8 Steps to Prep Your Pond for Winter
Hopefully you've had a great season with your pond! It's now time to start prepping it for the colder months. This doesn't have to be a daunting task! Read our easy 8 steps below to get your pond ready before cold weather arrives!
Step 1. Keep it clean -- Keep leaves out and remove decaying plant foliage.
Not only will decaying organic matter feed algae next spring, but it will also rob pond water of oxygen which your fish need to thrive. Keep a leaf net on you pond until the leaves are down and cleaned up. Cut back aquatic plant foliage. Watch our video about pond netting here.
Step 2. Catch up if you didn't maintain your pond this summer.
If your pond water isn't clear or if you have a heavy layer of debris on the bottom, it might be a good idea to clean your pond this fall. Fall is an excellent time for a pond cleaning! See our FAQ's about Cool Ponds cleanings here. Read our article When Should I Clean My Pond here.
Step 3. Continue to add Spring and Fall Prep beneficial bacteria.
When the water temperature falls below 50 degrees, switch from BioClear and Clean to Spring and Fall Prep Bacteria. This will keep any debris that remains in your pond from becoming muck at the bottom or algae food. Keep using the Spring and Fall Prep until the water temperature falls below 35 degrees. If you don't have a pond thermometer, get one. Consider this Step 3b!
Step 4. Stop feeding your fish.
Okay, okay... this one is tough. But your fish do not need to be fed during the late fall, winter, and early spring. They won't even want to eat! Once the water temperature drops below 55 degrees you should not feed them. Even if we have a warm spell over the winter and your fish begin to move around -- don't do it! You could be risking their health! Read more about fish and winter health here.
Step 5. Move your air stones.
We recommend every pond have an aerator for the overall health of the ecosystem! During the warm months the aerator stones are at the bottom of the pond to get the most oxygen throughout the water column. In the cold months, we don't want to disturb the water at the bottom of the pond -- that's where the fish go to sleep winter away. So moving your air stones gives you two benefits...First, you aren't disturbing your fish and secondly, moving the air stones to the surface of the water causes agitation on the water surface and a hole in the ice! Read more about aerators in winter here.
Step 6. Have an deicer for backup.
A deicer is a small electric warmer that will float on the water surface and keep a hole in the ice. Why a hole in the ice? You never want your pond to freeze over completely! Fish need oxygen and they are expelling carbon dioxide which needs to get out. But we just said the aerator will leave a hole in the ice? Yes, an aerator should be used all year, but sometimes when it gets really cold, it just can't keep up. That's when a deicer for backup is a good idea! Read more about deicers here.
Step 7. Have a plan for topping off your pond during winter.
It's not as easy to add a couple inches of water to your pond in winter! You'll need a thawed hose and a frost-free spigot or a long hose and a kitchen sink if need be! Don't be surprised at the amount of water you may need to add in the winter. As ice begins to form, that water is no longer in the pond but on top of the pond! When a cold spell is coming, get your pond topped off before it arrives.
Step 8. Decide if you want to run your pond during the winter or shut it down.
Ponds and waterfalls are beautiful in the winter! If you can view yours from inside and have an easy way to fill it over the winter, then leave it running. But there are certain times you should definitely shut it down for winter:
- If you will be away from your home for a few days or more.
- If it will be difficult to add water.
- If your pump sits at the bottom of your pond. (If you don't have a skimmer, you don't want to disturb the warm water at the bottom of the pond.)