It is important to prepare your water garden for fall. As the temperatures start to dip and the leaves (and temperatures) begin to fall, being well informed on what precautions need to be taken for continued pond health are important. Make sure you have a thermometer on hand to keep track of the changing temperatures. Check all of these steps off your list for a healthy pond all season long.
Plan ahead when it comes to feeding your fish. Start changing their diets to accommodate the changes they will undergo. Wheat-germ-based fish food is ideal to transition fish in (and out) of winter because it is highly digestible at low temperatures. During the colder months, the metabolism of fish and the pond’s ammonia-reducing biological activity are greatly depreciated.
Prep the plants. As plants begin to die back, prune dead stems and leaves to prevent decay in the water during winter. In late fall it is recommended to remove non-hardy aquatic plants from the water and store them where it’s warmer until next year. Certain plants will be fine in the water during the colder months with some insulation.
Ready the pond. Clean out your pond by scooping out leaves and other debris with a net. Pond skimmers and pond pumps also help maintain clean water as well as water conditioners. Once the water is clean, adding a pond net to protect it from falling leaves is a good idea. Be sure to leave an opening if you have frogs living in your water garden.
Determine if you will be shutting down the pond for colder months. If so, you need to properly store the pump, filter and UV clarifier. If winter temperatures in your area are moderate, you may continue to run pumps to keep the pond surface from freezing. In areas where temperatures are more severe, you’ll want to shut the pond down. When closing up your pond for fall and winter you will require a pond de-icer to maintain a hole in the ice to allow for toxins to escape the water into the atmosphere. You will also need an air pump to provide oxygen to the pond while the pump is removed.
There are two reasons for shutting down the pond during extreme cold:
- The pump will mix colder surface water with the slightly warmer, more stable temperatures in the pond bottom where fish take comfort and hibernate.
- You risk the chance of diverting water out of the pond and emptying it when the flowing water begins to form ice, especially on features like waterfalls or streams.
Store your equipment safely inside where it is warm and protected. For parts that are submersible, keep them in a bucket of water to keep the moving parts and seals wet. Always seek the opinion of a pond professional if you are unsure about proper fall and winter pond preparation.