Follow these easy steps for an easy winter closing, and a headache-free Spring opening
-Remove all tropical plants; throw away tropical water lilies; bring in tarros, bananas, cannas if you wish and love them as houseplants
-Cut and trim all other plants down for the season: cattails, grasses, rushes, and any other hardy herbacious plants that are browning
-Remove all organic material from your pond such as: leaves, acorns, lily pads, cones, needles, algae, floaters and hornwort bundles
-Stop feeding fish once the water temperature his lower that 50 degrees fahrenheit
-Have a de-icer floating on the surface to keep a hole in your ice, in order for the toxic methane gas build-up to escape
First you will need to decide if you are going to keep the waterfall running during the colder months. You should keep in mind that leaving the waterfall running does require a little bit more of a watchful eye. You'll want to make sure that check on the falls for ice dams, they are pretty but pesky little formations that build up on the falls, so please make sure they are not letting water lap over the edge of the liner. This can lead to the draining of your pond very quickly! That in turn willl not make your pump very happy. If the pump does run dry it can cause serious and permanent damage to the internal mechanisms.
If you are going to shut the pump off we recommend removing it from the water/skimmer when the water temperatures reach 40 degrees. Also pull the media out of your biofalls box including: bioballs/lava rocks, filter pads, and any other filtration media that you might have in there. After this is emptied out its not a bad idea to put a stick or branch inside the empty biofalls unit. This will help any animals that fall in to get themselves out (birds, chipmunks, etc.)This is your opportunity to rinse out and clean these components off, which is something that we wouldn't typically do during "pond season". Once everything is rinsed and clean you can store it in a container or box in a dry such as a shed or garage.
As your fish begin to switch into hibernation mode it is important to continue to maintain water quality- even more so now that the biofalls is not running as your source of filtration. Continue to add sludge cleaner and cold water bacteria. Adding these products as regular monthly maintenance is a great way to ensure that your water quality is in tip-top shape. You will also want to continue to keep decaying plant material and leaves off of the bottom of the pond. This will prevent them from decaying and producing harmful gases that can harm your fish.
Once the water temperature lowers to 60°F, your fishes' staple food should be lower in protein, A.K.A. Aquascapes Cold Water Fish Food. Proteins are much harder to digest than other nutrients.
Important: Do not feed if there is any chance of the temperatures dropping below 50°F within a few days. Fish are not capable of proper digestion in cold water and the food can decay in their system, sending bacteria into the bloodstream and killing the fish.
In order to prevent the buildup of harmful methane gases, it is important to make sure that you keep a hole in the ice. This can be done by using a solids handling pump with the water surge pointing up at the surface, or a floating de-icer for the top of the water. Solids handling pumps will keep a hole by producing water movement. The increased water movement will prevent ice from forming where you place the pump. You will want to keep this pump submerged, but close to the surface for a few reasons; one being that you want to avoid super cooling the pond. Another reason is that you want the flow to be strong enough to create ripples/water movement on the surface (this is what prevents ice from forming). A deicer is controlled by a thermostat, and only runs when the water temperature is at or below freezing. Once the water temperature is within an acceptable range it will shut off in order to conserve energy. The whole pond does not need to be unfrozen.
We also recommend adding an aerator in order to increase the amount of oxygen available to your finned friends. Adding an aerator will also help create a more stable environment, resulting in healthier plants and fish when you open your pond in the Spring. Also keep in mind that fish 12" and up in size require more oxygen. Just as with the solids handling pump, you NEVER want to place the air stone directly on the bottom of the pond. Doing so will cause super cooling of the water and will create unfavorable conditions for your fish.
So hopefully after reading this article you feel a little more comfortable knowing your fabulous fish will be safe, happy and healthy all winter long. As long as you keep an eye on thefalls for ice build up, have a de-icer for the top, and an aerator for the bottom of the pond, you fish weill greet you gleefully come next spring.