This is the question that rules all my winterizing decisions. In my opinion, I suggest that the waterfalls are to be shut off. If the falls are left on and severe cold weather hits, it would freeze over and create ice dams. And judging by how brutal the last few winters here in Connecticut have been, I would predict that this season will be just as icy and unforgiving.
So lets say if you leave the falls on and the water stays continuously recirculating, it may become diverted away from the stream by the buildup of ice. This in turn lowers the overall amount of water in the system and could run the pump dry. Even with careful monitoring and breaking ice in the stream, as the water freezes, less is available for the whole pond, so additional water has to be added — problematic in freezing temperatures.
If you have a pond that is deep enough to keep going over winter but are concerned about the associated waterfall or stream, you may be able to disconnect the pump to just discontinue use of the waterfall until spring. Pumps left running within ponds should be positioned to pull from the middle of the pond to circulate the water. They can be placed two feet down in the center— there’s calm water below the circulating water where the fish will be hibernating. The action of the pump can keep an open hole in the ice to allow for methane to be released so the fish do not suffocate. I also highly suggest having an aerator of some sort as well; we sell Aquascape and EasyPro aerators here at the shop, providing oxygen to the fish throughout the winter months.
If you plan to keep plants and/or fish in your pond, or keep the water available for birds and wildlife, here are a few things to do to prepare:
• Remove any tropical plants and floating plants if you have not already. Some tropical plants can be overwintered inside, or you can compost them and purchase new ones next spring. Never discard plants in natural waterways.
• Keep a hole in the ice throughout the winter for oxygen, and stop feeding the fish when water temperatures fall to 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
• Plants sitting on shelves within the pond should be lowered into deeper water.
• Remove ultraviolet filters, skimmers and related plumbing that could be damaged by freezing and turn off autofills.
If the hole does freeze over in very severe conditions, fish caretakers know the mantra — do not attempt to crack the ice. The concussion can kill the fish. Instead fill a metal pan with hot water and place it on the ice until it melts through. Small air pumps and floating de-icers are another option to keep ponds open for birds and to provide oxygen for overwintering fish. The heater rings, like the Aquascape 300 watt de-icer, are specifically designed to keep a hole open.
We have learned through sad experience that no amount of weather-proofing outdoors will keep that small amount of leftover water in the chamber from freezing and ruining the guts of the pump. We unhook it from the system and place it in our above-freezing garage or storage room until spring.
The smaller water features also have their pumps removed for winter. We also clean them and store in them in your garage. We cut back the dying plant foliage in the ponds and leave the hardy plants in place. Most of the time we don’t remove the water, but in very intense cold climates that might be a good idea.
Now that you have had the crew at Action Water Gardens winterize your precious pond, you can grab a cup of pumpkin spice coffee and relax with your newly earned peace of mind.