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I want to leave my pond running through the winter. Can I do so without damaging the equipment? – Water Garden & Features Q & A

Picture of a water garden in winter.

Water Garden & Features Q & A

Q: I want to leave my waterfall running through the winter. Can I do so without damaging the equipment? – Karen in New York

UPDATED: A: A majority of water garden owners will shut down their water gardens entirely during the Winter, but there are a few that don’t.

It’s really beautiful to see a waterfall with pieces of ice around it. You’ll actually begin to see sections where the water flows underneath the ice throughout the stream. It really is a beautiful scene.

Here are a few factors to be aware of when running the waterfall and stream throughout the Winter:

Pump Size (Gallons Per Hour): The amount of GPH or gallons per hour of a pump must be greater than 2,000 as the water is coming down the waterfall and stream. If this flow is not obtained, then there is a greater possibility the water could freeze, causing ice dams in the stream and pushing the water over and out the side of the stream. If this happened, your water garden would be drained in no time.

Pump Location: If your pump is located directly in the pond and not in a skimmer, make sure that it is located in at least 24″ of water. Don’t place the pump on the very bottom of the pond. Your fish go to the bottom of the pond to hibernate during the winter.

Long Streams Beware: Even if you have 2,000 GPH of water coming down the stream, if the stream is quite long, longer than 10′ or 15′, then I wouldn’t suggest to run the system throughout the winter. In long streams, there is more opportunity for ice dams to form and thus draining your water garden. If your stream is longer than 10′ to 15′ and you still want to try and run your system I would advise you to use a little bit more flow than 2,000 GPH and to watch it regularly to make sure these ice dams are not created.

Pressurized Filters: If you use a pressurized filter in your pond I would recommend NOT to run the water through it during the winter time. It is best to drain the pressurized filter to prevent any water from freezing and damaging the equipment.

Consider a back-up plan: If you live in a freezing climate and you keep your pond running, you run the risk of damaging your plumbing and filtration system if the water stops flowing. If your pond design allows the water to flow back into the pond in the event of a power outage, you can avoid the problem.

In freezing climates, certain water features, like spitters or decorative fountains, will need to be shut down until spring. Simply drain the water from the feature and remove the pump. Submerge the pump in a 5-gallon bucket filled with water (or per manufacturer’s recommendations), and store it in a place where the water will not freeze. If you don’t keep the pump submerged in water and it dries out, the seals inside the pump could crack, causing the pump not to work properly.

POND TALK: If you’ve kept your pond running through the winter, what challenges did you face?

How do I “overwinter” or get my pond plants ready for the winter? – Water Garden & Features Q & A

Plants must not come into contact with ice or freezing temperatures.

Water Garden & Features Q & A

Q: How do I “overwinter” or get my pond plants ready for the winter?
– Maryann in Wisconsin

A: If you live in cooler climates – even those that don’t dip too far below freezing – it’s almost time to prepare your plants for winter. Each type of aquatic plant needs to be cared for in a different way, but the most important factor to remember is that the roots of your plants must not come into contact with ice or freezing temperatures. If they do, they simply won’t survive.

Keeping in mind regional variances, here’s how to keep your aquatic plants healthy, happy and ready to bloom again next spring:

    1. First, remove any dead leaves from the plants growing around your pond. Give bog plants, like irises and taro, a good inspection and clip off any unhealthy growth, spent leaves or blooms. You want your plants to go into winter as healthy as possible so they emerge strong and stout in the spring.
    2. Next, pull on your waders and tend to your hardy water lilies. Pull them out of your pond and trim them to about 3 inches above the root system. When you’re done, move the pots or baskets to 18 inches deep or lower, where they’ll be warm and safe from winter frost.
    3. If you have tropical and floating aquatic plants, like tropical lilies or lotus, it’s easiest to treat them as annuals: Remove them from your pond and mulch the soil and root balls. In most climates, they won’t survive the cold winter conditions. You can try to overwinter them in your shed or garage, but it can be difficult, as many of the tropical varieties require temperatures above 60 degrees Fahrenheit and strong light to survive.
    4. Treat floating aquatic plants, like water hyacinth and lettuce, as annuals, too. Fortunately, they’re relatively inexpensive to replace year after year.
    5. For hardy lotus, trim back the foliage after they have gone dormant and turned brown. Don’t trim them while the plant and leaves are still green, as it can cause it to be susceptible to diseases that creep in through the hollow stems. In cooler climates, move your plants to a cool, but frost-free area in your yard or the bottom of your pond, along with your water lilies.

Depending on the size of your pond and the number of plants you have, this winterizing chore shouldn’t take longer than an afternoon, but you’ll be rewarded in the spring with healthy growth that will once again beautify your outdoor living space!

POND TALK: Have you ever overwintered your tropical water lilies indoors? How did you do it?

Algae Growth During the Winter – Water Garden Q & A

Algae Growing in a Water Garden During Winter.

Q: I shut my water garden down for the winter, but I still see some algae growth. Can algae grow in cooler temperatures?

A: In some cases, a pond that stays clean and clear through the summer can blow up into an algal nightmare in the fall. Shutting down your watergarden ceases the flow-through characteristics of the pond. This reduces the amount of filtration that occurs both mechanically (i.e. skimmers) and biologically (i.e. filterfalls). Since there is less flow, it is a good idea to bump up the amount of bacteria in the pond by adding Seasonal Defense® Bacteria with Barley. These bacteria operate in cooler conditions and will greatly reduce the amount of nutrients in the water, and also contains barley straw to naturally help with the algae. Using Oxy-Lift™ Defense® to scrub down your rocks will also help to remove any debris build up.

