Winter Care for Backyard Ponds
When temperatures plummet, you may need to step up your winter pond care methods to ward off winter kill. Frigid temperatures make it more difficult for you to keep an area of your pond ice-free, but the health and survival of your pond fish depend upon it. The following tips help you sustain your pond’s health during frigid periods.
Winter pond maintenance tips
Purchase a de-icer
Properly install one of these devices before freezing temperatures hit. A de-icer helps keep a section of your pond open to allow oxygen and gas exchange. It does not, however, warm the water temperature in your pond. In order to maximize its efficiency, install it in the shallowest part of your pond and shelter it from the wind as best as possible. Some pond owners lay down a piece of plywood over a section of the pond bank where the de-icer resides. This helps keep warmth from escaping too quickly. Depending upon the size of the pond, its depth, and overall volume, more than one unit may be needed to keep a section clear.
An aerator keeps you pond well oxygenated and can help keep a section of your pond open in the winter time. An aerator works under the premise that moving water resists freezing. When using an aerator, you must remember a few things. An aerator is capable of hyper-cooling your water, if used when air temps are below freezing. To keep this from happening the aerator should be kept in an insulated chamber (outside the pond) in order to pump in less frigid air, or the pump should be kept indoors with just the airline and airstones being used outdoors. This will allow warmer air to be pumped into the pond and eliminate the risk of hyper-cooling altogether. Keeping the pump in the insulated chamber or indoors will also aid in keeping condensation from forming in the airline and subsequently freezing, shutting down the aeration device altogether. You should also avoid installing airstones at the bottom of the pond. This will eliminate stirring up sediments and will avoid putting any undue stress upon your inhabitants. It is believed that the extra currents that are produced form the aerator will cause the fish to use up more of their reserves because they will be forced to use their locomotive capabilities to stay still.
If you are responding to a frozen pond emergency, you’ll need to first thaw a shallow section of your pond. To do this, use boiling water contained in bags or containers to melt the ice. Do not whack your ice with a chisel or any other tool, for the shock to your fish can kill them.
Remove snow from your pond surface
Microscopic aquatic plants continue producing oxygen as long as light penetrates the ice. However, a blanket of snow over the ice prevents light penetration, making it impossible for the microscopic plants in your pond to produce oxygen. Combined with the decomposition of vegetation and fish waste, there may be insufficient oxygen for fish, causing them to suffocate. Snow removal, from at least a portion of your pond surface, will help reduce the likelihood of this happening.