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Isn’t the waterfall enough aeration for my pond? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Isn’t the waterfall enough aeration for my pond?

Q: Isn’t the waterfall enough aeration for my pond?

Staci – Bethel, VT

A: As your waterfall gurgles and churns gallons of water, it would certainly appear that your pond is getting plenty of aeration. All that action does, in fact, help with gas exchange and infuse oxygen into the water. But it isn’t always enough, especially if you run your waterfall pump for a short time during the day.

If a pond isn’t aerated enough, expect to see these telltale signs:

  • Algae Battles: Algae thrive in calm water that’s devoid of – and in need of – oxygen and beneficial bacteria. If you regularly fight algae blooms, that means your pond is out of balance and could use some additional oxygen and movement throughout the entire water column.
  • Oxygen-Starved Fish: Fish that need more oxygen will hang out beneath your waterfall, where oxygen supplies are the densest. They may also be coming to the water surface, gulping and gasping for breaths of air because there’s not enough in their environment.
  • Too Many Fish: The general rule for a fish population in a pond is to allow 1 inch of fish per square foot of surface area. If you have too many fish, or your existing population has outgrown their space, aeration is critical to their health and well being.
  • Stagnant Water, Mosquito Boom: Is the water stagnant in certain areas of your pond? Are you suffering through a mosquito boom in your backyard? These little pests prefer to lay their eggs and raise their young in still water – so you might have created a perfect mosquito habitat!
  • Muck Accumulation: Decomposing plant matter and fish waste build up when the water is still and your biological filtration system can’t keep up. That muck feeds the algae blooms, which create more muck.

Do any of these ring true? If so, your waterfall or stream is not providing enough aeration for your pond. An aeration system can help. The Airmax® PondAir™ Water Garden Aeration Kit is designed for smaller water gardens up to 2,000 gallons and The Pond Guy® Water Garden Aeration Kit is designed for water gardens and koi ponds that are up to 4,000 gallons. Both whisper-quiet systems can be run 24 hours a day, seven days a week, providing your finned pals and beneficial bacteria plenty of oxygen and water movement.

Pond Talk: Have you noticed any of these issues in your water garden?

Aerates Ponds Up To 4,000 Gallons - The Pond Guy® Water Garden Aeration Kit

I’m starting my pond up for spring. Do I need to leave my aerator running? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I’m starting my pond up for spring. Do I need to leave my aerator running?

Q: I’m starting my pond up for spring. Do I need to leave my aerator running?

Nikki – Glen Forney, PA

A:  As winter gives way to the sunny days of spring and summer, you should absolutely plan to leave your aerator running. That water-churning system that benefits your pond over the cold months will also benefit your pond during the summer—and then some.

Winter Bubbles
As most pond owners know, an aerator, like The Pond Guy® Water Garden Aeration Kit, used during the winter serves two purposes: to aid de-icers in creating and keeping a hole in the ice, and to circulate water to vent gases when filtration systems are shut down for the season. The circulation also encourages contact between the water and the environment, which will increase the dissolved oxygen level in your pond.

Summer Aeration
In the summer, aeration provides some extra benefits. Besides moving the water and boosting the oxygen level in the water molecules, aeration does these things:

  • Circulates the water in areas where filtration may not reach, preventing stagnation and low-oxygen pockets in your pond. Filtration systems only move the top of the water column, not the bottom. But an aerator works from the bottom up, circulating the water and increasing dissolved oxygen levels throughout the pond.
  • Keeps oxygen distributed throughout the water column much more efficiently than a water feature, like a waterfall, spitter or stream.
  • Provides bubbly camouflage in which fish can hide.
  • Stirs up debris on the pond bottom, allowing it to be filtered out or broken down by beneficial bacteria. If that debris is allowed to collect, muck will build up and release harmful gases as the organic materials decompose.
  • Helps beneficial bacteria thrive and flourish, thanks to the circulation and oxygen. Higher oxygen levels stimulate and increase the number of natural aerobic bacteria living in your pond. More bacteria means more efficient filtration.

As you’re prepping your pond for spring, jump start the season with DefensePAC® Pond Care Package. It contains Oxy-Lift™ Defense®, Nature’s Defense®, Clarity Defense®, Muck Defense® and Seasonal Defense® — everything you’ll need for spring cleaning, bacteria boosting and water clarifying.

