It’s important to prepare your pond and fish for the winter. Being proactive during warmer months can help condition your pond to survive the cold and thrive again in the Spring. Ponds are a great addition to any home but they require some extra maintenance to keep them in top top shape. There are companies that will come out and do the work for you, but if you want to take the time to do it yourself, we have some recommendations that will make the process a little easier!

Prepping for Winter:

During Summer and Fall, debris can accumulate at the bottom of the pond (even with skimmer filters). Remove as much debris as possible to avoid organic waste products that can rob the water of its oxygen. You can use skimmer nets and pond vacuums to help remove pond debris, or wade in the water to remove the muck yourself.  Perform a water change to help remove any chemical wastes that have accumulated in the pond. It would not be unusual to change up to 50% of the water volume to freshen the water. It is best to do this maintenance before the water temperature drops below 60 – 65F to help maintain optimal water conditions throughout the winter.

You can also add bacterial preparations to help digest the excess organic debris and decompose larger leave debris. It will also help establish colonies of the bacteria for the following spring, accelerating the re-conditioning of the pond after the dormant winter season.

Depending on where your pond is, you may need to put netting over the surface to help prevent any leaves from falling or blowing into the water. Simply stake a light weight nylon mesh around the edges of the pond and drape it over the entire surface. Once the majority of the leaves have fallen from the trees, you can remove the net and use a skimmer to collect any leaves or debris that fell into the pond. It is a lot easier to remove debris while it’s floating on the surface than after it sinks to the bottom of the pond!

Other things to consider:

As the temperature of the water starts to drop, you will want to switch the fish to a wheat germ based diet. Higher in carbohydrates and lower in protein, this food is more easily digested in colder temperatures. Once the temperature is below 60F, you should feed them wheat germ based foods exclusively. After the temperature drops below 50F, stop feeding altogether, no matter how much the fish “beg” for food; they simply cannot digest any food they swallow. The high carbohydrate diet will help the fish develop the needed stores of energy to survive the dormant period before spring.

Before the first frost, you should remove any filtration units, drain and place them into storage. You can keep a water pump or air pump running, and depending on your location, keep it running all winter. If you are in an area with long periods of freezing weather, it will be better to use a pond de-icer to maintain a small open area to facilitate gas exchange, preventing a build up of excessive carbon dioxide levels. On larger ponds you can also float a log to help maintain an open space. You never want to physically break the ice as the vibrations can disturb the fish.

Following the above simple steps can help ensure that your fish remain healthy during the winter season and the pond is ready to come alive in the spring.

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