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We’ve been getting a good stream of questions asking for advice in how to use an aerator in a small pond or water garden during the winter months.
Oxygen is useful in any pond at any time of course, but for winter use, the real goal of having an aerator running is to help to keep a spot of water open and free of ice build up. You can use a pond deicer for this work, but aerators can be really useful in moderately cold temps and as some people have noted they can cost a lot less to operate when compared to the higher wattage deicers.
Concentrate Your Airflow
The real key to winter aeration using a small pond system is to group or concentrate your diffusers together if you can. Granted, many of these aeration systems use a single diffuser or airstone, and if that’s the case you can try to position it in a shallower part of the pond, on a shelf, or in some cases, these kits, like the Laguna, come with a small float where you can suspend the stone just below the surface.
For those that come with several diffusers, whether it’s two or four, such as the Pond Air 4, the best practice is to move them all into a tight grouping in a shallow or off-center part of the pond and keep all the air release in that particular area. In this way you agitate the surface water to the maximum (which helps keep ice build up down) but you also allow the other parts of the pond to be fairly static and undisturbed. This is useful for allowing your fish to find some comfortable water, even in the midst of winter.
Basically it’s the same routine we use in large ponds. In the summer months we spread the air around as much as possible and release the air from the deepest points possible. We want to aerate everything to the full capability of the system. In the winter, we isolate the air release, mainly for ice control, and leave the rest of the pond alone.
In extended periods of brutally cold weather, and it’s hard to gauge just where this threshold might be, but it’s safe to assume that if you’re seeing temperatures from +20 F. down to below zero for days or weeks at a time, you may want to have a pond deicer on hand as a back up and keep an eye on how the aerator is doing in these conditions.
One final tip on ice control. If you do see ice form across the top of the pond, avoid going out and trying to open it up with a hammer or any brutal action. This can certainly be stressful for fish, may not be all that safe for you, and could damage the liner of your pond.
Do your best to stay ahead of any icing problems and you’ll do fine and keeping ole man winter from getting the upper hand on your pond.
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