Aeration definitely has its benefits, no matter what the season. If you want a balanced ecosystem with healthier fish and plants, keep your aerator running.

Pond Talk: Have you started up your pond yet? What’s on your spring to-do list?

Enhance Oxygen Levels All Year - The Pond Guy® Water Garden Aeration Kit

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

Do I need a heater to overwinter my fish in the pond? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Do I need a heater to overwinter my fish in the pond?

Q: Do I need a heater to overwinter my fish in the pond?

Pat – Far Hills, NJ

A: Unless you house warm-water fish like Plecostomus in your water feature, you won’t need a heater to heat things up. Most pond fishes, including koi and goldfish, will overwinter just fine in their outdoor digs because they go into a pseudo-hibernation state when water temperatures fall. Their metabolisms slow and they’re able to tolerate cooler water—even water that’s frigid enough to freeze.

If you live in a climate that experience those freezing temperatures, what we recommend is a de-icer or aerator (rather than a heater) to keep a hole in the ice. This hole allows for gas exchange, through which necessary gases like oxygen enter and harmful gases like ammonia escape.

Which option is right for you?

  • De-Icer: A de-icer’s purpose is to float on the surface and melt a hole in ice that has formed on a container of water, whether a koi pond or water garden. Unlike a heater that actually warms the entire body of water, a de-icer like the K&H™ Thermo-Pond 3.0 Pond 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™ Aeration Kit, circulates the water below the ice sheet. In areas with relatively mild winters, that subsurface water movement will keep a hole in the ice that allows for gas exchange—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 and PondAir™ Aeration Kit, providing your water feature the one-two punch it needs to stay well-vented throughout the winter.

If temperatures in your area vary between above- and below-freezing, consider installing a ThermoCube®. The thermostatically controlled outlet turns on when air temperatures drop below 35° Fahrenheit and turns off when air temps rise above 45°F. This handy-dandy device will save you money, which is something we can all appreciate!

Pond Talk: What do you do to keep your finned pals comfortable in the winter?

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

My fish hang out near my waterfall during hot days. Do I have enough aeration in my pond? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: My fish hang out near my waterfall during hot days. Do I have enough aeration in my pond?

Q: My fish hang out near my waterfall during hot days. Do I have enough aeration in my pond?

Amanda – Rowlett, TX

A: On hot days, who wouldn’t want to hang out near a waterfall! For humans, the water pouring into the pond cools and hydrates the air; for fish, that action acts as a giant aeration system, infusing oxygen into the water beneath the waterfall.

But that raises a valid question: If your fish spend a lot of time near the waterfall, does it mean they’re not getting enough oxygen? Yes, it’s possible. Here are some questions to ask yourself about your pond’s aeration situation.

Is It Getting Full Aeration?

If you’re running your waterfall 24 hours a day, your pond is likely getting full aeration. If your pond is more than 24 inches deep, however, and you have a skimmer/waterfall system in place, more aeration may be necessary. Why? Because the oxygenated water will circulate across the water surface, leaving the water at the bottom of the pond stagnant. Adding an aeration system will prevent stagnation by raising the bottom water to the surface.

Do You Have Many Plants?

Plants may release subsurface oxygen to the water during the day, but at night those plants take in oxygen, which means your fish may be gasping for air. If you have quite a few plants and your waterfall is off—and you experience an algae bloom—you should definitely think about adding some aeration.

Do You Have Many Fish?

The more fish in your pond, the more oxygen you’ll need—which means you’ll need more aeration. If your pond has a high fish population, consider adding some more aeration. For comparison, we recommend one 6- to 8-inch fish per 10 square feet of surface area.

How’s Your Muck Level?

Another clue that your pond is insufficiently aerated is the amount of muck that has accumulated at the bottom of your pond. When your pond is properly aerated, muck naturally breaks up thanks to the healthy and growing population of gunk-gobbling beneficial bacteria.

Low-Cost Aeration

If any of these scenarios apply to your pond, we recommend adding the energy-efficient Airmax® PondAir™ Aeration System for ponds up to 2,000 gallons or the Airmax® KoiAir™ Aeration System for ponds up to 16,000 gallons. They help to circulate the water and add valuable oxygen, providing the best possible environment for your fish.

Pond Talk: What do you do to ensure your finned friends get enough oxygen during the summer months?

What if my pond has aeration and it still freezes over? Will my fish be okay? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q&A

What if my pond has aeration and it still freezes over? Will my fish be okay?

