Your garden pond and its inhabitants depend on you to maintain their steady ecosystem and, in turn, their health. It is imperative that you properly winterize your pond to ensure that toxins don’t build up in the water during colder weather and poison your fish and plants.
How to Winterize Your Backyard Garden Pond
During the summer, your garden pond serves asa relaxing personal paradise in your backyard. By keeping the pond properly oxygenated and free of algae, you keep it healthy for aquatic plants and fish. When cold weather hits, however, taking proper care of your pond becomes more important than ever. The needs of your pond fish and plants change with the weather. Winterizing your backyard pond is vital to preserve the natural ecosystem it contains until spring comes around again.
Prepare Your Garden Pond for Cleaning
Clean the debris from the surface of your garden pond before the temperature drops. Floating debris, such as sticks and leaves, can be easily removed with a net. Estimate the amount of debris at the bottom of your pond with a visual or physical examination. If there is more than two inches of waste matter, remove any fish from the water and place them into a kiddie pool of tap water that has been filtered or treated with chlorine tabs to remove the chlorine. If you wish, you may also remove aquatic plants to facilitate cleaning.
Drain Your Backyard Pond
Drain your garden pond and remove the built up debris and sludge from the bottom of the pond and the pond’s shelves. Refill your backyard pond with chlorine treated water and replace the fish and aquatic plants. Move any plants whose leaves rise above the surface of your pond into deeper water. This protects your plants from being damaged if ice forms on your garden pond ‘s surface. Place a net over the newly cleaned backyard pond to prevent debris from falling into the water. Floating debris sinks over time and decays. This releases ammonia into the water and can result in your fish sickening and dying during the winter.
It may not be possible to drain larger ponds completely in order to clean them. In this case, you can do a gradual water change by draining and replenishing 20 – 50% of the pond water every other day.
Turn Off the Pump
Turn off your filter and pump. With the possibility of ice, circulating water within the pond is a bad idea as this could stir up ammonia from the bottom of the pond that would then be trapped in the water, unable to escape. In addition, cold water retains oxygen more efficiently than warm water. Thus, your pond does not need extra oxygen during the winter.
Winter Pond Fish Care
Switch your fish to a low protein fish food and feed them 80% less than you do during warmer months. As the water gets colder, your fishes’ metabolism sows down and they need less protein to survive. Continuing standard, high-protein fish food and over-feeding your fish results in more protein being excreted as waste and decaying into toxic ammonia. Over time, ammonia poisoning can kill pond fish.
Introduce pond salt into the water if you have fish but no plants. Pond salt helps fish build a protective coating against the cold. The amount you need depends upon the size of your fish pond. You can purchase pond salt at your local garden supply store. Rock salt is also safe to use in fish ponds.
Prevent Ice in a Fish Pond
Consider the likelihood that your garden pond may ice over. If your area usually experiences temperate winters, a floating pool toy or ball should prevent a complete ice-over. If, however, the likelihood of ice is high, invest in a de-icing device. If your pond ices over, the oxygen circulation in the water will cease and toxic gases can build up. This is dangerous for both plants and fish. If you are expecting ice and have floating surface plants, such as water lilies, move the plants in doors in a bucket or kiddie pool until the water warms up and the ice melts.
It’s up to you to keep your garden pond’s ecosystem in control. By taking the proper precautions to protect the fish and plants in your garden pond over the winter, you can ensure that when the weather warms up, the inhabitants of your backyard pond will remain strong and healthy.
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