Do I Have to Take My Koi Out of My Water Garden for Winter? – Water Garden Q & A

Picture of a Water Garden in the Winter with a Bubbler Aeration System.



Q: Do I have to take my koi and goldfish out of my water garden for the winter? – Barbara of Massachusetts

A: No you don’t actually. They are many water garden owners who leave their koi and goldfish in their water garden throughout the winter season with no issues whatsoever. There are really only two things that you need to do to make sure your water garden is fit to allow fish to winter over:

Does your water garden have a depth of at least 18″?:
This is very important. There are places in the US alone where water freezing depths can easily be around 18″ to 24″. I suggest a minimum of 18″ of depth to be safe, but I am more inclined to recommend 24″ just to be double safe. We want to make sure our fish friends don’t become icicles. In either instance, it’s also extremely important to make sure we keep a hole open in the ice during these cold times, which leads me to the second thing.

Keeping an open hole in the ice during the winter:
During the winter, when the ice forms a solid layer across on the surface of your water garden, there are toxic gases, caused by decaying vegetation or organics, that can build up underneath the ice. This build up can become so toxic underneath the ice that it can kill all of the fish in the water garden. The best thing to do in this situation is to keep a hole open in the ice to allow for these gases to escape. This is actually very easy to accomplish. Using a pond heater/de-icer, such as a Pond Saucer or ThermoPond, is a great way to keep a hole open in the ice. Another way to keep a hole open in the ice would be to use a small bubbler aerator. These will not only keep a hole open in the ice, but will also add oxygen as well! Bubbler aerators can be used all year to keep oxygen levels high.

Should I Drain My Water Garden Completely for the Winter? – Water Garden Q & A

Picture of a Pump in a Skimmer.



Q: If I take my fish inside, can I drain my water garden completely for the winter? Someone told me that you shouldn’t do that. Why? – Toni of New York

A: If you plan to shut-down your water garden, you should drain the water down below the skimmer opening and yes you would leave the water in the pond. The reason for this is to help prevent some shifting within the water garden. The ground will shift throughout the winter and if you were to drain the water garden entirely, it could cause certain sections of the water garden to cave in. Having the water in there will keep everything at bay by applying pressure to all sides.

Also, when lowering the water level below the skimmer, make sure to drain the skimmer out entirely. Allowing the water in the skimmer to freeze could cause damage to the skimmer itself. The same goes for the waterfall filter. As for what to do with the pump, here is a link to a previous post.

Is There Anything I Should Be Doing to My Pond During the Winter? – Pond & Lake Q & A

Picture of a pond during the winter.

Q: Is there anything I should be doing to my pond during the winter? – Cindy of Colorado

A: During the winter season there are just a couple things you should be continuing to do help make the following spring a breeze:

Continue to run your aeration system: As I’ve said many time before and will always continue to say it…aeration is important. Continue to run your aeration throughout the winter to help prevent winter fish kills as well as promote an overall healthy pond.

Add pond dye & natural bacteria: Now is a great time to use Pond Dye PLUS 2 in 1 Natural Bacteria with Nature’s Blue™ before the ice begins to accumulate. Not only will this continue to shade your pond, it will also add a boost of beneficial bacteria that will go to work to break down fall leaves and debris.

Remove any dead debris from around the pond: Remove dying or dead cattails, tree branches or twigs from around the edges. Allowing these to decay in your pond throughout the winter will add more nutrients for algae and pondweeds to grow during the spring. Doing these few things will help for a great spring!

Can I Run My Waterfall & Stream Throughout the Winter? – Water Garden Q & A

Picture of a Waterfall in the Winter.

Q: Can I run my waterfall and stream in my water garden throughout the Winter? – Carla of Pennsylvania

A: A majority of water garden owners will shut down their water gardens entirely during the Winter, but there are still quite a few that don’t.

Have you ever seen a waterfall with a stream running during the Winter? Its amazing! Ice begins to build up on the falls and you’ll see sections where the water
flows underneath the ice throughout the stream. It really is a beautiful scene.

Having said that, yes you can run the waterfall and stream throughout the Winter, but it depends on these couple factors:

Pump Size (Gallons Per Hour): Here is the major factor in whether or not you can continue to run your waterfall and stream throughout the Winter. Your GPH or gallons per hour must be greater than 2,000 as the water is coming down the waterfall and stream. If this flow is not obtained, then there is a greater possibility the water could freeze, causing ice dams in the stream and pushing the water over and out the side of the stream. If this happened, your water garden would be drained in no time.

Long Streams Beware: Even if you have 2,000 GPH of water coming down the stream, if the stream is quite long, longer than 10′ or 15′, then it may not be a good idea to run the system throughout the winter. In long streams, there is more opportunity for ice dams to be created and thus draining your water garden. If your stream is longer than 10′ to 15′ and you still want to try and run your system I would advise you to use a little bit more flow than 2,000 GPH and to watch it regularly to make sure these ice dams are not created.

I wish you all the opportunity to enjoy your water garden throughout the Winter. Again, it really is an amazing site.