What if my pond has aeration and it still freezes over? Will my fish be okay?
Sue – Boston, MA

The reasons for aeration during the winter months are largely the same as they are during warmer weather. The oxygen provided by aeration is vital to the health of fish – all year ‘round. In the winter, aeration does double duty, both by introducing sufficient oxygen to the water, and by preventing the formation of ice that could contain harmful gases produced by leaves and other decaying material on the pond’s bottom. As long as the aerators keep some of the water from freezing, the fish in the pond will have sufficient oxygen to weather the cold.

If your aerator can’t keep up with the impact of a long cold snap, and the pond freezes entirely for a short time, your fish should be fine. Short term freezes shouldn’t pose a threat to a well maintained pond – and fish will have sufficient oxygen to survive the temporary freeze. During longer cold snaps, however, harmful gases can accumulate, and you may need to take measures to open the ice. To accomplish that task, it’s important to avoid the use of hammers, drills or other percussive tools. The effects of violent vibration can be harmful to fish. Instead, try applying buckets of hot water to melt vent holes.

To prevent freezing, we recommend the use of our Airmax® Aeration Systems. With the system installed, it’s wise to prepare for winter by situating stones throughout the pond. For an added measure of assurance, you may also want to suspend some stones closer to the surface to generate more surface-level water movement, while leaving the bottom of the pond still for fish.

Pond Talk: Have you had your pond freeze over even with the help of an aerator?

Airmax® Water Garden Aerations

Should I use a heater or aerator in my water garden? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q&A

When should I remove the fountain from my pond?

Should I use a heater or aerator in my water garden?
Lindsay – Pittsfield, ME

So you already know that it is important to keep a hole open in the ice that forms over your water garden during the winter months. This provides an outlet for harmful gases and an inlet for new oxygen-rich air. The question now is which device do you choose to get the job done. The good news is if you have already made your purchase for the season either one will perform excellently. Both a heater and aerator will maintain a hole in the ice but unlike a pond heater, this is only one of many tasks an aeration system performs for your water garden.

When we talk about pond heaters we are referencing units like the K&H™ Thermo-Pond 3.0 Pond De-Icer which does not heat the water in the pond but instead keeps a ring of water open allowing gas to escape through the vent in the top of the unit. Since most ponds deeper than 18” do not freeze solid this is all that is needed to allow oxygen exchange while the fish are dormant. When running a pond heater periodically check in on the pond to make sure ice does not form over the vent hole. To reduce electrical expense most pond heaters are thermostatically controlled to run only during a given temperature range, but they are measuring water temperature instead of air temperature. This means it is unlikely that the water temperature will raise enough to ever shut off the heater. To save some extra money on energy bills use a Thermo Cube® in tandem with your pond heater as it will determine when your pond heater should run based on the ambient air temperature.

Aeration keeps a hole in the ice during the winter by producing bubbles and water motion to slow the ice from forming. This allows for the same gas exchange created by a pond heater, however your Aeration System will circulate the entire pond volume and infuse it with dissolved oxygen making it more efficient at oxygen/gas transfer. People will sometimes run pumps beneath the ice trying to create this same effect but it is the tiny air bubbles that boost dissolved oxygen levels and create the friction that prevents ice from forming. Your pond benefits from aeration year round making an aeration system a helpful and highly functional tool regardless of the season. The installation process is simple and straightforward and aeration systems are available in various sizes and shapes allowing you to select a system that best fits your pond. When selecting a system make sure you purchase a unit that is rated for your ponds volume in order to provide enough outlet for proper gas exchange.

The performance of both pond heaters and aeration systems vary depending on how cold it gets in your area. Even when vented properly, layers of ice appear may over when temperatures dip well below freezing. If this only occurs temporarily, and is short in duration while the coldest temperatures and wind are present, there should not be any cause for concern, as a calm or sunny day will give the pond the help it needs to re-open the hole in the ice. If it is necessary to manually reopen the air vent do not try to break through it by hitting it with hammers or heavy objects as this creates vibrations that can harm your fish. If necessary pour a bucket of warm water over the vent hole to melt it back open.

Whichever unit you choose to use will perform to keep your fish safe for the winter months and ensure that they will be healthy, happy and ready to go in the spring.

POND TALK: Which type of system have you found to work better in your pond? Do you still notice some ice formation?