Fall & Winter Pond Maintenance
1) Start paying more attention to your feeding schedule and water temps now. When your water temp hits 65-55 degrees, (usually 3rd week in September) slow down your feeding and feed a higher carb food to build up some bulk for the winter.We feed several varieties of wheat germ based foods such as Hikari Wheat Germ, Saki Hikari Multi-Season & Legacy Cold Water.
2) At between 55-40 degrees feed small amounts 2-3 times a week. This temperature range doesn't really apply, if you happen to live in an area, where your temps sit at 55-50 for a month or more. Sometimes, it can get cooler, earlier in the season, like mid September, and stay there, until late October. Let your judgment be your guide. Keep feeding your fish until they no longer come up to eat it, but keep the amounts very small, and only a few times a week. Some people will tell you to stop feeding at 55 degrees. We feel this is a baseless suggestion. Fish in the wild feed until they want to stop, no one is there telling them to stop at 55. Your fish are a better judge as to what they need than we are. If they want it, feed them, just be aware of your water quality and remember to only feed wheat germ based foods (wheat germ is the first ingredient) We find they usually stop feeding at around 40C.
WINTERIZING TO DO LIST
1) Do a water change of 25-50%. (Refill using de-chlorinator)
2) Clean the pond bottom with either a fine net or pond vacuum. DON'T over clean the pond...no power washing please.
3) Remove leaves and stems from ALL submerged plants (except oxygenators like Hornwort).
4) Drop lilies and other ice sensitive plants to the bottom.
5) Add a sludge eating product to help eat up any missed debris such as the stuff that gets stuck in between your rocks. Not only does it really help keep the pond cleaner over winter but it helps improve water quality and oxygen levels. We suggest Microbe-Lift Autumn/Fall treatment and Cold Water Blocks from Pond Force.
6) Shut down and clean pump, filter & UV, put UV away in a frost-free area (once fish have stopped eating). This would be a good time to lightly bleach the filter before putting it away. Don't close the filter up completely otherwise it will get quite stinky over winter, just leave the top off-kilter and make sure the media is completely dry.
7) If you have a Venturi, hook it up to a submersible pump now. If you use your regular pond pump or air pump for winterizing, just make sure to bring it up to the top (approx 1-1 1/2 feet below surface) Reason being, if the pump or air stones are left on the pond bottom you run the risk of super cooling the water and making it really hard for your fish to survive. Equally, you wouldn't want your waterfall running in the winter for the same reason (that and ice jams). DO NOT coil up your air line tubing, it get's condensation in it, and freezes, blowing your air pumps diaphragms..not good! Instead, we suggest having winter lines, which are just long enough to make it from the compressor, to the pond edge, and down a foot. Remember to cover your air pump with an over turned pot or tote for winter.
8) Install your pond de-icer now as well, just don't plug it in quite yet. I'm not a huge advocate of de-icers, at least, i didn't used to be. Mostly because they typically suck a huge amount of power and they are useless at de-gassing your pond. The usual advise people are given at their local garden centre, is to use a de-icer to keep a hole open in the ice. What's unfortunate about this advise, is it implies everything will be all wonderful, if only a hole is kept open. Well, part of the advise is true. The de-icer will keep a hole open in your ice, what they don't tell you, or they just don't know, is that there's more to it than that.
First, the whole reason for having the hole in the first place, is so the gasses in your pond can escape. The gasses can't unless, the surface is agitated, hence the reason for using a venturi, air pump or your pond pump close to the surface. You need to agitate that water surface to de-gas the water. De-icers are a great back up for that couple of weeks of really cold weather (or when you're away and can't monitor the pond) I install my de-icer right beside my air pump or pond pump and just plug it in when needed.
So, back to how power hungry some de-icers are. A typical de-icer sucks 1250-1500 watts...that's a huge power bill no matter where you live (typically $65+ a month and it's getting higher) We carry several de-icers that are super cheap to run and actually work (we tested them to -25c) Thermo Pond makes a 100 watts de-icer (yes, 100 watts only) and Laguna makes one that is 315 watts. The Laguna one has a little light indicator on top, so you can see that it's working. They also make a very nice stainless steel one that 500 watts, probably better for colder climates, and no chance of every breaking. Pondmaster also makes a decent de-icer. Theirs is 120 watts, and looks identical to the Theromo-Pond, except the colour, which is red, and not black. We were happy with all 3 brands, and recommend either. We think they are well worth the added piece of mind.
9) Cover the pond with birds netting to keep the leaves out, but be sure to remove it before the snow flies, otherwise it will freeze to the ground making access to your pond difficult.
10) People with greenhouse covers can go ahead and put them on now. Just be sure to keep any snow brushed off or risk collapse.
The best piece of advice I can give you...follow my advice :) Honestly, this advice comes from tried and true experience. I have made every mistake every new pond owner has, there is literally nothing I haven't done wrong. Winter is hard on your fish, but going into winter with bodies that are healthy and well fed, in water that is clean, but not sterilized, with an aerator bubbling, and a de-icer for back-up..that's about all we can do. Everything else is up to Mother Nature, and sometimes, the luck of the draw. Being prepared for the worst, is ALWAYS the best game plan.
That's about it...keep warm and we'll see you in the spring!!