As winter weather begins its annual migration, it’s important to prepare your landscape and garden for cold and freezing. At the very least, all mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems need inspection. This includes water features and garden ponds. While a backyard garden fish pond is an enjoyable addition to your landscape that needs little care for most of the year, there are a few guidelines to follow and maintenance tasks needed for winter pond care.
Clean Your Pond and Balance the Water
As winter nears, clean extra leaves and organic matter out of your pond. This will help to keep oxygen and pH levels balanced during the winter. Cut back some of the fastest growing aquatic plants. Make sure all pumps, filters and tubing are clean and operating correctly. You don’t want to be outside taking care of your pond on a regular basis during the winter; make sure everything is in good shape before the first freeze.
Add Beneficial Bacteria
As a living, functioning ecosystem, the pond’s metabolism slows down during cold weather. Adding cold water bacteria to your garden pond will help keep it clean during winter months. Beneficial bacteria continue to metabolize waste, decreasing nitrates and ammonia and keeping fish healthy, even when the weather and water are cold. These beneficial bacteria are available in liquid concentrates from pond product suppliers.
Use Leaf Nets
Having a leaf net in place during fall weather will keep excess leaves from accumulating in your pond. Be sure to put the net in place before leaves start to fall! The net needs to be cleaned and emptied frequently. Once early winter arrives and the leaves have all fallen, it is safe to remove the net for the rest of the winter unless you are also using it to keep birds away.
An Open Pond Surface
Your pond’s surface is where the exchange of oxygen, carbon dioxide and other gases takes place. It is important for the health of your fish that this continue during the winter. An iced pond surface traps harmful gases in the water. Using an aerator in your pond will keep the surface from freezing during mild winter weather. If extreme conditions and hard freezes occur in your region, you will want to have a submersible pond heater in place. This will keep the pond from completely freezing over.
Feeding Fish in Winter
As the water gets colder in your garden pond and natural processes slow down, the metabolism of your fish also slows. Begin to reduce the amount of food you give your fish; consider switching to a special cold water fish food that is easier to digest. When the water becomes consistently cold, stop feeding the fish. Excess food will only throw the water out of balance. Talk to your fish supplier or garden pond experts about when to stop feeding based on water temperature, the type of fish you have and local weather patterns.
Taking care of your garden pond and preparing your fish for freezing weather will reduce your stress and worries during winter. Your fish will be less stressed, too! Follow the necessary steps or hire your local pond experts to manage winter pond care for you. Either way, when water begins to warm again in early spring, all will be well in your garden pond.