which normally produce sub-surface oxygen via photosynthesis. Add to that a lake full of decomposing organic matter releasing toxic gases that are trapped under the ice, and your poor fish do not have enough oxygen to survive.

The ones that do survive are not finned superheroes, but they are more tolerant of a low-oxygen environment than their dearly departed cousins. The species type and size makes a difference, too, in their ability to deal with less-than-optimal living conditions.

Stayin’ Alive

Unfortunately, you cannot bring your fish back to life, but you can prevent winterkill from happening in the future. We recommend a simple, two-pronged approach:

  1. Aeration: Aerate your pond year-round with an Aeration System to circulate the water, increase dissolved oxygen and keep oxygen levels more consistent throughout the pond. It will also keep a hole open in the ice, allowing for gas exchange.
  2. Muck Removal: Using natural bacteria, like MuckAway™, or a dredge in extreme cases, remove as much muck and decomposing debris as possible before the ice forms. This will prevent the pond from naturally filling in, and it will reduce the amount of gas produced from the decomposition process.

Winterkill is a disappointment, but it can be prevented with some planning and preparation in the fall. In the meantime, restock your pond and enjoy!

Pond Talk: Have you even experienced winterkill in your pond? What did you do to remedy the situation?

Reduce Muck and Organic Debris Build-Up - Pond Logic® MuckAway™

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 occasionally have power outages during the snowfall. Will it cause a problem for my aeration system? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I occasionally have power outages during the snowfall. Will it cause a problem for my aeration system?

Q: I occasionally have power outages during the snowfall. Will it cause a problem for my aeration system?

Pete – Traverse City, MI

A: Power outages during heavy snowfall or ice storms aren’t uncommon – and when they happen, your aeration system will need some attention. Here’s what we recommend to prevent problems from occurring:

  1. Relieve Air Pressure: Built-up air pressure in the air compressor could potentially stop the aerator from turning back on when the power is restored, so it’s important to get rid of that pressure via the release valve.
  2. Check for Moisture, Condensation: If the power is out for an extended period of time, keep an eye on the cabinet for moisture and condensation. It could indicate reduced air flow, and all that wetness could freeze if temperatures are low enough.
  3. Clear Off Snow: To allow for proper air flow and to minimize moisture from melting snow around the unit, shovel or dust accumulating snow from around the cabinet.
  4. Melt Ice Blockages: Long power outages could cause your diffuser’s air lines to freeze. To melt them and open the air flow back up, pour 1 cup of isopropyl alcohol through each line (or the line you believe is blocked or frozen).

As for your fish, they should be just fine if your aerator shuts down for a few hours. Cold water holds more oxygen than warm water, so they’ll have plenty of oxygen during short-term interruptions.

Pond Talk: How do you protect your aeration system from frigid temperatures?

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

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