If you’re planning on leaving your fish in a pond throughout the winter the video below will offer a few helpful tips that can make this an enjoyable time for you and a safe time for your fish.
As a teaser, if you’d like to see a guy in a Hawaiian shirt standing out in a snow storm (well ok, flurries) take a look. And you’ll find more helpful tips below the video itself.
If you have experience in overwintering your fish, please add your commentary at the bottom of this page, it will likely prove helpful to those just starting out in the pond care hobby.
Just to recap and add a bit on what was talked about in the video. As you go into the fall and winter you absolutely must get the pond in a fairly clean condition. Remove as much of the organic material as you can because as this material either dies or decomposes it will release unwanted elements in the pond water. These can build up and create problems that could prove toxic to fish.
We use several things that help with this. For mechanical removal we use some type of pond vacuum to remove gunk from the bottom of the pond. It’s helpful to maintain the use of an all season bacteria to keep nutrients and organic decomposition in check.
Pond leaf netting can help keep more unwanted material from going into the pond. Do your best to remove any material that falls into the pond itself.
Remove all tropical plants and move them inside if you want to keep them. Hardy plants should be cut back and placed deep in the pond or taken inside as well.
It’s advised to check things like ammonia levels with test strips about once a week throughout the winter, just to be sure this toxic substance is not building up in the pond. A 25% water change can be done going into winter, and even in the winter as long as the water temperature going in is fairly close to that of the pond water. Generally you want to avoid any major shifts (apart from nature) to avoid stress on the fish.
Ponds that are at least 18 to 24 inches deep should be able to safely keep fish over the winter months. The deeper the better is the general rule here. Use a pond heater or small pond aerator to keep a portion of the water open throughout the season. This helps to allow toxic gases to escape and oxygen to get in and helps to guard against the entire pond from freezing up. Using a hammer or other tool to physically open a hole in the ice should be avoided if possible.
Fish can be transitioned to a more carb based diet as fall approaches although some experts suggest you can simply feed whatever you’ve used throughout the year with good effect. As the water temperature cools, you’ll want to cut back on feeding the fish and as it nears 50 degrees F or so you’ll want to suspend all feeding until the coming spring.
Avoid the temptation, even with a short warm up of the weather, to feed your fish. If food is offered they very well may eat, but their digestive system is working so slowly that should the weather cool down again in a few days, the eaten food may stay in the fish and begin to rot…which obviously should be avoided. Pond owners have actually killed their fish in this way so it’s good information to keep in mind.
All mechanicals for the most part can be shut down or removed in the winter apart from the aforementioned heaters and aerators. Some folks will run their waterfall in the winter but many do not. Submersible pumps can be removed and placed inside in a bucket of water to keep their seals from drying out.
Building a covering, such as a plastic sheet, support by a wood frame, either flat or in a tent like structure can help keep the pond warmer and keep snow and ice from building up on it. Should snow cover the pond, this too provides some insulation against very cold weather and a pond can do fine in this natural state if a small hole can be maintained for air exchange.
So that’s a quick rundown on overwintering your fish in a pond. Have comments, questions, suggestions or tips? Just post those below.